By John Page

William walked down the hallway. The hallway was made of stone and well furnished. General James O’Mal was a wealthy man and maintained his ancestral home as per his duty. William had served with the General in the campaigns along the savage frontier. After the trolls had been pacified the then sergeant William had taken a job at the castle. He had served in castle Puecasr for fifty years. He was loyal to the general and felt at peace. The Eltic islands were beautiful in the morning and Hibern was the most beautiful island of all.

William admired the view of the ocean but then remembered the general was waiting for him. He made sure that the breakfast was ready. He walked up to the wooden door. He rapped  three times and then went to open the door. The door was locked. That was unusual. He tried again and then called to the general. The general did not reply. William grew worried and tried again. Feeling panic he went to go find the key. After looking for a while he gave up and found another servant.

Together they forced the door open and rushed inside. The general was old and must have been sick. What they saw was unexpected.  The old library was covered in blood. The blood was arranged in a pattern. The body was of the general was in three pieces. The middle on a couch. The torso was on the floor. Attached to the ceiling was the general’s head. The general’s face was one of horror. The smell was horrific. William turned and threw up.

The other servant, Sean, went to call for the others. Something bad had happened and his soldier’s instincts told him they need to get help. The castle was in uproar. From the highest tower to the outer gates dozens of figures searched all over the castle. They could not found anything that could explain the death.

William and Sean went back to the room and looked again. The horror was extreme. William was looking at the ceiling when Sean said, “O by the Father why did they write that!”

“Write what?” William said with a whisper. Sean replied, “The blood says ‘For your sins you must pay.'”

 

…………

Two days later I arrived. The murder of major general O’Mal had stumped the Eltic police. No evidence of a murderer was found beside the body of the victim and the blood. This blood is his. Who or whatever write with it seems to have left nothing on it. It’s like a ghost had done it.

Another factor that was disconcerting was the general had died in a room that was locked from the inside. There was no sign of any entry or any hidden room.

Many feared some sort of demonic or mage attack. Magic was rare but not used often these days.  Thus it was unlikely but not impossible. Still there was no sign of magic use. No sign of anything. This mystery is driving the police mad. Thus I am here. I land at 9:30 on the second tenday of Michelmonth.

Hibern is a green and misty island. The waves crash against the grey rocks. I get off the helicopter and walk up to the castle. It is about a hundredth the size of the imperial palace in Pinso, but that is perhaps an unfair comparison. That structure is the size of a small city. This is more than big enough for any kind of lord.

I shake off that thought and walk to the two old men standing by the gate. They stand at attention in military style. I walk up to them and say my name, “I am High Inspector Redmount of the Order of Saint Andrew. You are?”

Both men are dressed in traditional Eltic manner. Kilts, tunics and long pants. They are covered in tattoos of clan loyalty. They look very fierce and slightly archaic. The taller of the two says, “I am William Mahoy, head butler of castle Puecasr. Thank you very much for helping us. We are a loss of what to do.”

The other man, shorter and with red hair, nodded his head, “I am Sean Frun. I am the chief forester of the castle.”

William then tells me the details of the murder and the fruitless attempts to find anything more. They talked about how O’Mal did not want to have security cameras so that possibility was not an option. I am frustrated by the Eltics avoidance of modern tech.

After talking with them we walk to the castle. On the castle’s main gate is the symbol of O’Mal, three crossed blades over a tree. We enter the castle and walk down the hallway. They take me to the room. The library had been sealed off to prevent any disturbance in the crime scene.

I ask them to tell more about what happened in the hours before the murder. William started talking, “Inspector the day before had been quite. The general spent most of the day in his library reading. The meals were sent to him. He talked with me about organizing a reunion of the fourth army.  I talked with him only ten hours before I found him dead. I wished him good night and then went to bed. Outside the only item of note was a large bird was seen flying out of the house.”  I take of the information down and look at the room. It seems exactly as described. It is an expensive room with oak wood paneling and golden plate on the fixtures.

This does not seem like a room where someone would die. It is a room of calm. I reach out with my mage sense. The room is empty of any kind of magic. I ask Sean where the victim was. He turns and starts walking.

They lead me to the kitchen. The kitchen is magically cool and so the body is preserved. I looked at the body. It has been cleaned but it was still clear the man died of violence. It was cut up brutally and surgically. The face had an expression of fear. The man’s tattoos were elaborate in greens and reds. I notice that he had piercings. I ask them what happened to his piercings. Sean looks confused, “Aren’t they there? No one would remove the General’s honor rings. Those are symbols of his rank. Are your sure they are not there?” I wave him over and he looks confused and keeps checking for them. He looks upset and asks William what happened to the honor badges. They both look around the room and look sick.

I ask them if anyone would take them. They reply, “No one would do that. The honor rings are traditions used sense we came to these island fifteen thousand years ago. The Father in heaven gave us this tradition. Stealing them would be a sin.”

I consider that information and ask who else works in the palace. They tell me that every servant is Eltic born and from the island of Hibern. The General would have employed people from other places but no one wants to move to an island this far from Reolic.  The only three who have ever even been off the island are O’Mal, Sean and William.

