Cludaen attempted to be placating: “It's quite all right. I had forgotten that I asked him to come here. He's the candidate I had mentioned.”
“Mordrigan?” said the old man to the Magister, ignoring Cludaen completely. “Isn't he the wizard you said you were training?”
Worhell was flabbergasted. “Er, yes, Your Excellency.”
“Well, then if he's missing you'd better find him hadn't you?”
“Yes, Your Excellency, Prelector Cludaen is already preparing to investigate this matter.”
Cludaen bowed and remained silent, but gave Mordraith a sidelong glance. As he rose, he retreated toward the exit, bringing Mordraith with him. The beef-man sized him up as he left.
Outside Cludaen breathed an audible sigh of relief.
“I must apologize for that,” he said. “I did not expect you quite so soon. Now, what's this about Mordrigan? Show me.”
Despite his misgivings, it had taken Mordrigan only a few minutes to find Sithaen's books. Nothing magical about the process, the binding just stood out to him. There was a symbol on the spine that he had seen before. A gold-embossed eye within a flattened diamond.
The Mind's Eye. Next to it, the other volume by Sithaen on his list. There was a third, which Mordrigan also picked up. He had taken these book back to his cubicle to read them.
As he was reading the first book, he began to remember dreams. Often, when he thought of his experiences with magic, a hazy image of the eye would appear, though only briefly. He never really noticed it much since it was just one of many symbols that appeared.
Sithaen explained something about the nature of the eye:
“As the darkness of my blackmark enfolded upon me, yet the eye shone brighter. With startling clarity, images would appear there in the darkness, images of places far away. I was seeing through the eye, but what reality I saw I could not always say. Sometimes I would see what I wanted to see, and it would become truth. Other times I could not help but see the worse possible reality, and it was truth. I have powers to create truth, yet I am certain there are greater powers who play with the pieces on the board. When these visions of inexorable strength come to me, I know there are Powers responsible. Alas, I cannot see who or what they are, only what they bring.”
A startling revelation came to Mordrigan. He had seen the eye, the day before the hierophants had come to collect you. He had seen himself, an apprentice to a wizard, learning the ways of magic. When the hierophants came, he thought his incident with the street urchins had gotten their attention. But what would the hierophants care about the stories of children? Perhaps he himself had summoned the hierophants.
While he was considering this, his eyes fell softly out of focus, fixating upon a candle. For an instant they focused again, and the Eye suddenly appeared with crystal clarity. Mordrigan saw a figure in a red-colored cloak, face concealed by a hood, riding on a gardell through the forest. Then the image disappeared and he was once again looking down at the scribbled words of Sithaen of Siath, at a random line from a random paragraph:
“I wonder if what I see that is not the truth in this world, is a truth in another world.”
The small, dusty cubicle was adequate for meditation. Mordrigran tried to consciously summon the eye. He started out by relaxing and clearing his mind, then tried picturing the ee slowly coming into focus in the darkness. It was there, but it was not quite the same. Hard to focus. No, wait. It was not an eye at all. It was a doorway, but it was changing. Mordrigan saw other symbols — ones that had appeared in his mind before; confusing images and scenes which mean nothing to him.
He shook his head and opened his eyes. In his hands was that third book by Sithaen, which he had not looked at yet. Strange how it had come into his hands. Its cover was made from an unfamiliar material; a sort of dark grey hide with a purplish tint. The pages were yellow parchment, the writing an elegant sepia Romang.
“You seem to have slipped,” said a voice from behind.
Mordrigan spun around and saw an old man, dressed in the garb of a prelector, whose face was pale with a bluish cast. He had never seen him before, and didn't realize anyone else was in the library besides the bald man and himself.
Noticing the confusion in Mordrigan's eyes, the old man said, “I've been here quite some time, though most people never notice.”
Quite some time. Mordrigan suddenly noticed something strange about the library. Something immaterial, something more. It was as if there was more than one image and he couldn't focus on any particular one. It was so dark in the chamber outside the cubicle that the flickering was easy to miss if he was not looking.
