Chapter 8 - Morning Comes Too Soon
As instructed, the night watch sent
an errand boy in to wake the inspectors and dark Phylinx shortly before the cart
left for the main barracks. The ride back took far longer than anticipated as
the mules did not appreciate the added load of the three passengers.
Cydric quietly walked with his group to Phineous' office. A slight smirk played across his features as he looked at the outside of the building. The thought of sneaking in and learning information was tempting, but unfortunately the reality of getting caught was too unnerving. Someday, even long after this job with Phineous had ended, he would break in even if it was to just unsettle Phineous; just keep him on his toes.
Before entering the stone office,
Kanth caught Vorn's arm. "I think Shadow and I
may be responsible for-r this Gnoll's death. He was one of the ones
stalking you and Shadow."
"So that's what was taking him so long to get back to me? Well, I wouldn't worry about him. It was self defense after all. I'm interested in who that Gnoll was, and why he followed us." Vorn walked into Phineous' office, and saw that Thomas stood by the door. Vorn gave a slight wave of acknowledgement, and sat down in the same chair in which he'd been interviewed yesterday. He yawned and scrounged around in his knapsack for something to eat. Finally, he came up with some pastries from the night before. About to wolf into them, he remembered his manners and offered a few to Cydric, Thomas, and Kanth. While'st munching into a particularly scrumptious apple strudel, he struck up a conversation with Kanth. "You know, this reminds me of an unpleasant interview yesterday. How did your interview go?"
Politely declining the pastry, Kanth
sniffed the air spying the
knapsack on Vorn's lap. "Oh please, do rremind me of that awkward
arrangement. The man's mannerisms are near-r-r to that of a badger-r-r: borring and grruff."
A few moments later, Phineous burst through the doorway with a huff. Clearly the slope of the hill was more than his lungs could manage.
"I hope you all are comfortable,"
began Phineous as he pulled his
oversized chair from behind his cluttered desk. His none-too-pleasant
smirk was more of a scowl then a warming greeting. This morning found
the finely sanded desktop littered with parchment rolls and stacks of
log books. A large wooden chest sat to the right of the desk; one
that had not been their the previous day.
Rotating and worming his fat into the groove his hind quarters had worn in the cushion, Phineous flipped open a bound stack of papers. "There has been a death at the estate of one Lord Tithion. I want you all to interview the witnesses and pay special attention to the grounds. Mark every turn, every entrance, and every hiding place. I suspect the murderer is among his household and even nobility are not incapable of killing. He may be hiding the killer in his own home so pay close attention to rooms he forbids entrance." At that Phineous handed Cydric a leather bound scroll. "Last eve has seen many deaths in our fair city. Three in one night is far from casual luck." Phineous held the scroll until he finished his last words as he stared at Cydric. "I hope no one here had anything to do with any of them?" He plopped back down into the seat, sending air whistling from the cushions. "That scroll is a map to Tithion's home not far from here. The man that was killed was poisoned and delivered by mule-cart late in the night. The names of the three deliverers are included with the map." Leaning forward in his seat and casting each tired inspector a sharp glance. "Those are your orders, now who wants to tell me about last night? None of you were in your quarters, yet somehow this morning you miraculously arrive here in time for your debriefing. Well, spill yer story."
Cydric looked around the group and decided to quickly speak up. "We all had a quiet night of walking around the city. I was helping to familiarize these fine men on our fair city.
Kanth interrupted with a clearing of
her purring throat to correct
Cydric's slight mistake of words and allowed him to resume without
saying anything else.
"I mean after all, you can't
have inspectors who know nothing of the city in which
they are sworn to protect, now can you? Anyway, we were
out late, not realizing the time. Once we
noticed the hour, it was agreed that we should head back to the barracks and get
as much sleep as possible." Tucking the scroll under his arm, Cydric headed for
the door. "Thank
you for the advice, we shall search high and low for
the murderer. Inspectors, I shall meet with you
outside. Good day Chief Inspector." At that Cydric
bowed to Phineous and hastily dashed out the office.
"Indeed this is a strrange turrn of events," Kanth began, but
quickly changed her mind as to what she was going to say, realizing
the retribution she and Vorn would suffer if they were caught
in a lie.
