Somehow, inside was worse.
Cold and desolate, without any visible decoration. Kyrik wasn’t sure what he expected the inside of a detention center to look like, but this was…discomforting. The icy stone against his palms, uninspired features and whatnot. The guards themselves wore dark hoods and robes to mask themselves from prisoners.
The security check in involved multiple magical probes launched at them. Kyrik barely felt them, but nevertheless his mind was repulsed.
“Is it wise to bring someone so young in here?” One of the guards asked.
“Perhaps not, but he possesses a unique talent that will speed this process along.” Jirmen answered with unnatural cheer. Like he was forcing himself to be happy in this place.
“I trust he has an illusion?”
“I have not applied it, but I shall once the inspection is over.”
“Is it one of those that will alter it even for us?” Kyrik asked. “Like, will I see the difference?”
“Yes. Those ones are stronger.”
Once they were cleared, Jirmen led Kyrik into a circular environment with another checkpoint. From the seats and other furnishing, this looked like a visiting center, yet no one was here. Probably sent away after what happened.
“Try not to move.” Jirmen instructed. “This should only take a second.”
Kyrik stood rigid, perhaps too much so as he felt his lower back lock up. A wave of pink light emanated from Jirmen’s palm, washing over Kyrik as his scales changed from cream to black. True to Jirmen’s word, it took but a second, and when it was done Kyrik found himself looking in one of the reflective windows that made the checkpoint.
The new set of scales held a hint of green to them under intense light, eyes turning bright blue. Horn set largely curved and ivory in color, reflecting the lights. Underbelly matched the horns and sickle-shaped tail blade. A grumbling from deep inside Kyrik’s mind sounded like a complaint, something Kyrik found himself agreeing with. Much too obvious, although who would really guess?
Pulling at the now silver protofeathers upon his neck, Kyrik found himself pouting.
“Aw,” Kyrik said in a similar, yet still different, accent and pitch. “I’m still short.”
“Can’t change the size, sadly.” A feminine voice answered in a slightly distorted voice. “Would take an extraordinarily powerful illusionist to do so, as they can bend light into a solid to change the anatomy.”
Kyrik turned to see Jirmen now as a female lycon with a much more bronzed coat. He – now she? – sported a bright blue robe adorned with gold and bronze trimmings. The face was concealed in a golden mask, leaving only the amber eyes visible. Staff ending with an ankh rather than an orb, it pulsated every few seconds.
“Evidently you can change the gender though.” Kyrik blinked a few times. “Why?”
“Better security. And why not?”
“Fair.” Kyrik looked back to his reflection. “Next time do that. New incarnation may be female, after all; would be nice to have some practice. Not sure what I’m expecting to be different but…”
“Incarnation?” One of the guards asked.
“Uh…” Kyrik paled slightly. So caught up in his new appearance, he neglected to check the environment and lower his voice.
“Reaper talk.” Jirmen said brightly. Kyrik shot him a questioning look.
“I would not think this to be a time for jokes.” The guard replied. Kyrik breathed a small sigh of relief. “Are you two all set?”
“We are.” Jirmen nodded.
Admittedly, Kyrik did wonder why Jirmen would change genders for this. One would think him being as powerful as he was wouldn’t warrant such a drastic disguise. All questions were answered when Kyrik stepped through two sets of halls leading to the interrogation rooms.
Although not murderers, the negative emotions Kyrik picked up on nearly consumed him. The lifeforce of everyone here, in such proximity, was enough for Kyrik to lean against the wall to regain balance. From those who consumed magic to the ones who practiced much darker arts than necromancy, everyone here felt one thing:
Hatred. Hatred for what they perceived to be injustice or for those who imprisoned them. Kyrik couldn’t tell who may have been wrongfully imprisoned, but the sheer resentment was enough to cloud his mind. In most cases, he couldn’t pick up emotions. But with so many thinking similarly, it was enough for the other side of him to pick up.
