When the thought of Wraith being alive took ahold in Sarfina’s mind, she couldn’t dispel it. She had no real basis for such thoughts, just vague recollections. However, once the thought took root, she couldn’t dispel it. There was just something about the wounds on the bodies and the way the killer had gained access to the so called victims. There was an air of…efficiency about it. While the methods were different, they all spoke of a quick kill with minimal suffering and no collateral damage. Having one person die in that way could obviously be a coincidence. This many though? That seemed a little more than just a coincidence.
It didn’t help that Sarfina was operating with old and vague memories. It had been years since she last sacrificed a single thought on Wraith. The sad truth was that her memories were not clear enough to make any conclusions. So she’d have to refresh her memories. They had notes about Wraith and Zabaniya in the archives. Maybe she’d find some clarity there. Even if it turned out to be nothing, at least she’d be able to dispel this nagging feeling she had.
Besides, it’s not like she’d be able to do much about the dead people here. Whoever killed them was a professional. It seemed highly unlikely that Sarfina would be able to find out the killer, and this new hunt she was now on was much more interesting anyway. Let the regular investigators do their work. Or not do the work as seemed more likely.
Sarfina walked through the doors of the archives building in the headquarters. All the chapters and stations of the Radiant Sun sent their information here for safekeeping. Keeping too much possibly useless paperwork at every station and complex would only waste time and space, and would require trained personnel. The archives here though were special. All the information gathered by any paladin or templar of the order was compiled and magically stored here.
The building had looked like a normal sized library from the outside, but on the inside the space stretched endlessly in all directions. Rows upon rows of bookshelves, binders, boxes with labels, gathered notes and various items and knickknacks could be seen. Several desks had been placed in the space directly in front of the door. While the archives weren’t often used by any single member of the order, it was still the repository of all the order’s knowledge so there would constantly be some people inquiring about one thing or another. Additionally the queries made by those seeking knowledge could take a while to resolve. Hence, multiple desks.
The people working in the archives were all blessed either by a deity representing knowledge or had another blessing or skill related to information storage, memory or quick recollection. Mazatl had been offered a spot here as well, despite the saurian being a priestess in the Holy Orders, but she had declined preferring to teach others instead.
Sarfina walked up to an open desk by the side. “Hello, I would like access to some information.”
“Greetings and welcome. And who might I be speaking to?” The man behind the desk inquired.
Sarfina knew the question was not out of impoliteness, but because the archives had sensitive information and access to some of that information was limited. “Captain Faylen Sarfina, 3rd chapter of the order.” She replied simply.
The man’s eyes glazed over for a moment. “Captain Sarfina, C-class clearance updated to A-class due to being the sister of the current grandmaster.” The man’s eyes came back to focus. “Well then, unless you want access to top secret information, I can help you with anything. What can I do for you?”
“I want all the information the order has on a Zabaniya associated assassin nicknamed Wraith.” Sarfina inquired. She wasn’t entirely pleased that she once again benefited from her relations with her family, in this case especially so since it was due to her brother, but she decided to ignore it for now. Sometimes expediency trumped principle.
The man’s eyes glazed over again. “Wraith, Zabaniya. One file labeled top secret. Rest of the information accessible with C-class clearance.” The man’s eyes returned back to normal again. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment.”
The man waved his hand in front of a glowing magical glyph affixed to the table behind him. The glyph glowed for a moment and then three large folders filled to the brim appeared inside the glyph. The man picked up the folders and handed them to Sarfina. “You are free to peruse the files at your leisure in the rooms behind you, but you are not allowed to take them out of the building. You are however allowed to make handwritten notes as much as you desire. The private rooms have writing utensils for your use should you need them.”
Sarfina glanced behind her, and noted that the door she had walked through seemed to be floating in empty air and certainly was not connected to any sort of a wall. In fact the space continued behind the doorway and there were several cubicles made of something resembling glass behind the door. The walls were clear enough to show which of the cubicles were in use, but not clear enough to make out any details.
