Church & State

Part 1 - Quislibet Facultis

Havral Glommon kneeled respectfully before Sorush, the Knight of Divine Justice, Supreme Master of all Paladins.
Havral was a tywimn, a bat-like biped with powerful wings and a beaked maw. Havral was, unfortunately, blessed with the name of her father due to family traditions and circumstances beyond her control. Havral was a traditional male tywimn name, so the young paladin received no end of confused stares as she introduced herself.
"Glommon," The anakim began, "you are aware as to why I have summoned you?"
"Yes, Lord Sorush." Havral nodded.
"Seek out Kuroryu." Sorush reminded her. "His anger and fury is a threat to the well-being of several of our less able temples."
"I shall, Lord Sorush." Havral replied.
"There is one who may help you," Sorush continued. "Cadnos, a sentinel. His aid will be invaluable in the hunt for Kuroryu."

"Oh, yes." Gilgal Radisgad, former paladin and Master of the Guild of Sentinels harrumphed as Havral mentioned the name Cadnos. "Schrau Cadnos, yes."
"Is there some problem?" Havral asked.
Gilgal shook his head. "No. Not really. However I have just assigned to him a high-priority case." Gilgal sighed. "I really cannot pull him off of this case, even in a hunt for an errant Fallen knight."
"Where may I find Cadnos?" Havral asked. "Perhaps I could organise something with him."
"When thinking of deputy Cadnos, the word 'organise' is not one that springs to mind." Gilgal harrumphed. "You may wish to ask the officer who was previously assigned to his case, Mogas Wemus. I had assumed he would be suitable for this case, but alas he is not quite ready for this. He might know where Cadnos is." Gilgal stared at Havral. "One thing, Glommon."
"Of course."
"Under no circumstances must you interfere with Cadnos' case." Gilgal warned her. "The criminal he is in pursuit of is a highly dangerous and despicable individual. If you ask me which I despise most - Kuroryu or Krahn - Then I would have to say Krahn. It is utterly imperative that Krahn be caught and dealt with, and I will not have a young paladin turn one of my officers away from his duty for the will of the Church."
"I... Understand." Havral said, hesitantly. "However these orders are direct from Lord Sorush himself and-"
"No 'and', Glommon." Gilgal growled. "Sometimes Sorush leaps at shadows far too often for his own good. I should know, after all."
"Master Radisgad, I-"
"Go talk to Wemus." Gilgal interrupted. "He might know where Cadnos is, he might not."

"Schrrrau?" Mogas Wemus all but yawned the name. "Oh yeah, he's on my case."
"I heard Gilgal reassigned the case."
"Yew'd be rrright." Mogas reclined his seat back as far as it would go and placed his feet unceremoniously on the desk. "Well, all's I know is that the bastarrrd I was looking forrr is a Janus Krrrahn. Nasty little buggerrr; child-molesterrr and murrrderrrurrr." Wemus shuddered. "See, firrrst he kidnaps some kiddies, rrrapes them-"
"Please, stop." Havral interrupted, not liking where this was heading.
"-Then he skins 'em alive, stuffs the skin with sawdust and then has his filthy way with-"
"Where might I find Cadnos?" Havral said sharply.
"Yew may find him in the Golden Boarrr." Wemus smiled.
"That's hardly a place for a law-abiding officer." Havral pointed out.
"Well, yew find all sorrrts in the Boarrr." Wemus pointed out. "And, on the otherrr paw, Cadnos ain't exactly a shining example to the law-abiding..."
"Excuse me?"
Wemus grinned. "Oh, spend ten minutes with him, and yew'll find out."

Havral Glommon stepped into the Golden Boar Restaurant & Casino, the restaurant section of which had very little to none lighting so that you couldn't see what you were eating and who you were eating with. The bar was empty aside from the waiter behind the bar, who grinned on sight of the tywimn.
"We don't get many of your kind 'round 'ere, missy."
"I'm looking for a Schrau Cadnos." Havral replied. "Is he here?"
"Is 'e in trouble with the Church, then?" The waiter leered. "Anyway, he's over there."
The waiter pointed in the direction of a booth table in the corner. A man was shackled to a chair, his face bloodied and bruised with his nose caved in almost entirely, while a scruffy vulpin in a green leather jacket held him by the hair.
"Deputy Cadnos?" Havral hazarded.
"One sec'." The vulpin muttered, then slammed the man's face heavily into the blood-smeared table. It wasn't even worth trying to figure out the man's appearances, so badly damaged was his face. Schrau clearly knew how to brutalise someone. "Come on, Mrand, I'm rosing my patience."
"I don't-"
Slam. "Don't use that word. Where can I find Krahn?"
"I really don't-"
Slam. "Don't screw with me, Mrand."
Schrau slammed Mrand's face into the table with all his weight behind the strike. Mrand hit so hard that the wood cracked beneath his face. As the unfortunate human was pulled back upright, he spat teeth and bits of lip and tongue.
"This is barbaric!" Havral scorned the vulpin.
Schrau shrugged, "No, raping and skinning chirdren is. So, in essence, is protecting someone who does that." The silence hung in the air for a brief moment, and then Schrau slammed Mrand into the table again.
"Wha' wuz' 'at foh?" Mrand complained.
"For not using that brief rurr in the conversation to terr me where Krahn is." He bashed the human into the woodwork again, "And that was for questioning my methods." Schrau sighed, then looked up at the paladin. "Stirr here?"
"I'm Havral Glommon," The tywimn announced drawing a bitter grunt from the sentinel that she didn't care for, "and I was told you might help me find Daste Kuroryu."
"Why'd you want that rittre bastard for?" Schrau grunted. "Come on, Mrand! Whire we're stirr young!"
"Listen, Cadnos! I-"
"You need to relax, Cadnos." The waiter announced, spitting into a glass.
"I just had the worst week's vacation ever. Don't judge me." Schrau growled. "Rady - You're better off forgetting about Daste, unress he owes you some gord. Mrand... " Slam. "...Next time, I'm gonna put a bottre of vodka underneath your face."
"No, please..." The man moaned.
"Trust me, it hurts rike buggery."
"Keep beggin', and I'rr find Krahn by myserf, Mrand. Don't think you deserve to rive."
"Deputy Cadnos!" Havral blurted.
Schrau looked up and saw that the tywimn had drawn her sword. He grinned. "Izzat so?"
"Cadnos, if you continue to harm him-"
"-Then you'rr have to step in." Schrau's eyes narrowed. "Trust me sister, the Sikkarian Church does not want to have the reputation that its knights protect chird moresters."
"Hey, guess what, Mrand? You've got yerserf a paradin who wants to protect your honour." Schrau smashed his face into the table again, this time holding it down and grinding it into the woodwork. "You need honour first, though, so you're proper fu-"
"All right!" Mrand spat as Schrau pulled him back up. "I really don't know where Krahn is, but-!" He interrupted to forestall Schrau's next attack. "-But I do know he often drinks at the Blue Crescent Inn."
"Awright!" Schrau grinned triumphantly. "You've been most herpfur, Mrand. Take a nap." The sentinel then slam-dunked Mrand into the table one final time, knocking him unconscious. He quickly removed the shackles and stuffed them in a pocket.
In any other universe, Schrau probably would have pulled out a pair of shades and dramatically placed them on his face. He probably would have also said, "let's roll" had the last vulpin that attempted to do so had not been laughed off the planet.
Instead, he nodded at Havral and said, "Walk with me."

Part 2 - The Sikkarian Exposition

Havral followed the sentinel to the guild hall via the long route, stopping once for Schrau to purchase a meat pie from a street vendor on the way. Several times the paladin tried to breach the subject of Daste Kuroryu, but he simply did not want to discuss it yet.
Eventually, they wound their way through the halls of the Celestial Barracks and then into the Sentinel Guild Hall, where Schrau led Havral into the deputies' office, to the largest desk in the room which contained a stack of paperwork and a stuffed vulpin toy on the seat.
Schrau sighed, struggled to pick up the toy, and punted it deeper into the office where it bounced off a desk and onto the floor. He flopped down on the chair and told Havral, "Purr up a chair."
She did so, eventually forcing her frame into a seat far too small. Schrau stared at her across the desk. "Deputy Cadnos, I'm appalled with-"
"So, he's arive." Schrau quickly interrupted. "That's a damn shame, sister. I had rather hoped that he was dead and buried."
"When did you last see him?" Havral asked.
"Soser, in his famiry's home a few months ago. He was fighting his ordest brother to the death after me, their father, and Daste decided to tear substantiar chunks out of each other."
"Do you solve all your problems through violence?"
"That, or my naturar cunning and wit." Schrau smiled back. "Why is Daste so important to you?"
Havral took a deep breath and answered, "He has been analysed as a threat to the Church. His actions towards the Church have been increasing in intensity and, frankly, we're worried."
Schrau grinned. "The kid mus' be smarting over the fact that I offed his pop before he could."
"I am glad you find this amusing."
"That makes two of us." The leather of Schrau's chair creaked as he leaned back. He sighed. "And you want him dead?"
"We want him brought to justice."
"Pfft. Justice is my department, his execution is the Church's. You want him dead and you want me to herp you to find and kirr him."
Havral glared down her beak at Schrau. "My orders are-"
"Perfectry understandabre." Schrau interrupted. "On a more personar note, I want him dead too. One ress thing in my rife to worry about."
"So, you'll help me find him?"
Schrau stared back at her for a long time, then leaned forward. "If you ask me who I want 'brought to justice' first from either Kuroryu or Krahn, then Im going to have to say Krahn. He is my priority, I want him deart with as soon as possibre. Daste has tried to kirr me three times before, screwed up every time. If Daste is just a threat to the Church, then Krahn is a threat to everyone." Schrau shook his head. "He's sick. If you saw his rast victim, you'd want Krahn brought to justice as werr.
"So, sister, what do you want to do?"
Havral considered this. "I wish to fulfil my orders."
The vulpin grinned. "And so do I."
"My orders involve you." Havral pointed out.
"And that's where we differ. Mine don't invorve you."
"So you would ignore a plea from the Sikkarian Church?" Havral asked.
"Terr you what, get Sorush in here right now and make it an officiar prea." Schrau said, then stretched his jaw for a brief moment. "Gah."
"Too much talking in the common tongue." Schrau replied.
"Of course, I'm sure if Sorush was told that you require his direct intervention..." Havral coolly said, attempting a bluff.
Of course, Schrau knew when someone was trying to negotiate. "Oh? So you can get a written request on my desk in an hour?"
Havral nodded.
"And I'rr just rip it up and carry on." Schrau's eyes narrowed. "I answer to the sentiner guird. Not the Sikkarian Church."
"Everyone answers to the Sikkarian Church."
"Daste doesn't." Schrau countered. "That's why you're in this mess in the first prace." He stood up. "Now, this has been a nice rittre chat, but I think I'd better get back on my case before Cap'n Eyebrows reassigns it. Again." The sentinel stepped away from his desk, leaving a dumbfounded Paladin knight.
Schrau glanced over his shoulder. "You're more than wercome to tag arong. Who knows what might happen."

They both stepped out of the deputies' office and into the junior officer's office.
"You know, I think I'm forgetting something." Schrau muttered, before calling out, "Hey, does anyone know where the Brue Crescent Inn is?"
"Abarack, where the old bank used to be." A female called back.
"Thanks, Neek." Turning aside to Havral, "To home, then."
"You could have asked me." Havral said. "I knew where it was."
Schrau shrugged and smiled weakly. "Maybe. Maybe not."

Part 3 - Coercion

Havral managed to drain the seawater from her breastplate and muttered, "How can you tolerate the travel from Wysoom?"
Schrau grinned, shook his entire body from nose to tail in an attempt to dry off, leaving his fur in a much less neater state than he usually tolerated. "You get used to it. Better than Soser, right?" He spread his arms wide, water dripping down his leather coat. "Home."
Havral eyed him curiously as a trout managed to work its way from the vulpin's sleeve and flopped onto the beach. "Officer, I'm not sure if I can deal with these mood swings."
Schrau stooped down to pick up the trout, slapping it hard over his arm until it stopped thrashing. "Then you know where Keystone is, paradin. Go home." He muttered, dusting the sand from the trout's sides until it was clean before stuffing it into a pocket. "Never waste a good piece of fish."
Havral's beak could have wrinkled had it been physically able to. "What else are you keeping in that coat?"
Schrau's eyes glazed over. "Some strips of reather, a knife to cut the reather, chalk, some dice, a few packets of cards, two truncheons, spare change, a few different rockpicks, some pebbres - Dunno why, I just have. Uh... Some beef jerky; stare I'm afraid, I rearry ought to toss it before it becomes sentient-"
Havral stared at the sentinel. "Wouldn't most of those things be soggy now?"
"Oh, no. Good waterproofing on the pockets of this thing. What do you keep in that breastprate of yours?"
"I-" Then Havral noticed that Schrau's grin had turned into a leer. "That's none of your business!"
The smile didn't abate. "Thought so. Just the usuar then." He rummaged around in a pocket and pulled out a small green tin. The moment Schrau flipped the tin open Havral was struck by the overwhelming scent of menthol. "Mint?"
"No thank you." Havral declined as Schrau nudged aside the paper inside the tin and produced a small white mint the size of a thumbtack head and the potency of a well-aimed Wrath of God spell.
"Right." Schrau muttered, the mint tin disappearing into his pocket like a corpse in a bog. "We've got a fairry rong trudge to Abarack, that ought to give us time to dry off."
And then it started to rain.

Across the entire pantheon of universes, it should by now be a common occurrence where old banks are refurbished into wine bars, if for no other reason than to make longtime residents of the local area complain about how their old bank has been turned into a wine bar. Some theorists believe that the purpose of this is to give those residents something menial to complain about, thereby allowing a race of interdimensional overlords some leeway in dealing with their nefarious schemes, which usually involves the corner shop.
The Blue Crescent Inn, however, merely shared the location of the old bank, which just happened to be next door to the New Bank of Abarack. Few people could remember what happened, one day people turned up at the old bank to find a pile of rubble with work already proceeding on the new bank next door. Eventually, the rubble was cleared away and the Blue Crescent was built on top of the empty plot.
Schrau knew this well enough, since the destruction of the old bank had to be one of the most famous outstanding cases that haunted the file room of the guildhall.
"And, honestry, I was nowhere near the prace." Schrau muttered to Havral as they wandered through the Diamond Circle towards the Blue Crescent Inn. "I hadn't even been born."
"And for the third time, I believe you." Havral tried to shake the rain from her hair. "It's like being back on Wysoom."
"No, this is just a drizzre by Wysoomian standards. I've seen peopre brinded by a Wysoom storm." Schrau pushed the door aside for Havral, who noticed a sign: Please check your weapons.
Schrau reached over his shoulders and tapped the hilts of his blades. "Yep, stirr got 'em."
"I think they mean-"
"I know what they mean. I'm an on-duty sentiner, you're a Knight of the Church. Anyone tries to disarm us wirr do so over our cord, dead, dismembered bodies."
Havral sighed, "Are you always this negative?"
"Sikkar, yer soundin' rike one of my ord sravers." Schrau replied. "Gawd, he was so into that positive energy crap I fert rike rearranging his chakras every time he walked by."
On the whole, the Blue Crescent was a well-lit and respectable place. Respectable in the sense that when the pair walked in, the barman acknowledged them as figures of authority rather than threats, as was usually the norm.
Schrau pulled himself up onto a stool at the bar while Havral lurked over his shoulder. "Deputy Cadnos," The vulpin introduced himself, ignoring the paladin for the time being. "I'm rooking for a man that apparentry drinks here."
The barman was a handsome human, or at least by human standards. Schrau usually was not one willing to judge on appearances either way, and Havral's tastes ran differently to those of most sentient beings. Hell, by some standards the barman was downright hideous. He smiled easily. "Of course, officer. Can I get you something? I've just received a shipment of a particularly elegant wine, never sold in an establishment outside of Raji until this very day!"
Schrau almost went to refuse his offer, but it had been a while since he had a drink. "Sure, what have you got?"
"Should you be drinking on duty?" Havral whispered.
"For every singre officer that's been brought before Girgar for drinking on duty..." Schrau whispered back, "...a half-empty bottre of hooch has been pranted in his office. Often in praces that he'rr find 'em as he's discussing the penarty." The vulpin grinned. "'sides, biomancers reckon you should drink a grass and a half of wine every day."
The barman produced two small glasses and a dark green bottle of wine. "Rajian stormwine. Nothing finer on the planet. Now, to help- Oh, sorry Glommon, will you indulge in the blood of Sikkar today?"
Havral nodded curtly. "Today, yes."
"Ah, good." The barman cheerfully said, pouring a small measure into each glass. "It's on the house. By the way, Roffle's the name, Roffle Ondarflur."
Schrau felt his jaw slacken as the barman introduced himself, and failed miserably to reply with a rather stunned, "Roffre?"
Roffle's smile widened. "Yes sir, a proud family name. So, what can I help you with, officer?"
Schrau took the glass and sniffed it distrustfully. Strangely, it had a bland and neutral scent that failed completely to register on his keen sense of smell, which for a wine was highly unusual. "Uh, werr I'm rooking for a Janus Krahn; I was tord he drinks here?"
Roffle scratched his nauseatingly smooth chin. Schrau was not used to barmen that couldn't sand a wooden plank down with their jaw. "Krahn, Krahn... No, truth be told, officer, is that I ain't too good with names. Unless of course they be a regular, of course."
Schrau inwardly winced. "Got any regurars that might be good with names?"
"Yeah," Roffle nodded and pointed in the direction of a secluded booth in the corner of the room. "Shinsmasher over there might know."
A wild grin spread thickly across Schrau's muzzle. "Not Crusher Shinsmasher?"
"No, Garuth Shin- Oh, wait, yeah, Crusher is his nickname, isn't it?" Roffle nodded in agreement with himself. "He's been a regular here since we opened."
"Thanks." Schrau smiled back and took his glass. "You've been most herpfur." He hopped off the stool in a practiced way that took being only four feet tall to manage.
"Werr, werr, werr. Or' Crusher Shinsmasher here..."
"And that is unusual?" Havral asked as she trailed behind the sentinel as he crossed the bar.
"Yeah, he's not the wine type." Schrau sniffed his glass again. "Does this smerr off to you?"
Havral took in the bouquet of her wine. "It doesn't smell at all."
"Yeah, strange that." Schrau slid into the booth and crowed, "Shinsmasher!"
A helmet, a fire-red beard, and a glass of wine. That's how you describe a dwarf in a wine bar, for simply nothing else was visible. A battleaxe and a stormhammer sat crossed in the booth next to him like some violent sort of drinking companion. On Schrau's greeting, the dwarf jumped in his seat just enough to cause his helmet to tip back far enough to reveal his eyebrows, and Shinsmasher grabbed the decorative horns with both gauntlet-clad fists and clamped it down tight back on his head. "Cadnos! Fancy meeting you here!"
Schrau leered and leaned in closer, resting his arms on the table. "Garuth Hackthegroin Shinsmasher... Fancy meeting YOU here!"
The dwarf tried ineffectively to hide behind his glass of red wine. "Please, laddie! Keep it to yerself!"
"Rerax..." Schrau replied. "Your secret is safe with me. Frankry, I could do without the reputation of ever being here-"
"I drink here." Havral muttered morosely.
"-Nobody here to arrest, see." Schrau finished the sentence. "Of course, that could change." Schrau gave the wine another suspicious sniff.
"Stormwine?" Shinsmasher noted sourly. "Cat's piss. Don't touch the stuff."
Never one to back away from a drinking challenge, Schrau took a generous swig of the viscous red liquid and regretted it almost immediately. "Yeech! Whare oir tastes better than that!"
Havral gave her glass a similar sampling, and her beak twisted almost impossibly into a sour expression. "I think the real blood of Sikkar would taste better."
"See?" Shinsmasher crowed. "Roffle be a nice lad 'n' all, but his taste in fine wine is as good as a..." Shinsmasher fumbled for a suitable simile.
"-A Fallen's love of Sikkar?" Havral offered.
"-Girgar's rove of dwarves?"
Shinsmasher nodded appreciatively. "Ooh, good one, laddie."
"Gilgal doesn't like dwarves?" Havral whispered to Schrau.
"You get teased about rookin' rike an overgrown one, you would too." Schrau replied.
"Anyway, yer inquiries bein', Cadnos?"
Schrau sighed and pushed his glass of wine aside. "Yeah, I'm rooking for a Janus Krahn. Have you heard of him, Crusher?"
Shinsmasher's expression soured beneath his beard. "Aye, lad. I've heard o' him. Drinks here when it pleases 'im, even when it doesn't please us. Bastard's a bastard, plain and simple."
"If onry you knew the half of it." Schrau muttered. "So he doesn't sociarise much?"
"We-ell, he got on with one person. Don't drink 'ere no more, I made sure o' that!" The dwarf cackled. "You'll probably know him too, titch."
Schrau smirked. "Not-"
"Aye. Ol' Nullan "Legs" Void." Shinsmasher smiled back. "Used t'be a regular drinkin' partner of Krahn's, 'til they had a big bust-up about something. Dunno what."
"Um... Nullan Void?" Havral repeated the name like it should mean something to her.
"Doesn't like us little people, miss." Shinsmasher said, gesturing to himself and the vulpin. "Rather... 'down' on us. Kept makin' foolish taunts and jibes."
"'How's the weather down there?'" Schrau repeated.
"'Seen my pet worm anywhere?'"
"'Is the grass greener on your side?'" Schrau added, before bursting out into laughter.
"'til of course the day he pissed off ol' Gorgal Thunderstrike, who took his battleaxe and cleaved Void's legs off midway down the thigh." Shinsmasher roared. "Hobbles around on two little peg legs, barely taller than a dwarf. Gave 'im a whole new perspective on life."
"Yeah, he stirr hates us, but does it face-to-face now." Schrau explained.
"'tis the honourable thing to do though, if ye ask me."
Schrau sighed happily. "Thanks, Shinsmasher. You've been most herpfur."
"Now remember, laddie." The dwarf warned as the sentinel stood from his seat. "Ye didn't see me, right?"
"No, of course not." Schrau winked. "I saw Vrom Gutripper here instead."
"Ah, bless ye, lad. We'll make a dwarf out of ye yet!"

