A murder mystery set on the world of Ravnica. Can Jace solve the case?
|Introduction and Disclaimer - This introduction is more for the benefit of those who are fandom-blind or have not read any of the lore associated with the Return to Ravnica block. Ravnica is a city of guilds, ten guilds to be exact: the Azorius Senate, the Boros Legion, the Izzet League, the Selesnya Conclave, the Orzhav Syndicate, the Cult of Rakdos, the Gruul Clans, the Golgari Swarm, the Simic Combine, and House Dimir. Each maintains and runs various functions the city requires, yet each is so embedded in their own ideals, they rarely understand the needs of the other guilds. Only one man, Jace Beleren, was able to enter the minds of all ten guilds and allow them to see eye to eye. For these actions, he was made the living Guildpact, the keeper of peace among the guilds. Thus begins another average day in the life of being the Guildpact.
I do not own Jace, Lavinia, or any of the fantastic world-building of MTG. That credit goes to the hard-working members of WotC. Special thanks to bearhow for beta-reading this story before it hit the presses. Couldn't ask for a better friend and fellow fanfic writer. Enjoy!
* * *
"Now, just so we're clear," Lavinia said, "I did warn you."
Jace was rather overwhelmed by the five random strangers sitting around the great table of his sanctum. Five different members of five different guilds, meaning personalities would clash in due time if he didn't do anything soon. "Please tell me this is your idea of a joke," he whispered to his deputy.
Lavinia, serious and methodical as ever, was already flipping through notes and did not give him even a hint of a smile. "No, apparently an Orzhov cardinal was murdered in Ravnica Center this morning. These were the only witnesses to the scene."
"Murders happen every day on Ravnica," Jace said, already dreading the work to be done.
Lavinia was still forceful. "Yes, but as living Guildpact, you have a job to do. You get involved when the guilds can't handle it. And another thing, the Orzhov are pressing for answers. He was a high-ranking official, after all."
And there was the real reason, Jace thought. Somebody with more power and influence started making a fuss and now it was his job to fix things. He looked over at the odd bunch who sat before him. The Azorius arrester, a tall, slight vedalken woman, had taken it upon herself to take charge of the situation until he got there. She was busy getting a statement from the merfolk woman seated next to her, a Simic scientist no doubt. The merfolk appeared more concerned with the gooey contents she held in a glass jar, which she cared for as though it were her own child. No doubt her latest "pet project." Her blue-green fins seemed to prickle if anyone got too close.
A Boros commander sat at the far end of the table, arms crossed and a sullen look on his face. He was a large, roan minotaur, who didn't look like one for talking. Great, Jace thought, all action and no thought. He'd get very little information out of him.
Perhaps the oddest of the bunch were the two sitting in the midst the group assembled. The woman was an elven Selesnya follower, perhaps new to the Conclave, he supposed. He could tell that she didn't have the fancier robes of the high clerics. Beside her was an Izzet inventor, likely a chemister, judging from the wide variety of equipment he wore. They both seemed pretty shaken up by the event, and the Izzet did his best to comfort her, perhaps a little too much. There seemed to be a particular connection between them, but Jace was trying to be better about prying into the minds of others.
Five different people, five different memories, and he was expected to sift through them all. Indeed, this was going to be a long day. Maybe there was a way to eliminate some of the work.
"You there, Lyev," he said to the vedalken, "you were the investigating officer?"
She eagerly stood. "Lyev Kasun at your service. I believe you'll find all my notes in order," she said, seeming pretty proud of herself. "I've gotten statements from everyone. Now, when I arrived, there was this Dimir…"
Jace hardly listened to her. As the last person to arrive on the scene and the officer in charge of the investigation, she probably knew the least of the bunch, and he therefore wouldn't need her. Best to find a way to get her out the door. "You said the victim was bludgeoned?" Jace said, interrupting her ramble.
Kasun's black eyes blinked in surprise. "Oh, yes, a sharp blow to the head seems to be the cause of death. Now, as I was saying, this vandal of the Rakdos Cult managed to…"
"Yes, yes, that's all fine," Jace said hurriedly, ushering her out. "That'll do, thank you. Have a good day, Lyev."
Kasun stood just outside his door for a moment, confused. "But you never asked me any questions."
"Not to worry. You took good notes. I just need to speak with the others to confirm their stories."
"Oh, of course. Wait, but I still have to-" He shut the door before she could answer. As she left, Jace tossed aside her notes. Useless really, as she only saw the aftermath. That did very little for him.
