Hmm quite an interesting character, Fossnor. A skilful soldier, cold, and calculating. Great! However, at times, I felt him distanced from the persona of a soldier and more like a plotter. For my taste, I'd say, while giving him an analytical nature is brilliant, he goes a bit over the edge (Maybe you're intending for this to be a character flaw or merely he is a perfectionist). At any right, that is my perception of him regarding his behaviour during the scene. There were just some minor details I highlighted below which could be interpreted as inconsistencies either because of the wording or misunderstaing on behalf of the reader. Otherwise, I loved it!
Feet on the wooden chair, Captain Fossnor sat the wrong way on the King’s desk, staring at the scripted wood hanging on the wall. Behind him a corpse cooled; its life already spilled onto the flagstones of the office annexed off of the war room, pooling like a dark pond. The ragged wounds in chest and throat matched Fossnor’s dagger.
He sat, chin rested in his palm, elbow propped on his knee. Beside him his grey gauntlets dripped blood onto the desk. Flickering shapes of red and yellow swayed across the walls, made by guttering torches. The air tasted metallic. Everything had a ceremonial feel, like he just conducted a strange occult sacrifice.
His thoughts mimicked the torchlight; something swirled in them, but he had no idea what. The war room remained silent, excluded from the search for the Sword. Any activity at all for that matter. So when Fossnor heard footsteps hurrying towards him, he knew it could only be one of two people.
“Visioner Trotek. Please, step inside.” Trotek wore soft soled boots. No armour. If the messenger Fossnor sent several hours ago to summon the Visioner had returned, it would have been with a great deal more noise. The Visioner paused, just inside the door. “Ah, yes. I should’ve warned you about that.”
“Is he…?” Trotek spoke in smooth, learned tones. It reminded Fossnor this was a man who spent his life speaking, and not doing.
“Alive? I’m afraid not.” Fossnor indicated his gauntlets. “I tried to staunch the bleeding, but it would appear the accuracy of my blows is quite impressive.”(Thus far, I haven’t thought of Fossnor as someone who would brag about his abilities, which is what this sentence almost sounds like. Maybe you’re aiming at sarcasm, or even humour, but to me it came out as if he was boasting about his accuracy)
“You may kill who you wish, Captain. It is little concern of mine.”
“Oh, but it is.” Fossnor said, voice a conspiratorial whisper. “If you peel back that dark cloak you’ll find some interesting things. Firstly, the man is clearly from Mathir and not a soldier. Secondly, you’ll see the strange tattoos behind the right ear and on the left palm. Thirdly, you’ll notice the retractable blade on the right wrist. Lastly, if you turn the head to the left you’ll see the twined leather thong around his hair. Three strips of leather: two black, one silver.” He left a pause, but Trotek said nothing. “So I’m sure you realise now why I roused you at this early hour.”
“Yes, Captain. That much is clear.” Had there been any guilt in the man, Fossnor hoped to shock it free. But Trotek, it seemed, had none. Not a single tremor in his voice, just its usual composure, eloquence, confidence, and politeness. Was that in itself suspicious? “What isn’t clear is why you would be here, Captain, alone and unguarded. Have you not been to your bed?” That fatherly approach Fossnor had come to expect as well. And loathe.
“No. The missing Sword weighs heavily on my mind. Also armed soldiers from four nations are scouring this Keep from foundation to ramparts. Loudly. Not conducive conditions for sleep.” (Now that you’ve mentioned the other four nations I’m wondering about the interaction between them. I believed they were all vying for the Sword, in which case they seem too cooperative with one another, unless there’s a point about it I can’t recall/conclude)
“We are all amazed by the Sword’s absence, Captain. Indeed, I have my men studying each and every text mentioning the moments after the Sacrificial Kingdom has lain upon the altar. But I see futility in wearing oneself down and haunting dark, unguarded chambers in an enemy fortress.”
What did I hope to achieve by staring at that empty plinth again? Fossnor asked himself.
Despite walking the Keep for hours, no word of the Sword’s whereabouts materialised. He visited Maher, but the King’s rage had faded and he now sat in his cell, bitter and distraught. Poor conversation.
