Part 1 - Time to Kill

Schrau Cadnos stared into the depths at what he had done, and saw that it was satisfactory. A job well done, regardless of how messily he had accomplished it. He was right, and everything was well.
He felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted from his shoulders, a veil had been drawn from his eyes. Spirits could rest, justice had been done, and everything had been executed flawlessly. He felt happier than he had ever been for the first time in a very long while.
The vulpin gave a happy little sigh, collected the bound folder of documents from the nearby table, and set off towards the door.

It all started with the death of a pimp. Things have a way of happening, especially when the person in question believes himself to be well protected and untouchable. In fact, none of the pimp's so-called "acquaintances" that surrounded him even at his death had raised a finger to prevent that which became obviously inevitable.
When a sentinel, off-duty or otherwise, asks one a questions the correct response is to either reply honestly or at least think of a good untruth. The incorrect response is to try and kill the sentinel.
The pimp was known as Fabien Bathos, and the sentinel was known as Schrau Cadnos. The question had been plain enough: "Who murdered my sister?"
Bathos had drawn a short dagger and had attempted to stab Schrau as the sentinel loomed over the booth that the pimp shared with two of his girls. As the pimp clumsily tried to get the distance needed, causing the two prostitutes to flee in terror, Schrau sighed and drew a blade and scored a light cut on the man's weapon arm.
"Who murdered my sister?" The vulpin repeated.
Bathos cleared the booth and tried to use the significant height advantage he had on the vulpin to try and deliver a crushing stab to the sentinel's head.
Schrau stepped back and cut across both knees. Bathos dropped to a more fair height to face the sentinel.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know that 'who murdered my sister' means 'prease, go ahead and stab me' in your ranguage." Schrau calmly said as Bathos swung his dagger ineffectively. "I sharr try again. You once had possession of someone named Rhiannon Cadnos. Someone ended her rife. You know who. Now terr me."
Bathos never replied, just pulled himself up on one leg, and lunged at Schrau.
The sentinel caught him easily. "Oh, I get it now. You worry that answering that question wirr resurt in your death." Schrau nodded. "Werr then, time to correct that piece of misinformation. Not answering my questions wirr resurt in your death. Now then, from the top."
The dagger clattered on the floor as Schrau slit the man's wrist. He grabbed the pimp by his head and pressed the sword to his neck.
"Who murdered my sister?"
And since no response was coming, Schrau slit his throat. The pimp gargled blood and collapsed.
Schrau sighed, sheathed his weapon, and beckoned to the closest of the two prostitutes that had accompanied the former pimp, a short and vulnerable flynd. "Did you know Rhiannon Cadnos?" He asked.
The flynd shook her head. "N-No."
"Damn." Schrau breathed as he rummaged through the pimp's coat. He found a set of keys. "Okay then, do you know the rest of his girrs?"
The flynd nodded.
"Right." He tossed the keys at the prostitute. "Take his stuff, serr it and his home and properties, the deeds shouldn't be hard to find. Divide the funds between everyone that once beronged to him. You're free now."
The flynd studied the keys as if it were an explosive of some sort, before clutching it tightly in her hands and dashing off towards the door. Schrau looked down at the body lying on the floor and muttered, "Shit."
It was then he happened to look up towards the door to see someone extremely familiar to him step through, grab the fleeing flynd by the arm, and exchange a few stern words.
The newcomer was Rainer Auschvast, a lieutenant in the Nimbus Chokedar. Though the changeling was ostensibly on the same side as Schrau, the sentinel simply couldn't stand the Chokedar, because he had the sheer audacity to try and arrest him for crimes he did commit. The nerve.
Seeing the Chokedar walk into this bar was, to the trained thief/con-artist/lawman that was Schrau, akin to stumbling across all the worlds' wealth in one go. Excellent blackmail material. Schrau felt a grin blossom on his face, but quickly smothered it when Auschvast caught sight of him.
"Rainer, it's been some time." Schrau crowed as the changeling approached. By now, Auschvast had caught sight of the corpse Schrau was standing over, and instantly kicked into lawman mode.
"What's going on here?"
Schrau eyed the corpse warily. "Just murdering pimps who don't answer my questions. This is Nineveh, man. Ain't you out of your jurisdiction, Chokedar?"
"And I suppose you are not?" Auschvast replied, grimly predicting the answer.
