Part 1 - Direct Orders

"But I don't want an office." Schrau's voice was, for possibly the first time in his life, whining and pleading. He was following a werewolf in sentinel greens that had seen far more combat action in itself than the vulpin had in his entire life.
The werewolf glowered over his shoulder and growled, "Be that as it may, Cadnos, since you happen to be one of the few sentinels that actually sees being a prosecutor as something more than a distraction, you have to take it."
The hallway was poorly-lit, but still frequently used. Its position in the guildhall meant that it was generally a lot quieter, and contained a fair number of offices that were typically used by some of the more senior members of the guild. Technically, Schrau was entitled to use a general office as the guild mentor, but always preferred to conduct business from his desk in the general senior office pool.
"But Foil..." Schrau pleaded. At the mention of his name, Foil stopped dead in his tracks and turned to face the vulpin, crossing his arms across his chest. Schrau weakly finished off with, "...sir..."
The Chief Justice smirked. "Now, it isn't that bad, Schrau. You get some peace and quiet, can slack off 'cause no one is watching you, and nod off during a shift without your snoring disturbing your fellow officers."
"I don't snore." Schrau determinedly said, and that much was true. Slaves didn't snore. "Besides, I don't slack off."
The werewolf's gaze was even.
Foil sighed and shook his head, turning around once more, though it was hardly worth the effort to walk three paces to the door that now had Schrau's name painted on the frosted glass. He unlocked it with a key, before easily tossing the key towards the vulpin who snagged it out of the air with a secure grasp. "Your coat's been moved in here already, but most of your paperwork is still in Seijirou's old desk-"
"-My old desk." Schrau corrected him.
"Right, whatever." Foil stepped aside to allow Schrau pass, and Schrau took a brief moment to inspect his room.
It was pretty bare at the moment; his prosecutor's coat was resting on a stand in the corner near the window, and an identical desk to the one he sat on in the officers pool dominated the room. There were a few cupboards, cabinets, and filing cabinets but Schrau knew they would be mostly empty. Well, except for the one bookshelf filled with books of law that sat in the corner of the room.
"Have fun." Foil chirped, before leaving Schrau to his new office. The vulpin glanced at the desk and, not finding a maker's mark on it from where he stood, leaned out of his doorway.
"Who made this desk?"
"Blastock's Furniture."
Schrau closed the door behind him, muttering "Typical," before rounding the desk and opening the bottom drawer. Inside was a large bottle of cheap whiskey. Blastock thought himself a comedian, and always slipped a bottle of weak Keystone Sour in the bottom shelf of every desk, whether or not the sentinel receiving it drank or not.
Schrau also noticed the empty decanter set on an end table set against the opposite wall, so with the bottle in hand he padded around the desk once more and filled up the crystal bottle with the whiskey. It was a pretty interesting observation that if you poured whiskey from a cheap bottle, it was cheap; and if you poured the same stuff from a fine crystal decanter, it was fine. Schrau set the flask down, dropped the empty bottle in the wastepaper basket, and sat down.
There was a knock at the door literally a second later.
"Enter." Schrau sighed, half-expecting one of his colleagues to enter and offer half-sarcastic appreciative comments about his office. Instead, the door clicked open to reveal a very young vulpin girl.
"Um. Hello." The girl nervously asked, "Are you Prosecutor Cadnos?"
Schrau nodded, and almost pointed at the door but thought better of it. "I am, how can I help you?"
The girl closed the door behind her. In the time it took her to walk across the office to the chair on the other side of Schrau's desk the sentinel had estimated a few things about her. Given the tawny colour of her fur she was most probably a midland vulpin, and from the quality of her dress she was probably from a wealthy merchant family. She was between six and eight years old, but what absolutely stunned Schrau was the sheer level of maturity with which she carried herself. The girl was just over half his age, and yet he couldn't help but shake the feeling that she outweighed him by a decade or two mentally.
"You will be prosecuting the Aeran Sathran murder trail, am I correct?"
Inwardly, Schrau grimaced. He was indeed prosecuting that case, and should have ideally paid a lot more attention to the investigation when it came up. As it turned out, had Schrau not been so preoccupied with the Grand Heist he might have avoided accepting the poisoned chalice that was the Sathran murder. "I am."
"And you are aware that Ranth Seyett was charged for the murder?"
Ranth Seyett was a widower vulpin merchant with somewhat of a nasty reputation with the ladies of Abarack. It was undeniable that the focus for his latest infatuation was the unfortunate Aeran Sathran, a lady of similar breeding to Seyett. It also was no secret among vulpin circles that Sathran had quite impolitely humiliated Seyett during a social appearance on the day that she was murdered.
The whole case stank. Schrau, an experienced investigator, had taken one look at the evidence and noted that much of it was planted, particularly the embroidered handkerchief that bore Ranth Seyett's initials, and his jacket. If Seyett had taken the sensible path through Sathran's home, then there was absolutely no way that those objects could have wound up where they were found. Also, there was the cause of death: Strangulation with a length of rope from Sathran's bedroom curtain. The Diamond Guard argued that Seyett had strangled Sathran with the rope, but Schrau was pretty certain that she had used it to commit suicide.
"I am aware." Schrau said, his tone cautiously neutral.
The girl's eyes closed pensively for a moment, there was that tiny inhalation that indicated that she was attempting a pretty severe run-up to what she was about to say next. Her eyes opened, her beautiful brown eyes locking straight into Schrau's. The words came, but Schrau never noticed her mouth move.
"I know he's innocent. But I want him to be found guilty." She suddenly turned away. "I want you to prosecute him. I want him to be punished. I want him dead."
"You have proof that he is innocent?" Schrau asked, feeling a little rattled. He knew the case had been rigged from day one, and prosecuting it was a highly dangerous path for any serious prosecutor.
"He was not with her when she was killed." Now the girl's eyes were screwed up tight, but that failed to prevent fat tears from squeezing out of the corners.
"Pardon me for a moment, but may I ask who you are?"
"I'm Mayin Seyett." The girl whispered. "I'm Ranth Seyett's daughter."
For a brief moment, Schrau regretted the fact that the bottle of whiskey was on the opposite side of the room. "Wait a minute; you are his daughter, and you know he is innocent, and yet you still want him found guilty?"
More as a distraction than anything, Schrau opened the top drawer of his desk. He was unsurprised to see that the entire file for the upcoming trial occupied the drawer, since that was his most recent priority. He removed the file and slapped it down on his desk. "I am going to level with you here. No prosecutor in good conscience would take this case. I wouldn't even had accepted it myself had I not been so preoccupied with other matters during the time."
"So why are you still prosecuting it?" Mayin bluntly asked the same question Schrau had been asking himself over the last day. "Couldn't you pass it on to another prosecutor?"
"Well, first of all no other prosecutors will take it." Schrau answered. "I took it, it's my responsibility, and I can't just pass it on like a bad antique. Secondly..." Schrau gazed longingly at the file. "...I'm not prosecuting this case in good conscience. I had something of a conscience bypass at a very early age."
"Ah. The infamous Cadnos wit." Mayin noted, smiling for the first time since she had entered Schrau's office.
"The fact is that this case is practically impossible to prosecute." Schrau frowned. "In fact, the best result I can possibly hope for from my point of view is a mistrial. So, with that in mind, might I ask why you want to have him convicted for a crime he did not actually commit, especially since you claim to be able to provide him with an alibi?"
The sudden stillness in the air that came with the cold silence amplified the final words in Schrau's head. Mayin's face twisted uncomfortably, and she tried to look away from Schrau. For once she appeared to be exactly what she was supposed to be, a young girl that had no right to be as level-headed and mature as she was. When she spoke, it was the voice of a child. "Mother died during childbirth. I never knew her, but it hurt father. Ever since... Ever since I have had to replace her. It was my fault she died. My responsibility."
The sentinel inwardly winced.
"I-" Mayin continued, "He- When I say that he was with me at the time of the murder, I mean he was with me..."
"Dammit..." Schrau growled beneath his breath. "So why not come forward with this? If he's abusing you-"
"It's- Not that simple." Easy as sneezing, Mayin quickly changed gears back to how she was. "My father is a respected member of the community. Loathed by some, certainly, however he does have a certain degree of influence. If I claim what he does, then he will denounce me. A silly little girl with an overactive imagination. Believe me, I've tried before." Mayin's voice became increasingly bitter. "I've failed before. This arrest is a mere hiccup, and I have every reason to believe that he could have called in a few favours with the Diamond Guard to have this whole incident dropped, but..."
"But what?"
Mayin blinked. "He wants Sathran humiliated."
Schrau offered a slight smirk. "She's dead already, humiliation should be reserved for the living."
"True. However it is not Aeran he wants humiliated, not completely - Being exonerated for her murder will tarnish her name further, and her death is a suitable punishment for the humiliation she heaped upon him that day. However, it is Aeran's mother, Narin, that my father wishes to be humiliated."
"Ever since her daughter's death, Narin has been denouncing my father's name. Among her social circle, he has already been tried and convicted and executed a dozen times over. Narin's obsession with bringing about harm to my father is bordering on the manic, and his success will inevitably bring about her downfall." A slight sardonic smile crossed Mayin's muzzle. "After all, her bloodline has already been severed."
Schrau rested his head in his hand and sighed. "I feel I understand you, Mayin."
This comment seemed to surprise the girl. "Excuse me?"
"We both had our childhood taken from us." Schrau explained. "My whole village was taken by slavers three days after I was born. My father killed and my sister sold into prostitution. I was raised to be a fighter for some mad scheme my slaver had cooked up. We've both had to grow up a lot faster than we should have, we've both had this forced upon us.
"However, you are far too mature for your own good." Schrau's frank smile was dry and devoid of humour. "No one should have the right to be as emotionally developed as you are. I am sorry, deeply and genuinely sorry, about what has happened to you."
Mayin nodded in agreement. "Father simply could not wait to have mother back. He raised me to be just like her."
The sentinel shook his head. "I'm sorry, I can't guarantee or even foresee a conviction. I can't see how it's going to happen. However, I do know that I'm not going to give your father an easy ride through this trial. If he wants his freedom, he's going to have to fight for it." Schrau dropped the folder back into his desk drawer and clicked it shut. "And when I've finished with him, he will be ready to take down in a fair fight. Whatever happens, just say the word Mayin. I'll take him down."
Mayin nodded curtly. "Thank you." She whispered.

Schrau knew that he looked different enough to be special. The sentinel simply didn't care about his own personal appearance, and therefore had commissioned possibly the finest prosecutor's jacket ever to be created purely to be contrary. It certainly paid off, the dark green leather stood out quite well among the dour black robes of the public prosecutors and the suits of the defence attorneys.
Schrau scanned the lobby of the Keystone High Court for a familiar face. Fortunately, she was there, sitting on a bench with a file in her lap and a cigarette in hand.
Schrau wound his way through the crowd and sat down next to prosecutor Calla. The vulpin was a generally unremarkable example of the species, aside from the slight rolls of puppy fat that she kept hidden beneath her robes and the yellowing of the white fur on her muzzle where years of merely casual smoking had stained it. Calla was physically the sort of person anyone would like to cuddle, and had an amazingly easy-going demeanour. In court, absolutely nothing rattled her; she would always maintain the same light tone whether or not the trial was going her way or not. Other attorneys would react with shock to an unforeseen turn of events while Calla would simply continue on in the same tone as one might discuss the weather.
Like most vulpins, she had another side to her. Calla had perfect memory recall; visual and aural. Apparently, she could still remember her birth. She used this paranatural not only in court but also as a nice sideline in information brokering. You had to pay a fair amount of money to receive but an index card worth of information from Calla Cofnos, but you could also be guaranteed two things: It was painfully accurate and it was totally worth it.
"Hey Calla." Schrau quietly said to the prosecutor, who never even looked up from her file. There was a slight twitch of what might have been a smile. "I need a favour."
"Going rates." Calla answered, "I might not be able to help you right away, unless what you want is in the morning session."
Schrau smiled. "I do want you to do something for me in the morning session, but it's not information I need. I need you to be co-council for me in today's morning session."
"Ah, yes." Calla grinned openly. "You were the unfortunate sap that landed that suicide case." Calla took a drag on her cigarette. "Enjoy the rest of your career, kiddo."
"I'm serious." Schrau said. "I... I need you to check up on someone during the session."
"The defendant's daughter. Mayin Seyett."
Calla slapped her file shut. "Okay kiddo, what is this about?"
Schrau leaned in closer, putting an arm around Calla's shoulders. "She came to my office yesterday-"
Calla twisted under Schrau's arm so that they were now nose-to-nose. "You have an office now?"
"-She came to me yesterday and asked me to try and get him convicted."
Calla stubbed out the cigarette on the arm of the bench. "Now that ain't a good sign."
Schrau nodded. "She told me he's been abusing her."
Calla's jaw slackened. "Really? How old is she?"
"You couldn't tell by talking to her." Schrau shrugged. "Mentally, she's got the age of a pretty mature adult. In reality she about seven years old."
"Holy crap." Calla whispered. "Do you believe her?"
"Actually, yes I do." Schrau replied. "But I'd like a second opinion. That's why I want you with me today. I want you to watch her during the session to see how she reacts."
Calla looked a little puzzled, "So if she is being abused, then..." She smiled, "...Wait, it's not that simple, is it?"
"Nah." Schrau sighed. "Incidentally, if you can find anything..."
"...You'll get first referral. Why? Building a case?" Calla cackled, "Anyway, I'll do it. Besides, I wouldn't miss a chance to see you choke in court."

Part 2 - Good Measure

Schrau knew the judge; a fairly young and inexperience human who went by the rather unfortunate name of Rex Chance. By far the greatest fault of his inexperience was the fact that he often left both sides take far too many liberties before stepping in. He was brown-haired and -eyed, and had unfortunately began an attempt at growing a beard.
Opposite Schrau, the defence sat: Now Schrau didn't recognise the blonde elf that was quite obviously the defending attorney, so he leaned over and whispered to Calla, "Who's the tree-hugger?"
"Someone who surprises me." Calla said. "He's a rookie, absolute rookie. Still, he's pretty good with it, just..."
"...This is such a serious case it's surprising that Seyett would trust an unproven defence attorney." Schrau frowned. "So who is he?"
"Yeth Echowild." Calla answered. "Straight outta Anathaera and into the big city."
"Something stinks." Schrau muttered, "And for once, it ain't the elf."
"All rise." The bailiff announced, and the courtroom shuffled at various paces to their feet. "Court is now in session for the trial of Ranth Seyett. Judge Chance preceding."
"Be seated." Chance growled, scratching his chin. "This trial will determine if the defendant, Ranth Seyett, was responsible for the death of Aeran Sathran. Will the defendant please take the stand?"
Ranth Seyett stood and smiled. The vulpin was wearing a finely tailored suit that complimented his golden fur, a lighter shade than his daughter's. He padded slowly around the benches to the witness stand, allowing every bare footfall to echo around the courtroom. He took the stand and cleared his throat.
"Are you watching?" Schrau whispered to Calla, who was sat slightly twisted in her seat so she could casually look over her shoulder at Mayin. She nodded.
"Ranth Seyett; you are accused of the murder of Aeran Sathran." Judge Chance asked. "How do you plead?"
"Not guirty, your honour."
"Very well." Chance nodded. "The prosecution will now make its opening statement. Prosecutor Cadnos?"
"Schrau." Calla whispered, tugging at Schrau's sleeve as he stood. The sentinel bowed over to listen. "She does want him dead."
Schrau's mouth twitched as he straightened and cleared his throat. "Members of the court. The prosecution stands by two simper facts: The fact that Aeran Sathran is dead, and that evidence pracing Seyett at the scene." He crossed his arms and practically glowered at Chance. "Now, I've heard mutterings and rumours about the authenticity of the evidence. To some, this triar has arready been thrown out of court. Once again, the facts are this: We have arways based our justice system on the provision that the suspect is innocent untir proven otherwise. The same hords true to evidence. Evidence is accurate untir proven otherwise. We are here for one purpose, radies and gentremen. That purpose is not justice, nor vengeance, nor for petty amusement. Above everything, we are here for the truth."
With the slightest of nods, Schrau sat down as Echowild stood up. Calla nudged him on the elbow, "You slick bastard," she whispered, "even if you lose you've covered your arse well enough that it doesn't matter."
"Hey, I've got a reputation to look after." Schrau whispered back. "I was practicing that all night."
Echowild had already started his opening statement during Calla and Schrau's brief exchange, "-that my client is, beyond an absolute shadow of a doubt, innocent." He crossed his arms, tilting his head ever so slightly forward so that the wispy bangs that he really should have had cut before turning up to court fell across his eyes. Schrau guessed that Yeth loved himself far too much. "I am appalled, ladies and gentlemen, genuinely appalled that this absolute farce of a case should be brought to trial. The fact is that my client did not commit murder, he did not have anything to do with the death of Aeran Sathran, and I intend to prove it. Thank you, your honour."
"Very well." Chance said, "The prosecution may call its first witness."
Schrau stood. "Due to the nature of the crime, there were no actuar witnesses to the death. Therefore, my first witness is the Diamond Guard that made the initiar investigation of the crime scene. Jhen Cuthroy."
"Of course. Will Officer Cuthroy take the stand?"
"Here's where I lose the case," Schrau whispered.

