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Murder at Morgrave Manor - A Raymond Price Mystery

Article by Skidd McMarx

I was invited to Morgrave Manor Saturday night to witness what can only be referred to as a dog and pony show. “Sir” Raymond Price (I have not been able to verify whether or not he is indeed a knight) sent out an invitation to a Seance of the Murdered, he called it. He sent it to anyone of import in the city of Sharn. The Lord Mayor, the Captain of the City Watch, the heads of the important houses including Daine Halar Deneith of the irreputable House Tarkanan, and me, Skidd McMarx, an award-winning reporter at The Sharn Inquisitive.

I was certain this performance was going to be a sham from the start. This was not the first time I’d witnessed Raymond’s antics, and each time I’d left unimpressed. He was a charlatan of the utmost respect. A self-stylized spiritualist. It is the year 998, and if anyone still believes this filth, then, as far as I am concerned, they deserve what’s coming to them.

But not in this particular instance. 

A mother should never have to outlive her child let alone be preyed upon by any number of Sharn’s opportunists. She was left in a particularly vulnerable state after the brutal murder of her son, and Mr. Price could not resist pumping her for as much gold as he could get his grubby human hands on. We at The Sharn Inquisitive believe in honest pay for honest work.

Nevertheless, this evening’s spectacle led to something quite unexpected. I will endeavor to recount what transpired that night to the utmost accuracy.

It was evening, just before midnight. We all gathered in the boy’s room on the third floor. The corpse had been dressed and cleaned and laid out on the bed. It was a sight most macabre. The room was large enough to comfortably fit all of us (such is the wealth of the noble houses). So we gathered around and waited. Officer Germaine of The City Watch told us to be patient and assured us that the festivities would begin shortly. I inquired as to why an ordinary citizen such as Raymond was present in this murder investigation at all. 

“The mother requested him by name,” said Germaine, “She wishes to speak to her son one last time. And since the victim could identify the murderer, I thought why the hells not? It’ll make my job a whole lot easier. And Raymond is quite the character, just wait, you’ll see. He grows on you.”

The clock struck midnight and on the twelfth chime the door swung open and there in the doorway stood “Sir” Raymond Price in the light of the full moon, like some sort of ghost.

There was a collective gasp amongst the spectators.

Dressed in royal purple and blue with lavish gold trim, Raymond began his monologue.

“Welcome, welcome everyone. Thanks for coming. I’m sure you are all quite ready for things to begin. A week ago there was a murder most gruesome. The only child and heir to the Morgrave fortune was found dead in his bed with a dagger through the heart. The door was locked from the inside and there are no other ways into or out of the room short of the third-story window overlooking the courtyard. 

“My goal tonight is to reveal the murderer and bring justice and closure to the Morgrave family. It is my belief that one of you committed this vile act. I will be performing a ritual to summon the spirit of the dead back to this plane so as to confirm the identity of the murderer.”

“There are a number of curious things about this case.The first: when I was called upon by the mother of the deceased to commune with her boy I was unable to pull his spirit back from the beyond due to a spirit ward placed upon the corpse.”

Sir Raymond produced a prism of translucent white stone with a heart at one end.

“This is a wand of Selenite crystal charged with the energies of the full moon.”

He held it over the corpse letting the light of the moon pass through it. He waved it around the body and for a moment it (and the boy) seemed to vibrate and faintly glow. He uttered a few magic words, and then a high-pitched barely audible chime emanated from the rod.

“The spirit ward has been dispelled,” he said, “Mrs. Morgrave, will you assist me in preparing the incense for the ritual?”

Mrs. Morgrave began setting up incense around the room in the shape of a seven-pointed star with her son’s body at the center.

Raymond continued his performance.

“The second curious thing, apart from its ornate construction, is the supposed cause of death: the dagger.” Which he produced in gloved hands. It had a silver blade still stained with the child’s blood, a gold handle inlaid with bloodstone, and an intricately crafted darksteel dragon head hilt. “The dagger, as it turns out, was not what killed the boy. He was already deceased when the dagger pierced his heart. Which means something else killed him. But what? And why was a dead body stabbed?”

He returned the dagger (and the white gloves) to the evidence chest.

“Mrs. Morgrave,” he said, “May I borrow your handkerchief.”

Visibly confused, she handed him a silk square of fabric before returning to her work preparing the incense.

“Officer Germaine, may I have your assistance with the body?”

Raymond removed the boy’s shirt and together Mr. Price and Germaine flipped the corpse onto its side. 

“What, may I ask, are you doing to my son?” asked Mr. Morgrave.

“When examining the body I stumbled upon something most extraordinary,” said Raymond.

He took the handkerchief and rubbed at the boy’s left shoulder revealing a black-ink tattoo. 

“The boy is dragon-marked.”

The crowd collectively gasped. Morgrave was not a dragon-marked house. This was quite the scandal indeed.

“That is quite enough!” protested Mr. Morgrave.

But Mrs. Morgrave intervened, “Oh Mortimus let him finish. Our baby was dragon-marked, and I am no longer ashamed. Nobody can hurt him now since he’s already dead.”

This public shaming silenced Mr. Morgrave for the time being.

Raymond returned the handkerchief to the mother.

“The boy was indeed dragon-marked. But what does that have to do with his murder? And why was an ornate dagger with a dragon hilt stabbed into his already-dead heart? Why was there a spirit ward cast upon the corpse? And who could have killed the boy if the door was locked from the inside?”

A murmuring erupted from the crowd. This was quickly becoming an evening worth my time. As much as I hated to admit it, Mr. Price was growing on me.