“You have quite remarkable powers,” said the man. “Eventually I am sure you will learn to control them. Let me see if I can explain your predicament. You do not currently exist in the real world, so to speak. At this point I'm not sure if it's a power or a blackmark. Perhaps both.
“I see you do not quite understand. Ah! Pardon my lack of manners. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Triud Triunt. I've been, er, dead for fifty years, assuming I haven't lost count.”
Calming down a bit as he led Cludaen towards the library Mordraith said, “No, it is I who should apologize. I really shouldn't have burst in on you like that, especially with those guests. I can only plead concern for my friend.” He went on to explain exactly what he had experienced and done in his search for 'Drig, and that he had found it quite unnerving and not natural. Cludaen nodded in understanding, but said nothing. When they reached the cubicle, the bald luminant had replaced the old candles with new ones. He was there now, holding an amulet engraved with the sun-bird symbol of Fendor in one hand, and tracing symbols in the air with the other.
“Do not be alarmed,” said Cludaen, “but there is a ghost that dwells on the lower floors of the library. He's supposed to protect the library from theft or harm. 'Grast is attempting to call him forth. While he is doing that, let us examine the cubicle.”
“My first thought was that Mordrigan had somehow been pulled through some kind of portal in one of these books. Obviously, I can't read the text, but they seemed to be about Tir-Cadrun's quest to reach Welgonell.” Mordraith explained how he had reached that conclusion and that it never occured to him that all this could have been something 'Drig had done himself.
Cludaen smiled wryly. “You were always very clever, Mordraith,” he said. “That is why I like you. That is why I thought you would make a suitable friend for Mordrigan. Your conclusion is partially correct. This is one of Sithaen of Siath's books. The pictures are of places he saw with his gifted vision. Look here,” Cludaen lifted the book and pointed to the spine. There the symbol of the eye within the flattened diamond stands out boldly. “This is the Mind's Eye. Sithaen would conjure the symbol in his head and see other worlds through it.”
“I heard His Excellency, Mordrigan is a mage.” Mordraith stated in a flat voice, not sure how he felt about that. “So presumably, this is of his own doing.”
“The correct term is wizard, though you may not know the difference. Mordrigan has little or no control over powers he was gifted with at birth. The reading materials I suggested were meant to help discover the nature of his powers. There were instances in his childhood which suggested a similarity to the power wielded by Sithaen and others. Apparently his powers go beyond what we had imagined.” Cludaen clucked. “Wizards are always so damn unpredictable.”
With a very serious expression on his face, Cludaen turned to exit the cubicle. “It is important you tell no one of this, for Mordrigan's sake. Unfortunately, I fear it may be too late.”
In the aisle, 'Grast was repeating the phrase, “Triud Triunt, I Wolligrast, Luminant of the Order of Law, command you to appear, in Fendor's name.”
As they watched, a luminescent shape manifested itself very nearby. There was a familiar chill and slight breeze as the image of an old man dressed in the robes of Prelector appeared. The first thing noticeable about him was the distressed look on his face, and the tears streaming from his eyes. Prelector Cludaen held out a placating hand toward Mordraith, bidding him stand still.
“Triud Triunt! I Wolligrast, Luminant of the Order of Law, ask you, in Fendor's name, `What transpired in this cubicle today?”'
The ghost of Triud Triunt sighed, and described an empty cubicle. Then he described how Mordrigan had entered the cubicle carrying the scroll case. Mordrigan had studied the scrolls for a short time, before leaving the cubicle. Then the cubicle was empty again. Then Mordrigan had returned carrying three books. He had read through only the first one.
“Then he appeared in my world and spoke to me. He asked me questions, which I answered as best I could. Then he left the cubicle. Then he returned to the cubicle, then he was no longer in the cubicle today.”
“Triud Triunt! I Wolligrast, Luminant of the Order of Law, ask you, in Fendor's name, `What distresses you?”'
