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Image for the poem A Tooth for an Eye: Part One

A Tooth for an Eye: Part One

- A Tooth for an Eye: Part One -

  It was a crisp month of October, in the year of our Lord 1306. The man who walked purposefully into the hall of the town guards... a loosely knit organization, known simply as the Guard... had done so oft and enough to know the place by heart. Every wall, every stretch of floor and ceiling, and everything as did decorate the place, and even the faces of the other guards... all of these things stood out to him, and in fact told him much about the place, its' history, and the doings of those who met there. He was not a detective as we might understand such things today, but he was close. He had a brilliant mind, and also a certain cunning, that made him quite esteemed when it came to keeping order, solving crimes, and in the end seeing that justice was always done. His name was Isaac. Isaac Williamson, the son of a miller and his wife who lived out by the plains of Salisbury. Simple folk, and not the sort of family you might expect to raise a child who would grow to become a man of tremendous intellect. But he studied hard, in secret, with a noble boy whom he had been great friends with since childhood, and who had access to learning, to books, and to secrets. That was how it all began for Isaac! But where would this path end? He had been a civilian guardsman, which meant that he would only be called into service when it was deemed needed for the Guard to call for him. On this one particular day, the first of the month, they did indeed call for him. The order of the Guard looked after a small collection of villages that were used by travelers, merchants, and sometimes knights as stop-overs on the way to larger cities such as London in the south, or York in the north. These villages were squarely in the middle of England in that time, and it was in that era not too strange to see would-be crusaders setting out from them with the intent of so being eventually bound by boat for the mainland of Europe, and from there... across many lands... to the Middle East, where still men fought bloody wars and battles in the name of God, but in ways that it was certain no god would desire men to fight. This collection of villages was a place where the local people believed in strange things sometimes... and in the forests of the land, they imagined that there did lurk a great many mysterious beings and creatures, and things out of legend. Some claimed to sight such, and sometimes more than a few of these legends proved to harbor within them grains of oft terrible truths.

  He walked through the main hall and was met first by Lieutenant Wallace, a simple fellow but one of a good heart and kindly nature, whose family were of Scottish descent originally. They had moved out of Scotland long ago, and today none of them spoke of why they had left. It was presumed the reasons, likely good ones indeed, were tragic in nature. Isaac always seemed to sense a certain sadness just there beneath the surface of Wallace's charming exterior. He never pressed him about it, nor did he desire to. Wallace was a man of medium height, wearing a full coat of chain mail over his more practical leather armor, and Isaac assumed that he was decked out this way merely to look impressive. Wallace could be a bit showy sometimes like that! The Lieutenant had sandy brown hair and sported a droopy mustache, and this mad him seem even more melancholy looking. Wallace said to Isaac as soon he noticed that he was approaching: “Isaac! My old friend... the Sergeant wishes to speak with you immediately. Not time for pleasantries today, I am afraid. I hear it is a rather interesting case... you'd better hurry along and get yourself to his office. Blake's not a man what likes to be kept waiting, as you well know!” and Isaac did know this quite well. Sergeant Blake was a serious man, and a man who did things by the book. It ever and always was he, who called for Isaac whenever the need arose. Always, for this case or that. Or, for this job or that... and it was always very dark and  bloody sorts of business. The other guardsmen, clad in their leathers mostly, and some in their finest tunics and leggings... likely to make themselves look as important as they could... were friendly enough to Isaac as he made his way to the Sergeant's office. He passed the stairs that led down to the holding area for prisoners, and turned right at the steps leading up to the hall's second floor. There was no door to the office, just a plain wooden archway, and Isaac found this to be somewhat reminiscent of those simpler dwellings of some of the cottages of his home village.

