Beauregard seemed to calm down significantly after telling her story. Caduceus wishes he could’ve served some tea to go as well, but unfortunately, he had no way to prepare one at the current condition. So they just sit at the small table, not quite looking at each other.
Beauregard is mostly silent after the confession - for that’s what her story feels like. It’s something he knows she had been holding in, for all those years.
Guilt can bring unbearable weights. Weights that drag people down until they break.
It’s a sad sight to see.
“You know,” He says, watching her stare holes into the table. “I think you’re doing your friend a bit of a disservice there.”
She glares up at him.
“I mean, he made his choice. You didn’t make him do it. It doesn’t seem right for him to just overlook that.”
“I don’t know. He was kinda petty.” There’s amusement in her words. It’s gone as quickly as it came.
“Well, I mean no disrespect, but, it might not be about you.”
Her face hardens again.
“I think I’ve become involved with this as well at this point. The dreams. The haunting.” He explains. “And if I recall correctly, I’m quite positive really that I wasn’t present for those events.”
She looks away again.
“I don’t know. I don’t know how any of this is happening, or why. I can’t fucking figure out ghosts and shit. Maybe he got corrupted or something.”
“So that would be a cry for help, wouldn’t it?”
She shrugs, huffing.
“Sure, if murdering is that.”
“I mean, it seems like he’s stuck in that night, reliving it. The same steps. That’s what those dreams are, right? It doesn’t seem like he knows the way out.”
Beauregard buries her face in her hands, grunting.
“Fuck… I’m really just believing in ghosts right now.”
“What else would it be?”
“A serial killer.” She says, her voice muffled. “A serial killer and our delusions.”
“It could be.”
“I don’t know.” She sighs. “I don’t know how any of this works. I can’t figure it out, but I have to. If it is him… I owe him that much.” Her voice grows weaker as she speaks. Not in the lack of conviction behind them, but like a secret she whispered to herself.
A personal debt.
Caduceus gives her a few more moments, watching the fear drain from her semblance with each breath. Fear that turns into acceptance, that in turn, becomes resolve.
Now that’s much better.
“We can rest a bit more and then get back to work when the sun is up. I’m beat.”
“Yeah, sure.” She replies.
They head back into their sleeping arrangements, laying down and hoping to catch a bit more sleep before facing the day.
It is restless.
Beauregard brings coffee to them both, lying her documents over the table.
Caduceus only sips at his cup. The drink is… something. Beauregard did call it Shit Coffee, but it was the closest thing at hand in the place they slept at.
His attention snapped back to Beauregard as she pointed down.
“Lorenzo has been searching for someone in here. I believe it was one of the people from the group they hired back then. They were connected to that night as well in a way, but no one outside the Iron Shepherds has died yet. But I think it is worth it to look into it. People also seem more comfortable giving information about them than Lorenzo. “
She glances to Caduceus and he nods to let her know he’s listening.
“I don’t have any names, just the eye imagery and the fact that Lorenzo is probably looking for them. But some people have recognized the eye imagery.”
She draws a circle with her fingers over a map of the city of Shady Creek.
“This is where I’ve been pointed towards so far, and it’s where I intend to search today.”
“Yeah.” He nods again. “Just have to keep an eye out.”
Beauregard frowns at him in bafflement.
The deeper they dive into Shady Creek Run, the more alive the city feels. Not in the way it bustles with movement and colors, because it doesn’t, but in the way streets and buildings sprawl around almost organically instead of planned. It’s suffocating.
And deep they go. Caduceus draws a lot of attention to himself, and though he smiles at those that stare at him, it isn’t really reciprocated.
And then Beauregard starts questioning people. Asking about a group, about eyes, anything. She’s usually met with shrugs, shakes of heads or straight up avoidance. It makes Beau grumpier.
“This approach is kinda not good.” She explains. “If this person is trying to hide, they could learn that people are looking for them and just vanish. Then we’re fucked.”
It’s tiring, but they are unrelenting.
