The House of Good Repute was an ancient manor that had in recent years been converted into an Inn of some renown. With no nearby villages, and no other inns in the area, Madam Olean was able to become, if not wealthy, than comfortable serving the needs of travelers along the High Road through southeast Tolaria. The extra services provided by the almost exclusively female staff were not hidden but positively advertised, at least if you read the right walls.
Almost a village in itself, the House of Good Repute had extensive stables, a small farm, with gardens and an orchard, a meat cooler, a brewery and wine cellar. The staff, led by the sullen Marek, the brewer and barkeep, lived on premise, and passed their days in tending the manor, and its guests.
The day after the summer solstice, custom was light at the House. Most travelers were in the area were heading to the Festival of the Great Crosse, but a few stragglers were in that day – and a few who had already been to the fair.
The rake Malcom had decided to take a vacation from his duties at the Order of the Wise. Sure, there was some talk that the order needed to deal with some prophesied child being born, but it was much more pleasant to drink and whore for a few days at the House of Good Repute.
It would have been more pleasant if an oafish merchant hadn’t barged into the bar, shouting about terrible events at the fair, moaning about the prices, and generally being talkative and boisterously loud.
Basha the Merchant was put out. Events at the festival had forced him to withdraw before the end, losing two or three days to sell his wares. On the road his caravan of 3 carts had been attacked by a wild dog, and although his guardsman had run it through with a spear, the beast had not died before fleeing into the underbrush, taking the spear with it. After 10 minutes of ineffectual poking, they had not recovered the spear and he peevishly ordered the caravan to move on. And now the strong room was not available. Better to set a guard on the wagon than to invite curious eyes to peep at what he might transfer to his very pleasant but hard to secure room.
Still, Madam Olean was generous with the apologies and the food and the beer, and all would have been well if some local nabob hadn’t come running into the inn bleating about his dog which he had just found dead. Too much to hope it was just a coincidence, best to avoid him if at all possible. Maybe lay on the charm, and ask the barman to present Lady Aggra with a small drink by way of sympathy. And it paid off. Lord Bark went to bed early, but Aggra stayed for a time, making small talk with Basha, repaying his small kindness with her own intoxicating company. By the time she left him, the bar was virtually empty, and Madam Olean and Marek had to help Basha to his room.
The rake Malcom had succeed in wheedling his way into the arms of Tamra, and convinced her to throw him a freebie, “in the woods” he said. Although she protested somewhat, she soon gave in to his blandishments. After their frolic, they made their separate ways back to the manor house. Malcom noticed, but didn’t think anything of the lights on the stable, as he was focused on another drink. Raking is thirsty work!
The bar seemed closed, however. Certainly it was empty. Declining to help himself to any of bottles, Malcom climbed the stair to his room. His empty room, devoid of alcohol and women. So much for hospitality.
Some hours into the night, the house of awakened by cries and clamor from Basha’s room! Horrible screams seemed to fill the air as the mistress of the house banged desperately to be admitted. When the door was opened, Basha half fell out, babbling like lunatic about eyes in the night, and being attacked, and stabbing something with his knife, which he brandished about to demonstrate. Madam Olean calmed him, and Marek searched the room, but nothing could be found to suggest that anyone besides Basha had ever been there, nothing except the mysterious ichor on the knife itself. Beside himself, Basha redoubled his efforts to tell the world he had been attacked. Madam Olean ran to her room to fetch some medicine which might calm the troubled soul.
As the medicine reached his lips, Basha started violently. “Too much!” he shouted, “A nightcap should be one fingers full. I’ll show you!” And with that, he made his way back to the bar, towing Marek and Malcom with him.
In the cavernous bar, dimly lit, three men drank as if there would be no tomorrow. Basha drank to forget. Malcom drank to be drunk. And Marek drank because he had been invited to do so by Malcom. They were joined by Lady Aggra who had been roused by the earlier shouting. Perhaps a bit drunk herself, Aggra melted into Basha, allowing him to be close to her, and even put his hand upon her knee. It all seemed too much for the drunken merchant, and with crash, he fell to the ground, stunned. Shocked by this turn of events, Aggra checked him to see if he still lived, and when it was discovered that he did, left quickly, apparently overcome herself. Malcom and Marek wrestled the unconscious merchant up the stairs and to his bed, before retiring themselves, perhaps to sleep in the short time before dawn.
The morning came quickly for some. For others, it was not to come at all. Madam Olean was discovered in her bed, stabbed to death. The unfortunate young woman who found her fled screaming from the scene, rousing the household, except for the merchant Basha, who slept drunk to the world until nearly noon.
By the time Basha was roused, Lord Bark had begun questioning the staff and guests, and had forbidden anyone from leaving the House of Good Repute. As the day progressed, it was revealed that things were awry in the manor, or at least missing. Or maybe only missing for Basha. Gone was his silver knife which he had so proudly used to fend off his late night attacker. Gone was the bolt of silk from his supplies. Gone was the box of jewels from his wagon. Gone, too, was one of the spears he carried in the third wagon. And where were his guards during the night? Gone as well.
Lord Bark took no interest in any of this, except to sniff suspiciously at the 3 spears. He had a murderer to catch, and a fat merchant’s petty troubles over silk and jewels mattered little to him. Irate, Basha decided to conduct his own investigation.
While his guards searched where they could for his trade goods, Basha sought to discover where his knife was. Marek didn’t know at all. “Have you checked under the bed?” he suggested. Malcom remembered the knife was on Basha’s waist when they went down to the bar after the midnight scare, and that it was not there when they dragged Basha to bed after his drunken fall. And Lady Aggra?
Lady Aggra was abed, still. The previous day had been too much for her delicate constitution, and the murder on top of everything else? Well. What can you do? When Lord Bark admitted Basha to their chambers, he was less than pleased by Basha’s attempts to find a knife. “We’re looking for a murderer” he growled. “Someone with a knife!” “What about my things?” inquired Basha, earnestly. “I don’t care about your precious things” snapped Bark. “Its not important. Is that all?”
“I wanted to ask your wife about my knife” said Basha. “Whether she remembers seeing it in the bar last night.”
Lord Bark exploded. His wife cavorting with merchants and rakes and barmen in the middle of the night? It didn’t bear thinking about. So he didn’t, striding angrily out of the room, and slamming the door.
Lady Aggra thought she remembered seeing a knife on the floor of the bar last night, but couldn’t remember much beyond that. It was there when Basha fell to the floor, she was pretty certain. But thank you for stopping by. It was very sweet and thoughtful.
Basha left, no closer to recovering any of his property.
The next morning, Lord Bark announced he had found the killer. He was arresting the maid Tamra for the murder. She had been seen out the night in question, wandering the grounds. And whats more, a bloody knife was discovered in her locker. Too much blood, thought Basha examining the locker in a last ditch attempt to locate his trade goods. But the knife wasn’t his, and Bark had released everyone to leave the inn at last. If he hurried, he might make a loss on the whole trip.
The rake Malcom wasn’t pleased with the solution either. He had been with Tamra that night, but his attempt to alibi her only cast suspicion on himself as a conspirator. Under semi arrest, he watched as Basha’s merchant caravan moved down the drive to the High Road, and with some interest as two new guests arrive – a scholarly looking gentleman and a woman carrying on her back a baby…