I’m terribly sorry I’m posting the redlines at this time. I had exams week and was busy studying/drinking coffee and it seems the critiques slipped my mind completely. I remembered about them earlier today, after finally waking up. Better late than never, so here they are. Also, thank you for the redline on my fragment :)
The War room was dark. Fossnor took a moment to light the torches, using the hot coals hidden in an ornate container filled with sand. Dawn was halfway to noon outside, but no natural light made it down to the bowels of the Keep. Fully lit and blazing merrily, the torches gave a good approximation of daylight.
Fossnor approached the circular map and leaned his fists on the edge. Who had taken the sword, and why? The circular Kingdom of Kavernath lay before him, a halo of land around the huge blue mass of Brightwater Lake. The river Kaver linked the lake to the sea hundreds of miles south. Fossnor stood where the river left the map, counting off Kavernath’s neighbours from his left hand: Talberk, Gelderon, Mau’Nir, Mathir and finally Mekbarim, pressed beneath his right fist. Six clear suspects. His thoughts churned, stirring gently like fetid swamp water with something lurking beneath.
Where would a thief flee? Mathir wouldn’t, couldn’t, be to blame; their goal ended with the liberation of the Sword. Amu’nir, also, had little to profit as the treaty gave them ownership, at least until after any attack from the North.
Follow the motive - Who would benefit? The treaty gave the land to Gelderon and the refugees to Talberk, excellent prizes in their own right. Desides, he couldn’t believe either would refrain from gloating to the other the moment the Sword was secured. It only took one slip on a lake of bad blood. (Ok… I think having a tiny bit of backstory knowledge here would help, since we can only read/interpret Fossnor’s thoughts so much. For example, you could explain the treaty briefly, so we could try to understand more about the other kingdoms’ motives/current situations)
That left Mekbarim. If they already had the Sword, their late arriving to the siege, a token effort at fulfilling their part of a treaty promising them Kavernath’s wealth, would seem suspicious. But not even the fractious, splintered Mekbari would try deceit on such a pathetic level. They would have arrived first or not at all.
Fossnor ground his teeth. That left one of the Kingdoms in the east. And they had shown little interest in the Sword. Did any of them even have the resources to slip an agent of Mathiri descent, into the Rectory over a decade ago? Unlikely.
Answers always existed, he just didn’t have any of them. Not even an inkling. (I love the mystery surrounding the Sword’s disappearance, but I don’t feel myself on solid ground to venture a guess as to what’s happened to it.)
Trotek emerged from the murk of the King’s office and stood across the map from Fossnor, though he didn’t see it. His attention instead was on the same puzzle Fossnor had unearthed when he killed the man four hours ago.
“You read it all?” Fossnor asked and Trotek nodded once, blond hair barely moving. “You noticed the irregularities?” The Visioner rose from his fog of thought, regarding Fossnor.
“Excuse my impertinence, Captain. But I myself, a scholar and student of all Therusamora’s prophecies regardless of their Kingdom of origin, barely noticed it. I didn’t realise ancient scripture was a hobby of yours?” No sarcasm, just curiosity. Fossnor allowed himself a dry smile. (I think you could help us in clarifying the prophesies a bit more. I’m inclined to think the differences are subtle yet vital, otherwise everyone would have the same version; in which case, I’d expect Trotek to have noticed them if the differences do make an important change in how each of the prophesies can be interpreted.)
“It isn’t. Or at least wasn’t until yesterday. I’d only known one prophecy: Mathir’s. I knew the general gist of the other five; it’s difficult not to acquire these things in my position. But after the last few days, and at a recommendation from the….a friend, I sat down and studied Kavernath’s in detail. I don’t know what I thought I would find, but I read it anyway.”
“The differences between the six main versions are subtle.” Trotek said, as though consoling Fossnor. He comforts me for gaining knowledge. Is that how he sees himself: a man leading the Rectory and both weighted by a great burden of facts? “But that is precisely why such great attention is paid to them. Two tracts, utterly different, possess no mystery, only argument. But should something be changed…ah! The question becomes: Why? Why would someone alter a text instead of copying or dismissing the original? What did they believe? What knowledge had they unearthed to prompt an alteration? Faith is about deliberate acts, Captain. It puts no stock in chance.”
