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Read Legends of Cobalt from the beginning:
Steady hooves echoed through the cobbled streets towards us. Dense fog and darkness surrounded us, obscuring our vision. Blood from the dead woman at my feet stained my clothes and hands.
“We should take her back to the tavern,” I suggested.
“Why?” Phebes argued. “If we run now and get you guys washed up, no one will suspect us, and we won’t get arrested.”
“I will not disrespect the dead in such a way. This woman could have family looking for her. We have done nothing wrong, why would we get arrested?” Wyanet countered.
The echo of hooves marched closer.
“How do you know we won’t get blamed? You guys are literally covered in her blood, and no one will believe the truth. I know how these things work. One minute you’re minding your own business. Then a guard sees you and blames you for something you didn’t do. Then you’re in the stocks getting rotten fruit thrown at you.”
I grabbed my belt buckle and spoke the arcane word for light. Cool white light radiated out, casting strange, fuzzy shadows in the fog. I squatted beside the body, crossed her ankles and grabbed her wrists. I hoisted the corpse onto my back. Warm sticky blood ran down my shirt.
“We’re taking her back to the tavern. End of debate.”
“This is a bad idea.” Phebes crossed her arms.
A dog as high as my knee covered in shaggy black and white fur trotted into our circle of light. It barked once and turned back the way it came.
“Thanks for the light friends.” A smooth deep voice rumbled. “It got really dark and foggy all of a sudden. I thought I and my friends here were going to get lost.” An eight-foot-tall man with bovine ears emerged from the fog. Thin grey fur covered every inch of the stranger’s exposed flesh. A bushy, twig strewn, flame-red beard protruded from his chin. “Oh that doesn’t look good, let me help you with that.” The stranger lifted the corpse from my shoulders and laid it on the back for his overburdened donkey. “The name’s Grazer by the way. I’m heading to an inn up the road. Maybe someone there can help your friend.” Grazer collected the donkey’s lead. “Dog! Oh, there you are, girl.” The black and white dog sat at his feet, tongue lolling out to one side. “How’d this happen to your friend here?” Grazer walked through us.
“A creepy little girl stabbed her, and ran away when we got here and is going to frame us for her murder.” Phebes blurted out.
“That’s pretty wild. You didn’t kill her, did you?”
“No, we did not kill her.” Wyanet followed after Grazer. “We heard a scream, and came to help, but we were too late.”
“You heard a scream, at night, in Vercingetorix and you ran to help? That’s pretty brave.”
“We’ve faced worse.” I fell in behind the donkey.
We walked the rest of the way in silence. Grazer stopped our party outside of the Atropa Belladonna.
“Here we are.” Grazer knelt and patted the dog’s head. “Take Donkey to the stables. I’ll be out soon to get you two settled in.”
The dog barked once, licked Grazer’s beard and took the lead rope from his hand. Grazer lifted the dead woman’s body and carried it into the Atropa Belladonna like a child.
The patrons gathered around a single table and whispered in hushed tones. Raisa and Bella whispered an argument behind the bar. Bucephalus stared into the fire, our table littered with empty cups.
“What happened?” A Dwarf man poked his head out of the group of patrons.
“Was it the Ripper?” A pale-faced human woman in her middle years asked.
“Grazer, take her into one of the private rooms.” Bella hurried from behind the bar, a key ring jangled in her hand. “I don’t want blood all over my common room.
Bella let us into one of the snug private rooms by the main entrance. Eight chairs sat around a square table in the centre of the room. Grazer placed the body on the table while Bella drew the curtains shut.
“Raisa, get in here and get the candles lit!” Bella barked out the door.
Raisa elbowed her way through the patrons crowding around the door, a lit taper in her hand.
“Someone should fetch the constable.” The middle-aged woman declared.
“That’s a really good idea!” Grazer echoed.
Raisa finished lighting the candles and blew out the taper. “I’ll go.”
“No, you will not. It is far too dangerous for a woman to walk the streets alone at night.” Bella pointed at the Dwarf. “You, fetch the constable.”
