A new chapter for my serial, Gryphon. Enjoy. Clink on the links below if you need to catch up on the previous posts.
Gryphon made her way home by a circular route stopping here and there trying to catch the tail she knew had to be there. Her brothers had shown up as a warning and she wouldn’t put kidnapping past them. Hours later she ran out of random things to do and made her way back.
The warehouse was dark when she arrived and she didn’t linger, needing the reassurance of her horde. It was only two much too short hours later that she was dragged out of bed by the trill of her phone. She blinked at it dumbly for a long moment before answering.
“It’s John, we found another body.” He said sounding out of breath, “Can you come down and give us a hand with the witnesses. No one’s willing to step out but I can feel them watching.”
“Yeah, where am I headed?” Gryphon said with a sigh, pulling herself out of the couch and starting to gather up her bag.
“The gardens downtown,” John said his voice grim, “right next to the labyrinth entrance.”
“Well, that’s certainly symbolic. What race?”
“Honestly the body’s pretty tore up; I’m not sure what it is even going by scent.”
“Might be a mixed race,” she muttered stuffing things into her bag that she might need, hoping the extra knives were overkill. “I’ll be there in about thirty minutes.”
“Something’s bothering you with this one, isn’t it?” she said hesitating to hang up until she understood what had rattled the man.
“You’ll understand when you get here.” He said blowing out a breath, “The place reeks of shadows where there shouldn’t be any.”
“I’ll hurry.” She said jamming on her boots and snatching up a jacket as she hung up and stuffed her phone in a pocket.
She was still wearing the clothes she’d worn to the Counsel session but it would have to do. She tripped with a curse over a box of something that had been left next to her door on the landing. She kicked it inside casting a quick warding over it until she had time to examine it fully.
The trains had long stopped so she ducked through the shadows and tried to get as close as she could to the park. During the day it was a nice lightly forested space with hiking trails and wide open fields, now the hedges of the labyrinth seemed to lean menacingly towards her as she approached the crime scene. The spinning police lights gave her small glimpses or eyes reflecting back out at her when moments before there had been only shadow and trees.
“That was fast,” John said jogging out to meet her, “Thanks for coming out.”
“What exactly do you need me to do? I’m not sure the hidden are going to come out with this many people around. We might have to try once the crowds clear out.” She said taking in the milling police and early morning news reporters.
“Do you mind taking a look at the body? I need at least a race to start narrowing down the search.”
He started forward leading her through the lines of colored police tape and frowning officers that kept trying to stop her progress. The body lay shrouded by a sheet while the coroner and his assistant set up a black bag to one side. The scent hit her as the wind shifted across the field, death, darkness, and a thick reek of marsh mud and blood.
“John, I know you tend to get these kinds of cases but this is the third death I’ve seen cross my tables this month. Rather unusual even for your kind.”
“I know, Frank, we’re working on it now. Thanks for keeping things quiet.”
“I doubt anyone would believe me even if I did log the truth, John. This one’s a new one even for me.”
“Mind if we take a look? I had to pull in a consultant on this one.” He said giving a nod to Gryphon.
“Strange even for you then?”
“You have no idea.” John said with a grin, “Gryphon, I’d like you to meet our Coroner, Frank Williams.”
“Sorry to meet you on such a bad night.” Frank said kneeling down and grabbing one side of the sheet, “Ready?”
“Yes.” Gryphon said back calmly stooping down into a crouch as the sheet was pulled back.
The body lay thin and ripped apart, black blood soaking into the grass below it. The size of an seven or eight year old child it’s ribs had been spread apart and the organs lay shattered and pulped within. Dark muddy colored skin and hair looked black in the dim light, the hair thick and stalky like marsh reeds, a thick dolphin like tail sat in place of its legs.
“It’s a bogling.” Gryphon said covering her mouth, “They wouldn’t have been here in the park, they almost never leave their marshes and I don’t know of any living in the city. It’s a child of water and wouldn’t have been able to get this far away without some kind of water source to sustain it.”
“So it was brought here.”
“Probably in some kind of container, it would have died less than an hour after having been pulled from the water.”
“Alright, thanks for letting us take a look, Frank.”
John tugged her upright and away from the scene. They wandered toward the side of the labyrinth, the thick hedges shielding them from the brisk wind that quickly numbed Gryphon’s hands and face. She shivered as the shadows seemed to stretch towards them with each buffet of air.
“So, what do we have so far?” John said, rubbing a hand across his face, “A bogling isn’t a very powerful fae.”
“No, but they are rare. If this person doesn’t know the fae very well then it might just be tracking them on rumor. Marsh fae are well known in the stories and tales, will-o-wisps and such.”
“You don’t think they’re fae themselves.” He said raising an eyebrow.
“No, they’re placing the fae at sites that a human would connect to us, mushroom rings and parks. A fae raised in the culture would never come to a human park to cast a rite. I’d say an uneducated half blood or a pure human dabbling in the blood arts.”
“They know enough to be dangerous.” John said with a snort, “I talked with Sparrow before I got called in; he’s getting more questions about the changing balance. It’s starting to unnerve the more sensitive practitioners.”
