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Chapter 10 - The Noble's Story

Entering the shade of the noble's home brought a cool breeze with it. The polished stone interior walls and floor were spotless and it seemed almost sacrilegious to walk in such a perfectly groomed home with one's dirty shoes. But Traa'llor said nothing of it and continued.

The flat squared entry was deceptively simple. As the travelers' eyes adjusted to the dim light they noted the sea of pillows that filled the circular room on the left. Three small fountains spread evenly against the walls displayed marble statues of lovers embracing and entwined as water splashed over their bodies. The forms were nearly life sized and had it not been for the stone from which they were carved, they looked as real as white-powdered performers.

Baskets of fresh fruits and flowers sat upon marble stools that lined the curved room. The ceiling arched high into the shadows, braced with thick beams of a dark red wood and carved with images of leaves, flowers, and vines. The three pillars joined at the pinnacle of the arch and curled as tree squirrels' tails and supported an immaculate silver chandelier. An opaque quartz bowl held decorative candles that would light the room when in use.

"This way, please," said Traa'llor as he guided the group to the right through the dining hall. The thick wooden table that dominated the room was decorated with gold trimmed silver goblets, smoothly polished candelabras, and a cloth that seemed to glitter in the pale light. The walls were covered in tapestries depicting several symbols of the gods and intricate patterns, some with ancient texts woven into the fabric. All of the tapestries' colors were vibrant and bold.

Eagerness and intrigue welling up within her breast, Kanth studied the room more closely, now searching for some sort of hidden or unveiled escape route or passage. Determined to solve this crime and be on to other profitable business.

Cydric looked around the room where they stood and wondered just how many contracts he would have to complete in order to just obtain the contents of this one room. A smile crept across his face for a moment as a thought of an easier way to obtain wealth flashed through his mind. But as the smile and thought faded the thought was replaced by another as Cydric remembered how very poor the monastery in which he grew up was compared to Lord Tithion's Manor. But from the attitude of the monks, you could never tell they even knew they were missing out. And as suddenly as the guilty feeling of his entire life came, it had left. Cydric cracked his neck from left to right and focused his attention to the matter at hand.


A smell of fresh water wafted through the room as Traa'llor led them to the back of the home and out to a low balcony that overlooked the canal. A huge blue and gold trimmed awning provided abundant shade and two oval pools spilled over the edge into a larger pool at the ledge of the villa. To the far left a man sat on a woven chair as he looked out across the waterway. His black hair and perfectly trimmed beard was speckled and frosted with gray and the skin around his face was puffy and creased with wrinkles. As the group approached, he hardly seemed to notice them and instead continued to stare out in the distance. Wrapped about and held tight against his chest was a black cloth that covered him from neck to toes.

"Milord," said Traa'llor as he curtseyed. "These are the inspectors we requested."

"Hmm?" Tithion broke from this trance. "Oh, yes. Thank you Traa'llor, will you serve them some refreshments while we speak?" When he spoke he did not remove his gaze from the far shore and his voice was cracked and gruff as one who just woke. "I simply do not know where to begin, so please, be seated. Would you like some wine, ale, or something to eat?" Despite his offer, he still had not moved nor shifted from his position. The curve of his knuckles could be seen through the wrinkles of the cloth as he clenched it tightly.

Kanth looked about the courtyard and thought hard on her emotions. She was searching for signs of sorcery. But there was no tingle up her spine like she had when the priest began his prayer the night before. Nor did she feel uneasy. That is, not in an unnatural way. The idea of walking into a noble's home and having power over him was unusual enough, and to disturb the mourning process with questions that might lead to accusations; that alone was an odd sensation. But when she looked at Tithion, the way he seemed to pull away from the world, she could feel nothing but genuine sorrow.
 

Realizing that this opportunity didn't come often, Cydric pulled up a seat and asked for coffee.


Kanth waved her hand, "Ummm, no. Thank-you. I hate to keep you durring your-r-r time of sorrow with many questions, so I'll simply ask these quickly: Wherre did this atrrocity take place, can we be taken therre, and can you estimate the time of the murrder?"

Finally lord Tithion sighed and looked at the gathered inspectors. Such a strange group, he thought. It was indeed odd to see Phylinx in the ranks of town officials. "I apologize for my resignation. It has been a trying day." His red eyes scanned the group as Traa'llor collected the group's orders.

Vorn replied, "Hot cocoa and cheesecake, my good man. Thank you." Vorn stood back in the shade, and wondered if they were even available.


