A Dreamer's Knight

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Chapter 25 - Investigations

Trystan's face broke into a wide grin at the sight of Mikaen and Tirinia outside his door."Why, if it isn't Mikaen! Glad you decided to stop by!"

Mikaen forced a smile as Trystan's handshake threatened to break every bone in his hand.

"And Tirinia!" Trystan gave the Shoran Daughter a hug. "So good to see you again! I still can't believe you grew up so fast."

"Hi Uncle Trystan." Tirinia rested her head on the Seed's shoulder a moment before they released.

Trystan took a seat at his desk before giving them a knowing smile. "So, I hear you two are gonna get hitched."

"Uncle!" Tirinia said, her furry cheeks pink.

Mikaen felt his own face grow red. "We just met."

"So I've heard. Bonded already, eh?" He gave the sentient a knowing wink. "You certainly didn't waste time."

Tirinia did not appear amused. "Stop it, Uncle!"

Trystan shrugged. "I meant no offense. Still, whenever you set the date, make sure to send me an invitation, okay?"

"Uncle, please." Tirinia said, frowning. "We have something important to ask you."

"Oh? Then ask away, by all means."

Rubbing Tirinia's shoulders soothingly, Mikaen said, "What do you know about the recent disappearances?"

Trystan's smile faded a bit. "You saw the news report then?"

Sighing, he offered them some mint fudge from a tin canister. Tirinia and Mikaen both took a piece.

"I've lost three students myself." Trystan told them, "Two idestan and a young Galden about the same age as my grandson. At first, I thought they had just run into the city for some fun. You know, sneak into to pubs, hang out in trendy places, that sort of thing. Typical student behavior. Unfortunately, after two weeks …" He sighed and shook his head. "I'd like to look into it, but my hands are tied."

"But they're your students," Tirinia objected, "I thought the Center had autonomy."

"We do … here in the Center. If it's outside the Center, however, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Muonsol guard." He sighed again. Rubbing his eyes, he said, "I've reported the disappearances, but that's all I can do. Believe me; if I had my way, I'd be scouring the forest."

"Surely you have a way to find them." Mikaen said.

"I've tried all the usual magical methods. So far, no luck."

Mikaen frowned; the Knights of the Star had a group called Seekers who were skilled in finding people. Mikaen had never trained as a Seeker, but he was sure that some of them employed magical methods.

"Couldn't you use something that belongs to one of the missing students to track them? Something they came into contact with every day?" Mikaen asked.

Trystan scratched his chin. "I think I see what you're saying: the object would have some infusion of the owner's lifestream, which we might be able to trace if it hasn't already dissipated by now." He shook his head, saying, "By the time we got it set up, it'd be too late."

"How about something a bit more old-fashioned?" Tirinia suggested tentatively.

"What do you have in mind?" Trystan asked curiously.

"Well, when someone's lost in Longshore, we usually start by checking security footage in the areas where they were last seen."

Trystan shook his head, saying, "I'm sure the idestan Security Force already checked the camera feeds."

"I'm sure they did." said Tirinia. "But surely you've got your own eyes around Muonsol ... and perhaps in the surrounding forest?"

"Hmm. Well, I might have placed a number of tracer beacons around Ircandesta ... purely for research purposes. It's not exactly surveillance; it just scans passersby for a number of key signatures; flux patterns, energy signals, that sort of thing."

"But surely you could use it this one time." Tirinia gave Trystan a sweet smile.

Mikaen could almost hear the crack of Trystan's reluctance breaking. With a final sigh, Trystan tapped a small bell on his desk. Instantly, the desktop was cleared of all the books and trinkets that had previously covered the aged wood surface.

"Marapus." He said, waving his hand over his now bare desk.

Mikaen started to ask if Trystan was speaking to him when the translucent blue panel became a three-dimensional map of Muonsol and the surrounding area. He could literally feel the thrum of lifestream produced by the sustained spell. As they watched, the map began to zoom out until it showed a large portion of the forest around the city.

Nodding, Trystan continued, "Let's see; some of the other missing people were alumni as well, so let's start with a search for anyone ever registered at the Center."

A smattering of dots appeared on the map. When Mikaen looked closer, he realized the dots were actually detailed humanoid figures. They were all over the continent, most clustered around what must have been cities and towns.

"The only missing people are idestan and vuestan, so let's cut out all the other races." Many of the dots vanished, but not enough to pinpoint any specific location.

