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Adventure Fantasy Crime

The scroll headlines couldn’t be clearer:

“Constables Humiliated”

“Killer Still On The Loose”

“Clerics and Mages Brought In After Magistrate Completely Baffled”

Skreet Snickertooth’s heart sank again upon viewing the discarded papers on his partner’s desk and floor. The rat scratched his chin, a few strands of black fur fluttering to the floor on top of the drawings of confused constable dogs and dreadful headlines.

“Rusty, come on,” Skreet said, making his way to the other side of the desk and trying to rouse his friend. He could feel a heartbeat: that was good.

Skreet looked in the corner of the office where their neglected game of chess sat waiting for Rusty’s next move.

“Was... what’s the point,” Rusty the terrier slurred. Skreet saw a bottle of Veilwinter red in the poor dog's paw and wrenched it away. “What’s the point anymore?”

His eyes were red. Veilwinter wine doesn’t give you a hangover, Skreet thought sadly to himself. Poor bastard’s been crying his eyes out.

“What do you mean ‘what’s the point’?” Skreet said, gently shaking his friend’s shoulder. “You’re a constable aren’t you? There’s always something that needs our attention.”

The tired terrier lifted his head. “I’ve been having such nice dreams,” he said with a strange little smile. “I’ve never been a good constable... but maybe I could take my flowers and set up shop... somewhere else.”

Rusty and his botany, Skreet thought. The rat sighed. “Rusty, remember our first case together?”

Rusty reeled, his head lolling back in his chair and his smile disappearing.

“Go ‘way!” Rusty said, picking up the Veilwinter wine bottle and threatening to throw it before simply dropping it with a rattling *CLUNK* on the floor. “It’s pointless! We’re all gonna be out on our tails anyway!”

At least the terrier wasn’t talking about his flowers anymore. Skreet cleared away some of the parchments written by the cruel local press and sat across from his wayward partner.

“Why’s it hopeless, partner?”

“The latest body - the duke. Found in a room locked from the inside. The body before that? The beaver? Stabbed to death in his own manor... a manor equipped with anti-assassin walls, doors, and floors. Then we get a letter taunting us and our office publishes it despite us telling them not to!”

Skreet thought back to the beaver, a lumber magnate. A manor made from hollow wood and squeaky doors to save on guards. The duke was tricky too. The letter was strange as well - someone calling themselves ‘Shadowclaw’.

“There’ll be a connection, Rusty.”

“There won’t be!” Rusty shot back.

Skreet sighed, maybe Rusty just needed his space. He tried not to take what he said to heart. 

“Sure partner, sure.” 

A knock on the open door. “You boys okay?”

Skreet turned around. “Not really, Margot. Rusty’s got it pretty bad today.”

“Would you like some tea?” The lynx offered compassionately.

“Good wine left in my office,” Rusty said before Skreet could answer, back to almost slurring.

Skreet cocked his head, stood and grabbed the bottle. “Where’d you get this, Rusty?”

The terrier smiled. “Left in my office! A gift maybe...”

Skreet looked at Margot, the lynx from the front office. “Margot, who has keys to Rusty’s office?”

“You, me, and Rusty,” Margot said. “Plus the janitor, Skugg. Something afoot, Skreet?”

The rat looked studious. “Just thinking.” 

“You boys hang in there, okay?”

“Thanks Margot.” Skreet replied, he had that chill down his spine. But he couldn’t quite decide what to make of it. 

The day had gone badly. A pushy meerkat journalist had been asking all sorts of humiliating questions in the afternoon. Even though it was a nice Spring evening, Skreet felt worn out as he walked home. In spite of it all, though, his mind was tumbling and tumbling. 

Something was off... More than off. He got the chill down his spine as he walked.

Rusty barely drank, even at taverns.

Skugg was a bear: not subtle at the best of times.

Veilwinter wine? Skreet pulled the bottle out and looked at it again. It was a few decades old - definitely expensive and out of reach on a constable’s salary.

Who would have the coin for such a bottle? Unless... It was confiscated from evidence or a recent high profile crime scene. Rusty was too much of a stickler for rules to grab something for himself.

Skreet blinked and felt himself turning around just as groups of otter pups were being called to their huts for dinner. He found himself walking briskly... then jogging... then running back to the constable barracks. He tried the handle, but it was already barred closed.

“Skugg? You there?” Skreet yelled on tiptoe, putting his snoot through the bars as far as he could. The rat heard the thump of the bear approaching.

“Skreet? Dat you?”

Skreet went back to heel. “Yeah big guy. Can you let me in for a moment?”

Ka-clunk. “All right, Skreet. But ya gotta sign in if you’re not on da night shift.”

Skreet did so and turned to his bear friend. “Anything... off, Skuggs?” Skreet asked, making it difficult for the bear to see that the rat had signed ‘Rusty’ on the parchment. “Anything strange in the past few weeks?”

That’s when Skreet saw it - a squiggle signed in on the previous night. Skugg took the book and closed it.

“Heh, no. Nuddin’ happens round here much.”

The rat nodded, “I imagine so. Still, things have been shook up recently given recent events.” 

Skugg thought. “O-oh yeah! The, uh, the murderin’s... Bad meerkat lady was snoopin’ around here last night. She made up a story about followin’ somebody but I didn’t listen, no, no, no.”

I thought you said “nuddin’ happens round here much” you silly old bear, Skreet thought. You’d be a terrible witness. 

“Ugh, that meerkat has been a thorn in everyone’s side.” Skreet sighed. “Say, no one has been in evidence lately right?” 

