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A constable dressed in Buteamore livery, held the door open as Alchemy and Mister Sellingford entered Hydd Berryman’s rented bungalow. The little house sat at the edge of town, with the nearby jungle encroaching on it. The place was cheerful enough. It looked like a perfect little get away cottage, an excellent cover for Berryman in his investigation.
“We found evidence of foul play in here.” Sellingford directed Alchemy down the short hall toward the study.
The smell of blood thickened the fresh air in the study. The air blew in from a busted window. The blood splattered the far wall.
“Who discovered this?” Alchemy asked.
“When Hydd never showed up for our after dinner drink, I sent a man out to check the place.” Sellingford said, walking over to the busted window. “He reported back about the broken window. I came directly out and discovered the blood splatter.”
Alchemy uncovered the magic mirror that just narrowly missed being splattered. The cover had been pulled back over, but the screen still swirled with the connection back to FGHQ.
Sellingford peered over the wizard’s shoulder. “The mirror was like that when I got here. I decided it best to leave it covered.”
Alchemy tapped twice on the mirror frame to break the connection. “Yes, she was in the middle of contacting the main office when the attack happened. Did you find anything useful either in here or outside?”
“There’s a broken window in the next room.” The chief constable replied. “Outside, there are a number of smashed bushes, but I’d say whatever did it was fairly small.”
“Perhaps goblin sized?” Alchemy pondered as he moved over to the window. He picked up one of the pieces of glass off the floor. Small black specs covered it.
“Have you tried to figure out what these black specs are?” he asked, handing the shard to the constable.
“My men figure it’s from one of those exploding tubes that the gnomes like to use,” Sellingford said, taking the glass “But we haven’t had any gnomes in the area in some time.”
“No, but the goblins I ran into this morning had one.” Alchemy said looking out the window. The bushes beyond had a small place where it looked like someone had stood. The center of the shattered section of the window was at about the right height to make it perfect for a goblin.
“Really, where is it now?” Sellingford let the glass shard fall to the floor. It shattered more. “My boys would love to have a look at it.”
Alchemy thought for a moment. He tried to remember if he’d seen the rod after the goblin died. He’d been so busy righting the carriage and loading the bodies in, he’d forgotten about the exploding rod. “Ah, not sure what happened to it. We might want to send someone over and check the scene.”
He walked over to the desk sitting near the magic mirror. A fair amount of blood splattered across the heavy oaken fixture. The contents of the drawers lay scattered on the floor, but were not covered in blood. Alchemy looked under the papers and saw the blood splatter on the floor. “So they took time to go through the place and remove Miss Willowstaff’s body. They must’ve had lookouts to warn them if someone was coming.”
Alchemy found an image like the one the goblin at the portal terminal had pedaled. It showed an elf and an ursa standing over the body of a thundersaur. “Do these people look familiar?” Alchemy handed the heavy piece of paper to the constable.
“The elf is Hydd Berryman.” Sellingford looked concerned as he took the paper. “I’m not sure who the ursa is. I’ve seen several of his kind around town, but I can’t tell you for sure who he is.”
Alchemy took the paper back. “Well it shouldn’t be too hard to find him, it’s not that big a village.”
“So far, that’s all I have,” Alchemy said into his pocket magic mirror.
“Keep me posted.” K’s sultry voice came through the glass “I can’t say as I’m surprised that the gnomes may have goblins working for them, but I don’t like it. They’re expanding their control faster that I feared they would. We need to find whoever is behind this and get them shut down. The human’s are getting more worried about their firebirds by the minute.”
“Oh, by the way, so far I haven’t spotted Gavin.”
“Don’t worry about him. He checked in on time today. I’m sure when the time is right he’ll let you know what he’s found out.”
A soft knock came from the door to Alchemy’s room. “Need to go.”
“You be careful, Pond.” K’s voice sounded concerned, then the mist cleared and she was gone.
Alchemy walked to the door. The brownie from reception stood there with a small drink cart. “Mister Sellingford asked me to bring you something to drink before dinner.”
“Please come in.” Alchemy motioned her into the room. She moved gracefully through the doorway.
He looked over the goods she rolled in. He gaze lingered more on her than the liquor. “You looked fairly well stocked.”
“Yes sir, I try to bring everything I have to the clients.” She smiled at him. Her bright white teeth flashing behind full rosy lips.
“I’m sure you do.” He wished he had time to flirt with the woman more, but diner would be waiting. “I’d like a Dwarven Ale Firtiatini, shaken not stirred.”
“Very good sir.” She set about to preparing his drink.
