The Black Market Mystery

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The Black Market Mystery

Postby SeriousSans » February 26th, 2019, 10:33:44 pm

Malorn walked down the path to Alethin's cart, wondering what rare creatures would be available in the Black Market this time. As soon as he had noticed the fang Alethin had given him glowing to announce his return, he had set off to visit the mysterious shopkeeper. Finally, he reached the cart, but to his shock, Alethin was nowhere to be seen. Adela, his snake companion, waited by the cart, causing Malorn to frown in confusion. The young magi would have expected the snake to be wherever Alethin was, so this was quite strange. Nevertheless, he approached Adela, hoping for some kind of hint as to where Alethin was. The snake had always seemed very intelligent, so he would not be surprised if she was able to help him figure out what was going on, even without speaking. Upon closer inspection, Malorn noticed a torn note around Adela's neck.

"...Love Potions. Got caught.
...bet he thinks this is funny.
...knew they were illegal."


Malorn read the note several times, trying to decipher the parts of the note that were smudged beyond recognition. Though he'd never been the best at deciphering messages in difficult to read or smudged handwriting, he was able to guess the basic gist of what the note was trying to convey. It seemed that Alethin had been planning to sell Love Potions, or at least had some in his possession, but had gotten caught. Based on the statement about someone finding this funny, it was likely he had been set up by someone somehow. But it was the last line that confused Malorn the most. Who knew they were illegal? Alethin, whoever set him up, or both?

Malorn looked back at Adela, hoping she could give him more hints, but the snake did not make any gestures that might have contained a message. Malorn sighed; he would never be able to figure this out on his own. But perhaps someone else could help him solve the mystery of what exactly had happened to Alethin. After all, considering the risk Alethin put himself in to find rare creatures for the patrons of the Black Market, it wouldn't be right to leave him in jail or wherever he was, particularly if his getting caught had been orchestrated by another.

"I'll be back," Malorn assured Adela, setting off back down the path he had taken to get there. It was almost time for class to start anyway, and he realized one of his classmates might aid him with this. There was a quiet girl in his class who helped out around the Keep often, helping people find mischievous runaway creatures and solving mysteries revolving around missing items- which generally was due to those same creatures, actually. And Malorn had seen her traverse the path to the Black Market on one occasion, which meant she would probably be sympathetic to the cause of finding out the truth of what had happened to Alethin.

Malorn reached the classroom just as the teacher began calling roll, and his eyes hurriedly scanned the room, searching for the individual he would be enlisting the help of. Once he spotted her, he purposely sat at a desk near the nearest exit to her own desk. The teacher called a name, Aria, and she rose her hand. So, that was her name.

Malorn could not focus on the lecture for the entire class, too curious about what had happened to Alethin. Instead of taking notes, he scribbled down a copy of the note Adela had, and spent the remainder of the class continuing to search for more information within it and writing down any theories that came to mind. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to go off of right now. Hopefully, that would change with Aria's help.

As soon as class ended, he stood up, waiting for her to walk by. "You like mysteries, right?" Malorn asked as she passed, causing her to stop and turn towards him.

"Yes, why?" Aria replied, raising an eyebrow as if already knowing that something strange must have happened. Why else would he be asking that, after all?

"Follow me," Malorn said, setting off back to the Black Market without another word. Aria hesitated at first, but her curiosity seemed to get the better of her and she followed. It was not long before she seemed to realize where he was leading her. The cart wasn't exactly in a commonly traversed area, for obvious reasons.

"If this is about the shop, I've known it exists for months," she commented quietly, sounding slightly disappointed.

"It's not that- Well, it is, but not for the reason you think. Alethin is gone." Malorn explained in a hushed tone.

"Gone?" Aria repeated in disbelief.

"There's a note, but I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, or how to proceed. That's why I decided to get you involved. You're pretty good at solving 'mysteries' around the Keep, so who better to help figure out what happened to him? I can't exactly ask a teacher, you know."

"Fair enough," Aria agreed.

Adela was missing when they reached the cart, which had Malorn worried. Fortunately, he had the first note's contents- or what he could recall from it, at any rate- memorized by now, so he was able to repeat it for Aria. She considered it thoughtfully and silently, before proceeding to search the area around the cart for more clues. Her main goal seemed to be figuring out where Adela went, but she was distracted from this when she found a second piece of parchment beneath a wheel of the cart. After removing it from underneath the wheel, with extreme caution so as not to tear it, she quietly read it aloud.

