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In Which a Warlock is Located and a Plot Point Resolved Far too Easily

In Which a Warlock is Located and a Plot Point Resolved Far too Easily

“What part of ‘Secret Identity’ didn’t you get, Doug?” Kei seemed very annoyed to see the little posse of Cindy and Niko trailing behind him as Doug shut the door to the clock tower with a booming thud.

He just shrugged despite her anger. “They know me too well,” he explained. “The jig would have been up the second they saw me, anyway. Plus, they were about to get the shit beaten out of them, what was I supposed to do?”

“Is there anyone else in on the secret that I should know about?”

“Uhh…” he paused for just a little too long. “Nope. That should be it.”

Kei narrowed her eyes, but changed the subject. “And where did you get those horns?”

“They’re not real,” Doug seemed very proud of himself, and waved a hand over his head, which caused them to ripple. “So even I can’t fuck them up.”

“That would be my doing,” Cindy took a step towards them. “Though I’ve never done it before, so I have no idea how long it’ll last. Um, maybe this will do something?” She snapped her fingers, and much to her surprise, the horns faded away.

Kei put a hand to her chin. “Hmm, a little too unreliable for practical use, but interesting…” she commented. “If I recall, you’re a witch, right? Never met one who could do something like that.”

Cindy made to correct her, but Niko interjected. “Speaking of magic, though…”

They both turned to Doug. “What?” he asked, then blinked once. “Oh, wait, shit that’s right. See, I brought ‘em back here for a reason.”

“A reason besides weakening the entire foundation of the lie your continued well-being is built upon?” She raised a singular eyebrow, and the others all involuntarily cringed.

Doug, far too used to her somewhat menacing aura, recovered first. “Yes, besides that. They’re looking for some… mutual friends of ours, and I thought, ‘hey, who else would have an encyclopedic knowledge of literally everything that happens in this town but Kei?’”

“They might be in trouble,” Cindy added, as if that would make any kind of difference to Kei.

“Also, I can’t believe I just called Gil a friend,” Doug look horrified at himself.

“Okay, fine, just this once. God, it looks like you just dragged in two lost little kittens. But don’t expect me to do this again.” Kei rolled her eyes. “Well? Is someone going to offer me some info? I can’t find anyone if I don’t know anything about them.”

“Well, Muirne’s blonde,” Cindy glanced upwards in thought. “Kinda short. Uh, Muirne D’Irn is her full name. Carries around a big sword…”

“That is less telling than I think you think it is.”

“Gil’s with her,” Niko tagged in. “Gilveidan the ‘All-Knowing’. He’s—”

“Stop.” Niko hadn’t noticed Kei’s expression shifting. “You don’t need to go on.”

Cindy beamed. “Can you find him?” she asked.

Niko finally put his finger on what her expression was. Beneath the rot-iron layer of pure bitch, she almost seemed… embarrassed?

“There’s no need,” she admitted. “I already know where he is…” It was now her turn to get stared at. “Okay, fine. He’s here in the clock tower.”

“What?” Doug’s eyes widened to a comedic degree. “How the hell didn’t I know about this?”

“Because you weren’t supposed to. It didn’t affect you, so you didn’t need to know. If you did, it wouldn’t have been as… believable.”

“Kei, what the fuck are you talking about?”

“Well!” her face was turning a little red now. “How do you think I got the clock tower working?”

They all continued to stare at her in confusion.

“The damn thing hasn’t worked since Bacchae disappeared. No one would have believed he’d really come back if it didn’t start up again. So I… enlisted a magus.”

Niko thought about that for a second. “I’m having a lot of trouble imagining a scenario where Gil agreed to help you.”

“Okay, so I imprisoned a magus,” she balked at the three pairs of eyes glaring at her. “Hey, don’t look at me like that! Malachi’s enforcers were gonna do a lot worse!”

For once, it was Doug who looked exasperated. “Alright Kei, listen,” he said. “I know they just look like dumb kids, but believe it or now, this one is actually a Russian mobster with two guns under his coat, and this one is a pyromaniac who could set this entire room on fire with a snap of her fingers. So that thing you do, where you make everyone around you painstakingly pull every little fact from you until they finally have something resembling a full picture after like twenty fucking years? Yeah, I don’t think this is the best time for it.”

