<< Read recap of first two weeks
She stopped and looked over her shoulder. "A what?"
Hawke put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the desk. "A demonstration. A sample. An example of what we are capable of that will leave no doubt as to why, when it comes to necromantic investigation, we are your best choice."
Liel turned and narrowed her eyes. "And what sort of… example would you be able to give me?"
Em came over to put a friendly arm around her shoulder and led her back to the chairs. "Certainly there is a friend, a loved one, someone on the other side that you would like to talk to? Someone who can vouch for us and show you that we're who and what we say we are?"
"I am aware of the sort of confidence games that street mages can engage in, sirs, and I will not be taken in by your attempts at cold reading or illusions."
Em shrugged. "Alright, fair enough, I did come from a long line of street mages. But I must encourage you to keep an open mind."
Hawke sat down in his chair again and Em pulled up one directly across from him.
"The way that we usually do this sort of thing," Em said, "is that I call the spirit and Theo here serves as the medium. Spirits like him. I think he's gooey inside."
Hawke smirked and picked up the explanation. "But, since you are doubting us, we will not have Em call on the spirits. We will have you do that. Not by word, but by thought. Don't say anything, just think about the person you would most like to talk to from the other side. Em will focus on making sure nothing unpleasant comes through."
Em continued. "And just so you know, the dead are much like the living in that they have moods and feelings. So don't be offended if you catch someone on a bad day. Or decade."
"Or century." Hawke added. He had rolled up his sleeves and was stretching in his chair like someone about to enter an athletic event. Em had his eyes closed and was doing deep breathing.
"So you both do this at the same time?" Liel asked.
"Well, we work on it together at the same time," Hawke said. "It's only safe with two or more mages, but we fulfill different roles. Now, no more talking. Just start thinking about who you want to talk to."
Liel nodded a bit hesitantly.
Hawke settled into his seat, relaxed but alert. He looked across at Johnson. "Ready yet, Em?"
"Momentarily," the other mage murmured.
"Don't you need candles or…" Liel looked around the sparse room. "Something?"
Em smiled, although his eyes were still closed. "We can certainly get some of the trappings for you if you like, but we thought you were here to see what we can do for you."
"No, that's alright, I just thought maybe you needed them."
Hawke gave a dry chuckle. "Magic, real magic, is more akin to working as a stevedore than an entertainer. All boring heavy lifting that requires discipline and patience."
Em's eyes blinked open and he looked over at their guest. "Don't listen to him. Next time I'll have candles for you." He looked at Hawke. "Well, I'm ready when you are."
Hawke nodded. "Then let's begin."
Both wizards closed their eyes and sat quietly. Liel looked from one to the other but neither of them moved. The looked as though they might nod off into an afternoon nap. Heavy lifting indeed. But boring, yes, it was certainly that. They had asked that she think of someone she would like to speak with from the afterlife and with some thought she decided upon her original elvish great-grandmother. She was thinking about some of the stories her mother had told her of their roots, distracted for a moment from the events at hand, when she heard Hawke expel a deep breath. The temperature in the room grew frigid and Johnson began chanting softly and motioning with his hands as though he were holding a sphere.
Hawke sat up straighter and his eyes opened. The dark brown of his irises had turned pale silver, his expression had become haughty. With his gaze on Liel he spoke, his voice soft and sibilant with the elvish tongue. "Why do you call to me daughter?"
Liel frowned again. "Mr. Hawke, you know I don't speak very much elvish. This isn't very entertaining."
Em's eye's opened and he spoke. "She fears her father is being haunted so she is reaching out to the afterlife in search of answers."
Hawke's eyes turned to Em. "There are more answers in life than in death."
"Can you help us?" Em asked.
"I will try, in the name of the blood she has in her veins."
"You've had your fun," Liel said, and started to rise. "But I really don't have time for parlor tricks."
Hawke's head tilted back and the chair he was in started to rattle against the floor. The temperature in the room continued dropping and as she stood looking at the darker mage Liel could start to see her breath in little puffs. Em's chanting had begun again, sounding more urgent, and his hands made motions like he was rotating a ball although he was not holding anything. Liel wanted to step away but was mesmerized by their showmanship.
The chair stopped rattling and Hawke nearly leapt from his seat. The temperature in the room skyrocketed. His eyes were open again, a dark blue this time, and he looked disoriented for a moment. Then his gaze caught Liel and he gave a small gasp.
"Little one!" His voice was deep and honey smooth. His hands cupped her face and he looked in her eyes as though searching for her thoughts. "You are safe?"
Liel pulled back from his touch but felt the pinprick of tears starting. "What are you doing, Mr. Hawke?"
"Liel, it's me. It's Papa."
"That is not true! What game are you playing Mr. Hawke?" She turned on Em. "Mr. Johnson?"
Em was biting his lower lip. "Not now. Something has him bound, I can't seem to undo it."
"Liel," Hawke said. "You must listen to me. Something has happened and I fear you are in danger."