“A book has been stolen from the library! For this crime I shall remain here another century!” Triud Triunt moaned.
The luminant held up a finger. “Triud Triunt! I Wolligrast, Luminant of the Order of Law, ask you, in Fendor's name, `Where did Mordrigan go?”'
Triud Triunt, sobbing, merely pointed a finger at the book in the cubicle. Again, its pages flipped open to the page displaying the scene of the flood. Then the image of Triud Triunt faded slowly away, finally vanishing to the flutter of candleflame.
“Good work, Wolligrast,” exclaimed Cludaen. “Go now and rest. We will take care of things from here.”
Wolligrast bowed humbly and left.
Prelector Cludaen turned to Mordraith. The lines of worry on his face were more than obvious.
“I honestly don't know how to proceed from here. The temple doesn't have the resources necessary to return Mordrigan to this world. After all these years, protecting the secret of his existence — he even kept the secret of his powers from you, his only friend — and now ... he could be plucked up by other, darker powers, corrupted, used ... against us.
“His Excellency will not be pleased.”
Mordraith looked on in silence as the ghost faded away and barely heard Wolligrast being sent away. His mind was awhirl with what he had experienced here the last few minutes and with what he had learned. He suddenly realized Cludaen was addressing him and with an effort strove to gather his composure.
“Couldn't you send someone after him?” he asked hesitantly. “If you know where he is, it shouldn't be difficult to find someone willing to go. Of course, I don't know how far it is.” He added slowly.
“No,” said the Prelector. “We do not know how far that is.”
Talking seemed to help Mordraith concentrate his thoughts for some reason, and questions started to form in his mind. Not knowing if it was really his place to ask them he nevertheless decide that, for his own peace of mind and for 'Drig's sake he should pose them.
“Prelector, I hope you don't mind, but I have several things I want an explanation to, but perhaps we should find a more pleasant spot first?” I indicate that it might be a good idea to sit down somewhere before we decide what to do. You follow him up to the ground floor, and then to the gallery. Then when we are seated I begin. “I may be entirely wrong about all this but please bear with me. As far as I know the goal of this monastery is to bring Malladun back. To do this, you have trained...”
Cludaen raised a hand to interrupt him. “Perhaps we should go further upstairs to discuss this.”
He led Mordraith up the tower, pausing at every floor to travel a path through the numerous relics on display. Eventually they reached the top floor. There was only one item there, occupying the center of the chamber. It was an orb of iron, studded with long spikes about its equator. It looked like a huge mace head. The Prelector indicated that Mordraith should continue.
“To do this, you have trained 'Drig, or perhaps more correctly, helped him train himself in his arts, and possibly others too. You have researched extensively into how to reach Malladun's Halls hoping to find something to aid your quest there or even Malladun himself. However, someone is opposing you, I have no idea who, and for this reason you have kept this secret for all but a few. But now something has gone wrong. 'Drig has somehow managed to transport himself somewhere, perhaps to some sort of entrance to Welgonell, but you don't think he is ready yet and is in danger. Perhaps you were almost ready, is that why His Excellency is here, so apart from the danger to 'Drig this also somewhat embarrasing?”
Mordraith took a deep breath after this unusually long speech waiting for the reaction to his harebrained conclusions.
“That's quite a mouthful, Mordraith. And interesting conclusions, but not entirely unexpected from one who does not know the way of things.”
Cludaen clasped his hands together in front of his chest and turned his back on Mordraith. “First of all,” he said, “allow me to put the goal of the Resurrectionists in a better light.
“We do not tell the general populace this, but the process of resurrection for a god as powerful as Malladun could take hundreds of years .... We do not believe people will pay their respects to him for such a long time without the benefit of his services.”
Cludaen turned toward the relic in the center of the chamber. “The true purpose of the Resurrectionists is to maintain the relics you have seen in this tower. They serve as focal points of worship, concentrating and magnifying the energy provided by worship. As long as there is someone to tend them, eventually enough energy will be accumulated to allow Malladun to return.
