The Solune Prince: Jagged Assembly II

The Solune Prince

Novella 1

Chapter 17: Jagged Assembly II

[Link to part 1: The Solune Prince: Jagged Assembly I]

Natasha did not wait for anyone to introduce themselves, rather, she began for them. “Astore, here on the wing. Something of a reliable man. Want is your name and station?”

Astore straightened. “Astore Reginal. I am an ex-guard and current rank three Solune Agent.”

As he spoke, Natasha wrote.

“Next, you.” Natasha looked ahead to Alexandre. “Dirge.”

“Yes, um, yes.” Alexandre was tense. She breathed. “I am Alexandre Dirge. I have a degree in Kemia, and I am between semesters for my masters in Kemia.” Natasha wrote, andw hen she had finished, she looked up at Alexandre and frowned. She hoped that by doing this, she could compel Alexandre to continue.

Alexandre did continue, though nervously. “I am also an ex-gang leader, and an ex-convict, and umm…it was only for a few months.”

“Yes.” Natasha nodded. “Next, to the Lussa guest, Lilllith.”

Lilllith spoke, composed. “I am Lilllith of the Lussa City, though I am known to some as Lilllith of the East.” She paused for a moment, possibly omitting something, and then continued. “Though I retired from the Lussa guard, I am still technically satellite member, and am often called to serve the crown. Before I had the honor of serving the royal guard, I was in the police for a period of fifteen years. I was part of the force during the time of the brief military operation that occurred a few years ago.”

Natasha nodded again and wrote.

Chloe squinted at the ceiling in order to avoid eye contact with anyone in particular while she thought about what she had just heard. So Lilllith has always been a woman of combat. And; she is rather aged after all, isn’t she. How strange…

“Next, Kent Rhye.”

Kent stopped whispering to Senica when he heard his name. “What?”

Natasha sighed visibly. “State your name and station so that the rest of your travelling party knows who you are and has an idea of what you may be capable of.”

“Oh, we’re doing like a roll call. Okay.” Kent straightened, deigning for once to look like a dignified part of the royalty. “I’ve done a whole lot of work studying the Sol-Metch in the south. They have some interesting but dangerous methods for creating energy. Nuclear. In the past, I also served as a judge, although that was under a different law system, and it was a long time ago, so I’m not sure if I could do that again.”

Natasha frowned. She wrote documents like this in point form, so she had to translate his words to fit. “Fine. Next, your woman.”

Senica, not realizing that she had been so rudely addressed, said, “I am Senica Eir-Aeur…for now anyway.” She smiled and looked around, bashful. “I work as an anthropological researcher from the Djeb, although like Kent said we also work in the south. While I was in academia, I…worked part time. Due to the nature of that work, I was trained in unarmed fighting.”

“Fine.” She finished writing, then said, “And you…the man who would hide his given name.”

The blonde-haired man mumbled to himself from the corner before speaking up. He said, “Siren.”

“Sure.” Natasha wrote. Chloe peered down the steps and over Natasha’s shoulder at her papers, something she would not have been able to do if not for her elevation, as her sister was even taller than she was. She saw that Natasha had written down a different name, quite likely the young man’s real name.

“And?” Natasha continued.

“I study biology and the liberal arts. I can play certain stringed instruments.” He scratched his stubble. “That’s it I guess.”

“Very well.”

“So, ah, that is everyone?” Chloe asked.

Natasha said, “No, there is one final person.”

“Ah? Who?”

“You.”

“Ah, yes, me! Ah—”

Natasha unclipped the sheets she had been writing on, put away her clipboard and stepped forward so that the stood with the rest, facing Chloe.

Chloe looked around at her audience. She was more alarmed than nervous. She started and then stopped a few times, failing to speak. She realized that she had accidentally begun engaging in one of her greatest fears: speaking to a crowd. She gazed around, dazed and frightened. She found confidence in her sister, Natasha, likely the oldest person in the room.

“I am Chloe Rhye, fifth Prince of the Solune. I have spent most of my life studying. I dabbled in tutoring. I can play keyboard instruments like the harpsichord…sort of. I know a bit about everything, and a lot about certain things.

“My father trained me in the royal weapon, the two handed sword. I am also versed in other forms of martial and offensive fighting, thanks to my mother. And, umm, that is all. Thank you.”

Chloe then sat down in her mother’s throne, exhausted by her effort.

Daniel Triumph.

Table of Contents

The woman in the header is Natasha Glass Rhye.

Natasha sketch
Natasha Glass Rhye, Second Prince of the Solune.

The Solune Prince: Jagged Assembly I

The Solune Prince

Novella 1

Chapter 16: Jagged Assembly I

[Auhtor’s note: This is the full version of the poem: The Solune Prince: Jagged Assembly A]

Three members of the Rhye family deemed it necessary to wash before continuing to the throne room. Chloe finished first (by a large margin), and headed down to the throne room.

 

“Come now, your rudeness, are you to be on Chloe’s expedition team then? Is that why you are here this morning?” Lilllith’s smile was wide, her eyes approaching feral.

I’ve killed more depraved looking people by accident. I’ll not fear her. That Alex had to remind herself of this disturbed her, but she spoke regardless.

“Yes; I believe I’m the first to join.”

