Cryptic Council – A Lakeside Murder Pt. 1


Image via The San Diego Union Tribune

Gwendolyn Janik, Writer

Waves lapped gently at the boat as it pulled through the river toward a lonely island. As it pulled to the dock, the passengers spotted a tall Dragonborn with gleaming white scales painted with blue war paint, an elegant lady in robes of purple that flowed in the gentle breeze, and a nervous green-skinned half-orc who had a pair of golden goggles on top of his head holding his hair out of his face.

The Dragonborn smiled and extended his hand to a young earth genasi woman. “Ahh, Ms. Azurite, you got here alright then. How was the boat ride?” 

She ran a hand over the front of her dress, carefully considering her words. “Thank you, Drol. It was as good as a boat ride could be.”

Azurite followed as Drol led her toward the Victorian mansion that towered over everything. The double doors led to a hall connecting multiple rooms. A library that had shelves of books that touched the ceilings was to the right and a closed-door straight ahead caught Azurite’s attention. “What’s behind the door?”

“That’s the drawing-room. We will probably hang out there after dinner.” As they turned a corner, raised voices floated from a door that was cracked open.


Drol grimaced as he turned to Azurite, “That is probably Dragoneel and Kassius! You can continue looking around. I will be there in a minute.” He hurried into the room, but Azurite had other plans. She slipped into the room after him and stood in the shadow of the door that Drol had left open. “I told him that the council meeting was here today.”

A lady with lavender hair threw her hands into the air, “Why would you do that?”

Drol crossed his arms and glared at her, “Dragoneel, you and the other council members need to stop trying to exclude Kassius.”

“But this is my house! The last time he was here, he stole all of the gems that I had!”

“But he’s a council member! You offered to host this event! Don’t host if you don’t trust us!”

The flowing purple fabric of Dragoneel’s gown seemed to flare as she clenched her fists and stormed out of the room. 

Azurite watched in silence as the men left the room. She headed out of the room and walked around the garden to see what was around the mansion.

The three other passengers of the boat looked at the lady in purple and the half-orc. Dragoneel motioned one young woman forward. “V! I am so glad that you made it! Come on! I can’t wait to show you around!” While Dragoneel led V through the garden, the half-orc nodded to the dwarf.

‘Well… Um… I hope your ride was… Um… Pleasant…” 

The dwarf nodded her head and spoke softly, “It was, Havean. Thank you.”

He nodded and rocked back and forth on his heels. “Well… Valerie… you probably… probably already met Drol.”

“Yes, he has occasionally bought from me.”

Still shifting slightly, Havean glanced around. “Good… We should… Um… Probably head up…”

Valerie nodded and followed him up the main path to the giant mansion. They passed the library and decided to ignore the raised voices coming from the dining room. “Um… Would you like… To… Um… Head to your room?”

“That would be nice. Thank you.” Havean nodded and directed Valerie up the stairs to a small landing with a large hall filled with doors. He led the way around the stairs to a small hallway with three doors.

“You… You can choose… Choose either of the rooms on… On the sides.” He paused and looked around. “Um… You might want… Want to avoid the middle room.”

Valerie nodded again. “Thank you.” She opened the door on the right and laid down on the furthest bed from the door.

In the garden, Dragoneel led V towards the house. A short and stout woman with a wise face and white hair smiled. “Ah, one of our new recruits! I am so excited to welcome you to The Council. We are like a family! And I can’t wait to welcome you into it!”

“Uh-huh. So ya know how when people like. Say it’s a family environment at a job? And then proceed to do bad things to you cause it’s a family and you can’t get away? Yeah, I don’t like family environments, I’m good so thanks but yeah not gonna happen, ma’am.”

Dragoneel quickly put a hand on V’s elbow and steered her past the lady. “Thank you for your time Mrs. White, but we need to get going.” She leaned into V’s ear after they had passed Mrs. White. “Don’t worry. It’s not actually that much of a family environment. Mrs. White is protective, but she says that because her two kids are a part of this council.”

“Wow, favoritism much?”

A motion by a window caught Dragoneels attention. “Pardon me for a moment. I need to deal with someone. You can head up to your room. You know where it is. Be nice to your roommate.” She left with the folds of her dress billowing behind her and her heels clacking on the marble steps. 

V followed her up the steps and watched her disappear into what appeared to be a dining room. She opened a different door and surveyed her surroundings. Inside was a drawing-room, with a giant window that overlooked the lawn that stretched toward a beach on the edge of the island. The dark wooden floors looked brand new. Shiny without any scuffs. 

Bored, V headed up the stairs to the guest bedrooms. She flung open the door on the right and stared at Valerie, “Who are you? Are you a spy? What do you want from me? You must be a spy.”

