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Chapter 11 - A Body Prepared

 

Vorn walked off toward the sleeping man. "Come on people, I don't think any more is to learned from the Lordship. By the way, you won't mind if we take liberties to roam about your house do you, Lord Tithion? I must remind you, this is a murder investigation" Vorn turned to leave before Tithion could reply, walking onto the grass, to stand in front of the sleeping militia man. He paused and waited for his fellow inspectors before waking the man up.

 

The group followed closely, taking note of Vorn's 'take-charge' attitude, but not adding a comment of their own. Prudence in a situation such as this would prove to be one of their best assets. It was good to have a 'take-charge' person in the group, but Kanth felt as though there could be more questions answered and more clues to be found with Tithion.
 

As he watched the sun glistening off of the morning dew, Cydric remembered what Van had sensed about him last night and wondered what she could sense about his companions. His thoughts continued as he wondered whether or not she might be useful in discovering who the killer was. Cydric knew that Van wouldn’t speak to him alone, but maybe one of his fellow inspectors could attempt a one on one conversation with her... He let the thought linger unanswered.
 

Upon seeing the four inspectors approach, the two youths stopped their game of chase and eyed the humans and Phylinx cautiously. When the gold-haired girl noticed Cydric approach, she moved behind the boy, Herrold, grabbing his arm.

The two children were stark contrasts. The young girl, Van, was thin and wiry with a narrow face and pointed chin where the boy stood proud with broad shoulders, round face, and skin and hair as dark as night.

 

"Hello childrren," Kanth began noting the obvious wariness of the girl. "Therre's nothing to fear-r-r. We'rre herre to speak to you and your-r-r father-r-r? concerrrning the events of last eve. We arre officials, be at ease."

"Our father is asleep," said the boy boldly trying to shrug off his sister's grip. "Let go of me," he whispered to her. "Are you inspectors? I heard them talking about you coming to look at the dead man. Do you know who killed him?"

Almost suddenly, the fair girl stepped closer to Kanth asking, "what's your name?" And Kanth replied and introduced the others. "I'm Vandra, and this is Harrold. Do you want to play?"

"No, dummy," chided Herrold, "she's not a little girl like you."

"Shut up!"

"No, you shut up."

"Both of you, silence your yapping," boomed a voice from across the field. "You know I don't like you talking like that." The once sleeping man hoisted himself to a standing position and braced his weight against the tree. "Morning inspectors. I am Kalis, and these are my fine children."

 

Glancing to her fellow-inspectors, then back to the children, Kanth realized that she may be the only one in the group that these children might warm-up to and speak with. "Actually, yes. I'd like nothing morre than to play with the both of you," she said smiling. Then she looked over to the remaining party. "I'll be over-r-r
herre 'playing' if you need me. Go ahead and speak with Kalis, we'll be having some fun."

 

Still a young Phylinx in all respects, Kanth took advantage of this situation to both have a little fun and to attempt information extraction from these children. She reminded herself over and over that her size and experience could easily wound a human child. She calmed herself and assured herself that she too could be gentle. One day, she wished for a few kits of her own.
 

Kanth sauntered over to the children and placed a caring and gentle paw on the boys shoulder while stooping down to her knees on the cool grass to face the little Vandra. "So, what do you like to play? I like to play tag, hide-n-seek, and rrough-n-tumble. I think we'll just stay out of the other-r-r inspectorr's way while they talk to
your-r-r pappa."

"I've got some dolls," says Vandra looking up at the woman with a sheepish grin.

"I'm not playing with your dolls. That's all you want to do. I've got some parchment and coal in the cart. I'll race you."

Tugging on Kanth's sleeve, Vandra pointed at Cydric, "Who is he?" Kanth told her. "I don't like him."

"That's okay my child. It's not imporrtant for-r-r us to like everryone, but all of the gods' childrren arre imporrtant in their-r-r own way. He has a purrpose. Your-r-r brother-r-r is very fast..." she let her sentence trail off and decided on the best manner with which to ask this girl and her brother of the events of the previous night.

"So, I hear-r-r you had quite a night last night. Scarry stuff for-r-r such a sweet little girrl. Why don't you tell me a little about it. If you want, we can use your-r-r dolls to talk about it and prretend that they arre you, your-r-r brrother, and father-r-r."

She contemplated asking of the girl's mother, but if she was not around, then there was no telling what that cause may be. Upsetting the child at the loss of her mother could work against her.

