Jirmen sat in a chair, watching Methir try and make sense of the golem before them.
After the crime scene was cleared, the golem was moved to the crypt underneath the garden. The maze-like interior was filled with fallen magi and students, with a section specifically for those who perished against the Seraphim. However, there was a special section in it where the dead were prepared for funerals and, in rare cases, examined much like the golem was.
Box-like in design, the room felt cold and entrapping. Stone walls and floor frigid from the glyphs etched into them. It was good the bodies were so preserved in here the smell of rot hadn’t begun. Regular mortician was gone for the night, leaving Jirmen alone with Methir.
“It’s a shame the necromancers all went on their trip.” Methir muttered. “Really could’ve used them.”
“Pretty sure there are some left. Keep things running and all.” Jirmen shrugged. “But until I am certain none of them did this, I will not pull them in.”
“You’re labeling an entire art for this?” Methir raised a brow. “Why do you even keep necromancy practice if you’re going to treat them the way you do?”
“One, because my predecessors allowed it and I won’t insult their memory. Two, my culture has very strict rules with the dead. Necromancy is a perversion of it.” Jirmen slumped against the back of the chair. “Two hundred and fifty years treating the dead with respect, only to have the previous archmage die and the Seraphim attack not long after.”
“Long way to explain that you’re just not used to it and it offends your beliefs.” Methir snickered. “You need to go meet someone. I swear it’ll loosen you up.”
“I don’t have time for that.”
“Make the time, then.” Methir continued her assessment. “You have others to run the city for you in absence. Pestering the fire elementals on their work with the Seraphim flame in cleansing Bryizo is just going to anger them. Once this murderer is caught, I’m taking you speed dating.”
“I don’t think that will work.”
“Okay, you have a month after this is over to meet someone and let me see him.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I’ll give Kyrik the key to your chamber.” Methir winked playfully.
“Fine.” Jirmen relented reluctantly. “If only to keep him out of the more dangerous parts…”
“Back to the golem, though…” Methir bit her talon in frustration. “This is…beyond me. Well beyond me. The magic is so tightly bound together I can’t pull a loose tether. Even if I do, it’ll come apart; that’s how advanced this magic is.”
“As I feared.” Jirmen sighed wearily. “I think Selencia and some of her pupils remain. Perhaps I will bring them in, but even then…”
“I can’t see a necromancer doing this. At least, none of the ones here.” Methir frowned. “Should we contact Magthra?”
“She’ll never help.” Jirmen replied sourly. “You know how our last conversation went.”
“Then, I’m at a loss.” Methir lifted the arm of the golem. “It has sinew, bone, and everything. A perfect replica; only missing a soul. A doll. Either someone managed to artificially create a doppelganger, or…”
“Or we are dealing with someone or something completely new.” Methir eyed Jirmen. “But, I know you already have your mind set on something.”
“And that is?”
“That we are avoiding two possibilities.” Methir continued her physical investigation of the golem, having exhausted all magical. “There are two beings with the power to create something like this. The first is our favorite Queen of the Damned; Azulia.”
“Yes, she was my first suspect for this and the murders, but she herself contradicts all the subtly.” Jirmen’s brow furrowed. “Her Huntress, Tarvi, could do the first but not the second. Lei, I won’t even consider; he’d just kick down the doors and get what he wanted. Azulia would do the same if she was willing to kill.”
“I agree; she holds the power, but no motive.” Methir left the golem alone. “Well, she does have the motive, but not one for sneaking around. If she wanted our attention, she would come herself.”
“Agreed, but I plan on seeing her regardless.”
“Which leads me to the second suspect; Kyrik.” Methir folded her arms, not hiding her disapproval. “Will you continue to turn on him for the rest of his life? Because I don’t see how he could have possibly done this; he might have the power to swing this, but he has no way of using it.”
“Not consciously. But that other side of him is rearing itself lately, and I don’t trust it. You know exactly why I don’t.”
“Just because he’s a N-!?”
“Stop shouting, do you want anyone to overhear?” Jirmen stood up, moving to the door. “As much as I want the reapers back, I do not want this to be the reason!”
