The Blue Harp Curse, p.1Michael Sanderson / Fantasy / Mystery & Detective
The Blue Harp Curse
Published by Michael Sanderson
Copyright 2015 Michael Sanderson
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As the three guards studied the young man on the ground many people from the area gathered around in an attempt to see something they really didn’t want to see; a mutilated body. No matter how morbid or horrifying though, people can’t help but try.
One of the guards, clearly the one with seniority over the others, shook his head with frustration at the crowd, and knelt down to the body. It was spread out and cold, having been there for hours before being found. He looked the poor man over with regret; the man was barely older than the guard’s son.
Through the many stab wounds, blood had trailed through the little winding passages of the cobblestones and off the street, pooling in front of an inn called The Owl’s Perch. The inn, the guard noticed, stood next to The Silken Nymph; a brothel.
More than likely, the guard thought, this poor man had come from there when he was jumped.
Most young men, if inclined to, visited a brothel late at night, especially if he was married or from a well-respected family, and would not want to be seen. His body was not found until the sun had barely risen, which meant he had to have been killed very late at night. No one would have seen his body until they had light and a reason to be out and about.
The guard stood up and looked over to one of the others, “Go to the Silken Nymph and get whoever was in charge last night to come out here. Maybe they can tell us if he was there last night.” As he watched one of the men walk over to the Silken Nymph’s entrance he looked over to the remaining guard, “And you, get down to the watch house and bring back a cart for the body.”
As the two others did as they were told the guard stood there with a cold pit in his stomach; this young man makes five people killed now…
The streets of Crastgale were relatively empty now. It was well past midnight, and most people were in their homes sleeping. Here and there you would hear the clicking of footsteps, but all seemed at rest. This was when the city was the most deceptive, because when everything seems at peace is when truly bad things can happen.
Rynzius walked slowly looking this way and that. The long-bearded dwarf beside him, Grannum, did the same. Every alley and dark corner they scoured; always cautious. This was their job; they were members of the night watch of the Crastgale City Guard.
They walked down another winding street in the Grylmurg District. This was the area they had been assigned to patrol the last two nights. People had been awoken hearing screams out in the night, and not long after, a body would be found.
Several murders had occurred in the area over the last five or six days, all of them occurring late at night. The bodies of two victims were found in dark alleyways. The other three were found right in the middle of the street. The last one, just this morning. This was bad enough, but the area made matters worse. This district, named after one of the founders of the city, was not an easy place to pin down a murderer.
Fellras Grylmurg, a blacksmith turned adventurer, along with other companions, founded this city. Each district in its own way reflected one of the founders. Grylmurg was known for loving food, ale, women and having a good time. As such, his district had a high number of brothels, bathhouses, taverns, high priced inns and the Lazmara Arena. Traveling adventurers, young nobles and wealthy merchants would often stay in this district when visiting the city. After a few days of spending money and exhausting their vices they would leave just as fast as they came.
If one of them had been the killer, he could be long gone by now.
As they walked Rynzius sighed and looked over Grannum’s head down another alley, “What do you think?”
Grannum snorted and said “I doubt we’ll find him lad. Whoever did these things is probably back home or exploring some damn goblin filled cave looking for gold.”
“Well,” Rynzius said with a dour look on his face, “We just have to keep patrolling.”
It was now easily two in the morning and both men were becoming tired and frustrated. As they walked they suddenly heard laughter and the clicking sounds of someone behind them. As they turned they saw a young man, dressed in colorful, expensive clothing. He looked rather foppish and most certainly drunk. On his arm was woman wearing the skimpiest of dresses and showing much cleavage. Both men guessed she was either a prostitute or maybe a serving girl from the arena.
“Oh, the watch, thank the gods. We need help,” The young man said as he staggered up to Rynzius. “We got turned around somewhere and we need directions to the Blue Harp Tavern.”
Grannum grumbled as he rolled his eyes. The Blue Harp, a tavern, which also rented out rooms on the second floor, was only a block down the street. Rynzius looked down at Grannum and shrugged his shoulders.
Rynzius smiled, “Sure, we’ll even give you an escort there.”
“Wow, thank you. This city has the friendliest people.” The drunk, most assuredly noble, man said.
It would be hard not to think such a thing, with all that alcohol in your system and a pretty girl on your arm you were about to bed; who wouldn’t.
As they walked down the block with the couple Grannum looked up at Rynzius and said quietly, “Why exactly are we escorting them? It’s just down the street.”
“Because,” Rynzius said “There is still possibly a murderer out here. Why not escort them?”
Grannum smiled for a moment, hearing the sincerity in Rynzius’ voice. “Well, I suppose it won’t hurt anything anyway. We might as well stop to have a drink while we’re at it.” Grannum added with a chuckle. Now Rynzius was doing the eye rolling.