“Of course you were.” Lilllith’s expression, despite her words, softened. “I am very interested in your manner. Likely you, you appear to care nothing for status. Is that not so? Is it that you believe everyone to be equal?”

Jutt stared.

“One of these dissident, ‘respect the janitor as we respect the ruler’ types, then?”

“I have a hierarchy. Even criminals rank higher than the lazy.”

“So what’s a janitor on such a scale as yours?”

“Well, obviously above a criminal, if they’re law-fearing.”

Lilllith gave Alexandre a strange look, a look of disbelief; as if she couldn’t understand how the woman had come to such a conclusion.

“You, of all people, teeth of silver, smooth skin around your eyes, the lips and—”

Her words stopped. She didn’t understand why, but she felt the need to speak no more. Alexandre stared, her grey eyes piercing Lilllith’s.

“Perhaps you are correct, and I am not law fearing. I fear he who creates the laws,” Alexandre said. She maintained the stare, blinking passively. Lilllith had the strange feeling that even this statement wasn’t entirely true.

There was the crack of iron on stone, as if someone very powerful had tried to open the door without turning the latch.

Lilllith, intimidated, jumped a little at the sudden noise, and froze. Astore (who had been nervously observing the two women) also jumped, though far more visibly. The handle turned.

“Ah!” Said a small voice.

“Who? Oh, Chloe it is you.” Lilllith composed herself. “Prince Chloe,” she corrected.

The surprised young women mumbled into the room and closed the door behind her “Ah ha, yes, it is me…”

 

Lilllith regarded her. Chloe had cheery, worried eyes. She noticed that when Chloe saw who was (or perhaps wasn’t) in the room, she became openly worried.

This, she who will not even hide her expression, is to be the ambassador of the Solune Royalty? Surely, she thought, this was the same nervous woman from last night. Chloe was dressed in loose clothes, though not in the same robe-like sheets as she wore during the supper. Instead, loose pants accompanied her shirt. Her hair curled softly down her back and chest, ending only past the waist save for the eye-level bangs in the front. Chloe blinked with weak eyes.

 

“Where is my father and mother? Or—” She finally caught herself, “Is anyone here who has authority or royal direction?”

Chloe looked to Astore, but she could tell by his expression that he too was uninformed. She began to gather her existence, but was interrupted by two more visitors.

Kent and Senica entered quietly, breaking her flow. She asked them, “Is Natasha coming? Or father?”

Kent shrugged for the two of them. Chloe was on her own. She rubbed her forehead with both hands, and then walked up the three steps, standing between the two thrones to address the room.

“I, ah…”

Lilllith stared her down, and Chloe noticed. As royalty, she wasn’t used to such looks, but she had in her life certainly encountered enough that it did not cause her to falter.

“I suppose that we must wait for everyone to arrive before—” Chloe started, and then immediately rephrased. “We shouldn’t, ah, get too specific before everyone is here, so, as we have yet perhaps half a sixth, I mean an hour, since we have some time yet, I suppose that I will explain in broad strokes what I believe will be happening?”

Alexandre nodded, and Chloe gave her audience a slight smile, continuing. “Although ultimately we are the party offering and sending aid, Lilllith is the only person from the Underside—” She thought of Ammelia and repositioned, “—the only person from the Underside who has come to help us, and therefore I believe that her wish to test the knowledge or strength or…whatever criteria she as chosen… I believe that such a notion is ultimately appropriate.”

Chloe looked around the room. She was unsure of what else there was to say.

Lilllith said, “Well, I suppose I should be glad to have garnered your approval, although, is not the arena being assembled already?”

“Ah, yes. I suppose it is nearly finished, though I am not sure of the details. Natasha would know. Where is she?”

Astore said, “She can be extremely punctual at times. I think that, as you said this was a noontime meeting and it’s still a few minutes to noon, she’s not here yet.”

“Just as the sun is not here yet.” Chloe nodded, and then looked up at the ceiling. The throne room was two stories high, unlike the rest of the first floor, and there was a hexagonal hole in its ceiling.

“How is it that you keep time in this city?” Lilllith asked.

Chloe replied, “There is the belltower, but even that is tuned to high noon using” she pointed at the hexagonal hole, “noon-poles. They only shine when light filters down the entire tube.”

Lilllith followed Chloe’s finger and saw the hole, between the thrones and the hanging lantern. It was filled with glass, a sure feat of pure craftsmanship. It made perfect sense. “So, when this illuminates, we should expect Natasha?”

“Ah, I suppose.”

Alexandre looked up. She hadn’t noticed it before, but the hole explained how there could be any sort of ambient light in the throne room when the lamps were unlit.

 

As high-noon hit the castle, the glass embedded in the ceiling acted as a lens, brightening the entire throne room three or four times as much as the lantern had.

Natasha arrived as the light began to dim, opening up the door and ushering in a fairly shabby looking blonde man.

“I believe with this one, we have everyone.” She led the man into the room physically, grabbing his blue-grey coat by the shoulder and gently but firmly pushing him into the room ahead of her. She entered behind him and let the door close itself behind her.

To Chloe, the man looked rather dishevelled, but she couldn’t tell if it was because of being somewhat rudely handled by her sister, or if he was like that in general. He seemed young, his hair was shaggy and lightly coloured, and he had a lazily stubbled face.

