01. To the Corbachian War Council: By Edward (Helkias) Hanscom

Telym Poleer

Inquisitor Third Tier

Corbachian Council member

 

To the council,

 

What follows acts as both my resignation and my Confession. For the better part of a year I have followed one, Helkias Gotholias Ryunn, better known to those addressed as “The Black Raven”. Contained within are the stories I have collected both by my own eyes and from those I have travelled with. Since before the fall of Corbach’s royal family I have been attached to Helkias to discern whether or not he would serve us. I made an oath to collect as much information as I could. And that I send you now. I hope that in reading my missives you will come to understand why I end my service to you and why you should never send another to take my place.

A Meeting

My first encounter with the Blackraven was orchestrated by the council, months prior to the coup. My mentor tasked me with becoming close to the man, to ascertain his usefulness to the council’s goals.

 

Helkias took his position as the Royal family’s Austringer more seriously than the name implied. Though he was chief amongst their hunters he was so much more to the family, especially the young princes. He oversaw their education, both scholarly and in war. He taught them the lost knowledge of Kantador, a god of light known in relatively few circles. The king held the Blackraven’s council higher than most of his advisors and many other men would have used it to sway politics and grasp for position. The Blackraven did none of those things, content with his place in the world and the lives of the princes.

 

I entered the tavern shortly after dusk. It’s position relative to the King’s Keep made it a popular haunt for those that served within, though it was mostly men-at-arms and low level attendants to the king, Helkias was known to frequent the establishment. I learned quickly that it was simply their choice of brown ale that drew the man there. It wasn’t difficult to find the man I was looking for. He sat alone in the far corner, holding a flagon in one hand and a book in the other. He seemed not at all distracted by the din created by the crowd or the cacophony that was the tavern-keepers choice of musical entertainment. He turned a page as I approached.

 

“Helkias,” I long ago learned to control the pitch of my voice, but looking at my quarry now I felt it waver, however briefly.”

 

“Aye, what is it girl?” he turned another page.

 

“I was told you were looking for an apprentice.”

 

He set down the book and took a long pull from the flagon. He flicked a scarred hand above his head and it was replaced without an exchange of words or coin.

 

“It’s true, the boy I trained to keep my arms and armor has become taken with a travelling minstrel and who am I to stand in the way of love,” he laughed at some jest I didn’t seem privy to, “It’s hard work and I can’t say I am kind to my equipment.”

 

“I learned from me pa how to handle flame and forge,” I lied.

 

“Ye can’t be more’n what twenty winters?”
“Twenty four,” I lied again.

 

“Come to the keep at dawn. Ye got papers I assume. Can read and write?”

 

“Well enough, mum saw to that.” I never knew my parents, but some lies pass easily enough.

 

“What’s your name, girl?”

 

“Telym. Telym Poleer,” A truth at last. None but my mentor knew my real name. No one else cared to learn it. It was meant as a protection. But this grain of truth held the web of lies I spun together with a single strand of honesty.

 

“Well Telym, til the morrow,” He picked up his book where he left off.

 

I spent three months slowly ingratiating myself with the man. I learned a great deal about his time before his appointment. His family in the hills. His father the priest. The loss of his faith and so the power he was supposed to carry. None of it presented an opening to twist and pull and make him the council’s man. Still I listened and I learned. The way he treated the young princes was unheard of. They were not pampered and princely when they came to his yard. Hours spent being pummeled with wooden sword and shield. Learning when to deflect and when to evade. When to advance or retreat. The lessons learned there may have shone through later in life, if they had the chance. Helkias did not discriminate either, he actively cared about those who came through his yard and be it prince, servant, or blacksmith’s daughter he would train them. So it was that my years of training with the blade was augmented by the man I was betraying on a weekly basis.

 

My mentor sent no word when the time came. And I only heard about the flight of the Blackraven. The royal family butchered and under Helkias’ care. I knew it would break him. Knew he would lose all purpose.

 

I was wrong. I was so very wrong.

 

The council sent me to catch up with the refugees to ensure they chose exile and not open rebellion. So it was that I passed through the broken lot of them. And there he stood, alongside a barbarian from the North. Armor burnt black. Spear and shield sundered. But as the two of them spoke others joined them. And it wasn’t anguish or horror that I saw spread across his face. It was something that I only saw three times in my months of knowing him. Once that first night when I watched from the shadows and he turned a page. Once when young prince Eric defeated three older boys in a particularly nasty bit of combat. And once when I told him the lie of my home, my mother and father how I imagined them. Unevenly he smiled and slapped the barbarian on the back. It seemed they’d decided something of import. He turned and looked over the refugees and locked eyes with me. We exchanged a nod. It wasn’t until later that I’d learned he knew who I was from the moment I entered the tavern.

 

It wasn’t until later I learned why he accepted my betrayal.

 

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