Chapter 4:

Chapter Four

Charon's Legacy: The Clockwork Oracle

There was almost an art to the scene, Savio thought in horror at the cellar laid bare for all to see.

Within a dark cellar beneath rows upon rows of stone stairs, the lord's head sat upon an altar of stone, blood pooling near its base. Its flesh showed that same decay. Yet all of this was mere background detail to the astonishing feature of the head.

Where Lord Charon's face should have been, a blank slate was all that remained.

“Well, that's one mystery solved.” Isaac mused, peering over the decayed remains. He gently lifted a lock of hair. “Do you see anything of note, Mister Alves?”

“Let’s see…” Savio gently lifted the head, examining the cold stone of the altar. “It's clear from the blood flow that not a soul has been down here for a solid chunk of time; Around when the murder first took place I would bet. However, there seem to be signs of a scuffle.”

He glanced at a nearby wall. Rows of wine bottles more dusty than drinkable sat upon fraying wooden shelves. For most of them, it was clear not a soul had even glanced in their direction in quite some time, yet for a special few knocked down, now just shattered glass on the floor. Any trace of the wine inside was long gone. “I struggle to completely date these, but the lack of dust comparatively makes me think that whoever tossed the head in here had some other business to attend to.”

“Right you may be,” Isaac said. “But who would know of such a place, much less have enough info to venture in with the lord?”

“Hey, madam, were you the one who found the head?”

“Y-yes sir!” The servant, no older than twenty-five, spoke in a quiet tone. “I was making the round you know, cleaning and such, when I noticed the door to the cellar slightly ajar. In all my time here I ain’t see it open once you see. Anyway, I slowly walked down the stairs, turned on the lights, and screamed a mighty scream! Couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes ago sir.”

“Very well, thank you, madam.” Savio paused. “We’re presented with two opposite stories here. First comes the story of the broken wine bottles, and on the other, we have the rushed head.”

“But they have to be one person, right?” Isaac asked.

“Absolutely. In fact, I can say with certainty that they were one person. There's a story in every scene.”

“Well, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I just can't see how they're connected.”

“You sure are a resilient one however Isaac,” Savio muttered something under his breath. “Let's act out our culprit's moves. Judging by the fact the head was just found today, we can assume that the victim's head was thrown in here not too long ago, a matter of hours if I would have to guess. Naturally, our perpetrator would have had to be in a rush as well. 

So, the culprit came in, head in hand, and walked towards the altar, placing the head down. Assumedly their attire for the crime is either long gone from this world, or hidden away. Nevertheless, I can’t see it being of much use. Look down at the stone here Isaac.”

He bent down, a smooth motion for a man of his stature. “Why I’ll be…” Near where Savio pointed, a freshly made scuff marked the stone. “So you're saying our culprit tripped?”

“Exactly! Our culprit tripped, ran into the wooden shelp, then if we follow the trajectory…” He carefully walked along the stone path, careful to avoid the rugged stones. “What do we have here?”

Cast in shadow, Savio picked up an aged scroll. Its smooth wooden handles shone against the firelight and its paper felt cool to the touch. 

“Ah, I recognize that! But what is the The Anima Scroll doing in a place like this?”

“Enlighten me, Isaac.”

“Certainly. The Anima Scroll simply steals the face of whoever dares to look upon it. The only way to get it back is to close the scroll and open it up again. Though, I wouldn’t recommend trying it Mister Alves, without your mouth I’ve heard it's a bit hard to breathe.”

“That does sound like a fair point. At least our faceless friend’s lack of features is no longer a mystery.”

“That is true Mister Alves. It’s a rather fascinating relic!”

“How did you hear of such a thing Isaac?”

“Back in the day, I used to make my way around circles interested in such curiosities. It was how me and the late lord met you see. The scroll caused many a conversation about the mysteries surrounding its ability. Sure there are potions and talking statues, but a scroll that can wipe your face? That's another thing entirely.”

“I will give you that. And with Lord Charon's collection, such an artifact would be at home here.”

“True true. For now, however, I feel it's best if we head back upstairs. There's not exactly much else here to analyze; unless my eyes happen to be deceiving me?”

“I agree. Let me do a last minute search, search for anything that may have missed my gaze,  and I’ll meet you upstairs.”

As Isaac and the maid descended the stairs, Savio looked into the rows of bottles, grabbing one at random and clearing the duff off with his sleeve. He placed the now clear bottle on the altar, taking a few steps back and grasping the scroll. His chest rose as he took a deep breath, then slowly opened the scroll.

A bright flash exploded from the scroll. Savio braced for the inevitable darkness and waited, and waited, yet nothing came about.

He gently opened his eyes, yet when he glanced in the mirror, it wasn't his face that shone back from the glass.

Rather, the face of Lord Charon was looking back.

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