Liel could feel the tears starting in earnest. "This is not humorous!"
Hawke sighed. "Pumpkin, you have to trust me." He closed his eyes for a moment. "I can feel them pulling me back, I don't have long here." He captured her face again and kissed her forehead. "Please be safe. Go to Rosehaven."
Then with another gasping breath Hawke blinked and his eyes were brown again. He gently removed his hands from her face and took a staggering step back. "Em?" he said.
Em's hands were moving more quickly. "Something's coming."
A buffet of energy coursed through the room and Hawke was knocked off his feet, sprawling on the floor. The energy shuddered around them, shaking the room. Em grabbed Liel's hand and pulled them both down on the floor near Hawke while shouting, "Guardian!" A pale blue dome appeared over them, rippling and humming with power. Hawke coughed and struggled to sit up in the small space. He was pale and clammy.
"What is going on?" Liel demanded.
"Dark magic," Em said. "Vicious, hideous stuff."
"And what was this about my father? He's not dead."
Hawke and Johnson looked at each other. "I'm sorry," Hawke said in a cracked whisper. "But your father has been dead for over two weeks."
"That is not true!" Liel cried.
"I'm sorry, m'lady, but it is." Hawke said.
Em nodded. "Theo has an uncanny sense of how long someone has been dead. He's better than a calendar. Your father said to go to Rosehaven? Where is Rosehaven?"
Liel looked at him. "It's not a where, it's a who. The earl is one of Papa's closest friends."
The waves of energy coursing over the dome were fading and only periodic pulses crackled over them. Em turned to Theo, noting his pallor under his normally dark skin. "Still with me, buddy?" he asked.
"Somewhat," Theo replied softly, closing his eyes again.
"Guess we should have mentioned the 'no one dead longer than a year' rule."
Hawke nodded, with his eyes still closed. "Yes, let's remember that for next time, shall we?"
"What do you mean?" Liel asked. "Why not more than a year?"
"It's all well and good to talk to ghosts of any age," Em said. "But to act as a medium… well, the longer a soul is dead the more distant it becomes from our realm. The toll on the medium's body becomes very great in bridging that gap. You perhaps felt the temperature of the room drop?"
"Long dead souls can freeze a living medium within moments. The only thing that saved Theo was that I was able to react in time with a warming spell… and your grandmother had some powers of her own to help."
Liel's brow furrowed. "Well then why not just talk to ghosts instead of using a medium?"
Em smiled. "There are surprisingly few souls trapped on this mortal plane. If you want to talk to one from beyond, at least talk to them clearly, you need a medium to open that channel."
"Talk to them clearly?" Liel asked.
"There are some talents and spells that can contact the dead, but it's much like dealing with the logic and symbolism of a dream. Even what seems like a direct answer isn't direct at all."
Liel looked at Theo. "Are you alright, Mr. Hawke?"
He opened his eyes and nodded. "I'll be well enough in a bit."
"I'm very sorry that you've been hurt. I didn't know. I didn't even," she paused for a moment and bit her lip. "I didn't even believe that you could really contact the dead." She frowned again. "Although I don't believe that my father is dead. I refuse to believe it."
Em set a hand against the inside of the blue dome and then looked back at Hawke. "If feels like it's stopped. Are you up to checking?"
Em waved his hand. "Terminate." And the blue dome shimmered out of existence.
Em rose from his crouch, murmuring under his breath, his fingers dancing in intricate patterns. Blue light pulsed from his fingertips leaving traces of those patterns in the air. Once he was satisfied the room was clear of dark magical energies Em helped Theo to his feet. "Steady, my boy. Let's get you in a chair."
Hawke stumbled a bit but managed to sit upright once he sank onto the chair. He ran a hand over his dark hair. "Gods, but I feel awful."
"A two-hundred-year-dead powerful spirit, followed by the lashing spells of a dark wizard?" Em grinned, affecting his haughtiest accent. "However could you let such things affect you?"
Hawke chuckled, then he put a hand to his ribs. Em's brows drew together and he pulled the hand aside, giving his partner a more careful check. Hawke tried to push him away. "I'm fine. We need to attend to Lady Thiereliel."
Liel had risen from where they had been crouched on the floor, looking around the room. Black marks were scored into the desk, wall, and even the chair she had been sitting in earlier. Dark, ugly marks that twisted and scored the wood like lightning.
Em sketched a brief bow. "Are you alright m'lady?"
Liel nodded. She was noticeably pale. "What happened?"
Em looked over at Hawke then back to the young lady. "We got perhaps more of a demonstration than expected."
Hawke nodded. "Your grandmother, well technically great-great-grandmother I suppose, didn't have to come, but she heard the call of your blood and curiosity compelled her even if you are," Hawke paused, "impure."
"You mean my human blood?"
"Oh yes. She still hasn't fully forgiven your great-grandmother for taking a human as her mate."
Liel straightened with a look of surprise. "Then this was a generation further than I was expecting. I was thinking of my great-grandmother Varioliel. I don't even know her mother's name."