“So you think the text in there,” he pointed past Trotek to the office, “should be ignored?”
“Not at all, Captain, but normally such deviations are a statement: ‘My beliefs have changed’. Here appears to be a choice in semantics, making no change to the meaning. The variations -”
“Just so happen to be exactly which our lifeless friend was trying to erase?” Fossnor snapped. “I struggle to believe some scrupulous Rectory scribe, noticing the discrepancy in the language, decided to correct it. In the middle of a foreign Kingdom. During the search for the single most important artefact in the Southern Kingdoms. I feel slightly guilty for defending myself, now. Such diligence ought to be commended, not met with a blade to the throat.” Trotek watched him, eyes cool.
“No need for such sarcasm, Captain. I was merely about to state that such variations does not mean the recognised Kavernathi prophecy is false.”
“The King of Kavernath disagreed with you. He hung that one behind his desk in his War Room’s office. There are few seats in this Keep, in the entire of Kavernath, where the King would ponder weightier issues.”
“Do not think I take this lightly, Captain. I am simply accepting no conclusion.” Trotek said and Fossnor opened his mouth to reply. But the Visioner was correct, of course. He should take his time. The Sword may yet be found. Each passing minute made it less likely, but it was still possible.
“A wise stance.” Fossnor said. His sleepless night dabbled muddy fingers through his brain, swirling his thoughts. He should try and get a little rest. “Find out what you can about this man, Visioner. Even if it’s only how long he’s been in the Rectory. It might coincide with some event or other.” Trotek bowed.
“Of course, Captain.”
“Meanwhile, instruct the Rectory to have full drafts of each prophecy brought here, to the war room. I’m going to go through each word for word and see what this new version might suggest.” (New version? Until now I’d thought it was a known version he’d altered. Also, I’d expect Trotek, being the scholar versed in the prophesies, to demand to see them all instead of Fossnor, or at least object to whatever interpretation Fossnor could think of.)
“Will you need my presence?” Trotek asked. He considered refusing to minimise any external influence, but the Rectory knew lore the way Fossnor new the battlefield. He nodded his assent. “Then I shall begin at once.” Trotek moved to the door, tall and languid.
“Oh Visioner,” he said, over his shoulder, “As soon as you see anyone in Mathir uniform, have them summon Kelumi immediately.”
“Yes, Captain.” Trotek’s footsteps paused for a moment. “A wise move to post guards at the office. Where there is one infiltrator, there may always be others. Wolves rarely hunt alone.” And Trotek was gone.
Fossnor stood there for a moment, bristling at the compliment. Foolishness, he thought, tiredness is making me overly irritable. He pushed Trotek from his thoughts and turned back to the map. Six Kingdoms, each coveting the Sword, each satisfied had it remained where it had for the last few centuries.
He wanted a solution, any solution, but nothing was forthcoming. Instead he returned to Maher’s office, ignoring the dead man stiffening on the stones. The air was fouling, and the guttering torches weren’t helping, but Kelumi would be here soon to clean up while Fossnor slept, if he could. But until then...
The desk creaked under his weight, feet covering the dirty footprints already on the chair. He resumed his study of the prophecy. Specifically, the passage of text someone decided vital enough to destroy.
..................will come. For their own ends, they will come. In the shadow of the darkening North, the Sacrificial Kingdom beneath the blade, the Sword of Theru will be placed in Therusamora’s blessed hand for protection. A Kingdom must die ignorant of Therusamora’s valour.
(Is the full prophesy too long? Depending on what you intend to do with the different versions; maybe having it worded in its entirety would help us in the future.)
The differences were there, clear if one either knew the text by rote, such as Trotek, or had studied it a few hours prior, like himself. Three words included: ‘will be placed’. But what did it mean? And what did it have to do with his own, failed prophecy.
Fossnor sat and he thought and he wondered.