Hey, sorry for the long overdue update but I had to take care of a few things.
But here's the new chapter. Skywise picks up an old friend while Winnowill runs into one she wish's she hadn't...
Part Seven – Plans and plans and more plans.
It didn’t take them long to come calling the stargazer thought, just under a day, but did they come back to finish the job or look for something? For that matter what was the job?
Skywise slid down the hall with quiet steps and his back to the wall, the hardwood not even clicking as his shoes touched down. He held his forty-five pointed right at the door to his office, the one he left locked yesterday and was now cracked open. His jacket felt tight and heavy but Skywise knew it was just the rush of the situation. After all this time, after all the fights and battles and wars, these little ‘moments’ always seemed to get his blood going. Someone in the office moved, a small crash sounded as something fell to the floor. Skywise pulled the hammer back on his gun, back so slow it clicked home without a sound almost. He took another step and something hit the floor again, a little heavier this time.
Maybe they did come back to finish the job?
Then something darted out the door and Skywise dropped the pistol instantly. A calico cat shot past him and down the hall to the stairs as he held the barrel of the forty-five on the feline for a second before pointing it away. “Damn Chester, I almost plugged you.”
The PI approached the office slow and cautious, but he kept the gun at his side. Instinct told him whoever had dropped by was long gone and when he looked in on the wreckage that was his office…well he was right. There was no one but the strewn remnants of files and papers and furniture. It looked like a force just rolled through the room, a wave of destruction. His chairs for the clients were on opposite sides of the room, the hat rack was broken into six pieces, and his desk was on its back with the drawers missing. Skywise put his gun back in its holster and closed the door making sure to lock it before turning his attention to the disaster. He walked over and put his desk chair back on its coasters then sat down heavily sighing and looking around spotting a drawer here and one there in the corner.
“What have you done this time stargazer?”
Skywise kicked at a pile of papers by his overturned desk and when the sheets dropped away an old forgotten friend popped into view. It was wooden box, big as his hand with small designs on the sides and top, old pictures in raised relief of days when the hunt and ‘Way’ were the life of the Woldrider. As he reached down and picked it up hearing a small familiar clunk which told him it was still in there Skywise remembered a friend asking about the pictures on the box. Some was a very good carver his friend remarked and her eyes just popped when he said the reliefs weren’t carved. He knew an elf that could shape the wood with magic and the elf created the box as a present for him. Skywise opened the top of the box as the memory of the female’s face made him smile just a bit. There was a cushion inside made of what use to be bright red felt but had faded to pink now.
“There you are.” He whispered as his old Lodestone appeared.
He hadn’t worn it or even carried it for so many years. At one time it never left his neck, never ever, but these days it just sat in the box. He had stopped wearing it right after they returned the second time with the Palace to the Abode, the last time. There was no need to wear it anymore really, he knew his way in the new world, better that most. He dumped the stone out into his hand expecting to feel the old magic in it and that tingle in his fingertips.
Yet nothing happened…no tingle…no magic.
It was just a piece of rock.
“I guess I really don’t need it anymore.” Skywise whispered closing his fingers over the rock in an easy grip.
He reached into his jacket and pulled out the sketch of the girl from the inside pocket, the one Shuna drew for him. He stared at it for a minute, examined it again trying to force his brain to come up with a name. Any name would do…but it was all just a blank. A pair of brown eyes stared back from a pretty if not chubby face and he couldn’t remember a damn letter.
“Who are you sweetheart? What’s your name, huh? You got give me a hand here because I don’t remember a blasted thing about last night.”
There was no answer, from the sketch or his head. Just the silence of his destroyed office and the meow of Chester down the hall. Outside someone blew a horn and screamed about getting cut off.
“Well, this case isn’t going to solve itself and I’m not one to cry in my drink so let’s go find out who you are.”
Skywise stood up out of the chair all ready thinking of the places he needed to visit and show off the sketch. There was Tommy’s, the last place he went before the night became a fog and disappeared. Someone there had to notice her, and if no one as talking then he’d try Mike’s and the Formosa’s on the strip. There was the Tiki Bar just down the street. Everyone in Town always hit the Tiki Bar no matter what. And then there was the Café in the Hills by the studios, every aspiring actor or actress hung out there trying to catch the eye of the directors and producers. The girl in the sketch was pretty, probably came out here looking to make it big in the movies and someone probably pointed her toward the Café. He crossed the office and reached for the door when he noticed his had was a closed fist.
He was still holding the Lodestone…and he wasn’t sure why. He didn’t need it anymore.
“Maybe I just need to put you back up…”
Then an idea hit the PI, not original or unique, but an idea nonetheless.
“Maybe I do know someone…”
Skywise put the Lodestone in his jacket pocket then opened the door and walked out thinking he’d clean the office later.
