The Endeavor was flying with random bursts of speed through the darker skies of an Under-realm morning. You could hear it coming before you saw it, not something that should happen to a vessel with stealth in mind. Enfanti and her Frostik master, Lord Delga Larkentha, winced as it arrived in Falgreth’s airspace. “Had I know it was THAT bad, Master,” muttered Enfanti, “I would have begged Realmfleet to let the crew borrow another ship.”
“How could any of us have known?” asked Delga. The Endeavor finally landed, though it was a rough landing. The crew came out, a little shaken. Arsha’s hair was almost blown over from the stops and starts along the way. “You look like you tried to solve the Endeavor’s problems on the way,” observed Delga to Arsha.
“Thangred asked me to see if you could spare anyone from the Engineer’s Guild,” replied Arsha.
“We don’t have any clients right now,” remarked Delga. “I can bring the entire Guild, if you wish.”
“That would be splendid,” thanked Arsha.
“While I organize the Engineer’s Guild,” directed Delga, “Enfanti can show you the crime scene and give you the details.”
“Malak, Dalengor,” called Arsha, “I’ll need your help.”
“Aye, Captain,” remarked Malak as he and Dalengor departed with Arsha and Enfanti.
“I’ll be frank,” sighed Enfanti, “this is a case with few leads. I’ll be as clear as I can with the picture I got. Lord and Lady Varsek were hosting a massive celebration for the anniversary of Falgreth’s independence from Dwelga.”
“Dwelga once worked us Trolls like dogs,” explained Malak, “stunting our intellectual growth. We’ve had a tenuous peace with Dwelga for a while.”
“Hence why you mentioned the uglier side of Trolls,” recalled Arsha. “There’s gonna be some people thinking this murder was Dwelga’s fault.”
“Bingo,” confirmed Malak.
“After the celebration,” continued Enfanti, “they retired to their chambers. Given that their clothes were on the floor, I’d say a naughty night was planned. They had a sip of Drakh before they died of a heart attack.”
“Drakh’s the softest alcoholic drink Trolls have, though,” countered Malak.
“And Trolls don’t get heart attacks unless they were poisoned,” remarked Arsha.
“And poisoned they were,” replied Enfanti. “However, the crime scene was engineered to look like a Splitter job. The first bit that clued me in was that there was a bit of thread on the doorknob, glove thread.”
“So a Troll couldn’t have done it,” guessed Malak, “our gloves are mossy.”
“Second,” continued Enfanti, “the room was clearly entered AFTER Lord and Lady Varsek had died. The footprints left behind were fresher than theirs. If they were the same, perhaps I could consider the Splitters. However, even the ruined bed was engineered to look like a struggle had taken place. Third, the needles that were stuck into their necks had no traces of poison anywhere on them.”
“Needles in their necks?” quizzed Dalengor. “It’s impossible to stick anything into a dead Troll. They turn to stone when they die.”
“It’s a process that takes a few minutes,” recalled Malak. “The murderer had a window of opportunity to plant the needles.”
“Fourth,” finished Enfanti, “an older Splitters card was used, not the ones we see today.”
“So, for once,” guessed Dalengor, “the Splitters were framed.”
“Besides,” supplied Malak, “they resort to stabbing, not poison.”
“Even then,” continued Enfanti, “this was not an immediate poisoning. Lord and Lady Varsek had had small doses in their drinks over a period of two months.”
“Can’t trolls process the poison?” Arsha asked Malak.
“That takes days,” answered Malak. “If the same poison were introduced into the Troll’s body a day later, it would build up. Now, the dosage would have to have been miniscule because I’m surprised they lasted two months.”
“I have to say,” sighed Enfanti, “I’ve seen plenty of poison-based murders in my day. This beats the Depths out of me.” As she finished, they arrived at the hotel with a crowd gathering in front. Enfanti waved and the Head Watchman saw her. She cleared a path by roaring and waving her club. Once the crowd parted, Arsha, Malak, Dalengor, and Enfanti were allowed access to the hotel. The Head Watchman then waved one of her subordinates over. He handed her a report.
“The chemical makeup of the poison Enfanti requested,” she reported as she handed it off to Enfanti. She tried to make something of it, but to no avail.
“Are any of you familiar with this?” she asked.
“I might know of a contact that could help us,” replied Malak. “Regretfully, it’s not one of my more…legal contacts.”
