he saw what was left of the would-be assassin. Five’s body was
completely smashed. The blood-soaked clothes revealed nothing of
value. In the satchel Linvin found the rope and hook, a money
purse and a leather folder.
He opened the folder first. There were many written pages. He
sat down with his pipe and read. It was a journal. The writings
chronicled his movements since his arrival in Missandor.
Five had been careful not to make any note referring to his
employer in the journal. Indeed, it seemed to Linvin that the
purpose of the notes was to have them read by the employer after
the assassination. It was a briefing on how the plan was carried
According to the entries, Five had come to Missandor the
previous day. He spied on Linvin and recorded his movements.
Five even wore a disguise and shopped the GTC while Linvin was
working. He did not strike there because of the number of
witnesses and what he called a low probability of success.
The assassin did not stay at an inn because he wanted to be sure
he did not leave a trace of his presence. He chose the beggar
disguise because it enabled him to survey Linvin’s tree from close
range and watch his every move.
Linvin sat the journal down and gnawed on his pipe. He puffed
a few times before returning the writings to the bag and retrieving
the money purse. It was full of gold. Upon examining the coins, he
was disappointed to see that they bore no markings of any kind.
Though coinage was minted in universal denominations
throughout the civilized world, each nation branded them with
their own emblem. Even if the markings were foreign, gold was
accepted worldwide as a form of payment.
The coins in that purse were specifically made without any
identification at all. Closer inspection showed that they had been
conditioned to look as though they were old so that no one would
inquire about their lack of marking.
Linvin knew such coins would be expensive to make and would
have to have been custom-crafted for Five. Great pains were taken
to ensure the person seeking Linvin’s head remained anonymous.
That person was obviously more concerned with Linvin’s death
than what it would cost.
Five was a professional assassin. He was not attempting murder
for the first time. It seemed to Linvin that he had killed before for
Linvin set the purse down and walked over to the body. At his
feet, he saw the crossbow. He retrieved it and examined it like a
merchant inspecting a possible purchase. Once again, he found no
So who wants me dead? he thought. Each of those killers was
connected. Their numbers were sequential, and they all carried
these. He tossed the bow into his closet. It came to rest in a pile of
similar crossbows. The great elf paced until he grew weary. There
was not enough information for him to reach a rational decision.
Who would want me dead this badly? he thought. A rival
company? No. They would not go to such extreme lengths. What
enemies do I have? The only people I know of who hate me that
badly would be the Mandreans. But I killed Lord Mandrean over
two years ago. What would a successor gain by killing me in this
way? Knowing the nature of the Mandreans I would think he
would be thankful that I made room on the throne for him. And
even if he sought to win support in the empire by hunting me down,
killing me quietly would not advance his goal.
It could be another nation trying to gain favor with the
Mandreans. That would open the door to just about everyone.
Or it might be someone I know nothing about. There is the
possibility that someone new has entered the mix. Perhaps they
seek the Red Sapphire for themselves? It would do them no good.
The stone only obeys me. For someone else to even touch the staff
would bring a swift demise. Still, no one would be aware of that. It
might seem that they could kill me and possess the gem. If that is
the case, I am dealing with fools. But this man did not play the
part of a fool and would have been too expensive to be hired by