Theodore left the Grayweather estate with a heavy satchel of mementos, and a heavier heart. He did not know what to feel.
A few words on an old note could not erase years of anger so easily. Yet, his grip had loosened and the familiar vitriol was leaking through his fingers. Now he wondered how different things could’ve been. What if his father had lived? Would it be the same old game, or could they have found a way to reconcile? There was no way to know. Lance was dead.
Theodore stopped to rest on a cobblestone wall, slouching, his nose pressed into the journal. It surprised him how often he was mentioned in the notes. Lance seemed to fret often about going too far, about how it might be too late to fix things, about how everything he said made things worse.
The last entry was dated a few days before Lance was found dead. The details of his last mission were never revealed, but this didn’t stop the bards from capitalizing with ballets on how the Hero Champion had given his body for the kingdom. All Theodore knew was that Whisper, the fairy who had conspired to abduct Prince Perceval, was involved somehow. There was a score to settle there.
A detour was in order. He wound his way back to the Bureaucracy Dome.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Grayweather.” Ella Greenwood was the House Secretary for the Governor’s office. A non-descript woman whose face was masked by her long white hair and thick bifocals. Theodore always admired the tidiness of her desk, and how well she ironed her suit, but often forgot she existed the moment he stepped out of the office. “Mr. Farbend is in other meetings now. He was rather angry that you left earlier without handing over sensitive evidence. I don’t believe he will be happy to see you unless you have brought the object with you.”
Theodore shook his head. “I don’t want to trouble him. I’ll have the sword brought back, but there’s something I need to investigate first. I was hoping I could review the agent records.”
Ella scowled at him. “Those records are classified. Matter of national security. You need the clearance of at LEAST a Knight Detective to be allowed to read them.”
“I know that.” Theodore wondered what he had expected. “Listen. I’m hoping an exception can be made. It’s about my father.” He showed her the journal, and the sketch of Whisper. “I found this, and I think he might be involved in some sort of conspiracy against the Crown. It doesn’t have to be today, but I’d like to apply for special permission.”
She stared at the journal, lips reading in silence. “The Hero Champion wrote this?” She looked behind her, and got up. “Where did you find this?”
“In a locked drawer among my father’s things.” Theodore said.
Ella led Theodore through the office, down into the second basement. A pair of stout royal knights stood guard at a heavy oak door. “No entry!” They said.
Ella glared at them and waved her hand. “Official business,” she said. They stepped aside with a surprising lack of resistance. Theodore was grateful, but appalled by the security risk.
Ella closed the door behind them. “Make this quick.”
The room was a vault of filing cabinets, each set in the wall and emblazoned with the name or code name of the most trusted agents of the crown, and each aglow with enchanted iron and silver. Theodore identified his father’s cabinet and slid a rolling ladder into place to access it. It clunked, locked tight.
“What’s the combination to open this?” Theodore asked.
“You don’t know?!” Ella’s usual patience was replaced with irritation. “Didn’t you find a code or something to find that journal?”
Theodore knew his father wasn’t so stupid as to use a guessable date to lock up state secrets. He plugged his birthday in anyway. The lock sprang open and Theodore slapped his face in embarrassment. Inside was a deposit box of evidence and a box of case files. Confiscated weapons, illicit potions, contraband, among other things. Theodore fished out the most recent case, Lance’s last mission briefing, and brought it over to the reading table.
Duke Ambergrail is the most recent to disappear. Family wants it kept under wraps until he’s retrieved, so his seat in parliament isn’t threatened. Like the others, this is a presumed kidnapping but there has yet to be any ransom. His relatives know to expect you and will give you full run of the estate to investigate. Please make this a priority.
The only piece of hard evidence in the file was wrapped in silk cloth. Theodore lifted it, and a single black raven’s tailfeather fell out.
“This is it.” Theodore turned it between his fingers. “I can use this in an aura tracker to find Whisper.”
Theodore felt Ella’s fingers slide across his shoulders.
“Incredible,” she said. Then, without so much as a grunt, she lifted Theodore off his feet and threw him across the table.
“Gah!!” Theodore landed face first onto the floor, and pushed himself onto his feet in a daze. He staggered back to see Ella smiling. She placed her folded glasses into a pocket as her face and hair melted away. A pallid, blank eyed mannequin stared at him now.
“You’ve no idea how long I’ve needed to find that feather.”