BY K. R. SANDOVAL
Sir Bilsunn Filregar was murdered last night, by what the guards call the most vicious werewolf attack ever seen in the village. As the only registered werewolf, that meant Evar Dirtan was the primary suspect. This presented a conundrum for the guards, who were hoping to rely on his wit to help them solve the case. And so it was that I, Sir Sunobirn Elthea, came into the employ of Master Dirtan, for if he was to wander free and gather evidence, I was to watch him and ensure he did not tamper with anything to hide any wrongdoing on his part.
My first impression of the man was that he was… odd. Quiet, stoic, and single-minded, he did not speak much when I approached him outside of the village jail and introduced myself. He merely gave me his name and asked me to take him to the inn right away so he could uncover the true murderer.
Captain Melear Belites had been very blunt about how I was to treat Master Dirtan. “He’s a werewolf,” the Captain had sternly enforced. “Means you can’t trust him for a second.”
“Then why let him conduct the investigation?” I had asked.
“Because he’s still the smartest man this side of the Chartless Passage.”
Looking the man over though, he hardly seemed the scholarly type. He wore a dull blue vest over a simple white ruffled shirt, a pair of dark grey breeches, and a set of unadorned clogs. Not a wealthy man, but the Captain had told me he was quite a famous one. He was not too tall, not too well built, and not too handsome. Rather ordinary looking, though with rather impressive hair that, at the moment, he kept tied back into a ponytail reaching to near his midback. Sharp looking brown eyes, a sharp nose, and a sharp chin, clean shaved. Three equal length scars across his forehead. Dark rings under his eyes, which he assured me was just because he hadn’t slept the past few nights. Hard to sleep with a full moon.
An odd man, but a rather unassuming one for the most part. Except the intensity of his stare. Werewolves, I knew, had a strong sense of smell. Strong enough to smell an animal up to a full league away. But Master Dirtan had a look to him like he could smell into your soul.
“Tell me what you know of the murder.”
His first words to me since the jailhouse.
I considered for a moment. “Sir Bilsunn was found murdered this morning, at around an hour to noon. It was… quite a bloody scene. Much of his body was ravaged by teeth and claws by the looks of the markings, and his armor had been torn open—”
“He was wearing his armor?”
Master Dirtan did not look at me as he interrupted for clarification, merely kept staring ahead. “Yes. It seems he had been out on a hunt. Three rabbits were found in his room. Upon his return, he was attacked by the werewolf and killed without much of a fight, though a tooth was found stuck in the armor.”
“Broken off during the fight.”
“Precisely. The werewolf proceeded to escape through the window, from the look of the surrounding area. Other residents of the inn say they heard loud howling and banging against the walls at just past sunset.”
“And no one heard the werewolf enter the building?”
“The Captain believes the werewolf entered through the window.”
“A werewolf would not leap through a second story window just to kill a man. He would have had to enter through the door.” He paused. “Tell me of the victim.”
“Sir Bilsunn Filregar. A knight from the northern territories. Elven.”
“Not many elves around these parts.”
“No. He’s the son of a lord up north. Rather wealthy.”
“Could be a motive for the murder.”
“Nothing was stolen though.”
“Hm. I see.” As he said that, we came up to the inn. Master Dirtan looked it over. “I believe Sir Bilsunn’s room was this one over here.”
He began to walk over to the side of the inn where the werewolf would have escaped. Standing on a solitary plot of land, there’s no buildings close to the inn. Just a lot of grass. Master Dirtan walked over to just below the window of Sir Bilsunn’s room and looked up.
“Certainly too high to leap into. But not too high to leap out of and escape.” He looked over the ground all around. “And there is plenty of debris around here to suggest that’s exactly right.” He looked back up and immediately began walking back towards the inn. “Inside, Sir Sunobirn.”
His frankness and immediacy took me aback, but I followed him regardless, into the inn, where the Captain, and several guards were already speaking to the innkeeper, Gethely Elenea.
The guards all stared at Master Dirtan with incredible suspicion, but he paid them no mind. He’d later tell me that he was used to that, that that’s simply how it was everywhere he went. Guards always needed him to solve their cases, but they never trusted him when he told them the solutions.