Part 4 - Aurora

Schrau seemed to smile cheerfully as the rain redoubled its efforts; the rain, the city, it all seemed natural to the skulking vulpin. Havral, on the other hand, pined for the nice and dry cave in which she grew up in. Abarack was too claustrophobic, too busy, too grounded. Gaia did not bless tywimn with wings so that they could crawl around the cities like sewer rats and urban foxes. The paladin cast a suspicious glance towards the sentinel, who was clearly in his element.
He gave a heartfelt sigh. "Beautifur sight, ain't it?"
Havral squinted into the gloom with eyes less suitable for the task. Even if she could see the city for all its worth, then the thick sheet of rain that separated her and it would make it practically impossible. "I swear, Cadnos, you were born to infuriate me."
"No," Schrau explained. "I was born to be the greatest vurpin thief in the worrds. And I ain't even begun to infuriate you, tywimn." The vulpin sighed again. "I terr ya, there are some sentiners that refuse to have anything to do with me or Carn', 'cause we've shattered so many of their fragire rittre minds." He paused. "Heh. Roffre."
"So what's our next move? Where's this Void?"
"Dunno. Where do you not want to go?" Schrau offered.
"Anywhere that is away from my lodgings, Cadnos." Havral grumpily replied, before giving the question some more thought, debating whether it was a trick question or not. "Perdow. I guess."
"What a shame, 'cause that's where Void rives."
Havral glared suspiciously once more at the vulpin. "I thought you didn't know where he was."
"I don't. He might not be at home right now." Schrau explained. "Rogic, ma'am. D'you know where the Perdow statue is?"
Havral concentrated for a moment, then shook her demonlike head. "No, afraid not."
"Shame." Schrau muttered. "Okay, ret's go back to Keystone; find out there, maybe you could drain that breastprate of yours."
Havral grumbled beneath her breath, then stared at the vulpin. "How did-"
"The way you're stooping." Schrau replied, pulling a scrap of indescribable jerky from a pocket and gnawing on it. "A dead giveaway."

It was fortunately much dryer in the Keystone of The World; away from the foothills, and with a better class of wall and awning, it's little wonder why Keystone became the Welstarian capital over Abarack.
"Whaddaya mean we have to go back to Abarack?" Schrau whined as Havral emerged from the Sikkarian church.
"That's where the Perdow statue is today." Havral sighed. "Sorry, I really should have checked-"
"-The damn thing's been in the church four days out of five this week!" Schrau continued to rant, not directing it towards the paladin. "Rord, I'm gonna find the idiot who moves those broody things and-"
"Schrau." Havral glared.
"-Arrest them!" He finished, before growling a few curse words beneath his breath. "Then beat him." He added.
"Deputy Cadnos, I hardly think-" Havral began her reprimand before recognising the figure across the street. "Blast!"
Schrau glanced over his shoulder to see a kanku dressed in what was in essence a gaudy extrapolation of the simple robes that biomancers wore. The kanku turned her head this way and that down the street, then noticed the paladin and waved.
"She's seen me!" Havral whined.
"And that's bad?" Schrau asked.
Havral let out a long, drawn-out sigh. "Aurora Starbeak, she was... An acquaintance of mine."
Acquaintance, not friend, Schrau noticed. "Go on."
"Well, not that long ago Sorush and Gabrielle had some hare-brained scheme to pair the newer biomancers with paladins, sort of companionship, to help teach the biomancers about the ways of Sikkar and-"
"Oh yeah." Schrau's face soured. "Giacomo and Cap'n Eyebrows had a simirar thing going between the bards and the sentiners."
Havral continued, "Anyway, she and I were the... 'trial' candidates for the scheme and-"
"I was the triar for one of the bards most under-trained buffoons." Schrau grinned.
"There was some... unpleasantness." Havral finished.
"Ditto. I armost got my bard kirred..." He held up two black fingers. "Twice."
"Try three times." Havral stuck out a tongue in disgust.
"It might have herped my case if I'd actuarry shown some remorse, y'know." Schrau continued. "But the bastard cost me a pretty penny to have fixed, and I haven't seen a rebate." Schrau sighed. "Anyway, how big of a bitch is she?"
"Quite-" Havral automatically began, before stopping herself as the vulpin leered on. "How do-"
Schrau tapped his muzzle. "Oh, come on. I can smerr a catfight when one's about to happen. And we've got the mud." He pointed out.
Havral glowered. "Right now, you and her on about an even par."
"Anyway," Schrau patted the tywimn on her wing. "You two catch up. I'm hungry."
"You just ate."
"But that jerky wasn't fatty enough to kirr me." Schrau explained as he walked past Havral, aware that the kanku was crossing the road behind him. The sentinel gravitated towards a fried chicken seller on the pavement. He ordered a small leg, accepted the 'sentinel's discount' (Nothing he really could have done to prevent the generosity of Welstar's merchants, for refusing the discount the once would result in the vendor to save it up for the next time.) and smartly pulled a napkin from his coat and tucked it down the front of his shirt, taking some time to smear the napkin with some chicken grease.
Havral and Aurora were already talking as Schrau returned to them. Havral was tense, withdrawn, and fit to draw her blade. Aurora was, in contrast, open and friendly, and it must be said a little sluttish.
Nevertheless, Schrau knew whom he liked less. He quickly stripped the chicken leg down to the bone, and continued to gnaw on it as he approached the pair. "Ah, my good Grommon, I see you've found the main course."
"I-" Havral began to say, before clamping her beak shut. Despite the vulpin's display as well as... well, differences between their respective species, Aurora curtsied politely and held out her hand as if inviting Schrau to kiss it. "Greetings, officer." The kanku said in a sultry tone. "Aurora Starbeak at your serv-"
Schrau casually tossed the bone into the gutter and took Aurora's hand, but instead violently shook it with a tight grip. Aurora never even flinched, especially when the vulpin licked the grease off his fingers. "Hmm? Oh, yes. I've heard." He pulled the napkin loose and stuffed it into a pocket. "So, you know each other?"
"Oh yes..." Aurora was unfazed, like every vulpin she met treated her like a potential meal. "We go way back..."
"I'd hardly call eight months 'way back'." Havral all but snarled, and for once Schrau was impressed - Beneath the armour and shield of a Knight of Sikkar was a living, breathing, fallible and oh-so-emotional mortal.
And Aurora... Schrau didn't like her, plain and simple. Maybe it was because of the way he had grown up to expect how biomancers should behave, maybe it was because he could take Aurora to any ten biomancers and get nothing but murmurs of disapproval from them all, or maybe it was because...
Schrau shook his head. "The rast eight months seem rike an eternity to me." He said in a way that suggested to Aurora that if she made comment on this that it would be something she would regret. "So, you, ah, worked with Havrar for a period of time, hmm?"
Aurora nodded excitedly. So desperate to please, so likable, but there was something rotten there. "Oh yes. It was a very exciting time for both of us!" Now there was a hint of malice, of hatred, something Schrau had expected from the very moment Aurora had opened her beak. Havral harrumphed and crossed her arms.
Schrau stared coolly at the biomancer. "Rearry? Yeah, I know about excitement too..." He growled.
"So, what are you doing with my dear Havral then?" Aurora leaned forward, her low-cut robes granting the sentinel a view that actually made him more hungry than horny. When she spoke next, the level of outright wanting in her voice actually made Schrau shudder, black widows probably spoke with the same tone. "Some... Inter-guild cooperation?"
"Oh, f-" Havral began, before restraining herself. "Pluck you, Aurora! You're acting like some drunk tavern wench."
The 'poor-little-me' look Aurora gave was right out of the tart's handbook too. "I'm shocked, Havral, after all we've been through-"
"Don't remind me." Havral sneered. "Incidentally, we would invite you along for the ride, but there's a chance that you might actually survive."
Schrau chuckled, even though he probably shouldn't have. Still, given another chance he wouldn't change his reaction. Aurora was really fuming now. "Well then, I wasn't asking you now, was I? Officer Cadnos, what are your plans?"
Schrau, leaning against a lamppost with his arms crossed, sighed. "Something invorving you, me, and a crispy breadcrumb coating."
Aurora's cheeks curled up in a kanku smile. "Oh, well then-"
"Ain't there a street corner you should be standing on?" Schrau quickly interrupted in a tone that suggested 'thank you for your time, now go kill yourself please.'
Wounded, but still kicking, Aurora returned to happy neutrality. "Oh, I'm sorry. It's clear that I've upset you both somehow." She sighed. "Anyway, it is good to see you again, Havral."
Havral said nothing but rolled her eyes at the retreating kanku.
"Three times?" Schrau muttered. "You didn't try hard enough. I didn't hate Rande enough to actuarry get-"
"No, you misunderstand." Havral sighed. "It was the other way around. She almost got me killed three times. Twice by flirting with the wrong person."
Schrau grimaced. "I think it's best for our rerationship that I don't press the matter any further." He sighed. "Anyway, keep a hord on that bire sweetie. We're gonna need it."
Havral had almost forgotten about the vulpin's assignment, and hers. "For Void?"
"Werr, yeah. But mainry for Perdow."
"Oh, right."

Part 5 - A Weak Link

Nullan Void hobbled over towards his door on his little peg-legs, dragged a set of steps next to the door up to against it, and hauled himself on top.
When dealing with a physical disability that came during one's lifetime, there are typically three types of people: The first adapts to his environment, the second adapts his environment to himself, and the third refuses to adapt anything at all; the equivalent of hiding in the cellar with your fingers in your ears while humming loudly to yourself.
Ironically, while Void placed himself firmly in the third camp, the ability to actually hide in the cellar with his fingers in his ears would have been very useful for what happened next. The crippled human peered through the peephole set in his door to see who had knocked on his door.
" a whore, plain and simple..." A female tywimn's voice whistled, but what Nullan Void could see were pure vulpin, at least the parts he could see - The black tips of the vulpin's ears, and a scruffy tail in the distance. Of course, Void made his first mistake.
That mistake was having a cheap door. A proper peephole was small, with a glass lens that made it so that the person inside could peer out without anyone outside being able to see them in turn. Nullan Void's peephole, however, was just a small hole cut into the wood. He could see out just as well as people could see in, and whoever was out there knew that He Was In.
"Sentiner guird..." The vulpin growled. "Open up, Void."
Void's second mistake was to loudly yell, in fact so loudly that the people living across the street heard, 'Shit!' and slam a pair of cheap deadbolts shut before taking the opportunity to book it.
In one swift move, Schrau unslung the battering ram from his back and drew back. He could hear from the little clicks of the deadbolts that they were old, of poor quality, and rusted.
The cheap bolts and the cheap door and the cheap steps behind the door splintered with the force of Schrau's first bash. It wasn't even a particularly strong strike, but patently overkill for the quality of what he was actually hitting. Dropping the ram, he plunged into Nullan's squat of a home and chased the man down, a better runner for his four feet in height than the artificially-shortened human. The met in the front room of the home.
Nullan scrambled for a crossbow; cheap, and managed to get a hand to it as he fell. A nasty little noise of a sword being drawn cut through Nullan's mind and the same blade cut through the bowstring. A split second later, that blade was across the human's throat as a tywimn paladin stepped into the room, her armour clanking like a hephastian tumbling down some stairs.
"Sikkar help me, that corridor was too narrow for these wings..."
Nullan looked up at the sentinel who held him by the throat and vaguely remembered him well enough. The sentinel did nothing but nod, smile, and say "Hi Void. Deputy Cadnos. Are you abre to answer a few questions?"
"I ain't tellin' you nothin'!" Void spat.
"They arways say that." Schrau pointed out. "They usuarry do, eh?"
"Listen, shortstack, I'm gonna-"
"Ret me guess, you'd kick my arse but couldn't find a stepradder?" Schrau grinned. "You wirr talk."
His blades flickered in the gloom of the hovel and struck wood. Two discs an inch thick fell from Nullan's peglegs. Nullan growled in response, "You bast-"
"Come on, Void." Schrau snapped back. "Sooner you talk, sooner I'm out of your rife for the next few days." Schrau expertly cut a button from Nullan's shirt. "Janus Krahn. Where is he?"
The silence. Nullan did not respond instantly, he just sat on the floor with the sentinel's blade pressed into his chest and wondered how was the best way to reply. Schrau could practically hear the cogs whirring in the human's mind.
"Whenever you're ready."
"Listen, vulp..." Nullan calmly replied. "I ain't even hear-"
A flick of a blade slashed the cloth of the human's shirt.
"Wrong answer. I'm going higher, Void. Wanna guess what I cut next?"
"Be grateful he skipped the pants." Havral added.
"Be very gratefur. Krahn?"
Nullan glowered at the sentinel, or maybe it was just a squint. "What do you know?"
"Why don't you terr me?"
Another silence. This one lasted many minutes with neither vulpin nor human moving for a very long time. Havral fidgeted slightly, for the virtue of patience had never came easily to her.
"Come on, Nullan." She eventually said, and ignoring the slight sigh from the sentinel she continued, "Tell us what we want to know so-"
"'scuse us for a mo', wirr ya. Void?" Schrau interrupted, cocking the blade over his shoulder. "Tywimn, a word."
They barely took three steps away from Void, however Schrau deemed this distance sufficiently 'aside' for his purpose. "Grommon, terr me; who here has the training and the naturar abirity to negotiate the hair off of this guy?"
"You don't seem to be displaying much in the way of negotiation skills." Havral countered.
"Carrot and stick, Grommon. Carrot and stick. Onry right now I haven't bothered to harvest the carrots."
"I can still hear you, you know." Void interjected.
"Yeah, yeah. Shut up." Schrau shook his head. "Risten, I know how this goes."
Schrau sighed and turned back to his subject. "Void, I'm serious here. Ask yourserf this; is Krahn rearry worth your rife?"
"You're not gonna kill me." Void snarled in defiance.
"No, but I can make your rife so bad it wouldn't be worth riving." The vulpin said with a smile. "Trust me."
Even Havral's eyes narrowed at that. "Schrau, you can't-"
"If I'm not ristening to my conscience..." The sentinel said while heaving a sigh. "...then what makes you think I'm going to risten to you?"
"Cadnos! I must-"
"-ret me get on with my investigation? Sprendid idea! Now. Void. Krahn. Now."
The human stammered over his next few words, so Schrau pressed him on the point. "Sorry, Void? I didn't quite catch that."
"You insufferable bastard..." Void whispered. "I'm not telling you-"
The air around the sentinel snapped and chilled as Schrau lashed out. He kept one blade aimed straight at the human's throat, but the tip of the other blade had scored a neat cut along his right cheek. The cut slowly started to bleed.
"You've got ten seconds."
"Just tell him." Havral quietly said. "He's quite determined."
"Sadistic more like!" Void protested.
"Five seconds."
"All right!" Nullan yelled. "All right!" The human seemed to steel himself. "I-I-I don't k-k-know where he is-"
The sentinel sighed but sheathed his swords. "Go on, but right now you should know I do know you were seen talking to him in the Brue Crescent Inn."
Void's next response caught in his throat.
"S-Sid Janson." Void gasped. "Sid Janson."
Schrau's muzzle opened slightly in the same way that would suggest he was about to say, "I know him." Instead, he clomped it shut, then added. "Who is he?"
Void's lower lip shook. "A... A... Well, truth be told I don't know who he is." He shrugged. "All I knows is that I pissed him off, and then I had Krahn threatening me and stuff and then I had that bloody dwarf riding my-"
"You were a drinking partner of Krahn." Havral pointed out.
"Were." Void affirmed. "Yeah, well... We talked, but not much. Didn't know the guy that well at all. Then I somehow pissed off this Sid Janson guy and that was the end of that."
Schrau nodded and smiled. "Thanks Void. You've been most herpfur."
Void's voice suddenly turned vicious. "An' you owe me for a new crossbow string, stumpy."
Schrau reached into a pocket and drew three pieces of gold. "Hey, I'd save up for one of those new 'Praetor' bows. String made of high-tension steer, can drive a breadstick through pratemair apparentry."

"So what next?" Havral bitterly asked.
Schrau looked up at the sky. He wasn't going to get any clues from the sun by that, but he could recognise what part of Welstar was in the day. Keystone glittered just above him. "It's been a rong day. Not gonna be abre to do much more today. Tomorrow, I'm gonna have to find who this Janson guy is and beat the information I need out of him."
"Beat?" The paladin snarled. "That did not work with Void, did it?"
"It did, if you had been paying attention." Schrau coolly replied. "If I want to pay penance, then I'rr ask for your advice, but when it comes to forcing information out of totar scumbags then you wirr defer to me."
"And if I disagree?"
"Then I'd appreciate it if you stop cringing to my tair rike some rost chird." The sentinel sniffed. "I'rr see you in the sentiner harr tomorrow. Now, I trust you can make your way back home without my aid? I feer rike grabbing something to eat before turning in." Schrau scratched his head. "For some damned reason I've got a hankering for some roast chicken breast."

