The Burning Sultans

Murder in Highside

Just before dawn in the residential quarter

Alehira stifled a yawn as she entered the house where the guards reported the killing had occurred. She had been woken from trance by an urgent message to come to Highside immediately to investigate a murder, but the import of it didn’t do anything to relieve her exhaustion. She took one last, long drink of the clove tea she’d brought with her from home and set the empty mug on the table of house’s kitchen. Steadying her nerves with a deep breath, she headed back to where the guards were clustered around a bedroom door.

“Captain Khoushim!” one of the younger guards snapped to attention as Alehira made her way up to them.

“Save the formality for when the sun is out, Treshem,” she responded wearily. “Just tell me what you know already.”

“Ah, er, yes ma’am. Well, um… it’s pretty gruesome, as you can see. The victim’s name is Apamurvesh Kestervar, former Master of Elixers at the Eidalan temple. From what I’ve heard, he was expelled about a week ago when the news of the plague first broke. He was found by a citizen returning home from a long night’s drinking. It seems the man drunkenly mistook this house for his own, which is on the next street over, and waltzed right in and found our victim.”

“But how did he get in?”

“He says the door was left wide open. Possibly our murderer just dashed out the front after the killing and neglected to close the door. Seems odd, though: looks like the criminal entered the house through a rear window.”

Alehira stepped carefully into the room. Signs of a fight were clear enough. Small items knocked over, the wardrobe door standing ajar, even a pillow slashed open. Then she caught sight of the victim’s face, and her breath caught in her throat for a moment. Two empty eye sockets stared out from where the acolyte lay across his desk. Alehira muttered an oath under her breath.

“We found this emptied chest next to the desk, so at first we thought maybe it was a robbery, but with how badly he’s been mauled, it could be the murderer had some kind of personal grudge. Not sure how many enemies you can make as a priest, but I guess anything’s possible.” A guard standing by offered unhelpfully.

Alehira knelt down to examine the victim’s broken holy symbol on the ground. Given that he was still wearing vestments of his order when he died, it wasn’t likely in her mind that he would have broken it himself out of resentment for his expulsion. There was more going on here, and the captain didn’t like where the signs were pointing.

She stood up and addressed the other guards in the room. “For now, as far as the public is concerned, this is a burglary gone wrong,” she said. “Tensions in town are too high as it is, we don’t need to add an unexplained murder on top of it. You and you, take the victim’s body to the Merenites. Have them start funeral proceedings. You two, take first shift guarding this house. Only members of the guard are allowed in. We’ll keep 4-hour watches. The rest of you, go home and get some sleep. We won’t be able to ask many questions until daybreak. Assemble at the Shieldhouse at the hour of the coin, and I’ll give you all your assignments. Dismissed.” Alehira rubbed her eyes and sighed. She had a feeling this was going to be a very unpleasant case, adding to an already unpleasant week.

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