The Comic Con Case Part 2

Part one

“Do these costumes really go together?” Bianca asked. She glanced at herself in the mirror then looked over at Hilde. “Not trying to question you or anything. But I’m dressed as a witch and you look like some kind of space soldier.”

“First off,” Hilde stated. “You’re a Doctor. I just used her Halloween skin because I thought it’d suit you. Secondly, you’ve seen me play this game. I believe you said ‘what twelve year old Edgelord designed that skull mask guy?'”

Bianca snapped her fingers. “Oh, I remember. You said he was just designed to appeal to twelve year old Edgelords.”

“Just don’t repeat that at the convention,” Hilde cautioned. “We’re going to solve a case and have a little fun while we’re at it. We don’t want a bunch of pissed off nerds.”

“Don’t worry, I have tact when I need to,” Bianca said.

“We have a week for you to learn the basics of your character,” Hilde said. “Should be plenty of time for you.”

“Do I have to?” Bianca asked.

“Yes, because people might want to strike up a conversation about it,” Hilde said. “If you don’t know the basics, we’re going to have a bunch of strangely elitist twenty somethings tossing out terms like ‘fake geek girl’ and causing a huge fuss.”

“Okay, I’ll learn so I don’t embarrass you in front of your people,” Bianca said. “Don’t worry.”

“To start with,” Hilde said, holding her tablet for Bianca to see. “Say this line for me.”

“Why that line?” Bianca wondered. “Could it be that you have something you want to do with it?”

“Damn right I do!” Hilde declared.

“Ooh, intriguing,” Bianca said. “All right, here goes.” She cleared her throat. “Keep the skies clear for me.”

Hilde grinned and knelt down, lightly kissing Bianca’s  hand. “Let’s keep them clear together.”

Bianca felt herself flush. “Okay, that was pretty sexy,” she said. “Do it again?”

“Maybe later,” Hilde said.

“Then how about a bath?” Bianca asked. “I’ve got some special bath salts that have some great effects, mostly medicinal. They relieve aches and pains, help injuries mend and unknot your muscles like a superb massage.”

“And what do they do besides medical stuff?” Hilde asked. “Are they an aphrodisiac?”

“Kind of,” Bianca said. “They enhance pleasure. Under water infused with this stuff, you’ll think there are two of me.”

“Aren’t you a dirty girl,” Hilde muttered.

Bianca shrugged. “What can I say? I like to get busy with my girlfriend. Or were you offering to scrub me down?”

“Tempting,” Hilde said. “Lore studying for an hour. Then I’ll take a bath with you and your salts.”

“Yes Ma’am!” Bianca said.

*****

On the day of the convention, Hilde and Bianca arrived at the hall early.

“You came dressed up?” Borchert asked.

“We told you we’d be incognito,” Bianca said.

“We’ll go around and find your trickster,” Hilde said. “If they like to appear when the place is crowded we’ll just be able to find them more easily if we’re blending in. Our culprit won’t be as guarded.”

“Oh yes, of course,” he said. “Come with me for a moment, if you please.”

They followed him to the back. “This is our head of security, Mister Lukas Graf.” Lukas looked slightly younger than Borchert with dark hair and a clean shaven face. He had a sullen look.

“So, you’re the detectives,” he said, practically spitting the word out.

“You have a problem, Buddy?” Bianca asked.

“I apologise for him,” Borchert said.

Hilde shook her head. “There’s no need to be sorry. We understand.” She looked directly at Lukas. “We’re doing your job and you feel put out. But this isn’t a matter of ego. We’re here to do a job. And it’s something you guys need done.”

Lukas nodded. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

*****

The  convention started. Hilde and Bianca quickly merged into the crowd.

“You don’t suspect Mister ‘I don’t want detectives at my convention’ at all?” Bianca asked.

“No,” Hilde said. “Trust me, security workers always have that reaction. Unless they’re just at the point where they don’t care any more. Sense anything yet?”

“Nope,” Bianca answered.  “I’m not doing a comprehensive detect magic spell or anything, but I should be able to detect magic if it’s used this close to me regardless.”

“Well, we haven’t seen anything suspicious yet either,” Hilde said. “Guess our culprit’s not making their move yet.”

“At least we have plenty of time to play,” Bianca said. “Here, take my arm and let’s do another sweep of the displays.”

“Next sweep, I get to hold my arm out,” Hilde said.

The pair wandered about, looking at the booths and stopping on occasion to pose for photos.

They were looking at an artist’s booth when it happened. The contents shifted and, somehow, a large triceratops statue appeared to take the centre stage at the booth.

Hilde and Bianca nodded at each other and backed away.

‘It’s magic,” Bianca whispered.

“I noticed,” Hilde said. “Source?”

“Hard to say,” Bianca answered. “I think the culprit set up some basic transportation spells ahead of time and scrolled them.”

“I’m guessing that’s like D&D when you read a spell off a scroll,” Hilde said.

“Basically,” Bianca said. “So, they just activate them and they take effect.”

“Can they be tracked?” Hilde asked.

“I’ll need to set up an actual detect magic spell with a tracking function built in,” Bianca said. “I’ll also add some protective layers so our culprit doesn’t sense them until it’s too late. Trust me, we’ll get her.”

“All right, hurry back,” Hilde said.

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The Last Draconian 45: Ill Tidings

Previous Chapter

“I came as you asked,” Larick said. “I knew that you would be unsatisfied with a written response.” He was standing in Joseph’s tent. The trolls had set up camp just outside of Het Wald’s wall of thorns. They had made it to the gate only to be sent back by archers and mages. Since then there had been a few skirmishes. The elves had been unable to chase the trolls any farther back and the trolls had failed to breach Het Wald’s defences. Resulting in a temporary stale mate.

“You know everything about the future, don’t you?” Joseph asked. His voice was filled with bitterness. “Then why didn’t you take any steps to save General Brun? Or did you somehow fail to predict his death? Which is it, Magi?”