   The office was rather spartan... and had within it some boxes and chests filled with parchments and a few books, mostly notebooks and journals, in which were recorded the details of the cases that were so often investigated by the Guard. There were a great deal more, upstairs, and a whole storage room that was dedicated to keeping more detailed records. All the other furnishings of the office seemed to Isaac to be utilitarian at best. Across from him, sitting upon a plain wooden stool behind his big oaken desk, was the Sergeant himself. Blake was large, muscular, and gruff... with a slicked back mane of thinning light brown hair and a smile that was more like a slash across his face than a proper smile. The man, in truth, always looked like he was angry... and when he did smile, it was frightening to see. He had thick sideburns, and spoke with a deliberately pompous tone that he actually seemed to cultivate. Isaac found him to be just barely tolerable half of the time. Blake stood up as Isaac entered the room and said to the investigator... for that was truth be told what the Guard mostly used Isaac for... the following: “Glad to see you could make it, Isaac! This is far from your first assignment, but I do need to ask you if in truth you have ever had, in your entire life, any experience with matters that are perhaps not easily explained by rational or rightful means?” The young man, for Isaac was youthful and in the prime of his life, said to Blake: “Actually, sir, I have encountered some strange things before.” to which Blake responded: “It is just as well that you have! We'll need such expertise on this one. Here's the case... it seems that a man in one of the local villages had the misfortune of having been the victim of a murder. We didn't think it was a murder at first, though. This is where the case first turned odd: the man's throat was torn out, and we assumed it was the work of wolves. So, we were set to conclude the matter as just that. But then, we decided to call in a specialist on dead bodies... we haven't got one here at the hall... to have a look at the corpse. By Heaven! The findings were bad. Actually, bad is an understatement! The teeth marks that so were discovered all around the edges of the wound were made by human teeth of unusual sharpness. It gets a lot worse, too: they match only one fellow in the entire community, and he's been dead since long before I was even born! I want you to go to the village and see if you can turn up any information that we might have missed. Fair?” to which Isaac replied: “Fair enough. But... what are good places to start, once I do actually get there?” and Blake explained: “Only two leads for you to work with, and the first of them is that the 'suspect' has only one living kin, a granddaughter named Alice. You could do far, far worse than to ask her a few questions. The other lead... is a lot less pleasant... you could check out the cemetery where her grandfather was buried, just to make sure he hasn't risen from the grave to kill.” It was strange here this serious speaking man talk this way. Isaac replied: “I am honestly not sure I happen to believe in dead people rising, aside from our Lord and blessed Lazarus of course, but I will check out both of those leads once I get there.” Blake was satisfied with that, and exclaimed: “Good! I'm not sure I believe in the living dead either, but all of these villagers do so it's best to cover every angle. Oh, and the name of the village is Eldbrooke. It's only a day's journey to the south, and that by foot, so it's not a long journey. I'll try and meet you there in a few days, so you can report back to me then.” Isaac did a slight bow, ever the polite man that he was, and said to Blake: “Then, I will start off for Eldbrooke at one, sir! Hopefully, by the time you do get there I will have this whole matter wrapped up. Hopefully!”

   And after that, the young investigator left the hall and set out southward by way of the quaint farming community of Northbridge. Upon the road through that small township, he chanced to encounter there a tiny caravan of merchants and traders who had decided to camp by the roadside and see if they could be earning some measure of a profit by selling their wares to others who journeyed along that road. A large and burly man by the name of Bartholomew was the master of the caravan, and he had a rather tall man as his bodyguard who wore the full ceremonial armor of a knight of the Templar order. It was, actually, the knight who spoke to Isaac first, saying in a thick French accent: “Hold there, traveler! By your attire you look a wealthy scholar, but you need to know certain things before I let you speak to my employer.”

   How wealthy was this merchant, if he could afford to pay for the services of a knight? The knight, so spoke: “Master Bartholomew pays me well to keep him under my protection, and has done so since we left France. The roads are not safe around here, due to bandits and outlaws, however... so if you happen to mean to cause any mischief here, just know that my blade will be ready to see that justice is done. It will not be necessary for the Guard to act first!” to which Isaac replied: “Then fear not! Despite how it is that I am dressed, I am actually in the employ of the Guard myself. I just left their hall up north, and am bound for Eldbrooke in the south, in case my destination matters to you as well as my intent. Would it be possible to purchase some supplies for my trek? It is not far, but even so best to be prepared I say.” and this seemed to satisfy Bartholomew, who then said to Isaac: “The Knights Templar supply me with most of the goods I have to sell. If you have the money to spend, I would be willing to sell to you!” and the man was typical for a traveling merchant... somewhat rotund, dressed in orange leggings and a very expensive looking jerkin with a white long sleeved shirt underneath it. He was old, gray bearded, and of a somewhat suspicious manner, despite attempting to come off as being friendly. Bartholomew also had a perfect command of the English language compared to his knightly bodyguard. Isaac purchased all he needed from the caravan master, and received the goods he required for the journey southward. He also noticed a very short... pretty much a dwarf in stature... old white bearded man who wore red and brown leathers and a hooded brown cloak. This small man, was in the company of several lesser members of the Guard who Isaac was not all that well acquainted with. From bits of the conversation that Isaac was able to overhear, the man... whose name was Norlin Grey... was a member of the town council who at their behest was visiting the caravan to meet with these members of the Guard so that he could send the lot of them off to hunt down the bandits who were preying upon the road. “The council will pay a good sum for each bandit's head that you bring me!” he declared officiously, and after that the guardsmen all hurried off, clad in their leather armor and holding their swords in hand eagerly. Isaac doubted strongly that all of them would be returning. They were too eager, too certain of themselves, and bandits tended to be very cunning sorts, and able to take advantage of foolish bravado. But this was not any concern of Isaac's, and after a hearty meal with the caravan and then a short rest beneath a tall oak tree, he decided to set out southward... this time, meaning to travel even through the night if necessary, in order to reach with haste the village he was being paid to investigate. But something haunted him! For when he had so rested beneath that oak tree... he had a terrifying nightmare, in which he walked down a cold icy stretch of ground surrounded by blackness on all sides. Yet he could clearly see the ground itself! As if it was a source of illumination. Out of the ground clawed... with a great spraying of dirt, frost, snow and ice... a most horrific figure. It had the shape of a man, but looked as though he had been flayed alive, all of his muscle tissue and some of his bones being exposed and dripping with blood. Seeing this, it was evident that clearly this thing could not be of the living, but rather of the dead. It said... for the horror could thus speak clearly and well despite being quite dead: “My name is John. Oh, the cruelty of Heaven! How so little is the pain of this body, in its' comparison to that of my soul's agony. The Light rejects me, as also the Flame below refuses to accept me. And this all because of my secret sin. Discover my sin, stranger, when you return to the living world again! I cannot bring myself to speak of the one I have slain. John Beckman was my name, and as to the importance of that, you will discover this in Eldbrooke. I walk as without flesh because I took the life of one who was flesh of my flesh, and I am damned. There is but a tiny hope for my penitence: if the life that I took can be restored by the blood of the wicked spilled. For once my victim lives, I can rest true! Though long past life I may be... things in the living world, I hear. There is one in Eldbrooke even now who kills the wicked, collecting their blood for a great and noble purpose. That one labors, though not knowingly, towards the salvation of my victim and myself. You, who serve the justice of men, know that there is justice divine, too! But I never said that you would be the instrument of my salvation. That one is not even the same which now acts with a terrible purpose!”

