Study was not necessarily something Xorphia enjoyed. There was a distinct lack of people to burn. People tended to complain when offending textbooks which had failed to contain any useful information were returned as piles of ashes. It did, at least, give her time to think. If Phillip was going to be aided, he would surely need more than the secrets within Tharinos to bring him back. He would need people to welcome him back home as well.
But she would be lying if the knock at her chamber door did not come as a pleasant interruption to yet another day of frustrating, fruitless endeavour.
“Xorphia?” The scribe was one she had seen a dozen times before – some Iron Table flunky, Roger? Reggie? He usually had interesting missions at least… “We have a strange situation. A renegade Oathsman. We need you to help with the investigation…”
And then Serbasel woke up.
It was a strange thing. He was in the middle of Court, and all at once it was as though he was more awake, more alert, than he had been in … years. Ever since the day the Countess flayed Abraham’s son and slew the Underline, ever since she placed that curse…
His ordered and precise mind was once again as sharp as it needed to be. He could see the minute flaws in the judgements he had rendered since that time; the prior rulings that had slipped his mind, the interpretations which had not been sufficiently justified.
It was frustrating, but now that he could see them so clearly, he would begin the work of unpicking those errors.
When his daily appointments were done, he was surprised to find someone waiting for him in his chambers. Rufus Pipca, a subordinate of the Iron Table who he was sure he had received several briefings from in the past.
“High Judge.” The man said, with a low and courteous bow. “There is a prisoner we would like you to speak with. A member of the Oath discovered under unusual circumstances. If you would…?”
Surely that could not be coincidence.
Something very strange was going on.
It had taken Saxon some time to recover from his ordeal, and the Oath had been there for him. They rallied around him, supported him, and gave him the time he needed to acclimatize back into the world. He had been through quite a trauma, and they had helped support him – and had him working with new recruits, training them in what it meant to be a member of the Oath.
But this morning, there was nobody there at all.
The training hall stood empty. The entire building was quiet. Abandoned, with a thin layer of dust having accumulated somehow overnight. Before he could ponder this mystery overmuch, a polite voice cleared behind him.
The fellow was not an Oathsman, that was for sure; impeccably dressed, with steel-grey hair and a severe expression.
“Well.” He said, “At least there was someone here for me to deliver the message to. One of your people attacked someone. He refuses to speak to us. Perhaps you’ll have better luck.”
Saxon could hardly turn that down, could he?
Soon, it would be time to take the attack to the Countess’ final bastion. That place beneath the earth, where ancient oaths and older power dwelt in darkness. Ling had been researching all he could in preparation of the battles to come, but it was a difficult task. The maps of the Low Kingdom were incomplete, vague and with few landmarks that would be helpful when he got down there. Still, he did his best. There had been promises made and he would see them through.
And then, all at once, he was not amongst the dusty books, but kneeling in the court of his homeland. An immense presence before him, one that he could not look to see, his forehead pressed to the ground by reverence alone.
His lips moved, forming the words, unbidden, and etching them deep into his mind.
“The moment prepared
Oaths sworn in past and future
Truth finds a way home”
He knew where he had to go, then. He did not know why. When he rose, he was back in the library, but there was a man – he knew it in his heart – and he knew that this man could explain the meaning of the words he had spoken.
There were a thousand forgotten mysteries in the Royal Basin, if not more! It was a land rich with tales and stories, so many of which had lapsed and gone unsung.
It was as she was poking around an abandoned quarry in the Western Marches that she came across one such mystery. The place had been rigged with impromptu traps – and quite recently if she was any judge at all. Thinking that it might be the work of bandits, she had sneaked a deeper look only to find herself ambushed by Alain Hannibal who was – as it transpired – a member of the Oath who was already quite wounded.
It had been an easy enough thing to incapacitate the man without killing him, though his reasons thus far had remained his own.
In a small guardhouse, she found herself watching the man with a careful eye, awaiting her companions to assist with this investigation…
The man himself is gruff and has clearly seen a hard and brutal life. He does not seem intimidated by any of you at first impressions.
“I’m not telling you anything without signoff from my superiors. I made an Oath not to share shit with anyone who hasn’t sworn to us, and I’m not breaking it now.” He jabs a finger towards Saxon. “Ask him. He’ll understand. I can’t talk to you, just them, and they’re not coming here, are they? That’s because they’re a bit bloody busy right now.
You let me take you to them, or we’re done here. The High Judge there has the authority to let me out as part of ‘ongoing investigations’, doesn’t he?”
|Trust Alain and go to His Superiors||Interact||12|
|Demand Further Answers||Interact||12|