“As for the opposition ... this takes more of an explanation. You see, the gods, aside from being immortal and powerful, are also brokers of human energy. In the most abstract sense, that is what worship and prayer are really all about. Because there is only so many people, there is only so much power available.”
Cludaen paused and slowly circled the spiked orb. He glanced at Mordraith briefly, then returned his eyes to the metallic surface of the relic.
“The Gur-Docherlan was all about this power. So was the struggle between the Drue-Lords and the Warlock. So was the Siege of Mirsach and the Fall of Pallon.” Cludaen looks directly at you. “And so is the disappearance of Mordrigan. You see a wizard manifests his own divine power. If this were directed toward Malladun, whole centuries could be saved in the resurrection. That kind of power is quite a commodity and everyone wants it.”
“Wizards have the responsibility of wisely using their gift, and those that don't never live long. Hence the term `wizard.' The Order of Law has often taken upon itself the task of properly educating those with divine gifts.”
With a smirk, he added, “As for the Grand Hierophant, he is here for reasons that are remarkable, but much more mundane. King Surgorn is well into his sixth decade and is deathly ill. The Lords of Sollon will reject Surgorn's suggestions for succession and bicker among themselves, destroying whatever threat they might perceive. His Excellency fled for his own safety. Here because he not only has ties to the Siathannon clan, but also because he wanted a wizard in his retinue.”
“Speaking of retinue, who was that man with the sword?” Mordraith asked.
“Er, Seorn, I think,” said Cludaen. “I don't really know anything about him, except that he's probably from Fearthlond. The Grand Hierophant's personal bodyguard or champion.”
After a brief pause, Cludaen seemed to relax somewhat. “Now, there is the matter I wished to see you about.
“You may have realized that what I've just told you is not common knowledge. In fact, generally only hierophants and the upper ranks of the Order of Rule know this. However, we make special accomodations for certain select persons.
“I have consulted with Magister Worhell and he agrees. We offer you membership in the Resurrectionist Movement. The real movement. Your position would be as a field agent. Your duties would be to find and acquire relics associated with Malladun and to dismantle the efforts of the opposition. In return, a yearly stipend, access to the resources of any monastery held by the Resurrectionists including room and board — other resources at the discretion of its magister, and the benefits of secret hierophant knowledge.
“Well,” said the Prelector, clasping his hands. “That is quite a bit for you to think about before you decide whether to accept or not. So enjoy our hospitality for the night, sleep on it, and let me know tomorrow. Right now I had better report to the magister.”
Silently Mordraith watched the retreating back of the Prelector. He was stunned. All he had learned today and now this offer, it was quite a bit to think through. Left alone with his thoughts he walked in circles trying to come to terms with it all. It was almost as if he could actually feel how his views of everything was changing, as if something in my head has shifted slightly to the side. It was a very odd sensation.
He paused to look more closely at the mace head. The “mace head” was a globe of iron, with a strong band around its equator. The spikes protruded from this band. It looked clean, but worn with age. Something about it made Mordraith feel uncomfortable with staring at it too long. Despite being alone in the chamber, he felt as if there was another presence, emanating from the mace itself. Lost in thought as he stared at the orb, he find himself addressing his questions and confusion to it....
Of course, I could have answered Cludaen the moment he asked me, the problem is not whether I will join or not, but what it will mean. I have led a comfortable, if sometimes dull life, at our manor and while I have never particularly wanted fame and glory, I have often been frustrated at the lack of purpose I have felt. And now, on a silver platter as it were, I have been offered many things I desire. Knowledge, learning perhaps, the means to support myself and the opportunity to see the world around me. And also a goal, a worthy cause seemingly shared by my best friend. Perhaps an opportunity to help him even.
But to leave my home, my family (those that are still at home) this familiar region and it's easy comforts. Something Cludaen said about the King dying makes me pause. While I have no special feelings for him his loss would be serious indeed if it would mean war again. Hopefully, it will not come to that, but if it did, isn't my place with my family?