"Was it just the three of you working last night?" Kanth asked as she helped the children with their parchment and dolls.

Herrold piped in, "just us and our father. We got help from some other people though, like your friend and some people from a bar."

"Oh," Kanth replied with a soft interested sounding voice she had heard many parents use. "So ,how many men did you have to pick up?"

"10, or was it 15?" Said Vandra with pride.


"No, it was only 6."
 

"Shut up, no it wasn't!"

"Shhh..." Kanth giggled. "Werrre you made to pick up any dead men?"

Herrold shook his head as he spread some parchment on a suitable flat spot on the cart. "No, our father doesn't let us touch them."
 

"Yeah, he's worried about possession."

"Shut up Van!" Herrold reprimanded with an annoyed tone to his voice.

"Did you take anything off any of the men: purrrses, packages, pouches, bags?"

"I don't know I wasn't looking."

"No, my dad never takes things cause they might be cursed." Herrold sighed at Vandra's comment. She just would not stop saying things like that would she?

"And wherrre did you take all these people?"

"Some times we go to the temples, but we take them all over. Last night we went to the fort where the soldiers are and they threw that big guy in jail. We took two to an inn."

"And the one guy ran off."

"Yeah," they giggled, "He thought we were arresting him."

"Did you stop anywherre on the way?"

"We stopped at old lady Griddle's place for a snack."

"Were you told to 'hold' anything or 'hide' anything?"

Both children looked up at Kanth with curious expressions, "by who?"

Van then looked guilty. "Miss Griddle told me to take an extra cookie and not tell my dad. I'm sorry..."

"You childrren are verry smarrt. I think your-r-r help is verry useful. Maybe we should play a bit morre, and prreferrably closer-r-r to the other-r-r adults."

Having no children of her own, Kanth realised that there was truly no way of communicating what she needed from these two. She decided to lead them towards the other adults in order to hear their conversation while keeping the children out from under foot.

 

 


"Morning, Sergeant Kalis." said Vorn, extending his hand. "My name is Inspector Vorn, and these are Inspectors Cydric, Shadow, and Kanth." Motioning to each in turn as Sergeant Kalis shook Vorn's hand with vigor his foreign accent strong.

Shadow stood silently observing the interaction, an intimidating spot of darkness standing just to the rear of the inspectors. He paid the children no heed – they were most likely nothing but distractions from their job in his mind. Kalis, however… he would have something useful to say. He nodded to Kalis at his introduction, but allowed the others to speak on the inspection’s behalf.

 

"Ah yes, I barely recognize inspector Cydric in the light. Morn'n to you all."

Vorn began, "Sergeant, we are here to investigate the murder of Sloran, the body of the man that you and your militia carried to this estate. Now, tell us in your own words, what happened last night?" But Cydric cut off Kalis' reply.


"Well, well, Sergeant Kalis! How good it is to see you. Quite a mess we've gotten ourselves into it seems eh?" Cydric smirked as he extended his hand to Kalis. After a brief handshake Cydric continued, "Since you were the man in charge when Sloran's body was found, and he was certainly alive when I helped you put him into the cart, did he say anything to help us find his killer before he died?"

"I'm sorry? No, no, no, the man you helped me with was not Sloran. I do not know his name, but I dropped that gent off at the guard station so he could sober up."

"After my troupe delivered the man Cydric aided me with, we found the manservant, Sloran slumped against a stack of firewood. At first I thought he was under the sleep of heavy ale, for he smelled of it, but when he did not stir even with a splash of water... Well, we fetched a lamp and by his hue and cold, I knew. Had it not been for his noble family's colors, we would not have known whom he served."

A look of surprise flashed across Cydric's features momentarily upon hearing Kalis' words. "So the man I helped you with wasn't Sloran? Well this is a bit of a set back. I thought I at least knew the man's description. Well then can you describe what Sloran looked like, what he was wearing, what possessions where on him, and anything else you can think of. And when and where did you come upon the body?" Cydric pressed.


"It was shortly before dawn. I recall for the colors in the sky were quite pleasant. He lay due south of here near the canal. From my description of the place, Traa'llor seemed to know the area."

"Who were the militia memberrrs who werrre with you and wherrre can they be found?" Asked Shadow.

At that he smiled, "Well sir, my children were the ones with me. Our chosen charity is the night watch. There are few who volunteer for such a late duty, but my occupation allows me such benefits. I own a small merchant ship. I used to captain the boat, but age is a dastardly fellow."