“The whole story, if you would.” Cindy rolled up her sleeves. “Start from the beginning.”

Kei’s face crinkled into an expression that nearly resembled pain. She glanced up at the ceiling, and sighed. “If happened by chance, really,” she began. “I was back in town after all the syrup factory shit, making sure everything was ready for ‘Bacchae’s’ return, but I still hadn’t figured out what I was gonna do about the clock tower. I didn’t have even remotely enough bones to pay a magus and then hush them up about it, but that’s when I saw the enforcers hauling him away.

“So I walked up and started talking to them. I bullshitted something, I don’t remember what, but I gathered that he’d been in the middle of some kind of fight. Malachi really isn’t a fan of stuff like that, so he used it as an excuse to send Gilveidan straight to the Bone Mines.”

“What’s that?” Cindy asked.

“Not relevant.”

“Kei…” Doug warned as he saw Cindy’s mouth tightening.

“God, you people are nosy. Okay, so you know how Bacchae used to execute law breakers, or I guess, people he just didn’t like? Yeah, Malachi didn’t stop all that out of the goodness of his heart. ‘Bones’ are Discord’s currency. I’m not going to go into it because it’ll be long and complicated and we’d be here forever, but suffice it to say that the process of getting your hands on raw bones is… not easy. Basically, if you weren’t a daemon when you got to the mines, well, you soon will be. Or you’d just be dead. Can I get back to the story that you all demanded I tell now?”

She waited, and after a second, they all nodded.

“So like I said, I made up something and obtained ‘custody’ of the magus. I told him that if he could get the clock tower working then I would let him go.”

“And?” Doug asked. “Looks like it’s working to me.”

“Yeah, but magic doesn’t just work like that, even I know that much,” she retorted. “He hasn’t gotten it to a point where it’s working without his supervision.”

“And you’re not just going to let him go, are you?” Niko sighed.

“What do you want from me?” she glared. “A deal is a deal.”

“Okay, well, what about Muirne?” Cindy asked.

“I don’t know who that is.”

Niko frowned. “She probably got away after the fight. She might not even know we’re here. But let’s deal with that later.”

“Can we see him, at least?” Cindy continued to stare at Kei.

She sighed, looking defeated. “Well, since the secret’s out, I don’t see why not. This isn’t a prison. Follow me, I guess.”

Gesturing lazily, she led the others over to a curtain in the corner of the room. Pushing it aside, she revealed a small, plain door. Beyond was a narrow staircase, which wrapped around and around, up to the very top of the clock tower.

“Maintenance stairway,” Kei explained, and began the climb.

“I refuse to believe that Gil’s asthmatic ass made it all the way up there,” Doug commented, already breathing heavily at the third landing.

“Oh, he teleported,” Kei sighed.


After far too long—and far too much complaining from Doug—they approached the top of the shaft. There was a small, dusty window just before the door to what must have been the actual clockwork.

Niko took a moment to glance out the window. “Wow, you can see all the way to the bottom of the city from here.” He caught sight then of that giant rock, the one he’d dreamed about the first night he’d been here. Because that must have been a dream, right?”

“Afraid of heights?” Doug asked, noticing him shiver.

“Nah, just… the city is all,” he said. “I’ve been having some weird dreams lately, seems like they’ve been getting worse since I’ve gotten here.”

Doug cocked his head. “You too?” he asked. “Cuz I’ve been having some real funky ones. This weird-ass, disembodied voice keeps talking to me and shit. Fucker seems to know way too much about me for his own good.”

Niko froze. “Wait, that’s…”

But before he could say much else, the girls had opened the door and Doug’s attention got pulled away.

“Oh, hello Cynthia, Nikolai,” Gil was sitting in a rickety chair off to one side of the room, starring up at a set of gigantic gears that were way too close to his head to be safe. He looked entirely nonplussed to see them. “You certainly took your time getting here.”

The room was small, circular, and very dusty. It was also a bit loud, what with the constant ticking and rumbling of the enormous amount of clockwork above their heads.

“Well, it wasn’t like we got much instruction,” Niko sighed.

