A bit of time has passed since Corvin has started working in Arikin's shady establishment. He had gained some weight, as Arikin was quite a good cook, and was only interested in cooking meat dishes. Preferably pork. From a skeleton, he looked now like a zombie.. Without the rotting flesh of course.
At first, he didn't know what to do first. When he took a look at Arikin's room, It was a mess.
Piles of dirty clothing strewn everywhere, whetstones and tools scattered on the bed, and even some alchemical ingredients where on his bookshelves. The man wasn't kidding about needing someone to clean. Arikin appeared quite embarrassed about it though, and just said. "I'm comfortable in sleeping anywhere... So I just..",
It was nothing Corvin couldn't handle though. After a few hours, the room was sparkly clean. He tossed the dirty laundry on an unused basket and settled it outside the room. He instructed Arikin to put his dirty clothes here and not just anywhere. The alchemical ingredients, he arranged in different pouches and vials on his bedside table, the whetstones and tools and neatly packed in his cabinets, and arranged the books neatly. He wiped the floors clean with pungent oils and even fungi. He wondered how long it's been like this.
The next few days, some people would go inside and ask for Arikin's help. Corvin would note down the requests, and sort them according to Arikin's priorities. If the individual seems distressed or in a hurry, he'd make it a priority. Whenever he'd be back from a job, he'd sort through the requests Corvin wrote down, and pick from it. It was easy, and it's not like people'd line up for his services. Only 1 or 2 people would go in each day. Sometimes, when he felt like the building was clean, he'd go in his room and play with the cat. Pomph needed the exercise.
He spent his time mopping the floors, wiping the chairs and the tables, and dusting the ceilings and cabinets. By the time Arikin stepped back inside from a job, he'd look around, amazed. In the dim light of the flickering lanterns, it was easy to spot some dust that was suspended in the air, to Arikin's surprise, there was only a little.
Arikin whistled. "Daaamnn. Fine work.",
Corvin flushed. He wasn't used to people giving compliments about his work. "T-thanks..", he stuttered. "How was the job?",
Arikin removed his coat and tossed it on the chairs piled on the corner of the room. He groaned. "Aaaah. Boring... Think.. This household thought the ones that killed their chickens and pigs in their backyard was some sort of beast? Even offered a huge amount of gold. 100 coins!", he said, a hint of annoyance in his tone. "And when I tracked the quote,unquote beast? MY! It was just a hungry street dog! Scabs enveloped it's body, eyes red that looked like it was about to pop, and a frame that looked that would break at the slightest touch of wind!",
Corvin scratched his head, and glanced at the weapons strapped to Arikin. "I guess those weapons weren't needed then..",
Arikin caught his glance and understood. "Yes! I was expecting some sort of werewolf, or an aswang, but no... A dog. A DOG!", He almost shouted in frustration.
Corvin scratched his head again. "But.. You did get 100 coins, yes?",
Arikin groaned again. "That's the thing! When I told them that it was only a street dog.. They paid me 2 gold instead! The fucking pricks!",
Corvin didn't know what to say to him. He continued his work, hoping not to cause any more frustration to his boss..
Arikin kept scratching his head, rubbing his face , and kept cursing about someone's mum. He unstrapped the weapons, and stored them in a chest just beside the table.
A few moments later, he calmed down. "ahhh... Forget about it. At least they paid...", he muttered.
Arikin spent the next few hours sorting through the requests. It was deep in the night, and it was getting cold.
Corvin poured some ale from a barrel that was sitting beneath the table, and passed a mug towards Arikin. He politely bowed his head and started drinking.
Few moments of awkward silence gripped the room again. Corvin desperately thought about a subject to talk about, but in his clouded mind, couldn't think of anything.
Arikin was first to say something. "Say Corvin.. What's your opinion about Rangers?",he paused, his eyes staring blankly into the dim light of the moon pouring from the windows.
Corvin's eyes widened. He felt excited, finally have someone to talk about his favorite childhood heroes.
