The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 27

Not again! How many times can a man be wrong in one day? I can’t even begin to surmise why this demon was severed from his own altar in the division of the house, and even if I could, I’d probably just be wrong anyway. This whole situation is beyond confounding!

Relax, Branner. I force myself to stop and think.

If that’s not Surgat’s altar, then it must be the one Lance used. But that doesn’t make sense. He was just as surprised as we to see the blasted thing. Then, a third demon? Entirely possible, but considering the level of destruction, unlikely. Not to mention, the improbability that all three were able to be brought forth at the same time.

There’s another idea. One I don’t particularly like. Summoning demonic entities is merely a powerful spell; one larger than the attacks I’ve been using thus far. The altar is there to focus the power into being. It is similar to how certain spells I use are focused through my cane.

An altar, while rare, could also be used for other large scale spells, beyond a demonic summoning. But the kind of power necessary to perform such tasks is beyond comprehension. As difficult as they are, demon summonings are the easiest of such rituals. Any spell greater would exceed the level of skill even I possess.

To accomplish most anything else that would require an altar, would take a professional mage, one schooled since birth in the art. And the fact that the perpetrator would seal the altar in a dark protective shell only proves how far above my own talents they might be.

Then the question is, what spell is that thing casting? It couldn’t be the illusion spell. That has broken and most illusions are far too weak. Could be something empowering Surgat, but as strange as his appearance is, his strength is comparable to what I’d expect. Mind control? Depending on how deep the manipulation is, it would be entirely possible for such a spell to require this level of power, but it would have to consume the target. No sense of their personality left. And such effort for total domination seems counter-intuitive. A weaker spell combined with honeyed words could accomplish the same thing.

I’m stuck thinking of other possibilities when it hits me. The book!

“Con! Why wasn’t Lance with you when you returned?”

The boy looked surprised, as if he just remembered the task I left to him.

“Oh, uh, I heard the fightin’ going on upstairs. Told him to run ahead and grab the book while I went to help you. Sorry, Branner.”

“Sounds reasonable. But he shouldn’t have taken this long. Did he tell you where the servants’ quarters are located?”

“Yeah, kinda, but I don’ know how well I know this place to get us there.”

“I’m sure you’ll do your best.”

Surgat wasn’t going anywhere soon, so I left the demon be. We exited the study and my young ward led me through the house towards what I hoped was Lance’s room.

The upper corridors were still an unhelpful maze to me, but once we found the stairs down to the ground floor, Con had a much better time leading. I suppose he has spent more time stealing from this part of the house. The workers were much more cautious around me while Con was at my side. I suppose word of our battles had spread further. One would think our presence would calm them, seeing as we won both scrapes, but fear is rarely rational.

As Con started slowing down, I noticed we’d arrived. The servants’ living area was much larger than expected. Common rooms split off into individual bedrooms, though none were likely to be as grand as anything upstairs. Still, the kind of money the doctor could throw at something seemingly so trivial was astounding. Wires attached to bells notified different servants of different needs, and a back staircase allowed quick, concealed access to specific public rooms.

“End of the road, Branner. I don’t know which room is the kid’s.”


“Well, let’s look around. We’ve been given access to the entire estate remember. You start on the right; I’ll start on the left.”

The first two rooms housed an older boy who didn’t even look at me, and the personal effects of other servants. The third room in and Con gives me a call. I quickly cross the hall to him, where he points in an empty room.

“You’re sure this is his?”

“Yeah, sure as hell. It still smells like him.”

The young man was nowhere to be seen, though the entire floor was covered in clothes and trinkets. Not due to carelessness, rather, it appeared to have been ransacked. I can only imagine Lance did not find the book and tore his own room apart looking for it. Which leads me to my next question….

“Where is Lance?”

“Ya got me wit that one. I can only tell he’s been here. Outside the room, he mixes with everyone else.”

I kneel down and move some of the items around on the floor.

“It seems he couldn’t locate the tome and took to tearing his quarters apart to find it. But the fact he did not come back to us makes me think he never found the possession,” I explained.

“So… where is he?”

I haven’t the foggiest. Did he suspect someone of taking the book? Could he have misplaced it elsewhere in the estate?

Con and I continue our investigation, asking the few people here, but none claim to have seen him lately.

Our one lead and he’s disappeared into nothing.


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