"The reward?" Phineous fumed. "You'll get your contract rates for the murderer, and as far as the two you captured," he paused to admire a fat sparkling ring, "you'll need to wait and see what the magistrates conclude." Vorn was about to protest and Phineous cut him off. "I never sent you on that trek, did I? Therefore your contract does not apply. Keep to the script. I tell you your business and I'll have no heroics any more! If there's a reward on their heads, you'll get your part. Now be gone. And send in that black cat-man."
While waiting for his fellow
inspectors to shuffle out
of Phineous' office, Cydric leaned against the building
and lit his pipe then proceeded to unroll the map
to get a better look at it. The sheet of parchment crinkled as it
unfurled and seemed to struggle
against being opened and slipped back to its comfortable rolled
position. After reopening the scroll, Cydric noted the landmarks and
found a drop of wax marked the relative destination of Lord Tithion's
villa. It was not far from this barracks and was just east of the
great tower inside the noble's quarter. This was an area Cydric was
fairly familiar with. His clients were often of high birth and low
conscience after all.
Kanth stepped out of the office and
noticed Cydric taking a break and
decided to do the same. She walked over to him and tried to spy a
look at the map while shuffling through her pouch for some herbs.
She found the small leather-bound wrap and untied it.
"Oh, not at all. As I'm surre you know, men arre simply harrd-headed sometimes." Kanth reached into her pack again and withdrew a nice-sized flowering bud and handed it over to Cydric. "Trry it in your-r-r pipe. Some of my people smoke it, but it makes me cough, so I simply eat it. It's called 'nip'. It's a common herrb related in many ways to cannabis. To most of my kind, it acts as a stimulant. To me it is rrelaxing, as it is to most humans."
Cydric dumped out the contents in his
pipe bowl and took the bud from Kanth. After packing the bowl with the dried
and taking a few test puffs, with his gloved hand he lit the hot ember from his
old smoke. "Thank you," he said as extending his arm in a thanks to Kanth.
Kanth took the man's arm wrist in
hand and gave a shake common
amongst her own people. Not only was it a gesture of friendship, but
also of distrust as they could feel each others forearms
for hidden daggers beneath cloak sleeves.
Kanth replied, "Phylinx-nip. You might know it as catnip though."
"It is its quite nice, smooth, and flavorful. Not like the shit you'll find around here, most of that stuff is down right disgusting. If business is good, I usually import my smoke from the lands of Siverandora. Now that is some damn fine smoke. Thank you, maybe one day you can teach me how to grow this, or where I can obtain this myself."
Vorn, joined Kanth and Cydric in the morning sun. The odd smell of pipe-weed struck his senses and he noticed Cydric had been smoking. In the lands of Nilam, smoking was a thing done by scholars and rich men and the opium trade was rife with hoodlums and crooks. Vorn's family had forbidden smoking of any herb. As it was, he tried to ignore the smell. He was a long way from his father's estate.
The group huddled over the map and
Vorn exclaimed, "Aye ya! Even a town like
T'Aarn is so confusing to navigate. Have any of you ever investigated
a murder before? I have killed, but finding killers is whole
Cydric took the pipe from his mouth and held the bowl in his hand feeling the warmth. He turned to Vorn with a slight smile and said, "I too have killed before but as well as you have not investigated a murder. To be honest, finding the killer shouldn't be all that difficult. We just simply need to put ourselves in the killers shoes and retrace his steps. That's my thought on the matter at least."
Knowing Phineous to be a keen observer, it was difficult to tell if anything was amiss. Phineous always seemed to radiate an air of dread, though if it was unnatural, was impossible to tell. Aside from the normal discomfort felt in his presence, nothing out of the ordinary could be seen.
Shadow told the hefty inspector
nearly everything that happened from the threats of the thug and how the Gnoll
and Goblin had followed him and Vorn, to the final battle and meeting up with
Captain Theldin's men.
"I know, the intensity I prresented when I smote the
prrobably was not warrrranted, but it was intuition that guided my actions. They
had deadly weapons, trrailing an investigator-r-r in the fog… I was unarrmed,
and knew they wer-r-re up to no good. I doubted they would give me quarter-r-r
if they won. I had to take one out of the equation to be able to focus on the
other-r-r without worrrry. If my actions wer-r-re inapprroprriate and due
punishment, I beg forrgiveness and merrcy while you deterrmine a suitable