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Cid

from 2013

Age 24
Male
Philippines
Seen 12 Hours Ago
Posted 12 Hours Ago
3,424 posts
11.6 Years
Hey there. This was my entry to the Small Writing Competition in PC's Get-Together 2019. This year's prompt was mystery.

If you have the time, please do read the other entries. I think everyone else did great. I'll edit this post as I see them, but here are Janp's and Venia Silente's SWC entries.

Venia Silente mentioned a Director's Cut version of their SWC entry, which gave me the idea to change my story up a bit based on the judges' comments. However, if you don't like me doing that, worry not. The original submission will be at the end of this post in spoiler tags. If you would like to read that first, scroll to the end of this post without reading anything, then scroll a little bit back up to open the spoiler tag. Alternatively, use the find function of your browser (Ctrl+F or something similar) then type in Cid's Original SWC 2019 Entry. If you're okay with the edited version, read the story down below.

Either way, I hope you enjoy reading this!




“Gone Before the Fantasy”
Written by Cid

What a shame.

Your good friend, Quentin, called you last night. Said that Erdrick was murdered. You just had drinks with Quentin a few weeks ago at the local pub, upon hearing the news that he would go on an expedition with three other friends to restore peace in your land.

You guess this means you’ll have to wait for some other group of four to bring that peace. Quentin’s party is going to have to deal with the repercussions of this first.

The details are a bit foggy to you. What you heard from his call was that Erdrick, one of Quentin’s party members, was found dead in his sleep. The only evidence was the bottle of gin that he drank before sleeping. You suspect it was laced with something that killed him in his sleep. A painless death.

“Who would do such a thing?”

That was the very question you were asking yourself, before Quentin asked you. Erdrick didn’t deserve that. You grew apart, sure, but from how you remember him, he never made any enemies.

In fact, your town has always been rather peaceful. It just makes no sense.

You find yourself reminiscing.

You, Quentin, and Erdrick grew up in this town. Your mother died of illness when you were seventeen. Your father left your mother before you were born. Even without a father, you think you grew up alright. Your childhood was pleasant. You used to hang out with Quentin and his friends everyday after your hunting lessons were done. You always liked playing hero back then, and you were often seen as the most sensible of your bunch. So to everyone's surprise, detective work ended up being your career. In your defense, it seemed like a great career at the time, having grown up from your childhood fantasies. The hunting experience was still useful, since you became a marksman as well, but taking on cases was your main thing.

Most of your work has taken you to other towns. But after a few years, you realized that this line of work was not as great as it seemed. Now you've been home due to a lull of cases, and for the first time, you might have to use your skill set here.

In any case, it might be time to pack up. Your friends are waiting.

---

“Tully?”

You enter Quentin’s living room and see three people, one of whom just called you by your name. This guy, Rio, is a pretty affectionate guy. He looks crestfallen, but he seems to have temporarily put on a cheerful facade because you came in. He greets you with a big hug, then looks sad again when he lets go. It seems he can’t hold the facade up any longer.

“It’s awful, Tully. Erdrick’s dead.”

“Yeah, Quentin called me last night,” you reply to Rio.

You look away from Rio for a bit. Quentin's living room is huge, but smaller than you remember it. You scan the area and see statues of gargoyles in the corners. A wide staircase is located at the center of the room. There are paths that lead to other parts of the manor. Beside you, where Rio came from, is a small reception area. In it are chairs made of monster hide, some old lamps, a variety of antiques and bookshelves near the wall, and tables made of burgundy. The windows behind you illuminate the area, and the general mood of the room is tranquil. You see your two other friends sitting in the reception.

Quentin receives a flask of healing potion from the only woman in the room, Winona. He pockets this flask, then turns his attention to you.

“Tully, there you are. Have you eaten breakfast yet?”

“I have not, actually. Thanks for asking. I was just looking around, but it would be better for me to see Erdrick’s room right away. I'll grab a bite to eat later.”

Without a word, Winona leaves her seat and asks you to follow her, and you comply. She motions herself towards one of the hallway entrances. Rio and Quentin walk behind you. As the four of you leave the room, Winona begins to speak.

“Erdrick’s been drinking pretty often, Tully. I know this doesn’t sound like him, but I wouldn’t rule out his excessive booze being the cause of his death.”

You raise an eyebrow and respond.

“Yeah, no. I don’t think this was an accident. Besides, why didn’t you guys intervene, exactly?”

Quentin is quick to respond.

“We were busy, Tully. We didn’t realize how bad it got until it was too late.”

You look at Winona’s face and noticed it got more somber. She directs her gaze away from you and moves on.

As you walk through the halls of Quentin’s manor, you take in your surroundings. The four of them have been living together, so there’s traces of Winona, Erdrick, and Rio all around. A table filled with bottles and potion ingredients is in one corner. Erdrick’s collection of staves is in another. Rio has been training, too, and his training gi, poles, and mats are strewn across the floor at the far end of the room. But of course, Quentin’s display of armor, swords, and shields take center stage. There are portraits of Quentin’s ancestors on every wall, with most of them being knights during those previous generations.

It dawns on you how accomplished your friends are now. You have a record for being a good private eye and marksman, but nothing else. None of your cases have made headlines. You used to fancy yourself as a great archer when you were young, perhaps even joining one of those expeditions you and your friends kept hearing about. But fate had other plans. People just left the town. Sometimes they come back, sometimes they don’t. And in this case, Erdrick left without telling a soul.

You reach Erdrick’s room. Winona, despite being a guest in Quentin’s house, holds up the keys.

“Don’t bother. I left it open,” Quentin tells her.

Winona looks puzzled. “Isn’t that a bit irresponsible, Q? What if someone entered the house?”

