Air RuneBalance/Moon RuneChaos RuneDarkness RuneDeath RuneFire RuneLaw RuneFertility RunePlant RuneSpirit RuneWater Rune

Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories

Back to my home page - back to stories

A Good End in Badside - Part 1

Note : This story originally appeared on the HeroWars Discussion Group once found at   However the way the story appeared there and the way it appears here are not necessarily the same.  I have made some changes here and there.  Nothing too major so far though, except for Part VIII which got a fairly major rewrite the day after it was written.  Parts XXX and XXXI have also received minor rewrites.  I managed to leave Treibonus naked at the end of part XXXV and neglected to get him clothed again.  This has been remedied:-) 

I also decided that poor Treibonus needed a rest after being captured by the ogres rather than immediately going to tackle the Willowgreen Association so that now a night passes between Parts LVII and LVIII.

Since this page is getting so darned long I've decided to split it into three parts. Here's the links:

Part 2
Part 3

Synopsis - this is a day to day breakdown of what's happened so far.

Personae Dramatis

The Lunars

Bor-Eel - Sword of Yanafal Tarnils and Sor-Eel's half-brother.   His shadow.
Crystal - courtesan/assassin/spy.  Follower of Cora of the Two Mouths.


- Priest of Deezola, a renowned healer.


- Commander of the Marble Phalanx

Jorjar the Quick

- Chief constable of Pavis.  From Adari and a friend of Jortoran Longsword

Jotoran Longsword

- Chief administrator of the Lunar government in Pavis.

Radak the Iron Centurion

- leader of Sor-Eel's private bodyguards.

Sor-Eel the Short

- Count of Prax and Governor of Pavis.  The man in charge.

Placidus Treibonus

- informer formerly from the city of Glamour.

The Yemalians

Balarus Reflected Glory - Cressidus' templar bodyguard.
Count Belvani - Light Son of the Sun Dome temple in Sun County.  Bit of an oddball.

Cressidus Silvercloak

- leader of a diplomatic mission from the Sun Dome temple in Sartar to Pavis and Sun County.

Haloric Goldbrow

- Light Captain of the Sun Dome temple in Pavis.  Leader of the day-to-day activities in the temple.

Karial the Pure

- High Priest of the Sun Dome temple in Pavis.  The spiritual leader.

Petro - follower of Cressidus.
Dara Happans
Throshush Alcides Hybarate - local head of the Willowgreen Association
Dalmaides Prosso Hybarate - Throshush's nephew.  Here to learn the business.
Felicity Priesta Hybarate - Throshush's niece and Dalmaides' sister.

Other Locals and Transients

Bruno - bouncer at Silibar's Fancies
Cletus - bouncer at Juli's Bathhouse.
Crotus the Green - prophet.
Daphne - street urchin.

Enten Quackfeather

- Duck priestess of Chalana Arroy.

Harkala Glad-help

- Lhankor Mhy sage and the object of Placidus' affection.

Hallarax the Singer - Head of the Riverman's Guild.
Juli - bathhouse proprietress.
Morann Innkeeper - innkeeper in the Real City.
Morey the Short and Parzel and Miltry Post - owners of Gimpy's formerly the Temple.
Sax Bolderson - odd follower of Urox.
Silibar Fortuna - owner of Silibar's Fancies, high-class gambling establishment.
Signe Fortuna - Silibar's daughter.


- Praxian shaman who has seen better days.

Chomper - fry cook at Bob's Bisonburgers
Crush - Great Troll bouncer employee at Gimpy's
Glint Coincounter - Argan Argar trader.
Kreeg Skullhollower - Zorak Zoran Death Lord.
Twisty - trollkin sergeant of the night watch.

Part I

My name is Placidus Treibonus, and no, don't bother with the cracks I've heard them all.  It's a perfectly good name, I got it from my father, he got it from his and my grandfather bought it from a penniless Dara Happan for 100 lunars and a mule.  Like I said, a perfectly good name. I live in a town called Pavis.  I used to live in the city of Glamour where I was an informer.  An informer?  Those are people who do the sort of work the authorities can't be bothered with or wouldn't touch with a 3 meter pole.  I'd investigate crimes and spy on unfaithful spouses or business partners and occasionally when times were real tough I'd lean on people. Despite the presence of the Blue Army and the city guard and all the other spooks working for the Emperor or his people there was usually lots of work to be had in Glamour.  Unfortunately I got on the wrong side of the wrong people so I decided a stint in the army was called for.  Hundreds of keymiles and a dozen odd years later here I am in Pavis.  Minus my left leg AND my pension land allotment. 

Stupid Praxians.  The leg I lost in a toss-up with some bloody bison riders.   One of their damn Storm Bulls chopped it off.  Unfortunately for me my unit was in the middle of bloody nowhere and by the time we got back to Pavis I was delirious and this close to seeing the Red Goddess in her knickers.  The medics managed to save my life, for which I am endlessly grateful, the bastards, but they couldn't grow me a new leg.  Something about me not having the proper attitude.  I got their attitude right here.  So I finally got out of the army and right where I wanted to be too, ha, ha.   After I learned how to walk with a crutch I was pensioned off with a land allotment in Duke Raus' domain.

How'd I lose that?  What good is a one legged farmer I ask you, if I was even slightly interested in farming in the first place.  Not me, city boy born and bred so I sold my land to fuckin' Duke Raus of fuckin' Rone, like he'll ever see Rone again, for a small, very small, pile of wheels.  Since the pension allotments are all in his demesne he's the only one who can buy one, cheating bastard.  The pathetic wheels I got for it I figured would let me set myself up here in Pavis as an informer.  Funny place, Pavis, a festering boil on the backside of nowhere but I swear there are as many bloody factions here as there are in Glamour.  At least it seems that way.  Turns out that most people here had never heard of an informer and for some reason no one was interested in hiring a one legged one, if they even knew what they were good for.  So I sat there at my table in a hole called Gimpy's where I was living, yes, yes very ironic I agree, ha ha, waiting for business and watching my pile of wheels get smaller and smaller.

I'd probably still be sitting there cadging for drinks and begging for handouts except for Morty.  That's not his real name of course, I can't remember what his real name is.  Morty's one of those sawed off little runts you see sometimes around Pavis, you know dwarves, Mostali.  Well Morty got himself in a real bind once and amazingly enough a one legged man was able to help him.  Morty got his problem solved and I got this new leg.  It's made out of some kind of wood and bronze and with a little, okay a lot of practice I learned how to walk again with it.  Morty built some nifty Mostali gizmos into it that make it particularly useful.  Morty assured me that I wouldn't get into trouble with his people over the gizmos, something about how even shaved apes like us could have made it.  But the best thing about helping Morty was that my name got known around town as an informer.

Part II

So that's how I came to take up as near a permanent residency at Gimpy's as I prefer to keep.  An informer has to have a fixed address where people can come looking for him. But it's also nice to have another hideyhole somewhere else for when people you don't care to see come calling too.  Like in-laws, creditors and the authorities.   Unfortunately this morning I was sound asleep in my room at Gimpy's.  I was dreaming about a beautiful and incredibly limber woman of scant morals I'd known back in Glamour, the best kind, when I awoke to the sound of footsteps on the stairs.  Now Gimpy's prides itself on its creaky staircase, perfect for its guests to help them avoid mortal enemies and debt collectors alike.  These footsteps made no attempt to be stealthy so I figured I didn't have to make a bolt for it. More the fool me.  Then I realized that it sounded like the stair climbers were wearing hobnailed sandals.  That could only mean one thing, Lunar soldiers.  I cursed myself for my sloth and tried to burrow my way down through my covers and out the bottom of my bed.  All the while praying to every deity and spirit I could recall that they weren't looking for me.  No such luck.  I heard them stop outside my door and a voice shared by every dog soldier the Empire has ever had said, "That's the one."

Someone knocked on the door, politely enough for goons, and called out, "Treibonus, you in there?"  I decided to play dead and hope they went away.   Again, no such luck, after an amazingly long and patient pause an authoritative drill sergeant sort of voice ordered, "Kick it in."  Which someone quickly and eagerly did.  Damn, I was the one who was going to have to pay for that.  I was resigning myself to the inevitable beating when someone yanked the covers out of my hand.   I blinked at the sudden light coming from an oil lamp held by a trooper and stared in what I hoped was a suitably groggy manner at them.  "Who's that?" I asked shading my eyes and squinting up at them.  Blast, not just Lunar soldiers but Marble Phalanx goons.  Who sends them to fetch informers?  "Don't you boys have Praxians or trolls to kill or something more important to do rather than bothering me?"

"Ah, the famous Treibonus wit," answered the decurion, he of the drill sergeant voice, "If I didn't have orders to the contrary I'd let the boys practice their close order drill on your face."  I looked at the seven of them crammed in my tiny room and realized they'd probably enjoy that far too much.  Since it seemed that I was going to skip my morning beating I decided it was better for my lady friends' eyes if I choose to co-operate instead.  "Can I strap my leg on first?" I asked.   The decurion shrugged, "Why not, we'd rather you walked than have to drag you.  It's too early in the morning for dragging slackers."  He stretched and yawned.  They stood around and waited for me to strap my leg on, making crude comments all the time.  I then put a clean tunic on over my admittedly less than pristine body.  We then left the room in formation, old habits dying hard, and marched down the hallway.  The decurion stopped and in his best parade ground bellow told the eavesdroppers and spies behind their doors that they'd better forget all about the army's visit.  Bloody army subtlety, that'd guarantee the news would be heard by my saintly widowed mother in Glamour by noon.

"So where are we going?" I asked not really wanting to know the answer.   The decurion just smirked and hustled us along smartly.  I got a sinking feeling as I recognized the route and was starting to get quite nicely depressed when I recognized the governor's place. I then started praying for the ground to swallow me as my worst fears were confirmed and we turned to go into the governor's place.

Part III

We passed some of the Iron Centurion's boys guarding the door who nodded to the goons escorting me.  Without any ceremony they briskly ushered me into the vice regal presence himself, Sor-Eel the Short, Count of Prax and Governor of Pavis.  They don't call him "the Short" for nothing, not that my nickname would be lofty or anything, but the Count was nothing if not impressive. 

He sat behind a beautiful wooded desk with a surface so polished I could see the insides of his well groomed nostrils in it.  Despite the early hour he was impeccably dressed and relaxed looking.  I would have been more relaxed myself if I hadn't been rousted so rudely out of bed and if the room hadn't been so packed with Lunar notables at such an early hour.  Standing immediately to Sor-Eel's left was his shadow, Bor-Eel, his half-brother. To Sor-Eel's right looking like he'd eaten something exceedingly sour, his habitual look I understand, stood Jotoran Longsword, chief administrator of Pavis.  Right behind him, which uncharitable gossips claim is his usual position, was Jorjar the Quick, Constable of Pavis. At the back of the room watching events and looking every bit as dangerous as a 3 metre square room filled to the ceiling with rabid rubble runners, was Radak, the Iron Centurion, the bloke in charge of guarding Sor-Eel's life.  I personally entertain no doubts whatsoever that Radak could have slaughtered everyone in the room without even breaking a sweat.  The only person missing was Gimgim the Grim, head of Lunar intelligence in Prax, though of course for all I know he may have been present.

My escort presented me to Sor-Eel and then buggered off for breakfast, lucky bastards.  Sor-Eel waved me to a seat before the desk, a singular honour since he was the only other person in the room seated, an honour which I would gladly have traded for being in Adari or nearly anywhere else.

Sor-Eel smiled at me and said in a smooth and cultured voice, "So you are Placidus Treibonus, the informer?"  Since an answer seemed to be expected I nodded.   "I understand that you used to work in Glamour?  Pavis must be quite a change from that."  I smiled and ventured a witticism, "It certainly is."  That was a witticism?  I must have been suffering from stage fright.   I wrung out some more courage from my meagre store and tried a different tack.   "Obviously you want me for something.  What is it?"  I blanched inwardly at my hubris. Sor-Eel smiled again and said, "Directness.  I can value directness."  I relaxed my taut muscles and suppressed a sigh. 

"You are correct we do have some work for you."  I noticed that Jorjar the Quick scowled at that.  Obviously something the constabulary would normally handle.  Sor-Eel templed his fingers and leaned back in his chair.   "There's been a death and we would like you to investigate it."   "Why isn't the constabulary investigating this?" I asked.  "Oh, they will be investigating it", replied Sor-Eel, "However the nature of the death is such that I feel they may be a little out of their element on this one."   Jorjar scowled even deeper at that.  Oh great, just great.  "How about Gimgim the Grim?  Why can't he, she or it investigate this?"  Sor-Eel smiled a faint smile at that, I must have been feeling more relaxed than I thought to score one, and said, "Unfortunately he, she, or it is unavailable at this time.  I have heard good things about your work here in Pavis and someone who knows you from Glamour has had more good things to say about you."  I raised an eyebrow at that, who would Sor-Eel know that I knew in Glamour?  Refusing to enlighten me he continued, "This incident shall we say demands an independent investigation due to some shall we say political ramifications."  There was that sinking feeling again.  I decided that I would get my details when Sor-Eel offered them rather than asking for more now and getting even more depressed than I already was.

"We offer you forty lunars a day in expense money, plus 1000 lunars if you solve the case to my satisfaction, plus performance bonuses if they seem appropriate.  You will have an expense account and a writ demanding co-operation from those you show it to."  "And if I refuse the best I can hope for is expulsion from Pavis while the worst would be screaming out the rest of my understandably short life from the vantage point of a cross?"  I've never understood just why in such a dry, wood-poor place that they bother wasting the stuff on crosses.  Sor-Eel shook his head, "Oh no, not even the best.  The actual situation would be the imposition of heavy licensing fees and taxes on the informer profession.  You could stay here but you would find it unbelievably difficult to make a living."  "Well", I smiled wanly, "In that case when do I start?"