He heard the thundering hoof beats of the Boros approaching. He would be glad to get this one done now. "I'll tell you what," the minotaur said in a booming voice. "You give me some time out on the streets, let me crack a few skulls, and I'll have your culprit within the hour. I have no doubt it was that moronic Rakdos…"
"As tempting as that sounds, I'd rather you just come with me. I want to know your side of the story, Qunzar, is it? Oh, and I see you're the section commander of the tenth district."
He let out a frustrated snort, but sat down. "Yes, well, I was…"
"Shh," Jace silenced him and his eyes glowed for a brief second before Qunzar was out like a light. It was best to take them by surprise when they were as simple-minded as this one.
* * *
Commander Qunzar, Formidable Boros
Life since the Dragon's Maze had become dull. With that new, living Guildpact solving all the problems of Ravnica, what were the Boros supposed to do? Apparently deal with crowd control and petty thieves. Oh sure, the Dimir cropped up every now and again, and some Rakdos occasionally needed some sense knocked into them, but otherwise, there was nothing left for Ravnica's standing army to handle. Today was no different. As section commander, Qunzar was in charge of checking in with the rest of the legion grunts assigned to the tenth district, and this was supposed to be the most exciting of the districts. He groaned from the boredom and continued wading through crowds to the next checkpoint. The markets were fairly busy, and him taking up a lot of space in the streets, it was slow moving for him.
He rolled his eyes, hating the typical din of bartering, and decided he was really getting nowhere. Stopping to lean against a wall, waiting for the crowds to die down a little, he heard a voice beside him. "So, same old, same old, right, horns-for-brains?"
A slight-built woman sidled up next to him. If it were anyone else who had thrown that insult, they would have had their skull slammed into the wall. Dagoma had been Qunzar's friend since childhood, and still liked to address him with childish name calling. "Well, does it look like I'm busy, fleshbag?" he responded in kind.
He would always have a soft spot for that girl who, all those years ago, preferred wrestling young minotaurs to playing with dolls. She brushed a stray brown hair over her ear. "You've never gotten back about me joining the legion," she said.
Despite how close in age they really were, Qunzar always saw himself as the big brother to her. Oh sure, she could hold her own, but there would come a day when he could not protect her. "Not right now, Dag," he said, eyeing a man who was haggling two stalls down. "Does that guy look like the one…?"
He could always count on Dagoma to be his eyes and ears around the district. "Nah, not the guy. The description the Azorius gave was of someone taller. Hey, any word yet on those new weapons from the Izzet?"
Qunzar shook his head, still looking at the man. "No, still in the prototype phase, they say. I'm not all that fond of that deal anyway. Last thing we need is getting electrocuted on the job because those mad thinkers still had a few 'bugs' to work out."
She huffed. "You used to be fun to talk to on the job, you know that, grass-breath?"
"Shh!" Qunzar had practically a sixth sense when it came to crime. Only when he heard the shout of his two favorite words did he jump at the chance to take action.
A boy, no older than twelve, had snatched a gold chain from a stand and was already half-way down a backstreet. "I promise, we'll talk later, and I'll be better company, okay?" he shouted as he tore after him.
Most people immediately backed out of the way; a few he pushed, and others he simply leaped over. Jumping over the fish monger's stand, he was able to catch up to the boy. Drawing his battle axe, he was sure this would be easy. The kid would just get scared, turn himself over, and it'd be done. Instead, the boy ran and skidded under the minotaur's legs, dashing off again. Gritting his teeth, Qunzar followed. They were nearing the Ravnica Center, and with its maze of walkways, the boy was probably thinking he could lose him there. Fat chance. He knew every street of Ravnica. He didn't get to be section commander by being an idiot. Beating a few people senseless who deserved it may have been the main reason, but knowledge of the streets helped.
The kid had already plowed into some Azorius paper-pusher, and Qunzar leaped over them, almost falling into one of the stone columns as he landed. The boy turned a corner, and the commander's inertia made him take longer to get turned around, almost causing him to mow down some willowy-looking centaur. The centaur jumped out of his way in time and Qunzar kept running. The boy was leading them through the courtyard now, heading straight for an Orzhov lender and a Simic who were talking. The boy only brushed the Orzhov man, but Qunzar tackled the two of them, unable to avoid them in time.