Jhen Cuthroy took the stand still dressed in full uniform. Naturally, as soon as all this was over he would probably walk right of the courtroom, trek back over to Abarack, and resume or begin a shift. Years of dealing with city guards had taught Schrau that there were generally three types: The fresh-faced rookie, the typical family guy, and the haggard veteran. When it came to doing the job, the rookie made mistakes of ignorance, the family guy mistakes of complacency, and the veteran made mistakes of arrogance.
Cuthroy was clearly in the family guy bracket; clean shaven, but with a few creases that indicated many years on the job. This meant he was experienced, knowledgeable, and likely to make assumptions.
"Wirr the witness state his name and profession for the court?" Schrau asked.
The human nodded. "My name is Jhen Cuthroy, and I am an officer in the Abarackian Diamond Guard."
"You were the first officer to arrive at the crime scene, correct?"
"Who summoned you?"
Cuthroy answered without hesitation, "The victim's mother, Narin Sathran."
"Describe the scene as you found it."
Cuthroy nodded. "The victim was found, strangled, in her bedroom. There had been signs of a struggle, the bedclothes had been strewn across the room and a curtain had been torn down." There was a slight facial tic, "the uh, victim had been strangled."
"With a length of rope from the curtain?"
"That is correct." Cuthroy answered with a nod. "There were some bloodied strands of fur on the rope."
Next issue, and the one which Schrau fully expected Echowild would jump on; "Having investigated the home of the victim, you arrested the defendant. On what grounds?"
"Excuse me? Oh, you mean evidence." Schrau inwardly grunted, he had meant on what grounds, as if a hunch would have been sufficient. "Two, uh, items of the defendant were found in the home of the victim: His jacket, and a monogrammed silk handkerchief."
Schrau almost instinctively asked about the locations where those items were found, but naturally decided against doing so. Let the defence deal with the details relevant to the defence, he just had to prosecute. "Where in her bedroom was the victim's body discovered?"
"Near the armoire next to the door." Cuthroy confirmed. Anyone, including the current prosecutor, believing that Sathran had committed suicide would have noted the fact that she had hung herself from the top of the armoire.
"In your opinion, had the body been moved to its current location?"
In fairness to Cuthroy, the man didn't falter for a nanosecond. "In my opinion, no."
"Thank you officer. The prosecution has no further questions." Schrau practically crumpled into his seat and sighed quietly. "So, what are you doing for lunch?" he asked Calla.
Echowild stood, glanced briefly over at the prosecutor's bench, and then fixed his gaze onto Cuthroy. "But that is only your opinion, isn't it officer Cuthroy?"
The guard smiled thinly, "Yes. Because if I simply adopted the opinions of others-"
"And what opinions do others have regarding the subject?" Echowild asked.
"Objection." Schrau quickly responded, "The witness has stated that he can onry provide his opinion on the matter - If the defence wishes to hear the opinions of others, then they should be carred to the stand." He sat down, then frowned - Echowild had made a pretty basic mistake.
"Objection sustained." Chance announced. "Echowild, please restrict your enquiries to the witness."
The elf smiled, and Schrau quickly guessed what point Echowild had been trying to make, or more accurately what point he would be making.
"The evidence that placed the defendant on the scene were..." he hesitated, almost asking Cuthroy to fill in the blanks, "...his jacket and a monogrammed handkerchief, these were found where?"
"In the victim's home." Schrau felt that Cuthroy was suppressing the urge to add "duh" to that comment.
Echowild almost sighed in exasperation, "Where in the victim's home?"
For the first time, Cuthroy appeared uncomfortable in the stand. "The, uh, silk handkerchief was found in the hallway of home, downstairs, near the dining hall."
"The jacket?"
"I was getting to that." Cuthroy scowled. "The jacket was in the bathroom near the bedroom. Where the murder took place."
Now Echowild was smiling openly; a smug grin that was positively unbecoming. "Your honour, my client attended a social gathering in the home of the victim that night."
"Yes, I have heard." Chance practically sighed the response.
"During the party, there was an incident." Echowild's voice could only be interpreted as mock sympathy. "Unfortunately, my client had to leave the gathering rather prematurely."
Schrau lazily rose to his feet, "Objection... I fair to see how this is rerevant to the events that occurred rater that night aside from giving the defendant a motive to return and attack the victim."
"I'm inclined to agree with you, prosecutor, however let's see as to where the defence is going with this."
"Of course, I'll try to be brief." Echowild slowly said, almost prompting a sarcastic snort from the prosecuting vulpins. "The point is that my client checked in the same jacket at the beginning of the evening. As he was evicted, this jacket was not returned to him at that time. The jacket, with a handkerchief in the pocket, was always at the scene of the crime."
And that was all the evidence the prosecution had against Seyett, if it collapsed right now, then so would the trial.
Oddly enough, it was Cuthroy himself that managed to make a rather valid observation, "But isn't it natural that your client would wish to seek the return of his property?"
Schrau grinned. Intentionally or not, the guardsman had bought him a few vital moments of uncertainty.
"Excuse me?" Echowild asked.
"If he did indeed leave his jacket at the scene, it's only natural that he would seek to get it back."
"Even committing murder to do so, and then leave it at the scene?" Echowild indignantly replied. "Please, don't take my client as some sort of idiot. Tell me, officer Cuthroy, what is your opinion regarding the possibility that my client returned to the victim's home in order to reclaim his jacket?"
Again, Cuthroy's face appeared pained. "It is a possibility-"
"-That was initially voiced by your captain three days ago." Echowild stated. "Now tell me, did you arrive at that conclusion yourself, or were you influenced by-"
"Objection!" Schrau snapped. "The defence is reading the witness!"
"Objection overruled," Chance declared, "you can't have it both ways, prosecutor."
As Schrau abruptly sat down, snarling, Calla nudged him. "Hey, you're going about this the wrong way."
"I repeat - Did you arrive at this conclusion yourself or were you influenced by the opinions of your captain?"
"Think, Cadnos: What other reason could the jacket have for being there?"
Cuthroy sighed, "I suppose, in part, my captain's opinions seemed sound enough to be an accurate representation of the course of events."
Schrau leaned back in his seat. "He'll shoot it down if I go down that road, Calla."
"No, he'll have to prove it." Calla smirked. "And that'll buy you a day at the least."
Schrau stood up, "A question for the defence, if I may?"
Chance nodded, "I'll allow this."
Schrau glared along the full width of the courtroom at Echowild. "You craim that the defendant did not receive his jacket as he was evicted from the party, am I correct?"
"That is the claim I am making, prosecutor." Echowild answered.
"What evidence do you have that the jacket was not in fact returned to him?" Schrau asked.
Echowild's mouth opened for a brief moment, before he made a slight gargle of pain. "The, uh, well... It's a somewhat logical conclusion to arrive at since-"
"Rogic takes second prace to evidence, Echowird." Schrau almost crowed. "By what grounds do you suppose the jacket was not returned to the defendant?" Echowild hesitated, so Schrau continued. "Is it the opinion of evidence, or even your own opinion, or...?"
With a slight sigh of defeat, Echowild answered, "My client claims as much."
"So it's not your opinion." Schrau chided, "Or in fact, a truth that evidence currentry in this court can substantiate. It is, in fact, the word of your crient."
"Who is currentry charged with the murder of the victim." Schrau said by way of reminder.
Yeth sighed. "Yes."
"So you onry have the word of the defendant which proves that the evidence that praces him at the scene was arways there?"
"Mister Echowild." Chance sternly said, "Are you able to produce an actual eyewitness report as to whether or not the defendant's jacket was returned to him on the night or not?"
Now Echowild was completely defeated, "At this time, no."
"Then I suggest you do." Chance said, striking down with his gavel. "In tomorrow's proceedings at least. Court is adjourned for today; we will reconvene for tomorrow's session in the morning."

Part 3 - Post Mortem

"You dodged an arrow there, kiddo." Calla commented to Schrau, hastily fumbling around for a cigarette and lighting it.
"Those things will kill you." Schrau idly noted.
Calla grinned, "Yeah, whatever. Anyway, like I said: You got lucky. It's lucky for you Echowild's an amateur."
"Is it?" Schrau asked, rubbing his forehead. "I can't help but wonder just why the hell Seyett would hire a fresh rookie on what could very well be the most important case of his life."
"I know, in the same position I'd rather have Heshen defending me." Calla's eyebrows arched. "Or even you: One defence in your career, and your client wound up dead before he could be declared guilty."
"Anyway, that's a mystery for another day." The residing prosecutor frowned, "Now I just need to figure out what to do next."
Calla laid a hand on Schrau's shoulder, the hand that held her cigarette; ash dripped onto Schrau's collar. "Distract, delay, defer. Hopefully, by the time you think of something the trial wouldn't have ended."
"Excuse me." A prim voice interjected, weighed down with years of good breeding and a complete lack of experience of considering permission to be excused. Schrau half turned as he brushed Calla's hand and ash from his shoulder and saw a now-familiar face; That of Narin Sathran, the victim's mother. Suddenly, Schrau had a strong desire not to talk with her.
"Lady Sathran." Schrau curtly said.
"I must admit, young Cadnos," The lady's voice was cold, and the general appearance of Narin Sathran hinted that she might have frozen quite a few ice caps in her life, "when I heard that a Cadnos was prosecuting this case I had my reservations."
A fairly innocuous statement, but Schrau felt the undercurrents of vulpin politics flowing beneath her words. Schrau barely managed to restrain himself in not commenting about how much back rent Sathran technically owed him.
"I can't name a single Cadnos who achieved as much in his life to deserve a fate better than a clean execution." The lady briefly appeared apologetic, but slipped almost instantly back into an all-business face. "And yet here you are; a custodian of the law and a fine - if somewhat uncouth - prosecutor."
"Thank you for your faith in me." Schrau replied with a smile that was less a sign of how friendly he was as a display of how sharp his teeth were.
"Believe me, Cadnos; I don't for one second believe you'll secure a conviction in this case, much to my disappointment."
Schrau's eyes narrowed, and something within him broke down and he suddenly felt no desire to remain professional. The smile twisted effortlessly into a snarl. "Lady Sathran, there is no case here." He crossed his arms across his chest, rearing up to his full, unimpressive (even by vulpin standards) height. "Had I been the officer in charge of investigating your daughter's death, I would have seen that it was a case of suicide-"
"Prosecutor Cadn-"
Schrau raised a hand to forestall the upcoming tirade. "I would have also noticed that the crime scene had been tampered with, to make the incident appear to be a murder, and I would probably be asking who was responsible for that crime than trying to convict an innocent man for another."
Narin matched Schrau's snarl tooth for tooth, "May I remind you of your duty, prosecutor." The word was heavy with malice. "Your duty is-"
"May I remind you of my duty, lady." Schrau snapped back, pulling the sentinel badge from the loop on his jacket. "The law. My duty is to the law, and to see that justice is done."
"And justice will be served if Seyett is convicted."
The prosecutor's eyes narrowed. "You're right. Justice would be done if he is convicted. However thanks to someone's tampering, it will not be for this case."
"Hmph." Narin's mouth curled up in a disgusted pout. "Just remember, prosecutor, that justice would be served once Seyett is convicted. No good could come from his freedom, or that disgusting brat of his."
Schrau's spine suddenly stiffened. "You mean Mayin?"
"Yes. Blasted child, terribly ungrateful for what little education she has received and-"
"Good day." Schrau suddenly interrupted and turned on heel. He gently but firmly grabbed Calla on the elbow and lead her away. "She's hiding something."
"What makes you say that?" Calla hissed back.
"I don't trust her." Schrau shook his head. "I think I need to see that crime scene for myself."

"Quite impossible."
Schrau refused to let his shoulders slump and instead glared at Diamond Watch Captain Theodore Wright. "Come again?"
Wright looked at the prosecutor with his ice-cold blue eyes. "I said that you may not visit the scene of the crime, prosecutor."
"I see, and there I was thinking my sense of hearing was starting to go." He leaned on the desk. "But I thank you for confirming that, yes, I did hear that statement. Now, when I said I wanted to see the victim's bedroom, I did not mean to phrase it as a request."
"And you will notice that I phrased my response as an order." Wright said. "You cannot be there. Period."
"By whose orders?" Schrau snarled.
"The victim's mother."
"A civirian." Schrau sneered, idly noting that Narin was a civilian that he had just offended. "In case you have not noticed, I am the residing prosecutor for this case, a member of the Sentiner High Councir, and that this rearry isn't worth your job. Now, the onry reason I am here, ageing before your very eyes, is that I need a pair of your peons to escort me to the scene of the crime, as the rast thing I need is to be invorved in an irregar investigation."
"Fancy that, a Cadnos with no desire to be involved in anything illegal."
Schrau's claws scratched the surface of Wright's desk. "Wright... Assign two officers to me. Now."
The human leaned back in his seat and sneered at the vulpin. "When you get permission from Narin Sathran, then I may assign officers at my discretion."
"No, you wirr assign them to me now, Wright. You can do it now, or your successor can in ten minutes."
"I think not."
"Dammit, Wright!" Schrau bellowed, sweeping the surface of the captain's desk clean in fury. "You've cost me one case with your stupendous ineptitude, don't cost me another!"
Wright was now out of his seat. "This is not about your pride and your reputation, vulpin! This is about the wishes of the victim's mother and the victim's privacy!"
"I think that Narin Sathran would be happier with a conviction for Ranth Seyett than protecting her daughter's privacy!"
"I'm afraid she doesn't see it that way."
"Guess what; I don't care!" Schrau caught his breath. "I have no choice, the Chief Justice wirr hear about this, and as you have obstructed my investigation, hindered my prosecution of this case, and I trust you know what that means."
"Do your worst, Cadnos." Wright grinned. "To have me fired means you would have to lodge a complaint with the Chief Justice. However, that means you would be receiving aid from the sentinel guild, and that would harpoon your case."
Schrau straightened, nodded, and then turned tail without a word. He didn't even offer Wright the advice of having his desk cleared.

Schrau ordered another whiskey at the World's End Inn and downed it in a single gulp. A dim part in the back of his mind kept telling him that he shouldn't be drinking as he ordered another.
"You shouldn't be drinking." A voice said at Schrau's right shoulder. He glanced over and saw Calla as she sat down; despite the obvious concern on her face, she appeared pleased with herself. "Brandy, prease."
"That's the thing about this business." Schrau sneered. "A lot of people do things they shouldn't. Good day in court, honey?"
"Oh, I have a feeling that the next couple of days are going to be excruciatingly painful and humiliating." Calla shrugged, "Well, for Valance, not me." A glass of brandy was placed before the prosecutor, and she slid a few coins across the bar before taking a sip. "The next few days are gonna to be smooth for me, kiddo. Rough day?"
Schrau shrugged and stared into the bottom of his glass. "Wright stopped me from viewing the crime scene."
"He can't do that." Calla noted, suspicion in her voice.
"I know. He claims that Narin wishes that her daughter's privacy be respected."
"Still, he can't stop you Schrau." Calla glanced sideways at him. "It's illegal to do so."
"I know. That's why I had a word with the Chief Justice before coming here."
"And what did he say?"
"He agrees." Schrau leaned back on his stool, forgetting that there was no back, and almost fell backwards before catching himself. "But I had... Some recommendations. He's hiding something."
"You said that about Narin."
"She's hiding something too. Maybe they're both in on it. I dunno." Schrau gestured with his glass at the bar, "Maybe next week, Wright'll be washing bottles here. But for the next few days I want him where he is. Maybe I'll be able to work out what to do with him."
"That's not important." Calla reminded him. "What is important is what are you going to do in tomorrow's session."
Schrau grinned. "Echowild would have produced a witness from somewhere. Tomorrow is likely to be mercifully brief. All I have to do..." He gulped down the last of his whiskey, slammed the empty glass down on the bar and produced a small green tin from one of his jacket's pockets. "...Is roll with the punches."
"Gonna take it all like a gentleman, kiddo?" Calla asked, a knowing smirk on her face.
"Nah." Schrau replied, popping open the tin, fastidiously peeling back the paper inside, and gently picking up a mint between thumb and forefinger. "I'm gonna take it like a vulpin." He said, dropping the mint into his mouth.

Part 4 - Not Mistaken

Schrau paced outside the door to the courtroom in the prosecutor's lobby. The night had come and gone, as had a portion of the fresh morning's light, and the prosecutor had no idea what stunt Echowild would be pulling.
Eventually, the news came courtesy of a court clerk. The man could have best been described as otter-like, and he delivered a folder with only asking for confirmation of the sentinel's identity. Schrau irritably flipped open the file, read it, and inwardly groaned.
"Witness: Doctor Simon Kane, Biometric Surgeon." The file flopped shut in Schrau's hand. "Great. The witness is smarter than me."

Calla had a pre-trial meeting that morning, so Schrau stood at the prosecutor's bench alone with nothing save his wits. At least Echowild had a witness on his side.
Schrau wished he had received the name of the witness earlier, like at the time when he asked for that information. The fact that the identity had not been supplied sooner indicated that Schrau's own investigation was being impeded. The prosecutor had known some notoriously unfair trials in his time, but aspects of this one were positively illegal. That was a hand he could potentially play later in the game, but right now he had to manage with the cards dealt to him, and right now he was getting nothing but busted flushes.
Echowild stretched languidly on his seat, consulted a few files, and smiled in Schrau's direction. Schrau glared back. "Attorney," He snarled, "you regar secretary was criminarry rax with supprying me with information I requested. I do hope for your sake that the deray was not intentionar."
"Really? I do apologise, prosecutor." Echowild replied in a manner that that implied he was not sorry in the least. "Incidentally, I do hope that you are not too dismissive with my witness today."
"Given the behaviour of your amateur organisation, why should I be any ress fair than you have been to me?" Schrau retorted just as a bailiff announced the presence of Judge Chance. The basic formalities were dealt with, and Chance asked that the defence produce their witness.
When Doctor Kane was ushered into the courtroom, Schrau would have fallen over laughing had it not been so pitiful.

