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Jan. 17 – Loss of Soul

A sound of flapping wings caught Bookworm’s attention, and she looked up to see the now-familiar form of Aessesser descending.  As Cyan slammed shut the back door behind him, she raised her rifle, hoping at least to drive the raven away.  But suddenly, a torrent of flapping wings dove on her, and her shot went wild.  Through the swarm of birds swooping around her, she caught a glimpse of Aessesser pecking once or twice at the body, then flapping up and away toward the west.  After what seemed to be only a few seconds, as the other birds–crows and smaller ravens, she now saw–began lifting away from her, she saw Aessesser flying rapidly away, quickly getting out of range.

The other birds disappeared, and Book bit back a curse.  Cyan approached, looking down at the dead wolf with pity.  “He got the wolf’s soul, didn’t he?”

“I think so.” Book looked back at the body, and sighed.

Cyan looked down, thinking that even the wolf didn’t deserve that, but he tried to reassure Book. “Just be glad he’s not around to get anyone else…or us.” 

“I wonder if Id is still conscious.”  Bookworm realized abstractedly that she was shivering, and she and Cyan went back inside.  In the kitchen, she found Mrs. Sawyer.  “I need you to get a message to Militia headquarters.”  She found a scrap of paper and quickly scribbled a note.

Mrs. Sawyer nodded.  “I’ll take care of it!”

Bookworm also set Miss Pritchard to watch the body out of a window.  “We should have people here soon,” she told the woman, “but we don’t want it to go missing before.” 

Moving back into the study, she noted that the room was much colder now from the draft.  She would have to settle that soon.  For now, Bookworm leaned over the couch and saw that Arnold’s eyes were still open. “Id?  Id, we killed the wolf.”  There was no reaction from either eye. 

“Id?  “Are you there?”  Bookworm leaned closer and saw  that both eyes were now staring and vacant.  She looked at Cyan with concern. “What could have happened?”

Cyan looked down, worried and trying to think.  “Could it be the wolfsbane? Or maybe the silver?”  A sudden gust of wind came through the window bringing in snow.  Cyan muttered to himself softly, ”We need to get that fixed…”

Book looked at the broken glass and exposed window with new horror.  “The raven didn’t get in here, did it?”

“No.”  Cyan said, and then he stopped as he considered the possibility.  “Or maybe it could have. I was inside most of the time…but I wasn’t in here when the raven came.”

Bookworm looked back at Arnold, puzzlement and concern clear on her face.  His eyes had closed now, but what that meant was unclear.

“He closed his eyes so at least there’s someone still there.  Otherwise his eyes would just stay open,”  Cyan said hopefully.

Book rubbed her forehead, trying to think. “I shot the wolf, he went down, Aessesser appeared–with help…I think Aessesser flew in the direction of this window, but he flew *up.* Surely there wasn’t time for him to swoop back down and in.”

“I don’t think so…”  Cyan replied while looking at the window again.

“So if it wasn’t the raven, what’s happened?”  Bookworm shook her head.  “I think we’re going to need Tepic.”

“I think we need him too,” Cyan replied.  “In truth this whole thing is odd, but nothing in Babbage seems that normal anyway.”

Bookworm sighed.  “And I don’t relish telling Dr. Lionheart about this.”

“I say we shouldn’t mention anything until we know what has happened.  He did close his own eyes, even it they seemed a little bit empty.”  Cyan persisted, wanting to believe.  “He has to be in there somewhere.”

Bookworm looked over at Arnold’s still form, and noticed that his chest was still rising and falling.  “He’s still breathing–that’s some comfort.  But as for Dr. Lionheart, she may be able to help, too.”  Bookworm carefully did not say that she rather thought Maddox might tear her apart for hiding something like this from her.

“Well, I’ll get Mrs. Pritchard to clean up this mess, and board up the window,” she said as Mrs. Sawyer finally returned with militia members.

—-

Bookworm let herself into the asylum with Arnold’s keys, and found Dr. Maddox asleep downstairs in the office.  She had to wake her, and then explained that Arnold was unresponsive.  Dr. Lionheart insisted on telling Dr. Solsen, who requested privacy while the two conferred. 

Bookworm and Dr. Maddox headed downstairs, and had nearly reached the front door, when Bookworm suddenly stopped.  “I just realized–I haven’t told you, or Dr. Solsen, about the werewolf yet.”

“The… Rasend? He was in a coma…”

“No, someone else.”  Dr. Maddox blanched visibly.  “There’s another?” she asked, appalled.

“The one who was free, and attacked people from the asylum.  I thought you’d heard about it.”

