III. Lucy and the disappearing universe
An hour later, Lilah and Marius, Annelise and Rob were back in the office on the fiftieth floor, and Marius’s cat was keeping narrowed eyes on the new hires. The new hires were admiring their new rings.
“These have several different enchantments,” Marius said as they sipped coffee and munched on cinnamon buns. “You have your usual things, the things you’d probably have on some other ring, invisibility, resistance, a certain amount of energy storage—!”
“How much?” asked Annelise. “I already have two days’ worth in my necklace.”
“I have three in this ring,” said Rob, “plus invis.”
“Ah, this has five,” said Marius. “And it’s resistant to final strike. Unlike that necklace, in particular.”
Annelise put her hand over the large opal that hung from a gold chain high on her otherwise frugally endowed chest. “I take your point,” she said. “Activate final strike. It’s a horrible, horrible spell, really, I should feel ashamed of having learned it. But, well, that’s actually part of how I, er, took care of one of the people who killed my parents.” She laughed nervously, then took off the necklace and put it on the table. “I guess we can stick it in a drawer somewhere just in case?”
“Does it have sentimental value?”
“No, not really.”
Rob, looking smug, held his hands next to each other: he had two rings on his right hand and the thin one with the violet gem on the other. “I do kind of like the simple approach,” he said. He held his hands with palms facing and brought them together as if to pray, but just as they met, his two rings began emitting little sparks and pops. He pulled his hands apart and quickly took the rings off. He laughed nervously.
“Sometimes a big powerful ring will do that,” said Lilah. “To lesser rings.”
“Indeed,” said Marius. “This move towards an all-in-one affair, it means one needs to give the ring a significant amount of defense, because if it takes damage, one might lose significant faculties. And of course that’s without even considering the final strike aspect.”
“Ring like this,” Lilah said, “could make a nice little explosion. Leave a crater where your whole province used to be.”
“Except that it won’t,” said Marius. “It can’t. The downside, or the price, is that the ring does not like other items, and specifically other rings. It hardly matters about that. It’s an all-in-one ring because it’s all in one. You don’t need another ring.”
Lilah looked at her two hands, ringless except for the one. “I lost everything anyway,” she said, “except for that one I had from Padva, and that got cracked somehow.”
“Do you really not remember what happened to you?” asked Rob.
“No, I don’t,” said Lilah. “Do you really remember everything that happened to you?”
“No, now you mention it.” He looked at Annelise.
“I remember the important things,” she said.
“That’s the crap of it,” said Lilah. “There’s definitely important things I don’t remember.” She sighed, looking at the new ring, then looked up at Rob. “So if you remember anything.”
“I’ll let you know,” said Rob. They smirked at each other. Yeah, she knew him. She had just met him but she knew him.
“Why did you choose us?” Annelise asked suddenly. She was leveling her blue-green eyes at Lilah.
Lilah reflected her look to Marius. “I saw the two of you in those crystals,” she said, “and I kinda knew I didn’t need to look any farther. That why you gave me those two first?”
“I assure you,” said Marius, “it was quite random.”
“My mom did tarot cards,” said Lilah. “That seems random too, till you’ve done it.”
The other two detectives nodded. “The thing is,” said Rob, “Annelise here lost her parents. I lost my parents as well. We lost our home towns, our original friends, all that. Um, Lilah, I would have to guess that you,” but he stopped.
“No,” said Lilah. “I lost my mom, but it was her own business. I didn’t know my dad, I really didn’t have a dad.” She looked at her ring, then raised her eyebrows. “I knew my grandfather, though.” They watched her. She added, “Lost him, sure enough.” She looked at Marius. “And had to leave home. So maybe there’s something to this.”
“That you are alike, you three?” asked Marius.
“We lost so much,” said Rob.
“And then there’s the fact,” said Lilah, “that we are formidable as hell.”
Marius gazed at her, then looked around, stood up and said, “This calls for wine.”
“Sure,” said Lilah. “So when do we get to find out about the case?”
“After wine,” said Marius.