Tala refused to go into the home of the massacred family. Ess was not about to drag the poor wolf somewhere if it so stubbornly declined to move. Ess let out a short, high pitched whistle; her signal for Tala to look for the lost scent. With a deep bark the wolf took off in the opposite direction of the scene, disappearing without a sound.
Turning towards Mageria, she watched intently as she began searching the scene, climbing up the wall of the home.
“Tala will signal us if she catches the scent, who knows when she will come back though.” Ess called up after Mageria. When the Guard Captain asked for Ess’s name, she froze. For a moment she wasn’t sure how to answer, but soon recovered some sense and revealed her real name to the woman.
“Essence, Ma’am. I have never been to the castle...am I to be escorted?”
Perhaps Ess had made the mistake of venturing into town without one of her disguises, she began to doubt her decision earlier this evening and feared what path she was on now. She would be known, documented; she could be found. Any smart person may eventually start putting the puzzle pieces together of who she was and her minor passes with the law in the past. Although, it was with her alternate identities she was somewhat nervous. It didn't matter to some the reason for her crimes, or self defense, just that the crimes were committed non the less. She wasn't sure if she should relinquish her blade to the Guard Captain and face punishment for the concealed weapon, or to keep it hidden.
She quickly added, "I offer as much assistance as I can, Ma'am...." Keeping thoughts on the current crime she wondered, "Ma'am, have you ever seen anything like this before?"Slowly she followed the path, away from the tavern; her original destination had been altered but perhaps the result would be the same.
Mageria shrugged. "I've seen a couple of things that could do something like this. None of them something I'd care to face alone, although I've done that as well." She added, running her fingers over the claw marks on the side of her face. Wearily she rubbed one hand through her hair, pulling the copper braid over one shoulder and fidgeting with the end of it. She glanced over at Essence and the side of her mouth quirked up for a moment before she brought it under control. The woman looked a bit worried about something and given Mageria's knowledge about people on the shady side of the law, she could make a few good guesses.
"And given that I'm the Black Knight Captain, I have a more 'flexible' view of the laws. There are something that I will not tolerate, but I'm not inclined to punish someone for a few minor infractions in the past. So you don't have to worry about that sort of thing, so long as what you tell me is the truth."
She stretched and kicked at a clump of snow, thinking about the past and all that she had had to deal with. She had gotten through it and she would get through this as well. Perhaps it was for the best that something had happened the way it had, something to keep her mind off the crippling grief she felt whenever she thought about Grim dying in her arms.
"And you'll be escorted, but only because I'm going that way as well and thought that I might as well walk with you." Pushing her hands into her pockets, Mageria shivered slightly as the wind bit into her extremities.
Ess tucked in her loose curls beneath her velvet hood, as she listened curiously to the Captain. Her eyes took on a momentary glow before returning to their dim violet hue, her gaze following Mageria’s fingers as they traced the scars along her face. Part of her couldn’t believe it to be from a human, but what else was there? She had never seen a monster, except that which would lay dormant inside a man.
“...Something from nightmares..” Ess whispered in disbelief. She shuddered at the thought of something from legends coming out of the ground to swallow her hole. Ess quirked an eyebrow at Captain as she walked beside her.
“I don’t know how much help I can be....I am not even a skilled fighter. My skills lye in deception and survival. I have never knowingly caused harm to anyone other than in self defense.” Ess didn’t know if she should trust anyone, even someone of high rank. She only ever told her secret to one person before, although she knew two knew of her enlightenment. Her mind flashed back to the emotional memory of something prodding her soul for information and quickly dismissed it as easily as it had arrived. She needed to focus on the present and not the past anymore. As hard as it was to forget the abuse and degrading events that occurred in her childhood, she knew she is the person she is today because of those times.
“I suppose, if I had a concealed weapon that I wouldn’t be able to get it back once I leave the castle?” She inquired. Ess felt she could be honest to a point without lying to Mageria. Maybe just leaving out a few distressful details to the stranger for now would be acceptable.