Methir, who had put both palms over her mouth, nodded quietly. “Just because he’s different doesn’t mean he will suddenly heel-turn. Hell, when I spoke to Kyrik earlier, he mentioned that his reaper half was offended by this.” She stepped away from the golem and pointed at Jirmen. “Stop suspecting him until you have substantial proof.”
“And I will get proof that he isn’t.” Jirmen ran a claw through the fur on his head. “I’m going to find Azulia; if I am not back in an hour, gather the Warlocks.”
“You’re going to what!?”
Kyrik heard Methir shout to the air, hearing Jirmen teleport away. If anything, he expected Jirmen to go confront Azulia. She would hold the power to do something like this if she truly desired, or had the resources to if she herself couldn’t.
But that didn’t cause him to stand like statue. Jirmen’s words of mistrust ran through his head, and while Kyrik expected them, the context hurt more than any others. Why didn’t he understand that Kyrik would never do such a thing!? He knew from Methir that the reapers became an antagonist force after they deemed the world unsalvageable when Ephiral’s conquest seemed inevitable, but that was then. Kyrik was now.
Methir opened the hidden stone door, stepping out and nearly running into Kyrik. Horror crossed her face when she looked into his eyes.
“You overheard, didn’t you?” She asked quietly.
“Of course I did!” Kyrik snapped. “Every time you two get together, he suspects me!”
“Not every time.” Methir tried to reassure him. “This is recent. Honest.”
“He doesn’t have to.” Kyrik hissed, wind kicking up around him briefly. “To him, I’ll always be a murderer. Never mind what I feel every day!”
“Kyrik, that’s not what he meant!” Methir ran after him when he stomped away.
“Then what did he mean?” Kyrik snarled. His other side reacted to his emotional turmoil, churning in a way Kyrik couldn’t decipher. That only made him angrier. “That I’m simply out of control!? Tell him to try dealing with another personality screaming at you every day! I think I have a pretty good handle, all things considered!”
“I know, I know.” Methir kneeled before him to get on his level. “But that makes you powerful, Kyrik. You have powers the worst necromancers desire brewing inside. If you lose control of your emotions, it may burst through, and that’s what he fears.”
“Well maybe he shouldn’t be suspecting me of creating a golem like that!” Kyrik all but spat. “Does he even understand? I know he lost what was akin to his family, but I killed mine!”
The horror on Methir’s face presented like a mask. Kyrik regretted shouting, but he couldn’t help it anymore.
“Kyrik no, you didn’t.” Methir said quietly. “You know this.”
“Yes, I did!” Kyrik slapped his tail on the ground aggressively. “Not just my family, but everyone around me! The entire block! Why in the world does he ever assume I would allow myself to get that powerful!?”
“Why do you think I’m so terrified of transforming, Methir?” Kyrik gave her a steely look. “Imagine if something were to happen! You’re right about me having untapped potential, but I refuse to use it. Not when I can do what I did back then…”
A tear glimmered in Methir’s eye as she pulled him into a hug. Kyrik tried to pull away, and she allowed it. He stood, watching her like a wounded animal. This was the first time he ever pulled away from her, and such a thing spooked him more than he could ever admit.
Maybe he was more damaged than he thought…
“Kyrik, you didn’t do any of that. It’s true, one swing of your scythe can sever a soul.” Methir said gently. “But you don’t do that. You used your powers for the better of everyone; you kept your promises. You aren’t harmless, but your nature is what sets you apart. None of the past was your fault.”
“I can’t help it.” Kyrik stepped closer, a sense of defeat slowly overwhelming. “No matter what I convince myself, it fades. I just keep getting nightmares of that night…”
“I know, Muffin. And I’ll keep telling you as many times as I need to that it isn’t your fault.”
Kyrik allowed her to hug him now, saying nothing. The touch was gentle, and it soothed his frayed nerves. Strangely, the reaper side of him was more apprehensive. It never reacted at all to any physical affection given, but this time it was wary. There was no way it could communicate, however.
For now, Kyrik allowed himself to rest in her comforting embrace.