Part IV

Sor-Eel smiled again, "I thought you would be reasonable.  Why you start right now.  Here's three days pay", Bor-Eel tossed me a leather bag, I forbore from counting it since there was nothing I could do if they wanted to cheat me anyway.   "Jorjar will take you to the scene of the crime.  Come back this afternoon and a clerk will have the writ for you.  Good luck and have a nice day."  He stood up, turned to Bor-Eel and said, "Breakfast?"   Bor-Eel nodded and they left the room preceded by Radak and followed by Jotoran Longsword.  I turned to Jorjar and smiled.  He frowned, "Don't bother kissing up to me Treibonus.  I don't like you and I don't like your being involved in this. My men and I could handle this just fine."  He scowled again.   "Didn't your mother ever warn you about not making faces all the time?   You don't want it getting stuck like that do you?  Obviously Sor-Eel feels this case needs a refined touch."  Jorjar scowled even deeper than before.   He turned to leave the room gesturing for me to follow him.

I followed him out of the room, down the hall and out into the street.   "Where are we going?" I asked trying to make small talk.   "You'll see when we get there Treibonus, just keep your mouth shut until then."  Nothing like a winning personality to get a working relationship off to a good start.  Jorjar seemed to be in a rush and he was hustling along Marble Street at a good clip when I yelled at him, "Man with only one real leg here.  Could you slow down a bit."  He looked back at me and scowled again.  I returned a smile to his scowl and pointed at my fake leg.  He shook his head, muttered something about pathetic cripples and turned to lead the way again.  He slowed down a bit but he was still going fast enough that I started to wheeze.  He grunted when he heard that and slowed down some more. 

We followed Marble Street being rewarded with the sight of Yelm's rays shining off of one of his no account son's temples in Suntown.  Thank goodness we were either late enough or early enough, mornings aren't my strong suit, to miss the caterwauling which the Yemalians greet Yelm with.  We soon reached Founder's Market which was already a hive of activity.  We easily crossed the market with people scampering to get out of our way, probably due to the expression on Jorjar's face. After the market we skirted Temple Court along its south end, much quieter there, and then along Marrow Street, busier again, past a group of chattering citizens collecting water from a civic well to Meat Market, very busy.  There we passed through the lovely smell of freshly slaughtered meat and ducked out River Gate.  Jorjar nodded at the guards who let us pass without comment, probably not a good sign and we headed along the river path heading towards the Dwarf Bridge.

"Badside, huh?" I asked feeling facetious.  Jorjar smirked at me which was a nice change from the scowls and just shook his head muttering something about how now he understood why Sor-Eel wanted me investigating.  Feeling stung despite myself I decided to keep my mouth shut for a while.  We walked up to the enormous dwarven-built bridge which arched high over the river and went through the guard post.  Again no comment, definitely a bad sign.  We crossed over the bridge dodging cowpies the whole way and passed through the guard post on the other side, no comment, no challenge.  We walked along the path to Badside, easily much more hazardous for the cleanliness of our footwear than the bridge and finally reached the outskirts of Badside.  Ah Badside, what a masterful job of naming that was.  What a stretch of the poetic namer's art.  A miserable collection of semi-permanent hovels, seemingly glued together with cowshit and horrid nomad tents which stank of urine.  And the inhabitants!  Nomad scum, butchers, Storm Bulls, drunken, washed up tribesmen, thieves, the worst gang in Pavis, the Blood Knives and other assorted vermin.  They're mostly human which I guess is in their favour, no never mind, it isn't.  We walked along narrow, malodorous, pestiferous alleys ignoring the various scum intent on rising early enough to rob or kill their neighbours before they did the same to them until we reached one of the buildings used by the butchers.  This must be the place I thought, for a squad of uncomfortable, uneasy looking constables guarded the door.  Some of them were rather pale looking.   They snapped to something approximating attention and nodding to them Jorjar waved me to go inside the building before him.  I shrugged and ducked under the low lintel entering the room.

After my eyes adapted to the gloom I noticed the nude corpse hanging upside down, spread eagle from a pair of meat hooks sunk into one of the rafters.  Someone had obviously been having sick fun as various bits had been sliced off and stuck back in again in unnatural places.  Having given me enough time to become ill and embarrass myself Jorjar ducked inside and stood beside me.  I turned to him and said pokerfaced, "Suicide?"

Part V

Jorjar looked at me in a shocked manner, admiration and disgust waging a battle for control of his face.  He couldn't help himself and asked, "Doesn't this revolt you?", pointing at the corpse-I hadn't thought he meant the ever present stench of slaughtered animals-"Don't you feel sick?"  I shrugged and lied, "Oh, please I was an informer in Glamour.  Worse things happen there at kiddie parties."  It's the kiddie party part that's the lie, worse things definitely happen in Glamour.  All the time.  Unfortunately it's usually the authorities who do them there. Also unfortunately I have seen worse.  But I have to admit this was pretty bad for Pavis.  I don't think even a feuding Praxian would go to such an effort.  A look of something approaching admiration crept over Jorjar's face and I finally thought we might be able to work long as I kept lying that is.   "So who is he?  Has he been identified yet?  Jorjar shook his head.   "Then why is this so sensitive then?"  Jorjar smiled broadly and nodded at a dark corner.  Damn, I'd missed the pile of gilt plate lying there.   Blast, a sunshine boy.  Jorjar kept smiling and I realized that I'd just lost my hard won ground.

"So, have the bright boys been notified yet?"  Jorjar grunted negation.   "Are you going to tell them," I asked.  Again a negatory grunt.   This was getting to be like finding nits on a particularly bushy-haired Ulerian.   But not as much fun.  "Is Sor-Eel going to tell them then?"   Ooh a nod.  I win! "Hmm, so I take it no one at the bridge saw the late bright boy here cross over?"  Another negatory grunt.  "Have you started questioning the locals."  "Not yet."  "And you're waiting for all the witnesses to skedaddle off are you?"  There was that scowl again.  He ducked out of the building and started yelling at his flunkies.  Ha, another point for me!  I took this opportunity for a closer look at the stiff.  Yes he was stiff, he'd been dead quite a while.  No pool of blood on the ground, that's strange.  Pretty gruesome job, very professionally done.  We'll have to grill all the butchers around here.  I chuckled at that one.  His wedding tackle was in the normal place so it probably wasn't revenge for a cuckolded husband or a rape.  Kind of strange not to remove it anyway though.  Pretty standard torture technique after all.  They hadn't finished then?  Unlikely, no sign of any haste or them being in a rush.  Hmm, I would have to think some more about this one.  I checked the pile of gear over.  Sigh, an iron shortsword?  A bag of wheels?  Gilt plate?  Oh come on!  This guy was wearing and carrying more wealth than most Pavisites have on their persons, in their homes AND buried under their dirt floors.  Maybe this wasn't such a professional job after all.  I wonder if Jorjar had counted what was in the money bag?  Hmm, not worth it I decided.

Just then I heard the sound of a trumpet outside.  Subtle like a brick.  Must be more of the bright boys.  I ducked out to have a look.

Part VI

I straightened up, spotted Jorjar talking to one of his constables and headed over to stand beside him.  We looked at each other and then over to where the bright boys would be coming from.  Unbelievably enough we soon saw a small procession, a litter borne by four burly slaves, a bloke in gilt plate and a squad of twelve templars!  Good grief, who was this dead guy?  There were just enough templars to offer plenty of sport for the locals should they decide to go berserk.  The bloke in gilt turned out to be Haloric Goldbrow the local Light Captain of the temple. So who was in the litter?   The procession stopped outside the building and the slaves lowered the litter to the ground.  Haloric nodded at Jorjar, glanced at me without any recognition and ordered his boys into formation.  The curtains were opened and two men exited.   One of them was an older guy with sumptuous robes and no expression on his face.   The other looked supercilious so he must have been some kind of clerk.  I recognized neither of them.  I snuck a look at Jorjar to see if he knew either of them.  Jorjar's jaw just about dropped to his chin and I realized that the old geezer must be Karial the Pure, High Priest of Yemalio in Pavis.

Weird, I thought this guy never involved himself with outside activities.  Again, WHO is this dead guy.  Haloric quickly introduced Jorjar to him, they must have met before though.  Jorjar never bothered introducing his constable, or more insultingly, me.  The supercilious guy wasn't introduced either.  After these pleasantries were exchanged Karial asked, "Where is the body?"  Jorjar gestured inside and Haloric ducked inside first to check it out and then popped back out to usher Karial in who was followed reluctantly by the clerk who still hadn't been introduced.  To his credit Haloric didn't seem at all fazed by the sight he'd seen inside.  He stood looking stern while we waited for Karial to finish up inside.  After a long while Karial came back out.  He looked somewhat the worse for wear but seemed to be holding up amazingly well.  He went to get back into his litter when we all noticed that the clerk hadn't come back out.  Karial looked at Haloric who shook his head and ducked back inside.  He quickly came back out and motioned for two of the slaves to come in.   All three ducked back in and soon came back out with the pale, unsteady slaves carrying the clerk.  He was quite unconscious and had been sick all over himself.   The slaves stood there uncertain what to do with him.  Haloric asked Jorjar to get his men something to use as a stretcher.  The remaining constable darted off.  

While we waited Karial entered his litter and closed the curtains and the slaves gently placed the clerk on the ground.  The rest of us just stood there admiring the views while we waited.  The constable soon came back with a couple of dirty locals carrying a wooden carrier used to transport meat.  Haloric grimaced at the state of this but gestured for the slaves to place the clerk in it.  His outfit couldn't have gotten any messier anyway.  They did so and two of the templars were instructed to carry this.  The procession made to leave and I decided I'd had enough of being ignored.

I stepped up and cleared my throat in front of Haloric.  He seemed to notice me for the first time.  "Treibonus the Informer I believe."  This surprised me, I wouldn't have guessed that he would have known who I was.  I nodded and said, "I've been authorized to investigate this crime by Count Sor-Eel.  I have a few questions I'd like to ask."  "Oh, do you have any proof of that?"  Nuts.  "Well, I'm getting a writ this afternoon..."   Haloric smiled and said, "Then maybe you can come and see me this afternoon.   I'll gladly answer your questions then."  He turned to leave and Jorjar finally realized that they hadn't named the stiff.  He blurted out, "Who is he?"  Haloric turned to him and smiled.  "I'll be happy to tell Sor-Eel's agent once he's proven that's what he is to me."  "But I'm the Chief Constable..." started Jorjar.  Haloric ignored him, turned and the whole procession left after one of the templars blew a blast on his trumpet.  Jorjar and I watched them go, Jorjar swearing under his breath the whole time.  He scowled some more, he'll definitely have some more wrinkles after this business is over and said sarcastically, "You'll let me know who he is after you've learned won't you?"   "Oh certainly," I replied with a smile on my face, "I intend to co-operate fully with the authorities...unlike the rest of you bastards."

Part VII

I suddenly started shaking my head as something struck me.  "Do you realize that they came all this way out here and not only did they not tell us who the dead stiff is, err, was, but they didn't say what they wanted done with his remains."   Jorjar swore a virulent blue streak for a while and then stopped suddenly.  A smile came over his face.  "That's okay.  Since he's one of theirs I think we'll just deliver him to them and they can worry about him."  By this time the constables had started returning to the scene of the crime.  Unfortunately none of them could claim any success.  As far as the locals were concerned the bright guy suddenly appeared in their midst already tortured and dead.  Jorjar did some more swearing and got two of his constables to go fetch another one of the meat carriers.   As they did so Jorjar got another two of his men to get the stiff down with the help of a couple of trestles and a plank.  He was instructing them to carry the body to the Yemalio temple when I interrupted, "Let them take it to Harnasti, the Deezola priest instead.  Maybe he can find something more out about the murder.  I would also like your men to find me a shaman, a Lhankor Mhy sage and a sandwich."   "And the shaman is for..."  "Checking the aura of this place."  "The Sage?"  "To try and read past events."   "The sandwich?"  "I missed breakfast, I'm hungry."   Jorjar nodded in agreement and sent some of his constables running for the things I'd asked for.  He graciously agreed to wait with me for his men's return.

The first constable to return was the one sent for my breakfast.  He didn't have a sandwich but rather some nomad meal of charred bits of meat on skewers and some barley gruel.  How lovely, a combination of Praxian and Sun County cuisine.  I use the term cuisine loosely of course.   Actually to be honest it wasn't that bad and Jorjar watched me eat hungrily having forgotten that he hadn't eaten either.  The constable was soon set off on another food run and we sat down to wait for the other constables.  Time crawled along and Jorjar and I sat there in an uncomfortable silence for the most part, waiting.  Long after Jorjar got his breakfast the constable sent to find the shaman returned.

He had a broken down, drunken wreck of a Praxian in tow.  Best we could expect in Badside on such short notice I suppose.  The constable introduced us in trade talk.   The shaman he introduced as Stone-Covers-Sand. "Greetings, grandfather,"   I said to him in my bad Praxian, "how are you this morning?"  The Praxian looked blearily at me and replied in decent enough trade talk, "How are you my grandson?  I don't recall lying with any Lunar bitches."  So much for respect for your elders.  "Listen you old wreck.  I'll make sure you get enough firewater to finally finish you off if you do something for me."  A dreadfully needy look came into his eyes, "Oh, you're the son of that one!   Well, why didn't you say so?  I'd be glad to help you."  Sad what liquor can do to you.  "I need you to check the aura of this building for me."  "Which one?"  "The one in front of you."   "That butcher house?", he shook his head, "All those dead animals around here are guaranteed to create a bad aura."  "Yes, well we'd like you to try anyway.  Use your otherworld sight and tell us what you can see."   He looked suspiciously at me.  "How do you know so much about shamans?"  "My aunt's one."  He started and decided not to bother asking any more questions.  He muttered something about needing to prepare himself and tottered over to sit against the wall meditating or something.  I looked over and saw Jorjar staring at me with a disbelieving look on his face.  "What?  She is a shaman. Honest."  He shrugged unbelievingly.  Bugger him, I thought, she is so a shaman.

