Tragic Magic

Michael Panush

Detectives Quelvelas Loth'Lorien and Kintinorous Kope were used to the bad ends of New Zephyr. Their usual beat took them from the gambling halls and raucous taverns of the moss-stained Nethers, the bloody backstreets of Goblin Market and the fight pits and muddy alleys of the Troll Shanty Town. They worked amongst the criminal class, the cutthroat crowds of the great floating metropolis who would shank their own grandmothers for a fast buck. So when they got a bodyguard assignment, one which took them to the penthouse room of the fanciest hotel in Dolmen Square, they were more than a little surprised.

Kope, as usual, was optimistic. "Mistress of the Guard Crane has gotten us a fine assignment," he said. "Our stars our rising, Quelvelas, despite our, um, recent setbacks."

"You mean hauling in Ninky Rotblood, Boss Crowe's pet kobold, and making Dragon Hall pay for the falassing bastard's bail?" Quelvelas shook his head. They were in the elevator of the Emerald Rose Hotel, one of the best establishments in town. The elevator was a sleek room of glowing crystal with a wizened dwarf operator, which sped up with a silent rush of air. "That made us the elf and gnome everyone hates, my little friend – and more so than usual."

"So you think Crane was unable to get us a good assignment?"

"She did her best, and that sweet little lady can do pretty falassing good – but no, its still the dung-end of the stick for us." Quelvelas shook his head. "I mean, bodyguard work for some witch woman? That stinks worse than a troll's backside."

The elevator's bell rang softly as it reached the top. The dwarf looked back at them, his wrinkled body strange in his crisp, pressed red uniform. "Here you are, gentlemen," he said, as the gilded doors rolled open. "Enjoy your stay."

Kope stepped out first into the lowl it hall and approached the door. Their assignment was simple – a number of high-ranking magicians from two warring wizard clans were in town. The Sons of Magnar, favoring flame magic, and the Coldyne Consortium, favoring frost magic, had been feuding in the academic and martial arenas for a long time, but now it appeared they were ready to bury the hatchet. All of the Granderite Empire hoped that the negotiations would be successful, and a century of wizardry that had scorched fields and frozen cities would come to an end. New Zephyr was chosen as a neutral city for the meeting.

But that meant keeping the negotiators safe, and Quelvelas and Kope were sent to look out for Treleen Maulbrom, the Grand Vizier of the Coldyne Consortium. Crane had been quite careful to express the importance of keeping Maulbrom safe.

Quelvelas wasn't too happy about the job. "And you can bet she's gonna be all the wrong kinds of trouble," he said, as they walked down the hall. Quelvelas' boots dragged mud along the carpet. "Some fat pimple of a woman, concerned about her collection of oversized hats and beauty potions and nothing else." He paused before the door. "Care to do the honors, little fellow?"

"Just try and keep an open mind, I implore you," Kope said. He stood on his tiptoes and rapped twice on the door.

It opened inwards, revealing a neat hotel room done in ivory white and deep crimson. A young human woman stood before them, her blonde hair done in a studious bun secured with pointed sticks. She wore a blue robe embroidered with spiraling white designs, and had the delicate thin features of some snowy egret. She folded her hands and bowed her head. "Good morning, gentlemen," she said. "Why exactly are you visiting my room?"

"I'm Detective Kintinorous Kope and this is Detective Quelvelas Loth'Lorien," Kope explained. "We're with the New Zephyr Constabulary. We're here to escort you to the meeting today, in Floral Hieghts." He offered a quick smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Maulbrom."

"Thank you. I certainly appreciate it, but I wasn't aware I'd need any bodyguards." She looked up at Quelvelas and then down at Kope. "But you gentlemen seem quite qualified."

"We are, madam. Absolutely. New Zephyr just wants you there to be peace between the Sons of Magnar and the Coldyne Consortium."

Treleen Maulbrom nodded. "I do as well, and it appears the my constituents and the Sons of Magnar have had that wish, for a very long time. It seems strange how long we've been mired in this bloody little feud, which nobody truly desires. But Gods willing, it will end today." She turned away. "I need to prepare for a few seconds, and then we'll depart."

She stepped away into the back room, leaving Quelvelas and Kope in the hallway. Kope looked at his partner. Quelvelas's mouth was open, his long tongue hanging out onto his chin. His eyes were wide and his ears were pulled back, like a dog trying to become streamlined. Kope shook his head. "For Gods' sake, man," he muttered. "Show a little restraint."

"There ain't no restraining this," Quelvelas said. "For I have gazed onto the face of pure, virtuous beauty, and her name is Trelawn!"

"Treleen," Kope corrected.

"Treleen Maulbrom." Quelvelas continued without missing a beat. "You see them big black peepers of her? A fellow could get lost in those things. And the way she walks – it's like a forest nymph tiptoeing through a garden of joy. Holy Falass, Kintinorous, every bit of her is perfect!"

Before Quelvelas could continue his speech, Treleen Maulbrom reappeared. She wore a tall, round hat of silky white fur, which seemed to weigh heavily on her head. A tall staff, topped with a glistening white crystal, rested comfortably in her hand. Treleen smiled, a little nervously, at Quelvelas and Kope. "May I ask how I look?" she asked softly.

"Very beautiful," Kope said.

Quelvelas licked his lips. "You are one gorgeous little piece of human, honey-pie, and that is the pure and honest truth."

Treleen stared at Quelvelas. "Detective Kope," she said, folding her hands into her voluminous sleeves. "Is your partner all right?"

"Don't mind him, Miss Maulbrom," Kope said quickly. "Come on. There's a steam chariot waiting for you at the curb."

They stepped into the hallway, and after an extremely awkward elevator ride, walked into the bleary sunlight of a New Zephyr morning, and into a luxury steam chariot waiting for the Grand Vizier of the Coldyne Consortium. Wizardry meant big money, and the Consortium had spared no expense to outfit its representative in the peace talks. Her steam chariot was like an ivory white battleship, set on four pairs of wheels and rolling down the crowded streets to Floral Heights between two motorcycles containing armed Consortium guards in crisp white uniforms.

Kope settled in opposite Treleen and next to his partner in the back of the steam chariot as its engine rumbled. It was a cold day in New Zephyr, with a hint of fluffy fog rolling in from the east and just reaching the flying city. The air was crisp, and it seemed suitable weather for shepherding an ice mage. They started rolling through the streets, and Kope folded his hands over his lap and looked out of the tinted windows. The tall business towers of Dolmen Square gave way to the wide avenues and palatial estates of Floral Hieghts. The meeting was to take place in the Temple of Skaron, a lesser god accepted by the Consortium and the Sons of Magnar.