Mageria shrugged. "Don't sell yourself short. Deception can be just as useful as the ability to swing a sword. Sometimes more useful. There's no shame in not being one of those who can kill a dozen men in a fight, but most of those idiots couldn't lie their way out of a bag. It's just a different skill set."
They had taken a few more steps when something cold and wet hit the back of Mageria's head, dropping clumps of freezing cold down the back of her neck. Swearing, Mageria leaned over and dug at the neck of her coat, listening as childish giggles erupted from the street behind her. Slowly she straightened up and turned around, one eyebrow arching up. The giggles stopped abruptly as the kids saw just who it was that they had hit. While most of the Knights were unknown, it was almost an open secret just who she was.
"Give me a moment, please." She asked Essence as she walked back to the two kids, one little girl and what looked like her older brother. The little girl looked scared and hid behind her brother as Mageria got there, both hands propped on her hips. The brother also looked a bit frightened, but stood firm, raising his chin and facing her squarely. Mageria looked at them grim faced for about half a second before her mouth quirked in a smile.
"You two throw that?" She waited for them to nod. "Well first off, you should always know who you're aiming at." She looked them both in the eyes. "And second, it's cold out here and you two are soaked all the way through. Go home and warm up." She whistled shrilly, summoning a nearby Guardsman. "Make sure these two get home, will you?" She leaned in closer and whispered. "And make sure their parents know to keep them inside, and why."
Heading back to where Essence stood, Mageria dug one last bit of snow out from her coat. If there was one thing she hated, it was that cold icy feeling of a damp coat in the middle of winter.
"Now, as to a concealed weapon. You surrender it freely once we get to the Castle, you'll get it back once your ready to leave. We appreciate that kind of courtesy around here."
Ess shook off a bit of slush that had ricochet off of Mageria and smiled brightly at the kids. She couldn’t think of the last time something that simple had enhanced her mood tremendously. As the Captain and her continued on their way she paused abruptly in her steps, her hand already gripping her dagger by the blade. She tossed back her hood, bowing politely to the woman, she extended the weapon, handle forward. A silver etched blade, with curious writing engraved into the metal, was no longer than the length of her hand.
“This is all I carry....for the moment. I trust you not to sell it then.” She joked, as she gave up the blade.
“Since I am not very skilled with weapons, that was the reason I ventured out tonight in the first place. My instructor left town on personal business and I am left empty in my lessons. Where would someone like myself even find a fine teacher?”
Ess hoped she knew what she was doing, placing simple trust into a complete stranger. It wasn’t like she told the woman her life story or anything, but just the same, she hasn’t trusted many in her life.
“I would pay of course...” She added, rubbing her hands together, fighting off the chill. Rolling her eyes in a sigh, as if to say ‘Finally’, the castle gate came into view. A little hop in her step, she increased her speed, wanting to get out of the wind as quickly as possible. It wasn’t strong, but it stung her face, drying out her throat.
Mageria accepted the blade, turning it over in her hand before tucking it away. "Very nice. Heirloom blade of some kind? I don't recognize the writing on it." She grinned at Essence. "And I promise not to sell it. Although even if I did, it'd be easy enough to trace." She glanced over at the other woman and pulled her hood up more securely. If she really wanted to improve her skills. . . .
Ess shrugged as Mageria took her dagger. “It has a matching sword...” Lifting up her hands, palms out to show they were empty she added, “It’s at home, I promise...” Chuckling lightly she whispered, “It was an heirloom to someone, I acquired on accident some time ago. I have never quite figured out what the markings are.” Ess looked Mageria in the eye as she spoke.
"Well, if you want to learn some moves with the blade, some of my people earn a bit of coin by giving lessons. Give me a chance to assess your skills as they stand, and I can figure out who would be best to work with you."