It didn't take very long for the shaman to prepare himself.  Which I doubt was a good sign.  He got up, had us make a small fire for him, tossed some herbs and coloured sand into the fire which made it pretty and smelly.  He then spent quite a while dancing around it and chanting.  Some of the locals gathered to watch the show, the Praxians looking respectful, the locals perhaps a tad less so.  I have to admit that he looked more impressive during the dancing than he had before.  Almost respectable.  Finally he finished and walked into the building.  We waited expectantly for him to finish.  We heard more chanting and the sound of a rattle, which I could have sworn he hadn't been carrying before.  Eventually he came out and shook his head.  "Lots of dead animals, hard feelings towards your fellow man and the like but no real murderous thoughts.  Hmm, so the old coot wasn't as out of it as I'd thought.  I bowed and said, "Well, thank you grandfather."   I got one of Jorjar's constables to write up a chit for him for 200 hundred lunars claimable from the Lunar governor's office.  Jorjar frowned at the total but didn't interfere.  I had the constable read it out to the shaman.  Stone-Covers-Sand didn't look overly impressed.  "I will help you get the money if you have trouble.  You have my word."  He sighed, "You seem to be a good enough chap for a Lunar so I will trust you.  But if I don't get my money I would invest in a good charm against curses if I were you."  Straightening up and mustering his dignity he turned and almost stalked away.


Can't say that I was surprised by what the shaman said.  I had already cottoned on to the fact that the murder hadn't been committed here from the lack of blood.  But why did they bring him here and then hang him up like some game someone was ripening for roasting?  Who was he?  Why hadn't the bright boys claimed the body? Why hadn't anyone stolen his goods?  Why hadn't I made a run for it when I heard the footsteps on the stairs this morning?  Why were there more questions than answers?  Stupid case. Then I smacked myself violently on the forehead as I suddenly realized something.   "By the bloody hell of Danfive Charon!"   Jorjar started and said, "Huh?"  "Who found the damn body?"  I asked.  Jorjar looked confused and said, "I don't know.  A Marble Phalanx soldier came and told me about it."  He pondered a bit and replied,  "Sor-Eel must know though."  I shook my head.  This whole business was really stinky and getting stinkier.  It couldn't have been a local who found the stiff, no local was so pure that they could resist pilfering the not so dearly departed's goods.  Who then?  Someone involved in the murder?  Sor-Eel would have some explaining to do about this one.  I hope he'll come clean, sigh.  I should have asked him right away when he offered me the case.  I must be getting rusty.

I sat down in a relatively clean space and waited for my sage.  I hoped he'd show up before lunch-time.  I really wanted to eat lunch somewhere less smelly.   Jorjar's constables waited with us keeping an eye on the locals.  I wondered if Jorjar's constable was going to be authoritative enough to get a sage here at all.   Jorjar and I sat in the meagre shade provided by the building as the heat got steadily worse.  I was dozing and I'll bet Jorjar had been as well when the sage finally showed up.  The sage's presence was announced by the loud clearing of someone's throat.  I blinked up at the sight of two figures.  One was Jorjar's constable and the other was dressed in the traditional costume of a Lhankor Mhy sage.   I looked again and thought that something looked odd about my sage.  I rubbed my eyes and looked closer realizing from the fine features of the face behind the luxurious but false beard, the long rich hair and the lush curves under the robe that my sage was actually a woman.  And what a woman!  I scrambled to my feet, ran my fingers through my messy hair, straightened my tunic and dusted myself off.  Pathetic, really.  Next to me Jorjar hastily did the same as he came to the same conclusion I did.  I smiled and quickly held out my hand to beat Jorjar to it, "Placidus Treibonus, pleased to meet you."  The sage smiled behind her beard and said, "Harkala Glad-help."  She shook hands with both of us, taking my hand first, hah!

"I've been asked to investigate a murder and I would be honoured if you could use your god's magic to read the events that happened in the building behind us.  I'm sure that a beautiful, err excellent servant of your god like yourself could easily uncover something."  Ouch, why don't I just proclaim my unending devotion and get it over with already?  Idiot.  She smiled shyly at me and said something quietly in Heortling that I didn't catch, not understanding a word of the language.   Jorjar though, being from Adari did seem to understand what she said and frowned.   "Why don't we keep this business-like, shall we?  You can ask her out later."  I blushed a red worthy of the goddess herself and muttered a hasty apology.  Harkala nodded her quick acceptance and graced me with another shy smile.

I explained again what I wanted her to do and she explained the standard fees the Lhankor Mhy temple charged for magic use.  I shrugged and said that I would gladly give her a chit to redeem at the Lunar governor's office.  She smiled very broadly and said, "Well, why didn't you say so.  I, as a representative of the temple of the Knowing God would be glad to perform a service for the governor."  She paused and the smile got rather impish I thought, well from what I could see of it behind the beard that is. "Of course there are special surcharges due to the nature of the magic used and the extreme conditions."  She gestured around her.  She mentioned a new total, amazingly enough twice the normal fee.  I smiled and bowed.   "Certainly, sounds reasonable to me."  Jorjar frowned and shook his head.  "Jotoran's not going to like this."  I shrugged and said, "He can take it up with Sor-Eel then."  I wrote up this chit myself and handed it to Harkala myself.  Was it my imagination or did her hand linger in mine?   I shook my head to stop these foolish fancies and vowed to stick to business.

Harkala had brought everything she needed for the reading.  She went inside, rolled out a mat and gracefully sat down upon it crossed legged and prepared to emulate her god.  Respecting her privacy and that of her god Jorjar and I waited outside.   She was certainly quieter and less flashy than the shaman but her reading of past events was bound to take longer.  We sweated as Yelm climbed to his highest point in the sky dome and waited.

Part IX

We waited and waited.  Yelm crept higher and higher, ever hotter. We sweltered and kept moving to follow the shade.  Finally as we dozed to the rumbling of our stomachs Harkala came out and gently touched me on the shoulder.  I started and smiled up at her, oh this is terrible-she's a bloody Orlanthi for Yanafal's sake!  I stopped smiling and stood up.  "Well?"  I asked rather brusquely.  She smiled seemingly understandingly, shook her head and frowned, "The god read the events here all right.  Unfortunately nothing really interesting happened here.   A single figure in dark robes came into the room and hung the body from the hooks.   They then left, returned a bit later and dumped all the dead man's equipment on the floor.  That was it.  Actually, quite a good reading, very clear.  The god's readings are usually more cryptic than that.  Too straight forward to treat cryptically I suppose."  She shrugged prettily, oh brother-stop it all ready-and I thanked her.  "If you want we can offer you an escort."  I hastened to add, "But if you don't care to be seen with Lunars I understand..."  She smiled and shook her head, "No that's okay I don't mind some Lunars."  She grimaced suddenly as she realized what she had said.  I smiled in my best understanding manner.  Jorjar glared and said, "If you're both quite finished making googly eyes at each other?" We both glared at him but he ignored both of us and busied himself ordering his constables to collect the dead guy's stuff.  He took the money bag himself.

We must have been quite a strange little procession wending our way through Badside.  A female Lhankor Mhy sage and a Pelorian informer, both of whom (I hoped) would have liked nothing better than to hold hands as we walked.  Well she did stick pretty close to me.  Then Jorjar burning holes in the backs of our heads with his glare and then the three constables struggling under the weight of a mule's load of iron plate.   Yelm's glare didn't help matters any.  I suddenly stopped having thought of something else.  Jorjar almost walked into me and the constables all breathed sighs of relief as they got to stop.  They all unceremoniously dropped their loads and sat down.  Jorjar went from a hasty, "Now what?" to a quick tongue lashing of his constables for sitting down.  Harkala edged into some shade to wait.  I ignored them all and went over to have a closer look at the plate. Ugly, heavy stuff, gilt iron with embossed images of Yemalio's life.  You know, following dear old da faithfully, shielding his people during the Darkness, getting his ass kicked big time by all and sundry, losing his fire.  Ya gotta admire his spunk, lameo god that he is. 

"Look at this," I said to no one in particular.  Harkala left her shade and Jorjar left off his berating to look at the armour.  Even the constables managed to look interested.  "See anything funny, other than Yemalio's life that is?"  Jorjar looked puzzled as did Harkala initially but she quickly caught on.  "The straps are all intact.  The armour was removed not cut off."   "Right, now that might just mean our bright boy got himself knocked out and then they shucked him or it might mean that he took it off himself feeling no danger."  "Or," piped in Harkala, "He wasn't wearing it when he was attacked."  I smiled and bowed at her but inwardly I was sighing at more bloody questions. She smiled back. "Anyway," interrupted Jorjar, "while that's certainly interesting I would like to get out of this damn heat.  Can we get on with it?"  I bowed, and gestured for him to lead the way.  Which he did with his usual scowl.  The constables grumbled and swore under their breath as they clambered back to their feet and grabbed their loads again.

We passed without further incident back into Pavis struggling to get past the last of the citizens at the granaries and meat warehouse clamouring for their allotted portion of dried meat and grain.  Bloody Lunars, I thought, only they would be stubborn enough to be doing this during midday.  Only the Pavisites, in their firmly held belief of their entitlement to this meagre ration would line up to collect it then.  Or send their servants to line up for them I suppose.  I shook my head.  We dropped Harkala off at the knowledge temple on the way and she asked me to keep her abreast of things.  I blushed at her unfortunate choice of words and stammered agreement.   She turned bright red and disappeared into the temple.  I think the laughter finally stopped by the time we reached the Lunar headquarters.

Part X

Finally, lunch.  Okay, a Lunar army issue lunch, but lunch nonetheless.  The most irritating part of it was the fact that Jorjar and his constables, who I gathered didn't normally get to eat there, kept looking at me, sniggering and then bursting into laughter.  The bastards.  After I had finished eating and gotten tired of all that I suddenly stood up and went off to look for my authority writ.  I hadn't gotten very far before I heard Jorjar rushing to catch up.  I ignored him, especially the intermittent sniggering, and looked for someone clerk-like in the Governor's offices.   It didn't take me long before I found a flunkey who was of course no help whatsoever. 

Typically, he didn't know what I was talking about, "not his area" so he directed me to a different clerk.  This clerk of course would then direct me to someone else who knew nothing, who would direct me to someone else who would know nothing, and so on and so forth.  This is a favoured game of bureaucrats, loads of fun if you have the proper sap to play with.  This could go on for days, maybe months in a large enough system.  Unfortunately for these amateurs I have played this game with government officials in Glamour where the game is a true art form.  This office was just too small for a really effective game.  Imagine a few hundred Buserians and a half hundred different departments under a dozen or so ministries with conflicting authorities and you can see the true chilling potential of the game.  I 've heard that there are special homes run by Deezolans for the poor fools who go insane trying to get the proper licenses in Glamour and the Tripolis.  They used to just let them wander the streets as an example before the advent of our goddess.  I decided that I didn't have any time to waste with these tyros and decided to jump the circuit by going to see Sor-Eel himself.

Oh, the miserable, indignant faces when I announced this.  Ha, ha.  I went to Sor-Eel's office and asked the clerk outside his door if his special investigator could talk to him.  Oh, he hemmed and he hawed and swore that I couldn't without an appointment but finally gave up under the combined glare power of Jorjar and myself.   Another thing Jorjar's good for.  The clerk went into Sor-Eel's office and quickly came back out saying the Count had time for a short meeting.  We went in.

Sor-Eel's office was considerably less crowded, at least before we joined him.   Only Radak was in there with him, no sign of Bor-Eel or Jotoran Longsword.   His desk was covered with papers and he actually looked pleased to see us.   How nice. "Any news so far?" he asked.  I shook my head and told him what I'd found out so far.  He was a cool customer, he didn't blink, move a muscle, or make a face when I explained how much money this investigation had cost him so far.  He nodded when I'd finished as if not surprised.  "Now I have some questions, who found the body and who was he?"

Sor-Eel smiled a thin smile and said, "He was Cressidus Silvercloak, Lightson of Yemalio.  He was head of a special delegation sent by the Sun Dome temple in Sartar to investigate stronger ties between that temple and the two Sun Domes here in Prax."   After Jorjar and I picked our jaws back up off the floor and I had regained some composure I repeated my other question.  "And who discovered the body?"   Sor-Eel grimaced, "I don't know for certain but a templar woke me up early this morning with the news of where the body was to be found."

Part XI

"Do you have the name of this templar so I can ask him some more questions?"  "I do but it wouldn't do you much good as he was one of Silvercloak's bodyguards.  The whole mission packed up and left Pavis early this morning heading back to Sartar."  "You're telling me that this guy is, sorry, was an important bright boy, here on a sensitive diplomatic mission, he gets himself offed by party or parties unknown, one of this guy's bodyguards comes and tells you where his body can be found and then instead of seeking vengeance, or justice or anything the whole mission just packs up and buggers off!?!  And now that he's dead no one has any time for him? Why?" 

Sor-Eel didn't respond to my tirade.  I shook my head irritably, "Why am I even investigating this case if no one cares?"  It was Sor-Eel's turn to shake his head, "The Lunar government must be seen to care, there must be an official investigation.  You will find out more that will make things more understandable to you.  I'm sure of that." My shoulders slumped in defeat but the view I had of a very confused Jorjar made me feel better.  "All right as long as I keep getting paid I'll keep investigating.  Now about my writ of authority."