As they sped along, Quelvelas didn't take his eyes off of Treleen. Kope looked at his partner, and saw the longing, almost pitiful expression in his partner's eyes. Treleen Maulbrom noticed it too. "Pardon me, Detective Kope" she said, still utterly polite. "But is there a reason your partner is staring at me?"

"Only because you're the most beautiful creature I ever seen, Miss Maulbrom," Quelvelas said. "You're a ray of purest heaven, sent into my poor world. And you got a stoth'na like—"

Treleen coughed. "I really don't have the time or energy for dealing with this," she said. Her voice was clipped and calm. "You see, I'm the first woman to ever hold the rank of Grand Vizier, and there are many who expect me to fail. The Consortium deeply requires this peace treaty to be ratified, and if it's not, I don't know how many innocents will perish in our pointless wizard's squabble. So I really don't have time for romantic escapades. And I don't know if would even consider you, Detective Loth'Lorien."

But Quelvelas wasn't listening. "You spoke my name with a perfect elfish accent," he said. "My own partner don't do that!" He leaned forward. "So, you're ain't taken? And you're not into that liking other women bal'sarthun'oth'ka?"

"N-no," Treleen said hesitantly. "But I don't want a relationship now. I'm sorry, but that's final." She leaned back, trying to keep as much space between her and Quelvelas as possible. Kope put a hand on his partner's shoulder and pulled Quelvelas back.

The elfin detective looked like a zeppelin with a gash down its middle. He hung his head. "All right, all right," he said. "I guess I should expect it."

Before he could continue sulking, the luxury steam chariot came to a sudden halt. Kope looked out the window. "Oh grubs," he said to himself. A large wagon, pulled by a pair of tubby gray oxen was overturned in the middle of the street, neatly blocking their way." Kope opened the door and stepped out. The two motorcycles had stopped, their white-uniformed riders raising their bolt-action rifles and surveying the street.

Quelvelas poked his head out of a window. "Why the fright, little buddy? It's just some damn wagon and a couple of fat cows. Nothing to be frightened of."

"But where are the drovers?" Kope asked. "And the wagon's empty. I don't like this. It smells of an—" The street below Kope's feet exploded outwards. The gnome was hurled into the air. He felt the wind tearing at him like a thousand little claws, and then the hood of the steam chariot reached out and cracked into his entire body. He rolled into the windshield and heard the distinct sound of glass shattering.

Kope tried to stand as he looked over his shoulder, but he knew it wasn't going to happen. Something stood before the steam chariot, large and white and shining in the dull sunlight. It stepped forward, and Kope saw that it was twice as tall as a normal man, broad as a steam chariot, and white as snow. It was an Ice Elemental, a being of solid, glistening frost formed into a roughly human shape, with jagged icicles bulging out from its arms and legs like impaled spears. Its face was smooth and blank, like a department store mannequin of frosted glass.

"Quelvelas!" Kope rolled off of the hood of the steam chariot and hit the street. His legs felt like piles of mud and his arms seemed weighted down. "Get Maulbrom out of here! Go!" He heard the crack of frost with each step the Ice Elemental took. It was coming closer to the chariot, ignoring him and going straight for the Grand Vizier.

The Ice Elemental grabbed the top of the luxury steam chariot with a clawed hand and wrenched away the metal roofing, pulling aside like it was paper. The two Consortium Guards opened fire at the frost monster, their bolt-action rifles sending bullet after bullet and kicking up bursts of icy skin, but they did nothing to slow the elemental. It reached a claw down, its icicle fingers like poised spears, about to skewer Treleen Maulbrom.

But Quelvelas wouldn't have it. "Get away from her!" he shouted, coming to his feet as he drew out both revolvers. He stood over Maulbrom, pouring twelve bullets straight into the frozen skull of the Ice Elemental. Chunks of frost fell away, and the Elemental turned its attention to Quelvelas, rivers of ice water pouring down its face. It grabbed him with its claw.

Quelvelas went for his curved elfish dagger. "Run, Treleen!" he cried. "Falassing run for it! I'll kill this cold sack of waste! You get out of here!" He hurled the dagger forward, burying it to the hilt in the throat of the Elemental. The Ice Elemental tossed Quelvelas away, cracks running down from the blade's wound.

Quelvelas landed near his partner, but rolled on the street and drew up to his hands and knees. He looked down at Kope, who was still trying to move. "You okay, buddy?" he asked, coming to his feet.

Kope reached into his coat, his hand fastening around the handle of his rune cannon. He twisted the dials with numb fingers, biting his lip as he tried to get the settings just right. "Here," he said, holding up the cannon. "Aim and…fire." The words tasted like glass coming out of his throat.

"Thanks." Quelvelas grabbed the rune cannon and held it with both hands. "You're a life saver."

The Ice Elemental turned back to Treleen, who had slipped out of the wrecked steam chariot and was crawling towards the street, trying to stay low. In a single bound, the Elemental leapt over the chariot, bits of ice and sleet spiraling away from it like a comet's trail.

It crashed down behind Treleen, and pulled back both hands to finish her. Quelvelas ran towards the Ice Elemental, raising Kope's rune cannon. "You ain't gonna do that, big boy!" Quelvelas cried. "Go on and suck on this!" He squeezed the trigger, sending a pinpoint blast of superheated fire energy straight into the Ice Elemental's chest.

It burned a hole through the Ice Elemental, big enough for Kope to climb through. Quelvelas didn't stop, rising the pistol and firing again, this time aiming for the head of the Ice Elemental. It vanished in a wide blast of pure orange light, but the giant animated hunk of frost continued coming.

"Falass you!" Quelvelas shouted. "Falassing die already!" He kept firing, burning off the arms, then lower chest, then legs of the Ice Elemental. On the sixth shot, the Elemental collapsed, turning into a pile of cold sludge and liquid, looking strange against the dark street. Quelvelas gave it a kick, scattering the snow into the street.

As soon as it was done, he ran to Kope's side. "Get on the crystal ball in the chariot!" he ordered to the Consortium guards. "Call the Constabulary and get some back-up here, real damn quick! And one of you move that oxcart!" The oxen were bellowing in panic and pulling at their reins. Kope could barely hear them.

