Herbie. Keystone's dead according to a pair of delvers that showed up. I'm going to want confirmation. What happened? Where? When? Most importantly, if it's Kronos, how did they know what was going on when it has no way of sending something into my dungeon.

An elf and Ork that had only started taking the loop through my holdings came to Bonehead with the news. Laginn showed up with paper and inkwell. Statements were taken as I got Herbie's response.

A pair of my bats have confirmed it is him judging by the gear he was wearing. No chance at revival unless they can cure having one's head removed with a shovel.

Now wasn't the time for jokes! Once statements had been taken, Bonehead had seen everyone off as far as I'd been able to send him with what spare mana I had to go past alliance borders. Which wasn't far, only to just past the gates to the Necropolis.

The whole way through he had a blank book with him and was taking details. Delvers had brought the body close enough that several skeletons had been able to take it to the western chapel. All activity in that room was barred, not that there had been any real delving, but I had guards posted inside and out as Bonehead made sketches of the body, the murder weapon, and while I wouldn't call it a proper autopsy, but it was the best I could do. I owed it to him, and judging by how they behaved? Bonehead and Laginn seemed to agree.

Laginn snapped to get my attention, then pointed at the report Bonehead wrote before jerking his thumb towards the dungeon entrance before waggling thumb and pinkie. Not sure where he learned that gesture but it was a textbook 'call' gesture to me.

Assailant Unknown, but given the victim, we have to assume this wasn't run of the mill bandits. Paranoia would dictate somehow Kronos is involved as means to strike against us by way of our allies, but that raises its own questions. Do you know if anything of his was taken? Keystone said he was leaving to file a report. There was nothing on his body when Bonehead took him in for exampination.

Unknown. My bats didn't care enough about crime scene details, and it is unlikely I could get anything out of them with word or threat.

I had to think. Logically if Kronos knew Keystone was going for help in a concerted raid he would be a priority target. Yet none of our discussion was made outside of my borders. I can't get any clear sensorum outside of alliance space unless I send minions, and even then it's only a very compact sphere of their senses.

It is the same with me. Could Ishida have a sensory bubble great enough to hear details from her post?

I... don't think so? there's the guard post. the big thick door we'd put up to replace the false wall, stairs, then a big room between stairway and Kronos's territory. My heart sank. Was that why she had snuck into my territory proper? Not the joy of a good fight. Not wanting to show any sort of solidarity? Just ... Spying?

My thoughts were all over the place and it took several long minutes to reign them in. I would have used meditative techniques, but all of those require a body to provide sensation anchors. Instead I listened to the sounds of my dungeon, letting my awareness expand to the point detail was difficult.

If it's any consolation. While I will remind you it was stupid. I would have done the same in your position if it were my friend. I've always had few. The chance at getting any of them back would be something I would risk much for.

Doesn't help my mood, but thank you Herbie. Was there any way for me to get a look around?

Only if I transferred a bat to you and you centered your focus onto them, and even then with your mana stores as they are it would not tell you much.

I had Bonehead write a letter. No I was not sure that this was a good idea. In fact it may well get us all killed, but Keystone was my friend, and was probably killed to keep word from getting out. Herbie had used a bat to fly it to the nearest settlement along with a small bag of gemstones.

As I waited for a response, I had asked Herbie for every scrap of information he could give on what was past the Necropolis and, I was starting to grow concerned. We were in a graveyard, that was in a dead city. Not a city built for the dead. Literally ya city that had been razed to the ground and smashed. The regulars we had came from differing communities of salvagers that got money picking through the remains. the city itself had several dungeons, mostly hostile and mostly concerned with trying to carve out niches from each other's territory, which is the only reason any of the salvagers had been able to make any sort of progress. Had they worked together, no outsider could have come.

Then again if they worked together they could have rebuilt the place. Which explained the constant traffic here by newbies. If they could train up in relative safety then they'd have a better chance at surviving.

Jen came with Finnal. Only to find a notice. A banner stretched wide so any who entered would see. It was made of spider's silk and was direct and to the point.

'Keystone is Dead.'

'We have requested help investigating his murder.'

Jen hugged Bonehead tightly. "Look I get we're a community out in the sticks, but considering what used to live here it ain't going to take long for them to send somebody."

A nod from Bonehead.

"You could die." Finnal's voice cracked. "We could lose you."