The Orzhov had been knocked a little ways away, but Qunzar and the merfolk girl still lay in a dazed, tangled heap. The merfolk began to blather on frantically about some specimen he had caused her to drop, frantically trying to collect what was left of it. He was certain he felt something slimy hanging on the back of his neck, biting him. He was meanwhile concerned with the shouting above him. He rolled over just in time to see some Rakdos idiot plummet from the sky, holding a long chain. No doubt another of their foolish stunts. He heard a crumbling sound, and a sickening crack just before the Rakdos made contact with the ground.
Over to his left, he caught a glimpse of a Selesnya cleric being held at knifepoint by a Dimir assassin, an Izzet chemister trying to intervene. Though he could only see the back of them, he could have sworn that the Dimir looked like… No, that was impossible. He left her back at the market. There was no way she could've… She was his friend and loved everything about the Boros Legion. There was just no way.
In the meantime, the Rakdos fellow had gotten up from his fall, took one look at Qunzar, and bolted. "You there, stop!" an Azorius arrester shouted to the Dimir assassin.
Yeah, like that was going to stop anything. Keep making rules, Azorius, and see where that gets you. But, at least she was handling the situation with the Dimir, leaving him the opportunity to go after that Rakdos rabble.
The commander pulled himself up and got his axe. As he got up, he saw the Orzhov man lying face-down on the ground, a pool of blood forming near his head. The merfolk girl had screamed, seeing him. Time to show what a section commander could do.
* * *
Commander Qunzar came to just in time to get sick all over Jace's office floor. "Just great," Jace muttered, clearly not amused.
Qunzar wiped his mouth. "The hell…you do to…me?" he said weakly.
Jace was calling for Lavinia but returned to the room briefly. "Some people have bad reactions to mind magic. Apparently, you're one of them."
"You were…inside my head?" He started feeling sick again.
"Yes, but that's not important right now. Ah Lavinia, I'm going to have to conduct the rest of the interviews elsewhere. We had a slight mishap."
Lavinia glared at Jace, shaking her head. "You didn't tell him what you were doing, did you?"
"It wasn't necessary."
"From here on out, you're telling them," she said, ending the discussion. Deputy she may be, but sometimes she was more like his mother. "And would it kill you to smile?"
Jace forced his lips to reveal his teeth in an attempt at smiling. "Never mind," she said, giving him a worried look.
They helped Commander Qunzar shakily get to his feet and led him back downstairs. Now, who to read next… While he was starting to see the theory fall apart, he wanted to know more about this Dimir.
"Um, you, Inyeni, right?" Jace said, pointing to the Selesnya elf. "I'll have you in next."
The Izzet man gave her hand a gentle squeeze, urging her to go on. Jace had been still trying to figure out the connection, and when she stood, it finally made sense, sort of. With the rest of her no longer concealed by the high table, it was now unmistakably clear that she was pregnant. Odd that the Izzet was the father; at least that was what Jace assumed. Izzet and Selesnya were about as opposite as it could get, and members of either guild rarely got along. Then again, stranger things had happened, except he had seen those things on other planes.
What particularly surprised him was that he was a human and she was an elf. He almost wished Emmara could be here to see this, just so he could see the look on her face. So, it never would've worked out because he was a human, hm? Jace couldn't help but feel a pang of longing to see Emmara again, even if she no longer remembered him.
Lavinia had prepared Jace's library to continue the interviews. He silently motioned for the elf to sit and said not a word for the longest time. She eyed him suspiciously. "There is something you're not telling me."
Jace sat across from her, hating that Lavinia was right. He was still trying to get a good read on her, without reading her mind that is. Aside from a lingering fear from having nearly being killed by a Dimir, it was hard to know anything else about her. Typical of a Selesnya follower; they very rarely had any individuality. "Well, my deputy says I now have to explain my methods, and I suppose that's fair." She waited for him to continue. "You see, I'm going to use a little mind magic, and I'll be able to enter your memories. I will be able to see, hear, and feel everything as your consciousness knows it. Now, while I will be the one who sees everything, you'll maintain a form of semi-consciousness. You will feel a little light-headedness. Try not to get sick or lose that consciousness while I'm in your mind. I'd like not to have a repeat of my last witness." He said this all rather fast, hoping to give her very little time to object.
"Is this…safe?" she asked tentatively.
Jace scratched his head, trying to be honest, but also trying to pass it off as a simple procedure. "Well, there are instances of prolonged exposure having some effects on one's mental health, but I intend to only relive a few minutes of your life, nothing more."
She was still trying to find a way out of it. "Look, I told that Azorius woman I saw very little of what happened. I only remember-"
"Well, 'seeing' is only a relative term," Jace replied. "I trust you actually have more information than you know. Now, if you would."