“The answers may be found by examining the third curious thing about this murder, the time of death. The reason I invited everyone here at such an ungodly hour is to make a point. The boy was murdered at half-past midnight--the Witching Hour. A time which should be arriving right about now. Take note of how the entirety of the full moon is visible from the position of the corpse.”

Raymond was right. The moonlight was bright and focused entirely on the boy. Like a pale-blue magical aura surrounded the corpse.

“It is my belief that there was more than one attempt on this boy’s life that night. The owner of the ritual dagger planned to sacrifice the boy, but when they stabbed into the heart of the innocent, they realized the boy was already dead. There is a ritual that is only to be performed in the darkness cast by a lunar eclipse. And there was a full lunar eclipse exactly one week ago, the night of the murder. The space between planes is at its weakest during an eclipse. This ritual was supposed to pull the spirit of The Dragon Below back into this world. That’s right, the owner of the dagger is a member of the Blood of Vol. And the dagger belongs to none other than Mr. Morgrave himself.”

Raymond pointed accusingly at the lord of Morgrave Manor. The audience gasped.

“What a ridiculous accusation,” said Mr. Morgrave. “What proof are you basing this theory on?”

“Germaine, if you will retrieve the next piece of evidence,” said Raymond.

Officer Germaine paraded a piece of red-silk fabric with the symbol of Vol embroidered upon it.

“This was found pinned between the dagger and the boy,” he said. “You will find the rest of the matching ceremonial garb in Mr. Morgrave’s armoire.”

The crowd followed Germaine into the master bedroom where she threw open the armoire and sure enough, the red and black robes were there.

“Preposterous,” said Mr. Morgrave, “Someone must have planted this here.”

“Oh give it up, Mortimus,” said Mrs. Morgrave, “I get this pressed for you fortnightly. This is most definitely yours.”

“So what?” said Mr. Morgrave. “This only proves I didn’t murder my own son. Because, like you said, he was already dead.”

“Yes,” said Raymond, “But you didn’t know that. Germaine, arrest this man for attempted murder.”

Germaine had him cuffed.

“You’ll pay for this Raymond Price,” Mortimus Morgrave spat into Raymond’s left eye, “I will have my revenge. I swear it.”

“Get. Him. Out of here!” yelled Raymond.

The watchmen escorted him off the premises.

“Now if you will follow me back to the bedroom we have a ritual to perform,” said Raymond.

The audience gathered back in the boy’s room.

“So, if the dagger didn’t kill him, what did?” I asked.

“Excellent question Mr. McMarx,” said Raymond, “This brings me to the fourth curious thing about this murder--the boy is missing a single sock.”

Raymond pointed to the boy’s left foot, and much to my surprise that I hadn’t noticed sooner, the boy was indeed missing a sock.

“Who sleeps in socks?” asked Raymond, “Let alone only one.”

He paused for dramatic effect even though his question was clearly rhetorical.

“Germaine,” he said, “Would you retrieve the next piece of evidence from the chest?”

Ms. Vilroy brought Raymond a stack of letters wrapped in twine.

“Germaine and I found a series of letters between the boy and the heir of House Tarkanan, another boy about his age. It seems he was stealing away in the middle of the night to meet. It began as an effort to secretly recruit the boy, as he had confided his aberrant dragonmark, and Mr. Morgrave forbade him from joining a house of such poor repute. It quickly became something much more. The two fell in love and were planning on absconding from Sharn to elope.”

“The final letter mentioned that The Son of Khyber found out, and that they needed to leave Sharn sooner than they had planned. House Tarkanan is known for its skilled assassin, so the boy must have taken this very seriously. He was wearing socks, because he was planning on leaving in the middle of the night.

“His father, however, had other plans. He drugged his son’s tea with the milk of the poppy and the boy fell asleep before he could leave through his bedroom window, which he had left unlocked.”

“So, The Son of Khyber climbed in through the window and pulled off the boy’s sock and stuck a poisoned needle into his foot, killing him in his sleep.”

“Shortly afterwards, Mr. Morgrave snuck into the room and stabbed the already dead boy through the heart with the ceremonial dagger. But when the ritual didn’t work, he locked the door from the inside and escaped through the already opened window.”

“But who is The Son of Khyber? Let us ask the boy himself.”

Raymond lit each bowl of incense in order.

“Spirit of the deceased, I call you back to this mortal coil.”

He traced a rune over the forehead of the boy in the ashes from the burnt incense.

“Come back for one last time to bring closure for your mother.”

Raymond waved Mrs. Morgrave over and he instructed her to kiss the boy’s forehead and the boy took a deep breath and his deathless eyes opened and he sat up. The mother lurched away, frightened.

“I have but one question for you, boy,” said Raymond.

“Speak,” the corpse breathed.

“Who is the Son of Khyber?”

The boy pointed into the crowd. Everyone stepped aside except for Daine Halar Deneith, whose recent arrival in Sharn has upset the power structure of House Tarkanan. He has publicly vowed the destruction of the other twelve dragonmarked houses.

Daine began clapping slowly. “Bravo “Sir” Raymond. Bravo. I honestly didn’t think you had it in you.”

Germaine cuffed him herself.

“Do you really think it is a good idea to arrest a man such as myself? The Son of Khyber?” he said.

“You can tell it to the tribunal,” said Germaine, “Thanks for your help Raymond.”

Raymond took a bow.

Such was the spectacle of The Murder in Morgrave Manor. The Lord Mayor was so impressed by Germaine that she was promoted to Captain of The City Watch. 

Mr. Price took a grave risk inviting the murderer to this murderer reveal party. It is of my opinion that this could have been communicated much more efficiently and with less fanfare. But, it was entertaining, and I hope his thoroughness rubs off on the city’s official investigators. I look forward to seeing what’s next for “Sir” Raymond Price.


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