“Um,” Valerie blinked and picked up the book that was on the bedside table. Flipping the pages she glanced back and forth between the book titled “How To Deal With Crazy Roommates” and V.

The wind picked up and the last woman on the boat looked around. Her associate was nowhere to be seen, so she ran a hand to smooth her fur before slipping through the shadows toward the house. She quietly climbed the stairs and followed the hall toward the three small rooms in the back. Her ears twitched toward the noise coming from the right and middle rooms, so she entered the empty room on the left.

A Dragonborn with rippling scales walked onto the boat and picked up the luggage left by the women. Crouching behind one of the suitcases was a small girl with a dark braid down her back. “Hi!” She grinned and slipped past the bewildered man. Movement inside of her purse caught her attention and once hidden by the trees, she stopped. Opening the bag, a small white ferret poked his head out of the bag. “Ozymandias! What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same thing, Zora.”

She smiled down at her friend. “I’m looking for Azurite!”

The ferret climbed onto her shoulder as he shook his head. “I remember Azurite telling you not to follow her, but what do you do? Follow her. You’re lucky I’m here to keep you out of trouble.”

Two voices floated through the air to Zora. “Ozy, I’m not supposed to be here!” She glanced around and stepped behind a tree while looking at two women walking down a path toward her.

The emerald dress of one swayed in the gentle breeze. “I don’t see the need for new members, this is only making an opportunity for spies to gain access to our network.”

“Oh don’t worry sister, if any spies manage to get in, they won’t be getting out.”

Zora lept onto the path and set her hands on her hips in indignation. “Azurite is not a spy!”

The woman in the green dress smiled and knelt down. “My name is Lady Olenna, and this is my sister, Mariona. What is your name?”

Zora’s eyes widened before grinning. “I’m Zora!”

“What are you doing here, sweet thing?”

“I’m looking for Azurite! She’s supposed to be here!”

Olenna stood up and offered her hand to the small child. “I have an idea of where she might be. Come along.” Mariona rolled her eyes and continued down the path as Olenna led Zora up to the mansion.

Facing the three doors, Zora skipped to the one on them before knocking. V flung the door opened and glared down at Zora. “Who are you? Why are you here? Why am I here? What are you here to get me for?? Why are you trying to spy on me???? GO AWAY!!!!!!!” She slammed the door in the startled face of Zora. Face growing warm, Zora knocked on the door again. “What do you want?”

“I’m looking for Azurite!”

V scowled, “I don’t know an Azurite! Go away!!” She slammed the door again.

Olenna covered her mouth to stifle a laugh and patted Zora’s head as she walked to the door with the angry genasi. Olenna’s hand barely touched the door when it was flung open and V was glaring at her. “Hello, I’m trying to help this child find her friend. I was wondering if your roommate has already joined you?”


“Do you know her name?”


“Would you please ask?”

V disappeared for a second before coming back. “She’s not Azurite. Try the next door.” 

Olenna watched in amusement as Zora turned and knocked on the middle door. A man holding a lute opened the door. “Ahh! You have come to listen to my music!”  He strummed a flat chord and hummed out of tune.

“Do you know Azurite? She plays music too! Only her music sounds good.”

Olenna turned her laugh into a cough while the man stared at Zora in shock. “Oh, well… You will grow to appreciate my music as you age.”

“If I come to like that, I don’t think I want to grow older.”

Azurite froze at the bottom of the stairs as she heard a voice she hoped she was wrong about. Racing up the stairs taking two at a time she prayed that Zora didn’t follow her to this island. A door at the top landing opened and she glared at the man standing there.

Bounding forwards, Zora wrapped her arms around Azurite’s waist. “Azurite!”

Lance raised an eyebrow, “Oh, is she your daughter?”

“What? No!”

He grinned, “Are you sure that you didn’t find someone? I’m hurt that you didn’t like me.”

“No, I didn’t! We aren’t even the same species! If you’ll excuse me, I need to go.”

Lance stepped in her way, “Just a warning, but there is only one rule of this council. We don’t steal from the council members.”

She directed Zora past Lance. “Oh, like you stole from me?”

“You weren’t a council member and if you cross me, you might never become one.” 

Azurite ignored him and led Zora toward the bedrooms. Once in the room, Azurite turned to Zora, “What were you thinking? I told you to stay home!”

Zora flopped onto the bed and snuggled into Ozymandias. “I had Ozy. He protects me.”

Later that evening, everyone had dinner together and met in the drawing-room. Lord Drol stood up and raised a glass of wine into the air. “Let us welcome our new recruits to this week of training as well as getting to know each other! I look forward to working with you and getting to know you!” Everyone raised their glasses and smiled at Azurite, V, Valerie, and Shadow. Everyone drank to the toast and went back to talking. 

A glass crashed and Drol fell over, dead.