   And the flayed man, John, then explained: “That one is not the same... which currently tears out most savagely the throats of the evil ones below where we are right now, down below this realm between, in the village of Eldbrooke... it is not the same as the one who ripped mine with such righteous wrath! Yet do I see another, redeeming three souls that bear the name Beckman, by a single selfless deed. Only my wife is lost forever, for her apathy. Yes! The pull is strong here, and the very air is filled strongly with something that calls souls to where they belong. Soon, I will heed the call. You will be present for the resurrection of my victim, in the hour when I am released! You are one of two living souls who will be there, the other is the redeemer of the Beckman family line. True justice at last!” and the pull could not be resisted, for after that speech the dream ended... and Isaac had awakened from it, with a great fright. For some time after awakening, Isaac thought he could hear the sound of that man crying, and had thus come to him unbidden a vision of a dark place with black chasms and an cold ground. He was happy to be on the road again, if at least to put the memory of that nightmare and that vision behind him. Upon the road southward, where it looked to be that no wagons, carts, or folk of any kind traveled... the land became wilder and more forsaken in appearance, with the wooded forest lands seeming to come closer and closer to the old dirt road the more that the young investigator progressed along it. There was soon a place where smoke looked to be rising up and a small fire was flickering... right in the middle of that road... and ere long Isaac saw that this was because of a destroyed caravan. Dead men and women thus lay all about the wreckage of the overturned wagons, and even the horses that drew those wagons had in their turn been slain. The women had been killed outright, and none appeared to have been raped, so it looked not to have been the work of bandits. A single guardsman was the only survivor, his face and his body covered in blood, cuts, and scratches... his sword bloody in his hand, his hands stained with gore. Isaac approached the guardsman and asked him what had transpired here. The man told him a story that sounded unbelievable: “We were heading north from Eldbrooke, the gate of which lies further south but not too much farther so along the road. The caravan master thought to go up to the ruined keep that lies upon yonder hill, within those wicked woods off there...” and, he pointed towards the southeast, where above the trees could be seen an ancient stone keep perched like a massive vulture upon a high hill. The structure looked to be mostly in ruins, and was covered in vines and ivy. There was no sign that anyone yet lived there, for it seemed to have been destroyed decades ago. The man continued: “I had heard that it had an evil reputation, and I so wondered to myself if it might harbor the vile murderer that Sergeant Blake had sent me to search for. He sent several of us... I was not the first, and will surely not prove to be the last.” to which Isaac explained: “I know! He sent me too, though in a less formal capacity. Thus why I am not dressed in my leathers the way that I see you are.” The guardsman remarked: “Ah! So, it seems you're an investigator then rather than strictly a guardsman. But I swear to you! Going to that old keep was not my idea, nor the worst mistake of all. We locked the gate to the village for the protection of the folk who dwell there, the other guardsmen who were with us, in case things up a the hill turned ugly... and it was the caravan master's idea to approach the keep. He wanted to see if folk lived there as were of a sort who might want to purchase his wares. The fool! What right Christian sorts would live in such a place? Bandits or worse, I figured. I had no idea what awaited us within its' halls! Out of the lot of us who went up to that monstrous place, only I survived. And when I returned, the caravan was as it so appears right now. I have the key to the gate upon me still, and will give it to you so you can get into the village. I was able to stop them... the things that dwelt in the old keep. They had a mind, to descend from there! If I was not as wounded as I am, and in need of respite for a bit... and likely a healer once I get back north again... I would go and unlock the gate for you myself. But alas! There was a cult, and I swear to you sir... not a one of the cultists was human. Some bestial folk who came up from caverns as ran deep beneath the earth! And they worshiped a great beast, a devil out of Hell itself. The most awful beast I have ever seen... I cut off its' head, and I managed though not alone to slay all of those cultists.”