Simon Kane had been guided gently into the witness stand, swore the oath, and immediately began to scratch. Dressed in rags, with matted hair and beard with more things living in it than Schrau had ever had on his body while growing up in the slave den. It was pretty clear that Simon Kane was hardly earning a living through his medical abilities. He was hardly earning a living at all.
Echowild nodded sagely as he stood. "Witness, please state your name for the benefit of the court."
Kane nodded, though this merely meant that the bare space between his beard and his hairline where his eyes were bobbed down and up. "Yes'm. I'm, uh, Simon Kane. Doctor Simon Kane."
"If I may explain to the court that doctor Kane has fallen upon hard times as of late, and I would politely request that the court not be too hard on the witness for circumstances beyond his control." Echowild was staring firmly in Schrau's direction in saying this. "After all, not many of us could sympathise with doctor Kane's plight."
Chance was glaring at Schrau as well, so the vulpin stood up at his full, unimpressive height. Echowild just made a mistake that he would regret. "Your honour, I had an impossibry hard upbringing. Every day I wished for death and instead received physicar and mentar abuse. I do think that I am capabre with sympathising with the good doctor's current situation." Schrau let his head hang an inch and sighed. "It rooks rike the defence didn't do his research." He added, making a mental note to have every single moment of Echowild's history delivered to his desk as soon as the day's proceedings were over. "Proceed."
Truly, Echowild's expression was an absolute picture. The sheer look of stunned loathing on the elf's face would keep the sentinel amused for months to come. Echowild attempted to clear his throat, but it emerged as a choked squeak. "Uh. Simon Kane was, uh, present outside Aeran Sathran's home on the night of the mu- Incident." Schrau made a quick mental note of Echowild's stumble. "He witnessed my client leaving the party."
"Very well," Chance muttered, "if the witness would like to give his testimony."
Schrau inwardly relaxed. Against a solid, reliable witness there was little he could do, but Kane might just give him an opportunity that he so desperately needed. "The witness saw Seyett reave the party?"
"He did." Echowild confirmed.
Schrau turned to Kane. "From where did you witness Seyett?"
"I, uh, I was in the alley across the street."
Schrau crossed his arms and nodded. "Very werr. Yeth, you may proceed with the witness testimony."
Echowild looked pained, probably due to the fact that Schrau had temporarily assumed control over the proceedings. Schrau also got the vibe that Echowild knew that his witness did not have much to say and appeared uncomfortable with the fact that everything that had happened up to now would have taken longer than the total sum of Kane's testimony. "Doctor Kane, could you please recount to the court what you saw on the night in question."
"Uh, yeah." Kane cleared his throat, and when he spoke next his voice transformed almost completely into that of a well-spoken professional. "Yes. I was outside that night, sleeping rough in a fruit box, as you can imagine-"
"Armagh's Grocers?" Schrau quickly interrupted, and before anyone had the sense to question Schrau's query, Simon Kane replied.
"No, it was actually one of Malcolm's pineapple crates."
"Oh, good choice. I would've kirred to spend a rainy night in one of those." Schrau added almost wistfully. "Prease continue."
If the Nameless One had appeared in the courtroom and started juggling sheep, Schrau doubted it would have registered as much incredulity with the rest of the court as that brief exchange.
"Anyway, it was about eleven at night, and the accused was... Well, I suppose it could be said he was ejected from the premises by two of Sathran's staff."
"Was my client wearing his jacket at the time?" Echowild asked.
Kane shook his head. "No, he was dressed in a blue silk shirt, black pants, and carrying a red handkerchief. No jacket."
"That is..." Echowild hesitated for the merest of moments, and already Schrau could detect that the elf was uncomfortable. "...That is remarkably accurate."
"Please, mister Echowild." Kane smiled weakly. "I may be homeless, but I do have a good memory."
"So you're saying that Seyett was wearing what you said he was wearing?" Schrau asked.
"Of course." Kane replied.
Schrau glanced sideways at Echowild, trying to locate the source of his discomfort. Something in that line of testimony was certainly troublesome for the defence. "Did... Did my client attempt to re-enter the Sathran estate?"
"No, he did not." Kane answered.
"Which direction did my client leave the scene?"
"Southwards, along the Diamond Circle."
Sathran's home was on the east side of the Circle, Seyett's on the south.
"And how long were you observing the scene?" Echowild asked, his confidence returning.
"I was there and awake for about another hour and half. After which... I must have dropped off to sleep. I awoke when the Diamond Guard began their... enquiries."
Schrau smiled weakly. No doubt the Guard would have been asking each and every person in earshot of the home, and had he been sleeping out that night he would have preferred to feign ignorance that be dragged around at the middle of the night.
"At any time while you were awake, did you see my client in or around the scene?" Echowild sternly asked.
"No, I did not."
"Thank you." Echowild smiled weakly and sat down. Chance looked at Schrau and nodded.
The vulpin stood and leant forward on the desk before him. He briefly glanced down at his notes when he noticed his mismatched cuffs. The cuff on his left wrist was, like the rest of the trim on his prosecutor's jacket, black. His right cuff was a blood red, which he chose to wore in silent respect to Bardur Cadnos, the Red Paw.
Blood red. The prosecutor straightened, stared right ahead into Kane's eyes, and nodded once. "I berieve you. I berieve that everything you have said has been the truth."
Kane smiled wryly. "So what you are saying is that there's no need to cross-examine me?"
"Now, now. Not many of those I've cross-examined have been harmed in any way." Schrau chuckled, eliciting a similar response from the witness and the gallery. If this trial were to be decided on audience participation, Schrau surely would be the victor. "No, I do berieve you, but there is stirr room for you to terr the truth."
"The witness has told the truth..." Echowild sighed rather petulantly.
"He has, and he hasn't." Schrau snapped back. "So, Kane... What corour was Seyett's handkerchief?"
"Objection!" Echowild sharply stood. "The witness has already answered that question. If the prosecution would like an answer to that, he could always check the court record later."
"Is that a rather roundabout way of questioning the relevance of the prosecution's question?" Chance asked.
"It is, your honour." The elf sheepishly admitted.
"Sustained." Chance arbitrated, "I would like the prosecution to refrain from irrelevant ramblings."
"Your honour, it is far from irrerevant." Schrau calmly replied. "Of course, it is not if you ask another question."
"Which is?"
"What corour was the handkerchief which was recovered at the scene of the crime?" Schrau smirked.
"It was white, wasn't it?" Chance noted.
"It was white!" Schrau barked. "Now, one more time, what corour was the handkerchief that you saw Seyett holding?"
"It was red." Kane calmly said.
"Doesn't that strike you as odd?" Schrau asked, "That a man of considerabre taste would attend a party with mismatching handkerchiefs?"
Kane considered this for a brief moment, not entirely sure if the question was aimed directly at him. "Well, one could find it odd that you're attending a trial with mismatching cuffs."
"Very observant, but it should be noted that I have no taste." Schrau grinned. "Would the defence rike to comment?"
Echowild blinked, suddenly put on the spot and without a paddle. He reacted as any cornered animal would, that is to say poorly. "Um, the, ah, defence has no particular reason as to why my client attended the party with mismatched handkerchiefs and..." A semblance of reality seeped into the elf's brain, "...the defence is also wondering about the relevance of this petty line of questioning."
"The magistrate is also wondering too," Chance commented, "does the prosecution have a line of reasoning that is both sane and, hope against hope, brief?"
Schrau nodded. "I have a theory."
"Naturally." Chance sighed, "Well, what is it?"
"Werr, I was rather hoping that a biometric surgeon would recognise the sight of brood." Schrau plainly said.
Echowild was all-too-quick in responding. "But since he did not mention as much in his testimony then that's too bad..."
"'That's too bad'?" Schrau snorted. "Wake up, Yeth: This isn't a prayground." Schrau then turned to Kane. "Doctor Kane, is it possibre that, as opposed to seeing a red handkerchief, you saw one that was stained with brood?"
"Objection!" Echowild snapped. "Your honour, the prosecution is leading the witness!"
Chance frowned at Echowild. "The prosecution does raise a valid point. Overruled."
"Your honour..." Echowild practically wheezed, "...what point would that actually be?"
"That-" Chance began.
"-is an excerrent question?" Schrau offered, smiling easily. "It's pretty obvious, your honour - Seyett had been injured during the party, or, more rikery, he had been punched and was mopping up a nosebreed."
"And this is completely irrelevant to the murder of Aeran Sathran!" Echowild pleaded. Schrau took some comfort in the fact that the defence was calling it a murder when even he didn't believe it so.
"Vurpins are pridefur creatures." Schrau announced. "Arr we have is our reputation. Seyett's reputation was deart a hard brow that night, especiarry if he was attacked and cast out of a sociar gathering. Vurpins are sociar creatures too..."
"Your point?" Chance asked.
"The purpose of today's testimony is to determine if Seyett had a reason to return to Sathran's home that night."
Echowild stood, "No, the purpose of this testimony is to prove that my client did not have his jacket as he was evicted from the party and-"
"-That was proven. Arong with the possibirity that the defendant was assaurted or humiriated during the party, and was evicted from the premises." Schrau's mouth cracked into a sadistic grin. "Doctor Kane, when Ranth Seyett was thrown out of the party, did he say anything?"
"Um..." Kane closed his eyes in concentration. "I guess he did."
"He either did or he didn't, witness." Schrau snapped, "Which is it?"
"He did." The homeless doctor sighed pedantically, "I don't know what he said however."
"How is that possible, Kane!?" Echowild protested, "How could-"
"He was speaking in lupin." Kane and Schrau answered at the same time. The vulpin smiled to himself while the human continued, "Or rather, he was shouting."
"I take it he was aggravated?" Schrau smirked.
Schrau took stock of what had happened. Seyett had been evicted from the party, he had also been attacked - Probably punched out by one of Sathran's staff, or possibly another partygoer; Schrau couldn't exactly dismiss the idea that Sathran herself had shortened Seyett's muzzle by an inch. One could come to the conclusion that Seyett had stormed on home, seethed over his humiliation, and returned to Sathran's house after everyone had left for the night and murder her.
Schrau had two problems with that line of thought; the first was the rather tricky problem of Seyett's daughter claiming that she had been with him at the time of the murder, and the second was that he didn't have any evidence to substantiate that fact. However, there was an old prosecutor's trick in wheeling things around so that the defence itself believed that the crime could have been committed, and an uncertain defence attorney was more effective to a prosecutor's case than all the evidence in the world.
Regardless of all that, Schrau knew that he was finished with Kane. "The prosecution has no further questions to ask, your honour."
Chance raised an eyebrow and smiled, he had been eyeing the small clock on his desk and was no doubt ready for lunch. "That took a lot longer than we had assumed. Does the prosecution have a witness they would like to call?"
Schrau had wanted to call Mayin Seyett, but realised that he would rather start that cross-examination on the offensive, and would rather deal with that another day. A thought occurred; he wanted someone's testimony, and would appreciate the opportunity to question that person regardless of how costly it would be to his case.
"Yes your honour, I would rike to carr the victim's mother, Narin Sathran."
Chance looked at Echowild. "Does the defence have any objections?"
"No, your honour."
"Very well." Chance reached for his gavel. "Have Narin Sathran called to witness tomorrow. Court is adjourned for today."

Schrau stepped out of the courtroom into the prosecutor's lobby, and bumped practically straight into Calla as she idled around.
"How did it go, kiddo?" Calla sighed, lighting up what was probably only her second cigarette of the day.
"Good." Schrau managed. "The defence didn't object nearly as much as I had assumed he would. Echowild's inexperience is going to cripple him."
"And you would be happy knowing that an innocent man goes to his death for a crime he didn't commit?" Calla smiled lopsidedly.
"Remember, he's not exactly innocent." Schrau said. "He's been lucky up until now. Anyway, speaking of Echowild, what do you know of him?"
Calla's smile blossomed into a smug grin. "Finally decided to look into your opponent? What, did he catch you out with some detail of your life and you couldn't reciprocate?"
"The opposite. He doesn't know me at all."
Calla's face slipped into neutrality as she trawled through her epic memory for the relevant details. When she spoke, she did so as if she was paraphrasing a folder page from a filing cabinet somewhere. "Yeth Echowild, citizen of Anathaera. His parents were fletchers and bowyers responsible for crafting much of the bows and arrows used in the great forest, but Yeth was always a little too bookish to go into that job. When the bows and arrows made by his parents were responsible for killing a travelling caravan – Wielded by bandits that had somehow got their hands on them of course – the caravan master decided to take compensation directly from the bowyers responsible for crafting those deadly weapons rather than attempting to futilely track down the bandits. Yeth, somehow, managed to talk him around."
"Typical lawyer." Schrau sighed. "What happened then?"
"Mommy and daddy used the money they saved not paying the caravan master compensation to get their son an education. Simple as that. So, what's your next move, kiddo?"
"Well, I've called the victim's mother." Schrau said. "I'm hoping to maybe get something out of her tomorrow. My real next move is to try and get further with seeing the crime scene."
"Ah." Calla took a long drag of her smoke, "Well, don't do anything I wouldn't do."
A slight smile cracked at the corner of Schrau's mouth. "Calla, if I don't get to see that crime scene, I might end up doing something you couldn't do."
"Ain't that what I said?" Calla winked. "Anyway, good luck kiddo."
"Yeah, you too."

Part 5 - Things Men Were Not Meant To Know

This time the Diamond Guard didn't even make the mistake of letting Schrau within ten paces of Theodore Wright. The prosecutor sat in the Abarack guardhouse while an endless succession of lower-ranked guards helpfully informed him that Wright was a Very Busy Man That Could Not Be Disturbed At The Moment Tee-Emm.
Schrau studied the face of the latest Diamond Guard, a pimply-young man that had just broke through the twenty-something barrier without his complexion intact. The vulpin couldn't help but think of the man as being familiar to him.
The truth was as a sentinel he had access to the names and official files of pretty much every guardsperson across the Six, however his memory wasn't as encyclopaedic as that of Calla, so he could barely remember the basic statistics of less than ten percent of those he had actually read. What he did remember were things told to him in passing by many of his less-than-legal companions. Sometimes they heard that whatsisname from wherever, who had been a little tearaway when he was younger, had gone straight and joined up with the city guard. As a whatsisname from wherever himself, Schrau took great interest in these stories, and usually checked any names he was given with the files. Mostly they confirmed what he had been told, but occasionally the record was clean, indicating that the guard in question had either managed to get away with his crime scot-free or had arranged to have his record purged.
"I'm sorry about the wait, Prosecutor Cadnos." The man said somewhat earnestly. "Captain Wright is a very busy man that-"
"Yeah, yeah. I've heard it arr before." Schrau snapped, somewhat less than earnestly. "I have a simpre demand, a regar one, and this guard is obstructing justice in denying it."
A truly dark day indeed if a Cadnos was complaining about justice in the Abarackian guardhouse.
"We all have our orders, Prosecutor." The guard said somewhat nervously. "I'm sure you can understand that."
"No, I can't." Schrau calmly replied. "I thought we were subservient to the raw, not to our superiors." He leaned forward in his seat, the creaking of the leather of his jacket complimenting the straining of the cheap wooden chair. "If your superior gave you an order that was a direct contradiction to the raw that you predged an oath to, would you forrow it?"
Now the guard looked positively uncomfortable. "I'd rather not answer that question."
"What's your name, boy?"
"Haskins." Came the reply. "John Haskins."
Schrau's inner cleric shuffled towards a filing cabinet in his mind and skimmed through several files. The John Haskins file was empty. Good.
"John Haskins, born Copper Street Keystone, son of Yvette and Martin Haskins." Schrau calmly rattled off. "Twenty-one years of age."
Haskins had instantly developed a nervous tic in his left eye, twitching with practically every fact that Schrau was reeling out. "Y-yes."
Schrau rose from his seat, knuckled onto the guard's desk, and leaned in close. "What were you doing when you were sixteen?" he whispered.
Haskins had to practically swallow down the yelp that rose from his throat.
Schrau flashed the man a smile. "When you were sixteen, you and Jimmy Smith and Edward Hopkirk broke into Autamma's Weapons Booth and took the petty change box that poor Autamma had reft behind in her shop the day she had been attacked by a crazed customer and had to be taken to the locar biomancer's office." Schrau's eyes narrowed to slits. "Nobody knew that you and Jimmy Smith and Edward Hopkirk did that nasty thing. Not even Captain Wright." Schrau straightened up. "I do."
"Look, I'm really sorry..." Haskins hissed. "We were young and stupid and- I snuck the money back with the cash from my first pay when I joined the guard."
"Did you exprain to Autamma, or did you just squeeze the bag of coins under the door one night?"
"I-" The Haskins dried up, looking down in shame.
"Then you're not sorry at arr. Am I right?"
"So what were you doing when you were sixteen?" Haskins demanded.
Schrau allowed himself to be lost in thought for a moment. "When I was sixteen, I was in the Abarack Diamond guardhouse terring one of the Diamond Guards what they were doing when they were sixteen."
"How did you know what I did?" Haskins demanded.
"Oh, ret me guess. I'm orange, with two pointy brack ears and a tair you can hide things in. I'm arso a sentiner and, oh get this, my ancestor used to own this buirding and every other buirding in this circre." The vulpin laughed. "I have ways and means of finding these kind of things out."
Suddenly the front door to the building opened and a harried little arakun that Schrau recognised as one of Calla's legal aides scampered in. "Deputy Cadnos? I was told you could be found here."
"Herro Eva." Schrau brightly said. "Calla has something for me?"
The arakun started to nervously preen her tail. "Yes. She, uh, would like to discuss it over dinner at the Red Rose."
Schrau's eyebrows raised. "Hmm, she must be crose to winning her case. She onry eats there when she's a day within victory."
"She's, uh, also waiting for you there. Prosecutor Cofnos hopes she wasn't being presumptuous in ordering for you."
"Not at arr." Schrau smiled brightly. "I'rr be right over. I'm getting nowhere here." He added a little louder than necessary.
Eva nodded then scampered out the way she had came in. Schrau turned to face the seated Diamond Guard who was just itching to rise out of his seat and show the prosecutor the door. "I'll make sure that Captain Wright knows you were here to see him." Haskins managed.
"Oh, make sure you do. And make sure he knows that the next time I see him he wirr be very, very, VERY sorry." Schrau snarled. "And if you don't mention that to him, the next time you see me you'rr be very, very, VERY sorry. Good day." And leaving the young man speechless he turned and left the building.

