Wednesday, July 16, 2014


The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 2

"Another one," Chester muttered.

Guardsman Darrik looked up from the body, a bruised and bloody teenage boy who was face-down in a ditch outside the town border.  "I know you're new," Darrik said, "but you said you grew up here in Fannen-Dar, isn't that right?"

"Everyone in Fannen-Dar grew up in Fannen-Dar," Chester said.  "The rest leave as soon as they realize they took a wrong turn."

Darrik nodded, the light shining off his plain, round helmet.  "Then you should be used to this.  There are at least a dozen murders a week, and those are only the ones we find and clean up."

Chester helped hoist the body onto the cart.  Its face and legs were broken, as if he were bashed around with a hammer, but his back was untouched except for the knife wound.  The horse turned towards the guards, giving them a dreary look through its droopy eyes.  "This is different," Chester said.  "Whenever I've heard about someone being killed, it was either because they were caught in the act of something or another by the wrong person, or they were rich and got mugged, or it was gang related."  He ran the hem of the dead boy's shirt through his hands.  It was plain burlap.  "This kid was not rich, and there's no gang warning marks on him."

Darrik shook his head.  "How is it different?  He got beat up, then stabbed in the back.  He probably just upset the wrong people.  It's not hard to do."

"I suppose..." Chester said.  It still didn't explain why the killer had dumped the body outside town.

The horse gave a gargled whinny, begging them to hurry it up already so it could get away from the stink.  The guards covered the boy's body and set off for the watch house.

Chester sat deep in thought on the ride back.  The smell didn't particularly disturb him, since living in Fannen-Dar tended to condition one to atmospheric grossness.  It was true that murders happened almost every day there, but Chester had been a member of the guard for nine months, and had only noticed these random killings in the past one.  A woman who was the wife of a merchant, an elderly noble man who had retired from the town court, and now this boy who was barely sixteen.  None had any of the hallmark signs of a run-of-the-mill murder.  None looked run-of-the-bank, run-of-an-estate, or run-of-a-guild-hall either.  Yet, there was no connection among the three victims.

"Hold on," Chester said.  Darrik was maneuvering the cart up South Street.  Fannen-Dar had four main streets, each pointing away from the center of the town, where the marketplace was.  They stretched off in the directions of, roughly, northeast, northwest, southwest, and south-southeast.  It was simpler just to name them North, South, East, and West Streets.  The main roads were wide, but busy at this time of day, and Darrik was already getting dirty looks from the dirty faces trying to pass the bulky horse and cart.  He shook his head, concentrating on driving.

Chester grabbed the reigns.  "Hey!" Darrik shouted, but Chester pulled back, and the confused horse stopped in the middle of the street.  "We have things to do, guardsman!" Darrik shouted.  Chester scrambled out of his seat and moved to the back of the cart.  He tossed aside the blanket, ignoring the gasps and complaints from the passerby.  He grabbed the body of the boy and examined the stab wound on his back.

Darrik grumbled as Chester leaped back into his seat.  He almost complained, but he stopped when he saw the look on Chester's face.  His eyes were wide and grim, like an inventor on the brink of a discovery.  Or like a madman with a conspiracy theory.

"We must go to the guardhouse," Chester said.

Darrik scoffed.  "This thing smells already.  We're supposed to bring it to the mausoleum."

"Under normal circumstances," Chester said.  "But we need to show him to the captain.  Then we can go to the mausoleum and check the other bodies."

"What, you mean those two you were going on about last week?"

"Yes.  I think I've found a connection.  We just need to check them to make sure."

Darrik sighed, and shook the reigns.  The horse plodded forward.  "You know, I don't have to listen to your mage-brained ideas.  I'm the superior officer here."

"You're a pal, Darrik."

The cart pulled up in front of the guardhouse twenty minutes later.  Chester jumped down, leaving Darrik to bring the horse to the stable.  He took off his helmet as he entered.  Even as he walked at the fastest pace he could without it being considered running, none of the other guards gave him a single glance.  No one needed to pay attention to yet another brown-haired, brown-eyed, human guard, especially with not a single medal on his chest.  This would change that.  They would start to pay attention to him now.