Larick sighed. “Whoever guarded the front while the forces were fully assembled was doomed to die. No matter what other paths the future branched down. I selected Garet to take that role because he was not going to survive this war. No matter what. The rest of you stand a chance.”

“You’re saying that there was no way to save him?” Joseph demanded. “How is it possible for the future to be fully written like that?”

Larick put his hands up in a placating gesture. “I understand your anger, but the future is a complicated thing. As it approaches it becomes harder and harder to alter. Every choice we make, every action we take opens up some doors and closes others until, eventually, we find ourselves with nowhere to go. In the case of General Brun, Thanatos himself decreed that this war would end his life and we mortals can not hope to stand against the Gods. As for the elven counter-offensive that killed him, even had he been warned it wouldn’t have changed anything.”

“And if all of the Generals had been present?” Joseph asked.

“The majority of the troops would not have been assembled at that time,” Larick answered. “Even your combined strength could not have saved you from their superior numbers.” Larick gave Joseph an unwavering look. “Without its Generals, how would the troll army fare?”

Joseph looked away. “There must have been some way…”

Larick put a hand on his shoulder. “There was none. The moment this war started his fate was sealed.” He paused for a moment. “Casualties are inevitable in a war such as this. All we can do now is continue fighting.”

Joseph nodded. “I apologise for losing my temper. I should not have doubted your judgement.”

“You were right to question me,” Larick said. “It was your duty as his friend.”

“Thank you,” Joseph said. “Before you return to Relna will you grace me with your advice?”

“Of course,” Larick said. “Tomorrow night the elves are going to launch an attack. If you are prepared you can turn the tide against them, but you must not follow them into Het Wald. If you do you will surely die.”

Joseph bowed. “I will do as you suggest. Do you require protection on your return trip?”

Larick shook his head. “They would love to take their revenge against me, but right now it’s impossible for them.”

Larick moved away slowly. Yes, for now it was impossible. He was safe, but now was such a brief time he had to move quickly. He had to finish guiding the future towards the proper path.

*****

Lynai Elfblood

I sat in the garden. Callie had some beautiful flowers. Several varieties of lilies, some lilacs, roses, hibiscus, she even had a cherry blossom tree that was almost ready to bloom.

“I knew that I would find you here,” Callie said.

“I was just thinking about home,” I admitted. “I wonder if dad is still looking for me.”

Callie looked surprised. Then she looked at the ground. I could see her fist clench. “You haven’t heard?”

“Did something happen?” I asked. I knew from her voice that something had, but I also knew that she wouldn’t tell me if I didn’t ask.

Callie put a hand on my shoulder. “Your father was killed almost a week ago along with your brothers, Leaf and Liys.”

I felt my eyes widen. My heart started beating faster. “But I saw them before I left.” I stammered. “They were fine… I… I can’t believe…” My tears flowed uncontrollably. I had fought with my father a lot, but I had still loved him. I had always thought that we’d eventually reconcile. I had never expected to lose him so abruptly.

Callie pulled me close. I buried my face against her chest and cried.

*****

Illyana  Fensen

I heard a knock on my doorway. I listened to the wood tapping the floor. “Come in Professor Mord.” I said.

“Michael is preparing to go,” he reported. “I thought that you should know.”

I hit my desk a little too suddenly. I could feel my hand bruise. “He isn’t ready,” I said. “The cleric said that it would take at least two more treatments.”

“He insists on going,” Professor Mord said. “Maybe you can convince him to stay until the treatment is finished.”

“I’ll try,” I said. I got up and walked out of my office toward Michael’s room. Professor Mord walked beside me.

“I wish that you had told me about him before,” he said. “I don’t know why you felt like you couldn’t confide in me. First about his identity, now about how he got those wounds.”

I felt sorry for Professor Mord. He was really upset about the whole thing. “It’s not that I didn’t trust you,” I reassured him. “It’s just that he didn’t want anyone to know he was a draconian. Just like he’s asked me not to say how he was wounded.”

“You’re a very loyal friend,” Professor Mord said. “But you and Michael were both my students. It hurts to see the two of you in some kind of trouble.”

“I’m not in trouble,” I said. “You don’t have to worry about me.”

“But I do,” Professor Mord said. “Have you forgotten that you were attacked not long ago?”

I paused for a moment. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know anything more about that than you do.” I don’t know if he believed me, but I didn’t want him thinking that I didn’t trust him and the attack was so intertwined with Michael’s secret that I couldn’t tell him the truth.

“The investigation has turned up very little,” he said, after a short pause. “The guards report no more suspicious activity, but we’re going to keep vigilant. Could it be related to the secret you’re keeping?” It was an astute observation.

“It’s a possibility,” I admitted, opening the door to my right. I could hear Michael’s tail moving from side to side and his wings spreading.

“Stop right there!” I ordered.

“I am going to kill him,” Michael gasped. His voice was surprisingly rough, still raspy from his injuries.

“I don’t doubt that you will,” I said. “But right now you wouldn’t stand a chance. You need time to recuperate.” I walked towards the window as I spoke. I reached past Michael’s wings and grasped his shoulders. I felt him flinch from my touch, but he didn’t fight me. I pulled him back and led him to the bed.

“Just bear with it a little longer, okay?” I asked.

I heard Michael’s body slump against the mattress. “You have always looked after me,” he whispered. “Ever a true friend.” His breathing slowed.

“I think he’s asleep.” Professor Mord whispered.

I summoned the power of void into my hand and gently touched Michael’s forehead. I poured the energy into him to give him a restful sleep. “Let’s leave him in peace,” I whispered back. We left the room quickly.

“I never knew that Michael had such rage,” Professor Mord mused. “He always seemed like such a calm, rational child.”

I didn’t say anything but I shared his concern. I had never seen Michael so prone to emotional outbursts. Had something happened during his battle with Sadow that had changed him?