His mind still unresolved, Mordraith made his way slowly downwards in the tower, not missing this opportunity to take a good look at the things around him, thinking that he would not normally have been allowed up there.
The sacred relics on casual glance looked like lots of junk: personal articles, pieces of scrap from some unidentifiable source, a pile of rubble, a set of copper eating utensils. But each one of them manifested a strange intangible quality (though nothing like the presence of the mace head).
Hoping that the Prelector had left instructions that he was to stay the night, Mordraith went in search of someone to ask where he was to stay.
As he left the library, he noticed many of the visitors had left the main floor area. From the tower courtyard, Mordraith could see people clustered at his end of the Tunnel.
A bright young scribe named Logrian approached him from that direction. “His Relevance the Prelector sent me ... sir.” With a little coaxing he confirmed that he was supposed to show Mordraith to his quarters.
“It's kind of crowded through here,” he said. A reader was attempting to direct the traffic flow through the tunnel. As he waited Mordraith discovered welcome odors of food emanating from the kitchen. Some of the other guests notice them too, and there were random comments like “When do we eat?” “Are they really going to feed us all?” “I understand they grow dachaills in the orchard.” “Well, anything will be better than dried seedworm steaks. Blech.”
Where there were peasants moving stuff to and from the cellars the doors were shut. The door to the healing house was still open, and inside the physician Cadred was meddling with his collection of herbs and powders.
Eventually Mordraith made it through the Tunnel. Logrian showed him to the top floor of the guest house and to a room which, despite the windows being flung open, was a furnace.
“If there's anything you need, just ask any of the scribes,” said Logrian as he bowed to leave.
The day's activities had taken their toll of Mordraith's energies, or so it would seem as his belly started complaining rather forcefully. Ever obedient, he headed for the refectory planning to make an early night of it afterwards. He knew that he would accept the offer in the morning, but still felt he had to justify it to himself and his family.
At the refectory, Mordraith was invited to sit near the head of the table, across from Sir Westlan. The fare consisted of bread, cheese, and a vegetable stew.
As he sat down at the table, Mordraith gave the food a mournful look, and almost decided to return to his cell for some decent food. Surely the kitchen girl had packed something more substantial. Still, he could always take something from his pack later on, so he started to dig in. After stuffing his face for a few minutes, oblivious to his surroundings, Mordraith paid some attention to his neighbours at the table. With a shamefaced nod he greeted Sir Westlan across from him and at the same time wondered if he actually survived on this fare only. The first time Mordraith looked across at Sir Westlan, the famous knight seemed intensely bored by his meal. He noticed Mordraith's first glance, raised his eyebrows in greeting, but then turned his attentions back to his bowl. Mordraith tore off a piece of bread and started cleaning his bowl. Shortly he turned his attention back to the famous knight.
“Seems like I came at a busy time, sir” he opened with a pleasant smile. With a look at the food Mordraith added, “Must put a strain on their resources.”
“Indeed,” Westlan replied. “Reminds me of why I never stay here long.”
“Hrm, I wonder, have you been to Riudsech lately? As you may know I have my brother and sister there and I haven't heard from them in a while?” Mordraith aimed at drawing Westlan out, talking about events in the barony and his role there. The possibility struck Mordraith that the knight may have a postion similar to the one just offered him. He would certainly be a good candidate in his view. Mordraith realized he really didn't know Westlan. Sure, he'd met him on a few occasions but never had the opportunity to talk much to him. Unsure of how he'd recieve the suggestion he was about to make (if he found him resonably likeable), Mordraith hesitated a bit, uncomfortable with taking the initiative and leading conversations.
“I seem to have missed the place of late. Your brother just recently joined War did he not? Aye, the Brahafens have a good reputation as warriors.
“Sir, If you have the time later, perhaps we could arrange to practice a bit? I will probably spend a day or two here and could use the excercise.”
Westlan smiled, showing a fair set of teeth. “I do have some business to take care of in Gaetheld, but I suppose I could spare an hour or so in the morning. Say, about dawn, after temple, before breakfast.”
