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Chapter 9 - A Walk with Royalty

 

A second script with the map included details scribbled by a sloppy hand. Cydric struggled with the words given the poor writing, but he made out the important details well enough. At least the priests had taught him one thing worthwhile.

 

Tithion was the employer of a man-servant by the name of Sloran. The noble claimed Sloran had returned from a trek to Daltin and the body was delivered by a group of the militia late in the eve. Sloran died not long there after and his body remained at the noble's property. Cydric loathed the thought of inspecting the body later in the heat of the sun. Both man and beasts gave off such retched smells even short hours after passing to the after-life.
 

Vorn scoffed, "Hmm... Phineous is a liar. Don't believe his contracts." Vorn said aloud, outraged. "Let's hurry and get to this noble's house. The murderer could've escaped already." With that, Vorn took off at steady jog, passing morning shoppers and street hawkers, heading for the walled inner city. Vorn inhaled the sweet smell of the morning and wished that more days could be as glorious.
 

Kanth sped off behind Vorn and called to him, "Vorrn, we arre missing a companion. Shadow is still behind with our-r-r rrather larrge employer-r-r. I see that your-r-r rreward is your-r-r main concerrn. You'll be paid, but let's not leave anyone behind," she rolled her eyes and turned to trudge back toward Cydric and the office where Shadow would emerge.
 

Cydric tapped out the pipe, crushed the hot ash into the ground, and put the pipe in his pouch. "Anyone want another look at the map before I put it away? Actually I guess we should wait for Shadow. That way we can all be on the same page." He said while pacing anxiously around the front of the building. The more distance between Phineous and himself, the better. Just the sound of that bastard's voice sent feelings of dread in his stomach.
 

The Nobles' Row was a stretch of villas that lined the canal. Other than Cydric, none of the rest had access to the area. It was quite lavished with fountains and indoor plumbing, hot baths and imported stones for their sculptures and so on. Walls and piers over the water were common sights as well.
 

Shadow left the office and joined the inspectors waiting for him. He showed a half-smile and waved as he approached. His eyes scanned Kanth’s form quickly as he purred, “A Beautiful morrning is complimented by the vision of a beautiful Phylinx.” He winked to her, then said to the group, “So sorrrry to keep you all waiting. I only need to r-retrieve an inspectorr’s uniform and we can be off to examine the body… or-r-r did you have another-r-r idea? I know I would also like to question Tithion, but per-r-r-rhaps we should go to the scene befor-r-re it smells any worrse.”
 

"Why, I think somone is flirrting with me," Kanth said slipping her tail around Shadow as he drew near. She slipped him a particularly green and flowery bud of nip. "I saved this one for-r-r you."

Shadow's own tail entwined about Kanth's as he accepted the herbal gift. "That is verry thoughtful of you. I think purrrhaps we can split this later-r-r. A clean head must prrevail today's activities." He wrapped up the catnip carefully and put it in a pocket.


"Yes, we need to go, but I'd forget about the uniform. I refuse to wear one. I just carry the badge. But then again, Ol' Phineous knows I've always had problems following the rules." Cydric said with a sly smile. "I think we just need to go and worry about uniforms and such later. If any questions should arise about your identity I'm sure we'll vouch for you."

 

Shadow nodded, complying to Cydric’s wisdom on the matter. “As you wish. Let’s be off then.”

 


Through the large gates that led into the inner sanctum of T'Aarn, the group traveled. Prior to this day, they would have had to sneak in, but now as inspectors the four were allowed free reign within the walled inner city. Protected from view and most ill-willed peers, the Noble's Row was immaculate. Not a bare patch of dirt was visible. Each path was bricked with patterns more intricate than the next and with stone more costly then any in the party could imagine. The shrubs and plants that decorated the walled homes were trimmed to the most impeccable detail. Some were sculpted into creatures, others molded to appear as pillars. Others were twisted to look as braided hair.
 

Cydric looked around as they traveled through Noble's Row then said aloud to no one in particular, "Funny, this place looks a lot different during the day. But even at night in the alleys this place is pretty impressive. Gotta admit though, the clients in here pay very handsomely. Too bad there's no time to check in with a few of them. Damn Phineous and his murder investigation."
 

Even the walls, that hid a good deal of the view of the wonders within, were masterful creations built of brick, mortar and stone, and even iron from the mountains. This opulence was but a glimmer of how the wealthy truly lived.

As the inspectors approached the canal, the smell of the river seemed to put a spark and sweetness in the air. Following the lines of walls the roadway led them to a pillared gateway with a granite arch boasting a blue and gold laced banner. A proud beast with the body and face of a man and the hind quarters of a horse was intricately painted on the fabric.

Beneath the shade of a deep-blue canvas awning six men-at-arms dressed in Tithion's household colors broke off their conversation as the plainly clothed inspectors approached. Straightening and calling his men to attention was the eldest looking man. His deep tanned features seemed cracked as a shier mountainside, and several ancient scars crisscrossed his face.