“Ah…” Chloe surveyed her audience, getting a good look at them before the noon’s light left the chamber and they were returned to less organic light. “Ah…”

Natasha noticed that Chloe was a little lost, so she stepped past the rest of the group towards the throne, stopping at the bottom of the steps, and to Chloe’s left, as not to obstruct line of sight to her.

“You have a somewhat small party. It is fitting, I suppose, that it is to be a small group of supposed elites.” Natasha spoke, echoing the words of her father many months ago. “Let us introduce ourselves while we wait for the King and his Wife.”

“That sounds good.” Chloe nodded a little frantically.

Natasha took a clipboard from her satchel, and took the clasp from the bottom out. She brandished a fountain pen.

Chloe, nervous, yawned and then blinked a little.

Made it! Sort of!

Daniel Triumph.

Table of Contents

Also, the woman in the header is Natasha Glass Rhye.

Natasha sketch
Natasha Glass Rhye, Second Prince of the Solune.

Kemia

Kemia (full version) is the third draft of Decay. This will likely be the final one.

“I found this behind the bar.” Setzer handed Natasha a thumb-sized glass vial. It was empty, but lined with a distinct maroon residue. “They must have been poisoned.”

“Yes,” said Jade, “There was something wrong with the taste.”

For the first time since the inn had been built, there was more than one person in its attic. Three of the seven within were dead.

Setzer didn’t like the involvement of Jade Sing. He had a long list of reasons for why he disliked her. The first reason was that Jade was a foreigner, but the worst, somewhere near the bottom, was that she was a cannibal. Natasha had never seemed to be too interested in arresting Jade, despite Setzer’s suspicions. Every time he’d investigated one of Jade’s catches, she had come away innocent. Did she eat people? Yes. But did she kill them? Not according to evidence. Cannibalism isn’t technically illegal, and it seemed that Jade was either a master frameup artist, or she simply took advantage of murders and reaped the spoils. One thing Setzer was sure of: Jade was a sly opportunist. That was also on his list.

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Jade Sing (05.25.2015)

Jade had broken into the inn attracted by the scent, she had claimed. She had found the bodies and sampled them, and then she had alerted the nearest guard, Sergeant Alice; a small, jumpy woman built like a brick house. Alice then told her Captain, and they had both arrived along with Constable Setzer; the short, often cross young man with long black hair, pale skin, and dark eyes.

To Setzer’s chagrin, it seemed he was again going to prove Jade’s innocence. He surveyed the corpses. Each was missing part of its calf, and one’s face was so bludgeoned that it was unrecognisable.

“Easy to draw a conclusion based on this,” he said. “First, based on the vial and the… taste, we can assume that these people were poisoned. Second, Dhesmond Machina owns and runs this inn. He could easily spike his alcohol and claim that the victim passed out. Finally, the inn didn’t open today, and,” he handed Natasha a hand-copied document, “yesterday’s travel ledger shows that Dhesmond skipped town this morning and hasn’t returned!”

“Wonderful!” Alice clapped.

 

“So, Natasha, are we going to search Hannibal or Baracus? He probably escaped to one of those cities.”

Natasha Glass Rhye studied the list and felt her neck tighten.

“Neither. This is not enough.”

“Umm, okay but…” Setzer said, “what else do we need?”

She looked at him calmly, “Who are these people? Where did the poison come from?”

Setzer wasn’t happy, but orders were orders. “Fine, we’ll identify the bodies first.”

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Alice May Däwngale. casual dress. (Concept. Not final.) (05.12.2017)

“Good.” Natasha’s face was stern, “After you two are finished, meet me at the Ph.Kem. lab. Alice, I would like you to visit the undertaker for this area and get them to identify the body, whether you yourself can identify them or not. If the district mortician can get us faces quickly, bring us a note, otherwise, come without it.”

“Sure,” Alice nodded.

Setzer sighed. “Alice, do you know who usually comes here? To the bar?”

She took a deep breath, and presented Setzer a word salad. “I know almost just about all the people from around here.” Alice’s grasp of syntax faltered when she was excited. Setzer always assumed it was due to her being a foreigner, a Plainkind for the west.

Natasha left them to parse out the identities as well as Alice’s speech, and exited the building, studying the ledger. She watched the cobbled streets as she went, and headed northwest to speak to one of the city’s construction foreman.

 

Setzer and Alice sat at a table in the bar and drew up a list of all the patrons. Alice identified the two who were dead, and they were crossed off. Setzer went out into the city and sought out the rest of the people list.

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Setzer (Concept. Not final.) (06.22.2016)

Jade was told to stay behind, tasked with keeping people out of the bar. After much frustration, Setzer managed to bargain her into promising that she would “try not to eat anything,” and “definitely not touch the mysterious body.” He hoped he wouldn’t have to answer to families again, but he could never be sure with Jade.

It took until noon to find everyone. Most of them had no idea that anything was wrong, they simply wondered why the bar was closed. One person mentioned that Dhesmond had become too touchy as of late “He damn pussified litl’ bitch nao. Gon haffin’ a new bar.” Setzer assumed that this loss would be considered good news to any innkeeper. Most of the other patrons agreed that, in the past month or so, he had seemed more stressed than usual. Setzer and Alice thanked each person for their time, and soon the list was empty, except for one name.