Quelvelas helped Kope up, leaning him against the side of the steam chariot. Kope looked up at his partner as he felt some motion returning to his legs. "I'll be okay," he said, flexing his fingers. "The Ice Elemental gave me quite a beating, but I'll be okay."

Treleen stepped behind Quelvelas. "My Gods," she whispered. "I'm so sorry, detectives. I had no idea—"

"Just our jobs, ma'am," Quelvelas replied. "Protecting the innocent. My partner's a brave little guy, and tough as they come. He'll be fine. I'll have the back-up give him a ride back to his apartment and he'll be in for work tomorrow."

"No." Kope tried to stand, and felt blasts of weakness in his legs. He sat back down, hating himself. "Someone should stay with Treleen. She should go to her meeting, and there may very well be other attempts on her life."

"I'll stay with her," Quelvelas replied. He looked back at Treleen, his boisterous tone fading into something much more bashful and quiet. "Or, if you'd prefer someone else, ma'am, we can get another detective to look after you for the day's negotiations."

But Treleen shook her head. "No, sir," she said. "I want you with me, Detective Loth'Lorien. You have displayed a great deal of courage, intelligence and compassion, both for me and your partner. I can think of no one better to protect my person. And I apologize for my earlier rudeness. I have clearly misread your character."

"You don't gotta do that," Quelvelas said, holding his broad brimmed hat in his thin fingers. "Ma'am, you ain't gotta apologize for anything."

Despite his injuries, Kope smiled. He could hear sirens wailing in the distance. Treleen Maulbrom would be safe, and even though she'd be a little late to her meeting, there was no doubt it would be successful. But a question nagged in the back of Kope's mind, piercing through the dazed fog of his battered state.

"It was an Ice Elemental," he said suddenly. "Someone with a mastery of Frost Magic might have sent it."

"Or anybody with money enough to hire a competent sorcerer," Treleen replied. "The fear that I have traitors in my ranks would severely undermine the peace process. I won't entertain that possibility, at least not until these negotiations are through."

"You sure are dedicated to that cause," Quelvelas added.

Treleen shrugged. "I believe peace to be a cause worthy of devotion."

Kope nodded his agreement.

One of the Constabulary Steam Chariots took Kope back to his apartment, after giving him some healing potions and swaths of bandages for his cuts and bruises. He stumbled into his apartment and rested on the couch in his shirtsleeves, letting his strength return to him as the day went by. He had the crystal ball on his mantelpiece turned on, and listened to its slow hum and crackle, waiting for a message from Quelvelas about Treleen Maulbrom. He hoped the negotiations were going well.

In the later afternoon, his little brother returned from school. Garnaby Kope hurried inside and then stared at the bandages cuts on Kope's face. "Kinny!" he cried, real panic in his voice. "Are you okay? Oh gods, Kinny, what happened?"

"I'm fine." Kope sat up and leaned forward, giving little Garnaby a comforting pat on the shoulder. "Just got banged around a little by an Ice Elemental. I'll be sore in the morning, but I've suffered far greater injuries in the line of duty."

"Do you feel up to going to the Clockwork District for the play tonight? With Miss Ruxter?" Garnaby asked. Kope smiled at the parental feelings of his younger brother. "I can call her up, and we can change the day, if you're not feeling well enough, I mean."

"For Miss Ruxter, I will risk upsetting a minor wound." Kope stood up and walked to the kitchen. "Have you eaten? Here, I'll prepare you a quick snack, and you can tell me what happened at school."

They did just sat, munching on a basket of roasted pop-cherries while Garnaby talked of the day's lesson, of how he had received a brief insult from a surly classmate, and his other friends had come to his defense. Kope was happy to hear it. If the Coldyne Consortium and the Sons of Magnar could find a way around their differences, it was certainly possible for a young gnome to find acceptance in a school of New Zephyr's rich.

While they were talking, the crystal ball began to hum. "Hold on, Garnaby," Kope said, hurrying to the mantelpiece. "This message may be vital." He looked down into the frosted glass and saw the mist within clear, revealing the excited face of Quelvelas Loth'Lorien. "Quelvelas," Kope said. "What happened?"

"Pretty boring meeting, mostly. A whole bunch of Coldyne and Magnar muckety-mucks were in the temple, and there was a lot of talking about terms and amity and all this other Bal'sarthun'oth'ka that I didn't quite understand. But Treleen said it went well, and I believe her."

"Treleen?" Kope asked. "You're already on first name basis with the Grand Vizier?"

Quelvelas smiled. It was a strange kind of grin. It was not the excited, malicious snarl Quelvelas had before he busted some criminal, or the leering, longing grin for some pretty girl he saw across the street, but a content satisfied smile. "That's right," he said. "We hit it off. She said I was brave and kind, and maybe she had spoken too soon. We talked about all sorts of things. She's so smart, Kintinorous, and she cares so much for peace and the well being of Unmen like you and me. She's a regular forest friend."

"That's wonderful," Kope replied. He almost forgot to ask about the attack. "Any suspects concerning the summoning of the Frost Giant?"

"Oh, right, I almost forgot." Quelvelas shook his head. "Treleen herself ran a scan on it. Told you she was smart, didn't I? Well, it comes from an Elemental-in-a-Jar kit at the Magi Emporium, up in Cauldron Market. I did a little research and found we've got an old friend working there as a clerk. What do you say I pick you up, and then we head right over there and have a little chat with him?"

Kope checked the time. He looked back at Garnaby. "Willa will be here soon," he said. "But can you entertain here until I return. I promise I won't be gone long, and we can easily catch a latter exhibition in the Clockwork District."

"It's important?" Garnaby asked.

"It certainly is."

Garnaby nodded gravely. "Okay, Kinny," he said. "Miss Ruxter is very nice, and I'll try to entertain her as best I can. Be careful, though, and hurry back."

"I will," Kope agreed. "And thank you. I'm sure you know how much Willa means to me."

A few minutes later, just as evening settled over New Zephyr, Quelvelas came by in the Rattlecat and picked him up. Quelvelas seemed to be lost in a haze of happiness during their drive over to Cauldron Market. He didn't swear at the other drivers or vehicles, and kept mostly under the speed limit. Kope was surprised, but didn't comment on it. They talked about Treleen the whole way there.