She sighed, looking as though she already regretted the decision, but nodded her consent. "Alright then, let us begin," Jace said, his eyes flashing.
* * *
Inyeni, Selesnya Naturalist
She'd been waiting a good twenty minutes already. Leave it to Derkis to always be late. It made her wonder how so many people who were so easily distracted and overzealous could really work together like the Izzet League. In the meantime, she was trying to quiet the pummeling kicks to her insides. She could tell he was passionate and always active, like his father. "He'll be here," she whispered.
Inyeni looked around furtively, still not convinced she was alone. She was certain she had left the Conclave before most of her fellow guildmates were even awake, but had still taken a winding route to avoid being seen. She had found a fairly empty and private part of the promenade to wait. It was still early in the morning before too many people would be around, but they would be here soon, if he was any later. Sure enough, he finally came running down the walkway, that look on his face as though he only now remembered where he was supposed to be. Meeting up with her, he kissed her on the cheek and said, "I really wish you wouldn't pick these secret and obscure places to meet."
She couldn't help but notice his frazzled hair, and assumed correctly, it was yet another "work-related" accident. "We're not having that argument again," she said firmly. "You've been pretty hard to reach for three days now."
He shrugged, toying at the latest equipment attached to his arm. He was never far from his latest project and often brought his work with him, just like when they had first met. She remembered that young, driven inventor, who had inadvertently destroyed a rare phytohydra she had been tending with his latest invention. He had offered to make it up to her by apologizing over drinks at a Rakdos tavern. It had taken several more tries for her to forgive him, and for him to finally win her over. "Lots of new experiments," he replied, tweaking the device, bringing her back to reality. "They're keeping me busy. Wait'll you see this…"
She loved his enthusiasm and passion for creativity. Too bad it was being wasted on experiments such as those of the Izzet. Oh, sure, just like any guild, they sought to improve upon the well-being of Ravnica. However, Ravnica could not improve until it had reconnected with its roots and the communal mind of the world. Nature would still overcome their misguided "progress." But he was still sweet in his own way. To this day, she had never understood why she did care about him, but she rarely questioned it. She continued to listen about his latest mishap in the lab. "So, how've you been?" he finally asked, as if he were suddenly remembering why he was here. "I mean both of you."
She laughed, resting a hand on her stomach. "We're fine. Now, before you can say another word, yes, the Conclave is giving me time to rest before he is born." She always did feel as though he considered her fragile, even before they had discovered this blessing. Perhaps that is what the Izzet thought of her guild.
If someone had told her three years ago she would be having a child with an Izzet, she would have believed the Simic Combine had given up their experiments first. Now, she hardly gave it another thought. As strange as it was, she really did love Derkis, and was more than overjoyed with the prospect of having a child with him. She just wished there was a way for them to actually have a normal life together.
"Well, that's kind of what I wanted to talk about," Derkis said, becoming nervous. "I really think you should consider the possibility of...you know, living with me, at least until our son is born and everything, but of course, it could be longer if you wanted to. I mean, it'd be closer to the ninth district so that when the time comes, I'd be able to get you to..."
She tensed, knowing he was going to bring this up. It was bound to happen sooner rather than later, making her dread it all the more. For all the logical reasons he could spout off, it did not change the fact that they were from two different worlds. "We've been over this. I can't," she interrupted.
"But why not? I know it's not Sumala, but I'd see to it that you were comfortable. Look, I love you, I really do. I want to be a part of your life, of our child's, but I can't if you won't let me."
"And yes, my guildmates would find it odd, but they wouldn't care, so long as it didn't distract me from my work."
They had slowly made their way into the courtyard. Curse him for doing that. Did he not realize they could be seen together? "And has it?" she asked, trying to conceal her frustration.
He sighed. "Okay, so a little, but it's no big deal. So, why not?"
She could've sworn she heard thunderous running nearby, but ignored it. People were running to get everywhere in the city. "Because the Selesnya are not too keen on the Izzet, and that's putting it nicely. And, I'm just not ready to explain to them...well, us. We're actually starting to make way for change, change I want to be a part of, and if they knew about you, they'd start to question my devotion to the Conclave, and..."
Her pointed ears perked. She was sure now she heard something snap or come loose. A little boy ran right between them, nudging them both in his attempt to get far away from the center. People were in such a hurry. "Well, surely they've been asking by now," he said, ignoring the boy and at the same time trying to reason with her. "So what are you telling them?"
She pulled nervously on her hair. "Nothing."