He approached the counter where the Captain was sitting. The Captain had a silver dagger on the counter, one that Master Dirtan noticed, and he carefully made sure to stand several feet away from it.
The innkeeper himself was standing a few feet away as well, cleaning glasses nervously.
I could see how he looked the innkeeper over. Like he smelled something was wrong. But he made no immediate comments, simply turned to the Captain.
“You verified my alibi?”
The Captain groaned and nodded. “Yes. You were accounted for all night by the Court Wizard. Bound by silver, he said.”
“And thus not available for murdering any knights.” Without stressing the point any further, Master Dirtan turned to the innkeeper. “You say no one left their rooms all night?”
“Oh uh… yes, yes. My daughter, she was cleaning the hall. No one left, but—”
“Where is your daughter now?”
The innkeeper hesitated, then took a few steps away to the hall. “Galaea!” he called out. “The guards wish to speak with you.”
“He’s not a guard,” the Captain quickly corrected.
The innkeeper merely shrugged and walked back to the counter.
“While she makes her way over, tell me, has Sir Bilsunn ever been here before?” Master Dirtan asked.
“Ah, yes, a few years back. Maybe three or four? He stayed a few nights.” As he spoke, I looked the man over. He was a nervous looking little man. Kept glancing at the Captain and then around at the other guards, then back at the Captain. That could be excused though. A murder occurred under his roof and a violent werewolf was on the loose. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. Dark rings under his eyes, short greying hair, a thick mustache, and beady little black eyes.
Master Dirtan made another odd expression, as if once again he smelled something odd. The innkeeper, somewhat awkwardly, went back into the hall.
The guards were all still staring at Master Dirtan with suspicion, but the detective leaned over to me. “What have you noticed so far?”
“About the innkeeper.”
“He seems normal I suppose?”
“I don’t recall him missing a tooth.”
Before I could respond, the innkeeper came back with his daughter. A small, young looking woman. Dark hair, and a soft looking face. Very shy, as she never looked at any of us in the eye.
She carried a small sleeping child in her arms. Maybe five years old at the most. Lighter hair than either her or her father, with sharp ears, and a long face.
Master Dirtan tipped his head to her. “Hello Lady Galaea. I just have a few questions for you.”
The lady shifted her son in her arms. “I didn’t hear nothing really.”
“Not even the attack?”
She hesitated. “No, I heard that. I called the guards soon as I did.”
Master Dirtan nodded. “Tell me about what you saw before that.”
“Just before sunset, Sir Bilsunn came back to his room with some rabbits. We spoke but not much. Nobody else went in after him.”
“Could you describe him for me?”
The lady seemed to smile warmly for a brief second, then went back to a neutral expression. “Oh, well uh… he was a handsome man, I suppose—”
“Elf,” her father corrected. “He was an Elf, not a man.” As he spoke, I paid close attention to his mouth. Master Dirtan was right. He was missing a tooth.
“A handsome one either way. Tall… strong looking…”
“And the usual elven features, I presume? Long face, sharp ears?”
“Uh… yes, yes, that too.”
Master Dirtan nodded. “He had visited once before, your father told us. Do you remember that?”
The lady shifted her son again, awkwardly shuffling on her feet. “Yes, yes, I suppose I do.”
The Captain sighed and shook his head. Master Dirtan turned to him. “Is there a problem, Captain?”
“Your questions are leading us nowhere.” The Captain stood. “We have a werewolf to catch. Now, we can take you to the room so you can conduct an investigation, but they’ve already told you, they saw nothing. What more do you need from them?”
“Why would I need to see the room?” The Captain blinked in surprise. “Tell me, was there any wood or glass on the floor?”
“Then I know everything I need to know from the room.” He turned back to the lady. “How would you describe Sir Bilsunn’s demeanor?”
“Personality. Was he kind? Rude? Quick tempered?”
“No, no, he was a good man. Very kind. Very gentle… very sweet.” Master Dirtan wasn’t even watching her as she spoke. He watched the innkeeper himself. I glanced over to see why, and I could see the innkeeper was looking away from his daughter, as if not listening.