   The man paused a bit... breathing heavily as if still frightened by what happened at the keep. He then did say: “There was another survivor... a knight of the Templar order, who was at my side. Together, it was we who slew them all and closed the entrances to their tunnels forever. I gave him the devil's head, and he took it with him when he departed back northward again, to meet with another of his order who was said to be assisting a different caravan up in Northbridge.” Isaac told him how he had met the other knight and that very caravan prior to setting out from there himself. The wounded guardsman seemed a bit relieved to hear that, and stated: “I wish I had kept some proof for my tale! Like as not, if I go back and tell Sergeant Blake what I just told you... he'll think me mad and assume I murdered these folk and was telling a tale to cover the deed.” and Isaac said to him upon hearing him say this: “To be honest, I thought that to be the case myself when I first approached you. I was nearly afraid you would slay me... for I am traveling unarmed... but something compelled me to learn more. Always that is how I end up in danger! But I sense in you no deceit, and not danger to me at least.” after which the guardsman said: “That is good, sir, that you at least believe me! I will lie, I think, and say it was bandits we encountered at the old keep. Better that, than the alternative.” to which Isaac responded by saying: “I did not say that I did believe you, but neither can I be certain you had any hand in these peoples' deaths. Do as you must and let it be with your conscience either way!” Neither man spoke any further to each other after that... as the wounded guardsman handed the investigator the key to the village gate. The tall pines of the dark woods seemed only to become thicker as Isaac made his way past the place where a winding dirt trail so wound its' way through the woods and likely eventually up the hillside to that distant ruined keep. The autumn colors were upon those trees which were not evergreens, and the scent of pine and the leaves of fall were thick in the air. Ere long, the young man came at length to the village gate. The whole of that village was surrounded by a thick and high wooden palisade that wound its' way even into those forests that surrounded Eldbrooke on all sides. Other roads went off in other directions, but as for this one... it ended there, at the village gate itself. The gate was massive, thick and reinforced with iron. The lock on it, as sturdy as it was, could have been easily picked by a trained thief of any decent skill. Isaac found it amusing to consider that, as he unlocked the gate with the key and pushed it open with all his strength. He was a strong man, but even so the gate was heavy! Any thief seeking to open it had best be mighty as well, he mused to himself. Now, some small town are quaint little places with colorful history and a quiet manner. Others, are backwoods havens for perverse secrets and dark deeds. Isaac was soon about to discover that Eldbrooke fell into the latter category. What first struck him as peculiar about the place was that almost all of the villages seemed to be hiding behind closed doors. Every single door was... as soon as anyone noticed him... slammed shut with much force. “Friendly sort of place, this!” he said to himself aloud. He decided to begin by visiting the local inn, and speaking with some of the villagers he could find there. It was a rather run down looking establishment with cracked walls and not exactly the most fresh looking thatch for the roof. It was probably someone's cottage once... though a large enough one to be used for an inn at least, and many of the walls were covered with ivy and clinging plants of all sorts. It was surprisingly quiet inside, with no merrymaking or music to be heard. The innkeeper was a mean-spirited old man with bushy white hair and beard to match, and his name as he introduced it was Sedrick Goodmane. He was wearing a long brown tunic and thick matching colored trousers, and had over his clothes an apron that appeared stained from food and drink. He smelled a bit of the alcohol that he served, though he was sober and as nasty as ever when he said to Isaac: “I take it you're here, unless I'm mistaken, to investigate the strange things afoot in the village these days? I don't envy you, if that be the case!” and Isaac told him that indeed he was. The innkeeper replied: “Don't mind me if I don't seem quick to believe you, sir! No one comes to a little backwoods town like ours, who doesn't mean ill. We got nothing to see here, and little of use to outsiders! But... do as you like, and ask any here whatever it is you will. As for me... if you're not here for a room, or a drink, or some food... then don't bother me!”

