Chapter 5:

The Answer

Charon's Legacy: The Clockwork Oracle

Picture this: you open up a face-stealing scroll, ready to… well, as the description would imply, have your face stolen. Not that the face itself mattered that much. But losing the ability to breathe, now that would be bothersome. 

So you open the scroll. All tensed up, ready to close it again as soon as you lose the ability to breathe and start down the path towards asphyxiation. Trusting your reflexes to save you but at the same time having just the slightest fear that you’d maybe, just maybe, underestimated what you were getting yourself into and wouldn’t pull out of this one safely. But a mystery needed solving, and to solve that mystery you needed to do this. Under those circumstances a minor threat of dying seemed a rather trivial thing. 

So resolved steeled you do what you have to, and… just as prescribed, your face gets taken.

…Except in Savio’s case, he’d gotten another one in return. 

His body reacted to the revelation in a way he couldn’t quite describe at first. Shock, perhaps. It would be a rather natural emotion to feel under the circumstances. In fact, Savio’s heart was definitely racing at an unhealthy rate. But more than anything, he couldn’t help but smile at such an unexpected good turn of fortune. What better clue than this could he get? Surely not many. 

Savio closed his eyes and took a deep breath. 

Getting too excited wouldn’t help either. The scroll hadn’t done what it proclaimed, or rather what Isaac proclaimed, in which case it seemed an apt time to consider what it had done. 

Had Isaac lied? Perhaps not. 

It could be argued the scroll had taken Savio’s face. The face that had stared back at him just a few moments ago had certainly not been his own. Without further evidence it wouldn’t be more than a hypothesis that lined up well enough with what had happened to make him consider. Make him ponder if maybe, just maybe, the scroll swapped faces instead of merely stealing them. If Savio closed the scroll and opened it again, would it return his own face? 

Steeling himself with yet another deep breath, Savio tried again and was pleased to soon see that he did, in fact, not lose access to his breathing faculties but instead had his own face returned to him. Savio’s own eyes looked back at him from the nearby shiny bottle. He’d thought having the wrong face a more uncomfortable experience, but his brief time wearing Charon’s face hadn’t felt odd at all.

With that mystery out of the way, he closed the scroll, put it down, and then guided his mind onwards to more important things. 

Like how Savio had found a new and most important clue.

Charon had been here. He’d used the scroll. 

Or someone else had used it on him? Someone had tripped and broken the wine bottles, after all. But that was today, not when Charon was killed. The head should only have been there for a few hours… The head had been brought from elsewhere… 

Someone had drunk the Ale of Resurgence. But the person who brought the head, no doubt the killer, had been in a hurry. They wouldn’t have taken the time to stop for a drink, would they?

Charon must have drunk from it, then. But who and what had killed him? Charon died a week ago. His face was stored in the scroll. However no one had noticed his death until now. 

But what if the killer had been using Charon’s face? The killer would have been able to roam freely if they could pose as him well enough. That would mean the killer had used the Anima Scroll. But what had been in it before Charon’s face? Given the blank face on the decapitated head, the likeliest option seemed, in fact, nothing at all. But then that really sounded just like Isaac’s description, in which the scroll could prove quite lethal for anyone unfortunate enough to be subjected to it. 

Maybe it’d be too hasty to immediately assume the scroll was the murder weapon, but it certainly could have been. Following that train of thought, how would everything else have played out? 

Charon had been killed in this room, roughly a week ago. Then he’d been decapitated, most likely with the bloody sword from earlier, and the body moved to its current spot. And then the killer had hid the blank-faced head in a hurry a mere few hours ago. 

The killer would have killed a Charon a week ago, been back again more recently, and would know about both the Anima Scroll and the room storing it. 

Hendrickson had an alibi. Gilwood had been one of the first few to arrive, but there was no other reason to suspect her yet. Savio hadn’t talked to Phillips. Isaac had been late, just like he had, in fact he’d seemed in quite a hurry… The person who moved the head had been in a hurry. Not an indictment at all on its own, but it made the gears in Savio’s head start turning in a different direction. 

There was the… the blood…

Blood. Right. There was something about the blood… Isaac had been afraid of it? No, he hadn’t been. Not when they found the head. But he had avoided the body and sword. And he’d know about the scroll. None of it really could be decisive evidence on its own, but enough circumstantial evidence made a second round of questioning seem all the more appropriate by the minute. 

But before that, If Charon died without a face, he must have drunk from the Ale before losing his ability to do so. 

He’d need to have known of his death in advance. He might have had time to plan things out. If he came back to life, what then? If he had his memories there would have been no need to search for the killer like this. And what of the whole thing about his inheritance? 

If Charon himself solved the puzzle, he’d be able to claim his own inheritance… Maybe Charon was not just alive, but present at the gathering. Or never mind the puzzle, anyone who found the scroll could just reclaim the inheritance themselves as Lord Charon, miraculously risen from the dead.

So maybe Charon had known about his death. Maybe he’d prepared for it. So many maybes. But how had he known? 

It is you who has been murdered, you whose face has been stolen and never returned.

The Oracle. It had already given him the answer clear as day. And maybe it could tell someone when they were going to die, if given the right question. It’d only answer one question per person… or per life? But that would be enough. 

Your end stalks these halls, waiting for a golden opportunity.

The killer was still here, just as he’d surmised. And while he’d found no singular piece of evidence that would be decisive on its own, the whole scenario fit together too well to just be a fluke. He had the answer, he had all the evidence he was likely to find, now he’d only need to get the killer to admit it and the entire thing would be neatly wrapped. 

Savio had some business to attend to. Who wouldn’t want the chance to confront their own killer?

Taylor J
Steward McOy
Lucid Levia
Jon Spencer