I left the Lunar government headquarters a half hour later with my writ and without Jorjar who had decided he had better things to do. Which was fine by me as I work better alone.  I decided that I would go see Harnasti, the Deezola priest we'd sent the body to and see whether he had a chance to look the stiff over or not.  That of course meant I'd have to stump back halfway across town to the Chalana Arroy temple. At least I'd be closer to home which is where I fully intended on heading after speaking to Harnasti.  I headed across town.

It didn't take me too long, the streets weren't that crowded this late in the afternoon.  That business this morning in Badside had taken longer than I had thought and it was already fairly late in the afternoon.  As I headed across Founder's Market towards Parade Way I could see the temple to Pavis against the towering wall of the Big Rubble.  I turned into Healing Hall and eased my way past the remaining stragglers queued there for free healing.  "Pardon me, official business."  I waved my writ to get them out of the way not that most of them could read.  The Chalana Arroy at the door could though and he showed me in. 

Once my eyes adjusted to the dim light I saw that I was in the entrance hall.  All I could see was an old shrine to Chalana Arroy and a much newer and larger shrine to Deezola next to it.  Since the street was the waiting room there weren't any chairs inside and I wondered what I was going to do next.  There was a low counter along one wall as well but no one was sitting behind it.  "Hello?  Is Harnasti available?"  I almost jumped out of my wooden leg when a voice came from behind the counter.  "Hawnasti is busy wight now.  Who wants to see him?"   A short figure covered with feathers wearing the robes of a Chalana Arroy priestess came out from behind the counter.  A duck.  No matter how long I spent in Pavis I wasn't going to get used to the idea of encountering waterfowl that weren't served up on a platter with onions and stuffing and that insisted on talking to me.

I bowed in deference to the duck's obvious cult status.  "My name is Placidus Treibonus.  I am a special investigator for the Luanr governor and here on official business."  I showed her my writ.  She grabbed it out of my hands and read it over, "So, you're working for the gowernor, eh?  My name is Enten Quackfeather.  Cowincidentally enough Hawnasti is wooking over the body you had sent here.  This is the first chance he's had. Follow me."  She turned and waddled away through the curtain.  I followed feeling grateful that at least she didn't say walk this way.

Part XII

I followed Enten along a dimly lit corridor until we reached a large room.  In the centre of the room was a large stone slab.  On top of the slab was my stiff and standing over him was Harnasti.  Enten announced us and then turned to go. "Thank you for your help," I said bowing.  I couldn't read the expression on her alien face but she bowed back and left the room.  I went over to Harnasti.  "Greetings, may the Goddess's light protect and bless you." I intoned.  Harnasti replied, "And you also."  We clasped forearms, Harnasti's the guy who told me I didn't have the right attitude to regrow my leg.  I don't really hold it against him.  It's not his fault after all.  We exchanged small talk for a while and then got down to business.

"What have you got for me?"  "Well, he's relatively fit for his age and status.  It is a militaristic cult after all.  There is evidence though that he was suffering the effects of poison though."  "What?  Poison?   Is that what killed him?"  "No, though it contributed to his death.   The actual cause of death was this stab wound here."  Harnasti pointed to one of the messier mutilations and showed me that there was a brutal and clumsy stab wound inside it.  "He was also smothered, see the slightly bulging eyes.  I believe that the poison weakened him enough to make it possible for someone to smother him.  Then he was stabbed."  "He was poisoned?  Then smothered and then stabbed?"  "Yes." "But what about all the mutilations?"  "Oh, someone did those after he was killed but before he started stiffening."

I sat down.  This case continued to get weirder.  I thanked Harnasti for his help and told him to send the body over to the Sun Dome temple.  I pledged a large donation to the Healing Hall courtesy of the Lunar's governor's office and decided to call it a day.  I went to Bob's Bisonburger for a much needed supper.  I decided to make it a long and leisurely one so that I could think some more on this messy business.  After supper I headed back to Gimpy's for some much needed rest. 

As I neared the place I could see a big crowd hanging around the entrance to the tunnel leading to the Inn proper.  That would mean that either the Blonde Piper or the Minstrels Three were performing tonight.  Only they could draw crowds so big.  I got close enough to catch the eye of Crush the Great Troll bouncer that Morey the Short and Parzel and Miltry Post the owners of Gimpy hire to handle big crowds when Krogar Wolfhelm's not in residence.  Crush noticed me and growled at the crowd to let me through.  Since Crush is a particularily large scary specimen of a Great Troll they eagerly obliged by making a narrow passage.  I squeezed through, went down the stairs, how I hate stairs, along the tunnel back up some more bloody stairs and entered the Inn's common room.  The place was packed so I imagined that the courtyard was packed too.  There on the stage was the cause for the crowd.  The Blonde Piper was here tonight and as I started negotiating my way to the stairs she launched into her signature song, The Pavis Adventurer's Lament*.  The whole room sang along.

This cruel country has driven me down
Teased me and lied, teased me and lied
I've only sad stories to tell to this town
My dreams have withered and died

Once I was scraping the tops of the walls
Kind words in my ear, kind faces to see
Then I struck up with a group from the West,
Hunted for gold, hunted for steel.
They left me for dead and fled with the rest.
My dreams have withered and died

Silver coins roll up and silver coins shine
Over the Rubble so wide, Rubble so wide
Stole from me all that I could say was mine
My dreams are withered and died

If I was a butterfly, live for a day,
I could be free just blowing away

This cruel country has driven me down
Teased me and lied, teased me and lied
I've only sad stories to tell to this town
My dreams have withered and died

This song always gets the adventurers going.  By the end they're usually in tears.   They can all emphasize with the sentiments of the song and if they've been in the game long enough they've probably been betrayed by someone.  I even sang along though I've never been tempted to go anywhere near the Rubble.  I can always emphasize with human greed and stupidity though. When the song ended the applause, whistling and shouts went on for a good ten minutes.  The Blonde Piper then announced a break to much good-natured disappointment from the crowd and I finally managed to get to the stairs, sigh more stairs, and up to my room.  As I opened the door, thank goodness someone had fixed it, I saw scales.


Crap, I thought and slammed the door closed. I turned to flee but I heard the door open behind me and someone grabbed me by the arm.  "Hold on there", said a firm voice in New Pelorian albeit in an uncouth accent, "I mean you no harm."  I turned, somewhat mollified by the sound of my native tongue.  Mind you most of the people who have tried to kill me over the years have spoken New Pelorian so I wasn't as calm as I could be.  Actually, the uncouth accent helped since it probably wasn't a Lunar who had me.  When I'd finished turning I saw that my captor was another one of the local bright boys. He must have been rather important though since he had two sheathed shortswords at his waist.  That meant he was a registered weapon master.  He gestured behind him into my room.  How gracious of him.

I entered my room and saw that the scales I'd seen belonged to a small dragonewt. Great, first ducks, now dragonewts, what next newtlings?  My "guest" gestured for me to sit on my own chair which with as graceful a bow as I could manage I did.  "Who the hell are you?" I asked rather testily, it had been a long day after all.  He sat down on my bed after lighting the lantern.  This allowed me to get a better look at him.  He seemed fairly fit though definitely middle-aged.  His clothes was subtle though expensive and I suspected that I knew who he was after all. 

"My name is Lord Belvani.  I understand you're investigating the murder of Cressidus Silvercloak."  I wasn't really in the mood for a game of the Goddess Knows You so I decided to be blunt.  "You bloody well know I am.  What's it to you?"  Belvani shook his head and smirked sardonically.  "So rude," more damned heading shaking, "Where's the refinement I expect from a citizen of the great Lunar Empire?"  "Bugger that," I replied.   He shook his head and smiled some more.  "What now, a beating?" I asked.  He pretended to look shocked and said, "No, no of course not.   Actually I've been asked by Count Solanthos to help you with your investigations."

"What!?!  How in Sheng Solaris' prison hell did Count Solanthos hear about it already?" We both spat reflexively at my inadvertent mention of the dread name, he must have spent quite some time among Lunars to have picked that habit up.  "Or more accurately, how could he have both heard and sent you.  Sun County isn't that close!"  He shrugged and looked somewhat sheepish, "Well he has heard by now I'd imagine and I'm certain that he would want me to help you out."  This I had trouble believing.   "He would want you to help me investigate would he?  Out of some heart-felt love for us Lunars, right."  We both laughed at that one, Count Solanthos being a notorious Lunar hater. "More likely that he'd want to pin the murder on us Lunars".  Belvani shrugged.  All this time his lizard had just stood there staring at me unblinkingly, creeping me out. "Take my offer or reject it.  It is a serious offer.  And I do flatter myself that I have some influence and status in the Solar community."

It was my turn to shake my head, resignedly though. "Oh, all right. I accept. Now take your damn lizard and go.  I need my beauty sleep."   "You'll get no argument from me," he replied, "I'll be back after first light tomorrow to pick you up so we can start our investigation."  He bowed, made some hand gesture to his lizard who ducked out the door ahead of him and left, whistling an appallingly rude ditty I recognized about the Emperor and the conjoined triplets.  I hate people who have to get the last word in.

Part XIV

Somehow I managed to get a halfway decent night's sleep.  I guess that part of my mind that seems to work on problems even when I'm not aware of it had decided to take the night off.  I was woken up the next morning by a sharp, insistent rapping on the door.  I definitely should have slunk off to my hidey-hole last night.  I told the rapper to go off somewhere quiet and bugger himself.   This didn't have the desired result of making the rapper go away unfortunately so I was forced to drag my sorry carcass out of bed.  "Wait until I get my bloody leg on will you." I yelled.  After I had strapped it on, taking my own sweet time of course, I went to check on my caller.  It was that damned Belvani, of course.   He looked disgustingly bright and chipper.

"Isn't it a little early for investigating murders?"  I asked grumpily.   "It's never too early to enjoy this bustling metropolis that is Pavis," Belvani cheerily replied.  I sighed disgustedly at this and gestured for him to come in.  He did, followed by his ever-present lizard.  I splashed some water from the pitcher on my wash stand into the basin on it and washed my face.  I like it quite a bit but it's a strange and foreign piece of furniture to most Pavisities. The fact that it's made of whole pieces of wood rather than little bits cobbled together to make bigger bits is enough to make it unusual around here. Belvani raised a quizzical eyebrow at this extravagant piece of furniture but seemed to recognize it for what it is.  "It was sent by my mother when she failed to convince me to return to Glamour.  I hate to think what that must have cost her."  I said shaking my head.  I slowly washed my face as Belvani examined the wash stand closer.  "Nice workmanship," he said.  I grunted agreement.

After I had changed my tunic to one only slightly less grotty, run my fingers through my hair, and rubbed them regretfully through the growing bristles on my face I turned to Belvani and bowed.  "At your service," I said bowing slightly.   "Where do we begin our investigation?" he asked.  I looked thoughtful for a bit and replied.  "Well, I think I should go speak with the local Sun Dome authorities and try and determine when the deceased was last seen alive, who had a reason to kill him, where he lived.  You know, things like that."  I shrugged.   Belvani smiled pleasantly, "I've led an interesting life so far but this is the first murder investigation I've been involved in so you will have to take the lead.   I am at your disposal." It was his turn to bow.

After a bland, yet nourishing breakfast at Gimpy's we headed over to the Sun Dome followed by the lizard. His co-religionists were just starting their caterwauling to Yelm and Yemalio so we walked fairly slowly so as to give them a chance to finish up before we got there.  I looked sideways at Belvani and asked, "Why aren't you over there yowling with them?"  He smiled his smug smile and said, "Oh, I performed my devotions earlier this morning."  I nodded slowly and shrugged, what do I know of the Yemalio religion.  We made small talk about our backgrounds along the way.   I was evasive and he was elliptical so we basically learned absolutely nothing about each other.

When we reached the temple complex we walked right past the templars on guard who just straightened up to look more guard like and let us pass.  Belvani gestured to a bench in a courtyard and said, "We'll have to wait here for Haloric Goldbrow to be free.   He'll be the one we need to talk to."  I grunted acknowledgement of this obvious to even dense old me fact and settled in to wait.

Part XV

Belvani wandered off after a while, lizard in tow, leaving me to wait.  I slumped on the bench and waited semi-patiently.  Functionaries, clerks, templars and other temple denizens scurried by self-importantly.  They all found the time though to direct a superior look in my direction.  Must have found the state of my clothing and cleanliness to be sub-par by their standards.  Well their clothes and skin may have been cleaner but they certainly didn't smell any better than I did.  Hardly anyone smells very good in Pavis.  Too much of a hassle and being smelly yourself is a pretty good defence against the stench emanating from other people.  I ignored the yokels and kept my superior thoughts to myself.  I managed to stifle my giggles at the thought of what bumpkins they'd look like if they were suddenly dropped into Glamour society.

I was getting more and more bored and I was contemplating getting into a staring contest with one of the cats also inhabiting the courtyard, something I was sure to lose, when Belvani returned.  He sauntered up and announced that Haloric had time to see us.  I gratefully, if not gracefully, got up from the bench and indicated that I was prepared to follow his lead.  Leaving the cats to their sunning Belvani led me into the closeness of the temple.  We twisted and turned through the corridors until we reached an office.  Belvani clapped his hands together to announce our presence and a voice told us to enter.

The room was better lit than the corridor with a fairly sizeable window in the outer wall.  The reed shutter hadn't been lowered yet as the heat of the day wasn't too bad so far.  Haloric Goldbrow sat cross legged on the ground beside a low lap desk and a pile of clay tablets.  He had a note tablet filled with wet clay in his hand and he was dictating to a secretary who also had such a tablet in his hand.  When he saw who his guests were he dismissed the secretary and set his tablet aside.  He stood and bowed from the waist.  I returned his bow and noted that he, Haloric was an exception to the rule in Pavis and didn't smell.  Neither did Belvani for that matter, at least not of natural human odours, some kind of perfume I'd guess.  Haloric and I exchanged small talk and I showed him my writ of authority from Sor-Eel. 