   And Isaac purchased the use of a room for the length of a week, just in case it could take that long to conduct his investigation of the village. The room was as plain and rather shabby as such rooms could be, and the bed was of straw and rather uncomfortable to lay upon. “Good thing I am not tired just yet!” Isaac muttered on seeing this. He often talked to himself, and was considered a bit eccentric by many. The cook at the inn was an old woman named Clara who was the wife of the innkeeper. She scowled and complained as she did her chores in the kitchen, occasionally waving a big butcher knife in the old man's direction and muttering threats under her breath. In the common room were only three people in all... two men, and a woman. The woman wore a long blue dress with long, wide white sleeves and had about her waist a soft leather belt with many pouches. She had medium length auburn hair, which was done up in a ponytail, and was wearing a rather big pair of gray and blue earrings. She was a large lady, big boned, and of a somewhat boisterous personality. She was telling dirty jokes to the two men, and as she did she would oft grab her own breasts, and say loudly: “Aye! And you both know how much I like to make use of these too, eh lads?” and she let the men touch her and pretty much do as they liked with her, which made her laugh in that way Isaac had only ever heard certain prostitutes laugh when they had a bit too much enjoyment from their profession. Noticing Isaac standing nearby, she yelled over to him: “Now what are you gawking at, young man? Leave a woman to her job, why don't you!” And he knew he would learn nothing from her. The two man were both nasty looking. One was middle aged, and the other a great deal younger, but each had dark hair.. one black and short, the other brown and tied back in a short ponytail behind his head. They were a bit pale looking, as were all the folk of this village, and with a strange slightly yellowish tint to the skin. The two men, had dark eyes, and cruel looking faces... and the brown haired man looked like he had not shaved his face in a good week. The black haired man wore a short green tunic and matching colored trousers, which were tucked into a pair of fur boots. He had about him a forest green cloak with a hood and looked like a woodsman. The other fellow wore a rather simple white blouse-like shirt with light brown elbow-length sleeves, and a pair of loose fitting knee-length light brown trousers. Upon his feet were a pair of soft leather shoes. From bits overheard from the banter between these three... Isaac discovered the woman's name was Rosalinde Davis, and as he had suspected she was indeed a prostitute. The younger man, who was a woodsman after all, had the name of Mathew Kross... whilst the other fellow was named Jethro Davis. Jethro was, evidently related in some way to Rosalinde, which made her actions with him all the more disgusting. Isaac decided not to stand about and look so suspicious himself, so after an awkward moment he decided to sit down on one of the stools at the bar, and there he ordered a cup of water. Which was free, so it was irritating to the innkeeper, who wanted to make some money by selling Isaac a drink that actually costed something. But the investigator needed his wits about him, so water it was! He listened, and overheard things that made everything seem a bit clearer. Jethro was married to Rosalinde despite both being cousins. Davis was Jethro's last name. He was also, evidently, her pimp and the way he treated her was actually both degrading and vicious as well... more oft than not he acted like a brute to her. Both of them, however, did seem to be genuinely worried about whatever was happening in the village. Jethro walked over to Isaac and said to him directly: “Hey, stranger! Did you hear about the murder here in town? All I know of it, from what they say, is that members of the Guard came to see what happened and someone said something about a wolf or some other wild beast. Now there's been talk of ghosts, which is stranger by far! Watch yourself... it's not safe in these parts anymore. Not safe at all!” Matthew remained silent and simply drank the mug of ale he had in his hands, trying not to look distressed and failing. “I shall bear this in mind, fear not!” exclaimed Isaac in a friendly tone, and after that he decided it was time to be off in order to have a look at the town cemetery. That was where he hoped to discover a lead regarding this case. It was hard to decide if everyone in the village acted suspiciously, or if they were all simply in a losing battle with their own personal demons. For an introduction to Eldbrooke... this was a bitter one.