Part 6 - Click

Schrau saw Havral standing at attention outside the entrance to the Celestial Barracks; he had expected her, had taken the long route around instead of taking the portal from the adventurer guildhall. Therefore, as if to prove some sort of point, he just blew past her in a flurry of green leather.
He let a slight smirk of self-satisfaction settle on his muzzle as the clanking of plate mail double-timed briefly to catch up with him.
"Sreep werr?" Schrau asked, not waiting for an answer as he practically shoved the light double doors that separated the business quarters for the two law enforcement groups that operated within Sauronan city off their hinges. "By the way, Grommon, you're about to rearn something about the guird." He stormed into the offices of the junior officers like a maelstrom of authority and leather and early-morning coffee breath. "Any messages?"
Most of the junior officers glanced briefly in his direction, and those that allowed their gazes to linger bit back curses, all too aware that they had failed some sort of test.
"Any junior officer that behaves as if they're an assistant to a senior officer wirr be their assistant." Schrau grinned. "Werr?"
A small selkie shrugged, his seaweed-green hair just catching the early morning sunlight to glow. "Well, office scuttlebutt is that another crazy bitch has been looking for you, prettyboy."
"One of Carn's victims." Schrau whispered to the previous crazy bitch in a way that suggested that she should know who this Carn was. "Got a description, Voheeres?"
"Jus' got in." The selkie explained. "In fact, most if not all of the night shift's gone. Veyka's still in, she's talking to Zeamass in the dep's office."
"Hmm, okay. Thanks." Schrau muttered as he then weaved through the desks towards the doors that led to his desk, allowing Havral to be slowed by the route. He made it to the door in ten easy strides, while fifteen later Havral was only halfway through the gauntlet of desks, even managing to make three paces with a wastebasket stuck on her foot.
"I have returned." Schrau grandly said as he stepped into the office, and three seconds later a paper dart lodged itself in his left ear.
There were only about three or four other people in the office, and none of which were in a position to throw the dart. Schrau had a theory that the darts were simply a naturally occurring phenomenon, but still blamed Carnely regardless.
Two werewolves that caught Havral's eye sat near the corner of the room. An overweight female constantly adjusting the lay of her slightly-too-small coat and a male wearing plate mail with a fellblade over his back. Havral felt herself tense at the sight, and the werewolf noticed her as well; glaring briefly in her direction and glowering.
"You let Fallen in?"
"Zea? Yeah." Schrau explained. "Been here ronger than I have at any rate. Good or evir, we're stirr arr coppers. Siiii- Dammit, Carn."
By now, Schrau had made it to his desk, the seat of which was once again occupied by the stuffed vulpin toy. He grabbed it as if it had been the bane of his existence for the last few weeks, then threw it at the muridan who sat on the desk opposite him. The toy rebounded off the muridan's dreadlocked head for Havral to make an easy catch.
"Keep it. Find an orphanage to donate it to or something." Schrau hissed as he pulled himself up to sit on the desk.
"'sup, prettyboy?" The muridan leered. "Who's the 'din?"
"Carnery, meet Havrar Grommon. She's a temporary hanger-oner untir I get this damned Krahn case dead and buried."
"Speakin' of which," Carnely added. "Gilly wants some progress on that case by the end of the day."
Schrau snorted, "Oh, and hospitarising Iago Mrand isn't progress?"
"Fer some of us, it's a hobby." Carnely leered, before catching Havral's disapproving glare. "Not this muridan's hobby, o' course." He coughed genteelly.
"Anyway, heard of a Sid Janson?" Schrau asked.
The muridan mulled this over for a moment, then shook his head. "Can't say I have."
The vulpin groaned. "Rooks rike I'm gonna have to spend a day in the stacks for this one."
"Don't you mean one of the junior officers will have to spend a day in the stacks?" Carnely pointed out.
Schrau spat. "Yeah, but I'rr stirr have to put up with their whining."
"By the way, a kanku was looking for you just after shift change."
Schrau and Havral exchanged a brief glance. "Aurora." The tywimn said.
Schrau nodded, but said, "Stirr, we need proof. What'd she rook rike?"
"They all look the same to me, prettyboy." Carnely said. "Y'know I'm not interested in that sort of thing."
"Eeeh... Werr, you might have been interested if you saw the show she put on. Was she a biomancer?"
"Not that you could tell it." Carnely mused. "Not many biomancers I know go around wearing extremely low-cut blue velvet dresses."
"Knowing Aurora, it was probably velour." Havral explained.
"Unress you got crose enough to feer the difference." Schrau grinned. "Anyway, arr this talking in common is giving me a headache. Stay here, Hav, Carn won't bite unress you ask him to." He hopped off the table and started towards the two werewolves. "Veyk!" He barked, "A word!"
The werewolf nodded and detached herself from the conversation with Zeamass. "Yeah, sure."
"Who was that kanku that was looking for me?" Schrau asked.
Veyka shook her head. "Uh... I've never seen that little harlot before to be honest. Really wanted to leave the room when she walked in. I've been hiding in here ever since."
Schrau raised an eyebrow. "Really? Anyway, she's long gone."
"Praise Gaia." Veyka mumbled. "Just was about to head home."
"Yer lucky." Schrau said. "Wuz just about to get a few of the junior officers to do my work looking for this Sid Janson guy."
Veyka's eyes instantly narrowed. "Sid Janson." She hissed.
"You know him?" Schrau said in surprise.
The werewolf took a deep breath, and started to release it in brief controlled bursts between words. "I wish I didn't. He's a werewolf, came from the same pack as me back home." Veyka's voice took on a more embarrassed tone. "We, were, uh... Well. Not physically of course, but I was young and stupid and his bitch."
"I understand." Schrau sympathetically affirmed.
"Anyway, guy's a total bastard, but you can probably find him hanging around the gambling dens of Igneous." She shuddered. "I finally broke up with the guy when he lost a big hand and put me down as collateral to a pimp. Damn near tore that bastard's throat out."
"Which bastard?" Schrau asked.
"The pimp." Veyka explained. "Couldn't mess with Sid. Anyway, he spends most of his time human, but you know if you're in trouble when he changes." She finally smiled. "Still, you'll do well."
Veyka sighed. "Screw the diet, I've got an unnatural craving for fried chicken..."
The vulpin grinned even wider, then returned to his desk. "Two things, Hav. It was Aurora, and we're on our way to Crypt. Got a big bad wereworf to intimidate."
"Oh, good luck with that." Havral almost mockingly said.
"Nah, I'm set." Schrau said by way of explanation.
"What do you mean?"
Carnely coughed, "Well, by that he means he's got werewolf blood on him." The muridan smiled. "Nothin' freaks out one of them more than a li'l critter still stinking of big bad wolf blood."

Part 7 - Ante Up

"Not many more praces to try," Schrau said. "we'rr find Janson sooner or rater."
Havral tried to keep herself in check. Igneous, city of the Dead, and everywhere she looked there was something she wanted to smite. Again, it annoyed the tywimn to see the sentinel stalk through the city like a natural predator on his home turf, and she so desperately wanted to make a snarky comment about tipping over dustbins.
"How good an impression does it make to have you dragging a Knight of Sikkar to dens of inequity?"
"Quite a good one, I should think." Schrau said, stopping at an alley mouth.
"I'm sure some of those places were fronts for brothels and bordellos." Havral pointed out.
"Hopefurry." Schrau added, lifting the lid off a dustbin and peering inside with professional interest. "Means repeat business for a guy rike me."
"That was the third doorman you intimidated today."
"Fourth." The sentinel corrected. "The Diamond Guard outside the Temprar church owed me ten pieces of gord." He shrugged. "I haven't kirred any of 'em yet."
"That's because every doorman in this city is undead!"
"Yep, and if I'm the worst thing that's happened to them in their existence, then they should think themserves very rucky indeed."
Truthfully, Havral couldn't argue with that logic. They stopped outside another gambling den with a rather grand sign above the door, 'The Jack", which was next to a detailed drawing of a skull-headed Jack-in-the-box which had tiny little skulls instead of bells at the end of the points of its jester's cap.
The doorman probably modelled for that drawing, but then again most humanoid skeletons looked identical to all intents and purposes. The doorman glared at the sentinel and paladin with long-vacant eye sockets.
"We don't want the law here." Despite lacking lungs and lips and tongue and everything else required to speak, the skeleton managed to successfully vocalise the statement.
"Werr, that's a damn shame boney." Schrau said while licking his lips. "Ret us in 'fore I bury you, boy."
The skeleton smiled, though that was probably more apparent from its stance and movements rather than actual physical appearances. He stooped down to pick up a dry stick that had found its way to the gutter, straightened, then lobbed the stick far down street.

"One more prace." Schrau told Havral. "Rorring Bones. Shouldn't be too hard to get into, the doorman's thicker than a brick sandwich."
"Just as well Janson wasn't in that last place, I don't think we were welcome there." Havral sourly commented.
"I should bloody think not!" A muffled voice from the depths of Schrau's hip bag mumbled. The sentinel sighed and retrieved the skull within.
"Quiet, boy."
The skull now lacked its jaw, but could still speak. "I'd kick yer arse if I knew where my legs were."
"Quit frapping your jaw." Schrau snarled, gently tossing the skull from hand to hand.
"I would, if I had one."
"Werr, who's faurt is that? If you hadn't bitten me-"
"Do you have to keep that?" Havral asked.
"'That?' 'That!?'" The skull spat. "I have a na-"
Schrau threw the skull into the gutter, where it continued to complain. "Right, we're here."
The doorman continued to fester at the doorway. A zombie, well-built in life and mouldering in undeath. Perhaps more ridiculous was the fact that the zombie held a clipboard with absolute authority and was wearing a suit that would have looked fabulous on a living being.
"Name?" The zombie moaned.
"Guy." Schrau quickly replied, knowing well enough that he'd need more than a fake name to get into the Bones, and wasn't even attempting to bluff his way in that way.
The zombie checked the clipboard. "Second name?"
"Incognito." Schrau added, and Havral laughed behind him.

Twelve seconds later, the sentinel and paladin found themselves walking towards the small bar in the casino.
"Okay, I rearry didn't know that was going to work." Schrau said defensively. "It's as much a surprise to me as it is to you."
"Probably not as much of a surprise as it will be to the real Guy Incognito." Havral said. "There really is someone out there with that name?"
Schrau shrugged and pulled himself up onto a stool against the bar. "Barkeep, is there a Sid Janson here?"
The burly vampire looked in their direction. "Who vants to know?"
"Guy and Lady Incognito." Havral merrily said.
The vampire rolled his one good eye. "That bloody doorman, I told him enough times that Guy vill..." He trailed off, then sighed in frustration. "Janson?"
"Blackjack table. An' I'm only telling you this in hopes that you vill drag the brute out of here in less than vun piece."
Schrau smiled, said "Cheers," and hopped down from the stool. They weaved through the tables and crowd and found themselves facing the backs of several blackjack players.
"Which one's Janson?" Havral asked Schrau.
The sentinel took one step forward, and a jet black-haired man visibly stiffened.
"Wereworves take a rot of stock in brood." Schrau whispered back. "And if you kirr one in as crose quarters as I have then you're marked as a srayer for rife." His eyes narrowed and his smile increased. "Tasna was werr known in wereworf circres. She was hated and feared, roathed and respected. I've had a free drink from every one that hated her, and nothing but fear from everyone who knew here."
"How did you kill her?"
Schrau tapped her nose. "I couldn't kirr her in a straight fight. So I broke her mind. That's on me too, the scent of her fear and confusion. If I had just torn her to shreds then I'd probabry would have been butchered by the first young buck that caught her scent on me. But the fear is what keeps them at bay." He cleared his throat. "Sid Janson?"
The raven-haired man turned slowly in his seat and brushed the long bangs from his sparkling eyes. For some reason, Havral found her heart fluttering at the sight of his well-defined features, his perfect jaw and nose, and...
Schrau sighed and turned towards Havral. "See, I just wish I could drag this guy back to Carn's desk and dump him on it. 'cause compared to this prettyboy, I'm a wretch."
"Sentinels." Janson growled. "I've got nothin' for you."
"There's only one sentinel." Havral pointed out.
"And you have got something for me." Schrau added. "Janus Krahn. I hear you two are bosom buddies."
The werewolf stared at the vulpin with the intention of starting something; then with the intention of a man who had seen his watch perched upon a crocodile's tongue and decided not to reach for it he started to turn back to his game. "Piss off, leg-humper."
The 'snick' of Schrau's blade coming loose was eclipsed by the werewolf's scream as Schrau neatly lopped his right ear off. Janson clutched the stricken side of his head as Schrau speared the fallen ear with the tip of his sword.
"That," Schrau simply said, "was the wrong answer."
Janson wheeled around and stood up, baring all of his teeth and snarling. "You little-"
"Give me Krahn, Janson, and I won't find more things to cut off." Schrau plucked the ear from his blade and rubbed it between his fingers. "It's a simpre enough request, and be gratefur I onry cut off something that wirr grow back. Now, I don't brame you if you didn't hear me the first time, there's a rot of wax in here." Schrau blew into the ear and then spoke softly to it, "Where's Janus Krahn?"
Janson lunged at Schrau, but the sentinel stepped easily to the side and Havral blocked him with her shield.
"I'm gonna-" Janson snarled, before he started to shift into his full werewolf form. Black furred, more vicious than handsome, Janson's hands flexed so hard that the tendons in his forearms popped. His ear, at least, had started to grow back. "I'm gonna tear your head off!"
But there was always that nugget of doubt; a nugget that neither sentinel nor paladin possessed. In about eighteen action-packed seconds Sid Janson was lying on the floor pinned down through extremities by all three of Schrau's swords and Havral's blade. The rest of the denizens of the Rolling Bones stood by and watched, since it was pretty good entertainment. Schrau got the feeling that Janson wasn't particularly well-liked. The paladin summoned a Sword of Faith and held the shimmering blade at the werewolf's throat while Schrau, perched on the table like a gargoyle, produced a small crossbow and a silver bolt.
"You know that wouldn't actuarry kirr me." Janson snarled.
"No, but it wirr make you very, very sick." Schrau sniffed the bolt. "Horrow, roaded with worfsbane. I had this whipped up for Tasna, but circumstances meant I could just butcher her without having to weaken her first." The bolt locked into the bow and Schrau snapped the string into place. "By the way, I know someone who would rather rick a sirver spoon than hear that I ret you rive. Krahn. Where can I find him?"
"I'm not gonna-"
"Okay then," Havral interrupted. "Let's ascertain the nature of your relationship with Krahn. What did Nullan Void do to you to incur Krahn's wrath?"
Schrau nodded in agreement. "Yeah. What she said."
"I owed him some money!" Janson snapped. "Krahn! Damn bastard! Never want to hear his name ag-"
"So where does Void work into this?" Schrau asked.
"He owed me some money!"
"He never mentioned that." Schrau said. "Stirr, if you were deferring the roan to him, I can't brame him for that." He plinked the crossbow string once. "So, where can I find he-who-must-not-be-named?"
"I-I-I don't know!"
"Oh for f-" Havral began, before grunting with annoyance. "Does anybody we meet know where Krahn is?"
Schrau sighed and said to Janson, "Sorry. She doesn't understand how porice work goes. I bet you do know someone who is one step croser to knowing where Krahn is, right?"
"It would be a terribre thing if I fired this crossbow into those pretty brue eyes of yours."
"They're brown." Havral corrected.
"Nobody ever had pretty brown eyes." Schrau said. "I said it for effect. So, Janson. Spirr."
Janson managed to force his reply out in one syllable. Janson could have made a tidy living as an auctioneer had there been anyone else other than an attentive sentinel who could understand what the hell he said. "Iago Mrand."
"I've talked to him." Schrau snarled, letting his finger rest tighter against the trigger. "He sent me to a wine bar, which sent me to a crippre, which sent me to you!"
"Mrand's getting off on Krahn's... Thing! Who d'you think snares those kids? Who d'you think gets to have a rittre fun with 'em first?"
Schrau's eyes narrowed. "The bastard. Shoulda smashed his skurr in when I had the chance." And with that, he fired the crossbow into Janson's crotch.
They left the werewolf howling in pain as they retrieved their swords, and as he curled up into a ball on the floor Schrau calmly replied, "Hey, you think I was dumb enough to ret you go free whire we took our swords back?"

If Schrau smoked, he probably would have shakily lit up as soon as he emerged from the Rolling Bones. "That goddamned sick bastard, shoulda ripped his spine out through his nose when I had him..."
"So, I suppose we'll have to find Mrand again?" Havral quietly said.
"Yeah." Schrau's nostrils flared. "No, no. I want him executed. If what Janson said is true, then I think a home visit is in order." Schrau took a deep lungful of the musty Igneous air and regretted it. "Maybe we can find something there that can't rie."

