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Wyanet and I jumped to our feet, weapons at the ready. A hulking cloaked figure pushed into our room. Phebes staggered backwards. The Fae scrambled for a place to hide.
“Why have you been following us?” Wyanet demanded.
The figure closed the door it blocked. Phebes tripped and fell hard on the floor. I kicked my chair out of the way and moved as close to the wall as I could. The figure stepped closer to us, its hard-soled shoes thunked on the floorboards.
“Who are you and what do you want?” I put my sword in a low guard and got between Phebes and the figure.
The figure reached two meaty, fur-covered hands to the hood of its cloak. “I mean you no harm, lest my company.” A deep voice spoke as it pulled the hood back, revealing a horned Minotaur. “My name is Bucephalus. I am a priest of The Silver Armed, and soldier of the Inquisition force of The Isle of the Gods.”
“Are you here to kill us for attacking that priest?” Phebes whimpered from beneath the table.
Bucephalus’s jaw dropped. “What did that old fool do now? Never mind, it doesn’t matter. I’m not here to kill any of you. Quite the contrary, I need your help.”
I slid my sword back into its scabbard. “You’ve come to the wrong place. We’re passing through on our way further South.”
“YOU MUSTN’T GO SOUTH!” Bucephalus’s eyes got large. “Pardon my outburst. I meant to ask why your companions spent their day asking questions around town if you do not plan on staying?”
“Information is a valuable resource. You can never have too much.” Wyanet moved around the table. She held her dagger in a reverse grip, the blade pressed against her arm.
“Please, at least sit down and have drinks with me. I’ll tell you what I know. After that, if you still don’t want to help, so be it.”
“Are you paying?” I asked.
“The church will take care of us this evening.”
“Let’s go downstairs.” I helped Phebes out from under the table. “You’re buying me a new dinner as well.”
I lead the group down to the common room. Half a dozen people sat in ones and twos around the room. Raisa floated between the groups, topping off drink cups and delivering food. Bella leaned on the bar, chatting with another guest. The murmur in the room silenced and all eyes settled on Bucephalus. We crossed the room and took the table by the roaring fireplace. Bucephalus sat first, facing the main door.
Raisa crept her way over, she stood as far from Bucephalus as she could. “You folks didn’t have a Minotaur with you earlier? Did you?”
Wyanet sat opposite Bucephalus. “No, he wandered up to us.”
“I don’t remember seeing him enter the tavern even.”
I sat with my back to the fire. “He’s paying for our food and drinks tonight.”
“Okay then,” Raisa shrugged. “What can I get for ya?”
“A keg of stout, a bottle of whatever aged spirit you have and some house wine if you have any.” Bucephalus listed off.
Raisa’s eyes bulged. “That’s a lot of liquor.”
“I can handle it.”
“Cider if you have any,” I added. “And a bowl of stew if you have any left, please?”
“Cider’s gettin’ low, but I’ll see. Same for the stew. These girls not save you any?”
“We did, but it got spilt when we got interrupted,” Phebes said.
‘That’s a shame. I’ll be right back with what I have for ya.”
“Talk,” Wyanet ordered.
Bucephalus leaned in over the table. “I and a group of five other Inquisitors got ordered to Spinel to investigate reports of Lycanthropy.”
Raisa brought our order to the table and sprinted back to the bar.
Bucephalus popped the cork off of a clear glass bottle and drained the contents before he continued. “We uncovered a demon-worshipping cult after three days.” Bucephalus cracked open the keg and dunked a tankard into it. He took a long drought of the dark liquid. “We spent a week trying to eradicate the cult. The rest of my Party died at the hands of undead and other abominations to order.” Another long draught. “With her last breath, the Captain ordered me to escape, and bring back a proper company to finish our task.” Bucephalus polished off his tankard and reached for the wine bottle. “That happened a month ago. I’ve been trying to leave Crescent Moon Bay ever since.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“That still does not explain why you followed us.”
I shifted in my chair to look at Wyanet. “He wasn’t following us. The person I saw looked human, and they were much smaller.”
“I did follow you this morning. I had to make sure I could trust you.”
“I’m telling you, someone else followed us when we entered the city.”
Phebes sipped on her cider. “Why don’t you ask one of the local churches to send you home? Can’t they do that?”
“No, I can’t.” Bucephalus shook his head. “Part of our mission was to investigate corruption in the local churches. The movement of Inquisition forces is secret. Much of the world does not trust our existence.”
“That’s your own damn fault.”
Bucephalus snorted at me and clenched his fist. “The actions taken by the Cardinal Conclave several hundred years ago have been forgiven. Not to mention no victim of that particular slight is alive today.”
“Tell that to Sweeney,” I whispered under my breath.
Bucephalus slammed his fist down on the table, sloshing liquid from all our cups. “The Inquisition is a force for peace and good in the world.”
The tavern went silent again. Everyone stared at us. Bella detached herself from the bar and started marching toward us.
A woman’s scream pierced the windows of the tavern.
Bella froze in her tracks. Wyanet and I rushed toward the door. Phebes kicked at our heels.
We sprinted into the night. Cool moist air cut through our clothes. Half the oil lamps lining the street stood dark, the other half flickered in an unsteady breeze. Thick clouds blanketed the stars. Most of the windows on the street stood dark.
We waited, and listened.
The woman screamed again.
“This way!” Wyanet sprinted up the street into darkness.
We ran right behind her.
After a block, we found a young woman bathing in a pool of her blood. Wyanet vaulted the woman and studied the dark, foggy street.
I knelt beside the woman, her blood soaked into my leggings. Deep gouges crossed her chest, and another lined her neck. She reached up to me, gasping for breath. I grasped her cold, sticky hand in mine. I placed my other hand over the slashes in her chest. “We’re here to help.” I focused my mind and energy. A dull flash of light pulsed from my palm into the girl. Blood continued to well through my fingers. “Wy, my healing isn’t working.”
Wyanet spun around and knelt opposite me. “Let me try.” Wyanet placed her hand where I had mine. A brighter light pulsed from her hands.
The woman took a deep breath. She gasped and choked. A cough sent another spurt of blood from her wounds.
Wyanet let go of the woman and shook her head. She extended her hands over the woman and began to sing in her native language.
A dome of warm light encased the dying woman. She stared into my eyes, pleading for help.
The woman’s hand went limp in mine. Her eyes went dark, and her jaw slacked.
I folded her hand on her chest.
A small figure in a green cloak removed itself from the dark alleyway beside us. “Another whore dies.” A little girl giggled. “He is still hungry, but the children won’t be.”
I rocked back onto my feet and approached the little girl. “Do you know who did this?”
A strong wind extinguished the remaining lamps. A dense fog surrounded the girl. Her giggles surrounded us, and she vanished.
The story will continue, January 2nd 2020.
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Written by: Sweeney
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