The bear looked perplexed, then his face screwed into a new look for a bear: one of realization. “Hey, hey, uh, hey, Skreet, what-what-what if that meerkat’s the killer, huh? She’s been real bothersome like a tick-fly.”

Skreet looked around and mumbled a ‘maybe’ before taking the circular stone staircase up to his own office. His claws made the familiar scritching sound that Skreet figured was his parents’ inspiration for his name.

The hallway was lit with warm orange light. Skugg was always careful to light the torches at night: Skreet was pretty sure it was because of what his people called “Ol’ Traveller” - one of his many fairy tales.

Skreet stopped a few feet from his office door - which was slightly ajar - and slowly drew his dirk, carefully stepping forward.

A gentle clink from inside followed by the crash of the door being kicked open.

“Who’s there?” Skreet yelled, back to the open door, dirk in front of him. The shadows were too dark for the time of evening.

Too dark. Magical darkness - along with a new bottle of Veilwinter wine on his desk.

That explains the noise... I think.

Skreet rolled back into the hallway where there was light - any creature protected by magic darkness would be easy to see there in the ambient light of the hall.

Minutes passed. “You can’t stay in there forever!” Skreet yelled. “There are bars on the windows and guards outside!” A pause. “Thanks for the wine but I prefer ale!”

No sound other than Skreet’s heartbeat increasing.

“I know you’re in there!” Skreet said, gulping, still holding his dirk aloft. “So that’s how you’ve killed all those people! Magic, right? Manipulating shadows? Staying after closing?”

Again, nothing. Skreet could feel his heart thumping in his chest. Had he imagined the noise? But then, when did the bottle appear? Was it Skugg? Had Skugg been the mastermind?

Skreet gulped as the torches in the hallway flickered.

“Shadow manipulation, eh?” Skreet said, laughing nervously. “Not easy to do, according to my grand-uncle. You... you don’t throw fireballs, eh? You’re one of those other kind. The misfits that pretend they aren’t magical. The ones that hide in plain sight...

...The ones from a childhood of severe poverty?”

Skreet could feel his eyes widen - trying to catch any bit of light or darkness that pierced his vision.

“...The ones that have access to the evidence room?!”

The lights flickered gently.

“...The ones that offer tea to tired and humiliated investigators?!”

Whoosh. The shadow exploded from his office and managed to snuff out some lights in the hall itself. It stopped halfway down, a long protrusion from its arm-like appendage.

A sword. Plus long ears with fur tufts and a short tail.

“Hello Margot!” Why did I have to be right? 

Instinctively, Skreet fell on his back, his dirk in front of him as another whoosh flew by, its longsword sweeping down at him - deflected and countered. Skreet had the advantage in the tight confines of the hall, his shorter weapon easier to wield. 

The rat pressed his advantage making a thrust for the shadow, the longsword’s quillons caught his arm and redirected his thrust, but Skreet smelled blood and knew that some portion of his blade had made contact. There was a hiss as the shadow rushed ahead, quenching candles as it flew past.

Skreet could see the outlines of objects as he stumbled ahead, careful to stop at the stairs and carefully make his way down - trying to see if any patch of darkness stopped his forward movement.

At the bottom he found Skugg.

“Skugg? SKUGG!”

The bear was clutching at his throat - gurgling, on his knees. The front door was unbarred and swinging open.

She attacked Skugg. She made Rusty... mad? She humiliated everyone.

Skreet rushed to Skugg’s help, not bothering to chase the lynx out the door. The rat investigator ripped part of his tunic and applied as much pressure as he could to the great bear’s neck.

“Hang in there Skugg!” Skreet said desperately. 

The morning was dark. Skugg had lost too much blood - the blade that the wicked lynx carried was too sharp or magical or... whatever.

Rusty didn’t even bother to resign - he simply left. His badge, uniform and truncheon were left in a neat pile on his desk. Skreet’s chief - a male otter named Copperstaff - put his hand on the rat’s shoulder. 

“Horrible business all around.”   

Skreet nodded. “We should put posters up, let the city know who to look for.” 

Copperstaff shook his head. “No, Skreet. Imagine how the people would react knowing one that worked for us was the culprit, and that we didn’t know. I think this should stay underwraps. Clear?”

Skreet’s blood boiled. “You’d rather she get a chance to get away to save face when we still have a chance to catch her?” 

The otter chuckled darkly. “I wouldn’t put it like that. But I think it best we keep this to ourselves. You’ll get a nice promotion I assure you. Just let this blow over.”

Skreet left in disgust before he did something he’d regret. This was wrong, it stank of politics and bureaucracy. A seed was planted in Skreet then. 

He knew two things: he wasn’t going to stay an official for much longer, and he had to bring that lynx down. 

Even if he had to do it himself.

Even if he had to cross the oceans. 

Even if he could lose everything.

June 17, 2023 03:04

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4 comments

C. Charles
21:54 Jun 21, 2023

Nice! I don’t see a lot of fantasy on here, especially a noir-detective-anthropomorphic-fantasy. Really cool blend of genres and ideas! Reminds me of ‘Redwall’ which I loved as a kid and I immediately thought of a cartoon from the 90’s called ‘Dog City’ I liked the mislead with Skugg and that Skreet is burned by the Chief’s decision to keep the whole thing quiet.

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Hey there C! Thank you very much! Yes, I'm also inspired by Redwall and some other fantasy settings :) I'm very glad you liked it! Feel free to read some of my other stuff :D

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M B
04:29 Jun 17, 2023

Skreet solved the case. But it came at a great cost.

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That's the price for being a suave noir detective :'(

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