“No one’s going to enter the house, Win.”

Rio chimes in. “As far as I know, Quentin’s only told Tully of what happened. The entire town thinks we’re still good to go in three days.”

You look at Rio and nod.

“It’s probably better this way. I was looking forward to seeing you guys off. The town would be devastated by the news.”

You open the door. It creaks as light from behind you illuminates the room. The first thing you see is bottles upon bottles of alcohol. What Winona told you earlier may not have been far from the truth. And then you see your friend, Erdrick. If you didn’t know he was dead, you’d think he’d just been sleeping. But he is, and the sight compels you to look the other way.

Farewell, dear friend.

Rio and Winona hesitate before entering the room. It’s a fairly spacious room; Quentin keeps a lot of space for his guests, you think. As a guest room, it might be a tad unrecognizable, because Erdrick has really made the room his own. There are books on offensive spells and healing spells. Staves and rods are on all four corners. The center of the room is marked with what looks like a summoning circle. It’s probably for practice; it would make a huge mess if he actually summoned anything inside. Your eyes catch Quentin’s eyes as the horror of that very thought registers on his face.

“Guess I should have checked up on him more often. I didn’t know he was planning to summon dragons inside my guest room.”

Rio puts a hand on Quentin’s shoulder. “Relax, Quentin. He wasn’t gonna do that. You know him.”

Winona taps your shoulder to call your attention. As you turn to her, she points to a journal left open on the floor.

“That looks like Erdrick’s journal,” Winona tells you.

Rio walks to where the journal was dropped and takes it, quickly handing it to you. You read the opened page.

Man, I’m a failure. I can’t even cast a single spell without having to look at my books. And how am I supposed to summon beasts? I can’t cast the spell for actually conjuring the summoning circle. Having to draw one with my staff would take so long.

The next few pages are filled with anecdotes of his training progress.

Quentin’s been really nice to me. I know I’m the weakest of us four, but he’s been patient. He knows I can do it. The only thing that’s left is for me to be patient with myself, too. I don’t know if I can, though. All I know is, I want to help. I have to be there for them.

You flip through more.

Winona is probably the ideal woman. She knows how to cook, knows how to take care of you, knows how to be a true beauty inside and out. I’m just glad she’s going to be with us in our journey.

You see Winona blush as Quentin rolls his eyes. You scan the pages some more.

Rio has this weird ability to predict the future with his dreams. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, although I guess being in tune with one’s body would unlock all sorts of powers. He told me I was going to find a lucky coin today, and I did! I should show it to him.

Rio does not seem to realize you read an entry about him. He’s busy petting a bird near the window. He approaches you when he realizes you’ve been staring at him, though.

I miss Tully. He was always the most level-headed, even when we were kids. I wonder how he's doing these days. Probably busy with a lot of cases; he never comes to visit. Sometimes I wish he kept hunting and became an archer instead. A party of five would have been nice.

All you can think is how much you miss him, too. You get to one of the more recent entries.

At least I can heal people alright. I managed to heal Rio’s scrape earlier, and he gave me a big hug. Winona’s been pretty chummy with me recently, too. I wonder how I can regain Quentin’s trust…

“Man, that takes me back. Erdrick kept bugging me on the basic healing spells I knew, and I was really happy to teach him,” Rio says with a bittersweet expression.

Winona takes an interest in Erdrick’s last line on his journal entry. But before she can say a word, you beat her to the punch. “I’ve been meaning to ask you this, Quentin. What happened between you and Erdrick?”

“Tully… It’s complicated. I know he's not just my friend, he's yours as well. But he just died. I don’t know if I can tell you.”

You turn your attention to your other friend. “Winona?”

“I haven’t the faintest clue, Tully. One day they just stopped talking to each other.”

You let out a frustrated sigh. “I can’t believe you guys have been living together and ignoring each other the entire time.”

Rio frowns.

“I didn’t want them to stay like that either, Tully. But Quentin’s been so jaded that I can’t get him to talk things out with Erdrick,” he reasons out.

Quentin finally says a word.

“We haven’t exactly been eating together at dinner. He’s kept himself cooped up in his room as I hung out at the pub. And when I get home, everyone’s already asleep. Except for Winona at times, when she’s working on her alchemy.”

You look at Winona and she just shrugs. You decide to drop the subject.

You walk around the room some more. There’s not much else to see. He had a mirror and a desk. There’s a chair beneath that desk. Windows are on one side of the room, but not a lot of light is coming from it since the sun is on the other side. There are a lot of bushes and trees out the window. Quentin keeps the courtyard in good shape, in your opinion. With a room like this it’s kind of a puzzle that Erdrick has been drinking so much. It’s a good place to live for a while, before their journey. Lots of training ground outside, and the guest room is spacious enough to practice small spells.

You start to think that there are, perhaps, two possible reasons that Erdrick hasn’t been in the best shape. His lack of confidence in his abilities as a mage, and his misunderstanding with Quentin. You continue to gaze around and pace about. A few minutes pass and you come back to where Rio picked up Erdrick’s journal.

But why would that lead to his death? Who would do such a thing?

Winona catches you deep in thought.

“So what do you think happened, Tully?”

“I don’t know, Winona. I might have to stay the night to figure this out.”

Quentin hears this and speaks up. “Well, Tully, if you need to stay the night, the room next to Rio’s is free.”

Right, Quentin has more than three guest rooms.

“Thanks, Q; I’ll take you up on that offer,” you respond. Quentin’s face brightens up. It’s been a while since you’ve seen him smile.

---

It’s early afternoon and you’ve settled down your things. You didn’t pack much, so it’s a godsend that Quentin puts a lot of thought into the welfare of his guests. The guest room is complete with anything you’d need. You think that’s probably why it was so easy for Erdrick to coop himself up in his room.

