Yes, things have been rough lately. Holidays, work, more work, large objects to my face (glasses go boom!), and more!
Still, though, the words have continued to pour from my pen. My latest novel WiP, the fantasy mystery romance post-magical-apocalypse film noire tale with some cyberpunk influences that I did a first sneak peek of HERE, is rapidly winding to the conclusion of the first draft. I’ve had some wonderful alpha readers urging me on and calling me out when they need to, and I feel really good about this. So, with that said, how about we get a little bit more, something to wet your appetite for what’s to come. Remember, this is still the rough first draft with only minimal editing. Still, I think you might enjoy it!
From A Visitor’s Guide to the Walled City by Eve Torrent, wind tour guide:
The City Watchtower is perhaps one of the best landmarks one can use in the City, as it is the only structure that runs through all five layers of the City. However, considering the stern stonework and terse nature of the Watch itself, it is something best viewed from a distance as opposed to a tour of its interior.
From a Watch missive from Inspector Hors Blackfoot to Magistrate Kennin Tsu:
While I understand that a Watchperson’s personal affairs are not the business of the Watch, assuming there is no unlawful behavior, I still express to you that a further investigation of Junior Inspector Redmane is in order. I have no evidence of illegal actions, but there are multiple accounts of personal affairs that would tarnish the Watch’s sterling reputation with the populace. Please allow me an audience at your earliest convenience to present said accounts to you.
From the journal of Inspector Vela Redmane, 14 Octavian 736 PC:
A cup of hot tea and a cigarillo hadn’t been enough to completely quiet my nerves and the wait in the Chief Inspector’s office wasn’t helping. Instead of sleeping in a soft, feather mattress warmed by a beautiful man or maiden (or perhaps both), I had gotten what sleep I could on the lumpy cot in the Tower’s alchemy lab, in between tests on the crystal from the crime scene. I needed a perfect piece of evidence to show that I had what it took to take this case.
This was, after all, my first chance at a murder investigation, one I had personally been on the scene for, and my fate was in the hands of a new Chief Inspector (Verdigan Feathers, previously of the Fifth Ward) and my own personal infamy. If that wasn’t all, Feathers, a broad chested wing-folk of maybe fifty years, walked into the office alongside Inspector Blackfoot, my old ‘friend’. My nerves came back with a vengeance.
“Redmane,” the Chief offered as way of greeting. “I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure.”
I choked down my nerves and stood up straight at attention. “No, sir, Chief. It is an honor to have a chance to serve under you.” In hindsight, the proper stance did put some of my best physical assets forward.
Blackfoot, his usual smug look plastered on his muzzle, fell into line next to me. “Vela, glad to see you awake this early, especially after an off day.”
“Duty never stops, no matter how much we might crave a rest, Hors.” I didn’t turn to face him, instead focusing on Chief Verdigan. I had seen him from a far a few times this past week, but I never had the chance before then to notice how handsome his beaked face was or the glossy brown of his feathers. Remarkable for a man of his years. “You wanted to see me, Chief?”
The Chief made no remark about our little exchange, focusing instead on business. “Indeed. I understand you were at the establishment in question when our murder happened.”
“Yes, Chief,” I nodded and took that as leave to enter into a recounting of the events of the previous evening, leaving out only some particular bits of inner commentary. I didn’t need to reinforce any slander Hors may have barked into Verdigan’s ear holes.
I’ll grant Hors this much: when it came to the actual case, he was all business. Certainly, a few of his questions in regards to my recollections seemed focused more towards my own reasons for being at the Scale as opposed to the case, but none of them were out-and-out off-topic. Again, our new Chief didn’t call down Hors for his insinuations, but he also didn’t give them any attention, simply bulling through to continue with the meat of the matter.
“The corpse is already in the custody of the Watch surgeons, Chief Inspector,” I concluded. “With any luck, we can confirm the cause of death and perhaps identify the man within a day or two.”
“Very good, Junior Inspector,” Hors offered, emphasizing the ‘junior’. Many had expected him to take over for the old Chief when he retired and Blackfoot certainly acted as if that had been the case. “I should be able to -”
“Quiet, Blackfoot,” the Chief snapped. The look I caught on Hors’ face out of the corner of my eye was priceless. “Redmane, I know this is a non-standard affair, but there’s nothing better than a strange case to cut your teeth on.”
