The air was still, and the silence unnerving.
Savio sat staring off at the vast white wasteland far across the flatlands. The eternal darkness was not enough to mask the blanket of white that spread across the horizon like an ocean.
Most of the town’s lights were out as most with the sense to sleep after the dark hour had already come and gone, not that it did much here in the twilight regions.
The sudden frozen strike to his cheek knocked Savio backward onto the roof he had been perched on. Quickly he bounced back to his feet, green eyes locking onto the laughing youth on a roof further up the hill.
Savio snapped his hand across his mouth before pointing sharply at the young man. Not all of the businesses in this district were void of people living above their shops, and when things were this quiet words carried quite far.
Ah, that boy will wake the dead. His mother had such energy.
Savio brushed the voice in his mind aside, pointing at his youthful partner once more and pointed down quickly.
Judging by the head roll and tossing his arms up before he disappeared over the back molding of he slanted roof, Savio trusted Callisto understood and would be over here shortly.
His energy will even out as he gets older. You never got to see his mother in combat, did you?
He had not. Savio joined their ranks after she had taken the injury that she would later succumb to.
“One’s skill in combat doesn’t affect one’s ability to be mature and handle things seriously,” Savio whispered in warning to the voice. The mark at the back of his ear chilled, and he rubbed at it in an attempt to dissuade it.
The crunch of snow below alerted him to his partner’s arrival. He cautiously leaned to look over the edge; weary should his ward still be in a playful mood.
No, currently, the cloaked youth was skimming the wall, the orange ring in his eyes revealed his carefully measured gazes. He looked up to Savio, and Savio pointed to the path he used to climb up here, and in short order, he snagged Callisto’s hand to aid the man up onto the roof.
“So, I thought that was the bread shop,” Callisto whispered, his smile caught in the twilight of the nearly eternal evening.
“It’s alright. How are your eyes?”
“It’s fine at the moment. A little brighter here than at home, but not as bad as that damn tavern,” Callisto said. He began to stretch before he paused, listening, before he chuckled, “oh, right - So, I think I got a lead. There was a suspicious cart driver. He was delivering a package but kept talking to someone in the back of the cart. When I spied, it looked like a little kid was in a box.” He emphasized by trying to extend his arms the diameters of the box, “I mean, either a kid or a small adult.”
Savio frowned. “Do you think it’s what we’re looking for?”
Callisto frowned in return, “are you saying unless it’s a Magician we’re not helping?”
Savio sighed heavily and pinched the bridge of his nose before speaking slowly in emphasis, “we can not save anyone unless we know for certain.”
“Right, right, I know,” Callisto huffed in his native language. “They’re still at the tavern. They’ll be heading out in a few hours. If we hurry, we might be able to sneak a peek before they take off.”
Savio let him lead the way. The tavern’s activity had been dying down, and the wagon’s owner was still inside that Callisto could see. While Callisto kept an eye on things, Savio picked the lock and slipped into the cart as silent as he could manage.
The wagon was a simple one with basic requirements for warmth and keeping out of the other elements met, and personal affairs scattered around or stuffed on shelves. No paperwork Savio could spy in a few quick peeks in the drawers around the place.
He paused at the child-sized crate. The holes in the lid did not help ease his mind about the contents of the box.
You need a lead.
But he didn’t want to face an enslaved child.
The metal clicked as he unlatched the crate before shoving the lid up.
Grimly he could not help but compare the box to that of a luxurious coffin. The inside was padded, with a pillow and fur blankets that covered up the child to the tussled auburn hair and blue eyes.
He almost shut the lid as his eyes locked onto those canary yellow rings in those eyes.
He had his lead.
Gale blast it, he had hoped this was all a wild goose chase, and they were just paranoid chasing leaves in the wind.
This doesn’t mean you’ve found a lead to the slave ring.
Of course not, it could be purely coincidental some other psychopath was selling magician children.
“What are your obligations, child?” Savio worded softly.
There was a definite hesitation before the child sat up. She was only a few years old, and her vacant, curious gaze was one he recognized from the few others they had managed to find, the only clue it was from at least a similar group.
“To listen and behave for Mr. Joyce, until I arrive at my new daddy’s.”
“Do you know who your new daddy is?” How specific was this obligation?
When the child shook her head, Savio nodded as he began to formulate a plan.
A sharp knock once came from the door, followed by the fleeing crunch of boots in the snow.
“I am here on behalf of your new daddy, but I cannot pick you up yet. Continue to behave for Mr. Joyce, and when I come back, I will take you to your new daddy. Do not let Mr. Joyce know we met, it’s supposed to be a surprise.”
The little girl’s eyes lit up brightly in excitement. She ducked back under her blanket as Savio closed the lid. He peeked out before he bent out of the wagon and shut the door just as a man came staggering out from the tavern, laughing, holding a plate of food.
“Hey!” The driver snapped as he spotted Savio, “get away from there!”
Savio bolted, hoping the man thought him a petty thief caught in the act and for nothing to come of it.
He almost punched Callisto when the young man grabbed him by his arm when Savio almost shot past the alley he was hiding in.
“Don’t do that,” Savio sharply hissed, straightening his furs.
“So someone was in there?” Callisto asked as he bounced on the balls of his feet.
So much like his mother.
“A young child, scarcely primary school age,” Savio said.
Callisto’s bouncing slowly ceased before he sighed. With a quick punch to the palm of his opposing hand, he recovered with an enthusiastic grin across his face. “Then, we gotta make sure we get her out of there and make him pay!”
“We need information still, Callisto,” Savio cautiously spoke, setting a hand to the much shorter man’s shoulder. “We need to know where he’s come from, and who he is going to see. We need a proper plan of attack.”
“Just tell Lark! Lark’ll be able to follow, right?”
“Lark’s magic wanes past the Shadowrealm’s borders without a Magician’s aid, and you know it.”
Callisto groaned, walking in a circle once before facing Savio again. “We don’t know what those guys are going to do to her. If she makes it to that other Nobleman, she’s screwed!”
“I know, Callisto, I know.” Savio sighed, rubbing his neck.
Still like his mother? Savio strained to think clearly.
He has some refinement to go through, but he’ll get there.
“…but there are ways to get people to talk,” Savio assured.