Camon woke and saw the light coming in from his window. Judging by its intensity, he guessed it was near noon. He had slept a dreamless sleep for at least a dozen hours. After waking and washing his face in the washbasin on the table, he left the room and went back to the refectory he had been in the night before. The hall was almost empty except for a young monk that was busy cleaning the floor. Camon went through the hall into another adjoining hallway and went about halfway down before he stopped and knocked on a large wooden door. A voice called, “Do come in.”
Camon opened the door and went into an office line with books and tapestries with a large wooden desk facing two large windows at the back of the room. There was a fireplace with a small fire and some chairs next to the fireplace and a table. The man at the desk turned around and saw Camon and shouted, “Camon, my boy!”
Camon smiled and spread his arms as the man got up and walked over to Camon and embraced him. “Good to see you, Chak,” Camon said. “It’s been far too long.”
“It has. It has,” Chak said. “Please, do tell me everything. But first, let’s get comfortable.” They went over to the chairs by the fire, and Chak stoked it before sitting down. Camon seated himself, then recounted his journey north, finding the demon, the trip back south with Ratana, and the events that had unfolded the night before.
“When I heard you had come in late last night, I could hardly believe it,” Chak said. “No fool would have been traveling in that storm unless there was a really, really good reason.”
“I guess my reason was good enough,” Camon explained. “Our companions reported us to the Inquisitors, so we had to flee Rahtneua, and we came here. And my foolishness almost got the best of Achara.”
“The Inquisitors came by this morning asking about anything unusual,” Chak said. “They didn’t say what, but I figured they were looking for you. And you’re not unusual, so I just told the young man nothing unusual.”
“An Inquisitor visiting a monastery looking for someone would be unusual.”
“I agree,” Chak said. “But from what I’ve heard, they are combing the countryside near here looking for you.”
“I used the sword last night. They light up like noonday on their scrying table whenever a Paladin uses it. However, it was the only way to save Achara. If I hadn’t been so stupid and insisted we split up, then we would have made a clean escape, and they would still be scouring Rahtneua for us.”
“You did what you had to do,” Chak said. “And nobody could have foreseen what the weather was going to be last night.”
“Maybe, but I didn’t even bother to look,” Camon said. “Have you seen Achara this morning?”
“No,” Chak answered. “But my acolyte says she got up early not looking well. No worries though. She went to see the Healers here who treated her and told her to lay down. She should be resting now.”
“Thanks for looking after her.”
“Like she was my own.”
“About the demon,” Camon started. “Is there anything that would connect a demon to Ratana that you can think of? Any lore, history, tip, or otherwise that could shed light on why the demon would hunt her?”
“Like you, I certainly believe her being pregnant and being a seer might have something to do with it, but exactly what, I don’t know. We could go down to the library and see if there’s anything there on the subject matter, but I doubt it.”
“I’ll go see old Krii in the library and see if I can’t find something there,” Camon said.
“You know he will put you to work?”
“And I’m okay with that. Can’t be a freeloader, you know.” Camon turned and left the office and went back into the hall and navigated through a few more corridors before coming to the library. The library was a large room with a high ceiling with books lining the walls and several shelves with materials. It was cold in the room. Near the door was a tall desk with an older man sitting at the desk busy shuffling through papers. Next to the desk was a large stack of books with more papers stacked on top of the books. The man didn’t bother looking up when Camon came in.
“Excuse me, sir,” Camon said. “Could you help me find books on old friends?”
“Huh?” the man said, then looked up. He picked up his glasses and looked through them, “Who are…Camon!” The old man gathered his robes about himself and slowly climbed off the tall chair behind the desk. He walked feebly over to Camon and embraced him.
“Good to see you, Krii,” Camon said.
“You too, lad,” the Krii said. “What brings you to this part of the world?”
“Unfortunately, a demon.”
“Demon?” Krii looked in disbelief.
“Yes, demons. I need to know if you have anything about them somewhere in the stacks.”
“Not much other than stuff you’ve probably already read. You’ve read practically every book in this room already. What exactly are you looking for?”
“I wish I could be more specific, but something about who and what demons hunt,” Camon said.
“If there was anything about that, I think it would be in some of the diaries we have. But honestly, there’s not much there either.”
“I’ll see if I can find something.”
