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Above It All
By Fuchon Cire
I cherish this case, for it served well to display the practical employment of the skills I have spent so many years refining. Some think me a magician of some sort, and while it is quite true that I possess a wide range of abilities in that respect, more often it is simple observation that will reveal the criminal. And so very flattered was I when Santilius Graccian of the honorable Imperial Legion contacted me in some distress, for it told me that my renown was such that I was regarded as being of service when the brightest among the Legion met with failure.
Santilius related to me that the small Imperial fort, of which he was the ranking officer, and the town around it had recently become the target of an unidentified thief or group of thieves. He was unclear as to the number of individuals involved in the thefts, for these occurrences took place exclusively under cover of darkness. It seems the thief or thieves were none too selective, as various citizens reported missing items running the gauntlet from Limeware sets, to alcoholic beverages, to simple spools of thread. A number of the guard, in fact, had to go without armor, as the thieves were bold enough to steal not only from the town, but also from fort itself.
The sheer volume of loot taken would require a considerable amount of space to store, but none of the voluntary searches of the citizenry's homes turned up a single piece. Santilius was, he informed me, fresh out of ideas and at the end of his rope. I was of the opinion that the quantity was such that there was no possible way they could be hidden nearby without arousing suspicion. Rather, the thieves had likely traveled to a adjoining town, and sold the goods. It was more in keeping with what Santilius had told me - that the thieves never struck on consecutive days (which would allow them a day to walk to the nearest town and back).
I began my investigation by re-interviewing the townspeople thus far involved. They did not seem to have noticed anything out of the ordinary except that their possessions had gone missing, save for one disgruntled Dunmer. Oriluse Llatham informed me that he had seen a lone silent silhouette stalking toward the fort one night, after the guards had been told that the thieves had struck again and so raised the alarm. I was nonplused, as most thieves are quite silent, and there could have been other thieves, stealing from other houses at the same time.
Upon my request, Oriluse allowed me to search his house. He had lost a candle and a dozen books to the eager, grasping hands of the thieves. Scrutinizing his bookshelf, I noticed an unusual marring of the wooden surface. When asked about it, the Dunmer claimed that it was the first it had been called to his attention. Not wanting to incite a lynching or vigilantism, I did not reveal that I suspected the markings to have been caused by a clawed hand. Again, the clue was not helpful in itself, for besides Argonians and Khajiit, the marks could also have been made by one hoping the authorities would draw that conclusion. However, the inability of the beast races to don footwear would offer an additional explanation as to the silent nature of the thievery. Pieces of evidence, you understand, make much more sense when placed in context with additional clues, rather than when they stand on their own.
I investigated a couple of other houses, at the behest of their owners, finding again similar scratch marks. It seemed that the thief was indeed, a solo act. As the day was reaching it's conclusion, I retired to the bedroom provided me through the generous hospitality of the Legion. Santilius seemed to have expected me to have resolved the case in a single day, but as I briefed him on my progress (in strictest confidence), he was pacified. He also admitted that it never would have occurred to him that one would leave such markings to make a scapegoat of one of the beast peoples, and praised my wisdom in keeping silent about it; when dealing with matters pertaining to the execution of justice, we were of much the same mind. I then bid him good night, and locked my belongings into the chest provided.
In the morn, a youthful guardsman roused me. Again the thief had struck in the safety of nighttime, but on this occasion, had left a hastily scrawled note behind. Our perpetrator had noticed my movements about town, it seemed, and saw fit to leave me a taunting note at the scene of his latest wrongdoing. I reproduce the note here in it's entirety:
"Like bemused rats in a maze you scurry. Too ignorant are you to find that which is above your meager grasp."
Bemused indeed was the young guard when I laughed expansively. None in the Legion, I expect, would have made much of it. But for me, the note confirmed my suspicions and was in itself the solution of the case. When I told Santilius as much, he too was bemused. I pointed out again the reference to rats in the note, but it didn't spark any revelation for him. Plainly, I patiently stated, our suspect is a Khajiit. The allusion to rats (particularly in reference to victims, which would be seen as 'prey'), in conjunction with the other evidence, clearly indicated as much. Santilius then scratched his head, for the one Khajiit in town was also a victim of the thief.
Exiting the fort bearing a satisfied smile on my face, I told Santilius that the perpetrator didn't live in town. The guards murmured amongst themselves, thinking I might have been accusing them (for if not a native of the town, the suspect must likely reside within the fort), which I laughingly denied; after all, none of the guards were Khajiiti. Inspecting the large stones that composed the towers of the fort, I shortly chanced upon what I knew would be there - white markings from the Khajiit's claws upon the stone. Our Khajiiti thief lived atop one of the towers (the prison tower actually, revealing a strong sense of irony in the fellow), as was clear in the way he described our searching. He had, doubtless, lifted some shingle from the peak of the tower, and clambered inside the hollow top.
With their weighty armor adorning their backs, none of the guard seemed inclined to scale the face of the tower. Even those who had had their armor stolen did not look to be of a humor to make the attempt. Shrugging, I placed one foot where the Khajiit's claw marks indicated he had. Criminal though he may be, he certainly knew how to climb much better than I, and I was in no position to turn down his unintended aid. Upon reaching the summit, I noticed the damaged shingle that I had expected, and it began to move! Presumably, either the Khajiit had been watching my progress, or had been roused from slumber by it.
The fellow had a sturdy chitin dagger drawn, and looked to be a rough customer. I was unconcerned, though, for he had been very obviously consuming large quantities of Moon Sugar (probably bartered in exchange for his ill gotten goods), and so his judgement couldn't help but be terribly impaired. However, I never expected him to charge me, as high up as we were. Sidestepping easily, the poor addled fellow ran clear over the edge of the tower, spitting and hissing in dismay.
Hesitating not for a moment, I dove straight after him. I could not help but to hear the surprised shouts of the guards below, for they surely thought me a lunatic at best, and suicidal at worst. But I was truly neither, as would become immediately apparent. Reaching out to the panicking Khajiit, I cast Slowfall. The suspect thus out of danger, I then cast the spell on myself. Falling so leisurely, I amused myself by watching the guards run about, trying to intercept the Khajiit before he landed, as the nervous fellow trod air frantically, and ultimately futilely, to evade capture.
For my part, I descended much more calmly. I extended my arm in a pace befitting my fall, in anticipation of the handshake warranted by a job well done.
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