“If they don’t know enough magic to know how powerful a being is then we have a very unbalanced blood rite being cast. Whatever they call up will be powerful and uncontrolled; it will use the unbalanced energies around it to further tip the scale and cause even more chaos.” She said blowing out a frustrated breathe.
“I was never a student of the magical arts, the were have little gift for it besides the small trickster gifts of our kind. What exactly are we looking for?”
“Whoever is doing this is giving the rite death energy by murdering the hidden fae, the ones they think no one will miss or possibly they think we are only the hidden.” She shook her head and forced herself back onto topic, “Everything in magic is about balance, give and take. This caster is taking life for the spell but giving nothing of himself. When the final rite is done what ever rises will demand that balance be met.”
“This is six dead.” John said gruffly.
“It all depends on the rite used for what price must be paid but death and blood magic generally requires the same, six deaths to power the spell, six deaths to stop it. Unless it’s based on magical power, then we just need one major player to give up their magic.”
“No one’s going to volunteer for either of those scenarios, Gryphon. No one ever wants to die and losing your magic for a fae is a death sentence.”
“Even if it means the fae stay hidden?”
“You really think the balance will shift that much?”
“It would just take them getting one powerful fae whose blood is pure. That much power would break every glamour in the city, shatter the wards that hide our homes, and out the entire population in a matter of minutes.”
“The Counsel will need to be warned.”
“You think they’re going to volunteer?” She asked voice thick with sarcasm, “Those fools are in the midst of starting the challenge rites for their empty seats. They won’t take another meeting until the rites end in two weeks.”
“Where did you hear that?” He asked, stepping forward so that she was sheltered from the wind by his body, the musk of his scent thick in her nose.
“I was asked to be the outside judge.” She said softly fighting the urge to lean into his warmth.
“Surely that’s a conflict of interest; they’re still deliberating on your petition.”
“If I go along with things then my petition will be seen in a more favorable light, I couldn’t say no.”
“So you’ll be busy for the next two weeks dealing with the counsel.”
“I’m only needed for the rites. One test every three days until there are no more contenders.” She said with a sigh, “I’ll still help out as much as I can with the case; we’ve got to find this guy soon before the balance shifts anymore.”
“How hard would it be to capture a bogling, exactly? I mean, they’re small but what magics do they use?”
“Boglings are water creatures; they mostly use their gifts for misdirection and hiding.”
“So they’re not very powerful, a human could get the drop on one if he knew how to hunt?”
“Possibly, fae are hard to kill but he might have needed help to get the bogling here. Could a car get this far into the park?”
“Not legally but there are service roads they could have used. There’s no sign of anything being dragged and if the bogling was in a bag or some then they took it away with him.”
“He’d only need it to stay wet until he got it here. Once the rite was started it wouldn’t matter how weak the bogling was.”
“What if they just sprayed it down or had it wrapped in a wet sheet, would it have been strong enough to try and get away?”
“Once it was taken some distance from its bog it would have been very weak if not submerged in water. One person probably could have moved it at that point.”
“Great. I’ll try and see if there are any cars spotted using the service roads. Can you hang around and ask the hidden in the area if they saw anything? I doubt they’re going to come out to a were and a cop at that.”
“You might be surprised but I can wander while you finish up with the crime scene. Send me a text if you find anything else?”
“Sounds like a plan. Let me know what you find and if you need to head out, if not I’ll find you once I get everything sorted.”
“Alright, good hunting.”
“You as well.” She said with a smile wishing absently that she was able to go further with the man, he was a good soul who truly wanted to help those around him.
She spent the rest of the morning loitering about the park trying to get the hidden fae to come out. Most had hidden themselves so well that she only knew they were there by the feel of their eyes on her back. She sat on boulders and deserted benches explaining how they were hunting the murderer and that they needed information to the empty air waiting on any that would step forward. None did.
She offered those who were scared sanctuary at the warehouse or a well warded park but she doubted any would take her up on the offer, hidden fae tended to tether themselves and their magic to their homes and would rarely leave. She took the long way home walking slowly in case any fae wished to approach but none bothered her even if she could still feel eyes on her as she finally gave up a few hours after lunch. She tugged out her phone to start making calls and sent off a text to John that she had come up dry.
“Good afternoon, my dear. How goes the work?” Grand’Mere answered with a cheerful lilt to her voice making Gryphon smile as she turned toward home.
“Another fae body was found, it looks like they’re continuing the rite.”
“Water fae, a bogling.”
“Troubling, they know enough of the rite to realize they need all types of fae. Someone could be guiding them.”
“Or a human got lucky and found an ancient tome, it’s happened before.”
“I’ll start combing our records for sales in the last year. We might get lucky but it could be a book some fae misplaced.”
“Have you heard the news about the Counsel?”
“Unfortunately, what possessed you to agree to judge the trials?”
“They all but said if I didn’t my petition would be judged harshly, I didn’t really have a choice.”
“What can I do to help?” She asked briskly, Gryphon could hear the sudden scratch of a pen on paper across the wire and tension poured out of her with a sigh.
