~o0o~ Chapter ~o0o~
"It was a ritual killing," Mallac said. "We are sure of it. Each victim was cut palm to palm, all the way up the arms and across the neck. They were each left face down, left to bleed straight into the ground. There was no obvious trails in the dirt. It appears the bodies were killed where they were found and not brought from elsewhere. Until tonight, it had been one victim each night, but this time there were two deaths."
Mallac sat back and stared at Quaraun, waiting for the Elf to say something.
"I can't help you."
"But you are the world's most powerful wizard..." Mallac started to say.
"So?" Quaraun deeply disliked being called the world's most powerful wizard. Calling him thusly was the fastest way to offend him.
"But people say..."
"People say a lot of things," Quaraun said. "People can say, whatever the hell they want. It doesn't make it true."
"So are you the world's most powerful wizard or not?"
"So what if I am? What difference does it make?"
"It makes a lot of differance."
"You can save us..."
"Oh fuck off!"
"Do I look like I care?"
"You look increadibly pissed off right now..."
"Oh really? And I wonder why that possibly might be?"
"We need your help..."
"I told you already..."
"People in this town are being murdered left and right, blah, blah, blah. In what town isn't that the case?"
"But you're the world's most powerful wizard..."
"So? What do you even think that means?"
"Well, you can do things."
"You can use magic to defeat monsters..."
"Magic doesn't work that way. If it did, I wouldn't be sitting in this tavern right now with a bloody leg."
Upon saying this, Quaraun hiked his skirts up and threw his wounded leg up on the table, in the most unladylike way possible.
"You see that?" He pointed to the bite wound. "A monster did that. Magic didn't stop that from happening now did it?"
"But you're the world's..."
Quaraun pulled his leg back off the table and turned away from the soilder.
"Why can't I go anywhere without this happening," he asked Unicorn.
"Yis world's most powerful wizard," Unicorn stated.
Quaraun sighed. He hated the reputation he had. He almost wished it wasn't true. He never set out to become the world's most powerful wizard. He wasn't even sure that he was all that powerful at all. The only reason anyone said he was, was because of what happened to the DiJinn. Quaraun loved horses. Too much perhaps. He couldn't just stand back and do nothing while the DiJinn slaughtered an entire herd of innocent little ponies. That the ponies were really monsters in disguise hadn't mattered to him. He just couldn't watch someone kill a horse. And so he told the DiJinn to drop dead, and they obediently did exactly that. Seconds later all that was left of the most powerful guild of wizards, was piles of ash, where live wizards had once stood.
Quaraun wasn't certain how exactly it was he had killed the DiJin. He didn't even know if he could do something like that again. He wasn't in the habit of using magic. And it seemed, he had little control over the magic he did use, which was mostly sporadic bursts of his anger manifesting in horribly bloody disaster. That was him losing his temper and everyone around him dropping dead.
Magic was not what people thought it was. It certain wasn't what Mallac thought it was. Quaraun simply did not know how to explain to people the way magic worked, at least in any way they could understand. Especially not when he didn't even understand the workings of magic. Studying to become a wizard had not been his life choice. Like all wizards, he had been a child abducted by fanatical priests and raised in a self made temple that forced young boys into servitude to a demon. Wizards were a far cry from the magical beings the average person thought they was. They were nothing more then glorified priests who happened to serve real "gods". Not that their gods were actual gods. the gods of wizards were demons with true powers, powers wizards were taught to call up.
Unlike other wizards, Quaraun had not succumbed to the servitude his kidnapped had forced him into. He had rebelled constantly against them, rarely paid attention to the prayers and rituals they taught him, spent most of his days finding ways to escape rather than memorize chants to the god of the DiJinn.
The public image of wizards was nothing but a scam, put out their by the leaders of the wizarding guilds, to try to make the wizards of their guild seem more powerful then the wizards of the next guild. Nothing but pompous old men puffing each other up. It disgusted Quaraun and wanted no part of it.
All he had ever wanted to do was escape the egomaniacal demon cultists and go back home to his family. But now his family was ded. His people were dead. He was alone. Travelling with the last of the DiJinn priests and an undead Faerie who was trapped in the wrong dimension and loving it. So many people here for him to play pranks on.
Quaraun looked up from his thoughts. Mallac was still going on about the ritual murders taking place every night this past week. Unicorn had left the table momentarily. He had spied a sleeping patron at another table and snuck over to tie the man's boots to the table leg.
Quaraun shook his head. He did not understand Unicorn and his endless need to torment every one and everything. Unicorn was a Faerie after all. Quaraun had long ago given u trying to understand the irrationality of Faerie logic.
