Time Goes By Pt. 4

When they got outside, they began to walk toward the park where Mariel had found her piece of evidence. Mariel worked her way over to Fern. The young druid was the only member of their adventuring party that she had not greeted yet. They had discovered Fern living alone in a cave. They had no way of knowing how long she had lived there alone, with only animals and plants to talk to. They had not even known how old she was at first since she had worn a hood and had wrapped her face in muddy bandages.

When the party had finally seen her face in the moonlight, they had been shocked at how young she was. Also, they realized that she was human. Mariel had gifted her a pair of black tinted glasses to shield her eyes and make her feel more comfortable. Now her face and dirty reddish-blonde hair were exposed to the air and it was a little easier to read her. Still, the girl kept things close to her vest which everybody respected.

“It’s good to see you, Fern,” Mariel said. “I hope you are doing well.”

“I am,” Fern said and kept walking. She was definitely not one to engage in flowery language.

“Good,” Mariel said, not as unnerved by the terseness of Fern as she had been in the beginning. “I’m sorry for interrupting your vacation.”

Fern shrugged. “It’s ok,” she said. “This is important.”

“Wow, five whole words,” Mariel said with a smile. “Did you enjoy your time in Thorncatch with Dina?”

A small smile formed on the subdued druid’s face and she simply gave a small thumbs up. Mariel was overjoyed at this little display, knowing it was the equivalent of a normal person jumping for joy. She watched Fern gravitate toward Dina and the two walked side by side.

They arrived at the park and a shiver went up and back down Mariel’s spine but she pushed it away. It was well into the late afternoon but the sun was still good enough to see everything around them. The party looked around with fresh eyes while Mariel tried to think about what they should do.

“This is your show, Mariel,” Luther said. “What do want us to do?”

Mariel took a deep breath and nodded. “Fern,” she started. “You’re naturally sensitive to the world of magic. See what you can sense around here.”

Fern nodded and started to walk around the area, starting near the fountain. An opossum crawled out from her robes and settled on her shoulder with a hiss. This garnered a lot of attention from passersby.

“Dina,” Mariel said. “I need you to use that sensitive nose of yours. See if you can smell anything that is weird or should not be there.”

Dina cocked her head to the side. “That’s kind of weird, Mari,” she said. “but you’re the expert on weirdness.”

Mariel smiled. “You’re our tracking expert, Dina,” she said. “I trust your senses.” She turned to everybody else. “Everybody else, start looking for things out of place. You three are also pretty attuned to the world of magic so just use your best judgment.”

Everybody fanned out and tried to investigate the small park. They got some weird looks but nobody was worried that they might be bothered. The public and the city sentinels knew that it was against no law to look around. Besides, they all had a token of respect from the city manager which they could definitely use to ward off any harassment. This was good to think about as Dina was literally sniffing around the park and Fern was crouch walking across the grass, trying to commune with nature. Incognito was not a concept most of their little group was familiar with. Still, Mariel had learned to love the chaos. If you did otherwise, you were just looking for heartbreak.

Mariel opened her bottomless bag of tools and pulled out her umbrella again. Once again, she used it to detect magic and looked through the veil of the fabric to start scanning the area for strange magic. She was only a little surprised to notice that the statue figures that made up the majority of the fountain were radiating magical energy. It was not unusual for cities and towns in this region to use landmarks such as statues as points for last-ditch defense. Mariel assumed the dormant statues would come to life and defend the city. It was fascinating but not at all what she was looking for.

Next to a bench, she saw something strange. It was similar to Mullo except that when she pulled her umbrella to the side, she could not see it anymore. She had trouble figuring out what the object was until she got closer. As she stepped up, she could plainly see that it was a large chunk of stone. Perhaps it was a piece of her parent’s tower laboratory? It was rippling as if she was looking at it through the surface of a pond during a rainstorm. It kind of hurt her eyes to focus on it for too long. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath and then she slowly extended her hand to try to touch the stone. Instead, she watched her fingers pass through the stone. It did not exactly hurt but she felt one of her fingers briefly go numb so she withdrew her hand and shook it out.

She looked over at Dina who was frowning with her fingers in her ear. “Dina?” Mariel called out. “What’s wrong?”

“That sound is killing me,” she said. “It just won’t stop.”

“What sound?” Mariel asked. “I can’t hear anything.”

“It’s really high-pitched,” Dina said. “I can’t tell what it is.”

“Maybe we need to go find out,” Mariel said.

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