I have each employee come to me individually and I question them. Each is dressed in traditional Eltic style. The tattoos fascinate me. I know that the Eltics add tattoos to themselves based personal achievements. So some of the youngest ones only have four or five lines while the oldest have hundreds.  No one seems to know anything beyond what I was told. I ask them about their background and I find out that Sean had been captured by the Lamias during the jungle purges of 3461, forty eight years ago. He did not seem to want to talk about it too much but the over servants tell me that he was a jolly man before but had grown stem since then. They were afraid of him but the general trusted him. William seems to have been lost for a few days in the savage fringes but was more than willing to talk about battling dragons and greyskins. He then starts telling me everything about his clan and what kind of sheep are best. After been talked at for an hour I manage to escape him.

I am frustrated as I can find nothing more. Sean might be a lead but every town has stern old men who had fought in the dark places around the seventy three worlds. Thought Lamian was known as a dangerous place even by the standards of the military. The Atigonia Empire has many foes and only the might of the sword keeps us safe.

I walk around the castle searching with before mundane and magical senses. I go back to the room and check it a third time. I look at papers and books. It is all a mess. I ignore my frustration and look with new eyes.

I see a book on the table. I pick it up and examine it. It is a book of spells. The book is old but the power seems to have left it. A depleted spell book is like an empty gun. An interesting item and might be good to hit someone with but not a deadly weapon. Still why does he have a spell book? I look at it and try to read it. At first I cannot read it. All I see are complex hieroglyphics arranged in circle patterns. I look around the room and see another book. It is written in Atig. I look at it determine that is a translation of the spell book.

The book is a surprising book for an Eltic gentleman. It is a copy of the Zohogin Hag, the world’s oldest necromancy book. This book is banned by virtually every nation in the world. How would he even found this is beyond me. I look again at the room. Every other book is an expected book such as prayer or history books. This book and the translation seem out of place.

I stare at the ceiling again and see a feather. A feather of a black bird. I put the book with the feather and feel a slight surge of power. I look against the papers and see one that is a legal document. The paper is a will. It is written in O’Mal’s hand. It shows two facts to me. One is that the translation is not in his hand and that the will had been recently changed. I start to see a pattern here.  I have a hunch.

I ask William to have everyone sign something and to bring me the signatures. They are confused but agree to. I take the paper and look at the writing. So far nothing matches but I notice that one person did not send me anything.

I go and ask William where Sean is. He tells me that he does not know thought he should be at his house behind the castle. I tell him I think I know who killed the General. William looks shocked but grabs his old service gun. We head out to Sean’s house.

Before we get there the house explodes and a chunk of a door flies at us. Before it hits us I cast a spell of shielding and the door shatters. We race toward the blast site and see a raven fly off into the air. I tell William, “That bird is a familiar of who killed the General. We need to bring it down.” I fire at it but miss. It looks like it will get away but is struck in the both wings by William. I hear him say, “Still got it.”  I see the old man smirk and it twists his tattoos into a new pattern.

I hurl a spell of capture and bring the bird to us. The bird dissolves into a pile of feathers and metal. I hear a man cry with a roar of pain. William and I runs to the cry and we see Sean laying on the ground. His arms are torn and he looks ill. He tries to rise but I jump on him and restrain him. He tries to struggle but William punches him and he is rendered unconscious. William is shaking with rage. He mutters at Sean and shows me the metal of the bird. It is as I thought. The honor rings of O’Mal had been stolen to make this familiar.

I radio for the local police to come and we arrest Sean. He does not want to talk and looks simply grim. I tell him what I think happened, “You met someone or something that taught you dark magic while in Lamia. The book has your fingerprints on it. You kept it secret since then. You killed the General as you had been left out of the will. Was there a fight. You stole his honor rings so the spell would be cast within him. A blade raven is a nasty way to kill someone. The bird was formed and cut him in thirds. Yet it seems the spell had a mind of its own and scattered the body and wrote a message. Why did you do it? Where you jealous that everyone who worked for the General would get part of his wealth. You all where his family as he was never married and his brothers had all died childless. Why did you stay here afterwards?” He looks at me and says with a growl, “I killed him as the old fool kept bugging me about the Zohogin Hag. He threatened to fire me if I didn’t tell him how to use magic. I am well educated and hate having to be a servant. After being captured in Lamia no one would hire me. They all thought I was cursed.

Only O’Mal would hire me. We worked together during the wars and had gone to school together, He didn’t find out I was a mage until a few weeks ago. He was scared of death and wanted a way to avoid it. When I told him I couldn’t do that he wrote me out of the will and stole me books. I was his oldest friend and he treated me like dirt. He still expected I would work for him. So I stole his honor rings and stuck the spell in it. I decided to add a cryptic phrase to make it sound arcane. My damn arm hurts and I longer care. This is where I lived for thirty years. I didn’t want to leave here and figured no one would figure out how I did it. I want you to know O’Mal was an inept necromancer and thus he is a criminal. You should thank me for getting rid of him.” He spits as he says that and scowls.

I ask him if he understands that killing O’Mal and using dark magic will lead to the rest of his life in jail at best. He tells me, “I don’t care anymore. Killing my familiar took something out of me.” He slumps down and looks defeated. I check me watch. The time is 18:56. The case seems to be over but also seems like something is wrong. This is not the whole story.

 

One thought on “The Man at the Door

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