"I think she's the one, Kintinorous," Quelvelas said, addressing Kope by his proper name, another rarity. "In fact, I'm falassing sure of it. There's been plenty of other women for me, you know, but most of them are so slimy they leave a trail behind them, or they want me to pay them afterwards, for some reason or another." He smiled to himself as he steered the Rattlecat through a Dolmen Square backstreet, heading deeper into the upscale financial district, where Cauldron Market waited. "You should hear her talk – all sweet and kind, and nervous, about things. Reminds me a little of you, you know?"

"No, I don't," Kope said quickly. "But I am glad for you – greatly so." He changed the subject. "So, you mentioned we have an acquaintance working in the Magi Emporium. Who is it?"

Quelvelas shrugged. "I'll let you see, my friend. Don't want to spoil the surprise."

Their acquaintance turned out to be none other than Ignatius Du Morne, an aspiring necromancer the detectives had encountered during a case in Deadtown. Du Morne meant well, and his skills in the arts of resurrection were prodigious, but he had a flair for the dramatic which grated on everyone's nerves.

When they met him, he wore the scarlet waistcoat, matching tie and lime green cap of a Magi Emporium clerk. He looked miserable. "Ah, my friends amongst the Constabulary!" Du Morne cried, doffing his hat to them as they approached across the crowded floor of the Emporium. He hurried over to join them. "What can I do to aid you in your unending quest for justice?" His pale, thin and cadaverous aspect remained, but seemed somehow constricted in his store uniform.

The Magi Emporium was a massive store, full of shelves containing strange glowing amulets and jewels, delicate living creatures in carefully designed cages, potions that changed colors in the blink of an eye, and countless wizard customers in ornate robes and suits. Even in the evening, the Emporium remained crowded, and the cacophony of haggled deals, descriptions of spells and their ingredients, and complaints of shoddy unicorn horns echoed through the wide hall.

Kope smiled at Du Morne. "We're investigating a case, actually. There was an attack on Treleen Maulbrom, of the Coldyne Consortium, with an Ice Elemental, that we believe was purchased here."

Du Morne nodded. "I have been following the negotiations quite eagerly. Come this way, my friends, and you shall behold the darksome majesty of the product manifest!" He led them across the busy store floor, to a number of desks in the back. Kope and Quelvelas followed him.

"So, are you enjoying your new job?" Kope asked.

The amateur necromancer stopped. He looked down at Kope. "Let me speak truthfully, for my boss is not within earshot," he said. "I loathe it. The customers are utter idiots. Their lack of magical knowledge is staggering, and they insist on arguing with me when I attempt to correct them, which my boss has forbidden me to do, curse him to the foulest pits of the blackest netherhell!" He sighed. "But the hours are good and the pay is decent. Someday soon I'll have enough for a necromancer's license. And of course, the work is legal."

"Well, Mr. Du Morne, you have any help getting that permit, you come running to us and we'll give you a hand," Quelvelas said. "We owe you are lives, and we're more than willing to help you. I'll even overlook your tendency to dress like a falassing corpse in a tomb."

"Thank you," Du Morne said. He cocked his head at Quelvelas. "Are you well?"

"He's fine," Kope said. "Let's have a look at those records, if you don't mind."

"Of course." Du Morne took them to his desk and removed a large folder full of papers. He flipped through them, his thin fingers moving quickly through the store notes. "Now, I'm sure my boss would demand that I explain Magi Emporium's policy – we don't sell potentially dangerous supplies, including Elemental-In-A-Jars, to anyone without a license." He stopped searching and pulled out a single page. "Here we are," he said. "Looks like an Ice Elemental was sold to a Mr. Short, one week ago."

Kope thought back to his daily readings of the New Zephyr Whirlwind newspaper. "One week ago. That's when the negotiations were announced to take place here," he said. "Mr. Short must be our man. Any first name? Address?"

Du Morne shook his head. "He's an out-of-towner, apparently, and no first name was given." He looked up. "I'm sorry, my friends, but that is all the information present here. He did, apparently, possess the proper paperwork."

"Yeah," Quelvelas muttered. "Except any falassing prick with a connection to Dragon Hall can buy themselves the proper paperwork. And I bet that 'Mr. Short' name is an alias." His smile vanished and Kope saw real panic wash over him. Quelvelas stroked his moustache, staring at the tips of his boots. "Some bastard with real connections to Dragon Hall bought the elemental," he said. "And they'll be coming after poor Treleen again."

"We'll keep her safe," Kope assured his partner. "I promise."

"Yeah." Quelvelas shrugged as he took the paper from Du Morne's hands. "Thanks for the info, pal. We'll hand it over to Mistress Crane and see what she can come up with." He turned back to Kope. "Right. Let's get moving. See you around, Du Morne. And stay nice and law abiding now, cause we ain't going nowhere."

They left the Magi Emporium and returned to the Rattlecat in the parking lot. Quelvelas started to take Kope back his apartment. Both detectives were silent during the journal, lost in thought about the case and their troubles. Kope continuously checked the watch on his vest, muttering curses as the minutes ticked by and traffic worsened. He hoped he wouldn't keep Willa waiting. She liked Garnaby a lot, which proved her worth to Kope, but he still didn't want to inconvenience her in any way.

With a screech, Quelvelas parked the steam chariot outside Kope's apartment. Kope opened the door, and saw Willa and Garnaby were already heading out of the lobby to meet them. He walked over to them, smiling as Quelvelas poked his head out of the steam chariot.

"Willa!" Kope cried. She was wearing a dark dress, somewhat formal for the clockwork play, and a checkered scarf wrapped around her shoulders for the cold. "It's good to see you. I'm terribly sorry I kept you waiting, and I really didn't mean to—"

"It's alright, Kinny," Willa said, giving him an indulgent nod. "Garnaby was fine company. Now, I think we're ready to go to the play. I'll drive." She looked over at Quelvelas. "Oh, hello, Detective Loth'Lorien."

"Good evening, Miss Ruxter. You're looking wonderful," Quelvelas said. "You have a great time tonight. I'll see tomorrow, Kintinorous, bright and early, for our bodyguard duty."

"I'll see you then," Kope agreed. His partner backed up the steam chariot and sped away.

They walked to Willa's Steelnewt steam chariot to drive to the Clockwork District, Garnaby staying near his brother. Slowly, Kope put his arm around Willa's shoulder and she pulled close to him. She felt amazingly warm in the evening chill, like her whole body was full of sunlight. Kope felt happy to be in her company.