When Mordraith finished eating and talking he stepped out to take a stroll around the grounds, giving him time to think about the decision he must make. The moon was Hiding Face, the stars shone brightly. It was fairly quiet on the gatehouse side, where wagons were staged. As he rounded the corner, though, there was quite a bit of activity. Tents had been erected and torches lit. People, shiny-faced with sweat, were gathered in their respective groups and engaged in conversation, storytelling, singing, and game-playing. The gardells and hueglachs were oblivious to their surroundings and slept peacefully.
There was no one he recognized, except maybe a few faces he saw earlier. Mordraith was too occupied with thinking to really notice. The magister's house marked some sort of boundary for the tents. Light emanated from the shuttered windows. Around the corner the noises faded. The orchard was very peaceful. He reached the gatehouse again and headed for his quarters.
Mordraith went to his room and prepared for the night, wondering how he'd be able to sleep in the heat. Sleep was indeed a long time in coming but he finally did find rest.
First thing in the morning the hierophants performed a daily ritual in the main area of the temple. The Grand Hierophant made an appearance and granted prosperity upon the library. Apparently rumors of his presence had attracted quite a bit of attention, and a huge crowd of laymen also made appearances (on a voluntary basis). Those who wished to do so made small offerings to one or more of the gods, knelt before the images to pray, affirm their loyalty, or offer praise. Most simply craned their heads hoping to get a glimpse of the Grand Hierophant. After the rituals, the Grand Hierophant Dethrall made a graceful exit, accompanied by Worhell, Cludaen, and ranking visitors whom, except for Seorn, Mordraith did not know by name.
Mordraith made his way down to the temple. Religion had never played a dominant role in his life, but he did have faith and liked to go to the temple when the opportunity presented itself. Prayer had sometimes helped when he felt down or confused. It had never been something he'd thought much about. Obviously, this would change now. He stayed back a bit during the service, not wanting the Grand Hierophant to see him, not that that was likely in this crowd; he was still a bit embarrased about his blunder yesterday. After the Grand Hierophant departed, Mordraith offered a short prayer by the statue of Malladun asking for a clear mind and at the same time pledging myself to his cause. Sir Westlan came to kneel beside him. He was fully dressed in his armor (though swordless) and prayed over his helm. This last item had an iron band around the brow studded with short spikes.
When they were done, Westlan accompanied Mordraith from the temple. “I hope you are feeling fresh this morning,” he said with a savage grin, before heading outside.
The front yard provided plenty of space for practice, and the two attracted more than a few interested spectators. While Mordraith was not a bad swordsman, he quickly discover how Westlan had earned his reputation. With casual ease he made contact the first few tries. He didn't seem to be showing off at all, but carefully observed Mordraith. Westlan showed an amazing amount of patience with his pupil and was more than happy to give pointers. At this point Mordraith began to understand the depth of Westlan's skills.
“Hold your elbow here [he moves it a fraction] and move your front foot about an inch this way. Your style is similar to your brother's. On your return, you have a tendency to drop your shield just so. Instead, move it this way.” And so on. Westlan thoroughly pointed out both Mordraith's mistakes and strengths, in a way that made him feel like he was actually learning something. Mordraith also got in a lot of good practice. Westlan was impressed by Mordraith's ability to absorb the details.
Dalian, in the temple and away from his post for the moment, intercepted Mordraith when he got the chance. “Rumors are running wild about the treatment the Prelector has proscribed for you,” he said, blinking innocently. “One can only wonder [nudge nudge]. I don't suppose he's shed any light upon the goings on to you [nudge nudge nudge]. Of course, it's really none of my business [sincere look of innocence, bashful eyes rolling away].”
On his way from the temple to the refectory saw Dalian obviously making his way through the crowds towards him. Mordraith waited for the gatekeeper to reach him and wished him a good morning as he came up. His first announcement leaves me in surprised silence, what rumours? I quickly find my presence of mind though, “Special treatment? That does sound a bit sinister, don't you think. I've not been clapped in irons yet.”
