|(AUTHOR NOTE - a friend and I are co-authoring. We are writing every-other chapter. The submission below begins his participation)
Chapter 2 - Scene of the Crime
Personal Journal of Chief Inspector Clauve D'Vrai
Second Entry: 21st Day of Harvestcycle
The first sign I had that the whole matter involved more than a petty love spat was shortly after I arrived at the scene of the crime. While Hawken was not as large as the cities that dotted the kingdom, it did have a sizeable population with a healthy market sector. The Lazy Dragon, however, was located on the west end of the town separated a short distance from the remaining buildings and secluded by convenient shrubbery and taller trees that would make it an almost ideal spot for secret lovers to meet for a nighttime tryst without being easily spotted by other travelers. The front door to the place, overarched by a painted sign and a crude drawing of a sleeping green lizard like creature holding a blue sphere, was knocked slightly off its hinges and stood slightly ajar as I approached and made my way into the building.
The “Lazy Dragon” … a name that must have taken the owner all of five seconds to come up with … was a moderately sized tavern in the Town of Hawken, consisting of about 30 tables as well as a bar area with about twelve stools. Some of the tables and most of the stools were in disarray strewn about the floor, some broken. There were the remains of food and blood also splattered about the room dotting the ground in several places. An open doorway in the west led, presumably to the kitchen area, while a sturdy set of stairs to the north led up to a darkened hallway.
The bodies had been moved, which entirely irritated me as I prefer to examine the scene for any clues the corpses might have suggested, and I turned to Smythe, the local constable who had accompanied from the town limits to the building, to express my displeasure with his failure to preserve the room until my arrival.
“The bodies had been moved already before I got here Inspect’r,” whined the corpulent man, whose stature did not match his diminutive height, “the owner said he wanted to clean up so he could reopen. If M’lord had not sent his decree before you came here, there wouldn’t have been anything to look at.”
I bit back my angry reply as, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted three new arrivals entering through the main doorway. Two of the men were large, clad in chainmail armor and wielded long swords on their belts. They also wore dark blue tabards emblazoned with a grey griffon, and each carried a helm under their arm, exposing short cropped dark brown hair and dull black eyes.
The third member of their party, who led the trio into the room, was more diminutive, but no less regal in bearing. His head was clean shaven, and his piercing grey eyes with dark pupils gave the man the appearance of a sharp eyed eagle … or the dangerous look of a vulture or buzzard, come to pick over the remains of a dead carcass. He was dressed in a simple dark grey robe with no other accoutrements, except for a ring with a large ruby colored stone that even from a distance could be seen to pulse with an inner glowing light. This of course was the standard uniform of the Prellian Order.
The presence of a member of the Prellian Order raised many warning signals in my head as to the nature of the incident … not to mention raising the hairs on the back of my neck. Such “practitioners” did not come at a cheap price. To succeed in bringing a member of the order to this modest town would cost the price of half the wealth of all but the richest of merchants in the kingdom, or would have to involve some intrigue of the greatest import, or that pricked the curiosity of the Order itself.
In a low commanding voice the magician addressed me directly, “Ah, Chief Inspector D’Vrai, I was informed of your arrival a short time ago. I am Gavron Q’than, of the fifth circle of the Prellian Order. I have been asked to assist you in your investigation of the unfortunate incident which has occurred in here. More specifically, I am to perform the Uptharian Ritual which will reveal what has happened here and provide a starting point for you to chase the individual … or individuals, responsible. At that Q’than began to raise his hands as his ring glowed more intensely.
“Excuse me Honore Q’Than,” using the flattering title, I interrupted the mage before he could proceed, “before you begin, can you tell me who exactly sent you to ‘assist me’?”
“My benefactor wishes to remain anonymous,” he replied, “this is a matter of some discretion. If the information becomes relevant at some point to assist you in your search, then I have been authorized to reveal this information.” Turning to one of his companions who handed him a rolled parchment he continued, “I do have this decree signed by your master, his Lordship.”
Accepting the rolled document, but inwardly cringing at the way he said the term “your master”, I slowly unfurled it to reveal what appeared to be simple instructions from my Lord commanding that I accept the aide of the Prellian Order, and extend every courtesy to their representative.
Shifting uncomfortably, fat Smythe, muttered, “I best be leaving you fine gentlemen to your investigation. I have my routine duties and all.” With that he shuffled quickly out of the room, giving the robed figure and his two companions a wide berth.
“To perform your ritual do I need to exit as well Honore?”
“That will not be necessary Chief Inspector, and in fact it would be more beneficial for you to remain while the spell is cast so that you may see first hand what took place. Now if there are no objections, I shall begin.”
Gesturing to Q’than to proceed I stepped to the side along with his companions to give him room to work. Advancing towards the center of the room he once again raised his arms and the ring began to glow brightly. First the mage, and then the room itself began to spin. Momentarily I had to fight back a feeling of fatigue before the room itself settled. The tables and stools were once again neatly arranged and several new “figures” appeared in the room, appearing frozen in place, until the Q’than slumped over slightly and lowered his arms in a flourish.
Then, the figures began to move … and speak.