Part 1

Adian looked up excitedly as a weary Seínal entered his office. The inquisitor looked terrible, even when one ignored the burn marks on his face. He was unshaven and looked like he hadn’t slept for days. His eyelids were heavy and step shaky, but his white robes were unblemished and brightly reflected the early morning light. He carried a large stack of parchments into his hands, which he gracelessly dropped on Adian’s desk. He then took the top quarter from the stack and placed it next to the remaining stack. “This is everything we have on Iciraest. Curiously, he was remarkably fond of storytelling. The rest is about Tufas Rilata. As for the Troubadour, nothing,” he said in a rough voice. “Absolutely nothing.”

Adian thoughtfully folded his hands together. He was not in the least surprised by the report, but still found the hope for a different outcome fading away.

“We’ve looked everywhere, sir. There’s not a single record, not a single reference,” the inquisitor misinterpreted his silence.

“Of course you have. You wouldn’t be here otherwise,” the grandmaster stated soothing. “But what does it mean? Why are there no records?”

Seínal looked puzzled. He was in no state to answer such questions. “Our knowledge of that time is limited,” he tried faithfully.

While true, there was much more to it. “So how come our ‘guest’ knows so much about it?” Adian continued his train of thought.

This time, the tired inquisitor didn’t even bother with an answer.

“The simple answer is that he claims to be a witness,” Adian filled in for him. “What’s more, he claims to be the only witness.”

“Which checks out with my report,” Seínal concluded.

“Precisely. But here’s the real question: does your report match his story because he’s the single witness or is he the single witness because it matches with your findings?” When the inquisitor remained silent, Adian got up from his chair and guided Seínal towards the door. “Get some sleep. You’ve done excellent work these past few days and nights.”

Adian walked past him out of the door. Out of the inquisitor’s sight, he increased his pace. Taking the steed that always stood ready for him, he rode up the hill that housed the city of Altraom with the sun rising over the forested hills behind him. He passed through the castle’s first two gates and left his horse at the stables, continuing through the third gate on foot before he descended into the castle’s dungeons.

The bright summer morning made way for a damp, cool darkness. Adian gave his eyes the barest moment to adjust before he continued his descent into the darkest corner of the dungeon. All the way at the end was a cell, illuminated only by torchlight. Unlike all the others, two chairs were placed inside.

Adian opened the unlocked door and took place in one of the two chairs. “Good morning,” he cheerfully said to the darkness.

The expected response remained absent. “I have some more questions for you, sir Troubadour,” he continued to prod the assassin. The darkness remained dead silent.

He got up from his seat and headed over to the faint silhouette lying at the bench. “Rise and shine, Tufas,” he said as his hand reached for the shoulder.

The entire figure burst in a cloud of dust upon his touch. Reflexively, he pulled his sleeve in front of his mouth. Nothing remained of the assassin. Not even bones were left on the bench as the dust sparkled in the dim torchlight while it slowly fluttered down.

“I am too late, then,” the grand inquisitor sighed as his eyes caught a piece of parchment the assassin was lying on. It was written in a simple but precise style. As he carefully picked it up, he half expected it to disintegrate as well, but it remained firm in his hand.

Retreating to the torchlight, the writing became legible:

To Adian, Grandmaster of Truth,

My time here draws to a close. I can feel it in my bones. By the time you’ll read this, I expect to be far gone. Thus, I write to you the one story I still wanted to tell you. After all, my story had a loose end. A rather large one too.

I suspect that you’ve just spent a fair amount of time in your library. In vain of course. Otherwise my story wouldn’t have been new to you. But here’s one that you’ll find plainly obvious within your own books, if you’d but know what to look for. This is the story of Prince Leógir, son of Hugam Lain:

A few glances at the letter told him more than enough. Leógir crumpled up the parchment as he glared furiously at the messenger.

“I have always been loyal to your father, your highness. I came as quickly as I could and have not betrayed your whereabouts to anyone at the palace,” the man stammered.

“I know, which is why you’ll do exactly as I say,” the prince replied. He sat down at his field table and took an empty piece of parchment, on which he quickly wrote a reply. He then rolled it up and closed it with his royal seal. “Bring this to councillor Dhefial.”

Te then turned to his company, a colourful bunch. Sons of lords and knights, each of which he called friend. “We’ll ride west, to Ovail.” He turned back to the messenger. “What are you still doing here? Go!”

The man bowed quickly and hurried off.

“What support do you expect from Ovail? He’s a spineless coward,” [insert name], son of [insertname2] asked.

“Exactly. He’s the last that would dare to refuse me,” Leógir replied. “We’ll rally the kingdom against the traitors from there.”

“What if he does deny us?” [insertname3], son of [insertname4] asked carefully.

The prince gave him an irritated look, but then looked down in sorrow. “Then the kingdom is truly lost. I’ll be forced into exile. I’d travel north. King Rynann has always been

The text ended abrubtly in a smudge of ink, ending the tale well before it started. But even this little bit was enough. If Tufas’s story was true, then Leógir had not found refuge in Ovail and if he had travelled into Altraom, there would be records. Adian rolled up the parchment and left the dungeons as quickly as he could without running. On his way out, he quickly ordered the warden to have someone clean up the dust in the cell.

Once he retrieved his horse from the stables, me made no more effort to mask his haste and stormed out the castle gates and galloped back down to the temple. He practically jumped off, left the steed in the hands of the first man he saw and went straight for the library.

For a brief moment, he considered calling upon Seínal to assist his research but dismissed the thought of waking him. This time, he knew exactly what to look for: the kingdom’s chronicles from the year 381 A.D. A thick, bound book, indicating an unusually eventful year, and the specific event was recorded in quite some detail:

The prince of Terrálh came to the court of King Rynann in Altraom with a request for aid to reclaim his father’s throne. But the southern kingdom had already collapsed entirely by the time Leógir arrived and the Temple had its hands full trying to contain the madness and keep the rest of Kyst safe. Tueram was actively working to keep the borders safe while he was in Berànter to bring the kingdom into a state of defence.

In his absence, King Rynann had wisely decided against a military campaign and instead offered the prince a lordship within his kingdom that would “Feel like home to the young prince, with rich natural resources and a southern climate”: Teròfaer.

“How could I have forgotten?” Adian whispered to himself in wonder. He shut the book and returned it to the shelve before he hurried out of the library went straight for Feria’s quarters. Without knocking, he threw the doors open and said to the startled prohpetess: “We have a problem.”

He quickly described his discoveries, leaving a large frown on Feria’s face. “We can’t let the Teròfaers claim the throne of Terrálh. I forsee great troubles if that man, or even worse, his son, would become king.”

Adian nodded in agreement. “I feared as much. Teròfaer is a terrible ruler and I see little promise in Sir Dace either.”

“We should act quickly. Word of Avarron’s victory will spread quickly and they’ll undoubtedly seize upon the opportunity.”

“I’ll talk to the king immediately,” Adian decided.

Feria rose from her seat and gently placed a hand on Adian’s shouder before he could turn around. “Dace stands in high favour with the king. We’ll need to play this carefully.”

Adian smiled. “Do not worry, my dear. I have an excellent hand,” he softly kissed her cheek and headed out.

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