"...planning my escape.
Someone must have figured out ... route.
...reaching out to all my ...
... may ...to lay low for a while."


The two exchanged a glance. Whatever Alethin had gotten himself into, it looked like he definitely needed help.

To be continued...
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Re: The Black Market Mystery

Postby Nekoi » February 27th, 2019, 12:14:09 am

Nice work so far! Keep it up!

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Re: The Black Market Mystery

Postby SeriousSans » February 28th, 2019, 11:51:36 pm

[Thank you very much!]

Aria had been up most of the night trying to figure out what had happened to Alethin, but the two notes did not offer much information she could use. There were still many things she did not know; where Alethin was being held, or, if he had already escaped, where he was now. The main issue she was having with figuring this out was the fact that she had no idea who could have set Alethin up. She knew of no one who would have a motive to get him caught. As far as she knew, there wasn't anyone else trying to set up a secret, Black Market-esque shop, so it probably wasn't a competitor. Alethin had made it clear he never stole his goods from others, so it wasn't a victim of theft either; unless someone had framed him for that, too, but since that only made things more confusing, she decided to operate on the idea that wasn't the case unless given proof to the contrary, though she would keep the idea at the back of her mind. You never know, after all.

For now, Aria would simply compile a list of anyone who seemed like they might know something about what happened with Alethin. Eventually, that should lead her to more information; but first, she had to find people that knew something about what was going on. Fortunately, she had long ago learned that when one was searching for information about any topic that might have rumors circulating about it, one should head to Remy's Inn and listen to peoples' conversations. Regardless of the subject, if there were rumors about something they could be overheard at Remy's Inn.

That was why she had ended up at a table near the back of Remy's Inn early that morning, with a cup of hot chocolate in her hands and a dark cloak that blended in with the shadows around her table hiding her features. She listened for awhile, but aside from some amusing stories of people panicking when their Koi turned blue after feeding the fish cookies, she heard nothing of interest. After a few hours, she had to accept that there either weren't any rumors yet... Or maybe, what rumors there were required such discreetness that even the chattiest magi were hesitant to speak them in as public of a place as the Inn. If that were the case, Aria would need a new strategy.

She finally left Remy's inn and went for a walk, figuring maybe she would learn something along the way. Besides, she needed to visit a few nearby shops anyway. As she walked, she noticed something in her peripheral vision. It had looked like movement, so she turned back to see what it was. It appeared it had come from an alley, and as soon as she had turned, a quiet whisper from within the same alley gained her attention. Someone was trying to get her attention. Perhaps, considering what had happened yesterday, it had something to do with Alethin. Despite some slight hesitation, Aria entered the alley, figuring this could be too important of a clue to miss out on. A small light appeared, breaking the otherwise complete darkness of the alley. Aria followed it down the alley, and around a corner, at which point the bright light of a lantern temporarily blinded her before disappearing. She looked around wildly, finally noticing a piece of parchment nailed to a building nearby.

"If you are a worthwhile customer my previous messages should have reached you, and you already know what is going on, but in case this is not so, let me bring you up to date.

Someone, somewhere, found out my route and set me up. I have reached out to my friends and enemies looking for information on who it might have been and how they managed to do this. As I have previously provided you with wares you would not have been able to acquire otherwise, I'm now calling in that favour and require you to assist me in figuring things out. I will reward generously anyone who has any leads on the matter.

-A"


Aria hastily memorized the contents of the note, and just in time, too, for the parchment started smoking soon after she had finished reading it. Less than a minute later, it had been fully devoured by flames, leaving the image of a snake charred into the building where it had been. So, Alethin had definitely been set up, assuming this note was from him. She wondered if this meant he had indeed escaped already, or if he had sent someone else to deliver this message; either way, she figured she should speak with Malorn. Perhaps he had some more news as well.

