After the ritual was complete the recruits and acolytes had their blessings evaluated by a high priestess. The process took a while, but Dee was happy that her blessings were evaluated by the same dwarven priestess that had done the evaluation six months ago, just after the first test to get into the training. Dee suspected that this was not by accident, which was later confirmed by the priestess herself. Apparently the Holy Orders took the secrecy of people’s blessings seriously.
The blessings would be evaluated only when applying for a promotion in rank, and even then the priestess that performed the reading would face serious consequences if the details of the blessings were to leak out. Incidentally, the reading that Dee got was identical to the previous one, which made sense since her abilities on that front had not progressed at all in the last six months. Aside from the new blessing of course, but that was well hidden.
The recruits were given basic instructions on how to utilize their new power, and some exercises to do while on vacation. The commander in charge of the recruits once again reminded all of them to not slack off during their time off. Considering the fact that these recruits had already proven their motivation, the reminder was slightly redundant, but you couldn’t underestimate the effect of going back to a familiar and safe environment. That tended to turn people lazy.
Not all recruits returned home of course, some had no homes to return to and some just didn’t want to go for various reasons. The order provided those people a place to stay and plenty of exercise to keep them busy. Unsurprisingly a fair few recruits that had considered staying suddenly found themselves homesick when they heard about the exercise.
Dee of course went back as well. She was planning on visiting some old friends during these weeks, Fimul and Mazatl chief among them. Most of all she wanted to spend some time with Sarfina. Dee had to admit that she had missed the elven woman during the two years she had spent with the Four Winds alliance, and the short meeting before the last six months of separation had not done much to assuage those feelings.
She stared at Sarfina’s manor with a warm and nostalgic feeling. She was only sixteen years old, and had spent a large part of those years living in this mansion. It was the closest thing to a home she had. The manor hadn’t changed, though it would’ve been more odd if it had. She did note a couple of new servants working on the gardens. The old servants recognized her though, and didn’t question her walking through the gates and towards the house. Some of them even waved as a greeting.
The head maid Qinlana met her at the door, having already received the word of Dee’s arrival. Not that hard considering they knew to expect her and Dee had done nothing to hide her presence. The maid made a courteous bow. “Greetings miss Haydee. The master is waiting for you in the garden at the back. There will be refreshments and tea available.”
The words suggested that Dee’s presence was desired promptly, preferably before she found something else to eat or drink. Dee wondered idly if there was some kind of a hurry, but dismissed the thought as she was also eager to see Sarfina. “Lead the way then, please.”
Qinlana took her through the house and towards the back gardens. Sarfina was waiting for her in a beautiful gazeebo in the middle of several flowerbeds. Judging by the steam rising from the cups, the tea had just been served. Dee noted that there was an odd feeling around Sarfina. She was dressed cleanly and practically, as was the older elf’s habit. There was a noticeable lack of enthusiasm though. Dee had expected a warm welcome, but Sarfina was rather serious, although she offered a small smile as she noticed Dee’s approach.
Qinlana withdrew further away once Dee was seated. There was an extended silence as Dee took a sip of her tea and nibbled on a cookie. It took her some restraint to not gobble them all up as was her usual habit. She was content to wait Sarfina out. This seemed serious, and it seemed the older woman needed some time to gather herself.
Dee had a sneaking suspicion about the contents of the coming discussion. There were only so many things it could be about. Assuming it wasn’t some entirely new development, in which case guessing was pointless. Either it would be about Sarfina’s family or it would be about Dee’s past. Or someone had died. Dee wasn’t entirely sure which of those would be the worst. Probably the last considering they didn’t have that many acquaintances in common. She ran a quick scan of her surroundings, checking if there was anyone close enough to hear their conversation. Qinlana was the closest.
Finally Sarfina managed to gather her courage. She didn’t start by exchanging pleasantries, as they both knew it would be trite until the main issue was resolved. “Aside from the first time I questioned you when we saved you from Zabaniya, I haven’t asked too many questions about your past, have I? Now I feel compelled to ask a few. Would that be possible?”
‘Oh, so it’s this. Well, it was only a matter of time until this surfaced back up.’ Dee considered for a moment. “I do not mind, however, are you sure you want to know? It is one thing to know something on a theoretical level, but it’s completely different to have something you thought you knew confirmed. You know my past was not pretty, but putting names and faces on that past might be too much. Be sure you want to go there before you ask the questions.”
Sarfina gave a heavy sigh. “Yes, I’m sure. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I wouldn’t be asking otherwise.”
