Week 384: The First Move Is Made

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MoonlitRain014

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Flitting quickly between the crowded people, the razor thin laicar woman trailed cautiously behind Eduard Tersius. Of all of the members of the conspiratorial little group, he was the least likely to expect a tail. She certainly wouldn’t have attempted to tail Laermont or Aeria Luxus. They were both too canny. Similarly the young Quaestor named Calvinia would be alert to any followers. The academic moved along with his shadow in tow, oblivious as he strolled at a gentle pace. A feral smile touched the young woman’s features and she drew closer to him.

Their journey took them through the more salubrious parts of the city, but Tersius seemed to be moving towards those that were less so. His tail was now only a few people behind the professor. They’d moved into an area with a bustling thoroughfare, heavy traffic rumbling along and full of crowds of people. Now the dark shadow of the woman was directly behind Tersius and as the crowd pushed him out toward the edge of the street, she darted forward, gave him a hard shove with her hip and sent him sprawling out into the road directly in front of a steam dray. She didn’t even look back as the horrified screams sounded, moving onwards.

The professor, for his part, had flown into the road and landed in front of the dray. The driver had seen him and tried to slow, but the heavy wheel had caught Tersius’ leg and smashed over it. It had rolled clear, but now the academic lay in the road with a dark pool of blood growing around his crushed lower leg. The crowd stood in a frozen tableau for what seemed like interminable minutes

but eventually a powerfully built laicar woman strode forward. She glanced with anger at the bystanders. “Well come on you lot! I am going to need some help here!”

This woman, Milicentia, was a doctor and healer who immediately took charge. She commandeered a shirt from one of the bystanders and tore it into bandages while demanding a belt from another man. She swiftly tightened the belt around Tersius’ leg after cutting away his trouser leg with a sharp knife and began to work on binding the terrible injury. Meanwhile a rapid steam cart had been sent for and as it arrived, Milicentia hoisted the professor onto it and shouted at the driver to get them to the nearest hospital. She clambered up and settled in beside the ashen-faced, bloodied man as they rushed off.

Quaestor Laermont had been completing another piece of his eternal paperwork when Calvinia came charging through the room, her face set and drawn. She stopped by the edge of the detective’s oversized desk and spoke urgently, interrupting the older quaestor’s work. “Laermont! I just got a report of Eduard being hurt. He was alive enough to give his name but he was badly injured, leg crushed by a steam dray. He…says someone pushed him in front of it! He’s at the hospital on Via Terminus.”

The quaestor rose with a speed that shouldn’t have been possible from his massive frame and whirled his heavy leather coat from a hook. His tone was all business. “Calvinia! I want you down at the sight of the incident interviewing witnesses. I’ll get to the hospital and see what’s going on. Vis-damned TorBru…”

His deep voice trailed off and he began moving purposefully to the exit.

In his office, Mercuti received a status report from the mysterious laicar woman who he’d dispatched. His watchers had confirmed that Tersius had been struck by a heavy dray and badly injured. It was precisely what he’d been after, even if he found the method of achieving it rather haphazard. However, he wasn’t done yet. He steepled his fat fingers and regarded the cat-like woman through half-hooded eyes. “It is a good start, but we need to target the others. That meddling little mongrel bitch, Aeria, should be next. Her engineering skills are crucial to their endeavours to try and stop me. Unlike Tersius, I want her right out of the way.”

Once again, the woman’s dead eyes met his and the same slit of a smile crossed her face. “It will be done.”

Without any further comment, the killer turned and stalked from the office. Mercuti watched her go, marveling at her lithe beauty and her utter lack of any human emotion. He shuddered, but admired her nonetheless. She was the perfect weapon for his task.

Eduard Tersius awoke, his head feeling like cotton wool and a dull pain throbbing in his leg. He started, memory rushing back to him in a surge of horror and agony. He smelled disinfectant and the other scents of the hospital. His eyes fluttered weakly open and he realized he was in bed. As focus grew, he saw Laermont standing impassively above him. “Wha…what happened? I…thirsty. Water please…”

With incredible delicacy for gigantic hands, Laermont reached down and poured a glass of water from a pitcher for the professor who eagerly drank it down. After he had finished, the quaestor laid a hand on his shoulder. “You were injured by a steam dray. Someone pushed you in front of it. You have a compound fracture of your lower leg, but you won’t lose it. However, you are going to be in here for a while.”

As if the realization of his injury had suddenly dawned, a wave of pain hit Tersius. “Ahhhh! Vis bloody damned hell! That hurts…ohhh…”

A nurse bustled up to him and quickly took a small glass pipette out of a jar and dropped brownish liquid in the water glass and filled it. “Here take this…it’ll help with the pain.”

Once the professor had taken the drops, a hazy sensation floated all of his pain away after a few minutes. Laermont had been patiently waiting and Tersius looked up at him. “Was it…them? I mean…TorBru?”

The detective nodded. “Indeed. I have posted guards outside your room. I take it you can’t think of anything that seemed out of the ordinary?”

Tersius shook his head. “No, not a thing. Whoever did it never gave themselves away.”

Laermont sighed, “I didn’t think so. I have to meet Calvinia at the scene of the incident now. I’ll be back though, Eduard.”

On the other side of Terminus, the sliver of shadow that was the laicar assassin paused below a shabby apartment block and glanced up. It seemed that Aeria Luxus was at home. Another bloody gash of a smile touched her features and she began slipping stealthily forward.
 

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