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A Rich Engagement, Part One

Magic creature hunter trapped on bachelor show

My name is Cyrus Tagma, and I am an Arcane Seeker or magical policeman if you want to get technical. My job is to eliminate deadly creatures, and people bent on using magic to hurt others. Magic is not a secret either everyone knows it exists. 

It all started because people had good intentions. They looked at the state of the modern world and said, "We need to fix this." A group of these people went to Egypt looking for the book of Thoth. Within the book was all of the worlds magic. So like all idiots who think they are doing the world a favor they opened it. 

The idiots did not read the fine print or comprehend what, "all the world's magic," meant. Not just good magic was released, evil was too, along with creatures of legend. Because no one knew how to control magic or deal with magic creatures, things were chaotic for a while. Everything is back to normal, television, internet, and cellphones are working again

I am a unique class of magic user known as a channeler. I can cast magic out of anything I am holding or wearing, giving me unparalleled speed when casting. Channelers generate a natural magical distortion which makes me immune to charm, paralyze, stun, and control. Unfortunately, the distortion also prevents me from being healed by spells. I have to carry potions everywhere with me.

Today my job has brought me to a small town on the border of British Columbia and Washington, called Shellburg. I wasn't happy about it either. One of my fellow seekers walked off a job and would not say why. 

I checked myself in the mirror before leaving the motel room. My short black hair was behaving today. I traced the trio of scars along my once handsome face. A gut check reminding me overconfidence is the greatest enemy in a fight. I flexed my well-toned form, and the combat armor flexed with it. My amber eyes fixed on the targeting reticule on the headset before I switched it on. There was a ringing sound in my right ear, and a simple tap of the earpiece answered the call.

"What took you so long? Were you checking yourself out again?" a female voice asked. 

"Are you judging me, Whisper?" I started checking over my weapons. 

"No, do the scars still hurt?" she asked.

"Just when it rains." I inspected the cool chrome Desert Eagles fifty caliber before sliding them back into the leather shoulder holsters.

"Shall we get started?"

I set the drum for the AA12 twelve auto shotgun on the small wooden table. "What am I chasing?"

"Vasher did not submit a report before he walked off. The initial call was about a vampire. The photos are inconsistent with a vampire attack, despite the fact the victims had their blood drained," she said in a concerned tone.

I started loading the drum with dragon rounds, "Interesting, how many victims?"

"Four in total, they were men in their early twenties just like you," she replied.

The drum clicked into place, and I slung the weapon over my shoulder, placing it in a special holster. "Did you check their phone records?"

"You will have to give me a minute for that one."

I opened the wooden door to my room and stepped outside. The town was alive with activity. Shellburg was a romantic hotspot, with quaint shops, long beaches, cozy cottages for rent, candlelit dinners by the sea, and friendly locals. 

I hated small towns because people did not talk to me so much as they pointed and whispered. I suppose if I saw a heavily armored person running around, I would be hesitant to speak with them too. My neck now sported the gold badge. 

I waded through a sea of tourists wearing tacky vacation shorts and shirts.  People moved out for me as my heavy boots struck the well-maintained concrete. One thing this small town did well was coffee. The Dream Puffs bakery especially. The line up was out the door, and I took my place at the back of it.

I heard giggling coming from ahead. Two women my age were talking about the last date they went on. They were pretty, and their silky hair waved in the wind. One of them saw me dressed in my finery and tapped her friend on the shoulder and pointed. 

Whisper chimed in, "They look interested in you."

I ignored her statement. "Did you get a peek at the phone records?" I never date anyone on assignment.

"All of the victims had contact with the same woman, Lily Hughes. Her text messages confirm she dated all the men at least once. Each man went missing two days after the date," she said

I had a sinking feeling coffee would have to wait, "Did you ping her phone?"

Whisper scoffed, "Of course I did. Lily is at a mansion of the outskirts of town or at least her phone is," she said in a hurt tone. 

I started running. "How far out of town is it?" People were now moving out of my way. 

Whisper's fingers clicked on the keys. "About half a kilometer. I have several signal jammers billed to the house. I have no context."