"Where is the body now?" Vorn cut in.

"I don't rightly know, but there were some priests who took him off. I was busy speaking with Traa'llor. Same type of questions as you have. He's quite a keen fellow. I thought they had taken him east past the main house. When we first made the delivery... I am sorry. That sounds so dismissive, me talking like the man was a sack of potatoes. But anyhow, Jax and Tithion and Traa'llor and a few maids spent much time drilling me on the matter. I think it was the ladies that took him to wherever he lay now."

Vorn continued, "did you know Sloran personally? If you did, did he have any enemies at all? Anyone with a motive?"

"I'm sorry to have never met the man, but I've seen too many callous killings to dismiss any motives. Men will scrap about food, women, a single T'arg even. But he did not look beaten. His clothes were tight and neat and no stain of blood or other was about him. Given his age, it might have been all natural, his passing, though I'm no physician. It was when Traa'llor noted a missing package that questions of foul play arose. Jax had sent a troupe to where I found Sloran's body and even spoke with the hands at the Sleeping Sea and that was when they issued a request for inspections."

"Thank you for your cooperrration, Sergeant Kalis. I'm sure my fellow inspectorrrs have additional questions, for you. You wouldn't mind if I ask of your-r childrrren's views of last night, would you?" Somehow Shadow thought the children might just provide some additional clues. Almost on queue the entire group of adults paused to look at Kanth as she played with the children.

"I doubt they would be any use, but if you think it would aid in this manner, feel fit."

Shadow quirked an eyebrow inquisitively. Something did not quite make sense. With his arms still clasped behind his back, he presents a question to Kalis one might see as unassociated with the matter. “How is it you find yourrself within Master-r-r Tithion’s abode this fine morrning? Do you frrequent he-r-r-re often?”

Looking up at the tall Phylinx, Kalis replied, "They asked me to stay. I have no pressing matters elsewhere so I felt it was my duty. I never knew this place, but the banners and the man's house colors led me this way. A man takes comfort where he can. And at my age, some times staying awake is more of a challenge then sailing into a gale."

Cydric asked "were there any strange markings or anything unusual on Sloran's body from cuts, bruises, fluids, anything?" Kalis shook his head, no. "Then please describe Sloran."

"Perhaps it would be best if you saw him for yourselves."




Kalis led the way back up the hill to where Tithion and Traa'llor were seated. Upon his request Tithion showed the group to where Sloran's body was being prepared.

"Stay out here please," Kalis said to the children.

The small stone building was surrounded and hidden by lush and sweet smelling shrubs and stood at the far edge of the noble's complex. Had the group not been led there, they would have never known the building even existed.

Shadow had to duck low as he entered the rectangular structure. The musty smell of the unused building was intermingled with fragrant oils of lamps that burned in the corners. Traa'llor walked to one corner and cranked a lever several times. While he did, a section of the floor slid under the main structure to reveal an iron staircase that spiraled down into a lit room below.

As they walked down, the group marveled at the complexity of the basement. The mechanism that slid the stone back into place was controlled by a lever and guide rail. The staircase itself clicked and creaked as if performing some task, and in fact it was. Traa'llor waited to descend until all others were off the stairs and as he stepped down, the slab of rock slid back into place with each step. Once at the bottom, Traa'llor looked up to inspect the seal and bounced on the last step until no light passed through the seam.

The basement was lit by the same scented oil lamps as above, but the smell was much stronger; a sweet fruit, much like mango and fresh melons. Room at the foot of the stairs was scarce and the small square room had a door in each wall. Despite the rising temperatures above, here it remained quite cool.

Tithion stood before one of the doors, bowed his head muttering a quick prayer, sighed and opened the heavy door. Within the chamber was a large rectangular room with a marble altar upon which the body of a man lay. Three white gowned and veiled figures tended to the body. Sloran's legs and abdomen had been bound with a white cloth and red and black glyphs were strategically painted about the cloth.

 

Though pale and slightly blue, the man seemed quite at peace, and it was easy to see why someone might have thought he was asleep.

Tithion stood at a distance cradling himself and covering his face with his black robed hand. Traa'llor with his unchanging expression bowed to the three veiled figures, "A moment with Sloran alone please." With that, the three figures bowed in turn and exited to the stair room.
 

Chapter 12

 

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