"That's quite a subject.", Corvin replied. "Well, I only heard from rumors from the patrons I served while working at the inn.. but I heard they were some sort of Elite fighters that fought monsters and demons..",
"That's a broad generalization..", Arikin muttered. "Do you know how they fight?",
Corvin rubbed his chin in thought. He heard that Rangers wield many weapons, but commonly the sword. Some also claimed that they used magic in battle, but not as strong as a mage's. He told Arikin this, and he laughed.
"Man! Those patrons of yours seem to know a lot..", Arikin snorted.
"And.. I also heard they weren't human at all. ", Corvin added.
Arikin's expression grew grim. "How so?", he asked.
"Well..", Corvin said twiddling his thumbs. "I heard that they were once human, but once their training is done, a ritual is performed to strip them of their humanity.. That they don't feel human emotion anymore..",
"What do you think about this rumor?", Arikin asked.
Corvin thought about it. For him, it was impossible to strip emotions, magical or otherwise. Even years of torture under the innkeep didn't strip him of emotion. Whenever he'd see a hungry dog, or kitten, his heart would break, and at times he'd cry whenever he got to sleep in the stables.
He shook his head. "Nah.. Pure rubbish.", Corvin said waving a hand.
"Really?", Arikin asked, brows raised.
"If you're a human.. It's impossible to strip you of emotion! Or at least I think it is.. Nevertheless, the rumors might say this because the Rangers are so adept in killing, that they wouldn't show a drop of sweat or fear even if faced with the fiercest of beasts!", He explained, smiling.
When he was a child, he was fascinated by the stories of Rangers. Stories of giants or even hydras falling down to these warriors, would keep him awake at times , imagining the fights. It was a boy's dream of course. He wanted to see one in action, but he had more pressing priorities.
Arikin smiled at him. It looked more like appreciation. "I see.. You might be surprised though..",
"Surprised?", Corvin muttered.
They finished the drink, and quietly went to their rooms to get some sleep.
As Corvin lay on the bed, Pomph jumped again on his chest, and curled up into a ball.
He thought about what Arikin meant about he would be surprised. He asked about it after that, but Arikin wouldn't answer. He shrugged, and closed his eyes, as he began to drift to sleep.
The next day, he woke up to the sounds of pounding in the front door. He assumed Arikin already left for a job, so he hurriedly wore his tunic and pants, and ran to the knocking.
When he arrived, he opened the door to see a man with a brightly colored tunic, with frills and jewels adorned on the collar of it. He also wore a jewel adorned cap, with a feather sticking out of it. He looked to be very wealthy, although most wealthy clients always send a servant to avail of their services. He had pale skin and dark hair jutted out of the cap. It wasn't too long though, and he looked to be quite old.
Corvin bowed to the best of his ability, and prayed it didn't look too bad.
The man eyed him suspiciously, and cleared his throat. "I assume you are the one they call, Arikin, the monster slayer?",
Corvin glanced upward to the man's face, and shook his head. "N-No sir, I am Arikin's assistant. I am Corvin. He's on a job right now, but I can entertain your requests until he arrives.", he stuttered.
"I see.. The crow?", the man replied letting out a playful chuckle, then put his hand in the pockets of his tunic. After a bit, he had a letter with an untampered seal. He handed it to Corvin.
"The crow?", Corvin thought. He shoved that thought away though, realizing that this might be the most important client he has ever faced.
"Lord Rathkor invites Sir Arikin to his estate tomorrow morning. This is his invitation.", he stated.
Lord Rathkor was the one ruling the entire city. He always saw the walls that surrounded his estate, but he never saw the Lord's home. He eyed the letter's seal, and it indeed has the Lord's seal. Or at least he knew it from the stories. It had depicted a cage, with two spears formed in an "X" just behind it.
Corvin decided to risk asking a question.
He cleared his throat and asked. "If I may ask ,sir-", he paused, now realizing the man didn't tell him his name.
A look of realization dawned over the man's face, and he bowed slightly to Corvin. "Ah, how silly of me..my name is Tenerim Bennett, Seneschal.",
Corvin's eyes widened. For Arikin to be invited to the lord's estate, delivered by the Seneschal no less? He almost shook his head in disbelief. Just who was Arikin?
Corvin bowed even lower. "Ah my apologies, Seneschal. I'm only curious, did Lord Rathkor inform you as to what this invitation is about?", He blurted, sweat dripping from his forehead.
