Shadow's Ascendance

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Chapter Forty

About an hour later the meat wagon and a few of the officers arrived at Mama Crea’s shop, along with Sean, who I was very happy to see. When the flatfeet came into the building, I was more than happy to exit. Being in there, with the stench of smoke, blood and death in the air, it had felt like the walls were closing in on me. I couldn’t remember the last time I was happy to breathe in Aerendor’s air, but today was one of those days.

“Hey, Jonas,” I heard Sean say from behind me, and turned to find he had followed me out. “Waldorf said you had a…crystal of some kind, I guess, that held Mama Crea’s statement about what happened.” Pulling it out of one of my duster pockets, I handed it over. “He also said,” and here he stepped closer and lowered his voice, and I felt my gut tie itself into knots, “that she –I can’t even believe I’m about to say this- she ate the murderer’s arms?”

I tried to relax and untwist my insides, faking a chuckle. “Oh yeah, right in front of us. I knew Giants were like that, but I never knew half-Giants…”

“I know what you mean,” he finished for me, giving a shudder. “I’m glad I don’t have to come out to the Arcane District too much. How do you deal with her?”

Shrugging my shoulders, I said, “It’s not too bad. She’s an alright person, when it comes down to it. Just has some really gross habits, I guess.”

“Well, better you than me,” Sean clapped my shoulder in a comradery fashion.

“What was Waldorf doing?” I asked him trying to appear nonchalant.

“Hmm? Oh, he’s giving his report to the Chief, then he’s got a press conference in just a bit to announce that the Mutilator –don’t ask, the press always comes up with the dumbest names- has been killed while resisting arrest. Hey, smile man! You guys did well!” He clapped me on the shoulder one more time, then held up the crystal and stared at it. “Uh, I don’t suppose she showed you how to work this thing, did she?”

Smiling slightly, I showed Sean how to activate the crystal, and made sure he heard the statement in full. I then told him that Mama Crea had asked to not be disturbed, which was why she recorded her statement in the first place. He agreed that once the flatfeet got done recording everything that happened and the meat wagon hauled Robert’s body away, then they would leave her be. Personally, I think he was just relieved that he wouldn’t have to deal with someone who could rip a man’s arms off and then eat them.

Waving goodbye to my sorcerer colleague, I made my way out of the Arcane District, still uneasy about how quiet it still was, but confident that tomorrow the residents would be back to open up their shops and stalls and go back to selling their trinkets and fleecing the unwary. Commerce is a major constant of the world; nothing slows it down too much. Looking up at the sky, I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t even 16th Bell yet. It felt like that confrontation took forever! But, the position of the sun in the sky gave truth to that lie.

Catching a horse and buggy was fairly easy, since people hadn’t ended their days and gone to dinner just yet, and I rode back to the station in silence, just going over everything that had happened in my head. I hoped that Dorf and I could talk, but when I arrived to give my report to the Chief, my partner had already held the conference and went home to his husband. “Relax, Jonas,” Copperbeard tried to console me. “I know that this was a major case for the both of ye, and while it would have been nice to see that fucker go to trial, I know that there was no way in the Hells that we could’a held him unless he was wanting te be held.”

“Yeah, I know Chief,” I responded. “Did the conference go well?”

Stroking his beard, the Chief seemed distracted. “Sorry my boy, I was just thinking about how I can use this case te ask the City Council for a bigger budget for next year. And the both of ye will probably get a commendation from the city for this. Don’t let it inflate yer ego, it don’t really do shite but give them someone te turn to when things go from difficult to impossible. Aye, it went well. Hey, did the Bastard –I’m not calling him the Mutilator, I don’t give a fuck what the press says- really confess to not hiring the Blood Guild to come after ye two?”

Nodding my head, I said, “Yeah, and I could tell that he wasn’t lying.”

Guffawing grimly, he simply said, “Well then, who did ye piss off?”

I shook my head. “I got a list, but nobody that should have the kind of funds to hire them, that’s for sure.” Changing the subject, since right now the last thing I wanted to think about was being targeted by a group of assassins, I said, “So, Chief, did Waldorf go home?”

“Oh, aye, aye. I said that I didn’t want to see either of yer mugs around here for two days. I’m sure Gregory has been missing him, and from what I heard, ye have a certain half-Orc that probably is missing ye as well, hmm?” Even though I tried, I couldn’t stop myself from blushing. “Ha! I thought so. Go on, get out of here. Ye can catch up on yer paperwork when ye both return. Dismissed.” I snapped off a smart salute, and then turned and left his office, wanting nothing more than a nice soak in a hot bath, maybe with the beautiful Ivana scrubbing my back for me. Leaving the station, I walked back to my place and did just that.

The next day, I sent a neighborhood boy over to Dorf’s house with a message to meet me for a drink at his favorite watering hole. Then, I walked Ivana over to Nicolas’s training facility so she could get her workout in. As I stood there at the door, she grabbed my face and kissed me passionately, biting my lip hard enough to draw blood before she said goodbye and sauntered over to the half-Elf. He gave me a friendly salute, and I returned the favor. Nothing against Nicolas, but I’m glad that she chose me over him. Besides, she’d have broken him anyway.

It only took me ten minutes to get from the gym to the Pig and Whistle. When I walked in the door, I spotted Wallace –along with a few other off-duty guards- having a drink at one of the back tables, and he raised his glass to me. He must either be taking advantage of Dorf’s offer to have one at his expense, or he really likes the watered down swill that they serve here. I really hoped it was the former and not the latter.