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The Comic Con Case part 1

Former Detective Hildegard Elizabeta Müller cases were:

The Dreisenberg Case part 1, part 2 & part 3.

The Bagged Heiress case part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 & part 5

*****

Hildegard and Bianca were visiting her father, Gottfried, and Step mother, Lorelei at their restaurant. Bianca was helping Lorelei wash some dishes while Hilde and her father talked in the dining area.

“Bianca is a lovely  young woman,” Gottfried said. “How did you two meet?”

“We… she helped me when I  went to Dreisenberg on that missing person’s case,” Hilde answered. “We just really hit it off and decided to give things between us a chance.”

Her father nodded. “Makes sense. You two do go well together. Yessir.”

“Dad, what’s bothering you?” Hilde asked.

“Oh, nothing big,” Gottfried said. “I just… I just can’t understand why you never told me you were gay. Do you not trust me?”

Hilde felt a pang in her heart. She took a minute to think before answering. “I wanted to, Dad, badly. But I didn’t know how you’d react. You always hear stories of religious people trying to ‘straighten out’ their children or even disowning them. I’d never heard you give any stance about it before and I didn’t want to lose you. I’m sorry I know…”

“Hush, Child,” Gottfried interrupted. “I see now that it was my fault. I worked so hard to teach you that God’s love is for men, women, young and old, people of all races and ethnic backgrounds but I never once thought to say it was also for all sexualities. That God loves his LGBT children every bit as much as his straight children. He wouldn’t have made you the way you are if he didn’t. That was my oversight. I’m the one who should be apologising.”

Hilde and her father shared a big hug.

“So, what’s next for you two?” Gottfried asked.

“We’re actually driving to Dortmund,” Hilde answered. “We were contacted by a Mister Borchert about some kind of trouble at the convention centre.”

“Weren’t you going to go to that convention?” Gottfried asked. “How are you gonna have your fun and solve a case?”

“Well, unless the case is really dangerous I can manage,” Hilde said. She glanced towards the back to make sure Bianca was still occupied. “Besides, this gives me an excuse to drag Bianca along without her acting like she’s doing me a favour.”

“Didn’t think to jut ask, huh?’ Gottfried asked. “Have fun, Sweetie.”

*****

Bianca and Hilde were on the road in Hilde’s Beetle.

“So, we just happened to get a call sending us to a nerd convention?” Bianca asked. She leaned over and whispered in Hilde’s ear. “If you really wanted to go with me, you could’ve just said so.”

“Hey, I wouldn’t try to trick you into going,” Hilde said. “This is a real job and we, as professionals, will solve it.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Bianca said, putting her hands up. “I was just teasing. There’s no need to be so serious. We’ll solve the case and you can play with the other nerds.”

“And I suppose you’ll just play with yourself,” Hilde said.

Bianca chuckled. “Course not. I’ll play with you. In oh so many ways.”

“If your hands wander to much I’m smacking them,” Hilde stated.

*****

Mister Borchert was tall, thin, on the lower end of middle aged with a slim moustache and thinning black hair.

“It’s the strangest thing, Miss Müller,” he explained. “We keep having… incidents. Every time we hold an event.”

“What kinds of incidents?” Hilde asked.

“That’s what’s so bizarre,” Borchert said. “It’s all minor stuff. Displays rearranged, equipment moved into the weirdest places, small objects missing. Not even valuable stuff but things like pins, tape and buttons.”

“And why did you decide to come to me with this?” Hilde asked.

“That’s the other strange thing,” Borchert said. “No one has ever seen the incidents happen. No matter how many security or other workers we have around, no one sees anything. They turn around, turn back and an incident has happened. None of our cameras have even caught anything. I want this convention to run smoothly. It could be a great source of revenue, but if we keep having these problems, or they get worse…”

Hilde reached out and pat his shoulder. “Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out. Bianca and I will come to your convention next week. We’ll go incognito, so as not to disturb your guests and we’ll find out what’s causing the fuss and we’ll run damage control if anything happens, okay?”

“Yeah, we’ll bust the case wide open,” Bianca agreed.

“Thank you very much,”Borchert said. “I’ll be counting on you two.”

Hilde and Bianca headed back outside.

“What did you mean by incognito?” Bianca asked.

Hilde grinned. “I meant that I have the cutest couple’s cosplay idea for us.”

“Well, as long as we look cute, I guess it’s okay,” Bianca said.

“We will,” Hilde assured her. She adjusted her newsie cap. “Think it’s something supernatural?”

“Sounds like it could be an imp or other mischievous little bugger,” Bianca answered. “I won’t know for sure until we see something happen.”

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The Last Draconian 44: Two Michaels?

Previous Chapter

Lynai Elfblood

A dark shadow spread over Het Wald, travelling along the ground and shooting lightning like a living beast. I grabbed my daggers but it was too strong. It pushed me into a tree that somehow shattered on impact. A hand reached out and pulled me up.

I heard Callie’s voice “Don’t worry, whatever this thing is, it can’t defeat you.”

“But it’s so strong,” I answered. “I don’t know if I can beat it.”

“You can,” Callie said. She stroked my left cheek. “You’re both beautiful and strong. No challenge could possibly be too great for you. And I’ll fight with you.”

“Callie…” I reached forward and hugged her tightly. I’m not sure how long I just held her like that. But it eventually ended and I woke up. My left arm was draped over Callie’s chest. My right arm was positioned under her neck.

She was already wide awake. She gave me a sly smile. “Good afternoon.”

I pulled away from her. “I thought that you weren’t going to do anything.”

She propped herself up with her elbow. “I didn’t do anything. You’re the one who came into my room and cuddled up to me. Not that I’m complaining.”

I remembered my dream but I couldn’t remember coming into her room. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

Callie laughed. “It’s okay. I’ve never had such a comfortable day’s sleep.”

I felt my cheeks redden. Callie got up and grabbed a change of clothes from her closet. “I’m going to take a bath first, unless you’d like to take one together?”

