On The Clock
By the time I got to my measly little hotel room I was completely exhausted. I could see the dawns early light in the horizon. I worked plenty of times where I went to bed at dawn or later. Usually there was some sort of fun involved, or at least a sense of accomplishment, but this was incredibly dull. While Kedvin said that I was welcome to join their game, it seemed very non-committal. I was tired enough at that point that if they didn’t want me to join in I wouldn’t care. All I wanted was sleep. I just began to doze off when there was a loud banging on the door like someone was trying to break it down with a battering ram in quick succession.
Thunk Thunk Thunk Thunk.
I flew out of bed, flung open the door, and immediately brought out the pistol, pointing it at the person on the other side. The quick draw is so much easier since finding bracelets in Haven that allowed me to summon and hide any weapons in my arsenal at will. As soon as I saw who it was, I had to aim my trajectory up a good eight inches. The massive character on the other side filled the doorway and couldn’t stand tall in the hallway outside without the horns on his head scraping the ceiling. If I tried to shoot him in the head, I probably would have hit the doorjamb instead.
“Oh, it’s you,” I grumbled, still only partially awake.
“Rough night?” Ferdinand said in his deep basso voice. His name wasn’t really Ferdinand. That was just the nickname I cooked up for him. He looked like a bull who had evolved into a bipedal creature. With the massive bulk of a cow, stocky legs, and arms so thick that there was no doubt he could have busted down the door in one swing, I was grateful he was an ally. Since getting to know him, I’ve realized that deep down he is a big softy at heart who would rather enjoy a life of peace. He reminded me of the children’s book of Ferdinand the bull who would rather be in a field smelling flowers, but due to unfortunate circumstances ended up fighting in a bull ring. The name stuck ever since.
“You know, I have a strict policy to shoot anyone who tries to wake me before nine in the morning,” I grumbled “Unless you’ve got a damn good reason for waking me up, especially considering I just fell asleep, I’m going to start shooting.”
“It’s not my fault you were out all night at the taverns.”
“If that was the case, I would have had some fun and wouldn’t care,” I said, not moving the pistol away from my intended target.
“I come bearing gifts.” He held out his big beefy meat fist and opened it to reveal a ring.
“Is that the Carnivex detection ring you’ve been raving about the last couple months?”
He merely nodded as best he could with the limited space.
I looked at my watch. “You got lucky. It’s 9:01.” I dispersed the pistol as it vanished back into the bracelet. “Come on in.”
I stepped in further to allow him entry. He had to walk in sideways to get through the door, chuckling a bit at the joke.
“So, were you really going to shoot me?” He asked.
“As thick as your head is it would probably bounce off anyway. So, how is the Carnivex hunting business?”
“Not very lucrative, but we are making headway.”
When I met him, he was already the self proclaimed authority on the Carnivex. The Carnivex were a branch off of the Draconic species who were powerful, intelligent, and able to change their shape at any time, which made them difficult to find. Especially because nobody believed they existed. They did such a good job of hiding their presence from everyone while they worked on their underhanded schemes, that they were reduced to nothing more than myth. I found out the hard way that the myth was real.
They did something to face Ferdinand’s wrath, although he never said what. After my experience with the Carnivex first hand, Ferdinand and I became the most tightly bound of allies. With my help he discovered that the wands they carried shot bolts of energy from a rare crystal set inside. The origin of the crystals appeared to be only known by the Carnivex, which they guarded deeply. Understandably so considering it was a powerful weapon that was easy to conceal. Since it wasn’t magical in nature the weapon could be used anywhere and eluded any scans for magical weapons. Since nobody ever captured a Carnivex, they couldn’t be detected or tracked. We could, however, track the crystals within their weapons of choice. Since every Carnivex seemed to carry them, we thought we would have our work cut out for us.