Kanth's ears perked up at Vorn's request. "Cake made frrom cheese? How interresting. Maybe I'll retrract my decline of rrefrreshments... Cake made frrom cheese... mmmmm," she said purring, the murder fled her mind for a moment at the thought.

Cydric thought to himself for a moment, 'Coffee and cheesecake, a combination like that sounded delicious. But then again the low rumble in his stomach would have made anything sound good about now, he hadn't eaten anything since the party last night, and as nice as Vasita tasted she just was note digestible.' Cydric smiled at that and spoke up, "I too will have cheesecake."

"Coffee and cocoa?" Traa'llor frowned and apologized for the inconvenience, "but cheesecake is not on our menu. Perhaps if it were winter time..." he said allowing the question to hang. These inspectors had rich tastes. Or perhaps they were just taking advantage of his lord's generosity. Those drinks were hardly common in T'Aarn and the costs to import such things from Endrak were outrageous.


Kanth frowned and her top two canines protruded from her cleft lip. "Oh well, something to trry at another-r-r time." Her mind quickly reverted to the subject at hand.

 

The disappointment was thick, but what could he expect. Vorn had fallen in love with hot cocoa and cheesecake the first time he had tasted them in a bakery in Thorin. He shrugged and replied to Traa'llor, "True, it was a bit of a long shot that you would've had cheesecake this time of year. Still, the hot cocoa please." Traa'llor nodded and looked to Shadow, but the black Phylinx simply shook his head.

Cydric was the first to get back down to business. "My Lord, we know how hard this must be, and we are sorry for your loss. But of course we need to ask you a few questions. Can you tell us what you know of last night's mishap?"

Tithion sighed as if a large weight rested on his chest. "I... he..." The noble struggled with the words. "Let me begin at the start. A month and three days past, I sent Sloran to an old acquaintance's home in Daltin; the high priest Slovak of the Entioch Divinity. He has been a sponsor of many charities that I champion. Sloran was to travel to Daltin and deliver a gift to his eminence and return with letters and a contribution to my endeavors.

"That was the last I saw of dear Sloran, until..." he began but was forced to cut his sentence short as he fought off tears that welled up. "I am sorry." he said as he wiped his moist eyes. "Until this morn when the watchmen alerted me."


Shadow stood in the background like a dark sentinel as the others went into action. He looked carefully around the grounds to get an idea of the character for the man of the house. Shadow doubted this was the place where the body was found, so relatively nothing would be useful in the surroundings, but it did seem a peaceful place for meditation. The sound of the water cascading from two pools to one was calming.

The man seemed quite sad, but some of the actors at the amphitheater could make you believe the worst had befallen them as well. Emotions were easy to fake, but it could be genuine. Careful observation of the man's demeanor as he answered would tell more than the actual words he spoke.
 

A realization washed over Cydric as he thought of the events that had transpired last night; especially those that dealt with a certain militia sergeant and a blob of a man he helped to put in a drunk cart. With that Cydric said, “A few other questions come to mind as well my lord and hopefully you'll be able to answer them. I understand that Sloran was delivered late in the night by a few militia. The militia man in charge, was his name Sergeant Kalis? If so, was Sloran a robust man, wearing a gold ring?"

 

"Yes, that was the man's name. He had two children with him, a young girl and boy, not yet sixteen." He looked Cydric over, a bit astounded at the correlation. "Sloran is... was a bit robust. You don't think that...?" His voice trailed as he withdrew back into his covers and stared blankly at the ground.
 

"If this is all correct, do you know where we might find Sergeant Kalis? There are a few questions I'd like to ask him." With that Cydric looked behind him and saw Traa'llor holding a highly polished silver tray with a fine porcelain cup holding fresh, hot coffee. Cydric almost drooled as the thought of what the fence would pay for such an exquisite item. Quickly, but calmly he took the cup and sipped the coffee. Although he didn't show his excitement on the outside, inside he was about as giddy as a school boy. It'd been far too long since he had had a cup of fresh coffee.

Noting Tithion's resignation, Traa'llor interjected, "The sergeant and children are down by the water over there." He pointed to a small wood-planked building surrounded by large leafed shade trees. The slope of the hill led it directly to the water's edge and the inspectors could see two young children chasing each other through the short grass as a portly man sat against the trunk of a wide tree sleeping.

Vorn looked at Cydric, puzzled. He motioned the other inspectors to the side, to make it look like a discussion about the case. Then he popped the question at Cydric. "How did you know those details? Just where were you last night, anyway? Tell us everything that you know about this, we might need the information."


