The Endeavor’s crew was informed that the overhaul would last well into the next week, so they were advised to stay until the end of the Under-union Festival. Elmar took full advantage of that as he visited the Narvens’ castle frequently. While he may not be the most emotional of the bunch, Elmar DID enjoy the visits as it meant he could be with his beloved Calandra. Right now, Calandra and Elmar were sitting on a balcony looking towards the south. They were resting on a swinging bench, Calandra’s arms wrapped around Elmar as they enjoyed the tranquil nighttime moment. Elmar stroked Calandra’s hair, causing her to hum happily. “I certainly hope these moments are plenty when we’re King and Queen,” whispered Calandra.
“Any moment with you, my beloved star,” replied Elmar, “is one I will treasure.”
“Well, we’ll be together a lot more often now.”
“I heard you had gotten the paperwork approved. So, all that’s left is to ask Arsha to officiate our wedding.”
“When do you think that will be?”
“If we play our cards right, just a few days after the festival.”
“And at worst?”
“A full week after the festival.”
“Honestly, let’s hope it’s just a few days.” She leaned upward, puckering her lips. Elmar took the hint and puckered up, leaning down…then a knock on the door interrupted them. Their faces fell. “Tonak’s law! Never fails!” Calandra turned to the door. “Come out,” she called. Her butler then opened the door to the balcony and approached them.
“I apologize if I’ve disturbed your moment,” he began, “but I’m afraid I have news on the Endeavor’s overhaul.”
“I take it that it’s not good news,” replied Elmar. “Has she got hairline fatigue?”
“Thankfully, no, she does not,” assured the butler. “However, the shipyards are not receiving equipment in any timely fashion.”
“What?!” yelped Calandra. “But I thought they had a contract with the Galdredan Reliable Road Services!”
“There is an investigation into that matter right now,” answered the butler. “Some of the workers are suspecting foul play.”
“They better be wrong! I don’t want Elmar’s current home to be grounded any more than it needs to be!”
“Of course, Your Highness.”
You’re probably wondering what the Galdredan shipyards are doing with Tornoth’s company. Unfortunately, the equipment came from smithies near the kingdom’s most famous volcano, the Welmark Well of Fire. Railways dared not go near the place and no one built any safe ports of call there. The only safe way was via the road and only horseless carriages could go fast enough to avoid any burning rocks falling from the sky whenever it erupts, which was almost every week. Thankfully, the people in the village at the base of the volcano were fire and lava demons that cast protection spells around visitors and people exporting their wares to other parts of the continent. Somehow, during this time, the Galdredan Reliable Road Services was experiencing some form of slow-down. Eyebrows were raised and so the officer that had Tornoth quarantined decided to investigate. She heard that Tornoth was involved, so she shadowed him and learned of his usual haunts. It was during his lunch break when the details would be known. Tornoth sat at his usual table and placed his order. The waitress left him and took other people’s orders as Tornoth waited. As he sat, he laced his fingers together and rested his snout on them. “This better be worth it,” he rumbled.
“What better be worth it?” asked a woman’s voice. Tornoth looked up to see a Minotaur woman beaming at him.
“Lanswey!” he cheered at seeing a childhood friend of his. “I heard you were put away!”
“I got out for good behavior,” explained Lanswey as she took the seat opposite of him.
“You? Good behavior?” laughed Tornoth.
“No joke. I’m a model citizen now.”
“I guess Oyed CAN change his tune! What brings you here?”
“Well, a little investigation of a rumor, to be honest. Before I got out, I heard rumors of a certain troublemaker from the Galdredan Reliable Road Services.”
“The instant I heard it was Realmfleet getting all the grief, I immediately thought of you.”
“Now why would you think that?”
“Because only you would give Realmfleet what they deserve.”
“Maybe I would, but don’t you think this is a little elaborate for me? I mean, I’m hardly that smart.”
“You’re smart enough to ask for help in your schemes, so I’d say it’s still you.”
“Fair enough. Okay, all cards on the table, it WAS me. I just had an opportunity given to me.”
“Who gave you an opportunity?”
“Tuurk and Talair, financiers from Realmfleet.”
“Why would they ask you to slow down your deliveries to the shipyards?”
“Because they needed to show Realmfleet that they were taking our delivery jobs. You see, it all started after that officer, Torolai…”
“You mean Chief Inspector Torolai?”
“You know any other Torolais?”
“Your mother, for a start.”
