The door nearly exploded from its hinges, thrown furiously ajar by a certain, not too happy (and very scraggly looking) elvish chancellor. Ryaer, watching from behind his oakwood desk and rolling a coin across his knuckles, yawned.
“This is an outrage!” the chancellor roared, slamming his fists down against Ryaer’s desk. “Serifus too! Slaughtered! When will this killer be satisfied?”
“Indeed,” Ryaer said, still flipping his coin. “And you, Kai? I’m sure you’re not here for small talk.”
“Me?” the chancellor said with a grunt. He turned his back and slowly paced toward the door before turning again when he reached it. “The murderer needs to be dealt with. Besides…” He stopped and cast a sideways glance toward the sleuth. “I thought this task might have some personal value to it, for you at least.”
Ryaer caught up his coin and gently placed it on the desk. “Serifus was my uncle. His murder hasn’t gone unnoticed; I was just waiting for your permission to hunt down my target.”
“Then you have it,” said Kai, turning to leave. “I want that murderer dead within the week.”
“I don’t work for free,” Ryaer muttered, stopping the chancellor as he stepped over the threshold. “He is as much your enemy as mine, and I won’t search for him without pay.” Kai sighed and reached to his belt, slipping a coin purse from under his cloak and tossing it to Ryaer, who took a quick glance inside. “That’ll do.”
Ryaer sat in silence for a few minutes after Kai had gone. Then, standing, he shouted, “Ona?”
The patter of little feet echoed from a porch surrounding the outside of the home. She scurried through the door, finally plopping down at his feet with a huff. A little gnome girl, barely as high as her master’s hip and grubby as…well, just grubby. Ryaer, against his normally stoic personality, tried to sound excited as he knelt next to her. “My little helper, we have a job to do.” She looked up at him with gleaming eyes.
“I help you catch man?” He faked a smile.
“Of course you do. Now come, Ona, we have some people to talk to.”
Ryaer and Ona made their way through the crowded streets of the city, ignoring the countless rude folks who stared at them. A half dark elf with skin like bleached stone and black hair was clearly a freak of nature who should be avoided. The townspeople continued to stare until the two reached Serifus’s manor and slipped past the gate. Once inside, they followed the meandering cobblestone walkway into the inner court; three men stood talking to each other in the middle of the garden.
“State your name, sir!” the first shouted, reaching for the hilt of his blade. Ryaer and Ona both held up their hands.
“Ryaer. I believe Kai told you he would be hiring me?” The men relaxed a little.
“And her?” An officer pointed down to the gnome who was chewing on her toenails. When she realized everyone was looking at her, she stopped and smiled.
“Ona, my assistant. If you men don’t mind, I’m going to look around.” They nodded, albeit warily, and let him go. As Ryaer walked away, he paused for a moment to look back at them.
“Problem?” Ona mumbled up at him.
“What were the names of the guards on watch when Serifus was murdered?”
“Kiron and Cassil,” an officer said. “Kiron was the one who reported the crime.” Ryaer nodded his thanks and knelt down next to Ona.
“Did you hear that name? Cassil.” He handed his money pouch to the gnome girl. “Take this, and find anyone who knows that name. Tell them…” He whispered into her ear, and whatever it was, it provoked quite a reaction from such a little creature.
“No no, Ona. Just do what I ask, please.” She nodded slowly and scampered away, toward the city center. When she was out of sight, Ryaer turned and shook his head, glad to be rid of her. Why had he taken her as a helper anyway? Oh…that was why.
With no one to disturb him, Ryaer headed toward Serifus’s study to examine the scene. There wasn’t a lot of evidence to gather – the bloody footprints tracked along the floor, the giant swath of blood streaking up and down the wall, and really, that was it. It was hardly enough evidence to work with, and the suspects were even fewer – Kai, the two guards on watch for Serifus, perhaps another noble…it was a very constrained case. So, Ryaer quietly shut the study door behind him and headed out past the officers in the garden.
“Done already?” one asked. Another, seeing the dark elf on his way out, caught him by the shoulder.
“Where are you going, sir?”
“Where do you think?” Ryaer said smugly. “To go get your killer.”
The men let Ryaer go without trouble; they were too dazed and confused to do anything else. Finally, the three looked at each other in a knowing sort of way.
“He can’t have found anything,” an officer said. “He was in there for all of maybe five minutes.” The others nodded.
“We’ll just wait and see how long it takes him to realize that if we can’t even solve it, he’s got no chance!” They stood for a few minutes, each thinking about that strange, silent dark elf who thought he knew everything. Suddenly, a bell in the city square struck out its loud call, five, six, seven times.
“The bell?” an officer mumbled. “Why would –”
“The Council is being called! He really does have the killer!”
In less than ten minutes, every noble elf was gathered at the city square to await the news; the rest of the city showed up anyway. Ryaer stood with his hands clasped behind his back, scanning the ever-growing crowd of people around him. The guards would appear soon enough with the killer, thanks to him.
“Ah, there they come,” the dark elf whispered as he spotted the distinct feathered crest of a royal guard. “My good people!” he shouted, capturing their attention. Everyone fell silent in an instant and looked at him, eyes expectant. “You have all suffered under the terror of a mad killer running free in your streets.” As he spoke to the silent crowd, his voice remained dull, as it always did. “But no more.” Pointing to a guard, he shouted, “See and believe! Your murderer!” Suddenly the guards tossed a squirming body, face down, onto the cobblestone street before the crowd. Looking up through long, straight hair, she spit the blood from her mouth. It was Cassil.
Kai shoved his way through the crowd. “No, it can’t be her! She would never do such a thing as murder!” He looked desperately at the dark elf. “You can’t convict her!” Ryaer smirked.
“Oh, I can do much more than that.”