You leave your guest room and walk down the hall. You hear Quentin’s practice sword hitting training poles in one of the training rooms. You stop for a bit to decide if it’s worth bothering him. Considering the circumstances, you decide that it is.

You knock on the door.

“Yes? Come in!”

You usher yourself in. Quentin is wearing his full knight armor, probably to get used to the weight of the thing. The room is pretty empty, save for some benches, training poles, armor stands, shields, and sword racks.

“Tully! Did you need anything for your room?”

You are immediately flustered by the question. “No, no. I was just passing by and heard you inside. Can I speak with you for a bit?”

Quentin meets your eyes and reads them for a bit before responding. “Sure.”

Quentin puts his practice sword on a rack. Both of you sit down on one of the benches. Before you get to say anything, Quentin surprises you with a question.

“You don’t think I did it, do you?”

You gulp. “I can’t rule it out, Q. I’m sorry.” Quentin frowns.

“That’s alright. I guess we’re all suspects here.”

You bring out a journal and a pen. Quentin crosses his arms.

“What were you doing the night Erdrick died?”

That was last night. But it feels important to emphasize your friend’s death for the question.

“I was in the pub where we drank a few beers two weeks ago. The entire night I was there, so I barely got to see Erdrick that day.”

This struck you as odd.

“How did you find out he died?”

Quentin seems to be lost in thought. Probably trying to recall the events of that night.

“It was all a blur. I think it was Winona who told me. And then I called you.”

You jot this down in your journal.

“Did Winona or Rio seem different that day?”

Quentin scratches his head. “You’ll have to ask Winona. She was with Rio and Erdrick that morning, if memory serves me right. I barely interacted with the guys, but Winona seemed in good spirits that morning. I don’t know if that counts as different.”

You gaze around during Quentin’s answer. There’s not much to see. The floor is made out of wood. There are windows on either side of the room. One of the training poles seems like it’s ready to break into pieces. The room is as empty as your leads for this case.

Quentin starts to ask you a question.

“How have you been, Tully? It’s been a few weeks since we’ve talked like this, hasn’t it?”

You gaze at Quentin from the change in topic. You think for a bit, and decide to answer honestly.

“I’ve been better, Q.”

Quentin looks saddened by your answer.

You look at one of the windows and notice a butterfly outside. You collect your thoughts before continuing.

“Sometimes I wish I stayed here with you guys. It feels like I couldn’t leave you guys together without a fight breaking. Erdrick was too passive to extend an olive branch, and you were too prideful. You burn bridges too easily, Q. And now we’re here, where the person you burned bridges with... is gone.”

Quentin responds by looking down at the floor. A few minutes pass with none of you saying a word.

You finally bring up what’s been bugging you, ever since you learned of it.

“This needs to be cleared up once and for all, Q. It’ll help your case, too. Please just tell me: what happened between you and Erdrick?”

Quentin lets out a deep sigh.

“Alright. The thing is, Tully, I told Erdrick how I felt about Winona.”

This is news to you.

“And the first thing he said to me when I said my piece was to stop and focus on the mission. I listened to him, because it made sense: we can’t afford to be distracted on our expedition to save our land.”

You nod to yourself, and Quentin continues.

“But then a few days later, I see him getting a kiss on the cheek from Winona.”

Oh boy.

“I always feared that Winona had a thing for him, so in a fit of rage, I just stopped talking to Erdrick. I feel like he knew what happened, and that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation, but I just kept pushing him away.”

You take it all in. All you feel right now? Regret, you suppose, for having to ask this. And empathy for Quentin’s situation. You wish Erdrick didn’t have to die with this strife wedged between him and Quentin.

“I’m sorry, Q. I wish things had been different.”

“Me too.”

---

You find yourself in Winona’s lab. Well, it’s a guest room that she fashioned into her temporary alchemy lab, filled with bottles, potions, cauldrons, and ingredients for all sorts of concoctions and salves.

Winona is taking care of a brewing glass of sorts near the window. You think it probably helps her process things, since you just told her what you heard from Quentin a few minutes ago. You take the opportunity to gaze around some more.

The room is about the same size as Erdrick’s guest room. There are drawers labeled with a variety of potion types right next to the door. A horizontal cupboard about the same height as the table in front of you is situated next to the drawers. It contains a variety of bottles, books, boxes of some kind, and a few items for sport, oddly enough. To the left of that are more books on top of a small sliding case, with each compartment locked with keys.

There’s a board with potion ingredients and recipes written in chalk. More cabinets, more objects. To your surprise, there are knives, rods, and guns inside, too. Being a marksman, you find yourself drawn to the firearms. But it seems Winona has finished what she was doing, so it’ll have to wait.

“I don’t know what to say, Tully. I’m a bit surprised to hear that that’s what it was,” Winona says, her gaze far away.

You nod with a frown.

“Yeah, me too. But Q wanted you to know, so I guess I’m just glad he’s come clean.”

Winona had already known Quentin’s feelings for her; he told her a few days ago. What was unknown to her until just now was that Quentin got jealous of Erdrick when she kissed his cheek. That happened more than a month ago.

“I just can’t believe Quentin would hold such a long grudge. He’s usually better than that.”

Yeah, you can’t believe it too. But you didn’t feel like saying anything of the sort.

Winona looks at you and notices your silence. She brings you back to the reason you were staying the night in the first place.

“The thing is though, as unfortunate as this all is, we have to put all this aside for now. Erdrick’s death is still something we have to resolve.”

That’s true. “Yeah. You’re right, Win.”

So you put your attention back to your journal and pen.

“Where were you the night Erdrick died?”

Winona answers quickly and with no hesitation.