He sat down again cross-legged as did Belvani.  Being incapable of doing so I chose to lean against the wall instead.  I decided that I didn't really want to bother playing footsie with Haloric so I told him what I knew already.  He nodded confirmation of what Sor-Eel had told me.   "So can you tell me if the deceased had any enemies?" I paused and then continued, "Or perhaps more accurately who would benefit most from his removal."  Haloric sighed and raised a quizzical eyebrow, "You do realize that I have no obligation to tell a non-Yemalian the truth don't you?"  It was my turn to sigh, "Yes, of course.  I just have to hope that the truth is in your best interests."  Haloric smiled at this, "Well I suppose it wouldn't surprise Sor-Eel to know that neither the Sun Dome here in Pavis nor the Sun Dome in Sun County considers it in their best interests to ally themselves closer to the temple in Dragon Pass.  That temple is far too closely tied to Lunar interests for us to want to have more than the minimum required relations to it.'  He paused for added weight, "Of course it wouldn't be in our best interests for Cressidus Silvercloak to die in any fashion that could be blamed on us either.  If you like I will swear by my god that I have no idea who killed Silvercloak."  I shook my head, "Never mind that, I'm more interested in who did kill him than in knowing who didn't kill him."

"So who would have reason to want him dead?  I asked.  Haloric actually rolled his eyes, "Let's say that he was a rather unusual Light Son.  A better question might be, who didn't want to kill him?", he hastened to add, "well besides us that is." Nothing like some surprising revelations about dead people to mess up your investigation.  "What do you mean by that?"  Haloric sighed rather dramatically and said, "Well," he paused to scratch his head, and I would bet it wasn't due to head lice, before continuing, "He was a rather unusual Light Son.  Maybe you should make some inquiries at the place he was staying."  "He wasn't staying here at the guest hostel?" I raised both eyebrows this time, they were getting quite the workout.  Haloric grimaced this time and said, "No, he was staying at an inn."  An inn?  With the riff raff and women of questionable morals? I rolled my eyes and decided to get him to let the other shoe drop, "Which inn was that?"  "Silibar's Fancies."

Part XVI

Silibar's Fancies!?!  A supposedly uptight, tight-arsed bright boy was not only not staying at his temple but he was staying at a den of something approaching iniquity?   Where the main draw was gambling?  On an important diplomatic mission?   At least he hadn't been staying at Loud Lilana's or the Reed Inn.  I think I would have quit then and there if that had been the case.  This was getting worse yet.  Who'd have thought that was possible?

I shook my head and ventured a new angle, "How would you have characterized the character of the deceased?"  This was greeted by snickers from Belvani who got a glare from Haloric for his troubles.  Haloric shook his head, "I would not have chosen him to lead a mission for this temple had he been a member.  I cannot imagine what they were thinking of in Sartar when they picked him for something so sensitive.   Frankly I find it hard to imagine how he ever made Light Son in the first place," he paused then added. "Of course unlikely candidates make Light Son other places as well so it's not unimaginable.  Sometimes it's purely politics and who you know."

I suppressed an urge to roll my eyes at this gem of wisdom and noticed a very fleeting dirty look that Belvani cast at Haloric.  Haloric either missed this or didn't care and ignored it. "So, he behaved in manners unsuitable to a Light Son?  How so?"  "Well he gambled, had relations with women who weren't followers of Uleria, drank to excess, most notably of alcohol that didn't come from the Temple here, associated with riff raff and ruffians and his bodyguards was composed not of templars but rather common thugs."  "That's odd, Sor-Eel claimed that he learned of the murder from a templar bodyguard of the deceased."  Haloric started, "No, that's right he did have one templar who stayed here in the hostel.  He departed for the Sartar Sun Dome the morning of the discovery."  "So this templar didn't stick with his boss?"  Haloric sighed again, "No, they didn't get along."  "Yet, he knew about the murder before anyone else?  And you didn't hold him for questioning?"  Great.

Haloric shook his head, "No, he had an iron clad alibi.  He was participating in a ceremony with Karial the Pure. They were in vigil together all night. There's no doubt about that.  Before first light, in fact before he really should have left the vigil the templar departed the Temple and went looking for Cressidus.  He returned within a very short period of time and announced that Cressidus was dead.  He'd already told Sor-Eel and quickly packed up his gear and left for Sartar."

"By himself?"  "No, he managed to get a berth in a Lunar caravan headed that way."  I greeted this statement dubiously, "So quickly?   Who was he?  He could still have been involved as a ring leader for the murderer, or murderers!  Why would you just let him go?"  Haloric and Belvani looked at each other a little sheepishly.  "That possibility hadn't really occured to us and he was part of an important diplomatic mission,"   Haloric said reluctantly and then added, "He was a sister-son of Karial the Pure, Balarus."


"So by virtue of this association he also was purer than the common lot?" I sneered. "You've never heard of rotten apples?"  They both looked rather confused at this.  I suppose being from Sun County they haven't had much exposure to apples.  I wondered briefly what the equivalent metaphor for them would be?  And then I had one. "Not every stalk of barley from the same field is of the same quality right?". Their confused expressions vanished and they both nodded.  Haloric shook his head emphatically, "No, Balarus Reflected Glory is the genuine article.   He was as straight a shooter as any Yemalian you might meet.  A true exemplar of Yemalian manhood and a credit to the Temple."  Belvani nodded his agreement.   "You knew this Balarus Holier-than-thou too? How?"  "I was part of the negotiations between the Sun Domes."  "How?"  "Head of the Sun County delegation."

I really needed to sit down by this point but since that wasn't an option I decided to pace instead, clomping with every other step.  I arranged my thoughts out loud. "So we have one Cressidus Silvercloak, who by all accounts was a right bastard.   Yet his temple who may or may not have approved of his behaviour..."  I paused for any additional tidbits of information from my audience.  Haloric reluctantly said, "No, they must have at least had suspicions about his character.   Balarus made it clear to me at least that Cressidus wasn't behaving substantially different here than he did in Sartar."  I looked at Belvani for agreement.   He nodded, "Oh yes, he may have been worse behaved and more blatant here than there but he's been behaving like this for years."

I started yet again, "Pardon me, are you implying that you knew the deceased before he came here?"  Belvani nodded.  "How exactly?"   Haloric had a slight smile on his face while a cloud came over Belvani's face.   "I spent time some years back at the Sartar Sun Dome where I got to know Cressidus and Balarus.  Cressidus was a fun party guy AND a bastard back then and Balarus had a big stick up his arse.  My opinions of them haven't changed other than that Balarus has someone found a way to shove an even bigger stick up his arse. Which I wouldn't have thought possible."  He shook his head and went on. "In fact Cressidus was sort of a ringleader for the naughty element among the Sun Dome youth there. Nothing too blatant or bad, mostly ways of blowing off steam that the Temple there could ignore as long as it didn't get too out of hand."  Haloric had lost his slight smile at the stick comment but didn't disagree about the character descriptions though the bit about Cressidus being a youth leader of sorts seemed news to him.  I addressed Belvani, "Why were you there in the first place?"  A dangerous closed look came over his face and at first I thought he wouldn't answer me but he did finally saying, "The climate was better there."

I wasn't sure what that was supposed to mean and I didn't really care to get into ancient Temple history, if that's what it was so I continued my thought organization.   "So the Sartar Sun Dome sent this bastard here to handle sensitive negotiations along with an underling who hated him.  Doesn't sound like they were too serious about these negotiations does it?"  My audience greeted this remark with stony silence, which is what I had expected from them.  I resumed my pacing.   "While here our bad boy basically runs amuck since he's out from under the watchful eye of his temple if not Yemalio.  Maybe he was sent here to get offed?   Maybe it's all a plan of the Sartar Sun Dome to get rid of him and blame you guys?   Perhaps this would get the Lunars to change the local temple government?"   They didn't seem to buy this though Haloric's eyes narrowed at the last guess.

"Or maybe he's just the hapless victim of some local gamblers.  No, forget that, he had a small fortune on him.  That couldn't be it."  I asked for permission to question temple staff about the deceased and the fled Balarus.  Haloric graciously granted it to get me out of his hair.  I was just leaving with Belvani when I thought of something. I turned around and said, "Oh and I'll need to speak with Karial the Pure."


Haloric thought about this and then nodded, “I will have to check his schedule and let you know.”  I thanked him and Belvani and I went off to question the staff.  We spent a fairly fruitless morning questioning a lot of them.   Universally they held the same high opinion of Belarus and low opinion of Cressidus as their Light Captain and Belvani did.  We were just going to go see Haloric again about questioning Karial the Pure when a templar rushed over to us. 

He addressed Belvani after going through what struck me as a rather perfunctory set of ritual gesticulations., “Lord Belvani, there’s a constable demanding to see the informer at the front gate.”  Belvani and I looked at each other and I shrugged irritably, bloody Yemalians what am I invisible?.  I nodded and let him take the lead, “We’ll be right there.”  The templar nodded and hastened back to his post.  We followed as quickly as I could manage. 

When we reached the gate we saw a somewhat nervous looking constable trying his best and failing miserably to look as impressive as the templar guards.  I could have told him he lacked the added presence 25 kilos of armour and a big crest on your helmet gave you.   The big pig stickers they were holding didn’t hurt either.  The constable recognized me and looked relieved.  Constables aren’t particularly welcome here in Suntown.

“Placidus, Jorjar sent me to find you.  There’s been another body found down in the cebu pens.”  Bloody marvellous I thought.  "Surely bodies are found in pens all the time here in Pavis. What's so important about this one?" I halted as I realized something  "And what on Genertela is a sayboo, anyway?”  The constable replied saying, “It’s sort of like a cow.  Some rich Lunar farmer who got himself exiled from the Empire has decided to try and raise them here in Prax.  Apparently he thinks he might have a  chance of getting the shamanesses at the Paps to accept them like Dorasar did with the zebras.”  Right I thought, fat chance unless they have stripes. The constable stopped obviously proud of his knowledge of animal husbandry.  I asked impatiently, “And why is this body so important?”  The constable started and said, “Another one of these Yemalians we think.”  This announcement caused quite a stir among the formerly unflappable gate guards whom Belvani silenced with a curt order.  He told one of the guards to tell Haloric where we were going and what had happened and then nodded to me. “Lead the way.” I directed.

Sigh, all the way across the bloody town again with the heat of midday blazing down on us and every stone wall emanating heat.  Now I know what Lodril’s home must be like.  Of course we had an easy go of it since only mad dogs and Lunars go out in the noon day sun and fortunately we didn’t see either of those on the way.  These cebu pens proved to be just over the river on the Badside bank but a little ways downstream.  There were a few sevens of the critters and they looked to me at least a little like bison what with the humps they have over their forequarters.  Strange looking critters.  I learned later that their forebears had come all the way from Teshnon.  There were some herdsmen dressed in foreign garb standing at the fence around one of the pens gazing at something on the ground while the cebu where standing as far away as they could get from that side. Jorjar and another constable were there as well.

Jorjar turned as he heard us approaching.  “About time you got here,” he said grumpily. Belvani, the constable and I forced our way through the herdsmen and looked down at what they’d been looking at.  Sure enough it was a body dressed in Yemalian style clothing of a foreign cut.  Jorjar pointed at the corpse who was lying face down. “Know him? he asked us. “Not from his back,” Belvani replied.  I shook my head, “No one I know.”  Though to be honest I had my suspicions.  Jorjar gestured impatiently for one of the constables to climb over the fence and turn the stiff over.   The one who had been with Jorjar climbed the fence reluctantly and turned him over.  Belvani took Yemalio’s name very much in vain and said, “Damn, it’s Belarus.”

Part XIX

Belvani might have been surprised but I wasn’t particularly.  Our bright boy wasn’t looking so upstanding and righteous now, covered in mud and cow, sorry cebu shit. Someone had gone and slashed his throat quite savagely.  Such enthusiasm.  I shook my head.   The constable checked the body for anything of interest.  He quickly finished and shook his head no.  All the deceased had to his name was his definitely worse for wear clothes.  Belvani ordered the constables to remove the body from the pen.   The constables looked to Jorjar for guidance.   He looked angry but nodded curtly.  The other constable clambered over the fence and helped the first to lift the body over the fence.  He was stiff as if he had been lying there for quite some time.  Once they had him over on our side of the fence Belvani looked to me for guidance.  Feeling honoured I spoke, “They might as well take him to the Temple for his final disposition.  It looks pretty obvious what the cause of death was.”   Jorjar looked even more aggravated but nodded his agreement.  The constables started scrounging the means of carrying the stiff and I started back to Pavis.

Belvani and Jorjar hurried to catch up.  “What now? asked Belvani.  “What’s our next move?” asked Jorjar.  I turned to look at them and snapped, “I don’t care what you two do but personally I am going to find a bath and some clean clothes and then some lunch.  Come see me tomorrow after I’ve had a chance to mull this over a bit.”  They stopped and watched me stump along.  Fortunately for them and my peace of mind neither of them followed me.   I wonder what I would have done had they done so?

I was serious about the bath and clean clothes so I headed to Riverside.  I could have gone to the Teelo Norri poorhouse but I didn’t really think I was dirty or hungry, though I have eaten there in the past.  Instead I headed to Juli’s.  Juli is an old friend of mine who runs a bathhouse of sorts.  Her prized possession is a large bronze bathtub that heats up on command.  Some adventurers found it in the Rubble and the crazy bastards actually dragged the bloody thing, which weighs as much as a male bison, out past hordes of uz.  She charges a fair bit for the use of the tub and even more if she or her servants are expected to draw the water from the nearby well.  Most users draw their own.  You never know who you’ll find having a bath there.  Once I walked in on the high priestess of the Uleria temple and discovered that all the rumours were true.