"Is that going to be a problem for us?" I found a trail leading into the woods a. A sign said "Prescott Manor" with an arrow pointing to the path. 

"It shouldn't be a problem we use a similar signal as skype does. Nears as I can tell the signal jammers can't block us," she said. 

I leaped over a fallen log. I liked the smell of the forest, the scent of pine, earth, and wildflowers made me feel at home.  The forest was vibrantly colored, making me feel like I was in an Emily Karr painting. I could the birds singing their tunes as they tended to their nests and hunted for food. 

The path came out near the big Iron gates to the manor, and the road leading to them. I checked the gate it was locked tight.

I drew a pistol and said, "Díghlasáil," as I fired. The lock clicked,  and the gate swung open on squeaky hinges. The pistol found its holster again, and the shotgun took its place.

The grounds were well kept with flowerbeds lining the cobblestone driveway. There were several limousines parked in the circle near the marble steps. 

I unlocked the heavy doors and entered the house. "Lily is not the only one here. Do you know where she is?" I asked as I entered.

The foyer had all the usual things one would expect in such a fancy home. I could hear the muffled noise of music. It was hard to determine where it was coming from because the chamber echoed sound.

"Her phone is just down the right hallway somewhere. I am trying to hack the security feed. I will let you know the moment I breakthrough."

The right hall had family paintings, from what I could tell the Prescotts were quite the picturesque family on canvas. The music got louder as I crept down the hall shotgun raised to my shoulder. 

A pair of ornately carved doors were vibrating from the noise coming from behind them. "I think I found Lily," I said, kicking the door open. 

My ears were assailed by an earsplitting shriek coming from the headset, "Cyrus you are on TV!" Whisper exclaimed loudly.

I saw the camera crew filming me, and a bunch of women dressed in their best evening gowns now stared at me with confused expressions. 

I intended to say something, but I noticed glowing eyes coming from the open washroom door. "I think I found our mystery creature." I fired at it and missed. The women screamed as they rushed to the exit tripping over each other. 

The creature burst through the door with an angry hiss, brandishing its machete-like claws. The face was humanoid, with glowing green eyes, and sharp fangs protruding from its gaping maw. Rows of scales revealed the lower half of it to be snakish. The light illuminated the waxy skin on the upper half giving the creature an ominous glow. 

I trained the shotgun on it once more and fired a three-round burst. The dragon rounds lit the lower half on fire and then promptly went out. 

"Whisper what the hell is this thing?" I shouted tossing the useless weapon away. I cursed myself for not choosing exploding rounds. 

"I am running it against the database now. I never saw one of these when I was on active duty," Whisper said. 

I didn't waste time trying to channel spells. If the dragon rounds did nothing neither would magic

The creature seemed disinterested in me and was looking around the room for something.  I had a hard time understanding its motivation. If it was vampiric, why wasn't it attacking?

I started to look around the room and saw a woman hiding under a table curled up in the fetal position. I drew the Desert Eagles and moved quickly to the woman's location. 

Unfortunately, the creature now noticed the woman as well and started slithering towards her. I finally understood it was taking orders from someone. 

I shook the woman. "Look, you need to move."

The woman kept repeating, "He is finally going to kill me this time."

I refused to abandon her. "Whisper, where are you with that identification? I found what it's looking for, or at least I think I have." 

The creature was now twenty feet away, and I had no doubt it could cover the distance between us in half a second.

"It is an Ilomba and poison is its weakness," Whisper said. I could tell she was holding her breath and grinding her teeth.

I pulled a flashbang from my belt and tossed it in the direction of the creature. I turned my head avoiding the blinding light. The ilomba shrieked, covering its eyes, as it thrashed around angrily. The woman looked up and saw me. 

I grabbed her hand. "You need to come with me now while it's distracted." I yanked her from under the table, and slung her over my shoulder, bolting to the exit. "Whisper where in the hell I am going to find poison?"

I heard the nimble fingers of Whisper on the keyboard. "This place has a janitors closet. Check for rat poison. I have a couple of boxes billed to the place," she said.