To be continued...
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Re: The Black Market Mystery

Postby SeriousSans » March 3rd, 2019, 1:02:30 am

Meanwhile, Malorn had also awoken early in the morning, his curiosity about what had happened to Alethin not allowing him to return to sleep after late sunrise light streaming in through the window interrupted his rest. While he knew Aria was searching for clues, there was no reason why he couldn't as well. Malorn had thought long and hard about where Adela might have gone, and figured the snake had likely sought out other individuals who would be willing to aid Alethin. Due to the secrecy surrounding the Black Market, Malorn was not aware who most of the shop's other patrons were; only those he had witnessed heading towards or away from the shop, and of those he had no idea who most of them were. Malorn supposed that was not unusual, considering people who made purchases from such a mysterious shop generally were not the most well-known members of society. Nevertheless, he was good at recognizing people from appearances, so he felt confident he would recognize those he had seen if he ran into them.

And so, Malorn had headed to the city bright and early, planning to wander the streets and perhaps some shops and hope he would find someone associated with the Black Market. For awhile, he wandered aimlessly, eyes scanning the streets full of shoppers. Nothing. Malorn was beginning to get discouraged; perhaps everyone was laying low, afraid of getting implicated in the events of the previous day. That would certainly make finding the truth more difficult, though. Eventually, Malorn entered a nearby shop, not wanting the entire journey to the city to be a waste. Looking around, Malorn saw he was in the Artificier's Shop. While Malorn generally enjoyed watching the animate plushes wander around, or trying to catch the paper birds that flew around the aisles, he did not have time for that today. Instead, he checked the wares on the shelves, unsure what would be useful to him in this instance but certain that if there was something he could use, it would be within this eccentric shop.

The shelves were stocked with an assortment of strange trinkets, including some of dubious legality, but as he looked he came across an empty space on a shelf. A single black scale lay on the floor in front of the empty space, one that looked exactly like Adela's scales. Curious, Malorn gained the attention of the shopkeeper, inquiring about what was in the now-empty space.

"Huh? Oh, nothing of importance... Just an old prototype. It was an automaton that looked like a small snake. Under specific conditions, it could turn into keys." the shopkeeper replied distractedly, more focused on the item he was tinkering with than the conversation.

Well, depending on the conditions that the automaton could turn into keys, that could be very useful to Alethin. It might even be able to be used to help him escape. The second note had mentioned something about planning his escape, after all. "How long ago did it go missing?"

"I don't know... Maybe yesterday, maybe earlier this morning." the shopkeeper muttered, starting to seem irritated by the questions. Malorn decided not to bother him anymore, besides, now he had a lead to go on. Adela had definitely been involved, judging by the scale on the floor, but had she stolen the prototype on her own, or did she have help? Malorn checked to see if he could find any more scales in the store, but that was the only one. Malorn left the store, wondering where Adela would have gone next. Probably to help Alethin escape, unless there was something else she needed to fit the conditions that would allow the automaton to turn into a key. If Malorn didn't think he'd get various tools thrown at him and a ban from the store if he tried asking the shopkeeper any more questions right now, he would have done that, but as it was, he would have to wait until later or find some other way of figuring it out.

As he considered this new knowledge, he walked back towards the Keep. When he reached the shops in that area, he ran into Aria, who was just leaving an alley. "Hey," Malorn said, eager to tell her what he had learned.

"Hey," Aria replied quietly, "I learned nothing at Remy's... But I found a note in that alley."

"I found something, too," Malorn replied. Before he could explain, he happened to glance in the direction of the shops a block or so away, and saw two hooded figures enter the Trading Post. Though Malorn wasn't sure why, he felt like they should follow them. "It can wait, quick, follow me."

Malorn walked briskly over to the Trading Post, and Aria followed silently, albeit with a questioning expression. They entered the Trading Post and Malorn quickly located the two he had noticed earlier, discreetly moving closer to try to overhear some of their conversation. Aria seemed to catch on immediately. Before they could reach a distance where they could listen in, Klara spoke up, waving them over. Not wanting to draw any more attention to themselves, they hurried over to her.

"Can I get you some hot chocolate?" Klara offered, smiling at them. "Oh, and don't mind those two cranky hooded figures in the corner. They keep babbling about a jet black snake slithering towards the Keep's gardens, but everybody knows black snakes only live in the South and never wander elsewhere."

Malorn would have been upset about her interrupting their attempts to gain information if Klara hadn't provided the information they were seeking, and without them risking getting caught eavesdropping at that. "Uh, yes please, thank you."

