The Scene of the Battle

The battle had happened some nights ago when soldiers from two armies met at the crossroads and the result had not been pretty. Bystanders with their trade wagons had been sent scattering to the four winds. One of the wagons had broken a wheel and their owners had been forced to abandon it. Constable Lucia Ironpaw spotted it in an instant. Apples were scattered on the road beneath it.   Some of the baskets had been taken away from the cart by hand by fleeing traders. There was blood all over the ground but the bodies had already been removed. Frankly, Lucia felt more sympathy for the traders than the soldiers who had only brought the violence. This was no righteous war for peace and liberty, this was a trade war. They had only fought for money and power. It disgusted Lucia to hear of such greed.

It was Lucia who had been assigned to assess the site of the violence for any more clues as to which factions had been involved. There was a low fog but the area was clearly a mess even in low visibility. Lucia had heard that nobody had died in the violence but Lucia doubted that statement when she looked the site over. There was so much blood everywhere. There were even a few puddles of it here and there. Lucia gestured and her celestial cat familiar appeared out of thin air and approached one of the puddles. He sniffed at the puddle and Lucia could smell the rotten iron smell of the blood of battle. She turned up her nose and divorced her senses from the cat’s for a moment. She used her eyes for a moment, trying not to retch from the intense smell.

Directly in the middle of the crossroads, the ground was scorched black in a wide radius. Lucia knew the effects of the fireball spell well. Somebody had detonated a fireball in what would have been the middle of the crowd. This would have been devastating but it also would have taken a lot of the will to fight from both sides. It made Lucia wonder which side had done it. Perhaps a wandering wizard or sorcerer had detonated the fireball in hopes of stopping the fighting. There were no witness reports that mentioned who had cast the spell. Lucia nudged at a bit of blackened grass with her foot. She had long proposed research into time travel magic for law enforcement use but the suggestion had always been shot down. It was the only true way to solve mysteries like this. She shook her head and moved on.

From behind her she heard her cat, Caleb, let out a long plaintive meow which means he had found something. The cat sat patiently, staring with its one eye. The other eye was not damaged, the cat had chosen to appear like that. Somehow, the lack of an eye did not impede its sight in any way. Lucia allowed her senses to be swept into the cat once again which was always both familiar and disorienting to suddenly be so low to the ground. She instantly sensed what the cat had. It was an intense smell of brimstone that meant that this had been no ordinary battle. While she did not want to jump to conclusions, Lucia knew from school that brimstone often meant the presence of some sort of demonic being. With her perspective so low to the ground, Lucia could see something scratched into the dirt. She left the cat’s perspective and shook her head to adjust again. She crouched next to the drawing in the dirt. It had been disturbed by stomping feet and burning fire but they might have been runes at one point.

Magickal runes do not just get drawn for no reason though Lucia supposed they could have been normal runes left as some sort of message left for communication over time. Still, one of them looked like half of a very powerful magickal rune she had seen in many books. She had a hunch that it might have been a trigger for a trap. There had to be more to this. Lucia did not really believe in coincidences. She pulled out a few pieces of paper and carefully sketched what she could make out of the symbols. She then dug a way under them to see if there had been some hidden evil. She came up empty and started to look around to see what else could have hidden whatever the runes had triggered. That is when Lucia spotted the lone tree on one corner of the crossroads. Travelers would often sit beneath that tree to get out of the sun, one last break before reaching the town market. Now Lucia spotted what looked like putrid corruption around a branch high up in the tree. The bark had turned blackish-green with white veins. Was it some sort of side effect of a spell?

Lucia sent her senses back into Caleb the Celestial Cat and the cat slowly began to climb the tree, far easier than Lucia could have climbed. The smell of brimstone was almost unbearable as the cat approached the blighted spot on the tree. The cat’s paws tentatively tested the blighted bark but it seemed stable enough to climb on and it did no damage. Just above the branch, there was a hollow in the tree trunk, somewhere a bird or a squirrel might have made their home at one point. Now, no living thing would make a home there. It was absolutely putrid, the air thick with brimstone. The cat poked its head into the hollow and both it and Lucia saw a small bundle. It looked like a material component bag but it also looked like it had detonated. Lucia was forced to conclude that her hunch was probably correct. Somebody had laid a demonic trap and it was hard to tell what that was now that the evidence was mostly destroyed. Either side could have laid this trap or perhaps a third party. For what purpose? Lucia could only report the results of her investigation to her superiors and see what the information led to. She moved under the tree and caught her cat as he jumped from the tree and headed back to her horse to return to town.

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