He was already beginning to ask another question, but only got a single syllable out when she heard a loud yell from above. Some Rakdos performer came swinging across the courtyard on a chain and was on a crash course for them. Her fear paralyzed her, making her unable to react. She felt something collide with her from behind, and they were pushed out of the way just in time. Derkis lay on the ground, still stunned. Surprisingly, she had not fallen. Whoever had saved them still had a hold of her. Unable to turn to see them, since they firmly gripped her neck and shoulder, she caught a glimpse of the dark robes of the House Dimir. She also heard the fast click of their blade unsheathing. "No!" Derkis shouted, jumping to his feet.
Her own heartbeat thundered in her ears. She could barely hear the shrill scream behind her or what sounded like the crumbling of a wall. Was this an ambush? Her vision was starting to go dark. Wait, she remembered more than this. What was happening? Wait, what did she mean by "remembered?" Was this not happening now? No wait, it felt familiar.
* * *
"What did you do to her?" Lavinia snapped.
Jace had hardly moved while his deputy tended to her. "Nothing. She passed out before I could finish scouring her memory." He was massaging his temples as he felt a headache coming on. "Being thrown out of a mind is not a pleasant experience. I wouldn't recommend it. Lavinia, would you be so kind as to-"
She glared at him. "I'm going to stop you before the next stupid thing comes out of your mouth," she interrupted. "Get whatever it is yourself. I'm sure you're fine. I'm just a tad busy with the woman who just passed out in your library." She turned away from him, muttering something about men being too needy, although not in as nice of terms.
Some people just didn't understand the stress of wielding mind magic. "What happened?" Inyeni said, slowly coming to.
"You lost that consciousness before the memory completed. Not to worry, it was still illuminating."
She sat up a little, finding her own head spinning. "I'm afraid I didn't see much," she said.
"No, but you heard very much," Jace said. "I must admit I envy the keen hearing of the elves."
"Thank you?" she said, not sure what to make of the comment.
"Most remarkable really."
Jace gave a knowing smile. "Izzet are known for their carelessness in the way of their own well-being or that of others. You seem to be a rare exception to him. I also find it odd. Are not members of the Conclave supposed to put communal needs above those of the individual?"
"Hm, then it is particularly strange. You concern yourself with your own thoughts and feelings in the little matter of personal affairs I witnessed, yet never took into account your partner's feelings."
Before she could say anymore, he had Lavinia usher her out to speak with Derkis next. The inventor's mind was, naturally, occupied elsewhere. "But, Inyeni…"
"Will be fine," Jace finished. "Unfortunately I did not get to see her full memory. I need you to fill in the rest. Your familiarity with the Firemind will make you less susceptible to the effects of mind magic."
Like most Izzet, Derkis was a logical sort, and readily agreed. As Jace scoured his memory, he found that the chemister had at least some visuals of the events around them in his peripherals, but they differed very little from those of his partner. However, Derkis was of a more calculating nature than her, and had a more precise perception of time and distance. While Inyeni had given Jace a timeline of events based on sound, Derkis gave him an exact timing between all the goings on.
* * *
Derkis, Izzet Experimenter
As the Rakdos riotmage came swinging for them, Derkis was already running calculations in his head. At the angle he was coming in at and his increase in velocity, he would…wait a minute! He grabbed Inyeni's wrists, ready to pull her out of the way when something pushed them both. Derkis lost his balance and was left sprawled in the grass.
Sitting up, he slowly became aware that the person who had saved them still had Inyeni in their grasp and that that person was a Dimir assassin.
"No!" he screamed, jumping to his feet.
The Dimir's face was covered except for her eyes, and with only a glance, she seemed to say she knew she had control of the situation. Her blade was drawn, but she had not yet made any attempt to aim it at Inyeni. She merely twirled in her fingers, taunting them both. Terror gripped him as he tried to come up with an idea. Normally, he could think fast on his feet, but this wasn't the labs where he could fail spectacularly and didn't have to think of the risk to his life. He did have one trick up his sleeve, or rather, on his sleeve, and the gadget hooked to his arm whirred to life and he aimed it at the Dimir. It was an advanced staticaster, and he was fairly sure he had worked out the bugs. It would be able to hit the Dimir with a direct shot: no harm to Inyeni.
The Dimir stood still and relaxed, and pressed the knifepoint to Inyeni's throat. "You sure about your invention, Izzet?"
