It’s been a while! I’m starting edits on Ambrosia, so I figured I’d get another chapter under my belt to get back into the groove. If Ambrosia is new to you, check out Authonomy.com for an easy way to catch up.
Part 21 – Revelation
Nell led Culvir back to the Gilded Peanut, riding on the high of victory. A part of her struggled against Brando’s presence in Terra. She held no grudge against him, in fact it had been the opposite. Brando Blaugrunder had everything he could possibly want. To seek affirmation from an outcast like Topel struck her as odd.
Culvir tugged her to stop shortly before they arrived, tearing her from her train of thought.
“Sonnie might be there. We shouldn’t be seen together.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Sonnie had his reasons but—”
“I’m not convinced. He helped you, he helped me, but people like him only do things if they stand to benefit. Besides, we need to stay focused. That little magic show only drew attention to you.”
“I thought that was the idea,” she said. “We need to find Helos, so why not have him find us?”
Culvir scowled. “I think it’s the wrong kind of attention. The show of power is fine. We can’t have people thinking the Hunters Association indulges in pointless mage duels. Also you may have made enemies making that Blaugrunder guy look bad.”
“What does that have to do with Sonnie? I think I’ve earned some relaxation time.” She tugged on his coat, drawing closer to him. “And I want to relax with you.”
Culvir drew in air through his teeth, paused to consider and shook his head. “I’d like that too, but we need to stay focused. We need clues to find where Helos fled.”
“We aren’t the only people in the Organization, Culvir. When they catch scent of him, we’ll hurry straight there.”
“If they report it correctly. We can’t count on them. They’re slackers.”
“According to you, I’m a slacker too.”
“Yeah well, I don’t mind putting in the extra effort for you,” Culvir said, surrendering to a smile. He pushed away her hand. “Let’s take it slow for now? All right?”
“Fine.” Nell stepped past him, letting out an exaggerated sigh. “I’ll try scrying for vampires. You can do the foot-work. You wouldn’t stay in bed even if I asked.”
Culvir left Nell alone, vanishing into the crowds. On her approach to the inn, she found Lady Tusche in front of the building. She approached waving Nell to step off the street.
Nell didn’t like the idea of being alone with a Succubus, even if the venerable Lady Tusche could be trusted. Ambrosia made tempting prey to sorts of devious creatures. She snapped her finger and Wisp blinked into existence. He darted about her shoulder and flared white hot.
Lady Tusche got the message, settling for a spot at the roadside. “I have a lead for you. I had to break the rules to get it.”
“Helos still has devotees in the city. He’s put a bounty on your head.”
“How do you know?”
“I was offered the same bounty. There’s no hiding what I am to his followers. Truth be told it is tempting. The things I could do with your essence sends shivers down my spine.”
“I hope you aren’t planning to change sides.”
Tusche raised a hand. “Absolutely not— I just said it was tempting. Think my information is valuable enough to warrant a taste?”
Nell rolled her eyes. Apparently it wasn’t just her blood that was delicious. “I like men, sorry.”
“I’m not technically female, for the record. I just associate myself as one. If it meant—“
“The answer is still no.”
“Pity.” Tusche offered her a scroll. “Call it an act of good will then. The Hunter Association has done well for me. I suppose I’ll take this one as a loss.”
Nell took the scroll and peeked at it. It was a list of names, each one with a bloody fingerprint underneath. “This is—“
“This should make your search much easier.”
“I could kiss you!” Nell said. She paused to consider. “But I won’t.”
Tusche smiled. “It’s fine. I’m not really interested in settling for a kiss.”
“I’ll find some other way to pay you back. You take quite the risk giving this to me. I won’t forget your kindness.” Nell hurried into the Inn, working through rituals she hadn’t used in years. Wisp fluttered behind her, returning to his usual warm red color. Outside of elemental magic, Nell couldn’t claim to have much expertise. Scrying took a lot out of her.
However, with blood samples of men working for Helos, it would be much easier. She brushed past Batreese, their portly innkeeper in her haste.
“Hello Miss Nell,” he said. “Do you need something to drink?”
“No, thanks.” She stopped and turned. “Actually, scratch that, yes. I could use something with a kick. Could you bring it to my room?”
Batreese bowed deep. “Of course.”
Culvir wouldn’t like it, but keeping an even temper would make things easier. What he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him.
She ducked into her room, waiting to ensure Wisp made it in as well, shut and locked the door. She spread the parchment out across the bed, muttering an incantation. The first order of business was to find whom she had taken out already.
Nell focused her mind. She pictured the men who attacked them in the inn and two fingerprints glowed faint blue. So it’s real.
She let out a sigh of relief, easing away the ebb and flow of magic and looked over the names on the list. She paused at one, reading it over three times before it sunk in.