Fossnor could accept the Sword was not here, where it had been prophesized to rest. And so he had come to try and trace and clue from the Sword’s original resting place in the war room. Or had I just come to stare in disbelief, willing it back into its case? When had I become a man of so little sense? Fossnor shook his head. (Fossnor’s analytic mind comes through nicely across the entire section. However, I feel there are times when he is over-thinking things for my taste; since I’d consider him more the sort of man who’s go out and do something – especially considering his remark about Trotek being a man of speech rather than action)
“Just as well I did, Trotek. I heard movement where, as you so correctly noted, it should have been deserted. I found this man here,” he jabbed a thumb over his shoulder at the corpse, “in this room, doing that.” He pointed at the wooden plaque. With a simple knife a single line of text had been scratched at, a dozen words obliterated from existence. Crude, obvious but effective.
“He carried no tools, wore no colours. When I confronted him he went for my throat and paid for that mistake with his life.” Fossnor finally turned, swivelling round on the smooth desktop like a child. His voice was cold, hard. Reasonable. “Now tell me Trotek, why would a member of the Rectory - a Blind Visioner no less - decide not only to commit an act of desecration on Kavernath’s version of the prophecy of Therusamora, but do so disguised as a Mathir servant. And then, when discovered, resort to murder to cover his deceit?”
Trotek frowned. He was a tall man, with the frame of a soldier and the build of a clerk. Had he spent his time in armour, swinging swords instead of hefting books, marching instead of scuttling around libraries, he would have cut an impressive figure. Instead he didn’t fill his dark, maroon robes properly. His blond hair spoke of Amu’Nari heritage but his skin was wan and pale. Clear, honest eyes of storm cloud grey regarded him from a handsome, angular face. Only his nose, once badly broken and not properly reset, showed any signs of wear.
But he displayed the fortitude of a soldier in peeling back the cloak as Fossnor had suggested without pause. The corpse stared beyond the ceiling at something only the dead saw. Trotek knelt, hiking his robes away from the puddle of blood, and tilted the head to the left. His hands, dextrous and thin, combed a fall of hair away from the corpse’s right ear. For a moment observed, and observed in turn by Fossner.
“If this is a forgery, it’s the best I’ve ever seen, and a lot of men have wanted to claim membership to the Rectory without undergoing the necessary training.” Trotek said. He inspected the leather thong, turned over a limp wrist and peered at the tattoo clutched in dead fingers. “As much as I’d like to say otherwise, I can’t deny this is genuine.” He rose and stepped back. Each movement measured, reverent.
“Do you know him?” Fossnor asked. Trotek shook his head.
“I don’t know all of Therusamora’s disciples by sight, but I know most. I’ve never seen this man before. This is quite...disturbing.” Trotek frowned at the corpse, casting disapproval on a man beyond caring. “I’ll begin enquiries at once, Captain. I ensure some of the Rectory are always awake, and the next shift will begin soon as well. I’ll see if anyone recognises the description.”
“Cut his head off and take it with you if you must.” Fossnor said. Trotek regarded him, eyebrow raised.
“I don’t think such crude measure will be necessary. I will warn you though, Captain, if someone has gone to such trouble to infiltrate the Rectory so thoroughly, they will unlikely be so clumsy as to leave many clues.” Trotek’s calm confidence was both reassuring and grating.
“But...” Fossnor prompted (Hmm doesn’t look like a man who could be easily interrupted like this)
“But of course, Captain, I’ll do everything within my power. Mathir, unfortunately, supplies a steady stream of disciples to the Rectory. A fair number achieve the prestige of Blind Visioner - even Sighted - perhaps due to the Mathir traits of martyrdom and servitude. It won’t be easy.” Fossnor let the barb slide. It was a largely accurate observation.
“Very good, Visioner. I’ll leave it in your capable hands. Even after overseeing the formation of the alliance, and brokering deals with the Gelders and Talberk, I think your reputation would not fare well should this become a protracted investigation.” Trotek nodded in understanding. I can’t even ruffle him with veiled threats. Why would I want to ruffle him? Without the Rectory and the alliance, Mathir would be fighting six nations for the Sword instead of one. “Be that as it may, tell me: have you been in this room before?”
“I can’t say that I have.” Trotek answered, but he was preoccupied by the corpse. If an intensity could pull truth from the dead, Trotek would have the guilty men hanging within the hour.
“I wager few have. But this desecration has cast light on something rather interesting.” Fossnor hopped off the desk, stepped over the pool of congealing blood. “Why don’t you take a moment to read what he tried to obscure. I’ll be outside.” He walked past Trotek, whose attention Fossnor had finally snagged.