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The investigation was spinning its wheels for Fax Mystheur and Nada Skelet. Even though they'd made the connection between three frankly bizarre affairs near Zaaps, they were horribly short on clues. Doubt was slowly settling in – what if the temporal anomalies stopped appearing?

Nada Skelet was riding a fiery Dragoturkey wearing a dark harness bearing a ghost, the seal of the Office of Frankly Bizarre Affairs. She was splitting the wind in Sufokia Bay at impressive speed. Under the coastal sun, her long red hair flowed out from under her helmet streaking behind her in her wild race. Dust rose up wherever she rode, so much so she could be seen crossing the landscape from kilokameters away. She slowed down as she neared the local Zaap. A Xelor dressed head to toe in gray was waiting for her there.

"I have news, Mystheur," she announced as she got down off her mount.

"Me too, Skelet."

"Several witnesses saw an old man lurking near Zaaps," she began as she tied her mount to a post. "Always the same description: a white beard, owl headgear, bandages on his forearms. No one could tell what god he follows, but several spoke to him. They didn't understand what he wanted, but he gave his name as Wahn Jolsh," she said and handed her partner a head-to-toe portrait of the individual.
 

"Hm… looks like a Enutrof, doesn't he?"

"You're just saying that because he's old and his feathered headgear makes him look senile."

"Not entirely false."

"Everyone who talked to him said that he was sad and a real downer."

"Hm…"

"What about you? What's new?" asked Nada.

"Oh! You'll never guess who I ran into on my way here… Gertroud! My occult science teacher from primordial school! I haven't seen her for what… seven years? Yes, I think it was at my godson's school fair…"

"… I mean about the case, Mystheur."

"Oh, right. Follow me!"

Fax led Nada over to the teleportation portal. The Zaap was covered with hand-written inscriptions that Skelet read out loud:

"FO NOIPMAHC… LOMICREP… ARUHTAD… YNOGA… SUTCIROEL… and HTILUJ… An ancient language?"

"Nope!"

"A code?"

"Closer…"

"I've got it!"

"Already? It took me all morning…"

"You just have to read it backwards!"

"Like in a mirror," added Mystheur with a mysterious look.

"JULITH… LEORICTUS… AGONY… DATHURA… PERCIMOL… and the… CHAMPION OF… Hmm… It looks like our mysterious scribe was interrupted…"

"Did you see the order those names are in?"

"The same order as the apparitions. Or the ones we know about at least."

"The ones that have happened, Skelet. And the ones that… haven't happened YET."

*****

Sufokia Bay

Near the Zaap, the following day…

6:58 a.m.

Lying on the ground dressed in camouflage, balaclavas on their heads and paint on their faces, Mystheur and Skelet were watching the portal in the distance through their telescopic goggles.

"Ridiculous!" whispered Nada.

"What is?"

"We are, Mystheur!"

"Speak for yourself, Nada. I look like a secret agent!"

"You look like an idiot, Mystheur. And even though we've got the chronology for the next apparitions, what makes you say the next one is going to happen here?"

"Nothing, Nada. But we can't watch all the Zaaps. I've got a hunch that it's going to be in Sufokia. If we look at the order the apparitions happened on a map, there's a certain logic. This portal follows the others. Plus, it's the one that was vandalized… our biggest clue. Renniks is watching the one on the Sufokian shoreline. And he's detailed another agent to guard the one in the Alliance Temple."

"And why now?"

"The apparitions have been seen shortly before dawn or a little after dusk. When you're on a stake out, you never know who's going to show up or when… Come on, Skelet! It's fun! And thrilling to be in the field!"

"In the field, yes. On the field, not so much!"

"It's been five minutes… Go on, tell me what you turned up…"

"Hm… The analysis of the writing showed that it was done yesterday morning, between 6:30 and 7:30, by someone left handed…"

"That can't be random," said Mystheur in a mysterious voice.

"The colored material was standard paint: pigment, solvent, thickeners… But it also contained an unknown ingredient…"

"You mean something 'extratwelvian'?"

"No, Mystheur. It could easily come from our planet but just hasn't been discovered yet…"

"Yet…"

"What did you turn up?"

"I didn't find anything about Percimol or any 'champion' of… anything. But I've got something on Dathura."

The Xelor pulled out a piece of paper folded in four that looked like it'd been torn out of a book.


"Where did you find that?"

"At the city library."

"Mystheur! You… you vandal, you!"

"You can't make an omelet without breaking a few Dofus…"

"That's no excuse…"

 

 

"Dathura was the tenth and last doll created by the god Sadida to seduce the Primordial Dragons. She was the apex of his work, very nearly perfect. She looked most human, along with the ninth doll, Lacrima. Lacrima grew progressively more and more jealous of her younger sister who she thought had stolen her place as Sadida's favorite. She was so jealous, she eventually cast Dathura down into our world, the mortal world.

As she fell, something horrible happened – the doll's ogrine heart was pierced…"

Incredulous, Nada gave the piece of paper back to Fax.
 

"That's not much help… A children's tale…"

"There's often a grain of truth in fairy tales, Skelet. You should know that… Didn't they teach you that in Psychology 101?"

"Yes, but we rely above all on how people who really existed behave."

"Who says she never really existed? Plus, I know the rest of this story. It's gossiped about every night in specialized inns where pimply young adventurers gather to play with cards and wooden figurines…"

"And how do you know about those kinds of places?"

"I love those kinds of places! But that's a different story… The story we're interested in now talks about an alchemist who supposedly found an inanimate doll – right here, in the World of Twelve – and spent years trying to wake her up."

"And did he ever figure out how to do it?"

"Him, no. But it's said that not so long ago, one of his creations, or rather one of his creatures, made of ogrine as well, managed it."

"By kissing her while she slept, I assume?"

"I don't know about that… But if the story is more than just a story, it means that not only does Dathura exist, but she could still be part of our world!"

"Wow! You're so…"

"Insightful?"

"Gullible! It makes me want to cry…"

"ME TOO!" said a strange voice in the dark suddenly.

 

Mystheur and Skelet turned around, gripped with fear…

To be continued…

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