"This is my jurisdiction." Schrau replied. "Everywhere I go is within my jurisdiction. So terr me, Rainer, what would a Nimbus Chokedar be doing in a Nineveh pimp bar?" The vulpin raised his hands to stall any reply. "No, don't. You're a goddamn user, ain't you?"
A slight pang of guilt jolted across Auschvast's face, but he covered it well with indignation. "My business is none of yours, Cadnos. Anyway, you never answered my question. What are you doing here?"
"And you never answered any of mine, Rainer. Just remember who trumps who." Schrau's eyes narrowed. "I'm here trying to find out which scumbag bastard murdered my sister. That," He pointed to the corpse, "was her pimp."
"Your sister?"
"Yeah, my sister. Remember? She's buried here, and I was trying to negotiate the repatriation of her body at home when I was arregedry stearing the Orb of Brasck."
Auschvast glanced at the corpse, "So he didn't answer your question?"
"He'd be suffering right now if he had." Schrau replied.
"Yes, you and suffering seem to go hand-in-paw." Auschvast raised an impressed eyebrow at Schrau. "I heard of that nice work you did with the Silver Eye."
"It was nice, wasn't it?"
"Oh, and I think you should know that Angelo Horas committed suicide in his cell yesterday."
Schrau grinned. "Oh, did he now?"
"Yes, hung himself with a bed sheet. Poor fool was extremely insane at the end. Ruining lives seems to be a hobby of yours."
Schrau quickly drew a blade and pressed the still-bloody tip to Auschvast's throat. "Rook at where we are, where you walked into..." He snarled. "We both know you're not here for the scenery, so don't you dare recture me about ruining rives, you arrogant swine."
Auschvast still leered, "Oh come now, Cadnos. Exploiting people is what goes on here, and you, my fine furry friend, are an absolute grand champion in that field."
"Maybe." Schrau cocked his head to the side. "Serve and protect and arr that. By the way, Auschvast, this wirr remain our rittre secret."
Auschvast smiled genuinely as the blade retreated back into its sheathe. "You honour me, Cadnos."
Schrau nodded and smiled, "Yeah, right up untir the point where it would be very userfur to me for your superiors to know what you do with your wage."

Schrau gave the meatball stew a hearty sniff and thanked his host for the meal.
The anakim looked down at him from the other side of the restaurant table and chuckled, "Not to spoil your enjoyment of that meal, but this planet's meatball stew is reckoned to be the foul of our fair world's delicacies."
Schrau was already chewing on a meatball from the broth. "Werr, the truth is that I have a pretty torerant stomach. You grow up eating srave srop, and pretty much anything is a drastic improvement, Aydain."
"So I see." Aydain chuckled. "So, you've met a dead end?"
Schrau nodded. "I need some advice. Talking to the pimp didn't work out. Arr his former radies are too frightened to come forward or even enjoy their freedom, and I'm basicarry stuck."
"Well, killing Rex was probably the wrong move, Schrau." Aydain chided him. "It's been five-"
"-six-" Schrau corrected.
"-six years." Aydain continued. "It was a tragic murder, Schrau, but perhaps you have left it too late to try and find the truth."
"Maybe," Schrau sighed, "but I won't stop. See, during the Sirver Eye incident..." He faltered, almost unwilling to discuss the ordeal with the anakim. "You just can't fair a sister, right?"
"Right." Aydain replied. "I understand your zeal, young Cadnos."
Schrau removed the badge on his breast with one hand, spoon still in the other. He studied the golden badge in a paw that still bore slightly-scarred marks in the imperfect outline of the badge. "This is my anchor, Aydain. My compass. When I woke up in the Ocurar Tempre with not a memory in my head of the day I missed and not a crue as to what I was doing there... This brought me back." Schrau finally placed the spoon on the table and almost cradled the badge in both hands. "I was dressed wearing the Eye's robes. But this badge made me a sentiner. It made me be me."
Aydain sat back in his seat. "But... You're not sure if it will help you with this?"
"It wirr," Schrau clipped the badge back onto his jacket. "But I'm not sure I want it to. I'm prosecuting my first case in court in a few days. Heck, I've even got the jacket back home, and it's a nice one. I'rr go into court, argue with the defense, and probabry fair to get a conviction. If I track down the... creature that murdered my sister as an officer of the Sentiner Guird, I wirr arrest him, put him through the process, and maybe not actuarry see justice done."
Aydain nodded sympathetically. "I understand your unease, but I trust you to do the right thing."