“I was in my room, combining ingredients for a new potion I’ve been working on. The old version of this potion, I’ve been giving to those three, whenever they’ve had trouble sleeping.” You jot this down.

“What were you doing with Rio and Erdrick the morning before he died?”

“Rio asked me to tour him around my equipment, with Erdrick tagging along.”

This doesn’t surprise you. The two were probably bored that day. But it piques your interest enough to press.

“Did Rio tell you why he wanted one?”

She thinks for a bit. “I actually don’t know. But he told me he wanted this tour days before. So I was looking forward to it.”

You decide to keep this in mind. Winona goes back to her brewing.

“Hey, Winona.”

She momentarily looks at you after you call her name.

“Yes, Tully?”

You look at the cup of tea that Winona served you when you came in. It’s getting cold.

“I know I’m still interrogating you guys as suspects. But you know, I sincerely hope none of you did it.”

Winona stops and faces you, with a face filled with emotion. As for which emotion it is, you can’t quite pinpoint it. It seems like a mixture of pain, from losing a friend, and relief, that another friend has hope in her innocence.

“Me too, Tully. It’s a hard living, what you’re doing. Even Erdrick thought that. He wouldn’t stop worrying about you.”

---

You walk out of Winona’s lab feeling depressed.

Erdrick didn’t deserve to die. I wish I was there for him. I didn’t know how much he missed me.

You continue walking and stumble upon the last guest room that you haven’t checked out. Rio’s room. You don’t hear anything outside, but you know Rio’s inside because he’s not in any other place of the manor. He didn’t tell you, Quentin, or Winona that he was going out, too. So it’s safe to assume that he is inside. You approach the door and knock.

---

“Rio?”

You enter his guest room. As you walk in and see your friend's back, you begin to reminisce what you knew about Rio. He was always the caring type, like a father or a big brother to his friends. When you see Rio, you felt safe. A huge man, in peace with himself-- someone who can actually cast healing spells if you need it, and the most healing part of being friends with him was when he greeted you with a hug.

Rio approaches you with a despondent look about him. It makes sense to you that Rio’s upset; he’s been alone since this morning, and Erdrick’s gone. The two were pretty close even before you left. You notice the window outside. The setting sun is filled with melancholy.

“Hey, Tully. Are you alright?”

You should be asking him that, not the other way around. But you reply in the most mundane manner anyway. “I’m good, Rio.”

When you were talking to Quentin earlier, he had a lot of armor on. In comparison, Rio’s only wearing gi pants. In a different time, you’d tell him to wear a shirt, but right now, he’s probably not in a jovial mood to take your request in stride. You decide to leave his attire alone.

“I’ll be asking you a few questions that I did with Quentin and Winona, if it’s okay.”

You look at him. Rio just nods.

“Alright. Where were you the night Erdrick died?”

“I was here. I found his body.”

Winona and Quentin never mentioned to have done that themselves. You feel bad for Rio.

“Did you see anyone else enter or leave Erdrick’s room that night?”

“No. No one else was there.”

This checks out, too. From what you know, Quentin was in the pub, and Winona was in her lab.

“What happened that night?”

Rio stays silent.

You wait for his response, gazing around as you wait. His room is mostly empty. It looks very similar to your guest room, actually. Rio probably hasn’t spent a lot of time here.

Rio stands up, still hushed. He asks you to follow him outside. You walk with him to the courtyard.

---

The setting sun makes the courtyard look beautiful. There’s mostly grass, but there are staircases made of stone decorating the area. You see stone pillars, stone walls with hollow windows, some stone pathways, a fountain in the middle, and a few bats flying overhead. There are trees and bushes as well. It looks pretty safe; you don’t think anyone from outside would have gone in and done the murder. Although you wish that were the case.

Rio is walking right next to you. You can hear the cool crunch of grass on his bare feet.

“Have you ever been in love, Tully?” Rio asks you wistfully.

“I… I can’t say I have, Rio.”

He closes his right eye, perhaps feeling bad for you, then puts his hands behind his back. He still looks as depressed as he was when you saw him in his room earlier. He takes a deep breath.

“Tully… Erdrick and I...”

You don’t see where he’s going with this.

“We were almost lovers.”

What? You guys... were almost lovers?

This comes as a huge surprise to you. They did seem very close, but you always thought Erdrick had eyes for women. What Rio says next makes it seem like he read your mind.

“Erdrick had been with women. But when I told him I loved him, he kissed me,” Rio confesses, and you start to see tears forming in his eyes. “We slept together. And then he told me he loved me, too. But he didn’t want us to pursue the relationship. We needed to focus on the mission. So we stayed friends.”

You can only empathize with your friend.

“Why would I kill Erdrick, Tully? I loved him.”

Now you suddenly feel like you’ve been backed into a corner. Fitting, because you and Rio reached one of the corners of the courtyard, with bushes acting as walls.

“Hold on, I didn’t say you did. I still don’t know what happened, Rio.”

Rio wipes his tears and clears his throat. You ask him something else.

“Winona mentioned that you and Erdrick had a tour around her alchemy tables that morning. Is this true?”

“We did, yeah.”

“Is it alright to ask why you did that?”

Rio looks confused. “I... get curious about what other people do. She was going to be with us all the time in our expedition. It would have helped to know what she did.”

His answer sounds a bit odd to you, but you take it.

“Alright. What did you guys do after the tour?”

Rio freezes. He takes a long time before answering.

“I left the house. I went for a walk.”

Wait, you left Erdrick?

You begin to doubt. You have so many questions.

“Erdrick ended up drinking that night, didn’t he?” you told Rio.

“What time did you come back? Was he still drinking when you did?”

“I-I…” Rio begins to stammer.

“Were you drinking with him?”

