If you find mistakes, pls tell, thx. I don't like mistakes.
I was asked about reading my work on other sites.
The answer is simple: Currently I am not active in any other networks than royalroadl.com. Only here, I correct mistakes and errors.
If you read it anywhere else and have to pay for it, or have to deal with an annoying amount of advertisement, You Are Being Betrayed.
You would do good if you make other people in that network aware of it. This is a free project of mine for the purpose of having fun. And if people try to make money with it you shouldn't bother visiting their website.
I have no problem with translation and reposting of the story, as long as the person in question isn't doing it for money or stealing my identity.
The only one whom I actually allowed to have my work on his website is Armaell who invested the time to compile them into pdf.
“When you are on a leash, the one who is holding it is important.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
“You are not going to help me! You stay here, where it is safe,” Marcus states matter of factly. I ignore the blunt rejection and follow him, skipping on my feet. “I fear that you don't have the means to force me. And I am bored. The years I spent in hiding were tiring on me. Now that the cat is out of the bag, I may as well use my abilities to their fullest.”
“It's possible that we are lucky, or unlucky enough to encounter the abductors. Can you even fight?” he asks.
“I am fairly sure that I am one of the best fighters you will ever meet,” I answer, showing my teeth with a broad grin. Both of his eyebrows rise in surprise.
“So it wasn't a fluke when you beat Trevor?” he asks, putting something together, the gears in his head working at double speed. After a second he nods. “Okay, you may as well join me.”
“Sure, and why do you think that this investigation will come to a fast conclusion?” We leave the training ground and I gesture to my students that they are dismissed. While I do so, Marcus informs me of the rising numbers of missing people. In his mind, there is no way that someone is able to abduct so many victims without making a mistake. And according to Marcus, one mistake is everything he needs to track someone down.
A few minutes later Marcus takes me for a ride to the battle zone which is still in a state of martial law. Originally it was called the Tandeen District, but everyone I've talked to so far simply calls it the battle zone.
I didn't bother myself too much with the after-reports of the catastrophe. Like the media of most realms, the reports turn very repetitive after watching them for an hour or two.
Marcus informs me that the spirit invasion was apparently caused by summoners who tried to open a portal. But that's only guesswork by the DF.
The portal was opened in a small cellar which belonged to a group of archmage ranked researchers. It was very lucky that the portal's size was limited by the used rune system, so nothing truly cataclysmic managed to get through. The resulting swarm of low level spirits tore through the civilians nonetheless.
The fact that the cellar was a mess of gore and blood by the time the DF arrived didn't help in gathering any clues.
I've seen enough spirit invasions myself, so I have no reason not to believe him. Whoever is stupid enough to open a portal, is likely to end on a spirit's menu. And most of them tend to eat their food whole; bones, hair, and all the rest. They aren't picky.
I mark all the disappearances on a map while Marcus drives us around in his V16GearM, a very, very expensive car. It doesn't take much time for me to understand that he is a transportation freak. One of those men who pick the currently idolized transportation device of their choosing and worship it with unbelievable devotion.
At least I now know which car I'll steal for Dad, should Marcus ever piss me off.
Sometime in the afternoon, we stand in front of an empty house. He does his sniffing-thing while I mark yet another spot on the map. “Marcus, what is this deep inhaling for? It almost feels like you can track mana by scent? I don't want to complain, but are you sure that simply standing at the crime scene will solve anything? Your work so far wasn't very scientific.”
“Not exactly, but it's close to the truth. My spirit form gives me the ability to track the most minuscule amounts of mana. I've been trying to separate the different trails from each other, looking for a trail which was present at most of the crime scenes,” he explains.
I run my hand along my ponytail. So far we've been visiting the homes of the people who were registered as missing. Not all of them look like the inhabitants were taken from their dwellings, but some look damaged. As if there was a fight.
Then it hits me. So he can recognize me by scent!? That's a problem. Quickly, I check my own aura. It's on a tight lock down, just the life magic bleeds out a little. “How do I smell to you?”
He smiles. “Just calling it smelling isn't appropriate. It's more like a combination of smell, taste and touch. And to answer your question, you feel like life, smell like forest and taste like earth. I think it's a trait of your nature magic. Oh, I forgot. Of course there is that stinging aroma of coffee all over you.”
I'll have to be careful with him. If my dark side leaks out, he may recognize me. I am not entirely sure, but whenever I was in spirit form I didn't hold back any of my magic. So maybe that's throwing him off my trail?
“Thanks. Found anything?” I ask.
“Yes, and no. There are trails which feel very similar to each other, but that's all. Either we are dealing with a large group, or they have very potent magic to cover their tracks. The one thing I do know, is that they always come from and lead back towards the battle zone. But that area is so full of magic from the recent battles that it is hard to track them there,” he explains, pointing with his finger.
I nod and show him my map. “That's what I figured out. All the crime scenes you brought me to, are bordering the battle zone. I fear that the abductors have their base somewhere inside it. It will be a hassle to search for them since that piece of the town is a mess and largely uninhabited. I bet they are hiding during the day and go on raids in the night. That would match up with the times of the disappearances.”
For a moment I ponder over this information. “It may be wise to increase the patrols at the borders of the battle zone. It could be that a group of spirits escaped the clean up operations. If that's the case, then they are using the night to get some snacks!”