Ferdinand acquired a few of the weapons after killing some Carnivex, skinning them, and using their flesh for his own private chair. This solidifying their hatred of him, almost as a welcome wagon to dare them to come after him. This was either incredibly stupid or brave. Considering the fact that he was still alive lent to more of the former. Admittedly, disposal of their remains and the process used to treat the leather, made it impossible to use it for a tracking spell. However, he was confident that he would find a fresh specimen soon enough.
“I’d invite you to take a seat, but you would probably break the furniture.”
He chuckled and sat on the floor with surprising grace for someone of his stature and bulk. “Thanks to you we have been able to attract the attention of several Carnivex spies. Unfortunately they have proven to be as clever as usual, and quickly discovered how our detectors work. They have either been going without their standard issue brand of weapons, found a way to shield them from our detection, or have planted them on others to throw us off of the scent. We have at least thwarted them at times. Whenever we got close, the suspect would disappear never to return. We were able to use tracking spells based on the people they were impersonating. We have found either the victims remains, or being held captive so that the Carnivex could pry into their minds to make their portrayal more convincing. I have not added any Carnivex heads to my wall, but I can still sleep soundly at night knowing that we have stopped them on several fronts.”
“You sound happy about this.”
“While we haven’t found physical proof of the Carnivex threat, we have discovered enough to garner more attention to my cause.” He beamed with pride in his efforts. Taking down the Carnivex had become his life’s work, and having people join in the cause instead of calling him a crackpot was his greatest victory to date.
“We have finally perfected the tracker in a different way,” he gestured towards the ring he handed me. There was nothing fabulous about it. A rather plain silver band with runes all the way around it and a small turquoise stone set in the center. “We have a few enchanters donating time to our cause.”
There was no funding for his project, which made it that much more impressive when he managed to pull this many people together through sheer charm. Despite being big and scary looking, he was a pretty charismatic guy. He had a jovial sense of humor, but could only let it show with his closest allies, or it would break the tough guy facade. He looks like he could break your neck without hesitation, and if you were a Carnivex I didn’t doubt that he would.
“You need to have the ring in contact with the individual. When activated, if that person is disguised in any way to alter their appearance, it will force them to revert back to their original form. It is based an an old model used to expose imposters back before the Court kept law and order. Now with the Court and their Inquisitors the occurrences of imposters are extremely rare, or so the Carnivex would like you to believe.”
“What about the suggestion I made?”
“That was added as well. When they are exposed, they will receive a strong shock that will immobilize them for a few moments.”
“Sweet, a Carnivex joy buzzer. I will take great joy in using this.”
“Indeed. As crafty as the Carnivex are in impersonating people, it would be enough to expose them.”
“At the very least, if they are a suspect you can punch them in the jaw to make contact.”
He let out a laugh, which was gravelly and scared most people. “This is why you and I get along so well.” His grin looked more like a menacing scowl than an expression of joy. Since I’ve never met another of his species up close, I didn’t know if this was a common trait, or exclusive to him in order to keep up appearances.
“Yeah, and that you are a loner who doesn’t get along well with others.”
“You should talk. At least I have an army of allies that is growing. These days you seem to make more enemies than allies”
I know he said it jokingly, but the implications of it really hit home. Since coming to Haven I managed to put up a steel emotional wall against the things I’ve lost. Being ripped from home in the dead of night, not knowing if I would ever see my family again, there were moments of crippling depression. It only took little reminders like this to bring it all back. I quickly changed the subject before I started crying like a little girl who just fell off her bicycle.
“So, does it work?”
“We had one of the enchanters use a shape change spell on themselves to test it out. It is most definitely effective.” He paused to belt out another bought of laughter. “We are still working on other methods, but we can’t until we have specimens of Carnivex to test out with a direct sample of the species.”
Taking the ring meant that I would have to get rid of the freezing ring I received shortly after arriving in Haven, which saved my hide on multiple occasions. The only other option was to take off the wedding ring on my left hand. I wasn’t about to remove that for anything, even if it would mean sparing my life. I swapped out the rings, surprised that the new one fit perfectly, and slipped the cold ring into my pocket.
