It is mid-morning when Ecks and Willow enter the nation of Eshtar. Ecks guides Serenity down the main road through Dodgson Woods. Her roaring engine rouses the animals that call these woods home. They scamper from the road and hide in the brushes until Serenity passes, and they can emerge to resume their foraging. Ecks decided to head for Tulpex first since it was deduced that the letter had to be sent from there due to Tulpaar’s animosity towards Arcana. Soon they reach the village deep within Dodgson Woods. After parking Serenity at the village entrance, Ecks and Willow enter Tulpex. The village is active with merchants from other towns both with in Eshtar and from other lands outside including Arcana. Walking down the main road, they notice something is off. While they see carts from other villages such as Villiers which specializes in magical items and Kaster Village, from the Land of Alchemists, Ecks and Willow notice that there are no karts from Tulpex’s neighbor, Tulpaar Village. This is odd considering that the neighboring villages always traded with each other. Usually there would be carts bearing the anvil and caldron symbol of Tulpaar with various kinds of trade such as linens, jewelry, iron work and harvest goods. But now there are none.
“We better find the post master,” Ecks suggested. They had no time to wonder about the absent carts but they are curious as to whether Tulpaar and Tulpex are still in good relations.
In the south district of Tulpex, Ecks and Willow find the post master’s office. It is a large building with a pitched roof and beautiful stained glass windows. Two tall lamps framed the front of the building, each elegant in decoration and design. Entering the building, Ecks steps back to avoid being run over by a clerk carrying packages as she hurries to the place them in their necessary satchels hanging on the wall with the name of their respective village. The post master’s office looks like an inn in design with its simple décor, but it clearly suited for serving as a place where messages can be sent to and received from various lands. Willow spots the post master in back of the building.
“Alright Leopold, you are to take this to Alexandria Region in Northern Eshtar. Your first stop is in Xephyr. The Marquis of Xaphyr is waiting for this,” said the post master with a rough voice. He hands the young blonde haired messenger a large satchel with a woman’s profile depicted on a shield etched into the leather.
“Yes sir,” Leopold said, taking the satchel and slinging it around his body.
“Take a Z-Bike, it’ll get you there faster than a horse,” said the post master.
“Got it,” said Leopold. He turns and nearly bumps into Ecks on his way out. He issues an apology and continues on his way.
“Morning, how can I help you?” the post master asked politely. He is a man of average height with a stocky build, broad chin and crew cut brown hair.
“We would like to ask you about a letter that was sent from here a couple days ago,” said Willow.
The post master looked Ecks and Willow over. He spots the red star crest on their outfits. “Ah, Arcana Knights, I see,” he says.
“Yeah, First Lieutenant Ecks and Fifth Lieutenant Willamina Ashcroft,” Ecks said. Though Willow is partnered with Ecks, she does not have a rank but her ability to detect mystical powers such as the Mystic Relics of Arcana is extremely valuable and Ecks’ skills as a knight are unmatched. He gave Willow a rank just in case the post master became suspicious had he simply introduced her as Lady. He came to this conclusion listening to the gruffness in the man’s voice, suggesting a military background. Sometimes when dealing with a person who was once in the military, giving a name and rank makes gathering information a little easier.
The post master gives them a respectful nod and says, “Name’s Donovan. So what do want to know about the letter?”
“The letter was sent from someone in Tulpaar and we were hoping you can tell us who it was?” Ecks tells him.
“I’m sorry, I can’t.”
“I see.” Ecks suspected this might happen. This is one of the situations where gathering information would be difficult even though he gave his name and rank. He removes the money pouch from his waist. It looks like he may have to pay for the information.
Donovan chuckles and waves the pouch away. “That’s not what I meant. The reason I can’t tell you who asked me to send the letter to Arcana is because I received a letter from someone in Tulpaar with specific instructions to write one up requesting aid from Arcana.”
Ecks sighs heavily. “Aw man, so we’re going to have to go to Tulpaar and ask around. That ought to be fun,” he says dispassionately, knowing that relations between Arcana and Tulpaar are strained which will make gathering information extremely difficult. Ecks’s only concern is if they’ll even be allowed in the town. Ecks sighs again. They have no other choice. They must help with the situation in Tulpaar whether the villagers want it or not. Just as he and Willow are about to leave, Donovan stops them.
“Hold up a second,” he says. Ecks and Willow turn and step back to the counter. Donovan heads over to the wall where he receives incoming letters. “I just remembered something about the letter I got from Tulpaar,” he says while searching for the letter. He finds it and takes it over to show Ecks and Willow. Donovan folds the letter back to the way it was, matching up the wax seal with Tulpaar’s crest in it. “This letter didn’t come from the Regal District. If you look closely, you see that the outer edge doesn’t bear the symbols that would suggest that.”
Willow and Ecks look at the seal. Regal Districts are the ones in charge of each town, village and city’s finances. They oversee the trading and marketing for their respective hometown and are in charge of communications between other places. Whenever a message is sent to another city or village, the letter is stamped with that town’s crest and lettering that tells that it was overseen by a Regal. Tulpaar’s seal bears no such markings.
“This letter was sent by a commoner,” Ecks deduced.
“What could be so bad that a commoner would go behind the Regal District’s back to send word to us,” Willow asked.
“Well, it looks like we’re going to have to ask around about that in a village that hates us after all,” Ecks said with reluctance. He hands the letter back to Donovan when a smaller envelope falls to the counter. He picks it up and sees that there are no markings or seals of any kind.
“Huh, I must have missed that,” said Donovan.
Curious, Ecks opens the envelope. Inside is a piece of paper with a name on it. The name belonged to a local physician in Tulpaar.
“Guess that’s the person who sent the letter,” Willow said.
“Only one way to find out,” said Ecks. “Thanks for your help Donovan.”
“No problem,” Donovan replied. He watches Ecks and Willow leave the building and then heads to the back once they are gone. He touches the space on the wall next to the shelves that held the intake letters. A glyph appears and a section of the shelving slides back and to the left, revealing a staircase. Donovan descends the stairs. Torches along the wall burst to life with each step. He comes to a room at the bottom and enters. The torches extinguish themselves once he closes the door. Inside, a new set of torches became ablaze by invisible means. The walls of the room are decorated with runes written in an unknown language. Against the far wall opposite of the door stood an alter adorned with candles, talismans and lavish jewels. The person at the alter turns to Donovan. “Have they come?” she spoke with a sultry voice.
“Yes, and the girl is with him as well,” said Donovan, speaking in a tone less pleasurable than his cheery demeanor when he was with Ecks and Willow.
“And they are on their way to Tulpaar?” the woman asks as she approaches Donovan.
“They are,” replied Donovan.
“Good. You have done well,” the woman said. She slowly caresses his cheek and drags her finger tips under his chin as if she was his lover. The woman then casts a steely gaze to the corner to her right at the man bound to a chair. Donovan lifts his head and stares back with weary eyes. His broad chin is scruffy from the apparent struggle he put up before being bound to the chair for who knows how long. He lays his eyes on his other self whose true form is that of a winged creature. The woman approaches him, putting a seductive sway in her stride. She runs her fingers along his face as she gazes at him with haunting green eyes. “Now my dear Donovan, there is something I need from you.”
(Have a look at my novel Defenders!! Volume 1 and Volume 2 are available for Kindle and E-book device!! Head to the J1 Bookstore and click the links!! Check my awesome fan fiction: Dante vs. Bayonetta and“Fury Rages On: Kratos vs. Asura!!”)
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