The forlorn professor pulls out his field glass and starts searching the monotonous catastrophe before him: stumps, wire, beams, bones, exploded huts, decaying tents, rusting hulks, and burnt posts. Unless his appointment wants to be found, he will not have enough time to search him out. For a quarter of an hour, perhaps, he scans the horizon and then slowly sweeps in vertical passes through the wreckscape and is not surprised to see no indications of anything moving. Deep into the darkness there is no wind, the air is a bit clearer. And then he sees a beam of light sweep across the bottom of the slope and he follows the resulting advertised vector back along the illuminated dust to the source.
From a shell crater a hundred meters distant, a tall midnight figure rises, a deep rumbling voice floats to the hilltop. “Stay there. I will come up to you. “ and the apparition moves rapidly up the road. Valeska knows him, has met with him before in point of fact. He goes by Bausothrose. God only knows if that really is his name. He wears no protective devices but instead a cassock of fine black silk. It shows no sign of the dust and Glaubrius watches carefully as the wraith comes to a stop in front of him, observing the grey powder kicked up on his hems run down the cloth like wet mud and drip back, dry, onto the ground.
“Hello Glaubrius. Rather an unpleasant day, do you think? Perhaps it will rain?”
The professor coughs and says, “I am not in the mood for your annoying humor today, Bausothrose. Why did you make me come back to this terrible place? Another joke, perhaps?”, his voice muffled in the mask.
Covered from neck to toe in his vestments, the Hispidus has an astoundingly round head, and straight black hair that hangs down around it like a bowl, just out of its spectacled eyes. Its face looks distinctly Eastern, and its skin, in normal lighting, has a slight golden tint. But the deeper parts of its face have a strange silvery tinge to it, like unhealthy flesh. It has a small mouth full of bright white roundish teeth that it shows often in unsettling smiles. “No one comes here, and we can be sure no one is hiding nearby listening to us. We think it is one of the most secure places on Earth,” His voice softened, “and we know it was difficult for you to come here; to be true we were hoping that you would refuse and release us from obligation. Out of personal curiosity, is it really worse than any of the battlefields in the Americas you fought?“
“This place is worse.“
“Ah. I am surprised. So I suppose you have been wanting to talk to us about rescuing your student…”
“Not my student.”
“…forgive me, your assistant. I am compelled to ask you why you think we can help? We might not even know where he is.”
“You know where he is. I know where he is. And it’s on one of your Concerns. I know this because he was able to send an aetherscript from there on an abandoned emitter. Very low signal, the aether key operator told me he could barely hear it, but still, well triangulated, they could pinpoint it. Here…” he says, bringing a flimsy sheet of paper from his vest and puts it in Bausothrose’ glove, “… is the clackout, you can read the latitude and longitude yourself and give up on the notion of denying you know where that is.”
Bausothrose reads the information. “Most impressive, Glaubrius Valeska, most impressive! No wonder you want this one back, he is very resourceful! Well, this does make a puzzle for us, neh?”
“What kind of puzzle?” says the old man with a glimmer of anger.