Chief Constable Spot Holland stared down the alleyway, then looked up to check the moon.
It was there. Not a full one, but it was there. He looked down the absolutely black alleyway again and checked his right paw.
It was shaking.
Not only did the old spaniel smell what he had smelled all those decades ago, but he also smelled Jack too. Or, at least, one of the spells he was known for casting.
Spot tried to catch his breath. He didn’t need to see what was down there. He didn’t need to see it. He didn’t need to see blood or a deposed archmage looming over a motionless body.
He didn’t need to see his best friend’s wayward son at the end of a black alley covered in—
“—Chief?” His companion said, his voice coming through Spot’s mental fog.
Spot gulped and stumbled backward. He was caught by Corporal Baycond - a husky of the Moonshadow clan.
“D-do you smell that, Corporal?” Spot asked as he found his footing on the wet cobblestones, looking up at his tall companion. Baycond sniffed the air.
“What am I supposed to be smelling, sir?”
The old spaniel shook his head and looked back down the alley. It was still so dark. And the smell from the incident... still so strong after all these decades. His vision was blurry. He couldn’t be crazy... although Baycond was from the countryside - far from magic and horror: Perhaps he wasn’t familiar with the smell of death... yet.
Death pervaded New Nottingham - Baycond would find it sooner rather than later, and then he would know the scent.
“Concentrate corporal,” Spot said, still pointing down the alley. “What do you smell?”
Baycond relaxed and tilted his snout upward, opening his maw slightly to let the scents waft into his vomeronasal organ. Suddenly his eyes opened and he drew his huge double-handed Zweihänder sword, emblazoned with his clan crest in the hilt.
“WAIT!” Spot said as Baycond wrenched himself away and ran into the alleyway. “BAYCOND!”
The smokey darkness closed in on the charging husky. Spot - not sure if he would be a help or hindrance to his large, athletic friend - stepped backward and pricked up his ears.
After a few seconds, something came out of the alley: not a figure or a sound, but a feeling. Was it a gust of wind? A fluttering of leaves? The smell itself changed to something that Spot could not readily identify.
“Baycond?” Spot yelled, his paws cupped around his muzzle. “Baycond, are you there?” The detective gulped, then uttered the name he hadn’t uttered in thirty years.
Spot blinked and slowly the alleyway’s shadows gave way to the light of the moon... but the smells still lingered.
“Jack? I-if it’s you please come out... It’ll be all right. Whatever you’ve done.”
The old dog spent a long time looking at the decrepit alleyway, not trusting what his eyes told him, waiting to see what had become of his companion. His nose had been a more trustworthy ally over the years anyway. Spot ran back to the constable barracks as fast as his short little legs - and old lungs - could carry him.
The streets smelled like rain with a few flecks of blood and magic sprinkled among them - remnants of the continual feuds, gang wars, and religious conflicts that were becoming more and more violent over the decades. It was the smell of magic that Spot could not always differentiate: Oftentimes it smelled like smoke, sometimes it smelled of the feeling of a lost love, and once it smelled like the death of a dear old friend.
The barracks smelled like stone at first.
When Spot pushed the huge wooden doors open - meant for dogs or wolves much larger than him - the blast of old metal and leather hit his sensitive nose. Wood and hearth. Old firewood, too. Cooked meals. The dining area was nearby, and the lingering notes of hearty stews, fresh bread, and brewing tea drifted through the air. Detective Holland sniffed Seargent Noonshore before he saw him.
Noonshore - a basset hound older than he who never rose above the rank of Seargent - greeted him with a long face and tired eyes.
“Wha’ is it, Spot?” Noonshore asked languidly, barely looking up from his oak table that he had occupied for the last ten years.
“Baycond! He’s been...” Detective Holland thought for a moment, then chose the word that would get the most reaction out of the useless dog. “...Killed!”
Noonshore looked up with a horrified look on his ugly, wrinkled muzzle, then grabbed his chest and slowly began to fall backwards off his chair. Holland snatched at his dirty uniform and pulled him up.
“I... I exaggerated!” Spot said, annoyed. “Just get the other lieutenants - It was in the Bakers’ District down Alleyshale avenue!”
There was a scramble followed by the stomp of boots trundling down stairs when the front doors opened once again, revealing a sopping wet male husky with a goofy grin on his face: It had apparently begun to rain once more.
Detective Holland leapt up and ran to his compatriot. Baycond was disheveled and covered in mud - his uniform torn in several places.
“Corporal Baycond! Are you all right?”
“I’ll take a look at ‘im,” the doctor on duty - a pinscher - said, examining the husky’s head.
“Good, good,” Spot said. “Come in, come in - the fire’s going, you can warm up there.”
A glass of sherry and a large towel later, Baycond was on one of the nicer couches in front of the fire with Holland and a few off-duty constables and paladins gathered around the drafty stone room.
“What happened, Corporal?” Spot asked, his heart finally slowing.
“Nothing, sir,” was the husky’s plain reply.
Holland was familiar with the “nothing” of convicts and suspects, but this was a fellow guard. A distant rumble of thunder made the situation even colder. The old spaniel drew up his coat around himself a little tighter.
“Nothing, sir. I remember going into the alley and coming out of it. That’s all.”
“Had a nasty knock on the head,” the doctor interjected. “A scrape on his noggin. Some rest will do him good, Chief. Don’t ask him too many questions, all right?”
Spot stood and gave a tired smile to his comrades. Baycond gave a lopsided smile back, and as the spaniel walked past he couldn’t help but take a sniff. It was a lot of mud and rain and a little bit of blood - familiar New Nottingham scents - but there were other things in there too.
“You sure you’re okay, Baycond?”
“Yeah chief, I’ll be okay.”
Spot knelt down and looked into Baycond’s eyes. Something was different, but he couldn’t tell what.
“Were your eyes always that shade, Baycond?”
Spot nodded and gave a few good pats to the injured husky’s left shoulder, but before he left he pulled the doctor aside. “Give him a few sniffs and tell me if you smell anything... off, okay?”
The pinscher slowly nodded as the chief detective went back to his office on the fourth floor. Spot let the smells of the old place fill his nostrils. It had all intertwined in his mind: New Nottingham, the barracks... they had become one and the same in a way. Opposites that had married each other.
On his bookshelf he had kept a few pieces of evidence of the old days: A few letters from the notorious ‘Mirror Man’ taunting the ‘local constabulary’ along with a few letters from his old friend Sir O’Savern.
He looked at them wistfully and gave them a few sniffs for old time’s sake, then let his gaze wander out the window at the dark and rainy city below.