Derkis lowered his arm, doubt overcoming him. It would come as no surprise to him to find that the Dimir had been watching him. They saw and heard everything about everyone. There was a time when he had been truly gifted, and though he experienced a few failures in early prototypes, his inventions used to be a success. Lately, as newer and more ambitious inventors joined the league, his confidence waned, and with his concern over Inyeni, it was hard to stay focused. More and more failures happened in his workshop these days. What if it really was yet another failure? He couldn't take that risk. "Please," he begged.
The Dimir's eyes narrowed and she pushed the knife closer. "You there, stop!" a voice yelled.
Derkis could only see the uniform of an Azorius arrester out of the corner of his eye. The assassin also turned to look. Inyeni took the Dimir's distracted state as the opportunity to elbow her in the gut and was released from her grip in all the chaos. The Dimir spun around to make another attempt to attack, but the elf was prepared for this, too. Gargantuan roots sprung up from the ground at her command, some of them attempting to wrap around the legs of her attacker. The Dimir's eyes widened and she bolted up these roots as they climbed higher. Only once or twice did they come close to grabbing her, but as soon as she was high enough to reach the rooftops nearby, she vanished into the city again.
He could only stand there, mouth agape at the sheer power she had wielded. "What was that?" he asked in awe.
Still watching the rooftops for any sign of the Dimir's return, she finally turned to him. Waving it off as if it were nothing, she said, "A reason no one messes with the Selesnya. Oh, and it would've worked. The mizzium pin was secure. You would have been fine."
Did he just hear what he thought he heard? She must have noticed the look on his face as she followed up with a simple, "Yes, I do pay attention when you talk about your inventions."
The reality of what had just happened finally coming over him, he rushed to embrace her, still trying to believe that she was indeed still alive. "I don't think I tell you enough how much I love you," he said.
"I think we've both made that mistake."
"Ahem," the vedalken woman said, interrupting them, "you two are alright?"
"Yes, but the Dimir…" Inyeni began.
She held up a hand to silence them. "Yes well, be that as it may, this was unauthorized 'landscaping' you have caused here." She looked at the upward growing roots with disgust. "You are under arrest, miss."
* * *
Derkis felt sucked back into reality, his heart still racing from having relived the moment. "If it makes you feel any better," said Jace, "she had no real intention of harming her. I imagine it was just a threat."
A flood of thoughts seemed to come back to him, and from the look on his face, he now understood why this had happened. Jace seemed to know too. Reading minds anymore was like breathing, but it was not pertinent to the situation, so why press it? "I think that is all I have need of you for," he said, opening the library door.
Inyeni had been waiting and upon seeing him, threw her arms around Derkis' neck. "I never wanted you to feel as though I didn't want you to care," she said.
"I hate to interrupt," Jace began, "but would you move along? I still have one more to speak to."
"Oh yes, Guildpact, I did have one question of my own," Derkis said. "That Azorius woman said something about Inyeni being under arrest. She wasn't serious, was she?"
"Well you know how the Azorius Senate is. They love their rules and do not make exceptions for situations such as protecting your own life. I imagine they will try." They shared a look of disappointment. Jace tried to help. "But I did glance at her notes. She only has her registered as living in Sumala. If she were somewhere else, say the home of a member of another guild…"
A mischievous smile spread across her face. "Of course, that would make sense, and they would never think to look for a Selesnya fugitive among the Izzet. The Conclave would have to understand. They can't have their work impeded by some silly ruling of the Azorius Senate."
Derkis seemed to catch on. "Well, I suppose that could be arranged, but exactly how long do you expect to stay?"
"Not to impose, but it would have to be indefinitely. One never knows when the Senate would try bringing up old charges."
"You know with logic like that, have you ever thought of joining the Izzet League?"
The two left, a spark seeming to have been reignited. Was that jealousy he was feeling, he wondered? Was he mad because he was seeing what could've been for himself had Emmara just taken a chance? Lavinia came in, leading the merfolk girl in. "Those two seem happy," she said, more to herself. "Jace, did you have something to do with that?"
"What are you talking about?"
Typical of Jace. The boy was so clueless when it came to people. It would be no surprise to find out he had fixed a relationship without ever knowing it.
Jace had a feeling he would know the outcome of the Simic merfolk's story, but there were one or two details that eluded him. She didn't seem too happy to be here. "I've heard about what you do," she said coldly. "My mind is my own. I do not approve of just handing you my secrets."
He raised his eyebrow in curiosity, examining the contents of her jar. She pulled it away from him protectively. "So, it's secrets we have now, is it? To be fair, I don't need your permission to do it. I don't even have to try. But I want you to be a willing participant. I will only access those few minutes, I promise."