If Schrau had probably been wearing his civvies, or even his regular sentinel uniform, he probably wouldn't have been allowed past the maitre d' of the Red Rose; but Schrau could somehow maintain the appearance of respectability in his prosecutor's jacket and was respectfully ushered into Calla's private booth with hardly a delay.
Calla had found time in between leaving the courthouse and setting up this little dinner date to change into a little red dress and smiled at Schrau over her meal. She had ordered identical meals for both of them: A T-bone steak roughly the same thickness as the cell doors in the sentinel guildhall and a generous portion of shrimp coated in a light bubbly batter that was digestible to vulpins. Surf 'n' Turf basically, but posh. The Red Rose didn't believe in nouvelle cuisine, despite being one of the most expensive restaurants across the Six, and fittingly the portions were proportional to the price.
"Well then, hello mister prosecutor-who-should-not-know-too-much." Calla grinned as Schrau took his seat. There were two empty wineglasses on the table and an opened bottle of red wine that had been bottled some time before Schrau's own grandfather had been born. The sentinel took the bottle, checked the label, and made sure it wasn't corked before pouring Calla and himself a glass each.
"And what is that supposed to mean, Calla?" Schrau grinned in reply as he started to cut into his steak.
Calla replied initially by taking up the wineglass, taking a sip, and letting it settle on her tongue. She swallowed and set the glass down. "Now, I don't have this in writing, ahah, but it seems that Wright is in the pocket of Narin Sathran, with explicit orders to ensure that the prosecutor only has evidence that she wishes to be supplied to prosecute the murderer of her daughter with."
"Even though that's essentially doing the defence's job for them." Schrau bitterly commented, wholly aware of the fact that the defence actually needed all the help it could get. "Why?"
Calla replied somewhat cryptically in Perdeese. "Sie will es und so ist es fein." She smiled apologetically and popped one of the shrimp from her plate into her mouth. "Sorry kiddo, I can't help you much more with that one, but I do have some interesting information regarding the history of yours and Echowild's clients."
"There's history?"
"Oyah." Calla produced a file from the seat next to her and placed it on the table. "What would you have been willing to pay to attend the Seyett-Sathran wedding?"
"Ranth and Aeran were going to get married?" Schrau asked quizzically.
"No, silly. Narin's one of the old money set, made her fortune in the tumultuous period when the owner of the Diamond Circle was executed for grand larceny and much of the property left behind was up for grabs. She was old money, and wanted her daughters married into a similarly old money family."
"My money's about as old as anyone else's." Schrau commented wryly, "Daughters?"
Calla took up her wineglass again, "Introducing one Maerith Sathran. Eldest daughter to the Sathran family, and about the same age as Ranth Seyett. So Narin decided to hammer out some sort of arranged marriage with her eldest daughter and the young bachelor Ranth."
"I know it didn't turn out quite that way, so what happened?"
"Ranth was invited over to the family mansion a few times to get acquainted with his new love, but it became quickly apparent that Ranth only had eyes for one of the Sathran daughters."
"Aeran." Schrau stated. "Wait a minute, how old was she at the time?"
Calla squirmed slightly in a way that suggested that, for once, she didn't feel comfortable in having to discuss this matter. "She was at an age where one can honestly use the term 'young' without any hint of irony whatsoever. At the time, Aeran was certainly not eligible for marriage or courtship or even kissing."
Schrau sighed, bit off some shrimp and washed it down with a hearty swig of the wine.
"Anyway, the old bitch - Narin, that is - wasn't blind or stupid, and she could tell where Ranth's tastes lay. She broke off the arrangement, shackled Maerith up with some brass from one of the earlier free Rajiian families, and hoped that she would have nothing else with the Seyetts, and so it remained until now."
"And Seyett?"
"He's indignant, but also not stupid. I've also had my sources look into the alleged incident with his daughter and there is some truth in it. A complaint was made but never acted on, chalking it up to the girl's overactive imagination. He's shameless when it comes to little girls, but he's also sociable enough to know that the less his peers know about his deviances the better, so he's careful in covering up what happens when it happens. Take, for instance, his wife."
"Yeah, she died during giving birth to Mayin." Schrau struggled for a name. "Sandra. Sandra Seyett."
"Good. What was her birth name?" Calla's tone had turned from that of a confidant into that of a teacher posing her favoured student a question.
Schrau's knowledge failed him on that detail. "What was it?"
"She was Sandra Becherer." Calla smugly informed him.
Schrau frowned, "That's a Perdeese name."
"Correct. One that belongs to an impoverished clan of Drandiss vulpins. Maybe you could ask that rat friend of yours to see if he knows anything more about them. The short of it is that after Ranth failed to court Maerith Sathran, or to be more correct, Aeran, he took an extended vacation on Perdow where, how shall we say, his money bought him a few conquests."
Schrau glanced at his meal, his hunger fading. "I still don't get it."
"Well, a gutter-vulpin named Krauser Becherer heard in a bar one day that some rich Abarackian vulpin liked his girls a little young and introduced that pervert to his daughter, Sandra. To put it bluntly, Ranth loved her with all his heart, or at least with all that weak, poisoned stuff his heart pumped out that might be called blood. After a few ecstatic weeks, he convinced the Becherers to scrape together a dowry to lift their daughter out of poverty. When they married, Sandra was still far too young to understand what the hell was going on, but with some creative dressing-up and padding and the fact that the priest in Drandiss didn't give a damn they were wed."
Schrau hazarded as to what happened next. "I bet Ranth and Sandra stayed in Drandiss, or at least in some remote manor, until the poor girl filled out enough to be introduced to the Abarackian elite as an adult. When that happened, they moved back into his home here."
Calla nodded solemnly, and when she spoke it came out as a croak. "Exactly right, kiddo. The pregnancy certainly accelerated the, as you said, filling out. Poor girl grew up before her time."
"Yeah, but not when she fell with Mayin. She miscarried this one; at the time, Ranth liked things a little rough and Sandra's poor body couldn't cope with the pressure he had put on it. Neither could the baby."
"Jeez..." Schrau sighed into his plate.
"Oh, granted, he was a lot kinder to Sandra during her next pregnancy, but maybe that first miscarriage had damaged her a lot more than the quack Ranth had bribed to keep quiet about the initial operation had told him. A healthy Mayin was brought into the world at the same time a battered and broken Sandra left it. Perhaps for the better." Schrau watched Calla try and cover up a single tear and the catch in her voice. "She was probably getting too old for him anyway." Calla whispered hoarsely.
"I'm gonna kill him." Schrau hissed. "Damn the trial, I'm just going to go and drag him from his cell and take his damned head off."
"Yeah?" Calla brightly said, sounding like herself for the first time in what seemed an age. "That might do a lot of good, but it won't do you any favours. All I've just said, plus some names and anything else my spies could dig up are in the file. And for Sikkar's sake try and enjoy your meal."
Schrau dragged the file towards him. "Thanks. And if I'm asked, I got this from my own sources. What's the damage?"
Calla smiled sweetly. "That's why I want you to enjoy your meal. You're paying for it."
Schrau looked crestfallen. "Uh, I don't have any money on me."
Calla frowned. "What!? What sort of idiot accepts a lady's invitation for dinner and doesn't expect to pay for it?"
"In all fairness Calla, you caught me just as I was preparing to eat through the wall of the Abarack guardhouse into Wright's office. Tell you what, I'll pay for your usual post-trial bender after you've sent your next victim down, despite the prices here that'll still probably cost me more than this meal."
"Deal, but we have a problem." Calla leaned back against the booth and spread her arms, revealing to Schrau just how little her little red dress was. "Do you see me carrying a purse?"
"What sort of lady invites a Cadnos to dinner and doesn't expect to pick up the tab?" Schrau frowned.
"Okay then, what's our next move?"
Schrau thought for a moment. "Simple. We chalk this up as a business meeting and send the bill to the prosecutor's office."
Calla nodded, drained her glass of wine, and poured herself another. "Great idea, kiddo. You're learning. Now hurry up and finish your main course, we can afford dessert in this place now."

Part 6 - Of Good Breeding

Schrau Cadnos had spent the night memorising every single facet of the file Calla had provided him the day before, and he knew it about as well as Calla's memory did. Roughly half of the contents would be useful for the upcoming session, while the other half would be useful when he encountered Mayin or Ranth on the stand.
Schrau's respect for the defendant was at an all-time low, but that didn't necessarily mean that he sympathised with the witness he was about to bring to the stand; in fact, if Narin Sathran was indeed responsible from preventing him from inspecting the crime scene himself, then that would put her on about a par with Ranth.
Why would the victim's mother impede the investigation that could prove the guilt of the defendant? At least, that would be the point of view taken by many. In Schrau's eyes, Narin's actions were impeding the investigation that would exonerate the defendant. Schrau didn't want that to happen, nor did he have any desire to convict a man for a crime that he didn't commit, regardless of the other crimes he had been responsible for.
Schrau sideward glanced at Yeth Echowild. It really was a case of which lawyer would break down first. If he could somehow ensure that Echowild would submit first, then he would no longer be the bad guy; a failure to defend as opposed to an overzealous prosecution. Ranth could then appeal the decision and Schrau could then be otherwise indisposed when the retrial came around.
For some reason, Echowild seemed willing to make some amiable conversation. "So, prosecutor... Any plans for after the trial?"
Schrau glowered out the corners of his eyes. "Oh, I dunno Yeth. Maybe I'rr take a reaf out of your crient's book and go and bag myserf some Drandiss tair." He turned away and added under his breath, "At reast I'rr have the decency to wait untir she's an adurt though..."
"Sorry? I didn't catch that-" Echowild began as Judge Chance entered the courtroom, immediately interrupting the conversations of everyone else in the courtroom.
"I'm a bastard, Yeth." Schrau quietly whispered, "My parents were joined in a vulpin union long before my older sister was born, but I'm still a bastard. You're going to find out just how much of a bastard I am."
"Be seated."

Narin Sathran sat in the witness stand with such a calm and elegant manner that Schrau somehow felt the need to provide her with a Martini just to complete the whole image. Schrau stood, crossed his arms, and began. "Narin Sathran, you were the first person to find your daughter's body after her death, am I correct?" Schrau delivered the question with none of the sugar-coating usually associated with dealing with the close kin of the victim.
"Yes, I was." Narin replied, equally as icily.
"Where was the body at the time you found it?" 'Body'. 'It'. Not 'daughter' or 'her'.
"My daughter was rying against the armoire in her bedroom, a gift I granted unto her once she moved into her home." Narin's iceberg demeanour cracked a little. "It wasn't meant to be a home for rife. How wrong I was."
"'A home for rife or 'tir you're a wife'?" Schrau said in equal parts quote and query. "I trust there were no suitors for your daughter?"
"There were." Narin announced. "However I thought it best if Aeran would dear with that business, choose her own husband."
"Your honour..." Echowild sighed, "I fail to see how this is relevant."
"Your honour, it turns out that vurpin marriage poritics has a substantiar part in this case." Schrau replied, then upon receiving no further reaction from Chance he continued. "You didn't try to marry your youngest daughter off?"
"No." Narin quickly replied, fully aware of the direction Schrau was steering the session.
"Not rike you did with your erdest daughter, Maerith?"
A few dozen feet to Schrau's left, Ranth Seyett's eyes went wide and locked onto Narin's own. It was a look of wild panic, of accusation, of 'what did you tell him you horrid bitch?' It was lost on everyone in the courtroom except for Narin.
And Chance.
"N-No." Narin answered.
"You arranged the marriage of your erdest daughter, Maerith Sathran, to Vico Armandi of Nineveh." Schrau announced. "Funny enough, that makes her and I very, very distant cousins, but that's another story."
"Oh. Good." Chance sarcastically said. "It is nice to see you willing to stick to this story, prosecutor."
"Vico Armandi was not your first choice of suitor for your daughter, am I right?" Schrau asked.
"He was."
Schrau laughed viciously, "N-n-no he wasn't..." His muzzle clapped shut into a tight grin. "Who was?"
Narin's eyes closed. "I am not at riberty to say."
"You've been very dismissive of the defendant since he was charged with your daughter's arrest, why?"
Narin's eyes opened fully. "Because he murdered my daughter."
"He did something to your daughter." Schrau calmly replied. "Again I ask, who was your first choice to marry Maerith?"
"Objection!" Echowild barked. "Your honour, if we could-"
"Who was it!?" Schrau yelled, neatly interrupting the elf.
"It was..." The courtroom fell silent to hear the old lady's whispers. "It was Ranth..."
"Ranth Seyett, radies and gentremen of the court." Schrau announced. "Many years ago, you arranged for the defendant to marry your erdest daughter, both of them being an appropriate age for marriage. Why did that arrangement not go through?"
Narin glowered at the prosecutor. "You know, don't you?"
"I know, the court does not." Schrau replied. "Why did the arranged marriage between the defendant and your ordest daughter fair?"
"Because..." Narin hesitated, unsure whether to proceed with the truth or go ahead and lie. "...because he was not suitabre husband materiar. That is arr."
Schrau pursed his lips in thought and shook his head. "Is that the truth?"
"Prosecutor Cadnos..." Narin hissed lowly, " may seem intent on besmirching my daughter's good name but I wirr not, repeat, not stand for it!"
"Answer the damn question, rady." Schrau replied, "Either the defence wants to get on with its cross-examination, or the erf has haemorrhoids."
Echowild suddenly and to the attention of everybody in the room stopped squirming in his seat.
"He was not suited to be a good husband to Maerith because he was interested in another." Narin emotionlessly said.
"The 'another' being your other daughter, Aeran." Statement of fact.
"Where-" The word was an inch away from developing into a full emotional outburst, Narin however managed to catch herself. "Where did you hear that?"
"I have my sources." Schrau replied. "That's what a sentiner means. We watch. Watch and risten. How ord was Maerith at the time?"
"She was twerve. A suitable age for marriage among our kind as you know."
Schrau looked across the courtroom at Ranth Seyett. There were a few mutterings from the courtroom gallery, and Echowild also suddenly shot his client an accusing look. Ranth kept his head down, he knew what question was coming next.
"How ord was Aeran at the same time?"
"Five." Narin whispered. "She was five, and that horrid monster-"
"The prosecution has heard enough from this witness, your honour." Schrau calmly interrupted. He sat down, and knew that he had accomplished something.
He already knew what Echowild would, if he was half the attorney he needed to be in order to defend this client, approach the witness. Schrau had built up the idea that the defendant had been infatuated with Aeran Sathran long before this incident. If Schrau could forego the next set of proceedings and haul Ranth up onto the stand, he was almost certain he could guilt the bastard into admitting everything, even Aeran's murder.
Echowild's only reasonable course of action was to undermine everything Schrau had done. The strangest thing was, if he faltered in that task Schrau himself would have to help.
Echowild stood, shaken, and apparently regretting having to defend his current client. Schrau would have felt sorry for him, but was far too pragmatic.
"So, let me get this straight, my client was involved with your daughters- daughter. Daughter..." The elf seemed to have trouble on settling on how exactly to interpret the exact relationship between his client and the two Sathran girls. "-and it didn't work out because he seemed more interested in her und- younger sister?"
"That is correct, erf." Narin haughtily said.
"So you... you cast him out and then arrange for your eldest daughter to marry someone else?"
"My, with such a grasp of facts as you do, it's no wonder you're an attorney." Narin commented.
"Needless to say, this would make my client decidedly unpopular with you." Echowild seemed to rally behind this fact.
"Objection." Schrau calmly said, he noticed that the judge's attention was on him instead of Echowild. "Your honour, if the defence continues to waste time stating the obvious, might I have permission to beat sense into him with my chair?"
"Overruled, but I'll keep that suggestion in mind." Chance sighed.
"Of course." Echowild twitched a smile. "I understand that you have a grievance with my client. I cannot defend what he has done-"
Echowild continued on despite Schrau's outburst, "-however that was in the past. An innocent man's life is at stake here," Echowild shook his head. "blaming my client is no way to honour your daughter."
"He murdered her." Narin insisted.
"He was elsewhere at the time of death," Echowild informed her.
"I suppose you have a witness?" Chance asked before Schrau had the chance to ask exactly the same thing, only sarcastically.
"I do." Echowild said. "However, given her age and relation to my client I was hoping to spare having to call her to the stand."
"You are talking about that ghastly brat of his." Narin snorted. "I don't care what she says, he murdered my daughter."
"You seem awfully certain about that," Echowild said, "do you have any proof?"
That was actually something Schrau would have liked to know. For a moment, it appeared that Narin seemed prepared to answer in the affirmative, before quickly backing down. "He murdered her." She insisted.
"The fact is that there is no evidence tying my client to the incident," Echowild stated, "as I have protested earlier. In fact, the only thing preventing this trial being over is hearsay and speculation."
Schrau grinned inwardly. Echowild had come oh-so-close to escaping. "And the fact that you've yet to carr your prime witness."
The elf blinked, "What?"
"Mayin Seyett. You yourserf said that she could exonerate your crient and you've yet to carr her. One wonders why."
Echowild's jaw hung loose before recovering. "As I have said before, she is somewhat young."
"Nevertheless," Chance said, "if you have a witness able to clear your client, you have a duty to present that witness." He glowered at Schrau, "I'm sure the prosecution will not be too hard on her."
"Of course. I remember what it is rike to be that age and how one should be treated." Schrau smiled.
"I suppose it will take time to prepare your witness?" Chance asked in a tone that suggested that he would be extremely surprised if she could be called to the stand at a moment's notice.
"I'm afraid so, your honour."
"Very well, we'll reconvene the usual time tomorrow."

