Issachar moved into the washroom and smirked when he found Adeline at the table, her elbows propped up on the surface where the dead dryad lay, her chin on her fists and her eyes closed. She was also snoring.
Issachar rapped his knuckles lightly on the door frame. Adeline jolted awake with a snort. She blinked blearily at her surroundings until her eyes finally focused on the dragon.
“Don’t tell me it’s morning already,” she said, stretching until her back popped.
“Half-way there, actually. The animals are acting weird.”
Adeline crinkled her eyes in mild confusion. “What? I don’t hear the dogs going off.”
“The woodland animals. They’re fleeing like they’ve got places to be and no time to get there. Could be our blood-man and his machine making a bother of himself.”
Adeline sighed, looking at the side door as though she could glean wisdom from it about what she was meant to do with this news. “Which direction were the creatures fleeing?”
“West, northwest a bit.”
“Oh, Lords,” Adeline breathed, rubbing her face with both hands. When done rubbing, she clasped her hands together and set her chin on her knuckles. She rolled her eyes toward Issachar. “Do you think you’d be able to see our killer if they happened by?”
Issachar shrugged. “Maybe, if they came close enough.”
“I’d rather know for certain if the cause of all the animals panicking is our killer. With how quickly and quietly the killer attacks, I’m not going to allow Milburne and the others to walk into an ambush. Come on. To your room. We’ll wait and see if this killer and their machine happens…”
The doorbell trilled. Adeline froze half-rising from her chair. She looked at Issachar in confusion, and he returned her look with equal confusion.
The bell trilled again.
They both rushed to the door, Issachar reaching it first having been a few steps closer. He peered through the peep-hole, only to see that the porch was empty.
“No one out there,” he said. Which meant that the ringing was coming from outside the gate. Adeline had connected a wire and a ringer next to the gate doors so that she didn’t have to leave the gate open at all hours just for visitors and salesmen (but mostly to avoid salesmen).
Adeline sighed in relief. “Oh, thank goodness. We’d be in trouble if they’d gotten through the gate enchantments. Quick, Issachar, the scrying bowl. Let’s see if we can finally put a face to our murderer, if it is our murderer. Although I don’t know why they think ringing the bell would accomplish anything. I’m not an idiot.”
The bell trilled three times in rapid succession as if the one ringing it were getting impatient. Issachar hurried to the study, meeting a disheveled but wide-awake Charly in her pink flower nightgown coming down the stairs.
“What is it, what’s going on?” she asked as Issachar hurried by. He would let Adeline answer. He grabbed the perfectly polished silver bowl from the top-most shelf and its nest of notes on scrying, hurried to the kitchen, and filled it four inches full of water.
Adeline met him in the kitchen and took the bowl when he was done. “Thank you, Iss.” After setting the bowl on the table, she gave the water a moment to settle, then rubbed her hands together in nervous anticipation. “Right, then. Let’s have a look at you.”
When Adeline had installed the ringer next to the gate, she had personally designed the ringer’s frame, etching two eyes and four runes into the fancy, ornate swirling designs so that one would have to look and look hard to see them. With this design, she had created a second peep-hole of sorts (also mostly to avoid salesmen).
When the water stilled, Adeline breathed out a gentle breath through pursed lips, rippling the surface for only a heartbeat. When the water settled, her face reflected back at her with the perfect clarity of the finest mirror.
Then the water rippled a second time without the aid of her breath, and Adeline’s image vanished, replaced by a new image. Reflecting back at them was the world beyond the gate – the gravel road, the trees, and the darkness of the night outside the pool of light from the gate lamp.
There was no one there.