Tag Archives: forensics

A Modern Bestiary – T is for Trowe

  T is for Trowes, and I don’t mean britches, though many Trowes wear them, and so they spare us the sight of that which no woman can find enticing. They are thought to be barrow wights by some, but are not ghostly. Merely invisible when they wish. Some consider them close kin to trolls because they too are creatures of the night. Others think them a form of the undead. But sunlight does not burn a Trowe, as it will a vampire. Nor will it turn one into solid rock.

  Now a rarity even in the Orkney Isles, and sometimes the Shetlands, the Trowes are dwarf-like in appearance, being short and somewhat misshapen, low-browed creatures.

They mainly go barefoot and cannot be shod by a cobbler working with any type of hide less resilient than that of a dragon. Their toe nails, you see, can drill right through boiled leather. Besides which, a Trowe with a howe to maintain soon grows annoyed by the need to remove his shoes or boots for the sake of digging in the dirt or tunneling into the dark red sandstone of the Orkneys, using his natural assets.

Some there are who live in sea caves, or atop rugged sea mounts, preferring those which offer them a solitude untroubled by the presence of humans.

  One such rocky pinnacle, the so-called Old Man of Hoy (Hoy being the island itself), was actually named for the Trowe who calls it home, although most modern men have long since forgotten about him.

Another group of Trowes guards the Yesnaby cliffs on the Isle of Hrossey. 

The most-feared of the Trowes is the Hogboon, which once haunted nearly every old mound to be found in the Orkneys. The word itself is a corruption of the Old Norse term haug-bui, or sometimes haug-buinn. It can be roughly translated as “mound-dweller” or “mound-farmer.”

An especially unpleasant Hogboon once inhabited the most famous mound of all, called Maeshowe by modern men and Orkahaugr by the Vikings.

 Maeshowe is a passage tomb, built nearly five thousand years ago. The Vikings never succeeded in evicting the so-called Hug Boy or Hog Boy of Maeshowe, who possessed amazing strength of both body and body odor. But tourists have now accomplished the feat using cameras and cell phones and loud, silly questions!

The Trowes and the Hogboons, however, should not be considered true Fae. They are instead hybrids of men and mound-dwellers! For long before ever the Vikings showed up, there were men here. Smallish, dark-haired, clever men.

And women too, of course. They were Pictish, and wild enough to give even the Roman legionnaires a real run for their money. Hence Hadrian’s Wall, built to keep the nasty buggers out!

 Much inclined to go naked in battle, especially during fair weather campaigns, it was the Picts’s custom to paint themselves bright blue with woad, which only made them more frightful to look upon. Worse, it did nothing to ease that personal aroma problem, also horrific to the bath-addicted Legionnaires.

The Romans never did succeed in conquering Pictland, let alone the Northern Isles. In 875 A.D., however, the Vikings invaded. They did take over the islands, and many a Pict went into hiding. Some moved into the mounds, where sharing close quarters with hogboons all through the long dark winters of the Northern Isles (and remember – the winter wind can scour them at 130 miles per hour, come January)… well, nature took its course.

One result? The Trowe has now acquired a taste for certain human forms of music and dance! For fiddlers, in particular.

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, for example, are the favorite musicians of many a modern hogboon!

And since the Fall, there are more than a few Trowes living here in the New World. You will find them in the Mother Lode, where old gold mines offer them shelter and privacy near enough to what they had at home in Faerie.

Some old mines offer much more than others, however.

The Black Bart Inn, in San Andreas, California, for example, has a dance floor in its basement that IS an old gold mine, wherein much music is made. And tales are told of a ‘ghost’ who pulls many a prank on customers and bartenders alike.

I cannot say whether this mischievous spirit is truly a ghost or a Trowe who has taken up residence in a congenial tunnel. No need to worry overmuch, as the haunting of the Black Bart Inn has never resulted in serious injury to a human, although on at least one occasion, it did lead to flying pie in the restaurant. A rude remark by a tourist led to the pie case being yanked open by unseen hands, and the contents being flung in all directions. Without whipped cream, so it could have been worse. Or maybe just a bit tastier.

If you should wander into an old mine up in the Mother Lode, however, and happen upon an odd ‘face’ in the rock…

  Beware!

You’ve certainly stepped into a Trowe’s howe!  Save yourself. If you can, run. If you can’t, bring a fiddle along, or least a bit of fiddle music you can play – Alison Krauss and Union Station, for example – and be polite! Because no one is likely to find your bones if you trespass upon a Trowe’s hide-out and don’t even bother to carry an I-pod!

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A Modern Bestiary – Q is for the Questing Beast

1126931186_imefairy32The Questing Beast is a curious creature.  Some say it’s compounded of several others .  It has the head of a snake, the body of a leopard, the backside of a lion and the hooves of a deer.

questing_beast_by_navarose-d6y907x  Which sounds something like this, does it not?  Or even this:

questingbeast-2  The latter version looks less like a Frankenstein’s monster, I think.  The color scheme is far more functional for a beast well known to spend most of its time in the woods.