Part 8 - Poor Little Me

Two pretty brown eyes. Pretty enough to make Schrau regret what he said earlier that day. The fetid bedsheets had been pulled over her body to protect what little dignity the poor girl had left, and the room emptied of all but a paladin and a sentinel.
Schrau stood crouched at the bedside, staring into the accusing eyes of the murdered girl. Her face was bruised and nothing could live with a neck broken the way it was. He felt his anger rise, the bile in his stomach churning like the foot of a waterfall. The sentinel hissed through clenched teeth and stood up.
"Don't worry." He whispered to the dead child as he closed her eyes as gently as possible. "He's going to get what's coming to him."
They had burst into Iago Mrand's home a moment too late. By the time they had pulled Mrand off the girl she was long dead. In his frustration the bastard had snapped her neck cleanly but still kept going. Schrau felt himself shake as he recalled the scene; he felt cold, weak, angry. It took all of his restraint to stop him from slicing Mrand into unequal pieces and still Havral had to hold him back. Mrand himself wasn't far away, and in a few minutes Schrau could continue his investigation.
All he had to do was wait for Gilgal to finish his business. To a sentinel, calling Gilgal Radisgad into the field was on par with calling Sikkar himself down to the worlds to clean the streets. Radisgad was the ultimate weapon, and should his direct interference ever happen then it meant that something was horribly wrong indeed.
Just like this.
Schrau cautiously twisted the girl's lolling head into a more natural position, then mumbled a small but nevertheless heartfelt prayer; one he had not spoken nor indeed heard since his days in Aldar's den.
He heaved a sigh and choked back the tears. In all his years he had never felt like this. The first lesson he learned in childhood was to accept death in all its forms; friends had died in front of him during Aldar's more zealous periods. Schrau recalled every single smashed skull that had been caused by that bastard's bokken, remembered pairs of accusing eyes staring into nothingness.
Brown eyes. Always brown eyes.
Most of Schrau's fellow vulpins had brown eyes.
"I'm sorry..." Schrau whispered.
There was a clinking of plate mail that suggested that Havral had disengaged herself from her respective stance and started to walk towards him. "There was nothing you could have done."
"I wound him up." He snarled. "I wound the bastard up so tight he snapped. She got caught up in this." Schrau briefly regained composure. "Then again, she could be in Krahn's possession right now. A smarr mercy..."
"Schrau, it's not your fault." Havral insisted. "He sent you where you were supposed to go, the route just brought you back here."
Schrau shook his head. "I never once suspected that Mrand could do something rike this. He's a petty forger, that's it. Been in and out of prison enough times. Heh, his coinage wasn't even that authentic." He looked once again to the bed. "I wanted to find something that could not rie. I never wanted to find something rike this.
"Hav, Girgar should just about be finished by now. Maybe you should go back with him to the harr. What happens next is never pretty, you're not going to see me at my best."
"I'll stay." Havral defiantly said. "I won't leave."
Schrau nodded, then stomped towards the door. As he swung it open, Gilgal finished scrawling his signature on the roll of parchment he was writing on and left it to curl up on the table in the middle of the bare room. Visible at the head of the scroll were the words 'Denial of Rights.'
"Do you know how many of these I've had to sign in the last twenty years?" All warmth had been drained from his voice. To many sentinels, Gilgal had been seen as somewhat of a butt of numerous jokes, easy to annoy but slow to anger. Those sentinels had never seen Gilgal like this. "Four. Four in two decades, Mrand. And now I have signed two this week; one for you, and another for your partner in this."
Iago Mrand sat kneeling on the floor before the table. Shackled, naked, still bruised from his previous encounter with Schrau and now sporting fresh injuries caused by the sentinel and two Celestials as they 'subdued' him. Blood pooled around his bare knees from where his broken nose had leaked as he hanged his head in defiant shame, Mrand didn't even look up at the sentinel guild master for he knew well enough that there would be no pity nor forgiveness there.
And nor would he find it in the faces of the two Celestial Guardians that flanked him. An old superstition claimed that every time an anakim sinned they would lose a feather from their wings. While a patent untruth, the two Guardians would have left a few feathers behind in their travels with their less than holy lives, and were in fact seeking transfers to the sentinel guild.
Schrau nodded respectfully to their backs as if to say, "I'll prepare the desks for your arrival tomorrow." Gilgal continued. "Due to the heinous nature of your crimes, your persistent criminal activities, and the fact that you are actively defending the most abhorrent criminal ever to walk the Six Worlds has left me no choice but to actively revoke any and all rights that you would normally enjoy. You no longer have the right to an attorney, you no longer have the right to a fair trial, you no longer have the right to live your remaining days in comfort, and I daresay you do not even have the right to own a name filth!" Gilgal spat the last word. "Understand this: The Sentinel Guild has long sought to uphold the rights of all the people of the Six Worlds, and to purposely deny one such individual of their rights is a grave decision to make. It was not with an easy heart nor an addled mind that I made this decision. It was not an easy one to make, but one that I have made with absolutely no regrets." Gilgal straightened. "Due to the nature of the evidence against you, and the denial of your rights, it would be impossible to hold a trial that could potentially acquit you of any wrongdoing, therefore I have passed judgement - You will be executed without trial on the dawn of two days hence, though it is possible that you will not survive that long." Gilgal had added this with Schrau's benefit, and looked at and nodded at the vulpin. "I believe that Chamberlain Cadnos wishes to have a word with you."
Gilgal scooped up the scroll and left, Schrau took his place next to the criminal and nodded at the two anakim Guardians.
An odd sensation of relief spilled through the vulpin. He felt like an animal unleashed and set upon a target, and the truth was not much further from his imaginations.
Mrand sat on the floor, almost a shell of his former self. No emotion stirred within his naked body and that was something Schrau was about to change.
He started off gently. "Where can I find Krahn?"
No response.
"You're dead in two days, or you're dead in two minutes." Schrau told him. "Now, where's Krahn?"
A slight smile flickered across Mrand's lips.
"Ohoh? So you think you're going to drag that secret to the grave?" Schrau said. "Wrong. With or without you, I am going to find Krahn and execute him myserf." He nodded at the Celestials. "His right hand."
In a brief and powerful flurry of wings and limbs, the Celestial Guardians had unshackled the man and dragged him forcibly across the floor to lay his right hand flat against the table. With an easy movement, Schrau unsheathed his Niir Tag and held it in a confident two-handed stance above Mrand's hand.
"What are you doing!?" Mrand protested despite the evidence in plain view.
"Oh, come on Mrand, you haven't got the time to become a famous concert pianist." Schrau chided him.
"You can't do this!" Mrand yelled. "Paladin! You there! You can't allow him to do this to me!"
"No, you're right." Havral said. "Schrau!"
The sentinel's head snapped in her direction.
"Take half a step forward, it'll be a messier cut that way."
Schrau grinned and did so, and the human began to bleat his protest.
"What? You expect forgiveness?" Havral spat and gestured towards the bedroom door. "Forgiveness for that!? Sikkar would not forgive you for that atrocity, and you wish to beg for a scrap from me? Filth! I should make you suffer for that in the hope that you shall be cleansed!"
"'Via Quislibet Facultis!' 'By Any Means', Mrand; that's what the badge says and that's what I'm gonna do to get Krahn before me. Now, where is he!?"
And since no response was immediately forthcoming, Schrau raised the long blade above his head and brought it down in a strike that severed all four of Mrand's fingers.
The human screamed loud enough for the entire street to hear his suffering.
"One more time!" Schrau raised the blade and the two Guardians fed another few inches of limb onto the blood-soaked table. "Krahn? Where? Now!"
"I'm not-"
Another strike, and Mrand's hand was severed midway down the palm leaving a stump of a thumb.
Another scream, and the Celestials pressed his forearm to the slick wood.
Schrau drove the point into the forearm and twisted a few times, Mrand's pain overwhelmed the sickening snap of the blade at work on the internal structure of the arm.
"I'm not going to give up." Schrau said. "I know enough to keep you arive and in pain untir I just get tired of you. I wirr break you. There's prenty more parts reft that I haven't even started on."
"Three Copper Street!" Mrand yelled. "The apartment above the old tanner's! That's where he's hiding!"
"That scum is at large in Keystone?" Havral spat.
"Thank you." Schrau said, withdrawing his blade and then sheathing it. He could have amputated the limb from below the elbow, but a seeping wound was better punishment. "Don't drop the soap. Take him away, boys."

The undertaker was already on his way. They waited until Mrand and the unnamed victim was taken away, and having made one final sweep of the bare hovel Schrau burst out of the home and promptly threw up into the gutter.
Havral shakily stood by his side. Her stomach twisted probably just as badly as the sentinel's, but unlike him she had little to eat that day.
Schrau wiped some spittle from his mouth. "I didn't enjoy that." His breathing double-timed briefly and he struggled to keep it under control. "No. No. That was just..."
"By any means," Havral reminded him, though the words sounded hollow to her. "Remember why you're doing this."
Schrau rolled back onto his knees and spent a few moments studying his shaking hands, then clenched them into tight fists. "To Keystone. Ret's nair Krahn."

The old tanning shop had been abandoned for some time, and it was probably somewhere high on the city's list of civic improvements but until that point it had been an adequate refuge for Janus Krahn. Few neighbours, and a still-overpowering odour to mask the scent of blood from even the keenest noses. Schrau mused not for the first time that he usually held his breath every time he walked down Copper Street.
Again, they were too late. Late by a sizable margin.
Schrau sighed as he inspected the scene. "In my heart of hearts, I expected this."
The hideout had long been abandoned. Stale sawdust and old blood littered the apartment, and there was the smell of stale urine and faeces that suggested that several of Keystone's few homeless had used the den as a place to stay for a harsh night. The door wasn't even locked.
"We've haven't lost him, right?" Havral quietly asked, her voice filled with small grains of hope. "We can still get more from Mrand?"
Schrau shook his head. "What's the point? I need something erse again Mrand, and I don't know what that is yet. I could continue to beat information out of him but arr I'rr get is obfuscation and ries." A slight smile hit his muzzle. "Still, Krahn was here. Perhaps this is the sort of prace he rikes. Probrem is that there's more praces rike this in arr the pranets and searching them arr wirr take too rong, but it's a start." Schrau rubbed his face. "Havrar, why don't you go back and report to Sorush? I need time to write a report for Radisgad, I need time to think, time to organise my thoughts, and I may need something strong to drink."
Havral caught the hint. He wanted to be alone. Oddly enough, Havral felt a desire to be with him and make sure that he was all right. Nevertheless, despite everything that happened, despite her mission to find Daste Kuroryu (Havral would probably be the first to admit that she had all but forgotten about that), she still found herself respecting his wishes. "Okay. I'll catch up with you later."
"Do that." Schrau said. "I'm more of a night person. I do my best work at night." And then, while grumbling something about day shifts, he brushed past the paladin.
She heard him thumping down the stairs, but did not move to follow. Instead, she struggled to overcome the slight moment of breathlessness that had gripped her. Havral forced herself to calm down, took a step, and then was overcome once again.
She doubted that it was due to the oppressive nature of her surroundings, or that it was due to the recent events. Schrau had warned her that he was about to present to her his worst behaviour; but there were moments around all that, as he took care of Mrand's victim, outside Mrand's home, here.
Havral shook her head and forced herself to gratefully leave the apartment. She should seek guidance from Sikkar, she needed that guidance now more than ever.

Part 9 - Never Asked For This

Sorush's footsteps echoed hollowly throughout the church as he walked towards the main hall. Havral kneeled before the statue of Sikkar there, praying.
The anakim nodded to himself, though the tywimn never spoke aloud he could practically hear her prayer. Such was his power and such was his burden.
"Glommon." Sorush said as he arrived at her side.
"My lord." Havral respectfully replied, standing up. "I was seeking the guidance of Sikkar."
"So I see." Sorush stated. "Tell me, how is the hunt for Kuroryu faring?"
Havral hesitated, "Forgive me, my lord. Cadnos has had a pressing case that has held his undivided attention."
"I see, but this is of the utmost importance."
The tywimn nodded. "I am aware of the will of the Church, however I believe that Cadnos' current work is for the greater good." She recalled the scene in Mrand's home and shuddered. "I cannot in good conscience interrupt it."
The anakim sighed. "Havral, I sense... a darkness on your spirit." Sorush waved a dismissive hand in the face of Havral's automatic protest, "It is not of your doing, I sense... I sense that it has stemmed from what you have been witness to."
Again, the sight of that dead girl crept to the fore of her mind.
"I see." Sorush calmly said. "Glommon, our work is not all glory. It pleases me to see you holding up so well."
"Thank you, lord Sorush."
The anakim smiled. "Of course, one could do well without paying heed to the example set by most sentinels."
A private joke between the guilds; sentinels had their own respective versions. Havral smiled weakly, but now the light-hearted moments previously shared between her fellow knights in training and even down the hierarchy of the Paladins seemed a lot less funny now that she had seen sentinels in action firsthand.
"Tell me," Sorush continued, "what is troubling you?"

Schrau stared at the lined paper before him and idly chewed on the pencil as he tried to force his thoughts into words. Over the last few days he had been so busy to not even make many notes. Probably for the best, since a lot of the events would probably look better on paper generalised as opposed to described in full detail.
Okay, from the start. Schrau scribbled a referral to the meagre report penned by Mogas Wemus, then a brief explanation as to how Wemus' notes had led him to Iago Mrand.
Schrau felt his hand clench at the very thought of that name, felt the pencil snap in his hand, and idly mused on the fact that he now had two perfectly good writing utensils. If he could write ambidextrously, he could be finished in half the time.
"Interrogated Iago Mrand," Schrau wrote, then added a few cross references to Mrand's previous convictions, "in the Golden Boar Restaurant & Casino. Informed that the subject had been seen drinking in the Blue Crescent Inn in Abarack."
Schrau looked at his written words and mumbled in approval. Keep things up at this rate, and he'd be finished by lunchtime.

"I remember you father well, Havral." Sorush said some time later, having shifted the conversation into a more personal gear. "He was without a doubt one of the finest paladins I have had the honour of knowing."
"I know." Havral gloomily said, not entirely pleased with the fact that Sorush was bringing up a pretty sore point with her.
"He had nothing but pride in his children." Sorush continued with a smile, "A minor sin that we allowed him. He always spoke fondly of you and Vortik."
A slight pang of pain twisted Havral's gut. "No, please, I do not wish to discuss this."
Vortik, her lousy excuse of a brother. Corrupted, drawn into darkness, murderer of her father. "His betrayal was sudden, yes." Sorush said. "Sudden and unexpected."
"Father probably loved him up until the moment he stuck his knife into his heart." Havral spat. "Probably even beyond that."
"Your life with the Paladins has not been an easy one Havral." Sorush admitted. "If anything, your brother was only allowed the leniency he was granted due to the often heroic actions of your father. Many of your peers, myself included, felt that we should not fail you as we did your brother."
"You did not fail my brother. He was weak and easily seduced." The tywimn glowered. "A character flaw, nothing more."
"Of course." Sorush sighed. "Might I be blunt, Havral? Could you be as easily swayed?"
Rather than reply immediately, Havral deeply considered this question as Sorush would have wanted her to. Of course there was no way that Havral would be seduced by the darkness, the example set by her brother's descent had ensured that.
Of course, there was that old paladin's joke.
"Lord Sorush, I admit to have being witness to brutality and questionable ethics during my brief time with Sch- Cadnos. He almost granted a deplorable criminal a dishonourable death naked and frightened in his own home as opposed to a quick and efficient execution at the hands of the proper authorities..."
And somehow, that hurt. It pained Havral to say that, the feeling that she had somehow betrayed Schrau's trust was inescapable. "However, I am aware of my duties, aware of my responsibilities and appearances."

Lunchtime had come and gone, and Schrau stared at the latest piece of paper as if it offended him. It told the sad tale of a weak cripple and a big, bad, sentinel. Believe it or not, the following had taken the best part of an hour to write:
"Nullan Void was encountered at his home along Dixe Street, Scarrowfell. Following a brief fracas, Void was subdued and questioned regarding the whereabouts of Janus Krahn. While Void admitted that he and the subject had been acquaintances, he elaborated that their relationship had soured following an incident involving one Sid Janson. Void claimed no knowledge of Janson."
Schrau swept a few crumpled wads of paper from his desk and stared at the newly-revealed woodwork. A brief, cynical snort was the result of musing the fact that Havral had been with him every step of this little debacle but didn't have any of the paperwork he had to complete.

"So, why have you sought Sikkar's guidance?" Sorush asked as if it wasn't something most paladins did before even rolling out of bed in the morning.
The tywimn sighed. "I have had many... Confusing thoughts." She turned once again to the statue. "About Schrau."
"Oh." Sorush managed, a perfect little bit of blandness in a discussion that Havral would rather not be happening aloud right now.
"I have seen his brutality, I have seen his bravado. However... I realise that these are simply pieces of armour he dons out of necessity. You mentioned that a paladin's life is not a glorious one, however for a sentinel..." She shook her head. "I've realised that sentinels need stronger shields of impure materials to deal with what they encounter daily."
"And you have feelings for this sentinel?"
"That is why I sought guidance." Havral simply stated. "I witnessed an unusual amount of empathy within him. I-" Havral stumbled. "I don't know..."
"Uncertainty is a path to defeat, Glommon." Sorush warned her.
"Which is why I need guidance, my lord."
"I see." Sorush smiled. "Describe your thoughts."
She finally smiled. "They're not impure, lord."
"Ah," Sorush chuckled. "So it's more than a physical attraction?"
Havral's smile widened. "Somehow, I doubt it could ever be that." Relaxed, she began to veer towards a neutral centre point. "I don't know... I never asked for this."

"We now know the type of hideout favoured by Krahn, and have assigned officers to aid in compiling a list of potential locations similar to the abandoned hideout in 3 Copper Street, Keystone." Schrau read, glancing briefly at a hefty stack of reports that he had culled from about half an hour's skimming of property locations and groaning with the realisation that there were plenty more files to find. He realised that he was chasing at shadows.
"I shall continue with my enquiries."
Schrau filed the loose pages of paper into a folder, marked it for review, then dumped it into the out tray of his desk.
Well, that was it. Two day's worth of work and tail-chasing and heartache condensed into a handful of scraps of paper. It didn't seem fair, somehow. That's how the ruling classes of the worlds would like to see existence - Written down in neat little lines on neat little pages in neat little script and filed away in neat little folders. File, repeat.
It was never like that. Chaos ruled the worlds, and as a custodian of Order Schrau had no other choice than to try and reign in the beast, beat it into submission, spur it to docility.
Life wasn't fair for most people. Life wasn't fair for that little girl. Life wasn't fair for Krahn's victims. Life wasn't even fair for a man, crippled by an angry dwarf.
Life wasn't fair for a small, frightened vulpin clutching a scrap of metal forged into a crude knife, hiding in the shadows waiting for a man to take one step to the left...
Grown-up, burdened with responsibility, and with a mind full of cynicism both justified and not, Schrau had felt just as frightened and worthless as that day in Aldar's den the moment he had discovered that body. In a sense, Schrau had seen many murders, often more horrific and depraved than Mrand's final masterpiece, but there was something about that one...
He should have killed Mrand there and then.
Rubbing his face, Schrau stared up at the setting sun through the window. Bugger this for a game of soldiers. He hopped down from his seat and gathered his weapons before setting off towards the door. He never asked for this case. That bloody catfolk should be having these doubts and deliberations instead of him.

Sorush stared at the statue alongside Havral for a long time, before finally nodding. "I see. Well, there is nothing more you can do now until Sikkar blesses you with the guidance you seek."
"Thank you, lord Sorush."
He placed a friendly hand on her shoulder. "Until then, seek out Kuroryu. Aid Cadnos in his investigation if you believe that it will help you, and always remember the path."
"I will." Havral nodded. "I will."

