The sun rose over a city much changed to the one it has set on only a few hours earlier. Its light danced off waters now clam again after the night’s tempest. It sparkled off golden pagodas and from windows in buildings that had seemingly risen from the sea’s stygian depths in the wild ferocity of the storm, its arrival marked with a swath of destruction across the city. Yet the felled trees and damaged houses were not the reason a very tired looking Lunar, once more a tall elf now that his wife had made whole the moon she had fractured, found himself stood in the morning chill and cursing softly in his native tongue.
“You are sure she is unharmed, Elle?” he asked, turning to his equally tired looking friend.
Eladrienne sighed as she looked up at the elf, soot and grime smeared her face and clothes and she was soul-tired, “Yes, Tensai has checked her over. Annechen has checked her over. I’ve seen her and she is fine, I promise.”
Lunar nodded and glanced over at Shanghai, the dream made real that should have heralded a joyous day, but even though Ama was unhurt how could he celebrate the birth of new life when this had happened? He looked down at the scorched ground, smoke curling up in patches here and there and sharp blades of twisted metal jutting up like broken teeth, and shook his head.
JB Hancroft’s house had borne the brunt of it when a giant bolt the size of a horse had torn through the wall and now offered itself to the sky in a mocking gesture of defiance. Past that his eye could clearly see the damage done to Polymath by the cog Darien had installed as a door and his ears could quite clearly hear what Hotspur had to say on the matter in a series of curses that would make the sailors of Shanghai blush for shame.
Behind him, on the other side of the road, two more mammoth cogs (a window? Another door? He didn’t know) was buried deep into the earth of Tanarian’s kennels.
Thankfully no pooch had been hurt, although most had been scared half out of their minds judging by the howling and yelping, but Tanarian was livid and would take some serious placating. He looked up at Elle who, as if reading his mind, said “Leave her to me, hm?” and moved to intercept the angry woman.
How had so many casualties been avoided? How could so much damage been wrought and only… his train of thought was interrupted by a sharp prod to his right calf. And another. And a third.
“Ow!” he said hopped round.
Lunar, rubbing his tender calf, looked down into the iron-clad death stare of a very seriously annoyed knee-high cat. “Dr Alter…”
Her green eyes flashed as she looked up at him, waving her paw dismissively. “Never mind all of the greetings and such,” she said with a hiss. “Look at my warehouse! Just look at it!”
Lunar looked up and across the water to where she pointed. Another of Darien’s massive bolts had smashed into her buildings and jammed itself into the side of her smoking chimney. “Ah… Yes… Well…”
She breathed in deep and slow, determined to stay calm, “That is all, is it? Hmph, I see. Well, thank you Elf, thank you very much! This will not be forgotten…oh no, don’t think it will!” She poked him in the calf with her claw again before striding away, shouting orders at her minion Cato Quan.
“Such anger for such a sweet little puss cat,” Lunar sighed. Dr Alter stopped dead, the tips of her whiskers vibrating with fury, and without turning to face him hissed “Elf. I will, for the sake of your good lady wife, pretend I did not hear that and bid you good day, Sir. Good day!” She marched off with war in her heart as Lunar allowed the corner of his mouth to curl upwards in a sly smile.
“Lunar, you shouldn’t tease her so,” Elle was at back his shoulder watching the cat stride back to her damaged warehouse.
“I suppose…” was all Lunar said before turning back to the ruins of the once feared Mason Laboratory. Smoke rose from piles of melted and twisted metal which, even now hours after the explosion had ripped the building apart, were still hot to the touch. “How is he?”
Elle looked at her friend’s face, so much worry for others made him look sad, “Not good. Tensai did what she could and I’ve sent someone out to find Dr Beck, but he’s going to have to go to Caledon. There isn’t an inch of him that isn’t burnt. Even his horns are gone. I don’t know how he’s survived this long.”
“And any idea who the poor devil actually is?” Lunar asked.
“No one knows. Ama has confirmed he is not Jeremiah though, and if anyone should know it’s her.”
“I hate to think of him dying without his name, alone here with no one to mourn him.”
Elle reached out and touched the tall Elf’s arm, “Hey, he’s not dead yet. If anyone can help him it’s Tensai and the Caledon doctors. Don’t give up on him yet,” she said quietly.
Lunar looked down at her and smiled, “You’re right as usual, Elle. Ignore me, I’m just… well, look at this…” he looked at the wreckage strewn about them. “He’s alive and that’s all that matters. Tell me again what happened, will you?”
“Well,” she replied “According to Mother Superior and a host of other witnesses across town, Jeremiah, or rather the man claiming to be Jeremiah, spent the day travelling all over town on Genie’s horse. He’d been to see Annechen over at the Consulate in the afternoon and was seen after that meeting riding about in a seemingly upset state…”
“Upset? Why? What happened?”
“Annechen says he came to ask about his past and she told him he wasn’t Jeremiah. That was about the length of the meeting as she was late getting ready to leave with Fuzz.”
