Hargur’s Casebook, Rivday, 16th of Prend
Mid-morning at the Barracks and Prethin Claivitch turns up with his son Brolin, who is looking very sulky. The Claivitch family are old gentry; but Prethin decided to turn fisherman.
“I found a ring in a fish,” Prethin says. “A stolen ring. My son is a thief. I want him arrested and the ring returned to its owners. I know where he got it.”
“How about you come into my office and tell me all about it,” I say, so off we go.
“It’s a sign,” young Brolin says. “You find a family heirloom in a fish, how can it be anything except a sign?”
“Why don’t you start at the beginning?” I say.
“Dad walked out on grandpa and grandma Claivitch, and said we had to have this horrible life…” Brolin says.
“An honest working life where you earn what you…” says Prethin.
“…and today we’re bringing in the catch and we pick out one for our tea and this ring turns up, it was a sign, that it was all wrong and he should go back to being a gentleman, you can’t argue with mystic!”
“Nothing mystic about it,” says Prethin. “You shoved it down the fish’s throat for me to find. He stole that ring off his own grandparents!”
“I never!” Brolin says. “Ask them, go on!”
“Oh, I know what they’ll say,” Prethin says. “’The boy just wants what’s his by right, he’s only young…’ How am I supposed to teach him right from wrong? I want you to arrest him. I want him to find out that actions have consequences.”
“You have proof of the origin?” I say.
Prethin sighs and hands me the ring, saying, “I recognise it.”
I look at it. It’s engraved, in lettering almost too fancy to read: ‘Hold Steadfast’.
Brolin doesn’t even look, up, he’s glowering at his hands.
“And it turned up in a fish,” I say.
“No, it turned up in my son’s pocket and he put it in a fish.”
Well, I’ve seen more than a few odd things in my time, but this definitely seemed the most likely explanation. So I pop the lad in a cell overnight and send a message to the grandparents.
Next morning they turn up. Lord and Lady Claivitch, looking around as though they’ve never seen anything so horrifying as the Barracks on, frankly, a pretty quiet morning with no-one bleeding out all over the floor for once. And as Prethin thought they would, they say no ring’s been stolen; just lost. So I can hardly hold Brolin for theft, and I’ve just sent someone down to let him out when his dad turns up, and a fine old family spat starts.
“I just want him to learn an honest trade, stand on his own feet, can’t you understand that?” Prethin says.
“But he’s a gentleman,” says Lord Claivitch.
“He’s a thief,” Prethin says. “You think that’s all right, do you? You think stealing’s proper behaviour for a gentleman?”
“Certainly not,” Lord Claivitch says, and he gets flustered and pink and I think, oh ho. “He didn’t steal that ring.”
“Of course he…” then Prethin gets it. “You gave it to him! You told him to stuff it in that fish for me to find! Father, you shameless old…Well you can just take it back.”
I unlock the evidence box and hand the ring to Lady Claivitch, who frowns. “But we gave him…” she blushes all the way to her painted-on eyebrows.
“So you did give it to him?” Prethin says.
“We gave him a ring, yes,” Lady Claivitch says. “It was a signet ring with a dark red stone. This ring is one that got lost when we were out hunting, about three years ago.”
At which interesting point young Brolin arrives from the cells. Seems he never actually looked at the ring that his father found, having made the not unreasonable assumption that if he’d stuffed a ring down a fish’s throat, that would be the ring his father found while gutting a fish for their tea.
Only it wasn’t.
“Well,” Lord Claivitch says, recovering from the shock remarkable fast, “seems obvious Fate has Intervened. Can’t argue with that.”
For a moment Prethin looks downright miserable. Then he starts to grin. “No,” he says, “you can’t.”
“You’ll be giving up this fishing nonsense then?” Says Lord Claivitch.
“No, I won’t,” Prethin says.
“Look at what it says on the ring. Our family motto. Hold steadfast. Your signet, the one you gave Brolin, didn’t have a motto, did it? This one did. I got a message from the mystic, all right. Just wasn’t the one you meant me to get.”
And I have to hide a grin myself.
“Until he’s sixteen,” Prethin says, “the boy stays with me and learns to earn his living. Then if he’s of a mind to turn gentleman, that’s up to him. I guess he’s got the right to choose his life; but neither he nor you has the right to choose mine.”
And no word they can say will change his mind.
So I see everyone out. As Prethin’s leaving he says to me, “I wonder what happened to the signet ring. All the rest of the fish has gone to market by now.”
“Maybe there’s a lost Claivitch heir somewhere out there who’s just bought a nice bit of fish for their tea,” I say.
Prethin looks thoughtful, then he starts to laugh. “You never know your luck,” he says.
Which is true enough.
Hargur Bitternut, Chief.