CHAPTER NINE: Hypocrisy (part 2)

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Van Bam walked along the corridors of the Nightshade

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Van Bam walked along the corridors of the Nightshade. Each of his steps was accompanied by a stamp of his cane, and each time the green glass struck the floor there was a sound like a distant chime, and the Resident's inner sight was filled with the corridor's layout in myriad shades of grey. His stride purposeful, his brow knitted with concern, he headed for Hamir's laboratory.

The necromancer was waiting where the corridor seemed to end at a wall, which like most in the Nightshade, was covered in tiny maze patterns. Hamir's body appeared to Van Bam's vision as a collective of sparkling colours: the iridescence of a magical being. Hamir's expression was as calm and unreadable as always.

'Your friends have returned unharmed,' he said, as Van Bam approached. 'Charlie Hemlock is alive.'

Van Bam nodded, and they faced each other in silence for a while.

'Hamir,' he said finally. 'When Clara was unconscious, did you happen to look into her mind?'

'No. Should I have?'

Van Bam thought for a moment. 'Clara said that Marney did something to her – kissed her. Samuel witnessed the event and claims there was a burst of energy between them. Does that mean anything to you?'

Hamir pursed his lips. 'It could have been a mental transference, I suppose,' he said. 'It's an old empath's trick. Transmit information and messages directly into a person's mind. It's quicker than using words, and it seems to me that Marney definitely had cause to hurry, yes?'

'Yes,' said Van Bam. 'Marney might have placed a message for the Relic Guild in Clara's mind? Something to do with Fabian Moor.'

'It is possible,' Hamir said. 'I assume you're talking to me about this because Clara has not yet remembered any such message?'

'That is correct,' Van Bam replied. 'But we need to pursue this matter, and soon, Hamir.' He inhaled and exhaled heavily. 'The situation is looking bleak. Gideon doubts our ability to deal with Fabian Moor.'

'Obviously,' said the necromancer. 'After all, Moor is a Genii.'

'Indeed. And we are alone, and maybe too few now. The Thaumaturgists can no longer be called upon.'

Hamir made no attempt to advance the conversation, or even nod in agreement.

Van Bam's brow knitted. 'When Moor was last in Labrys Town, we were made privy to certain secret arts that helped in his downfall.'

'Yes, I remember.'

'Could those arts be used again now, Hamir?'

The necromancer considered for a moment. 'It is not impossible.'

'Good,' Van Bam said with some relief. 'Then I want you to begin—'

'Van Bam ...' Somehow, Hamir's interruption was both soft and biting. 'Using secret arts and uncovering hidden messages will take research and experimentation and time from a clock that is ticking for Marney, yes?'

The Resident stared at him.

'It might be wiser to focus on interrogating Charlie Hemlock first,' Hamir continued. 'Once we have all the facts to hand, we will be in a better position to judge our next course of action. Am I right?'

There was no disrespect in his words, only simple, clinical facts, as was the necromancer's way. But did he feel any fear or desperation at all for the situation?

Who could really tell what Hamir ever felt? He had been Van Bam's constant companion through his tenure as Resident – as he had been for Gideon and many of those who came before – yet Van Bam had learned so little about him. Never truly an agent of the Relic Guild, it often seemed that without the Nightshade, Hamir might not exist at all, as if he was a personification of the building itself, a manifestation of  its secrets and magic.

The necromancer cleared his throat. 'Shall we join your friends?'

Van Bam nodded his permission. But Hamir, ever his own animal, was already opening the hidden door to his laboratory, and he led the way inside.

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