"Your partner seems a lot happier than usual," Willa said, as they got to the steam chariot. She helped Garnaby into the back.

Kope shrugged. "He's in love," he said. "I think that does wonders for anyone's disposition."

The next morning, Kintinorous and Garnaby Kope woke up and prepared breakfast, both dressed for their daily duties. The play had been a very amusing clockwork farce spoofing the political situation of New Zephyr. Automatons representing Boss Crowe and Mayor Statler, given comic names and set in an earlier era, had blundered around while a dragon pursued them. Garnaby needed some of the terms explained to him, but the little gnome was smart enough to understand the play and he greatly enjoyed the humor. And when Willa dropped them off, and Garnaby had headed upstairs, she had given Kope a long kiss in the soft evening mist. Kope felt elated that whole night, and had barely slept.

He and Garnaby enjoyed toast and jam for their breakfast. "What will you be working on today?" Garnaby asked, a bit of jam running down his chin. Kope leaned over and wiped it away with a worn napkin.

"More bodyguard work. Quelvelas and I will be looking after Miss Maulbrom during the peace negotiations at the Temple of Skaron in Floral Heights."

"Do you think it will be dangerous?" Garnaby's voice was hesitant and nervous.

"Yesterday involved an Ice Elemental," Kope said. "I have no idea what today will bring. But Quelvelas will be watching my back, and I'm confident we will prevail, no matter the odds." He patted his little brother's shoulder. "There is no need to worry."

"Okay, Kinny," Garnaby agreed. "But please be careful."

"I will." Kope lost count of the times Garnaby had asked him to be careful. He never dismissed the boy's requests. Before Kope could say anything more, he heard the honk of Quelvelas's steam chariot outside. "You have a good day at school, all right?" he asked Garnaby. "And don't worry about anyone teasing you. We have plenty of friends, like Miss Ruxter, who like you very much for who you are."

Garnaby brightened up. "What's going to happen with her?" he asked, as Kope pulled on his shoulder-holster and coat. "Is she going to keep visiting us, and staying for dinner, and going to see plays?"

Kope considered the question. "I'm not sure," he said. "But I'd kind of like it to be more. Would you?"

"I would," Garnaby replied, without hesitation.

Outside, Quelvelas's horn came again. Kope sighed. "We'll talk about this more a little later," he said. "Goodbye, now." He went to the door and hurried downstairs, placing his bowler hat on his head as he pounded outside and to the waiting Rattlecat.

Quelvelas Loth'Lorien sat behind the wheel, but his usual faded leather jacket and denim trousers were replaced with a fine broadcloth suit, a gold-colored waistcoat and an elfish string tie. His long hair was slick with cream, and his ears twitched with tension. Kope sat next to him. He considered his words as Quelvelas started the steam chariot. "You look nice," he said. "Very handsome."

"Dashing?" Quelvelas asked.

"I'm not sure if I'd go that far," Kope said. "But at least you're clean."

"Ah, dungballs. I want to look nice as possible for Treleen." He backed up the steam chariot and started into the street. "They're bringing her in under heavy armed guards today, including a squad of uniformed constables under Mistress Crane, so we just have to meet her at the temple in Floral Heights. Today they're getting down to the nitty-gritty of negotiations."

"Will there be trouble?" Kope asked. They started speeding towards Floral Heights, burning rubber as they rolled into early morning traffic. Above them, the elevated railway rumbled past like a passing beast. Garnaby might be aboard, going to St. Bartholomew's for school.

Quelvelas shrugged. "I tossed a shotgun in the back. We'll be ready for it, if there is trouble."

Kope nodded. "And is there any word on the mysterious Mr. Short?"

"Nah. Nobody matches that alias, and the Hall of Records don't remember sending out no approval to anyone by that name. You know as well as I do that Dragon Hall's mixed up in this. That means we might be going up against Boss Crowe, the arrogant flit fenneran himself."

"And you're prepared for such a foe?"

Without pause, Quelvelas nodded. "For Treleen? Bring him the falass on."

Soon enough, they arrived in the Temple of Skaron. It was a large domed structure, airy and spacious, and all of polished gray stone. It was like some silver upside down goblet, with wide windows and numerous statues of shapely gods and spirits, gazing meaningfully off into the sunset between gracefully curved ornamental trees in a dozen pastel colors. The place swarmed with constables, newspaper reporters with their trench coats and notepads, and dignitaries arriving, one after the other. The Temple of Skaron was located between two upscale apartment buildings, both full of leafy potted plants so they looked like raised, square jungles.

Quelvelas parked the Rattlecat and stepped outside. Kope followed him and they crossed the line of reporters to begin heading inside, Quelevalas's shotgun resting on his shoulder. They met Crane in the center of a thin line of constables in dark uniforms, wearing rain slickers to ward off the light drizzle of the morning. Essa Crane nodded to the two detectives. Like the other constables, she wore a full uniform.

"Good morning, gents," she said. "Sleep well? If not, try to avoid falling asleep in the meetings, no matter how boring you find them. I need you alert, especially after yesterday's assassination attempt."

"Don't have to tell me twice," Quelvelas said. "Anything to keep Treleen safe."

Essa smiled. "Oh? She got a good stoth'na?" She spoke the lewd elfish word with relish.

"Don't talk about her like that." Quelvelas's tone darkened and Essa raised her hands.

She stepped aside. "Well, she's in there with the other Coldyne Consortium dignitaries, all in white and blue. Take your place next to her and keep your eyes open."

Quelvelas and Kope walked in to the main courtyard of the temple, the site of the negotiations. Kope looked up at the apartment buildings. He didn't like it – they were too close, and the open air courtyard allowed a sniper to have his pick of targets. Quelvelas noted it as well, and shivered in the chill morning air.

Both detectives made their way across the courtyard, heading over to the representatives of the Consortium. Like Treleen Maulbrom, they all dressed in cool blues and whites. The Sons of Magnar sat opposite them, wearing ceremonial headdress of red feathers that made their heads look aflame. The Consortium men let Kope and Quelvelas in amongst them, and placed two folding chairs, behind Treleen.

She looked back at them and stared at Quelvelas. "Oh," she said softly. "It's good to see you, detectives." She didn't take her eyes of Quelvelas, even as she addressed Kope. "And you're well, sir? You recovered from your injuries?"

"They were minor, Miss Maulbrom," Kope replied. "How are the negotiations proceeding?"

