Tis Thursday, time to join Ragnar Grimfang on the shadowy streets of Myrrhn dispensing… justice.
“You had better have a very good explanation for this Ragnar,” said Madam Glorianna.
Several burly bouncer types stood behind her, alert now to danger. Of course none of them had expected that she would need protection from her longtime bodyguard, Crimson Wind.
“I don’t actually,” I said, looking down at Crimson Wind’s broken body, blood filling my nostrils. The sword-bride had died a warrior’s death, swords in hand, much better than the whore Sapphire, or her lover Bjorn. “Not yet, regardless.”
“You didn’t seem surprised when she reacted like that Ragnar,” said Madame Glorianna. “Can you at least tell me what is going on?”
Her tone was almost plaintiff. I suppose if someone that I had trusted to guard my life at all times turned on me for no apparent reason I might be somewhat taken aback as well. Sword-Brides never broke their contracts either, or their sisters would hunt them down, sparing no expense. It was altogether mysterious, at least on the surface.
“I can, but it requires that you answer a few questions,” I said. “Lets us go somewhere safe and quiet. Instruct your men to behead her and burn the body, just to be sure.”
Madame Glorianna took us to a private study, leaving Murith and I to eat and mill about while she attended to some details. When she reappeared, after a long delay, she was wearing a fresh gown, ruby red silk with a high collar, and very much in control of herself again.
“Now, Ragnar, tell me why my friend and bodyguard of five years just tried to gut me at a word from you,” said Madame Glorianna, eyes burning.
“Greeneyes is a name Murith and I saw that appeared frequently in the books at the Pink Pearl,” I began. “It was on the books every time Bjorn or our Assassin friend visited, including on the night of the murder. Greeneyes is an odd monicker. It put me in mind of Sapphire’s funeral: she was a follower of Kamesin Greeneyes, a Sirutiran deity. So was Crimson Wind, I think.”
“She was,” said Madame Glorianna. “She was always trying to get me to convert, to come to her meetings and meet her high priest. Why the fuck did she try to kill me?”
“I thenk Kamesin Greeneyes is just a cover,” I said. “Do you remember what Crimson Wind said to me before he died?”
“No,” said Madame Glorianna. “I was just focused on surviving.”
“Something about the strong,” said Murith. “Only the strong.”
“That is what I heard as well,” I said. “Only the strong is not a saying that the Sirutirans are known for, especially the Sword-Brides.”
“Who then?” asked Madame Glorianna.
“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “But they wanted access to you, or to disrupt the Doxies Union for some reason. I also feel that they wanted to start a war between my people and The Guild.”
“Darkness falling, who would want that?” asked Murith. “It would be bad for everyone.”
“Someone who does not care about the business of Myrrhn,” I said. “The Devout worship strength do they not?”
“They do…” said Madame Glorianna. “I thought they were broken, gone?”
“No,” I said. “Sapphire’s sister made me fight one in her little private arena to prove myself to her.”
“That’s illegal!” said Murith.
“I’ll file a complaint,” I said. “The word of a Nordan Exile against the leader of the Gemarkand Family…”
“Focus, please,” said Madame Glorianna.
“I’m now wondering where Lily Gemarkand found herself a Devout warrior…” I said. “And who the other names on the list are. This little event of ours is bigger than Sapphire and Bjorn. It is bigger than The Guild, the Gemarkand family, and the Doxies Union. This is about the city as a whole, I think.”
“What do you mean, Ragnar?” asked Madame Glorianna.
“He means the Devout are involved,” said Murith. “Crimson Wind was one of them perhaps, or at least part of one of their Harbinger cults. They invaded Myrrhn once, using an uprising of cults that they had planted and nurtured within the city: little incubators for their sick philosophy.”
“They couldn’t possibly be planning another invasion, could they?” asked Madame Glorianna. “And why would the Doxies Guild matter to them in that case? Why could they want me dead?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “For now, keep word of Crimson Wind’s death from spreading as long as you can. Double your guard: old hands only. Gather as much money as you can and start putting mercenaries on retainer, reputable companies from out of town. Murith, you are going to have to convince the watch that we might have a serious problem here. I am going to see if I can track down the priest of Kamesin Greeneyes and see how he is involved in this, and then I’m going to find out where Lily Gemarkand got her hands on a Devout warrior.”
But first, I had to call on some friends.