Deal 768: Inn Fire

A fine spring day finds me with an unenviable task. I’m back at the village where I learned to control mana, below the huge cliff I amazed myself by jumping off of. Followed by not dying.

I’m back, but the village is markedly different. Everyone I’ve met near here is afraid. At first I’m unsure why, they seem reluctant to speak to me at all, let alone in enough detail to explain what has happened. Then come around the bend to where the Inn and Mill should be visible.

The Mill is standing, but is clearly unhappy.

The Inn is gone, and nothing but a smoking pile of ashes remains, with a small depression where the stairwell to the wine cellar should have been.

I knew the town wasn’t expected to exist forever, but it hasn’t been more than a year since my last visit. Worse, the ground is still smoking in places. The fire is clearly banked well enough that it could flash back up if new fuel were to land in the right spots.

How could this have happened?

Time to try a new technique with mana, one that might give me a glimpse of the recent past. I pull out my wand, and move closer to the wreckage. With a single smooth gesture, I wrap the site and my eyes in a thread of mana. Once complete, I carefully push just enough of my will into the thread, which lights up and takes hold. My vision goes fuzzy, then sharpens about a week ago.

Only a week ago, the Inn was fine, although a larger than usual crowd surrounded it. Was this a true vision? Hard to tell for sure with without some corroboration. If I can pick out a cause, it is possible I can recognize at least one witness to question. I paced back and forth, and tried to get a sense of what was going on without sound or any sense other than vision to guide me.

The crowd looked uneasy. No, that isn’t strong enough. The crowd looked downright terrified. But why?

The whole town had turned out. A few were armed with the traditional weapons of scared and angry mobs: pitchforks and torches. The handful of torches would almost explain how a fire started, but certainly isn’t enough to explain why it started.

Then the crowd parted to let a stranger come out. He was carrying something. He also looked familiar in a way that the familiar townspeople did not, but I couldn’t put a finger on it. Or him. Or name him. I made my way closer, until I could make out what was in his hands. It was a spatula. There were crumbs of eggs on it, so he had likely come from the kitchen.

Still not quite enough information.

But in his other hand there was a small dark bottle. I couldn’t read the label through his fingers, but the edges of a skull and crossed bones were clearly visible behind his fingers. Now that might be a clue. Had he overpowered the cook and poisoned some guest? Closer inspection reveals that the flying figure is some small LEDs for back lights. The rest would follow nicely.

About then was when the crowd surged, taking mr spatula and burying him under foot. Smoke was just barely visible from a window on the main floor. Then the whole thing went up in flames.

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