A Prelude to Murder

Master Byron Galewind leaned over his desk, his ledgers spread before him. He only had a few more rows of accounts he would like to have settled before the guests began to arrive. Glancing at the window, he knew he was cutting it close, but Tywin would forgive him. He always did, after all. At the thought of his husband, a tender smile crossed the half-elven man’s face. Just these last few rows and then he would dress for the dinner party they were hosting together.

Tywin Galewind practically floated through the estate in his new vivid purple robes bedecked in stars. He looked the very image of a master wizard, even if he only knew the most basic spells of the illusion school. He could hear quiet conversation in the formal sitting room and wondered who had arrived. What he found was his adopted Tiefling son, Gareth, chatting with his sister-in-law, Sadry. Gareth was hugging his pull-string dog tightly to his chest and he had a nervous smile on his face. Sadry, a full Elf to her brother’s half, looked up and smiled brightly.
“Ty!” She hugged him tightly and he laughed, returning the hug. “It’s good to see you. Will my brother be joining us or is he still-?”
“Buried in numbers, I’m afraid. But never fear, he promised this time.”
Tywin looked around to find Gareth again, but the little boy had vanished. He had a rather unnerving habit of doing that, but Tywin assumed it was just a relic of his time on the streets. Or a piece of his demonic heritage. One of those. Instead, he spotted Cogsworth. Smiling at the Gnomish butler, he turned away from Sadry.
“Yes, Cogsworth?”
“Lady Belissa of Runnerspring has arrived, Master Tywin, and she’s absolutely insistent that you see her immediately.”
Tywin sighed just slightly.
“Of course she is. Sadry, I-”
“Don’t worry about it, Ty. We both know how your cousin feels about me and Byron.”

Lady Belissa of Runnerspring didn’t like many things. She didn’t like that her cousin had married a commoner. She didn’t like that he associated with merchants. And above all else, she didn’t like that half of those merchants would like very much to put a blade between the ribs of either her cousin or his husband or, preferably, both. So, when she arrived at the Galewind home, the first thing she did was check in with her agent.
“Well, Cogsworth?”
“All has been well, my Lady. And I ensured that the Masters were never even aware of the last assassin that came for them.”
“Good. And this boy?”
“I’ve done a full background check and he is as he appears to be.”
Belissa nodded slowly.
“Very well. In that case, I wish to see my cousin.”
Cogsworth bowed deeply.
“Right away, my Lady.”

The last usual guest waited. He was unsure that he should be there, but by that same token, he should be seen in public while his plan went forward. In the end, Dennis Chandler arrived at the door and was led in. He paid no mind to the maid as she went up the stairs, even though he knew who she truly was. He’d seen to that some time ago. And it hadn’t even been difficult to replace the girl they’d had working for them with one of his own. He asked the Gnome they had as butler to get him a drink and settled into one of the comfortable chairs to enjoy the tense silence between Belissa of Runnerspring and Sadry Galewind. He wondered how quickly they would turn on each other when his plan had come to fruition. He would almost lay odds that Sadry would accuse Belissa of causing it. He hoped the Priestess had her bow ready.

Byron didn’t close his ledgers. He merely sprinkled sand across the ink to help it dry faster and went to change into his most elegant clothes for the evening. He didn’t see the girl come up behind him, wouldn’t have thought a thing of it if he had. As the blood pooled on the bed under him and he faded into the darkness, Byron’s last thoughts were to regret breaking his promise to Tywin.

The last guests had only just arrived, a group of adventurers from the local guild. Tywin and Byron had invited them on a whim, hoping that real adventurers would liven up the party some. With the guests all waiting in the formal sitting room, Cogsworth began to relax. With them all in one place, he could watch Chandler. That was when they all heard the scream issuing from upstairs. It was the maid.

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