Rio starts to feel like he’s being interrogated too much. “Why are you asking me this, Tully?”

You don’t know how else to answer.

“That was the last night he was alive, Rio.”

Rio turns quiet. Quentin and Winona enter the courtyard.

“Tully? Rio? What’s happening?” Quentin’s voice is filled with worry.

“Rio?” Winona sounds like she fears for what comes next.

Ignoring Quentin and Winona, you continue to talk to Rio.

“Please, Rio. Tell me the full picture of what you know. What happened that night?”

You notice that Rio’s been holding back tears. His fist has been curled up into a ball.

“I didn’t want this to happen. I’m sorry, Erdrick...”

For such a huge man, seeing him trembling breaks your heart.

No… It can’t be... “...Rio?”

He continues to shake like a leaf. Tears stream down his face.

“Erdrick... I’m sorry.”

---

The four of you are back inside, at the reception room. None of you have said a word since the scene at the courtyard. You, Quentin, and Winona are waiting for Rio to calm down, but he is still shedding tears in his seat.

With teary eyes, Rio starts to confess.

“Do you guys remember... what Erdrick wrote in his journal?”

No one responds. You recall the lucky coin, and Rio predicting that future.

“I’ve had more dreams like that. Of us four encountering a formidable monster. Erdrick shielding me from harm. Him dying a gruesome death, right in front of me.”

Rio kneels on the floor, right in front of you. He clutches your right hand, continues to look down, and you see more of his tears falling.

“Even worse than that, I’ve seen him tortured, as I watch helplessly. I’ve seen him experience excruciating pain that he could have avoided if he just stayed behind.”

You try to comfort him. You put a hand on his back. From your peripheral vision, you realize Quentin and Winona have risen from their seats and are standing next to you, hearing every word from Rio’s confession.

“I didn’t want him to die, Tully. I didn’t want to see the love of my life, mangled in pieces. I didn’t want him to suffer.”

Rio continues to weep.

“He was too brave. Tully, he was too brave. I didn’t know what else to do… I couldn’t... I still loved him.”

Quentin and Winona are quiet.

“I tried to keep him from joining us. I knew he wasn’t ready. He knew it, too. But he kept insisting that he wanted to be with us. To be with me.”

Erdrick...

“I kept hoping one day I would dream of a different future. But the nightmares just kept happening. I felt like I was going crazy. I… I just stopped sleeping altogether.”

Rio takes a deep breath. You find it hard to keep seeing the anguish in Rio’s face.

“He never changed his decision. He was going, no matter what. To his death. To all that suffering. Erdrick… Tully, I...”

You can only hear Rio’s muffled sobs.

“I just wanted him to never experience that pain.”

---

The three of you stand on the front porch of Quentin’s manor, as Rio confesses his crime to the town’s law enforcers-- watchmen.

It’s nighttime. You feel like a part of you has died with the setting of the sun.

You gaze at Winona and see her comforting Quentin, who was visibly distraught. As if the death of Erdrick last night wasn’t enough. Rio looks back one last time, at Quentin, at Winona, at you, and then-- he gets taken away.

Farewell, dear friend.



Thank you to Bay, bobandbill, and gimmepie for their judges' comments and criticisms! Special thanks to you as well for reading this! If you have any comments and criticisms, I would appreciate them, too.



Now. Without further ado, here is the original entry I sent:
Spoiler: Cid's Original SWC 2019 Entry
“Gone Before the Fantasy”
Written by Cid

What a shame.

Your good friend, Quentin, called you last night. Said that Erdrick was murdered. You just had drinks with Quentin a few weeks ago at the local pub, upon hearing the news that he would go on an expedition with three other friends to restore peace in your land.

I guess this means you’ll have to wait for some other group of four to bring that peace. Quentin’s party is going to have to deal with the repercussions of this first.

The details are a bit foggy to you. What you heard from his call was that Erdrick, one of Quentin’s party members, was found dead in his sleep. The only evidence was the bottle of gin that he drank before sleeping. You suspect it was laced with something that killed him in his sleep. A painless death.

“Who would do such a thing?”

That was the very question you were asking yourself, before Quentin asked you. Your town has been rather peaceful. It makes no sense.

In any case, it might be time to pack up. Your friends are waiting.

---

“Tully?”

You enter Quentin’s living room and see three people, one of whom just called you by your name. This guy, Rio, is a pretty affectionate guy. He looks crestfallen, but he seems to have temporarily put on a cheerful facade because you came in. He greets you with a big hug, then looks sad again when he lets go. It seems he can’t hold the facade up any longer.

“It’s awful, Tully. Erdrick’s dead.”

“Yeah, Quentin called me last night,” you reply to Rio.

Quentin receives a flask of healing potion from the only woman in the room, Winona. He pockets this flask, then turns his attention to you.

“Tully, there you are. Have you eaten breakfast yet?”

“I haven’t. I need to see Erdrick’s room right away.”

Winona leaves her seat without a word and asks you to follow her. Rio and Quentin walk behind you. Winona begins to speak.

“Erdrick’s been drinking pretty often, Tully. I wouldn’t rule out his excessive booze being the cause of his death, if I were you.”

You raise an eyebrow and respond.

“Yeah, no. I don’t think this was an accident.”

As the four of you walk through the halls of Quentin’s manor, you take in your surroundings. The four of them have been living together, so there’s traces of Winona, Erdrick, and Rio all around. A table filled with bottles and potion ingredients is in one corner. Erdrick’s collection of staves is in another. Rio has been training, too, and his training gi, poles, and mats are strewn across the floor at the far end of the room. But of course, Quentin’s display of armor, swords, and shields take center stage. There are portraits of Quentin’s ancestors on every wall, with most of them being knights during those previous generations.