 

Alice looked, and shook her head, “Reighleigh Straker. We only checked his house, remember? He’s maybe at work.”

It dawned on Setzer why the Captain wanted them to meet her at the lab. “Does he work at the Ph.Kem. lab?”

“Yep.”

“You know, I think the good Captain is a few steps ahead of us.” Setzer shook his head.

“What?”

Alice smiled. It seemed that was what she did when she was confused. Or happy. Or angry. Setzer had come to accept that nearly all emotions led Alice to smile, but he had yet to tell the smiles them apart.

“Natasha must have known all along… Now we just have to confirm that he isn’t there, at the lab, and our bases will be covered.” Setzer nodded to himself.

Alice just shrugged, “We’ll meet there after I go to the cemetery.”

“I doubt we’ll need it, but orders are orders, I guess.”

 

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City Guard Captain Natasha Glass Rhye (08.17.2017)

To his surprise, Setzer arrived that the Philosophy of Kemia lab first and had to wait a few minutes. Natasha arrived late, with the slight sheen of a person who just walked halfway across a city and back.

 

“Where did you go?” asked Setzer.

“I went to where they are extending the wall.”

“Oh.”

“Did you find the identity of the third body?”

“We deduced that it was Reighleigh Straker. Not sure why Dhesmond would beat him up like that though.”

The Captain shook her head.

“You will see when we go inside the Philosophy of Kemia Laboratory,” She returned the vial he’d found at the inn. “Search his desk when we get inside.”

 

Natasha knocked on the door. It was answered by a woman who looked like her, except she was younger, smaller, wore a white coat, and had more hair.

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Chloe Rhye, Fifth Prince of the Solune (07.12.2018)

“Natasha?” She asked.

 

“Chloe,” she nodded. “We are here as part of an investigation.”

“Ah, sure. I’ll get someone who actually works here.” She turned and called, “Straker?”

Setzer glanced at Natasha. If Reighleigh was here, alive, then his investigation was worthless. A moment passed, and she called out again, but for someone else.

“Finch? Yes, ah, the guard is here.”

Chloe let them into the lab. It was brightly lit, with large wooden desks. Some were capped with thick layers of metal, but all of them were covered with metal and glass instruments, and lined with drawers. In the far corner was a small room sealed with a heavy door.

A lab student approached them. His lanyard read “Finch Däwngale Zeth.” He was a short man with pale skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. He wore a white lab coat and held a mess of papers.

“Oh, Captain Rhye,” he looked from Natasha to Chloe, “Here to talk to your sister…umm, to talk to Chloe?”

“No. We speak enough when we are not working.”

Setzer said, “Is Reighleigh here? I need to—” see if he’s alive, is what he thought. “I need to search his desk.”

“He’s in the supply locker, right there.” Finch pointed, “It’s heavily barred to prevent theft. Some of that stuff is dangerous, you know?”

There was a loud metallic creak and Setzer’s stomach churned. According to his logic, the man who stood before them was dead, his body stashed in Dhesmond’s inn. The Constable took a deep breath. He hadn’t earned his rank by faltering. Lost, he defaulted to his orders.

“We are here to search your desk.”

Reighleigh gave him a deep frown.

After a pause, Finch helpfully pointed to one of the counters, “It’s that one.”

Setzer strode to it and began opening drawers until he found one filled with thumb-sized test tubes, and a labelled jar of distinct red liquid. He took the vial found at the inn out of his pocket. The size and shape matched, and the colour was almost the same (the inn’s vial having dried).

Natasha looked sidelong at the doctor. He seemed to be stifling his nerves. Her eyes moved down to his hands and she saw that his knuckles were blue.

In his head, Setzer read the label on the jar; Hyperthermic Coronary Accelerator. Then he looked up and nodded to Natasha. She nodded back. They’d found the poison’s supplier. Reighleigh moved slightly. Natasha knew those movements; the flight response. He would go either for the window or the door. Natasha’s eyes moved fast, her mind faster.

Then Alice flung the front door open, and jumped inside, shaking the floor as she landed.

“I got it!—Oh, hi dear; I mean Finch,—anyway, I got it!” She waved the mortician’s note in front of her cheery face, “The last dead person is not Reigh even for sure now, it’s Dhesmond Machina!”

Reighleigh froze. His face hardened, and then he steeled himself and sprinted for the door. Alice smiled and repositioned slightly as Reighleigh leaped forward and tried to tackle her. Unfortunately for him, Sergeant Alice was nearly twice his weight in muscle; a capable guard in the occupational sense well as the literal one; guarding the portal. She restrained him with ease.

“You’re under detainment for killing three people using poison!” Setzer ran to the man and seized his hands. he began winding a cord around Reighleigh’s wrists.

The man retorted, “How could I have murdered someone who isn’t even in town!”

“You—” Setzer had no idea.

Natasha finally spoke, her mind finished with all thought, “You followed him, but not through the gate. You went through the part of the wall that is currently under construction.”

Setzer and Alice looked at each other across the man who stood between them. Reighleigh remained silent.

Finch was unsure what to think. He looked between Natahsa and his wife nervously.

Chloe called to her sister, “go on!” She loved to see anyone competent at work. It was, in her mind, an art.

Natasha strode to the nearest desk and sat down on it.