"Hmm. That's a bit suspicious." Trystan muttered. Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, he said, "Hang on; one of the missing kids had a mark III Kaboum arm. Let's see every signal with cyberware highlighted."

"Standard cyberware all emits a distinct stream pattern based on energy usage. The frequency differs depending on the make." She explained to Mikaen. A few of the figures turned blue, including one that appeared to be in Homestead.

Mikaen peered at the lone figure. "I never met anyone in Homestead with cyberware."

"Kathryn has a cybernetic arm: a Mschens model. Top of the line." said Trystan "She had an accident the year before Jeronem was born."

Mikaen was more than a little surprised. "I never knew that."

Trystan just shrugged, his eyes still on the map. "She doesn't talk about it much. That was back in her 'Killer Katy' days … wild girl. Still is, from what Elduran tells me."

Tirinia's eyes widened, her ears piqued. "Really?"

"Story for another day, Daughter Myssohn." Turning back to his desk, he said, "If they were in the cities, the security force would have found them already. Remove all dots in idestan an vuestan cities."

Most of the clusters disappeared, but not all.

Tirinia pointed to one of the clusters that remained, saying, "That's Altier, a small settlement near the strand to Longshore and Ronisgald."

"This group's probably just a bunch of fishermen." said Trystan, sweeping a finger across the eastern edge of the continent. "You see a lot of sonic and sonar-based cyberware among ship crews."

Mikaen noticed two indicators a short distance away from the city. They were fairly close to a small lake not terribly far from Muonsol. Given the size and position, Mikaen knew it had to be Yuna Lake. An idea promptly sprang to mind.

"Trystan, could you draw a line along the main path between Homestead and Muonsol?"

Trystan nodded and concentrated on the map. A few moments later, a small beam of light traveled between the cities on the map, leaving a blue trail in its wake.

"Now edit the trail taking the detour at …" Mikaen squinted at the map, trying to estimate at what point they had left the trail. "Ah, right here."

The computer immediately retraced the route, taking the route that Mikaen had supposedly taken. It veered almost straight north, right past Yuna Lake, but not before passing somewhat close to the two red figures.

"Nice shortcut, One." Mikaen muttered.

Tirinia touched the spot on the map, making the display waver for a moment. "So you think the monks who ambushed you weren't targeting you specifically."

"Possibly. It could be a coincidence."

"It would make sense." Trystan said, nodding. "Yuna Lake is out that way; it's the local Lover's Lane."

Tirinia and Mikaen exchanged glances, both unable to hide their smile.

Coughing slightly, Mikaen turned to Trystan, "This is more than enough to check out for now. Thanks for the help, Trystan."

As Mikaen and Tirinia started to leave, Trystan called out, "A moment, Mikaen."

"What's wrong?" Mikaen asked, a little disturbed by the serious expression on the Seed's face.

"If my estimates are correct, your Gineros is very close. I appreciate that you want to help find the missing people, but I would advise you to stay in Muonsol until your wings emerge. The process is supposed to be mind-numbingly painful, which could put you at risk if you're in combat or sneaking around. I'll send what we've found to the Cygros and the idestan Security Force, but I urge you not to go looking for trouble in your condition."

"Don't worry," Mikaen told him. "I have no intention of leaving Muonsol."

He nodded, apparently satisfied. Shaking Mikaen's hand, he said, "Well, in that case, I'll be in touch. Good day, Mikaen."

"Good day, Trystan."

As they walked out of the office, Tirinia whispered, "You lied to him."

"I said I had no intention of leaving the city, and as of this moment, that is true. We need more information."

"He's right, you know."

Mikaen glanced at her, surprised. She rubbed his cheek lovingly, concern in her gaze. "It's dangerous for you right now. I don't want you hurt, Mikaen."

Part of him was annoyed at how everyone seemed to be treating him like some fragile snowflake, but Tirinia's honest concern made that part of him feel ashamed. She was right; they all were right. From what he had read, the Gineros was extremely painful. If it were to hit at a bad moment, he would be seriously at risk.

He rubbed the back of her hand gently. "Okay, Tyr. I won't leave the city ... at least until after my Gineros. I promise."

"Good." She kissed him, her gratitude filling him with a wonderful feeling of warmth. Pulling away, she asked, "So what's the next step in our investigations?"

"Theology."

She gave him an odd look. "Excuse me?"

"The study of religion. Tell me, Tirinia," he said as he put his arm around her as they walked, "When was the last time you went to church?"

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