Eunica arrived at Coalview around noon, the next day. It got its name from its mining operations that had blasted away the forested hills around the town, for mining. Ever since its resources got exhausted and the factory work went global, it had been on a downward spiral. A flood in late 2004 had caused another exodus. Most of the people had moved to Waterpeak or to Littlewood. The gray hills of the town were only matched by the overcast sky, making it feel even gloomier. The fog obscured the tallest buildings of the town—mostly abandoned apartments. The rectory where Father Carson lived was on the outskirts of town. Eunica knew where to find it, as she had visited him there before.
As far as she was aware, Carson was the only priest left in Coalview. She looked at the size of his residence and could only imagine how lonely those halls may be. She pressed the doorbell, and waited for him to open up. She exhaled and could see her breath form a small cloud in front of her. She had chosen to wear a different coat, as she had planned, today--a dark brown leather long-coat with black faux fur trimming the cuffs, hem, and shoulders. There were built in pouches on either side of the coat with enough room to hold small belongings.
“Ah, Miss Chambers, I did not expect you to visit!” Carson opened up the door. He was an older man with grayed hair that was thinning at the top and silver-blue eyes behind rimless spectacles. Despite his height, he slouched just enough to hide the difference. He stepped aside to allow Eunica in.
“Well, I thought I’d at least check up on you,” she said. “Maybe brag to my neighbor that a mage and a priest were able to have a civil chat over a cup of coffee.” She began to unbutton her coat, after spotting the coat rack
“Well, you are a peculiar mage, Miss Chambers,” he said. “You do not know much about your own kind’s beliefs.”
“Nope. I prefer to keep it that way.” She shrugged her coat off her shoulders and hung it up. “But I am curious, I thought that the witch hunts were the reason, a long time ago, but I am apparently wrong.”
“It is a rather sacrilegious train of thought the mages have,” he explained. “You have heard stories about how The Exorcists and Clerics are capable of performing miracles, I am sure.”
“My brother-in-law was once an Exorcist.”
“Got cursed by some demon, and now attracts ghosts from all over. Also believes that his healing power is magic and not a miracle.”
“That is actually the kind of thinking that leads to tension between the Church and the mages. Some would go so far to say that even Christ is a mage—a powerful one, but still a mage.”
“I see…” Eunica nodded.
“And some have used the Bible to support this claim, by utilizing Merlin’s Laws.”
“What?” Eunica tilted her head.
“They are some kind of laws—like scientific laws—that all mages hold to be true about magic. That’s all I know.”
“Merlin, as in from King Arthur, though?”
“He is more like your Pope, if I dared to draw that comparison. It is a title. The mages are so secretive that nobody knows anything, unless they are in the circle itself. All the clergy will ever learn is secondhand knowledge.” He looked to the floor for a moment. “Anyways, coffee. I will brew us a cup—you take it black, right?”
“Yes. Thank you.” Eunica followed him down the hall and then waited for him in the common room. She heard the faint sound of an old coffeemaker turn on and Carson’s footsteps down the hall. “I should have worn my white ribbon bow tie,” Eunica chuckled. “We’d have matching color schemes.” It was worth a shot to try and lighten the mood, after that previous subject. Carson’s chuckle left her unsure whether she was just being awkward, or he was genuine. “So, about that fog… you said it made you pass out?”
Carson took a moment and exhaled. “Yes. I know I’m getting old, but I have never felt so tired that quickly.”
“Did you feel anything else?” She crossed her legs and folded her hand over her knee. “The radio mentioned a chill people felt.”
“Hard to tell. It was really cold, last night, when I finished mass.” He turned his head towards the kitchen. “Excuse me for a moment.” He stood up and left the room, presumably to pour their cups of coffee.
“What do you think, Shepard?” Eunica asked, keeping her voice down.
“The priest is rather knowledgeable about magi.”
“Yes, I was surprised too, when I first met him.”
“Doth that not concern thee?”
“He only knows just a little more than me.”
“And thou were among them in the International Magus Patrol.”