She looked fixedly at him for a while before answering. She had that look that said she knew that they weren't going to let her leave until she participated. "Fine, but make it quick."
* * *
Jotali, Simic Biomancer
Jotali straightened her fins again. Despite how much the Simic hated the Orzhov, they were a necessary evil. Cardinal Udres had funded Simic experiments in the past, making him their best chance. However, she would rather be in her lab right now rather than trying to negotiate with some pompous, greedy money lender. She had no idea why Mother - no, Prime Speaker Zegana, as she was supposed to address her - had chosen her for this job.
"You'll be fine; just be yourself," Zirn, her loyal krasis, had said as she prepared herself.
"That's the problem," she said with a sigh. "I'm a researcher. I don't do negotiations."
Zirn slithered over closer. "You make change happen," he said. "You made me, a sentient krasis. That is something to be proud of. Make them want to help you continue those changes."
She smiled and hugged him around his slick, slimy, green neck. "Thanks, Zirn," she said, "but I don't think that'll be enough to impress the Orzhav. I just hope Mother, er… Prime Speaker Zegana understands when I fail."
He tilted his head, his wide eyes filled with confusion. "How will you know you fail when you have not attempted it?"
Sometimes she wondered who was really the wise creator and who was the experiment.
Something nipped at her finger, disrupting her memories of this morning. She looked at her new specimen, wrapped around her arms. It was some sort of cross between an anemone and a Venus flytrap. This new hybrid would change a lot for Ravnica, it just had to. Able to grow to immense sizes in Ravnican climate, and able to survive with some parts of it missing, it could remain a reusable food source for generations. Sure it had an "unusual" diet, but it would survive just fine.
The cardinal was already waiting for her in the courtyard, looking as though she were already wasting his precious time. He was an old, gaunt man, just like any other Orzhav, really. Biting her lip, she tried to convince herself that she could do this. "Cardinal Udres," she said, feigning calm, "it is wonderful to meet you in person. I hope you are well."
"Time is money, my dear," he said in a raspy voice, "so forgive me for seeming rude, but let's hurry along to the main points of your...good god, what's that?" He was pointing at the specimen.
"This is a cytospawn ane-" she began, ready to present her findings.
He held up a hand, his look of disgust betraying his thoughts. "On second thought, I don't want to know. Tell me, Simic, what benefit is it to me?"
"This will revolutionize our studies in creating more adaptable and lasting lifeforms. For Ravinca, it would change so much of our sustainability, better than what the Golgari can accomplish. Just think, in a few years, we would be able to..."
"I'll stop you right there," he said coldly. "I hear nothing that suggests any gain for the Orzhov. Good day to you."
Jotali was very confused, and starting to feel like a failure already. Yet, she was still very naïve to the Orzhov's mentality. "Oh, but you would, of course, be given credit for aiding in such world-changing research," she pleaded. "The Orzhov would be…"
"I said good day."
"Cardinal, please!" she called, trying to find some excuse to get him to listen.
Neither got to finish before a young boy ran between them. He almost knocked her off balance and really plowed into Udres, but they both came out still standing. She turned her head as she heard some sort of a snapping, clinking sound. She didn't get to think on it as a Boros soldier ran straight into her, bowling over both her and Udres.
As she scrambled up, she realized her specimen was no longer in her hands. Oh, no! If it got to organic matter and started taking root…no, she couldn't think about that. She fumbled along the ground, trying to gather the squashed pieces slithering across the courtyard. She momentarily glanced at Udres to see that he was okay. She did a double-take when she saw the bloody dent in his head and the blank look in his eyes. She had seen many spectacular failures, performed surgeries on so many creatures, but this was of such a brutal nature, she couldn't bear it. The terrified scream that came forth did not feel like her own.
* * *
She was still screaming when she came back. Jace had been covering his ears. She came to a sudden stop when it finally hit her where she was. "Um, yes, well, it would seem you were the last one to see the victim alive," Jace began. "Tell me, do the Simic have any benefit from the death of this Orzhov?"
She glared back at him. First having to relive all of that and now these accusations, that was crossing a line for her. "I don't like what you're implying."
Jace shrugged. "I mean it as a mere question."
She sighed, still not sure what to make of him. "No, if you must know. He was the only one who would give us a chance to plead for funding."
"I see. I would hate for such a promising project of the Simic to be destroyed," Jace said, changing the subject.
"I will ensure you're compensated for the destruction of your property," he said, nodding to the glass jar, "and I will ensure that this project continues. It shows a lot of potential. Good day."
Without another word, he dismissed the merfolk girl, who left both confused and overjoyed.