I shook my head. “No, that’s okay. I can wait.”

“Then you can pick out some clothes to wear. Callie gently touched my cheek. “You really are adorable when you’re embarrassed.”

*****

Illyana Fensen

I sat in my room. Drake had flown up to the rafters after eating and gone still. He was probably asleep. The guards had returned from their scouting mission. They’d found the ground blood-stained. The carriage in ruins and fire and lightning scars scattered around, but no bodies. What could have happened?

I tried to relax by meditating, but I couldn’t still my thoughts. Suddenly, I heard a knock on my window. I walked over and opened it up. “Michael?”

“My friend, I was unable to complete my task. I…” he spoke in wheezes and gasps. His voice was incredibly hoarse and then he collapsed on top of me.

I felt his long hair on my face. His breathing came out in short, rasping bursts. Liquid dripped onto me. The texture felt like blood. I touched it with my fingers and smelled it. It was definitely blood.

I struggled for a while and barely managed to get him off of me. “I’ll get help,” I promised. “I’ll find you a cleric.” He didn’t respond. Was he unconscious or… I left my room quickly, shouting for a cleric.

I knew that it meant giving away the secret I’d vowed to keep, but I was terrified that if I did nothing, he’d die.

*****

Lynai Elfblood

I walked downstairs after my bath. Callie was re-bandaging Michael. “Welcome back,” she said. “Your friend is hurt pretty badly, but the wounds look a little better.”

“I could’ve done that,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it,” Callie said. “I don’t mind doing first aid. Besides, we vampires have techniques for getting wounds to close.”

“You didn’t?” I asked. I tried to get a look at Michael’s neck.

Callie laughed. “I didn’t bite him if that’s what you’re wondering. I simply treated his wounds with a formula that we developed centuries ago to help close wounds and aid in the production of new blood. It was originally intended to help keep our prey alive during times when food was short. You don’t know that much about us, do you?”

I shook my head. “Sorry, all I learned was the bare minimum required for diplomatic visits.”

“That’s okay,” Callie said. “While your friend’s recovering I’ll teach you everything that you would ever want to know.”

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 173: Celebrating Their Reunion

Ophelia sighed. “I can’t believe we’re sneaking out of this system again.”

“well, on the bright side our crew is back together,” Farah said.

Yuri was on the bridge, holding the Baron. He was wagging his curly tail and squirming excitedly.

“It is not anything to be concerned about,” Yuri stated, matter of factly. “I have memorised all of Captain Tawaig’s secret routes. If a mission requires us to return to the system, we will be able to do so with ease.”

“I  suppose that is true,” Ophelia said. “You know, Yuri, since you just got back you don’t have to return to duty immediately. You’re welcome to get settled.”

“That is not necessary,” Yuri stated. “I am interested in seeing this particular route in action. Besides, I did not take much with me. Unpacking will be completed within ten minutes.”

Farah whistled. “Androids sure do have an easy time. Whenever I leave for a trip, even a short one, it takes me a good hour to pack and unpack.”

“Perhaps you carry too many extraneous items,” Yuri suggested.

“Maybe,” Farah laughed.

Lucy entered the bridge. She waited until Yuri’s attention was focused on the little dog and nodded towards Ophelia.

“Well, if you’re sure,” Ophelia said. “But when we finish leaving the system and you get situated, meet me in the conference room. I’d like to go over a few things.”

“I understand,” Yuri agreed.

*****

Using Elijah’s route, the Cerberus was able to exit the Drotor system without incident.

Yuri set Wolfgang gently down and went to her room to unpack her  bag. Afterwards, she made her way to the Conference room.

The room was dimly lit and Ophelia was sitting, facing the door.

“What did you need to discuss with me?” Yuri inquired.

“It’s a simple enough matter,” Ophelia said. “Yuri, Everyone understands that you needed time and distance. Still, you were gone for a pretty long time. There’s going to be an adjustment phase before everyone grows accustomed to you being back on the team and that’s why we prepared this.” She gestured and the Cerberus crew jumped out of hiding with party poppers. Baron Wolfgang ran right over to her and began excitedly jumping at her legs. She picked him up.

“I suspected that you might do something like this,” Yuri said. “Still, I am grateful.”

“Grace and I baked some treats. They’re waiting in the cafeteria,” Paul said.

“I hung decorations,” Leon said. “And then stayed out of the way.”

“I set up some simple party games,” Farah said. “Kat brought drinks and Lucy supervised everything.”

“I also made sure the Wrights would be secure and out of the way,” Lucy said. “Don’t worry, they’re all fine.”

Kat pat Yuri on the back. “What we’re trying to say is, we’re glad to have you back with us and we want to celebrate.”

“I will comply with your celebration plans,” Yuri said. The group hurried down to the cafeteria. They were nearly a whole crew again. Nearly… Allison’s absence was still a void, but it was a void they’d learned to accept.

Things could never be the same for them, but they could make the best situation possible. And every single one of them was keen to do so as they enjoyed their celebration and the company.

They were going to be okay moving forward and they all knew it, for the first time in a long while.

*****

An Announcement

Hey, Everyone I have something fairly quick to say. I’m sorry if this disappoints any of you, but I’m putting Voyages of the Cerberus on hiatus for a while. To put it simply, I need time to develop some ideas for missions that our intrepid crew can go out on.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be posting nothing on Tuesdays. I may not have ideas for the Cerberus Crew, but I have quite a few ideas for everyone’s favourite lesbian detective duo, Hildegard Elizabeta Müller and Bianca Hexe. So, for the time being, I’ll be giving you some of those. And that’s going to start next week with The Case of the Comic Convention Concerns. I hope you enjoy it.

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The Last Draconian 43: Callie’s Home

Previous Chapter

Lynai Elfblood

I had no trouble recognising Callie’s home, even in the dark. It had a stone base with wooden walls painted a dark red. It was three stories tall. There were five windows in the front. The largest was a stained glass window with a picture of a white rose. I could see the faint glimmer of candles through the lightly coloured curtains.