“Shepard, they only took me in to find my sister. And that whole case is just a convoluted mess, because they failed to teach me anything.” That first case was a rough one and Shepard only knew from the middle to the end. She had since resigned from the organization.
“And the Vigil?”
“Only wanted me for my experience with the Devourer. I did not need to know anything more, and you know that. They were quick to overstep their bounds, too.” A year after her first case, and with a little more experience from her freelance work, she had been approached to join a clandestine organization called The Vigil. She resigned after that big case was done, but called it retiring to get the benefits. “I would join them all over again, if I could go back.”
“For the money?”
“For the money.”
Carson returned with two steaming mugs of coffee, handing one to Eunica. She glanced inside—black, just as she had wanted. She took a quick sip.
“As we were talking,” she started. “Is there anything else you can tell us? Any surge of emotion? Malevolence? Do you think it could be spirits?”
“No, I do not think this is a spirit. That is why I called you. Magic is your domain.”
“But it looks like a fog,” she muttered. “Is there a balcony or a place we can get high up?”
“You can use an empty room on the second floor. That’s the best we have, here.”
“Let me get something from my coat.” She took another sip. “And can you take me to one of those rooms?”
“Of course, but what are you doing?”
“A little trick, that’s all.” Eunica exited the common room and returned to the foyer. Holding her coffee in her other hand, she opened up one of the pouches on the side of her coat and took hold of the glasses case inside. Taking another sip, she reconvened with Carson at the foot of the staircase to the second floor. “Lead the way, Father.”
“A little trick, Master?” Shepard asked. “Is that what thou call putting on glasses?”
Eunica shut her eyes, resisting the urge to speak to her familiar. He may be a priest, but talking to things currently unseen, and who have ram horns, would not bode well for their working relations. Once they reached the top of the steps, Eunica looked on the walls. Jesus seemed to be watching her from his frame as she passed under Him and into the hall He watched.
“Do you have a preference?” Carson asked.
“Not particularly. Just one facing the fog.”
Carson nodded and took them to the closest door to their right. Everything about the hall felt underkept. The door’s white paint was beginning to flake off and she spotted a section of the wallpaper ready to fall loose and reveal the drywall underneath. A twist of the key and the lock clicked. Carson opened the door to a bedroom. The bed was bare, save for a mattress and the room was devoid of anything else, save for a wooden cross hanging on the wall in front of the bed.
“Why haven’t they closed down your church?” asked Eunica as they stepped inside. “You’re the only priest left.”
“The people of Coalview need faith. They can easily drive to Waterpeak or Littlewood, but to have a church in your hometown…”
“Ah.” Eunica stepped towards the window and set her coffee on the sill. She opened the glasses case up and put the glasses on the bridge of her nose and stared out at the fog covering Coalview. “Huh… Well, that’s not what I expected at all.” Above the lenses, looking at the fog with her naked eye, it appeared ordinary. Under the lenses, the fog shimmered gold.
“What is it?”
“That fog really is magic, but I have never seen anything like it. And it’s been here since yesterday? That is just really, really peculiar.” She felt a smile itching to break free at the edges of her mouth. This was just too interesting, but she had to approach with caution. “If it’s magic, it should have been cast by someone. Finding them may be the key to ending the fog.”
“But you don’t even know who or where to find them.” Carson approached her. Eunica removed her glasses, handing them over.
“Take a look.” She stepped aside, taking her coffee with her. “I think whoever it is is still in the town. This a spell needs the caster near to maintain it, from my experience. If this person kept it up overnight, it is likely he will appear again to keep it going.”
“How do you plan on catching him?” Carson took a step back from the window, returning the glasses to Eunica. “You don’t even know where he is.”
“Well, I can look for his magical signature. Coalview does not have any mages living in it, does it?” She put the glasses back into the case, her grin becoming more difficult to contain.
“We are a small community. Everyone knows everyone.”
“Then finding this person will be simple. Leave it to me.” The grin broke free. “I know what I’m doing.”
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