Marcus looks at me with a horrified expression. “As much as I dislike the thought, you may be right. The mana trails I spoke about feel twisted. It could always be the same group, but their mana slowly changes with time. That threw me off. We have to organize a big search, but that will take time. The DF has to move in again.”
Then he curses long and creatively. “...I told my brother that withdrawing the troops so soon isn't good.”
I shrug. “I need coffee. My place?”
His expression lightens up. “Definitely, yes!” He turns around to the car and opens the door for me. I get in and a few seconds later we are on the way. He makes a few calls from his car's radio to report our findings.
Once we are back at the Hearth Coffee, I hurry to get inside and draw a deep breath. Yes, it smells like my house. At one of the tables is Adea, looking at me accusingly. I wonder what I did now?
Marcus follows me to her table and we take a seat. Shortly afterwards a cup of coffee appears on my table, brought by Jimmy. I didn't even have to ask for it.
“What's with the sour expression, Adea?” I ask to start the conversation.
She shrugs and her eyes flick to Marcus. The second prince has said nothing so far, instead he is eyeing Adea with interest.
I pat his shoulder. “It's okay. Just tell your big sister and ignore the creepy man.”
Adea's eyes widen. “You realize that he is the second prince?”
“I realize that he is a stalker and wants to get under my skirt.” Sometimes the truth works best to break the ice.
Marcus snorts and Adea gasps, but after a while she decides to talk. “It's nothing, really. It's just that Mom is acting strange. And you... you know... back then, that spirit... I thought she was going to die and the strange spirit healed her for some reason. I can't help myself. She has been behaving strange since then.”
I turn to take a good look at Patricia. She is at the bar and propping her head on one hand, drawing circles on the wood with the other one. Her eyes flick shortly towards Jimmy and back. Then she sighs.
Marcus also turns to inspect her with renewed interest.
I smile. “I think your Mom is perfectly fine. Should I talk to her? As the shop's manager, it's my duty to ensure that all of my employees are happy.”
Adea's eyes widen in shock. It's clear that she assumes that I am up to no good. “I think-”
Interrupting her, I stand up. “It will take just a minute. I'll be right back. Marcus, why don't you talk with Adea in the meantime?”
Strolling towards the bar, I take a bar stool and place myself across from Patricia. “Hi. What's on your heart?”
Patricia is a very open-minded woman and doesn't hold back in sharing her feelings. Probably comes with her trait. So it's even more surprising when she attempts to block me. “It's nothing.”
I lean over and whisper, “It's about Jimmy, isn't it?”
Her eyes widen and she sighs. “Okay. If I am that obvious I might as well get it off my soul. I am envious. In my job I learned a lot about men and nothing of it was good.”
Again, a sigh. “Jimmy is different. He is so grounded and hard working. He is reliable and trustworthy...” She continues to count his good points, repeating several times how he saved her and cared for her after the spirit healed her.
I purse my lips, listening to everything. If I remember correctly, I ordered Jimmy to take good care of her. I never took that order back... sue me.
“...but he is totally devoted to you! I don't know why. Everything that's in his heart is the shop and serving you.” For a moment, hatred shines through her eyes, but it's gone as fast as it came. “I can't blame you. You took us in and gave me a job. Someone with my qualifications would probably have to work on the street if it weren't for you. I can't do that to my daughter. Seriously, falling in love like that. I should know better.”
Tilting my head, I take a peek at Jimmy who is working in the garden area in front of the shop, taking orders. The bastard probably doesn't deserve it, but this might actually be fun.
I reach out and take Patricia's hand. “The relationship between Jimmy and me is special. He was a very, very bad man when I met him. Someone who doesn't deserve to even be looked at by a beautiful woman like you.”
Patricia is working with Jimmy day and night, so she may find out his secret sooner or later anyway. It's better to tell her before she finds out on her own and gets the wrong ideas. I have no clue how she developed those feelings, but then again... since the shop has two employees now, I am not here most of the time. Patricia and Jimmy are running it almost without me.
My grin broadens. “He owes me big time. That's why his behaviour may seem strange to you. I know his biggest secret and have kept him on a tight leash to keep him from doing something stupid. But you seem like a woman who could deal with him. Do you want to have a little leverage on him?”
Patricia furrows her forehead. “What... no...” then she decides. “Tell me!”
I bend forward and whisper into her ear as silently as possible. “His true name is Kylar, Randun, Brent.”
When I pull back, Patricia's mouth is formed into a silent 'o'. It takes a moment before she manages to regain her composure. “That's why he is working almost for free? That's evil. What did he do to deserve that?”
I shrug. “Not important. Now that you know, what will you do? Will you bitch to me about it, or will you use it to your advantage? Just imagine, the man you love, fulfilling your every desire.”
Well, I didn't tell her Jimmy's full, true name. But three of his four names should give her enough power over him to issue commands. My own command to keep his mouth shut about me can't be overridden.
Patricia's face shows inner conflict and I have to wonder which side will win the fight. Did I judge her wrongly? She is a woman who surely saw the worst sides of men. Surely she will have nothing against being on the controlling end for once?
Then she stands up and her face straightens out. “Thank you. I'll put your... advice... to good use.” She strolls outside to assist Jimmy, radiating a certain imperiousness.
Oh, Jimmyboy... I am not sure if I just granted you absolution, or threw you into the deepest pit of hell.
Whatever! I turn around and give Adea and Marcus a thumbs up!