I got locked into Youtube jail so this story's a bit late but here's the Nov Writer's Box is finally up! You can also see the Dec video now.
Prompt: Mac story with the title "The Third Client"
Ink: Monteverde Copper Noir
Pen: Diplomat Magnum Crow Black
Notebook: Apica CD-15 B5
- L. Sunne (prompt giver)
- Goulet Pens
- Ink Journal
- Dragons in Genesis
I can’t say I found being a private detective much different than college security. Many of my clients were referrals from the campus or my family and most were simple problems: child running off to join a competing cult, strange apocalyptic dreams, finding or inheriting some object with a curse or demon attached. Nothing exciting but it paid the bills.
That’s why when an overdressed octogenarian that seemed to be covered in various dead animals entered, I wasn’t expecting much. My best friend and investigative partner, Channing Howard was still new to some of the wonders of my family life despite his years working for Ferrymen Inc and greeted our guest with barely disguised excitement.
“You’re Phillip?” The woman’s voice came out like the smoke through a hookah. I could hear the liquid bubbling through. “Professor MacKenzie’s son?"
I nodded but continued to give her the once over. She stood just inside the doorway, unable to fully enter until I gave permission. The wards were strong because I never knew who or what would walk through our door.
The woman was a sickly pale gray color under her thick makeup. Her lips were thin and her chin almost nonexistent. The furs and pearls covered up her neck, but I knew what I would see there. The bubbling in her chest gave her away. Without that, I would have wondered indefinitely if she were upper class or of a more piscine origin.
She was clearly both.
“Your name?” I didn’t bother moving from my chair.
“Do you treat all of your paying clients this way?” She sniffed, clearly unused to my kind of treatment. Part of me was enjoying this because where else was she going to go. It’s not like supernatural detectives were a dime a dozen. I could only think of maybe 3 in the US and none who would even begin to understand what they were dealing with.
She sniffed again but came to the same conclusion that I was more than likely her only avenue for whatever her problem might be.
"Anges Humboldt." She took a damp cloth from her handbag and dabbed it near her pearls. "Of the Atchafalaya Humboldts and I would like to consult you on a most urgent manner."
I frowned for a moment, still making it seem as if I hadn't yet decided on whether or not to let her enter. After a long pause, I nodded again.
"Please enter, Miss Humboldt," I said with clearly feigned cordiality. "I think I've met one of your sisters. Molly, I believe it was."
This time the sniff turned in to a scoff.
"Molly is not a sister." Agnes hissed the word out. "She's a distant cousin. Very distant. The Atchafalaya Humboldts have nothing to do with our relations in the Pacific Northwest."
Agnes made herself comfortable in the client chair while I took pity on the clearly dehydrating woman. I poured a large glass of water and set the pitcher in front of her.
"If you want to take off the furs and put a wet cloth around your neck, go ahead, " I offered. "You're our only client today so you don't have to worry about anyone walking in."
Agnes was clearly tempted but in the end, her breeding won out over any temporary discomfort. She took controlled sips of the water before her.
"My business with you and your..." here she glanced over at Chan who had a notebook open, ready to write case notes, "your man." With that she placed Chan in the category of hired help and ignored him. This was worked for us as we had planned to let Chan's inner Nodens take a peek at our client as well, just for added security. Sometimes what you saw in my business was not only what you got, even if you saw a part-fish woman.
Chan turned the watch on his wrist to midnight. letting Nodens peer through his eyes and hear through his ears. The watch allowed Chan to control the elder god currently inhabiting his body. Without the special timepiece, Nodens could and would take over Chan at will. Neither really liked the compromise but Nodens couldn't be removed without killing Chan, so the two had reached a more or less civil agreement.
"You're a long way from home," I started the conversation causually, in the hopes of stalling to let Nodens really get a good look at our client. "What brings you to the Northeast, especially this close to winter?"
Agnes' thin lips disappeared completely as she pressed them together in distaste.
"I no more want to be here than you would have me," she said, "but family business requires to someone to look in on our interests at least once a year. This year, the duty has fallen to me."
Feeling the stare from Nodens-Chan but not understanding it, Agnes turned the collar of her fur up higher.
"That is what brings me to you today," Agnes continued. "It seems one of our business partners has lost....or misplaced...a considerable number of our family's private journals and other of our more valuable tomes."
