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Investigator Vale and the Darkmasts

Author: 
Anonymous
Investigator Vale stood on the dock, peering intently at the blue expanse of ocean that stretched to the horizon. This was her first visit to Galen, though she had traveled to the Systres on numerous occasions, but always before to High Isle.
 
""What say you, investigator?"" asked the Knight Commander. ""Was this the work of the dreaded Darkmasts?""
 
Vale sighed and turned once more to gaze upon the body that lay upon the wooden planks. He was clearly one of the locals who worked on the docks, a burly laborer who smelled of sea air, ship oil, and now, unfortunately, death.
 
""It is convenient to blame pirates and Sea Elf marauders for every disaster and death that befalls anyone close to the sea,"" Vale said, ""but this crime doesn't have any of the usual markings of a Sea Elf raid.""
 
The Knight Commander frowned. ""Are you so certain, m'lady? Adalard the dockworker was clearly killed here at the pier, and look at the violence done to him. I've seen the Darkmasts do much worse.""
 
""Exactly! Have you known Sea Elf pirates to come ashore and make but a single attack? Without looting or pillaging anything? And these wounds, they weren't made with a saber or mace, the typical weapon favored by the Darkmasts. No, this man was killed with a docker's hook. And whoever did the deed employed it as a weapon multiple times before poor Adalard succumbed.""
 
Another dockworker, Baralyn Lemonds, who had been standing back far enough to not be in the way but to still hear whatever Vale and the Knight Commander were saying, pushed forward. ""No, I saw the Darkmast ship with my own eyes!"" he bellowed. ""Twas Sea Elfs that kilt Adalard! Sea Elfs, I tell ya!""
 
The Knight Commander stepped to impose himself between Baralyn and Vale. ""Calm yourself, Baralyn,"" he said sternly but not unkindly. ""We have your testimony. Now let the investigator do her job.""
 
""One moment, Knight Commander,"" Vale interjected, ""if I may. Dockworker Baralyn, is it? I can't help but notice that you don't have a hook hanging from your belt. I've never known a competent dockworker to go anywhere without their docker's hook.""
 
Baralyn's eyes narrowed and his expression turned ugly. ""Just what are you implying, woman?"" he demanded.
 
The Knight Commander looked from Vale to Baralyn and his own expression grew concerned. ""Answer the question, Baralyn. Where's your hook?""
 
Instead of answering, Baralyn shoved the Knight Commander toward Investigator Vale and turned to flee. Vale, ready for such a move, easily stepped aside. She casually reached down to pluck a fish from a crate—obviously what was left of the morning haul—and threw it at the dockworker. It hit him squarely in the back of his thick neck with a satisfying thrump, knocking him senseless. He collapsed to the ground in a heap.
 
""When you find Baralyn's hook, you'll have the murder weapon. This wasn't the result of a Sea Elf raid,"" Vale explained, ""it was an argument between co-workers that got out of hand.""
 
The Knight Commander secured the unconscious dockworker and turned to Vale. ""I suppose it's easier to believe that trouble comes from outside than to accept that it lives among us.""
 
Vale selected another fish from the crate, sniffed it, and deposited it in her pack. ""For supper,"" she said. ""Deduct the cost from my fee, if you would. But you're correct, Commander. We prefer to think of those around us as part of the community. Safe. I find, however, that most murders are committed by people the victim knew than by some random act of a chance encounter with an unknown villain.""
 
As she turned to leave, Vale added, ""But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be on guard against those Darkmasts. They may not have killed your dockworker, but they are dangerous nonetheless. Now if you'll excuse me, I want to find someone who knows how to prepare this particular fish. Do you have any recommendations?""