Alchemy walked back into the bedroom of his suite. He needed to prepare for dinner. As a wizard, he was expected to wear robes. He’d adopted more conventional clothing recently, particularly in light of his work with the Fragrance Guild. He’d remembered to bring along some robes in anticipation of more formal occasions. He found his clothes hanging in the closet, where the maid had obviously placed them earlier. He scanned through the clothes hanging there. Everything was as it should be. He pulled out his dark blue robe. A fine line of gold piping along the sleeves indicated his rank of wizard, as well as his training from the royal wizard of Sellmainia. Wizards trained by non-royal teachers would have had silver piping. He hung the leather jacket up and pulled off his blue silk tunic. Both were new enough that he took extra care in hanging them in the closet. Due to his extensive physical training of late, his shoulders had grown enough that most of his wardrobe was new.
After pulling on the robe, the wizard ran his hand through his short brown hair, smoothing it down before checking it in the mirror. He looked formal enough. Returning to the sitting room, he found the brownie waiting there with his drink.
Her delicate fingers brushed his as he took the cocktail glass from her. He did wish that he didn’t need to be at dinner so soon, but he was worried that if he was late he wouldn’t meet the men he needed to. The red haired beauty would need to wait.
Alchemy sipped the drink. The alcohol slid warmly down his throat. “Perfect. You are a master at your craft.”
The woman blushed. “Thank you m’lord.”
Alchemy pulled out his coin purse and handed the woman a silver.
She shook her head and tried to return the coin. “M’lord, this is much to much. The service is complementary.”
“It’s just a tip,” Alchemy smiled. “Besides I may need a nightcap before turning in tonight.”
The brownie returned his smile as she slipped the coin under the napkin on the cart. “Anything you need.”
The Lady’s Pleasure’s dining room was opulent. Alchemy stared at crystal chandeliers that cast flickering mage light across the many, mostly occupied, tables around the floor. Finely tailored wait-staff moved amongst the diners, making sure that their every need was met to exacting standards. Within seconds, the wizard spotted Sellingford and wove his way amidst the employees and patrons toward the table where the constable dined with two others.
“Ah, master Pond,” Sellingford rose and beckoned him over to the empty plush high-backed chair where presumablely Hydd Berryman used to sit.
“I hope you gentlemen haven’t been kept waiting,” Alchemy smiled at the troll and the elf sitting at the table.
“Not at all,” The elf replied, looking a little surprised.
Sellingford shook Alchemy’s hand before turning to the men at the table. “Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce Alchemy Pond. He’s here from Sellmania, hunting thundersaurs. Mister Pond, may I present Major Havenstan of the troll army, and Professor Drys.”
The two men politely rose and shook Alchemy’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you both.” Alchemy nodded warmly as he took his seat. A waiter promptly appeared and took Alchemy’s order.
“So Mister Pond,” Major Havenstan began once the waiter departed. “What brings a royal wizard out to Bureamore in search of thundersaurs?”
Alchemy sipped his new Firtiatini “I’ve only recently received my wizard’s strips, and decided I needed a bit of a vacation. A good friend of mine said hunting thundersaurs was just the challenge I need to relax a bit.”
The troll laughed a booming laugh. “Your friend must have been a troll, only a troll would have found hunting thundersaurs relaxing.”
Dyst chuckled. “Well old Berryman used to enjoy a bit of thundersaur hunting, and he was as elven as either of us.” He indicated himself and Alchemy.
“Berryman was an odd duck.” Haverstan replied. “He enjoyed games with us didn’t he?”
“Who is Berryman?” Alchemy asked innocently.
“Hydd Berryman was…is a friend of ours.” The troll explained. “He’s been missing for several days. I tried to go by the place he rents out on the edge of the forest but the constabulary was there and wouldn’t let me in.”
“So you fear foul play may be involved?” Alchemy asked as the waiter reappeared with their food.
Haverstan speared his rare steak on the end of a long dangerous-looking dagger. “This is Buteamore, one can never tell what dangers lurk about.”
“So do any of you know a good hunting guide?” Alchemy asked as he cut a small piece off his venison prime rib.
“You might see if Mister…” Dyst sighed with a thoughtful look on his face, and his fish-filled fork half way to his mouth. “Mister…ah yes, Mister Buck Staghorn might be available. He’s an ursa, but he used to guide Berryman out into the forest.”
‘Yes,” Sellingford added. “Staghorn, that’s the name of the ursa that used to take Berryman about into the jungle.”
“Then I’ll need to see if this Staghorn is taking new clients tomorrow.” Alchemy said sliding a succulent piece of meat into his mouth. “A good guide is a must, to catch the right prey.”