"I don't." Schrau said. "I know that if I track down whoever I'm rooking for, I can either arrest him and maybe fair Rhiannon thanks to some scumbag defence attorney, or I can do what may be the right thing and cut him down on the spot."
"I trust you will do the right thing." Aydain repeated.
Schrau studied his meal, no longer hungry. "Thanks. I appreciate this." He stood up and nodded at the anakim. "Werr, time to go bust some heads."

Part 2 - Had Our Fill of Heaven

The dhampir looked up from the game of blackjack he was engrossed in as the sentinel sat down next to him. "Ah, Cadnos." He said as the dealer handed him his cards.
"Would sir like to be dealt in?" The dealer asked to the vulpin.
"No thanks. It’s been some time, Jaynas."
"Nowhere near as long enough." The dhampir snorted, looking at his cards. "Though I am surprised. This is just your sort of dive. Hit me."
Schrau grabbed Jaynas' head and slammed it down onto the blackjack table, the three of clubs sticking to his forehead as Schrau snapped the dhampir's head back.
"Sir! If you're going to be violent..." The blackjack dealer said, trailing off at the end. Schrau had not submitted his swords at the door like he was supposed to, which meant that there was probably a wholly just reason to explain why he was armed.
"Oh, I bet you never get tired of that joke." Schrau chided the dealer. "Anyway, Jaynas. I'm rooking for someone who kirred someone very crose to me." Schrau slammed the dhampir's face on the table again, switching the cards around. Ace of spades. "She was a prostitute. Vurpin. Named Rhiannon."
"I don't know what-" Jaynas instinctively said, before realising what would happen to his face the moment he finished that sentence. "Rh-Rh-Rhiannon?"
"Yeah..." The vulpin growled.
"She was a vulpin, right?"
Schrau nodded. "Who kirred her?"
Now Jaynas really started to panic. "I don't know, I swear! I don't know who killed her-"
"There'd better be a 'but' coming next."
"-but I did know her. I... went with her a few times but that's all, I swear!"
Schrau's arms tightened as he considered slamming the dhampir's face into the table again, to keep pounding away until Jaynas went well beyond unconsciousness.
"I dunno who killed your sister, man."
Schrau let go, stacked a few coins on the table. "Dear me in next hand. I'd rike to talk to my friend here."

Actually, it would be fair to say that Schrau quite liked the scent of sawdust. Not this time though, this visit to a carpenter was a lot more intimidating than his last.
The cobra stared down from the shelf near Schrau's head. The serpent was watching with more of a curious interest in the vulpin that tried to keep a maximum distance away from every other snake in the room. Which was impossible.
Because the particular carpenter Schrau was interested in liked snakes. He kept dozens of various breeds in his workshop. Of course, being a gargoyle meant that the carpenter didn't mind the countless bites his pets imparted daily until the point they realised that it was futile. Less could be said about his visitors. Not that Garsun had many visitors, since his role in society was undertaker-cum-freelance-coroner for the city of Nineveh. He made coffins for the various bodies dredged up from the city streets, and sometimes took an interest in the causes of death too.
Garsun was currently crafting a large, ettin-sized coffin with extra headroom. A black mamba was draped over his shoulders and looking back at Schrau, who stood with his tail held before him to lessen the chance that one of the serpents behind him decided to take a bite.
"Six years ago, hmm?" Garsun replied. "Vulpin prostitute? Yes, I seem to remember her..."
"Cause of death was stranguration." Schrau added.
"Yes. A tragedy in every case..." Garsun blew some sawdust from a joint. "Could you pass me that plane please?" He added, automatically pointing without turning to look.
Schrau glanced in the direction that Garsun was pointing. A large wood plane sat on a workbench, and on that sat three rather disinterested copperhead vipers.
"Um... There's snakes on it." Schrau nervously said.
"On the plane?"
"Yes." Schrau swallowed. "I... just... don't... rike snakes."
Garsun turned around and smiled, before dropping the mamba that had been sitting on his shoulder into the coffin. "Oh, I apologise." He chuckled. "Yes, I had forgotten completely that vulpins are somewhat susceptible to poisons. Perhaps we should continue this discussion in the den?"
"That'd be great." Schrau grinned, his relief palpable.
And the den was where Garsun kept the constrictors.
Schrau sat on a couch that had a nice, big anaconda draped over the back that fortunately was lying with his head away from him.
"Anyway, back to my earlier point;" Garsun said, stroking a large boa on the top of its head while it rested contently next to him, "she was found lying dead in the gutter at the corner of Jonah and Damascus, far away from the usual red light district. Whoever had done the deed didn't have much trouble overpowering her."