   The village's cemetery lay on the western side of the village, past the Church of the Old Brook. It was not far from the inn really, just southwest past the village square... which was built around an old well... and thence a simple walk westward from the church. All the roads were dirt, and many were almost in an overgrown state, with grass and flowers and other plants jutting up form the middle of the road in a great many places. It seemed as if the whole place was being allowed to descend into a state of neglect and disrepair that honestly shocked Isaac with how distressing it looked. Even more distressing, was the way in which the villagers did not even seem to care! The cemetery was surrounded by a very thick sort of stone wall, most of which was covered in moss to the point where the whole wall looked green when seen from certain angles. The gate to it was a simple wooden one, and next to it stood the gravedigger and groundskeeper, a tall and rather frail looking old man with a thick mustache and long, stringy hair. He wore a plain thick brown robe like a monk's robe, tied with a rope-like belt about his waist, and the hood of his robe was drawn back from his head. He carried a shovel in his hands, and was leaning on it a bit when Isaac approached him. The old man then said: “Greetings, stranger! May name is Mot, and I tend this place of eternal rest. Always have... probably always will, too. At least until my time comes to be buried here myself! I heard tell that someone from the Guard was coming to examine the cemetery. News travels fast in these parts, and you arrived here far slower than anticipated. The gate is locked, in case those resting there decide to get out of their graves and start killing more folk. Who knew that the dead could get so angry! But maybe you can put their spirits to rest? I will unlock the gate for you, so you an be about your business... but if they rise up and attack you, I will lock it again I swear. And then I won't unbar it even if the King himself should come and demand it of me. Sorry... but, it is how it is!” And before he went into the cemetery, once the old man unlocked the gate, Isaac inquired: “If you are in need of an exorcism, why did no one contact the Church for help?” to which Mot replied in a highly irritated manner: “Because some spirits can't be exorcised by the Church! They are unquiet beyond any and all Christian rites, and no warriors can hope to use arms against ghosts. Some dark rite happened, it seems to me, and it has made the dead rest uneasily. I tell you, unless you are strong, the evil that is at work in this village will devour you... flesh and spirit alike. Many others of the Guard tried to send the darkness back whence it came, and those that did not perish fled. There is much the men who sent you likely never told you! Especially given who some of them work for.” to which Isaac inquired: “Who do you think they work for?” and he answered: “I can't tell you! But they masquerade as Christian knights, though there is more to them... and what they truly represent in this world. Do not trust them! Get me?” and Isaac dismissed this as the ravings of a man who seemed slightly mad. “I will be careful.” he said, after which he walked into the cemetery without any further wasting of time. All of the tombstones and grave markers looked ancient, as if they had stood there for hundreds of years. The names and all of the inscriptions upon them were worn to the point of being illegible. There were some, however, which had been reworked so that what was written there could still be understood. One such was, it appeared, the grave that Isaac was supposed to be having a look at. For there, the soil had been dug up and there upon the ground next to the tombstone sat a battered looking wooden coffin. The name on the tombstone was luckily one of the ones that still could be read. “Simon Drake.” said Isaac, reciting the name out loud. He then, after some apprehension, opened the coffin. Therein, lay the dead man's rotting skeleton, the fine clothing the deceased man had once worn being little more than tatters upon him now. Worms did crawl about in the eye sockets and mouth, and the smell of rot and decay filled the air. Only patches of hair remained upon the dead man's head. “Well, Simon! Pleased to meet you.” said the investigator in a perhaps brighter tone than was normal for such a somber occasion. Whilst Isaac inspected what was left of Simon, the town's priest walked up to see what was going on. “Can I help you with something, sir?” the priest said, in a caring manner that bespoke of a kindly personality. At least outwardly. Isaac heard him walk up and speak, and turned to regard him. “Yes, actually, I could use a bit of help here.” he said.

   The priest was a clean shaven man of an average build wearing long flowing black robes with a hood that was drawn up over his head. A simple rope-like belt was tied about his waist, and he carried in his hands a thick black book that appeared to be a bible. A rare commodity given how long it took monks and scribes to create those tomes! This priest, he was a well to do one, evidently. The priest's face had an expression of grave concern upon it, and he introduced himself as Father Lorik Addams. “Pleased to make your acquaintance!” exclaimed Isaac, before asking: “Did you or someone else order this grave to be exhumed like thus?” and the priest replied: “No! The grave of Simon Drake was desecrated, and the deed was likely done right beneath our very noses. We left everything just as we found it, so that any of the folk of the Guard could do as they had to regarding this matter. You should know, however, that the man whose grave and corpse this is... was executed for the rape and murder of a maiden back before my father's time. I am surprised the body is even in this good of condition! I cannot imagine when it was, to state an exact day or time, when the grave was defiled in this way. I was away when it happened, and it was one of my acolytes who discovered it... and he declined to tell me more than to say that it had thus occurred at all. I found this highly suspicious, and made to question him regarding the matter... but well before I could do so, he had hung himself from the rafters of his quarters at the church. That happened a good several nights ago, and afterwards I went to the inn to ask the patrons if they would be so kind as to give some donations to the church. It is long past due that they did so, after all!” Isaac asked him of this: “How long were you at the inn for?” and the priest replied: “Not long... only an hour, maybe less. By Heaven! I am such a fool... I never thought to consider, that perhaps it was my acolyte who did the deed himself. In any case, poor miserable Simon! Now I will have to re-sanctify you grave, Simon, in case you do find it possible to rest once more after this. There is, however, I notice upon looking at the body... something odd about the skull. Look, sir! Do you... see it?” and Isaac followed where the priest was pointing with his finger. He did see it! He could not believe that he had not noticed this far sooner. The priest then explained: “Look here... it so seems as if the teeth have been neatly removed, and by the look of those scrape marks it was done with a rather sharp tool.” Isaac had heard of Simon Drake once, but only in passing. He asked of the priest: “I heard that this man had peculiar teeth. Could they have in fact been false, and thus easily detached from the skull after all this time?” Father Lorik then explained to the investigator: “No. Simon's birth records, such as they are, attest to the fact that his deformity was all too real. You are going to have to let his granddaughter know about this, much as it pains me. If she wants proof, bring her here and let her see for herself! It does vex me however... how could anyone thus remove a man's teeth in such a way? My acolyte had no skill with tools, so it could not have been him after all. Which eases my conscious somewhat regarding him.” Isaac said to the priest: “I will go visit her next, I think, and tell her what happened. What is her name, father?” and the priest stated: “The lady is named Alice... but, I must warn you... that she is a strange sort, and quite morbidly inclined as well.”