And eventually, they stumble upon their first clue, on a bar so small Caduceus could barely fit in. An elven waitress listened to them with a puzzled look into something seemed to click in her mind.
“Ah, yes! The, what was it that guy called it? Tomb Takers? Something like that.”
Beau pipped up.
“Tomb Takers?” It seems to click in her mind as well.
“Yeah!” The woman says. “With the eyes. It’s what the guy said.”
“What guy?” Beau pushes.
“Broody guy.” She scratches at her blonde beard. “Was in hurry and all hiding himself. He asked about those guys too, asked them if any passed by here.”
“What did you tell him?”
“Well, I told him I didn’t see any of them, but he could check the Warm Yew, guy there knows everything, I swear.”
“Thanks.” She calls and quickly leaves.
“No problem!” The elf calls behind them with a wave.
Caduceus waves back.
They once again squeeze through streets.
They find the Warm Yew.
It’s hard to tell what it is at first, trinkets scattered through shelves. Books as well, and a few chairs available. It’s almost a junk shop, but Caduceus is still not sure at his third glance.
Beauregard is looking around for anyone when a man pops out from behind a counter.
“Hello?!” He calls out, startling the hell out of Beauregard.
“My fucking-...” She shakes her head. “I’m looking for a person. From the Tomb Takers, I believe? Group with Eye imagery, probably shady as fuck. I think they’re in town.”
The man is not very tall, standing shorter than Beauregard, arms covered in tattoos of several designs and a pair of old glasses sitting over his nose. His hair has mostly greyed out and threatening to fall down, even as it grew long, down to the man’s shoulders.
“The Tomb Takers, huh? Curious people that bunch. It’ll do you no good to look into them. Too late anyway, they dispersed, gone, left. Nothing to see here.” He brings a book out and starts browsing through it.
“Gone? I’m looking for one of them, at least one should be in town?”
“Can’t help you there, lady. I don’t follow every weirdo that comes in town.” He continues flipping through pages. In a nervous manner that told Caduceus that he is just trying to hide something.
“Excuse me, uh, what’s your name?” Caduceus called.
The man glances up at him.
“Hi, I’m Caduceus, Clay.” He introduces himself. “We don’t mean any trouble here. You see, some people have been getting hurt, and we’re trying to look into what’s happening here. So, uh, if you could point us in a direction to help, we’d appreciate it.”
The man eyes Caduceus suspiciously, and then glances at Beau.
She sighs and pulls out a card.
“I’m with the Cobalt Soul. Did a guy pass by here earlier asking similar questions?”
Mortimer glares at the card, then up, eyes darting from Caduceus to Beau again, and again, until finally giving in.
“Yes. Though he was much more specific... I didn’t lie, you know? The Tomb Takers were just another irrelevant bunch of mercenaries that was born here. They scattered years ago. Some still passed by here from time to time but they’re mostly unheard of.”
He closes his book, searching for something under the counter.
“Buncha weirdos, they were. Dealt with old shit. Always looking for trade of very specific things. Might’ve been a cult. I never manage to buy a single interesting thing from them because they just wouldn’t give them away.”
He pulls a pipe, lighting it.
“However, there is one of them living nearby. They arrived again pretty recently too. Tabaxi lady. Cree is her name I believe. Last I heard of her she was sleeping at the Amenity. But you didn’t hear this from me, alright?”
“The man that was asking about her, was it Lorenzo?”
The man pauses for a second, glancing nervously around.
“No. I know he’s in town. That’s it. And no disrespect, but I wouldn’t tell you if I knew more. I like my ugly hide the way it is.”
“Right.” So not Lorenzo. That posed a curious question. “We’ll be leaving then.” Beauregard slapped a few coins on the counter, turning to leave.
The man gathers them in his pocket so quick it almost seems like they were never there.
“Bye strangers.” He puffs out smoke.
They squeeze out, heading once again for their search.
“Who the fuck is searching for this Cree woman? Am I just going in a completely off direction?” Beau tilts her head back to look at Caduceus as they walk.
“Well, I don’t think we can really tell until we find him. Or Cree.” He answers.
