Shadow's Ascendance

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Chapter Twenty

Walking into the station, I was amazed at how loud it seemed with twenty or so extra people crowded into it. It wasn’t like there was a whole lot of unused space to begin with, but having more bodies crammed inside made me feel uneasy and uncomfortable. I was just glad I wasn’t claustrophobic, because if I was, I would probably start swinging my fists to clear the area around me. As it were, I just used my size to maneuver myself through the crowd as best as I could, trying not to hurt any of the refugees when I did so as I let their voices wash over me.

The Ronan spoke a hodge-podge language, made up of the Common Human tongue, along with lots of words and phrases in Elven, Dwarven, Orc, and a smattering of other languages. Plus, the original dialect for them was unlike any other language, so trying to speak Ronan –unless you were a native and had been born around it- was an almost impossible task. What made it worse was, almost all Ronan refused to learn any other languages, only having their leader and their fortune-tellers bother with that. I can understand about wanting to keep your culture alive and intact, but that bordered on the ridiculous.

However, that didn’t account for spells. I was not the only caster on the force, so as I made my way to the Chief’s office I could see my fellow spell enthusiasts doing their best to get witness statements from the refugees. It was funny to watch the Ronan be surprised when a caster used a translation spell to converse with them in their native tongue, like they had somehow cheated the protective system they had put into place. But, they got over it and gave their reports, pausing while the caster translated it so the clerks could jot it down on their stenography machines. The hum of those machines, along with the clacking keys, filled the air.

As I approached the Chief’s office, he saw me through the glass and waved me on in, not wanting me to waste time knocking and then being given permission. I hurried inside and shut the door, grateful for the lessening of volume in here. Dorf was already waiting for me, standing loosely at attention. His face was still beaded with sweat, so I’m sure he was still calming down from being around that many people pressed up against him. I gave him a reassuring smile before I saluted Copperbeard. “Reporting in, sir.”

“At ease,” he barked out, and I mirrored my partner’s relaxed stance.

“So, I take it at least one of the messengers got to a village and caravan in time,” I asked him, but instead of nodding affirmative, he looked uneasy.

“Actually, my messengers all reported in to me about an hour ago. When they got to the villages and the caravans, there was nobody left alive. Nothing like that blood beast you encountered, but still…not a single living soul.”

The confusion I was feeling was plain as day on my face. “I don’t understand, sir. Then how did…?”

“They know to come to Aerendor?” the Chief finished my sentence. “Supposedly, their fortune-teller had a prophetic dream two nights ago. Woke up screaming about how the sins of the past were about to catch up to them from the impossible man’s doubled spirit, whatever da fuck that means. She roused everyone, but only a few believed her. So, those that did split off from the main caravan and fled here; the rest, went on to Aerdale.”

“Well, shit,” Dorf interrupted. “That can’t be a coincidence, can it?”

“If it is, pigs might fly outta my ass next time I need bacon,” the Chief replied drolly.

Futile as it was, I tried to stop myself from snorting. “So sir, should we go get Natalya?”

“And give up one of the only leads we have on this case? Not a chance. Besides, this way if the Ronan get uncooperative, we have some leverage,” Copperbeard answered. I watched a range of emotions march across Dorf’s face.

“Sir, with all due respect, she’s a little girl. She’s not ‘leverage’ we can use to get our way,” my partner practically growled out. Now, the Chief was used to me arguing with him and being an ‘stubborn ass donkey-fucker’ as he had called me once, but for the most part Dorf just stood there and didn’t dispute anything that was asked of us; seeing the normally tractable Pennywhistle ready to fight for Natalya must have been a little unnerving.

Coughing once into his fist, the Chief gruffly said, “OK, don’t get your knickers in a twist, it was just a suggestion. Since that one doesn’t work, what do you propose we do?”

Nodding his head towards me, Dorf said, “Have Jonas here meet with the fortune-teller and the leader of this caravan. He knows translation spells so he can talk to them, and he can use his keen Detective senses to see if either of them are peddling great heaps of horseshit.”

“Thanks for the glowing recommendation,” I said snidely.

“Blow it out your ass,” my partner fired back.

“Enough!” Copperbeard broke up our usual bickering. “That sounds like a good plan. Jonas, I put those two into Interview Room A, to keep them separate from the rest of their people. And, so it is easier to make sure they don’t steal nothing.” Apparently, my Chief was one of those people who believed the stories that were told about the Ronan. How delightfully bigoted of him, I thought morosely. Instead of choosing to argue with him (knowing I wouldn’t change his mind, at least not right now) I just sighed and nodded my agreement. “Waldorf, you go out there and start gathering the witness statements and going over them. Jonas, you know what to do. Dismissed.” We both saluted him and exited his office, back into the maelstrom.