"Very well. Some people wanted me to cancel them, at least until New Zephyr could assure my security, but the pointless wizard's feud has gone on long enough. I want it to end, and I'm willing to put my life on the line for that purpose." She touched her necklace, a softly azure crystal set on a silver thread. She held it up, and it glowed slightly in the low sunlight. "And this time, I'm prepared."

Quelvelas sat down next to her. "You're really brave, Treleen," he said. "I mean that with all of my heart."

Kope turned away and let them talk. He returned to looking at the apartment buildings, watching the sunlight glint off of the windows. He was probably being paranoid, but there was no reason not to be. Kope leaned back in his seat, and felt the comforting weight of his rune cannon in his shoulder-holster.

The negotiations started in earnest. Representatives from both sides made long-winded speeches, urging peace and reconciliation, and discussing the messy details of countless wizards' duels in the distant past. They were interesting enough, hearing who had summoned what and the death tolls and destruction from the skirmishes and duels between the Consortium and the Sons of Magnar, but they started to run together, becoming a blur of complex names, dates and spells.

Treleen spoke, calmly and clearly. She stood up on the lectern, looking over the Sons of Magnar and discussing terms. The Consortium was offering payment for recent battles, in return for the dead. "I know this can't change what happened," Treleen said. "But it's all that we can do – in the interests of peace." The Sons of Magnar applauded, and for a quick second, Treleen smiled, happy as a child at a school play.

Kope watched her and then looked up. Over the applause, he heard the slow whirr of rotors, the roar of an approaching engine. Quelvelas had noticed it to, already reaching into his coat. "Son of a grub," Kope hissed. He pointed upwards, as a sleek silver Gyrolift flew above the roof of one of the apartment buildings. "That's no news vehicle," he said. He saw the door of the Gyrolift roll open, and the long barrel of a sniper rifle point down at the meeting.

Quelvelas came to his feet. "Treleen!" he shouted. "Get down!" He ran towards her, forcing his way through the crowd while he readied his shotgun. Kope cursed, knowing that his partner would be too late.

The sniper fired, but Treleen Maulbrom heard Quelvelas's word. Instead of ducking behind her podium, she simply wrapped her hand around the jewel dangling from her necklace and squeezed. The bullet sped towards her and suddenly fell away – trapped within a jagged orb of solid ice. It fell to the ground, shattering into icy chunks upon the flagstones.

Quelvelas ran to Treleen's side as the crowd of wizards panicked. He grabbed her shoulder and pulled her close to him, raising his shotgun and firing back at the gyrolift. "Get to cover!" he ordered. "Kope! Get the other constables in here! Why in the Forest Fiend's name don't we got no air support?"

It was a fair question. Dragon-mounted air cavalry or gyrolifts could have patrolled the sky around the meeting, preventing any airborne assassins. But for some reason, at this meeting, they were suspiciously absent. The air was clear – and the assassins' gyrolift had no competition. The sniper inside the aircraft continued firing, his bullets cracking into the stones around the podium. But Quelvelas had gotten Treleen to cover, and now the police started shooting back.

Kope aimed his rune cannon with both hands, preparing a sustained blast of pure magical energy, while Quelvelas racked his shotgun and took careful aim. They fired, and Kope watched the beam of energy arc upwards and strike the underside of the gyrolift. It rocked backwards, the rotors spinning away as the gyrolift swung sideways, but then it righted, leaving nothing but a burnt stain on the reflective silver siding.

"Worm dung!" Kope hissed. "Quelvelas! They've got reflective armor! It'll take something heavier than we got to pierce that!" The shotgun thundered away, and then whined as the bullets ricocheted from the side of the gyrolift. Quelvelas kept Treleen behind the podium, the sniper preventing him from getting her to safety.

The crowd of dignitaries stumbled for the exit, trying to find cover as Mistress of the Guard Essa Crane and her constables hurried inside. They raised their rifles, a few cracking away at the gyrolift. The sniper, who must have been using a rapid-firing carbine, returned their shots, dropping one of the constables with a bullet through the shoulder. Crane crouched next to Kope, aiming her automatic at the gyrolift.

"It's got reflective armor, and that sniper has heavy firepower," Kope told her. "Whoever paid for this hit must have exhausted a great deal of funds." He paused as the gyrolift flew past them, allowing the sniper to make another past. "Where is our support?"

"The request for gyrolifts and dragon cavalry was denied," Crane muttered. "The orders came from the very top."


"Who else?" Crane swore under her breath. "There has to be a way to nail that flying bastard!"

At the podium, Treleen suddenly stood up and held up her hand, the other clasped around the jewel swinging from her necklace. Her hand made a fist, and then a bolt of frozen pure cold, shining in the low sunlight and arcing up like a mortar round, tore away from her arm and crashed into the rotors. It spread outwards, wrapping around the spinning rotors like a spider's web, and holding the blades still.

The gyrolift plummeted from the sky, a bird with its wings cut. Quelvelas grabbed Treleen and pulled her away from the podium, just as the gyrolift smashed down into the pavement before them. The steel shrieked as it cracked across stone, and Kope and the other officers dashed forward to take out the passengers.

The sniper popped out, swinging his carbine around to face the constables. He wore a tight dark sweater and a black cloth mask. He was fast, but dazed from the crash and up against a dozen guns. Kope was faster, taking him in the upper chest with a high-powered blast of energy. The gunner was knocked onto the pavement, the scoped carbine falling from his hands.

Quelvelas grabbed him, swinging the shotgun down to let the sniper look into the muzzle. "Well, you slick little scumball," Quelvelas said, reaching down for the mask. "Let's get a look at you." The other constables hauled the pilot and a second gunman from the wreck, forcing them to the ground and disarming them.

Kope looked up to see Quelvelas pull away the mask, revealing pointed elfin ears, one with a looped gold earring. He recognized the sniper after a moment of thought. It was Hassal Loth'Proom, an elfin gangster and hired thug, and a minor captain in the debonair elf mob. He tried to squirm away, but Quelvelas pressed the shotgun into his chest, and he was pinned like a bug in a glass case.

"Who hired you, flit fenneran?" Quelvelas demanded. His eyes were narrowed and his voice was harsh and grating. Kope hadn't seen him this angry in a while. "Who paid for all the hardware?"

"Ain't saying dung, you…round-ears," Hassal whispered.