Dee nodded. “I can see that. I just wanted to make sure. Go ahead. I think we’ve known each other long enough that I don’t need to hide anything from my past anymore.”
“Did you kill a man named Jarik Longhorn from a community called Silver Stars?” Sarfina asked. This was the most obvious first question, as she already had a pretty good idea.
“Mmm, you’re going to have to be a bit more specific than that. I’ve tried to forget details like names and communities to the best of my abilities. Psions don’t forget things easily, but it can be done. Details please.” Dee pointed out.
“This happened in the eight circle of the Night city, west section. This would’ve been a really short time before you were rescued, probably even your last hit.” Sarfina provided the details.
“Ah, that one. Death by poison. Bloodpetal and Gillyroot. I covered the target's fork in Bloodpetal and slipped the Gillyroot into a soup that was served to pretty much everyone. I was told the target liked that particular soup quite a bit. Hmm, I actually feel a bit bad about that one. The head of the servants gave me candy as they sent me away. It was good candy. I hope it wasn’t someone you knew.” Dee replied with a sigh. There had been two other targets in that part of the city as well.
Sarfina shook her head. “No, but I did meet the servant you mentioned. She remembered you too. Or at least someone identical to the younger you.”
Dee grimaced. “That explains it. I do look a bit too distinctive for that line of work. One of the reasons I tried so hard to stay out of sight every time. So what brought this about? Are they seeking revenge?”
“No, they still have no idea you killed Jarik. And they won’t find out from me. The reason I ask, is because there’s some mentions about that hit among the few pieces of information we managed to get from the prisoners we got. It was used as an example for other assassins you see. A hit reputedly performed by Wraith.” Sarfina explained.
“Oh.” Dee said simply. Nothing more needed to be said. She swirled the tea around in her cup.
“I went back and looked over the transcript of the interrogation I performed you back then. You were quite careful in the way you worded some of your answers. I never did straight up ask you if you were Wraith yourself.” Sarfina frowned, remembering all the details.
“No you didn’t. That would’ve been a hard question to answer.” Dee replied with a sinking feeling in her stomach.
“Are you Wraith?” Sarfina asked simply. A tear slowly falling from her eye.
“I used to be.” Dee didn’t even try to hide or avoid the question. Sarfina had earned the answer to that question.
“So you say, but during the tests to enter the order there were several deaths that remind me of the way you killed people. That’s how I originally started digging.” Sarfina pointed out sharply. “Were you behind those as well?”
“Hmm, I can’t say how many people died that night, but I can say that I wasn’t behind all of them. Later on I heard that a chapter master of the order as well as his son had died that night. I didn’t have any hand in those. There’s also a difference between those deaths and what I did as Wraith.”
“Do tell.” Sarfina huffed.
“For years now I’ve gotten physical symptoms reminiscent of someone going through withdrawal if I had not killed anyone in a long time. I suspect that is due to something in my demonic heritage. That said, it wasn’t a problem, as the symptoms were minor, and it isn’t like I never took a life during all this. There are beasts and so on. However, something changed after you found me unconscious at the evacuation site.” Dee tried to put her feelings into words.
“What?” Sarfina’s curiosity forced her to ask.
“I’m not sure entirely. Some new power woke in me, but it comes with a price. I can’t explain in detail because I don’t know myself. I’ve only used that power once, that night you spoke about, and the end result were the deaths you speak of. It was pretty much impossible to stop myself, only thing I could do was to direct it against people no one would miss. The reason I used that power was because one of the Zabaniya had snuck into my room. It was…something in me just snapped.” Dee had not used the power since, and she’d only felt this low level of hunger that she could suppress.
“The Zabaniya came for you?!” Sarfina felt alarmed. No matter what the situation between her and Dee would be after this, she still worried for the girl.
“Not to get me exactly. It was more of a greeting than anything else. The man did mention something about maybe having me perform some jobs for them. I reacted violently as I already told you.” Dee decided to obfuscate things just a little at this point.
Sarfina suddenly stood up. “I need some time to think.” She had hoped she had been wrong. A hope that had been dashed.
After Sarfina had taken a few steps towards the house, Dee stopped her. “Wait a moment. Before you go, I want you to consider a few things.”
“What?” Sarfina asked, not turning around.
“Two things. First of all you most likely feel betrayed, because I didn’t tell you this before. However, put yourself a bit in my position. You wake up surrounded by people who are the enemies of the community you were a part of before you lost consciousness. Would you admit to something like that? Especially seeing how interested you were in Wraith? Also consider that I didn’t even know how much of the Zabaniya’s bonds still held me.” Dee asked.