I handed Michael to Wolfgang and grasped the knocker. It was brass and shaped like a tiger’s head. I hastily straightened my hair and knocked. The door opened thirty-four seconds later. Callie was standing in the doorway wearing tan pants and a loose fitting green shirt.

I wrung my hands nervously. I hadn’t expected her to answer the door herself. She gave me a big smile, her fangs hung over her bottom lip. “Lynai!” She gave me a big hug, I didn’t know what to do with my hands so I left them hanging. “I had hoped that you would come.”

“I’ll explain everything later,” I whispered. “I… I’m sorry about this.”

She studied me with a quizzical expression before looking over my shoulder at Wolfgang. Her voice became cold. “Who are you?”

“I’m Wolfgang Esarosa,” he answered. “I run the Crossroad’s Inn. I just came to make sure your friends arrived safely.”

“Friends?” Callie said. She looked down at Michael. Her voice perked up. “Thank you for helping them. You can set…” she hesitated. I mouthed the word “man” at her “him on my sofa and I’ll take care of everything from there. Did you need accommodations for the night?”

“I’ll decline,” Wolfgang said. “If I start back now I should be home by mid-day.” He set Michael down on the sofa indicated by Callie, bowed and walked hastily back the way we had come.

Callie put an arm around me. “I expect that your explanation will be interesting.”

It took what remained of the night and part of the morning since she kept asking me questions, but I told her everything. How Michael and I had met and travelled together. How I had saved him from Sadow. How I had dragged him to the Inn. My suspicions about Sadow, even my personal thoughts, everything. I hadn’t intended to but I completely dropped my guard in the moment.

When I had finished she got up and paced a little. “So, the Magi isn’t as just as he pretends to be,” she said. “I had a feeling that he was hiding something.” She stroked her hair. “Still, I didn’t expect it to be something that serious.”

“You really think that Sadow was involved in the deaths of the draconians?” I asked.

“Someone like Sadow puts on a great façade,” Callie stated. “He shows the world a moral and merciful person, but then he gets involved in messy and even grotesque things in the shadows. You don’t live that long in the public eye without some shady dealings. Besides, the draconians were a very rational and pacifistic people. It’s unlikely that one would just decide to kill one of the Magi without a good reason.” She yawned. “I’m sorry, it’s time for me to be getting to bed It’s almost day break.” She rubbed her eyes and began heading up the stairs. “Would you care to join me?”

I felt my heart beat faster. “Th… This is so sudden. I’m not emotionally prepared.”

Callie laughed. “Don’t misunderstand me. I’m going to bed to sleep. I just thought that you might also be tired. I have a guest room that you can use.”

I felt my face flush. “Well, yes I suppose I am tired.” I followed her up the stairs. She had a large bed with satin sheets surrounded by a canvas.

Callie started changing into a dark blue nightgown. I turned away. “You don’t have to be nervous,” Callie said. “I’m not going to do anything, and I certainly don’t have anything you haven’t seen before.”

She was right, but I was still nervous. Sure I had seen myself naked in the mirror but it wasn’t the same.

“Here, you can use this.” She tossed me a sky blue nightgown. “It might be a little loose, but it should fit well enough. The guest room is to your left.”

“Thank you,” I said. I found myself in her study. It was lit by a single candle that had been carelessly left burning. She had probably been in there when we’d knocked. She had probably been up here when we arrived. There was a large oak desk, three oak bookshelves covered with all kinds of books. The desk had an open copy of the complete works of Shimo Tako on it. A human author who wrote a very particular kind of romance. She had been reading a story called Fragrant Pink Flowers. I hurriedly blew out the candle and managed to find the guest room.

*****

Illyana Fensen

I was sitting in my office. Drake was sitting on my shoulder. I had been largely left alone with my worries. The only problem I’d had to deal with was a student who had used his magic to pull a prank on his instructor.

I heard the sound of wood tapping on the floor approaching my office. It stopped in front of my door and was promptly followed by a knock.

“Come in Professor,” I said.

“I told you that you didn’t have to call me that any more,” Professor Mord said. “Although it is an honour that you still think of me like that.” He noisily cleared his throat. “Sadow’s carriage driver returned to the city today. He said that they were attacked by a tornado. It couldn’t be anything but magic.”

“Agreed,” I said. “So, what are we expected to do about it?”

“There’s really nothing we can do,” Professor Mord said. “I’ve sent a few guards to examine the scene.”

“Have them report to me the instant they return,” I said.

“Forgive me,” Professor Mord said. “I didn’t realise that this news would make you so excitable.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ve recovered from my injuries so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

I listened to him exit. So, Michael had made his move. Knowing that made me feel especially anxious for news of what had happened. Would they find his body? Would they find Sadow’s body? Both? Times like that always made me almost wish that I had been given Apollo’s gift, but I always decided that I wouldn’t want it. It must be terrifying to know what’s in the future.

I’ve always imagined that it makes you anxious to change things and makes you feel helpless for not having the power to do it. Or is that really true? Do you have the power to change things if you try hard enough, to manipulate the future to your own ends? It’s terrifying to think that one person could have such power. Almost as terrifying as the idea that the future is completely set in stone.

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Voyages of the Cerberus 172: Welcome Home

“They’re calling the authorities now,” Lucy reported.

“What is going on over there?” Ophelia wondered.

“If they were calling about Kat and the others, she’d have called us by now,” Lucy said. “It has to be something else.”

“She’d have called us if she could,” Ophelia said. “That’s what worries me.”

“You think something happened to her?” Lucy asked.

“Possibly,” Ophelia answered. “If she’s injured and separated from the others…”

“Hold that pessimistic thought,” Lucy said. “We’re getting a transmission.”

“Kat?” Ophelia asked. “We’re picking up a lot of worrying activity from the Guild. What’s going on?”

“An old friend of ours decided to pull a little raid,” Kat’s voice answered.