I made my way to Riverside, thank the Goddess that I didn’t have to tramp all the way across Pavis again.  Juli’s place is next to the Rivermen’s Guild Hall.  She makes enough off of her tub to pay for such a prime location.  Her place does offer other services but I’ve never been interested in them, well I sorely was after the incident with the high priestess, but I prefer to get it for free.  Take the moral high ground that’s my motto.  Yeah, right.

I reached Juli’s and nodded to Cletus the Bouncer who pretended to make a face when he got a whiff of me.  I mock snarled at him and raised my fist at him threateningly.  Phew, maybe he wasn’t pretending to make a face.  I went in and asked if the tub was free.  The counter girl said it was, wasn’t this my lucky day, and asked the usual questions, “Haul it yourself or not, and, company or none.”   I looked down at my leg and shook my head, “You haul it.”  I thought of a certain Lhankor Mhy and sighed, “And I bathe solo today.”  “I’d also like my raiment laundered.”  She wrinkled her nose in unfeigned disgust and quoted a price.   I paid her in cash from my generous government salary.  Her eyebrows rose and she gestured for me to wait in the waiting room with a cool drink while some of the servants hauled water for me.

Part XX

Frankly, once the tub was full I could have stayed in there for a week or two.   Cleanliness may not always be close to godliness-Uroxi disprove that theory, but it certainly was heaven.  Even more so after I got a shave and a haircut at the hands of a very nice looking young Praxian slave.  Nothing more than the hair removal mind you but very nice nonetheless.  I had plenty of time for reflection as well while I got all wrinkly.  There was some sort of pattern to these killings but I couldn't figure it out yet.  We had two dead Yemalians, both from the Sartar Sun Dome, one a model citizen, the other anything but.  What I couldn't figure was who and why.  All the possible who's I could think of were rendered unlikely by the evidence I had and were even more unlikely in the case of young Balarus.  And I still didn't understand why.   I shook my head and sank under the bubbles.

After my bath, when I had strapped my leg back on I decided to don my newly laundered garment and head over to Silibar's Fancies.  I figured that I might as well see if the original deceased had left anything interesting behind.  I headed up through the Fish Market, down North Street across Founders Market, past the Trade Temple down Parade Way a bit and there was Silibar's Fancies.  I'd never been in the place before so I was kind of interested in what I'd find.  There was the standard, if well dressed goon at the door to keep the riff raff out.  Fortunately not only had I just had a bath and sported clean garb but I also had a writ of authority from the Lunar governor.   The bouncer was so dazzled by my appearance that I didn't need the writ.  Only a man of some substance could afford to be as clean as I was after all. He graciously ushered me in.

It took a while for my eyes to adapt to the dim lighting within but once they did I saw that the place was still fairly empty.  It was still early after all.  I made my way across the floor towards the bar looking for the person in charge. Halfway across the floor I decided that while I was here I might as well have dinner and a drink.  I quickly checked my purse and decided that I probably had the price of a meal.  I headed instead to a table and sat down.  A very nicely attired serving wench came over and took my order.  I looked around the place as I waited.  Most of the room was filled by tables where games of chance were played.  Chance, right, that's a very generous way to refer to them.  I had heard that most of the games were the same sort that could be found in Casino Town in the Holy Country.  Like most soldiers I had played plenty of games of dice in my career.  Unlike many of them I had never taken much of a liking to it.  Already there were people and a few well-behaved non-humans losing their money to the house.

Once it came I lingered over my meal. As I'd heard the food was quite good.  The wine however was delightful.  A very nice vintage brought from the Clearwine region of Sartar.  After I'd finished I paid my bill and asked to see the manager.  This startled my serving wench who said, "Was there something wrong with the service, sir?  Was the food or drink not to your liking?"  I shook my head and put her at ease, "No, no, my dear I just want to ask some questions about a former guest of yours, Cressidus Silvercloak."  She started at the mention of the name and a flicker of fear crossed her face.  Interesting, now why was that? She nodded quickly and took me across the floor to a door behind the bar.  On the other side of the door I got to meet the owner Silibar Fortuna.  Frankly I was amazed that there actually was a Silibar.

Silibar Fortuna was a somewhat portly middle-aged woman of Esrolian appearance.  I introduced myself and explained who I was and what I was looking to do. Once she was reassured that I had no interest in her inn or its gambling operations she was quite friendly.  "Why yes I did think it was strange for a follower of Yemalio to stay in my inn and carry on as he did.  But if his cult didn't complain why should I care?   He paid his bills and didn't make too much trouble."  The serving wench made a face at this.  I looked inquiringly at her and Silibar nodded for her to answer me.  She spat venomously, "He was a pig who refused to take no for an answer.  Not only did he pinch bottoms and cop feels but he pressured the girls to sleep with him."  Silibar frowned saying, "He paid for his room and board.  Access to the serving staff is part of the bill."  She paused, "However he shouldn't have forced you."  She rounded on the server, "Why didn't you come to me with this?"  she asked angrily. The server shrunk in on herself and muttered, "We were too afraid of him.  He claimed he'd paid you for this priviliege and could do as he liked." "Lying bastard," spat Silibar.

I didn't know what to say to this but I waited a bit while the server looked upset and Silibar looked angry and then asked if I could see Cressidus' room.  Silibar broke off her frowning and nodded her agreement.  She gave me a key and said, "Up the stairs, second room on the left."  I thanked her sighing inside at the thought of more stairs.  I left the room and climbed the stairs.  On a shelf by the door I found a lamp. I called upon the Young Elemental of Fire to light it.   I unlocked the door.  A lock! Such a luxury for Pavis, truly a classy place.  I entered the room and looked around. The room inside was messy and cluttered.  No big surprise since the cleaners wouldn't have wanted risk encountering Cressidus by entering his room.  Putting the lamp down on a table I looked through the clutter and found nothing interesting.  I decided to check the large trunk at the end of the bed.  I stumped over and found the key in the lock.  I turned it and unlocked the trunk.  I opened it and the next thing I saw was teeth, fur, scales and more teeth.

Part XXI

It was a rubble runner.  Imagine an animal the size of a large terrier covered with leathery scales and having a head a third the size of its body.  Add a set of jaws that run almost the entire length of its head full of real sharp snaggly teeth.   Then give it a nasty disposition and a tiny little brain to go with the teeth and you have a real nuisance.  Quite often you see them in packs.  Fortunately this one seemed to be alone but unfortunately it seemed to be quite hungry.  I leapt to one side and the rubble runner just missed me skidding across the floor and banging into the wall.  This didn't seem to faze it however and it quickly turned to make another run at me.  I had landed on my side near the bed, not too hard fortunately and I managed to snag a blanket off of the bed.  As it came at me again I threw the blanket at it.  Yanafal must have blessed my aim since the blanket opened up as neat as a gladiator's net and snared it.  I could hear and see it tearing and pulling at the blanket on the floor all too close to me.  As it struggled to free itself I pushed a bronze stud on the side of my wooden leg and a compartment popped open.  I pulled a long dagger, almost a shord sword really, out and leaning over I stabbed the damn thing through the blanket.  I decided to keep stabbing until it had returned to its ancestors. 

I lay there and caught my breath for a while.  After that I slowly stood up and checked the trunk out.   Big surprise, any thing of interest that had been in there was completely ruined either by being turned into a rubble runner nest or toilet.  I tucked my dagger safely away silently thanking Morty yet again.  I gave the room and the trunk a really good going over but found nothing of interest.  Picking up the rubble runner by its nasty back leg I went downstairs with the rubble runner leaving a trail of gore and blood behind me.  Holding it gingerly I walked over to the only serving wench in sight, someone I hadn't seen before.  She looked me up and down as I approached and glancing at the rubble runner said, "I'm sorry sir but there's a strict no pets allowed policy."  This smart answer almost stunned me to silence but after a quick internal struggle I managed to look haughtily at her and retort, "Actually I believe it was the guest since I found it living in a trunk in the late Cressidus Silvercloak's room.  It reacted very negatively to my attempts to clean its lodgings."  I won this exchange for sure since this reply left her standing there with her mouth hanging open like a gaffed fish. I walked past her and into Silibar's room.

I plopped the dead rubble runner onto Silibar's table.  She stared down at it and said, "Please Placidus our policy is that no pets are allowed."  "Ha, ha," I replied, "Actually I found this in a trunk in Cressidus' room.  What I'd like to know is who has been in there since he died beside me."  I paused then added, "I think we can both assume this thing wasn't Cressidus' pet."   Silibar shook her head, "No one has been in there since I heard he died."   I raised my eyebrows and said, "Not even his bodyguard Balarus?" She shook her head emphatically.  "No one."  "Hmm, so who had access to the key to his room?"  "Just myself," she replied.   "Where is this key kept then?"  "In the next room where I keep my strong box."  "And no one has access to that room?"  

She laughed got up and going to a door at the back of the room she knocked upon it.   A little slot in the upper part of the door opened and a pair of eyes looked out. "It's me I want to come in."  The owner of the eyes nodded and the door opened.  She ushered me in.  The eyes closed the door and put a large bar across strong braces.  I found myself in a small boring looking windowless room with a pair of chairs, a small table with some cards and a lit lamp on it and a pair of extremely large goons. The goons were in armour and were sporting quite the exotic assortment of weaponry.  Must be adventurers gone smart.  They eyed me suspiciously. Definitely adventurers. There was a large metal bound strongbox under the table and a set of hooks for keys on the wall.  "The lock to each guest room has two keys.  Both keys are kept here if a guest isn't using a room.  If a guest is staying in a room we keep one of the pair here in case we need it."  "Which hook is the one for Cressidus' room?"  Silibar pointed to an empty hook.   "And where's the other key?" I asked. She started and said, "I assumed it was on his body.  I was going to ask for it back."  I swore saying, "No such luck.  His murderer must still have it.  They must have gotten in to search the room and then put the rubble runner in the trunk."

Silibar looked very annoyed and said, "I'll have to get a new lock from dwarftown then."  "Can I question your staff to see whether they spotted anyone unusual today or yesterday.  Maybe someone carrying a large box or walking their pet rubble runner?"


The questioning proved to be a big waste of time.  Either no one had seen anything or they were hiding it.  Considering the hatred the staff seemed to feel towards Cressidus I wasn't all that surprised.  I was pretty annoyed though, enough so in fact that I confronted Silibar with the thought that maybe one or more of her staff were conspiring with the murderer or murderers of one of her guests.  I tactlessly suggested this reflected poorly both on both her management abilities and her guest's safety.  She did not receive this suggestion well and promised to further grill her staff, her choice of words, not mine. I think I'll eat elsewhere in the future.  She did promise to keep me posted on whether she learned anything from them.  I decided to leave and call back at a later date.

I'd managed to escape getting too much rubble runner gore on me so my happiness at being clean wasn't completely gone.  Unfortunately I wasn't sure where to turn next.   Now I had two dead bright boys on my hands and someone or someone’s who were actively trying to hide things and obscure matters by stashing rubble runners in inconvenient places.  If I could figure out why they were bothering I might have a better idea as to why the bright pair had been killed in the first place.  I decided that I would head back to the Sun Dome and see if I could have a chat with Karial the Pure.

I started heading back across town.  As I was crossing Founders Market a crazy caught my attention.  Normally I ignored the crackpots and nutters that Pavis seems to attract. I've said it before but it bears saying again, despite its size the population of Pavis is almost as diverse as that of Glamour.  And that includes nutters. You get all kinds here most of whom are left to their crazy little existence by the authorities.  They're all assured a free lunch by the Deezola kitchen and they're hardly in danger of freezing to death if they sleep outside.  The thing about this crazy that caught my eye though, beside his being nicely dressed for a nutter, was the company he kept.  He was standing on a big sandstone block and haranging the sparse crowd who had bothered to listen to him and at his back on the block was an elf.

I hate elves, no make that all aldryami.  My people come from Rist way back some of the original settlers after the Moonburn and from birth we got it knocked into our heads that elves are bad news. My grandad always said, "They'll be back one of these days.  Mind my words sonny boy someday you'll see hordes of them leafy bastards coming over the horizon and when they do we'll all be doomed.  Doomed, I tell ya!"  I shook my head.  Grandad was another nutter but it's hard to go against generations of hate.  I know the Goddess teaches us to be tolerant of everyone and everything but She doesn't have to live with 'em.  I'd sooner kiss a vampire than an elf, hell I don't even like to eat vegetables.

But as I was saying this nutter caught my eye because of his sidekick sprout.  The nutter looked all rational and sane for a nutter and the sprout looked leafy and mysterious like they all do.  I decided to amuse myself by listening to the nutjob and edged closer to his stone.  I was catching him mid-rant it seemed.

"...and I tell you good folks that this is a time of turmoil.  A time of nearing greatness, of great deeds and great heroes.  I do not know where these visions come from, I only know that some force sends me visions to share with you, mad rhymes for mad times as it were."  He paused for breath and then continued, "And I tell you we shall see a time when the Red Moon passes from the Middle Air.."

It was at this point that I started looking around for Lunar soldiers.   This is not the sort of topic they like to hear.

"...and a new age will dawn.  Will it be a time of darkness or of new light?   That is up to you my friends."