I closed the doors focused and placed a shield on them. It wouldn't hold for long, but hopefully, it would give me enough time to find the poison, and put Lily somewhere safe. 

Whisper guided me to the janitor's closet. I heard a loud bang in the distance. I tried to set Lily down, but she refused to let go of me. 

"Whisper she won't let go." I made several vain attempts to untangle her from me. 

"Tell her if the Ilomba dies whoever sent it will die. Its life is tied to its master," Whisper said. 

I set Lily down and looked deep in her eyes. "Lily if this thing dies whoever sent it will die too. You will be free. I can't do this with you on my shoulder or carrying you." I put as much urgency in my voice as possible.

Lily pulled me close to her and laid her head on my shoulder before letting me go. Not a word escaped her lips. 

"I finally hacked the security system. Our ugly friend is closing in on you.  Are you ready, Cyrus?" Whisper asked

I grabbed a box of rat poison and realized I had to get the poison into the damn thing for this plan to work. I looked out in the hall, noticing a suit of armor holding a pike with an ax head. I grabbed it and stuck the box on the spear point. 

"I am about as ready as I am going to get." I didn't bother to go looking for the Ilomba it would come this way sooner or later.

I didn't have to wait long before the ugly visage of the wretched beast came into view. It looked at me with undisguised hatred. I took a deep breath, as it slithered towards me, hissing in menace. Its mouth was open as it got closer. Just a couple more feet and it would be in range. 

The Ilomba streaked towards me mouth open, ready to drain my life at the end of its fangs. I thrust the pike forward, sending a small magical charge along the shaft causing the box to explode in it's gaping maw. It coughed out a sickly cloud of dust. 

"It's not dying."

"Rat poison is an anticoagulant, get it to bleed. It should speed things up a little."

I didn't bother to respond. I stabbed wildly at the ilomba, trying to put as many holes in it as possible. The creature was slowing down as the blood poured from the wounds.  All I had to do is defend the ilomba's clumsy attacks. I slashed at the Ilombas neck managing to hit the artery. It shrieked trying to stem the bleeding. It fell to the floor lifeless a half a minute later. 

"Target eliminated." I was panting hard. "I am going to check on Lily."

"Good work," Whisper said after sighing in relief, "I will get back to you in a few. There is something I need to check out."

Whisper went silent after that. I opened the door to the janitors closet. Lily saw me and threw herself in my arms and squeezed tightly. I could feel her tears on my neck. I made it back to the entrance of the luxurious home. 

A large group had gathered on the front driveway. I recognized some of the women in evening gowns. There were a couple of men dressed in expensive tuxedos, along with the camera crew. I was painfully aware the were filming me again.

"Cyrus, you look good on camera, and the girl in your arms makes you look more heroic," Whisper sounded amused.

I tried to set Lily down only to find she wouldn't let go again. "I can't put her down."

Whisper chuckled, "Give her some time to process." She paused, "Her name is not Lily either.  Her real name is Lady Freya Salvesen of Norway. She went missing eight months ago. Quite the reward for finding her too."

I was sick of the cameras being on me. "Whisper what show am I on?" I tried to set Freya down, and she refused to let go. 

Whisper was laughing now, "You are going to love this. Yow know that bachelor program I am obsessed with?"

I was leary of the question. "A Rich Engagement. Fuck my life."

Whisper laughed, "There is a website dedicated to you, and it already has fifty thousand hits. Your work email is loaded too."

I needed to get out of here. Arcane Seekers, in general, avoided the spotlight.  "Freya, my work here is done, and it is time for me to go. If I end up in Norway, I will look you up."

Freya gave me a sad look and nodded. I gently set her down and let her join the others. I ran back inside and grabbed the AA12, before sneaking out the back. 

I had never been so happy to finish and assignment. I had just gotten to the edge of the property when I found myself on the front steps again. I tried running in a different direction, only to find myself at the front doors again. After a few more attempts, it was clear I was going nowhere in a hurry. 

"Whisper why can't I leave?" Seriously, why couldn't I leave? 


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