“You could’ve told me later.” Sarfina replied accusingly.
“True, I could have. But it’s not exactly something you bring up in a casual conversation. I took me years to trust you enough to even consider something like that. And remember that I’m still kind of forced to become a member of the Radiant Sun. Sure, I chose to be here, but in a way you were still my jailor even if the cage was pleasant and golden and easy to escape. And you know how I am with secrets.” Dee pointed out.
Sarfina hadn’t found out about Dee’s second blessing until the dwarven priestess read her blessings. It was simply in Dee’s nature not to reveal information that didn’t need to be revealed, even to her own detriment. That was partly because the assassin training had driven into her the need for secrecy. Partly it was her nature. She just wasn’t a person that could open up like that.
“And the other thing?” Sarfina asked, her voice breaking.
“I want you to think about what has actually changed now that you know. You knew I had worked as an assassin and that I had killed people. You knew I was good at it, something that only comes with experience. You might not have wanted to think about the implications, but they were there. What does it change if my nickname was Wraith instead of Furball? All it says is that I was really good at it, good enough to get noticed by the order.” Dee once again pointed out the simple logical facts. Sadly emotions don’t follow logical facts.
Dee watched tearfully as Sarfina walked away. She idly wondered what would change now that things had come to this. She doubted Sarfina would throw her away, but it was unlikely things would be totally the same as before either. “You can come out now Qinlana.” Dee called out. She had kept an eye on the surroundings the whole time, and the elven servant wasn’t nearly sneaky enough to hide from Dee’s senses.
“That was an interesting conversation.” The servant said. She had overheard almost everything. As an elf, she didn’t need to get all that close to hear the two speak.
“Rather poor manners of you to eavesdrop on your master’s conversations.” Dee rebuked the servant.
“Perhaps, I’d argue the information was worth it though.” Qinlana replied with a small smile.
“Is it though? I can only think of three purposes that you would think to be valuable for that information. None of those purposes would work as you hope it would, because you overestimate the value of the information.” Dee said.
Either the maid would hold the information over her, or she would pass the information back to the Arazana family, or she’d pass the information to the Radiant Sun out of spite. The Arazana family might think to use the information to get a hold over Dee, or to get a better grasp on Sarfina if the latter still cared enough about Dee to go to lengths to keep that secret, which seemed likely.
“Oh?” Qinlana asked curious. Dee’s assumption had been right. The maid was planning on passing the information back to the main house.
“There are three problems with your valuing of that piece of information. Firstly, and most importantly, you assume the order doesn’t already know. Sarfina could follow the clues and figure things out. I love Sarfina like a sister and she has many great qualities, but she isn’t the sharpest sword in the armory. Do you really think the spymasters of the order couldn’t follow the hints if they wanted to?” Dee had long ago assumed the order itself knew at least on some level. They just didn’t care. Sarfina was one thing as she had a personal stake in this, but the order had a more objective view. Letting everyone assume Wraith was dead suited them just fine, because…
“Secondly, you assume they’d care. The reason they wanted Wraith gone was twofold. The name had become something of a boogeyman. However, with all the years that have passed, the name has lost most of its meaning, assuming there’s no great comeback. They got the credit for killing the boogeyman, and they’re happy. They also didn’t know how Wraith was getting in and out unseen. They didn’t know if it could be replicated and used to strike at people that mattered. Now they know that it can’t be replicated and that it could be used for that, but now they have a hand on that sword instead of Zabaniya. Why would they throw away a weapon they have at least certain amount of control over?” It seemed likely that if the order knew, the information was likely confined to just a couple of people. Spreading the information would not be good for Dee, but hardly a disaster either considering the lack of evidence.
“Thirdly, and this is something you should pay attention to, even if the order doesn’t know I don’t really care if they find out. For the reasons I already mentioned they wouldn’t really move against me. Oh some individuals might, but not the order as a whole. Besides, do you think I can’t leave whenever I want to? I’ve stayed so far because of Sarfina and because the training they are providing me is useful. If things become too troublesome I can simply disappear. I’m no longer Sarfina’s responsibility, and I can get training elsewhere. I’d miss her, but it’s not like I would be unable to visit once the order was no longer paying complete attention.” Dee finished her points with a certain amount of enjoyment at Qinlana’s scrunched up expression.
“We will see.” The elven servants said simply. She’d send word anyway, and let the main house do with the information as they chose.