"Lookin' for the prettyboy?" Carnely muttered at the tywimn as he stood from his desk, ready to cause trouble for someone who probably did deserve it.
"Yes." Havral said. "Where would I find him?"
"A bar, probably." The muridan said. "A Sauronan bar, so that leaves the Seadog, the Boar, or the Barnacle."
"Which one is he likely to be in?" Havral asked.
"Well, if it's business then it's the Seadog. If it's trouble, then the Boar. Otherwise, just go to the Barnacle and pray it's not Catfolk Night."
Part 10 - The Cutest Gravedigger

Havral wasn't one to stir up unnecessary trouble by checking the Boar, and nor was she comfortable of walking into the swashbuckler's den that was the Salty Seadog. Like electrical currents, floods, and highschool kids with the choice of homework or procrastination, the paladin took the path of least resistance.
It certainly wasn't Catfolk Night, but the Flying Barnacle was heaving. Ezekiel and two others were serving behind the bar; a male catfolk and a female vulpin. At the crowded bar, sitting on a stool despite the fact that it otherwise standing-room-only, was Schrau.
Havral elbowed her way to the bar, almost leaving her wings behind in the crowd. "Uh, Schrau?"
"Take a seat." Schrau cheerfully said as the catfolk placed a mug of ale in front of him. "Thanks Raere, put it on the tab."
The catfolk rolled his eyes. "Tsk. Schrau, dearrr, that tab could pay the rrrent on this place for a month." Laere the catfolk then smiled and turned to Havral. "And can I get anything forrr yew, sweetie?"
Havral blinked at the catfolk. "I shouldn't-"
"Get 'er a bottre of Charthurian Sunwine." Schrau said after taking a pull on what was obviously his first pint of the night.
Havral really couldn't argue with the choice. Nursery school dishwater had a higher alcohol content than the light, sweet wine of Gydnia. It was a reasonably inexpensive dinner wine, and probably something that Havral would have ordered anyway.
"Sure thing, dearrr." The catfolk sighed. "On the tab?"
"Gotta work towards next month's rent." Schrau said as the catfolk dodged by the vulpin barmaid towards the coldroom.
"Hey Schrau." The barmaid said, crossing her arms across the bar that pushed her chest out in a manner that was more natural than suggestive.
"Hey Raere." Schrau replied.
"The usuar, hon'?" Laere the vulpin asked and the sentinel nodded.
"Wait." Havral said questioningly. "I thought you said that his name was..."
Laere sighed. "She doesn't know, does she?"
"Hasn't been in many bars further than Abarack." Schrau explained.
Muttering to herself, Laere sashayed towards the kitchen end of the bar.
"Some nights they make sure they're never seen in room at the same time." Schrau commented. "Those days are just great to make your first visit here."
"Aren't you on duty?" Havral asked, pointing at the mug.
"Technicarry." Schrau took another sip. "Carr it a hiatus. Anyway, I'm not here to drink my way to obrivion, just here for dinner and a few pints."
Havral finally sat down disapprovingly, since alcohol generally went to a vulpin's head faster than a brain clot. By the time she had settled onto the stool, the first Laere had returned with a chilled bottle of wine and a glass.
"Finished your reports?" Havral tactfully asked as Laere poured the first glass.
"Yeah." Schrau bitterly said, almost suggesting that the alcohol had already taken a hold. "Wasn't easy."
"Have any thoughts about where Krahn could be found."
Schrau shook his head, and the second Laere returned with a large bowl of fish broth. To Havral, it looked heavy enough to sink a clipper and smelled worse than she could possibly imagine. With a smile, Schrau thanked the barmaid and started to eat.
Havral sighed and sipped the wine. "I... I don't like to pressure you, but shouldn't we be looking for him?"
"You'd think."
The annoyance was clear in Havral's voice. "Instead, you're in a bar eating broth with buxom serving wenches?"
"Oh, thanks." Laere happened to have overheard that comment. "If you think I'm buxom now, you should see me in the morning before I spend an hour and half strapping them down. I'm surprised I stirr have a working pair of rungs..." Muttering obscenities, the vulpin bustled away to serve another customer.
"You've done it now," Schrau grinned. "It's something of a sore point to her."
"She really has to-"
Schrau nodded. "Ohyah." He drained his mug. "She even has to resort to dwarven underwear."
Havral snorted. "Oh come on now, that's just ridiculous."
"Yeah? When was the rast time you saw a femare dwarf?"
"Plenty of times." Havral pointed out. "Just because they all have beards and-"
"No," Schrau sighed. "When was the rast time you saw a femare dwarf?" He said, accentuating with his hands for emphasis.
And Havral considered this, taking special note of the memories of her fellow dwarven paladins during her years of training. "Oh. I see."
"Yeah." Schrau finished his broth. "Most of the tips she gets goes back into her wardrobe. Anyway, be nice."
By now, Laere had drifted back and scooped up his empty bowl and mug. "Who should be nice?"
"Havrar here, to Raere." Schrau explained.
"Oh, right. Another?" And taking the vulpin's dismissal, the catfolk minced away.
"Interesting place." Havral admitted.
"Uh-huh, that's mainry 'cause Zeke..." Schrau pointed at the irrdu at the other end of the bar, "is somewhat of an eccentric. Okay, he's batshit crazy." He smiled. "But it's stirr the best damned bar in arr of Wysoom. Anyway, me and Raere go way back."
"A friend of yours?" Havral asked.
"Eh... Kind of." Laere said, materialising at Havral's position at the bar. "His great-great grandfather ripped off my great-great grandfather."
"According to those hideousry comprex rerations that ord vurpin famiries rike the ones we come from, that armost makes us cousins."
"Cousins that keep in touch, but don't have to invite each other over for Sikkarmas dinner." Laere grinned.
"Hey, I had dinner here rast year." Schrau pointed out.
"And the year before that."
Schrau smiled. "See: sympathetic, understanding, and a two-pinter to boot."
Laere laughed and asked, "'nother one?"
"Raere wirr bring it over, I have to go talk to Zeke about something."
Havral almost dreaded asking, so she quickly knocked back her glass of wine and poured another. "What's a two-pinter?"
"It's a scare." Schrau pointed out as Laere plopped a full mug in front of him. "Basicarry, how many pints you have to down for a certain woman to appear attractive."
Havral snorted disapprovingly. "Men."
"Ooh, tell me about it, sweetie." Laere interrupted, then turned to Schrau. "Anyway, you've less a chance with herrr than anyone else now."
"Something I've come to expect." Schrau said, taking a sip of beer; but there was something about Laere's wording that caused him to enquire further. "Why?"
"Didn't yew hearrr?" Laere grinned. "Laerrre got marrrrrried!"
"Raere!" Schrau barked, and Laere abruptly finished her conversation with Ezekiel.
"What's up?"
"You got married?"
Laere looked pensive for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, funny that."
"You've got some expraining to do, missy." Schrau demanded.
"Werr... He started working here a few months ago." Laere sighed. "Cutest vurpin you've ever seen. Anyway, we ferr in rove and got married rast week..."
And, with more than a large portion of dread, Schrau asked, "He works here?" Then, with a slight catch in his voice, he added, "So his name is-"
"As a matterrr of fact, it is." The other Laere pointed out.
"Rearry? Or did he have to change it to work here?"
"Since the day he was born."
Schrau's forehead met with the bar, and he felt something stick. "Sikkar herp me. Remind me to write sympathy cards for your kids."
Laere smiled coyly. "Werr, you've got a few months to pick 'em."
Schrau left some forehead hairs behind as he looked up; a Wysoom Bar Wax, it was known in some circles. "You don't hang around."
Laere sighed and thrust a shoulder in Schrau's direction. "Werr..." She gasped, fluttering her eyelids. "I gave up on waiting for a certain sentiner to throw himserf at me."
"You mean Carn didn't?" Schrau cackled.
"Um, I hope you don't mind me asking." Havral said. "But with children on the way, should you be... Strapping down?"
Laere sighed and nodded at the tywimn. "You raise an excerrent point."
"Well done, love." Laere winked at Havral. "That's tripled the takings in this place forrr a few months."
"Jus' as werr I come here for the beer." Schrau muttered, staring into his mug. The bar staff left them, Havral finished her second glass and started on a third.
"So, Chamberlain Ca-"
"Oh, gods no..." Schrau muttered. "Even Girgar onry uses those ranks when he has to be very serious. Deputy or Officer from here on out."
Havral laughed, knowing that the sentinel ranking system owed a certain something to the somewhat meddling influence of the paladins some few decades ago. "Anyway, I was just wondering, how many pints would I be on your scale?"
Schrau raised a lazy eyebrow in her direction. "Arr things being equar? Professionar differences and personar tastes aside?"
Havral smiled. "Can't a paladin have some fun? I'd like to know where I stand with you."
Schrau took a mouthful of ale, thoughtfully swilled it around in his muzzle for a moment, then swallowed. "Truth is, I'd say three or four. Four. Mainry because of the size difference."
"Four?" Havral repeated. "Twice as much as Laere?"
"Werr, she gets a one-pint headstart by just being the same species as me. Prus, I won't need a stepradder just to be with her." Schrau shrugged. "And the height is a probrem to me."
"Laere was quite tall for a vulpin." Havral pointed out.
"Mmhmm, at reast I'd be abre to keep my ears warm." Schrau smiled and finished the rest of his beer. "Okay, three."
Havral smiled. "Better. Can I buy you another?"
"Nah, we'd better just finish off your wine, then set out."

The rain hammered down on Sauronan harbour like an omnipresent waterfall. For once, Havral didn't seem to mind it as they wandered back towards the city.
Schrau regarded the torrent with a casual glance up to the night sky, then washed his face in the downpour. "It's just a finar push before it eases up."
And with that, the rain abated a bit. Granted, a Wysoomian drizzle was on par with a typical rainfall on Welstar, but at least you would no longer be dryer if you went swimming instead. Havral straightened a little bit.
A group of men, about ten strong, stood between them and the gate to Sauronan. They didn't look like gate guards.
"Oh rook." Schrau drunkenly said. "A greeting committee."
"Schrau Cadnos." One of the men growled. "Yew've been causin' a lot of trouble for our boss..."
"This is to do with Krahn, right?" Havral asked Schrau, who shrugged.
"Dunno. Could rearry be anyone." He began ticking names off on his fingers. "Could be the Kyroryuans, Horace Angero, anyone who might have known Vehemoth Noradda, the Mortons, the Ranners..." He blinked. "Hmm, I wonder if I can get through the next year 'thout pissin' anyone off..."
"Who is your employer?" Havral demanded.
"Piss off, miss. This is 'tween us and the vurpie." A scarred flynd leered.
"Jus' cut to the chase and terr us if this is about Krahn." Schrau demanded.
"'cause it'rr be easier to do now than when yer dead."
A particularly ugly dhampir snorted, "Yeah, fat chance copper. There's nine of us- Ten. Ten of us." He added as one of his colleagues corrected him.
"Oh. Good. There's at reast one interrectuar in this group." Schrau unsheathed his swords, and every single man in the group drew serious business-like blades.
Then Havral stepped between them, shield up and locked and her long sword in her hand. "By Sikkar's might, I will not allow you to harm him!"
"Unrikery." Schrau muttered.
"Welstarian filth!" A kizanki spat. "I will drink your blood from your skulls!"
"Tha's nice, skippy." Schrau lazily waved his swords. "How're you gonna do that without rips?"
"I warn you, stay your hand this place will be your graves." Havral intoned.
A few of the mob started laughing and cat-calling. "Oooh! The pretty little pally-wally is going to hurt us!"
Havral dropped into a more aggressive stance. "If that's all I do, then consider yourselves very lucky indeed."
Schrau stepped around the tywimn, his sword tips dragging on the cobblestones. "I haven't got arr day."
And the man in the back said, "Everyone, attack!"
By the time Schrau had locked blades with the dhampir, Havral had slain two men and smashed her shield into the chest of another. Schrau heard ribs crack, and the kizanki spat blood.
Schrau easily disembowelled his opponent, then moved onto the next. By now, the kizanki was on his knees and the flynd moving to flank Havral. The tywimn withdrew within herself, forming a barrier against harm with her shield and wings, and then lashed out. The kizanki lost his head, and the flynd his guts.
Schrau took a few fingers from the dhampir, then his left leg, followed by a final stab with both blades through the heart. "Hey, hey. Srow down, reave some for me."
It didn't last much longer. Schrau finished the final opponent, which was only his third, while Havral settled back and caught her breath as the rain washed away the blood smeared across her armour and shield and weapon and wings. She released a breath.
Schrau easily sheathed his swords, then pulled a card from a pocket before flicking it onto the corpse. He looked at Havral. "Gotta say, you have to be the cutest gravedigger I've ever seen today."
"Thanks. I think."
"I could've taken them myserf, but thank you." Schrau added, sounding perfectly sincere.
"I thought after a few drinks that you-"
Schrau nodded. "True. I am drunk, but I'm a swashbuckrer." He grinned, then flicked forward his first two fingers on his right hand, a silver card appearing almost magically between them. "I can drink, fight, and do it with styre."
"You have style?" Havral retorted.
"Werr, A Styre, just not one that's universarry recognised." Schrau shrugged. "Now, herp me check these bodies."
"We're not looting the dead?" Havral said with some disgust.
"No, checking them for any crues that might be of any use to us. Of course, a rittre rooting is acceptabre by raw as a means of compensation."
They checked the remains in a matter of moments, both turning up identical books of matches in a matter of moments.
"The Raptor's Den." Havral read the fresh print on the matchbook aloud.
"Oh, that prace. A games den deep in the Soserian jungre." Schrau explained. "Owned by a smart uruk named Randner." He shook his head. "Very smart. Speaks common better than I do." The sentinel sighed. "I'd go over there right now, but he onry opens on Soserian weekends which, by this time, begins tomorrow midnight, and even then nobody knows where Rand hides out. He's very, very smart."
"How smart?"
"Smart enough to run possibry the most crooked games in arr the six pranets. And get rich off of it." Schrau tucked his matchbook into a pocket. "Stirr, we have a day to figure out how we're going to get in there - Which is the easy part, and how to get our weapons in, which ain't so easy."

Part 11 - One In The Eye

The hot edge was beginning to bleed from the Soselian day as Schrau and Havral trekked through the Soselian undergrowth towards the Raptor's Den. Havral suffered more than Schrau, since the plan was to make her the muscle and use her to smuggle the weapons in. Since all weapons would be confiscated on entry, and weapons were expected, Schrau had acquired a pair of cheap but worn swords to carry.
Havral was sweating due to the fact that she was wearing a troll-forged set of armour, bought from Ugaak at a decent discount. It wasn't paladin armour, and she wore a thick cloak over everything to conceal the fact that her shield was strapped tightly to her chest.
Schrau wore a black travelling cloak, clasped at the shoulder with a black rose brooch, he'd brushed his fur back so that it seemed spikier than usual, and wore a scarf around his throat to mask the mark he had there. He trailed behind Havral as she cleared a way through the jungle since any efforts he made with his blade would be insufficient to allow the taller being to pass.
"So what type of place is this?" Havral asked.
"Viorent." Schrau surmised. "Very. Most of the games involve prizes if you win, and broken bones if you don't. It's a crooked prace."
"I see, and how do you know?"
Schrau grinned at the hint of accusation in Havral's voice. "I was a regurar there. Spent months figuring out how every game was fixed and how to beat them. They've banned me and severar of my ariases from that prace."
"I wouldn't think that they'd just bar you if you were caught out."
"Ah, but the thing is that most of the peopre who visit the Den think that the games are honest." Schrau explained. "Kick up a pubric scene, and you'rr be kindry escorted out with your teeth intact."
As they walked, Schrau began testing out different mannerisms of speech and accents. He found a few voices to choose from, ran a few through some tongue-twisters until he landed on one he could perform perfectly and naturally. It was somewhere between 'hick' and 'pirate.'
"So, why did you do it?"
"Oi don't know, mate." Schrau muttered. "Did what, hey?"
"Spend so long figuring this place out."
"Haw!" Schrau whooped. "It wasn't that rong. Rand's a crever bugger, but I'm better. Bugger, rost it." He added in reference to his fake voice. He sighed. "Anyway, I won't rie and say something about being young an' stupid, since I've been doing it over the rast year. And I am young and stupid. But I suppose it has something with proving how superior I am."
"Really? I hadn't noticed."
"Heh, arrow me to have some neuroses." Schrau grinned. "It's a common one in my species. But yeah, I spent a few months figuring out how to break Rand's toys just because I could. It's a simpre as that. I don't pretend to be interrigent, I don't pretend to be wise, but I just am smart and that's better than interrigent or wise any day of the week."
"Not that smart if you kept getting caught."
"Wrong again, Hav." Schrau chided her. "I wanted them to know what I had done, so I ret them catch me. Afterarr, how do you know you've been outfoxed if the fox doesn't terr you?" A brief laugh echoed through the trees. "Oh, of course there's that quiet moment you get at three in the morning when you wake up thinking 'wait, that bastard got me', but I prefer to do it face-to-face."
Facing away from Schrau's prying eyes, Havral grinned. "You really are arrogant, aren't you."
"To the bone." Schrau smirked. "Guess it was the way I was raised. A bunch of big, bad men in between me and freedom, and I just had to be smarter than them. Hord up."
"Why?" Havral whispered back.
"We're ress than ten feet away, and I've got to get back into character."

"So why is a gambler's den in the middle of the Soselian jungle?" Havral deadpanned as they emerged into the clearing around the small, squat building.
"Why not, hey?" Schrau replied.
"Well, with all these dangerous dinosaurs roaming about-"
"Werr, mate, we are gambrers."
The troll bouncer stopped them at the door. "Weapons an'... stuff. Leave 'em 'ere."
Havral and Schrau glanced at each other, then handed over the cheap swords they had on them. The troll dumped the weapons into a bucket alongside several other weapons, then stooped down to frisk the sentinel.
"'ey! Watch those there 'ands, mister." Schrau snapped as he allowed himself to be frisked. The troll stood upright, then moved towards Havral.
Who put out a thick, gauntleted hand towards him. "Touch me, and you will lose that arm."
The troll hesitated, then moved in slightly closer.
"She means it, mate." Schrau pointed out. "We didn't get 'ere with cheap swords arone."
Grudgingly, the troll let them by. As they entered the Den, Havral noticed that the floor sloped down pretty steeply and that the rest of the establishment was below ground. A bouncer dragging an unconscious dwarf by his beard passed him, then literally drop-kicked him out the door.
"Okay, from now on don't do anything unress I terr you to." Schrau whispered. "One foot wrong, and we're going to be cutting our way out of here."

