by Trevor Hopkins

There's a point in almost any investigation, in my very considerable experience, when a single piece of luck is required. If the luck turns up on schedule, you solve the case to general admiration all round; if not, you remain clueless and the case is relegated to a dusty folder in the back of the filing cabinet. This case had been almost devoid of luck from the start, although made up for by a worryingly large number of unlikely coincidences, not least of which was the sudden re-appearance of both of my siblings.

This was, I fully admit, entirely a stroke of luck. We could have been standing anywhere in the village or the immediate environs, looking out at any of the three tumbledown properties we had been investigating. Or we could have been traversing what passed for the main road or any of the lonely lanes and paths. But instead we were almost exactly at the centre of the village.

"What does it do?" Gumshoe asked, eyeing the little box warily.

He had recognised it for what it was: a conventional container for commercially-available Goblin magic. He had been bitten, more than once, by the effects of such glamours. No wonder he was being cautious.

"Relax," I said casually, "This one doesn't go bang. Not even a bit."

"Huh," he replied, "You've told me that before."

I let that one ride. Instead, I explained, quickly and as well as I could, that the glamour enhanced the natural ability - in Goblins, at least - to detect magic that had been used recently. Maybe even a thick-skinned human might be sensitive enough to get some hint of what was going on.

"But we know some kind of magic is in use," Gumshoe objected, "That awful feeling in the stomach when we entered those places."

He jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

"Yes, yes," I agreed, "But there's something else, something we're missing. Something that the repulsion spells - very obvious and crude spells - are hiding."

"if you say so," Gumshoe said, not sounding at all convinced, "But will it work?"

"It ought to," I said glumly, "It sure cost enough."

Gumshoe chuckled, and I belatedly joined in. I wasn't sure I saw the joke; the glamour would only find something only if there was, actually, something to find. I had paid Gaur the equivalent of a month's wages for this single charm and I was taking a considerable gamble in using it now.

"Here goes."

I flipped open the lid of the cardboard box and read aloud the few carefully-chosen words printed on the packaging. They wouldn't have made any sense to Gumshoe even if he had been able to hear them - the language of magic is an ancient Goblin dialect now entirely disused except for the activation of glamours. The old language is taught to all in schools, in much the same way that Latin was once a compulsory part of the curriculum in parts of the surface world. Although slightly more useful, of course.

As soon as I spoke the last syllable, the world around me began to change. Overlaid on the mundane surroundings of stone buildings and damp foliage was the spin and sparkle of magic at work. I had expected one or two glimmers, hints at magics long since past, but the reveal glamour had lit up like the entire settlement had suddenly decided to celebrate with the aid of lanterns, flashing lights and near-soundless fireworks. "What the hell's going on?" came Gumshoe's anxious squeak.

"Shh," I hissed, "Let me concentrate."

There was almost too much to take in. I looked around wildly, identifying a repulsion spell here and a disguising glamour there, protections and disguises of all kinds, all fresh and recently deployed. Every building, every wall and fence and hedge as far as the eye could see showed the signs of magics being used on them. I had only a few minutes until the spell worked itself out. But one thing was immediately clear: a considerable amount of expensive and sophisticated magic had been expended here in recent times.

One particular marker I paid special attention to. I strode over to it, followed closely by Gumshoe. It was a large circle on the ground, not thirty feet from where we were standing and, as far as I could tell, right at the geometric centre of the village. The residual marker was brightly-lit in a fiery glow I recognised. It was one I had experienced at first-hand only the previous day. It was exactly like the transport which had returned Gumshoe, Rosie and I back to the surface from the realm of the Old Ones.

It seemed I had discovered proof that Garrick had indeed successfully stolen a forbidden magic from the Old Ones.

Part 82 Part 84