2001-03-05: Sleuths Stupefied By Miner’s Mortality

Great Lakes Edition

Sleuths Stupefied By Miner’s Mortality

Author: Quill McMartin Published: March 5, 2001

An investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of death in the murder of Bertran Rawlins of Minoc. Preliminary examinations have revealed third degree burns inside the mouth and throat of the slain miner as well as what appear to be the scorched imprints of fingers on either side of his head and neck.

The badly charred corpse was recovered after authorities were called to the scene by Mr. Vinton Fergus, Rawlins’ associate. According to the official transcript, Rawlins and Fergus were mining north of Minoc when Fergus’ pickaxe loosed rocks in the cavern wall and a shaft of light caught his eye. The two men worked several hours, chipping away rock until they had created a large enough opening to permit them passage into the secreted chamber.

Fergus said that Rawlins went first, carrying a torch, his pickaxe readied. The light from the torch sent sparkles across the room. Once his eyes had adjusted, Fergus stated, he could see that there was a mass of treasure here. He pulled a candle from his pack and began to pocket as much as he could stuff into his clothing. Rawlins found a raised platform of marble with a narrow pillar in the center. When he stepped onto it, three pyres of magical flame came up from the ground and lit the area. The two exchanged inquisitive glances when they observed a collection of bones among the treasure. Rawlins cleared away dust and cobwebs from the pillar to uncover an object obscured beneath. He described it to Fergus as a talisman of some sort and said that there was an etching upon it.

"He spit on his fingers and rubbed on the trinket," Fergus said. "He was trying to read the writing on that thing. He never was one for reading much. Kind of ironic that it would be the death of him."

Fergus recalled that Rawlins was able to make out the inscription after a bit of "cleaning." When he read the words aloud to his companion, the flames around the platform rose twice as high and a hot wind swirled around the cavity. Fergus reported that his instincts sent him scrambling toward the opening and he called for Rawlins to follow. He was halfway through when he turned to check on his partner. Rawlins had not moved from the marble structure. A woman appeared from the center flame and moved toward him. Fergus said that he cried out a second time for Rawlins to run away with him and he passed through the opening, watching through the hole to see if Rawlins would come.

"I couldn’t make out much about her in that light," Fergus stated. "It was all orange and shadowy in there, from where I was standing. I could see that she was either naked or close to it and she had long dark hair. She picked up the bracelet from that pillar and she walked over to Rawlie. She says to him, ‘You have released me from my bondage and I wish to bestow a kiss of thanks upon your lips’, real cold-like. I was screaming by this time. I knew she wasn’t going to give him no slow, good-lovin’ kind of kiss."

The woman put her hands to either side of Rawlins’ head, Fergus related, and pressed her face against his. Rawlins began to convulse.

"I saw him start to shake and then I saw him start to smoke. Something was running down his breeches. I figured it was water. They told me later it was blood all over him."

Rawlins’ body went limp and the woman dropped it to the floor like a discarded rag. When Fergus saw her eyes meet his and she took a step toward him, he hurriedly grabbed for a magical scroll and rune and cast a Recall spell to speed him to Minoc.

When investigators arrived on the scene, there was no trace of the mysterious woman, the marble pedestal or the treasure. Only the opening in the cave wall, the rubble where the miners had excavated their way into the small grotto, and the smoldering, bloodied remains of Bertran Rawlins.

Rawlins is survived by his wife Josephine, and two daughters, Bernice and Carmen.

Britannian officials ask that citizens come forth with any information they may have relating to this case and urge miners and travelers in the region to be cautious.