The word 'tomes' wasn't lost on me since my own family had a bit of book collection. Like the Humboldts, it wouldn't do for us to lose some of the rare ones or have our enemies connect us to a few.
"Where does your family store your private journals?" Chan popped in with the completely unnecessary question.
"Celaeno's, of course," I answered for our client. "No other firm can be trusted. The Celaeno family has been dealing with the permanent storage of many valuable books for eons. To my knowledge, they've never lost of misplaced a book."
A bit of color came into Anges' gray face.
"Now is the time to update your knowledge, Mr. MacKenzie," she sniffed again. "I can assure you that went I checked on my family's private collection not two hours ago, a book was indeed missing and the firm has no knowledge of where it could be."
I nodded. It seemed incredibly unlikely to me but I could think of no reason she would lie, much less make an appointment with me to do so. It would be so easy to confirm with Celaeno's whether or not the event occurred.
"What book is missing?" I asked. "Journal or...other tome?"
The little color that had come into Agnes' face vanished. Not even her expensive foundation and concealer could hide the true shade of her skin.
"Our family's book of lineage," she whispered. "I came to update it with the names of those recently born, those who we have lost, and to consult it for upcoming unions. I cannot...I simply cannot explain to you how much this distresses me. I haven't dared to tell the family yet."
She gulped in awkwardly. "I need you to find that book. I'll pay anything for its safe return."
For the first time I saw past the breeding and privilege. Agnes Humboldt was terrified and for good reason. This wasn't just a record of births, marriages and deaths and she knew I knew it.
I nodded but said nothing for a moment. This could be a big case or it could be nothing. There was a possibility the book was simply shelved incorrectly and would cost me nothing more than a few hours peering at titles.
Worst case scenario? Someone had managed to get passed the not inconsiderable wards of Celaeno's, not to mention the family itself, to steal a book from their care.
"I'll take the case, Miss Humboldt," I stood to indicate the meeting was over. "Let me know how to reach you and I'll be in touch when we have more news."
Agnes Humboldt rose with all the dignity she could muster and took a light gray card from her purse.
"Should you wish to speak to me, you may call my private number," her too-long fingers quivered as she held out the card. "We can arrange a meeting in a safe location once you've recovered my family's book."
I took the card, read over the number twice then handed it back to our guest. She took it and again stored it in her purse. There had never been any suggestion that I keep the card. People like Agnes Humboldt did not take changes.
After she had gone, I turned towards Chan who was technically Chan-Nodens at the moment. I could see the Elder God barely contained behind my friend's eyes.
"What did we think about that?" I asked.
There was a moment where Chan and Nodens fought for control of the same vocal chords. Chan dialed the watch back one hour and took in a breath.
"She seemed weird but worried," was my friend's unhelpful reply. "I don't think she was lying about the book going missing. I just don't know why she's all that worried."
I sat back and waited. Chan would continue talking to fill the silence and I wanted him to figure it out on his own.
"I mean, I get that it's important as a family memento," Chan said, "but if her family has so many valuable books, why would anyone steal that one?"
Again I sat back and waited. Chan was starting to get a little frustrated by my silence but it was fun to watch.
"I mean, if my family had a book with all of my relatives in it," he continued to try to reach the point, "I can't see why it'd be all that special for anyone to know my Uncle Tony from my Uncle Simeon...."
Here he trailed off, finally catching on as his brain made the connection. Chan's Uncle Tony was a lighthearted man who loved to joke and play pranks. His Uncle Simeon, on the other hand, was buried deep under a hill in an undisclosed location for reasons only a few of us knew.
"Oh." The monosyllable came out quietly.
"Yes, oh," I said. "And some people in the Humboldt family probably don't use that last name and would prefer no one knew of the connection. I have a feeling whoever took the book did so with a purpose."
"Blackmail?" Chan's simple view of the world was endearing at times.
I shrugged noncommittally. Time enough for him to find out that money was going to be the least likely reason for a motive in our cases.
"Dial the watch and let Nodens speak," I suggested. "I'd like to know what he thinks of our first client."
With reluctance, Chan turned the watch to the hour that would let Noden speak. I did notice he turned only just enough. Chan still feared the thing that lived inside of him and I couldn't blame him.
When the watch was dialed back, I could feel the air thicken around us, almost imperceptibly.
