An icy atmosphere had settled in the village, with Vitoriel and her apprentices keeping to their own, while the rest talked in incensed voices around a bonfire some thirty meters away. The village felt incredibly empty, now that everyone had been gated away, and just the abandoned corpses of two elderly ladies remained.
Evening arrived as the sun set in the west, visible over the verdant canopy of the Ardenwald. The mist drifted around in banks, and Aeomi studied one out on the fields, about to swallow an oxen that walked around aimlessly. Then it hit her. When they arrived they had seen farmers on the outlying fields. They had seen farms on the outlying fields, and the famers had seen them. And there she saw an oxen, still wearing its harness, plodding aimlessly around on field, ever closer to the village.
"Antler Witch!", it hissed. "Show yourself!"
But no answer came, and it slashed violently into a nearby giant tree with its greatsword, making it tremble visibly.
"I will find you, witch!", it hissed again and then it glided off. It was ravenous after its centuries of imprisonment. It needed to feed, and soon.
Ten minutes after it was gone, she dared breathe again. The woman known as Antler Witch was pale when she emerged from the bark of the tree the Ekauri had cut. She was bleeding profusely from the wound, but she did not dare use any healing magic. Instead she pressed a patch of moss against it, stemming the flow.
"Something has happened. Something has let the Ekauri loose!", she whispered to herself.
The Silmarite had severe trouble adjusting to it all, they screamed and cried and tried to run away from these outlandish magic using beings. In the end the Master called upon Sirli of the Enchanters Hall to calm them down, and she wove an enchantment and soon they walked around with dreamy eyes, touching the air and each other, mumbling words like: "Beautiful..." and "I love you all!".
The Master seemed visibly shaken at the mention of Astrida's death. "She was our one link to Dieter... I gave her a promise of protection... And she died by our hands...", she was stammering, obviously shaken by the loss of an ally.
When Elquin brought up the quarreling among the masters she shook her head.
"The Masters are supreme rulers of their field of expertise here at the monestary, Elquin", she said. "But when they argue, they do so loudly, and with much panache! Vitoriel is probably among the most powerful of the masters, rivaling, or at least coming close to, the might of Dieter Sachshoff, though his extreme invokations would undoubtedly have turned all of my masters to ash, should he have turned upon us"
There was a distant look in the Master's milked over eyes, as if she was remembering another time, another place.
Then Elquin revealed a surprisingly accurate sketch, of a man in full plate, with regal cape and all. The Master held it up, and studied it closely.
"This is a Hexenjaeger General, and a Royal. You have just sketched one of Silmar's infamous Paladin Princes, my good, good friend"
Then Elquin brought up the presence of the chained man in his dream, being held by a leash.
"The leashed man could be a 'sniffer'. A Silmar, or slave of another race, who has the latent talent for magic but was never trained in its use, captured and dominated through torture by Hexenjaegers, and never taught the use of magic. Beaten into submission and treated like animals, this sniffer could be used by the Hexenjaegers to sniff out magic users and hunt them down. Just my theory, Master", Elquin stated.
The Master smiled mysteriously, then clapped with enthusiasm.
"Your instincts serve you well, Elquin, for you describe a Mage Sniffer, able to hunt down and track the scent of magic and magic users for miles and miles. They are practicioners of the arcane, that the Kingdom has captured and broken."
He took a look at the tomes from the cottage along with the master. "Sachshoff's Treatise on the Fires of Cahrynae" was the first. The Master leant over it, opening its first page. The small horns in her forehead began to glow red as she did so, and she quickly shut the book close.
"Careful, Elquin. This is one of Dieter's works, and it is warded by his fire enchantments. This book must be opened by a Master, and only by a prepared master"
The next book was smaller, but with an iron cover. The Master turned it over to its first page. "The Annals of 913 - The Massacre of Thracien"
Now the Master looked troubled. "How could it be?.. How could it be?..", she said over and over again, then she moved the book to the side. She had a truly worried look now.
"This book...", she pointed to the last. "Let me see it!"
Elquin brought up a black fur book; a tome wrapped in black bear fur. The Master opened it, and warrant posters were inside.
"Wanted for crimes against humanity: Victor Haydn, Foul Consort of the Dead. 3000 Silmar Crowns. Last seen in the vicinity of the Ketange-Ishatal Monestary", she read aloud, holding up the loose warrant poster.
She dug up the next: "Wanted for witchery, sorcery and consorting with demons: Dieter Sachshoff, Arsonist and Murderer of Children, Elderly and Women! 13500 Silmar Crowns. Last seen in the vicinity of the Ketange-Ishatal Monestary"
There were six posters, even one on Vitoriel, with her portrayed as a murderous witch and promising 400 Silmar Crowns to those who would bring her to justice. The tome itself started behind the six wanted posters. It was a heavy tome, and the Master read its title aloud.
"The Evils of Sorcery: Ketange-Ishatal, a Viper's Nest secluded away in the mountains. A horror story told by a daring and patriotic infiltrator"
"Elquin... This here... Well, the tome is not penned by Astrida. I can tell you that much. But these posters, this tome... Silmar has its eyes upon us! You must find out more, but please, Elquin, caution the masters. Tell them that we must have more information!"
With an incantation a silvery mirror, much like the one Elquin had seen in the cottage, detached from the wall and flew over to where they stood. The Master held the last book in her arms, in front of the mirror.
"Hechras Miras", she said, then she spat at the book, then at the mirror. She reached into the mirror, and retrieved the mirror image of the book.
"You keep the original!", she said.
The Ethenorden realized that the Master was not thinking about him anymore, that she was lost in thought, so he returned to the bewitched villagers.
"Did Astrida have many visitors?", he asked several of them, walking dazedly in the village or among the trees on the outskirts of the walled compound.
"She had one man, many months ago. And she helped my aunt perform childbirth three weeks ago!", one young girl replied, before she traced Elquin's face with her fingers. "You look so beautiful!", she said with stars in her eyes. Then she moved on, hugging a tree.
In the end, Elquin was alone with Hakros the Spear Slayer. It was about ten minute till the rift closed.