"So, you just let everyone walk right out of here?" Lavinia said, waiting for Jace to speak.
"Why bother keeping them around when they'd be doing no good here?"
She crossed her arms. "But if they were a suspect…oh, never mind. Wait, that Selesnya girl; she was supposed to be detained."
Jace pretended not to remember. "Oh, was she? Well, surely Lyev Kasun's notes indicate where you might find her."
Jace was sure Lavinia knew he was hiding something but decided to move on. "Hm, well, I suppose. Do you know what happened?"
"I think so."
"And are you going to tell me?" she asked after a long pause.
Jace sat in a comfy chair, as if he hadn't a care in the world. He gave it a few more minutes before he finally spoke, as he knew that would annoy his deputy further. Hey, he had to find amusement sometime, right? "In short, it was an accident, nothing more. Allow me to walk you through the day's events. A boy stole from the market and Commander Qunzar gave chase. That's where everything begins. As the two ran through the center, he knocked over the Simic and our victim, knocking the victim a little further away. While all of this is going on, a Rakdos riotmage is busy practicing a tightrope act right above them. As could be expected, safety is not their highest priority and somehow, the chain tightrope broke."
"What now?" Lavinia asked, her mind already reeling with a list of arrest charges a mile long. "Jace, we'll have to organize a search to find him and…"
Jace waved it off as if it were nothing. "Please let me finish. Anyway, this caused the Rakdos to fall, but he hung onto the makeshift tightrope, nearly hitting the young couple, had it not been for the Dimir."
"And you think the assassin had nothing to do with this?"
"Hardly. Her target was the Izzet, and only to threaten, not to harm, which she succeeded in doing. Took advantage of a chaotic situation."
Lavinia was still trying to piece it all together. "So the Izzet and the Selesnya's statements were useless."
"On the contrary. Between her keen sense of hearing and his calculating mind, they helped me confirm this sequence of events. Now, as the Rakdos swung back, he pulled the rest of the chain loose, taking a chunk of the wall with him. Once it fell, and given the victim's current position, that piece of wall struck him and he died shortly after. The Qunzar went off on an unsuccessful pursuit of the Rakdos fellow, taking the evidence with them. I imagine that wall fragment is nowhere to be found."
She was a little dumbstruck. "So what do we tell the Orzhov?"
Jace blinked, finding it a silly question. "What I just told you. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. What transpired today was a domino effect of actions followed by appropriate reactions. Oh sure, the Rakdos unintentionally landed the final blow, but had any of our witnesses done anything even slightly different, none of this would've happened."
* * *
Dagoma, Darling of the Dimir
Dagoma stood on a rooftop overlooking the city: the Dimir's city. Every other guild could believe what they wanted, but true power rested in knowledge, a knowledge only the House Dimir were willing to go the lengths to acquire. Let the Azorius and Boros keep their silly rules. Let the Simic, Gruul, and Golgari believe in the laws of nature. Let the Izzet have their calculations. The Orzhav and Selesnya could keep their beliefs. And the Rakdos could care less so long as they still got to have their fun. Ravnica belonged to the Dimir.
Despite all the setbacks today, she had accomplished her latest mission, rather successfully, she would add. That Izzet chemister had been put in his place. Though not keen on involving the Selesnya girl, as the more people involved, the messier it got; it proved more effective than she could've hoped. Derkis was already destroying blueprints he had for the latest in Boros weaponry. The things people would do when properly "motivated." She had her friend Qunzar to thank for that little tip. She hated using such a trusted friend like that, but having a man on the inside of the Boros was what got her to where she was now. What she had not expected was the elf to put up a good fight.
The wind whipping through her robes, she contemplated the day's events. She had heard that the Guildpact had been looking into this, and she had heard of the powers the living peace treaty possessed. An honest mistake, it would seem: a freak accident. She wondered how long it would take them to realize that the Orzhov was practically dead before the commander knocked him over. Dagoma was fairly certain she was the only one who saw the blood stain on his robes, just below his chest, right after that boy ran into him.
It didn't take long for her to figure out that the thief had murdered the cardinal. The boy had only stolen to cause confusion, all the while concealing his real aim. Dagoma wondered if the boy was really one of the many shapeshifters in the Dimir's employ, or someone they should be recruiting. Though, it didn't really matter because this was not her affair to contemplate. Death happened in Ravnica. That was a given. Oh sure, the Guildpact kept the peace, but one could be sure that secrets and death would always be a part of the world so long as the House Dimir remained in power.