"The Humboldt creature was right to be frightened," Noden's voice boomed out. "Her family will not tolerate her failure and if she returns to them with such news, it will be considered her failure."
I nodded and leaned forward at my desk.
"So she really is of the Humboldt line?" I knew she was but Nodens could see deeper than even I.
"There is no doubt," he rumbled. "She knows of the deep waters and the deep ways. She is set to be the matriarch should she pass the tests her elders have set before her. She would be a worthy foe then."
I considered this a moment. Could her elders have ensured the book's disappearance to test Agnes? The thought could answer how a book in the care of the infamous Celaeno family disappeared.
"What's our next step?" Chan asked, just as a set of double knocks came from our outer door.
We looked from each other to the door. I hadn't lied to Agnes when I said she had been our only client. Since I didn't know how long our meeting would take, I made sure no one else was scheduled. It wasn't like our office was easy to find.
"I guess our next step is to see who that is," I gestured in a 'you first' way towards the door as the double knocks sounded again.
Chan dialed his watch back and walked towards the door. He opened it to reveal two identically dressed people in their late teens. Both had on black suits, black ties and blinding white shirts. When they took off their hats to greet Chan, their black hair shone in the office light.
Chan looked warily at the twins then back to me. I knew the two enough to give Chan the go-ahead signal.
"I believe it's Em and El, correct?" I asked from my desk.
The two nodded at the same time.
"Please come in and have a seat," I offered.
The two exchanged a silent glance in which I could tell there were indeed words passing unspoken between them.
"We cannot stay," said the one I knew as El.
"We only came to tell you that we did not lose the Humboldt lineage," Em added in an eerily identical voice.
The Celaeno twins were the youngest members of the family to actually curate the collections. Not every member of the Celaeno family could or would be marked to work in the family business. You needed a special kind of person to do that with a special kind of mind to handle it.
"Why are you coming to me?" I asked, truly puzzled. Of course, I had planned to follow-up with the Celaeno family but to have members come so soon after Agnes left was unsettling.
"We know Miss Humboldt was coming to you," El said.
"And we know you would come to us," Em finished.
"But we did not lose that book!" El's hand tightened over the brim of the hat they were holding.
"You see," Em said, "we are personally in charge of the Humboldt collection and we would know."
"Do you know where the book is?" I asked. "If you're in charge of it, you would know what happened to it."
The two looked at each other again before turning their dark eyes on me.
"We do not know exactly," El said sadly. "It is indeed missing but we did not misplace it and no one from the Humboldt family has come to see the collection since last year."
I waited for Em to add to their sibling's sentence but both stayed silent. I felt there was something they were holding back on.
"Do you know who might have taken it?" I ventured the guess and from the pinched look on their faces, I had hit the mark.
"We may," El said.
"But we're not sure just yet," Em replied.
Both looked back to me with imploring eyes.
"We need you to help us," El said. "Our jobs depend on the return of that book."
"If you can get it back," Em said, "we would be chastised but all would eventually be forgiven."
I sat back in my chair and crossed my arms.
"How can I help get it back if you won't tell me what you know?" I let a little exasperation sound in my voice.
El and Em shared one more glance before looking back at me.
"We will tell you but not here. Meet us in one hour on the corner of East and Pine by the fountain," El said.
"Come alone," Em finished with a knowing look at Chan.
The two walked in step out of our door and down the hall. Chan closed it and shuddered at the cold wave of air that passed over him from their departure.
"Who in the hell were they?" Chan asked when we were finally alone.
"Celaeno's newest," I said. "Looks like they know something about the whereabouts of Agnes' book. They may even know who took it."
I stood up and reached for my jacket. If I had to meet the creeptastic-duo in an hour, I wanted to be sure I could do as much of my own sleuthing as I could first.
Chan reached for his coat as well.
"No, my friend," I said, "I have to go out on my own. You hold down the fort and I should be back in about 2 hours. If I'm not, tell my dad where I was supposed to go."
Chan looked ready to argue.
"I'm not worried about those two," I gestured to the now empty door, "but I do know they absolutely will not talk with you or Nodens present. It's not personal, trust me."
It was clear that Chan was indeed going to take it personal, but he knew I could stop him from going if I wanted to.
"Besides," I tried to comfort him, "I need you to call out to our FBI contact and see if any fishy-people have turned up dead since this morning. I have a feeling some might if I don't find whoever took this book soon enough."
