[AW] Charred Secrets
Backdated to October 6th, after the fire.

As Woodsmoke went a sleeping, sleeping soundly in her den, flames were a creeping, creeping high in the night. Smoke had billowed while she dreamed, and what was left was soaked and dirty. Water cast and mud flung to bring the fiery beast to rest. The rogue snooped and snuck, sneering at anything seemingly amiss. Rogues were thieves and spies, but wasn't the flipside of that coin a detective?

Not that she really knew of the concept of an investigator, nay, that profession flew the coop when man fell and canine rose as Luperci. An odd sight for anyone to behold, Woodsmoke was standing on two legs, wearing loose fitting clothes. Likely everything was stolen, but the origins of her threads were not the suspect in this investigation. In fact, there was no suspect!

The woman wanted to find evidence, anything that could point her to the culprit. Of course she had no idea who or what it could be. She herself had a strong alabi of sleeping in her literal hole-in-the-ground home. Her posture and overall demeanor was different. A bit Kyle-like if anyone in the know could figure out. Suffice to say some could mistake her for a stranger if they didn't know her well.

"Do you know who did this?" She asked Cherub who was perched on her shoulder, hoping he had witnessed the event unfold.

Quote the raven, "no know."

She hummed to herself, poking around the charred remains before her icy eyes migrated to a passerby. "And you?" She asked with gusto. "Do you know set fire to the house?"
OOC: wordtober - disembodied | WC: 245

What was it about this time of year that brought on bad things? Heavy fog, disappearing pack members in the past, and Arran was pretty sure he remembered something about disembodied voices at some point. It was quickly becoming his least favorite time of year... as long as there wasn't a repeat of the blizzard that had them inside for way too long. That was probably the worst thing to happen, second to Vodeva's disappearance. He supposed Rand's attack should rank up there, too, but... well. Even Arran couldn't find much to like about him.

The fire had him curious and more than a little afraid. What would stop whoever set this fire from doing the same to other houses? He looked back towards his own and shivered. He sniffed the air while getting closer to the house. The smell of charred wood would likely take a while to go away, but he didn't smell anything unusual about it, not that he knew what he was looking for. Arran glanced up when he heard a voice that seemed to be directed at him.

"No idea," Arran said. "I was asleep and woke up because of all the commotion." It was the same story that a lot of their pack members had. "Find anything suspicious?" He asked since Woodsmoke was looking through the debris. His lack of hands at the moment meant that he wouldn't be much help for that.
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Who could, no, who would violate the town square with fire? No one from the inside, right? Then again, was the pack so incompetent to allow an arsonist of a loner to slip through and torch the place? The latter was far more worrisome than the former, but without much evidence to go off of, the culprit really could be anyone. At least they could rule out something natural, as someone had to have started the fire. Never in her life had Woodsmoke ever seen a single lightning strike without a storm to brew it.

The rogue blinked as she registered who she had pointed to. Arran, a sweet man, wandering in her preferred form. Her expression softened into a smile and she followed through with a sigh. “I slept through the whole thing,” she told him. “Proud of our pack for putting it out so fast, but sadly I’ve not found anything of note yet.” She wanted to make up for her tardiness, and worried if Tora would think less of her for snoozing in her hole instead of assisting pretty much everyone in stopping the blaze.

She wanted leads, wanted evidence, but knew not what to look for. Perhaps some charred cloth that held a scent, or maybe a set of tracks leading to and away. Too much dirt was flung and foot traffic made in putting the flames out would have covered up the trail, if one was left. “Maybe I’ll find something, otherwise I’ll have to ask around for anything that seemed out of the norm for the last few days,” she explained with another sigh. The anything would be the hard part, especially now. With people on edge, their minds could cling to the most mundane thing and paranoia could spin it around to something suspicious. "Any thoughts on who I should ask about it, at least?" she asked Arran, though one could frame the question as who she should investigate. "You know New Caledonia's people better than I do." The words stung, but Arran was an Old Caledonian and no matter how hard Woodsmoke tried, the woman felt detached from the pack.
OOC: wordtober - twilight | WC: 261

While helping to put the fire out, Arran's concentration had been on concentrated on that rather than on who might have done it. It wasn't until the twilight of the flames that his mind had turned to that, and even moreso after he plodded back to his house half covered in mud. By then, Rhavan had appeared as well to help put out the flames as best she could. They spoke briefly about it, but they were both tired and ended up falling asleep. Waking up to mud caked to his fur was not great. It was an unfortunate side effect of one of his favorite activities. Normally he went for a swim afterwards to avoid that discItomfort.

