SECOND ENCOUNTER
A Tongue*Lash story
by Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier

  Spearmaster Smoke's story:

"On the Third Night of the Dark Moon, in the Month of the Jaguar, I was summoned to the lake city of Muyil where depraved men came to cavort faceless with Chi'il prostitutes.

"Muyil was an agglomeration of wooden houses built on pilons over a swampy lake and linked by a maze of flimsy wooden planks. Its seedy ambiance reminded me of my youth on the border towns of the North.

"Young Lord Foal, the second son of the Alom clan, had been found dead, robbed of his money, in the Palace of the Odoriferous Rose. The owner showed me to the body, that of a young man, his face masked by a sheet, lying in a pool of blood on a rack-bed. A dagger still protruded from his chest. All his money was gone.

"I was accompanied by two Qaholom guards and Daggerman Lash, a bright young recruit who was gifted with the Sight of the Gods. While I talked to the owner, Lash examined the body and my men searched the room.

"The Qaholom like their investigations to be short and definitive. This one proved no exception. I quickly determined that we had two suspects: The father of the victim, Lord Horn himself, who had been seen at the Palace the night of the murder, and the Chi'il Pearl, lead flower of the rose triad of lovers, who had been young Foal's favorite distraction until his death.

"I gathered suspects, prostitutes and clients in the Palace's Main Hall to listen to their stories."

Lord Horn's Story:

"My second son was a weak man, of weak blood and impure humors. In truth, I cannot say that I am sorry he is dead. Yes, I knew of his perverted escapades, but I wisely chose to treat them with contempt, until I was informed that he had become besotted with one of the Chi'ils.

"I came here tonight to see if I could buy the woman off, because there is one thing my son was above all, and that was -- an Alom. I know he would never have permitted one of these creatures to enter our clan and soil our blood.

"I believe that, when she realized she would never get what she was after, the Chi'il killed my son out of spite, and then robbed him.

"Yes, that is what I believe."

Pearl's Story:

"I may only be a lowly Chi'il and not worthy of Lord Horn's respect, but I know what I know.

"Foal loved me and wanted to bond with me for all to see. But, he was afraid of his father. Many time, he'd told me about Lord Horn's wrath, and how he had once killed one of his yatan in a black rage...

"For the past few days, I felt Foal was finally ready to challenge his father's will. He was going to propose...

"I believe that, when Lord Horn realized he could not change his son's mind, he killed him in a blind rage, then robbed him to divert suspicion.

"Yes, that is what I believe."

Lash's Story:

"I recognized her at once, of course...

"I told Spearmaster Smoke that the Lo had revealed that Lord Foal had been stabbed by one of the scavenging Tecpatl who were plaguing Muyil. Lord Horn and Pearl each grudgingly accepted my verdict...

"Smoke suspected I'd lied, but since it wrapped the case up conveniently, he kept his own counsel.

"The truth was, it wasn't with Pearl whom Foal wanted to bond, but with her. Tongue. The other female member of the rose triad. And when she rejected him, he killed himself with his own dagger. She took the money to make it look like a robbery and protect his memory. If Foal's death had been accounted as a suicide, his soul would have been banished to the Outer Darkness and his name removed from the Sacred Rolls of the Alom.

"Why did I lie to my masters? Why did I betray my duty and my trust? Because by law, the Alom could have claimed her life in vengeance, and that, I could not let happen.

"Tongue. She was trouble, and I swore to never see her again."

"And I knew I was lying again then. To myself."

This story was originally published in T*L Series 2 #2.

Tongue*Lash (c) 1997-2003 Lofficier/Taylor