“I need more information on the trials. The Counsel is sending me books but I’m going to need to know the loopholes that might be exploited, what families to watch out for.”
“My main concern is your safety. It’s common for the outside judge to be bribed or even killed if the judgment goes counter to how the clans wish it. Do you have someone who can act as your protector during the trials?”
“Possibly, he’s a local cop who works with both the fae and human police forces. He’s busy with the murders however and might not be able to do much.”
“Ask if he can recommend someone, you need someone watching your back during the trials.”
“The Ferris clan is definitely going to be one of the competitors, along with Hereford’s son and heir. The rest of the contenders have yet to step forward. There must be at least three challengers and could be as many as ten.”
“We’ll need to research each of the families once they are announced.”
“I don’t like you being dragged into this mess while the balance is disrupted. There is a rumor that the dark allies want to claim the seat so they have more sway over the boundary decisions in the next fifty years.”
“It’s not balanced now, they have six light affiliated and four dark. If the new seat is dark it would just make the board even.”
“Most agree that several of the more light affiliated on the Counsel are being swayed toward the dark. Several of the last few decisions that were handed down strayed into grey territory, granting small wins to the dark.”
“Why is it always such a war between the light and dark?”
“No one likes to have their differences out on display, it forces us into comparisons. We are much like the humans in needed to label things, what is good, what is bad.”
“Even when no side is the better,” Gryphon said bitterly, “Blood is just as red in sunlight as it is in shadow.”
The box waiting just inside her door was full of the dusty old tomes the Counsel had promised to send over. Gryphon looked them over with a sigh before digging out her laptop and starting to take notes. Hours later she jerked away from the faded print as someone deliberately triggered her wards, the polite way for a strange fae to enter another fae’s residence.
She hurried down the stairs ignoring the handful of fae and half-bloods gathered waiting in the living room for dinner to be finished. The actual ward line was well away from the warehouse door so she slipped outside and warded it locked behind her with a quick spell before she started out into the open. A faint shimmer to one side drew her eye, and she wandered closer.
“Greetings,” she said simply, “How can I help you this day?”
“You offered sanctuary to the hidden,” a light chiming voice called out, steel underlying the bell like tones, “We seek to claim it.”
“You are welcome in my house but you must swear to harm none while you stay.”
“We can agree to keep the peace of your house.”
Four tiny air fae flittered into sight while two dark fae hung back waiting to see what kind of reception they would receive. Gryphon could understand the hesitation, the butterfly winged light fae would be welcome at any house but the dark skinned Pooka and his companion had probably been turned away many times over the centuries. The Cù-Sìth hunched along trying to seem smaller but a wolf like creature the size of a bull was hard to minimize.
“I’m not sure we’ll have enough meat for your companion but you are both welcome.” Gryphon said gesturing them in and moving quickly to open the door and escort the motley group in.
“I will see to my companions’ meals.” The Pooka said, golden eyes scanning the warehouse as he trailed the others inside.
“You’re more than welcome to eat at our table; I just need to place an order in the morning.” Gryphon said locking and warding the door once the wolf was inside.
“Everyone we have guests. Is this everyone here right now?”
“Jake, can you make sure everyone’s come down? Lana we have a few more for the table.”
“Plenty to go around,” the brownie said with a grin, turning back to the kitchen to start another dish.
Once everyone was gathered they served out the meal and exchanged names. Gryphon waited until everyone had eaten their fill before she pressed for why they had requested sanctuary. The winged fae, Cen, Pearl, Dash, and Aria had been chased the night before in their meadow and only gotten away because they ran into the Pooka, Brian, and his friend. He was the one to lead them to Gryphon’s door.
The air fae hadn’t been able to say much about the man chasing them. The only strange thing was that even with a glamour up he could see them. While they had good night vision, they couldn’t see past the mask and hood they wore. Only the looming beast had stopped the chase, sending the attacker running. Britt guided the air fae to one of the extra rooms but Gryphon had a feeling they would be sharing with Britt until they lost some of their fear.
“How did you find a Cù-Sìth this far from Ireland?” Gryphon asked as everyone dispersed to their rooms. Lana levitated the left over roast on a plate over to the beast clapping happily when he began to eat in dainty bites.
“I found him years ago, stuck in a trap some hunter had left unattended. He’s not a dumb beast and consented to allow me to release him and help him heal. He’s been with me ever since.” Brian said with a tired smile watching the beast eat.
“A loyal companion then,” Gryphon said with a grin, “There are several rooms upstairs ready for guests but if you would like to stay near him there are two rooms on the first floor, they just don’t have the same comforts yet.”
“What do you call him?”
“A good name.” Gryphon said with a grin, the Irish term for friend, “Give me a moment to get one of the bedrooms set up. You’re welcome to stay up if you are so inclined; there are several others who stay here who are more partial to the night. They will be in and out come morning.”
“You have a good clan here.”
“Not a clan, not yet.”
“A good start to one, either way.”
“Perhaps,” she said with a sigh, “That decision waits on the Counsel.”