“Wait a moment. You said one of the files was labeled top secret? Can you elaborate?” Sarfina asked turning back to the man.
The man’s eyes glazed again, before returning back to normal. “Only that the file contains speculation about potential plans the group known as Zabaniya might have had utilizing the abilities of the being known as Wraith. It also contains speculations about the nature of those abilities.”
“Alright, that’s not information I need at the moment.” Sarfina replied. ‘Though it is something I’d be curious to read about.’ She also thought to herself.
Sarfina spent the next several hours poring through the files. It had detailed explanations on the victims assumed to have been killed by the Wraith, with a degree of confidence about that assumption clearly mentioned. Some were known for a fact to have been killed by Wraith, some were pretty safe guesses and some were pure speculation. Some of those guesses came from the information gleaned while interrogating the people captured during the raid that had led to rescuing Dee, as well as the scant notes confiscated during that and many other run-ins with Zabaniya. The assassins didn’t write much down, but it wasn’t completely avoided. The kills of the particular assassin was almost like an advertisement and assurance of success.
There was plenty of information about how each person had died, the circumstances surrounding the place of death as well as the abilities of the people and their guards. What there was very little information about was Wraith himself. Beyond the methods used to kill his targets, very little was known. A certain level of skill was assumed, but even that was very vague.
One thing did become clear however. The methods used were extremely varied, but the most commonly used methods of killing, so the ones Wraith favored, were similar to the ones used on the recent victims. Aside from poison that is. Wraith seemed to favor either poison or poisoned weapons, but none of the recent deaths had any element of poison in them.
“So is it a different person, or is it Wraith just not using poison for some reason? If it is Wraith, then why did he not use poison anymore? Not suitable for the purpose? Maybe he wanted to be more hands-on this time? No longer necessary to use poison?” As soon as she voiced the last thought, several threads seemed to start connecting in Sarfina’s mind.
She grabbed several files from the pile and stared at them. There was one thing in common with these particular kills. They had all been done in public and in crowds. No one had noticed anything in the throng of people until it was much too late. There was another detail in common with all of them. The victims had all died from a fast acting poison. The wounds they had were located rather low on their bodies for some reason. As if the killer had been afraid of lifting his hand too high in case he was noticed.
“Or as if the killer had been too short to reach that high in a throng of people? Not striking low because they chose to, but because they were unable to strike higher.” Sarfina mused.
She built a timeline out of all the deaths and noticed a common theme. The further back the kills happened, the more likely the victim was to die from poisoning, something falling on them, in their sleep or in a position that already placed them lower to the ground, like kneeling or crouching. The most common was dying in their sleep. The anomalies could be explained by nearby objects, like the killer striking from a low hanging roof, from a low wall or from nearby barrels and other objects. As time passed, it seemed to become more likely for the victims to die from a slashed throat, being garroted or being stabbed in the upper body.
‘The killer might have been a child growing up? As he became older, his reach improved. Some of the cases that are less certain about the killer include the possibility that children were involved. That’s why there are slight differences in the way these new people were killed! The killer has grown up. I need to look into this. Maybe interview some of the communities involved.’ Sarfina thought to herself.
Sarfina was not at all happy about the results she had obtained. She had returned to her home office and conducted several interviews over the last few months. It was rather difficult to get any of the communities involved to come talk about the deaths, even if their trip was compensated for. Part of that was because most of those involved were not very good people and had fairly bad relations with the Radiant Sun. Those that did visit had little useful to say as they had almost no memory of the events. After so many years that was very understandable, but frustrating nonetheless.
The next person was a servant of the community called Silver Stars. The community had claimed that they had avenged the death by wiping out the community that had hired Zabaniya to do the deed. They didn’t really care what happened to the assassin as he was just a hired hand. They were somewhat helpful though as they at least sent a servant that had been there at the time and had good knowledge of the case.