“I’m getting fucking nothing. I think it checks though. The Tomb Takers. If they were a group that searched “treasures”- “ She makes quotation marks with her fingers. “Then it isn’t so far-fetched to imagine them working with the Iron Shepherds then. They were searching for something then. Cree’s our only lead anyway at the moment so…”
“You think they were after the necklace?” Caduceus asks.
“Maybe.” She sticks her hands in her pockets. “It kinda checks. Antique. Probably religious. Worth a lot of money. We should’ve gotten rid of that thing.”
“It's easier to judge our mistakes in hindsight.” He says.
So they walk, again, through the streets. It takes them a while to get to the Amenity. It is located in a nicer part of town, if such a comparison is fair. The buildings do seem to have a bit more care to how they are constructed and kept, and the streets wider as they seem to follow a single line towards the Savalirwoods.
It is a building a few stories high, painted white on the outside, “Amenity” painted above the entrance.
They go in and stand at the reception desk.
“Can I help you?” The woman asks.
“We’re looking for a Tabaxi woman named Cree. She has a room here.”
“We don’t divulge information of our clients, miss.”
Beau bulls her card once more.
“I’m investigating for the Cobalt Soul.”
The woman frowns as she inspects Beau’s card.
She eventually hands it back. Still suspicious.
“She’s in room 36… Please don’t cause trouble.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it. C’mon Cad.” Beau points with her head and Caduceus nods his thanks to the woman, following behind Beau.
They go up two flights of stairs, reaching rooms thirty to thirty nine.
The door line both sides of the corridor, stretching a few meters ahead of them. Uneven numbers to their left, even to their right.
They start walking. 32. 34.
Beau knocks on the door.
And they wait.
She knocks again, glancing up at Caduceus.
When nothing happens again she grasps at the handle.
The door opens.
Beau pushes through fast.
The room is much larger than the one they slept at, and definitely cleaner, though it seems to be a bit at a disarray, closet and drawers left open and sheets turned.
Like someone had rummaged through the room in search of something.
Beau walks in, quiet and careful and Caduceus follows.
There are no signs of a fight of any sorts. It’s a bit messy but almost purposefully, things pushed into piles as if accounted for and sheets thrown to one side to reveal part of the bed. The window is open and the curtains swishing with the wind. And something else beyond it.
Caduceus frowned, tilting his head.
“I think they went out the window.” He calls out.
Beau spares him only a quick glance before darting towards the window and reaching out to her right outside.
It looks like she finds something.
She grunts as she grabs onto someone that was standing on the balcony outside and pulls them back inside the room. They fight valiantly, smacking their hand on Beau’s face and swearing. Beau wins the struggle however and soon they are both falling on a pile on the floor. A tangled mess of limbs and coats.
Beau fights off the limbs reaching for her, pinning the person under her.
“Fucking hells, you-!” She freezes. “ Caleb?! ”
The man under her freezes as well, scarf falling off his face.
“Beauregard?” He calls in an accent definitely not from Shady Creek,
It’s a familiar name to Caduceus, only from Beau’s story.
“What the fuck were you doing out the window?! You could’ve died, man!”
He tries to get up with a grunt and Beau gets off of him, helping him to his feet.
“Well, someone was trying to walk in and I had nowhere to hide.” He explains himself, batting at his coat. His shoulder length copper hair is tangled and so is the scarf around his neck, but he doesn’t seem too bothered by it. “I didn’t know it was you.”
“You thought it was Cree.” She says crossing her arms over her chest.
“Ja.” His eyes dart towards Caduceus and he frowns, mouth pressing into a thin line. “Who’s that?”
“Caleb, this is Caduceus. Caduceus, this is Caleb.” She introduces them. “Caduceus is from the Blooming Grove.”
“Yes. That one. And he’s helping me with an investigation. Now the question, Caleb, is what are you doing in this room that is certainly not yours.”
“Hey.” Caduceus greets with an easy smile, just to ease the tension that seems to emanate off the man. It doesn’t help much, but Caleb stops looking at him to address Beauregard once more.
