Beginnings…a prolog of sorts
The following manuscripts were donated to Queen’s University of Cadris by Captain Roger Tremain several years after the subject’s disappearance, where he is now but a pale mystery. The papers were wrapped tightly in butcher’s paper and tied with rough twine; the knot of which was sealed in blue wax. The crest of the seal had worn away or partially melted. In any case it was unreadable.
Captain Tremain claimed that these manuscripts came into his possession by way of his grandfather who had spun tales throughout the Captain’s childhood of his friendship with the paper’s subject matter. There are many aspects of Vaush’s career that are a matter of public record it has been noted by many scholars that there were significant holes in the narrative. A narrative that had been pieced together by law documents most of which had been unsuccessfully leveled against Vaush.
The validity of these papers is beyond repute. The paper is of contemporary manufacture as is the ink. The handwriting has been scrupulously compared with known samples from letters collected by the University.
- G.M. Frasier Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University of Cadris
First off let me say this. I am not apologizing for anything in my life. I am a villain, a rogue. Most of my life has been spent in some form of skullduggery or mischief. This is not an attempt to rise as a Paragon unto the heavens. I am a thief, a spy; I have murdered and partaken in every sin listed in the Great Book of the Paragon and made up a few of my own.
From my first memory you say… well that is where it all began; the love, the beauty and the blood; great rivers of the stuff… blood and horror. It is said by the priests of the Folded Thought in Sahrleen that the first memory if accurately deciphered can be acted upon to distill a man’s fate. I cannot tell you just how true that particular wisdom is.
Mine is a whisper and indecipherable whisper. It was an auditory ghost that passed through the labyrinthine passages of my infantile existence. At the time it seemed so insignificant. It was always there as a memory, but without words or context it held no meaning for me.
Beyond that I remember in my extreme youth the soft touch of silk and the sounds of that luxurious fabric sliding against itself. There were soft voices and the occasional ringing of woman’s laughter. I remember singing in those times; mostly woman but with the occasional accompaniment of a man’s baritone. There were smells of salt and the sea though at the time I had no idea what these were or how vast.
There were other children in this place of my youth. Several actually and some of them I grew to call friends, without understanding the full girth of that statement. I was raised by a host of women all of which were buxom and beautiful. In retrospect it has come to me that I really had no notion of who my mother was. There was a fine woman named Gail who cared for me most of the time, but her duties were closer to wet nurse and nanny. I wonder if the other children have been presented a similar quandary in their later years?
I was four when the masculine gender entered in a more significant manner into my life. I saw that they were often guests in the house. Some were regulars while others were faces to be forgotten, never to be seen again. I know now that they were all well dressed and of fine breeding; well groomed and of a good stature. Knowing what I know of the house of my youth; it makes me smile at their hypocrisy, but I digress. It was also of this time that I learned of my mother. She resided in the house and was beautiful beyond measure. She was a whore.
Now before you get your panties all bunched up around your cravat let me say she was damn good and made enough to keep me in great comfort. She loved me of this I have no doubt. It was her profession but not her calling. To this day I marvel at just how bad I turned out considering the love and beauty that my mother, Veronica bestowed upon me. I was wicked and curious to a fault. She deserved better.
At the time I thought his name was Butler, but in later years I knew him to be named Robert; a man of average stature and appearance. In truth he was so common in most respects; he hardly bore notice; though he always seemed to fill a room. There was a calm about Robert that even now, elder in my years I must respect. Robert never raised his voice in all the years that I knew him. He moved slowly and quietly, almost ghostlike. I followed him about the house, hiding behind curtains and divans. He was always aware of my presence and never forgot to let me know I had not pulled the wool over his eyes. He was unflappable in all respects.
In time I came to learn that Robert’s duties had very little to do with his title of Butler. In fact he was an enforcer for the house. He kept the tallies and ensured that those who required payment received their coin and those whose debt was held by the house made restitution timely. He was the keeper of the keys; not all of them, but the interesting ones as I recall. While the women of the house flirted and dallied with the guests, their relationship with Robert was one of cordial business, despite the fact that the business of the house was friendly.
There were parties. Not so often that they existed as a matter of the abeyant background of my world, but rather often enough that when they occurred the children knew that they would be restricted to our rooms. In my sixth year it all changed during one these parties, the activities of which I was completely unaware. It was an event that sent me down the path that has thrilled me since.
The party had started early in the evening and I with the rest of the six year olds were sent to our chambers. We laughed and played for a time which was our want to do. In time however we crawled into our well appointed beds (I have slept in much worse since I assure you) and did our best to pass through the chambers of deeper slumber despite the merriment that could just be heard beyond the door of our room
I should say that I slept in a room with several other children. In total there were perhaps seven of us in the room with another room down the hall so that the children of the house numbered perhaps fourteen. As I have said before we were want for nothing. The room was well adorned and filled with the toys and artifices that you would expect of a nursery.