“Hi,” a familiar voice chimed in.

“Captain Tawaig?” Ophelia asked.

“Please, call me Elijah,” Elijah said. “Listen, Kat’s going to send you some coordinates. Meet us there and we’ll transfer your people over. But, for the moment, we have to be escaping.”

“Got it,” Ophelia acknowledged. She rubbed her hand across her forehead. “Elijah J. Tawaig.”

“It may be good that we’ve run into him,” Lucy said. “He can be our smokescreen for this caper.”

“How many titles does that man have now?” Ophelia wondered. “Adventurer, ne’er do well, noted horticulturist, & occasional solver of mysteries?”

“You forgot Saviour of Prinaria & trapper of rare creatures,” Lucy said. “Although I rather suspect his adventures are far less interesting than the legends surrounding them.”

“Probably not,” Ophelia shrugged. “I don’t suppose it matters much. He’s managed to help a lot of people.”

The Cerberus headed through the asteroid field towards the rendezvous point. The Space Blazer came to meet them.

“We’re coming over in a shuttle,” Kat said. “I suggest you meet us in the bay.”

“Got it,” Ophelia said. She turned to Lucy. “Meet them in the bay?”

“It sounded like good news to me,” Lucy stated. “Why not go and see what it is?”

“Watch the bridge for me while I’m gone,” Ophelia said.

“I miss you already,” Lucy called after her.

Ophelia hurried down the corridor and waited outside of the docking bay while the shuttle landed.

Farah left the shuttle first with a giddy spring in her step. Leon followed with a grin on his face. Ellen’s family followed behind him, looking uncertain. Kat came out last.

“Sorry for calling you all the way out here,” Kat said. “But there’s someone on board who needs to see you.”

“What are you three up to?” Ophelia wondered. She glanced at her crew. “All right, I’ll go. But if  I see something that makes me unhappy I’m tying my hair back and going a couple rounds with each of you in turn.”

She glanced behind her as she boarded. Her crew were watching with anticipation. They were going to follow her inside and watch, she knew. They wouldn’t be reacting like this for Elijah… not unless he had something to give her. Who then?

“Yuri?” she asked. “Is it really you?”

“Captain Wester,” Yuri greeted. “I have journeyed far and wide across the galaxy and I have come to some realisations.”

“And what would those be?” Ophelia asked.

“I have come to the conclusion that I will need support from my family in order to continue the healing process after losing Allison,” Yuri answered. “I have also realised that this,” she gestured at the Cerberus “is the only place I can call home and its crew are the only ones I can truly call family. So, I formally request permission to return.”

Ophelia moved forward and hugged the android tightly. “You don’t even have to ask,” she was starting to cry and she knew it but she didn’t care. “We’ve missed you so much. And you’ll always have a place within this family.”

Farah ran in from behind and joined the hug. She was crying too.

“Leon, are you okay?” she heard Kat ask.

“Fine,” just have something in my eye,” Leon grumbled.

“Welcome home, Yuri,” Ophelia said. “Welcome home.”

“I am glad to be home,” Yuri stated.

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The Last Draconian 42: Wolfgang Against the Bandits

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Lynai Elfblood

The bandits charged at Wolfgang. He howled and lunged at them like a coiled spring going up after being weighed down. His howl alone was frightening, but when he slashed open one of the human bandits, tearing open both his chain-mail and ripping open his rib cage beneath it…

The ferocity was almost enough to make me forget his kindness or that he was protecting us. He leapt from that bandit’s body straight to the closest unharmed bandit. His teeth clamped down on his neck, crushing his throat. Two of the bandits dropped their swords and fled.

The leader and the golem were all that remained. The leader stood back, hiding behind the golem. She clamoured toward Wolfgang. He emitted a low growl as she approached. She punched downward at him. He jumped to the side and clamped his teeth down on her arm. He tried to bite through, but her flesh was far harder than that of a human or elf. She reached out with her other arm and punched him. He went rolling for nearly a metre before digging his claws into the ground and stopping himself.

She lumbered toward his location. He had the definite edge in speed, but unless he could find a way to hurt her it wouldn’t matter. I put Michael down, gently, and reached for my bow. Wolfgang rolled underneath her next punch. She turned and approached him with increased speed. He kept taking steps back to avoid her. He was chanting something. He spun around and threw a ball of fire directly into her face. Chunks of metallic flesh blew away. Her blue blood oozed onto the soil. The bandit leader started to run. I pulled my bowstring back and watched him collapse.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Wolfgang spit out some blood and a tooth. The fur on and around his snout was stained crimson. “It’s nothing that won’t heal,” he said. He looked down at their bodies. “Still, it was surprising. I didn’t expect to find a golem in the company of such lowlifes. They’re usually better than that.”

“Well any person is capable of benefiting or harming the general population,” I said. “It all comes down to personal choice.”

Wolfgang nodded. “Well said. I’ll have to remember that.” I couldn’t help but smile. He had missed the reference completely. Michael would have known it.

Wolfgang used the water from his canteen to wash the blood off of him. “Shall we go?”

I picked Michael back up and nodded. He hadn’t reacted to the skirmish at all. He’d simply slept through it. We continued on our way.

“I didn’t know that feralials had such sharp claws,” I said. “I’d heard they were sharp, but I didn’t know how sharp.”

Wolfgang looked at his claws. “These are nothing compared to the claws of some feralials. Especially the felines and the talons on some of the avians would make even them wince.” He looked at me. “The problem with generalizing us is that we come in so many varieties.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Wolfgang said. “I’m guessing that you haven’t met many feralials?”

“Not personally,” I answered. It was the truth. There weren’t many feralials who visited Het Wald, and the only one I’d been allowed to interact with had been Pran when he had come to speak to my father and I hadn’t talked to him much.

We continued without talking. I could hear a cardinal singing nearby, but there weren’t many other creatures around. It felt really odd for everything to be so peaceful, especially after what we’d just been through. Wolfgang acted like nothing had happened, but I wouldn’t be able to forget. Not any time soon.