Schrau sat at his desk, staring up at the ceiling. "Narin is hiding something from me, she almost broke down when Echowild confronted her about evidence." He passed a cricket ball, something that had just appeared on his desk for no discernable reason a few days ago, from hand to hand. "And Wright is helping her. I know Wright is in tight with the Sathran family, but why is he-"
The leather of the ball slapped against the pads of Schrau's left palm. "If I see Aeran's bedroom, I'll find something that sinks my case." Slap. "But if I don’t...
"Echowild is reluctant to call Mayin. Understandably so, but why? Her testimony could have ended this before we got to this stage. He could have called her instead of Kane." Schrau almost fumbled the a pass and practically fell out of his chair to catch the cricket ball before it fell to the ground. "Ranth wanted Aeran as a child. She was older at the time of death, why would he want anything to do with her now when he's got his own plaything back home?" Schrau frowned. "Why was he even at the party?"
He put the cricket ball down and reached for a mug of lukewarm coffee. "Why don't I just arrange an accident for him during his next transfer?"
A pile of paperwork was shoved aside from the desk across his way. Carnely glowered at Schrau across the two desks. "I don't know what you're muttering about prettyboy, but could you please do it in your own office?"
"If I'm annoying you so much, why don't you go to your office? You've had yours ronger than I've had mine."
"Yours needs breaking in." Carnely snarled. "I'm trying to catch up on some work here. You've got alcohol in your office."
"Oh, hey, that reminds me." Schrau took his feet off his desk and opened the drawer. He pulled the leather purse of cash that was his latest pay packet and tucked it into an inside pocket. "Calla should be in the Barnacre by now. I promised her this night."
Carnely's eyes narrowed. "You can't say 'Barnacle' but you can say Calla?"
"Vurpin thing."

Schrau scruffed along in his civvies as he stepped through the doorway to the Flying Barnacle. He quickly assessed the crowd and, himself included, could count the number of males present on one paw. Ladies' night.
That also limited the number of potential bar staff. Regardless of that, he merely looked in the direction of the bar and called out, "Hi Laere."
A battered-looking male vulpin turned around and smiled at him. "Hey man. Don't often see you here on ladies' night."
"Yeah, I've got an obligation to fulfil." Schrau reached inside his jacket and produced the purse of money. "Put this behind the bar, will ya mate?"
"Oh." Laere grinned, taking the pouch. "You're the reason why Calla has refused to pay for a drink all night."
"Yeah, well I kinda welched on dinner yesterday. How's Laere settling in?"
"Oh hell, fine." The barman offered. "Settling into motherhood fine. Zeke's about to plotz over potentially losing a popular barmaid."
"Ah well, tell her I'll try and find time to visit her soon. Where's Calla sitting?"
Laere smiled wryly. "Just follow the catcalls." As if on cue, a sudden outburst of whistles and cheers rose up from the other side of the bar. Schrau smiled and wound his way through the crowd making sure where his hands were at any time before breaking through to the other side.
Calla sat on a barstool next to one of her aides, a selkie named Fraena. Eva also sat on the bar, a bowl of sake in her paws. The three women cheered as they saw Schrau approach. "Hey, here's the money!" Calla hollered out.
"Yeah, I've put it behind the bar." Schrau informed them, pulling up a stool and sitting down. He ordered a whiskey from Laere, while Calla drained her brandy and ordered another. Eva was fine with her sake and Fraena likewise with her glass of wine. "Why is it you do your damndest to try and pad out your triars untir radies' night?"
"Hey," Calla said, sipping her brandy, "I'm efficient."
"You're a drunk." Schrau grinned.
"You're drinking whiskey whire stirr in the middre of a triar." Calla pointed out.
"Yes. And there's a reason for that..."
"Oh? What's that?" Eva asked, raising her head from her sake bowl.
"Because I've got to cross-examine Mayin Seyett tomorrow," Schrau grandiosely announced, raising his tumbler in a salute, before draining it in one, "and I'd rather not have to do that without a stinking hangover."
"Ouch." Calla winced, downing her brandy in sympathy, "Yeth finarry purred a fast one on you?"
Schrau shook his head, "Hey, 'nother round over here when you've got time. No, he didn't. I purred one on him."
"Ah, you've got a plan." Fraena commented, finishing her glass of wine slightly hurriedly.
"No. Nonono. I never go in with a pran."
"It's a wonder you win any cases at arr." Calla smirked.
"I know," Schrau wrapped an arm around Calla's shoulders and planted a kiss on the crown of her head. "I had a good mentor, one who was arways wirring to risten and offer good, sound advice." Laere set down three glasses and a fresh bowl on the bar next to the party, and Schrau unwound his arm from Calla. "He didn't charge for information rike you do too."
Part 7 - Morning After

Schrau woke up with his face stuck to the leather writing pad of his office desk. Despite the fact that this should not be possible since his face was covered with fur as opposed to skin something had managed to adhere his face to the desk. The sentinel didn't feel particularly interested in investigating that little mystery.
He straightened up in his seat and immediately his skull protested. Somehow he had wound up in his office, managing to unlock the fresh and fiddly lock of his door despite not actually knowing where his key was at this time.
Schrau groaned and eyed the clock. He had about an hour to get to Welstar and attend the trial. If he left now, he probably could grab a bucket of coffee and manage to keep a relatively straight face through the proceedings.
In a sense, he considered himself lucky. At least he was clothed, in a respectable place, and not in some stranger's bed. That probably would have been embarrassing. Worse would to wake up in Calla's bed, which would be mortifying. Between Calla, Eva, and Fraena and the possible permutations between them there were a few dozen bad situations that he had avoided.
He stood up, his legs complained at first but eventually submitted.
Or Laere. That would have been really bad...
He looked around his office. Everything was as it should be, except he couldn't find the whiskey decanter. Now all sorts of horrid tastes had taken up residence on his tongue, but he couldn't taste the distinctive formaldehyde aftertaste of the Keystone Sour, and that sort of taste stayed with you for days.
He limped over to the cupboard where he had stashed his coat before changing the night before. As the door opened, the sight of Calla upside down at the bottom of his cupboard caught his attention. She held the missing decanter, now empty, in both hands on her stomach as she smiled sweetly up at Schrau.
"Hey." Calla said. "Heyheyheyheeeeyyy... That'sh shome gooood shtuff, kiddoooooow."
Schrau frowned, unhooked the jacket and threw it over a shoulder before closing the door. He ignored Calla's muffled complaint of "ouch" as he turned to the door and stepped out into the hall beyond. Now all he had to do was manage to get down to the changing rooms in the basement of the guildhall, where he would splash a clear, non-alcoholic liquid over his face, before dressing in time to watch a little girl burst into tears on the witness stand.

Schrau slumped in the prosecutor's bench, staring almost glassily across the courtroom to the witness stand where Mayin Seyett was giving her testimony. It must have been the penultimate day of the trial, because Schrau once again found himself in the possession of a large mug of coffee.
He listened in on every word as Echowild politely asked his questions to which Mayin politely answered. Typical father-daughter stuff, dad went to a party for a few hours, dad came back, dad put me to bed, dad read me a bedtime story. Every syllable was a hammer pounding on Schrau's dehydrated brain, and every lie and mistruth shortened Schrau's temper to such a level that he dearly wanted to clear the distance between him and Ranth Seyett in a single bound and proceed with ripping his eyes out.
Ranth didn't deserve to look at his own daughter right now. Schrau didn't feel as if he deserved to do so either, considering what he would end up doing to her. Instead, he lowered his head and tried to catch his indistinct reflection in the onyx darkness of his coffee.
Schrau took a quick glance back up at Mayin. She wanted her own father dead, but was so afraid of him that she couldn't bring herself to tell the truth. Whether or not that truth would still provide him with that alibi he so desperately needed, once everyone in the room knew just what Ranth Seyett was capable of he was finished. His daughter would be taken from him, his reputation ruined, his lifestyle would quickly degenerate into something worse than the good doctor Kane now enjoyed, and with any luck he would do something incredibly karmic that would result in his death. By taking Ranth's character and beating it and crushing and tearing and pounding it into the dirt, Schrau could still claim a victory. Not a legal victory, a moral one; the dichotomy of Schrau's life had taught him to take morality over legality every time.
No, my dad was at home when the murder happened.
Echowild finished his examination, sat down, and let Schrau take over. Schrau had promised not to be too hard on Mayin; he had promised the judge and Echowild, but hell - they should know by now that vulpins are lying bastards.
Schrau stood up by knuckling onto the desk before him, straightening his legs then straightening his back. His head complained at the altitude and threatened to put him back down but he remained upright. He stared at Mayin for a moment until a modicum of the maturity she had previously shown him broke through the innocent demeanour that Echowild or her father had forced her to fake.
"So, Mayin, how is your rerationship with your father?" Schrau felt that Echowild would object to this point, but surprisingly remained quiet.
Mayin's reaction was neutral, but a clear facade. "I... I have a good rerationship with my father..."
"I suppose you would have to." Schrau bluntly said, "Your mother died during chirdbirth, so your father was the onry person you had, right?"
"He never tord you that he knew the victim in this case from before, did you hear what Narin Sathran said yesterday?"
Echowild acted, "Objection! Despite what the prosecution thinks that incident is irrelevant to this case!"
"Objection..." Schrau hissed, "The defence is objecting too roudry."
"Overruled and overruled." Chance growled. "Like it or not, your client's previous history does have a connection to the here-and-now, and the defence may object as loudly as he likes."
"So, Mayin, did you hear?"
"I-" Mayin balanced across two possibilities, to continue behaving as the man she hated wanted her to or to... just be herself. "I did." Her maturity flooded back to her. "I heard that he was attracted to her. Whire she was a rittre younger than I am now."
"Is that... Typicar of your father?"
"I- I wouldn't know."
Schrau flipped open one of the many files on his desk open. He had already committed the information to memory some time ago, and could still recall it despite his hangover, but he didn't want to appear as if he was just picking this information out from his tail. "I know you don't remember your mother. You couldn't have, I doubt your memory would be that good to remember her." In fact, Schrau knew for a fact that Calla could recall the first words she ever heard her mother speak, as she demonstrated last night just before Eva fell face-down into her bowl of sake laughing.
"Aaaaaargh, I am NEVER doing this again, you-!" And then the midwife interrupted with some words of encouragement. Bless her.
"No, I couldn't have."
"Not even her name?" Schrau asked.
"Her name was Sandra, I remember that." Mayin nodded.
"Sandra Becherer, to be exact." Schrau confirmed.
"Objection. This really has nothing to do with the case in hand." Echowild protested.
"How ord was your mother when she had you?"
Chance's eyes narrowed. Schrau had already asked the question, but he still had to attend to Echowild's objection. "Prosecutor, what is the exact purpose for this line of questioning?"
"Of course," Schrau said, "as I started my cross-examination I asked if the witness had a good rerationship with her father. I wish to ascertain exactry how much truth was in that statement."
"To what ends?"
Schrau stared evenly at Chance. "If the furr truth was not tord, then one should consider if the witness' statement regarding her father's arreged actions during the time Aeran Sathran's death took prace were in fact true." A spike of pain jabbed into Schrau's brain and he clutched his head for a moment. "I'm never doing this again..." He growled to himself.
"You unquestionably have a point," Chance noted, "however please try and be a little more tactful. How is a girl of her tender age able to know intimate knowledge about someone who unfortunately passed away at her birth?"
"By terring us what she was tord by others." Schrau said. "So Mayin, do you know how ord your mother was when she passed away?"
Mayin screwed her eyes shut. "She was... She was sixteen. That's what I was tord."
Schrau appeared to consult his notes. "Try eight."
Mayin's eyes shot open. "Excuse me?"
"Your mother was eight years ord when she died." Schrau stated matter-of-factly, "She was seven when she had a miscarriage of her first chird, the same age you are now. She was arso seven when she married your father in Drandiss City, where a priest was too stupid to refuse a sum of money that made him not rook away when he sanctified your parents' union." Schrau crossed his arms. "She was six when her parents introduced her to Ranth Seyett after Narin Sathran threw him out of the arrangement to marry her erdest daughter."
"But... but..." Mayin muttered.
"Sandra Becherer was not the first underage girr your father had bedded on Perdow." Schrau added, leaning in. "I wonder if she was the rast."
He wasn't wondering at all.
Mayin was tense, completely rigid, on her seat in the witness stand; her eyes were screwed tight, a stream of tears pouring from the corners. Schrau could swear he could hear her teeth crack as she clenched her jaw tight.
Though he had a remarkably different, though no less horrific, upbringing to the girl he knew exactly where she was now. The same place he went to in his first few years of freedom whenever he was frightened and alone. He remembered that one, bizarrely abnormal, night he spent in the Kuroryu estate when Astane Tasna had "rewarded" him with the company of Annae. That girl went to the same place that he had been.
Schrau remembered staring down the business end of a training sword during the first few months of combat drill upon joining the sentinels. It had been a practice session; a new initiate and an instructor, just like one of the dozens that Schrau delegated the training details now. The engagement had started as one would expect, but at some point Schrau had substituted the instructor with Aldar Morris in his mind. Schrau froze then, a slight hesitation, and once the trainer's committed blow slipped through Schrau's useless defence and struck him, Schrau dropped the sword and curled up into a tight ball on the floor. It took two people to drag him across to the side of the room and pull him back to normalcy.
Schrau hadn't asked what Annae had been through, what abuse she had been put through, even though he recognised where she was when he lifted her off the floor where Astane had thrown her and onto the bed he had never slept in.
And right now Mayin was in the exact same place. It was only superficially different from where Annae had found herself dragged back into. It was only superficially different from where Schrau had found himself during that training session, back in the dank torch-lit training room of the slave den with Aldar Morris raining repeated merciless strikes with that wooden club of his onto Schrau's rock-tight body.
For Mayin, she was back in bed. Her eyes closed against what her father was doing to her, her body no longer hers to control.
Schrau eventually got through his fear by pushing through to the other side. Regardless of how much it would hurt Mayin, and Schrau knew firsthand that it would hurt, hurt almost as bad as the fear itself, he had to help her break on through. "Mayin..." He began.
And Ranth Seyett, that despicable creature, the source of Mayin's fear finally stood up and screamed, "Don't do this, Mayin!" The words were in lupin and lost to nearly everyone in the courtroom. "He's a lying, thieving abomination and-"
"Order!" Chance bellowed. "The defendant will be-"
"They are going to take you away from me!" Seyett continued. "Don't let them-"
"Ranth Seyett, you will be held in-" Chance impotently continued.
"He's lying! I loved your mother! I love you! I love you more than-"
"Sit down!" Schrau yelled, overriding everything – The banging of Chance's gavel, the murmuring of the court, the incessant yelling from the judge and the defendant and even the pounding in his own skull. "By the gods, sit down before I put you down!"
Ranth glared at Schrau and eased himself down into his chair. "I won't let you take her from me!" He hissed.
Schrau clutched his forehead in his hand, that one exchange had taken a lot out of him. "Your honour," he rasped, "I request that the defendant reave the room."
"Agreed." Chance nodded. "Bailiffs, escort the defendant to his cell until I call for him." And the court bailiffs had to practically drag him out of the room while Ranth muttered various threats and apologies to Mayin, who unfortunately heard every word.
"I'm sorry that had to happen, Mayin." Schrau said, "And I'm sorry this has to continue. Has... Has your father-"
"-ever done anything to me that he shouldn't have?" Mayin said. "Is that what you were trying to ask?" She looked up, opening her eyes, and revealing the unfathomable depths of sadness in them. "I can't remember a time when he did not. I suppose I should consider myserf rucky, rucky that I came to rearise that what he has done to me is wrong. Many others in my prace-" Mayin doubled over as if she had been stabbed in the chest so suddenly that approximately half the courtroom made movements to run on over to her position to see if she was fine. "Knowing- knowing now just how young my mother was..." She whispered, "...I wonder if she knew what he was doing was wrong."
"Before, you said that he was with you at the time of Aeran Sathran's death. Was this true?"
Mayin favoured Schrau with a brief weak smile. "Dipromatic as ever, prosecutor Cadnos." Her smile faded. "I wanted to do it. I wanted to terr you arr that he was not with me at the time, but... I can't. I just can't. I wish I could..."
"Ret's go over that night again." Schrau said. "You said he returned at what time?"
"About quarter to midnight." Mayin said. "We spent arr night untir daybreak in his bed."
Schrau found something odd about that. "Quarter to midnight? Simon Kane witnessed your father reaving the party at ereven. I know the route werr, it doesn't take forty-five minutes to walk from Sathran's to your home."
"And that is irrerevant," Mayin stated, "as Aeran died some time after midnight." Mayin nodded. "He was home at the time."
Wait a minute...
"Who tord you that Aeran had died after midnight, Mayin?" Schrau asked. "Was it your father?"
"Uh... No." Mayin took some time to recall. "After the Diamond Guard arrested my father the next day, I was taken straight to the guardhouse by another group of guards for questioning. One of the Diamond Guards tord me that Aeran Sathran had died after midnight and could I account for my father's whereabouts at that time."
"Who was this guard?"
"A captain." Mayin closed her eyes serenely in recollection. "Human mare about forty years of age, five feet ereven, bard, brack beard fading into grey. Brue eyes. He never tord me his name."
Schrau consulted the list of officers assigned to the case to see if the name of the guard that Mayin had quite accurately described to him appeared on that list. It didn't. "Captain Theodore Wright?" Schrau said.
"You cannot be sure of that, prosecutor." Chance said.
"With arr due respect, your honour, I can be." Schrau retorted. "No other captain in the guard matches that description."
Chance consulted his own list of names, "However he was not assigned to the case. He had no business questioning a witness."
"Indeed." Schrau said.
"Your honour." Echowild said. "The witness has already exonerated my client, and while he certainly has some questions to answer with regard to his behaviour I would like for you to make a ruling on this particular trial."
"Your honour, I would rike to hear what the defendant was doing in the forty-five minutes between reaving the Sathran estate and returning home. I would arso rike to question Captain Wright regarding his questioning of the current witness and whether or not the time of death given was accurate. If even an error of half an hour was made, that stirr reaves room for doubt regarding the defendant's innocence."
"This trial has gone on for long enough." Echowild protested.
"You're absolutely right," Chance said, "therefore, I request that both of you have any witnesses subpoenaed and ready to appear for tomorrow's session." The judge sat back in his seat. "And have a heavy breakfast. We'll finish this tomorrow, even if we have to skip lunch."