   The Drake farmhouse was east of the inn past a small garden, and beyond several of the farm's fields wherein the farmhands worked and toiled with sweat upon their brows. It was a narrow looking house, mostly of rough stonework, with a freshly thatched roof that looked a great deal better than had that of the inn. There was a small well near the house, and an old wooden bucket next to it. Isaac knocked on the rough wooden door of the home, and heard a woman's voice call to him from within: “Come on in, if you have business with me! Else, if you mean trouble, go away lest I call the lads in the field to throw you out.” Isaac opened the door and entered the dwelling, stating as he did so: “Fear not, lady, in fact it is with a heavy heart that I come to speak with you! The news that I bear is troubling.” She was a rather tall, matronly looking woman with rather short brown hair swept somewhat to the side of her face. She wore a long dark brown dress with short puffy sleeves, over which she had on a green apron to keep it clean as she did her chores about the house. She was neat, clean, and orderly... and, all of this showed.

   The woman cleared her throat a bit and then nervously asked: “Well, what is it? You claimed you had news for me... what is this news!” to which Isaac said slowly and with a measure of compassion in his voice: “Your grandfather... Simon... his grave has been broken into it seems. His body was for the most part undamaged, but his skull was mutilated. Someone removed his teeth, using a sharp tool that could perform this function with remarkable precision. But, why would anyone want his teeth?” Alice's face went paler than it was already, and she cried out: “That is disgusting! An outrage upon my family... as if we have not been outraged enough already. I want whoever did this to pay, do you hear me? I want them to pay for such sacrilege upon the dead. He was not the best of men, my grandfather, but to do a thing like this to him is wicked.” Isaac then stated factually: “Not the best of men? I understand that in fact your grandfather was executed for raping and killing a maiden.” and after a brief silence, Alice at last explained: “Yes, he killed that girl. My mother admitted as much to me when I came of age to hear of it. He killed her once. Only once! The villagers were not so kind with him. They tortured Simon, and by the time a year had passed no one knew how he could still be alive! He had been a strong man, so he survived all that was done to him no matter how brutal. Seeing this, the villagers grew afraid so they at last killed him. Execution indeed! That was a lynch mob, and it did not care about justice; it was after revenge. My mother had to keep my birth a secret, so hot were tempers even then, until things calmed.” Isaac saw that Alice was getting overwrought, and grabbed her by the shoulders, looking her sternly in the eyes and saying to her in as professional way as possible: “Well, I'm not a lynch mob, but I am here for justice. Do you understand me? A man has been murdered and now this horror was done. I would have answers, if you've any to give me!” and after that, Alice asked the young man to describe for her in detail what the marks on the skull looked like where the teeth had been removed. He did so, and she immediately said in an excited tone: “My goodness! Those marks sound exactly like saw marks... did they have a serrated quality to them in any way?” to which Isaac replied: “They did, actually... at first, it looked remarkably clean cut but now that I think about it there were small indents along the scrapes that could have indeed been made with a saw. But I doubt a saw for cutting wood could work!” which then prompted the woman to explain: “Not a wood saw! That isn't what I mean. A surgical saw, one used for the amputation of limbs, is what I am referring to. Only one man in the entire village has a saw of that type, of the sort that can cut through bone so cleanly! He is a German fellow named Doctor Geiger. He uses a saw designed for that very purpose, to stop infections from spreading in his patients when a limb cannot be saved. It must be he who has done this! His house is in the northwest corner of town.” And this was at least a promising lead! Isaac stated an obvious concern regarding it: “If he is guilty, he may not exactly answer the door for me. What then?” and Alice revealed: “The doctor and I were lovers at one time, and in those days he gave me a spare key to his house. Here, take it! This way, you can get in there without having to worry about asking permission.” With that, she handed him a small metal key. Isaac smiled, and stated jestingly: “Perhaps now would be a good time to pay the doctor a house call.”