Aria nodded in agreement, and Klara busied herself with preparing the hot chocolate. Meanwhile, Malorn and Aria exchanged a glance. So, Adela had been spotted around the Keep's gardens, too... It seemed Alethin's companion had been quite busy. Malorn wondered if Adela had been gathering information, or if that had something to do with the key. Malorn inwardly debated asking Klara if the hooded figures had mentioned anything else, but didn't want to make it obvious they were looking for clues.

To be continued...
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Re: The Black Market Mystery

Postby SeriousSans » March 9th, 2019, 9:12:01 pm

While the two were drinking their hot chocolate, a small group of people entered the Trading Post, talking in hushed tones. They sat near Malorn and Aria, apparently assuming the two would not listen, or at least not understand what they were discussing. Unfortunately, as soon as they sat down, they changed the topic of conversation to more general topics. It soon became clear they were just trying to ward off eavesdroppers, though, as well as ensure Klara would not approach them in the middle of the conversation. After ordering and receiving some mugs of hot chocolate from Klara, the group resumed the hushed conversation they had previously been holding.

"I heard it was Remy," one whispered. "Remy always disliked his business; and didn't seem particularly happy whenever he was in town."

"I think he was worried about losing customers. After all, his wares aren't as rare, are they?" another added.

"Yeah, that's true. But I always thought he avoided anything having to do with Alethin... Why would he suddenly do something like this instead of continuing to ignore him?" a third asked.

Aria and Malorn listened silently as the group discussed their theories. Neither would have expected Remy to be behind Alethin's capture; while it was true the bartender did not like Alethin, he didn't seem like the vengeful type. Then again, if the prevailing rumors implicated Remy, that would explain why no one had been discussing them in Remy's Inn earlier, even though the Inn was the typical place to spread rumors. So maybe there was something to this...

"I don't know who else would have gone through all the trouble to get him caught, though. No one else has ever verbalized as much irritation with Alethin and his methods of business." the first figure replied.

"You have a point there," admitted the third. "Oh, we better get out of here... Too many people sitting nearby."

Aria glanced around discreetly and saw that several nearby tables had filled up during the discussion. Of course, that likely had more to do with the lunch crowd arriving and there being no other available tables than any desire to listen to the conversation, but it was understandable they would want to go somewhere less crowded. Unfortunately, this meant the two wouldn't be getting any more information from the group, unless they somehow managed to follow without being caught... Which was doubtful, considering how much these three seemed to be watching their backs. Malorn seemed to have come to the same conclusion, and made no effort to follow them out.

Malorn and Aria waited about twenty minutes after the group left before leaving themselves, to avoid making it seem like they had only been sticking around to listen to the group's conversation. They recalled the mention of Adela being spotted near the Keep's gardens, and figured that was as good a place as any to check next. Malorn wondered what Adela was doing in the gardens; it was unlikely she would risk being spotted there for anything trivial, so she must have had an important reason.

The two searched the gardens for anything that might be a hint to Adela's whereabouts or what she had been doing here, but not even a black scale was lying around to serve as evidence Adela had been here. There weren't any magi around at the moment, either, so they couldn't even ask if anyone had seen something. For now, it seemed the trail had run cold. They would have to wait for the next sign of Adela or strange occurrence to happen before they could solve the mystery. They didn't have too long to wait...

Two days later, Malorn reached the classroom and found the other students chatting excitedly about some new eggs that had been spotted. According to the conversations he managed to listen in on, they had the appearance of Ammit eggs, but rather than the usual coloration of such eggs, these were dark black or green. Very unusual, considering the other Ammit eggs were varying shades of white or tan. Walking over to Aria, he asked what she had heard of the subject.

"No one knows the exact details of where they came from," she began, "but a magi found some black and green Ammit eggs on the path to the Stream this morning. The magi took the eggs with them, and are currently caring for them. Everyone is confused about why two new species of, supposedly, Ammits appeared out of nowhere. And of course, the fact no one knows how they got there, or even how they exist, has everyone theorizing. The prevailing theory is that they are a result of illegal experimentation on eggs... Though no one knows what kind of experiment could have brought them about. It doesn't help that no one in a position of high authority seems to be able to give a definitive explanation about them."