The Seneschal, looked at Corvin with curiosity, and cleared his throat in response. "The Lord has matters to discuss with your superior. This information is classified, until said otherwise. Although, I can say that the invitation, has a plus one, if that is what you want to know.",
"I see, I will make sure he receives this.. Is there anything else you need, my lord?",
The Seneschal shook his head. "No, that is my purpose in coming here for now. I must be heading off.", he said, as he waved goodbye.
Shortly after leaving, a group of guards passed by and took quick glances at the building. Some looked with disdain, and some looked with intrigued as they passed. Corvin just realized that it was the Seneschal's escort. They wore plated armour, and coned helmets, with Lord Rathkor's livery at their tabards. He felt a bit embarrassed when he realized he hadn't even sensed them, whereas many times during the day he would note Arikin noticing even the slightest presence outside the door.
He went back inside, to the kitchen, where Arikin left a bowl of weird oily meat dish with a note on the table that said, "Early job. Be back in afternoon. Eat well. it's delicious. Mix the oil with rice, and put soy sauce on it. - A",
Corvin raised a brow. "Delicious? This?", he thought. It was a bowl of oil, with chunks of meat in it. It smelled delicious, but the appearance wasn't as appealing. He took a chunk, and put it in his mouth. To his surprise, it was in fact, delicious. The saltiness, and sourness mixed together in a taste that he never experienced before. He also detected a hint of garlic, and some other spices. He then grabbed a plate, went to the pot with rice to try what Arikin suggested.
When he went back to the table, he just realized he didn't know what "Soy sauce" is. He looked at where the bowl of meat was, and noticed an odd container with black liquid. He grabbed it, and smelled the contents. He lurched his head back, unsure as to what to compare it to, but he trusted Arikin. He did what the note said, and he didn't regret it one bit.
He ate almost 3 platefuls of rice by the time Pomph headed downstairs to eat his share.
By the time lunchtime arrived, he didn't even feel hungry. This was the first time he ever felt his stomach about to burst.
A painful memory flashed before his mind, and he felt a tear drop from his eyes. He finally didn't feel hungry. Didn't feel threatened. And it was all thanks to Arikin.
Pomph somehow felt Corvin's sadness, and he jumped to his lap and purred loudly, rubbing his head to his full abdomen.
Corvin's heart melted, and he petted the creature furiously. "Don't worry kitty, I'm fine.", he muttered.
Arikin woke up early that day. The light of dawn barely visible, he thought to himself that this was the easiest way to complete the task he chose. Going down towards the kitchen as silently as he can, he spent a few minutes contemplating what breakfast he should cook. Since he estimated he will be gone until afternoon or even nightfall, he can't cook for Corvin. So he had to cook something that would last until then, or even more. "Ah.", he thought, finally knowing what to do.
He grabbed a few chunks of meat from the ice closet some garlic and vinegar, and cooked his favorite dish, adobo. It would last for weeks, if it didn't get devoured quickly. After that, he wrote a note, ate breakfast, grabbed cat feed, then suited up.
He passed by the alley besides the building, and remembered their first meeting with Corvin again. He didn't expect a boy to be almost eaten by a lizard man, but he was lucky. He was just returning from a job then, when he was about to feed the little felines. If he finished the job a little later, all he would've seen was a dead Corvin. He shook his head, frowning at the thought. He didn't know what he was thinking when he decided to take him in, but so far he had no regrets. Not yet anyway. He does admit that Corvin is helpful with the business. He had steady flow of clients now, and not just one per day. He even thought maybe he could train him, but it would have to wait until he has gained more weight. Corvin can barely lift a sword by the way he looks.
He made his way to a little bowl that the cats use to feed. Arikin always feed the cats loitering beside his home, once when he leaves, and once when he returns. He even made a shelter for them. But whenever he goes near, the cats always run away at his presence. A bitter reminder, that he was something different.
He envied Corvin with Pomph. He tried petting it multiple times when Corvin wasn't looking, but it would just scurry away. He sighed, and put the feed in the bowl.