Part 8 - Harvest

Schrau needed a few things before the next day. The first was to actually have a look through Aeran's bedroom. He had once again been refused entry, and while he had put in a formal complaint to the Chief Justice he wouldn't get a reply until morning. So he wanted to have a look himself so he could have a fair idea as to what he was looking for.
To get that access, he needed a Vode key, and to get a Vode key he needed to ask a thief. He didn't know many Abarackian thieves, but he knew enough.
So in order to get a Vode key, he needed to lose a bottle of wine. Seemed like a fair trade.
Schrau knocked on the door of a house he had last entered through the bathroom window. He was wearing a loose red cloak and some comfortable and fashionable and inexplicably scruffy clothes and a smile. He waited.
And waited.
And waited for the door to open. When it did, he smiled at the person beyond.
"Ah, Hope. It's been a while. Thank you for the invite." He smoothly said, pushing the bottle towards the somewhat stunned vulpin on the other side. Only now Schrau noticed that she was only wearing a thin silk gown and little else.
"Oh, uh, you're early." Hope mugged, before grabbing Schrau's arm and hissing, "What do you want? Get in here!" before smoothly opening the door and dragging the older vulpin into the house.
Schrau handed her the wine. "Sorry to interrupt whatever it is you're doing, but I need a few favours. An alibi, a Vode key, and a way out onto the rooftops."
"Now really isn't the time, Schrau."
"I'll be out of here in-" Schrau paused and sniffed the air, "Oh, who is that?"
A figure shuffled out from a side room into the hallway, a vulpin male about the same age as Hope and also wearing a very similar bed robe, though he looked a lot more embarrassed than his host obviously did.
"Um... Geffin, this is Schrau," Hope managed as an introduction.
"Geffin Canaror?" Schrau asked, somehow remembering the name, he leaned in closer to Hope, "Good choice, kiddo."
"I- Uh... Pleased to meet you, Schrau." Geffin said, attempting to offer a hand for Schrau to shake while trying to keep his robe closed, Schrau took his hand, shook it, and smiled. "Likewise. Now Hope, about that Vode key."
"I don't have one." Hope hissed.
"What? An Abarackian vulpin that doesn't have a Vode key?"
"And you can talk, mister Cadnos."
"I have one." Geffin offered, "I mean, uh-"
Schrau's eyes narrowed, "You just admitted to having an illegal set of lock breaking kit to an absolute stranger, you realise that?" His face softened. "But hey, at least I'm not a sentinel, otherwise you'd be in a world of trouble."
"You are." Hope snapped.
"Not tonight." Schrau brightly chirped. "Thanks Geffin, I'll borrow that key then leave you kids to do whatever it was you were doing."

Schrau's cloak turned inside out to form one that was a much better blend against the rooftops of Abarack's Diamond Circle than the one he wore while apparently heading to a friend's home for a meal. He sprinted soundlessly across the loose slates and years of pigeon droppings being one missed step away from tumbling to the street below.
When Bardur Cadnos seized possession of the Diamond Circle, one of his companions in the Black Sheaf conjured up a somewhat delicious scheme; the anakim Ulther Vode, the Fallen Angel. Forming a small glazers company, Vode had arranged with the landlord of pretty much every residence on the circle, namely Bardur, to install skylights on the homes. These decorative skylights could be locked and opened up from the inside as the owner saw fit.
Unbeknownst to the residents, there was also a lock on the outside frame of each specially-designed skylight, the locking cylinder of each could be opened by a single key which Vode himself designed. The idea being that a creature capable of flight or able to navigate the perilous rooftops of the Circle could then select a home to break into via these skylights. And it turned into a sizable side business for the Black Sheaf, and even when the group was unravelling in its final days none actually knew about the skylights. Vode passed on a set of keys to a few colleagues outside the Sheaf, who then replicated them and spread them about the thieving caste of Welstar, many a time someone would return home to find their house had been picked clean without any apparent forced entry.
All good things must come to an end, and it wasn't until as recent as sixteen years ago when a thief was caught descending into someone's house through the skylight. The nature of Vode keys became known to the Diamond Guard and eventually the sentinel guild. However, rather than replace all the skylights or prevent them from being opened from the inside as well by sealing the frame, the Abarack City Council rather cheaply arranged a crew to simply seal the external locks by welding the keyholes up.
Schrau carried Geffin's Vode key close to his heart. The "key" was now a fairly standard kit consisting of a narrow-headed chisel with the head shaped like the keys of old, and a fairly heavy palm hammer. If the kit owner was as considerate as Geffin obviously was, there would also be a little tube of oil to silence the ageing hinges. The sealing welds were distinctly cheap in that they didn't actually damage the lock cylinder, and one could carefully break through using the chisel and twist it to pop the lock. If the window had been broken since the welding had taken place there wasn't even any need to hammer the chisel in.
Schrau eventually made it to Aeran Sathran's home, quickly located the skylight, and noticed that it had been broken. He pressed himself against the roof, looked down into the room below, and checked for any signs of life.
Below was Aeran's bedroom, in fact should anyone choose to enter the building through the skylight they would have a soft landing on Aeran's rather large bed. The room was still in disarray.
Schrau grinned and reached for the Vode key, and only when his hand touched the leather wrap did he notice something odd about the window. It wasn't flush against the frame, something had jammed in the edge of the window.
The vulpin hesitated. He had wanted to have a look at the room below, but this could also be a vital clue. He had it on good authority from questioning his usual contacts that no one had broken into Sathran's home since her death, so the window seal must have been cracked before then.
Whatever was holding the window open could be a clue, and he couldn't investigate that right now. Growling beneath his breath, Schrau pulled himself up onto all fours and set off back to the ground level.

Schrau, now dressed in his prosecutor's greens, hammered on a rather luxurious door. He had just had a very productive talk with the Chief Justice and Chief Prosecutor, and both agreed with Schrau's opinion. He carried a scrolled-up piece of parchment in his other hand and waited.
Judge Chance answered the door, dressed in a black cotton robe with his beard looking about as scruffy as Schrau normally appeared. "Prosecutor Cadnos, it's two in the morning. This had better be good."
"Sir, I need your permission to inspect Aeran Sathran's home."
Chance blinked sleepily at the prosecutor and scratched his head. "I'm sorry, I was told you had."
"By whom?" Schrau asked, "Because if it was Theodore Wright then there's a very interesting story behind it."
"It- was..." Chance frowned. "Why?"
"He has been obstructing my investigation since the first day, your honour." Schrau reported, "And he had hoped to use the sentiner non-interaction raw to reave me herpress. I have, however, been rodging compraints with the Chief Prosecutor and the Chief Justice on every incident, and today they agreed that I should be arrowed to perform a search without Diamond Guard assistance. A member of the sentiner guird is waiting for me there."
"Wonderful, so why did you wake me up?"
Schrau thrust the scroll outwards. "Because, your honour, I can onry conduct the search with permission from the residing magistrate."
Chance grunted in exasperation, "Can't this wait until morning?"
"Not if you want to finish the triar today."
Chance huffed, snatched the scroll from Schrau's hand, then retreated inside. He returned a few moments later with the document signed. "Now leave me be."

"Why is everyone I talk to today wearing a robe?"
Calla frowned out the front door at Schrau and pulled her white cotton bathrobe tighter around her body. "You left me in your cupboard." She growled.
"You drank my whiskey." Schrau countered. "How would you like to see Aeran Sathran's bedroom?"
Calla perked up, "Oh, so you managed to get your way with Wright?"
"No, I finagled a deal with Chance and the Chief Justice. Probably gonna end up charging Wright with obstructing justice."
"Ooh, ooh, can I prosecute that one?" Calla excitedly asked.
"If you get dressed, maybe."
"So what's the deal?"
"I've got a sentinel waiting at Aeran's home for me. Sergeant Schmizer, werewolf, hates me, so the defence can't cry favouritism."
"Awright, awright." Calla nodded. "Let me get dressed kiddo, and no, you can't watch."

The three lupines stepped into Aeran Sathran's bedroom and paused to take it in.
"They really ought to fire the maid." Schrau commented. "What's wrong with this, Schmizer?"
The werewolf, a tall tanned-furred creature, sniffed the air and looked around. "A woman committed suicide here? It's too messy."
Calla smirked as she investigated the bed. "What do you mean it's too messy?"
"Females are considerate, they don't want someone to have to clean up after them." Schrau explained. "Poison, asphyxiation, and they usually clean up before committing the act unless there's something really wrong. Cutting yourself in the bath? Nothing to do with raising your heartbeat so you bleed out quicker, but it's so whoever has to deal with your body can just pull the plug and let all the blood drain neatly away." Schrau poked through Aeran's jewellery box. "Nothing taken, robbery wasn't a factor. Now males, we don't care; we'll kill ourselves any way we like: Crossbow bolt to the head, jump off a building, self-inflicted stab wounds all over the floor. Both sexes consider hanging, but that's about it."
Calla snorted derisively. "Where did you cook up that pot of bull-stew?"
"Years and years of statistical analysis of suicide cases." Schmizer blandly stated. "It's true."
"So you're saying that Aeran didn't kill herself?" Calla asked.
"No, she did." Schrau said. "Most people who commit suicide are actually of sound mind when they do so. Most suicide victims have their final hours planned, they usually do something enjoyable like drink a bottle of wine or smoke a cigar, and then they top themselves. If that doesn't seem the case, then statistically the victim suffered some other trauma that causes them to act irrationally."
"No note." Schmizer noted, studying the bureau. "She never wrote one."
"Or it was taken." Schrau said, "Hmm, that skylight... I wonder."
"Hey, got a Vode key on you?" Calla asked.
Schrau patted a pocket and nodded. "I'll be right back."
Schrau had left the room when Schmizer found a bundle of wadded scraps of paper in the bottom drawer of the bureau. "Looks like they were torn out of a book." The werewolf noted, unfurling one piece. "A diary, maybe. I can't understand this."
Calla took another piece of paper and studied it. A series of descending and ascending lines of various degrees and curvatures lined the page. "Oh, this is growerring."
"What the hell is that?"
"It's a phonetic interpretation of lupin speak." Calla said. "Popular among vulpin thieves and vulpins that fancy themselves educated. Aeran was of the latter, I bet Schrau could read this."
"Well, I can't." Schmizer grumbled, turning the paper in several directions to try and draw some meaning from it. "Phonetic?"
Calla nodded. "Yeah, however it's considered impossible for werewolves to understand it. A vulpin can learn the language, but for some reason a werewolf going through the same tuition fails every time. Might have something to do with part of your brain being human."
The glass above the bed rattled as Schrau rapped on it to get their attention. When both were looking up at him he shouted, "Hey, there's something caught under the frame."
"What is it?" Calla shouted back.
"I dunno, I just want to make sure that it doesn't get lost when I lift the window." Schrau produced a Vode key set, his own personal one that he was granted possession of as an official officer of the law and took out the chisel. "It's locked and broken. Someone used this way in."
Schmizer and Calla positioned themselves on either side of the bed. "Okay, lift it." Calla announced.
Schrau lifted the window, the hinges opening smoothly. Something small and hard landed on the centre of the bed and bounced towards Schmizer who picked it up.
"What is it?" Schrau said.
"How many thieves wear cufflinks?" Schmizer asked. "It's a cufflink. Silver, onyx stone, monogrammed in gold."
"Monogrammed?" Call asked as Schrau bounced down onto the bed.
"R. S." Schmizer answered. "Must've gotten caught up as the thief left."
"Ranth Seyett." Schrau offered, sitting back against the pillow. "He was here."
"Doing what?" Schmizer asked.
Schrau looked around the room and frowned. "Oh no."
 "You don't think-"
Schrau hopped off the bed. "Signs of a struggle, previous obsession, victim acting uncharacteristically afterwards... He could have." Schrau noticed the scraps of paper Calla and Schmizer had left on the bureau. "Hmm? Suicide note drafts?"
"It's in growerring." Calla said as Schrau picked up a scrap.
"It is indeed. Diary pages." Schrau read, also comparing other pieces. "Torn from the book, last thing written is usually a spelling error, she sometimes threw away entire pages because she misspelled one word." He looked around, specifically at the leather writer's pad in the middle of the desk. "No diary. There's a faint outline where a book about the same size of these pages rested on the pad. She kept her diary out but written in growerring. Now it's gone."
"You think Seyett took it?"
Schrau stared into the mirror. "No. Not Seyett. Sathran."

"Ah, you're dressed. You're actually dressed."
Narin Sathran glared along her muzzle at the prosecutor standing in front of her, a rolled-up document in his hand and a harsh look on his face. "And how can I help you, prosecutor."
Schrau handed Narin Sathran the document in his hand. "I have a warrant to search your house. Specifically to search for your daughter's diary."
Schrau had to admit that he couldn't detect if Narin actually lied. "I'm afraid you're mistaken, prosecutor. I do not have my daughter's diary."
"That's interesting, because we found evidence that your daughter did in fact keep such a diary in her bedroom."
Now Narin palled. "You- you intruded in my daughter's bedroom?"
"I did indeed." Schrau said. "Now then, I've already charged Theodore Wright with obstructing justice. He will be stripped of his rank and position, and really he would still do your daughter no good from where he'll end up. Now then, will I have to charge you with the same crime?" He frowned, "Wright certainly has implicated you, said that he refused to grant me permission to view the crime scene on your say. You know what I say about that?"
"He's a bloody idiot. He doesn't do something or stop me from doing what I want to do because a bloody civilian tells him to do it." Schrau took a step back. "I know what happened to your daughter. I know what Seyett did to your daughter. Right now I don't have a hope in hell of convicting him of anything - He'll walk free and laugh in your face and piss on your daughter's grave. What I really, really can't understand is why you're letting him."
"Prosecutor Cadnos..." Narin whispered, "what he did to her was-"
"You want the truth, Narin?" Schrau interrupted, "All my life I have been surrounded in darkness. I've seen pretty much everything the living soul is capable of doing, I have seen crimes that you could not even begin to imagine. I know what Seyett did to your daughter, I know exactly what he did; and I know the best way to make him suffer for what he did is to let me do my job and punish him for it. You think what he did to your daughter is bad? Try thinking of what he's doing to his daughter!"
Narin grimaced uncomfortably, "You don't understand at all..."
"But I will. Now get me that damn diary."

"So what do you mean by that?"
Calla leaned back against the couch in the prosecutor's lobby as Schrau sipped a cup of tea. "Exactly what I mean, kiddo. I wouldn't change the charge."
Schrau's eyes narrowed, "But there's no way I can still pin a murder charge on Seyett. I can charge him with this."
"Chance has seen the evidence already, if he wants to alter the charge then it's his prerogative. Otherwise, you should just aim for the target you set at the start of the trial. Maybe you should give the defence a chance to change their plea."
"No. No way." Schrau said, "I'm playing them about as fair as they played me. Echowild had hoped to put one up me earlier, and that sort of arrogant inexperience is going to cost him dearly. Speaking of which..."
Yeth Echowild burst into the prosecutor's lobby as Schrau was just about to finish his cup of tea. "I've heard that you've discovered new evidence in this case!" The elf demanded, "Why have I not received any other information regarding it?"
Schrau looked up at the wall clock. "Okay, this is about the time before the triar that I received Simon Kane's name. We found two pieces of evidence, namery your crient's cuffrink found at Aeran Sathran's home, and her diary."
Echowild shrugged. "You may also recall that my client's entire jacket was found there. I'll worry when you find that my client's entire wardrobe has been moved into Sathran's home. Now, about that diary..."
"Ah yes, it was written in growerring," Schrau brightly reported, "containing the victim's finar thoughts before her death. Would you rike a transcript of the rerevant detairs?"
"Of course I bloody would!" Echowild snapped. Schrau produced a document, handed it to Echowild to sign, then handed the elf a folder.
"Court is about to start." The bailiff announced from the doorway into the courtroom, Calla and Schrau gathered their papers and set off towards the door as Echowild tried to translate the papers put before him.
"What is this gibberish?" He demanded.
"Growerring. A phonetic form of rupin that onry vurpins can rearn to read." Schrau told him.
"This is useless!" Echowild snapped.
"I know." Schrau said. "I tord you what it was; when I asked you if you wanted the transcript your should have answered 'no, I want the transration'."
"Ask your crient if he can read it." Calla added as the two vulpins stepped into the courtroom.