He came to a stop in front of the door to the captain's quarters.  A cold sweat began to form on the back of his neck.  Even with an important find, talking to the captain still sounded preferable only to a thorough leech treatment.

Chester knocked on the door and entered.  The captain was sitting at his desk, a pale fire glowing behind him, looking over a scroll.  Chester noticed the purple seal of the town council on the document before the captain put it in a drawer and stood up.

"Ah, guardsman...Chadwick, yes?"

"Chester, Captain Ignatius, sir.  I have-"

The captain held up a hand and started to walk around the desk.  "You joined...five months ago, is that right?"

Chester coughed to hide his irritation.  "Nine.  Nine months, sir."

The captain nodded, a smile pulling the ends of his curled mustache.  "Well, we all have to...take our time working our way up, don't we?"

"Yes, sir," Chester said, then tried getting right to the point.  The captain, Chester had discovered from the little he saw of him, was covered with points, from his mustache to the toes of his leather boots, but hated getting to them.  Chester had never once seen him draw his sword.  "Sir, I need to speak with you about the murder reported this morning."

Ignatius raised his long, thin eyebrows.  "I have not...been informed about that yet, but I assume this is because it was...deemed unimportant, is that not so?"

"Perhaps," Chester conceded, "but I believe there may be more to it.  This body, and two others in the past month, were discovered without any clues as to why they were killed.  I examined the body we picked up this morning, and discovered something unusual-"

"My dear boy," Captain Ignatius said, "if we were to spend this much thought on every back-alley murder we found...well, we wouldn't have the energy to dedicate ourselves to...preventing them in the first place, would we?"

"That may be true, usually, sir, because the reason for the murder is usually clear cut, but this time it does not seem so," Chester barreled on without giving the captain a chance to interrupt again, "for none of the usual indications are there, but rather I noticed that the knife wound on his back had no signs of blood except within the wound itself.  Sir," he added.

The captain straightened up.  Chester realized that the man was actually quite short and physically unintimidating.  "Does that really signify anything, guardsman?" the captain said.  "Perhaps the knife simply did not hit any major arteries."

"The wound was too deep for that possibility," Chester replied.  "There is the chance, thought that the blade was heated."  He gave a brief pause, and was surprised to find that the captain did not have anything to say.  "A heated blade could cauterize the wound as it made it, thus not creating the blood splatter we would expect."

Captain Ignatius stroked his short beard.  "You think...a blacksmith is to blame, do you?"

Chester shook his head.  "I can't say for sure, sir.  But we should take a look at the other bodies to see if their wounds match."

Chester thought he saw a smile briefly flicker across the captain's face.  Captain Ignatius sat slowly back down in his chair, and when he turned his gaze back upon Chester, his expression was one of grim reluctance.  "Unfortunately...that will not be possible.  You see...those bodies have already been buried."

"What?  Er, pardon my asking, sir, but aren't murder victims supposed to be kept on ice for at least a month if the circumstances around their deaths are unknown?"

"That's just it, though.  We know what happened to them.  Simple, unfortunate attacks."  Captain Ignatius reclined slightly.  "In fact, I can say with much...certainty that I do recall seeing plenty of blood on their wounds.  That would seem to go against your theory, does it not?"

"Simple attacks?" Chester balked.  "Sir, we still don't know who killed them."

"And we never will, guardsman.  Are you questioning your superior officer?"

Chester straightened his spine.  His brow clenched with cognitive dissonance.  "No, sir."  That was it, then.  That's how it was.  The gears might be ugly, they might make grating, cacophonous noise, but as long as they kept turning, the cogs would be kept in line.  After the captain didn't say anything else, Chester added, "I suppose that is all, then.  I'll return to my duties."

"Take the rest of the day off, actually," Captain Ignatius said.  "You seem to be under a lot of...strain today, yes?  Take some time to unwind, Chauncey."

Chester would have to wait to look through the town watch's files until tomorrow, then.  He wondered if that was the reason for the dismissal.  He saluted in the typical Cadererian fashion, a fist over the heart, and left the captain's office.  Something was amiss in Fannen-Dar.  And that was besides the usual muggings, murders, and schemes.  The gears were headed towards a grinding halt.

<< Prologue, Heroes

<< Chapter 1, Chase
Chapter 3, Poison >>

No comments:

Post a Comment