His job that day, was to find a missing child. He made his way to the address put in Corvin's notes. It was located in a residential spot, not far from where his business is located. It was just a simple wooden house though. It had rotted wood for walls, and straw as roof. The windows were barred with wooden planks, and the door wasn't even locked, just barred with something behind it. He knocked on the door.
"I'm here about your request!", Arikin yelled.
Almost instantly, the door burst open, and the one opening was an older man with eyebags and reddened eyes. He was clearly crying before sleeping. He first eyed Arikin down from head to toe, then took a step back when he saw the weapons strapped to him.
"Yer the monster hunter?", he asked in a rough, and pained voice.
Arikin nodded. "Your daughter is missing? Can you give me more information? Where was the girl last seen?", he asked.
Shortly after, the man gestured for Arikin to go inside. "It's not much but..", he muttered, "But I will gladly pay ye all the gold I have if ye find me daughter!", the man then bursted into a sob.
Arikin did his best to console the man, then glanced around the house. They barely had anything to themselves. Shelves hung with nothing in them, pantries with only stale biscuits and bread, and even clothing that looked like rags scattered all over the house. A woman, lay on the floor, snoring, he assumed it was the wife.
"You have no other children?", Arikin asked curiously.
The man shook his head. "No.. Me wife can't bear any more children-",
Arikin placed a hand on the man's shoulder. "It's okay.. I'm gonna ask some questions and you must answer me truthfully, understand?", he asked.
The man nodded.
"Alright..", Arikin sighed. "What's your name",
The man glanced at Arikin skeptically, wondering if the notice did not mention his name. "Uhh.. Mark sir. Mark Baker.",
Arikin nodded. "Just a formality.. And that woman?"
"Me wife.. Sally Baker.", Mark added.
"The name of your daughter?",
Mark almost sobbed at the mention. "I-It's.. Sarah..",
"Alright then, down to business Mister Baker.. Do you have any enemies? Anyone that would like to cause you, and your family harm?",
Mark looked to be thinking. And then, shook his head. "I don't think so... Nothin' comes to me mind.",
"Where was your daughter last seen?", Arikin asked.
Mark shed a tear. "She was last seen by me neighbor, Tamara, three days ago, by the river near the market... She said that me darling Sarah was playing by the shallow waters with her friend, Bryce.. The little boy said he saw someone take Sarah, but that is all I know.. Please help us sir..",
Arikin raised a brow. "Three days? You didn't report to the authorities?",
"Ya think me daft? Of course I did! But the city guard didn't even acknowledge me plight.. Too busy for the defense of the blood moon, they said...",
Arikin nodded in response. "I see.. I'd like to talk with this.. Tamara, and Bryce? Do you know him well?",
Mark nodded. "Yea.. I know his da' well.. We work by the lumber mill near the river as well. Big man, almost all muscle.. Almost as tall as two of you's.. I think he's on duty in a few hours.. His son is Sarah's best friend. They always play together.. As for Tamara, I think she's still asleep now though, she works as a barmaid at the Rackety Rachet near the gate.",
Arikin nodded, then stood up. "I see.. I'll do what I can, I can't guarantee your daughter's safety, but I assume you know the possibilities?", he asked, in a cold, unemotional voice.
Mark gulped, then shed a few tears before responding. He clenched his fists, and glared at Arikin. "I am..",
Arikin nodded in response,"Understood.. I'll do what I can.", then left the home.
Arikin walked towards the river, feeling sad about the man. He knew what it was like to hold on to hope that someone missing might come back, but he encountered, many , many cases, that the missing one is either inside a monster's stomach, or hacked to pieces by a lunatic. Whatever the case, he vowed to himself to bring the Baker family closure.
He did some asking around the market about the girl, but so far, no luck. He waited until the lumber mill was open, to visit the workers there.
On the way to the lumber mill though, he caught on the corner of his eye, a little boy sitting on the side of the river. He was seated on the ground, with his knees almost to his head, and just staring unto the waters. Arikin went to him, maybe this was Bryce. Going down a set of cobbled stairs, he took a few breaths to take in the smell of sewage. He gagged, but he needed it in case he needs to go into the sewers again.
"Greetings.", Arikin said.