"Figures." Schrau said. "Anything erse you can terr me?"
Garsun looked left and right, then nodded and stood up. "There was something clutched tightly in her fist, something the guard never noticed. I, uh, had to break her fingers to release it..."
"Don't worry, I'm in the business too." Schrau replied, sensing the gargoyle's discomfort.
"Yes, well. This was it." Garsun said, producing something from a small pot and stomping over to the seated vulpin. He dropped a length of silver chain into Schrau's waiting palms.
Schrau studied the chain. His ears flattened against his skull and his voice descended into a snarl. "I know what this is."
"As do I, friend." Garsun nodded. "Which is why I couldn't tell anyone about this until you started asking around."
Schrau clenched the chain tight, blinking the sudden tears from his eyes. "Mind if I keep this?"
Garsun shrugged. "It's worthless to me, and I feel it is worth the worlds to you."
"It is." Schrau whispered. "It is."

"Are you the one that killed Fabien?" The voice whispered as Schrau stalked down Jonah street. Schrau half-turned and kept walking as a changeling female with too-small clothing running up the street barely managing to stay in her dress.
Schrau nodded and carried on his way. "What do you want?"
The changeling gushed a genuine laugh and clasped her hands over her mouth. "Oh, wowee... Y-y-you d-d-don't really know what exactly y-y-you've done for us all but- So! So th-thanks. A lot. Mister."
"Right. No probrem. I guess." Schrau said, standing at the street corner. "So what's your name?"
"It's, um, Jackie." The changeling said. "Hey, uh, Sershun wants to see you. She, uh, she sent me."
"Sershun?" Schrau asked.
Jackie nodded. "Yeah. The, uh, flynd that was in the bar yesterday? The one you told to divvy up li'l Fabby's possessions? She, uh, she, uh, she heard what you were askin' Fabien and she, um, she said she knew something."
Schrau's suspicious mind kicked up a gear. Instinctively he recalled the fact that the flynd had lied to him, but he quickly realised that the girl had been scared out of her mind. Some stranger had strolled into the bar, killed the man that had been the closest thing to a father figure to the girl in cold blood, then started demanding answers to questions. Schrau would have probably been scared witless too.
"Okay, when?"
"Tomorrow sunrise, just outside the transporter room."
"Why arr the secrecy?" Schrau asked.
Jackie glanced both ways down the street. "She's... scared. She's afraid." The changeling whispered. "Whoever did it is still in the city, and she doesn't want to tell anyone until she's sure he's gone."
Schrau nodded in understanding but stifled the scowl. He had a fair idea as to who was responsible as well, and Sershun's word was needed to confirm that suspicion. He also would have preferred it if he could actually nail the guy before he left the city, since Schrau knew if he was right then the subject could go to ground very quickly indeed. "She didn't happen to terr you anything other than that?"
Jackie shook her head. "Nope. That's all."
Schrau handed her a handful of coins. "Werr, if I'm right, you're in danger too. Here's a sky ship fare, head to Suthnas and rook for a Darick and Erma Coccinni. They rive on Nql. Terr 'em I sent you and to rook after you for a few days. Just get out of this city."
"Oh, gee, thanks." Jackie said, suddenly becoming pensive. "Um, if you want, I'd like to thank you and-"
"Jackie, just get the herr out of the city and be safe." Schrau growled. "You don't have to do that ever-" He stopped suddenly.
"What is it?" Jackie asked.
Schrau drew his blades with a flourish. "We're being watched. Run!" He snarled, before turning towards the source of the sound. In that instant, someone burst out from behind a few stacked crates and started a futile bid for freedom.
Schrau hamstrung the fleeing spy and was quickly straddling his chest with a sword at his throat. "Didn't I arrest you in Nimbus rast week?"
Before Schrau could even recall an identification of the pickpocket that had felt his wrath a few days ago, something cracked by his ribs at a high angle; a crossbow bolt that lodged suddenly into the criminal's chest.
As the thief started to gasp in pain, Schrau quickly turned and started scanning the rooftops and windows for sight of their assailant. All he could hear was the familiar sound of a crossbow winding up.
Another snap, and another sound of a bolt tearing the air. More out of reflex than any good skill, Schrau stepped partially aside and deflected the bolt out of clean flight with his swords. The bolt snapped against the cobbles next to his foot.