She faced Reighliegh,

“Jade confirmed for us that all three victims were poisoned.
Setzer confirmed that the liquid and vial found at the inn match with the poison and containers found here. Likely they were killed under your instruction, using your chemical.
Alice confirmed that the body was Dhesmond’s.
Finally, I confirmed that Dhesmond exited town, but supposedly never returned. We have the ledger.”

Setzer had finished his knot, so he presented the items as Natasha mentioned them.

“Shortly before I came here, I spoke to the foreman of the wall project and confirmed that on the same day that Dhesmond left, the she saw him return through her construction site, along with someone else; you. I assume you exited before the workday started and managed to convince the poor man back into town so you could snuff him. Then you poisoned him like you did everyone else; except he would have known his fate when you handed it to him.”

“How haunting!” Chloe blurtend.

Natasha frowned at her sister and continued. “You threw Dhesmond’s body with the rest. But,” shepointed to his bruised hands, “you beat the recognition off his face first.”

She took the ledger from Setzer, and dropped it beside her. “You left Dhesmond’s closet full of skeletons, with his name on a document proving that he tried to evade the law. You framed a dead man. It would have been the perfect crime—if there was no one who could identify a dead body. But what is the job of a coroner if not identification?”

Natasha stood, towering over everyone in the room by at least a head. She said, “Dead men do not sneak into cities or poison and brutalize themselves. You will face judgement in the court. We will bury the dead with love and respect. We will bury you, when you are done rotting to death, with apathy and forgiveness.”

A quiet came over the room. Natasha bodily lifted the criminal over her shoulder, and the guard filed out.

Daniel Triumph.

Word Count: 2125.
This is the second draft of Kemia. Polished and added illustrations… does this count as an illuminated version?

This is the third draft of “Decay.” There are a lot of differences, to the point where I can comfortably call them different stories, so feel free to check it out.

This is the second draft of a story written as an exam for my Detective Fiction course, 01-26-202-01. I got a decent mark in the end, I think, so perhaps that’s indicative of the quality of this piece.

P.S.:

 

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Natasha Glass Rhye, before becoming captain (Early design.) Left to right: Saan of Village #4, Natasha Glass Rhye, Second Prince of the Solune, Setzer [last name unknown], Nashir [deserter] (June 2014)
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Recent Alice concept. Still not final. (08.13.2018)
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Natasha (full) (08.17.2017)
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Alice, Plainclothes (Sketch). Finally a decent drawing of Alice. (08.31.2018)

Kēmeía (Chemia)

“I found this behind the bar.” Setzer handed Natasha a thumb-sized glass vial. It was empty, but lined with a distinct maroon residue. “They must have been poisoned.”

“Yes,” said Jade, “There was something wrong with the taste.”

For the first time since the inn had been built, there was more than one person in its attic. Three of those seven were dead.

Setzer didn’t like the involvement of Jade Sing. He disliked her for a lot of reasons. Jade was an unusual foreigner, and worse, she was a cannibal. Natasha didn’t seem to be interested in arresting Jade, despite Setzer’s suspicions. Every time he’d investigated one of Jade’s catches, she had come away innocent. Did she eat people? Yes. But did she kill them? Not according to the evidence. Cannibalism wasn’t technically illegal, and so it appeared that Jade simply took advantage of other people’s murders. She was a clever opportunist. Jade had broken into the inn attracted by the scent. She had found the bodies and apparently sampled them. Then she had alerted the nearest guard, Sergeant Alice; a small, jumpy woman built like a brick wall. Alice told Natasha, the towering, stoic, guard Captain, and they had both arrived along with Constable Setzer, a short, often cross young man with long black hair, pale skin, and dark eyes.

To Setzer’s chagrin, it seemed he was again going to prove Jade’s innocence. He surveyed the corpses. Each was missing part of its calf, and one’s face was so bludgeoned that it was unrecognisable.

“Easy to draw a conclusion based on this,” he said. “First, based on the vial and the… taste, we can assume that these people were poisoned. Second, Dhesmond Machina owns and runs this inn. He could easily spike his alcohol and claim that the victim passed out. Finally, the inn didn’t open today, and,” he handed Natasha a copied document, “yesterday’s travel ledger shows he skipped town and hasn’t returned!”

“Wonderful!” Alice clapped.

Natasha studied the list and felt her neck tighten.

“Good job, but this is not enough.”

“Okay…” Setzer said, “what else do I need?”

She looked at him calmly, “Who are these people? Where did the poison come from?”

Setzer wasn’t happy, but orders were orders. “Fine, we’ll identify the bodies first.”

“Good.” Natasha’s face was stern, “After you two are finished, meet me at the Ph.Ch. lab. Alice, I would like you to visit the undertaker for this area and get them to identify the body, whether you identify it or not. If the district mortician can identify it quickly, bring us a note, otherwise, come without it.”

“Sure,” Alice nodded

Setzer sighed. “Alice, do you know who usually comes here?”

“I know almost just about all the people from around here.” Alice’s grasp of syntax faltered when she was excited.

Natasha left them and exited the building, studying the ledger. She surveyed the cobbled streets, and then headed northwest to speak to one of the city’s construction foreman.