“We need whatever lead we can get,” commented Arsha. “Who is this contact?”
Malak had to go through a lot of secure channels to get to his contact, a male Slime by the name of Recanth. His green, gooey face filled the screen of Malak’s communicator. “Malak, you solid friend!” he burbled. “It’s been too long! Are you and Anya still together?”
“Life would just be barren without her,” replied Malak.
“What I wouldn’t give to see her again,” sighed Recanth.
“I bet she misses you,” chuckled Malak. Recanth gave off a burbly guffaw.
“I bet she does!” he called. “She would have bankrupted me within a matter of minutes! But, I’m sure you didn’t contact me for funsies. What can I do for you?”
“How would you like to earn a little extra cash?” asked Malak. “Enough to buy a good seat in the Slime Senate?”
“Continue,” invited Recanth, interested.
“I need information on a specific poison used on a pair of Trolls,” explained Malak.
“Poison?” asked Recanth. “Hardly a difficult bit of research. What kind of poison?”
“That’s the snag we’re hitting,” answered Malak. “All I have is the chemical formula.”
“That’s more than enough for me to start,” assured Recanth. “Let me see it. I’ll find your mystery poison.”
“I had a feeling I could count on you!” praised Malak. “Here it is!” He waved his communicator over the formula, copying it over to the device and sending it to Recanth. “There we go, transmission complete,” said Malak.
“This shouldn’t take long,” replied Recanth as his slimy fingers danced across his work-station.
“We’re in no rush,” Malak lied. After a few seconds, Recanth’s work-station started flashing red as his simulated eyes went wide.
“Malak, you IDIOT!” he snapped.
“Is…something the matter?” asked Malak.
“I’ll say something’s the matter!” gurgled Recanth. “I’m ruined! My career is over, thanks to you!”
“What did I do?!” Malak said in an uncharacteristic yelp.
“You and your poison’s chemical formula!” hissed Recanth. “It’s for a classified poison! Even the chemical symbols are classified! Where did you get this?!” As Malak opened his mouth to speak, Recanth cut him off. “Never mind! The less I know, the better! If I’m lucky, I can get through this with my core intact! Maybe they won’t trace the request back to me!”
“Who?” asked Malak. Recanth took in a breath before responding.
“The Diamond Consortium,” he revealed. Malak’s eyes went wide.
“Thank you for your time,” gulped Malak as he prepared to terminate the call. “We should meet for lunch sometime.” The call ended and he turned back to Arsha, Enfanti, and Dalengor.
“The Diamond Consortium?” gasped Enfanti. “That’s bad news.”
“What’s the Diamond Consortium?” asked Arsha.
“The Intelligence network for the Troll Republic,” answered Malak. “They spy on everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE. You couldn’t sit down for dinner without the ingredients and preparation being duly noted and recorded by the Consortium.”
“What happens if you eat something that doesn’t meet with their approval?” asked Arsha.
“I knew a Troll grandmother who disappeared for less,” revealed Dalengor.
“Whether or not you agree with their methods,” continued Enfanti, “you can’t help but admire their efficiency.”
“If I may be a little boastful,” supplied Malak, “not even the Largandra Intelligence Bureau could compete with them when it comes to intelligence gathering and covert operations.”
“Why would they authorize poisoning Lord and Lady Varsek?” asked Enfanti.
“I don’t think they did,” countered Dalengor. “They don’t usually release their poisons to any kind of market.”
“That’s true,” agreed Enfanti. “And they were the Consortium’s staunchest supporters. Why poison their allies?”
“I think we need to find a member,” declared Arsha.
“Or let the Consortium find you,” called a voice. A large Olog, twice Malak’s size, came towards them in a black trench coat and hat. “Mr. Bling, at your service,” the Olog introduced himself.
“Princess Arsha at yours,” answered Arsha.
“The rumor is,” muttered Malak, “that you would need to commit a crime to find the Consortium.”
“I have proof that none of you killed Lord and Lady Varsek,” assured Mr. Bling. “The conversation alone told me that.”
“Then, perhaps, you can account for one of your poisons being used?” asked Arsha.
“Regretfully, I have no answers,” sighed Mr. Bling. “I will keep in touch if any new developments come to light. Good day.” He went back down the street, leaving Arsha and her associates to ponder their next move in the red light of an Under-realm afternoon.