Central Keep, Sesus, Raurugia…
Sunset, and the Central Keep of the Guardians of Sesus was already deep in shadow in its tightly turning lane when Lord Jeneyeru Nightwise entered. At first, the only person excited by his presence was Aeto Arrowwise, who led him into the dim, gray confines with the eagerness of one who had just won a prize, but when she whispered his name to the Registrar Marshall, it sent a ripple through the chambers. Within moments, the attention of almost every green-coated, blue-robed, or plain-clothed regular in the place was trained on the tall, thin selkie in his sea-foam green embroidered coat, white lace cascading from his waistcoat and sleeves, broad-brimmed hat perched on top of the one hundred, charmed, flaxen braids that fell about his shoulders, the distinctive, bone and ebony Staff of Ghosts with the light-swallowing dark crystal head resting casually in a long-fingered hand.
It had been with curiosity and an eye to his own interests that Jeneyeru had welcomed Aeto Arrowwise into his apartment in the Embassy of the Grand Navigators. Over tea and custard tarts, the bold and sharp-witted lawyer had laid out the sad tale of her client to one who she could not have suspected would or could have the least reason to care.
“Am I to understand that you want me to give testimony at this person’s trial?”, he’d asked, scanning the arrest notes she had given him.
“Hopefully, it will not come to that, my lord,” Arrowwise had said. “If you would simply examine my client and give your expert opinion as to her capabilities, I am sure the prosecutor will drop the charges. You see, I do not believe my client has any wizarding skills, so she could not have cast the spell she is charged with. I mean, Pwyll’s truth, milord, ghost summoning? When you see her, you will know instantly how ridiculous it is. Who could know better than a Master of Shadows and Paladin of the Gatekeeper herself?”
Jeneyeru had chuckled lightly. “You flatter me, Mistress Attorney.” But as he read her papers, his breath caught in his throat. “It says here that two suspect cards were among her possessions. What do you know of that?”
“Very little, milord, but that they are enchanted. However, she says they are not hers. One of them bears an image of the creatures the guardians say attacked the square.”
“Mistress Arrowwise, I shall come with you to see your client and,” he added in a definite tone, “to examine these cards. Can that be arranged?”
“Yes, certainly, Your Lordship. Thank you, thank you.”
Now he stood in the half-dark keep, fanning himself with the fashionable Raurugian mask he carried rather than wore, while Aeto fussed at the guardians gathering up their keys and various implements and documents. Each curious glance he caught, he returned with a mild smile, but for the most part his attention was given to the vaulted ceiling and grim walls and the dark aura of bad memories and worse emotions emanating from the ancient stones.
“Milord Master Nightwise, what brings you to the keep?”
The sudden intrusion brought the mask reflexively up to Jeneyeru’s face. He looked through the eye holes as though through a lorgnette at a bent little gnome looking up at him, reporter’s notebook in hand.
“Oh, my dear fellow, I don’t know, don’t you know. Not yet, at any rate.”
“Has it anything to do with the ghost attack two days ago?”
“That question has yet to be answered,” Jeneyeru said with a smile and a laugh.
Just then Aeto rushed up. “Shoo, scat, you. Come, my lord, this way, if you please.”
With a slight bow to the tiny reporter, hardly as tall as the selkie’s knee, Jeneyeru followed Aeto who followed a jailer up the tower to the cells.
“They’re bringing the cards up from the evidence vault,” the lawyer said as the jailer turned enormous keys in enormous locks at each gate that barred the levels of curving stairway. On both sides were the cage-like fronts of cells containing the dejected and angry, the hopeless, uncaring and suspicious who either watched them pass with sliding eyes or didn’t look up at all.
“Here we are,” said Aeto. “Mistress O’Tulvar, here is Lord Master Nightwise who has come to help you in your case.”
Curious, Jeneyeru stepped up to the bars and looked in and down upon the dark-haired woman in her now less than clean blue dress and long hair that looked as if she had been combing it with her fingers but still held an almost defiant shine.
“Is this she?” He fanned his face again with the mask to clear his nose of the atmosphere of cheap clam broth and too many living too close together. “Well, mistress, I hear you are charged with mischievous wizardry. What have you to say to that?”