Sure enough right on cue my trained ear caught the sound of marching sandals.  I decided to make myself scarce. The sprout had caught the sound as well and grabbed the nutter by the arm.  He started to resist but the sound of hobnails was getting loud enough to pierce even his fantasies so he didn’t resist.  They headed away from the square down Parade Way towards the Rubble.  Since that route only leads to the Pavis Temple or into Rich Hill I wondered where they thought they were going.  Against my better judgment I trailed along behind them. 

The rest of the small crowd had of course dispersed before the soldiers made them do so.  Very smart move on their part.  I couldn’t move as fast as the sprout or the nutter but I did see them climbing the steps of the pyramid shaped temple to Pavis.  So did the leader of the Lunar soldiers who had now come into view.  He let out a standard, “Stop on order of the governor” which was ignored of course.  When they got to the top of the pyramid they stopped. The nutjob was standing staring back at the soldiers looking extremely worried, as well he should, while the sprout just stood there like he was in a trance or something. 

The soldiers didn’t bother racing to climb the pyramid and arrest these evildoers since they were pretty much trapped.  Like them I was sure that the pair were goners.  Boy, were we wrong.  As the soldiers reached the bottom step something came whipping over the top of the bloody wall of the Big Rubble like a snake!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was a vine of some sort and it appeared to be growing over the top of the wall. All 25 meters of it! It grew all the way down to the top of the temple where the sprout grabbed it by one limb and the nutter around the waist with the other.  Then it seemed to shrink and it pulled them back up and over the wall!


Well that was certainly something you didn't see every day.  The Lunar soldiers seemed quite perturbed, poor babies.  They had a brief argument about whether they should pursue into the Rubble but wisely decided not to bother. By the time they had got through a gate the sprout and nutter would have been long gone.  One of the Pavis priests or should I say priestesses came out to see what all the fuss was about. For some reason I don't really know or care about that much all the leaders of the Pavis cult are called Daughters whether they're female or not.  As far as I'm concerned they even dress like women, in long flowing robes with a high head dress.  Of course Shargashi dress like women too, well they do wear long kilt like things like skirts anyway, and they're the scariest bastards I've ever seen.

This Daughter who would have made the ugliest female I'd ever seen quickly got into a shouting match with the decurion in charge of the Lunar soldiers about Temple security or lack thereof.  The decurion's point was that the Temple should have prevented this "attack" over the Wall and the Daughter's argument was that all the defenses were concentrated inside where they belonged.  They each had a point I suppose but their helmet or headdresses covered them well, har dee har har.  I debated briefly internally about going over and finding out why the army was getting involved in crowd control in the first place when I decided I really didn't care that much.

Since I could have seen my house from here, well I if I'd been up on the Temple I could have, I decided to head home for a rest.  I'd really had had enough of this whole business for the time being so I thought I might drown my sorrows in drink. The soldiers tried to give me a hard time as a suspected malcontent and collaborator with party or parties unknown with the intent to forment revolt against the rightful Lunar administration, etc., etc. but I just waved my writ from Sor-Eel in their faces and headed for that much needed drink.  I headed past the few buildings between the Temple and Gimpy's.  I was anticipating that drink so much that I forgot to pay enough attention to my surroundings.  I had just started down the passageway to Gimpy's when party or parties unknown dropped a sack smelling strongly of fish over my head while someone or someones grabbed me by both arms.

Now there are really two ways to respond to having a sack dropped over your head.   You have to assume that you're being abducted since a surprise party is rather unlikely.  Now the first approach is that you can be the heroic type and go for your weapons or try using magic or some other otherworldly ability.  Personally I've heard of plenty of dead heroes and while Jar-Eel the Razoress could have laughed, left the sack on her head and gone into a berserk killing spree to finish off her abductors, or worse quietly, efficiently and effortlessly killed them all without breaking a sweat, again without removing the sack, I had to go with the second approach.  Which was to go along with them.

I have to admit that this is my own personal take on the second response.  The classic second response is to scream bloody murder hoping someone can help you.  In my experience, and I do speak from experience, unfortunately, there is no one close enough to help you and all you'll get for your troubles is a clout upside the head.  Which if you're lucky will just knock you out.  If you're unlucky you end up like my poor cousin Platonius back on the farm who got kicked in the head by a mule as a toddler and never got past the diaper stage.

I had to admire the gall of these guys though, committing an abduction with Lunar soldiers within earshot.  They seemed to be seasoned pros thankfully.  I hate amateurs, they kill far too many people, usually through inexperience or stupidity. They'd have bonked me on the head because "that's what you do when you're kidnapping someone." Stupid gits. Then someone said in the Pavic of a native speaker, "We don't want to hurt you. Don't scream and you'll live to see another day."  I shrugged and bowed from under my sack, hard to do with two guys holding your arms and said, "I am at your complete disposal of course." I heard a grunt of approval, professionals appreciate other professionals, and found myself suddenly and unceremoniously upended and airborne.  I came down head first into a large reed basket that just reeked of fish.


Stupid bastards, what were they trying to do?  Break my neck?  I started complaining right away and the guy who had spoken to me must have ordered them to repack me because I was hauled out again and stuffed in so that I was cramped but at least in no immediate danger of breaking my neck.  Bloody fishermen.  I would have to be a pretty poor informer not to have guessed that's what they were.  Fishy bag, fishy barrel, native Pavisites and hard, horny hands all smelt like fishermen to me.  So that meant we were probably on our way back to Riverside.  The basket suddenly jolted and took to the air.  I heard grunts as they lifted me up and tried to get comfortable.

I'd never made the basket trip across Pavis before.  It doesn't recommend itself for the tourist trade. It's an uncomfortable mode of transportation and makes sightseeing difficult so I can't say that I would recommend it to anyone else either.  The combination of the stuffy sack and the basket and the funk of fish were making me feel quite nauseous.   Rather clever, nobody would think to stop some fishermen returning to Riverside after a delivery with an empty basket.  Of course if they'd bothered to think about it at all they might have wondered why two or more men were needed to carry a supposedly empty basket.   In my experience most people don't bother to think so as long as you act like you're doing nothing wrong they'll ignore you.  And that includes the authorities.  In fact just before I passed out from the lack of air and the smell I heard the fishermen trading jibes with the soldiers who hadn't returned to their barracks yet.

When I regained consciousness, how many times have I said that to myself, I found myself lying on a dirt floor still wearing the sack.  I slowly tried removing the sack and when no one interfered I yanked it off.  I just lay there and gulped in great gasps of air.  Boy did it smell good.  After I'd laid there and weezed a bit I realized that I was not alone.  "Hello?" I asked.   "Greetings Placidus Treibonus, I apologize for the rough treatment at the hands of my men."  The voice was masculine and quite mellifluous.  I shook my head, a wasted effort in the darkness and said, "If you wanted to talk to me Hallarax you could have just paid me a visit during my regular hours."  Hallarax the Singer is the head of the Riverman's Guild and part of the pro-Lunar faction in the city.   Who else would have such a nice speaking voice and employ fishermen to do his dirty work?  Hallarax snorted disgustedly, yet musically, and barked out for a light.

I sat up slowly, my stomach still wasn't feeling too settled well at this point, and said, "If you want to disguise your identity you might consider letting someone else do the talking next time."  By this time a light had been lit and I could see Hallarax shaking his head.  "I guess you're just too sharp for us small city folks, eh Treibonus?"  I shook my head again, "If I was that smart I would know why you wanted to talk to me.  I suppose it has something to do with the deaths of Cressidus Silvercloak and Balarus Reflected Glory.  Why else would you want to talk to me?"  Hallarax a stocky, grizzled middle aged man with broad shoulders and huge hands was seated on a barrel and nodded at this last statement.  "I suppose that's rather obvious.  I apologize again for the abduction, I didn't think that it was wise for outsiders to know I spoke with you."  I glared at him, "And you couldn't write a note?  I can read. I am a Lunar after all, bringers of culture to the world and all."  He shrugged and smiled sheepishly, "Oh, I hadn't thought of that.  Anyway the reason why I wanted to speak to you was to tell you that the Imperial faction had nothing officially to do with their deaths."

I gave him a grimace for his troubles.  "That's it?  You had me semi-professionally kidnapped, dumped into a stinky basket, and hauled half way across town just to tell me that you Imperials had nothing "official" to do with the two deaths?  Meaning of course someone in your group could still be involved in an unofficial manner?"  He shrugged again, "I suppose."  I rolled my eyes and stood up with some difficulty, I gestured rudely at the fisherman who leapt to help me.  He left me to my own devices.  After I had gotten myself straightened up I looked Hallarax in the eyes.  "If we're finished here?"  Hallarax nodded.  I turned to go and then thought of something and turned back to Hallarax, "Oh by the way you owe me the cost of a bath and some laundered clothes."   I held my hand out expectantly.  Amazingly Hallarax reached into his moneybag and handed me two wheels.  I bowed and said thank you.  I was just leaving the room when I thought of something else.  I turned back to Hallarax and said, "Oh and you've lost yourself a customer.  I don't think I can ever face the thought of fish again."

Part XXV

Well this whole mess was a fine kettle of scratch that.  I don't think I'll be using that expression again either.  This whole mess is just that, a big mess.  I headed straight back to Juli's for another bath courtesy of Hallarax.   Unsurprisingly enough I wasn't far from her place. 

After another good long soak and some laundering I felt much better.  I decided to hell with this business for today.  Home for a quick nosh, a couple of drinks and then to bed. I made all haste to head back across Pavis, yet again, and amazingly found myself at Gimpy's without seeing any crazies, being kidnapped, or stumbling across any more murders.  I was considerably more careful this time entering the passageway to Gimpy's but this time I was unaccosted. There wasn't any entertainment this night so there was just the usual crowd hanging out.  I sat down at my favorite table and asked the server for something to eat better than that damn stew they get out of their magic kettle.  And a bottle of Lunar wine.  She raised her eyebrows at this especially when I told her to put it on my tab but they know I'm good for it around here so she went off to place the order.  Now all I had to do was think of some way to put the wine on my expense account.  Maybe I could claim that I had used it to fend off kidnappers or something.  What a waste that would be.

I fully enjoyed my meal and was part way through enjoying my bottle of wine when my pleasure was terminated by the appearance of Lord Belvani, lizard in tow in the doorway.   I ignored the pair of them as they made their way across the room.  Belvani looked very chipper as he plopped himself down uninvited on the other chair at the table.   His lizard just squatted there on the floor beside him.  I sat there enjoying my wine ignoring him.  He waited a bit for me to greet him and when this wasn't forthcoming  made a move for my bottle of wine!  I very deliberately moved the bottle out of his reach.  Instead he called a server over and ordered one too!

He waited for his wine and patiently bore my ignoring him.  After his bottle had come and he had served himself a glass and had a taste he beamed at me and asked, "Made any progress today?"  I looked over at him finally and replied, "Not really.  Have you?"  "No, afraid not."  He took another drink, "I did check with Haloric though and we have an appointment to see Karial the Pure tomorrow morning after the greeting ceremony." "Well that's something I suppose." I replied.  He took another sip and then said, "You know, you're not much of a drinking partner."  I looked over at him and said straight faced, "I've had a rough day." 


Well that was something I guess.  I nodded and suggested he meet me at the Sun Dome in the morning after the greeting ceremony.  We sat together in silence drinking from our respective bottles.  After a while he must have gotten bored with my sullen silence and wishing me a good night took his leave lizard in tow.  I sat there brooding about the case and drinking .  I had just decided that I had better not get drunk, no point in trying to interview the Light Priest of the temple with a hangover, when something surprising happened.  All of a sudden the place went dead quiet.   I looked around to see what was the cause of this ebb in the hubbub and who should I see in the entrance but the nutter from this afternoon.

He stood there as the people slowly and uneasily went back to what they had been doing.   It was painful to see how hard they were working at ignoring him.  He came in, not as if he owned the place, but as casual as you can get.  Ignoring the people who hastened to get out of his way, he walked straight across the fairly crowded floor, without looking around mind you, and without invitation sat down in the very chair Belvani had recently vacated.  We looked at each other.  I saw a fairly respectable looking gent.  He was dressed well in what passes for high fashion here in Pavis, i.e. something that probably wouldn't have looked out of place in the Empire of Wyrm's Friends but was hopelessly fuddy-duddy and bizarre by Imperial standards.  His hair was shoulder length and brown, fairly well groomed though there was a leaf stuck in his hair.  His hands were clean and his nails were manicured.  No dirt and no calluses.  He wore enough gold that he wouldn't have lasted ten seconds in Badside.   He had a short beard and moustache, not like an Orlanthi barbarian but more like a Dara Happan nobleman would wear.  And then I forgot all about the rest because I looked at his eyes.

I nearly lost my wine.  His eyes were green.  No, not green like yours or mine would be.  Completely green, no iris, no pupil-just green.  A deep, rich emerald green.  And then I noticed that the leaf in his hair was moving in the wind.   Of course there wasn't any wind indoors, no blowhard Orlanthi to cause any tonight.   When I looked closer I could see the vine the leaf was attached to growing out of his head.  Obviously no ordinary nutter this one.  I waited for him to make the first move.  Can't say that I enjoyed the thought of those eyes being on me at all.   I surreptitiously glanced around and noticed that the tables next to ours were suddenly empty and everyone's attention was painfully and obviously turned elsewhere.

His expression was placid.  What he saw when he looked at me I do not think I care to ever know.  He broke the silence first addressing me unexpectedly in flawless New Pelorian, "I greet you Placidus Treibonus."  I grimaced and replied, "You have the best of me, sir."  He looked thoughtful for a bit and then said, "My name is Crotus..." he paused and a slight smile came over his face, "..the Green I suspect will do."  I nodded greeting to him and offered him the last bit of wine in my bottle.  He accepted and I waved a server over to get another glass.  A very nervous lass, who I have seen serve Zorak Zoran berserks without flinching, brought us one, poured him a drink quickly but shakily.  She then jumped in the air and almost screamed when Crotus smiled at her before quite literally running away.

