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Bloodshot Eyes, Ringing Ears

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Glass-thin eggs and graveyard dirt. The stench of blood and developer's fluid. Smoky eyes gazing at his photos as they darken, clear, to reveal a long-dead gaze.

He wakes up in the night, doused in sweat and fear and magic in turn, with the same sensations burning his skin.

Dark eyes. Ravens' wings. The tolling of a bell far away in the distance.

There's a mystery here, and he should know. He's been the crown's eyes, its ears, for as long as he's been old enough to do the duty. It's his job to know what's going on in his father's kingdom. To learn the information King Duncan would need to keep his blood-whetted lairds in check. His senses have served him well up to this point, and he can't bring himself to hate them. But recently he's been haunted by them. By the sights. The smells. The unholy feeling of eggshell, jagged edges and brittle points, rolling between his fingers. Death passed and life yet to come all bound up in one.

He doesn't know why he dreams. He doesn't know why people are dying, one by one, to a mysterious force whose lust for blood could not be slaked. They were strange deaths, to be sure. Nameless bodies. Dreamless eyes. The whiff of something dangerous about them, like poison. Like magic.

He doesn't know what causes that shrieking in the woods in the night.

He follows it all as best he can. He's a private eye through and through, and his privacy and his eyes both belong to the king. So they are, of course, the best. But human senses can do little when confounded by devilry, and he's becoming more and more certain by the day that it is devils that are taking their due in Birnam Wood.

Devils, his father scoffs, do not exist. Witchcraft and heresy twist the minds of the weak.

Malcolm is not so sure. He follows footsteps that end in the prints of a scampering deer. He brushes away cemetery loam to find blackbirds' wings sewn tight with crimson thread. He looks for a murder weapon that cannot be identified -- for surely no one would kill a woman like this with their own two hands.

He feels eyes on him all the time. They've always been there, he senses. They will always be there. They have done all this before.

He's come close before, he knows it. He's drawn the threads together to find the center of the web. He's chased evil down a dark alley, catching a glimpse of a long, red dress even as its wearer disappears into the night.

He's traced his fingers down ice-cold skin, and they left tacky trails of blood and gore as they went.

He is close. Close. He sees it in his dreams. In his nightmares. In the shadows flickering behind his father's back. But the answers lie just outside his grasp, and he feels that he has reached out for them again and again, only for his fingers to clutch at empty air.

Broken eggs. A clumsy altar. A young woman, walking down the street with her shoes that go clack-clack-clack.

The brutality.
The silent, unearthly music on the air.
A plan, a plot, wound up in blood and secrets and hellish promise.
The witches.


Malcolm wakes up again, blinking the remnants of a dream half-remembered from his eyes.

In the distance, a bell rings.