“N…no.  I’ve been worrying about my father. No one told me of another werewolf loose.”  The only word she had received was a letter from Arnold saying he was a suspect in something, which he hadn’t explained.

Bookworm nodded.  A lot had happened, and it was difficult to keep in mind who might know what.  “It started… about a month ago.  Bodies turning up–bodies torn to shreds.  And they were all connected with the asylum.”

“I was still in Mondrago months ago.  Why did no one write to me?”

“I’m sorry–we didn’t think to.”  Bookworm looked at Dr. Maddox half-sympathetically, half-ruefully.  “I was actually afraid for a time that it was Arnold doing it.”

“Arnold? He hasn’t had an episode for a long time…”

Bookworm nodded, idly wondering what such an “episode” was like with Arnold, given his usual gloom.  “And we were able to rule him out. Though Cortman wouldn’t believe that–he actually believed it was Arnold who’d killed his men.  That, I think, is one reason why he did what he did here.

“Cortman always was superstitious. But would that lead him to attempted murder?”

Bookworm shrugs. “I think he plain went crazy.”

Dr. Maddox S Lionheart laughs mirthlessly. “Then he was on the wrong side of the cells.”

Bookworm nodded and explained what happened earlier that day, when Bea had come and made her warning, the attack by the wolf, everything.  Dr. Maddox’s mouth opened and closed like a fish’s at times, but she was following.

“And then Aessesser came. I tried to drive it away, but there were other birds with it, and they swarmed us.”

“There are more?”

“I *think* the rest were normal birds. Could Aessesser be able to control them?”

“If he’s… It is possible, yes.”

“Well, he got that soul, too. I don’t know who the man behind the wolf was. I’m hoping Weston, one of Cortman’s men, whom we were able to arrest, will be able to identify him.”

Dr. Maddox sighed. “I hope so, too.”

“Still…it was at some point during all of that that we… lost Id.”

“After the raven came?” Maddox whispered.  “Did it get near Arnold?”

Bookworm Hienrichs sighed.  “I don’t *think* so, but I can’t entirely rule out the possibility. The wolf broke the library window.  Aessesser did fly in that direction, but up, not down.  Still… if he was fast… I just don’t know. I’m sorry.”  She shrugged helplessly.

Maddox’s mouth set in a firm line. “I want to find this bird. I need to find this bird. We need to know what happened. And if I have to *make* it tell me, I will.”

Bookworm nodded, and called out, “Lisa? Please go up to Dr. Solsen now.”

Lisa Fargazer hurried out to the hallway.  She bobbed a quick curtsy and said, “Yes, ma’am,” and hurried up the stairs.

Bookworm and Maddox made the trek back to Bookworm’s home.  The blood moon was hidden by clouds once again.  When they came inside, they saw that the glass was swept up, and the window boarded.  The smell of the wolfsbane Cyan had spread about still lingered in the library.  Dr. Maddox knelt beside Arnold’s body and put a hand on his paw, shaking it softly.  “Arnold?  Id?  Please answer me… it’s Maddox.”

He remained limp and unresponsive.  She closed her eyes and reached into her familiar desperately for anyone, or anything she can grasp.  Arnold was vacant on the outside, but there was something in there.

Dr. Maddox breathed in relief as her eyes flew open. “Oh… Thank goodness.  He’s not completely lost…”

Bookworm felt tense muscles relax suddenly.  “Oh, that’s good to hear.”

“But, I need to find that bird. That bird needs to answer for what it’s done here.”

“I don’t think Tepic and Cyan are ready yet, but I believe they are working hard at it.”

“But what do I do? I cannot leave him here–”

“But it could be just as dangerous to take him outside.”

Dr. Maddox looked around, seeing the open entranceway that led to the glass-enclosed turret room.  “Miss Book… why are there so many windows?”

“Yes, well, usually they’re not a problem.”  Bookworm Hienrichs smiled wryly and began considering.  What would be a safe, yet comfortable place for Arnold in her home?  Finally, she said, “We could take him up to Mariah’s bedroom.  There are a few windows there, but they’re smaller and could be boarded up easily.”

Maddox nodded her agreement.  Bookworm and Mrs. Pritchard together quickly boarded up the windows, and she and Maddox carefully moved Arnold upstairs, laying him in the bed.  Bookworm left the two of them alone for a bit, while she and Mrs. Pritchard discussed her own sleeping arrangements.  “We’ll just have to be sure one of us is here at all times, so we can intercept Mariah when she gets home,” Bookworm said wryly as they got to work.

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