HOLY BEING - Season 5 Episode 98
“Clearly the attack on the watchtowers was a diversion. The wargs wanted to get rid of the sentinels before opening the doors and sneaking inside the city undetected.” Lith pondered.
“My thoughts exactly. We have traitors in our midst.” Said the Baroness.
“Yes, but you are lucky, your Ladyship.”
“Winter has barely started and my city is cornered by enemies from outside and within. How dare you call me lucky?” She was seconds away from punching the Ranger in the nose.
“Idiots are the best kind of enemies one can ask for.” Lith replied before examining the bodies on the stretchers. Some had been killed by a bite to the neck, others had been disemboweled by claws.
Each attack had been executed with deadly precision and then followed by a sloppy attempt at covering the wounds with fire or air magic.
“Does this look like the work of a warg to you?” Asked the Baroness.
“Yes, but it doesn’t make sense. First magic can easily kill and so will blades. Using their bodies to attack was really stupid of them unless they didn’t expect me to foil their plan. More importantly, how could something like this go unnoticed?”
Lith cleared off a slab before taking out the warg’s corpse from his pocket dimension. Baroness Enja nodded as a disgusted expression appeared on her face.
“It shouldn’t have, yet it did. The west gate remained closed the whole time, yet the people guarding it had been slaughtered. No matter how absurd it sounds, it must have been an inside job.”
“Agreed, but something tall, dark, and hairy like a warg couldn’t have hidden in plain sight.” Lith replied as he cut open the creature’s chest with an air blade. Even though he couldn’t share the information Kamila had provided him, he could still find evidence of mutation on his own.
The army’s bestiary had included a complete anatomical description of the creatures, allowing Lith to perform a necropsy. Unfortunately, the body’s poor condition due to the extensive wounds sustained at the moment of death gave him a single clue.
‘The internal organs appear to be slightly shifted from where they are supposed to be, leaving extra space near the creature’s mana core. Yet I can’t tell if it’s because of a mutation or just because the remains more closely resemble a jigsaw puzzle than a carcass.’ He thought.
‘Solus, do you think the wargs could have infiltrated the city by shapeshifting?’
‘That would be almost impossible.’ She replied. ‘Not even all Evolved Monsters learn how to shapeshift, like Kalla or Phillard. Even if the wargs could do it, in a city like Maekosh the slightest blunder would blow their cover.
‘The people here are far from welcoming and the creatures who attacked the guards are clearly dumb. Maybe the army can offer us some insight.’
Lith used his army communicator to give a full report to his handler. He stressed the creature’s ability to speak, fly, and its temporary invulnerability. Then he explained the city’s current predicament.
“Your situation is abnormal.” Kamila said.
“Both the warg warrior’s resilience and its death cannot be explained by their innate abilities. Even a large pack can only share part of the wounds one of its members sustains and not as fast as you described.
“I’ll consult the archives and get back to you as soon as possible.”
“What if it’s a new species entirely? A single Ranger might not be enough! Send reinforcements immediately.” The Baroness ordered.
“The army can’t act based on a local ruler’s worries.” Kamila’s voice turned stone cold. “You’ve been allowed to listen to the report only because as the city lord you must be aware of what’s happening to arrange your citizens’ safety. Over and out.”
It was the second time in a single day that someone had hung up on her. The Baroness was livid.
“I need to speak with the merchants who first sighted the wars. Where can I find them?” Lith had no time to coddle her feelings.
“In jail, of course.” The Baroness’ eyes had no trace of humanity. Her hands gripped the metal slab like she wanted to tear it apart.
“Aside from you, they are the only outsiders in the whole city. It was already suspicious that they spotted the wargs without a single casualty, and when the gatekeepers died, I had to lock them up. They are the main suspects.”
Lith was flabbergasted by her words.
‘That’s idiotic. The merchants had no reason to warn the city about the attack, nor can humans bargain with monsters. They have nothing to gain if the city falls.’ Lith was worried enough to place his hand on the Baroness’ shoulder and use Invigoration while pretending to reason with her.
“You did the right thing for the wrong reason. At least in jail they are safe from angry mobs and when the next attack happens, because it will, you’ll be forced to admit their innocence. You guards would never turn their backs to outsiders.”
Invigoration revealed nothing and prejudice was something even light magic was powerless to heal.
Lith recovered the warg corpse and left the morgue for the prison below the city’s courthouse. The flight wasn’t long, yet it reminded Lith why he didn’t like Maekosh.
He liked order. Lutia was a small village, but each home had its space and individuality.
Belius seemed like a Lego city, all blocks and squares. Its architects had sacrificed beauty in favor of efficiency, something that Lith had learned to love during his time at the academy.
Othre’s outer circle could seem chaotic at first, but there was a method to it. Maekosh, instead, looked like a long line of different builders had worked on it on succession and for some reason, all of them had quit halfway through the job.
The same city block could host stone buildings and wooden shacks. Some had a lot of space between them while others were stacked on the top of each other. Merchant shops were so close to abandoned houses that sometimes suppliers would bring their merchandise to them thinking they were warehouses.
Maekosh was a poor city, which had gone through periods of rapid growth and recessions multiple times over the years. The brewing trade was its mark of success, while its inhabitants were that of its failure.
Their fear of outsiders made them reject any potential investors and no merchant liked to renegotiate their deals whenever a brewer had a bad day. When business went well, they were forced to hire people from outside of the city and temporary houses would pop up like mushrooms.
These foreigners were paid less and had to work more hours than the “real” citizens. Inevitably the outsiders became irate at their treatment and quit, ensuring that their unwavering employers did not reach their quotas.
Anyone who moved to Maekosh hoped for a better life. Slave labor jobs were available everywhere and finding one in a much friendlier environment was easy as pie.
After Lith reached the prison, he shook the merchants’ hands one by one before opening the doors of their cells. Invigoration cleared them from his suspects’ list. They had weak mana cores and bodies.
Shapeshifting could alter someone’s physical form, but their strength couldn’t be hidden. The group was composed of men and women of different ages. Each merchant traveled with their apprentices who served them as handymen.
At first, they couldn’t wait to be released, but after hearing from Lith what the townspeople were going to blame them for, they were happy to remain behind bars.