With the group huddled around each other, Cydric explained, "It was just a lucky guess really. Could be I'm a bit psychic, I always thought I knew things I shouldn't. Actually I couldn't sleep last night due to some snoring oaf in the barracks, so I decided to go out for a walk and I happened to stumble across Sergeant Kalis, and his daughter Van trying to lift... I guess it was Sloran into a cart. I scared them when I popped out of the shadows. After a few words and an introduction, Kalis had Van run and get his son Harrold who had the cart."

Cydric paused and took a long pull from his coffee cup, draining the contents entirely. Looking into the cup he frowned and let out a disappointed sigh. He then put the cup down on the table beside him and continued. "I helped put the fat man on the cart and immediately wished for a bath. The man wreaked something awful and was covered in mud. But he was still breathing, his breathing sounded deep and labored and reminded me of the snoring oaf back at the barracks.
 

Kanth glanced down to the waters edge. "We must question this man and his childrren at once and then be off to the alley wherre the body was found." She motioned with an extended finger, claw out and gleaming. "Cydrric, any chance he was alive when you saw him; any sign of brreathing, or-r-r a moan when he was hoisted?"

"Yes, he was still alive then. Sergeant Kalis is a good honorable man, so much so that I can practically guarantee that the ring was still on Sloran's body when he was dropped off. Which reminds me, we also need to view the body and see for ourselves what killed the man. I don't know about you, but I'm not quite buying the whole poisoned bit. Poison is expensive, I know, and if it was poison then someone with money killed the man, or had the man killed. And I know I didn't have a contract on him. But let's wrap this up with Tithion, talk to Kalis, view the body, and definitely get something to eat."
 

Turning to Kanth, Vorn replied "I agree with your plan, we must off, and quickly! After we interrogate them, we must stop by an inn or the mess hall. Having a day old apple strudel has not satisfied my stomach, and I haven't seen some of you eat at all. We can't work properly with growling stomachs. The quicker this goes, the quicker we can get breakfast. Hmm.... You think we can get free food from Tithion? He offered to give us refreshments and food, and never showed up with any food."


Shadow smiled pleasantly and nodded. His questions were answered and things didn't seem to be so underhanded as he first suspected.

Shadow knew nothing of the fat man and frowned noticeably. He turned back to the host and asked one more question. "I would like to extend my condolences for-r-r your loss, sir-r-r. It must have been a trragic blow. Can you tell me though, did Slorran ever make it to your-r-r old acquaintance's home in Drran? I am asking to know if pur-r-rhaps he was waylaid with the items you gave him, or-r-r if the r-returrn items wer-r-re worrth the cost of someone's life." The dark Phylinx cradled his chin in his forefinger and thumb as he awaited the answer. It was likely Sloran was killed for the package, an unlucky victim of circumstance. Someone killed the messenger. "We must establish motive," he said to the others.
 

"Yes, he was staying at the temple for more than a week and both he and Slovak had sent correspondence during that time. Sloran was a slow traveler as he enjoyed treks off the main path. I believe though that he was found in T'Aarn near his favorite tavern, the Sleeping Sea. Tis not far from here, further south on the canal. He would often stop and converse for hours for he fancies a young lady there."

"Myranda," interjected Traa'llor.

 

Shadow smiled and nodded gratefully to the mongrel. He was a loyal sort, undoubtedly treated very well by his master over the thirty two years of service.
 

Tithion continued, "But I don't recall receiving a package in return, do you Traa'llor?"

"No milord, Sloran was found with no additional baggage. His personal belongings were all intact to my knowledge; even his horse and packs."

"Strange then. At least one package was missing then. A letter from Slovak said he had a book and container that he wished to send with Sloran. It would be valuable in ways a thief would not appreciate. Nor would inspectors as yourselves. But it was valuable to Slovak, and for that I must ask that it be returned; if and when found of course."


"Another-r-r lead to follow up on," Kanth began after hearing this added bit of information. "Should we split up then, or-r-r rremain in the safety of our-r-r number-r-r?"

 

Shadow looked to Kanth and suggested “Together-r-r, we are strrong.”

"Looks like breakfast is becoming more of a mid-day meal, I suggest that we visit the Sleeping Sea last, we can eat there. Besides, viewing the body, speaking to Kalis are probably more pressing than speaking to some barmaid anyway. Cydric said while pulling out his pipe.

 

Shadow nodded, “Myrranda can wait. But jealousy could also be a motive, my fellow inspector-r-r.”

He faced Tithion as the host mentioned Slovak’s return package. “The contents of the book could have been the motive we are looking for-r-r. We may have to take a trrip out to see your acquaintance in Daltin if things don’t pan out her-r-re.”

 

Chapter 11

  

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