I do not remember if I had slipped into the dreaming or if I was in that twilight place between wakefulness and sleep, but there came a commotion from beyond our door. While some slept through the entirety of the event, most sat up in our beds. The very nature of the commotion was alien to us. There had never been any disturbance in the calm of our house. It had always been soft and sweet, even luxurious to a point of what I can now call decadence. A woman screamed and there was the growl of angry men. We heard the tipping of furniture. As the disturbance spread through the house it became apparent that the heart of the storm was coming our way. In fact it eventually settled just beyond our door. I resolved to witness this new turn of events. The room was dark which only served to fuel the fear that was blooming in all of our youthful hearts. I took the candle stick and deftly lit the taper. I realize now that candle stick was of brass and of some weight, which I learned later would serve its own purpose.
I am not able to claim that this was an act of bravery. Courage really had nothing to do with it. In fact I was terrified. I was terrified and fascinated at the same time and it was that incumbent curiosity that got the better of me in this instance. As to whether or not I should have peered through that crack between door and jam? Who am I to say that Bek’s will is anything but irrefutable?
That is not fair. The trickster Bek had no more to do with my decision then Tymora’s tides did. No this was an act of freewill that I am to pay for. As I opened the door ever so slowly my first sight was that of a man’s ankle. It was white and had never once seen anything more than candle light. The screaming grew loader. I peered up and saw that Vivian, a lady of the house whom I had always liked. She was kind and treated myself and the rest of the children with the same loving, though more distant, care as any other member of the house. I laugh now to think that the ridiculous wisdom of a child being raised by a village was actually demonstrated by my very own youth.
The full scope of the disturbance became clear as I looked up. The man who in his regular day to day was well presented to the world was no scruffy and ill kept. His hair was askew and he wore only his undergarments. Vivian was naked from the waist and was clearly distressed. As I recall now, these were the first breasts I had witnessed other then my mother’s and perhaps Gail. Considering my future endeavors, I find it odd that these pendulous globes held no fascination for me.
The man held a modest, but utilitarian dagger at Vivian’s throat. He proclaimed to another, whom I had yet to see that if he was not allowed to leave now, he would kill Vivian where she stood. A quick glance to other end of the corridor showed that Robert stood, his patient demeanor filling the breadth of the corridor. Even as calm as he appeared there was something predatory about his nature and I felt my pulse quicken. There was but one way that this was going end and I believe with the entirety of corrupted soul that even then I knew that this guest was doomed to a bloody fate. It was merely the nature of that final act that I could not yet fathom.
It was clear that Robert had been presented with a conundrum. To move to quickly or to advance under the current circumstances could only result in Vivian being injured or killed. Could Robert have killed the man and saved Vivian of his own accord, I have no doubt. But why should I not assist? Why should I wait and watch?
Quietly I slid the door open just a little more. Robert had noticed me long before. I was sure he was aware of my presence even before I had identified him as the third player in this little drama that had unspooled before my door. The candle was lit and reached out through the door and applied that small flame to the leggings of the man’s undergarment. The flame quickly became fire. It spread up his hindquarters like an ass hungry monster. In moments Vivian had been flung aside as the ill favored guest tried in vain to pound the fire into submission. It had been a dreadful error in judgment. Though flames that licked at his flesh were painful the real danger to his well being was much further away.
Robert, his calm disappeared in a moment. No longer was he a distant participant. He exploded into motion in a manner that could only be described as a ferocious economy of movement. From whence he drew the daggers, straight and elegant, I was unable to imagine. They were not well adorned and were quite simple. They were daggers for the working day and wielded as such. It was without flourish; the beauty of Robert’s murderous act was in its very simplicity. The man had been stabbed a half dozen time and had perished even before his full decent to the carpeted floor.
There was blood. It splashed on the walls and soaked deep into the carpet. In my own eyes the crimson faded to a rich black. I felt my excitement grow to a boiling point. It was then that Robert stared at me with cold eyes and I returned to my bed. Sleep did not come for many hours. I listened as the mess of blood and murdered flesh were cleaned from the house. Indeed by the afternoon of the next day it could be said that anything untoward had occurred. The stains were gone and the carpet had either been cleaned or replaced.
Robert found me the next day and for the next several weeks we spoke. I learned. I followed and hid. Robert found me and disappeared. He rematerialized at impossible time. All the time the murder of that evening was not far from my mind. Without even realizing it, I had become Robert’s apprentice of a sort.
Secrets. In any inhabited house there are secrets. The nature of those mysteries are dependent upon the occupants. In the house of my youth they came in many forms. The secret passages that riddled the frame of the house were but one. The extent of Robert’s skills was another. Some weeks later I had followed him into his study, a well appointed though austere room. It suited Robert’s nature. As I watched him work and searched for passages that I was convinced existed, but could find no evidence of he handed me a piece of paper.
The crypto was the first of many.
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