The boy lurched from the ground and almost fell down on his face. Luckily, Arikin grabbed his arm. He looked no more than 8 years old, and had brown hair with freckled skin.
"Who're you?", he asked frantically, "Are you gonna take me as well?",
Arikin let go, and shook his head in response. "No.. In fact, I was hired by the father of your friend Sarah..I'm looking for her", He replied in a gentle voice, kneeling down to meet the little boy's gaze.
"What's the meaning of this?!", A rough male voice shouted.
Arikin turned around to see a man that was carrying woodcutter's axe, and wore a sleeveless tunic with arms the size of tree trunks. He was almost two times Arikin's size. Although Arikin's height was modest, it wasn't considered short. This man would be called a giant, if he were a few inches higher. "What are you doing to my boy?!!",
Arikin shook his head at the man, and the boy met his father's gaze. "Father! This man claims to be looking for Sarah!",
"Is that so?", said the man, eyeing Arikin from head to toe. Arikin noticed the man's arm tense when he saw the weapons, but settled down after a bit.
Arikin shifted uncomfortably. He felt a sinister presence emanating from the man. Like bottled darkness, not unlike his own.
"Indeed I am.. My name is Arikin.", He said, bowing his head courtly.
"Nice to meet ya. I'm Bruce, Bryce's father. What can I do to help?", he asked, with a hint of fear in his tone. He gulped down a lump in his throat.
"Questions first.. Can you show me the spot where you and Sarah played, Bryce?", Arikin asked.
Bryce, glanced at his father looking for confirmation. Bruce nodded and Bryce let out a smile. "Yea! Here!", he said, running towards the location. Bruce and Arikin followed him.
It turns out, they were playing underneath the bridge that crossed the river. Bryce then described what they were doing before the disappearance. Sarah wanted to eat some bread, so Bryce offered to go to the market to buy one, when he got back however, he saw Sarah was walking away with a man with a dark hood. He shouted, but was too far away for Sarah to hear it.
Arikin nodded, and asked. "What about the man that took Sarah? Did you take a good look at him?",
"Well... the man was wearing a black hood.. Not like yours though, he looked big almost to this height! Wait even more!", Bryce explained, raising a hand above his head, tiptoeing.
"I see.. Do you know more mister Bruce?", He asked, glancing towards the boy's father.
He shook his head. "I tried looking for her meself.. When Mark came to me for help, I immediately took action. I asked around, but no one seems to have seen, or noticed her, cept for me boy, of course..",
Arikin raised his brow. "Were you in the area during the disappearance?",
He knew that one other person saw the girl playing with Bryce, but it wasn't wise to divulge that information just yet. Maybe Mark hasn't told anyone about it yet.
He shook his head furiously. "No, I haven't.. Been drinking at work, at the lumber mill over yonder. it was already late afternoon when it happened.",
Arikin glared at the man suspiciously. "When it happened? So you knew the girl was missing before anyone had told you?",
"N-no.. My boy told me what happened immediately after he saw the man..",
"I see. ", Arikin said grimly. He now had a suspect. The man's explanations and behaviors were off, but he sometimes noticed that some people talk to him with fear and in turn, cloud their minds and sometimes say off putting things. He decided to investigate further.
"Young man, where did you see the man and Sarah, heading to?",
The boy pointed straight ahead. "I think they followed the river.. They disappeared after the went under the second bridge..",
Arikin nodded. "Thanks for your help.. I'll investigate the site further.",
After that, the duo went about their day. Bruce, heading up the stairs and made his way to the lumber mill, meanwhile Bryce grabbed a fishing pole and started to fish. He doubted he'll catch any, and he looked rather adorable holding a fishing pole almost twice his size, so he left him alone. It was weird though, why his father left him there, when there was a kidnapper around. And he couldn't forget that presence. He didn't know for sure. He needed more evidence for it.
Next thing on his list, is to interrogate Tamara at the Rackety Rachet.
The inn was a bit further than the lumber mill, about a few minutes walk. It was located straight ahead though, so it wasn't hard to look for it. Besides, he already knew where to find it, as it was the former workplace of Corvin. Corvin wasn't eager to share about his past, so he knew next to nothing about it's inhabitants.