   Sure enough there was no answer at the door when the investigator knocked. He unlocked it with the key that Alice had given him and pushed it open with a  creak. Inside, it was like walking straight into a disturbing chamber of horrors! There was a crude wooden table upon which the dead body of  man was laying, with iron chains suspended from the ceiling piercing his wrists. He was naked... and he was cut open from his neck to his abdomen, and various organs had been removed and placed in jars, in flasks, and in bowls that were lined up on a nearby shelf. There was the smell of preserving fluids, as well as the even more unpleasant stench of death and decay. The man had clearly been dead for some time! A great many sharp instruments lay upon that table, all of them covered in blood. In the center of the room was a large stone tub filled with blood. In the middle of that tub... was a sharp metal spike upon which the gored body of yet another man stood impaled in a ghastly sort of display. Flies... were all over him.

   A bed up against a nearby wall was covered in blood, and on the floor next to the bed was one more dead man's body, which was as naked as both the other two had been and which was in the process of being devoured by rats. The sound of their nibbling upon human flesh and bone was disgusting. Then, as if all that was not horrid enough... Isaac discovered in a small room at the back of the house a place where many more people had been killed in various brutal ways. There were torture devices, and every kind of cruel instrument, and piles of bloody skulls... some with flesh still upon them in places. A thick canvas was covering even more bodies! Men, women, children and animals. The stench was unbearable and the young man threw up on the floor, vomiting repeatedly from the enormity of all this. “The man who could do this... is not human!” he exclaimed aloud. He went back to the place where the rats were devouring a man, and saw next to the man a pile of clothes and several surgical instruments. Could the dead man actually be Doctor Geiger? He discovered nothing to say, either way, but strove to recall the face of the corpse so that he could ask Alice about it later. Among the clothing, which he searched for clues, he discovered a folded up parchment that when unfolded revealed a diagram depicting a series of fang-like teeth being screwed into the fingers of a metal gauntlet. Such a gauntlet would for one of the most ghastly sorts of weapons imaginable! Perhaps such a weapon was the one used in the murder that had taken place. “Fangs... such as Simon Drake had... would very much make any murder committed with them appear to be the work of wolves!” exclaimed the investigator. He pocketed the diagram and placed it within one of the pouches on his belt, after folding it up a bit smaller than before. There was nothing more to be done in this place... it could only be presumed that the actual murderer had gotten to the doctor first. But what was the meaning of all those other bodies? They looked like the work of the doctor himself! There was indeed great evil at work in Eldbrooke, and it appeared to be not confined to just one individual after all. Isaac decided to go back to speak with Alice, and to show her that diagram.

   Isaac told Alice all that he had discovered at the doctor's home, and showed her the diagram as well. He described the face of the man being eaten by the rats, and the woman confirmed that it was indeed the doctor himself. He also revealed to her something else he had noticed about the doctor's body: “It looked like before being fed to the rats, the doctor's throat had been torn open, most likely by the very gauntlet he himself appears to have designed. That diagram seems to be his work.” Isaac then pointed to the diagram and noted aloud: “The teeth are screwed into the tips of the gauntlet's fingers and act like blades of a sort. Grab someone with this, and you could tear out their throat very easily! I, believe... that this terrible thing was constructed, and that your grandfather's teeth were used in its' making. This is the weapon that the killer who is on the loose here in Eldbrooke is using to commit his or her crimes.” The woman looked extremely distressed as she heard this, and stated: “This is far worse than anyone I think even realizes! It means, Doctor Geiger was definitely involved. The question is, how are his death and the gauntlet connected. I mean, if he really was involved directly... why would his accomplice, who can only be the true killer, turn on him? And... we cannot be sure that the doctor acted alone in the torture and murder of all those people whose bodies and skulls you found. In any case, what drove him to do such things? He was not like this back when I knew him as I did. It just doesn't make any sense. None of this is sane!” The young man then stated what he suspected: “I think someone used the doctor to get the murder weapon created, and then decided to make sure he could never tell anyone about it. What is not very smart, is that they forgot to destroy that diagram! Or meant to go back and do so later.” and at the last Alice said in a determined tone of voice: “I'm going to give that diagram over to the Guard. It is what you'd call evidence anyway. Which reminds me! At the inn, there's a guardsman there who has for a bit been asking for you. He stopped by to talk with me just before you got back here! His name, was Blake, and he was asking for you specifically. You should go to the inn and meet with him.” and time had gone by faster than Isaac realized... it was well towards midnight at last when he left Alice's house.
Kou_Indigo
Written by Kou_Indigo (Kara L. Pythiana-Ashton)
Published
Author's Note
“A Tooth for an Eye” is based upon a medieval murder mystery video game that I created back in 2006, using the tool set that comes with the Neverwinter Nights PC game. I published the completed game...
“A Tooth for an Eye” is based upon a medieval murder mystery video game that I created back in 2006, using the tool set that comes with the Neverwinter Nights PC game. I published the completed game on the Neverwinter Vault under the name Chaos_Theocrat. This is a vastly expanded version of the game's entire story, and follows the canon ending of the game, as opposed to the alternate ending, with various additions to the plot and a new final scene that adds one last twist to a tale filled with many dark twists.
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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