"Oh yes, you are." Quelvelas fired the shotgun, sending one barrel's worth of lead into the macadam next to Hassal's face. Hassal squealed like a wounded animal, and Kope realized he had wet his pants. Quelvelas racked the shotgun. "Once again," he said. "Who hired you?"

"P-please!" Bits of stone had scraped Hassal's face, leaving numerous tiny cuts and powder burns. "It was Dallow. Dim Dallow! Halfling businessman, a real big guy! He paid top dollar! It was nothing personal!"

"I bet." Quelvelas turned away. "Crane, you know of this guy?"

She was already flipping through her notebook. "We busted him on drunk driving a couple months ago, but he got off because of his connections." She looked up from her notepad, her eyes flashing. "He's a minor Dragon Hall politico."

"Where does he live?" Quelvelas demanded. Kope hurried to stand next to his partner's side.

Essa checked the book. "5680 Chrysanthemum, Floral Heights."

"Thanks." Quelvelas started for the exit of the temple. Kope followed him, and then Treleen ran to keep up. Quelvelas turned around and looked at her.

Treleen stared at the elf. "You're going after him?"

"That's right. That son of a grub took a shot at you. He won't walk away."

"I-I don't want you to leave me, not right now." Treleen reached out and took Quelvelas's hand. She pulled him close to her, and wrapped her arm around his back. They kissed and Kope found it strange to see Quelvelas melting in her hands. "Please," Treleen whispered. "Stay with me. Keep me safe."

"I will, darling," Quelvelas said, pulling away. "The only way I know how."

He turned away from Treleen, and walked alongside Kope. They hurried out of the temple and ran to the parking lot, pushing through the crowd of reporters and other constables. Kope looked up at his partner. "Someone else could deal with this," he said. "You could stay with Treleen, you know."

"That's not me," Quelvelas replied. "I'm angry now, little buddy. I'm angrier than I ever been, and I need to do something about it."

They dashed to the Rattlecat, and Quelvelas started the engine. Without saying a word to his partner, he peeled away from the parking lot and started screaming down the street, burning rubber as he headed to the address Mistress of the Guard Crane had given him. Kope stared out of the dusty windshield, watching the mansions whip past. He looked over at Quelvelas and wondered if he'd have to stop his partner from killing Dim Dallow on sight.

"We take him down legally," Kope said. "We arrest him, take him to the station, and get an admission of guilt. That's the only way to prove Dragon Hall had a hand in the assassination attempt. If you just gun Dallow down—"

"I want to," Quelvelas said, spinning the steam chariot around a corner. "Gods almighty, I want to. But I won't. We'll play it your way, little man. We'll bust him right." He slammed down on the break as they neared a large marble manor, surrounded by carefully manicured gardens.

Sure enough, a Halfling was pounding down the street, pulling on his frock coat as he hurried to the waiting Gold Cheetah steam chariot. Quelvelas stepped out. "Dallow!" he shouted. "You're under arrest, you hear me? You are falassing under arrest!"

Dim Dallow was a middle aged Halfling, about the size of Kope but lacking his narrow nose and pointed ears. He had graying hair and a matching moustache, and seemed to have the energy of a much larger man crammed into his small frame. He reached for the handle of his steam chariot, but Quelvelas revolver blared out, planting a bullet hole inches from Dallow's hand.

Kope and Quelvelas ran towards him, both leveling their guns at Dim Dallow. With a perpetual scowl, Dallow raised his hands. "I'm an authorized member of Dragon Hall," he said. "I'm friends with Boss Crowe. Personal friends, I mean. You can't do this to me."

Kope held out the handcuffs as he slammed Dallow against the side of the steam chariot. "We know you purchased the Ice Elemental. You're Mr. Short, that's plain as day. And Loth'Proom confessed that you hired him for the attempted assassination of Treleen Maulbrom." He slipped the handcuffs over Dallow's wrists, and sirens echoed in the distance. "Why did Crowe order you to do it, Dallow? You might as well confess."

"Well, if I did do any such thing -- which I didn't -- it would be to keep the prices of magic goods at an all time low. Nothing like a wizard's feud keeps prices down, and Boss Crowe's constituents need those cheap goods. I'm sure your constabulary, with its crystal ball dispatchers and storm bullet-armed officers, benefits from the conflict tremendously." He looked back at Quelvelas and Kope and smiled. "Isn't that right, detectives?"

"Shut the falass up," Quelvelas said. He slammed Dallow's head against the side of his steam chariot, then looked up at Kope. "Was that by the book enough?" he asked.

"Very proper," Kope agreed.

Half an hour later, they had Dim Dallow in the interrogation room at the constabulary station house. Kope and Quelvelas went at him, shouting insults and demanding a confession to hiring Hassal Loth'Proom and buying the Elemental-in-the-Jar. All Dallow did was smile, fold his arms and shake his head.

"Let me speak to Boss Crowe," he said, over and over again. "He'll get this whole matter cleared up and I'll be free by lunch time." He leaned back in the steel chair, the only furniture in the bare cement interrogation cell. "Come on, detectives. You and I both know that's the only way this thing is gonna end."

Quelvelas struck Dallow in the chest, knocking him onto the ground. Dallow smiled, even as he rolled off of his seat and across the floor. He glared up at Quelvelas. "Police brutality? I'll tell Crowe about that, believe me. He'll see that you get punished." He cocked his head. "Why are you so mad anyway, detective? You like that little Coldyne Consortium hussy that nearly got her head blown off today?" When he saw Quelvelas's eyes widen in rage, he smiled. "Oh, maybe you do. Like them cold-blooded, is that it?"

"I'll rip your falassing head off, maggot-sucker!" Quelvelas shouted, but Kope grabbed his arm. It was like trying to hold a hurricane.

"Come on," he said to Quelvelas, keeping his voice soft. "Let's take a break. We're not going anyway. Let's just step outside for a second."

He pulled Quelvelas to the door of the interrogation room. Dallow stood back and righted his chair, as Kope closed the door. Both of them walked down the hall, past the guard on duty and then out into the main station house. Quelvelas leaned against the wall and reached for a cigarette. He struggled to light it, his long fingers striking the match again and again before it flared to life. After taking a few puffs, he looked up at Kope.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I went a little crazy. I guess I see something good happening with Treleen, and I don't want it jeopardized."

"I understand," Kope said. "If anything happened to Garnaby, or my other brother and sisters, or my parents, or—"

"Or Willa?"