I left him wondering about this as I headed down to the main lobby of our office building. Though I definitely could have used Nodens in our current case, Chan still hadn't come to terms with the Elder God and they were more of a liability for me than a help. Until I could get them to work together, Chan would be pulling desk duty for many of our cases.
My first stop was to pop into my mom's office at the college campus. I knew her office hours and was pretty certain I could find her alone as most of her students were terrified of asking her any questions in case she gave them the answers.
As I had thought, she was sitting at her impressive mahogany desk, drinking coffee and reading a novel.
"You'd like this one," she said without looking up from her book, "it's good gothic horror. I know you always say you can never find that any more."
I made a mental note of the book title and author before getting myself on track. My mom and I could discuss books all day and I didn't have much time before my meeting with the twins.
"What can you tell me about how hard it would be to take a book that doesn't belong to you from Celaeno's?"
This piqued her interest. She set a slim piece of paper in her book to mark her place then leaned both elbows on the desk with her mug clasped between her hands.
"Is this for a case or are we just imagining?" Her eyes lit up at the thought of either.
"A case," I confirmed, "but if anyone would know now to get in and out of a place like Celaeno's without being noticed, you would."
She twisted her lips to one side and looked up at the ceiling.
"Most would tell you it's impossible," she said thoughtfully, "but nothing's impossible, just improbable."
I made myself a cup of coffee and settled into the deep red armchair in front of her desk to wait. She would view the puzzle from every angle before giving me her theories. I don't exaggerate when I tell you that my mother is one of the best thieves in the world. She may be teaching archaeology at Miskatonic University but that woman could steal the soul from a saint if she wanted it.
After about five minutes she shook her head.
"Can't be done," she said with finality, "unless it's an inside job. Their wards and protections are just too intricate without having an accomplice on the inside."
I nodded because I had thought as much but needed confirmation.
"Did a book go missing from Celaeno's?" Mom's voice was low and conspiratorial. "Do I need to keep this under my hat or make a few phone calls?"
"Under your hat for now," I said as I put my coffee cup back on the tray. "I'll let you know by the end of the day if we need to start taking precautions."
She sat back in her chair and looked at the ceiling again.
"This could be a big problem," she said after a minute, "and not just for your client, whoever or whatever they may be."
I nodded but added nothing to the conversation. We both knew a breach at Celaeno's was not a good thing.
I had just enough time to make my appointment with the twins on the corner of East and Pine. This was a spot I knew well as it was a small park often used for such meet-ups between opposing factions. The ground was a neutral area that had an agreed upon truce. No matter how much you hated your enemy, you held your hand in the tongue-in-cheek Perdition Park.
I arrived only to see the flashing of police cars and an ambulance. I ran towards the police tape in time to see a stretcher with a covered body and one with a very bloody patient.
As they neared the ambulance, the eyes of El or Em, I couldn't tell which, fixed on me. I felt a jab at the front of my brain so sharp I nearly cried out. Instead I opened my mind to the incoming communication.
He said he loved us, the soft voice said, said he wanted us both, loved us equally.
There was a silent sad pause as the living twin waited for the other to complete the thought.
I...I swear we meant no harm, said the lone twin. The singular pronoun strange in their mind and tongue. We did not know what he had done until it was too late. I...I don't know why he did it.
The last part of the sentence was weak. I could feel the speaker's energy ebbing and knew this was the last time anyone would speak to either twin.
I can find him and get the book back, I thought back. I can make him pay for what he did. Tell me who he is.
As the stretcher was loaded next to the dead twin, I felt our connection pull thin. I heard the calm but insistent voices of the paramedics urge the dying twin to stay with them.
Ashes to Eibon.
I could barely make out the dying words but I had heard them. Eibon seemed familiar to me but I couldn't place the name. This would be leg work but should be easy. Whoever this Eibon person was would soon be meeting me and we'd take a short walk into a very dark place.
Furious for not tailing the twins as was my first instinct, I headed back to my office. I had calls to make and inquiries to follow up on. I needed to find this Eibon and quickly. He had already proven he was a murderer and he had a list of names to check off.
When I entered, I slammed the door for emphasis and was greeted by Chan jumping up from his desk, grinning. When he saw the dark cloud that was my face, he lost the smile.
"We had a third client while you were out," Chan ventured another small smile, "but I handled it."