 

Setzer and Alice sat at a table in the bar and drew up a list of all the patrons. Alice identified the two who were dead, and they crossed them off. Then Setzer went out into the city and sought out the rest of the list. Jade stayed behind, tasked with keeping people out of the bar. After much frustration, he had bargained her into promising that she would “try not to eat anything,” and “definitely not touch the mysterious body.” He hoped he wouldn’t have to answer to families again.

It took until noon to find everyone on Alice’s list. Most of them wondered why the bar was closed. One person mentioned that Dhesmond had become too touchy. Most of the other patrons agreed that, in the past month or so, he had seemed more stressed than usual. Setzer and Alice thanked each person for their time, and soon the list was empty, except for one name.

Alice looked, and shook her head, “Reighleigh Straker. We only checked his house, remember? He’s maybe at work.”

It dawned on Setzer why the Captain wanted them to meet her at the lab. “Does he work at the Ph.Ch. lab?”

“Yep.”

“Natasha must have known all along… Now we just have to confirm that he isn’t there and our bases will be covered.” Setzer nodded to himself.

Alice just shrugged, “We’ll meet there after I go to the cemetery.”

“I doubt we’ll need it, but orders are orders, I guess.”

 

To his surprise, Setzer arrived first and had to wait a few minutes. Natasha arrived with the slight sheen of a person who just walked halfway across a city and back.

“Where did you go?” asked Setzer.

“I went to where they are extending the wall.”

“Oh.”

“Did you find the identity of the third body?”

“Reighleigh Straker. Not sure why Dhesmond would beat him up like that though.”

The Captain shook her head.

“You will see when we go inside the Philosophy of Chemia Laboratory,” She returned the vial he’d found at the inn. “Search his desk.”

 

Natasha knocked on the door. It was answered by a woman who looked like her, except she was younger, smaller, wore a white coat, and had more hair.

“Natasha?” She asked.

“Chloe,” she nodded. “We are here as part of an investigation.”

“Ah, sure. I’ll get someone who actually works here.” She turned and called, “Straker?”

Setzer glanced at Natasha. If Reighleigh was here, alive, then his investigation was worthless. A moment passed, and she called out again, but for someone else.

“Finch? Yes, ah, the guard is here.”

Chloe let them into the lab. It was brightly lit, with large wooden desks. Some were capped with thick layers of metal, but all of them were covered with instruments and lined with drawers. In the far corner was a small room sealed with a heavy door.

Finch approached them. He was a short man with pale skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. He wore a white lab coat and held a mess of papers.

“Oh, Captain Rhye,” he looked from Natasha to Chloe, “Here to talk to your sister?”

“No. We speak when we are not working.”

Setzer said, “Is Reighleigh here? I need to—” see if he’s alive, is what he thought. “I need to search his desk.”

“He’s in the supply locker right now.” Finch pointed, “It’s heavily barred to prevent theft. Some of that stuff is dangerous.”

There was a loud metallic creak and Setzer’s stomach churned. According to his deduction, the man who stood before them was dead, his body stashed in Dhesmond’s inn. He took a deep breath. He hadn’t earned the rank of Constable through faltering. He defaulted to his orders.

“We are here to search your desk.”

Reighleigh gave him a deep frown.

After a pause, Finch pointed to one of the counters, “It’s that one.”

Setzer strode to it and began opening drawers until he found one filled with thumb-sized test tubes, and a labelled jar of distinct red liquid. He took out the vial from the inn. Its size and shape matched, and the colour was the same.

Natasha stood with Reighleigh and Finch on one side and Chloe on the other. She looked sidelong at the doctor. He seemed to be stifling his nerves. She watched his hands and saw that his knuckles were blue.

Setzer read the label on the jar, Hyperthermic Coronary Accelerator and then looked up and nodded to Natasha. She nodded back. They’d found the poison supply.

Then Alice flung the front door open, and jumped inside.

“I got it!—Oh, hi Finch—anyway, I got it!” She waved the mortician’s note in front of her, “The last dead person is not Reigh even for sure now, it’s Dhesmond Machina!”

Reighleigh’s face hardened. He sprinted to the door. Alice smiled and repositioned slightly. Reighleigh tried to tackle her, but unfortunately for him, Sergeant Alice was nearly twice his weight in muscle; a capable guard in the occupational sense well as the literal one. She easily restrained him.

“You’re under detainment for killing three people using this poison!” Setzer ran to the man and seized his hands. he began winding a cord around Reighleigh’s wrists.

The man retorted, “How could I have murdered someone who isn’t even in town!”

“You—” Setzer had no idea.

Natasha finally spoke, “You followed him, but not through the gate. You went through the part of the wall that is under construction.”

Setzer and Alice looked at each other across the man who stood between them. Reighleigh remained silent.

Finch was unsure what to think.

Chloe called out, “go on!”

Natasha strode to the nearest desk and sat down.

She faced Reighliegh, “Jade confirmed for us that all three of the victims were poisoned. The liquid and vial found at the inn match with the poison and containers found here. Likely they were killed under your instruction, using your chemical.”

Setzer had finished, so he presented the items Natasha mentioned.

“Shortly before we came here, I confirmed that, on the same day that Dhesmond left, the foreman saw him return through her construction site, along with someone else; you. I assume you exited before the workday started and managed to convince the poor back. Then you poisoned him like you did everyone else; except he would have known his fate when you handed it to him.