“Mmmm, I wish Fuzz were here now, that’s for sure. So how did our Jeremiah man take it?”
“Not well. He rode through the town talking to himself. Gia saw him on the bridge near Dragon’s Leap that night and he was out in the storm. She says he was heading back into town and he came back here. All of this is confirmed by Mother Superior and Ama.”
“Ama?” asked Lunar, surprised.
“She had spent the day following him.”
“Gods! How many people were watching and following this poor man? No wonder he was acting so oddly!”
“To be fair Lunar,” Elle said, “he was claiming to be Jeremiah Mason and came here to find his son. Both you and I know what happened last time they met, not that long ago and on this very spot. Fuzz had to keep an eye on him and no power in the world could have stopped Ama from helping her grandpa if it had have been him.”
“Yes… yes, you’re right of course. Carry on, Elle”, Lunar said softly, rubbing his eyes with his finger and thumb.
“Well,” continued Elle “Once here, well something must have snapped inside him because Ama says he went crazy.”
“Crazy? Crazy how?”
“Smashed the place up, she said. Smashed everything and was ranting about being Jeremiah. Ama tried to calm him down, but she says he was terrified and grabbed a bottle of stored lightning, presumably to defend himself, and then…” she looked at the smouldering crater and sighed.
“And how did he get out? Surely he didn’t manage to walk out in that state?” Lunar asked.
“No, Warren was passing by and ran in to save him…”
“Warren,” he interrupted, “you mean Velvel from Shanghai? What was he doing all the way over here?”
“Just taking a stroll, he says. Maxim was nearby too, JB was in his house and Maev was over at the kennels. They all got here just in time to see Warr… Velvel pull the body from the flames.”
“The blast blew her out of the door and into JB’s new shop. She was unhurt but out cold for a while and when she came too went to fetch Tensai, which is where you come in,” Elle finished.
“Hmmm,” was all Lunar said in reply. He wandered over to where the huge cog door of the lab, until a few hours ago, had been. Now it was buried deep in the walls of Hotspur’s tower.
“What’s wrong, Lunar?” Elle said, “I know that ‘Hmmm’ too well. You think there is more to it than a simple accident?”
“The explosion, no. Darien had enough dangerous things in there and Ama saw our poor would-be-Jeremiah smash the lab and grab the lightning bottle. But Velvel… no one saw him go in? And you said they saw him pulling the man out?”
“Yes,” replied Elle, “and Gia said something about him watching Jeremiah-man in the rain.”
“Who was in the rain? Jeremiah?” Lunar asked.
“No, well yes he was, but Gia said that Velvel was stood on the balcony in the rain and she is sure he was watching Jeremiah-man ride off. Lunar, you don’t think…”
“I don’t know what to think right now, Elle. Maybe our Jeremiah can tell us if he pulls through.”
“When he pulls through, you mean,” Elle reminded him.
As the sun rose higher into the sky, Lunar looked around at the rubble and ruins about him and sighed heavily, “I rather fear it’s much more of an ‘if’ Elle. Now, let’s see about this wreckage shall we?”
In a nearby house, Ama and Tensai bent over the horribly burnt figure laid out on a spare bed. They had both done what they could, applying aloe extracts, wrapping him in gauze and keeping his blackened flesh damp, but his burns were the most severe either of them had ever seen. Tensai whispered reassurances to him like a mother to a child, telling him it would all be alright and he would be well again, but in her heart she knew it wouldn’t be alright and he would more than likely die very soon. “Try to rest,” she said as she listened to his ruined lungs wetly gurgling for air. “We’ll get you to Caledon soon, Jeremiah,” she added with a glance to Amarantis who gave a small nod of understanding.
The man on the bed, the man who had claimed to be Jeremiah Mason, jerked and went rigid for a second. Here it comes Tensai thought, and began to prepare a prayer. His lips, or where his lips used to be, opened a little and a wheeze of air escaped. She bowed her head at his dying breath and mourned as his soul moved to pass.
Except it didn’t. The wheeze continued. She looked back up and saw he was trying to lift his head from the pillow, his mouth trying to form words. Shocked she quickly moved closer until her ear was directly over his exposed teeth and she listened with all her being.
“nohhht jhere mhh iiia”
Her eyes grew wide! Not Jeremiah he had said!
“iiihhhhmmm hhhhedd hhrrrroo hhaannnt hhhaarrrmmmm” he sighed and fell back to the bed, his wheezing lungs refusing to give up…
All the “Lost & Found” posts can be read here.
Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Tanarian alerted the Steelhead Ning here.
2) Dr Malegato alter reports on the damage to her warehouse here.
3) The cruelly exiled Dr Darien Mason detected the loss of his old lab here.
4) The hero of the hour, Velvel Danielovich explains how he pulled the burnt man out of the fire here.
5) Rhianon Jameson reports on the damage here.