I didn't want to hear this right now. I didn't have time for a third client when I had just basically lost the second and was on the way to losing the first.
"Ashton Eibon," Chan's voice sliced through my brain as if he'd slammed me into the wall. "said he lost a book at Celaeon's too. Looks like our thief got more than just one book there."
"I told him I would have you contact him if you had any follow-up questions." Chan seemed proud of himself as he continued to speak. I barely made it to our couch before my legs gave out.
"What did you say his name was?" My voice sounded hoarse to my own ears.
"Eibon?" Chan looked back at his notebook. "Ashton Eibon. Said his family also lost an important book. It was called 'The Vale of Pnath'. Said it was a journal of his great grandfather's travels."
I let my head fall back and closed my eyes. The pounding of my blood was loud and I tried to take some deep breaths to steady myself. I was furious but wasn't sure if this was directed towards Chan or myself.
"When our third client came in today," I managed to find my voice, "Did he mention he lost the book before of after you told him about Agnes and the Celaeno kids."
There was a pause in which I counted to ten. I opened my eyes and looked at Chan. He seemed unsure of himself or how to answer.
"Did you say anything first or did he tell you without prompting?" I sat up, ready to head in whatever direction felt most appropriate, even if it was at Chan's throat.
"I...maybe?" Chan gulped. "I don't remember if he mentioned it first or if I did."
"Tell me exactly what happened." I took a deep breath again and let it out slowly. "Verbatim."
Chan sat down and rubbed the watch at his wrist. It dawned on me that Nodens may have seen our guest better than Chan but I decided to give my so-called partner a chance to explain first.
"He came in the door about thirty minutes after you left and asked if you were in." Chan looked towards the door in remembrance. "I said you would be back. I offered to help if I could."
Now it was Chan's turn to take a deep breath. "He sat down at the chair in front of my desk and--"
I cut him off. "Did you allow him in or did he just walk in?"
Chan looked back at the door in contemplation. His paling face told me what I needed to know.
"Go on," I waved my question away. "What did he say?"
Chan's brow wrinkled and his eyes hazed over. My concern grew. Whoever this person had been could not only walk over my ward as if it were a star-wish but had managed to cloud Chan's memory of him.
"I need to talk to Nodens," I sighed and put my head in my hands. The pounding was getting louder and threatening to turn into a headache. "Just him." I added in case Chan felt the need to interrupt Nodens at any point.
Another pause but I didn't bother to look up. The air in the room changed when Chan let the inner god take over. It was a dangerous electricity that somehow made the air in the spacious office feel thick.
"What happened?" I asked from the safety of my hands.
"He did not let me see much," the voice was deeper than Chan's and worlds older. "I tried to warn him and he turned that infernal device on his wrist to block me out completely. You may wish to warn him that I will eventually come into my full power and insolence like that will cause me to look unfavorably upon him."
"What did you see?" I asked again. "Anything that might help."
"The man that came here was more than what he appeared," Nodens said. "His blood is old and tainted. He had powers that no mortal should possess," a brief pause made the electric air crackle, "and he wishes revenge upon those he feels has wronged his line."
I glanced over at Nodens-Chan. The eyes were dark and dangerous. They were angry and looking for a fight. I fully intended to let him have one.
"Do you know Eibon?" I asked. "Do you know his line?"
Nodens-Chan nodded. "He comes from a long line of dangerous warlocks and witches, ones who serve unmentionable gods and goddesses. Their dark line was thought to be wiped out long ago but I know his blood."
"Would I be correct in guessing the Humboldt's took part in the wiping out of his bloodline?" I guessed.
Nodens-Chan smiled a gruesome smile. "The Humboldts were not alone in hunt but it was one of their line that betrayed the Eibons. They wanted the land and power for their own. Neither family line is good but the Eibons reveled in death and dismay beyond what their rituals required."
It all made sense. The line was nearly wiped out and the few that managed to escape spent generations scrounging for their former glory. They would indoctrinate their children in the hatred they felt until they were finally strong enough to take on those they felt betrayed them.
"Could you find this man again?" I asked the ancient being that inhabited my friend. "Could you hunt him down?"
