Episode 24:  Hidden Gift

Blood painted the oval table in the Main Hall. Four deep gashes strode across her flat chest. Her assassin attacked her with talons, a ghastly weapon. Her soaked silk blouse looked glossy in the torchlight. Chusee’s eyes had rolled back. Only white and thin red veins like rivers showed.

Noshee covered his nose from the iron stench. He avoided looking at her eyes, was afraid they’d roll back to get one last gaze.

Blood had splattered all over the wood floor and doors. Pieces of bloody flesh filled her claws. Rorkai said she’d torn through her assassin’s throat. Her assassin then bled across the floor, out the double doors, and fell off the landing to the forest floor. That’s where one of Rorkai’s warriors found him. The fall from the canopy made his wings look like wadded paper.

“I want to show you something,” Rorkai said, squatting. He waved Noshee over to another dead body on the floor, the assassin. His warriors retrieved the body before the wolves scavenged it. “See this? Look familiar?” Rorkai pointed to the torn throat, which didn’t seem so bad compared to the rib cage protruding out.

“Looks almost the same as Haiwee’s,” Noshee said. “And her lover’s.”

“It’s the same. Chusee is not just a researcher. She’s a warrior. Was. Trained to kill like one. A normal Harton wouldn’t leave such a clean wound.”

“It would be more tattered.”

“Right. Which is why we suspected you. Your father would’ve trained you to slash through throats fast and clean.” Rorkai stood and straightened his tight purple vest that reflected his broad chest.

“Why would she kill Haiwee or her lover?”

“To frame you. Makes sense doesn’t it? She forced this assignment on you. Probably expected you and our researchers to fall prey to Graywolf. But when you survived, she made the trip here to kill Haiwee. Her lover just happened to be there.”

“Making me look guiltier.” Noshee folded his lanky arms. His wings shivered.

Rorkai nodded.

“All this because of Graywolf,” Dena said, walking over. “And we still aren’t any closer in finding out why he and his wolf pack are attacking our citizens.”

“So why get rid of me?” Noshee said.

“Were you close to discovering the reasons behind Graywolf’s attacks back home?” Dena said.

Noshee shook his head. “I had heard. But when I asked Chusee about it, she told me she was working on it.”

“You’d heard?” Rorkai said, turning to his Elden.

“I’d sent Chusee a message requesting your help," Dena said. "Our researchers knew of your expertise on wolf packs and their behavior."

“Chusee assigned this to me the day I left to come here,” Noshee said.

Dena arched her wings high. She was upset. “That day? A whole season had gone by with our people dying. Why would she do this? Why hide this?"

“Wait,” Rorkai said. “You said you’d heard. From who?”

Noshee froze. He felt his eyes glaze over as he remembered unrolling the message that revealed this crisis. “Haiwee told me.” He missed her.

Rorkai rushed out of the Main Hall. Noshee and Dena followed. Rorkai flew south along Sajen’s Cliffs. Haiwee's dwelling was close to the Catacomb entrance.

The crescent moon reflected off the ocean. Waves splashed under their wings that pounded the cool night air. Noshee felt his heart beat. Being locked up in the detention cave took away his wind. It was part of the Eldens’ strategy to soften Noshee for his duels to ensure his death. He had not been to Haiwee’s dwelling since their affair. He promised his wife he would never see her, never to go to her dwelling again. His wings weakened at the thought of entering her sleeping chamber.

Rorkai descended on a dark cylindrical dwelling. It was attached near the top of a giant tree. He flapped his wings, slowing his approach, and lowered his feet. His four front toes and hallux stretched for the wood landing. Noshee and Dena landed and took a few steps forward. Rorkai barged into Haiwee's lifeless home. He’d lit enough candles to burn the tree down.

Someone had been here. Tables and perches were overturned. Rorkai and Dena looked through pamphlets strewn all over the floor. Cabinets on the opposite wall had been emptied of wooden plates and bowls. Dried meats, herbs, and fish were tossed from small wooden containers.

Noshee stood just inside the front door, craned his neck. He hoisted himself on his wingtips to the ceiling door. He climbed through the opened oval doorway to Haiwee’s sleeping chamber. Her beautiful silk clothes covered the floor. Memories of her velvety touch, her downy wings fluttered. Her wooden hang where she slept was attached to the ceiling.

He hoisted up to the hang. He ran his fingers across her claw marks. Noshee remembered how soft her feet were. Tears jutted out. He grabbed one end of the hang and twisted the other, popping it off. Her favorite hiding place. Inside he found a rolled pamphlet. He lowered back down.

On the pamphlet was a note with the words ‘Send to Noshee’.

“Find anything?” Rorkai called to Noshee.

Choose your poison: Does Noshee reveal what he found?

100% of the readers chose No.