Cal was nearly to the border when he got the call from the baker’s son. None of his alert spells had gone off but Cal could hear the confrontation clearly through the phone. It was a good thing he had a fast car.
As fast as his car was, when he got there the building was quiet, the fight over but the evidence of it was ample. He turned instinctively into the alley where the side door he always used was. As he drove up Cal could see Bob kneeling in the alley next to the side door that had been ripped off and a too still body. When Cal got out he could see the still one was Esteban, the poet. Restraining the urge to run straight inside to check on his Nadine, Cal said gently “Bob?”
Bob sniffled, “He had so much poetry in his heart that he’ll never share now.” Cal knelt down and closed Esteban’s eyes, “Que pases la eternidad escribiendo poesía mi amigo.” He took a deep breath and squeezed Bob’s shoulder then said, “I must check if they got Nadine, where is Wil?”
Bob sniffled and jerked his head at the broken building, “I heard her gun before the building…” he turned towards the museum and hiccuped as he tried to wrap his mind around how the solid building he had come to at the beginning of his shift could now look like his grandchildren’s half destroyed legos. Cal patted him on the shoulder then stood.
“It was just cats.” Bob choked out.
“Cats?” Cal repeated, he looked back at Bob but the old man was sniffling again. He would get nothing more. His need to get inside and check on Nadine was pulling at him. The tension and fear he held in his chest felt like a tight ball of writhing worms that squeezed his heart tighter with every step he took.
He found the wall still standing, but Nadine was gone. Not destroyed. Gone. Taken. His fear melted into a boiling rage. He stood there seething, plotting a dozen ways to make the thief rue the day they touched Nadine until a confusingly familiar voice pierced through the haze.
“You the owner of this mess?”
The man spun around. Confusion etched deeply into his face as he stared at her. He stared at her hard. She could smell the god blood in him. She kept her posture casual but she knew she could pull her sword in a breath if he attacked.
“What business do you have here, Phoenix?” he finally asked.
“I am burdened with a glorious quest.” She answered.
“Were you involved in this?” he said with a small gesture of his hand that indicated the destruction they stood in.
“No, I’ve only just gotten here. This will likely make finding what I need harder.”
“Something to trade The Baba Yaga for passage. Have you seen such a thing?”
His face contorted into a look of disgust. “Why would you want to deal with that hag? She’d eat you sooner then help you.”
“I understand she only eats young girls. Preferably young witches.”
“Wil!” he exclaimed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked like a bracelet made of many different stones. He selected a green one with brown spots.
“What are you doing?!” she demanded, her hand was on her sword like a flash.
“Just a location spell. There were guards on this painting.”
“Other than the sniveling mess in the alley?”
“Of course.” He began to rub the rock with his thumb.
“Don’t!” she warned tightening her grip on the hilt.
“I need to find her if she still lives. I can not help you with your quest before I find her.”
“You will help me with my quest? So willingly? Why?” she demanded. He paused for a moment and stared at her intensely.
“As a son of Apollo it is my duty to help his creations.”
“Apollo has been gone a long time.” she replied bitterly.
“I will always help family.” His eyes had something in them she couldn’t quite read. Sadness but also something more. “May I?” He asked and raised the bracelet a little. The Phoenix nodded but kept her hand on her sword. He rubbed the stone three times with his thumb counter clockwise, then said “Voithíste me na vro ton Wil.” A small light pulled it out of the stone and hovered in place. Tiny tendrils flicked out like it was tasting the air for several seconds. With no warning the little light shot into a pile of rubble to Cal’s side. The large man roared and started digging.
While he was focused on that The Phoenix looked around her and she noticed a huge furry hand half buried. She took a closer look and she noticed the icicles forming anywhere it’s blood touched. Behind her the demigod laughed and shouted “Carl you old gargoyle you!” She turned and saw a stone face snarling at her.
“I thought you were looking for a girl.”
“I am. I’m glad to see him though. I was worried he was rubble.” he continued to dig. “Oh, buddy.” he said as he uncovered the arm stump.
“There’s a stone hand over there. Yeti must have ripped it off.”
“Yeti?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder while he continued to dig.
“Yeah over there”
“That doesn’t make sense. Yeti are normally gent- There you are!” His arm disappeared into a space under the gargoyle, “She’s alive.” He pulled a small hand out of the opening. The Phoenix gripped her sword when he grabbed a knife from his boot but he cut his own hand, then the girl’s. He pressed his cut to hers and said “Therapévo.”
“Will that restore her?”
“She is near death. I have never been a strong healer but I can lend her enough strength to keep alive until more help can arrive.” He settled himself in the rubble never letting go of the little hand. “So, back to your burdensome quest. What made you think what you needed here?”
“This seer did not tell you what you were looking for?”
“She could only tell me to come here, but I think you know what I need.”
He smiled at that and looked down the hole that the little hand was sticking out of.
“Is she a witch?” The Phoenix asked.
“She has potential to be. She has power, but she is unaware how much.”
“Then the Baba Yaga will grant me entry if I have her with me.”
“Is there a particular reason you must go to the Baba Yaga?”
“I know where she is.”
“Is that all?” The Phoenix only shrugged at him. “Well if you need a great witch but don’t care about which one why not go to Holda?”
“I do not know where Holda is and I do not have years to search her out.”
“I can not in good conscience ask Wil to go on a quest where she will definitely be eaten. However, it will take a couple of days for me to get a healer with the skill to heal Wil enough to go on any quest. If I can get Holda’s location in that time will you consider it?”
“Why should I trust the son of Apollo? He started a war then abandoned the phoenixes to Zeus’ wrath.”
“My father left us all behind.”