"Or Willa," Kope agreed. "I'm certain I would react in a similar way. But we can wear Dallow down. I know we can, and without losing our tempers or acting upset." He smiled at Quelvelas. "Don't worry. We can crack this, and it could be the key to bringing Boss Crowe down once and for all."

Quelvelas nodded. He looked over Kope's shoulder. "Wait a falassing minute," he said. "Did you see that?"

"See what?" Kope spun around. He looked at the station, its usual flurry of activity.

"An orc, in a black coat. With a gold earring." Quelvelas started running back to the interrogation room. "Durk Green-Eyes, Crowe's private assassin! Holy gods, he must be—" Kope followed him, and they hurried down the gray cement hall, but they only got a few steps before a gunshot split the silence.

Quelvelas ran to the officer on duty. "Who did you let in to see the prisoner?" he asked. "What the falass were you thinking?" Kope drew out his rune cannon and hurried down the hall. The interrogation room door was closed and Kope took up a position on the side, his rune cannon held in both hands and set to a full-powered blast.

The constable shrugged as he stammered out his answer. "He had paperwork signed by Mayor Statler! He's a representative of the city government! It all checked out!"

The door to the interrogation room swung open. Durk Green-Eyes stood inside, a smoking automatic in his hands. The tall orc, with his dark emerald skin, long black leather trench coat and single gold earring, was standing over the body of Dim Dallow. A bullet had neatly pierced the halfling's skull, and a thin trail of blood leaked over his face. Durk looked up at the two detectives.

"Crazy sunderer," he said. "He tried to grab my pistol. I had to gun him down. Self defense, all the way." Durk shrugged. "I'm sorry about it, Detective Kope, Detective Loth'Lorien. But it couldn't be helped."

"He was expecting Crowe to bail him out," Kope said. "There's no reason he would attempt such a crazy escape."

"I don't know why he did it," Durk replied. "I'm no detective. Send any complaints to Dragon Hall." He started to leave, but found Quelvelas blocking his way. He looked down at the elf. "Get out of my way, Detective. I got places to be."

"Falass you, green-skin!" Quelvelas snarled, drawing his revolver and aiming it at Durk. In the same instant, Durk went for his automatic and the two pointed their guns at each other, the air going tense in the cramped interrogation room. "You killed my witness and I'll hear you say it! I will splatter your falassing brains on the floor, you falassing hear me? I ain't falassing through with you!"

"Cool it, sunderer," Durk said, keeping his automatic level. "Or I'll gun you down, and it will be self-defense."

Kope put a hand on his partner's arm. "Please, Quelvelas," he said. "Don't do this."

Slowly, Quelvelas lowered his automatic. "Get out," he ordered Durk, stepping aside and letting the orc slip past him and out the door. Quelvelas looked down at Dallow. "I should have killed him myself," he said, sliding his revolver into his coat. "Should have killed his stoth'na on sight."

"I'm sorry," Kope replied.

They stepped outside, allowing more constables to rush past them to secure the room. Quelvelas and Kope stepped out into the main office and went to their desks. They slumped into their seats, and Kope felt all the hope rushing out of him. They had come so close to getting evidence against Boss Crowe, of proving Dragon Hall had tried to kill Maulbrom and had its hands arm-deep in the crime and vice that ruled New Zephyr. But it had all come crashing down, in a single bullet from Durk's automatic.

Essa Crane approached them, her arms folded. She shook her head. "I heard about what happened with Dallow," Crane said. "I'm sorry."

"Crowe will be sorry," Quelvelas replied. "I'll make sure of that. We can't get him this way, but we'll do it somehow."

"There's something else, Detective Loth'Lorien." Crane jabbed a finger outside. "It's Miss Maulbrom. She showed up at the police station with her fellow Coldyne Consortium representatives. They've finished the first part of negotiations and are returning to Unopolis, the wizard's city. I think Miss Maulbrom wants to see you."

Quelvelas hurried off without another word. Kope watched him go and looked back at his desk. Crane patted his shoulder. "It's not your fault," she said. "When we agreed to take on Boss Crowe and Dragon Hall, we knew it wouldn't be easy. He's got so many connections, so many loyal agents and resources, that any attempt will meet a few setbacks. But we'll get him. We'll find a way to stop him."

"I suppose so," Kope agreed. "But I hope Quelvelas knows that."

His partner didn't return for the rest of the day, and Kope looked through files and paperwork for the rest of the day. He kept on looking for the door, expecting to see the broad-brimmed hat and pointed ears reappearing at any moment. But Quelvelas hadn't come back, and Kope took the elevated train back to his apartment without seeing him.

Kintinrous had dinner that night with Garnaby and Willa Ruxter, and it was a wonderful relief. After the madness of the day's work, the white-knuckle scramble of the gunshots and gyrolift assassination and the crushing disappointment of Dallow's death, it felt nice to hear about Garnaby's schoolbooks and Willa's trouble navigating the bureaucratic mire of the Foundry. He mentioned a little of the gunfight at the Temple of Skaron, but didn't go into details, and Garnaby and Willa didn't press him.

Then he heard a knock on the door. "Excuse me for a second," Kope said, standing up and removing the napkin from his collar. He walked over to the door and pulled it back. Quelvelas stumbled inside, stinking of oak ale and weak on his feet. "Quelvelas!" Kope cried, grabbing his partner's shoulder and helping him up. He saw tears on Quelvelas' face, and tried to steady him. "Are you all right? What happened?" Behind him, Garnaby and Willa looked at the elfin detective.

"She's gone, Kintinorous," Quelvelas muttered. "She went back to Unopolis. She said she had to lead her people, and she didn't have time for anything else." He looked up at Willa. "Ah, look at you, Kope. You got a little brother. You got a woman who loves you. Pretty pale skin on her. Nice stoth'na too. Oh, falass me…I'm sorry."

Kope looked back at Garnaby and Willa. "Please excuse me for a moment," he said. "I'll be right back." He helped Quelvelas outside, and took him down the stairs. The Rattlecat was parked on the sidewalk, the door hanging open. A herbal cigar the size of a tire iron and smoldering away, sat on the passenger seat. Kope tossed it into the gutter as he helped Quelvelas into the passenger seat.

"I'm sorry," Quelvelas muttered. "Falass me, I'm so sorry."

"It's all right," Kope said. "I'll drive you home. Things will get better, Quelvelas. I promise they will."

He started the Rattlecat and rumbled down the street, driving into the dark.

-The End-