The traditional view is taken from the legends of King Arthur.

questing-beast-and-arthur According to the highly unreliable Mallory, the Questing Beast confronted Arthur after his affair with Morgause, his half-sister.

Somehow Mallory overlooked the fact that Arthur waylaid both his half-sisters, and was not in the least confused about who they truly were.  Morgause, after all, was the wife of King Lot of the Orkneys, and therefore a personage in her own right.  As for Morgaine… ah, that is a long said tale for another day.

morgan_le_fay-sandys_frederick_  Morgaine le Fey was a good friend of mine, and of many other elves, which is why I named my only daughter in her honor.  I did not know Morgause well at all but you may rest assured that both sisters had good cause for the enmity they held toward their brother.  As did Mordred, the bastard son born to Morgause and Arthur who would later destroy his father’s kingdom.

Supposedly, Arthur was taking a nap and woke from a dreadful dream about the lad and that catastrophe to come.  And that is when he saw the Questing Beast drinking from a nearby pool. 

questing-beast-w-arthur  Here is a far more accurate depiction of the Beast, which is closer kin to a giraffe than a leopard, snake, or lion.  One wonders if earlier artworks were based upon third or fourth-hand accounts of the African wonder, as is the camelopardis.

The man most famous for hunting the Questing Beast was King Pellinore, whose whole family was dedicated to the task.

sir-palomedes-2   It was Sir Palamedes, the Saracen Knight of the Round Table, though, who finally succeeded in killing the creature.

Pellinore claimed the Questing Beast had been born of a human woman, a princess who lusted after her brother, the prince (reverse the genders involved and it sounds familiar, doesn’t it? )  She proceeded to sleep with a demon who promised he would make the boy love her.  When she turned up pregnant as a result, the princess promptly accused her brother of rape.

Interesting how both of the brothers involved in Mallory’s incestuous situations with their sisters end up being “falsely accused” in one way or another.

 

artus2-by-durer  Here is the “heroic” King Arthur as Albrecht Dürer portrayed him.  Literally a knight in shining armor.

As for Pellinore’s “innocent” prince, his father had him torn apart by dogs as punishment for his crime. Before the prince died, however, he predicted his sister would give birth to an abomination, and that the monster would make the same sounds as the pack of dogs waiting to kill him.

This is supposed to be the origin of the sound the Questing Beast makes, which originates from its stomach and has been described as resembling that made by a pack of thirty or forty dogs on the hunt.  Because of this, the Questing Beast is also known at the Beast Glatisant, which means the Barking Beast.

dog-pack  Personally, I find a large pack of dogs in full cry to be quite disturbing.  Especially if they are hunting me and mine.

Tales of the Quest for the Holy Grail, however, describe the Beast in very different terms.  In one case, it  is pure white in color.  It is still a chimera, but smaller than a fox and quite beautiful.  The noise from its belly, however, is that made by its unborn offspring, who achieve birth by tearing their mother apart from within.

The truth is worse than this.  The youngsters consume their mother, and then set off as a group to pursue and pull down other prey.  In Faerie, they would have been schooled by older males even as older bull elephants train young rogues.

marauding-elephants  Here, a young bull elephant is about to learn a lesson in manners.

In this world, however, few adult males survived the Fall.  The Barking Beasts do not truly mature here.  They do not part ways with the pack either, and their savagery is remarkable.  Their handiwork is now commonly mistaken for the work of werewolves despite the striking differences in the wounds made by their fangs.

If you would defend yourself from even one of them, however, you would be well-advised to rely on cold iron rather than silver bullets.

werewolf-full-moon  And do not think you are only at risk when the moon is full.

 

 

Invisible Creatures

bloody knife               1126931186_imefairy32 Cold iron…Ick!

To see what’s present but invisible – that is the hardest part of any branch of forensics.  And mostly it applies to the very small.  After all, ‘most anyone can spot a hunting knife or a rifle or a bloody rock.  But fingerprints and fibers and microscopic bits of DNA?  Not so obvious, are they?  But it can happen with much larger items as well.  For instance, what if you can’t see the body?

The sad truth is, in human courts, if there is no body, it’s damnably hard to convict anyone of a killing.  The reason?  Humans won’t accept testimony from ghosts or banshees.

ghost on staircase  Why not?  Why would I lie?

Well, yes, as it turns out, a ghost might very well prevaricate about certain things – the same things as most of the living, in fact.  But not about its own existence or its identity, if it remembers who it was.  And banshees – all right, so some of them do get confused about time frames.  They are, after all, best known for announcing a death ahead of time and scaring the hell out of people.  And the banshees have suffered the same hard knocks as the rest of the Fae, so some of them are a bit…um, tetched is the old word for that.  Unreliable.  Crazed, even.