“I see. And was that the only other time you saw him before he was murdered?” The lady nodded. “Thank you.” Master Dirtan looked at the boy in her arms now. “That’s a beautiful child you have, by the way.” She smiled warmly again, but the innkeeper once again scowled. “Final question, who has the keys to the rooms?”
“The keys? Well, my father and I.”
“Sir Bilsunn would have had one.”
“The key was found in his pocket,” the Captain verified. “So, nobody stole that copy.”
“And I imagine you and your father still have your copies?” The lady nodded.
“Hence why we believe the werewolf came in through the window,” The Captain said, with an annoyed tone.
“But the window was too high, there was no debris in the room, and Lady Galaea here heard nothing.”
“Then what do you presume happened, filadar?” one of the other guards asked.
Master Dirtan scowled at the word. I admired his restraint in that moment. The word was an old insult for werewolf, in the old Nastap tongue. False Skin, it meant. I would have lashed back out in his position, but he merely ignored the guard and turned back to the Captain.
“Well, I think it’s obvious what happened here.” He turned to the innkeeper. “Mister Gelethy here murdered Sir Bilsunn.”
Everyone stared in shock for a moment. “Excuse me?” The innkeeper said. “How dare you! What is this nonsense?”
“Mister Dirtan, that is a ridiculous accusation,” The Captain started, but Master Dirtan held his hand up for silence.
“Allow me to explain what I believe happened. A few years ago, Sir Bilsunn came to visit. He was a kind and handsome stranger, a wealthy knight, and he was gentle with you, wasn’t he, Lady Galaea?”
Lady Galaea turned away, somewhat in shame, which angered the innkeeper. “Are you accusing my daughter—”
“After a night together, he left, as he was to do, but he left you with something.” Master Dirtan pointed at the boy in her arms. “Sharp ears and a long face. Unusual traits for a human but common in elves and half-elves. Not many of those around though.” The innkeeper had no response to that. “You realized that though, didn’t you? The man had a child with your daughter then abandoned him.”
“That’s a motive but he’s not a werewolf,” The Captain tells him.
Master Dirtan gestured for me to step forward. “Give the silver dagger to Mister Gelethy.”
“Wait, no—” The innkeeper stopped him. “Wait… there’s no use, he’s right. I am. But I didn’t kill the knight!”
The Captain looked at Master Dirtan. “How?”
“Dark rings around the eyes, and the way he keeps glancing at the dagger. He’s nervous about it.” Master Dirtan said it as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “As for the murder, no one had the keys. There was no forced entry. The werewolf had to be in the room when Master Bilsunn returned. Only someone with the key could have done that. And Lady Galaea was the one to get the guards so it couldn’t have been her. Moreover,” Master Dirtan pointed at his own mouth. “You’re missing a tooth. You weren’t missing it yesterday. I’m sure if we checked the fang that was found in the armor, it would match which tooth you’d be missing as a wolf.”
There was silence as he waited for a response. After a while, the innkeeper nodded, solemnly. “He’s right… he’s completely right.”
The guards took the innkeeper away, but in the process, Master Dirtan simply slipped out the door, not even waiting for any acknowledgement or congratulations. He would later tell me that he never got any such recognition. He was always the first accused in any town, and even if he wasn’t, the people were the same everywhere. Suspicious of him. So, he’d travel, ensure justice was served, then simply move on. It was his way.
I don’t know what compelled me that day, but I saw how he worked. He was quick. Efficient. Asked all the right questions each time. It may not have been the werewolf in him, but it was like he could smell out the truth.
And I wanted to keep watching him work. He would later warn me as well that it would mean I too would be treated with suspicion for travelling with him. But as he slipped out the inn, I did not think. I simply turned and followed him away.
That was that. I never looked back.
K. R. Sandoval is a writer from New York who enjoys writing stories that blend different genres and tropes together, to see what these stories can be. He especially enjoys writing strong character driven stories full of intrigue, and apart from writing is a great lover of film and music.
© Murder by the Full Moon, 2023, K. R. Sandoval