"And you are the world's most powerful wizard..." Mallac said again, in the middle of his explanation of the details of the grizzly murders.
Quaraun heard only that one line. The rest of Mallac's words drifted passed him. Quaraun thought about the little black ponies. Tiny little Shetlands, so out of place in the desert of the DiJinn. Galloping and playing. Sleeping along the river bank.
He had known they weren't really horses. No wild horses ran through the desert of the DiJinn and horses didn't have fangs or sharp claws instead of hooves, Quaraun had known from the first day he had seen them, that they were a pack of Faeries in disguise. He had also known that no good Fae ever pretended to be a black furred animal. The most telling sign of all was the fact that the herd was led by a little black unicorn. The size of a goat. With a gleaming silver horn on its head. And the skull of a dead Ef skewered on it's horn and worn as a crown. The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley. King of the Faeries. And he dark, evil army. Quaraun had known who they were and why they had surrounded the temple of the DiJinn. Why they called to him each day, luring him outside, down to the river, away from the safety of the DiJinn. They hunted Elves. Killed Elves. Slaughtered Elves. And ate Elven flesh. And Quaraun was an Elf. But none of this had stopped the young Elf from skipping his studies every day to go down to the river and watch the herd of little black ponies chasing each other, luring him ever closer to the marshy shores of the river bank.
Then one day, Quaraun snuck out, to find the DiJinn waiting, and frightened little horses crying out in agony, as one by one the wizard priests slaughtered the evil little pony-nots.
"You don't know what they are."
"Stop hurting them."
"They are here to kill our god. The Sacred Pink JellyFish must be protected."
The DiJinn heeded not the cries of the young Elfling. A child with barely any training, standing up against the most powerful wizards on the planet. It had been foolish to think such a small Elfling stood a chance against the DiJinn. The DiJinn - who were capable of cutting down the Elf Eater's army like they were nothing but flies.
And yet, the DiJinn themselves, worshiped the young Elf, proclaiming that a Demon god had burrowed itself into his body and now lived inside him. It was foolish of them to defy her will.
Quaraun watched in horror as the ponies fell before the wizards. One by one the ponies died. Their screams cutting through his soul. The ponies ran, but were cut dead in their tracks, no match for the powerful DiJinn wizards.
Seeing his army defeated, the unicorn ran too. The little black unicorn. Quaraun's favorite pony, fell to the DiJinn.
"You'll not kill my unicorn," the words of the Elf rang through the desert. His voice now changed. No longer the voice of the Elf, but now the voice of the beast that lived inside him. To hear her speak, caught the DiJinn of guard, as they turned to the Elf.
The last word any of them heard. The moment the word left his lips, every last DiJinn, save one coward who had fled earlier, withered away to dust. Their bodies burning in flames, twisted in agony. And seconds later, the DiJinn were no more.
ZooLock along survived and he fled to the desert, terrified of the wrath of his god. Terrified of the Sacred Pink Jellyfish. No doubt in his mind existed now that she was anything other then the one true god.
The unicorn had watched in awe, at the Elf powers unlike anything he had never seen. No wizard had the power's Quaraun had. This was not magic. The unicorn knew this. This was something else. Whatever Quaraun was, he was neither Elf, nor Wizard, and now both the unicorn and last of the DiJinn worshiped him like a god.
Quaraun watched ZooLock stealing food off people's tables while they weren't looking, and Unicorn, now dumping a bottle of red pepper into a jar of strawberry jam. They both believed he was the world's most powerful wizard and they both followed him, obeying him without question because of it. All because of how he had killed the DiJinn.
Perhaps it did make him the world's most powerful wizard, but it didn't mean he could control it or even knew how he did it.
Wizardry was not what the world thought it was. Magic didn't have all the dazzle and punch rumors said it had. Far too many people, people with no knowledge of magic, had it in their heads that all a wizard had to do was wave a wand and -POOF- they could do anything and everything. The problem stemmed from the fact that wizards were rare and magic uncommon, resulting in mystical glorification of both. Stories gave wizard's god-like powers they were not even remotely capable of in real life. Quaraun long ago gave up trying to explain to common folk what magic was and was not capable of.
The soldier continued to tell Quaraun of the murders that had plagued their town this past week and all the reasons why magic and wizards were exactly what they needed right now. Quaraun didn't listen to a word of it. He contemplated telling the soldier all the reasons his misconceptions about wizards and magic were wrong, but concluded it was a waste of his time to argue with the man, so instead let the man ramble on, while he dozed off.
"YOU'RE NOT LISTENING TO ME!"
Quaraun sat up and looked around. For a moment he couldn't remember where he was. Then he saw the soldier, glaring angrily at him.