“You were asking around for Cree.” Beau doesn’t ask, but rather states.
Caleb glances around.
He points behind Caduceus for a second.
“Can you?” Caduceus looks behind him at the open door.
“Oh. Alright.” He closes it.
Caleb is adjusting his scarf over his neck when Caduceus returns.
“Spit it out.” Beau waves her hand.
Caleb doesn’t seem any more irritated by the tone or behaviour.
“I found something, recently, in Rexxentrum. A journal, more specifically. It belonged to a, well… Someone who has been convicted for some rather unbecoming dealings of an assembly member.”
“Who?” Beau asks.
“That’s not relevant.” Caleb dodges. “What matters is I found writing about dealings with mercenaries in Shady Creek. It didn’t matter too much since she was already convicted, but something caught my attention.”
Caleb reaches for an inside pocket of his coat. A page. He hands it out to Beauregard.
“This symbol. It was familiar to me. I’ve seen it once before. In fact, you showed it to me. Nine years ago. I remember looking into it then too. But now I know who they are. So…”
Beauregard frowned at the page. It showed an eye in red, circled by eye red circles. Eight other eyes.
“Caleb why… Why didn’t you tell me about this?”
Caleb picked at the sleeve of his coat.
“I didn’t think it important enough to bother you. The Tomb Takers have already disbanded. I wouldn’t think the Cobalt Soul interested in them anymore.”
“This is not about the Cobalt Soul.” Beauregard calls out. “I’m your friend, Caleb.”
Caleb glances quickly at Caduceus.
He turns to Beauregard again.
“It’s been nine years. I just thought it wouldn’t be relevant.”
There’s something Caleb wants to say, or he doesn’t want to say. But Caduceus catches on that he’s not saying it while Caduceus is standing there.
“Should I leave?” He points towards the door behind him again.
“No.” Beau says over Caleb’s “Yes.”.
“He’s not leaving.” Beau stands strong in front of Caleb. She struggles a bit, trying to find the words to say. “I don’t even know-... I…” She sighs. “You know this fucking matters to me.”
Caleb remains steeled as well.
“You really think this has something to do with Mollymauk?”
They remain in silence. Beau staring Caleb down, and Caleb looking somewhere over her shoulders.
He gives in. Speaking slowly.
“I’m sorry, Beauregard. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I know that. Just… ugh. What do you know of Cree?”
“Well.” He looks around the room. “She used to live here in Shady Creek. Had a store where she’d buy and sell trinkets. It was mostly an upfront. The Tomb Takers dealt with very specific items. Rare things. They scattered some time ago. Cree has been working at a pub in Zadash for some time, but she moved back here a couple of weeks ago. She’s been missing for the past couple of days.”
“Ja. Didn’t show up last night or today.”
Beauregard tenses up.
“You broke in yesterday?”
“No. Just staked outside.” He scratched at his arm again. “Came in today to search for clues.”
“Any idea where she could be?”
“One of her old trading posts, possibly. There’s a couple in the city, a few in the woods. Next would be in Zadash.”
“Did she write anything down about going to the Savalirwood?”
Caleb tilts his head in thought.
“No. She didn’t.”
Beau just nods.
“What about someone looking for her?”
“I think she had a contact here, but I don’t know.”
Beauregard sighs, running a hand through her hair.
“What do you know, Beauregard?” Caleb asks.
“The Tomb Takers had dealings with the Iron Shepherds years ago. Around the Shady Creek and the Savalirwood.”
“Well, they’re all disappearing and dying brutally. The Iron Shepherds. In the woods. Lorenzo is the remaining member that hasn’t turned up dead yet. I think Cree would be our way to get to him but if she’s gone and dead too we’re fucked.”
Caleb seems to pale at it.
“ Was ?” He says in another language.
“If Cree is being targeted too we need to find her before she ends up dead too. So we gotta hurry.”
“Wait.” Caleb shakes his head. “You think the events of nine years ago have something to do with… with those deaths?”
Beauregard hesitates for a second.
