by Trevor Hopkins

Dulelm Hollows was just as boring on this visit as it had been on the previous one. With a distinct feeling of deja vu, Gumshoe and I retraced our steps with me once again concealed in the back of his ancient car.

We had spent the day recuperating, mainly sleeping - with Nether keeping watch - and a lot of eating. Between the four of us, we did serious damage to Gumshoe's larder of tinned and preserved foodstuffs. Human food is in general a bit bland for Goblin tastes - we prefer stronger flavours and more robust textures, something to get our teeth into - but there is an old saying about "hunger being the best sauce". It was certainly true that day; I wolfed down everything that Gumshoe's stock cupboard could provide. I know for sure that the PI will be filling the trunk of his car with groceries the next time he comes up here.

Feeling somewhat recovered, Gumshoe and I left Nether to look after Rosie in the little apartment over the garages. She was keen to come along but all three males did their best to persuade her it was too dangerous. Besides, Nether was not here entirely alone; he clearly had managed to gain access to some backup, some resources I hadn't known he could draw upon - although perhaps I should have guessed before now.

It was two hours drive from the quiet neighbourhood that was Gumshoe's family home to the sleepy backwater called Dulelm Hollows. It was getting dark by the time we arrived and the whole place was wrapped in a chilly mist which added to the sense of gloom. I followed the human PI out of the car, tugging up the collar of my coat against the dampness and looked around.

"Nothing much changes here, does it?" I commented wryly, receiving a terse grunt in reply.

For the next three hours, we criss-crossed the dour hamlet that was the entirety of Dulelm Hollows, revisited each of the broken-down homesteads we had searched the last time and with Gumshoe again gritting his teeth against the repulsive glamours that still held as strongly as ever. There was no hint of Goblins in residence, and precious little evidence of any humans either.

There were probably no more than two dozen properties in the entire hamlet, varying from the dilapidated to the magnificent. The centre comprised of five cottages, all in good repair, set to one side of a grand old house which stood in its own grounds. The cottages had no doubt at one time housed some of the staff for the mansion, although they had now been gentrified out of all recognition.

Finally, Gumshoe stopped and leant on a high stone wall that marked the edge of some large property we had passed half a dozen times in our quest.

"We're wasting our time," he said glumly.

I had to agree with him. There had to be something strange, something out of the ordinary, something beyond the reach of ordinary senses going on in this gods-forsaken backwater. Everything we had heard hinted at some astounding coup, some world-changing deployment of magic to be perpetrated by my old tutor Urquhart Garrick. But the Old One had said that they could not perceive events around Garrick and surely the Professor had something to do with Dulelm Hollows.

It was time for a long shot. I reached deep into the commodious pockets that line the inner of the long coat I habitually wear and pulled out a small cardboard box colourfully marked with complex scripts that humans still insist on referring to as "runes". It was a residual magic detection spell, that very expensive glamour I had acquired from Gaur's emporium only a few days ago.

Now, this kind of magic is tricky stuff. It's prone to all kinds of malfunction, the most obvious kinds of which are frequently supposed to be sabotage or just the vendor making a fast buck by palming off substandard goods as the real thing. I had established a grudgingly respectful professional relationship with Gaur over - oh, it must be getting on for a hundred years - and I judged it unlikely he would deliberately rip me off. His wares were expensive, to the point I was reluctant to use his glamours unless there was no alternative and the prize for success would adequately compensate me for the ruinous expense.

I was convinced that, if used properly, Guar's glamours would almost certainly work as advertised. The trick, of course, was actually using it properly. Magics of this complexity are prone to more subtle failures: deployed incorrectly, or in the wrong place, they are liable to give entirely misleading results. It is for these reasons that the results of using such a glamour are not admissible as evidence in a court of law. Indeed, this kind of spell is illegal to either own or deploy, which was of course why I was forced to acquire them from a back-streets dealer like Gaur.

I held up the little box that contained the puissant glamour so that Gumshoe could see it.

"I think it's time," I said slowly, "To apply a little magic to the situation."

Part 81 Part 83