Cutter came walking up to meet Leetah and his mother Joyleaf after being told of they’re return. He wasn’t surprised to see Treestump or One-eye. He kissed his lifemate and spoke with a whisper. “How is he?”
“I healed his wounds, but the Police beat him severely. He’ll need a day or two of rest.”
The recognized leader, as everyone saw him, of the Elvin presence on the Abode sighed and shook his head, like he had always done when angered. “Did anyone see you?”
“No,” Treestump whispered with his hands in his pockets, “we were in and out before you could blink. Cam’s the only one who knew we were there.”
Cutter turned from Leetah to face his elder with a serious look. He had always gone to his elder for advice, even now. “How long do you think the peace will last?”
“You mean when he gets on his feet how long before we’re stepping in again to save his skin?” Treestump winked.
“Before he gets to be a pain in my side again!” Cutter quipped.
It looked like Treestump was about to answer his friend and leader but didn’t get the chance to utter a single word. Before anything else could be said Joyleaf stepped in and made her views known. Even with a jaw clenched tight from anger no one had any trouble understanding her…not a bit.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
A look of deep shock fell across Leetah’s face, the only one in the group, as One-Eye held up a hand. “The lad was only speaking the truth Joyleaf. We have to keep in mind who we’re speaking of here.”
“Yes, someone you use to call chief…someone you followed!”
“Someone I call friend!” Treestump finally snapped.
“A friend would do more for him!”
“Please, no fighting.” Leetah pleaded stepping between the two.
Joyleaf only huffed and turned to walk away when Cutter stepped in front of her. “Are you mad because of what we said, or is it something else?”
It took a minute but Joyleaf finally answered her son with a calm, cold voice. “Why haven’t you spoken to the elders about letting your father come back?”
“Bearclaw doesn’t want to come back Joyleaf…because if he did he would ask the Elders themselves. He left knowing full well what he was leaving behind.”
“They never gave him a chance to explain…no one understands him or why he does what he does.” Joyleaf tried to answer for her lifemate to her cub.
“We knew our chief. This place was a cage to him sister. He had no taste for the compound and no desire to be around the Elders.” Treestump added with a shake of his head.
She looked deep into her son’s blue eyes and Joyleaf could see the truth, see that her son said what was needed. A hand touched her shoulder and she could hear One-Eye try to reason. “We all still love him lass…even if he doesn’t love himself.”
“We all miss him so much Joyleaf, but Bearclaw does what he wants and ask for no forgiveness.” Leetah whispered looking into her eyes.
Her jaw hurt as she unclenched it, as Joyleaf gave in. The rise of anger was gone leaving only hurt now, and the hole in her heart made it all so worse. All she wanted was her lifemate back and it seemed the world was against their reunion from the start.
“I want to go to him tomorrow. I want to see him Cutter.”
“I’m sure Treestump wouldn’t mind dropping you off at Cam’s.”
“I’ll have the car warmed up and ready to go.” Treestump offered.
Joyleaf smiled, a real honest happy smile, and held back a tear. “Thank you both.”
She hugged her son hard as Cutter grinned, the small smile holding back the pain he felt for not being able to help his mother more. The anger of his father hurting the ones he loved growing just a little more. He wished Bearclaw would come back, but he knew the elf had no intention of apologizing or asking to be let back in to the compound.
That would require humility and his father didn’t have a lot of that.
Leetah was smiling quietly when she heard Adar walking up the hall. As she turned he stopped just a step or two away. “Sorry ma’am, but Mrs. Nightfall asked if it was possible for you to come to the drive.”
“What’s the problem Adar?” Cutter asked quickly with a touch of worry in his voice.
“It’s Mr. Redlance Sir, it seems he hit his head at the nursery and may need Mrs. Leetah’s aid.” Adar answered with a smile.
“Is it serious?” Leetah asked.
“No ma’am, he’s fine but Mrs. Nightfall would still like you to take a look.”
Cutter looked to his mother failing to hold back his smirk, which made his lifemate just a touch angry. “Do not laugh at him…do not dare!”
She should have ordered One-Eye who let out a muffled cry first. Then Treestump let go of his laugh followed quickly by Joyleaf. Cutter only shrugged his shoulders and finally laughed. Leetah shook her head smiling ruefully at the group, even Adar was laughing now.
“Our poor Treeshaper,” Leetah whispered.
She stormed through the Mayor’s residence, or more like flew through its halls. The staff gave Winnowill her space knowing better then to tempt the mistress when she’s angry…and she was more than angry now. She tossed her gloves at her maid as she passed the poor woman and threw her jacket on the floor where it was quickly picked up by a butler. Winnowill passed the closed door to her husband’s office, one Mayor Voll of Two-Moons, without a glance at the large oak entry. He was busy with city business…he was always busy with city business. He was too busy to have dinner, lunch, or even a decent conversation. Mayor Voll was always too busy…and she liked it this way.