Part 9 - Wright On

Theodore Wright glowered at the prosecution from the witness stand. He was in full uniform, but unlike Jhen Cuthroy he wore it to present a commanding and powerful appearance.
Schrau smiled to himself, which also had the rather beneficial side effect of having him smirking at Wright. With every idle moment that passed, the human captain seemed more and more irate. Calla sat next to Schrau, dressed in her prosecutor's robes and wearing the same flat, emotionless expression that she always wore in a courtroom.
Chance also stared down at the little prosecutor while Echowild attempted to surreptitiously discuss the matter of translating the diary excerpt with his client. "The prosecution may begin."
Schrau cleared his throat and let his grin blossom into a full predator's smile. "Mister Theodore Wright, you-"
"That's Captain Wright to you, lad." The human snarled.
Schrau crossed his arms indignantly. "You may keep that titre, for the next hour or so. Captain Wright, you were at Aeran Sathran's party on the night of the incident, were you not?"
Wright hesitated momentarily. "No."
"Terr me, Wright – Are you stirr abre to keep your vaunted titre after you've just perjured yourserf?"
"I have no idea what-"
Schrau held up the diary. "Aeran Sathran's diary, containing her finar thoughts. Written entirery in growerring, so you wouldn't know what's written in it. What you did know is that it was in the possession of the victim's mother, untir a few hours ago of course."
"I-" Wright stammered. "It proves nothing."
"On her finar day, Aeran wrote three entries in her diary. The first is a pretty mundane one, discussing her excitement at hosting her first party in her home. The second is rerevant. Would your honour rike to terr the court what was written?"
Chance shot Schrau a withering look, but consulted his papers regardless. "'I have no idea why that ghastly man Seyett felt he had the gall to invite himself to my party, however he made a rather delightful fool of himself. Fortunately Wright was here when Seyett got a little rowdy. That ought to be the last time Seyett picks a fight with a man bigger than he.'"
"That answers one question." Schrau said, interrupting, "Who hit the defendant. You struck the defendant."
"He was-" Wright began.
"I don't want to hear your stupid, chirdish excuses!" Schrau snapped. "Damn it, man. You're an officer of the raw! You should know better!"
Wright glowered indignantly at the vulpin. "I have been an officer of the law longer than you have been alive, boy. I will not be lectured by you!"
"If the judge could continue with the diary excerpt?" Schrau asked.
Chance nodded and continued reading. "'Well, once Wright had flattened that idiot's muzzle, I got Cathran and Gerard to toss that fool out on the street. Seyett did not like that at all, and kept screaming "I'll get you for this!" at poor Wright. Seyett was fortunate to not scream his threats in common, else he would be in a cell right now rather than skulking home with his tail between his legs.'"
Schrau smiled. "Isn't that an odd thing to do, don't you think? He was threatening you when he knew you couldn't understand him. Now, I'm no expert on threatening peopre, but if I were to do so I'd make sure they get the point rather than remain obrivious to the fact."
"As Aeran said, he threatened me in that way to ensure that he wouldn't be arrested."
"On the contrary, it should have been you that would have been arrested." Schrau said. "You struck him, did you not?"
"He was rowdy and uncouth and-"
"But he wasn't viorent." Schrau pointed out, "Or was he? Not that you would know, since you weren't there by your own admission."
"He-" Wright began. "He was not violent. He was making improper advances towards Aeran but-"
"And you decided to be chivarrous and smash his nose in?" Schrau wryly finished. "I thought gentremen deart with things with a duer at dawn."
"Objection." Echowild said for, Schrau recalled, the sixth time in this trial, "This has absolutely no relevance in this case."
"Wright, you've heard Aeran's diary excerpt about how Seyett was spitting threats as he was being escorted out of the premises." Schrau said.
"I have." Wright answered.
"Has the thought crossed your mind that he was not, in fact, threatening you?"
"He-" Wright began, before balking. "Who else would he have been threatening then, prosecutor?"
"Who in earshot could have understood his threats? The staff under Aeran's emproy were armost entirery human."
Wright's face slackened. "It's possible that-"
"Go on."
"Aeran." Wright breathed. "He could have been threatening Aeran."
"Objection, speculation."
"Overruled." Chance ruled, "Unless your client truly is an idiot, the idea that the prosecution has brought forward is very likely."
"When do you suppose that Aeran wrote this entry into her diary?" Schrau asked.
"I suppose she wrote it after the party was over." Wright speculated.
"Is that it? She did not reave the party for a period of time before dismissing her guests?"
"Well..." Wright began. "During the incident involving Seyett a glass of wine was spilled over her dress. She left the party to change clothes."
"At what time did she reave?"
"At about ten past eleven."
"She returned at what time?"
Now Wright appeared uncomfortable. "She returned at about twenty to twelve, thirty minutes later. She, ah, she was dressed for bed."
"What happened next?" Schrau asked.
"She thanked everyone for a wonderful evening, and apologised for the fact that she suddenly felt too tired to continue with the party. It took about twenty minutes for the last guest to leave the house, however."
"That was you, correct?"
Wright nodded.
"And that was the rast anyone saw Aeran stirr arive?"
"That is correct."
Schrau hung his head, before raising it. "You had nothing to do with the investigation. You, in fact, rured yourserf out of the investigation, but you stirr questioned the defendant's daughter about the time of death. Why?"
Wright's eyes fell closed. "I wanted to make sure that he did it. But the bastard had an alibi."
"So instead of seeking out the true suspect, you stirr informed the investigating team that Ranth Seyett was a suspect?"
"I refuse to comment on that." Wright affirmed.
Schrau leaned back. "Aeran committed suicide, did she not?" This comment caused a slight uproar from the gallery, but Chance was far too concerned with considering the implications of what Schrau had actually admitted to in court. "Excuse me, prosecutor, but you're essentially saying that the defence does not have a case to answer?"
"On the contrary. The evidence I've submitted today proves that Ranth Seyett is guirty. Anyway, I would rike it if the witness answered the question."
"I refuse to." Wright snapped.
"Jhen Cuthroy was not the first officer at the scene, am I right?" Schrau asked. "When Narin Sathran found her daughter hanging from the armoire, she asked you for herp."
"That's an absurd accusation and-!" Wright began.
"So you're saying that Narin Sathran arranged the crime scene by herserf and you had no part to pray in what happened?"
Wright's face had blossomed into a violent scarlet. "Are you mad, vulpin? There was no arrangement!"
Schrau smirked. "That's not what Narin said."
"Excuse me?"
Schrau presented a document. "I have here a signed affidavit detairing your invorvement in the covering up of Aeran's death." Schrau shook his head. "I think we can forget about that titre, mister Wright."
Wright sighed, defeated.
"I know you couldn't have read her diary, Wright." Schrau said, "Of arr the vurpins in the Six, about half can actuarry read growerring. However, Narin Sathran could. It was a habit she encouraged in her daughters. She read the diary, she might have done so whire you were untying her dead daughter's body from the armoire. Did she eraborate on the contents?"
"She insisted that you advise the investigation to focus on Ranth Seyett. Did she give you a reason why?"
Surprisingly, Wright nodded. "He blamed her for Aeran's death. She stated that he was responsible."
"But beyond that...?" Schrau hazarded, when no response was forthcoming, he added, "She never said why he was responsibre?"
"The diary reft on her writing desk could have provided a vitar crue in that investigation, Wright. Did the notion of confiscating it and taking it to be transrated cross your mind, even for a minute?"
Wright slowly shook his head. "No."
"Then you're an idiot." Schrau chided the human, "You're that and much more, but an investigator is not one of those things, and from now on neither is a watch captain. Once you step down from that witness stand, I wirr charge you for obstruction of justice and perjury. Do you understand?"
"I understand, but let me say this..." Wright glowered at Schrau, "...You are not a servant of the law. You are a petty little man who prefers to fight his battles with words and let scum like that-" He pointed at Ranth Seyett, "-walk free."
Schrau shook his head. "I am more of a servant of the raw than you are, Wright. I've fought many battres with sword and wit, cunning a guire; and berieve me I have absorutery no intention of retting that-" He pointed towards Ranth as well, "-walk out of here a free man today." He sat down, remembered where he was, then stood back up, "The, uh, the prosecution has nothing further to ask this witness. For now."
"I see," Chance commented, "would the defence like a go?"
"The, uh, defence does not have any questions to ask the witness and since the prosecution seemed intent on doing my work for me..." Echowild's face faded into a fixed grin, before realising he sounded completely feeble, "...uh... No further questions."
"Of course." Chance said.
"Your honour, I would rike to request a ten minute recess to formarry charge Theodore Wright and to have my next witness prepared."
"Next witness?" Echowild asked.
"Of course." Chance agreed. "I feel I must warn you, prosecutor, are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Excuse me?" Schrau asked.
"From the evidence supplied, it is clear that Ranth Seyett has a charge to answer, but perhaps this trial is not the one he should be facing it in."
Calla stood up gracefully, "The prosecution is satisfied that we can find the defendant guirty of the charge that you demanded at the very start of the triar."
"We are?" Schrau whispered.
"Trust me, kiddo. We've got him where we wanted." Calla sat down. "It's not going to be pretty though."

Part 10 - Down to Chance

Schrau paced the prosecutor's lobby frowning all the while. Calla, on the other hand, sat on a couch, a perfect vision of absolute serenity.
"Something's not right." Schrau growled. "There's something I've missed, something I've overlooked."
"You're right, kiddo." Calla smirked, stubbing out a cigarette on the arm of the couch and lighting up another. "You have overlooked something."
"So what is it?" Schrau snapped.
"Oh, you'll find out soon enough."
Schrau let roll a guttural roar before stopping to catch his breath. "You don't normally chain smoke."
"Yeah," Calla sighed, "I'm trying to give up. This'll be my last pack and I'm going through it as quickly as possible."
Schrau snorted and sighed. "This isn't going to be pretty."
"I know. I told you that earlier. Forgotten already?"

Chance frowned from his seat and started the proceedings with, "Well, I think I speak for everyone when I say that this trial has gone on for long enough. Will the defendant take the stand?"
Ranth Seyett stood up. It was generally hard to make the distinction with vulpins since they mostly looked alike, but Seyett felt that he was certainly handsome by the standards set by the species. Schrau could even see the faint lines in his fur where he had no doubt spent nearly an hour combing each strand into place. He was wearing a fairly ostentatious suit in sentinel greens. It was a good choice, made him seem honest. Ranth Seyett took the stand and took the oath. Schrau was surprised that the Levetikon he had placed his paw on hadn't burst into flames.
He confirmed that he was Ranth Seyett. He confirmed his address, his occupation. He emphatically confirmed that he had nothing to do with Aeran Sathran's suicide. He used the word suicide.
Schrau leaned heavily on the desk before him and grinned. "So, when you raped her in her bedroom, how did it feer?"
Echowild was on his feet in less time than it took the gallery to mutter about this sudden accusation. "Your honour, this allegation is-" He faltered, "Preposterous! Where the hell did that come from? There's no evidence that the suspect was even assaulted!" He pointed accusingly at Schrau. "The prosecution is making false allegations! The prosecution has submitted no evidence that-"
"Yeth, shut up." Ranth smirked from the witness stand. "I can handle this." He leaned back easily on the stand. "I don't know who you think you are, prosecutor, but I can handre these groundress accusations."
Schrau leaned forward further, his voice dropping into lupin. "I'm you're worst bloody fears personified..."
"Is that so?" Ranth said, "Be that as it may, I am afraid that I cannot answer that question because, haha, I never committed such an act."
"So you deny the accusation?" Schrau asked, he felt like he was handing a coffin nail to the defendant.
"Of course I do." Seyett snapped, "Just rike I deny the accusation that I murdered her."
"So when you were thrown out of the party after the incident with Captain Wright-"
"-You mean when he assaurted me-"
"-You returned home without stopping on the way for, say, a pie?"
"Or a pint?"
"Or maybe some fried chicken?"
"No!" Seyett snapped. "I went straight home, boy. How many more times do I have to repeat myserf?"
As many times as it takes to solidly perjure yourself, Schrau thought. "So when your daughter said that you arrived home three quarters of an hour after you were witnessed reaving the party she was... What? Mistaken?"
"Yes. She was, she is often mistaken."
Schrau's eyes narrowed into slits. "Rike she was mistaken about how you... used her as a repracement to your wife?"
"If that is the term she used, then yes."
"Then wouldn't a better reasoning for her 'mistake' be that of hatred? That she hates you so much that she would be purposery incorrect about the time?"
Ranth briefly flashed Schrau a snarl, almost daring him to continue along that line of reasoning, but he quickly subsided. "I... suppose that is a possibirity."
Schrau smiled. "Poor mister Seyett. Everyone is out to get you, am I right?"
"I suppose it-"
"Just rike Narin Sathran was out to get you when she accused you of taking an unhearthy interest in her youngest daughter?"
"That's-" Ranth began, but Schrau wasn't about to let him get an word in edgeways.
"If it wasn't so serious, it'd be pitifur. Time and time again you have refused to accept responsibirity for your actions! You even put your fate in the hands of a junior defence attorney who is far too stupid to notice that what I'm berating you with has nothing to do with the triar at hand!"
"All right, that's enough as far as personal attacks are concerned." Chance lazily growled. Echowild still had not reacted to the previous comment.
"It took you forty-five minutes to walk home?" Schrau asked.
"I-" Ranth suddenly grew a brain. "It might have. My mind was on other matters at the time."
"Your missing jacket, your nose, or your daughter?" Schrau asked. "Or was it something erse?"
"I was... Generarry preoccupied. Nothing more."
"For forty-five minutes?"
Schrau grinned, "So you deny that you returned to Aeran's home?" That's when Schrau caught The Twitch. Ranth was guilty, Schrau had known that since he found the diary, but it was the slight spasm around his eyes that gave him away. Schrau could practically feel the man's thought process: Do I carry on with this lie, or quickly come up with a better one?
Echowild, despite his inexperience, was savvy enough not to let Ranth go either way. "Your honour, my client has already stated time and time again that he did no such thing..." The elf gave an exasperated sigh, "I fail to see where this line of questioning is proceeding."
And Chance, who did see where the line of questioning was charging towards like a stampeding herd of irate bulls, stared back at Echowild as if the elf was the china shop. Nevertheless, he had to concede that the defence had a point. "Cadnos, what are you hoping to achieve?"
"I hope to have the defendant state categoricarry that he never returned to the scene of the crime." He gave the defendant one of his wickedest grins. "I want him to swear it."
"Fine." Echowild snapped, "It's not as if you can prove otherwise. Answer the question, Seyett."
He may as well have stabbed his own client in the heart.
Ranth closed his eyes, sighed, and began to speak. "I did not-"
"Amazing." Schrau interrupted. "I never expected you to perjure yourserf so easiry."
Echowild glowered at the prosecutor. "My client was-"
Schrau straightened, "Your honour, if you could read the finar entry in Aeran Sathran's diary to the court?"
Chance nodded, pawed through the papers in front of him, and produced the relevant paper. "'I sent everyone home a few minutes ago. While I was up here changing my dress, he came in through the skylight.'" Chance looked up towards Echowild, and continued to recite without consulting the page. "'He dropped down and he grabbed me and pulled me onto the bed.' The translator had some difficulty in ascertaining the exact meaning of the following paragraph, but they have noted that it likely describes in detail the sexual assault on her by the assailant." Chance frowned. "It continues, 'I can't stand to look at anyone ever again. I can't stand to relive everything he did to me. I can't stand myself for letting him do this to me again. It seems there's only one thing I can do. Goodbye.'"
"'Again.'" Schrau echoed. "Could you continue with the part directed towards her mother?"
"'Mother, how could you let him do this to me? You promised me the first time that you would never let him near me ever again. I was silly to let him do that to me, but I was just a little girl then. You were supposed to be my mother, you were supposed to protect me! Know that whatever hate you feel for me over my death pales in comparison for the loathing I feel towards you for failing to protect me in life. I pray to the gods that whatever happens next, we won't ever meet again.'"
The court was silent for a few minutes as every single attendant considered the words carefully. Then Echowild spoke.
"There is nothing in that suicide note that implicates that it was my client."
"We can put him at the scene." Schrau quietly said as a few angry hecklers attempted to shout down the elf.
"Go on."
"We found your crient's cuffrink at the scene of the crime." Schrau replied. "I berieve I mentioned this to you before."
"And as I mentioned to you before, you found his jacket there."
"We didn't find his jacket crushed in the frame of the bedroom's skyright." Schrau commented. "We arso didn't find the matching jacket in his home next to a Vode key set. Do I have to exprain to you that a Vode key is a kit designed to break open the numerous compromised skyrights in the Aberack Diamond Circre?"
"It-" Echowild began, before choking on the second word. He took a hearty chug of water from the glass at his seat, recovered, and turned to the judge. "Your honour, may I have a few words with my client?"
"By all means, knock yourself out." Chance growled in a voice that suggested he was considering hiring someone else with a club to do exactly that to the attorney.

"You lied to me!" Echowild spat. "You said that you did-"
Ranth Seyett, although slightly ruffled following the revelations in the courtroom, smiled back at the elf. "As I said, I did not murder her."
"You lied!" Echowild continued. "You said you never went back, but you did! You raped her, and-"
"Did not murder her." Seyett said in a sing-song voice.
Echowild frowned. The vulpin smiled. "Why are we here, Yeth? What are you suppose to defend me from?"
When Echowild spoke, he did so in the slow, meticulous way of a man unwrapping a landmine. "From the accusation that you murdered Aeran Sathran."
"Brirriant!" Ranth grinned. "My boy, we may make an attorney out of you yet. Yes, they may charge me with the assaurt, but they can't do me for murder."
"But they can still charge you with the assault." Echowild emphasised.
"Yes," Ranth grinned, "but I have the feering that once the prosecutor realises something quite important, his heart will go out of it."
Echowild stared at the vulpin. "I'm not sure I can continue to defend you."
"Why?" Ranth bluntly asked. "Is it because of what I've done? Remember, boy, you're not doing this for the fame or the grory or even the rarge sum of money I am paying you for. You're doing this because of how we met."

Mayin had wormed her way to the front of the courtroom where she now stood on the bench behind the prosecutor's, leaning over and whispering in Schrau's and Calla's ears. "So, what happens now?"
"I'm going to be honest with you, Mayin." Schrau said as Calla's blank stare revealed nothing about her intentions. "Even in the light of the most recent revelations, we can't pin a murder on him. This trial will probably collapse, but we'll have him charged with the assault on Aeran before he's even out of his seat. That trial is likely to result in a guilty verdict." Schrau grinned. "If we play our cards right, we'll have a quick trial right here and now, and he'll be in prison awaiting sentencing."
"And what is my father likely to get?" Mayin asked, a hint of panic on her voice.
Schrau did the math. "For a vulpin? Maybe twenty, twenty-five years. It won't be easy on him though, especially once I let word circulate among the inmates that your father is a nonce."
"Slang." Calla quietly said. "Non-specified offender. Basically a word to describe to the inmates that they can't really tell them what he's in for, but in doing so pretty much allows them to fill in the blanks." She cracked a slight smile. "It's not easy being in prison once everyone there finds out what you're in there for. Even ardent criminals have some standards."
"But he'll be out in twenty-five years?" Now the panic had blossomed fully in her voice.
"Maybe fifteen for good behaviour." Schrau explained, a grain of understanding in his voice.
"No. No, no, no. He's-" Mayin was all but breaking down. "He can't be let out! He'll be back and-"
Then the realisation punched Schrau in the gut like a titan. Mayin now knew what her father had done to Aeran, both in recent and past times. It was true that the depraved man had certain tastes regarding age, but now the most recent attack had indicated that he would be willing to wait to get what he wanted. He'd be out eventually, and when he was, he would come looking for his daughter no matter how many barriers Schrau could erect between them.
And what would Mayin get out of this? A few years in an orphanage, or maybe adopted by Sikkar-knows-who. She would be protected in the next few years, or she might end up somewhere worse. And then she would be on her own with her father looking for her.
Aeran had killed herself to stop him coming back for her. What would Mayin do? In her eyes, it was him or her, and Schrau was suddenly aware that he couldn't hang him. So what could he do now? Give Mayin a noose?
It was this that had squatted on his mind like a malevolent spider just before this session. He ought to have been happy to be able to nail something on Ranth, but deep down he realised that for all his chicanery he would not be able to sufficiently protect Mayin.
The bailiffs escorted Ranth and Echowild back to the bench, and Mayin sat down quickly, raising her feet to the chair and hugging her knees. For the second time since he had met her, Schrau noticed that she was acting like the child she actually was.
Calla's face remained impassive, but she said to Schrau five simple words. "I've got this. Trust me."
Ranth sat down, but Echowild remained standing. "Your honour, the defence concedes that the evidence presented today implicates my client with the assault of Aeran Sathran."
"Sexual assault." Schrau stressed. "There's a vast difference." Like the world wouldn't actually mind if I got out of this seat and assaulted your client, Schrau thought to himself.
"Of course." Echowild took a deep breath. "However, the purpose of this trial is to ascertain whether or not my client murdered the victim. Despite all the evidence presented, there is nothing to prove that my client actually murdered Aeran Sathran. Therefore..." He let the word hang in the air for a moment, " is my opinion that we end this trial. My client will accept any further charges levelled against him and will cooperate fully with the proceedings."
Now Chance realised he had been blindsided in much the same way Schrau had. Now everything was down to Chance. He only had one legal option left, and that was to declare the trial over one way or the other.
His hand was already on the gavel.
He looked over to the prosecution, his eyes apologetic, and said "Does the prosecution have anything further to add?"
Schrau almost spoke, but Calla rose smoothly from her seat. Instinct overrode Schrau's despair. Chance had nothing to do with the final verdict, it was all down to Calla.