Gil paused, thinking for a second. “Ahh, I suppose the wagon took off on her own, didn’t she? I doubt Muirne got an opportunity to leave a note.”

“Okay, I thought that with all this weird shit I’ve been going through that you might start making a little more sense, but you are as obnoxiously inscrutable as always. So what the hell are you talking about?” Doug looked around at the others, but once he realized that he was alone in his sentiment, he frowned.

Gil’s yellow eye nearly glowed despite the somewhat bored expression on his face and the general gloom of the room. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand, Bailey,” he retorted. “After all, you’ve been far too busy this past week keeping yourself perpetually under the influence to notice I was up here this entire time.”

“You were uh… watching all of that?”

“Every minute.”

“Fantastic. Ultimately you’re right, but I wish I could argue with you anyway because you suck.” Doug crossed his arms and went to sulk in the corner. “Of all people, why’d it have to be him?”

Everyone immediately elected to ignore him.

“Regardless of the simpleton,” Gil finally stood, “I’m glad you’re both here. But is it just the two of you?” he seemed a little concerned.

“No, Tommy and Cowell are here too,” Cindy shook her head. “But we didn’t really expect to just… find you when we came here.”

None of them noticed Kei’s head tilt a little at the mention of those names. No one except Doug, of course, who was simply watching this entire thing play out from his corner.

“But Gil, what the hell happened?” Niko asked.

“It’s as the succubus explained to you downstairs.”

“Excuse me?” Kei cut in, only to be ignored.

“Muirne’s been watching this tower for some time. I imagine she’ll approach you shortly after you leave with some sort of heroic rescue plan. I, however, am stuck here for the foreseeable future. This clock has proven to be stubborn. I’ll elucidate a solution eventually, but it may take a little more time. You see, currently it refuses to move on its own without constant supervision. So I find myself here, minding it.”

“Well,” Cindy stepped forward, surprisingly subdued. “Maybe I could help. I’ve sort of been meaning to talk to you, anyway.”

Gil sighed. “I’m sorry, Cynthia, but I’m unsure of what a mere witch could hope to…” but as he continued to look at her, his voice fell off abruptly. “Ahh, I see,” he continued after a minute. “It appears something has happened to my old grimoire.”

“I’m really sorry,” Cindy looked down at the floor. “It got burned. There was nothing I could do. But I saved your magic…”

“By claiming it as your own.” Cindy had been worried, but for once there was no note of accusation in his tone. “I’m surprised you managed to tame it. But if that is the case, it seems we have much to discuss.”

“Great, then you two can fix the clock tower, and the rest of us can vacate the vicinity.” Kei looked relieved to find an excuse to kick them out.

“Cool, then it looks like everything worked out,” Doug looked just as relieved as she did. “So let’s get the wizards some space to cast their Magic Missiles or whatever.”

After the glares that Cindy and Gil shot him, Doug got out of there pretty quickly, Kei’s eyes nearly rolling out of their sockets as she followed behind him.

“I’ll let the others know,” Niko said, and the two magi nodded.

Once out in the hallway, however, Niko called out to Doug, who luckily was still loitering around, almost as if waiting for him. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“About those dreams you mentioned earlier, right?” Doug frowned. “Lemme guess, they’re the same as mine.”

“I don’t know how, but’cha got it in one.”

“With all the weird coincidences that have been happening around this joint, I’d frankly be more surprised if they weren’t.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Niko sighed. “So what do you think we should do about it? Cuz frankly I’m getting pretty sick of being condescended too every time I close my damn eyes.”

“Really? Mine just kind of laughs at me a lot. And uses really tortured metaphors. But I guarantee you there’s gotta be someone in this city that deals with dreams, right? Let’s ask Kei.”

Niko paused. “Wait, you’re just going to work with me? After I just stuck a gun in your face twenty minutes ago?”

“Meh, those dreams are really starting to piss me off. Besides, if you really wanted to shoot me, you would have done it already. Also,” he added, as Niko began walking begrudgingly back down the stairs. “Would you really want to deprive the cosmos of such a lovable bastard?”

“You’re a weird guy, you know that Bailey?”

“I could say the same to you.”

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