It dawns on you how accomplished your friends are. You have a record for being a good private eye and marksman, but nothing else. You used to fancy yourself as a great archer when you were young, perhaps even joining one of those expeditions you keep hearing about. But it never came to be. People just left the town. Sometimes they come back, sometimes they don’t. And in this case, Erdrick left for good without telling a soul.

You reach Erdrick’s room. Winona, despite being a guest in Quentin’s house, holds up the keys.

“Don’t bother. I left it open,” Quentin tells her.

Winona looks puzzled. “Isn’t that a bit irresponsible, Q? What if someone entered the house?”

“No one’s going to enter the house, Win.”

Rio chimes in. “As far as I know, Quentin’s only told Tully of what happened. The entire town thinks we’re still good to go in three days.”

And you add, “It’s probably better this way. I was looking forward to seeing you guys off. The town would be devastated by the news.”

You open the door. It creaks as light from behind you illuminates the room. The first thing you see is bottles upon bottles of alcohol. What Winona told you earlier may not have been far from the truth. And then you see your friend, Erdrick. If you didn’t know he was dead, you’d think he’d just been sleeping. But he is, and the sight compels you to look the other way.

Farewell, dear friend.

Rio and Winona hesitate before entering the room. It’s a fairly spacious room; Quentin keeps a lot of space for his guests, you think. As a guest room, it might be a tad unrecognizable, because Erdrick has really made the room his own. There are books on offensive spells and healing spells. Staves and rods are on all four corners. The center of the room is marked with what looks like a summoning circle. It’s probably for practice; it would make a huge mess if he actually summoned anything inside. Your eyes catch Quentin’s eyes as the horror of that very thought registers on his face.

“Guess I should have checked up on him more often. I didn’t know he was planning to summon dragons inside my guest room.”

Rio puts a hand on Quentin’s shoulder. “Relax, Quentin. He wasn’t gonna do that. You know him.”

Winona taps your shoulder to call your attention. As you turn to her, she points to a journal left open on the floor.

“That looks like Erdrick’s journal,” Winona tells you.

Rio walks to where the journal was dropped and takes it, quickly handing it to you. You read the opened page.

Man, I’m a failure. I can’t even cast a single spell without having to look at my books. And how am I supposed to summon beasts if I can’t cast the spell for actually conjuring the summoning circle? Having to draw one with my staff would take so long.

The next few pages are filled with anecdotes of his training progress.

Quentin’s been really nice to me. I know I’m the weakest of us four, but he’s been patient. He knows I can do it. The only thing that’s left is for me to be patient with myself, too. I don’t know if I can, though. All I know is, I want to help. I have to be there for them.

You flip through more.

Winona is probably the ideal woman. She knows how to cook, knows how to take care of you, knows how to be a true beauty inside and out. I’m just glad she’s going to be with us in our journey.

You see Winona blush as Quentin rolls his eyes. You scan the pages some more.

Rio has this weird ability to predict the future with his dreams. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, although I guess being in tune with one’s body would unlock all sorts of powers. This is that kind of world, after all. He told me I was going to find a lucky coin today, and I did! I should show it to him.

Rio does not seem to realize you read an entry about him. He’s busy petting a bird near the window. He approaches you when he realizes you’ve been staring at him, though. You get to one of the more recent entries.

At least I can heal people alright. I managed to heal Rio’s scrape earlier, and he gave me a big hug. Winona’s been pretty chummy with me recently, too. I wonder how I can regain Quentin’s trust…

“Man, that takes me back. Erdrick kept bugging me on the basic healing spells I knew, and I was really happy to teach him,” Rio says with a bittersweet expression.

Winona takes an interest in Erdrick’s last line on his journal entry. But before she can say a word, you beat her to the punch. “I’ve been meaning to ask you this, Quentin. What happened between you and Erdrick?”

“Tully… It’s complicated. He’s my friend, and he just died. I don’t know if I can tell you.”

You turn your attention to your puzzled friend. “Winona?”

“I haven’t the faintest clue, Tully. One day they just stopped talking to each other.”

You let out a sigh. “I can’t believe you guys have been living together, and yet, not speaking a word the entire time.”

“I didn’t want them to stay like that either, Tully. But Quentin’s been so jaded that I can’t get him to talk things out with Erdrick,” Rio reasons out.

Quentin finally says a word.

“We haven’t exactly been eating together at dinner. He’s kept himself cooped up in his room as I hung out at the pub. And when I get home, everyone’s already asleep. Except for Winona at times, when she’s working on her alchemy.”

You look at Winona and she just shrugs. You decide to drop the subject.

You walk around the room some more. There’s not much else to see. He had a mirror and a desk. There’s a chair beneath that desk. Windows are on one side of the room, but not a lot of light is coming from it since the sun is on the other side. There are a lot of bushes and trees out the window. Quentin keeps the courtyard in good shape, in your opinion. With a room like this it’s kind of a puzzle that Erdrick has been drinking so much. It’s a good place to live for a while, before their journey. Lots of training ground outside, and the guest room is spacious enough to practice small spells.

You start to think that there are, perhaps, two possible reasons that Erdrick hasn’t been in the best shape. His lack of confidence in his abilities as a mage, and his misunderstanding with Quentin. You continue to gaze around and pace about. A few minutes pass and you come back to where Rio picked up Erdrick’s journal.

But why would that lead to his death? You five are friends. Who would do such a thing?

Winona catches you deep in thought.

“So what do you think happened, Tully?”

“I don’t know, Winona. I might have to stay the night to figure this out.”

Quentin hears this and speaks up. “Well, Tully, if you need to stay the night, the room next to Rio’s is free.”

Right, Quentin has more than three guest rooms.

