Chapter Two. Mistress Saffian
'So, a sailor, you say, Aedile?' Giles asked, frowning. 'And no marks on him, just an expression of terror?'
He shook his head.
'No marks whatsoever,' Coeccias said glumly.
'No, for example, bites?'
'Bites?' Coeccias asked, puzzled.
'You know, tooth marks,' Giles explained. 'Human tooth marks.'
'No,' Coeccias said, bewildered.
'And no strange smells around?' Giles asked. 'I mean outlandish smells.'
'No,' Coeccias shrugged.
'And no peculiar signs drawn anywhere near?'
'No, as far as I know,' Coeccias said.
'Well, then I have to take a look at him myself.'
He rose. Buffy jumped to her feet immediately.
'Let's go, then, Master Giles, Maid Buffy, and you, Rhenford, too,' Coeccias said.
Liam led them out, to the stables, went inside and returned, holding Diamond by the bridle.
'Mount, Master Giles,' Liam offered. 'You are older than me, and I assume Maid Buffy shall ride pillion with you?'
'Rhenford, I shall have you know I am not quite SO old.' Giles smiled mischievously. 'But Buffy can't ride at all, it's true.'
'Hey!' Buffy protested. 'Where'd I learn, mister?'
'Of course, in that God-forsaken place of yours, there was nowhere to.' Giles grinned.
'Hey, you LIVE there, mister!' Buffy exclaimed.
'Only because of you,' Giles countered, mounted swiftly and lifted her gently into the saddle behind him.
'Now hold tightly to my waist.'
'Mm, how close.' Buffy smiled, obeying him. Giles blushed deeply. Buffy grinned - she liked to embarrass her teacher, obviously. Liam shook his head.
Coeccias mounted too, and they were away from the squat, white house with red tiled roof, guarded by a breakwater that kept the waves from a patio in front of the house. The path meandered on a tall rock wall the house was standing at the foot of, and Liam watched his steps. Coeccias and Giles rode carefully, Liam noted that Giles was a very good rider.
'Some road,' Buffy grumbled.
'Now I can easily see why no one goes to that house without a good reason,' Giles observed. 'Well, except Rhenford.'
'Hey, I had a good reason!' Liam countered. 'The only good beach in all the bloody neighborhood!'
'But didn't you climb this rock to get to this house, Master Giles?' Coeccias asked immediately.
'No, we arrived here...by magic,' Giles confessed. 'I had no idea that the shore is actually above us.'
'I see,' Coeccias said thoughtfully.
'Yes, just a flash of light and there they were. Most unexpected,' Liam nodded.
Likewise, Giles thought, but he couldn't possibly tell it aloud.
'Yes, nice house,' Buffy smiled.
At last they climbed the rock and rode among green meadows and golden fields.
'Most beautiful country you have here,' Giles remarked.
'Yes.' Liam smiled.
They rode quite a long while, as Liam was on foot and Giles and Coeccias had to go slowly so Liam could keep pace with him. At last they saw the summer residences of the wealthy citizens of Southwark and then the pitched roofs of Southwark.
'No walls?' Giles asked alertly.
'There are no wars in these parts, so nobody needs them, thank Gods,' Liam explained. 'Southwark is prospering - trade with the Freeports, Alyecir, and the countries in the East, across the sea.'
'That is most excellent.'
They rode through the maze of narrow cobbled streets to a square with a crowd of peddlers and townsfolk, a squat stone building looking like barracks, a tavern and a massive three-storied building with a belfry and sparse windows scattered across its facade.
'The headquarters of the Guards, Helekin's tavern and Duke's Court and Chancery,' Liam explained.
'The Chancery, where the wills are?' Giles nodded.
'Yes, where Coeccias found Tarquin's.' Liam smiled. 'You have very good memory, Giles.'
'Fortunately.' Giles nodded.