"That's odd..." Malorn muttered thoughtfully. But what really struck him as strange was the fact these eggs had been located so soon after what had happened to Alethin... Was it possible the two events could be related somehow? Though the question of how was one that was incredibly difficult to answer. They would have to wait and see what happened to the new eggs, maybe that would help clarify this.

After class, Malorn and Aria went to Remy's Inn, to see if anyone was discussing the eggs there. Since there was no direct correlation between this and Alethin's disappearance, they figured there was a good chance rumors would still be discussed in the Inn. Sure enough, the place was crowded, and just as their classmates had been that morning, the Inn's patrons were discussing wild theories about the eggs. The eggs hadn't hatched, at least as far as anyone there knew, and it seemed everyone had their own ideas for what, if anything, would come out of the eggs. Some claimed they were an extremely early April Fool's creature, others thought someone had simply painted some Ammit eggs as a joke. Eventually, the topic changed slightly, moving from the eggs themselves to the magi who had discovered them.

A well known creature enthusiast, Miranda spent countless hours every week taking care of all variety of creatures. She had gone on many expeditions around the world, each time returning with at least one new creature, and often stories of many more. She was the go-to person to ask for advice about the care of a creature, and even if she didn't know the answer, she generally could point the inquirer in the direction of someone who did know, for she was always in contact with specialists of various different creatures. In fact, it was not a surprise she had been the first to discover these new eggs; she visited the Stream with a frequency that even the most excited new magis rarely could match.

Perhaps they would learn more if they visited her? If nothing else, they would at least get a glimpse of the new eggs. And so, Malorn and Aria set off in the direction of her house.

To be continued...
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Re: The Black Market Mystery

Postby SeriousSans » March 11th, 2019, 9:01:53 pm

When the two reached Miranda's house, they heard the sounds of numerous creatures running around, bumping into things and each other, and just generally causing chaos. They knocked on the door and waited patiently until Miranda reached the door and opened it several minutes later.

"Oh, hello!" Miranda spoke up, smiling. "I suppose you two want to see the new eggs? Hehe, don't be embarrassed about it! Seems like half the Keep's inhabitants have stopped by today to see them. Follow me, but watch the hatchlings; they like to run around underfoot!" She then led them into the house, calling out behind her, "Make sure you close the door behind you, too! Three Sryllian Flies have already made an escape attempt today."

Aria and Malorn quickly entered the house, carefully closing the door afterwards. They followed Miranda through the house, watching their steps to ensure they didn't accidentally step on any creatures. There was an impressive amount of creatures running around, not that the two would have expected anything less, considering Miranda's reputation. It was a wonder there was any room in the house to move around at all. Soon enough, the trio reached the living room, where a small pile of green and black eggs rested on a couch. The eggs definitely resembled Ammit eggs, but the colors were very unlike any Ammit they had ever seen.

"Do you have any idea why they're green and black?" Malorn asked curiously. If anyone was likely to have thought of an explanation, it would be Miranda.

Unfortunately, Miranda shook her head. "No clue. The coloration is slightly reminiscent of Telvian Panthers and Mist Stalkers... But I have no idea how either of those would produce an egg so similar to an Ammit egg, so I doubt these eggs were just malformed..." She sighed. "I suppose we'll just have to wait until they hatch. It's the only way we'll know for sure."

"Yeah, I guess so," Malorn agreed. "How long do you think that will take?"

Miranda hummed as she considered this. "I'd say, maybe, a day or so more? Of course, I've never seen anything like these, so I can't say that with any certainty, but you're welcome to come back tomorrow to check on them, if you like!"

"Thanks, we'll definitely visit again!" Malorn replied, excited to see what will hatch from the eggs.

The next day, Malorn and Aria headed back to Miranda's house a bit after noon, hearing quite a lot of commotion within. Aria knocked on the door, and a few moments later they heard a faint shout from inside.

"You can come in! They're hatching!"

Without a moment's hesitation, the two entered the house, Malorn quickly closing the door behind them before heading to the living room. Aria's expression was one of curiosity and excitement; they would finally find out what hatched from the strange eggs! Malorn looked just as eager to see the new hatchlings.

