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Dread at Manor Calashdyr: an original Fantasy Murder Mystery
Would you like to see me take on other writing challenges?
As a writer, I seek out challenges to expand my horizons and sharpen my skills. One such challenge, which I posed myself, was that of the murder mystery. Simply put, I have never written one; I have run a few adventures in various role-playing games with mystery elements, but never a fully developed murder mystery’esque story. So, if you have not already deduced it, I intend to compose a who-done-it mystery for this article; with a twist. Something I have not seen often, if ever, is a fantasy murder mystery. . .
Manor Calashdyr, in a land amidst turmoil
A manor house of splendor nestles deep within the dense forest and hunting grounds of the king. The residence belongs to Lord Bethal Calashdyr, a recently appointed baron to the king’s land, and he maintains his home as his primary residence and hunting lodge. Bethal prides himself on maintaining his home, including a fully stocked arsenal for security and hunting; especially his pair of flintlock long-guns he commissioned for precision hunting. Adjoining the main house is a stone keep and barracks for the garrison.
The chill of winter has come unseasonably early; before the turn of the leaves. During the winter, the barracks swells with the king’s soldiers as Lord Calashdyr plays host for the quartered men; while during the late spring and early summer, the king himself attends to partake in the hunting of deer and boar as both are plentiful in these bountiful woods. The local villages, nearest being miles away, benefit from the intake of soldiers during the winter; as well as the king’s attendance in the early portions of the year.
His Lordship, Baron Bethal Calashdyr
The baron’s controversial appointment has caused stir and unrest among the noblemen and some of the peasants; as the baron is an elf. Traditionally, the lands have belonged to humans while elves have contested the rule of the king; and attacked his lands and people. Lord Calashdyr has debated and fought for the legitimacy of the king’s rule and defended the king’s lands against the invasion of the elven people. This has caused many enemies to come forward: elven leaders hateful and wounded by the betrayal by one of their leaders; human noblemen resentful of a “treasonous” elf taking a position of honor, questioning their own entitlement; and the peasantry, of all racial backgrounds, for an elf ruling over them while his kind wage war against them.
The baron’s wife had been slain years prior by elven assassins, seeking to demoralize . . . and force him to reconsider his position of human supremacy. Rather than break him, it has galvanized his resolve and he has striven to bring peace to the people, both humans and elves. As a baron, he is attempting to influence reforms that will end the fighting and bring both sides together. Bethal is also hopeful that his only son, Ardys, can carry on his legacy whenever his end may come; provided that the king honors his son’s rite to succession.
Hours after the evening’s dinner, guards ran to investigate a crash from the turret of the keep’s tower. Minutes later, death cries of the baron echo throughout the house. The guards rush to the baron’s study to find the prostrate body of the baron; a hole in his back, weeping with blood. The room is rank with an acrid stench as wispy tendrils of smoke fade away from the wound on the baron; the second door to the main hallway is open, with the breeze of an open window wafting in.
His Honorable Ardys Calashdyr
His honorable Ardys Calashdyr is Baron Bethal’s only son and heir to his estate; the guards find him in his personal chambers down the hall from Bethal’s study, a miniscule rivulet of sweet on his brow. His door was shut before discovering him; but a breeze flickers the candlelight away from the bookcase opposite his chamber doors.
As the guards press him for answers, Ardys confides that he had gone through one of the manor’s many secret passages; venturing outside to dispatch a messenger destined to a confidential lover. Since his youth, he had wandered the many halls, hidden or plain, countless times; knowing the best way to secret away to send his missive and return quickly without anyone knowing of his absence. He hastily returned when he heard his father scream, but the guards intercepted him before he could reach beyond his chambers.
The Beardless Dwarf
The guards who went to investigate the keep return with a surprise: a dwarf dressed in dark cloak of shadowy blue. On his person are the baron’s signet ring, several capped vials, a royal seal, and pouch laden with gold coins. His face bears the scars of a dishonored beardless; a dwarf deemed undesirable by his kin, sentenced to a life of exile beyond dwarven lands. Upon inspecting the vials, they stink of a potent acid; and one of them is partially dissolved but empty.
The dwarf refuses to identify himself; or his business in the baron’s keep. Under threat of imprisonment and execution, he admits that he broke into the keep, hoping to make his way into the baron’s vault. While searching for the treasury, the would-be burglar heard the baron’s murder and hastily retreated back to the keep in order to escape via his entryway. The guards recover a grappling hook and rope from the highest room of the keep; an overturned rack evidence to the crash heard from earlier.
Dame and Magister Cathra Delocke
Many of the guards search for Magister Cathra Delocke, mage of the king’s court and advisor to Baron Calashdyr. No one finds her in the library or in her private chambers; instead she is found in the larder, rummaging among the most recently collected hares and rabbits. Cathra says she was looking for a late after dinner meal; however, a few of the guards remember a couple occasions when they caught her skulking around the larder as well as the herb garden over the last several nights. As the guards question her, they notice blood on her garments. Cathra admits that she has been sneaking the past few nights around the manor to gather ingredients for a ritual she was preparing and that she was out tonight collecting the last components, which included the blood and hide of “virile and proud hare.”
The guards report back from inspecting Cathra’s chamber. Inside her personal library, one of the guards noticed a title to one of her books: Grimoire Malificum Necromancesis, a book reputed to allow for the conjuring and commanding of dark and malevolent spirits and even contacting unclean powers. Another tome is left open with a bookmark on the page for an incantation for a “mystical bolt infused with brimstone” written as the heading. Several burnt letters are discovered in a censer on Cathra’s desk; on one of the fragments of parchment, the symbol of the royal crest is just barely visible. Cathra is silent on the matter, except to protest that she will not be subject to this form of invasion from “some mongrel elf’s pet guards.”
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So, do you think you know who murdered the baron? As with any murder mystery, you also need to know how the deed was done; not to mention the motive behind it. Remember, the guilty party must have has access to the victim to do so. Please take the poll below and then leave a comment as to the specifics of the crime.