Coeccias rode to the headquarters of the Guards, making a sign for Liam and Giles to follow him. They did, and Coeccias dismounted and told to a guard that stood sentry at the entrance of the building to take care of their horses. The guard nodded. Giles then dismounted too and gently carried Buffy to the ground. Coeccias marched to the Chancery. Liam, Giles and Buffy followed. Coeccias led them up the high front steps of the Chancery, through a doorway with a coat of arms over it - three foxes, must be the Duke's arms, Giles thought - and then along a narrow dark passage with a lot of doors bearing tablets with inscriptions like 'Wills' and 'Registry', then down a narrow dark flight of stairs, then along another dark narrow passage, and then Coeccias stopped in front of a door and knocked.
'Yes?' an old female voice asked.
'It's Coeccias, Mother Japh, about the sailor.'
'Come in, come in!' Mother Japh said and opened the door. She was small and wizened like a baked apple. She looked at the newcomers, smiled to Liam and eyed Giles and Buffy.
'Master Rupert Giles is a friend of Master Tanaquil, he is staying with Rhenford, and Maid Buffy Summers is Master Giles's apprentice,' Coeccias explained. 'Master Giles knows a lot about magic, and he volunteered to help with the inquest.'
'I see,' Mother Japh nodded and went back inside. Then, after a while, she returned and said:
'Well, there are no vengeful spirits here, that means there's no murderer in here.'
She smiled suddenly to Giles, so did Coeccias.
'WHAT!?' Giles shouted. 'Of course there bloody well isn't!'
Buffy crossed her arms and glared at Coeccias.
'Hey, what do you think you are doing!? Giles isn't some fiend!'
'Ouch,' Coeccias said. 'Still waters run deep!'
'That'll teach you to suspect innocent scholars, Coeccias.' Liam grinned.
'Another one of these innocent scholars, and I'll die of fright,' Coeccias grumbled.
'Well, a scholar without a temper wouldn't be helping you, face it, Coeccias.' Liam smiled.
'Oh, right, the Aedile suspected you, Rhenford, didn't he?' Giles said, mollified.
'Yes, our Coeccias is over-zealous.' Liam smiled. 'Don't mind him.'
'I won't.' Giles smiled.
'I beg your pardon, Master Giles,' Coeccias said. 'It's just you know so much about magic.'
'Well, I have to know something about magic after twenty years in the bloody trade.' Giles smiled. 'My father and grandmother being in the trade, too.'
'In truth?' Coeccias said. 'You must be a very accomplished wizard then, Master Giles.'
'More knowledge than power, I'm afraid.' Giles smiled. 'And it's just Giles, please.'
'Coeccias,' the Aedile said.
'It's true, the lass is much more powerful than him,' Mother Japh remarked.
'Maid Buffy?' Coeccias asked, surprised.
'Quite,' Giles confirmed. 'I am more of a guardian to her than a teacher.'
'Well,' Coeccias said.
Giles looked around at last - a table, a chair, bunches of herbs on the walls and a huge fireplace - too great for such a small room.
'The hearth?' Mother Japh smiled. 'They tried to build a...what's the word...you'd know it, I trow...well, this hearth was to heat all this house through the pipes in the walls. It all failed, though - they had something wrong - and this great hearth keeps only me warm.''
'A hypocaust?' Giles asked with interest.
'That's it!' Mother Japh smiled. 'Knew you must have the word!'
'Well, the fact that they tried to build it is admirable in itself, even though they failed,' Giles said.
'Well, let's go along, shall we?' Coeccias said.
'Quite.' Giles blushed.
Coeccias gestured them to a doorway in the far wall. They came through the doorway and found themselves in a large room with long tables. A dead man lay on one of the tables. Coeccias led them to the table.
'Well, Giles, look if you can find something I couldn't,' Coeccias said.
Giles looked at the dead man - a sailor indeed, callused hands and bizarre tattoos. Giles looked the sailor over - no marks as Coeccias said... just a moment, what was that??
'Coeccias, take a look, please,' Giles asked.
Coeccias looked - there was a strange little mark on the sailor's thigh.
'What's this, Giles?? Looks like...'