Part 11 - Clarity

Lesser people have poker faces, Calla had a court face. Completely emotionless; if getting caned she refused to let her opponents satisfy themselves with the notion she was being rattled, if winning she refused to gloat. She presented her case to the court in the same way as one might describe the colour white.
And she never forgot anything. A useful ability, and one that was made even more powerful when coupled with an absolute lack of emotion that made people forget exactly what they were supposed to be doing that moment.
"If I may be so bold, may I remind the court what the purpose of this triar is?" Calla asked in her bleached-white vanilla voice.
"To determine whether or not the defendant murdered Aeran Sathran." Chance reminded her.
"Of course. Ostensibry this is a murder triar, and the defendant may face the sentence for murder at the end of it. However, what was the purpose of this triar as outrined by the magistrate and the prosecution?"
Chance stared down at the vixen as if he were explaining something to a child. "I think I covered that with my first answer."
"Unfortunatery not." Calla said. "You, your honour, began the triar with the forrowing sentence: ' This triar wirr determine if the defendant, Ranth Seyett, was responsibre for the death of Aeran Sathran.'" There was a slight pause, followed by the hurried shuffle of papers as Schrau, Chance, and Echowild flipped through their copies of the court transcript to find out if she was right. Schrau secretly chided himself, as doing so placed the importance of words on paper above that of Calla's flawless memory, but as he stared at the paper he realised what Calla's next point would be.
And grinned.
"Yes, I may have been a little careless in-"
Calla interrupted, "And with regards to the prosecution, Cadnos himserf never mentioned during the opening statements that we were seeking a charge of murder. In fact, his carefurry-phrased statement was worded so that he would not rook a foor when the triar was over, but did werr in not, in fact, mentioning what the exact charge was. The prosecution never defined the charge, and the magistrate defined it in a roose definition that the prosecution has managed to satisfy. Your honour, the defendant was directry responsibre for the death of Aeran Sathran, and therefore must answer to the charge of murder. By your definition, your honour." Calla helpfully reminded him.
Schrau grinned to himself. The damn crazy unforgetting bitch had a bloody good point! Charges were both defined by the law and by those that represented the law. That meant the prosecution and the magistrate. Schrau had thought he was so bloody clever in covering his own tail from the then-inevitable trial collapse by never going so far as to accuse the defendant of actually murdering Sathran, and the judge had made an egregious error in not tightly defining the requirements for 'murder' in this case. By definition, in assaulting her, Ranth had murdered Aeran.
By your definition, your honour.
Echowild was now out of his seat and practically headbutting the high ceiling of the courtroom. "Your honour, this is preposterous! Murder is murder, and it is not the job of the magistrate to define what exactly constitutes a murder!"
"Unfortunatery, it is." Calla grimly informed the attorney. "In fact, there is a precedent in the outcomes of a roose definition of the crime at triar."
"I know of no such precedent." Echowild claimed.
"Neither do I." Chance agreed, and Schrau was about to third that motion when he realised he would be better off keeping his mouth shut for the foreseeable future.
"Oh, I see." Calla bordered on the verge of smirking. "May I remind everyone of the Habbeger vs. Nedry case?"
It drew a complete blank from everyone in the courtroom.
"I had the foresight of bringing the fire with me today." Calla added, before lifting and dropping it on the bench before Schrau. He sped-read the cover page. Defending Attorney: Martin Valance. Prosecuting Attorney: Calla Cofnos.
It was the trial that Calla was prosecuting that week.
"Nedry was a guard hired by Habbeger to maintain security over his warehouse of stock. That stock went missing during one of Nedry's watches, and Habbeger had Nedry charged with the theft of the stock."
A bailiff passed the file up to Chance, who began picking through the pages like a chicken pecking seed. "So?"
"It transpired that Nedry did not, in fact, stear the stock. He was not at arr connected to the thieves that store the stock. However, on the night of the incident it transpired that he had reft his post to visit his mistress, as he had done so on severar occasions prior. He arso accidentarry forgot to rock the warehouse."
Now Chance had read something of relevance in the file, Schrau could tell from the bleaching of his face. Calla continued speaking, "The magistrate in charge of the triar was... I berieve it actuarry was the Chief Justice of the Sentiner Guird himserf. Foir..."
Oh yes, that had been a point of contention among the guild for a while. The Chief Prosecutor, Rebecca Davis, was less than pleased with the fact that well-trained sentinel prosecutors had been ordered to prosecute many minor cases, stuff like petty thefts and the like. Less to do with allowing the guild to save face and more to do with getting the annoying Chief Prosecutor to shut up for five minutes straight at a time, both Gilgal and Foil had agreed to magistrate many such "minor cases" themselves. That had satisfied Davis, at least until the next spat six minutes later. Rebecca wasn't the sort of person you could reason with, just head-butt her back and hope your skull was stronger.
"Again, by accident, the Chief Justice had not tightry defined the criteria for theft in the triar. It was arso argued that Nedry's negrigence was directry responsibre for the theft of the stock, had he been doing his job, it would have been impossibre for the thieves to commit their crime. He is now serving a minimum sentence for theft."
Mayin leant over the back of Schrau's bench and whispered a question to him, "What's the minimum sentence for murder?"
"These days? Life without parole. Can you live with that?"
Calla crossed her arms. "I berieve after the triar was over, and the Chief Justice rearised that his rather rax attitude regarding defining charges had cost Nedry his freedom, a memo was circurated among the prosecutors and serving magistrates ordering them to choose their opening words more carefurry." Not that it would have had any bearing on this case, as the charges had been laid down before the final verdict in the Nedry case. "I trust that those present received their copies of the memorandum?"
Schrau and Chance shared guilty looks. Schrau was trying to guess which of his desks the memo had made it to before being converted into a paper dart and flung across the room, and Chance would first have to adopt a clean floor approach to filing before he could hope to manage a clean desk.
"Of course," Schrau weakly managed.
"It's just, um, it was too late for this trial." Chance added, both men sharing a brief moment of mutual perjury, all in the name of defending the good of the justice system.
Echowild just stood slack-jawed.
"Your honour, the question I ask you is this: Does the evidence presented to you satisfy your definition of the responsibirity of murder set out at the very beginning of this triar?"
This put Chance on the spot. Legally, there was no need to answer or even ask this question. Seyett's actions were the direct cause of Sathran's death. His attack had driven her to kill herself, he may as well have tied the noose and slipped it over her head himself. It was when you considered the conundrum ethically did things get a little icy; Seyett could not have known that Sathran would have killed herself over what he did.
"This is beyond belief." Echowild spat. "Your honour, my client did not murder Aeran Sathran, he was not responsible for her death. All he did was-"
That word stared up at Rex Chance from the translation of Aeran's diary like a branding iron pressed into his retina. Though he could not know of the direct results of his action, Ranth Seyett knew exactly what he was doing when he did what he did. How old had Aeran been when Ranth had committed the act that would then be repeated 'again?' Aeran Sathran had died for him, Chance recalled that the too-young girl that had been the defendant's wife had also died for him.
You could argue with semantics. You could argue with definitions. You couldn't argue with a body, and you certainly couldn't argue with two. Mayin Seyett stared at him from her seat behind Cadnos and Chance would be damned to serve Varkyll-an-Bluge for all eternity if he wouldn't stop this before he had to argue with three bodies.
"Enough!" He snapped off. "Echowild, you have finished your presentation. In light of the evidence, as well as the precedent, I doubt that any decent being would begrudge my careless mouth in this case. The defendant will take the stand."
"No." Ranth hissed.
"I am ready to deliver my verdict." Chance intoned. "The defendant will take the stand."
"I did not murder her. You are going to say I did. No!" The defendant barked.
"By the gods, man, I will have you dragged by your filthy, lying tongue to the stand by every bailiff in this building if you do not!"
Schrau raised a hand to scratch the mark on his neck, but a hand snaked out from behind and clutched it tight. Schrau felt the pressure on his shoulder, saw Mayin's head resting on it, here eyes tight and streaming tears.
Calla rested a hand on Mayin's shoulder and squeezed tight as her father grudgingly walked over to the stand.
Chance gripped his gavel and glared malevolently down at the shaking vulpin on the stand. "Ranth Seyett. On the charge of the murder of Aeran Sathran, I find you guilty."
Schrau, rather than hearing the word, felt it with every fibre of his being. Mayin managed something between a happy cheer and a relieved gasp and all but broke every finger in his hand as she squeezed down tight. Echowild sagged into his seat, and Calla managed the slightest of smiles.
"The defendant will remain in custody until he is sentenced, which will be next week." Chance added, striking his gavel and dismissing the court.
They had to drag Ranth out, he was less than pleased with the result. Echowild sat on his bench, his forehead against the wood, not even following his client out of the courtroom. The judge left, the public gallery emptied, leaving none behind but three vulpins and a catatonic elf.
And then Mayin said, her voice tiny and quiet, "So what happens next?"

Two days had passed, and for the first time since crawling out of his office with a hangover the size of Raji Schrau returned to his office with Mayin bustling behind him.
The first thing Schrau noticed was that the whiskey decanter that Calla had emptied was once again full. He let Mayin pass to sit down while he lifted the decanter, pulled the stopper, and sniffed. Instead of the Keystone Sour he was expecting, it was purest Abarack Gold, which was about the finest whiskey mortal or god could buy. You could offer a shot of the Gold to a complete teetotaller, and they would gulp it down merely to appear refined.
Schrau had only one glass of the stuff in his life, and that was on the day he finally passed out as a full sentinel.
Mayin was seated at the desk already as Schrau paced around the office. Rather than sitting down he merely shuffled papers about.
"So, what happens next?" Mayin asked. For the last two days she had been in the tender care of an Abarackian care home, but had already expressed her dislike of the place.
"Ah, here it is." Schrau announced, peeling a scrap of paper from the stack. He sat down and began to read. "'To all active magistrates and prosecutors. The Chief Prosecutor has reminded me of the need for caution when setting out charges at the beginning of every trial, therefore I must remind everyone to carefully word their opening statements to prevent further confusion throughout the subsequent trial. Signed, the Chief Justice, Foil'." He put the memo down. "'The Chief Prosecutor has reminded me...' Oh, I bet she chewed his damned ear off after that balls-up."
"Prosecutor Cadnos...?" Mayin began.
"I'll have to remember to tease him about that later." Schrau said, flipping open a diary on his table and grabbing a pen. "Note: Tease Foil..."
"Um... Prosecutor Cadnos?"
Schrau quickly blotted the note and slapped the diary shut. "So, what happens next, hmm?" Schrau quickly said. "I suppose that means you return to the orphanage."
"But..." Mayin began, but couldn't properly phrase her objection, "But..."
"I'm merely highlighting the many possible options. A spell in Saint Katherine's Home for Girls being one of them. There's also adoption."
"You mean being passed on to another family like an unwanted gift?" Mayin snapped.
"I wouldn't put it so bluntly, and in my experience few people willing to adopt see the child as unwanted. Of course, I wasn't thinking of the usual process in this case..."
"What were you thinking of?"
Thinking was not the word Schrau would have used to express the process through which he had come to his latest decision. It was more down to the fact that he believed what he was doing was the right thing.
"Well, how about-"
"-I adopt you?" Calla said as she stepped out of the cupboard across the office from Schrau so suddenly that it even startled the sentinel. Mayin yelped as Calla asked, "Well, how about it kiddo?"
Schrau forced his heartbeat down to a more reasonable level. "Sikkar, Calla. How long have you been in the closet?"
"Now, now, Schrau. You know I like men." Calla chided the younger man. "Anyway, Mayin, the offer stands. If you're willing to let me become your legal guardian, I'm willing to be that guardian. Besides, you'll be working for one of the best prosecutors and information brokers the Six Worlds have ever seen. It's a good life."
Mayin glanced slyly at Calla in a way that was quite unbecoming for a girl of her age yet utterly acceptable of a girl of her species. "Oh, so I won't get a free ride then?"
Calla grinned, "Nope. No daughter of mine will ever have a free ride. She'll work, and she'll work hard, I promise you that."
Mayin's eyes closed and she gave a little sigh. "All my life I've been some plaything. Lavished with gifts and attention in the hope that it all made up for the... things that were done to me. I think I shall like not being taken for granted, Calla. I accept."
"You've given this a lot of thought, haven't you Calla?" Schrau said. "That's why you're trying to give up smoking."
"Gave up," Calla corrected him, "and yes, I have given this a lot of thought. Now we just need to get Ranth to agree."
"Couldn't we do this without him?" Mayin asked.
"It's possible, but it goes a lot smoother if the living kin of a child grants permission for an unrelated person to adopt their child." Calla said.
"And I'll deal with that." Schrau said sternly. "It's the least I could do."
"Are you sure?" Calla asked.
"Yes, get the papers drafted, Calla. Get your new assistant to help. Some things work out best man-to-man." Schrau stood up, "And I know in that little contest I have the definite advantage."

One room, two vulpins, two chairs, one table, one piece of paper, and a fountain pen. One of the men stood staring at the walls in a parade rest with his back to the other man who sat with his eyes fixed on the paper.
"I am not giving up my daughter." Ranth Seyett affirmed.
"You don't have a choice, Seyett." Schrau replied. "You either do it now, or we wait until you hang before doing it without your permission."
"I'm not going to be hanged, Cadnos." Ranth said in a way that suggested that the vulpin's surname meant something.
"No, you're right. A man like you isn't worthy enough to hang from the same gallows as a man like Bardur Cadnos." Schrau's jacket creaked as he crossed his arms. "But you haven't been sentenced yet, and I know that judge Chance is less than happy with your continued existence. One simple charitable act on your behalf means you get to keep your head where it is, and this is that act."
"I could give you something else. I am not giving up my daughter. I could give you Echowild."
Schrau's mental filing cabinet took that piece of information and put it away for safekeeping. "I'm a bright boy, Ranth. Whatever that tree-hugger is up to I'm sure I can figure it out. Your daughter or your life man."
Ranth frowned, "A life without her isn't much. I'd rather hang before I lose her love."
Schrau turned on heel suddenly and slammed both hands down on the table. "Hey, Seyett, you never had her love!" He yelled. "She lost that for you before she reached a point where she could understand what exactly 'love' means! I am doing you a favour, Seyett, not her. We can do this while you're breathing or after you've struggled for that last breath with a rope around your neck but it will get done! I am doing you a favour! I am not letting you keep your life, because I know that when you eventually get put in the prison block I have planned for you, and once the wardens and inmates know exactly what sort of creature you are, you will wish and beg for death every waking second of every day!"
The flames of hatred burned brightly behind Schrau's eyes as Ranth shrunk with every syllable. "You will be protected; any inmate that comes at you with anything sharper than a look will be punished. You will be on suicide watch every day; well, that is to say that if you want to commit suicide the wardens will happily watch, but I will give suitable encouragement for anyone that manages to stop you and drag you back from your just reward at the last second. Your life will be over, and I will take great satisfaction to know that every single step will be made to ensure you keep living it."
"So what's the favour you're supposedly offering me?"
"If you let Calla Cofnos adopt your daughter, that will be worth more than any amount of gold." Schrau said. "Your daughter hates you. She wanted you dead, but has just about managed to accept that you'll spend the rest of your days festering in the worst prison I can manage on this planet. She hates you, Ranth. You think you love her, you don't. You just need her..."
Schrau straightened. "Your signature on that paper means that, deep down, you do love her. You love her enough to accept that what you have done is wrong and you no longer want her to suffer. You don't sign that, and your precious daughter goes right back to Saint Katherine's to be adopted by whatever family picks her out of the throng like a puppy at a pound." Schrau sniffed, "I don't like the adoption process as it stands. It's far too much like slavery for my liking."
Ranth stared at the paper, unspeaking.
"She will go back to Saint Katherine's knowing that you never loved her. That you couldn't do this one simple thing. That you behaved more like a child than she actually is and couldn't do the one thing that would brand you a man. And I guarantee that whatever hate she feels for you now will be like a candle held up to the sun of the hate she will feel for you after."
They remained in that deadlock for a minute, then Schrau sighed and snatched up the pen and paper. "Well, I suppose your decision is final." He turned to the door and took three large steps towards it.
"Wait..." Ranth rasped as Schrau's hand touched the knob, and the sentinel smiled to himself.
This trial had turned out a lot better than he had expected.