Shadow's Ascendance

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Chapter Eighteen

“…and another thing, you damn idiots! What da fuck were you thinking going outta the city without stopping in ’ere first and talking ta me? You know, your fucking CHIEF? Don’t know why ye wouldn’t see fit ta let me know what ye were doing, chasing down a lead, no matter how tenuous and shitty it was. But then again, I forgot, I wasn’t talking to a pair of respectable Detectives, with years on the force; nah, I’m talking to a pair of mule balls! That’s what ye are, both of ye! Useless and just dangling there, not doing a fucking thing worthwhile!”

This had been going on now for about fifteen or so minutes; I couldn’t tell how long exactly, since the clock in the Chief’s office was directly above us. And I had no desire to pull out my pocket watch and check the time that way. I’m sure there are other less messy ways to commit suicide, but I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head. The worst part was, he looked like he was just getting warmed up, since he had taken off his uniform jacket and had rolled up his sleeves as he paced back and forth in front of us, spewing his displeasure at our job performance the last couple of days.

Chief Seamus Mallory Copperbeard was a Dwarf, standing barely 9 Hands tall and weighing about 18 Stones, though none of that was fat. He had a bright orange beard that he usually kept tied and held together with a clasp that was made from spare gears, with hair that was cut very close to the scalp and spiked up. His eyes, a dark green, supposedly sparkled whenever he laughed or smiled, but since I couldn’t recall ever actually seeing the Chief do any of those things, I couldn’t attest to the veracity of that statement. I could attest to the fact that whenever he got so worked up he was practically frothing at the mouth, his pale skin became very splotchy and it was easy to see the vein throb on the side of his thick neck. That I’d seen many times.

What was admirable was the Chief didn’t ask for any special treatment because he was smaller than most everyone else here. I’d heard horror stories from people that had Dwarves for their bosses, how they would make their employees get down so they wouldn’t have to look up when they berated them, or that they would pull out a stepstool just so they could look them in the eye when they talked to them. One guy told me that in the factory he worked in, the assembly line was dug down into the ground, so that way when the Dwarf overseer walked around, he could look down on his employees! How crazy is that bullshit?!

No, for all the blustering and yelling he did, I had no real complaints about the Chief. Granted, after an ass-chewing by him the front of my pants was soaked in sprayed spittle, but that was better than having it in my face, if I had to choose. And since we’d all been on the receiving end of one of his infamous tirades at one point or another (Copperbeard having been the Chief for the last 40 Cycles or so), none of us made fun of someone who came out of his office looking like he pissed himself. The bond that united us, faux urine stains, how sweet.

Personally, I had been sprayed and chewed out more times than I can count. If I didn’t know any better, I would say the Chief was racist. In fact, I had asked him about that once. I had only been on the force for a year or so, and I was working on impressing everyone so I could make Detective. But, I had been in the Chief’s office getting reamed over ten times since I joined the force, and I was getting a little sick of it. So, one time after he called me in when I didn’t file some paperwork correctly, I said it to him. “Are you racist against Orcs?”

The sound of my voice stopped him in his tracks, since normally flatfeet didn’t talk back to him. Spinning around slowly, he walked back to me and said in a low voice, “What did ye say to me, officer?” his left eye twitching. I knew this was my chance to take it back, if I wanted to.

But I didn’t. “I have been called into this office more times than any other beat officer this year. My scores at the Academy were top notch, I have a good rapport with the people of the Arcane District, which is where you assigned me, and crime is down there in this last year 8%. I should be getting commended, but instead I am getting chastised, so I will say it once more: are you prejudiced against Orcs? Sir.” I added the last part belatedly.

I fully expected him to launch into another tirade, or to maybe even hit me. His right arm kept shaking, so I knew he had the thought. Instead, he let out a deep sigh and went behind his desk, climbing up into his chair and just sitting there for a moment while he rested his head in his hands. Since I hadn’t been dismissed (or fired, that thought did run through my mind back then, I remember), I simply stood there at attention, arms clasped behind my back.

“Ye know, the world is different out there for people like us,” the Chief finally spoke up, his voice still very quiet. “I may be the Chief of police, but I still run into it when I’m out and about among the people. The whispers, the funny looks, the laughter. My kind isn’t as common here as ye would think, since it’s too open for most of us. That much open sky can give some of my people fits.” After that, he grew still for a bit. I may have been young, but I knew that he wasn’t finished talking, so I kept silent.

“But, I got where I am today because my superior in the Academy took a vested interest in ma career. He did this, not by takin’ it easy on me, but by being a hard ass. I was ridden harder than a new whore after the airships dock for the weekend. And when I asked my instructor if he had a thing against Dwarves, do ye know what he said? He said, ‘the world isn’t going to let you forget that you’re a Dwarf, so why should I help you do the same?’ and it was the best thing he could’ve said. Would you like to know why?”

“Why, sir?” I asked him.

“Because the world ain’t gonna let ye forget that you’re a half-Orc, Officer Jonas. Sure, ye may be not quite as ugly as most of yer kind, but make no mistakes. Anyone who looks at ye will see your Orc heritage written on yer face and based on yer size.” My temper was a lot hotter back then than it is now, and I almost spoke up, but just managed to rein it in before I said something that would definitely have gotten me fired. Whether he knew of my difficulty or not, the Chief didn’t let it show, just continued talking. “Your job isn’t to make them like you, cuz people are fucking assholes. No, yer job is to make sure that no one doubts for a minute that ye deserve to be where you’re at.”