Miranda barely looked up at them as they entered the room, too focused on the eggs, which now had cracks in them as whatever was inside made a bid for freedom. It wasn't long before a green Ammit hatchling climbed out from one of the green eggs. A black Ammit followed a few minutes later. So they were indeed Ammits... but why were they such unexpected colors?

Miranda looked equal parts excited and nervous. "They're amazing... But the coloration is definitely that of Telvian Panthers and Mist Stalkers. If I'm not completely wrong... I think these are hybrids."

"Hybrids? I didn't think that was possible for those species..." Malorn trailed off, shocked by the suggestion.

"It shouldn't be," Miranda agreed. "But we can't deny the facts."

Aria was silent, but her thoughts were going a mile a minute. New hybrids? Which shouldn't have been possible? Something must have occurred to cause this to happen... And the timing of this didn't seem like it was a coincidence. Maybe it had to do with those love potions Alethin had gotten caught with? Now that she thought about it, it made a lot of sense. Alethin was known for selling rare creatures that couldn't be bought anywhere else; a new hybrid fit right in with that. So it would make sense to assume he had the potions for that purpose when he was caught. But that seemed awfully convenient... Anyone who wanted to get him in trouble would expect that to work. It would be extremely easy to set him up using such a potion.

Even if that was what had happened, it still left them with the questions of who, and why... Questions that would be very difficult to find conclusive evidence for the longer time went on. Whoever it was could have easily left for a far-away part of the world by now. The thing that gave Aria hope that this mystery could still be solved was the fact that if someone went to all the trouble to set Alethin up, they would probably be invested in making sure it worked. So if the individual realized he had escaped, it was reasonable to assume they would attempt to get him captured again.

To be continued...
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Re: The Black Market Mystery

Postby lordwinnie » March 11th, 2019, 10:10:56 pm

This is so good Sans! Amazing!
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Re: The Black Market Mystery

Postby SeriousSans » March 15th, 2019, 6:29:12 pm

[Thank you so much!]

Malorn and Aria kept an eye out for clues, but the next several days were completely devoid of anything that might help them with their search for Alethin's foe. They visited Miranda a couple days after the hatching, to check on the new creatures. They were growing quickly, and becoming quite territorial and vicious. Miranda had needed to construct a separate shed to house them in, to prevent them attacking any other hatchlings that happened to wander too close to them. Despite their unfriendly behavior, Miranda had an intense determination to raise them all safely and healthily.

Finally, the two decided to visit Remy's Inn again. Maybe people were starting to discuss the events there now, or maybe Remy would let something slip if he was indeed behind it. They reached the Inn and walked silently through the room full of diners, listening carefully for any conversations about Alethin. Nothing. By now, even the discussion of the new Ammit hybrids had died down some, so either everyone had forgotten about Alethin being captured during the recent events or the prevailing rumor was still that Remy had set Alethin up. It looked like they would need to do some investigating of their own if they were going to learn the truth.

Malorn headed over to the bar where Remy was preparing a drink for another customer. "Good afternoon, Remy," Malorn said, tone natural and polite. Aria was standing nearby, carefully watching the barkeeper's expression. The slightest widening of his eyes or furrowing of his brow might be a hint that he knew something about what was going on, and at this point they couldn't afford to miss any hints.

"Good afternoon. Can I get something for you?" Remy asked, handing the finished drink to the waiting customer.

"Actually, I was wondering if you heard what had happened to Alethin," Malorn said.

The Inn went silent. Everyone in the room seemed to turn at once, looking at the two to see how Remy would respond. For his part, Remy did not reveal anything in his expression. "And what might that be?"

"Someone caught him." Malorn explained.

Remy shook his head. "I knew it would happen eventually. I mean, honestly, how long did he expect to be able to keep a shop called 'The Black Market' going? It was only a matter of time before someone in a position of authority caught on, especially with what a rumor mill the Keep is."

Malorn was quite surprised by this. It sounded like Remy really hadn't known until just now. Then again, weren't the villains of all great mysteries good at acting innocent? "That's the thing, though. It wasn't a matter of someone catching on. Alethin was set up."

"Really?" Remy again remained infuriatingly calm and neutral. Malorn and Aria were beginning to think this was a dead end; if Remy did know something, he wasn't about to be tricked into revealing it.