Like Woodsmoke, Arran was proud of the way they organized or several other buildings may have been lost as well. It was a scary reminder that although they were generally safe here, there was no where that was truly free of danger. Arran made a thoughtful sound as he sat down and tipped his head while thinking of someone to point Woodsmoke towards. Someone who could have seen something, rather than someone who did it.

"I'd like to think that no one in the pack would have done this, but clearly that wasn't the case." Arran said, and then a thought came to him. "Or, maybe it was an accident, and whoever did it was afraid to come forward?" That seemed more likely in his opinion. "I think Yuki is often awake at night, so maybe he saw something?"
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Yuki was now on the top of the list of packmates to ask, but the mention of the night owl made her think of two other creatures of the night. "Gwaun and Smokecloud also aren't strangers to the night time," Woodsmoke told him. "I see them together often, watching the night sky." She knew the moon and the northern star, but the rest did not tickle her mind like it did for the young shepherd. "I do hope it was an accident, if it was one of our own." She told Arran.

All of the children of the pack were disciplined well, or were at least on a decent course. Troublemakers were few and far between, and those who were mischief-inclined, had their chosen roles to guide them. Which one left a candle burning, or set down what they were smoking? Was it even a child? Perhaps one of her peers were the culprit. Regardless, she was relieved that whoever did it wouldn't receive carnage. They were underthing-bound, but not bound for pain and suffering at the hands of the pack's enforcers.

"Maybe my friend could have seen something too. I’ll have to ask him," Woodsmoke piped up as Vegard came to her mind. He was a wanderer, a drunkard, but a sweet man. If he was upright and sober enough to remember the night, the crown-maker might have seen the wrongdoer. Then again, given his penchant to drink himself to sleep, there would be a very narrow window, if one at all where Vegard could have seen something. Despite the possibility of blackout inebriation, the Viking was on the list as well.
OOC: wordtober - shriek | WC: 237

Arran wondered if this was going to escalate. Thicker fog? A shriek in the night to wake them all up? He supposed that might be better than another fire unless it became frequent, although he would prefer it to happen not at all. Would they ever have a fall season without something bad happening? Arran was starting to think that the answer to that was no.

"Sounds like a good number of pack members to ask," Arran said, stepping closer to the charred ruins. "Maybe one of them saw something that they don't realize could be related." Some things seemed normal until linked to something bad. He pawed gently at a blackened piece of wood, moving it aside so that he could step carefully into the wreckage and move more things aside. For once, he was not getting any sort of joy from digging. He sniffed around, looking for anything that could possibly be suspicious. Maybe something left behind that could be linked with someone? He wasn't really able to smell anything beyond smoke and burned wood, but maybe someone who was more practiced in scent tracking would have better luck. As he moved a piece of wood something under it glinted.

"I found a bit of metal," Arran said. "No idea what it might be from, though." Most likely it was inside the house and not at all related to whoever started the fire.
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She had a growing list now, but it really wasn’t much progress in finding the arsonist. In fact she had even more steps to follow, considering her persons of interest to interview. Still, she hoped her skills as a rogue would allow her some insight into the house burner’s identity, but alas, the woman was unable to discern who, what, and why from the charred remains. At least Arran helped to give her a direction to go in. Several in fact, and likely more would follow after the questions would be asked.

“May I take a closer look at that?” she asked the man, as he inspected the piece of metal. It was still shiny, somehow saved from being blackened by the soot. She reached for the thing and picked it up, though she had no idea what it was about, and if it was used in the fire. Perhaps it belonged to the spider who lit the flame and skittered away, or maybe it was in the house all along. Though if it was the latter, then why didn’t any of the forge workers take it to use in their craft? Another question she needed to ask. Conveniently her daughter was both on the list, and an Ironpaw. “You’d think these empty homes would have been plundered for usable metal by now,” she mused out loud to Arran. “I think this could be a clue, thank you for digging around in there.” Along with the praise, she reached down and patted him on the head. Woodsmoke enjoyed the little touches like that, why wouldn’t anyone else?