“You threw Dhesmond’s body with the rest. But,” Natasha pointed to his bruised hands, “you beat the recognition off his face first.”

She took the ledger, and dropped it beside her. “You left Dhesmond’s closet full of skeletons, with his name on a document proving that he left town. You framed a dead man. It would have been the perfect crime—if there was no one who could identify a dead body. But what is the job of a coroner if not identification?”

Natasha stood, and said, “Dead men do not sneak into cities or poison and brutalize themselves.”

Daniel Triumph.

This is the second draft of “Decay.” There are a lot of differences, to the point where I can comfortably call them different stories, so feel free to check it out.

This was written as an exam for my Detective Fiction course, 01-26-202-01. I got a decent mark in the end, so maybe that’s indicative of the quality of this piece.

P.S.

I know I’ve been talking about The Solune Prince A LOT and not actually posting about it. Fear not, it isn’t “stuck” or something I’m just talking about, without actually working on. I have around forty notebook pages full.

Mostly, I’m just adjusting to my new job and whatnot. If I don’t have anything started, I’ll publish a backstory or something.

… Or I’ll publish more stuff I wrote for class …

Decay (Early Draft)

EDIT: I apologize for the lack of distinct scene changes before this edit. WordPress has a habit of deleting important page breaks for some reason. I’ve put hyphens ( – ) in between scene breaks to make it explicit. I hope WordPress doesn’t delete the paragraph breaks like before.

My first go at detective fiction. I’m thinking to further edit this one in the future. It’s a little rough, fast, and full of dialogue, but I think it’s decent. I’ll be releasing a similar story that functions as a re-writing of this in a few weeks called Kēmeía which is at least four times better. (I’m just getting feedback on it.)

The Captain pointed to the body and told Fredrick to take a sample of the rot.

“Bring it to Chloe. Find me as soon as you get results.”

The officer nodded and did as he was asked.

“How long do you think?” She asked Setzer.

“Looks around four days.”

Captain Natasha looked at the corpse’s armband. “Four days?” She said.

“That’s what he said,” Setzer continued, “I got a ledger of everyone who was in the city during that time” He handed her a hardback clipboard.

She scanned the names, “A copy?”

“Yeah.”

Natasha unsheathed her fountain pen and began cutting out names. She handed the board back to Setzer. Only three remained.

“Where would you like to start?”

Setzer put his finger on a name.

Chloe took a look at the sample. It seemed strange.

She said, “Thanks, I will, ah, I’ll get it back to you in a couple of hours.”

Fredrick nodded, and then left.

“It has been a while since I got a chunk of human… Hey!” She called out to her one of the experimenters, “ah, can you prep my station?”

Setzer looked up at one of the few three-storey buildings in the city. They were there for Jason Arson, servant of one of the landowners in the “old money” district. Setzer was sure, or at least he hoped, that Arson had done it.

“He works here? Out in the open?”

Natasha nodded, “innocent until proven guilty.”

“What if we can’t prove someone did it?” Natasha said, citing Solune common-law.

A servant opened the door; it was the man they were looking for.

“Not you again,” he said. A mask covered his mouth.

“Has your master sent you on any ‘errands’ recently?” Setzer asked.

The servant made an angry face, but remained silent.

“How about, say… four days ago?”

At this, Natasha prodded him.

The servant shook his head, “I was on an errand. I picked that up.” He pointed to an expensive bottle of wine on the table behind him. “Is that why you came here?”

“No.”

“Well then, goodbye.” He shut the door.

As the two guards moved on, Natasha said, “You should have said yes. He obviously stole that bottle.”

Setzer frowned.

They visited the butcher shop. “Closed. Looks like your idea didn’t work out so well, Natasha.”

“We will check his home.”

The butcher lived in an old and run-down house in the same district as the body. Setzer knocked, and then eventually tried the door but it was locked.

“That’s odd.”

“Yes.” Natasha said, “So? What do you think?”

“Not what I was hoping for,” Setzer said, “we don’t know where he is now.”

Natasha said, “Then we will go to the lab.”

They went to the labs and checked to see if any poisonous chemicals were missing. Nothing was gone that wasn’t undocumented.

They passed a particularly dark and cluttered alley. Setzer, who somehow became more alert at night, stopped and turned his head. He listened.

“What?” Natasha’s words sounded more like a statement than a question.

“You made it stop, which means whatever it was is alive.”

He stepped into the alley, walking over dirt and rotten vegetables. Then, he saw her, a dark woman crouching near one of the walls.

“Who’s that,” he shouted.

The woman stood. She had black hair, dark skin, and a dark blue side-cut dress.

“Eating someone’s leftovers?”

“Maybe.” The woman wiped her mouth. It was too dark to see the red that was on it.

Setzer felt a prod in his back. He stepped forward, “Let’s see than.”

The woman courageously stepped back and crossed her arms. Her claws dug into her skin.

“What—” He stopped and then looked up at the woman, “it was you then!”

He grabbed her and tried to cuff her, but she was a lot stronger than him. Natasha watched in silent amusement. Setzer, in his struggle, turned for her help.

“What are you doing?” He shouted.

“She will not run. Give it up.”

Setzer ignored this advice and continued to wrestle the woman until he ran out of breath. The woman looked down on him and scoffed. Setzer leaned on a wall and threw one hand into the air in defeat.