"What?" Quaraun asked sleepily, yawning.
"You fell asleep."
"You were not listening to me?"
"Was I supposed to be?"
"Now I have to say all of that all over again."
"You really don't..."
"You have to pay attention..."
"If you are going to help us, you need to know what happened."
"Did I say I was going to help?"
"Yes, you did!"
Quaraun looked at Unicorn.
"Did I say I was going to help?"
"Ya mumbled some'ing to dat effect. After him threatened to toss ya in in prison for not helping him."
"Are you going to stay awake and listen to mem" Mallac asked.
"Fine. Who died? What do you know about them?"
"The first victim was Gnnizllahuantyotleyog, a Dwarf.”
"That is a Thullid name," Quaraun said. “Why would a Dwarf have a Thullid name?”
“She was the daughter of the most prominent merchant in town. She was about to be wedded to the son of another prominent merchant, They were going to combine their establishments. We thought at first, that it was motivated by perhaps a third merchant who wanted to prevent the merger of two big shipping companies into one huge shipping company..."
"But you no longer think this?" Quaraun asked.
"No. The second victim was Axcolwbettlii.”
“Also a Thullid name.”
“He was a big sloth of a man. Not well liked. He had a farm outside of town. Kept children, orphans, you know, little kids, as slaves. Cheaper then farmhands, he said. A lot of people in town would have liked to see him dead..."
"And there was no connection between the two them? Other then both having Thullid names?"
"Nope, none as far as I can tell."
Mallac pointed to the third murder site marked on the map.
"Selliinsuji was the third victim.”
“Another Thullid name.”
“A young girl. Recently married. We found her here, same as the others, cut palm to palm, face down in the mud. Her family's farm is just over there, she was probably on her way home."
"What's that over there?" Quaraun pointed a large blacked out circle on the map, just off to the side of where Selliinsuji's body was found.
"That's The Black Tower," said Mallac.
Quaraun turned and looked out the window. He could see Black Tower from here.
“What IS Black Tower? It calls to me."
"Calls to you?"
"Yes. Can you not hear it? It's been calling to me for days. It's fascinating."
"Tell me about Black Tower. What is it?"
"A tall tower built out of smooth black river stones. It's really ancient. I think it was part of an old castle years ago, but there's nothing but the tower standing there today. It was converted into a lighthouse for a few decades. An old half-Elf lives there now. He fancies himself a wizard, but he's, I don't know, he's kind of stupid. Can't do much in the way of magic, near as I can tell. He's the kind of guy who just wants to run around in a cape. He's got this strange looking servant, also a half-Elf, but not like any Elf I never did see before. Got hair yellower then if it had been painted."
“A Sun Elf?”
“Don't know Elf types.”
“Sun Elves have bright yellow hair that glows in the dark. And we meet a Sun Elf on the way here. GhoulSpawn. Used to call himself Glinter.”
“Don't know. Just know the old Elf is ancient and the young Elf has got yellow hair like nothing I've ever seen before and they both kind of crazy.”
“Hermits. Keep to themselves. Caught the yellow haired one stealing sheep a couple of times.”
“Yeah, not sure what he does with them.”
"Do you suspect him of being connected?"
“The yellow Elf? Nah. He's kind of crazy, but he seems harmless. I don't think he'd hurt anyone. Not sure what it is with him stealing sheep though. I think he steals corpses too.”
“Yep. Caught him a couple of times out in graveyards and fields with a shovel. Never seen him with no body, though. It's like he's looking for buried treasure or something. Strange fella, but nice enough whenever I've talked to him.”
"You're lying to me."
"Your voice changed. When ya started talking about GhoulSpawn. You don't like him. Your words said one thing, but your voice said something else. Why don't you like GhoulSpawn."
"He's a thief."
"Considering he cleaned out my pockets, I had already gathered that much."
"You had a run in with him."
"That storm a few days ago. He got caught in it. So did we. We both ended up seeking shelter in the same abandoned cathedral. Had to wait out the storm before going forward. I had gold coins in my pockets went I fell asleep. They disappeared some time during the night."
"We can arrest him on that."
"He's just a child. An orphaned one at that. I already confronted him. He gave me the coins back and then I gave them to him. Poor thing looks half starved. For such a prosperous town, I'm surprised you have people going hungry like that."
"He's a half-Elf."
"It is what it is."
"I don't like the tone of your voice."
"hat's wrong with it?"
"It implies that a half-Elf does not deserve food."
"Listen... might as well get it out now."
"Get what out?"
"Folks 'round here don't like half-Elves."
"There's a band of half-Elves just outside of town. They start trouble. Band of thieves. Steal everything that ain't nailed down. Food, weapons, tools, you name, they steal it."
