Year 3633, the Sixth Age, the thirtieth day of Spring
Vhindr Varrintine walked calmly towards Varrintine Square, which was all but deserted. Only several guards stood about the plaza beside an area that had been roped off to prevent access. Inüer shone dimly as it began to disappear below the western horizon and cast long shadows across the city.
Vhindr’s father, Lord Varrintine, had asked him specifically to head the investigation into Baron Ellengar’s assassination. Only recently had the murder reached the ears of the lords of Gaianaus and they had responded angrily, as was expected. Lord Varrintine had asked this of him in a hope that the investigation would be resolved quickly and accurately before a reprisal came from Gaianaus.
“Evening m’Lord,” Captain Harneth greeted him as he approached the scene.
Vhindr nodded in reply before slipping under the rope and walking slowly over to the dried pool of blood.
Flicking his slim lined black leather overcoat out behind him Vhindr squatted down his dark eyes surveying the area looking for something that might spark a thought within him. With a sigh he scratched his head and ran his hand through his black hair which he had grown long and tied into a pony tail at the back. Strands of his black hair that were not held by the band fell around his forehead, dangling before his eyes.
There was not much here to go on. The scene had been preserved as best it could after the chaos of the murder had lifted, but there was still not much that could present a lead.
“Evening, Lord Varrintine,” came a voice from behind him and Vhindr turned to see Rhalin, the investigator from Gaianaus who had been sent to discover who was behind the assassination.
“You can call me Vhindr, I believe I said the same when we first met,” Vhindr sighed and looked back to the dried blood. “And after all it is my name.”
“I doubt you will have an epiphany staring at blood,” Rhalin remarked, seeming to have not heed Vhindr’s reply.
“Then why are you here?” asked Vhindr as he looked back to the woman from Gaianaus.
“I was sent by Lords Barrgarah,” Rhalin replied, “I said as much when I arrived.”
“What I meant,” Vhindr began but shook his head, “Never mind.”
Rhalin skipped under the rope barricade and walked to the other side of the blood pool. Her bright blue eyes scanning the scene as she too looked for clues.
“I see I am not the only one looking for an epiphany,” Vhindr remarked, but Rhalin ignored him.
As the investigator from Gaianaus continued to look around Vhindr watched her closely. The moment she showed up within the city he had begun to wonder why she was here at all. She claimed that Lord Barrgarah had sent her to find out for certain who was behind the assassination. But so far all she had done was accuse Vhindr’s father and the other ruling Lords of the murder. Vhindr continued to watch her suspiciously. Her thick black hair was tied in a long plat that ran halfway down her back. She wore a simple dark green overcoat, tight brown pants and boots, linen shirt and a long sword at her belt. Upon the overcoat was embroidered the wolf of Gaianaus, but apart from that she did not seem to be of the military.
As he watched her Vhindr crossed his arms and began to stroke the three day growth on his cheeks and chin. He was nearing thirty-one with no wife or children and he could see from Rhalin’s appearance that she was a few years younger and in a similar position as himself. He could also see from the way she walked and carried herself that she was from a noble family, evidence of that was also in the way she spoke.
Vhindr turned his attention to his many ringed fingers and the dirt that had accumulated under his nails. As he began to absently remove the dirt his eyes returned to the pool of Ellengar’s blood.
“How did the archer know he would stop here?” Vhindr mumbled as the thought came to his head.
“He took the shot when he saw it, I guess,” Rhalin replied, even though he was not asking her.
Vhindr shook his head and wiped his hands on his gold and black leather vest.
“No, look,” Vhindr explained as he moved to stand over the blood, “By the angle of the wound in the Baron’s neck the archer must have been on those rooftops all the way over there.”
Vhindr pointed to the buildings at the other end of the plaza.
“A skilled assassin would not put all his planning down to luck,” Vhindr explained, “If he had not dealt a killing blow it would have all been for naught. The killer would have tested his shooting before the attempt, which means he knew that Baron Ellengar was to stop at this spot.”
“The witnesses’ say that he stopped to look at a merchant’s wares,” Rhalin nodded, “The merchant called out before he had been introduced according to one of the guard’s statements.”