“Use of the ring is simple. Give them a standard greeting like you would anyone else, and activate it. If they have nothing to hide, they won’t even notice the difference. We are sending people out with these across the entire realm of Haven. We will likely expose a few other shape shifters who mean no harm, but such is the price we pay in taking up arms against the Carnivex. We are not strangers to upsetting a few of the wrong people are we?”
“Definitely not.” I wasn’t sure whether I should chuckle at that, or lower my head in resignation.
“One more thing before I go,” he said. “Let’s try it out.”
He held out his beefy paw. I used the command phrases he gave me to activate it, but nothing happened. I have to admit that I was relieved. I half expected to get a shock from him, if even just as a prank.
“You can never be too careful these days. Carnivex can be anywhere. You never know who exactly you can trust.”
“You are a rightfully paranoid bastard, I will give you that.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
After Ferdinand left, I couldn’t fall to sleep. Talking about the Carnivex brought back memories of my first encounter with them. It was one of many things in Haven I tried very hard not to think about. Now that it was in the forefront of my mind I couldn’t block it out. The Carnivex agent tortured and killed a friend I became very close with. I tortured and killed him in return. That Carnivex was the first person I killed, murdered in cold blood. What scared me more than anything, and kept me awake at night, was the fact that I had no regrets over it. In fact, I relished it at the time. I would like to think that the hold Barthandolous had over my mind nudged me in that direction somehow. The truth is that I don’t know if Barthandolous had anything to do with it, or if it was all me.
Eventually I finally fell asleep, only to be woken up shortly after. This time by one of the agents from Dolle’s office directing me towards their headquarters for the examination of the body. I couldn’t identify his species because he was completely covered in thick brown hair. All I could see was a black nose, like that of a dog. The stocky agent’s snout stuck out like he may have been the descendant of some kind of bear. Considering he was built about like a bear in physique, I wasn’t about to push the issue.
The building that stood as their main office was a nondescript two story brick structure that could have been an office for practically anything. It had about as much character as Dolle. Nothing about the architecture stood out at all. I couldn’t tell if it was intentional or not.
“Why didn’t you answer my summons?” Dolle asked, clearly agitated, before I even made it to the entrance.
“Don’t get your panties in a bunch, I got up as soon as he knocked on the door.” Dolle seemed completely perplexed by the sentence. I have to admit that this made me smile a little. Since he knew without a doubt whenever I told the truth, I came to the conclusion that I could potentially have a lot of fun messing with him.
“I sent Droric as a last result because there was no response to my summons.” My look of utter confusion seemed to have been all the answer he needed.
“Take this,” he said, handing me a small rock that looked to be made of Jade.
“No thanks, I already live in a glass house.” He still held it out until I took it, completely ignoring my wise-ass remark. I accepted the rock and took a closer look. Runes covered the entire surface of the stone. The etchings were so small that I couldn’t properly make them out. I closed my hand around the rock and could immediately feel it vibrating with a faint tingling sensation that led all the way to my brain.
“Is it working?” Doll said immediately, but he didn’t speak any actual words.
“Excuse me?” I asked, taking a step back. I looked directly at his mouth. Again the tingling sensation came, and again he spoke without his mouth moving.
“It is a direct mental communication link.”
“Of course. A magical cell phone. Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
“I can’t fathom how you have managed to get this far in Haven without one. Keep it in your pocket so you will know when I am trying to reach you. Now come with me. The Mystic is already finished, and the Necromancer is just about to begin.”
“And that means?”
He actually let out a sigh of irritation this time. Apparently Dolle didn’t get any more sleep than I did, and his patience was wearing thin.
The funny thing is that I honestly didn’t have any idea what that meant. “I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with the role of Necromancers in the police force of Haven.”
I already experienced the Mystics of Haven first hand shortly after I first arrived. After my evaluation, the Mystic assured me that I was free and clear of any curses, but that I had a temporal tether attached to me that would pull me back home to the exact time and place that I left after certain conditions were met. Time magic is strictly forbidden in Haven, but for some reason he instructed me to never speak to anyone of it, before he erased his own memory of the encounter. If he was right, it meant that as soon as I found a way to save Earth, I would return home as if no time had passed. The prospect of returning home with everyone I care about still being exactly as I left them is the one thing that gives me hope and keeps me going through all my experiences in Haven.