Best mind what you say to a banshee.    thX72KQBMN

Okay, maybe it’s not that unreasonable, but the end result is, it’s damned hard to prove anybody is dead without some sort of corpus delicti.  So if one has any magical talents, the easiest way to deal with a corpse is simply to render those inconvenient remains invisible.

It’s not as hard as you might think.

Your first care should be making sure that no one is going to trip over the newly deceased.  A dead give-away, that is, and no – that was not a pun.  Go to Waller for that sort of foolishness. Since one of the things the killer is trying to avoid is hard work, that rules out many of the things humans do with a corpse – burial, dismemberment and the like.  Burning the body is also a bad choice, since fires of sufficient size tend to attract far too much attention.  But placing a body in a tree, or on a roof, or a telephone pole is quite effective, once it’s been rendered invisible.

How, then, is the forensic tech or detective to locate the carcass? The same way one locates invisible creatures.  What cannot be seen can still be heard, or smelt, or felt.

boggart  A  boggart has a distinctive vinegar reek, and a habit of snorting and snuffling when it’s upset.

Another approach is to make use of natural elements.  Summon a cloud of blue bottle or blow flies, and trust me, they’ll show you what you’re looking for by landing upon it, in their hundreds and thousands.  They’re drawn to death anyway, and are likely to show up on their own, whereupon the buzzing will be your first clue to the body’s location.

th5ILPBXGM  Greedy little buggers!

If you have a sylph handy, you can ask for help in the form of an atmospheric effect – a cloud formation that shapes itself to that of the corpse.

sylph  An air elemental can also be fairly destructive to your crime scene, however, so ask very nicely, and offer fair payment.

If all else fails, you can try smudging likely locations with smoldering sage, and hope the smoke will find and enfold the form of what you seek. Once you’ve located the corpse, however, you will still need to pierce the glamour, or else undo that invisibility spell.  If you’re pressed for time, by the circumstances, bad weather, whatever, then do what you can to visualize the carcass in situ, and record it on film.  You might try using Luminol first.

luminol  Defensive wounds often render the victim’s hands just as bloody as the killer’s, so you may be able to ‘light up’ relevant parts of the body even if you can’t visualize the entire corpse.

Luminol won’t work on ichor nor sap from a wood nymph, of course, but it will work on most kinds of red blood because of the iron content.  Oh hell – this damned machine is shooting sparks out the back.  What did I do this time?

Magic & Murder

 

I’m Sathyllien, formerly a fairy queen.

1126931186_imefairy32 And this is what I used to look like.

I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here, though. Blogging is just not something the Fae ever do. It means using a laptop, an I-Pad, a smart phone or something, and that isn’t easy for us. Electricity? No. Downright poisonous. All kinds of metal involved in it, too.

                                       metal

                      This is what forged metal means to me.  No, thank you.

Waller thinks I can handle it, but he’s not entirely sane. He’s a cop. A detective. Old School, too. The kind that gets mad when the world won’t behave. The kind that grabs it by the scruff of the neck and drags it down the street, flailing and screaming all the way, and thinks he can put things to rights again if he kicks more ass than he kisses.

So… yeah. Frank’s an idealist, in spite of everything he’s seen, and chased, and bedded or busted.

……………..narnia ogre

              The day Frank arrested this fellow was… Interesting.

You’d think two decades on the job would beat that nonsense out of a man, but Frank Waller is nothing if not stubborn. Must be part hobgoblin. That could explain his balding head, and the pot belly too.

He’s not a fool about everything, though, and he thinks this blogging business might do me some good. Help me sort out my feelings about my being stranded here. About my daughter. Or the four hundred million little things about this world that offend me so greatly. At the very least, he’s hoping I’ll talk more freely about what I do. About crime scenes, and how you do forensics when there’s a dead elf or magic involved.

thZXPLCU3A  Swords.  Hate ’em!

I don’t think Frank understands how strange it is for any elf to do such work. We are so centered on life, on nurturing life in all its many forms and fostering its wild abundance… we can barely stand to even think about the dead. We are immortal, and death is what happens to humans.

Well, that’s how it used to be. Before the Fall. Before we were swept out of Faerie and cast away here, in this hard, alien world full of cold iron. Here, Death discovers us daily, and we deal it out in our turn.

The authorities here, though, take quite a dim view of most murder and mayhem, on which they hold some sort of copyright. Thus, eventually and in spite of my obvious deficits, I was enlisted to assist Waller in his murder investigations – the ones where magic is involved.

Policeman Holding Murder Weapon  Don’t even ask.

It wasn’t easy. I was not accustomed to their strictured methodology, bound as it is by rules and regulations of every kind. Still, the principles are the same as with any other branch of science. First, you must learn to see what’s there. What’s really there. That’s tricky enough with a normal crime scene, what with ballistics and blood spatter, butterfly knives and body parts. But what do you do when a glamour’s involved, or shape-shifting? What if your victim is totally transparent? What if it’s your suspect who is apparently made of glass?

Oops. Um, we’ll get to that later. I don’t think this machine is supposed to be smoking.

thSQC1BQFP