CHAPTER FOUR: REALM (3/4)

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Sol shook his head as he pulled the hood on over his face. "I'm really starting to dislike you."

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The walk to the Citadel felt much longer in Sol's mind that perhaps it truly was. He could not see a thing and had only Goone's hand on his shoulder to guide him.

"This would be much easier without my hands tied behind my back," he complained.

"What kind of prisoner walks around with their hands untied?" said Goone.

"I still don't know why I have to be your prisoner at all. Surely you could just introduce me and explain what's happened."

"Trust me; this will be a lot faster. Now be quiet; we're coming to the gate."

Sol felt the grass under his feet turn to stone as their pace slowed and they came to a stop. The sound of heavy-booted footsteps grew louder.

"Great," muttered Goone. "It's Farkel."

"Detective Goone," said a man's voice. "It's been a while since I've seen your face."

"How you doing, Farkel?" said Goone.

"What's this? An Orc?"

"Caught him in Brazil."

"He looks very small..."

"Probably how he stayed in hiding for so long. Are you going to let me in or shall I just let the Orc run free around the forest?"

"There's no need to get defensive, Goone. If I were you, I should learn to exercise greater restraint. Especially after what happened in Shanghai. Open the gate!"

A loud rumble sent tremors through the ground. Sol imagined a metal door being winched up by iron chains.

"I shall go with you," said Farkel.

"There's no need for that," said Goone. "I've managed to escort him all the way here by myself; I think I can manage to take him to the Temple."

"I wasn't asking your permission, Goone. Move."

Sol felt a sharp shove from behind and staggered forwards, glowering under his hood at the indignity. He was steered sharply around several corners until they came to a staircase which corkscrewed downwards for several floors, during which neither Goone nor Farkel said a word.

They finally reached the bottom and came to a stop. Sol heard a sound like a large metal lock turning back before Sol was urged gently forwards, and a woman's voice blossomed out of the silence ahead.

"...not be sending any more Warlocks to Russia. We have twenty stationed in Moscow alone."

"I understand, Grand Master," said a man. "But this particular Witch is so far proving to be highly evasive. We need a Warlock with greater knowledge of--"

"I refuse to accept that twenty Warlocks cannot track down a single Witch. Now you have my answer, detective. Is there any other business you wish to discuss?"

"No, Grand Master."

"You are dismissed."

Sol heard a lone pair of defeated footsteps scuffle past him.

"Who is next?" asked the woman.

"Grand Master," said Farkel. "Detective Goone is here."

"Goone?" said the Grand Master. "But he has not been summoned!"

"He has captured an Orc."

"An Orc? In Manhattan?"

"He said he caught it in Brazil."

"If I might interject for a second," said Goone, "I haven't"

"You have not been asked to speak," purred a deep male voice. "You disrespect our customs, detective."

"He disrespects us," said a second woman. "Just his presence in the Temple is an insult."

"We should never have sent him back to the human world," added another voice, this one gruff and male. "He's an embarrassment to the Order."

"Perhaps we should let him speak," said a quiet man, his voice frail and hoarse.

"Thank you, Mahjin," said the Grand Master. "The rest of you seem to have forgotten yourselves, such is the excitement your presence inspires, detective. I sincerely hope the explanation you are about to give is worthy of our ears. It is not a small crime for a Warlock to leave his station without our permission, nor to bring an undeclared exile into our Temple. Your next few words had better be extraordinary, else I will have no qualms about having Farkel escort you to the cells to await a trial of gross misconduct."

She paused to let a heavy silence fall.

"You may now speak, detective."

Goone cleared his throat. "Well," he said, "I guess the best way to say it is to just say it. Pan Magal is dead."

A long silence.

"How do you know this?" asked the Grand Master at last, her voice considerably quieter.

"I was at home when one of my familiars came to me, a sparrow. It said it saw Pan Magal appear under the Washington Square Arch, badly wounded. I left straight away, but but the time I got there, he was already dead. There was a deep slash in his neck and he was missing three of his fingers."

"Where is he now?" asked the male with the deep voice.

"With Maeyana. She wanted to examine his wounds."

"I don't believe it," said the other woman.

"Then go and see Maeyana."

"And what part does this Orc have to play in all this?" asked the Grand Master. "Is this is the creature which killed him?"

"No..." said Goone. "After I found Pan Magal's body, the sparrow told me it saw someone else at the Arch. A human. I put the word out and a couple of my familiars helped me track him down."

"And?" said the Grand Master.

The hood was yanked from Sol's head.

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