"In my experience no one steals unless forced to out of great need. And as I said before... a town this prosperous, should have enough to go around. There shouldn't be anyone going without, so there should be no need to steal."
"Yeah, you're not from around here. You don't get it."
"Perhaps I don't. What about the other one? You said there were two half-Elves in town. Do you think he's involved?”
"HellBorne? HellBorne the Evil, Summoner of Darkness the Great and Mighty Overlord of the Evil Black Tower of the Dark Castle of Doom? Nah." Mallac laughed at the thought. "No HellBorne is harmless. Crazy as ten coots, but harmless."
"Someone with a name like HellBorne," Unicorn said. "Does no sound harmless."
"Oh, no. He changed his name to sound scary and spooky. He's like that. No, he wouldn't hurt anybody. I told you, he's an Elf."
"No, you said he was a half-Elf," Quaraun stated, as though half-Elves were scum of the Earth. "You didn't say half what else. If he's half-Human, that alone makes him prone to evil."
“Can an Elf be half something not Human?”
“He could be half-Faerie or half-Dwarf or half-Mountain Troll or half-Orc or half-Demon or...”
“Yes. Horrible thought.”
"I don't know what else he is, but he's an Elf, so I know he wouldn't hurt no one..."
"Are you of the opinion that being an Elf, precludes one from doing harm?"
"Well, yeah, I mean, Elves are Elves, they do nice things, like granting wishes..."
"Granting wishes? That's what Kelim said to me."
"An annoyingly stupid Pixie that reminds me of you."
"He asketh Quaraun to grantth him wish," Unicorn explained. "Just before his village went din-din to Pocket Lich."
"Him carries Lich in his pocket."
"You do?" Mallac asked Quaraun.
The Elf just smiled and said: "Yes, and my other Lich doesn't want to be in my bed tonight, otherwise he'd shut up."
Unicorn immediately stopped talking and sat as quiet as a grave he was no longer buried in.
"Tell me about HellBorne," Quaraun said to Mallac.
"He's just a crazy old coot. Got old and lost his marbles. You know the type. He's just a crazy old man who likes to scare the kiddies. Makes all kinds of lights go off around the tower. Fireworks and stuff. Smoke and nonsense."
"And yet he lives in something called Black Tower."
"I'd like to see Black Tower up close."
"Nah. You wouldn't like it."
"How would you know?"
"Like I said. He's trying to make himself sound all big and scary. He thinks he's a Necromancer. You know, evil wizard, black mage, army of zombies..."
"I know what a Necromancer is."
"Oh, that's right, you are one aren't you?"
“Yes, I am.”
“People like to go up there at night and watch the show. Some times they get drunk and come back talking about all these monsters and things...”
“Yeah. Like your squid buddy there, only bigger, more hulking, squatter, fatter, green skin, sort of rubbery looking...”
“Uoogal-Thorpe?” ZooLock asked.
“An Uoogal-Thorpe is a type of Chaos Demon, made out of Thullid larvae implanted into UmberHulks.”
“Hhhhm, yes. Nasty beasts. I wonder how an Uoogal-Thorpe got into this dimension?”
Mallac pointed to the site of the fourth murder.
"Ellreekii died here..." Mallac started to say.
"That is a Thullid name as well," Quaraun said.
"Elderly woman. An Elf, like you. Well, not like you. But an Elf. Wouldn't harm a soul. She was known for her generosity and kindness. Everyone loved her. Her husband was a merchant of rare herbs and spices."
"Yes, well, this is a sea port after all. Ships dock right down yonder." Mallac pointed in the direction of the coastline. A sea gull flew over head and screamed as if to emphasis how close The ocean was to them. "There's a lot of merchants in these parts. Merchants. Captains. Cut throats. Pirates. Scally wags. It’s the area for it. Yeah, stands to reason most folks in town have some connection to a merchant. That’s just the way it is in these parts. What with the ocean right there and all.”
A freckled, distraught boy emerged from an alley.
Mallac watched the boy nervously and waited for him to be out of sight before continuing.
"Well yeah, any ways, he died a few years back. Old age.. Nothing suspicious. Just a really old Elf. Her sons took care of her after he died and she used every penny she had to do good to those less fortunate..Not a sweeter soul in these parts. Can't figure out why any one would hurt such a sweet, kind soul."
"Ellreekii is a Thullid name. No Elf would name there child a Thullid name. She must have changed her name later on. What type of Elf was she?"
"Just an Elf, I don't know how you tell one from another. An Elf is an Elf."
"Indeed. I could say the same of Humans. You all look alike, can't tell one from another."
"Now you're just being rude."