The Bennett Files: The Case of the Faerie Ring
It was a chilly day in Altador, which was why Strai was happy to be working inside for once. As a Maraquan Gelert, he was naturally inclined to be outside, or at least around a body of water. Today, though, he was pretty certain that if he had stayed outside for more than a few hours without an enchantment, he would have shriveled up from the dry air and shrunken into a nice little Brucicle.
His partner, Bennett, was lamenting the wasted opportunity to bear the weather and see what mishaps Strai would get himself into. The woodland Uni meant Strai no harm, but his eccentric and curious nature often led him to test the most absurd theories while giving little regard to the consequences. The two of them worked out of a quaint detective office adjacent to their home, and while many requested their services, Bennett only accepted cases that he didn't consider "mundane."
Unfortunately, as Strai watched Bennett's face grow more and more disheartened as they spoke with an informant, it became increasingly clear that the case they were working on today belonged to the kind that Bennett did not like.
This morning, an elegantly-dressed pink Acara named Elle rushed into their office in tears, sobbing about how a very important ring given by Siyana the Light Faerie herself was missing from her possession, and the Chia Police were unsuccessful in locating it. When prompted for a description of the ring, the Acara noted that it resembled a plain golden band but was fairly light, a characteristic of all crafted faerie items. The only marking on the ring was an engraving of a small sun, which was a homage to the land that Siyana watched over.
Bennett had been drawn to the case because he had read about the great mystical powers of faerie artifacts, and wondered if the ring itself had caused some disturbance related to its disappearance. And that was how Strai found himself in Elle's residency, wearily eyeing a pot that the ring was last seen in.
"And you're certain that there were no reports of anyone suspicious lurking around or breaking into this home?" Bennett asked.
"Correct," Jotis, a desert Kyrii that was working for the Defenders, confirmed.
"No reports of anything mysterious happening around here, either?" Bennett inquired further.
Jotis nodded. "This town's been pretty boring today. The nearest sign of criminal activity happened about twenty miles away from here, and that was just an elderly Ogrin mistaking her woodland Eyrie neighbor for a topiary that needed shearing."
Bennett winced, and Strai felt his pain. They had their own fair share of woodland clients that came in missing a shrubby wing or two. "Well, thanks for your help," Bennett sighed, unimpressed with his work, "I suppose we'll close this case up soon, then."
"Hold on," Elle interrupted, stepping in front of Bennett, "we didn't even find my ring yet!"
"Right, which is why I said, 'soon,'" Bennett reminded.
"There are no leads, though," Elle said, looking distraught.
Bennett nodded. "And we are about to find one now," he reassured, "Tell me, Strai, what do you see in this room?"
Strai rose from his mental slumber and glanced around Elle's bedroom. "Well, there's a bed, a bookshelf, a chair, and a desk-"
"All mismatching, I must add," Bennett sighed, "Elle, my dear, for such a well-dressed pet, I would assume you had better tastes."
"Bennett!" Strai exclaimed, "What did we discuss about being condescending to others?"
"No, he's right," Elle said, casting her eyes down at the floor, "I just recently moved here and didn't have time to purchase a nice furniture set. Before this, I lived in Meridell."
Strai saw a glint of interest in Bennett's eyes. "Well, carry on, Strai. As you were before."
Strai's eyes swept over the room again, trying to pick out anything that might've been interesting. Aside from the furniture, there was a small potted tree nestled in pebbles and dirt, a bedside table and lamp, and the aforementioned fishbowl-shaped pot in which the ring had been placed in. All of the items in the bedroom did not seem disheveled in any way, and the only signs of uncleanliness were a few bits of dirt on the ground surrounding the plant. "You said you had poured a cleaning solution into the pot and then placed the ring in it?" Strai asked.
"Yes," Elle replied, "those were the instructions that the shopkeeper at the faerie weaponry shop told me. 'Pour the entire contents of the bottle into this pot and drop the ring in, letting it float in the solution for approximately one hour' were her exact words. I had some errands to run for the day, so I locked my bedroom door and left the house, and came back forty-five minutes later to wait for the cleaning to be done. By then, the ring had disappeared."
Strai instinctively looked at the door-noting that there indeed was a lock on it-and then gave a quick glance-over of the one closed window in the room.
"A lot of work needed for cleaning a tiny little ring," Bennett said, "but I'll refrain from criticizing, as I am not a jewelry sanitation expert."
"How humble of you," Strai muttered sarcastically.
Strai then took a few steps to peer into the pot. The liquid was clear and nearly filled the pot to the brim, and he could see a surprising number of pebbles resting at the bottom. He glanced back at the potted plant, and confirmed that the pebbles in the solution were similar to the ones lying on top of the dirt.