“It seems like it. It’s a lot of coincidences. I don’t know. I would love to catch someone before they die to try to figure it out.”
Caleb nods slowly, hands gripping at his arms.
“Okay… Okay… Alright.” He shakes himself out of it, looking around. “So we look into her meeting spots… And hope to find her.”
“Yeah… Lead the way?”
They leave the room after Caleb.
“What about you?” Caleb addresses Caduceus.
“What?” He asks, confused.
“What do you have to do with all of this?”
Caduceus can tell there’s no ill intent behind the question. He thinks.
“Oh, I live in the Savalirwoods. I’ve been helping Beauregard with finding the bodies, I think.” He scratches at his beard. “I have good intuition.”
Caleb purses his lips again.
“Yeah.” He smiles. “I think a little outside vision on this topic will do good.”
“But you just said you live in the woods.”
“Oh, I meant metaphorically.”
“Hm.” Caleb doesn’t seem too convinced by anything. But again, he doesn’t seem bothered. Caduceus thinks Caleb just might have a curious nature to him. And a nervous one, by the way he always drags tension on his entire body and seems incapable of unwinding.
Or that’s just Caduceus’ presence that is making him uncomfortable.
Not time to dwell on it. They are on a tight deadline afterall.
They follow Caleb as he directs them through the city. It’s gonna get dark soon, and Caduceus’ legs are aching from all the walking but he’s not yet complaining. It’s better to put all this matter at rest as soon as possible, so some physical ache is a small price to pay so far.
“There was a store close to here where she would trade.” Caleb explains, squeezing between two buildings to get through. “It was her main spot.”
He rubs his hands from the cold and points ahead to a small building. A single door remains closed, the only window in the front boarded up. There are no plaques or anything of the kind to identify it as a commercial building, but Caleb seems confident that is the place.
He pushes through the door, grunting as it squeaks.
The inside is dark and suffocating, a heavy layer of dust covering every surface and cobwebs gathering around. The place is tight enough that they have to walk in almost a single file.
There are a few empty shelves against the walls and a counter at the end of the corridor.
Beauregard pulls out a flashlight, clicking it on.
Rats scattered around.
Beauregard audibly shudders.
Caleb keeps walking, going behind the counter and pulling open a wooden hatch door.
“Down we go.” He announces.
“It smells bad in here.” Beau complains. She crouches by the hatch entrance, shining the light down as Caleb climbs down a metal ladder. Caduceus stands behind her, glancing down as well.
“It does seem very abandoned.” Caduceus remarks.
“Even if she isn’t here, we should at least look for anything pointing out where she could be.” Caleb stops when he reaches the floor. He pulls a face, squinting up at the light shining down on him. “Oh, it smells even worse here. It is very, very bad.”
“Cool. Great.” Beau hands the flashlight to Caduceus. “Keep it on the stairs.”
He shines it down as Beau joins Caleb.
“Holy shit!” She cries out. “It smells like something died ! Gods!” She puts a hand over her nose and mouth, extending the other up to Caduceus.
He drops the flashlight to her and climbs down as she shines the way for him. The steps are uncomfortably dirty under his hands.
There are noises too. Probably more rats.
“Beauregard. I think I stepped on something.” Caleb says.
“Just a sec, man.” She answers, waiting for Caduceus to reach the floor. The air is definitely rancid with something. It’s nauseating.
Caduceus steps on the stone floor.
“It’s fine.” Beauregard twists, shining the light at Caleb’s feet.
He is stepping on something wet, they realize. He moves his foot and it leaves a mark on the ground. It’s a little river of liquid that dribbled down from further ahead.
Beauregard follows the trail, shadows dancing as rats caught in the beam dart away to hide.
There’s little in that room besides the stone floor and walls and a few crates pushed to the sides, so it is very easy for them to spot the body on the floor ahead, oozing blood and vermin.
“Ough… fuck.” Beauregard shines the light away, sickness clear in her voice. It’s gruesome. The quick glance Caduceus got at the corpse was enough to send a shiver down his spine.
