Post by DM Hawk on Feb 5, 2016 0:44:00 GMT -5
The third entered the room, dripping from the winter storm that blustered outside the walls of stone. He nodded to the other two. As they offered greetings of their own, he removed the heavy overcoat he wore, wet and cold, and folded it over the back of the nearest oaken chair.
The first man, whose home this was, stood near the center of the chamber. The walls did little to keep out the night's chill, though a fire burned in the room's hearth. The fire's flickering light joined with that of the wall-mounted torches to cast their dancing shadows on each face. The second sat in a chair across from the entrance. A drinking glass possessed of smokey spirits was held forgotten between fingers likely to let fall at any moment. A half-empty bottle stood on the wooden floor beside the man's tall leather boot.
"Apologies, my lords. The storm delayed my arrival," the third said.
"We weren't going anywhere," answered the first.
The second said nothing. His eyes were downcast as he sat. The third followed his gaze towards the polished planks of the wooden floor.
"This him?" The third gestured to the long horse blanket at the host's feet, and to what it covered.
"It is," said the first.
"Show me, please."
The second man remembered his glass and took a drink.
Dripping rainwater into a small puddle at his feet, the third man squatted across from the first and watched as he lifted the blanket. The second man looked away, finding great interest in the hearth fire. The first was grim and quiet. The third thought he was ready when the remains came into view, but he found himself drawing a quick breath as his hand reflexively rose to ward off a curse.
The third regained his composure, lowered his hand, and determined himself to study the ruin that rested on the lodge's wooden floor.
"Tell me," he asked.
The first answered, "He was found on the Ranger's Way between the towns, much as you see him now."
"Traveling traders bound for the capital." It was the second who answered, speaking for the first time since the third's arrival. "They traded in town a few days before continuing on their way. They abandoned everything and fled back to my gate when they came upon him."
"Strangers then. Are you certain it is not their work?" asked the third.
The second swallowed a sip of spirits, then answered. "If they did they are skilled at pretense. Ashen faced and trembling, abandoning all their worldly goods in flight...no, my lord I believe them innocent. "
"Where are they now?"
"The Lathanderites comfort them."
"And their worldly goods? Did they have beasts or burden?"
The first answered, "In my custody. My rangers came upon it next. Found him, the goods, wagon, and the animals."
"But for him, yes."
"Do you suppose some beast fed from him? asked the second.
"I've not seen an beast be so choosey. Look at what is missing, my lord. How precise."
"Murder," said the first. "Torture."
"Or something else."
"The drums?" asked the second.
"The orcs." Said the first.
"Perhaps. What of their raids?"
The third looked at the first who nodded his agreement. Then the first asked, "Has your scout made his way back to report?"
The third replaced the blanket over the remains. "He has, my lords. Here he lay."
"Your man?" asked the first.
The third nodded.
"The Crown. We should cry for aid." said the second.
"We shall if we have exhausted our options."
The first looked over.
"What options?" Asked the second. "We've each lost a man to this murder."
"We can start by calling up our reserves. Have them watch by day while the regular guard stands watch after dusk, when the orcs come. We may seek the help of adventurers as well."
"And the murderer?" The second began refilling his glass from the bottle.
"Open our coffers my lords. We're going to ask her help again."