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Chapter 14 - Lunch with Friends

Cydric followed Tithion and Kalis up the circular stairs into the fresh though muggy air above.

Kalis looked back at Cydric and smirked. "A bit stuffy down there, eh?" Gleeful shrieks of the children echoed off the stone walls as the children ran and jumped over low bushes.

"Van; Herrold, stop that this instance!" Kalis chided.

"No," Tithion said as he leaned against the doorway welcoming the hot sunlight. "Let them play. It has been a long time since we've heard the joy of children's play."

"There was a time when Sloran and Traa'llor laughed as they do. And the other children too. These grounds have not always been so somber." He pointed to one corner where a large crop of hedges made a straight border. "Over there, we had a small pool, and the children would make such a commotion that you would think a war had come. And there, they had a mud pit that was used for the landscaping. They were not much older than your two when they stormed my home with mud and grime. They got a stern whipping that day, but looking back, I just wish I could have joined them."

Kalis stepped beside the grey-bearded noble, "How did you come to know them; Sloran and Traa'llor?"

"They were abandoned, much like your own. The church had provided some funds for their care, but I took them in as my own. After a while we had nearly one hundred children to care for. That was when the Church finally built the orphanage. But by then, Sloran and Traa'llor were men, and it was time for them to choose their life path. They chose to stay with me."

 

Shadow had stepped to the opening of the staircase not making a sound. His sharp ears caught Tithion's words. Tithion really did seem like a good sort, though there was no denying he had his secrets. The Phylinx spoke to the other investigators, “I think we may have taken enough of this noble’s time. Let us head off to the bar-r-r where Slorran was found and see what we can find out. Purrrhaps there was a witness?”

 

Shadow had been considering some of the things he had learned while they investigated Sloran’s body. He didn’t receive any spiritual contact as Tithion did… but then, he was never into the mystical game. His mother always said he was too hard-headed to consider a wizard’s path. Of course, that was back when she still spoke. She hadn’t said anything since the day Shadow’s father was killed. The thought traipsed around the fringes of his mind and he grit his teeth and shook his head angrily to chase it away.

Stepping out of the tomb into the air above, Shadow faced Tithion and bowed slightly to show respect and gratitude. “We are sorrrry to have intrruded upon your-r-r busy life. Thank you for-r-r your-r-r cooperrration.”

Shadow began to walk away back into the dark cold cellar and then paused turning back for one more offer. “If you would like extrra securrity tonight at your-r-r parrty, I would be happy to oblige. Whoever-r-r did this to Slorran might not be beyond trrying it to you, sir-r-r.” Plus, it offered him another opportunity to learn a few more secrets about Tithion if he accepted.

"Party?" Tithion questioned then realized what the Phylinx meant. "No, thank you. The ceremony will be a private affair. Only the family and our closest friends will attend. And as you should know, Jax has a strong hand on the security." The noble turned and clutched the pendant that hung from his neck and the Phylinx could hear Tithion mumble a prayer of guidance.

Almost meekly, the robed aristocrat turned and smiled. I thank you for your time here and I apologize for my outburst. This..." he sighed, "this has been a troubling day." He stretched his hand out to shake the Phylinx' hand. "I am exhausted and will retire at the main house."
 

Shadow nodded and went back down the stairs.

 

Cydric stood there for a moment pondering what Lord Tithion had said. Kalis' children ran around screaming jumping through the hedges and when Van slipped and scrapped her knee, Cydric was more than a little shocked at how much attention Kalis was giving her. The assassin was also a bit taken back when even Tithion showed as much concern as he did. After all it was just a scrape. In Cydric's childhood he never felt love, was never babied if injured. No matter what the injury was, it was treated and he was told to deal with the pain.


Cydric turned to Lord Tithion and said, "My Lord, I can understand now why your loss of Sloran is so great. You have my deepest sympathy. I'm no fool, I can see the love a father has for his child. And to out live your child, no matter what age, must be too much to bare. All of my fellow inspectors and myself just ask that you bare with us a little longer, and all this horror will one day fade into a sad memory. Will you please send for my friend Eric Corbin? I have much to do and a messenger will be more swift than I."

"Certainly, though I still do not know what aid he could be. I will retire to the house and send a scribe to you." Stretching Tithion headed back towards the exit of the hedge-maze. Cydric followed and stood waiting for the scribe in open view. Once the scribe came Cydric dictated a short note;

'Eric, I need your help in identifying a poison. Lord Tithion's servant has been murdered and it appears he was poisoned. I've been made an inspector by Phineous, I'll explain that later. If you would please make haste to Lord Tithion's manor I would be most grateful. Signed Cydric.