“Thanks, Q; I’ll take you up on that offer,” you respond. Quentin’s face brightens up. It’s been a while since you’ve seen him smile.

---

It’s early afternoon and you’ve settled down your things. You didn’t pack much, so it’s a godsend that Quentin puts a lot of thought into the welfare of his guests. The guest room is complete with anything you’d need. You think that’s probably why it was so easy for Erdrick to coop himself up in his room.

You leave your guest room and walk down the hall. You hear Quentin’s practice sword hitting training poles in one of the training rooms. You stop for a bit to decide if it’s worth bothering him. Considering the circumstances, you decide that it is.

You knock on the door.

“Yes? Come in!”

You usher yourself in. Quentin is wearing his full knight armor, probably to get used to the weight of the thing. The room is pretty empty, save for some benches, training poles, armor stands, shields, and sword racks.

“Tully! Did you need anything for your room?”

You are immediately flustered by the question. “No, no. I was just passing by and heard you inside. Can I speak with you for a bit?”

Quentin meets your eyes and reads them for a bit before responding. “Sure.”

Quentin puts his practice sword on a rack. Both of you sit down on one of the benches. Before you get to say anything, Quentin surprises you with a question.

“You don’t think I did it, do you?”

You gulp. “I can’t rule it out, Q. I’m sorry.” Quentin frowns.

“That’s alright. I guess we’re all suspects here.”

You bring out a journal and a pen. Quentin crosses his arms.

“What were you doing the night Erdrick died?”

That was last night. But it feels important to emphasize your friend’s death for the question.

“I was in the pub where we drank a few beers two weeks ago. The entire night I was there, so I barely got to see Erdrick that day.”

This struck you as odd.

“How did you find out he died?”

Quentin seems to be lost in thought. Probably trying to recall the events of that night.

“It was all a blur. I think it was Winona who told me. And then I called you.”

You jot this down in your journal.

“Did Winona or Rio seem different that day?”

Quentin scratches his head. “You’ll have to ask Winona. She was with Rio and Erdrick that morning, if memory serves me right. I barely interacted with the guys, but Winona seemed in good spirits that morning. I don’t know if that counts as different.”

This is going slower than you thought, you think to yourself. Time to bring out the bigger questions.

“This needs to be cleared up once and for all, Q. It’ll help your case, too. Please just tell me: what happened between you and Erdrick?”

Quentin lets out a deep sigh.

“Alright. The thing is, Tully, I told Erdrick how I felt about Winona.”

This is news to you.

“And the first thing he said to me when I said my piece was to stop and focus on the mission. I listened to him, because it made sense: we can’t afford to be distracted on our expedition to save our land.”

You nod to yourself, and Quentin continues.

“But then a few days later, I see him getting a kiss on the cheek from Winona.”

Oh boy.

“I always feared that Winona had a thing for him, so in a fit of rage, I just stopped talking to Erdrick. I feel like he knew what happened, and that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation, but I just kept pushing him away.”

You take it all in. All you feel right now? Regret, you suppose, for having to ask this. And empathy for Quentin’s situation. You wish Erdrick didn’t have to die with this strife wedged between him and Quentin.

“I’m sorry, Q. I wish things had been different.”

“Me too.”

---

You find yourself in Winona’s lab. Well, it’s a guest room that she fashioned into her temporary alchemy lab, filled with bottles, potions, cauldrons, and ingredients for all sorts of concoctions and salves. To your surprise, there are knives, rods, and guns inside, too. Being a marksman, you find yourself drawn to the firearms, but you’re talking to Winona right now, so it’ll have to wait.

“So that’s what it was,” Winona says, her gaze far away.

You nod with a frown.

“Yeah. Q wanted you to know.”

Winona had already known Quentin’s feelings for her; he told her a few days ago. What was unknown to her until just now was that Quentin got jealous of Erdrick when she kissed his cheek. That happened more than a month ago.

“I just can’t believe Quentin would hold such a long grudge. He’s usually better than that.”

Yeah, you can’t believe it too. But you didn’t feel like saying anything of the sort.

Winona looks at you and notices your silence. She brings you back to the reason you were staying the night in the first place.

“The thing is though, as unfortunate as this all is, we have to put all this aside for now. Erdrick’s death is still something we have to resolve.”

That’s true. “Yeah. You’re right, Win.”

So you put your attention back to your journal and pen.

“Where were you the night Erdrick died?”

Winona answers quickly and with no hesitation.
“I was in my room, combining ingredients for a new potion I’ve been working on. The old version of this potion, I’ve been giving to those three, whenever they’ve had trouble sleeping.” You jot this down.

“What were you doing with Rio and Erdrick the morning before he died?”

“Rio asked me to tour him around my equipment, with Erdrick tagging along.”

Rio? What would a monk need a tour of an alchemist’s equipment for? This sounds incredibly suspicious, so you press this fact.

“Why would Rio do that?”

She begins to question this herself. “I actually don’t know. But he told me he wanted this tour days before. So I was looking forward to it.”

A planned event. You need to speak to Rio, fast.

---

“Rio?”

You enter his guest room. For some reason, the entire mood in his room is completely different from the Rio you knew. He was always the caring type, like a father or a big brother to his friends. When you see Rio, you felt safe. A huge man, in peace with himself-- someone who can actually cast healing spells if you need it, and the most healing part of being friends with him was when he greeted you with a hug.

You recall him hugging you this morning. That felt different, too. Like he wasn’t doing it for you. Who was he doing it for?

Rio approaches you with a despondent look about him. He’s not himself today. You notice the window outside. The sun is setting.

“Hey, Tully. Are you alright?”

You should be asking him that, not the other way around. But you reply in the most mundane manner anyway. “I’m good, Rio.”

