WARNING! The following page contains spoilers for the lore and story of Worlds Adrift
Last year my father was fifty. Joyous at the mortal life he had led, it came time for rising. But oh how we fretted when we discovered his book of stamps was lost! lt seemed to have disappeared during the night from the chain on which he kept it. We searched our habitat high and low, but there was no sign. Not once did we think the matter could be "criminal".
I recount the intrigue, because by doing so, I bring myself closer to god. You see I played a modest par in bringing the culprit to justice. Note that, since this will serve as testimony before the Overseer, I must not spare a detail, and hope not to cause offence by it.
In the immediate aftermath of the book's disappearance, my father applied to rise without it. The office of the Utopianist refused him, and worse, questioned his citizenship in the absence of the document! The godhands investigating the happening at first believed my father's story, but doubt crept in, despite ample proof that we, his children, were citizens. The tenets absolved the godhands from providing any further assistance, and it became clear we would have to find the book ourselves.
But before we come to the investigation, I must tell you a little of my family. My father, who met my mother at the cloistrum like his other mistresses, is a good man. He looked after me from the day I was born, trading his stamps for breast milk, cradling me in his arms. Of course, the Pilipai would gather at the fringes of our life, and when father's presence was required elsewhere, they kept my tiny toes powdered.
My brothers fought a lot. Brother Marico was younger, Patrus older, and I found myself the go-between. would hold them apart and recite the mantras of Aetherium until their fury abated. What they fought over I don't know, since we had everything we could have wished for.
When time came to school, father sent Patrus away to the academy in Momoros, deciding it would be healthier for my brothers to be kept apart. Marico remained in Agbana, attending the same academy as me, where we learned to respect each other. It was only shortly before the incident with the missing book, that Patrus decided he would return home, and being god, we freely accepted him.
Of course, his long absence meant he was not well-known to us. It soon became apparent that Momoros had instilled in him bad habits, such as a general untidiness, laziness, and a lack of concern for his fellows. He was, as far as we were concerned, far from god. But we suffered him, as the fifth tenet goes, in order to self-improve.
The only other persons of bearing on the mystery, are our family doctor, Mosphor, and our Neighbour Comernicus. Mosphor was grizzled and looked very old, though I knew him in actual fact to be several years younger than father. He had no great burden of work in Agbana, and so could often (be) found reclining in the leather chair in the hall. He would pass the time recounting the same old stories of medical successes over and over again, until he had bored himself to sleep.
Comernicus often came by too, he'd debate with the doctor, or play a few hands of the dice game. He was a young man, whose work seemed to be in the line of architecture. He was often complimentary about the modernity of our habitat, and even though the furnishings were identical to his, said he would "much like to live in it(",) which we always thought ungodly.
But, on with the investigation. Of course, we had no idea of what to do next, since no agency existed in Sabor catering for the solving of mysteries. We appealed to our friends, and one of them made an obnoxious suggestion that we at first dismissed - to receive a foreign expert in such matters.
As it turned out, our desperation being very great, we gave further thought to the proposition, and then acted upon it. The man in question was humble indeed, for it took many weeks correspondence back and forth between our country and the distant land they call Great Marsha to root him out. When we finally had this squat amphibian of a fellow in our net, so to speak, we brought him back to our habitat in Agbana and set him to work.
Puggibun squelched up and down in gumshoes, asking this and that about our habits. His trousers were ludicrous, his smell dank, and he would occasionally let out a belch. I had mind to take him to the cloistrum and give him a good wash, but I dared not touch him for fear of disease. In spite of some quirks, his summary appeared sensible on the issue of the lost stamp book.
lt has been stolen, by persons unknown," he said gravely.
Puggibun assured us he wouldn't need a translator, but hearing this explanation, I was sure he must have made some linguistic mistake.
Stolen?" I said, "What sort of word is that?"
"The book has been removed without permission," clarified the little green gentleman.
At this, my father and I gasped. My brothers stood to attention and began to survey the empty hall, as if the villain might still be at large.
"What do we do now?" said father.
"I must be given time to investigate," said Puggibun, with a degree of impatience.
Never had I felt so degraded as this. If news spread of an injustice under our roof, I worried it might have us exiled for negligence. But who could have done such a thing? My first bought was the Pilipai. Perhaps one of our earthier cousins wished to try their hand as a citizen, and stole the book in the hope of assuming my father's identity, and his stamps.
No my lady, I do not think that is what has happened," said Puggibun, "but you are wise to mention a possible motive. Notify the authorities that they should be on the lookout for your father's stampbook, wherever it could be used."
Of course, we knew this meant gossip would spread. With heavy hearts we informed the storemasters, and the gatekeepers and so forth, that they should apprehend anyone with a book of entitlement bearing my father's name. I felt tainted, disembodied.
