Mijinji studied the body in front of him with pursed lips. Black hair disappeared under the shoulders of the corpse while wide eyes stared sightlessly at the rough stone of the cellar's ceiling. The visible skin was the palest of tan colours, but Mijinji knew from experience that if he were to turn the body over, he would find deep purple marks all along the back.
He frowned, noting the way both hands had frozen in positions near the sword belt that was still strapped to the corpse. He turned to where Halna stood beside the slightly green Clessa. "You said you found him in his room?"
"Yeah. He was on the bed, looking just like he is now. I checked the place personally, keeping in mind everything I know about that kind of thing. I didn't find anything there that shouldn't be, and I had it confirmed that nothing was missing. It's as if the bastard just popped into the room long enough to kill Irad and then walked out through the walls. He's like some kind of phantom," she said, arms crossed tightly over her chest.
"Hmmm," Mijinji said, leaning over the body and examining it digit by digit, looking for anything out of place. He stopped when he reached the chest, eyes going to the black edged hole that showed a tiny sliver of pallid flesh. "Is the hole over the burn mark?"
Halna nodded. "Same as the others. It's how we knew the burn mark was part of whatever magic is killing them."
He straightened with a sigh. "Well, I've not gotten anything that we didn't know already. Clessa, you have any spells that'll be of use?"
The mage shook her head, gulping and looking away from the corpse. "I can only move stuff around. There's nothing on…there's nothing here for me to work with."
Mijinji walked over and patted her arm. "It's alright. The first body's always the worst."
Clessa shook her head. "I saw my father's body. But he'd been prepped for the burial already. They'd made him look like he was only sleeping. This…"
He patted her again, glancing at the dead man again. He froze, his eyes going wide before they snapped into a glare. "Vergon! What are you doing?" Taking in the way his partner's face was only digits from the corpse, he cried "Are you smelling the body?"
Vergon looked up from where he was crouched over the corpse. "You told me I could look for clues."
"That isn't permission to sniff it! Why are you doing that anyway?"
His partner pouted. "I smell it again. The familiar scent from before. It's all over his chest. Especially around the hole in his shirt. I still can't remember where I know it from, but I think it's important."
Mijinji blinked. "Really? The scent's centred around the hole? Is it magic you're smelling?"
Vergon cocked his head for a moment, then shook his head. "No, not magic. Not exactly. Kind of like magic. It's hard to describe."
"Is it residue from a spell or a spell's components?" Clessa asked, staring at the giant who was only now standing back up.
"Maybe," he said, stretching the word out. "I'm not sure what the smell is. Just that I know it from somewhere. But I know lots of smells, so it's hard to remember which one it is and where I first smelled it."
"Originally I was kidding about the whole dog thing, but you're acting more and more like one," Halna said, staring at Vergon.
"That's okay. I like dogs. They're happy."
Mijinji frowned before a sudden idea brought a wry smile to his face. "How much of a dog can you be?"
Vergon shrugged as he moved over to them. "Don't know. I've never tried."
Halna stared at her ex-partner. "What are you planning?"
He ignored her. "You think you can track this scent? Could you follow it from here or anywhere else you pick it up until you found where it's coming from?"
Clessa's jaw sagged. "That can't be…" She trailed off as the memory of Disaster finding Vergon by sniffing the air came to her. If the horse could do it, maybe his rider could too.
"Maybe. I can try. But it won't work here. The smell's only on him," Vergon said, pointing at the dead man.
Mijinji turned to Halna. "Can you take us to where you found him? That's the freshest known spot where Vergon can try and catch a scent. And…if anyone asks, just tell them we're following a lead, alright? I don't think anyone else would believe that this insanity has any chance of working."
Halna nodded. "I know our boy here," she said, patting the giant on the head. "And how he pulls off the insane more often than not."
"I might be able to help if Vergon gets overwhelmed by other scents. There's a spell, it's really supposed to be used for hunting with boarhounds, but it clears out other any smell except the specified one. I'm not sure how many times I'll be able to cast it, or if it'll even work, but it's something."
Mijinji grinned. "It seems I've yet another reason to be glad we hired you. If it works even once, we'll be better off than we would have been," he said before looking at his partner. "You ready for this, Vergon?"
He nodded. "I'll sniff better than any dog."