Entering the establishment, there were a few patrons. Some were passed out drunk on the tables, and some were eating breakfast, served by a fat man, maybe the innkeep. The floors were smeared with ale and maybe puke, none have cleaned it yet. He made his way to the bar and slammed two copper coins. "A mug.", Arikin said.
The innkeep eyed him for a bit, then slid a mug of ale.
Arikin took a sip and asked, "I'm looking for Tamara.",
The innkeep rose a brow. "What fer?",
"Missing child. She's a witness.", He stated bluntly.
"I see. Well, she's not working yet, although it is past her work hours...",
"I'll wait then.. In the meantime, where's the skeleton?", Arikin asked.
The innkeep laughed. "I wonder where the useless brat has gone to? I haven't heard of a corpse in the river with his description yet, so I think he's holed up in some sewer grate eating rats!! Hahaha!",
Arikin let out a fake laugh, although to other ears it sounded as genuine as they come. "I miss hitting him!",
"Right?! Now though, I plan to take in another one to take his place... The customers don't have anymore fun now!", He replied.
He has asked about Corvin before, but the innkeep wasn't around so he asked the one on duty. They all said the same thing. None cared for the boy. Deep down, he thought Corvin to have been overreacting, and sometimes he thought that Corvin was the one at fault. Now though, his opinion was settled. These men were worse than monsters. He just hoped Tamara wasn't like this too.
Arikin tried his hardest not to punch the man, and waited until Tamara showed up. She had auburn orange hair, tied to a bun behind her. She had a fair complexion, but with a hint of tan. She was beautiful, even with the barmaid's clothes.
The innkeep then scolded the girl, although not as hard since Arikin was there. The girl looked thankful, and Arikin presumed the scolding was a lot harder if there were no sober people around.
Tamara then led Arikin to the stables behind the inn. He took a glance at the stables, and saw a bit of hay laid down on the ground, with manure smeared all over the place.
Tamara caught his glance and said. "I knew the boy who lived there.. I wasn't here too long, but I always noticed him. He worked hard, and I hated what the others did to him on a daily basis.. I tried to talk to him, but the innkeep forbade me in doing so. He went missing a week ago..", she said, a hint of pity in tone, and eyes glistening with unshed tears.
This was genuine though, and Arikin believed it.
"Afraid of the innkeep?", Arikin asked.
Arikin sighed. "Back to the matter at hand.. You saw Sarah at the river 3 days ago correct? Tell me what you saw, and what you were doing, in complete detail.",
"Well.. T'was like this..", she said as she started her story. "I was on my way home, the sun had almost set.. I always go through the market for some produce to cook, when I saw little Sarah passed under the bridge with a strange man. He was huge! Almost two times your height, even more! " She said, raising a hand above Arikin's head. He was annoyed at the gesture, but he nodded anyway.
"Well. I tried shouting, but the little girl didn't hear me. I tried going down and chasing them, but the stairs were too far away... By the time I got to the river and under the bridge, they were gone, with little Bryce crying...", she continued looking down. "After that, I went straight to Mark's house, and told him what I'd seen..",
Arikin nodded. "I see.. You didn't tell anyone else? Only Mark?"
"Thanks for your help..", Arikin said.
Shortly after, he left the tavern.
The heat of noon hit his back as he left, he was tempted to let his hood go down, but he had some more investigations to do. He headed back to the river, to follow the trail both witnesses told him.
Following the boy's directions, he walked the riverside. The smell of sewage was getting stronger and stronger. Pipes from all over the city converged in this river, and under the bridge, the smell would be much, much stronger. He wanted to cover his nose with a kerchief, but he needed it to investigate. Any scent that deferred from the sewage could be a clue.
A few paces more and he saw the second bridge. Under it, it was dark. You couldn't see a thing. The smell of sewage was flooding his nose, and he almost gagged again. He needed help.
He knelt down, closed his eyes, and relaxed his whole body. He felt as if he was about to go to sleep. After a few deep breaths, he was in a state of lethargy. Before he could lose consciousness, he grabbed 2 potions from his belt.
One, labeled "Iring", and one "Iro". He gulped down the potions' contents in one go.