"Yeah, with love potions," Malorn said, sighing internally when Remy did not react beyond an expression of slight surprise. So much for that plan. "Anyway, I guess I'll have a hot chocolate."

Remy set about preparing the drink, and Malorn slumped onto a bar stool. Now he was completely out of ideas. Glancing at Aria, her apologetic expression revealed she didn't have any ideas either. Remy slid a mug of hot chocolate over to Malorn, along with a napkin. Malorn soon finished the drink, waved goodbye to Remy, and left the Inn, carrying the napkin absentmindedly. Aria soon caught up with him. She quickly took the napkin, much to Malorn's surprise.

"You could have just asked Remy for one-" Malorn began, cutting himself off when he saw a name scribbled onto the napkin. "Albert Ly...?"

"That name sounds familiar..." Aria muttered, mostly to herself. "Let's see... Oh, right! We talked about him in class. Albert Ly was the one who discovered that Direwolves and Manticores could produce a hybrid, the Direcore!"

"Hmm... Oh, yeah. I kind of... Vaguely recall that. Sort of. I think I was sick that day, it's kind of a blur." Malorn commented. "Wasn't he some kind of crazy scientist who was certain hybrids were a more likely outcome if the creatures ate nothing but celery on Tuesdays?"

"Okay, you were definitely sick that day, I'm pretty sure the professor said nothing about celery. But he is a scientist who specializes in studying hybrids." Aria replied.

"Alright, but why would his name be on this napkin?" Malorn asked.

Aria was silent for several seconds, clearly thinking about this. "Well... Wait! Since he specializes in studying hybrids, and has actually discovered a hybrid, maybe he has something to do with those Ammit hybrids."

"So if the hybrids are a result of love potions, he might have played a role in making them. Then, perhaps someone stole the left overs and gave them to Alethin!" Malorn was growing excited, though his mood dropped not long after. "But that doesn't help us figure out who stole them..."

"We could always ask. For someone to steal them, they would have to know the potion existed. So as long as Albert didn't tell everyone, which I doubt considering no one was discussing him in the rumors, he would know who had knowledge of it. Therefore, if we ask who he's told, we'll have a list of suspects!"

The two set off immediately, reaching Albert's house about an hour later. Malorn knocked on the door, and a man wearing a lab coat opened the door a minute or so later. "Ah, hello," Albert said, his tone a bit rushed and distracted. "Can I help you? I'm afraid I am a bit busy at the moment."

To be continued...
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Re: The Black Market Mystery

Postby SeriousSans » March 16th, 2019, 9:32:59 pm

"We're sorry to bother you, but we had some questions," Malorn began.

"I am afraid I do not have time to sit and talk at the moment. I will be moving soon, and I am in the process of packing." Albert replied. Malorn and Aria exchanged a glance. Why was he moving?

"It will only take a few minutes," Malorn said.

"The answer is no." With that, Albert shut the door in their faces.

_________________


"There's definitely something going on," Aria muttered. The two were at the Trading Post again; this conversation was far too important to be held at Remy's Inn, which had returned to its usual position as the number one place to hear and spread rumors. The Trading Post had therefore become far less crowded and was the ideal place to talk.

"Why would he be moving? And why couldn't he spare a few minutes to talk? Usually when people are packing to move they'll look for any excuse to take a break for a few minutes," Malorn agreed.

"Well... Those love potions were illegal. I'm sure he wouldn't want anyone finding out who had created them... Then he would get in trouble, just like Alethin."

"That's true, but now how are we going to figure out who set Alethin up? Our only lead is about to move..."

"Maybe we won't- Is that Adela?" Aria interrupted herself suddenly, staring out a window in shock. Sure enough, the snake was winding her way along the other side of the street. Malorn and Aria rushed out of the Trading Post, hastily following the snake. Adela seemed to notice them, but simply continued on her way without stopping, aside from giving a slight nod towards them. Fortunately, the two managed to catch up with her quickly. It didn't take them long to realize Adela was headed towards Albert Ly's house. The two wondered why she was leading them there, but continued to follow.