Schrau sniffed the drink offered with suspicion and decided not to drink it after all.
"So what's the plan?" Havral whispered, barely managing to make herself heard over the din.
"I become the centre of attention, kick up a fuss, and we should be dragged before Rand. Shouldn't be hard, this prace stir thrives on the fact that most of the peopre stirr think that the games are honest, and Rand doesn't rike it when peopre point out to the contrary." Schrau explained, no hint of phoney accent in his voice. "Or they try to throw us out, rose some rimbs, and we fight our way to Rand." He shrugged. "Whatever's better for you."
"I think we should try the peaceful solution." Havral suggested. "So, how are we going to do that?"
Schrau looked up at the board above the bar and smiled. "Tonight's darts night. Should be easy enough. Just as werr I'm a good darts prayer."
Havral sighed dryly. "Another one of your limitless talents?"
"Haven't rearned how to juggre yet." Schrau suddenly stood up and forced his way through the crowd. Havral belatedly followed and caught up with him just as he was discussing something with a podgy minotaur.
"Yew wanna play darts then?" The minotaur asked. "Well then, yer in luck."
"Oh, am I, mate?" Schrau asked, rural innocence thick on his voice.
"Aye, lad. Just about to start we were but no takers yet." The minotaur grinned. "Anyway, this ain't standard darts rules. Not yer five-oh-one or three-oh-one or what 'ave yer."
"Nope. Special board, son. Three darts, up to three prizes. It's that simple. Bound to walk away with something." There was nothing but honesty in the minotaur's words and expression, but somehow even Havral caught the subtext with ease.
"Hey, haven't I seen you somewhere before?" The minotaur accusingly asked.
"No sir, ain't ever been 'ere before in me rife." Schrau earnestly said in a manner that was almost too open to be dishonest.
"Awight then." The minotaur said, then called over a scrawny balding human with glasses that were probably too large for his face. "'ere, Jim, we've got one fer darts."
"That's super," Jim said, "smashing, great. Come with me, lad." The human took Schrau by the shoulder as they cleared a way to the oche, Havral instinctively followed, but found that the crowd didn't immediately allow her to pass.
The dartboard at the end was a non-standard one. Instead, it was separated into eight equal sections of alternating red and black with the black sections numbered one to four. In the middle sat a green bullseye about twice the standard diameter of a normal bull.
"Right then, ladies and gentlemen!" Jim bellowed, catching the attention of everyone who was not already looking towards the game with a casual interest. "We 'ave a brave lad 'ere all the way from Welstar who is gunna try 'is luck at the Den's famous game o' darts!" A ragged cheer rumbled around the Raptor's Den that was not without a sense of bloodlust. "Now then, young-" He turned to Schrau expectantly.
"Uh... Sondac." Schrau quickly replied.
"Young Sondac 'ere has three chances to win one of our special prizes!" Jim continued without a break. "Rules are simple, even Big Lully 'ere knows 'em!" He said, gesturing towards the minotaur who raised a hand and smiled. A sardonic laugh that had been heard a thousand times before in the Den echoed. "Three darts, that's all he has. In the black with nothing for the red, now let's 'ave a look at all the prizes!"
Lully took in a deep breath that briefly allowed his chest to overhang his gut. "Iiiiiiiin ONE!"
"Land a dart in number one and get an authentic imitation leather Wysoomian sea-captain's cigar case."
"Iiiiiiiin TWO!"
"Have your music on the move with this atomy bard musical box."
"Iiiiiiiin-" Lully coughed violently on the cigarette smoke that hung thickly in the air. "In three!"
"Cook up healthly meals with this Gorus Banner coal-powered slanted cooking grill."
"Iiiiiiiin FOUR!"
"Turned out nice again with this designer umbrella with viewing flap."
"And tonight's special star prize!" The minotaur pointed at the green bullseye at the centre of the board.
Jim's good-natured smile turned malevolent in a blink of an eye.. "You get leave 'ere with any prizes you get, as well as yer arms and yer legs and yer teeth intact." By now, the laughter around the Den had turned into a jeering mockery of humour, and Jim leaned in to hand Schrau the darts. "Good luck, lad."
Schrau held the darts in his hand, felt the less-than-reassuring weight and balance, and stared intently at the dartboard that seemed to be an eternity away. It was hung at a regulation height, the oche was at regulation length away from the board, but that was only a significant handicap for someone lacking two feet in height of a regulation player. He glanced downwards at the faded women's oche a few inches away and whispered, "Would've been easier if I decided to smuggre a pair of coconuts in..."
"What was that?" Havral asked.
"Nothin'." Schrau let the darts weigh on his hand for a few more moments, then took one and held it in a throwing grip. A quick glance confirmed his suspicions - The points on each dart were bent almost ever so slightly out of line to a slight difference that meant it would be almost impossible to throw them straight.
"You can do this, right?" Havral insisted.
"Yeah, no probrem." He raised the first dart. "Just, uh, remember about Pran B."
The dart thudded into the outer ring of the board. The crowd cheered.
"Bugger." Schrau muttered, raising the second dart. It too was twisted out of shape and almost useless as a game dart. Still, if Jim took another step to the left he was certain of losing an eye even through those plates. Schrau aimed and threw, landing the dart in four."
"One dart to hit the bull, Sondac." Havral was almost mocking him with her timely reminder. Schrau stood at ease and studied the board.
"Yeah, but I rearry wanted that grirr."
"Don’t you dare!" The tywimn hissed.
Schrau rolled the final dart between his fingers, feeling the imperfections and gauging the level of flaw along the barrel. With a little bit of bending he could straighten the tip just so...
The point buried itself in green, and a hushed silence crept over the crowd. Schrau grinned and threw his arms up. "Yeah!" He whooped, doing a good impersonation of one who wasn't certain if he was actually going to score a bull.
Annoyed, Lully Stomped over to the board and pulled out all three darts. He inspected them up to the light and said, "Hey, you've bent this one out of shape!"
"Izzat a probrem?" Schrau innocently asked.
"You cheated!" Lully waved the offending dart in front of Schrau's face.
"That dart looks perfectly straight to me." Havral quickly responded.
"Yeah, is that the one that went into the burr?"
"Uh-" Lully began, before realising he was in too deep and that everyone was watching. Again.
"'cause, if it is, mate, then that means that the other two darts that missed were crooked by comparison? Hey?"
"Are you saying that we're cheating?" Jim growled.
"I'm sayin' I'd rike to see who's in charge here."
"Too bloody right." Jim agreed, grabbing Schrau by the scruff of his neck while Lully 'escorted' Havral alongside them towards the back of the establishment. "Bloody vulpins, we ought to bar the bloody lot of you from this place. Kept having a bloody vulpin coming in 'ere and-"
Schrau was practically hurled into the office, with Havral teetering to a stop just behind him. "Boss, we've got-" Lully began as he slammed the door behind him.
The uruk sitting behind the desk was wearing a finely tailored suit and an intelligent expression. He was also peeling a grape, the action alone would have caused others of his kind to vomit. Randner sighed and said, "You idiots, it's that bloody sentinel again!"
Havral finally unfolded her wings and handed Schrau a mini-crossbow and one of his blades with her left hand and drawing her broad blade with her right; the weapons all being concealed beneath the dark folds of her wings. With an easy hand she whirled the cloak from around her and let her arm lock into the shield.
Her blade pressed against Jim's throat at her right, Schrau aimed his sword left-handedly at Lully's gut and aimed the crossbow at the uruk.
"Idiots." Rand muttered. "When I heard the attempt on your life had failed I ordered security be increased around this place!" He sighed and threw the grape away in disgust. "Stick them like pigs, I don't care. They should have listened to me in the first place."
"Nice of you to admit the attempted crime." Schrau said. "By the way, the is a Praetor mini-crossbow. Not as powerfur as its big brother, but you stirr don't want to be on the other side of whatever is hit by one of these."
"Is that weaponsmith paying you to endorse their crossbows?" Havral accusingly asked.
"Actuarry, the entire guird was asked by Jonssen Foundry to use their swords, but the offer was decrined." Schrau explained without actually answering the question.
"You're a smart lad, Cadnos." Rand pointed out. "Prone to banality, but smart nevertheless. You would have figured out that those clods were from this place easily enough."
"Good point. Anyway, care to guess why I'm here?"
Rand smiled. "Actually, yes. I demanded that you stop sticking your nose into this Janus Krahn affair, and naturally enough you refuse to."
"Of course." Schrau said.
Rand picked up another grape from the fruit bowl on his desk. "Janus and I were associates. He had a knack of finding the most inept and desperate gamblers in all the worlds, and would bring them here. Naturally, when I heard you were investigating, I decided to have it stopped." The uruk smiled, an unnaturally intelligent grin that always made the sentinel shudder whenever he saw it. "Times change."
"Slow on the uptake, are we boy?" Rand said. "Naturally, I didn't want Krahn incarcerated while he was still of use to me. However, since I discovered that a Denial of Rights had been signed for him..." The uruk shook his head. "I started my own investigation. One using contacts that not even you in your infamy have access to."
"You didn't know what sort of person Krahn was?" Havral said with a slightly disbelieving smile.
"No idea whatsoever, Glommon." Rand said with an air of absolute honesty. "Now that I do, now that I know more about that bastard than I'd ever like to know, I would rather him be dead. Despite your... investigations into my place I still like to believe that I have something of an honest reputation, officer Cadnos, and having individuals such as Janus Krahn in my operation is counterproductive to that reputation." Rand leaned back in his seat. "You are still looking for Janus, correct?"
"I wouldn't be here otherwise."
"Well, just as well. I was going to provide this information on good grace with Gilgal Radisgad in person." Rand said, and Schrau took note of the fact that he was planning to go over his head on this. "Iago Mrand still lives, does he not?"
"For the next few hours."
"Ah, well it looks as if you are out of luck."
"Not rearry, we've got as much as we can from him."
"On the contrary, he will know a lot more if you inform him of something he does not. Iago had a daughter."
Schrau's eyes narrowed. "I never knew."
"No, of course not. She went missing seven years ago." Rand smiled. "Or so he thinks. The truth is that little Jenny Mrand was Krahn's very first victim, and her father still does not know this." Rand popped the grape into his mouth and began to chew. "Of course, if he did know, he would not drag Krahn's current location to the grave with him."
Schrau smiled. "Thank you, Rand. I wirr act on this information," and with a slight nod, he added, "the guird owes you a debt of gratitude, good citizen."
"I should hope so."

They emerged into Sosel at midnight, and Havral's frustration was evident. "Midnight here and Mrand is due to be executed in an hour! We'll never get a pod open by then!"
Schrau removed his cloak and turned it inside out. The inside was lined with short fur, and Havral realised that he had been wearing a magical animal hide inside out up until now. "Hav, I can make it, but I'm gonna have to reave you. Think you can make to Wysoom by yourserf?"
"No problem." Havral said. "Where are you going?"
"Wysoom, the rong way 'round." Schrau said, before mumbling a few words in a chant.
As the final syllable disappeared from hearing, a small tornado formed around the sentinel and wrapped him in entirety. The next moment he was gone.

Part 12 - Release the Hounds

Iago Mrand could barely hear a thing as the Sikkarian priest droned on about redemption and crap like that, the gangrene in his system had worked fast to ruin him physically and mentally. His right arm was almost fit to drop off, he was delirious with fever, and Mrand simply could not wait for the painless kiss of the executioner's sword.
The anakim executioner stood at his shoulder, and with an unseen nod he raised the blade above his head.
Mrand's eyes focused on the bottom of the basket for the first time and only noticed the small note pinned to the bottom, probably due to the interference of a sentinel no doubt.
It read: I Hope You Weren't Innocent.
Mrand's vision swam, but this time it was due to tears flooding across his eyes rather than anything to do with the fever. He just wished it was all over.
So when the door burst open, Mrand wasn't entirely prepared for it. He tried to look up, but lacking the strength all he could see was a blurred image of green.
"Stop this execution!"
Through swollen lips, Mrand sputtered, "Are... Are you an angel?" Which, considering to whom he was addressing, was very likely a stupid thing to say.
"Yes, I'm an anger." Schrau muttered. "Arr us angers have freas and green reather."
That voice would be on Mrand's memory for the rest of his life, unfortunately. "C-Cadnos..."
"Up." The sentinel ordered the executioner's assistants, and they hauled the human upright onto his knees. Two anakims restraining him and a man with a sword ready to cut something off; Iago was overwhelmed briefly by a horrible sense of deja vu.
"Werr, the good news is that you've had a stay of execution granted." Schrau said. "The bad news is that it'rr rast no more than ten minutes."
"Please..." Mrand whispered. "I have nothing more to tell you..."
"Wrong." Schrau said. "You know where Krahn is. And don't think we don't know that his Keystone bort hore has been abandoned for some time."
Mrand winced, then said, "Let me take one secret to the grave."
Schrau smiled and tilted his head to the side. "Oh, I suppose that's fair since Krahn's taking one with him too. Y'know, I never knew you had a daughter."
His eyes glazed and his jaw dropped. "J-Jenny... My little Jennifer..."
"She went missing, right?" Schrau said. "Forgive me for not knowing much right now, but I did yerr at a junior officer to try and dig up that fire and present it to me at the soonest opportunity. Poor sod's gonna have to rip most of the fires out of order to find that nugget, and I'rr be the one who makes him put 'em back." Schrau grinned a self-righteous smile just as the door opened.
Mrand never turned to see the sentinel presenting Schrau with the report, but was gone following a curt "thank you" from the vulpin and the door clicked shut just as Schrau flipped open the paper folder.
"Jennifer Anne Mrand." Schrau read aloud. "Father, Iago Mrand. Mother, Jade Anne Mrand; died during chirdbirth. Date of birth, Ergon the tenth, 23184. It would have been her twerfth birthday tomorrow."
Mrand was now sobbing onto the chopping block. "She's gone... I wish I knew where she was... I wish-"
"Went missing on Ktema the fifteenth, 23189. No evidence, no crue as to where she went. Nothing. Case crosed after three years due to rack of evidence, and Jenny was officiarry decrared dead five years after her disappearance." Schrau flipped the file closed. "Werr, I'm sure I can ask him when I catch up with him, but rumour has it that the rast person your rittre Jenny saw was Janus Krahn."
Suddenly, Mrand's eyes focused in a way that Schrau could never imagine a delirious man's could.
"We're assuming that he raped her, that he tortured her, that he skinned her arive and then..." Schrau shook his head. "Same as he arways did."
"He killed her." Mrand quietly said. No disbelief or shock in his voice, just pure determined statement of fact.
"But then again, I think you arways assumed he did." Schrau explained. "Deep in your heart of hearts, you knew where your daughter was."
"Fire Dragon and Truth." Mrand quickly said. "He lives just across from the zoo. That's where you'll find him."
Schrau nodded. "Thank you."
"And wh-when you find him..." Mrand slumped forward onto the block. "Tell him I'll be waiting for him. We'll be waiting for him."
"Won't do that, I'm afraid." Schrau said. "I'd think the rook of surprise on his face would be worth arr of purgatory." Schrau nodded at the executioner. "Proceed."

As a mere sentinel deputy, Schrau enjoyed some authority over the law enforcement agencies of the various cities, but lacked complete control. Absolute power rocks absolutely, and that was something Schrau did not possess.
However, the power he did have was more than enough to be able to haul every sentinel and Celestial out onto the streets to look for Janus Krahn. He had ordered the Celestials to all-but-lockdown every gate out of the city, monitor every ship from the harbour, and pitchfork-if-not-set-alight every hay cart that left Sauronan. Soon, Schrau would be meeting with the deputies and spurring them into motion, but now he had to whip the lesser officers into action.
That was always fun. Besides, this was a 'via quislibet facultis,' which meant that he could pull out any and all stops to get his man, even if it was just on a hunch.
He stormed into the office, plotted a course towards the centre desk, then leapt onto it. "Awright peopre, risten up- What did I just step in? Gawd, I hope they were doughnuts Despayre and not something erse..." He rubbed his foot on what might have been sensitive paperwork and cleared his throat. "I have word that Janus Krahn is at rarge in this city. We may never get another chance at this, so I'm throwing everyone I can onto this. The net is cast wide and far. We're going to get the bastard.
"So here's what I want to happen. I'm going to give you your orders and then stop speaking. By the time I've hopped off this desk, I want to see you arr moving. Everyone wirr be out on the streets in pairs, make your rounds so that if he does spot you then he'rr be herded towards praces that aren't so densery popurated. Pin him down, kick him a few times if you want, and then drag him in by his hair if you rike." A hand went up, and Schrau added, "Of course, it's up to you by what hair you drag him in by." The hand dropped.
"Okay, everyone understands what I just said-"
"Nobody everrr underrrstands what you say."
"Thank you, Mogas. You've just been assigned to creaning Carnery's desk." Schrau growled. "Everyone, get out there and get the bastard. If you don't know what Krahn rooks rike, take a description sketch from the huge pire by the front door. Move it!"
Most of the sentinels were on their feet by the time Schrau had hopped onto the floor. He then adjusted the scruffiness of his coat and then whistled his way to the doors that separated the two office spaces. He would then go into his office, give his fellow deputies a more relaxed briefing and the same orders.
Same, but for a single discrepancy.
Kill on sight.
Last thing they needed was someone like Krahn running about a day longer, and Schrau could at least trust the deputies to get the right man.

When Schrau had seen the fresh victim in the hideout that Mrand had told him about, he had smiled. Not out of morbid satisfaction of finding a new mutilated corpse, but from the fact that it was clear that Mrand still lived in this dank pit of a home, and that he clearly hadn't finished with the body yet. Krahn would be back.
Schrau stepped outside, gratefully allowing the scent of the faeces of dozens of different animals to assault his sensitive nose, and caught sight of Janus Krahn across the road.
He was a perfect gentleman. A face that developed a sense of natural trust, a broad and earnest expression of honesty, little wonder how he managed to get children to follow him home.
Even more amazing was the fact that he had managed getting this close to home while avoiding every damned sentinel and Celestial out on the street.
Still, Schrau had to hand it to the bastard. He was perceptive. Schrau knew he was hidden well in the crowd of the street and still Krahn looked directly at him and bolted in a heartbeat. Schrau set off in hot pursuit.
Krahn was at a serious disadvantage. He was only human. Schrau was an urban animal, capable at sprinting through a busy city on two legs or simply slicing through on all fours. Schrau dropped, caught sight of Krahn's ankles, and pursued. Schrau was small, was wiry, was able to knock over a tall human by just charging straight at their legs and knew the natural ebb and flow of a city. This was his natural territory, his hunting ground; put him in a jungle or a forest and Schrau would be uncomfortable, more so on the plains. In a surrounding of claustrophobia and stone the vulpin was raised, and that essentially is all a city can be.
Schrau couldn't lose. It was that simple.
By the time the crowd thinned out enough for Schrau to actually see his quarry they had already made it to the temple on Sea Dragon. Krahn was a pretty good runner to be able to outpace a vulpin at full speed.
Two sentinels stood in Krahn's way at the junction of Sea Dragon and Truth. Schrau didn't recognise them, and thus didn't trust either of them to apprehend the Krahn. He bellowed a warning, rose to two feet, and tried to close the gap between him and the criminal.
Both sentinels moved to intercept Krahn, and both were effortlessly shoved from his path as he slammed into them. Krahn barely dropped a step of pace, and that left Schrau with a problem - The two sentinels were in his way.
If he went around, he'd lose some precious time. If he went through them... Well, that seemed the better of the two options.
Schrau bodychecked the one standing officer, felt a bone snap in that unfortunate sod while he tread heavily onto the head of the other sentinel who had dropped to the ground. Still, they would understand. Schrau would make them understand.
A few more bumps later, they reached the outer circle of the city. From here, Krahn could make it to either of the nearest gates and get caught, try for the market and buy some time, or make for the Boar and have a dozen or so officers tearing the place apart while they looked for him.
Schrau didn't expect him to turn at the end of the street, produce a crossbow, and fire at him. The bolt barely went wide, and Schrau heard it strike someone behind him who dropped with a scream. He had to ignore the victim of Krahn's shooting, all that existed right now was him, his target, and the cobbles beneath his paws.
Krahn set off Eclipse-ward. Only a tad more cautious than before, Schrau continued his pursuit. After all, it was hard to reload a crossbow while running.
Schrau slipped on a loose cobble, almost twisting his ankle painfully. He kept going, because that's all he could do.
On Eclipse Dragon, Krahn turned once again towards the centre of the city as Schrau expected. That left Krahn with three choices, either to go back towards the city centre, which made no sense; head to the market, which made some sense; or into the Boar which made perfect sense.
So far, Krahn had been following the 'perfect sense' route, and wasn't stupid enough to do something that made no sense. And he still had that crossbow.
Where the hell was everyone else?
Anyway, when Krahn turned into the General Store, Schrau had expected it and was prepared to follow. Krahn went through three customers and a display rack before coming to a complete stop on the floor, and Schrau arrived soon after with a pair of blades in full view.
Krahn propped himself up on a shelf and found a crossbow bolt in the debris. He locked the string and rammed the bolt home.
Schrau managed to get a blade between the crosspiece and string, and pressed the tip of his other into the middle of Krahn's forehead. He noticed that the bolt was a gauge too big for the crossbow, would be less than useful, and that Krahn in his haste hadn't noticed.
"Go ahead." Schrau panted. "Turn this from resisting arrest to the attempted murder of an officer. But you'd better hope that your bowstring is stronger than my sword is sharp Krahn."
"You never were going to arrest me." Krahn whispered and pulled the trigger.
The string snapped. The force launching the bolt was greatly diminished, and the bolt thudded uselessly against Schrau's ribcage. In the same movement, Schrau drove the sword straight through Krahn's brain.
The human thrashed violently for a moment, the crossbow spinning from his unresisting hands as he leaked blood and fluids from the wounds in his head. Just to make sure, Schrau twisted the blade slightly and then skewered the other through his heart. That stopped him cold.
Schrau withdrew the blades, cleaned them off, and with quickening breath he smiled at the inert shell that had been Janus Krahn. "You know, it was never about the kirr. It was arr about the hunt."