Natasha took three steps toward the woman.

“That is a nice catch, Jade,” Natasha pointed to the corpse on the ground. Some of the fleshier bits had been torn open. “Tell me where you found it.”

The woman sneered, “Right here.”

Setzer caught a second wind, “Another body in an alley? How old?”

“Four days,” Jade said, “I hoped for something fresher.”

Natasha saw the armband. “Were those wounds there when you found it?”

“No. But the meat tastes funny, even for a body this old.”

Jade stopped and looked around. Her eyes changed their nature, and her nostrils flared.

“You will lead us,” Natasha said.

Jade gave a grunt of anger and moved. Natasha followed.

“What? Hey!” Setzer shouted after them. He got no answer, and, giving up once more, he followed them.

She took them to an abandoned building closer to the castle, but still in the western district.

“Hey,” Setzer whispered, “what’s with the cannibal?”

“That is simply a defect in Jade. She is not happy that we are going to cut her supply.”

“Huh. Innocent until proven guilty?”

Natasha nodded, “Cannibalism is not illegal.”

“Just everything that leads up to it, then? What a joke.”

“Here,” Jade extended her arm to the building, and then promptly left.

The building was old and hallowed. Setzer guessed that it would be demolished soon.

“What if they’re working together, then?”

“I doubt it.”

Chloe put on a white coat and sat down at her station.

Her colleague saw what the sample was, and knew what she was going to find out, so he silently left the lab.

The door was not locked. Setzer looked back, and Natasha confirmed; this building should have been sealed. They searched around what was no more than a shack.

“Up here, the roof has a loft. Aww! I can smell it!” Setzer waved his hand in front of his nose, then scaled the wall and hoisted himself through the hole in the roof. He looked to see if Natasha was following him, but she just stared. He shrugged and looked around. His eyes adjusted quickly and, in a pile of dirt, he found the body. There were two.

“Oh jeez!” He called down, “We’re going to need older records, this one’s a skeleton! And— oh man, what the hell? This is the first guy we found, except—”

Someone else came through the door, and Setzer stopped talking to listen. Natasha calmly turned around.

“Ah! I don’t like this at all. Where did you say you got it?”

“Natasha told me to bring it to you.”

“Obviously you had to bring it to me, who else would know what to do with it! But, ah, you told me that the body was only four days old, but look at this! Ah! Even you should be able to tell!” Chloe slammed the glass container on the table in front of Fredrick.

“Jade,” Natasha nodded, “you have returned.”

She looked very unhappy.

“Something is wrong,” She said.

Setzer, now aware that their guest wasn’t necessarily an enemy, said, “The other body is up here, the first one, and also a skeleton. And there’s a bigger problem.”

“Tell me,” stated Natasha.

“Well—”

“—it’s far older than four days, Look, the blood is decomposing. Fredrick, you have to tell Natasha that that doesn’t normally happen until eight days at the earliest.”

Officer Fredrick wiped his brow. It even looked like a different piece. The piece of flesh he’d brought was a sickly green, but sample Chloe held looked red and sticky.

“Bring this to her at once. And, ah, here,” she scribbled a note, “to quell and doubts she may have that it’s her sample.”

“—the body has become mostly decayed, as if it’s suddenly a few days older,” Setzer shouted down the hole.

“My food—I mean,” Jade thought for a moment, then said it anyway, “My food has been tampered with!”

Setzer jumped down from the attic. “Let’s stake this place out. Whoever is doing this will definitely return, probably with the cannibal’s body. Then we’ll get some real answers.”

They organized under his direction and surrounded the building. Jade hid across the street, Setzer crept in the alleys behind, and Natasha lay prone on the roof. Apparently, Setzer thought, she could climb if she needed to.

About an hour later, a man came through the alley with a large sac. Setzer watched him, but remained hidden. He tailed the man and confirmed that he was going towards the shed. Setzer beckoned to Jade, who was watching grouchily. She beckoned back across the street to Natasha, who was on the shed’s roof.

Natasha put her ear against the tile and listened. After a short period, she heard a loud thump; the sack. She waited for ten counts and then dropped her body, knee first, into the rotten roof. It sunk intward. She swiftly beat the dent into a hole with her fists, then slid both hands into it and ripped out as much if the ceiling as she could hold.

Bathed in the moonlight, the man froze in horror and then shrieked when he saw the silhouette of a guard Captain leaping through at him. She made quick work of the culprit.

Three people were gathered in the Captain’s office , two women, and one man.

Setzer said, “Well, you got him. Do you think he’ll make it through court?”

“Not with this evidence,” Chloe said, “Thanks to your other samples, I managed to extract the poison from his fluids.”

Natasha nodded, “I knew from the start that something was off, but when I saw Jade’s body, I was certain. None of these people had wounds, and they apparently tasted funny. They died from poisoning. And their clothing didn’t seem as old as the rest of them. What finally confirmed it though, was the wristbands.”

“Wristbands?” said Chloe, “They had festival bands?”

“Yes, from yesterday’s festival, not from four days ago.”

“What about the person who made the poison?”

“That was someone from my lab!”

“Yes,” Natasha nodded, “The man we caught did not seem the type to be making potions.”

Natasha and Setzer both stood.

“We still have work to do.”

Daniel Triumph.

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