"Dammit..." Schrau whispered, trying to spot the sniper, trying to hear the sound of the crossbow being reloaded. In either case there was nothing. His heart still beating in his throat, he slowly sheathed his weapons and stepped away.
It was going to be a long night.

Part 3 - Ain't No Doubt About It

Spend five minutes outside Nineveh's ruined transporter room, and most people with working nostrils could swear they could smell the acrid smoke. There were numerous promises and plans to repair, refit, or just cart away the debris of the teleporter, but so far work had been progressing at a pace that throughout the entire collection of universes had only been matched by British workmen.
Dawn on Raji was pretty spectacular wherever you are, providing that "wherever" doesn't include the cities. In Nineveh, the day never really started until about mid-morning, so Schrau waited pretty much undisturbed.
Fortunately, Schrau didn't have to wait very long since he was blessed from birth with uncommonly good timing, or bad timing depending on how you looked at things.
"Sershun?" Schrau whispered as he heard someone trying to mask their footsteps from around the corner.
The flynd's hyena-like face peered joylessly around the corner; she looked nervous and frightened, understandably so. Schrau probably would have taken the time to comfort her had it not been for the fact that the last person he had stood next to had wound up dead.
"Schrau Cadnos?" Sershun asked.
"Cadnos?" She repeated for emphasis.
Schrau couldn't spend all bloody morning playing the name game. "Jackie tord me that you knew something about my sister."
"Rhiannon Cadnos, yes." The flynd said. "I-I-I want to tell you who killed her."
"You know?" Schrau asked.
"I was going to but-" Sershun hesitated. "It's not safe here. It really isn't. If he finds out I told you he's going to kill me. He's going to kill you too."
"He arready tried." Schrau growled. "Sershun, you have to terr me. Now. Terr me, and I'rr make sure that he gets what's coming to him before he can even get within ten feet of you."
"No." Sershun said, clearly in bargaining mode, "No. When I'm safe, I'll tell you."
"Sershun..." Schrau sighed, "you don't have much choice. He is going to kirr you anyway. He is going to kirr you to make sure that what you know stays your secret. I'm not gonna rie to you, you're in danger and I can herp you but you must herp me first."
"I was there. I was there when he killed her."
Schrau winced. It wasn't a useful observation from the flynd, but the images it conjured up were painful to bear. "I thought you said you didn't know anything?" Schrau quietly asked.
"I was afraid... He was coming to check on me. He was going to make sure I kept quiet. Midday. I want arrangements for my safety by midday."
Schrau jerked a thumb towards the rift portal in the shell of the ruined transporter room. "I can give you arrangements for you safety right now. Just hop into that portar, head to Wysoom and wait in the sentiner guird untir I get back to you."
"I-I can't." Sershun whimpered, "He might have friends there that-"
"Trust me, he doesn't have as many friends in Sauronan as I do." Schrau snarled. "Just go."
Sershun sighed. "There's something I have to do here. I have to make sure the rest of the girls are safe first."
"You try that, and you wirr end up dead. Fact." Schrau snapped. "I'm sorry to be so harsh, but that's the truth - If you stay here, you are going to die."
"I gotta go." The flynd quickly said, and then she was gone.
Schrau leaned with his back against the wall, he banged the back of his head against it. "Shit."

"Werr, I tord you when you dragged me in here that sentiners don't interrogate werr."
The Nineveh city guard leaned back in his seat, the rounded moon of his generous belly dawning over the horizon of his desk from Schrau's point of view. The guard hadn't provided Schrau with a tall stool or even a set of thick books to sit on, so the vulpin was nothing but a pair of ears, eyes, and a nose over the edge of the desk and the guard nothing but a very well hammered-out breastplate.
Schrau had been told the officer's name, but had made as much of an attempt to memorize it as a CEO would remember the junior janitor's name. This was a pretty ineffective trap, and Schrau new enough bluff, fluster, legalese, and bullshit to disarm it with as much casual ease as hibernation.
"You were the last person to be seen with her, pushing her to find out what happened to your sister, one..." The guard leaned forward, prodded a few files open, and caught what he was looking for, "...Rhiannon Cadnos, a prostitute that was killed six years ago. Strangulation was cited as the cause of death, but there was insufficient evidence to yield an arrest."
Schrau's fingers were currently wrapped around the silver chain that sat in his pocket. Even if Garsun hadn't collected the chain for himself, this Joe Officer here would still be saying "insufficient evidence" today. Schrau smiled gently.