Make no mistake or assumption about Winnowill, she loved her husband. She just liked it when he wasn’t so close, so ‘observant’ of her daily activities. At the moment she was neck deep in a very delicate and possibly ruinous problem. Winnowill needed to think, quiet to concentrate, and there was only one place for that to happen here in the spacious and extravagant Mayoral Mansion. So she walked through the foyer and down a hall to a turn which took her right and through another large Oak door. Once inside she turned and shut the door locking the large iron catch keeping the outside world at bay.
She had to think…
She had to analyze…
She had to brood…and the library was the only place to do just that.
The room was two stories, square with warm decorative wood molding everywhere accenting the corners, and with bookcases from floor to ceiling. The only thing separating the towering shelves was a walkway that acted like a second floor accessible by a circular staircase in the West corner. The balcony was just big enough for one person to stand and look at the spines of the rare volumes that lined the bookcases. In the center was a table with two large soft comfortable chairs and Winnowill went immediately to one and sat down. She crossed her legs under her custom made dark blue dress and put her chin in her hand with the arm resting on the chair. Her mind went to unraveling the news of the stargazer’s departure from the jail, and what this meant to her plans.
What this meant to her ‘acquiring’ the Scroll.
She had to have the Scroll of Colors. She needed it to complete ‘things’. So lost in her thoughts of how to get her precious Scroll Winnowill was only aware of her guest when he finally bit into the apple he carried. The loud crack of the skin being punctured by sharp teeth brought her attention up into the balcony. When she saw who stared back Winnowill was far from feeling happy to see him.
“I do not like you calling me that.”
“I know,” the elf smiled gleefully, evilly. “It’s why I use it.”
Door, once an ‘acquaintance’ of Winnowill, was thin with his hair cut short and combed back with pomade. He wore a dark red shirt under a black coat with matching chino’s and leather wingtips. You could say at one time she controlled his every thought and being, but then that would be understating the relationship...a lot. There was a certain aspect to the slave master existence that could leave a bitter taste in the slave’s mouth. And you had to be blind to miss, sense, the hatred the elf had for his former ‘master’. It floated on the air like some foul smelling mist.
“I do not remember inviting you into my personal library Door so I think leaving would be advisable before I have the guards throw you in jail for bothering me.” Winnowill offered with a cold hard stare.
The look didn’t faze Door in the least. He just took another bite of his apple while looking around at all the books. He seemed to revel in the fact he was annoying a very dangerous elf before speaking finally.
“This is a real nice book store you got here Winnie-“
“I told you NOT to call me-“
“I wonder where you’re gonna put the Scroll…if you get it.” Door finished ignoring his former ‘master’.
The room plunged into a deep silence, plunged just like Winnowill’s heart. How, in the name of all the High Ones, did Door know about the Scroll of Colors? Her plan was…discreet…very hush-hush. No one, not even that fool Kureel, knew what she wanted with the stargazer or the role the pathetic PI played in all this. No one knew how much of a race this was now…a contest of who could reach the Scroll of Colors first.
“So, that’s why you’re here.”
“Its one of the reasons I stopped by.” Door nodded swallowing another bite of his apple.
“There’s more than one?”
The elf laughed, high pitched and full of poison vindictiveness. The sound echoed off the walls and ceiling making Winnowill wonder if she might have to call for the guards. She would hate having to call on the thick necked men to save her…it was a sign of weakness and she was far from weak.
“Ah, with you Winnie there’s always more than one.” Door sighed catching his breath. “Yet in the end one is all you really ever need, one simple undeniable inducement to watch it all burn.”
“You’re not very original Door, using the Scroll to bring an end to the elves.” Winnowill offered surmising the crazed elf’s intentions.
She couldn’t have been more wrong.
Door turned and walked down the stairs to the first floor and slowly walked over to the chair she sat in. He stood over her, towered over her and glared. “That was your plan black snake…ours is so much different.”
“Ours?” Winnowill whispered.
“The Scroll was stolen by one who was bought and paid for by another. It’s this ‘other’ that has asked me to help find their rightful property.” Door answered.
“And what does this ‘other’ want with the Scroll?”
Door only smiled, that gleeful evil smile and spoke coldly. “In time we will all find out…in due time. I’ll show myself out.””
She didn’t respond, not a word or a sound. Winnowill just sat still and watched as Door leaned down and put the apple core on the table while winking at her. It was the most hateful expression she had ever seen. Door straightened and walked out of the library releasing the large metal latch with a loud ‘chunk’. He left her alone in the quiet of the library with nothing but her thoughts, which were scattered and muddled.
He knew what his little visit would do.
He knew how much she hated being left in the dark.
It was part of his plan, to leave the black snake writhing.
It made him smile just that much more…