*****

Sadow sat sprawled on a heavily cushioned chair. Laina’s head had been propped up on a nearby pedestal. “Femre should complete his task quickly,” Sadow muttered. “The important question is how do I interrogate her without revealing my true identity?”

“If you are ashamed of your own actions then you might want to reconsider them,” Laina said. Sadow sent a bolt of lightning slamming into her.

“I don’t feel ashamed for anything I’ve done,” Sadow said. “Everything has been to stay alive and because I’ve been around countless innocent people have been spared painful deaths. A few sacrifices here and there were unavoidable. Regrettable, but unavoidable. The only problem is that not everyone understands the nuances of reality. They expect you to be either a saint or an uncaring monster. I’ve built up a reputation as the former. I can’t have that compromised by publicly dealing with the likes of Femre.”

“Why did you order her capture anyway?” Laina asked. “I thought that you wanted her dealt with.”

“Things have changed,” Sadow said. “That draconian is a problem I didn’t anticipate. But now that I’ve seen her I’m certain that she’s connected to Illyana Fensen. How else would a blind woman know the truth behind events that happened when she was still a baby?”

“So, what will you do with her when she’s captured?” Laina asked.

“I’ll get all the information about the draconian that I can,” Sadow said. “Depending on the strength of their connection I’ll either kill her after I have the information I need or use her as bait to trap my enemy.”

“How intact do you need her to serve as bait?” Laina asked, sensing what was going through the Magi’s mind.

“I need her healthy enough,”  Sadow answered. “But if the draconian doesn’t care about her sight, I doubt she’ll be overly concerned with whether  or not she can walk. After all,” he glanced at a crystal bauble near his seat. “the harder it is for her to escape, the better.”

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Voyages of the Cerberus 171: Caught up in an Escapade

“W can eliminate the more rural areas and housing stuff from our search of Drothos three, right?” Leon asked.

“It still leaves a lot of ground to cover,” Farah observed.

“You don’t need to be too concerned,” Lucy stated. “Kat and I have been working on tracking EIG’s possible contact.”

“Basically, we followed the credits,” Kat said. “EIG is clever. They wouldn’t do direct business with a company based off of Drotor or admit to being affiliated with one. However, we did manage to find a connection between the Vice President of one of their smaller companies and a company on Drotor.”

“Large sums too,” Lucy added. “Far more than anyone would be spending purely for their own purposes.”

“But wouldn’t the Vice President be in trouble if the connection was found?” Farah asked.

“Technically, he’s not doing anything illegal,” Kat said. “Immoral, absolutely. Unethical, undoubtedly. But the worst he’d face is a backlash from the public.”

“And when that hits the company forces him to retire to his nice, expensive estate,” Lucy said. “It’s an old tactic. The important thing to take away, however, is that his dealings are all with the same company.”

“The Drotor Textile Guild,” Kat said. “They export textiles all over the universe. Within the confines of Drotor, they also deal in slaves and drugs that are legal in the Drotor system, but not in many others.”

“Our plan is a simple enough one,” Ophelia said. “Kat, Leon and Farah will go into the company through the back dressed up as guards. Grace is working on a little gadget to trick their security system into thinking you have clearance. Once inside, you’ll find out where Mrs Wright’s family is being held and you’ll smuggle them out.”

“Why not just tear the building apart and free everyone?” Leon asked.

Ophelia sighed. “Because attacking the entire building would be insane. No matter how much we may disapprove of what they’re doing, we’re just one ship. We need to play this smart.”

“If something goes wrong, send us the emergency signal,” Lucy said. “We’ll try to pick you up and get out of there before they bring their own ships to bear.”

*****

“This way,” Kat beckoned. Farah and Leon hurried over.

Leon tapped Farah’s shoulder. “If someone sees us come in, leave them to me.”

“If someone sees us come in, let them think we belong there,” Kat corrected him. “I know you want an excuse to take these guys down, but we’re doing this stealthily, remember?”

The security door accepted their clearance and slid open. The trio quickly moved in. Kat nodded cordially to a guard watching the door.

They were moving down the corridors towards the holding cells when they heard an alarm blare. Leon reached for his pistol.

“Wait!” Kat whispered. “It might not be about us.”

A small group of guards ran past them.

“See?” Kat asked.

“Then someone else is breaking in too?” Farah asked.

“Looks like it,” Kat said. “Let’s take advantage and find the family.”

“Can’t believe we’re just leaving it,” Leon grumbled.

The holding cells were small and filthy. The people inside looked miserable.

“We really can’t help them?” Farah asked.

“Kat doesn’t want to,” Leon stated.

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Kat argued. “It’s just not practical.”

A chunk of ceiling fell, nearly hitting her. She jumped back, startled. She nearly ran into Farah.

A familiar figure dropped down. “Let’s go, Antoine. We’ve got this!” He glanced at them. “Oh, friends. Did you come to rescue these people too?”

“Elijah,. it’s good to see you!” Farah declared.

“Still doing good work I see,” Leon said.

“Pleasantries later,” Antoine gasped. “We’re on a time crunch. Yuri and Ussie can only keep them occupied for so long.”

“Yuri?” Farah asked. “She’s with you?”

“We may have run into her,” Elijah said. He pulled a tool from his belt and started using it on the cell doors.

“What is that?” Kat asked.

“Sonic lock pick,” Elijah answered. “It scrambles electronic locks and…” the door he was working on popped open “voila.” He tossed one to Kat. “I have one extra. You guys go to work too.”

Kat didn’t argue. She opened the cell that housed a familiar looking family first. “We’ve got Ellen on our ship,” she told them. “just follow us.” She got to work on the next cell.

“Someone’s coming!” Farah warned them.

“”We’ll hold them off,” Leon said.