"Words, Strai, utilize them," Bennett said, interrupting the Maraquan Gelert's train of thought.
Strai resisted the urge to roll his eyes at Bennett like a grade-schooler. "Well, at first glance, nothing seems out of place in this room. There are no signs of a forced break-in, as the lock on the door doesn't appear to be tampered with, and the window is closed. It does appear rather intriguing that there are pebbles in this liquid, though, but I can hardly fathom why the thief would leave them in here."
"Yes, I thought so, too," Elle said, "Perhaps it's one of those identifying things that thieves leave behind as calling cards? For instance, an infamous Pebble Thief?"
Bennett gave a half-hearted chuckle. "Cute, but I think not. As Strai just noted, there are no signs of forced entry, and for once I quite agree with him."
"Thanks?" Strai said weakly, unsure if Bennett was patronizing him or not.
"This means that someone who already had access to the bedroom is probably the culprit," Bennett continued, "Elle, does anyone else have an extra key to your room? Or perhaps someone that lives here already?"
Elle shook her head. "No, I just moved here, so I don't know anybody around these parts. I live alone with my Crokabek, Krow."
Bennett let out a sigh of frustration. "It's perfect," he groaned, rubbing his forehead in irritation, "It's so, so perfect."
"What do you mean?" Elle asked, confused.
"It's very easy to understand," Bennett said, "that the Crokabek is clearly the thief here."
"You speak as if knowing the criminal's identity is a bad thing," Strai remarked.
"It's too simple. We could have delegated this case to Jotis's crew and taken on another," Bennett grumbled, walking over to the bookshelf.
"Hold up, I don't understand it at all," Elle said, growing agitated, "There's no way Krow could have stolen the ring. The opening of the pot is too small for him to fit through, and it's too heavy for him to knock over. And I made sure before I left that the water level wasn't high enough for him to reach with his beak. That item is my most prized possession, you know!"
Bennett scanned over the titles scattered about the shelf, and plucked one off. "Trust me on this," Bennett said, handing Elle the copy of Petpet Biology that he had found, "Find Krow and get him to return the ring. As for how he did it, you'll find the answer in the avian petpet chapter in this book. Come, Strai, we have a lunch break to catch."
And with that, the woodland Uni looped his front hoof through Strai's arm and dragged him out of Elle's home.
Thirty minutes later, the duo found themselves seated at the café next door to their office, which was run by two of their housemates. A freshly-baked basket of Kaussants was placed in the center of the table, flanked by two Altadorian gyros. Bennett wasted no time digging into his meal, while Strai's head was occupied with too many questions. "So how did he do it?" Strai finally asked, reaching into the pastry basket.
"Who?" Bennett inquired back.
"Krow," Strai clarified, "How did Krow steal the ring?"
Bennett raised a brow. "You still haven't figured it out yet?" he asked, seemingly surprised.
Strai had a sudden urge to grab his partner by the shoulders and throttle him in frustration. "No, Bennett," Strai said through gritted teeth. "Not all of us have brains the size of Kreludor. Please grace us with your never-ending wisdom."
"Why, Strai, no need for such thinly-veiled animosity," Bennett chuckled. "Crokabeks are quite smart little creatures. Easily overshadowed by more popular avian petpets such as Airaxes and Horuses, but clever nonetheless."
He paused, as if expecting Strai to interject. When the Gelert made it clear that he had no intention of doing so, he continued. "Crokabeks are known to sometimes hoard shiny objects. The faerie ring was light enough to float on top of the water so that Krow could see it, but he knew that the water level was too low for him to reach, that the pot's opening was too small for him to fit through, and that he didn't have enough strength to knock it over to spill out its contents. So what were the plausible solutions for him? There were a few possibilities. One was that if the water level was too low, then he'll just have to raise it, right?"
Strai furrowed his brow, thinking intently. After a few moments, realization dawned on him, and his mouth dropped open in awe. "Krow dropped the pebbles in to raise the water level," Strai breathed.
Bennett nodded. "He knew some basic physics: an object placed into a pool of water will displace an equal volume of water. I assume you thought it was unusual that there would be little clumps of dirt surrounding the potted plant in a room that was almost spotless. It was probably dirt that dropped off the pebbles as Krow was moving them from the plant pot to the cleaning pot."
"And once the water level was high enough, Krow just plucked the ring right out of the pot and hid it, and Elle didn't even suspect a thing," Strai finished, grinning. "Bennett, that was amazing."
Bennett scoffed. "Hardly. Any Brightvale scholar that had taken a course on feathered petpets could have figured it out in a heartbeat."
Strai laughed. "Sure, Bennett. I'll go with that."
And for the rest of their lunch break, they ate and chatted amiably, as two quirky detectives might do after solving a case on a beautiful winter day.