“Chief Inspector, I would be -”
“Verdigan, you can’t be serious!” Hors’ lips were curled up in controlled anger, so much so that I could see his canines. “With such an affluent victim, no doubt a noble, we can’t let an untested rookie make a mockery of the Watch.”
I fought the temptation to punch Hors in the muzzle, not that it would do much to that craggy jaw, but still turned on my heels towards the bastard. Before I could get a stinging tirade out, Verdigan had gotten to his taloned feet and slammed his palms onto the desk.
“You’re out of line, Hors,” he screeched, loud enough to send my ears flat against my skull. “You’re not Chief Inspector, I am.”
Hors is quite the stickler for the rules and a reminder of his place in the system was all it took to put the Wallmaker devoted down. Lowering his gaze, Hors muttered a brief apology and forced himself back into attention.
“No matter what I hear around the Watchtower about Redmane here, I only see the records. An exemplary conviction record, top marks at the bow range, and an extensive background in alchemy. No ethics violations, no time spent in the Gaols, nothing to hold this young woman back.” The Chief sat back down as I tried not to swell too much with pride. “Give me one good reason, one solid bit of evidence why Vela shouldn’t be put on this case.”
Hors shifted from foot to foot before relenting, his ears drooping along with his tail. “I apologize, Chief Inspector, I have nothing. I was only concerned about the Junior Inspector’s lack of experience with being in charge of a full-blown investigation.”
“I respect your concerns, Inspector,” I said, deciding on a diplomatic course. “Believe me, though, in that I have been preparing for this moment for moons now.” That was the moment I chose to present the facts I had uncovered this morning in the lab. “In fact, I spent this morn analyzing the crystal found at the crime scene. Perhaps my insights might put the Inspector’s mind at ease with your decision, Chief.”
“Go ahead, Redmane,” Verdigan said with a wave of his taloned fingers.
Digging the purple crystal out of my pocket, I held it up so it would catch the light of the Celestial Sphere shining through the narrow windows of the office. “This crystal, found in the fireplace, still held a lingering essence of magic inside of it. Alchemical analysis showed that the essence was tuned to a very specific type of evocation magic.”
Magic wasn’t Hors’ field of expertise, so it was no surprise when he looked a bit lost. “What does that mean precisely?”
“Evocation is a field of magic that focuses on the spontaneous creation of forces, such as heat, cold, or raw force,” the Chief rattled off as if by rote, a testament to his experience. “Most direct combat spells are evocations.”
“Exactly,” I nodded. “As I said, though, this crystal was very finely tuned to transmit an evocation of sound. If I were to hazard a guess – which I will – this crystal more specifically transmitted a magical song or maybe even a single musical note.”
“I’ve heard of magical music before,” Hors said, scratching under an ear, “but I can hardly believe a song or a note of music to kill a man, especially like that.”
“Don’t be so quick to judge, Inspector.” Verdigan spread his hands wide. “There are plenty of creatures in the Wilds that can do all manner of evil with their songs. Think back to your Dangerous Monsters classes in the academy.”
To add to the Chief Inspector’s point and twist Hors’ nose, I added examples. “Sirens, harpies, banshees, those are just the start of the list. Sorcery could duplicate any of those songs and many more. That alone is a lead, as magical music isn’t a common pursuit. Add to that the fact this was a sympathetic link to the sorcerer or beast responsible, something that can be tracked with the right divinations, and we have a potential major break in the case out of the gate.”
Hors let out a sharp breath, signaling a capitulation in this particular struggle. “I see. And I suppose I also have had my concerns put to rest. For now.”
“You honor me with your vote of confidence, Inspector.” I offered Hors a proper salute. From the strangled look on his face, you would have thought I had taken him to the ground in a scandalous embrace. While tempting, Hors, no matter his rugged looks, was not my type. As it says in The Song of Myrien, beauty goes far deeper than the skin.
“Good,” Verdigan said. “With this settled, the case is all yours, Redmane. Let me or Inspector Blackfoot know of any and all additional resources you may need.” The problem sometimes with winds was reading their expression. It’s not like a beak can smile. Yet I hoped I properly heard the satisfaction in Chief Inspector Feathers’ voice when he finished with, “Make the Watch proud, Inspector.”