“Antoine, help them out,” Elijah said. He turned towards his recent rescue. “Go up the rope. and into my ship’s docking bay. we’ll get you out of here and to a safe space.”

He looked at Kat. “How were you guys gonna get all of these people out?”

“Truth be told, we were just gonna save a handful,” Kat answered.

“”Hmmm,” Elijah muttered.

They hurried with their work while Leon, Farah and Antoine held the door.

“Fire in the hole!” Leon shouted. There was the deafening sound of an explosion.

“You brought a grenade?” Kat asked.

“I thought I might need it,” Leon said.

“That’s everybody,” Elijah said. “Antoine, destroy the entrance and let’s scarper! I’ll bring up the rear.”

Antoine planted some explosives. The group took cover while he caved in the entrance with a carefully controlled explosion.

Farah and Kat started up the rope “You think Ophelia will be mad?” Farah asked.

“I think we’ll definitely have some explaining to do,” Kat answered. “But I don’t think she’ll mind helping Mister ‘ne’er do well’ on one of his missions of mercy.”

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The Last Draconian 41: Accosted on the Road

Previous Chapter

The one-eyed ghoul looked into the crystal ball. “So, ye want us to capture a blind human?”

“That’s correct,” the black-cloaked figure answered. His voice was purposely distorted. Femre had never met him in person, only through intermediaries and in clouded magic images. He didn’t even know who he was, but that wasn’t important. He paid promptly and gave out interesting jobs, usually. “Be on your guard,” the figure cautioned. “She is far more capable than you would think. Her magic abilities are extremely high.”

“If’n she’s a mage, capturin her won’t be too much of a problem,” Femre retorted. “We ‘ave experience dealin with her kind. Why, I bet we could take one’a the Magi imself. An’ what do ye wan’ us to do with her ‘terwards?”

“Take her to your tower,” the figure instructed. “I will send one of my agents to interrogate her. You are not to cause her any harm. I require her intact.”

“No problem,” Femre said, dismissively. “’Ow much are ye payin?”

“You will receive five hundred gold as an advance and two thousand when the task is complete,” the figure stated. “There is no room for negotiation.”

Femre whistled. “Fer that kind of money I’d slice open me own mum. I wouldn’ even try to get more.”

“Then assemble your team and get to it,” the figure instructed. “Your advance will arrive by messenger within the hour.”

Femre tipped his tricorne toward the crystal ball. The figure quickly vanished.

*****

Michael Ryufan

I regained consciousness with only a vague memory of having lost it. I had a vague cognisance of my limbs, but I found myself incapable of moving them. When I made the attempt only my wings responded, and all they did was spread a few centimetres before regressing to their former position.

“Easy,” I was not familiar with the voice that I heard. My retinas would not focus well enough for me to see the speaker. “You should stay still until you’ve rested a while.”

“What’s wrong with him?” That was almost certainly Lynai’s voice. “Are his wounds acting up?”

“It’s not just his wounds,” the unknown voice explained. “I’m not sure why, but he’s suffering from a severe fever.”

“Do you want me to take him?” Lynai asked. “He might be calmer with me.” Her assertion was obviously flawed, but I was unable to speak in order to convey that fact.

“You can try,” the unknown speaker said. I had a vague sensation of being moved. “Can you carry him okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” Lynai said. “He’s actually pretty light. Now that I’m rested carrying him won’t be a problem.”

I would have informed her that my mass was perfectly normal for a draconian but my ability to speak had clearly been hampered by my injuries, or possibly by my malady so I did not even make the attempt.

I allowed myself to lapse back into unconsciousness. It had become apparent that I required a respite.

*****

“Fall back!” Lang ordered. His face was covered with mud, blood and sweat. His armour was hanging in tatters. The troll soldiers were closing in on the elves quickly. Ever since the three generals had arrived the elves had been steadily losing ground. The elves leapt around the branches, firing arrows behind them. Their pixie allies landed on their shoulders to spare their wings. They had been in retreat too long to continue flying much farther. Thorn landed on Lang’s shoulder.

“How much farther are we going to go?” she asked, panting.

“We’re going to return to the capital,” Lang answered. “Our force size is too small to cope with them. Going on the defensive is our only option. I just hope that Lais has completed her preparations. If she hasn’t we could be wiped out within the next few days.”

*****

Lynai Elfblood

I led Wolfgang down a heavily wooded path that could hardly be seen from the main road. He didn’t question my decision. He probably considered it a precaution against bandits. Michael was fast asleep in my arms. His breathing was steady and strong. It was a vast improvement.

“Do you need any help?” Wolfgang asked.

I shook my head. “I told you, he’s not that heavy.”

Wolfgang stopped with his ears perked up. His fur was standing on end. “Stay back!” he barked. I did as he suggested. Half a dozen bandits emerged from the wood. Three of them were elves, two were human and one was a golem. All off them were male, save the golem. She was definitely a woman.

One of the elves stepped forward. He had short, spiky red hair and brown eyes. “Hey folks, your friend there looks like he could use some help. If you pay us we can get him treated.”

I scrutinised him. Was he telling the truth? “Don’t feed me that nonsense,” Wolfgang growled, his fur was still standing and he bared his fangs. “You have no intention of helping him, you just want us to drop our guard.”

“Come on,” the elf said. “We just want to help. There’s no need to insult us.”

“Don’t underestimate my senses,” Wolfgang let out a deep growl. “I can smell the blood on your hands, and I can smell your lies. I’ll warn you once. Turn and walk away!”

“I guess that I shouldn’t even try to fool a feralial.” The elf made a barely discernible hand motion. His allies drew their swords, except for the golem who simply clenched her fists. “The truth is that your kind sickens me. You’re barely better than the stinking beasts that spawned you.”

“Guard your friend well,” Wolfgang whispered. He knelt down and crossed his arms like an “X” across his chest. He also stretched his hands out, revealing claws that were slightly longer than an inch at the end of each finger. But were they sharp enough for him to defend himself? I looked at him. He was smirking.

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