“…Okay, yeah, that IS a common name. In any case, yeah, it WAS the Chief Inspector. Anyways, I was trying to deliver cattle from Yutt the mutt’s farm, but he had bribed the agent into letting me approach a train of infected cattle. I had to stay there for a while until I was inoculated and immunized from foot and mouth.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t too happy. In any case, after I was given a clean bill of health, Tuurk and Talair approached me and explained that the Endeavor caused them no end of financial grief and offered me a sizable cash reward if I were to experience ‘delays out of my control’ whenever there was a shipment meant for Realmfleet. Given that the Endeavor’s going through an overhaul, I saw no reason to complain.”
“Well, I do!” called the waitress that took his order! It was then he saw the waitress’ face! It was the officer that quarantined him!
“T…Torolai?!” squeaked Tornoth. “What are you…?!”
“You’re coming with me, Mr. Steelhorn!” Torolai then turned to Lanswey. “Thank you for your help.”
“No worries,” replied Lanswey.
“LANSWEY, YOU INCESTUOUS PIECE OF…!” Before Tornoth could punch Lanswey, Torolai jabbed her wand into his back.
“Don’t you DARE blame her!” she snarled. “You made your own choices! You, your family, and I are going to have a VERY long chat about this!”
“Wait, just my parents, right?!” begged Tornoth.
His begging did no good. His wife, calves, parents, AND siblings heard the whole story. Now subjected to police questioning, Tornoth buckled and told them everything. Because he gave up Tuurk and Talair, the matter had to be escalated to Realmfleet. The Narvens’ Royal Guard Captain triple-checked every signature involved before he put his own signature to it. Once he did, a taskforce from Sector 1, Realmfleet’s top internal law enforcement officers, arrived in secret. They had long suspected Tuurk and Talair of wrongdoing, so it wasn’t hard for them to take the case. As the taskforce arrived, Elmar and Calandra talked about the whole thing. “Disgraceful!” hissed Calandra.
“Agreed,” remarked Elmar. “I knew they were weasels, but this is something else.”
“Good thing Mom’s got something else on her mind. Remember the last time she ‘helped’?”
“Halmii protect us, I still remember the clean-up. Our room stunk to the Highest of the Heights.”
“Seriously, cleaning out a rat infestation with a level 5 stink bomb? I love my mother, but she’s not doing dispelling the stereotype that blondes are all dumb.”
“Her actions don’t do you any favors on that front, there’s no arguing that.” The conversation was interrupted by the butler clearing his throat.
“Her Majesty requests your presence in the Throne Room,” he announced.
“At this time of night?” asked Calandra.
“She was most insistent.”
“Come on, Elmar. Let’s go see what Mom wants. Maybe we can get some answers as to why she’s been going out at night lately.” Calandra and Elmar then proceeded down the corridors to the Throne Room. There, sitting on the throne, her Fire Demon body bedecked in a silver and gold dress, with all sorts of jewelry on her person, was Queen Andwayla Narven, Calandra’s mother and the Queen of the Galdredan Lava Kingdom.
“Sweetest Calandra!” called Andwayla. “Come! I need to speak with you two kids!” Elmar and Calandra approached the throne.
“Mother, what could you possibly want from us at this time of night?” asked Calandra.
“Especially after your recent nocturnal walk,” supplied Elmar.
“You’ve been staying out late for the past week,” continued Calandra. “What are you up to?!”
“Calandra, Elmar,” began Andwayla as she motioned for Calandra and Elmar to get closer. The two knelt down as she continued. “I don’t want the police to know, but I am engaged in a project that will continue long after I’ve passed the crown to you, a project that will benefit our people and keep the streets of every village in the Galdredan Kingdom safe, even in the event of Oyed winning the Final War.”
“And that project is?” asked Calandra.
“I’ve joined the high life of gathering information and clues that will lead to solving the most heinous of crimes,” explained Andwayla, “and making sure the criminal underworld fears the shadows it uses, since I will be using the shadows to my advantage. Now, the job title has all sorts of slang words, such as a gumshoe, a private eye, a sleuth…”
“Hold on,” interrupted Elmar, “Your Majesty, are you…a detective?”
“Oh, come on, Elmar!” protested Calandra. “Mother, a detective?”
“You’re quite right, Elmar,” confirmed Andwayla as she pulled out a detective’s badge.
“…What?” asked Calandra in disbelief. “You? A detective?” Andwayla nodded as Calandra ran her hand down her face. “Mother, may I give you some advice?”
“…Sure, sweetie. What is it?”
“When the boys from the Happy Hatch come to have you fitted for a canvas housecoat, do us a favor and please…don’t tell them you’re my mother!” Andwayla snarled at that and showed Calandra the badge again. All Calandra did was laugh at the absurdity of it all as Elmar rolled his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, reminding himself that, the instant he’s married to Calandra and they become King and Queen of the Galdredan Kingdom, he’s going to have to put up with Andwayla’s shenanigans.