Memories of Connor's Adventures

Orlando the Adventurer pulled a Scimitar from beneath his Robes and smiled...

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Short stories: The Teloren Duchy Murders

The Teloren Duchy Murders

Korva kneeled beside the corpse of Lady Tani. The bronze dirk protruding from her back was jammed tightly between two ribs. Her manservant, Burdon stood silently with a grim look on his face. Korva looked up.
'Was anything taken?'
Burdon surveyed the bronze archives. The hall was in ruins.
'There were a few engraved totems from the Second Skaven Bronze period. Fairly crude pieces.' The old dwarf investigator ran his fingers across the blood covered marble floor. It was starting to dry out.
'Their value?' No answer.
Korva looked up at the manservant. He was downcast with grief.
'Oh. My apologies Burdon, but please, their value?' Burdon shook his head.
'She, I mean the Lady Tani, traded a pack horse for them.'
'We must assume that their value was enough to kill
for.' Korva placed his hand on the corpse's neck and pulled at the weapon hilt. A slight twist, a crack of ribs, and the blade worked free. Blood dripped slowly from the weapon.
'And this?' Korva turned the weapon in his hand. Burdon, nauseated, looked away.
It's a bronze piece from the later Bretonnian iron period. Her Ladyship paid seventeen bars of trade silver for it.'
Korva scratched at his beard.
Bronze engravings of the Skaven. Korva sighed, getting to his feet. His left knee was giving him pain. Korva handed the dirk to Burdon and cleaned his hands on his sweat rag.
'It's never gold and jewels any more, is it?' Korva moved down the hall. Burdon followed slowly behind him.
'I'll need the names of every visitor for the last month, a list of servants, and the trader who sold the engravings to her ladyship. Actually, make that a full list of the people she bought from.' Burdon nodded.
Do you have full descriptions of the missing pieces?' Burdon nodded.
'Yes. Her ladyship had them catalogued. I will send them to your residence immediately, Master Korva.'
'Good. I'll see myself out.' Korva exited through the main doors. The mortician had arrived with the burial cask.
'Master Korva,' acknowledged the mortician. Korva nodded in reply.
'Mortician Urthalt, running late I see.'
'Business has been busy as of late, Master Korva. With plague, wars, and now this. I'm actually ahead this year.'
Korva climbed onto his low cart and drove his mule back towards town.
The cart passed through the town gates, Skirted the myriad alehouses of trader's way, past 'The Broken Leg Inn' and 'The Violated Mule Tavern'.
'Master Korva!' It was initiate Burtram from the zhapel of Westriding. His little legs hurrying to carry n'm onwards.
'Yes young Burtram, how can I help you today?' Probably wanted me to appraise the candlestick holders for future reference. The little hobbit was just like his dad.
'It's Father Cassius...' A pause to catch his breath.
'Yes lad?' Korva wondered at the excitement.
'Father Cassius has been murdered.'
And to think I used to get tired of the lack of action this town had to offer.
'Hop in lad.' Korva pulled him aboard. Korva turned the cart and mule down the lane and pushed Dn towards the church.
'Well lad, what happened?'
'It was terrible. I found him... on the vestry floor with the letter opener driven through his chest. It was terrible Master Korva, just terrible.'
It usually is lad. Korva reached into the back of the cart for his pewter flask of home brewed mead.
'Drink this, it will help calm your nerves.' The young Hobbit took a heavy swig from the flask and started coughing.
'What is this? It's terrible.' Burtram eyed the evil brew with distrust.
'My home brewed mead. Your dad always enjoyed it.'
'Really? My dad always had a funny attitude about vhat was drinkable, or so my mum always said.' He returned the flask to Korva.
'Probably true.' Korva took a sniff, replaced the cork and tossed the flask in the back of the cart.
Father Cassius lay face up. His face wracked by the oddest look. It was as though he was not expecting to be killed.
Korva pulled the Letter opener free. Blood covered the Floor.
'Killed this early morning by the look of it.' Korva looked at the young hobbit, then at the engraved bronze bowl on the shelf behind him. The hobbit tried to follow Korva's view.
'Father Cassius wasn't a collector of bronze pieces by any chance?' Young Burtram looked around the room.
'Um, actually, now you mention it, yes.' 'Is there anything missing? Well?' Korva stepped across the body towards Burtram.
'Well, there were a number of bronze panels, odd scratched writing all over them.'
Korva looked over the scrolled rubbings and sketches, There was nothing here. The names of guests were a meaningless parade of the poor Aristocrats that lived in the small Duchy. A Merchant had taken clay pressings of the plates. Long returned to the capital. The prospector presented the only true lead. This had to be investigated.
The journey out through the hills took a day. According to Burden's notes, the prospector who had sold the Skaven engravings, was encamped somewhere out in the Black hills. A bad place to be alone. Here, practically in the ragged edge of the Empire. Nothing much to see out here.
'Old coot's probably having the time of his life.'
Korva stared the prospector in the eye. At least, what was left of his eye. The stench of death was strong in the prospector's burnt out camp. Korva looked the gnome's remains over again. The prospector had been crucified on a large tree. The corpse was a week old at least. The few remains indicated that he had been tortured to death by a hot iron poker. The iron fire poker at his feet said everything.
'You old fool. What did you get yourself into?' Korva shook his head and walked away. This whole case was starting to smell bad.
Leone Wiffil the Third polished the bronze plates with the fine cloth of lamb's wool. Trusting such a task to the servants was, of course, out of the question.
'Excuse me, your lordship, but there's an old Dwarf it the front doors. Fellow absolutely refuses to use the service entrance. He was quite rude about it in fact.' fhe manservant was almost annoyed by it. 'What does he want?' Lord Wiffil focused on the task at land.
'He wants to speak to you about your bronze collection. He mentioned something about the murder of Lady Tani.'
'Ah. Send the fellow away. I don't have time to discuss such things.'