Part 13 - In All Fairness

Havral stared at Schrau as he continued through his paperwork. There was little celebration, little joy, just a warm and grim satisfaction of a job done well.
Most of Schrau's paperwork consisted of signing things, filling in blank paragraphs, and generally checking and double checking facts drawn across many different files. He smiled, a casual smirk that beheld none of the arrogance that Havral was used to expect from the vulpin on full steam. Tunelessly, he hummed throughout the entire procedure.
Then, almost decisively, he closed the final folder and placed it on the stack. "And that's the end of Janus Krahn." His smile faded slightly. "You don't rook happy. Something up?"
Havral scratched her head, then shrugged at the vulpin. "I'm... Upset, frankly. Despite everything, despite the denial of rights, you still weren't willing to bring him in alive and offer him a fair trial."
Schrau looked pensive for a moment, then rubbed his muzzle and sniffed. "A fair triar?" he said, acting as if the concept was utterly alien to him.
"Yes." Havral pressed.
The sentinel shrugged. "I'd have done that, but the simpre matter of fact is that there's no such thing as a fair triar. It's a myth, a fantasy, a derusion that peopre imagine to try and berieve that there is something carred justice in the universe."
"Oh, don't get me wrong. Justice does exist." Schrau smiled. "Just not in the wishy-washy, fun for arr the famiry way that peopre would rike to berieve it does. Krahn's death, everything I did up to that, now that's justice. C'mon, you're in the rerigion business Hav', you know that this rife is just a pre-triar to what happens after.
"If peopre rearry understood that the most fairest of triars is just a huge waste of time and money when you can pay the city guard a ha'penny to get them to hunt down a criminar and execute him without any further questions for the same resurt, they wouldn't sreep at night." Schrau leaned back in his seat. "Why do so many peopre berieve that such a thing as a fair triar exists?"
"Because they believe in justice and order," Havral snapped, suddenly angry, "which is more than could be said of-"
"No, it's because everyone is guirty." Schrau interrupted. "Everyone knows of the crimes they commit; smarr crimes, not worthy of attention. But of course, deep down everyone berieves that if they get caught doing something they shouldn't be doing, they'd get at reast one chance..." He held up a finger, "...just one chance to worm their way out of it.
"There's no such thing a fair triar. Justice never wins in a triar, it's not about if the defendant is guirty or innocent, it's purery based on which side has the best representation. The god's honest truth is that if triars were fair, every outcome would be guirty."
"What if the defendant is innocent?" Havral asked accusingly.
"Then there would be no need for a triar." Schrau smiled. "Now, instead we rive in a time where the guirty are pardoned and the innocent hanged. Oh, sure, justice can be done in a court of raw, when Bardur Cadnos swung from the tree of Abarack there wasn't a man or woman in arr the worrds that didn't doubt that he was guirty. However, the fact that miscarriages of justice happen for either side means that the system is inherentry frawed. Not guirty." Schrau simply said. "Five years ago, Janus Krahn said that in Sauronan Court and over two months rater he walked away a free man."
Havral blinked. "He- He stood trial?"
Schrau nodded. "That is why I was abre to act without doubt in my pursuit and execution of Krahn. He stood a fair and honest triar and walked away. When he was arrested, the Cerestiar Guardians had to physicarry purr him off the remains of his ratest victim. He stood triar by jury, and despite the overwherming evidence against him he walked away. Five jurors decided that he was innocent after arr, that they could not find him guirty beyond a reasonabre doubt. Krahn walked away with a smire on his face, tripping off phrases about justice being done, and then vanished into the underground. Between then and now, seventeen more girrs died because of him, seventeen famiries ruined, three of which were those of some of the jurors who ret the bastard off in the first prace.
"Now terr me, does that sound rike a fair triar to you?" Schrau asked. "That's why when we heard that Krahn could be caught again, Girgar purred out arr the stops. Mogas had known one of the famiries invorved in the second wave of murders, Girgar had trusted that he had the focus needed to drag Krahn in, but the honest fact is that the catfolk is far to refined and civir to dear with a man rike Krahn. From the very moment Girgar put me on the case, Krahn's death was inevitabre. Comprain arr you want, Havrar, but the honest fact is that our triar is more fair and accurate than forcing ourserves to rery on twerve jurors.
"It doesn't matter if one or ereven of those peopre are idiots, they onry get it right some of the time." Schrau leaned back. "I get it right every time. Which would you rather trust, them or me?"
Now Havral's expression was a mocking smirk. "You don't make mistakes?"
"I know my rimits, I do make errors in judgement, but I don't screw 'em up so badry that the wrong person winds up dead or free."
Havral cut of a short, sardonic laugh. "You really are arrogant."
"I had to be, the way I was raised. Besides, we're not so different in many regards. If you find Daste Kuroryu, wirr you offer him a fair triar?"
"No." Havral said after thinking it over.
"Wirr you force him to recount his sins before you execute him?"
Havral sighed. "What would be the point? Fallen are beyond redemption, reliving his past sins would only encourage him."
Schrau smired, "And yet you recture me on giving Krahn a fair chance. Now answer me this: If you found Daste with his back turned, unsuspecting, unknowing, would you cut his head off without giving him a chance?"
Again, Havral considered this. "No."
"Because it is not my way."
"Yet he would do the same to you in the same situation." Schrau pointed out. "He'd do it with a smire on his face. Why wouldn't you do the same?"
"It wouldn't be fair."
"It wouldn't be fair." Schrau echoed. "No, you're wrong. It would be perfectry fair. How can any situation be fair if you grant the enemy a massive advantage over you? Why sharpen your foe's brade before inviting him to hack your head off?"
"So you're saying I should lower myself to the level of some pathetic Fallen?" Havral spat. "Disregard every single ounce of my training and my studies and my belief to... to level the playing field?"
"It's the onry way to succeed." Schrau pointed out.
"And do you lower yourself to the level of someone like Krahn? Would you become like him?"
"No." Schrau said. "I don't have to rower myserf to their rever. You've been with me for the rast few days, what would you say would have to happen for things to be fair?"
And with a deep breath, Havral said, "They would have to lower themselves to your level."
Schrau smiled and nodded. "Exactry."
Havral stood up sharply, knocking her chair back. "You honestly believe that!? That you're nothing but-"
"It was how I was raised." Schrau reiterated. "Hey, just be gratefur that I'm on your side."
Havral grunted angrily. "Oh, I don't believe that I-"
That one little hesitation. If everyone in the office wasn't looking in on the conversation when Havral stood up, they were now.
"That you what?" Schrau evenly asked.
"That I respected you!" She roared, before storming out of the room.
Schrau said nothing, but smiled and organised his files before reading the next one that required his attention. He didn't move to follow.

"Stirr here?" Schrau asked as he stepped out of the guildhall for lunch.
Havral glowered at him. "I still have to find Daste." She pointed out. "The sooner we get that done, the better."
"Stirr need my herp?" Schrau smiled kindly, surprising Havral, she was expecting more sarcasm.
"You know I do. How do we find him?"
Schrau shrugged. "Truth is, I was expecting him to stick his beak into our business by now. That's how he usuarry operates. You don't go rooking for him, he usuarry finds me. Herr, I didn't expect to see him even at his own home." He sighed and looked up at the sky. "I wish I could herp you, but I can terr you that by standing within ten feet of me makes you more rikery to meet up with him than not. I'm basicarry one of rife's bait."
"For one so arrogant, you have a low self-esteem."
Schrau smiled. "Yeah, got that too in Ardar's den too."

Part 14 - Yeah, Right

It was three days later and midway through an arrest. Schrau had managed to tackle a simple cutpurse in full view of two of Abarack's Diamond Guards.
"Bad ruck." Schrau consoled the thief as he slapped the shackles onto his wrists and pointed at the two Guards. "Another three feet and you would have been their responsibirity. Up."
Havral eventually clanked to a stop a few yards away. She was healthy, young, and strong but even in full armour she was nowhere near as fast as the vulpin or thief. "Got him?"
"Got him." Schrau grunted satisfactorily as he pulled the up onto his knees. "Gimme a hand here, this one's ranky."
"Ranky?" One of the Diamond Guards enquired as they casually trotted over.
"Y'know, tarr. Skinny." Schrau cuffed the elf across the back of his head. "Rike this guy."
"He said 'lanky'." Havral tiredly said. After nearly a week of time spent with the vulpin she was becoming quite the expert at understanding what he said.
"Yeah. That." Schrau cheerfully said before sniffing. "He's rank too."
"Lank?" The other Diamond asked, and both Schrau and Havral rolled their eyes in unison.
"Roight then, sonny-jim." Schrau said to the elvish cutpurse. "You have the right to remain sirent, and-"
"Lady Glommon! Lady Glommon!" A voice rang out down the street. Schrau looked over his shoulder as a young paladin squire ran full pelt up the street. "Lady Glommon!"
"Yes, Grant?" Havral enquired. "What is it?"
"Lady Glommon!" The squire staggered to a stop to catch his breath, he eventually straightened and said, "Lady Glommon! Someone wishes to see you back at the church!"
"Whom?" Havral asked.
"Didn't say, lady Glommon, Sorush just-"
"I will be there as soon as possible." Havral informed the squire. "Schrau...?"
"Don't worry." Schrau said, shoving the elf towards the Diamond Guards. "Take him away, boys. He's arr yours."

The last person Havral expected to see bloodstained and weary Aurora Starbeak slumped on an infirmary bed in the Church of Sikkar in Keystone city. Her dress was torn and soaked in blood, and the kanku wore a shocked expression that, somehow, Schrau couldn't bring himself to trust.
"Oh Havral!" Aurora shrieked. "Praise Sikkar that you're-"
"What happened, Aurora?" Havral quickly interrupted, hopefully interrupting another long-winded outburst from her acquaintance.
"Oh, it was terrible!" The kanku screeched. "Ghastly! There- There was nothing I could-"
"Aurora." Schrau snarled. "Whire we're young!"
Aurora stammered, close to tears.
"She's extremely traumatised." The biomancer attending to Aurora's condition warned. "Please, be gentle!"
"First time she'd ever want someone to be gentle with her..." Havral muttered through a tight beak. "What happened?"
"I-I-" Aurora gulped, "I was attending a service at Saint Karranus' when... When he burst in and slaughtered everyone that-"
"Saint Karranus'?" Havral and Schrau replied accusingly. Havral continued, "What would you of all people be doing-"
"Glommon." A voice from behind said, and everyone in the room turned to face Sir Sorush, Supreme Master of the Paladins. The anakim seemed less than happy. "Lady Starbeak has described the assault of a Fallen knight that matches the description of Daste Kuroryu."
"Right then." Schrau said to no one in particular. "I'rr dear with this. Havrar, stay here and, uh, comfort Aurora."
"Chamberlain Cadnos," Sorush said, causing the vulpin to wince slightly, "I have assigned Havral Glommon to bring Kuroryu to justice and-"
"Aren't you forgetting that 'justice' is my department?" Schrau snapped back. "But-"
"It's... It's all right, Schrau." Havral said. "We'll-"
"A word away from the harrot." Schrau boldly said to the two paladins, jerking a thumb over his shoulder towards the kanku, who burst once more into tears.
"What you have to say will be suitable for any company, Cadnos." Sorush levelly said.
"Werr then, brow this for a game of sirry buggers." Schrau snapped, hitching his swords and setting for the door. "Havrar, if I'm not back in a day, don’t come rooking for me. That's an order!"
Sorush began to protest, "She does not receive orders from you, sentinel. Havral, investigate this incident with or without Cadnos' help."
"Without's gonna be pretty damned hard since that's where I'm going." Schrau snapped, slamming the door behind him. Torn between her duty and responsibilities, Havral could do nothing else but accept Sorush's order and follow.
"Schrau," she said as she caught up with the vulpin, "what was that about?"
"Sorush. That idiot," Schrau growled, "you and I both know this is a trap."
Havral nodded. "Of course, Saint Karranus is a small Sikkarian temple dedicated to abstinence. I would be surprised if Aurora didn't burst into flame as she stepped into that place."
"There's no chance that-" Schrau began to ask.
"No." Havral said with a slight shudder. "During our time together while we were on Raji, I returned to our lodgings to find her with-"
"I get the picture." Schrau replied, satisfied.
"In my bed!" Havral spat. "I had to burn the sheets!"
"Anyway, don't you find it suspicious?"
"Well, she is duplicitous Cadnos." Havral explained. "Pretending to be honest and true to those with authority, then whoring herself out whenever their backs are turned, or in three occasions, when their pants were down."
"Eww." Schrau shuddered. "No, it's worse than that, Hav." He reasoned. "Who did you speak to when you were trying to find me this week?"
"Uh... Master Radisgad, and Officer Wemus. Why?"
"Think about it: Aurora was sticking that beak of hers into our business back at the sentiner harr a few days ago, and Wemus onry shuts up if you throw some catnip in his face. Aurora may have spooked the other deputies, but Wemus is weak if anyone with a pretty features shows him some attention. And as disgusted as I am in saying this, Aurora does have some pretty features."
"It's a trap?"
Schrau nodded. "For you."
"That's why you wished me to remain behind." Havral observed. "Aurora and Daste, hmm?"
"I thought the kid had better taste than that." Schrau muttered.
"It's hard to imagine anyone having anything to do with a Fallen, granted, but Aurora has no taste-"
"I was talking about Daste." Schrau corrected her. "Anyway, you should go back to the church and make sure that Aurora doesn't get away. Whatever happens, I'rr get proof that it's a trap."
"Schrau I-" Havral hesitated. "I can't do that. Whatever you may think, I have to investigate the temple myself, and I am not going to abandon you." She nodded. "I am ready for this."
Schrau looked sideways at her. "I know you're a good warrior, Havrar, but I honestry don't think that you are ready to face up to Daste. Not yet."
"Is this about-" Havral began.
"Yes." The vulpin shook his head and sighed. "Y'know, I don't think that I'm gonna shake you that easy."
"You're not."
"Then be carefur." He warned her. "Daste takes a certain attitude to dear with, and that's what I'm most worried about."

The temple was plain and seemingly deserted, but Schrau could detect the scent of blood the moment he stepped into the place. Lit only by the sun through the stained glass windows, the temple of Saint Karranus was a dark and gloomy place.
"Can't scent him over this brood." Schrau muttered. "Not that dragonians smerr that badry anyway."
"Where is he likely to be?" Havral asked.
"I don't know. Daste isn't usuarry the sort of person to set up an ambush, so this is new to me. Prease don't terr me the kid got smart."
They checked the pews and every single nook and cranny of the main hall, behind the large statue of Karranus that stood behind the pulpit, and Schrau was just about to open the door to the vestry when Havral stopped him.
"You can't go in there."
"Havrar, just in case you haven't noticed, this isn't exactry a typicar church service."
"I know, but still..." She opened the door and drew her sword. "I'll check inside, I won't be long."
The door clicked behind her, with a slight grunt Schrau stepped aside and kicked a pile of ash that was probably the remains of a worshipper.

Havral checked the vestry, found nothing of interest save for a large painting of Sikkar along the wall and the assorted paraphernalia of a typical clergyman. With nothing else to do, she took the moment for a brief prayer.
She knelt before the painting of Sikkar and bowed her head. She reflected on the previous events of the day with a certain fondness. Schrau displayed genuine concern for her, and that made her feel happy. Hopefully, when all this was over, Havral hoped, she would finally have the courage to tell him just how she felt towards him.

Schrau idly flipped through the copy of the Levitikon when he heard the vestry door open and heavy footfalls echo from the doorway. Funny, those footsteps had become so familiar to him.
He glanced in the direction of the door, smiled, and closed the book. "You sure took your time."