Mordraith was not fooled by Dalian's apparent innocence for a second, but then he didn't know how to handle this. A bit unconvincingly he continued. “Hrm, the good Prelector seems not to mind having me around. He's very fond of 'Drig you know and we've been friends for a long time now. I really don't know what 'treatment' you're refering to.”
Thinking of his friend filled him with worry again and he was uncomfortable with Dalian's familiarity.
“As for His Excellency, I believe there is some problem in the Capital.” Mordraith didn't really know how much he could say and he was unhappy with lying to the friendly Gate Keeper. He quickly escaped, realizing that he probably only worsened the situation by adding to the rumours. Not giving Dalian, a master rumourmonger, a straight answer about either himself or the G.H. was not smart. Not much he could do much about it now though, he thought, as he made his way to breakfast unhappily.
Mordraith ate the breakfast in contemplative silence, getting ready to tell Cludaen of his decision. Breakfast was not much better than dinner. Porridge. Yumm.
Thoughts about the practice with Sir Westlan coursed through his mind as he scooped porridge into his unhappy mouth. Mordraith was not quite sure what to make of the knight. Why had he indulged him? He was in a hurry and had no reason to practice with me. I'm not good enough to give him a thorough work-out (painfully obvious), in fact the practice turned into a lesson, and we barely know each other, so it wasn't for friendship's or old-times' sake. Either he is simply a nice guy or he knows a bit more about me than he lets on, the latter quite possible bearing in mind what I saw on his helmet this morning. Or both, of course.
Either way I think I like him. I'm impressed.
After Mordraith finished his breakfast he went looking for the Prelector. Eventually he was directed to the library. He was beginning to feel nervous now, unsure of what it was he was embarking on, and not paying much attention to where he stepped. Finally he reached the Tower and after taking several deep breaths entered in search of Cludaen. He hoped he would be easier to find than 'Drig, he thought nervously and he was immediately ashamed of himself for not taking his friend's disappearance more seriously.
When he, much to his relief, found Cludaen he simply told him that he had decided, indicating that he perhaps would like to talk somewhere else.
Cludaen had an office off the gallery in the library, where he spent much of his time managing the administrative chores of the school. It was a private office and seemed a suitable place to talk. The Prelector beckoned Mordraith inside. An open window facing east flooded the office with sunlight, highlighting Cludaen's clear almond-colored eyes and short grey hair, and the creamy parchment scattered over the desk. His gold-trimmed, luscious green robes shimmered in the light. A small, nearly lipless mouth suggested a sort of meticulous intelligence. The two clear lines running across his brow appeared to be as neatly trimmed as his hair. This stern appearance was thankfully offset by his gentle mannerisms.
“Venerable Sir,” began Mordraith, feeling a bit solemn and formal. “I am honoured to accept you offer.” His voice came out slightly strained and he had to smile a bit at himself. Depending on what happens next, he would try to find out in more detail what his new position would entail. Would he join War (as sir Westlan put it) and what would his rank be? Would he receive some sort of training? Questions like these all begged to be asked.
“Excellent,” said Cludaen. “There is a proper ceremony that will be held to properly induct you. On Cro'ach, of course. If you are lucky the Grand Hierophant may still be present. That would be a special ceremony indeed.”
Seeing the questions written all over Mordraith's face, Cludaen held out a placating hand and motioned the large man to take a seat.
“Please be at ease,” he says. “I'm sure you want to know everything that is expected of you, and what you can expect from us. You will be taught to read Romang, as it will be necessary to decipher the sacred texts when conducting your investigations. There are details of our enemies that you must learn so that you can deal with them better. And of course, you will need to get up to speed with our current investigations. There is much to learn and much to do. But the ceremony must come first. All in good time.”