"Anyway, the changeling - also a prostitute, although only formerly, was found dead later at the city gates."
"Three steps away from being out of your jurisdiction." Schrau pointed out.
"You couldn't wait that long when you strangled her, could you?"
"So you are accusing me of murdering her?" Schrau replied.
"You were the last person seen with her." The officer repeated. "You paid her a sum of money, and whatever demands you made of her went unsatisfied."
"And you can prove I paid her?"
A small leather purse thudded onto the desk. "Two hundred and fifty gold. Sauronan minted coins. Not much Sauronan gold floating around Nineveh, since you sentinels have your own prost-"
"Officer..." Schrau interrupted. "You are absorutery amazing at making unfounded accusations. Ain't ya?"
"Excuse me?"
"Okay, ret's rook at some things here." Schrau prodded the purse. "This is my money. So if I gave it to this changering and wanted a refund because she refused to service me, why would I reave it on the body?" He stood up on the seat. "Two hundred and fifty is a pretty expensive trick, officer, I'm sure you're aware of that. However, two-fifty is just enough to get the sky ship to Suthnas. Wouldn't you agree?"
"That- Is true, yes."
"And arso, I'm four feet tarr. She was five ten. I'd need a stepradder to throttre her. Besides, I'm not a hands-on type of person; see those two swords you confiscated from me as you dragged me in? I carry 'em everywhere. If I wanted to kirr someone, they do the job just fine, tubby."
"So you're saying you didn't kill the prostitute?" The officer asked faux-quizzically.
"Give yourserf a promotion." Schrau stabbed a finger into the desk. "That's why I want to know who is making these accusations against me."
The officer shook his head so furiously his jowls took a further ten seconds to jiggle to a stop. "I can't-"
"Whoever made that accusation kirred that woman, kirred someone he had to spy on us, and damn near kirred me."
"Can you prove this?"
"About as werr as you can prove that I kirred the prostitute." Schrau stated. "Onry I've got more years of gut instinct under my bert than you. You've just got more years of gut."
The door opened and in stepped the typical eager watchman archetype. The poor boy seemed to be led into the room by his nose, since it was large enough to earn several admiring glances from the local kanku population. "Er, sarge. There's been another murder like the one we found this morning?"
"Don't terr me." Schrau said, "A frynd, formerry a prostitute to one Fabien Bathos?"
The sergeant eyed the vulpin suspiciously while the junior officer cooed appreciatively. "That's brilliant, that is. How'd you know?"
"Pattern recognition, son. Rearn that, and you'rr go far in this man's watch. Where's my damn swords?" Schrau growled, hopping off the seat towards the door.
"You ain't going anywhere, sunshine." The sergeant growled. "You're a suspect in this bloody murder."
Schrau rolled his eyes. "Yeah, it's a speciar skirr of mine that I can murder someone whire sat at your desk. Chop-chop, time's a-wasting."

Sershun lay in the gutter; beaten, raped, dead.
Watchmen had sealed off the street, leaving Schrau and the sergeant to deal with the body. The vulpin cautiously approached the dead flynd and crouched over the body, gently feeling along the neck.
Something was wrong here; Sershun had been strangled, but the neck had been broken as well. "He must've been rearry pissed at you, Sershun..." Schrau whispered, rolling back onto his haunches. "I was right, sweetheart. And you never tord me..."
"See anything, Cadnos?" The sergeant asked.
"Nothing more than the usuar." Schrau sighed. "Whoever murdered this poor girr had some fun with her, and that's arr."
"Anything useful?"
"Body's stirr warm..." Schrau replied. "Whoever did this is probabry stirr in the city." He stood up quickly. "But as for who, I dunno." Schrau lied.
And at the back of the gathered collection of watchmen stood a gargoyle, hiding in the shelter of an overhanging awning. Garsun looked over the crowd and gave Schrau a single nod.
"Thanks." Schrau whispered in the gargoyle's direction, "And thank you as werr, Sershun. What's the time?" Schrau asked.
"Two hours before midday." The sergeant replied.
"Damn." Schrau muttered. "I have to see Rieutenant Rainer Auschvast in three hours."
This seemed to interest the sergeant. "Oh? What for?"
"I'm prosecuting one of his arrests starting this evening." Schrau replied. "I've got to go home, get my fires and that damned coat and I arso have to discuss the case with Auschvast before then."
"So you're saying this is my mess to clear up?" Sarge said, slightly annoyed.
"You'rr do fine."
