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part two

"Murray!?" Morgana shouted as she knocked on the smuggler's door, "Murray!?" There was no answer, there had been no answer for weeks. Murray never went away for long, he always returned to his cabin base to flog black market goods to the citizenry of Shaman and it was difficult to make money off them when they couldn't find you. Morgana frowned and wandered around the side of the house. It was dark inside, one of the windows had been broken and a spider had built its web across the hole. The place was abandoned. Had Murray's greed finally caught up with him, Morgana wondered as she wandered back to the front door? Had he finally conned the wrong person?

On the off-chance she tried the handle. It was a surprise when it turned and the door swung open with a creaking of hinges.

"Murray?" Morgana ventured, more quietly than before, "are you here?" Kraar and Chip flew into the cabin over her right shoulder to find perches in the gloom. Morgana rubbed the palms of her hands together in a circular motion until a little ball of fire grew between her skin. She removed her left hand, leaving the flames on the palm of the right. She bent over and blew gently on the flames. They flew through the air to ignite the candles and banish some of the shadows. Morgana took another look around. Wherever Murray hand gone, he had gone without his expansive collection. The home-come-shop was exactly as Morgana remembered, stocked from floor to rafters with everything from rune stones to raptor skulls with golden teeth. Everything was there...except Murray.

Dust had begun to gather on the Smuggler's precious hoard and when Morgana ran her hand across the top of a leather bound tome her palm came away dirty. The ravens were agitated. Kraar had fluffed up his feathers making himself look even larger than usual, and Chip was hopping from foot to food distractedly. Something wasn't right. Morgana crossed the floor to the wooden counter and hopped up onto its unkempt surface. Ignoring the filth, she slid across it and hopped off neatly at the other side. The door to the storeroom had been left open. It was home to at least three times as many items as the shop front and they were all carefully numbered. Morgana's eyes scanned the shelves as Kraar landed protectively on her shoulder. His claws dug deep into her skin as he gave her a squeeze of concern. Be careful.

The soft blue glow caught her attention as she moved in amongst the shelves. Murray had tucked the jar behind a large fossil but it did little to conceal it. Morgana advanced, moving the large rock out of the way before reaching out for the glass jar. As her fingers brushed against the lid, a charge ran through her and the little hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Morgana found herself looking up at the shelf...and then she was staring at a petite woman with white-blonde hair and a heart-shaped face. Morgana met Aura's gaze and the goddess smiled as a glass jar appeared in her hands. She unscrewed the lid and breathed into it filling it with the blue star-gas...

Kraar gave a warning caw and a second later the flat of a sword slapped her across the back of the hand.

"Don't touch it!" Murray shouted, his eyes rolling in his head, "keep your filthy hands off it." Spurred into action Morgana knocked the blade away, jumped back and drew one of her long knives from its holder at her hip.

"Don't make me kick your arse, Murray," she said as her raven took flight, "you know I'd enjoy it too much." Murray seemed to ignore her.

"It's mine!" the Smuggler insisted, grabbing the jar off the shelf and clutching it to his chest protectively.

"All right," Morgana conceded, raising her eyebrows at him, "the creepy old jar is yours..." The Smuggler nodded and shuffled deeper into the storeroom cooing to his jar. "That was weird, right?" Morgana said to Kraar, tilting her head to one side, "it's not just me?"

"We have to get that jar, Kraar," Morgana muttered as they followed after Murray, "it's important." The raven opened his beak to speak, but his fairy cut him off. "I don't know how I know, I just do."

A loud clattering sound prompted Morgana to take a tighter grip on her knife handle. She edged forwards cautiously, alert to any signs of movement. Suddenly, something smashed by her left ear and she wheeled around to face the deranged smuggler.

"I told you!" he spat, looking even more manic than before, "I told you to stay away!"

"I'm not going anywhere without that jar, Murray," Morgana told him firmly, ducking to avoid the next projectile, "I can pay you. I have gold."

"No!" Murray shouted, throwing another one of his precious artefacts at her head, "go away, thief!" Something was definitely wrong, Morgana decided, Murray just turned down gold. He wasn't the sentimental type.

"I'll smash it!" Murray claimed dramatically raising the jar high above his head, "I'd rather break it than let you have it! She-devil."

"Give it a rest, Murray," Morgana sighed, "you're getting boring."

"I mean it!" the smuggler shouted. Stalemate. She glared at him. Slowly, Morgana reached for the small dagger at her back and slipped it out of its sheath. She could hear Murray's deep breathing catching in his throat and she focused on it. Her head snapped up and her arm swung forwards sending the dagger spinning through the air. It found its mark, embedding itself in the fleshy part of the smuggler's thigh.

"No!" he howled in pain and rage, "no." He made to smash the jar. Morgana was already moving towards him. She caught hold of his wrist the moment he released his hold and kneed him sharply in the groin. Murray dropped to the floor, doubling over just as the jar hit the ground with a dull thud. The glass didn't break, it didn't even crack, but the lid fell off and the gas escaped into the room.

It flew towards Morgana's face at speed. She threw up her arms to shield herself but they proved to be little obstacle to the strange substance. Morgana felt an intense pressure behind her eyes and in her sinuses as the magic seeped in past her defences. She bit down on her tongue in discomfort as images flickered through her brain in a disorientating blur.

When she came to, Morgana staggered sideways into one of Murray's bookcases. It stopped her fall and offered support as she tried to stop her knees from shaking. She managed to look up, and found that the gas was waiting patiently, floating in the air like a fog. Gingerly Morgana reached for the jar and moved it through the air through the blue mist like a child with a butterfly net. The gas hovered innocently as she found the lid and screwed it back on as quickly as she could. Tucking the jar under one arm Morgana advanced on Murray. He looked up at her in confusion as she reached for a cricket bat from a nearby umbrella stand.
"Sorry about this Murray," she said, "but I need to get to the castle, and I can't have you making a nuisance of yourself."

With a well-aimed swing Morgana dealt Murray a sharp blow to the skull.

    • part three -
    • the mission -

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