Now that he had accepted, Mordraith was very excited and had to force himself to remain calm and clear-headed. Wouldn't want to make a bad impression now, would he? When things had settled down he was suddenly struck by an idea. “Tell me, is Sir Westlan also a member of this group?”
“Why, yes. In fact, he is the only field agent we have in this corner of the kingdom. I'm sure he will be glad to have some assistance. He has been ... sidetracked by certain events in his personal life, and I fear he is looking toward retiring his position. It is he who will be doing a good portion of your training.”
Mordraith nodded a bit smugly. A couple of things had made him suspect this, the helmet, the free-ranging life-style, and the treatment he had just received. “Does he know about me?” Mordraith realised that he may have been wide off the mark, but the practice session and the promise for more pointed to this.
“Not unless he can read minds. No one has been told anything, pending your decision. Of course, there are always those rumors running around. I certainly would like to get to the bottom of those. But, yes, symbols are often worn by our members to facilitate recognition. Of course, many of these are not particularly unique. However, there is a badge, a replica of which you will be given, that is a sure means of identification.
“Well,” the Prelector finished, “unless you have any questions, you have the rest of the day to yourself.”
Mordraith suddenly realized that he'd been holding his breath and he let himself relax.
They'll teach me Romang! YES!
He was unable to surpress the smile that slowly spread across his fleshy face and threaten his composure severely. Images of dusty scrolls and leather bound books, mouldy with age paraded in his mind, each offering knowledge of untold secrets.
“Yes, of course I have more things to ask, but they can wait.” He replied. “I suppose I had better go back home and tell Father some of this. He sent me to spy on his Excellency, you know,” he said with a slow smile and went on to explain that he was curious about the Grand Hierophant's unannounced appearance. “Um, what should I tell him, about myself and His Excellency? I suppose that I can simply tell him that I'll be joining War, but he'll be wanting to know about that other matter?”
“I never took you for a spy, but then the term is sometimes a loose one,” Cludaen returned the smile. “I appreciate your openness. As it turns out, His Excellency's presence here is more one of expedience than one of secrecy. A messenger was sent earlier this morning to Riudsech Castle, requesting the baron's presence at Goerbest. That should be enough to satiate your father's appetite for intrigue. It is likely the baron will call upon the lords of Riudsech at some point anyway, but we shall leave that to him. We will all be proceeding cautiously until we get more information from the capital.”
As Mordraith was about to leave the Prelector's office he turned back to face him. Hesitating he asked, “Have you found out anything about 'Drig?”
“Alas, I have not. His Excellency is considering the services of an oracle, though that may not give us the answers we need. But I have been holding back information from you.” Cludaen hesitates. “Perhaps we should discuss this later.”
Cludaen dismissed the man with a wave of his hand.
Worry sobered him up a bit and he left with very mixed feelings.
Can you be jubilant and sick with worry at the same time? It strikes me as indecent to be happy now, immoral somehow. I try to tell myself that I have decided to do this to be able to help him, but I can't quite make myself believe it. I know I do it for myself. Not for 'Drig, not for Malladun.
Filled with mixed feelings he couldn't resolve, he made his way slowly down the stairs out into the Tunnel. For a moment he contemplated offering to help out in the Healing House but he quickly abandon that idea as positively dumb. Trying to get a grip on himself he quickly strode along the Tunnel and to the guest quarters and his cell. Once there, he packed his things. Then he headed down for his gardell.
As he left the guest house he saw Dalian exiting the Refectory. He appeared to be distracted by food stains on his robes, vigorously brushing them off. Then he let out a great belch as Mordraith made it by him. Then, just when he thought he was home free...
“Ooh! Mordraith! Wait!”
Mordraith pretended not to hear him. Luckily his longer legs easily outdistanced the gatekeeper and when he had made it to the gatehouse Dalian was far behind. Mordraith collected his sword from Dalian's assistant.
When he made it to his mount, Mordraith greeted him with a handful of mealy-grubs [slurp!]. The powerful creature greeted his master fondly and rose quickly as soon as the rider took his seat. Mordraith and mount then headed for home.