Dorf was sitting at the bar, nursing a mug of ale. I was relieved, since if he had been drinking whiskey this could have been a whole different conversation. Pulling out a stool, I sat down and inched my way forward. Within a few seconds the barkeep, a Halfling male named Vlad who walked around on stilts to do his job, had slid me down a mug of ale. Raising my mug to him, I pulled out a few silver coins and slapped them on the bar. He came over, took the coins, and went down to the other end to give me and Dorf some semblance of privacy.

After taking a sip (and realizing that it was still as watered down as ever), I put my mug down and turned to my partner. “Thanks for agreeing to meet me.”

He took a sip and shrugged his shoulders. “No biggie. Plus, Gregory heard the messenger, and he would not stop harping on me to come out and talk to you. Said we’d been friends too long for something as inconsequential as this –his words- come between us.”

“He’s too good for you,” I said jokingly, and Dorf gave a small laugh while nodding his head. Although it wasn’t going to be a pleasant conversation, I pressed forward instead of making small talk by asking about Natalya. “So, does that mean that you forgive me?”

Dorf looked uncomfortable. “When I told Gregory all that had happened, he reminded me that what you had said had been true, which was why it was bothering me so much. You’ve stood by me through thick and thin, and yet I was basically turning my back on you. He said that you are still the same person you’ve always been, just with bigger concerns than I have. Fuck, I hate when he’s right…which is practically all the time.” He gave a little chuckle and I did as well. “So, this is me saying I’m sorry. Now, if you make a big deal about this, I will fucking deck you, just so we’re clear.”

“Wouldn’t dream of doing that, partner,” I told him, and actually meant it. We clinked our mugs together in a toast, and then proceeded to do what people have been doing in bars for millennia: have a couple of drinks, commiserate over our problems, and just enjoy each other’s company. He told me that he and Gregory had started the paperwork to adopt Natalya, and I told him congratulations. At some point I would like to introduce her to Ivana, since they were blood-kin, but that momentous occasion could wait for another day. It was obvious that any reluctance my partner may have once had to the Ronan people had been left behind as that little half-Elven girl had won him over. I knew that they would make great parents, and that she couldn’t have asked for a better home…given the circumstances, of course.

An hour or so later, I bid Dorf farewell and told him to give Gregory and Natalya my warmest regards. He said he would do just that, and then I left the Pig and Whistle and went back to Nicolas’s gym to pick up my…parolee? What exactly was Ivana besides my umbak, I wondered? I mean, yeah the sex was great, and she intrigued me, but was that it?

So, after we left the training facility, she proceeded to tell me all about what she had learned, and also proceeded to tell me how strong Nicolas was, and how handsome he looked with his muscles gleaming with sweat. I recognized that she was trying to wind me up like a pocket watch again, and so I gave her a resounding smack right on her ass, which just made her giggle before she put her arm around mine and pulled me close besides her. Even though I could be ruining a good thing, I asked her what she thought we were.

Ivana thought about it for about a city block before replying. “If you take away the whole parolee/parole officer aspect of it, and you take away the umbak part, I don’t know Jonas. Why do you ask?”

“Because, I’m not saying I want more right now, but I wouldn’t mind maybe becoming friends as well. I mean, I barely know much about you.” She raised an eyebrow, and I quickly amended my previous statement. “Well, you know what I mean, besides in THAT sense. I don’t know your likes, your dislikes, things like that.”

Cocking her head to the side, she said, “OK, but would we have to stop fucking?”

“Oh Gods no,” I hurriedly said, and she laughed once while agreeing that friendship sounded like a worthy goal to her. “So, on that note, I would like to take you out to dinner, just the two of us, so we can get to know one another better.”

She smiled up at me. “That sounds lovely, Detective Jonas.”

“Thank you, Miss Ivana,” I responded, and gave a little bow over her hand. She laughed once more, and we continued our stroll back to my…I guess I should say, our apartments. If you had told me a month ago that I would be living with a woman in that amount of time, I would have laughed my ass off at you. But, things change, and we have to change with them. Otherwise, we stagnate and die.

Passing an alley, I couldn’t help but hear a young woman’s voice. “What I wouldn’t give to have the power to make that son of a bitch pay for what he did to me!” It sounded slightly familiar but I tried to pay it no mind, since not everything needs to involve an officer of the law. Venting about being pissed at someone isn’t a crime; fuck, if it was then I’d have to arrest Dorf (and myself, if I was being honest) at least once a day. Besides, I was off-duty and walking home with my umbak, anticipating how nice another bath would feel.

I can do that for you. Shall we shake on it?” a voice answered the young woman, and my blood turned to ice. That voice I definitely recognized, and apparently he was much harder to get rid of permanently than I had imagined. Telling Ivana to stay put, I raced down the alley until it came to a dead end. I couldn’t find a trace of anyone hiding, not even when I moved trash bins and old boxes around. But, and this honestly scared me, I did detect the faint whiff of sulfur in the air.

Making my way back to Ivana, she asked what had happened. “I thought I heard a woman crying out for help,” I told her, which was the truth. She shrugged her shoulders and said she hadn’t heard anything herself, but then again my instincts were to try and pay attention to things like that. Putting her arm around mine once more, she led me away from the alley as I tried to put it behind me. The imagination can do lots of weird things to you, that I know, and so I was prepared to just write it off as nerves. That is, until I heard soft chuckling in a voice that sounded like spilled ink dropped off a table. Looking around, I couldn’t spot anyone or anything and so, not wanting to alarm Ivana, we continued on our way as I tried my best to ignore the feeling of being watched. A feeling that continued all the way home.

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