Puggibun went about his business largely at the scene of the incident - my father's bedchamber. Having no particular business to attend, since my assignments are light, I followed the little man everywhere pressing for answers.
Must you follow me about?“ He said, tutt-tutting.
"What have you found?" I asked.
"At this time," he said with a huff, "I do not know if I have found something or nothing. If you continue to hector me, I am sure it will be the latter!"
"Alright, alright," I said, and I sat at the end of father's bed dreaming up solutions of my own.
Puggibun didn't think it was the Pilipai, so despite my reservations, I ruled them out as the suspects. My suspicions fell easily on the person I knew least well, my elder brother Patrus.
That he had only recently arrived home, added weight to the evidence against him. Over dinner he told father he was "angry," at the way my father had treated him, by packing him off to Momoros to school. Their relationship was noticeably strained, father often storming out of the house at the tiniest provocation from Patrus.
In my view, father had every right to be dissapointed in his son. When he could have been training to scale the apotheon, or taking up good causes, Patrus lounged about in his nightgown. He ate, drank, and threw things and Marico while he was trying to work. It was undignified, and not the sort of example we should be setting for the Pilipai, if we want them to respect us.
"Do you have any notion of who it might be?" I asked Puggibun.
"I am only looking for evidence. The evidence itself will tell the story," he said crossly, poking around in the flowerpot.
I decided Patrus was far too obvious. Perhaps instead it was MArico, who so obviously wanting rid of our brother, and knowing suspicion would fall on him, could himself have stolen it. I congratulated myself on my cleverness. I had no idea that foul play could be so thrilling!
"Hmm," said Puggibun, stirring through the ash in the fireplace, then walking over to the window to breathe the city air, "one should never guess."
Maybe Marico wasn't that cruel. We are gods, after all, and must be kind and noble. Besides, I can attest to him never having had such a streak since he was a teenager when he and Patrus used to fight. Ever since he has been nothing less than a chivalrous and caring young man.
I thought of Comernicus, and his preoccupation with the Alcoves and decor of our habitat, "there's a lovely turn-of-the-century balance about it."
Perhaps he covets it, and hopes with my father's exile the building shall become available for allocation. With his friends on the utopian committee, he will no doubt be able to swing things in his favour. IT seems preposterous, yet this theft is like a little crack in the porcelain, it makes the whole world hum as if to shatter. When you are so used to having everything, you do so long for even the smallest amount of the illlicit. But I've never known a Saborian act upon it! Who else? Doctor Mosphor? Surely not!
"Come, gather round," said Puggibun, who had assembled everyone, including doctor Mosphor, in the hall. Puggibun was rather enjoying the plump olives the Pilipai had set out on the table.
"So. I have come to some conclusion about this mystery," he said, chewing.
"Have you found the book?" said father.
"Yes and no."
"Well where in Aetherium is it?" interjected Patrus, taking a handful of olives for himself.
"Please," said Puggibun, sweeping a hand over his face testily, "give me a moment to explain."
He began a slow walk around the room, his eyes jumping from one face to the next. Then he let out a tremendous belch.
"I beg your pardon!" Comernicus said, but Puggibun cut him off.
"The first thing I noticed," he said, "was the lack of care by which the culprit removed this book of entitlements from its chain. A person who inteded to use the book for his or herself, would also want the corner in which the chain is fastened."
"So the thief was in a hurry?" said doctor Mosphor.
"Not just a thief. On this evidence alone, it is possible to call the criminal a libellist. This person wanted to bring the family name into disrepute. It is my belief the cuplrit wanted the owner of the book to lose his citizenship, suffer the shame of exile, and see his family dispersed. All this for a greater personal gain even than a book of stamps, and was the aspect of the case I found hardest to fathom."
"Are you suggesting it was one of us?" said brother MArico. Puggibun shuffled strangely and raised an eyebrow.
"Absolutely. Who else? The second piece of evidence makes it certain. There was ash in the fireplace, yet we are deep in summer. Is that not a curious thing? On closer inspection of the ash, I discovered the smallest sliver of the book which matched the pieces still attached to the chain."
"Goodness!" (S)aid doctor Mosphor again, taking his feet down from the rocking chair.
No-one seemed to know what to say next. So it was me that spoke up.
"Everything, from the very beginning has pointed that way. There has never been any evidence of one of these 'burglurs'."
"Quite so. Which leads me to level my accusation. It has taken me some research to begin to grasp your customs in Sabor, but I feel my efforts now paid dividend."
He smiled like a frog.
"Who was it who stood most to lose by the book going missing? Your father, who sits here before us. Of all these other people which one of them had the greatest motive for wanting their father dispossessed of his citizenship?"
All we could hear was the tot-tot-tot of the doctor pouring himself some wine.
"Well I'll tell you," he said.
"Wait," I said, "I know who it is was, and I know why they did it."
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