The smile became so much worse and I could feel my own lips parting in a similar smile. Nodens-Chan reached out the wrist where the sealing artifact bound him inside Chan. Despite the fear I saw flicker through the dark eyes, I didn't hesitate to remove the watch completely. What little remained of my friend Chan was quickly sucked in to a deep dark place as Nodens gained full control.
Our first stop was Perdition Park where the twins had been murdered. The police had already finished with the area and no one was stopping us from entering.
Nodens went to the fountain and breathed deep. Howling, a thin drift of smoke left his mouth and formed into two snarling black hunting dogs. They sniffed the ground, easily finding the killing spot, then ran towards the east side of town.
Even being in good shape, it was a challenge to keep up with the dogs. They came back when their master called but would quickly dart away again to follow the trailer of the killer. Nodens had no problem following though I knew Chan would be feeling this impromptu marathon for days after.
It didn't take long for me to realize where we were heading and a cold sense of dread enveloped me. Affectionately known as Miasma Hill, the dogs were making haste towards the hill at the back of the city's oldest graveyard.
What most people didn't know about Miasma Hill because few were stupid enough to go there, was it was not a natural hill. The mound hid an ancient and abandoned temple to a god no one could name, not even my family. Those who did venture into the temple's entrance never returned.
The sun was setting as the dogs burst through the edge of the graveyard and straight for the back of the wooded hill. Both Nodens and I stopped to take in the strange fog that rolled off the edges and creeped through the old graveyard.
"Our quarry lies within," Nodens confirmed, "but I feel your hesitation and the fear of the being inside."
I noticed Nodens did not specify if the fear came from the being inside of him or me. Either way he was correct. I shivered in the growing gloom.
Before I could let the cold knot of fear well up, I started running towards the hill. I knew where the entrance was though I had never ventured inside.
The dogs were gone by the time we reached the back of the hill but I had heard Nodens mutter under his breath before we came around. I assumed he called off the hunters and sent them back to whatever realm they normally resided.
We entered cautiously under the entrance where sigils light up a dark and evil green. I was under no illusion that Eibon knew we were there. My only hope was that his sigils could not identify the ancient god with me.
As we followed the twisting passages down into the deep earth, I could smell a foul odor like old death that clung to the dirt. Despair has a specific taste and the walls were drenched in it. It was no wonder my parents warned me away from this place. Nothing good had ever happened here. This place reveled in death and destruction, which is exactly how Nodens had described the Eibon family's favorite past times.
We reached a vaulting cavern without incident. I had been on alert for any traps as we made our way but nothing had happened. At this point my heart was pounding so hard I could hear the echo of it off the high ceiling.
The altar in the center of the crazed temple was of a black and shining stone veined with deepest red. It was evil in a way I couldn't explain. My family had participated in plenty of sacrifices, but this felt more wrong than I could explain.
When I took a step closer, I saw why it felt wrong. The red veins were just that. Dark blood coursed through the altar, pulsing with each beat of an unseen heart. I could hear the screams of those souls trapped forever as their blood coursed unendingly through whatever the altar was.
"That is your Humboldt," Nodens' deep voice snapped me out of the trance I had fallen into, "though I am not sure she will be with us much longer if we do not quicken our pace."
Nestled in oblong bowl of the altar's center lay a very naked and very gray Agnes' Humboldt. Her withered body jerked with each pulse of the altar. The veins of the thing had attached through her skin and was sucking out her soul as much as it sucked out her blood. She would have screamed but her lips were stitched together.
"Thank you for coming," said a quiet and cultured voice from deep within the shadows of the temple. "I had hoped you would."
I didn't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't the small, bookish looking boy in front of me. He was clearly no older than the Celaeno twins had been and could easily have passed for a freshman at Miskatonic, except for the fact that power pulsed from him in almost nausiating waves.
"I tried to visit you today," the boy went on, "to tell you my side of the story. To explain to you why I did what I had to do. I knew you would understand. The Mackenzie's know what it's like to be persecuted, to be hunted."
Eibon looked at Nodens, not seeing the godlike presence but still knowing he was different than the Chan he had met before.
"I tried to tell you partner," Eibon said, looking back at me, "I tried to explain why I needed your help but he told me you were already in the employ of the Humboldts and that the twins had come to you."
"Why did you kill them?" I asked, knowing the answer but trying to give Nodens a chance to find the boy's weakest point.