Leading the way through the gates of the Castle, Mageria headed to the side through a side door. It meant a shorter time outside in the cold, which meant that she got warmer that much quicker. "This way please." She worked her way through to the common areas near the Black barracks, pushing the door open to the briefing room. Looking out to the hall, she waved down a server and requested hot cider and sandwiches be brought in. Then she pulled out an incident report and set it in front of her, choosing a pen and twiddling it between her fingers.
"Now, would you mind going over what happened, in detail?"
Giving a short nod she followed Mageria gladly into the Castle. At the sound of food, her stomach growled unexpectedly loud, causing Ess to blush. She was contemplating what areas she would like to focus on in improving her fighting skills. Maybe even without weapons she could learn some defensive moves to put someone out of commission.
Snapping out of her thought, she began recounting the night’s events and how Tala lead her to the massacre. Trying to be as detailed as possible, Ess still couldn’t describe the quick movement in the shadows. The figure was simply too dark, encased in shadow. With not much new information to really explain, she finished the telling of that night. There was a moment of silence before she spoke again.
Reaching for a glass of cider that arrived she quickly gulped a few mouthfuls down in a content sigh. The warm liquid left a heat trail from her tongue, down her esophagus, spreading around inside her belly. “Very much appreciated.” She raised her glass and took another sip.
As she began munching on one of the sandwiches staring at her from a silver platter, she inquired, “It’s not much to go on. Do you have any other questions?”
Mageria shrugged. "Not much, but its a start. The more we know, the better we can hunt. Any information can help at this point." Writing with one hand, she sipped her cider and absently inhaled a sandwich. "You see, when there's a dangerous Enlightenment in the City, my people are often asked to help out. I don't like to send them into a danger that can be avoided, so I try to get as much foreknowledge that I can before planning an attack. That way I can match skills to the situation." She wrote a bit more. "Has . . . Tala, ever smelled something like this before?"
Finishing her sandwich, Ess was thoughtful of Tala. She didn’t expect her wolf to catch the scent of ‘whatever did this’ as she had been gone without so much as a sound or signal to her whereabouts for a while now. Thinking back, she couldn’t remember a time when her silver pawed friend had reacted so steadily to a predator. That wolf was not happy and Ess couldn’t deny agreeing with her furry friend. Something was off, most definitely.
“ That wolf is crazy sometimes, but no. She has not acted so, ever...and I raised her from a pup...” Ess cut herself off. “Course, she refuses to sleep indoors lately, even in the cold. But that doesn’t mean anything...?” Ess’s brows scrunched together in a thoughtful and serious expression, as she began to think deeper as if the animal’s behavior unlocked the secrets of it all. Shaking her head she let out a deep breathe. Thinking too much was a bad idea right now.
A moment later, there was a loud thumping out in the hallway. Mageria ignored it and kept writing. "I've got to spend some time on this . . ." There was another thumping sound and the sound of something being knocked over. Mageira paused in her writing and rubbed her temple with one finger. Taking a deep breath she waited for a moment with her eyes closed. There was the sound of something galloping past down the hall, followed by "Puppy, puppy PUPPY!!!" being shrieked at the top of little girl lungs. Then what sounded like an entire group of children running past.
Ess watched Mageria as she tried to ignore a clumsy noise from the hall. She tilted her head, her hood sliding off her burgundy curls. “ You have a rat problem in the castle?” She playfully teased.
Mageria set her pen down with a slight thunk and stood, smiling tightly at Essence. "Excuse me. There's something I need to take care of. If you don't mind waiting here, I'll be right back." Leaving the room, she shut the door firmly behind her.
Ess’s lips pressed firmly against one another as she bit down, trying not to laugh. She nodded politely as the Captain stepped out for a moment. The second the door shut, Ess tilted her head back and began laughing hard at the children and Mageria.
"If you lot don't calm down, I swear to the Twins that I'LL HANG YOU BY YOUR HEELS IN THE WELL!!
Hopping to her feet, Ess went to the door to see if she could catch sight of the commotion, but the hall was already cleared, the sound of a rather large dog echoing through the halls.