Monday, June 1, 2015

(Murder in Amphail) The Eighth Murder Scene

The sun was just beginning its decent behind the Sword Mountains; soon, Balder Ironshield noted, the mountain’s jagged shadows would consume Amphail ahead of the night. Having departed loremaster Syle’s residence Balder Ironshield was eager to stop the evil of Urneil from returning the realms, and now they knew where this ritual killer will strike next. To complete the rune to summon the demon, the final murder will occur at the same location as the first. But one thing remained: to visit a half-elf descendent of the elven Knights who defeated the demon centuries ago to see if he still possesses a Luminous Blade necessary to defeat the demon should they fail to stop the killer.

The half-elf named Highmore resided in an unsound and architecturally outdated tower. Balder observed how the tower leaned a few degrees, a common flaw of its design. Highmore’s tower had fallen into disrepair, Callam told them on the way to the residence, lamenting on how the nobles of Amphail wanted to restore the tower but Highmore resisted prompting questions about his mental faculties in his advanced years.

“Unfortunately now most of the nobility are just waiting for Highmore to pass on,” Callam was saying just as a large wagon of manure was being hauled from Highmore’s tower to the street for sale. “Most think of him as a recluse seeing how he hardly ever comes out of his tower,” the young Lieutenant said with a tone of remorse for the old half-elf.

A long tattered yellow rope hung outside the front door of the tower, it swayed subtly in the late afternoon. It was a long moment before any activity was heard inside the tower after Balder yanked the rope ringing a bell somewhere inside.

“Does Highmore have any assistants?” Shar asked as they were waiting.

“Not that I am aware, just merchants who make deliveries,” Callam said regretfully just as the tower’s splintered oaken door creaked open revealing a confused elderly half-elf.

“Master Highmore, I am Lieutenant Callam under command of the Lord of Amphail and these three individuals behind me are special investigators, we would like to ask you a few questions.”  

As this meeting played out Shar took stock of the half-elf with distaste. Shar was a drow noble by birth; his lineage could be traced back generations to some of the very founders of Ched Nasad. ‘Dobluth’ in drow meant outcast or misfit and was the word that immediately came to Shar’s mind when he first say the half-elf. Highmore's line was littered with the breeding of half-elves, humans, and elves. The drow could see Highmoore’s left arm had never fully developed after birth; it hung pathetically next to his body, lame. And to complement the half-elf, Shar mused; Highmore seemed to be down with a lung sickness.

Inside the ground floor of the tower, Balder could easily see this was the only area that was safe to occupy and apparently so did Highmore because everything the half-elf could need was located on the large ground floor. Once Highmore was comfortable and back in his bed, Hilmar and Balder explained what they had learned so far. Shar politely did not involve himself in the palaver with the half-elf.

Highmore

“So as you can see,” Balder said with sincerity, “we need to find one or more of these magical swords wielded by your ancestors to defeat the demon.”

Highmore’s response was a throaty laugh that quickly turned into violent coughing. Balder administered a healing elixir to the ailing half-elf which calmed his coughing as well as his laughter.

“Thank you good dwarf, I do in fact have two of the luminous blades that you speak of. If you know the story as I think ye know Dwarf, I still have the blade belonging to the eldest and youngest of the knights of old.” Highmore said obviously feeling better.

Rising from his bed, “put these weapons to their intended purpose good dwarf, and when it is done come back and tell me the tale of your victory,” As Highmore said this the half-elf produced two elven-crafted rapiers wrapped in woven elven tabards, the vestments the knights wore and died in as evidenced in the dried blood stains.
               
“I will,” Balder said solemnly taking the weapons, moved by the half-elf’s generosity in the face of his debilities. “Rest now, we will return with tales of our victory on the morn.”



Balder Ironshield
Later as the sun set in the west, Balder watched the last of the sunlight move along the height of Highmore’s tower as Callam lead him and his companions to the site of the first murder and the foul stench of shit.

Turing the corner the Balder could see that Loab and Garl were waiting at the old murder scene when a broken wagon dumped its load of manure all over the site of the first ritual murder. It did not look like any of the men were volunteering to step forward to clean it up.

“Damn!” Callam curses aloud. “Night is upon us and we do not have time for this, we may scare off the killer. Everyone find secure places, we will place a watch on this location.”

Ever the tactician, Balder proceeded to hand out orders to everyone. Loab and Garl would continue their patrols on the other side of town acting as high profile as possible, Balder hoped that would put the killer at ease; Callam and Hilmar would be around the next block, they would not be able to see the crime scene nor would the killer see them. So it made sense that Shar and Balder, the two with the greatest chance of seeing in the dark of night were stationed together.

“Shar will wield one of the blades and Hilmar the other.” Balder finished as he and his friend found suitable places to stand where they could not be seen.



Shar Auvryndar
“Did you hear that?” Shar asked Balder; it was about four hours after Balder split everyone up in efforts to give them the greatest chance at stopping the ritual killer before the demon was summoned.

“Aye,” Balder affirmed and looked toward the direction of the sound.

“Highmore?” Shar said incredulously.

With the moon directly overhead, dressed in the tabard of his ancestor, the half-elf Highmore emerged from the shadows and into the continual firelight of a streetlamp. Shar watched with mixed emotions as the frail but determined half-elf stopped atop the mound of manure and looked around peering intently into the surrounding darkness. Balder however felt the briefest moments of admiration for Highmore, but it was short lived as the warpriest realized what was about to happen.

Stepping quickly from their concealment Shar and Balder watched in disbelief as the half-elf quickly removed a knife from his belt, and looked into Balder’s intense eyes.

"It was me,” Highmore said maniacally. “I'm sorry good dwarf, this is almost over. Let the cycle be complete." With those last words, the half-elf plunged his knife into his throat and fell gasping to his knees, bleeding into the manure. Smoke, steam, and a strong stench of sulfur begin to rise from the pile.

From around the bend Hilmar and Callam appeared from a run to see that the rapidly pooling blood appeared to be opening a hole into the lower planes absorbing Highmore’s bodily form in to the manure-portal.


Shar immediately began to cast protection spells and brandished the luminous blade while Balder called forth the magic of his axe and called to his god as the manure began to bubble and boil, and from this frothing slop, Urneil the foul demon of bile and waste arises to face the immortal friendship of Balder Ironshield and Shar Auvryndar. 

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