“The Mystic has determined that he had no curses, magical ailments, or spells placed on him that would have resulted in his death. She has also communed with his lost spirit, and it seems that he does not know what, or who, caused his death.”
Dolle handed me a stack of file folders filled with documents nearly two feet thick.
“Jesus, what is all of this?”
“You said that you wanted to know everything. Here is everything we have on everyone so far,” he told me.
I think he was mocking me for my pointless questions the night before, but accepted them graciously. He took me deeper into the office building where the body was currently being examined. I walked into what looked like an observation room for surgeries with a glass walled room above to observe the procedure. Down below they were just beginning with the examination. The Necromancer conducting the examination wore an ornate pair of gloves covered in what appeared to be decorative runes and gemstones. Based on my experience with enchanted items thus far in Haven, I knew them to be far from decorative.
As he touched the body, the outer layer of the skin became translucent. I was able to see the pinkish underlayer. He did a variety of gestures with his hands like he was counting, and then the next layer peeled away, as if it vanished completely, exposing the entire muscular structure of the body. Further under the skin I could see the individual blood vessels and capillaries. The advancement of the disappearance of the body continued as he made various parts of the body become more and more translucent until only the skeletal structure remained. He examined each part of the body before making another layer translucent so that he could examine it further before moving on.
He held what looked to be a magnifying glass over the various parts of the entire body as he examined it. It looked normal and mundane, but I had no doubt that it was enchanted as well, analyzing that portion of the body. He would make comments out loud, seemingly to nobody at all, occasionally glancing towards the solitary desk in the room. I looked over to see nobody there. It took several minutes to notice that whenever he spoke, words would appear on the page of the thick ledger documenting the examination with every word he said.
The examination was slow and methodical. I had no idea what was really going on, but couldn’t help but be completely fascinated by it. He plucked various instruments off the surgical tray and would poke and prod into the body. While the magic made the body parts translucent, they were still there. The other implements manipulated the body without seeming to effect the outer layers of tissue, but could manipulate the inner layers
It was like an entire anatomy class right in front of me. He would poke and prod into the body for taking samples and closer examinations for what seemed like hours. I killed time by looking through the files from the night before, as well as a stack of other files Dolle provided for me, trying to make sense of this entire case. I was completely at a loss. If Dolle was the super-sleuth with truth detecting powers, I couldn’t fathom why I was there in the first place. Apparently neither could he, which was why I was inundated with paperwork to keep me preoccupied while he went out and did some real detective work. As soon as the autopsy started, he left the massive stack of files on the table, and left.
I was completely fascinated by the entire process, but caught myself nodding off repeatedly from lack of sleep, and decided to step outside to get some fresh air and the Haven equivalent of coffee. The open air markets nearby hosted a variety of smells that peaked my interest. That is one thing that I have always enjoyed about New Haven City. I could walk around anywhere and be inundated with new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that I never experienced before. Although I learned the hard way to be careful when trying new alien foods. Much like everything else in Haven, the variety is much larger than anything on Earth, including the variety of issues it can cause to my body. The results of drinking the water in Mexico or eating an Indian dish rich with curry pales in comparison to drinks that make you sweat purple ooze or foods that make your limbs spasm uncontrollably.
I settled on a sweet smelling drink I was familiar with to help perk me up, but didn’t have long to enjoy it. I began walking back towards the headquarters office when my spidey-sense kicked in, alerting me to danger immediately behind me. Since having my natural abilities ’awakened’ upon arriving to Haven, I’ve grown to trust these instincts. I stopped and slowly turned to be overshadowed by a pair of large, burly figures blocking my path.
“Bailey Groves,” one of them said in a voice that threw out the words like they were a challenge. “You are coming with us.”