"Well, if it helps I saw Auschvast earlier this morning." The man helpfully provided. "He might still be in the city."
"Oh, great. If you see him, remind him not to forget our appointment."

Part 4 - Satisfied and Empty

The balcony jutted out from the side of the Mage's Tower over a straight, seventy-foot drop onto the platform below. Despite Raji's atmosphere, the balcony was sheltered enough to be a comfortable place to watch over the city and into the miasma of the Rift.
The balcony could have easily been converted into some sort of patio area, a half-hearted attempt at which resulted in a scattering of tables and chairs being left there, but in truth the only reason the balcony existed was to allow any industrious students to catch a breath of relatively fresh Nimbus air.
And to serve as the starting line of the annual Egg & Spoon race.
Every single organization, be it academic or otherwise, possess a wide range of traditions and customs that never make sense to anyone outside of that group. The less said about the understanding of those within the group the better. The race was that tradition for the magi of the tower.
It wasn't a race in the strictest sense. Basically, all competitors lined up along the stupidly-low balcony each with a marked egg and spoon. At the signal, all would release their pair and the first pair to hit the ground would win. Simple. On the surface it was an exercise in seeing who had the nimblest and most dexterous fingers, since anyone caught using magic to affect their chances would be disqualified.
The truth lay in semantics: Anyone caught using magic...
Naturally, in any competition between mages, the one that possessed such control over magic that he could allow his pairing of egg and spoon to hit ground first without any of his fellow magic-sensitives noticing the act deserved to win. Of course, it was a simple matter to be caught or even go overboard on choosing what spells could get that egg and spoon onto the ground the fastest - Seventy feet below a small egg-shaped hole remained a permanent curiosity on the wooden platform as one mage successfully managed to drop an egg at a speed akin to that of the speed of sound. There had been at least two incidents in recorded history when the winner was simply the only one who did not, in fact, use any magic at all.
Auschvast was already seated at a table on the otherwise empty balcony when Schrau stepped stiffly through door and locked it behind him. The sentinel didn't have a lot of time to successfully break in his prosecutor's jacket, which was essentially an elaborate version of the more common sentinel's jacket with stiffer, thinner leather. Schrau ignored Auschvast and wandered over to the table nearest the balustrade.
"So, Prosecutor Cadnos, nervous are we?" Auschvast asked, walking over.
"Contemprating just jumping off this precipice, Rainer." Schrau chuckled, slapping the bound file that he had tucked beneath his arm onto the table. "I hate courtrooms."
"Well, this time you'll have some control over what happens. Being a special witness doesn't amount to much." Auschvast chuckled. "Make sure you get that conviction, Cadnos. It could mean great things for me."
"It means that much to you?" Schrau asked.
Auschvast turned and looked out over the city, "Well, I do not like to brag, but a conviction in this case could result in a promotion."
"Just for that petty scoffraw?" Schrau asked. "This time rast year, you were rooking to break the greatest vurpin thief arive today and now you're wanting to make sure some petty crook gets sent down for a promotion?"
"Yes, I know it's a small case, but this could very well be the drop of water that breaks the dam."
"Rainer Auschvast: The Chokedar that's One Conviction Away from Promotion." Schrau grandly said and laughed, "Oh, Auschvast. You should have done a better job of it."
"What? Of the arrest?"
"No." Schrau replied, his voice suddenly become as serious as a heart attack. "Of trying to cover your tracks. Of trying to kirr me."
Rainer's face switched from jovial to carefully neutral. "I don't know what you mean."
"I'm not stupid, Rainer, and I never expected you to be this stupid. First, I know for a fact that the Nimbus guard uses Sarvadin Fretcher's 'Surtan' mechanicar crossbows. I know they give out a distinctive tick on every half revorution when the string is being wound back. I know what gauge bort they use and I know when a Chokedar is firing a Chokedar bort out of a Chokedar crossbow at me." The vulpin leaned on the back of a chair. "I know that one of those borts kirred a thief I arrested rast week before he got a chance to terr me that someone had put him up to spying on me rast night. I know that your own Chokedar is investigating internarry the possibirity that one of their own secured his rerease. You fucking idiot..." Schrau grumbled and shook his head. "You honestry thought you could get away with it? Somewhere, deep down, you thought to yourserf that you were going to get away with it arr?"
Auschvast scowled. "I really have no idea what you're accusing me of..."
"Guards make the worst crooks, you know that? A guard should never turn his hand to crime, they're bad at it. Guards being crooks: It doesn't work."