They approached a two story wood and stone building with large windows in the front and a sign above the door depicting a large blue harp. Rynzius and Grannum had come here before and knew the bartender from another tavern he worked at before this one. He was a pit fighter in the arena for some years. When he had enough money from his victories he quit and started working at a tavern to get a handle on the business of it. Then when he was ready, he opened up his own; the Blue Harp. The name was given by his late wife.
He was a loud man with big strong arms and a large gut, though he didn’t always have one. His name was Lorvar, and he seemed pleased to see Rynzius and Grannum walk in.
The couple thanked the guards before going straight upstairs to the young man’s room. Rynzius and Grannum sat at a table by the fireplace and looked around. More people were here than you might expect, although half of them were also renting rooms here. Rynzius immediately spotted something that caught his interest; a slender young woman taking drinks to a table near them. He looked her over and could not help but stare at her long rose red hair and supple curves. She looked over for a moment and caught his stare and smiled. Rynzius, feeling embarrassed for staring, nodded and smiled; then looked back towards Grannum.
Lorvar walked over and slammed down two large mugs of ale in front of them. “Here you go boys, drink up!” he bellowed.
Rynzius was fully expecting this as it was always the greeting he gave to old friends of his, but there was another possible reason.
Rynzius picked up his mug and asked, “What is it?” He knew Lorvar was always working on a new mixture to sell. Sometimes it was good and sometimes, as Rynzius could tell you from experience, it did a great deal of damage to your inner workings. His friends were often the ones he would test these concoctions out on.
“I call it Hydra’s Tears.” He said smiling. “Everyone else I’ve had try it seems to love it!”
Rynzius looked around at all the cheerful faces, to buy time, and then over to Grannum who was already on his way to finishing his drink. He followed suit and took a swig. At first the thick fluid was sweet and honey like, but as it went down it left the taste of rich spices. Rynzius’ brow lifted in relief, “That’s pretty good Lorvar.”
“It could be a bit stronger, but I suppose the lad’s right.” Grannum added as he sat his empty mug down.
Lorvar laughed, “Not happy unless you have something to complain about; typical dwarf! I’ll get you your usual.”
When Lorvar came back he told one of his barmaids to take over at the bar for a while so he could visit with Rynzius and Grannum. Rynzius had not known Lorvar as long as Grannum had. Grannum would tell him stories about Lorvar as a pit fighter in the arena. Rynzius would have been a young boy around that time. It was always an enjoyable story though.
As the three of them sat there talking for a moment Rynzius looked back over at the young barmaid, “Lorvar, who is that girl? I don’t think I have seen her here before.”
Lorvar looked over his shoulder and chuckled a bit. “Yeah, she’s not a hard one on the eyes is she boy? Half the guys here are coming in because of her. “That’s Avalyn. She moved to Crastgale three weeks ago and needed a job. I took one look at her and hired her on the spot.
“I can see why.” Rynzius said. “I’m sure she has been good for business.”
Grannum sat down another empty mug and looked at Lorvar, “Hey, while we’re in here, and technically still on duty, do you know about the murders that happened around here recently?”
Lorvar’s face sank a little, “Yeah, it’s horrible isn’t it? Some of the people renting rooms here even heard some of the screams the last time.” Lorvar had enough of death from his days as a pit fighter and wanted nothing but good cheer in his life. He became a bartender for that very reason. Opening the Blue Harp had done that. He was surrounded by merry people all the time now.
“Well,” Grannum continued, “Have you seen anything that might help us? Have you heard any screams or seen a strange person?”
“No, not really, most people around here –“ Lorvar stopped. “Wait, there is someone.” Lorvar looked over in a dim corner of the tavern at a table near one of the front windows.
Rynzius and Grannum looked over and saw no one at the table.
Lorvar looked back over to them and said, “There has been a guy coming in here lately. He usually comes in late at night and sits over there. He usually just orders something cheap and sits there for a while and then leaves.” Lorvar looked a bit confused, like he was trying to remember more.
“What does he look like?” Rynzius asked.
“Well,” He looked down and began scratching at his arm a bit; something he did when thinking very hard about something, “He usually has a dark cloak on with the hood up most of the time, and of course he always sits there in the darkest spot of this place. I don’t know if I’ve ever really gotten a good look at his face.” Lorvar looked a bit embarrassed. “I’m sorry guys, I don’t know how I could have forgotten him, but we do get people like that sometimes. Some of the wandering treasure seeker types that like to keep their privacy.”
“That’s alright Lorvar,” Grannum reassured him, “Well, he’s not here now right? So we’ll stop by tomorrow and stick around to check this guy out.”
As Rynzius and Grannum left Rynzius looked down at Grannum, “So, do you really think this guy could be the one we’re looking for?”
“Well,” Grannum said looking around, “We aren’t really accomplishing much walking around all damn night.”
Rynzius knew that part was certainly true. They would never find the guy walking around, and the man Lorvar described did sound suspicious.
“Besides,” Grannum continued, “I would think you’d like to come back soon anyway.”
Grannum grinned at Rynzius.
Rynzius looked back through the Blue Harp’s window at Avalyn, “Well…”