Instead of heading towards the front door, Adela went around the back. The two hesitated slightly, not wanting to trespass on Albert's land, but ultimately followed as well. Adela slipped through a small hole in the side of the house, barely large enough for the snake herself and certainly much too small for the two magi. Aria and Malorn were just about to leave, figuring there was no way for them to follow, when Adela appeared in a window. The two watched as the snake nodded in the direction of a door. Malorn approached it and carefully twisted the doorknob; nothing happened. It was locked, not that he'd expected anything else. But then, the quiet sound of a lock clicking gained the two's attention. Malorn tried again, and the door opened.

They entered silently, spotting Adela waiting for them nearby. The snake set off farther into the house, and the two followed, careful not to make a noise. It wasn't long before they heard someone talking.

"Not much time left... Gotta get out of here before he catches on..." It was Albert! And it sounded like he was talking to himself. The trio of listeners stopped in place, waiting to see if he would say anything else. "Should have thought he might escape... Now the entire plan is ruined..."

Malorn nearly gasped. Was Albert talking about Alethin? Had he been in on the plan to set him up? Fortunately, he caught himself before he gave away the fact they were there. Adela turned to leave, and Malorn and Aria followed. They managed to leave the house they way they'd entered without being caught, and hastily left the area.

"What should we do?" Aria asked once they were a safe distance away from the house.

"We should tell someone... Maybe we can get Alethin's name cleared!" Malorn suggested.

Adela set off again, and the two followed. It wasn't long before they reached a law enforcement building, where Adela slipped into a bush nearby to hide. Malorn and Aria entered the building.

"What brings you here?" one of the officers asked.

"We think we might have some information that will help with investigating the situation with Alethin." Malorn replied.

"Really?" the officer seemed curious. "And what might that be?"

"We believe he was set up. And we think we know of someone who was involved in the plot."

After the two explained what they had pieced together about Albert being behind the creation of the love potion, due to his obsession with hybrids, the officer nodded. "Thank you for the information, we will look into it."

"Albert is apparently moving soon," Malorn spoke up again. "So if you want to investigate it, you should probably hurry..."

"I see. Thank you."

The two left the building, hoping that the truth would be revealed.

_________________


The next day, the two entered Remy's, which was so full of chatter that they couldn't tell one conversation apart from another. They headed over to the bar, where Remy passed them a newspaper. The main headline on the front page read "Alethin Exonerated! Albert Ly Convicted of Creation and Distribution of Illegal Love Potions!", which was rather wordy but got the point across. Reading the article, they found out that Albert had admitted to creating the love potions in hopes of creating new hybrids, but upon learning that hybrids of the species involved were illegal, he decided to pin the blame on Alethin. Albert had put several vials of the potion among Alethin's wares while he wasn't looking, and then set him up to be caught. Alethin was now declared absolved of all charges, and an apology was offered for imprisoning him without a trial.

Malorn grinned, "This is great!"

Aria nodded, smiling, though she still seemed to be wondering about something. Eventually, she turned to Remy and asked, "Why did you help us?"

Remy shrugged. "I may not agree with Alethin's methods. But that doesn't mean that I want anyone, even him, to be falsely imprisoned."

"Let's see if we can find Alethin to pass on the good news!" Malorn suggested.

Aria smiled, "Alright! Thanks, Remy!" She waved as she headed out of the Inn, Malorn following suit. Outside, they spotted Adela among the shadows of a nearby alley, and walked over to her.

"Hey, Adela, good news! Alethin was proven innocent!" Malorn said when they reached the snake. Adela seemed to smile a bit, if snakes could smile, at this news. Adela then set off into the alley, and Aria and Malorn hastily went after her. After some twists and turns, Adela stopped, and Alethin stepped out of the shadows.

"Ah.... You two have good news?" Alethin asked.

Malorn handed over the newspaper. "You're free!"

Alethin read over the article quickly, a small smile forming on his face when he finished. "I see. And I hear you both played a role in seeing justice done... For that, I thank you."

"No problem! We're just glad we could help." Malorn replied, and Aria nodded in agreement.

"I do have one question," Aria said.

"What is it?" Alethin asked.

"How did you escape?"

"Ah, it was simple. Adela merely borrowed an automaton that could turn into a key. Fortunately for me, the conditions that allowed it to turn into a key were that it must be used to free someone who was falsely imprisoned! It really worked out quite well, I must say."

The End.
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