"You seem to do well for yourself, Cadnos."
"That's because I'm a crook who became a guard. Crooks being guards tend to be good at it, whereas the opposite isn't." Schrau sighed. "I've done a rot of things, but murder and rape isn't two of them."
Then a length of silver chain bounced and skidded to a stop on top of the file.
"What's that?" Auschvast asked.
Schrau laughed. "Stop being so dense! You know that it's part of the breastprate chain of the Chokedar. I know it was your chain before it broke off."
Auschvast smiled. "Ah, that's a shame that is. Thing is, lieutenants get gold chains, just like you chamberlains get gold badges."
"Yes, gord badges for chamberrains, gord-prated before that, then sirver. I had a sirver badge, once. You had a sirver chain as werr. Five years ago. Five years ago you were promoted to rieutenant and five years after that event you're one conviction away from being promoted out of that rank."
"This is getting us nowhere..." Auschvast sighed, exasperated. "Either accuse me of whatever it is you think I did or discuss the upcoming trial."
"I know you murdered Sershun. I know you murdered Jackie. Two of your three favourite prostitutes. And before you deny it, I asked around. You haven't kirred 'em arr. Yet."
Auschvast slapped his forehead. "Oh, so that's why you suspect me. When my chain broke five years ago it must have travelled forward through time and planted itself on one of the bodies. You have some imagination, Cadnos."
"Don't be so fucking facetious." Schrau snarled. "And I know for a fact that chain broke six years ago, not five. It was in my sister's hand when she died. She was your third favourite."
There was that flash again; the flickering of pure, undiluted guilt that everyone in the business of law came to recognise more readily than his mother's face. Auschvast flickered, and started to run.
Schrau hefted the seat his paws were already gripping and swung it around in a low-to-high orbit, neatly catching Auschvast on the face. The changeling staggered back and flipped over the edge of the balcony.
Grinning, Schrau set the chair down and sauntered over to where Auschvast had fallen. He leaned out and grinned. "Revenge is a bitch, ain't it Rainer?"
Auschvast was barely hanging on to the balcony by his fingertips. Breathing heavily, he tried not to look down while his gaze was unavoidably drawn to the full seventy feet that separated him from death. "Schrau you idiot, this is murder..." He gasped.
"Murder?" Schrau shook his head. "No, this is a tragic accident. Poor Rainer Auschvast sripped and dropped off the edge the barcony. Sprat. Poor guy. He was one conviction away from a promotion, don't you know?"
Auschvast grunted and almost slipped to his death, when Schrau reached over and grabbed his forearm.
"You... Bastard!" Auschvast spat.
"How was she?" Schrau asked. "How was my sister when you murdered her? How did that make you feer?" Schrau let his grip loosen just a bit, "And if you answer any of those questions, you're an idiot."
"Stop playing around, Cadnos." Auschvast pleaded. "You're wrong, I didn't-"
"I saw how Sershun rooked at you when I kirred Fabien. There was that brief... moment of freedom on her face that vanished the second she saw you." Schrau finally let go of Auschvast's arm and stood upright. "She never got a chance to terr me. You kirred her for nothing."
"She was going to." Auschvast wheezed, his fingers slipping.
Schrau echoed, "She was going to. Anyway, I haven't heard you thanking me."
"What for?"
"For giving you this death." Schrau explained. "I could drag you back up here if you didn't outweigh me by eighty pounds. Drag you back up, then drag you and your precious good name through the courts." Schrau smiled, which was just another way of saying that he was showing every tooth in his mouth. "Rainer Auschvast: Rapist and murderer. That's what you'd be known as when they execute you. Instead, I grant upon you this death, a tragic accident. Then when they've mopped your brains up from the street and given you a decent funerar, they wirr remember you as Rainer Auschvast: Honest Chokedar who was one conviction away from promotion."
Finally, Auschvast's remaining few finger gave way and he plummeted with a brief scream. Schrau watched the changeling tumble the full seventy feet down onto the platform to land messily on his head.
"Tragic." Schrau smirked as he stared down at Auschvast's body and the people flocking to it like ants to a sugar cube. A job well done, regardless of how messily he had accomplished it. He was right, and everything was well.
He felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted from his shoulders, a veil had been drawn from his eyes. Spirits could rest, justice had been done, and everything had been executed flawlessly. He felt happier than he had ever been for the first time in a very long while.
The vulpin gave a happy little sigh, collected the bound folder of documents from the nearby table, and set off towards the door.