As she patted him, she began organizing her next steps. Locate her daughter and see if the metal is useful for forgework, then ask her if she noticed anything before and after the fire. Then she’d ask Gwaun, as he’d likely be with her or nearby at least. After that it was the pair of poor sleepers, Vegard and Yuki. Hopefully one of them held the key to the caper, but it likely wasn’t going to be that easy.
OOC: wordtober - putrid. | WC: 270

"Maybe," Arran said as his tail (and entire hind end) wagged from the praise and pets. He pushed his head up into her hand a little, too. "I can't remember if someone used to live here more recently, though." It made him sad that he couldn't remember. He tried to be friendly with everyone so that they could come to him if they needed anything. Really, he was just glad not to have found something putrid.

Wondering if there was anything else worth finding, Arran dug around a little more, very carefully. He was also careful about where he put his paws while moving around. The last thing he wanted was to hurt himself while doing this. His sprained wrist back during the stock show was enough for a while. His Gramma was slowing down a bit, and he was taking on more of the sheep and goat watching duties from her so that she could get enough rest. Not that it was particularly strenuous work unless the goats got out, which they hadn't been lately. It was weird and it was making Arran suspicious.

Digging around a bit more in the area where the metal bit was found didn't reveal anything else that he thought could be a clue. Then again, he wasn't exactly sure what to look for, either. That had just been different from the charred wood.

"I'm not finding anything else," Arran said. "Hopefully the metal bit leads to something, though." He wasn't sure what that could be, but that's why Woodsmoke was looking into it, not him.
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Was this the way investigations were done in other packs, Woodsmoke wondered as Arran continued to dig around in the burned remains of the house. They really didn’t have a team for it, and the woman wondered if others had taken on the role of investigator. Or was she, and, since he stuck his nose in and got his paws dirty, Arran the only two really doing any dirty work? The woman was good at being sneaky, and she hoped her skills in that area would aid the pack in finding their spectral arsonist.

“I’m not sure if anyone has lived here either,” she told him. Though houses always had some extra metal odds and ends in them, usually hidden away in walls, or underneath the floorboards. The one piece of metal was suspicious though, especially that it was relatively untarnished by soot from the flames. “I’m hoping I can use it to get somewhere in this search,” she agreed. “Thank you for looking, it’s messy business, but I’m not sure if anyone else is doing this,” Woodsmoke gave a small smile to Arran, but she had nothing else to give him for the help.

She would have dug in the char and soot, but due to Arran’s assistance, she no longer needed to. The rogue needed to keep the list in mind. She was reciting the names in her head and thinking of their faces. She could not read or write, in a useful or meaningful way, so processing power needed to be allocated to list memory in her brain. “If you’d like a bath after digging in here, my daughter has a very big tub,” Woodsmoke explained. She knew from heavily inebriated and hungover experience as to how large that bath tub was. “We could go to her home together, and I could ask her about the metal while you get cleaned up."

If she was home that is, still, Woodsmoke could easily get Cherub to summon her large, metalsmith of a daughter. The young woman was a heartward, she’d require payment for running a bath, the mother figured anyway. Some meat would hopefully be enough, or she herself could scrounge some scrap for the lass. “I’ll pay for her services, don’t worry about that part.” And she supposed a nice bath would be payment enough for his help with clue finding.
OOC: Could fade off with your post maybe? WC: 318

Oh, a bath. Arran looked down at his paws, which were now covered in soot almost all the way up his legs. He could feel it in other places on his fur, too, somehow, and he was certain that if he shook, it would all just redistribute itself so he would end up mostly gray. Right, it wouldn't be great to track all of this into his house. Arran was somewhat proud that he even thought about that after having it pointed out since he was often in some state of dirty.

"A bath would be great," Arran agreed. He hadn't bathed in a tub since before they left Old Caledonia. Having to pay for it hadn't occurred to him until Woodsmoke mentioned it, but it also wasn't part of what he offered as a Heartward, so maybe that was why. He also generally felt weird about asking for payment, but that was because he mostly listened to pack mates talk and sometimes offered insight. He tried to avoid giving advice, though, because he didn't feel like it was his place to do so even if he just wanted to fix whatever they had going on.

"My Gramma probably wouldn't be happy if this soot was all over the house." They tracked dirt in often enough, and there was a time that he thought the place would never stop smelling like sheep and goat crap after having them in their house for so long after the blizzard that went through. Still, now that the smell was gone, they didn't need the smell of this soot. Mud didn't smell like this.

"Hopefully the metal will be useful," he added as he picked his way out of the burned wreckage, still being careful not to cut himself on anything. His bobtail wagged as he looked at Woodsmoke, ready to follow her back.
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