The Dwarf took a few steps back. “Why do I have to go? How do we know the killer isn’t waiting for another lone target?”
“I can go,” Grazer offered. “They didn’t attack me.”
“We don’t even know who you are!” A Halfling man shouted. “How do we know you didn’t kill that woman?”
“He did not kill her.” Wyanet stepped in front of Grazer.
“Enough!” Bella bellowed. “Grazer, go get my food and don’t go anywhere else. You’d get lost after a block.”
“Yeah.” Grazer chuckled.
Bella pointed a sharp slender finger back at Grazer. “He’s the reason the lot of you haven’t starved to death yet. If you want to accuse him of something, you can get out of my tavern right now.”
The patrons studied their shoes.
“If only we could speak with the dead.” Another man mused.
Wyanet’s eyes lit up with inspiration and she pushed her way into the common room.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Bucephalus mumbled.
A table crashed to the ground. Wooden cups and utensils clattered against the floorboards, followed by the impact of a heavy body.
“What in the hells was that for?”
“A girl has died. We need to know how and why.” Wyanet replied.
“What do you expect me to do about it?”
“You are the only person here who can speak with the dead. That is what I have heard other Colonizer priests claim, now go do it.”
Bucephalus’s feet clomped across the floor. “Fine, I’ll do it. Silver Armed take pity on me.”
The crowd surrounding the door parted and let Bucephalus pass.
He looked at the body and Bucephalus shook his head. “We’ll need privacy.”
“And you’ll have it.” Bella jumped into action. She pushed the patrons from the area and closed the door behind her.
Phebes, Wyanet, Bucephalus, and I gathered around the body. Dim candlelight danced shadows around us.
Bucephalus placed his hands on the table flanking the dead woman’s feet. “The ritual only lasts a short while. It won’t bring her back to life, but it will allow you to ask her a handful of simple questions. Choose them carefully, the ritual will only work once.”
He pulled a stick of incense from his pouch and clasped the holy symbol on his neck. Bucephalus lit the incense and waved it over the body while muttering a prayer. Smoke seeped into the small room from under the door. Bucephalus finished his prayer and kissed the dead woman’s forehead.
Smoke rushed into the corpse’s mouth and nose. Her chest expanded and her eyes rolled open.
“You’ve got five questions.” Bucephalus backed into the corner chewing on his fingernails.
“What is your name?” Phebes asked.
The corpse’s head jerked and stuttered to look at Phebes. “My… Name… Is… Carina.”
“Do you have anyone we can take you to?” Wyanet asked.
The head shifted again. Small amounts of smoke slipped past the corpse’s lips as it spoke. “No.”
“My… Family… Died… Years… Ago… In… The… Plague.”
“How did you die?” I asked.
The corpse turned its blank smokey eyes to me. “I…Was… Escorting… A merchant… Man. Jack… Found… Us… My cli…ent… Abandoned… Me… Jack… Killed… Me.”
“Why did Jack kill you?”
“Jack… Kills… Whores… I… Am… A… Whore.” The last of the smoke trailed out of the corpse’s mouth.
“What? No! That was hardly anything.” Phebes grabbed the corpse and shook it. “Cast the spell again, we need more.”
“I can’t.” Bucephalus removed his thumb from his mouth. “If you want to wait a few weeks we can, but the ritual won’t work again before then.”
A soft rapping came at the door. Bella let herself in. “What did you learn?”
“Someone by the name of Jack killed her,” I replied. “She doesn’t have any family, and that’s all we got.”
“So it was the Ripper then,” Bella frowned. “Town is bad enough as it is without a madman running around slicing girls open.”
“I do not think Jack is a man,” Wyanet stated. “We saw a little girl flee the area when we arrived.”
Bella gasped. “That’s a foolish thought darling. Why would another of our, superior sex let alone a child, do this?” Bella glanced at the corpse. “Poor thing. I’ll get a sheet to cover her up. We can send for the constable first thing in the morning.”
The story will continue, January 9th 2020.
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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)
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