She looked up as she heard a knock at the door and called for the person to enter. The person who entered was a middle aged human woman wearing the clothes of a servant, although impeccably clean and pressed. A neat person conscious of her responsibilities. “Welcome, I’m glad you came. I’d wager it’s not pleasant to dreg up such unpleasant memories.”
The woman took the offered seat across from Sarfina. “I’d be lying if I said it was a pleasure to meet you, but it was a long time ago. Time heals. Though I confess that I’m not sure why I’m here after all this time.”
“Well, to tell you the truth, it might be nothing at all. Or it might be something important. Were you aware of the suspicion that the one who carried out the hit that led to the death we are here to discuss was an assassin known as Wraith?” Sarfina asked.
“I heard something about that, but I’m not sure how accurate that is. We were never quite certain how Jarik was even poisoned. We were barely even able to tell that it really was poison that killed him. That should’ve been impossible seeing as we had poison detection spells in place and even a poison tester present.” The woman explained.
“Those seem rather steep precautions.” Sarfina noted.
“Well Jarik and the man he was negotiating with were attacked some time before his death. The attacker died before we managed to get any details and we weren’t sure which one was the real target. So we took precautions.” The woman slowly explained, trying to recall all the details.
“Why don’t you tell me the whole story.” Sarfina requested.
Over the next hour the woman detailed all she knew about what had led to the situation, the party that preceded Jarik’s death, and what had happened after he was found dead.
“So you questioned the children as well?” Sarfina pressed to make sure.
“Of course. We didn’t really want to think that one of the orphans had done anything, but we were understandably distressed and angry. I’m afraid we might have been a little too direct and caused some nightmares to the poor kids.” The woman was genuinely regretful, although they hadn’t really harmed the kids in any way.
“You had sent them home though, did you find all of them?” Sarfina pressed further. She felt that this might lead to something as this case was one of the oddest in the files.
“Well…I remember one of the kids was never found. Rather regretful. I liked the kid, but she was a bit clumsy. She broke some dishes so we had to send her home early. I seem to recall she was crying so I sent her home with some candy and let her keep the clothes. To tell you the truth, I always was afraid that she had been attacked because she was wearing the servant’s clothes.” The woman had wan smile on her face as she recalled the details.
“And you didn’t find it odd that you couldn’t find her?” Sarfina asked.
“Well, it’s rather sad but kids sometimes go missing, and there were a lot of orphans in the area. She also left much before the party even got properly started. She couldn’t have poisoned Jarik. Also, she was a fox-beastman with such a beautiful and smooth white fur. It’s dreadful but in those parts such fur could’ve fetched a decent price.” The woman shook her hand regretfully.
“A fox-beastman with a white fur?” Sarfina looked shocked and instinctively looked at an image crystal on a side table. The crystal held an image of Dee.
The woman followed Sarfina’s look and noticed the crystal as well. She got up to get a better look. “Oh this looks just like her! Where did you find this? She looks a little older, but if they’re not the same person then they must at least be related. She looks rather distinctive don’t you think?”
“Yeah. Uh, we saved her from some very bad people sometime after what happened. I sort of adopted her as my little sister. She’s now training to become a templar.” Sarfina spoke numbly, barely avoiding any mention of Zabaniya.
“How nice! I’m glad if she’s happy. She seemed like such a nice girl. I’ve forgotten her name, I’m afraid to admit.” The woman prompted idly.
“Haydee. Her name’s Haydee, although we just call her Dee.” Sarfina replied, still shocked to numbness.
What were the odds of Dee being at that place by accident on the day a person was supposedly killed by Zabaniya? At that time Dee had clearly also worked for Zabaniya. Those odds were not very high. And two of the prisoners had mentioned that the hit had been done by Wraith. Said it had been talked about especially because the method of killing had been so smart, and the getaway so clean. Not exactly concrete evidence but still…
And Sarfina had already almost convinced herself that Wraith had been a child at the time. What were the odds of this all being a coincidence? Not bloody high! It seemed she and Dee had to have a conversation when the latter came home for a vacation after the first part of the basic training was over.