Chapter 16
Hound on the Hunt

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

Inspector Andress had visited the site of the crime multiple times since he was first put on the case, but now there was a chance of grasping at some solid evidence to confirm his suspicions. It was eminently frustrating that he had to file a special request to the capital to bring in a licensed mage. Here he was in the home of the Phoenix Mages' Guild and not a single member of the guild was licensed to work with the local police. It was not that there was no one eligible to satisfy licensing requirements but rather that everyone who was eligible among them refused to apply. Some sort of misplaced sense of camaraderie. The few who actually were willing to work for ARCANUM angled for positions close to noble patrons, which meant a lot of paperwork for someone like Inspector Andress to request their services.
Master Turco came highly recommended. He was one of the people responsible for crafting ARCANUM's licensing program and unlike so many of his peers, he was quick to offer his full cooperation with the government when the Mage Ban was implemented. It was less out of patriotic duty than a canny awareness of the advantage he could claim by collaborating with the new order.
A former master mage of the Basilisk Guild, he had no love for his old rivals in the Phoenix Guild, so there was no question of whether or not he would hesitate to bring the culprit to justice if a Phoenix mage was responsible for the incident.
He was as ostentatious as any wizard, perhaps more so now as he was one of the few who could do so openly. He had bells tied to the curls of his beard and the hem of his robe that tinkled as he walked. The wide flared collar of his orange-and-yellow cloak made it look like his head was encircled in flame. Inspector Andress preferred the humbler licensed mages who did not feel the need to draw so much attention to themselves, but if Master Turco could get results, that was the most important thing.
"Inspector Andress, I presume," Turco said.
"That's right," Inspector Andress replied. "Chief Witch-hunter of the Vigau Municipal Police. And you are quite clearly Master Turco. Good morning to you."
Inspector Andress extended his hand to Master Turco. The wizard looked down at his hand disdainfully and walked past him, saying, "I have already read the report you submitted to headquarters, but I would like to hear it again."
Inspector Andress wondered if Turco had indeed bothered to read the report, but he reiterated the facts of the case all the same.
"Five weeks ago, we received a report that the bronze statue on the pedestal here had disappeared. Our investigation uncovered no physical evidence of its removal. The pedestal has not been damaged in any way, nor were there any signs of it having been dragged off. There were no eyewitnesses either.
"The only lead we have comes from a patrolman who saw a man named Giger Taus supposedly preparing the site for an art project. The implication was deemed insufficient grounds to issue a search warrant for his home. I'm hoping you can find something to substantiate our suspicions to satisfy the judge."
"A lot of trouble to call me all the way out here for one of those old statues," Turco said dismissively. "You can find them practically anywhere."
"They may not be rare, Master Turco," the Inspector said, "but they are still an invaluable relic of pre-Cataclysmic civilization."
"If pre-Cataclysmic civilization was so worthwhile, Inspector," Turco replied dismissively, "it would still be here."
A man with no appreciation for the past cannot properly appreciate the future, but Inspector Andress did not allow himself to speak out of line just because Master Turco put his ignorance on display.
"Regardless, the Ministry of Antiquities values the statues highly and we must account for this one," Inspector Andress said. "If there was some violation of the Mage Ban in relation to the crime, we have all the more reason to give the matter our fullest intention."
"Very well," Turco replied, thoroughly disinterested. "Let us see if you had any good reason to call me out to this miserable little hellhole."
He then walked over to the pedestal and stretched out his hand, releasing a little crystal dangling off a gold chain. He waved his hand over the pedestal in slow circles and though it was difficult to see in the light of day, Inspector Andress caught the faintest hint of the crystal glowing.
"Yes..." Turco said in a low voice. "Magic was used here. Faint, but unmistakable..."
As much as he wanted evidence of a rogue mage, Inspector Andress could not help but be skeptical. He would not put it past a man like Turco to resort to quackery to aggrandize his abilities and accomplishments.
"You can still sense it after five weeks?" the Inspector asked.
Turco gave him a scornful look.
"How long have you been a Witch-hunter, Inspector?" he asked. "Magic is not like physical evidence. It lingers... Especially now that the Mage Ban has eliminated the common practice of magic, it is impossible to hide."
While the Inspector resented Turco's attitude, he could not deny that in thirteen years of experience as a Witch-hunter he still could claim nothing more than a rudimentary knowledge of how magic worked. It seemed that those who were not born with the gift of magic could never hope to understand it in any meaningful way.
Rather than dwell on this, the Inspector moved the conversation along.
"And what manner of spell do you think was cast here?" he asked. "Did our rogue mage make the statue get up and walk away?"
"It would not be impossible, Inspector," Turco replied. "Have you never heard of the Talos or the Golem?"
"I can't say that I have."
Turco sniffed dismissively and said, "I do not have such an abundance of time that I would regale you with the stories. Simply put, making the inanimate animate is by no means impossible. It is high-level magic, though. We are dealing with no common rogue." He paused for a moment, stroking his beard in silence for a few moments before saying--apparently to himself, "There is a familiar touch to this magic..."
It was said that mages who were sufficiently attuned to it were able to identify a particular magic signature much as a trained investigator could identify a suspect's fingerprints. If Master Turco recognized the lingering traces of magic at the crime scene, his testimony should act as sufficient evidence to satisfy the judge.
"Can you identify the caster?" Inspector Andress asked.
"Perhaps," Turco said. He then went back to talking to himself. "So similar, but not quite the same... It could not possibly..."
If this was going to become a habit, Inspector Andress was already tiring of it.
"Would you care to share, Master Turco?" he asked.
"No, Inspector, not yet."
Very well then. On to the next question.
"How about paying a visit to our suspect?"
"No. Now is not the time. I need to look into some things. Prepare."
"Prepare for what?"
Master Turco was already walking away and did not even bother to look back as he replied, "Settling an old score, Inspector. If this is what I think it is, we cannot afford to show any weakness."
What exactly was he expecting? As much as Inspector Andress wanted to cast doubts on Turco's claims, a part of him feared the wizard was not merely exaggerating the threat in a bid to oversell his importance. If that were so, their power alone might not be enough for the coming conflict.