"Mornin to yas." He called from across the distance. "We'd been expecting you fer some time." He waived his arm in a short greeting and gestured the four to walk with him.

"Lord Tithion is mighty worried. Sloran's been part of this household since he was a young lad. His passin' this close to the festival tis bad timing indeed." He exchanged pleasantries and introduced himself as Blair Kruz Jaxine of Dran, "but please call me Jax. Tis a mouthful of a name, I know." He was a battle worn veteran, that was certain. Part of his left ear was gnarled and missing and his leathery right hand was missing his small finger and the others seemed crooked and didn't bend easily.

Kanth thought it odd that Jax's mood seemed up beat and even jovial. Perhaps it was his age or experience, but perhaps something more.

She gave a gentle jab with her elbow to Shadow's arm and mouthed the word, "Careful" and motioned with two of her fingers to her eyes to confer to him to keep his eyes focused to detect anything unusual.
 

Kanth’s non-verbal warning was unnecessary. Shadow had all of his senses in gear, closely surveying everything they passed, the sights, the sounds, even the smells. He had never been in such a lavish place and he tried to keep the enormousness of it from overwhelming him from the purpose of their visit.

Jax led the group down a scrolling wooded path with fragrant flowers at each bend. Totems of the gods decorated an open field and encircled a fire pit at the center. The circle seemed unnaturally
perfect. Noting the group's attention had wandered, Jax paused to tell them about the shrines. "Many years ago, Lord Tithion was a priest. That was before he started this temple of his. There was some
strangeness about his leaving, but after all that, he designed this. He's even got totems for the goblin gods. Something about the powers of circles and such. You know the rich though. They need their toys."

Shadow asked Jax, “What temple is Lorrd Tithion a prriest of and how long ago did he disappear-r-r as you say? How long was he gone for-r-r?” Shadow's eagerness to jump in and gather clues was obvious. Patience was a rare trait of the Phylinx of his age.


"Well, I don't know for sure. Mind you I was hired after all the fuss had died down but I know he has frequent visits from many faiths. As to the timing of his pilgrimage, I've heard tales of five to ten years. But then I was not in his lord's house at the time so don't stake yer reputation on it."
 

The group's eyed constantly roamed the courtyard for oddities or anything not following the common pattern within the place. Their path wandered little, but took sharp turns at odd angles. Finally, the path arrived at the footsteps of a polished granite gazebo that was attached to the main house. Rising from a bench came a tall, fit man with elongated features, but not so much as the Kanis or Gnoll. Instead it was a cross between several races. His eyes were round like that of a human, but the beard and large lips and unusual jaw looked closer to a Phylinx or Kanis. His dark black lips seemed to speak of knoll blood though.

'A half-breed abomination,' Kanth thought to herself at the appearance of this fiendish individual. 'A swift and painless death would suit to put the poor creature out of the misery that its parents or creator has caused the poor thing,' she thought again empathetically. It was not uncommon to dispose of malformed newborns and was usually a sign of poor fortune. This thing must have had a cursed parent...

"Fair morning. I am Traa'llor and will guide you to the master," the mixed-breed said with a slight bow and led the way into the home.


Before Jax parted ways, Shadow asked, “Jax, you said Lorrd Tithion was verry worrried about Slorran’s passing so close to the festival. Is that because Slorran had many duties he was r-responsible for-r-r that are now unattended to, or-r-r because it is purrrhaps a bad omen?"


"Well, I'd have to say both. Tis never a time to celebrate so close to one's passing, lest you wanted him gone. And I assure you, lord Tithion's not the sort to wish ill on people."

"And what functions did Slorran norrmally attend to arround the household?"

"Sloran's duities... well I don't know them for sure. I know he ran personal errands for the lord, but other than that, I can only assume. He'd be gone for days and weeks at a time. The longest he was gone was nearly a year, but the details I know not."

"Look lad," he continued raising his hand, "I know you're only doing yer duty, but I'm not the one to ask on certain particulars. All's I can tell you is what happens on the watch. Traa'llor here can give you far more information, but the lord is truly the man to ask. Both are fine men with true words, so if they speak it, believe it."

"Traa'llor," Shadow regarded as he stepped up beside the mongrel, "if I might be allowed to ask some questions of you. How long have you been in the serrvice of Lorrd Tithion?"

 

The mixed bred man-beast seemed taken aback at the suddenness of the Phylinx' questions. "It has been my pleasure all my life, sir." And noting the still questioning look on Shadow's face he continued, "Thirty and two years, sir."

"Do you find him a fair-r-r master-r-r?"

He smirked, "As fair a master as I have known." Traa'llor kept his matter-of-fact polite manner.

"What do you know of Slorran?"

"So many questions, sir? I knew Sloran well. Most of our lives in fact. He was both a friend and brother to me and I am heart broken at his death. He and I shared many secrets and supported each other in those hard years before coming of age. I know not what my kin to Sloran matters though, unless you think my hands might have caused his passing." He looked for a reaction, but none of the inspectors replied. "No one in my master's house would have ill will against Sloran. He was loved here."
 

Chapter 10
 

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