At that Cydric walked with the scribe to the messenger that would deliver the note. "Be quick about it lad, the contents of this note are quite important and helpful to finding Sloran's murderer." As he watched the messenger leave, Cydric felt his stomach rumbling. 'The dead could wait,' he thought.

 



By the time Traa'llor returned with the other inspectors, Cydric was already feasting. Tithion and Traa'llor did not join the inspectors in the feast hall, but instead issued orders to other servants. Tithion bowed, "I have grown weary and will leave you to Traa'llor's charge. Good day gents and lady." With a bit of a flutter to his robe, the lord turned into the breeze and sat by the fountains.

Entering the feast hall, the inspectors found a simple meal, despite the grandeur of the hall. A nice mix of foods consisting of spiced and poached pigeons, potatoes, and honey briskets were set out, and despite the meager look on such a large table, it had quite a rich flavor. Tithion certainly had a fine cook. Even the wine had a unique taste that was not too sweet nor too bitter.

Traa'llor, sitting in the shade against the side of the house, dosed off. Kalis and the children joined the inspectors and Vandra sat close to Kanth watching every move the cat-woman made. Herrold spoke incessantly and was filled with questions about battles and sword play and begged for the warriors to show him how to use a sword. However, Kalis politely refused.

"Young boys have no need for violent pursuits." Followed by Herrold's whining. It was obvious that the late night and constant play was wearing on his small body.

Vorn seemed famished and shoveled food into his mouth at a frightful pace.

 

Noticing the probing eyes of Van on her constantly, Kanth did her best to manipulate her paws to properly cut and eat her food. It was a difficult task, but her dexterous and nimble paws worked properly.


Stuffing the pigeon meat into his mouth and swilling it down with the wine, and finally satisfied, Vorn wiped his mouth with a cloth napkin.


"This is prrim and lady-like," Kanth said to the young girl while eating. "We don't speak with food in our-r-r mouths. We cut our-r-r food into one small bite at a time. We use our-r-r utensils in the manner-r-r that they werre crreated for. We do not place our-r-r elbows on the table. And finally, we don't stare at Vorn while he pigs out." Her last statement made the young girl giggle, and she too had to stifle a laugh herself.

 

Even Vorn grinned, but being mindful of the time, he asked the other inspectors, "Hmmm? So were do you all want to go now? I'll simply follow." Watching to see if anyone was paying attention, he stood and snuck some honey briskets into his backpack.
 

The conversation over the meal focused on the clues they had gathered and Kanth recalled the chest in Phineous' office. Though it looked like a standard issue footlocker, it was certainly large enough to fit the artifact that Tithion had described.

 

Quickly standing and looking about the table, Kanth excused herself politely and rushed out to find Tithion again. Again, he was sitting facing the fountains, obviously deep in thought or fading into slumber.

"Lorrd Tithion," she spoke soothingly so as not to startle the man out of his deep thought. "I needed to ask you one last thing beforre we delve into the investigation furrther," she stated as the man turned to her, a look of anxiety and irritation apparent in his countenance. "My apologies for interrupting you yet again. In what manner-r-r was this arrtifact transporrted? Or-r-r, how was it carrried? You said it was the size of a map-case, was it carrried as such or-r-r within another container-r-r?"

The noble blinked several times as he tried to shake the sleep from his mind. "I do not know. Sloran was traveling by ox cart so it could have been in anything. Knowing Sloran though, he would have packed it in a sack filled with grains. He did that often to dissuade those searching for valuables. Why do you ask?"

"No rreason in parrticular-r-r, I just thought I had stumbled on a clue."

After lunch, Cydric got up from the table and excused himself from the group. "I'll tell Lord Tithion we're leaving." With that Cydric left. Joining Kanth near the fountains Cydric gave the lord a short, quick bow and said, "We're about to head out my lord, thank you for your patience and understanding in these dark times. If you don't mind, I would like to attend Sloran's funeral in the off chance that his killer might show up. Sometimes a murderer will go to the funeral of a man he's killed, just to watch his victim be lowered in the ground. Sometimes it's to watch the pain and havoc they've caused the family of the victim. Also if you do not trust Phineous, like myself, there are other ways to send us a message in case something new should turn up or be discovered. My friend Eric Corbin can be trusted, or I have my own small office we could use as a meeting point. Its just a thought. But thank you for your time and hospitality as well. I hope that in time the pain will subside to a tolerable level."

"Thank you inspector. I will keep your offer in mind." He stood and stretched his hand out to shake Cydric's hand. "Please let the black inspector know he is welcome at the ceremony. I was too overwhelmed at the moment to properly invite him."

When Tithion and Cydric's hands clasped the noble's expression changed. His look of weary resignation evaporated with a look of deep concern and focus. Then the moment passed and the noble's eyes darted back and forth as if searching. He then sat down on his seat and faced the pool.

 

Chapter 15
 

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