Home > White Serpent, Black Dragon (Eve of Redemption #2)

White Serpent, Black Dragon (Eve of Redemption #2)
Author: Joe Jackson

Prologue

 

 

The marshal looked around at the crime scene. This was now the eleventh murder in half as many days, and his detectives still had few clues to solving the mystery. While they all—the marshal included—believed the killings to be the work of a single assassin, they had found nothing that pointed to who the killer was. Eleven victims had now been claimed by the killer, but there was little that tied them together: They were of different races, genders, creeds, backgrounds, occupations, ages, and appearances. The marshal knew something had to tie them all together, but whatever it was, he didn’t see it just yet.

He took his hat off respectfully and knelt beside the body of the innkeeper. Human male, mid-twenties, single, agnostic, owner and operator of a small and barely profitable inn; the marshal couldn’t see any connection to the last victim or any of those that had come before. Death had been swift and inevitable: Throat slashed with a straight, non-serrated blade. Something caught the marshal’s eye, though, and he leaned down to inspect the wound more closely.

“Kinney,” he called one of his senior-most detectives. “What do you make of this?”

The other man came and knelt beside the victim, and the marshal pointed out a small puncture wound on the side of the neck. “Thumb claw,” Kinney said. He turned the victim’s head and pointed out the obvious impressions of fingers on the opposite side from the puncture wound. “Guessing it was a rir, maybe a half-demon. See the fingermarks here, sir? Looks like we have a left-handed killer, and he apparently grabbed the victim hard enough to puncture the neck with his thumb.”

“No,” the marshal disagreed. He had Kinney turn the victim’s head back the other way and then gestured toward the end of the laceration. “That is what our killer hoped we would believe but look here. The cut was placed to cover up the presence of a second puncture wound in line with this one.”

“Gods and angels,” Kinney swore. “Don’t tell me we have a vampire in the city…”

“Gather the men and tell them of this newest development,” the marshal ordered. He rose to his feet and straightened out the vest and tails of his black suit. He put his hat back on and continued, “I will confer with His Lordship. In the meantime, start looking for clues that there may be a vampire in the city. Involve Kaelariel’s priests if need be. The cemetery is the most obvious starting point for your investigations.”

“Yes, sir,” Detective Kinney said, and he headed outside to gather the other investigators.

The marshal knelt back beside the body with narrowed eyes, and he turned the victim’s head to look at the fingermarks again. The killer had worked to make them convincing to help cover up the bite wound on the side of the neck, but even with the extra strength it took to leave the marks on the victim, the killer had failed to cover up another important detail.

She was a woman.

 

 

1

 

 

Conflict of Interest

 

 

Kari closed the book and tossed it casually on the surface of the desk. As with the many others like it, she found she could hardly stand to read it for more than a few minutes before the enormity of it all overwhelmed her.

Kari turned her ebon eyes toward the beautiful spring day unfolding outside. She wished she wasn’t tethered to a desk, perusing the records left behind by the Order’s last Avatar of Vengeance. On the other hand, she was glad to accept the tedious assignment on account of the reason she had earned it: not everyone had the joy of going home to a young son and loving mate at the end of the day. The previous years had been so unlike anything she’d been through in her life, and despite the tedium of her current assignment, she wouldn’t have traded places with any other demonhunter in the Order.

She tapped her black claws on the desk as she scanned the interior of her office. It was stacked high with books, papers, journals, and boxes containing all manner of artifacts. Her office had become the temporary home to all of the personal effects of Jason Bosimar, the Order’s previous Avatar. Bosimar had been killed in the Apocalypse, and his belongings and all of his records as head of the Order had been largely ignored in the years since. Bosimar had made his abode in the city of Gnarr, far from the campus of the Demonhunter Order, and many believed it was because he didn’t want to clash politically with his father, Christopher Bosimar, the Duke of Brunswick. Now, with Jason’s death in the War and the lack of a new Avatar, Kari was assigned to sort through his things.

It had been two months since Jason’s things began arriving in her office, and yet Kari still knew very little about the man or what had occupied his administrative time while head of the Order. Much to her chagrin, she’d found that Bosimar had been a well-educated young man, and with her own limited education, Kari often had difficulty understanding many of the records he kept. It gave her a greater appreciation for a man she had hardly known, but at the same time, it often left her frustrated, as she was expected to help the Order pick up where its previous head had left off in terms of goals and investigations. She looked to the journal on the desk before her and sighed, sat back in her chair, and looked out the window of her office once again.

Outside, she could see her blonde brother-in-law, Typhonix, leading a class of new cadets through a rigorous physical training exercise. Though Ty hadn’t officially been part of the Order during their mission on Tsalbrin three years before, upon returning to DarkWind he was given a lot of credit for his work on the Order’s behalf. He’d still been required to go through the Order’s boot camp and classes, but Ty was quite intelligent and had graduated in a matter of months. Though he occasionally undertook assignments with his older brother Erijinkor, the Order was most often happy to take advantage of Typhonix’ imposing physique and attitude and used him well as a drill instructor.

Kari watched with a smirk while the strapping brute dressed down one of the recruits; she remembered being on the receiving end of such treatment enough times during her days as a cadet. She turned her attention away when one of the laborers deposited another box on the floor of her office. There was hardly room to walk anywhere in the office except from the door to her chair, even given the room’s sparse furnishing. She nodded to the young man after he put down the box and sought her permission to leave, and Kari picked up the journal before her once again. She sighed, considering she’d give almost anything to be outside helping to train the new recruits instead of going through paperwork. Then she chuckled at herself, realizing she was just as happy to not spend her afternoons playing story hour with awestruck cadets.

The new recruits were under strict orders from Lord Allerius—the current head of the Order—to not bother Kari with personal questions or requests to hear about her past. While details of Kari’s career—particularly in her previous life—were still being taught to the new recruits, she’d made it quite clear upon taking an administrative position that she didn’t want to spend her days talking about herself. She worked with the headmasters to refine and correct details about her career and even add a little bit about her personal life, but given her private nature, Kari didn’t like to be interviewed or asked about her past life. She was, by all accounts, the only person to have been resurrected in the history of Citaria; fortunately, despite this, her coworkers and even the recruits respected her privacy.

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