Again. Bonehead nodded. Then, as he stroked Jen's hair, offered the rogue a hand. They shook, looking at each other before he let Jen go.

Time blurred. Delvers still came, but there was an air of worry about them.

Arin and Jjaro came.

As did other regulars.

It felt like I had announced I had stage four cancer, and everyone was showing up to say goodbye.

On the tenth day I understood why. An Inquisitor came. I wasn't sure what sort of response to expect, but an inquisitorial retinue was not high on that list of possibilities. He was a man that came with a retinue of knights, priests, and a few robed figures that I weren't quite sure what their jobs were. Elfin features. Grey hair. A thin golden staff of office that he used to push open my doors.

Bonehead knelt, an uncharacteristic show of submission. I had expected a stone faced wall of non-cooperation, or a deft avoidance, but no. He and his skeletal subordinates knelt as he offered up a leather bound book containing the notes from our investigations.

The robed elf took the offered book and gave a small bow to the skeleton. "Thank you" He would look to first my Bone-Captain, then to the skeletons all kneeling in formation in the center of the room. "Please Rise." There was an official tone to his voice.

His retinue looked amongst themselves, perhaps wishing to speak but staying silent. He would take the holy symbol that was the pendant of his necklace off and place it on Bonehead. "You are compelled by the Sight of the Raven, the Path of the Rider, and by the light of Alnus's Star to bare no false witness for the sake of this investigation. In return neither myself nor my retinue will through act or order willfully endanger yourself or those that pass freely within these halls until and unless our investigation shows that you are guilty of the murder of Dungeon Assessor Keystone, son of Block-Chain, son of Stone Cutter."


Part of me chafed at the notion. Of being Commanded and Compelled. Yet even if I had the mana to burn to resist, and it was just barely possible if I cannibalized Nyx, what would that accomplish? There were clear limits in place and there was no mention made of not raising to defend myself or those under my care.

The geas wrapped around my awareness. I could see the silvered thread of magic wrap around my minions. I pray to whatever is listening that this doesn't turn out to be some kind of corrupt church that purges with flame and sees heresy everywhere.

"I am Inquisitor Makyr." I couldn't get a read on the guy beyond 'Cop.' Stiff stance, very formal tone. Bonehead's book of notes was carefully handed over. "While I understand this is a hardship upon you, all Delver activity has ceased until we can ensure their safety. In return we will, as part of our investigations, explore and thus provide you with enough mana to continue as you are.

A stiff nod from Bonehead to the inquisitor. What choice did we have?

GN. Herbie. Cooperate to the best of your abilities. I have been placed under a Geas to cooperate with them, though they have placed conditions upon themselves. Heartrate would be through the roof if I had one.


Not happy, but not unexpected.

Part of me thought maybe Kronos's plan was going to backfire. Given Inquisitors were here, that implied they were fairly heavy hitters. Laginn was told to go see if Ishida had left the book I had slipped to her in the bone pile hiding spot she had used before.

"I will answer," Bonehead's voice was soft as he addressed one of the supporting priests in Maykr's retinue. He wasn't in pain, but there was a tension to him. "However I am unused to speech."

His hollow eye sockets looked down, not wanting to stare too intently at the priest's.

"I have read prior reports from Brother Elyas of your actions to preserve the lives of bystandards." The priest's voice was kindly as he addressed Bonehead. "You are undead, thus would be viewed as suspect, but given Delvers we had interviewed on the way here were," There was a pause, "Positively inclined towards you and yours, while showing no signs of corruption or manipulation."

Bonehead nodded.

I left them to talk. Just because they were putting on a show of kindness didn't mean they wouldn't try to stake us, but it left me feeling my chances of survival were far greater than someone who came in screaming for flame and sword and let the God-Emperor sort it out. There wasn't much I could do anyway unless one of them could talk directly.

Laginn was where my awareness went as he skittered downstairs, stopping just shy of Kronos's entrance. right as a figure walked up the steps and out of the darkness.

Ishida was there.

Uchiumi stood behind, her features wreathed in shadow.

Her eyes were pure black. A crude black iron knife was at Ishida's throat. Her lips moved. Kronos's voice came out. There was a flickering of emotions along Ishida's face, surprise, betrayal, hurt, then finally the indignation drained from her leaving only resignation. Uchiumi spoke as she stared unblinking at me, but what came was Kronos's voice. "Kill them, or I will kill her."


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