“Was… was that Cree?!” Beau shines the light at the figure’s legs, looking at stained pants and boots, and a tail covered in black fur.
“I… I think so… I’m not… I… I think I’ll be sick… I have…” Caleb speaks in clipped sentences, seeming not too keen to breathe in the putrid air.
He turns around grabbing onto the ladder and climbing back up hurriedly. Beauregard watches.
“Ugh… let’s…” she beckons Caduceus with her head.
“Actually…” he stops her. “Do you want me to take a look at the body? You can go up with Caleb. I’ll be there in a moment.”
Beauregard only thinks for a bit.
“Alright, sure.” She hands him the flashlight. “We’ll be outside.” She pats his arms as he takes it before leaving.
Caduceus turns back towards the corpse as the sound of Beauregard climbing the steps rings through the room.
The rats are still scattering. The corpse is… well… not in optimal conditions. A lot of it has already been eaten away. It doesn’t look too old, a couple of days maybe? Perhaps less. Caduceus tries to look closely. There aren’t any discernible wounds that would have caused the death, but the gaps in the flesh caused by the vermin might have hidden them.
Curiously enough, this body, unlike the one he found in the wounds, doesn’t have blood pouring out every hole in its face. And Caduceus looks closely at the black fur on the tabaxi’s face for it.
“Huh…” he doesn’t know what that means yet.
That’s all he can gather however, so he steps away and climbs up the ladder.
Beauregard and Caleb are waiting by the door outside. Caleb looks pale, picking at his sleeves again and head hanging low. Beauregard looks up at Caduceus as he approaches. Tense.
“She’s been dead for at most three days, I think.” He says.
“Fuck…” Beau mumbles under her breath. “She died in there, right? Not anywhere else and dragged in.”
“There would be marks around the shop if that were the case.” Caleb says quickly, in one breath, not moving his eyes off the ground. “The basement only has one entrance.”
“I know, it’s just… it’s odd.” She says.
There’s a moment of silence as they think.
“Beauregard.” Caleb calls, still not moving his gaze. “How do these things tie together? The Iron Shepherds, the Tomb Takers, that night, these deaths. How do they connect?”
Beau hesitates for a moment.
“It’s… well.” She breathes in and out slowly. “They were dealing near the cabin. They knew we were there. I think they suspected we had something valuable. That necklace. They threatened us.”
“But I hid it. From everyone.” She confesses. “I thought… maybe I could fix it. Except I fucking didn’t.”
She rests her back against the wall, bumping her head against the stone, looking up at the darkening skies.
“Mollymauk must’ve given them what they wanted. And who knows what they did to him. But they left after that. And now they’re all dying. One by one. Everyone who was involved in that affair. Probably… Just… fucking-” She shrugs, hands waving through the air. “Bleeding from everywhere. No explanation. All in the woods. All drawn here to die.”
Caleb nods. Several times.
“Ja it… it checks, ja, okay. It makes sense, of course.” He turns to face them, still looking down. “We need to go somewhere private. There’s something I have to tell you.”
Beau stands up straighter at attention.
“What is it?”
“Somewhere private.” Caleb answers again, rubbing his arm. “Anywhere.”
“Sure.” Beau answers, looking at him in concern.
They start making it back to the cheap place Beau had paid for. She gets a bigger room, which wasn’t much of an improvement but could fit them three in.
Not once Caleb looked at them or said anything, even over Beau trading glances with Caduceus over his head. Caduceus didn’t know the man well enough to know how concerned he should be.
Once inside their room, Beau closes the door behind them. They all take a seat on the beds.
“Well… what is it?” Beau asks. “What do you have to tell?”
Caleb glances up only at her torso.
“You got it wrong.” He starts. “Mollymauk couldn’t have given away the Luxon, and couldn‘t have been responsible for the Tomb Takers leaving.”
“Okay. Why?” Beau asks, crossing her legs.
Caleb glares at her.
“Because I was the one who stole the Luxon.” He says firmly.
“I gave the Tomb Takers what they wanted.”