Balthazar, Jacien, and Miranda Preston stood together in what passed for a morgue within the Element Hall in Scalvoris. They were an unlikely alliance despite all serving the same government. Balthazar and Jacien had some clear level of dislike for each other though in Jacien's case it might just have been that he was waiting to watch Balthazar slip up again. It was clear to Black that Jacien had a low opinion of him based on how he'd acted at the trial but that was assuming Jacien cared enough to form an opinion on the bound mage. It was hard for Balthazar to really figure that man out. As much as Balthazar knew and as much as he might have liked to think he was analyzing Jacien, the Spirit Deputy's expressions were like stone. He gave away nothing about his thoughts that he did not verbalize and Balthazar was never certain he wasn't being mislead. When the first time you met someone, they lied to you, it was hard to develop trust.
The situation with Miranda was a little better but equally as strange. She was one of the three Flame Troopers who'd been assigned to watch him day and night for the duration of Ashan. He didn't learn much about her then but he figured out she was a loner among the troopers. Miranda had been the Flame Trooper in charge of the initial investigation into Philip Carey's murder and she'd begun her work shortly after they discovered the Watch unmanned. There was remarkably little physical evidence to be found at the Watch. According to the report other than the usual clutter of bottles Philip left behind, there were no signs of struggle or battle. Miranda theorized that if it was an attack, the killer might have cleaned up the evidence.
About that time Balthazar heard concern about the Watch standing empty from a few other Element's he knew and he began asking around. He made a formal inquiry and Miranda wrote back. He met with her on the fifty seventh of Ymiden and she briefed him on what had happened thus far. They made a general plan to go back to the Watch and look it over again with fresh eyes. The real hope was that Balthazar would be able to discover something more useful for them using his mark.
Yet that never happened. On the morning of the fifty eighth of Ymiden, Balthazar and Miranda were brought into the Element Hall and escorted into an office where they waited in silence for a few bits. Miranda did not chat and they both knew neither one had a better concept of why they were here so they did not discuss it. That was when Jacien joined the investigation... well... took over. He came into the office with a file and set it down so that the two troopers could read it. He was all business, cool and collected. He didn't pay Balthazar more than a glance before getting to the facts of the matter.
He told them that late into the night the body of Philip Carey was discovered and transported discretely to the morgue beneath the Element Hall and he insisted that Miranda and Balthazar ensure nothing about this investigation leak to the public. He explained that the condition which the body had been found in had lead him to decide to extend his own personal assistance as a Zuuda. Balthazar did not understand why until they were lead to the morgue and presented with the body. He'd seen these effects once before on the man who initiated him into Defiance. He understood almost immediately why Jacien got involved. Zuuda was the mark of Famula. She was the Immortal of Souls among other things and someone had devoured Philip Carey's soul.
Now the trio stood around the desiccated body of the man who'd been flayed, examining it for all the physical evidence they could find before they turned inevitably to the reason Jacien got involved. "Trooper Black, I understand you possess the Bellinos mark."
Jacien said as Miranda turned over Philip's head. He had a small indent on the back of his head but that seemed to be all. From what he could see, Balthazar surmised Philip had been clubbed in the back of the head before he was flayed. You had to weaken your victim to flay them. A hard enough hit to the back of the head might have been able to debilitate Philip long enough. Balthazar looked over to Jacien and nodded to confirm the statement. "Are you prepared to see Trooper Carey's memories?"
Whatever his opinions were, Jacien did not want to drive Troopers mad with misuse of their abilities. He knew Balthazar had endured the ability before from reports he'd read on Balthazar's other cases, so he was willing to move forward.
Balthazar looked over the body again for other injuries that seemed fresh but the looming danger, to Balthazar, was experiencing what it felt like to be flayed by another mage. He was not excited to say the least but he was confident he could endure it. It was a memory, not even his. He nodded again to Jacien who's expression did not shift an inch. Jacien turned his attention to Miranda and said "Ensure we are not disrupted, Trooper Preston."
He turned back to Balthazar who still couldn't really tell what Jacien was thinking. He was sure that Jacien doubted him but when Jacien gestured to Carey's body on the table, Balthazar did not feel doubted. It was strange. He wasn't sure he liked any of them but it felt like they were a team.
They were doing their jobs. Balthazar placed a hand on Philip's chest and Jacien placed his hand beside Balthazar's. Jacien closed his eyes and Balthazar did the same a moment later, taking in a deep breath through his nose that he gently blew out through his mouth. He cleared his mind of the distracting thoughts with each breath far more easily than he had been able to arcs ago. He focused on why he was there and what he was doing. Distractions shed like a snake renewing its skin, Balthazar and Jacien began to explore Philip Carey's memories.