The Eibon boy shook his head sadly. "I didn't want to," he said with true regret in his voice, "I had hoped they would understand. I had hoped I had found partners to continue my line, to help me raise the next of my kin but they were betrayers like everyone else."
He looked up at me with hope.
"But you understand!" He put out his hands imploringly. "You know what I did was right and true. I had to avenge my family! I had to set right was had been done to us! Just like you are doing now!"
I nodded and took a step towards the boy, not asking what he knew of my current resolutions. He really did look like a kid but looks meant nothing when it came to the powers that existed in this world.
"I do know," I said in all honesty. "I know all about it. We have to do what's right for our families, don't we?"
"Angel's Fall," the boy smiled, nodding vigorously. "I know all about it. I know what the Covenant did to you, to your family. That's why I came back here." He waved his hands to indicate the underground temple. "I had to come back to where it all happened so long ago to take back my family's power."
While the boy focused on me, I could see Nodens edge towards the pulsing altar. I could also see Agnes had minutes left in her, despite her attempt to fight the altar's draining powers.
"Are you the last?" I put as much sympathy in my voice as I could feign.
The boy's eyes filled with tears as he nodded. "The very last," he said. "I had two brothers but our dark lord...he demanded so much for our family's rise back to glory."
I was within reaching distance of the boy when Agnes let out a piercing scream. Apparently being removed from the altar required tearing the veins out of her.
Eibon turned towards Nodens then back at me. His young face, so full of hope of being understood turned into pure hatred. I jumped out and managed to grab him by his upper arms.
We struggled until it was clear my own inner power was a match for his. It came down to physical strength, a field in which I was the clear favorite.
As a last ditch effort, the last of the Eibon line shouted something at me that had made me faint and my ears bleed the first time I had heard it as a small boy. Now it just left an unpleasant ringing sensation in my head. This child had no idea who he was dealing with.
I smiled and slammed his small frame onto the altar that had so recently held the piscine form of Agnes Humboldt.
The boy screamed in terror as the veins pulsed up and through his body, enjoying the fear and blood feast. I admit I also took pleasure in seeing the last of the Eibon line shrivel before my eyes.
We managed to find a dark cloak to wrap the elderly Agnes in and Nodens carried her up and out of the temple while I gave the place a quick search. We waited patiently as I called out to my family to send various types of help.
In less than ten minutes a small coterie descended upon us. Some took Agnes off and others went straight in to Miasma Hill to figure out how best to handle the living altar.
I stood with Nodens and a cousin of mine named Kelsie who was sent to take possession of the Humboldt lineage and a particularly interesting artifact I had found in the temple that I wanted to stay in our family.
After looking at then quickly pocketing the artifact, she went to say something to me. Instead she gave Nodens a quick once-over and grinned.
"You may want to let your buddy out," she said to me. "If you leave him in there any longer, I can't promise he'll come out sane."
It took longer than it should have for me to realize she meant Chan. Nodens narrowed his eyes at her but said nothing as I took the watch out of my pocket and put it on Chan's wrist.
When Chan was in full control of himself, he fell to the ground, shaking and crying. I reached out to comfort him but he pulled away from me, cursing.
"Do all of your friends do that?" Kelsie asked.
I shrugged. "It's been known to happen."
She reached out to Chan and ran a hand over his hair and whispered something for his ears alone. He instantly fell into a deep sleep.
"When he wakes, you'll probably be having some deep conversations with him," she said. "You may lose a friend."
I knew she was right but also knew something she didn't.
"He can't leave me," I said simply. "He's contracted to us or he dies. We're his only protection from Ferrymen."
Kelsie let out a breath.
"He's part of Ferrymen?" She almost spat the name. She had also been there for Angel's Fall all those years ago. All of my cousins had been there and not all made it out.
She knew more than most about the deep hatred our family had for the company, especially their special forces group they called the Covenant. She knew what we were planning because she was part of it. The only ones who didn't truly know were the Ferrymen themselves. They had an uneasy truce with us, not knowing we were just biding our time, trying to give one of our own a chance to redeem herself before it was too late.
I nodded sadly and looked at the unconscious form of my only friend. I didn't know if this would be our last case together or not. So much depended on what came of our talk once he woke up. I hope he, unlike my cousin Tana, would make better life choices. His very existence depended on it.
My lofty dreams of being a famous & brilliant writer were literally smacked out of my head. Now I plan to fill the void with copious amounts of subpar writing!