Vhindr nodded with some excitement, “And look here,” he exclaimed as he moved to the side of the blood pool and pointed out some scratches and chips out of the stone pavement. “This could be evidence to show where the assassin’s practice shots landed.”
“Is the merchant still in custody?” Rhalin asked seriously.
“No,” Vhindr shook his head, “The man, Wilks, was released after giving his statement to the guards.”
“Why am I not surprised,” Rhalin mumbled irritably.
“There was no cause to keep him in custody at the time,” Vhindr was quick to say as he looked at Rhalin in confusion.
“This sloppy investigative work is the reason why this is taking so long,” Rhalin replied, “I am starting wonder if the ruling Lords really want this murder solved.”
“Don’t be absurd,” Vhindr scoffed, “If it is not resolved it would mean war between our realms. Do you really think the ruling Lords want that?”
“I am starting to wonder,” Rhalin replied as she moved from the crime scene. “But I am going to talk with Wilks.”
“And how do you propose that you find him?” Vhindr was quick to ask.
Rhalin stopped walking and looked at him, her blue eyes shining brightly in the sunset.
“I assume he will be at his house,” Rhalin said, causing Vhindr to laugh slightly.
“If he is indeed involved in this assassination I doubt he would have simply returned to his day to day activities,” replied Vhindr.
“Do you know how to find him then?” Rhalin asked as she walked back towards him.
“Perhaps,” Vhindr shrugged.
“If you truly want to see this murder solved perhaps you should tell me,” Rhalin replied angrily.
“I can show you,” Vhindr offered a slight smile on his face.
“Are you proposing that we work together?” Rhalin raised a shapely eyebrow.
Vhindr nodded, “Two minds are better than one. Or so they say.”
“What ‘they’?” Rhalin scoffed as she considered the proposal.
“Them. You know, the beings that are.” Vhindr smiled playfully, “The all-seeing body that makes up these sayings.”
The first genuine smile that Vhindr had seen came to Rhalin’s face and seemed to brighten the evening.
“Alright,” Rhalin finally nodded, “Let us work together then.”
“Excellent,” Vhindr smiled, “Follow me.”
Leading the way Vhindr walked from the crime scene and out of Varrintine Square to where his personal carriage awaited him. Always the gentleman he opened the door for Rhalin before climbing in behind her.
“To number twelve, The Loop, in The Ladder, thank you Hemlock,” Vhindr said to the driver.
With a flick of the reins the two horse carriage set off through the streets of the Land of Lords.
In the open top carriage Vhindr rested back comfortably and closed his eyes as he breathed in the crisp evening air. It was early Spring and the night still held some chill, but wearing only his house vest, customary overcoat, black pants and small shoes he did feel the cold a little. Besides he still could use magicks to warm himself if necessary, and the many rings, bracelets and pendants around his neck also held magicks of runes.
Vhindr absently looked down at one of his chains and played with a pendant covered in runes that Vythe had once given him. He and Vythe had both made these pendants during their first days at the Magi Guild. The campus of the Guild was very big and they had different classes so they had made necklaces that would become warm whenever they were near each other.
The memory brought a smile to Vhindr’s face, but it quickly changed to sadness for the pendant was stone cold and would be forever more. This investigation his father had sent him to do had kept his mind busy for the most part. But it had not really stopped him from thinking about Vythe and feeling sad.
“I suppose you think it is quiet warm here in The Port, Rhalin,” Vhindr remarked, trying to take his mind of Vythe.
Rhalin shrugged and her blue eyes looked back to the buildings going by them.
“Where in Gaianaus are you from?” Vhindr asked politely.
“Issia,” replied Rhalin.
“You were born in the capitol?” inquired Vhindr, determined to engage in some form of conversation.
“No,” Rhalin replied simply.
“I thought so,” Vhindr nodded, “Your dialect seems more like someone who grew up in Hornberg.”
Rhalin looked at him curiously but did not reply.
“I have traveled a lot,” Vhindr replied to the unspoken question, “And I take note of many things.”
Still Rhalin did not respond and Vhindr sighed.
By now it had become dark and the crystal street lights had come on, bathing the path in a pale light. The bridge to The Ladder was then upon them and after Vhindr showed the guards his writ of passage they moved through into the middle class section of the city.