I rose both eyebrows and asked, "And what is it that you do for a living, Crotus?"  He continued smiling but sounded profoundly sad when he replied, "I am one the gods have decided to destroy by first driving mad, to wit a prophet."


I tried and failed to suppress a shudder.  Well that explained people's reaction to him. No doubt they are afraid to come too near him in case he tells them that they're going to get crabs soon, lose their true love or die in some horrific manner. Very wise. I stiffened my resolve and smiled what must have been a rather limp smile at him. I tried to reply nonchalantly to his devastating statement but failed miserably as a wretched croak slipped out.  I cursed myself profanely in my head and finally managed to make a reply in a voice that didn't sound too wobbly to my ears, "And the gods have sent you to me," a long pause, "with a message?"

He didn't look at me and took a long drink before replying, "The gods ride me like fleas ride a dog, ever biting me and driving me unceasingly to go places and say things that they have a need to be said."  He poured some more wine and took another long drink, nearly draining the glass in the process. "Even at night my dreams are full of them. They jostle and struggle to get to my ear and give me their messages.   Every one of them feels that their message is more dire or important than that of the others.  I wander where they direct me and they do strive most mightily to gain hold of my leads. They are like a pack of unruly dogs and I like a bitch in heat.   But now I am here in Pavis and I have uttered my prophecy of the passing of the Red Moon."  I looked nervously around but everyone was most studiously ignoring us.

He stood up after refilling and emptying his glass again and looked down at me. I quailed under his uncanny gaze.  He opened his mouth and a different voice than the one he'd been using came out.  "The God is displeased by those playing games in His Court. Beware the Spear of Truth for it pierces straight to the heart of the matter."  After making this cryptic pronouncement, which you can be sure had gotten the whole room's attention, he stumbled a little before straightening himself.

I was stunned.  I stood up and almost yelled at him. "That's it?  The gods drive you like a beast and scare the crap out of me for that?"  He looked at me again and shook his head.  "The gods need not speak clearly nor must they speak with great wisdom or intent.  But speak their words I must."  I sat back down when I realized that everyone was looking nervously at us.  I almost whispered to him, "They drive you mad and destroy your life and you get no benefit from them?  Not much of a bargain if you ask me."  He smiled sadly down at me, "I said naught of power and benefit did I?" 

He spread his arms wide and tilted his head back closing his eyes.  I felt a growing presence and so did everyone else in the room.  I can't describe what happened other than to say it was like all the light and warmth in the room seemed to flow into his fingertips.  The screaming had started even before the room went pitch black.  After a minute filled with shouts and the sound of people falling over things and knocking other things down one of the Gimpys managed to light a lamp behind the bar.   Quickly enough all the fires, torches and lamps were relit, none the worse for wear.  And of course the prophet was nowhere to be seen.  I guess you don't need light to see when the right god or gods are steering you.


People at Gimpy's started treating me like a leper after that so I decided that I needed nothing so much as a good night's sleep.  Morey the Short just managed to stop himself from making a sign to avert evil as I walked past.  This did nothing for my mood so I stomped my way up the stairs to my bedroom extra nosily and slammed the door good and hard for extra measure.

After a rotten night's sleep, that stupid prophesy had kept running through my mind all night long, I was rudely shaken out of what poor sleep I'd managed to drop into by a knock on the door.  I told Belvani, who else would it be, and his lizard to go do something to themselves.  He chuckled, "Tut tut Placidus, my god doesn't allow that sort of behavior.  Besides which I'm sure I'd rupture something if I tried.  I thought I'd come and get you early so you could get cleaned up and have a decent breakfast before our interview with Karial." I swore some more.  "All right I'll be right out.  Why don't you wait downstairs for me."  "Certainly", he replied and I heard footsteps retreating down the corridor.

I managed to drag myself together and make myself somewhat respectable.  I made my way downstairs where I found Belvani sitting at a table enjoying a traditional Sun County breakfast of some stale barley cakes, some dried fruit and what joy, some dried fish.   I sat down asked for wine and helped myself to some fruit and one of the cakes.   I declined the fish with a shudder.  After I had gnawed at my cake in silence for a bit, I gave up in disgust and dunked it in my cup of wine to soften it up.   Belvani, who had been happily consuming everything in sight, had remained silent other than to comment that it was breakfast just like mother used to make.

Finally he spoke up, "So I hear that the gods have granted you a prophesy?   What was it, "Beware lest the spear of truth pierce your heart?" or something like that?"  "Oh wonderful.  I supposed it was too much to hope that it would have stayed put."  I shook my head.  "Yes, something like that.  It'd be nice were something to be stuck in my front for a change.  I'm getting tired of being stabbed in the back and taking it up the.."   Belvani interrupted helpfully to point out that, "You can certainly be stabbed in the heart from behind."  I cast an extremely sour look at him that shut him up.  We sat in silence again after that as I forced down my wine soaked barley biscuit and some more dried fruit.  Oh well at least I'd probably be regular.

After we'd both finished, Belvani paid for breakfast and we made our way over to the Sun Dome Temple without incident.  Unless you want to count all the people making signs against evil at me or crossing the street to avoid me stepping on their shadows as incidents.  Stupid prophets.  Anyway we finally made it to the Temple just as the morning rites to greet great Yelm were finishing up.  Belvani spoke to one of the templars on duty and we were ushered in to cool our heels for a while outside Karial the Pure's inner sanctum.


I say "while" but of course what I really meant was a seeming eternity.   It felt like we sat there long enough to develop bed sores on our butts but that'd be an exaggeration.  We did however sit there long enough for me to watch the pattern of light on the opposite wall from us move half way across the wall.  This light was coming from a small window high in the wall above us.  I did notice something interesting about the followers of Yemalio while we waited though.  They go out of their way to avoid shadows. Their buildings are generally very well lit with either magic, natural light, reflected natural light-using polished metal surfaces, very profligate, lamps or torches.  If they're walking down a corridor and find a patch of shadow, or worse, darkness, they'll go out of their way to avoid it.  Walking around it if possible or even turning back, or better yet getting a servant to rekindle whatever light source went out. Better a servant dare the darkness than someone important.  It'd be too hard to purify them. I suppose trolls avoid light sources in the same fashion.

We'd sat there for quite some time as I was saying, in fact I think we had both drifted off, when a clattering woke us. We sat up trying our best not to look like they had caught us sleeping and saw that it was Haloric Goldbrow and a dozen templars dressed in the full formal get up of pisspots and pointed sticks.  Telling them to wait we got to our feet as he strode up purposefully, nodded courteously to us, knocked on the door, waited hardly any time at all and then went in.  Belvani and I looked confused at each other and he'd just begun to say, "What's going..." when the door opened again and out came Haloric, Karial the Pure and the supercilious clerk from a few days ago. 

When Haloric came out the templars quickly put themselves in formation behind him and Karial.  The clerk was left to find a spot way in back.  Once this was all done Karial nodded at Haloric who gave the order for them to start and they began marching down the hall without so much as a by your leave.  I hastened to impose myself before the procession, no mean trick with a bum leg.  Haloric held up a hand and stopped the parade.  I nodded agreeably to first Karial and then Haloric and said, "What gives?  We", pointing in Belvani's direction, "have an appointment."   Karial looked down his nose at me and said in a dry husk of a voice, "I am afraid that will have to wait.  I am on my way to bury my nephew." 

Part XXX

It was bloody hot at the funeral.  If you believed those scimitar and seduction stories that are so popular back in Glamour it should have been raining.  You know the ones I mean, they don't so much as border on the pornographic as emigrate and take up full citizenship.  Well anyway, whenever there's a funeral in one of those stories it's always raining and drear.  But not here in bloody Pavis.  Not at this time of year anyway.  No, here it was hot and sunny.  The kind of sunny that makes you fully believe in the awesome power of Yelm, or whatever you call your local sun deity anyway.  I believe the Praxians think Yelm's a big bird spirit called Sun Hawk or something like that.  Matters weren't helped any by the Yemalian's insistence on holding funerals at high noon so Yelm can take one last look at the dearly departed before he or she is entrusted to the embrace of Ernalda the Earth Goddess.  So there we were standing around these two holes in the ground waiting to entrust the not so dearly departed to the Earth's cold embrace.  Or dry and dusty embrace here in Prax.

It was quite a crowd gathered round the cemetary.  On top of all the Yemalian local notables and most of the Sun Town quarter, bunch of idiots standing out in the hot sun risking sunshot, there were other local notables, most of whom were smart and disrespectful enough to stand under some canopies Sor-Eel had wisely had set up.   Belvani was standing out in the sun as Count Solanthos' official representative while I stood with my Lunar buddies under a canopy.  No idiot I.  It was a pretty big turnout I must say.  There were all the bigwigs from Sun Town, Karial the Pure, Haloric Goldbrow, a paunchy guy with a twisted foot I recognized as Thrandren Clubfoot, priest of the solar wagon god Lorkanos, and his assistant Durdath plus a nameless chorus of spear carriers, modest veiled women and the simple folk who do all the work.  I noticed that other than a small honour guard for the stiffs that most of the templars weren't wearing their plate.  Smart boys after all. 

The Lunar turn out was pretty good too, besides myself there was Sor-Eel and Bor-Eel, Radak the Iron Centurion, Sitzmag Redmoon, Commander of the Antelope Lancers, Hucipites, Commander of the Marble Phalanx, and Banaryos, Commander of the Silver Shields.  Plus a full contigent from the Seven Mothers temple, Porusa the Patient, the High Priestess, Hetaera Thessen, Priestess of Irripi Ontor, Berene Pavalava, the Mother of Mercy, my old pal Harnasti, and Pharnastes Rugbagian and Valerina the Peddler, both followers of Etyries.  Plus of course lots of scribes, fan wavers, water bringers and bodyguards.   Jotoran Longsword and Jorjar the Quick stood with us as well.

Under a separate canopy were the Pavic contingent including most if not all of the daughters of Pavis.  Benderri, Pavis' only "son", Fleeter Nemm, Ginkizzie the Mostali, Bendrath, Cyrilius Harmonius, Bilkar and the only non-crossdresser in the bunch the unfortunately named Broosta.  Standing with them was the self-proclaimed King of the Rubble Hargran.  Leader of the Pavis Royal Guard and most appropriately titled "the Dirty".  Smelly would have worked as well, as would Stinky, Gross or Disgusting. With them were civic notables like Byrgga Scissorstongue, head of the Cloth and Leather Workers Guild, my new "friend" Hallarax the Singer, and Kolli the Portly, Head of the Jeweler's Guild.  There were some other guildmasters as well.   I'd guess that most of them had shown up since this was such a political event.

There was even an Orlanthi contingent.  It always amazes me when they can show up at social events with the Yemalians and avoid getting into those stupid ritual challenges.   Deezola spare me from having to listen to any more of their bad doggerel!   Faltikus the Good the newish High Priest of Orlanth was there.  You could almost see the leash running from the collar around his neck to Sor-Eel's hand.   Krogar Wolfhelm was standing beside him sporting his usual wolf helm and wearing an iron chain hauberk.  He was studiously ignoring the angry gazes he was getting from most of the Lunars.  Beside him was Willem Noralar, Sword of Humakt, the elderly Issaries, Kost the Tracker and some of his Bison pals, and Silva Uleriablest, High Priestess of the Uleria temple.  You could tell from the way their clothing was moving that they were using slyphs to keep themselves cool.  Lucky bastards!   There were some other Orlanthi types too including that duck and, sigh, Harkala Glad-help.  I waved at her trying not to look too goofy.  She waved back and got a reproving look from the stiff standing beside her.

There was even some river folk, no newtlings though.  Too hot and they seem to resent people that eat their tails for some reason.  Go figure. The ceremony seemed to last forever and I spent my time scanning the crowd to see if I could spot anyone who might be worth questioning.  Amazingly none of the Yemalians fainted from the heat.   They're a tough bunch, gotta give them that.  There were quite a lot of rituals to go through and special ceremonies to do, these were murder victims after all.   Nobody wanted them wandering the land feeling unfullfilled or seeking vengeance after all. They wanted to make sure that they stayed put.  As a special precaution guards would be posted to keep marauders from stealing body parts and using them for evil magic.  At least until the corpses were safely rotted I suppose.

Finally all the prayers were finished and the eulogies were over.  Funnily enough the one for Cressidus was pretty short and factual. No one spoke ill of the dead. Karial managed to speak at some length of how promising his nephew had been and how obviously Yemalio needed him in the other world more than He needed him here.  Funny, if my god needed me I hoped He would send a celestial chariot or winged messengers.  Or even smite me rather than let me be brutally stabbed and dumped in a cow pen to lie in the shit.  Sorry, cebu pen.   But all things must come to an end and so did the ceremony.  Some gnomes shoveled dirt over the stiffs and people started heading for shelter from the sun.

I waited to see if anyone would linger and was rewarded by the sight of a woman wrapped in long robes and properly veiled like a Yemalian who remained by Cressidus' graveside.   Lover?  Hater?  Creditor?  I decided to make it my business to find out.

On to part 2


*This is a very slightly altered take on "Withered and Died" by Richard and Linda Thompson from the album "I Want to see the Bright Lights Tonight." Return to the story.

Story begun July 30, 2002.  This page last modified April 15, 2004 (Persona Dramatis list updated January 27, 2005).


Last updated September 26, 2016

Glorantha is a trademark of Chaosium, Inc. Gloranthan material on this page is copyright ©1997-2016 by Oliver D. Bernuetz or by the author specifically mentioned on an individual page. Glorantha is the creation of Greg Stafford, and is used with his permission.

Email me at

Powered by Neocities