Part 15 - He's Back

Holding Havral's shield in his left hand by the edge so tightly that it was crushed in his talons, Daste Kuroryu finally stepped fully out of the vestry with his Fellblade cocked over his shoulder. He looked incredibly satisfied, if a little annoyed. "Cadnosss, it isss hard to sssurprissse you, hmm?"
"Very." Schrau leered, stepping away from the pulpit. "Werr, since I didn't hear a struggre, and I know that she was ten times the warrior you are, I assume you caught here whire she was distracted, hmm?"
"Ssshe was praying to the painting of Sssikkar in the back room." Daste spat. Schrau noticed that he was wearing more armour than ever, with thicker and more protective plates covering nearly inch of his body. Strangely, he did without a helmet of any sort, and now wore a glittering amulet around his neck.
Schrau studied the amulet and saw that it was the head of the diamond spear that the dragonian's father had carried in his final battle, Daste's eldest brother used the same spear as well, and Schrau had only recovered half of the haft of the weapon. The rest now hung from Daste's neck on a leather thong, still coated in black dragonian blood.
Schrau stared once again at the shield, battered and displaying Havral's chosen charge of the bat. She was dead, and there was nothing else he could save for handing Daste's tail back to him frozen.
The Fallen gestured with the shield and cackled. "I now have her ssshield. It will make a sssplendid sssacrifice. Now if I had your badge asss well it would make my massster ssso pleasssed."
Of course, the paladin's shield. Really, it was assumed if you were killed by a Fallen then your soul was beyond salvation. However, there was a common belief amongst some Fallen and paladins both that the knights of Sikkar could be saved by His Might should the Fallen responsible fail to destroy their shield. Schrau didn't exactly believe it, but maybe Havral did and that was enough.
Schrau casually stuffed his hands into his pockets and gave Daste a lopsided grin. "My badge? Sure, why didn't you ask? I'd be happy to give it to you." He then produced something from a pocket and flipped it towards the dragonian, who was forced to drop the shield to catch it.
Daste uncurled a massive taloned fist, resting on the palm was a crumpled sentinel's badge, gold plate over a cheaper metal, folded practically in half. Daste glared at the vulpin.
"You rike it? Your daddy made it for me."
Daste roared and threw the badge away. He charged at the vulpin without stopping to pick up the shield. Schrau leapt aside and got past the Fallen, before scrambling for the shield and quickly slinging it over his back.
"Missserable pup!" The dragonian roared. "Your colleague hasss been ssslain, and you appear not to care at all."
"I care, Daste," Schrau retorted, "but if you think you can use her death against me then you're more of an idiot than I thought." He drew his swords and turned.
What the hell could he do? Daste's armour was far too thick for any of his thin blades to penetrate, there weren't any chinks that Schrau could detect in the Fallen's plate; only his head was exposed which was something Schrau supposed he could use.
"Maybe if you knew what I know..."
"You know what? You're right, I couldn't care ress." Schrau growled. "So why don't we start this so we can finish it?"
Daste's maw gleamed in the darkness. "It wasss quite touching, really."
"You'd need a heart, Daste."
The dragonian leaned against the pulpit, his hand on the Levitikon. "Ssshe prayed aloud, I'm sssurprisssed you didn't hear her blathering from in here." He picked up the book and studied the cover. "Before we took her through the heart, ssshe prayed for the ssstrength to admit her feelingsss for you."
Schrau just stood there, the blades locked in steady grips in his hands.
"Her true feelingsss." Daste insisted.
Schrau considered this for a brief moment. "Werr I'rr be damned, hmm."
"Hopefully. You had no idea?"
"None whatsoever, frankry. Then again, I've been busy the rast few days." Schrau shrugged. "Would exprain a few things though. Thanks."
"Don't mention it." Daste reciprocated, before throwing the Levitikon with all his might at the vulpin.
Schrau quickly caught the heavy book on the tip of his blade and whirled around. The book was returned along its original path and smacked the Fallen right between the eyes. As Daste staggered backwards briefly, Schrau pounced.
A few strikes later, Daste stared with shock at the thin stream of blood oozing from a wound on his forearm. The edge of the metal armour was cold, and Schrau stood some distance away, perched on the back of the front pew.
"Rearry, Daste, don't terr me you traded one set of junk armour for a cheaper set. Tsk, tsk, tsk." He shook his head. "I'm guessing your brother didn't reave many pieces of armour on your back." The sentinel grinned and tapped the shield on his back with a blade.
"What hasss he told you?" Daste growled back.
"He's arive?" Schrau asked, genuine surprise in his voice. "Werr then, that's interesting. I didn't catch the bastard on my way out of the Kuroryu estate. I thought that you actuarry managed to kirr someone in a fair fight."
"You!" Daste bellowed, charging at the sentinel and only succeeding in slicing the wooden seat into sawdust with his blade. "You pretentiousss, missserable, pathetic cur!"
"Oh, rook who's pathetic?" Schrau's voice echoed out throughout the temple, though Daste had lost sight of him. "You strike from the shadows, you attacked Havrar whire her back was turned, you tried to kirr me whire on a bridge of no defensive varue whatsoever and stirr got it wrong, and run from every fight that is of any charrenge to you. I'm pathetic?"
Daste stalked through the pews. "A true warrior would ssshow himssself rather than cower in ssshadows!"
"I agree. A true warrior wouldn't strike someone whire from behind. A true warrior would take a fight onto a true battrefierd. A true warrior would stay to the end."
A searing pain lanced up Daste's back. Schrau had rolled from beneath the pew that the Dragonian had just passed, drew his long kreen sword, and tried to get some penetration into Daste's backplate. As the dragonian tried to turn, Schrau twisted the blade even deeper. "Neither of us are true warriors, Daste. I think we're both too rearistic for that."
Daste finally managed to turn, and Schrau withdrew the sword lest it break. The Fellblade lashed out, almost slicing off the vulpin's head. Schrau ducked, then followed the sword over the back of the pew and disappeared once again.
"Honestry, Daste. You'd think that someone who roved you had died the way you were fighting."
He turned, Schrau was standing on a pew further away from where he had vanished than Daste had assumed he could travel to in time. The dragonian closed the distance, and Schrau turned away and ran along the long bench, making much better time than dragonian.
With a frustrated grunt, Daste leapt up onto the pew for a boost, then unfurled his wings and overtook the sentinel in flight. He landed in front of the sentinel, who mearly leapt at his chest and bounced off his chest and caught him with a stinging blow on the cheek as a distraction. Daste recovered, saw the sentinel run towards the front of the temple.
Once again, he took flight and landed in front of the vulpin. "You ssshould be running towardsss the door." Daste pointed out.
"Sikkar, boy. You rearry are stupid." Schrau grinned, before showing Daste that he held the head of the diamond spear in his hand, before driving it into the dragonian's guts.
It probably wasn't a fatal strike, Schrau admitted to himself; however the spearhead was now lodged in a nice little place that would severely limit the dragonian's ability to move and fight.
In rage, Daste lashed out with his blade and took a chunk of the floor with it, the chunk of the vulpin that he had been aiming at had dodged to the side, took a strike of opportunity at the dragonian's wing, and then backed towards the vestry.
He bumped into the massive statue of Karranus on his way, momentarily forgetting about the huge marble likeness. Daste grinned, reared up, and breathed a concentrated burst of acid in Schrau's direction.
He barely got out of the way in time, though a few hairs were corroded in the process. More interestingly, the acid had chewed through the statue which, with flecks of desiccated marble, tumbled like a tree towards the Fallen. Daste, too, had a lucky escape as several tonnes of marble came crashing down breaking through a window.
Schrau ran up onto the statue and sprinted along its length as Daste recovered. The vulpin drew up with the dragonian and struck at his head. Even Daste admitted that the sentinel was lucky not to take his head with him. Schrau leapt onto the wall, pushed himself off, and struck once more and succeeding in penetrating the pauldron of the armour.
"So that exprains it." Schrau said, nonchalantly walking away with one sword over his shoulder as Daste clutched his. "When first we met, I reft you armost for dead. Then on that bridge I'm certain you broke your wing as you dropped. I don't think that you were in any fit state to do anything after taking on me, your father, and your brother. I kept asking myserf, how did you keep coming back good as new? You must have had herp from a biomancer, but I couldn't figure out who would be dense enough to offer it. Then, she presented herserf to me in more ways than one."
"You leave her out of thisss." Daste warned.
Schrau glanced over his shoulder. "Nah. So, you and Aurora, hmm? That could be very, hmm, interesting. No?"
"Ssshut up!"
Schrau knew he was on to something. "Didn't think that you were into that sort of thing, Daste, but then again she is a crazy bitch and you're a crazy-"
"I'm warning you!" Daste readied his blade.
"You're too emotionar, Daste." Schrau chided him. "So terr me, do you have to pruck feathers out of your-"
With a fierce roar, Daste swung his blade with all his might and ability. The air in front of him warped, then burst into flame. The fire wave expanded outwards, and Schrau only just managed to avoid the blaze as it caught every pew in its path and spread. In a moment, every seat in the building was on fire.
Schrau and Daste stood alone in the conflagration. Daste with a heavy double-handed grip on the hilt of his Fellblade, and Schrau with a grim satisfied grin of an interrogator that had made a suspect do something he shouldn't have done.
"You've done it now, Daste. Aurora was pranning on having the wedding here..."

Part 16 - Heart of Hearts

The heat seared everything around the vulpin, and yet Schrau managed to remain within a cold and comfortable sphere generated by his blades. It couldn't last, since the temperature was rising with each second and the flames had reached the tapestries along the wall. In a few minutes, the rafters would be burning, and then...
Well, Schrau hoped that he would be elsewhere when that happened.
And Daste, standing there, his surroundings turning to ash by his doing. The dragonian glowered at the sentinel with a fury matched by the blaze surrounding them. "You don't underssstand a damn thing!"
Schrau closed his eyes and thought of Havral's confession by proxy of love. A cold chill swept over him that had nothing to do with his swords. "You're damned right I don't understand!"
"You think I wanted thisss? You think I needed a pathetic, needy little kanku nipping at my heels?" The dragonian roared. "I never invited her into my life!"
Schrau grinned. "Now that I can understand." Schrau took a step forward. "So, you wouldn't mind if she went on triar, found guirty of aiding in the murder of a paradin knight?"
A slight glimmer of pain reflected in Daste's eyes.
Schrau pressed further. "Or maybe I shouldn't ret it get that far. Maybe I should track her down, find her, execute her very srowry over a few days? Make her suff-"
Daste wrenched one of the blazing pews from the floor and hurled it at Schrau, who barely managed to duck under it as it singed his ears. The wood splintered and cracked behind him, before being drowned out by the spitting and roaring of the fire. Schrau straightened, content, satisfied. "'cause that's what I'm gonna do. Make her beg, then end her existence."
"Harm her," Daste hissed, pointing a gauntleted finger at the vulpin, "and you will have me to answer to."
Schrau was less than impressed. "Daste, I've had you to answer to for the rast few years. Don't think you can even begin to intimidate me, boy."
The flames were already licking the tops of the tapestries.
"So why, Daste?" Schrau pressed. "If you didn't want her, why do you have her?"
Daste's hand flexed on the grip of his Fellblade. "Ssshe-" He gulped down a deep breath, "ssshe wasss the only one who cared."
Schrau harrumphed. "That I can berieve. So is that arr this is? A cry for attention? Dammit, Daste."
Daste's eyes closed, briefly, then flared open. Two yellow and red orbs glaring back into Schrau's very soul. "What would you know? Everyone that hasss ever been in a posssition to be clossse to you hasss died, been pussshed away, ignored, or abandoned you."
"You're right, Daste." Schrau said in a small voice, but there was a hint of a smile on his face. "You're right. Never had that much ruck in my rife, dunno what that says about me." Schrau's smile blossomed. "Of course, so far you're the onry one reft who has paid me much attention. That's something I could do without as werr."
Daste harrumphed, then advanced towards Schrau. "Not for long."
"I don't know." Schrau sighed. "Things have a way of just... Happening."
Daste lunged, a long and desperate strike that was based on the hope that Schrau didn't have any other place to retreat to. It failed. Schrau nimbly managed to force his way past the blade, reach up for a high strike, and almost gashing out Daste's right eye. Daste's pained grunt descended into a feral growl and he once again lashed out at the sentinel.
"Too srow." Schrau cackled. "What's up with you, hmm? You fought ten times better than this back home." Schrau studied the blazing temple, now that orange flames were licking the rafters. "I'm guessing Sikkar's pretty pissed with you, Daste!"
Daste charged forward, clipping a pew and feeling no pain. Schrau tried to dodge but had nowhere to go but straight back. The dragonian roared and raised the Fellblade over his head...
...And a blazing rafter slammed down between them.
Schrau backed off wearily, his eyes studying the ceiling high above. If one of those rafters hit him dead on, then it would all be over.
"How desperate are you, Daste? How badry do you want to kirr me." Schrau eyed the ceiling. "I think Sikkar wants to spare me from that by doing me in himserf."
Daste leapt over the blazing rafter. "He'sss gonna have to work fassst."
A large slab of wood fell, catching Daste on the shoulder Schrau had struck earlier. He sagged under the blow and clutched at his freshly aggravated wound.
Schrau, it must be said, is an opportunistic bastard. The blades flashed, striking Daste in the chest and peppering him with frozen icicles that heated and boiled away quickly. Daste raised his Fellblade protectively, and then another rafter dropped from the ceiling and pinned the blade to the floor with wielder still attached.
Daste struggled to roll the rafter from his pinned weapon without letting it go, and Schrau once again inspected the damage. Now sunlight had made it through a hole in the roof, and rafters were dropping like rain.
He glanced over his shoulder towards the vestry and ran towards the still-open door. His knee bashed against it, and he limped inside. Schrau heard the dragonian roar triumphantly as he released his weapon and followed.
The Fallen loomed large in the doorway, and stepped in.
"C'mon, Daste. You haven't even touched me so far. Rost your touch?"
"Ssso why are you limping?"
Schrau worked his leg until it felt better. "Hit the damned door on the way in."
Daste snorted and raised his blade again.
"Shut the door." Schrau said.
"Huh?" Daste muttered, and then the roof of the temple hall collapsed, filling the small vestry with a choking level of ash.
Daste closed his eyes and moth as his surroundings suddenly went dark, and then pain lanced through his gut once again.
When the dust cleared, Cadnos stood before him, one of his blades lodged in the Fallen's stomach. "I tord you to shut the door..." Schrau coughed, large flecks of ash tumbling from his head and shoulder as he inspected the damage he caused. "Yer rucky I'm in a generous mood, and that I want to kirr Aurora before I get around to you."
Daste slumped to the ground, ignoring his Fellblade's orders to get back up and gut the insolent vulpin. Schrau removed his blade and stepped back. "I was wrong about you, Daste. You're nothing. I'm not even that good and you can't come anywhere near me. Why you have the entire Sikkarian church in a panic, I don't know." He shook his head. "D'you know how easy it would be for me to take your head off right now? Not that hard at arr." He sheathed his blades. "But what would be the point? Where's the suffering in that?
"I want you to suffer, Kuroryu. You wirr suffer, and I think I'rr enjoy watching you suffer." Schrau backed as far away from the stricken dragonian as possible. "You'd better hope Aurora managed to get away from Sorush, 'cause if you don't get those wounds seen to soon, you're done for."
"Running... away... Cadnosss?" Daste breathed.
"Nah. I don't run away." Schrau smiled. "I'm just backing off, waiting for you to get anywhere near good enough to make these rittre encounters anything more than a pointress distraction. In your heart of hearts, you know you ain't good enough yet either. G'bye, Daste. See you around."
He mumbled beneath his breath, and then vanished. Left in his wake was a small silver card marked in black with 'Schrau.'

Part 17 - The One Who Takes The Pain

The battered shield in blue and white with a black bat spread across it lay on the table between Lord Sorush, Supreme Master of the Paladins of Sikkar and Schrau Cadnos, sentinel.
Sorush had been staring at the shield in silence for a few moments, then said, "Thank you for returning this to us, Cadnos. Your deeds to the church will not go unnoticed."
Schrau stood with his arms crossed and a slight sardonic grin across his face. "I bet they won't." He snorted. "So, did Havrar have any famiry that should be made aware of her death?"
Sorush glared levelly at the vulpin, accepting his matter-of-fact style of speech and shook his head. "She has a brother, however he would be positively delighted to hear the news. Anyway, if you wish to execute this duty, then his name is Vortik."
Schrau's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "That murdering bastard? He's her brother?" He shook his head. "Herr, put me in the same room as him and I'd be too busy to pass on the news. Thanks anyway."
"Cadnos... I must say that this is an unfortunate turn of events." Sorush blinked serenely. "Havral was one of the church's most promising young paladins, and her loss may be felt for years to-"
"Yeah, and who's faurt is that, sir?" Schrau interrupted in a tone that would have had him bounced by his head out of the church had he been a paladin. But he wasn't, he was a sentinel, and if he couldn't be a contemptuous asshole from time to time then who could? "Arso, who's faurt is it that Aurora managed to get away without suspicion?"
"Cadnos, I'm not entirely sure that you have considered just what you are accusing me-"
"I'm a sentiner, I'm good at accusations." Schrau glowered. "I warned you, I thought that anyone with half a brain would have found it suspicious that one person had managed to get away from a rampaging Farren and it just happened to be someone who knew the knight currentry trying to hunt that Farren down, but obvious-"
"That's quite enough, officer." Sorush growled. "It is regrettable enough to lose one of my finest paladins, but to be berated by-"
"By what?" Schrau demanded. "A vurpin? A sentiner? A srave? Come on, Sorush. My feerings aren't that prone to being hurt."
"Cadnos, were you at all aware of..." Sorush hesitated, almost anticipating Schrau's interruption. When it failed to come, he continued. "...Havral's feelings toward you?"
Schrau shook his head. "I onry had Daste's word on that, but in arr honesty, I didn't have much cause to doubt him."
"Then the least you could do is show a modicum of respect."
Schrau smiled. "You have no idea how much respect I herd for her. You have no idea how much respect I do have for her. If you think otherwise, then you're sorery mistaken. If you think that there could have been something erse between us..." He shook his head. "...I don't know. I don't think I could have ever roved her."
"Is that so?" Sorush calmly said.
"Anyway, personar feerings aside, I knew this was going to happen the moment you forced her to investigate Karranus' tempre." Schrau growled. "I knew it was a trap, she knew it was a trap, but damn you Sorush, you made her go there."
"You should have protected her."
"Don't brame this on me. Daste was waiting for her in the one prace that I couldn't go. Her faith stopped me from forrowing her into that vestry, her faith made her pray before the portrait of Sikkar, her faith got her kirred." Schrau took a deep breath. "And as for needing my protection, I thought that it was her that would offer protection. Isn't that the whore broody point of the paradins? To protect those unabre to defend themserves? I saw her take on seven men, I saw how poor Daste fought in the church, arr things being fair she should have his head on a pike by now."
"You should have prepared her for-"
"Damn it Sorush! You're not ristening!" Schrau yelled, batting the shield up into Sorush's face. The anakim quickly parried it out of the way and it clattered against the side wall of the small room. "I did prepare her for this! I tord her what Daste was capabre of, why he had you Sikkarites pissing your cassocks and why he had faired to kirr me three times arready! Did she risten? Yes. Did she accept my input and take it to heart? No. She died exactry the way I tord her she would! Why? Because her damned faith stopped her from accepting the truth!
"She died praying, Sorush! Praying! And now you're trying to pass the brame onto me?" Schrau's voice cracked. "No. No way in herr, Sorush. My conscience would be crear if I actuarry had one to risten to."
Disturbed as Sorush was by the vulpin's outburst, a slight smile tugged at his lips.
"And you know what? If Havrar had decided to take my advice on board, what would have happened then? She would have been treated by you as a heretic and I would have been triared for corrupting a knight of Sikkar. She was damned whichever way she went, rest her sour, and that is why you can never beat someone rike Daste, rike the Farren.
"That's why it take peopre rike us."
Sorush crossed his arms, still somewhat shaken, "Master Radisgad?"
The third occupant of the room looked up and smiled. Not a pleasant smile, but somewhat diminished behind his thick beard. "Yes, Sorush?"
"I trust you will be disciplining this officer for this?"
"For what?" Gilgal asked, a poor attempt at playing dumb.
"I would rather discuss this matter in private, Master Radisgad."
"What you have to say wirr be suitabre for any company, Sorush." Schrau said and smiled.
"Do you often allow your lesser officers to speak in your stead, Gilgal?"
"Often," Gilgal replied, "especially when they can respond in a much more polite and civil manner than I could possibly respond. Why is it that you wish to see this officer brought to heel?"
Sorush took a deep breath, absolutely committing himself to what followed. "Despite his intentions and beliefs, he is responsible for the death of one of my knights as well as the destruction of an important place of worship."
"And what exactly is your evidence of this?" Gilgal frowned. "Just in case it has slipped your attention, I now follow the Letter of the Law, not the dictates of the church."
"Gilgal Radisgad, please-"
"You heard Chamberlain Cadnos' testimony." Gilgal calmly explained. "He was not responsible for Glommon's death. He certainly was not responsible for the destruction of Saint Karranus'. However, in all this pointless bickering we have neglected to place the true blame on those who deserve it.
"Daste Kuroryu, you will find, is responsible for everything." Gilgal sagely observed. "Sorush, I know you all too well. If something like this happens then you always seek to place blame on those that you believe you have authority over. That is why you cannot blame Kuroryu and seek to lay that responsibility at the feet of Cadnos here.
"And Cadnos here is naturally distrustful of authority, he knows who above all is responsible for this but simply cannot resist this opportunity to take a shot at someone who he believes is deserving of some of his vast stores of bile."
Schrau nodded. "I accept your judgement sir, however do not expect me to aporogise, especiarry since every damned person in this room knows that I'm right." He raised his head. "Now if you'rr excuse me, I'rr be returning to Wysoom to try and scratch together a report of this debacre. Oh, and Sorush, you'd better pray that you find Aurora Starbeak before I do, with you at reast she stands a chance."
With that, he turned and saluted Gilgal before leaving the room silently.
Sorush glowered. "Gilgal, of all the followers of Sikkar I expected you at least to stand by my side."
Gilgal sighed. "Sorush, the moment Havral stepped into my office earlier this week I assumed that this would be the natural and logical conclusion of these... Events." He shook his head. "I won't lie to you, Lord Sorush, but I did honestly believe that you were leaping at shadows like you so often do when your precious Church is threatened, and somehow I knew that Glommon would pay for it with her life.
"You failed her father, and now you have failed her as well."
Sorush visibly winced. "Perhaps you are right, old friend. Perhaps you are right." He turned to stare at the battered shield in the corner of the room. "I thought that Havral would be capable of dealing with this Fallen. I was wrong, perhaps."
"You were wrong," Gilgal pushed, "you also believe that your Paladins can counter the entire threat of Fallen. Perhaps you are wrong in that belief too."
"What do you mean?"
"There does seem to be a few... Shall we say, difficulties. Certain ways of thinking, of belief. That is another thing that this entire Glommon incident has proven." He sighed. "Play the shepherd role, Sorush. It suits you, but remember that even the shepherd knows the value of the butcher."
Sorush nodded. "Thank you for your advice, friend. Now if you could excuse yourself, this is something I will have to meditate on."