'Of course my lord.' The manservant turned and left.
These lords were all the same, Never interested in giving you the time of day until they needed you. Korva watched the manor from the street. His old mule and tired cart stood in the shadow of the great trees of the wide, cobblestone lane. Korva watched as the burglar made his entrance. This case would be solved without the assistance of Lord Wiffil.
A long moment of silence in the scheme of things and the crime was complete.
Korva watched as Arlo the burglar climbed down the side of the manor house with the heavy saddlebags. With keen stealth, he retrieved his horse from the shelter of the shadowy hedge, and then led the animal to the lane.
Counting the beast, he headed away to the eastern gate of the town.
Korva followed at a distance, his newly greased axles providing some of the required stealth to remain undetected.
The thief rode out into the darkness of the countryside leaving the town behind.
'That's right son, lead me to the boss.' Korva pursued his quarry at a safe distance.
Growing ever weary, as farms fell away to the distant horizon, Korva struggled to stay awake. The cart rode the edge of the trail to commandeer as much shadow and coverage as possible.
Night was heavy as the thief halted near an ancient stone circle. Korva pulled the mule in on a low gravel wash behind a ridge.
Korva, spyglass in hand, dropped to the gravel. His knee
jarred. Korva grunted lightly as the pain flared. The old dwarf struggled up the gravel wash and peeked over the rim at the scene below. There beneath the trees,
Arlo waited. In a swift movement, a cloaked figure entered from the trees.
'You're late, Aghrin.' Arlo dropped the saddlebags it the cloaked one's feet. Aghrin pulled back the hood, Korva easily recognized the new participant as a dark elf.
It just got interesting. Korva considered the crossbow he had left back in the cart. No chance of moving unnoticed.
'Are you sure you have every piece of it?' asked the dark haired elf.
'All twelve pieces, exactly as you described them.' Arlo paused.
'The cost was great. I expect to be compensated greatly.'
'You will.'
Below, in the shadow of the stones, Arlo experienced the afterlife. The elf freed his dagger and drained the thief's blood into a stone bowl from beneath his cloak. Nasty business you're in. Korva settled in for a long wait as the elf began to chant. Huddled silently on the low ridge, His spyglass took in the full view of the stone circle. The dark elf chanted for an hour. Eventually, as the moon waned to full darkness, the shadows of starlight stirred. There, in the center of the circle, stood a large shadowy individual, identification would be impossible in such darkness, the dark elf spoke.
'I have them, my lord. As agreed.' The dark elf handed over the two heavy saddlebags. The shadow handed over a large gemstone in return.
'Lord? This is only half the agreed payment. I don't understand.'
The tall shadow turned and stared at the low ridge. The dark elf followed the dark one's direction of gaze.
'...I will dispose of the spy immediately.' The dark elf retrieved a sword from the corpse of his murdered thief and hurried towards the ridge. The shadows twisted in the stone circle and the large creature left is it had arrived.
Damn. Been spotted. Korva slid back down the gravel surface dropping his trusty spyglass as he went. His crossbow was on the mule cart at the base of the gravel wash. The dark elf was moving fast. This was going to be close.
Korva rode the loose gravel for most of the way to the bottom. The elf cleared the ridge, sword in hand.
'Bastard Dwarf, I'm going to make you pay for this.'
Korva slammed hard against the wheel of the cart. His knee was burning with pain. The elf was almost on him. Korva pulled his crossbow from the cart. The quarrel fell from the notch. Not now.
'Ha. I have you now dwarf.' The elf was laughing as he swung the sword in towards Korva's ribs. Korva jerked the empty crossbow up between them and hard against the elf's neck, he fired dry.
The bow exploded forward against the elf's neck. The sword fell from the dark one's grip as it bit into Korva's side. The elf clutched at his throat, struggling for breath. Korva hammered him backwards with the remains of the crossbow stock.
Korva cast the wooden stock aside and pushed away the pain as he retrieved the sword. The elf was still sprawled on the gravel.
Korva swung once and then a second time. The blade hewed off the elf's head with a second blow.
'No, You don't.' mumbled Korva. Korva sat back against the wheel of the cart, his knee and side burning with pain. It was then he saw it. The large gem given In payment to the dark elf was glowing with a great crimson light as It sat In a pool of the dark elf's blood. His mind fell into the crimson darkness of sleep.
Sunlight and the hot smells of late morning roused Korva. The pain was gone from his knee and side. As was the blood, and the gemstone. The dark elf was a dried husk of skin and bone.
'Damn.' Lost the evidence. Nothing left but to check the stone circle and the body of the thief, Korva climbed to his feet, sword In hand. He moved up the gravel wash to retrieve his dropped spyglass. The mule had pulled the cart across the road to a patch of grass to feed. Korva climbed aboard the cart with a renewed vigor. Reigns In hand, he guided the mule around the hill and towards the circle of old stones. The body of the thief was still lying on the ground. His horse, by the look of the tracks, had wandered off to look for its true owner. A search of the stone circle found the prints of something very large and heavy.
A Skink.
What would a 'lizard' want with the crude bronze engravings of the rat folk? They had been of such value to employ a dark elf to oversee collection, but then to pay him with some large gemstone of an obscure magical nature?
He returned to the cart.
Investigator Korva climbed aboard old the cart.
I must be a terrible sight.
Korva pulled a mirror from his satchel. His face covered in dirt and blood. The grey hairs had been replaced by a youthful dark-red. Korva shook his head and chuckled.
'Damn elf blood makes me look twenty years younger.' Time to go home and have a bath. The pieces of this puzzle will fit together eventually.
Above the world, the heavens continued their slow movement towards the coming darkness.

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