His whole body twitched and muscles tensed, as the thick liquid went down his throat. He clenched his fingers, waiting for the primary effects to subside. After a few heartbeats, the pain stopped, and his eyes glowed with blue light, the dark of the tunnel now looked to him like a dim lighted room, his sense of smell was more focused. He was now able to focus on one scent at a time now. He waited a few moments to continue.
The dark shadows crept up to Arikin as he went under the bridge. It spanned for almost 500 meters, a perfect hideout for criminals, or in this case monsters. There wasn't any obstacles to hide in though, as one of the potions he drank lets him see in the dark. If one was foolish enough to ambush him, he would cut off their heads in an instant.
He focused his nose to only pick up scents belonging to corpses. And then, there it was.
Behind a thin grate, lay a corpse of a child. A girl. One arm was missing, and half of her face was chewed out. Rats scurried off as he approached.
Her dress torn apart by teeth, and the abdomen was cut open. Arikin grimaced, and looked around for entrances to the grate. Luckily, he found a crack beside the grate thin enough to let him through.
He inspected the corpse. It was either a day old, meaning she was kept here for all those days, and then, killed. She was still alive when her abdomen was split open, and the chew marks on her face were post-mortem. There were also marks on her neck, maybe a rope or a long thin tail.
Opening the cut by the abdomen, he noted that the heart was missing, along with the intestines. He then looked closer at the girl's chewed face, nothing noteworthy. Many monsters have similar bite marks. The monster suspect list became fewer and fewer with each revelation. One thing left to check.
He looked at the girl's nether regions, and noted that sings of rape was there as well. He fumed in fury, and pounded the ground, cursing and spitting. He calmed down after a few heartbeats, and continued inspecting, for any clue of who, or what did this to her.
It was clearly a sapient humanoid, if it was otherwise, there should've been no signs of rape. Only one thing was clear. The heart was missing, so two possibilities came into mind. A demon, or a goblin. Both monsters eat hearts, like a delicacy. Since witnesses clearly stated it was a huge man accompanying Sarah, he knew for certain it wasn't a goblin, and the dark presence surrounding Bryce's father made it clear. Bruce, was a demon in disguise.
Arikin moved on, he plans to use this place as bait. Heading further inside the grate, more and more corpses came into view in the think sewer tube. Rats scurried about in dark corners, avoiding Arikin. The corpses were torn apart, clearly been feasted by rats.
This was a lair. A demon's lair. Putrid stench of decay filled the air, but he managed to filter it out using the potion he drank earlier. Expecting the skeletons closer, he noticed one odd similarity with all of them. Female.
All of the demon's victims were female.
Days, no- months of kills were in this place. He must end this.
The space was large enough for a fight. Even with a demon. He could maneuver around it, and can strike a killing blow. He must use his shortsword though, the longsword could have problems in this space.
While the lair did have width, a hand more and his head would strike the ceiling.
At the end of the lair, lay a body of a very big bearded man. He looked familiar. He looked to be sleeping, but Arikin could not see his chest bobbing up and down to breathe. Surrounding him, were glowing intricate glyphs.
"Bruce?", Arikin called out.
Nothing. Just cold silence.
Arikin's eyes grew wide. This wasn't just a regular demon. It was a Changeling. Demons who use a prolonged corpse to use in their disguise, gaining their memories and expressions fluidly.
He went in closer. Now this explains why Bruce had acted very strangely during their conversation.
On closer inspection, it looked like not a day has passed since Bruce died. The corpse looked fresh as ever. No signs of degradation. even no signs of foul play. The demon was using this corpse as a disguise, the glyphs surrounding it, put the body in stasis.
If he would tamper the glyphs surrounding the body, the changeling's disguise should wear off, followed with a quick decomposition of the corpse, and revealing the demon within. But it would mean the townspeople's deaths, as the changeling would fight for it's life if it was discovered while still in civilization.
Only one thing left to do. He needed to deal with it alone, no bystanders. He needs to lure it in it's own lair.
Etching glyphs of his own on the sewer's walls, he put traps. Traps that when triggered, should hold the assailant in place with magical tethers that should last for a few moments. He did the same thing wherever he thought was a good place.
He now needed bait. He thought of Corvin.