Brand entered the Library of Highglen and paused for a moment to appreciate what was before him.
The walls of the long, massive room he entered was covered from floor to second-story ceiling with shelf after shelf of books. People scurried around the room. Librarians assisted people and had their aides scramble up the tall ladders to fetch a book for a patron. A comfortable silence weighed heavily in the room, reminding the inhabitants the weight of the knowledge represented in the room. Brand breathed deeply the smell of paper and ink, and understood first-hand why this library was the finest in all of Bysynth.
The curator approached, his golden robes gently waving behind him. The robes identified him as a Priest of Treen, the Lord of Light. He asked the paladin how he could be of service, and Brand responded he was looking for information regarding the servants of Raagbaal. A surprised expression crossed the curator’s face before he responded, “Raagbaal? No one has asked about her in a very, very long time. But we do have a number of volumes pertaining to her and her servants. This way.”
He led Brand down the length of the library, up a flight of stairs to the second floor landing, then into a side-room. He muttered a phrase at the myiar crystal set into the ceiling and it sprang to life, “We don’t use candles here. It would be too great a risk to lose any of these tomes. If you need assistance with the crystal, just flag down one of the librarians. Let’s see here, not this book, but this one, and this one. There should be another…where is it? Ah.” He turned to Brand and handed him three heavy books, “These are the three most exhaustive resources on Raagbaal. If they aren’t enough to answer your questions, there might be one or two more books with some obscure references. But try these first, and let me know if you want the others. You can use the table here to do your studying. Press on that crystal by the door to signal me that you need additional assistance. Good day!”
Brand watched him leave, then set the books down on the table and cracked open the top one. He scanned page after page, absorbing the information within. He discovered that the firstborn of Raagbaal were known as Raksasha. They were incredibly powerful, rivaling the Immortals, and were skilled shapeshifters. These ‘Servants of Darkness’ had the ability to craft servants for themselves as well, and these wily creatures would stop at nothing to do their masters’ bidding. He also found several references to the Clave of Beasts, an intense battle between one of Nephelle’s ancestors and a particularly powerful Raksasha named Othmantu. During the climax of the battle, Nephelle’s ancestor had successfully unleashed a ritual to bind Othmantu for all time, but had died in the process.
Brand looked up from his reading and arched his back, surprised to find it as stiff as it was. He wondered to himself just how much time had passed.
The Baroness Sintiky
Nephelle and Bast were escorted into the Baroness’ chambers where they waited a few moments before she entered. They had heard she was beautiful, but the sight of her revealed how lacking that term was. The first thing they noted about her was that she was an elf. Her complexion was flawless, and even in her obvious grief, she was more attractive than most women could even imagine for themselves. She approached the two and gave Nephelle a very precise bow, not dipping any further or less than was required for Nephelle’s station.
Nephelle returned the bow and greeted her by saying, “My sympathies, Baroness.”
A single tear fell down the Elf’s face as she responded, “He was loved by all and most of all by myself.”
Nephelle nodded, “I cannot imagine the pain of your loss.”
Sinticky looked at her cautiously, “Yes, it is most troubling. Please forgive me if I am unable to attend your coronation. The rule of Highglen has passed to me and I have not had time to search for another to take this mantle.”
With a wave of her hand, the princess assuaged the Baroness’ concerns, “Think nothing of it. But I do want to make you aware that I have requisitioned the assistance of your apprentice, Vellatus, and have sent him to gather a number of reagents for a ritual I would like to perform.”
With a curious expression, Baroness Sinticky answered, “You have my blessing. Vellatus has already stopped by and informed me of your needs, and I have no issue with him assisting you. Would you like my assistance as well?”
“No, thank you. This particular ritual I will perform myself. I don’t want to put others at risk if it goes awry. But I do have a request of you if you are up to it. It would be very helpful for us to see the events leading up to the murder if you feel up to casting for the echo in the dining room.”
The Elf sucks in a sharp breath and closes her eyes, then whispered, “Yes. I can do that for you…for him. Please find the one who did this.”
She led the way through the hallways and into the dining room. It had been magically sealed off to prevent anything within from being disturbed. She explained to the Agents that the room was exactly as it was when the murder took place. Then she walked to the center of the room, put her hands on the table, and took a deep breath. She uttered a single word, “Commemini!” and the room before them suddenly shimmered. It was as if they were suddenly staring through a blue, translucent veil. They could see the servants carrying large trays piled high with food to the table, and the honored guests seated at the table.
Kassad, the Kardane Ambassador was regaling them with some sort of story, bringing the others into silent, hearty laughter. At the head of the table sat the Baron and Baroness of Highglen. Both were dressed in all the finery of their office with the sigil of a gray hawk emblazoned upon their chests. Lady Mara suddenly threw her head back, laughing deeply. If Brand were with the group, he would have surely turned away from her, for it would be a stretch to say she was wearing clothing. What little she did wear served only to conceal that which was most intimate.
The doors at the far end of the room suddenly burst open, and a large Wolfan strides in. Kassad rose to meet his bodyguard, confusion plastered across his face when the Wolfan leapt onto the table, kicking aside plates and goblets. He strode directly toward the Baron, ignoring all the calls and pleas being sent his way. When he reached the man, he grabbed the Baron, lifting him onto the table with one hand and stabbing deeply into his chest with the other. In an instant, he had let go of the body and reached into the cavity in the man’s chest. The body halted its descent for a moment while the weight hung on the arteries leading from the heart. Another slash of the dagger and the body dropped heavily to the table. Drenal lifted the heart up and it burst into blue-gray flames. The flames shot toward the ceiling and when they faded, the Wolfen was gone. All they were left with was the body of the Baron on the table slowly dripping blood onto the floor.
The shimmering veil suddenly collapsed and Nephelle and Bast saw Baroness Sinticky on her knees sobbing. Her aides rushed to her side and escorted her from the room. In shock, the two Agents are silent for a moment before they each walk around the table in opposite directions. When they meet on the other side, Bast points back to a tapestry and said she had noticed a secret passageway behind it, not unlike the entrances found in their bedrooms. Nephelle nods appreciatively then snorted her astonishment of how aroused Lady Mara had become during the attack in the echo casting. Bast responded, “One man’s blood is another woman’s aphrodisiac.”
Not finding much else useful, the left the dining room, wondering if Brand still had his nose stuck in a book.