Aside from Jet and two guards, the dining hall is empty. That's not surprising, given that it's the middle of the night and Jet had cleared out the hideout after we took out Jeamo.
"Where's Bolin?" Jet asks tersely as I lay Triel's still form down on a table.
"Dead," I say. "Murdered."
"What?" Jet looks shocked. This has been a week of unpleasant surprises for him. "Who killed him?"
"I don't know. I went to his workshop to pick up my cuirass, which he had repaired for me after our little assignment two days ago. I walk in and he's dead, lying in a pool of his own blood, with this" - I pull out the cheap sickle and toss it on the table - "shoved up through the underside of his chin and out his left eye."
Jet eyes the weapon warily and looks back to me. But I see his eyes scan my belt to check and see whether my own sickle is still there. It is.
"You went to pick up your cuirass in the middle of the night?" Jet asks.
"You told me to lay low," I reply. "Much easier to avoid attention at this time of night and I figured I'd need my cuirass again sooner rather than later."
Jet's stare is inscrutable.
"Way I see it," I continue, "Someone who doesn't like you figured out that Bolin was working for you and decided to take him out. And figured if they were taking out one of your henchies, why not take out two instead and mark me as the killer. Everyone knows I use a sickle and I like to slide it up through the chin into your enemies' brains. So they found a weapon like mine and shoved it up into his brain like I would." Like I had intended to, in fact. But someone else beat me to it. "Someone wants to soak your organization with doubt and discord. One of the other bosses, most likely. You pissed on anyone in particular lately, boss?"
That really is my best guess. I wondered on my way back to Jet's whether my adventure below the olive oil warehouse might have triggered some retribution against the outsider, either because his murders of the street rats violated Raichon's and Rien's scruples or had placed their escape operation in jeopardy. But there is no way they could have discovered the apprentice's body, pieced together what had happened, and beat me to Bolin's warehouse.
Or could they? Can necromancers speak with the dead? If Raichon had somehow been able to communicate with the dead apprentice's lingering spirit, then he might just have been able to accomplish it. I was almost home when I put the pieces together. Would someone who was cautious enough to take decades to dig an escape tunnel be capable of acting that quickly? Maybe. But I don't see how they could have gotten a sickle, even a cheap one, that quickly. Unless that part of the killing was mere chance. But that's too incredible of a coincidence. An attack by one of Jet's rivals makes much more sense. So why bother Jet with this other possibility that isn't? What happened below the warehouse is my business, not Jet's.
Jet ignores my question. It's not in his nature to share information with underlings.
"Could it be the humans?" he asks.
"It's possible. If someone saw us at Calmorien's or Jeamo's and snitched. A dwarf would be easier for the humans to identify and find. But we were careful. No one saw us coming or going. Or saw Bolin, anyway. It is possible someone saw me and Lynae chasing Jeamo into the sewers, I suppose. But Bolin was still up in Jeamo's studio then."
An unpleasant thought occurs to me.
"Maybe there's a snitch at the Bouncy Tart. Several of the whores saw us all there." Including the one I scared senseless. "The bartender, too. And your replacement guards. If we were sold out, it was by someone there."
Jet frowns. The idea of a snitch in one of his establishments doesn't sit well.
"Of course," I add, "Bolin was a bit of a talker. Maybe he let something slip?"
Jet shakes his head.
"His discretion in matters of business was solid."
"Or," I say carefully, moving on to dangerous ground, "Maybe the humans found out that he destroyed the blood rune."
"What blood rune?" So Lynae didn't tell him. Where is she? Did the humans get her?
"Yesterday morning, I heard from a street rat that Calmorien had a blood rune in his apartment. One that looked like a rune that Jeamo used for his rituals."
Suddenly it hits me where I've seen that rune before. And it wasn't on Jeamo's altar. It was in the haunted ruins of the old Hall of Law. I shudder.
The correct answer to Episode 38's question about how many blood runes there are in Elftown is here: there were three. Sadly no one guessed that, so the prize will be added onto the next contest's prize. 😭
As an enforcer for Jet, a petty elven crime boss, Arq has it better than most in Elftown, the prisoner of war slum of a human city. It's violent work, but it provides him with a little more money than he needs to survive, a little status, and a little free time.
When a prostitute under Jet's protection is brutally murdered, Jet sends Arq and a team of enforcers - including his creepy, ambitious rival; Jet's dangerously alluring girlfriend; and a chatty dwarf-of-all-trades - to find the killer and make an example of him. But when they uncover the dark reason for the murder, the delicate balance of power in Elftown begins to crumble.
To avenge a friend's murder, Arq must contend with betrayal, warring crime bosses, deadly monsters, underworld plots, and forbidden magic that, if discovered by the humans, will send a red tide of death through Elftown. His greatest challenges, though, will be grappling with his own bitter, violent nature, and trying to figure out what it means to be an elf in a place where the humans have taken away everything that makes life worth living for elvenkind.
Author: A. Harris Lanning
Cover Art: Xavier Ward