Since the only way he could be heard over the din was by yelling, Dorf instead chose to simply pat me on the shoulder, grip it in a friendly fashion, and head over to all of the clerks to round up what statements were already available. Normally I wouldn’t envy my partner, being stuck on paperwork. But, for once I would rather be in his shoes (not literally, since my ‘freakishly large Orc feet’ as he once called them, are much bigger than his) and be organizing information, instead of interviewing potentially hostile witnesses.

I could just wait until I entered the interview room to cast my translation spell. It didn’t take too long, and a lot of times it helped impress the witnesses and leave them in awe and much more willing to answer my questions. But this time I wanted to do it out here, so if they tried talking about me because they thought I was ignorant I could eavesdrop, as it were. And besides, it wasn’t like there wasn’t plenty of Ronan around talking for me to use for the spell.

Just like I had done with Natalya, I sat down near one of the Ronan being interviewed by one of my fellow Detectives. Sean was an Elf, and belonged to the sorcerer tradition. Normally sorcerers didn’t become police officers, since they hated paperwork and waiting, but Sean was a good exception. Maybe it was his people’s longevity that helped him out, but he possessed a patience that I was jealous of, able to work calmly when the situation called for it. However, when it was time to act, that’s when he really shined. His nickname was the Pretty Bomb, not only for the power he could bring to bear when it was needed, but because he was Elven and just ridiculously good looking. The witness, a young Human Ronan girl, obviously knew that also.

Once it was clear that I was just sitting down, and not about to take her away from the alabaster skinned God sitting across from her, the Ronan girl relaxed. At first, she had glared daggers at me, while Sean just rolled his eyes when she couldn’t see and gave me a wink. He was used to this reaction, and also knew how to use it to his advantage. People definitely opened up when he asked them questions, with his tousled raven black hair and forest green eyes. I bet HE had never went months and years without a date, I thought sourly. Not that it was his fault how he looked, and unlike a lot of good-looking people, he wasn’t an ass about it.

As discretely as I could, I pulled out my tuning fork and did the spell while I listened to the Ronan girl give her statement to Sean. Halfway through her last sentence, the spell took effect and I got to hear what she was saying. “…and so, I’m very scared to go out into this big city all by myself, and I’m sure someone who is as powerful as you would be a major deterrent from anyone trying to harm me. Would you be able to help me out?” She fluttered her eyelashes at him and pressed out her chest, and it was all I could do not to burst out laughing at her efforts.

“I’m afraid I can’t leave for quite a while, there’s lots to do to make sure all of your statements are taken and we have placed you someplace where you can be safe,” Sean smoothly answered, and before I had to see her pout or become more aggressive in her seduction, I gave him a nod and stood up, heading down the hall to Interview Room A. I’m sure he would let her down easy, especially since she seemed to be only 18 Cycles or so. Of course, he was over 160 Cycles, but she didn’t know that…and come to think of it, I doubt she’d even care.

Standing before the door to the room, I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then, once I felt I was as prepared as I could be, I gave a perfunctory knock on the door and opened it before stepping inside and closing it behind me. I didn’t actually know anything about these two other than they both were female, and one was the fortune-teller whilst the other one was the caravan leader. Apart from that, I was going in blind. Let’s see where this leads, I thought hopefully. I shuffled my blank papers around and pulled out a pen and inkwell.

“Good afternoon, ladies,” I greeted them in Common, knowing that they both should be fluent in it and not wanting to tip my hand early that I could temporarily speak their language. “My name is Detective Jonas, and I will be taking your witness statements today. Now, who would like to go first?” I finally looked up at them, and for just a few seconds, forgot how to breathe.

The fortune-teller was an older white haired Human female, appearing around 55 Cycles or so, dressed in the traditional Ronan garb. This consisted of a billowy white blouse, a yellow floor length skirt, and a rainbow of colored scarves wrapped around her head and chest. Beaded necklaces and bracelets sparkled, more than likely just made out of colored glass, but pretty nonetheless. Her skin was tanned from lots of time outside, and laugh lines crinkled around her mouth. Rather than making her appear old, her wrinkles added wisdom to her face. Smiling nervously at me, her brown eyes appraised me in what seemed like a positive manner.

It was the other woman that made me forget how to work my lungs. I had never actually met a female half-Orc before; all the ones in Aerendor were male. But if this was what they looked like, I wanted to meet more of them. Smooth skin the shade of a perfect cup of kafe covered her curvy frame, with a height that nearly matched my own. Long hair the color of rosewood was in a tail that spilled down her back; apart from that tail, she was shaved completely bald. It didn’t look off on her, it looked...perfect. And eyes the color of a starless night stared back at me almost defiantly. “Hello, Detective,” she said. “I would like to go first.”

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