Said other side flared at Kyrik’s wobbling. It wanted nothing more than to take over and jump into the middle of the crowd and sort them out. Mark souls for reapers to note when their time finally came. It wasn’t a scream for justice, but rather instinct.
“Are you alright?” Jirmen asked, snapping Kyrik from his trance.
“Yes.” Kyrik caught up to her.
“If you wish for me to stop lying, as you put it, then I expect the same in return.” Jirmen said lowly.
Kyrik scowled. There was only reason why she was acting this way. “He is active here. He wants to brand the souls, to pass his own judgements.”
“I anticipated as much.” Jirmen paused and bent down before him. “All the more reason why I am going to teach you a new spell. It should, theoretically, quell the stirring. This may hurt.”
Before Kyrik could ask why, a tiny beam of white light surged from the tip of Jirmen’s finger and into Kyrik’s forehead. The biggest of all headaches, like something bonked him on the head, erupted and momentarily disoriented Kyrik. Leaning against the wall again, he had to blink a few times before the heart-like thumping slowly receded.
“What did you do?” Kyrik gasped.
“Something that is inadvisable, but we are pressed for time.” Jirmen responded with a hint of remorse. “I transferred my knowledge of a summoning spell known as ‘Vizier’s Eye’. It will help quell the lifeforce you sense and allow you to tell if someone is being truthful or not without relying on your reaper half.”
“I’m guessing it’s inadvisable because someone’s head may explode?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes. Higher level spells can render someone catatonic. But, you should be able to search your mind and will one into appearance.”
Kyrik did so and sure enough, it was there. In his mind, an image of the eye showed itself; a literal eye made of arcane, it would blink whenever someone told a lie. As the spell was very low energy and not offensive, it could be cast. Kyrik held out his claws, supercharging the runes closest to him and melding them together to create the being.
To the naked eye, nothing was done. To anyone with magical abilities or Arcane Vision, it appeared as a floating eye made of swirling blue energy. It stared blankly at Kyrik, as if awaiting orders.
“Come, we don’t have a lot of time.” Jirmen swiftly moved to the end of the hall.
Inside was a small room with one-way glass, enchanted like the rest. In it, a gryphon guard dressed in a drab grey and white cloak awaited. Must be some sort of higher rank if the minimal change in wardrobe was any indication. He – or she, hard to tell – was faced away, looking at the inside of the adjacent chamber.
Inside were six suspects, all nervous and confused on the outside. On the inside, Kyrik couldn’t say. They were lined against a wall, and consisted of dragons and gryphons, being the mostly likely to backstab the former. The cold and confining chambers did little to relieve them as no one spoke.
On the other side of both chambers, a door leading to the interview room was locked tight.
“These six, huh?” Jirmen folded her arms.
“All six were near the scene of the crime.” The warden reported. “What’s with him?” He indicated to Kyrik.
“He is able to sense lifeforce. If someone has hidden malicious intent, it’s him.” Jirmen explained to Kyrik’s confusion. Didn’t he give the eye to stop this?
“I didn’t realize empaths were being used.” The Warden said with some displeasure.
“He is a special case. I would not bring him if it wasn’t so.”
“You’re the archmage, I’m not going to question.”
Kyrik and Jirmen were allowed inside, where a table made of cold metal awaited. Three chairs, one made for quadrupeds next to the one made for bipedals. Even with the small cushioning in the round shape, it was like laying on the floor.
“Remember to remain calm.” Jirmen instructed Kyrik. “Let me take the lead on questioning. If you have something to add, let me know before you speak.”
The first was called in, a dragon only a few years older than Kyrik. He didn’t recognize either of them, although eyes never left Jirmen. The questions began not aggressively, but rather pleasant. If Jirmen suspected this dragon, she didn’t show, voice sympathetic and even.
“I swear, I would tell you if I saw what happened to him.” The dragon said after a few moments of questioning. “I lived through the Seraphim attacks; I’ve had enough death.”