When you were talking to Quentin earlier, he had a lot of armor on. But somehow, with just the gi pants, Rio seems to have more walls up than Quentin did.

“I’ll be asking you a few questions that I did with Quentin and Winona, if it’s okay.”

You look at him. Rio just nods.

“Alright. Where were you the night Erdrick died?”

“I was here. I found his body.”

Since Winona and Quentin never mentioned to have done that themselves, you think it’s safe to assume that Rio’s telling the truth here.

“Did you see anyone else enter or leave Erdrick’s room that night?”

“No. No one else was there.”

This isn’t good.

“What do you suppose happened that night? If no one else was there, how did Erdrick, one of your closest friends, die?”

Rio seems annoyed.

“He wasn’t just my friend, Tully. He…”

He hesitates, then continues.

“We were almost lovers.”

What? These two were almost lovers? This comes as a huge surprise to you. They did seem very close, but you always thought Erdrick had eyes for women. What Rio says after makes it seem like he read your mind.

“Erdrick had been with women. But when I told him I loved him, he kissed me,” Rio confesses, tears in his eyes. “We slept together. And then he told me he loved me, too. But he didn’t want us to pursue the relationship. We needed to focus on the mission. So we stayed friends.”

You start to feel bad for Rio.

“Why would I kill Erdrick, Tully? I loved him.”

Now you suddenly feel like you’ve been backed into a corner.

“Hold on, I didn’t say you did. I’m just asking questions here.”

Rio wipes tears from his eyes and clears his throat. You ask him something else.

“Winona mentioned that you and Erdrick had a tour around her alchemy tables that morning. Is this true?”

“We did, yeah.”

“Why would you do that?”

Rio looks confused. “Why? I’m not dumb, Tully. I know monks don’t exactly scream intelligence, but I get curious about what other people do. She was going to be with us all the time in our expedition. It would have helped to know what she did.”

He sounds defensive, you think to yourself. You back off, while also making a mental note on this possibly having something to do with Erdrick’s murder. You try to keep your composure.

“Alright. What did you guys do after the tour?”

Rio freezes. He takes a long time before answering.

“I left the house and took a walk.”

Seriously?

“Erdrick ended up drinking that night,” you told Rio. He can’t slip out of this one, because you both know this was true.

“What time did you come back? Was he still drinking when you did?”

“I-I…” Rio begins to stammer.

“You were drinking with him, weren’t you?”

Rio’s hesitation turns into anger. “So what if I was?”

“That was the last night he was alive, Rio. You do realize how bad this makes you look, right?”

Rio turns quiet.

“Please, Rio. Tell me the truth. What happened that night?”

You notice that Rio’s been holding back tears. His fist has been curled up into a ball.

“I didn’t want this to happen. I’m sorry, Erdrick...”

For such a huge man, seeing him trembling breaks your heart.

“Rio.”

He continues to shake like a leaf. Tears stream down his face.

“Erdrick... I’m sorry.”

He starts to confess.

“I’ve had dreams, Tully. Of us encountering a formidable monster. Erdrick shielding me from harm. Him dying a gruesome death, right in front of me.”

“Even worse than that, I’ve seen him tortured, as I watch helplessly. I’ve seen him experience excruciating pain that he could have avoided if he just stayed behind.”

“I didn’t want him to die, Tully. I didn’t want to see the love of my life mangled in pieces. I didn’t want him to suffer. He was too brave. I loved him.”

“I tried to keep him from joining us. I knew he wasn’t ready. He knew it, too. But he kept insisting that he wanted to be with us. To be with me.”

“I just wanted him to never experience that pain.”

---

The three of you stand on the front porch of Quentin’s manor, as Rio confesses his crime to the town’s law enforcers-- watchmen. You gaze at Winona and see her comforting Quentin, who was visibly distraught. As if the death of Erdrick last night wasn’t enough. Rio looks back one last time, at Quentin, at Winona, at you, and then-- he gets taken away.

Farewell, dear friend.

Bay

Darkinium Z

Female
Dani California
Seen 14 Hours Ago
Posted 14 Hours Ago
5,742 posts
13.4 Years
I still enjoyed reading this the second time. I liked that you expanded Tully and Erdrick's friendship, and you have Rio confess with everyone else instead of just Tully. The expanded details made this a more polished version!

Foul Play
[Chapter Nine up!]

Venia Silente

Inspectious. Good for napping.

Male
on the second floor's nest
Seen 5 Hours Ago
Posted 5 Hours Ago
862 posts
11 Years
Press F to sad.

The story itself was good and relatively down-to-earth. I liked it that despite going the way of the classical detective story when collecting clues and interviewing suspects, the story did not need to tap into some of the various "outward" solutions the stories are given such as a happy accident that reveals evidence; instead, it boils down to emotion and a lack of control of it, in a number of layers.

I dearly missed the dragons tho. Can't ever have enough of them. Also the idea of needing a summon ritual to summon a summoning circle was exquisite and ridiculous at first sight, but on a second reading I feel like it makes lots of sense with the kind of spell skillset that the story showcases so far: not too advanced, not to specific, and not immediately useful either. I would presume drawing a summoning circle by hand would be far too dangerous if something breaks, or the circle is not a perfect circle, or if one of the runes is drawn wrong and says "hell" instead of "hello", or "fiend" instead of "friend". So many possibilities...!

Now, admittedly once we got to the interviews and assuming the story follows the detective convention of the "closed hotel", I felt like I could discern the guilty party with ease, or worst case scenario it would turn out the summoning circles had worked. A bit more definition on the narration of the interviews could have helped.

All in all the story was a good read, if sad. It leaves a couple of questions open and it makes you feel for most of the characters.
Venia Silente - Consulting Worldbuilder
Background... some day.
Fic stuff~

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