'A beak mark.' Giles nodded. 'You know, there's a kind of Oriental demon, called Chuan-Tu, they have beaks and bat wings. But they are quite peaceful and eat only raw fish, not people. What got into them I can't imagine. Coeccias, would Mistress Saffian have a good library?'
'Yes, I think she does,' Coeccias said, understanding. 'I think she will be glad to meet you.'
Coeccias led them to an old fine house with pitched roof and intricate carving all over the facade. A maidservant answered their knocking and went to announce them to her mistress, then returned and led them inside the house. Inside it was all dark wood paneling, fine dark carved wooden furniture and tapestries. The maid led them into a large room with dark wood bookcases and some dark wood tables and carved dark wood armchairs. A tall, bony middle-aged woman in dark clothes and with clever and determined face sat in an armchair, her hands folded on her knees.
'Aedile Coeccias?' She asked. 'What is your business with me?'
'Mistress Saffian, I am in need of your help,' Coeccias said. 'There was a murder connected with black magic. We need to consult your library. Master Rupert Giles here, a friend of Master Tanaquil staying with Quaestor Rhenford, thinks he knows what kind of demon did this, but according to him this kind of demon does not prey on humans, and there may be something in your library that may help us. This kind of demon is Oriental, I think you do have books on Oriental demons in here?'
'Certainly,' Mistress Saffian said. 'What kind of demon is it, Master Giles?'
'Er - a Chuan Tu,' Giles answered.
'Very strange indeed,' Mistress Saffian said. 'Well, you may help yourself to my library, Master Giles.'
'Er, thank you,' Giles said. 'Pleased to meet you, Mistress Saffian.'
He took Mistress Saffian's hand and placed a kiss on it.
'Pleased to meet you too, Master Giles.' Mistress Saffian smiled.
Buffy rolled her eyes. Liam smiled in answer.
'Er, and this is my apprentice, Maid Buffy Summers,' Giles said.
'Hi,' Buffy said.
'Pleased to meet you, Maid Buffy,' Mistress Saffian said.
'Good evening, Areopage,' Liam said.
'Quaestor Rhenford,' Mistress Saffian said. 'You are not in the Areopagus any longer, you know, and a pity it is.'
'You know I am not fit for the pressure, Areopage,' Liam said.
'A pity, as I said,' Mistress Saffian answered.
Giles meanwhile looked around the library.
'Quite an impressive library you have here, Mistress Saffian,' he observed. 'Even a copy of the Shan Hai Qing - that's difficult to come by in these parts, I imagine.'
'Oh, you can read Han, Master Giles?' Mistress Saffian smiled. 'My late husband traveled a lot.'
'I had some education,' Giles said modestly.
'Sha- what?' Buffy asked, puzzled.
'The Book of Mountains and Seas,' Giles explained. 'An encyclopaedia.'
'Oh, I see,' Buffy said, shaking her head.
'Please take whatever you want, and be seated, Master Giles,' Mistress Saffian said.
'Thank you, Mistress Saffian.' Giles bowed.
Giles walked around the library, picked some books, piled them on the table and then sat down. Buffy, Coeccias and Liam sat down too.
'So, are we looking for these Chewing Too demons?' Buffy asked.
'Chuan Tu demons, Buffy,' Giles sighed. 'And yes, mostly. But look for any information that may be in any way relevant, too.'
'Yessir!' Buffy grinned, and took the upper book in the pile and started browsing it. Liam took himself a book too and started looking through it, Fanuilh looking over his shoulder. Coeccias sighed and took a book too. Giles moved close to Mistress Saffian, and they both began to browse books.
'Master Giles, you seem to know as many languages as Acrasius did,' Mistress Saffian remarked after some time. Giles blushed.
'Why the glasses, Master Giles?' Mistress Saffian then asked. 'You don't seem old.'
'Nearsighted,' Giles explained. 'Can't see a bloody thing clearly when I'm not wearing them, and all these books don't help it.'
Liam looked at Buffy. She grinned.