Hawke shrugged. "I have no explanation for you. There can be unexpected results from opening such a broad gate to the other side. But hers was the only response that I received, there wasn't a struggle of competing spirits trying to come through."
"What of..." Liel swallowed. "What of my father?"
Hawke shook his head. "She has some very intense power. The way your father is bound we wouldn't have been able to contact him ourselves. The best I can describe it is that she slashed the magical bindings free long enough for us to talk to him."
Liel nodded. Her voice wavered. "I see. What do we do now?"
Hawke looked at Johnson then back to Lady Thiereliel. "I think we need to go to your house."
Em nodded. "I agree. Whatever is going on, there should be some magical evidence at the house."
"It would be unorthodox but I can have you accompany me home. Perhaps with a story of you saving me from muggers with the expectation that Papa would reward you. You could get an audience with him then."
"That could work," Em said.
"No," Hawke countered. "Her father's spirit was very clear that she shouldn't put herself in danger by going back to the house. We take her to Rosecroft."
"Then what is your plan for getting in to the house?" Em asked.
"I don't know yet."
"You won’t gain admittance through the front door," Liel said. "You are far too...common."
Em stood up and with a flourish of his hand his clothing changed to the peak of fashion. He bowed low over her hand. "Perish the though, my lady, that we would not be received. That you would even say it is rather lowering."
Despite herself Liel laughed at Em's outrageous but spot-on upper class accents. Hawke was glad to see a lightening of the concern that shadowed the young girl’s eyes since he had announced her father’s spirit had crossed over. His partner was a master of distraction.
"But let's think about this," Hawke said. "If we appear as upper class men- "
"Never like that, my boy," Em said, shaking his head at Hawke’s attire. With another flourish he changed Hawke's clothes to the tight, fancy garb that was popular with the aristocracy.
Hawke jumped up from his chair, pulling at the tight collar. "Gods, but this is uncomfortable!" he complained.
Liel raised her brows at the elegantly attired men in front of her. One blonde and slender garbed in soft pastels, the other dark and muscular outfitted in jewel tones. "Well, I'll certainly say you both clean up nicely."
Hawke glowered at Johnson while pulling on the cuffs of his outfit. "Stop wasting your energy with frippery.”
Em fluffed the lace on Hawke’s cuff. “You’re just angry that I’ve made you a fashion plate. You never complain when I do it to myself.”
Hawke pulled his arm away and started struggling out of the form-fitting jacket. “What I was saying was that if we appear as nobles there will be more of an interest in checking our backgrounds than if we appear as tradesmen. We would also be unlikely to see more of the house than the entry hall and receiving room. We need some reason to go into most of the rooms in the house."
Liel thought for a moment. "Painting restoration."
Hawke and Johnson looked at her with interest.
"If I write a note to Billings, our butler, explaining that I am contracting with your master to clean and restore paintings it should go unremarked that you have come to examine all the paintings throughout the house to identify which ones need work."
"Our master?" Em asked.
"You are far too young to be taken as anything more than journeymen in the art of restoration,” she explained. “It is an old man's occupation. Even Billings would be suspicious if you tried to portray aught else."
"You seem obsessed with our youth, Madam," Hawke said drily. "I assure you that we are over the age of majority."
"I see,” Liel said. “And could you answer detailed questions about art restoration?"
Em opened his mouth to answer and then closed it, shaking his head. "Not really."
Liel continued. "Believe me, I understand the frustration of being perceived as less experienced than you are. At nearly thirty years of age even those who have known me my whole life tend to treat me as though I am in the first blush of youth. It's tedious. But from that long experience I can tell you that it is difficult to counter, and the worst mistake is to try to claim knowledge that one doesn't really have."
Em cocked his head to one side. "You're older than I am?"
“Isn’t that fascinating...” Em said faintly.
Hawke thumped his partner in the chest to get his attention. “Focus. We need to get Lady Thiereliel to Rosecroft and then get into the house.”
Em straightened and cleared his throat. “Yes, of course. Rosecroft. House.”
Liel nodded and sighed. “If I could borrow pen and paper?”
Changed back into trademen attire and with Lady Thiereliel’s note tucked safely in Hawke’s jacket pocket, they escorted Liel to the Scrolled Quarter where she assured them she would hasten to the Earl’s house as they made their way to her father’s. The Scrolled Quarter was as different from the alley where they kept their offices as was possible while being in the same city. Broad cobblestone roads were trimmed with parks and walkways. Large townhomes sprawled along the greenery, close enough together to be cozy without crowding. Gentlemen exercised fancy horses that pranced with innate equine arrogance, their shod hooves ringing daintily on the stones. Ladies strolled, holding parasols to ward off the afternoon sunshine.
Em took a deep breath of the clean air. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
Hawke looked at his partner briefly and then started walking along the path that would lead them to the hill and manse that Lady Thiereliel had pointed out as her father’s home. “No. Let’s get this over with.”