The eye didn’t blink, and so the dragon was dismissed.
The next few all said similar things. They didn’t see anything, had enough of death. Kyrik doubted any of them did this, a sentiment Jirmen shared by the time the third left. Still, they needed to be thorough. And it was good they were.
“I’m telling you, nothing I saw or heard was unusual.” The gryphon said with short patience.
A wet movement came from above, where the eyes floated invisibly. Jirmen glanced upward at her own, but it did not move. It stared at the gryphon unblinkingly. Kyrik’s, however, blinked once again as a nagging emerged in the back of his mind. This gryphon was lying in some way.
“Excuse us for a moment.” Jirmen pulled Kyrik back into the other room, where she stared at Kyrik. “Why is your eye reacting?”
“Because my powers are.” Kyrik answered truthfully. “It’s telling me this gryphon is lying.”
“Does it say why?” Jirmen folded her arms.
“No. But it keeps nagging me.” Kyrik eyed the door. “I think we’re asking the wrong question.”
“What do you mean?”
“We asked if he saw something strange. He said no. But what if he thought he imagined something?”
Jirmen said not a word, tail swishing in thought as she held a claw under her chin, finger tapping the mask.
“That is possible.” Jirmen finally spoke. “Still doesn’t explain why your intuition activated.” She said with a glance to the warden, who remained silent.
“I don’t know either, but it’s worth a shot to ask.”
When they walked back in, Kyrik felt the nagging once again. It didn’t threaten to overtake his consciousness, but it was like a blaring siren in his ear. It didn’t beg, instead demanding for Kyrik or Jirmen to ask the question.
“I understand you didn’t see or hear anything,” Jirmen said plainly. “However, and this might be a strange question, did you think you imagined something?”
The gryphon flinched as the presence on Kyrik’s mind signaled satisfaction.
“Nothing is too far fetched, especially after five years ago.” Jirmen reminded kindly.
“Yeah…yeah, I guess you’re right.” The gryphon relented after a moment. “Still doesn’t explain what I saw.”
“And that is?”
“I know Shrikian biology; they’re pretty limber despite looking starved half the time.” The gryphon began slowly. “I couldn’t make out features other than the species, but this shriker simply…jumped up on a building without any magic I could detect. Like they were supercharged. Was about a block from where the murder was and I was already exhausted from the night before, so I took it as a fatigued mind.”
Kyrik blinked, but his vizier’s eye did not. Some shrikers could jump extraordinarily high, but nowhere near that. Without magic, it should’ve been impossible. Unless spring boots were a thing now.
“Technology?” Kyrik blurted out before he could stop himself.
“None that I saw.” The gryphon said.
“And the time you witness this shriker?” Jirmen took over again.
“I would estimate maybe five minutes before the murder.”
Nothing more could be gotten from the gryphon. The eye indicated he didn’t lie, and the last suspect provided nothing. Jirmen and Kyrik were left sitting in the interview room, mulling it over silently.
A shriker may be involved. Either that or it was a bizarre coincidence. Frustratingly, this raised more questions than answers. Who were they? Why were they there? Why this dragon in particular? How did they reach the top of the building without magic or technology?
Premeditated or not, the killer was still stalking the streets. Doubtlessly, there would be another death if they didn’t catch the murderer. Another nagging in his mind suggested that even though this killer may not strike again, someone else may take it as a sign of weakness.
And Kyrik knew there was bound to be someone influenced by darker whispers in Falmari.
“I agree,” Jirmen said when Kyrik voiced his concerns. “But we cannot overthink this right now. We must approach this level-headedly.”
“It doesn’t help that we have an alien in the medical ward to worry about, either.” Kyrik frowned.
“We have a what!?”
“Oh, did Methir not alert you?”
“Hold on, I’ll open a portal. Actually, can I here? I don’t want to exert energy if it won’t work.”
“Wait until we are outside. In the meantime, you can tell me how and why there’s an alien.”