The cobblestone streets of The Ladder drifted by in quietude and several hours later they came down a street and stopped in front of a quaint house.
“Where are we?” Rhalin asked as they stepped down from the carriage, ignoring Vhindr’s hand to aid her from the cab.
“Number twelve, The Loop,” Vhindr replied as if it were obvious, “Hemlock knows his way around this city like none other.”
“Thank you Hemlock,” Vhindr smiled as he turned to the driver, “Wait for us at the beginning of the road please.”
The driver nodded and urged his horses on.
“Why are we here?” Rhalin asked irritable.
“It is the house of Wilks the merchant,” Vhindr replied as he moved towards the door. “I remember his address from the interview. But it does not look like he is home.”
As they moved to the door it became obvious that there was no one inside and the door was unlocked. Summoning his Fog long sword Vhindr moved cautiously into the dark house, with Rhalin close behind him, her own sword in hand.
With a word of command Vhindr summoned several balls of light which he sent through the rooms to light the way, and illuminate any possible threats. But he need not have bothered for as soon as the rooms lit up it was clear that the place was deserted.
Dismissing his Fog blade Vhindr began to look about the trashed room. Papers lay about the place, and several pieces of furniture were toppled over, used plates and cups sat unwashed in the kitchen and the clothes draws of the rooms had been emptied.
“Someone left in a hurry,” Rhalin remarked as she too looked about the one story building.
“It seems that our friend Wilks is indeed involved in the assassination,” Vhindr nodded.
“Do you think he left the city?” Rhalin asked seriously.
Vhindr shook his head, “All witnesses had their movements restricted. He could not have left without consent of the ruling houses. You see Rhalin, we from Sesserrech are not completely incompetent.”
“Wilks must have had help from one of the lords to leave than,” Rhalin said causing Vhindr to look at her in bewilderment.
“Why are you so convinced that the Baron’s assassination was orchestrated by the ruling Lords?” Vhindr asked seriously as he turned to the woman.
“I am merely voicing a theory,” Rhalin dismissed his question.
“No you are not,” Vhindr pushed, “Ever since you arrived you have been subtly accusing my father and the other Lords of this murder. Is your Lord Barrgarah so set on war that he will not be satisfied until you prove one way or another that the ruling Lords did this crime?”
“Are ye so sure they didn’t,” Rhalin snapped back, “Are they above such conniving? And yet didn’t Cardonian conspire to kill Lord Zanzier and blame ya father? Are ye sure that Lord Varrintine and the others are above such treachery?”
Vhindr narrowed his eyes curiously and was more interested in the odd change in the way Rhalin spoke than what she was actually saying.
“My father and Baron Ellengar were friends,” Vhindr said slowly after a pause, “My father was funding Baron Ellengar to continue his presence on the northern borders.”
His admittance caused Rhalin to back down from the argument and regard him curiously.
“I will follow the evidence where it leads,” Vhindr continued, “And if it should lead to a ruling lord of The Port I will see that they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But I know for certain that it will not lead to my father.”
Rhalin looked at him intensely before sighing, “Very well. But if Wilks has not been helped from the city, where is he?”
“Now that is a good question,” Vhindr nodded, “And I think I might know someone who can help us in that.”
Vhindr and Rhalin turned to leave the house just as a cloaked figure walked through the front door with a dagger in hand. As soon as the cloaked man saw them he turned tail and fled. Immediately Vhindr had summoned his Fog blade and pursued the man.
“Halt,” Vhindr demanded as he ran from the house and began casting a spell.
There came a sudden flash of metal from the fleeing man and Vhindr felt an explosion of pain in his eye. Screaming in agony he collapsed to the ground clutching at his face. His Fog sword dissipated and the wisps of Fog from his half cast spell drifted around him before disappearing into the night just like the assailant.
Rhalin had dashed past Vhindr in an attempt to catch the cloaked figure. But she was too slow and their possible assassin vanished into the shadows of the night.
Vhindr growled in pain and tried to focus his eyes on the drips of blood on the cobblestone road. The Fog drifted passed his vision and his sight blurred as he fell on his face and his mind went black.