He got down from his chair and came around his desk, to stand in front of me once more. “So you’re right that I am a hard ass on ye, and it ain’t about to stop. I can’t, not for yer sake. Things that may seem stupid or inconsequential for other officers, I will bust yer ass for; things that would earn them a slap on the wrist, I will be suspending ye for a day or two without pay; things that they may not have to deal with, ye will. Because, I think ye have it in you to be an amazing officer, and who knows? Maybe you’ll move up in the ranks one day. I can tell you, nobody –including meself- could have predicted that one day I would be Chief. And yet here I am. You’d do well to learn from my example. So,” he paused, “do ye still think I’m a racist?”

Staring up at me, I could tell that he wanted my complete honesty. Thinking it over, I gave a shake of my head. “No sir, I don’t.”

Smiling, he said, “Good.” That smile vanished to be replaced by the familiar glower I was all too used to seeing. “Now, get the fuck outta my office, and fix your mistake!” he barked out, and I snapped off a salute before turning on my heel and walking out the door.

“Jonas! What da fuck are ye doing? Am I so boring that you’d rather tilt your head to the side, drooling and daydreaming like a fucking idiot, rather than listen to what I have to say?” The Chief’s voice barking out incredulously pulled me out of my recollection and back to the present, much to my partner’s chagrin. He rolled his eyes at me, but said nothing nor gave any other sign he’d noticed my woolgathering.

Dorf, having not only been through the Academy but also in the military, was probably used to having people scream at him that he was a fuck-up and would never amount to nothing. During my time at the Academy, I quickly developed a reputation for making sure that I was never talked to like that more than once. I had a hot temper, and wasn’t concerned with getting punished for laying out a superior after he tried to treat me like dog meat. As long as they never did it again, I took my grave shifts or kitchen duties or even once a day in the stockade with a feral grin.

So when I started on the force after finishing at the Academy, I had to train myself not to let others control me by my temper, since everyone already knew I had one. It wasn’t easy at all, but unlike the Academy, if I pissed off a superior badly enough they would just fire me. Sure, there were jobs that fit my training and qualifications that I could take up, but I had wanted to be a Detective since my Academy enrollment, and nothing else would do. I learned to either let the small things go, or to transfer my feelings of impotent rage to someone it was safe to take it out on; like if we busted somebody who liked to beat up women or children, they usually suffered “accidents” on their way back to the station. Hey, the city is dangerous, these things happen!

“No sir, you are not boring sir!” I snapped off, even tossing in a salute. Years of training meant the Chief answered the salute before realizing what he was doing, growling when he did.

“Bah! Fine, at ease you worthless pricks. My throat’s getting a might parched, anyway.” Turning away from us, the Chief went over to his desk and picked up his flask, popping the cap off and taking a long draught from it. Now, before you think what’s wrong with him, it bears repeating that the Chief has been sober for almost a decade now. He used to drink so much, the doctors at the hospital told him it was killing him, and if he didn’t stop he’d be dead within a few Cycles. Being a Dwarf and knowing that he could easily live for another 150 or so certainly scared him straight, and he went through the shakes and came out the other side much healthier.

Putting the flask down and smacking his lips, the Chief spun around to face us once more. “Now, what were ye saying before, about the Ronan and their being in danger?”

Stepping forward slightly, Dorf spoke up. “Yessir, whomever killed those Ronan in Aerdale definitely targeted them because of that. We think it has something to do with the old card found on the first reported murder victim over 100 Cycles ago. It is used by the Ronan in their fortune telling, and since Mr. Smart Pretty-boy over here,” this was said with a jerk of his thumb in my direction, “can’t read the markings that were left in the alley and on the body, it was the only clue we had to go on. I believe the rest of the Ronan, if they are camped out in other villages that surround Aerendor, are in grave danger.”

Crossing his arms over his chest, the Chief sighed. “As much as the City Council –bunch of useless pricks who just get in da way- is gonna have a shit fit about having that many Ronan in the city, I agree with ye. I already sent out messages to be relayed to the next few villages. We’ll know within a few hours if they reached them in time. Now why don’t ye both go get some rest, you look like day old shit. Dismissed.”

We both snapped off a salute, and then turned and exited his office. I was worried about the Ronan, this is true, but my Chief had given me an order, and for once I wanted to follow it without question. And besides, I’m sure that Dorf was looking forward to a home cooked meal with his husband and Natalya. Sure, I could have invited myself over, and they both would have been happy to have me and not been displeased in the slightest. But, I knew that Dorf was just starting to warm up to the idea that maybe he and Gregory would have a child in their life soon, and having me over would just distract him from the slow bonding process the two of them were undergoing.

So, I bid him farewell as he got back in his death machine and told him I would walk home alone, turning down his offer to give me a ride with a laugh and a shake of my head. I’d spent enough time in his steam-carriage recently to tide me over for quite a while. Shaking his head over how intractable I was (like he was one to talk), Dorf cranked his engine a few times until it finally caught. With a cough and a sputter, he put his baby into gear and we went our separate ways for the evening.

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