“Why you’re at it, do you mind putting these books away for me?” Krii asked, pointing to the stack of books next to the desk.
“I’d be glad to,” Camon said. He went over to the desk and looked at the books and started putting them back on the shelves where each belonged. After shelving the books, Camon found several books on topics about fantastic beasts, dark lore, histories, and journals from priests who specialized in the Dark studies. He sat in a chair near a window and comb through the books one at a time, looking for anything that would shed light on the demon. He read for the better part of the afternoon before he got through the last book then put them away. He could feel his stomach grumbling, having not eaten since the previous night and nothing for breakfast or lunch. He left the library and went back through the refectory to the kitchen. He found a monk preparing dinner for that evening. He gave Camon some vegetables, which Camon gladly accepted and ate.
After eating the snack, he went back towards his quarters. Just as he was arriving, Achara came out of her room, looking pale and groggy.
“How are you?” Camon asked.
“I’m getting better thanks to the Healers,” she said. “They treated me this morning because I think I was coming down with a fever. Now that I’m up and it’s daytime, who is the abbot you wanted me to meet?”
“His name is Chak,” Camon said.
“Chak? That sounds familiar,” she replied.
“Come this way. He’s probably still in his office.” They went back through the refectory and down the corridor leading to Chak’s office, where Camon again knocked. Chak answered for them to come in, and Camon entered with Achara.
“Achara, meet His Reverence Chak, Abbot of the Monastery of Anurak,” Camon said.
“Camon, you can skip the formality,” Chak said. “I believe young Achara already knows me.”
Achara looked at him and studied his face, “You came to my family’s home when I was yet a girl to see my father!”
“You remembered,” Chak said. “Come in and have a seat.” Chak and Achara sat next to the fire that Camon and he had sat next to that morning.
Camon found a stool and brought it over to join them. “You never told me you knew Achara, only that you knew about her,” he said.
“Well, I wouldn’t say that we knew each other,” Chak said. “But we’ve met before her father passed away.”
“Well, if you knew my father, then you probably would not want to have anything to do with me after what he did,” Achara said.
“What your father did?” Chak questioned. “Or what you were told he did?”
“My father was killed because he was using his position as an officer in the Imperial army to conduct illegal activities like smuggling. He was killed when one of his operations went bad, and the Empire eventually found out about it after investigating it, so they branded him a traitor.”
“That’s what the Empire told you he did,” Chak said. “But I can assure you that is far from the truth.”
“What do you mean?” Achara said.
“Your father was one of the most honest and well-respected officers in the entire Imperial army up to the top brass,” Chak explained. “And I knew your father. He would have never betrayed the Empire like that.”
“Well, if he didn’t betray the Empire, then how did he die?”
“Your father was not unlike Camon – he knew that sometimes you had to get your hands dirty to do what was right. He did the dirty work for the Empire when nobody else would.”
“What dirty work?” Achara asked.
“Your father led a clandestine unit in the Imperial army that would do off the books missions because they needed to be done and he was good at it. The enemies of the Empire called him ‘The Hammer’ and universally feared him because he had a reputation for rooting out and overwhelmingly destroying them without prejudice. But your father knew the risks too. He knew that if he were ever compromised or beaten, the Empire would deny condoning his actions and even go as far as branding him a traitor for acting against the Imperial army’s will and principles.”
“What happened to him then?” Achara asked
“I’m not sure,” Chak said. “No one knows, but I can only assume that one of his missions went badly and he was killed. And true to their word, the Empire disowned him.”
“Why would he do that though?” Achara asked. “He had to know what hardship that his failures would cause for my mother and me.”
“I wish I had a good answer for you,” he answered. “But I see his strength in you. I can only assume that he knew that whatever happened to him, he believed that you would be okay despite that. And if that is the case, I can say that he was right.”
“But what about Mom?” Achara asked. “The struggles she went through after he died, and because he was labeled a traitor made her life harder than it should have been. It ruined her. She struggled even to make a living because nobody wanted a traitor’s wife working for them. And she didn’t know what to do with me, especially.”
“I think your father knew that in time you would grow up and be able to take care of her rather than her take care of you. But things worked out so that you didn’t have to do that. And the choice you made so she didn’t have to struggle anymore was exactly what your father would have done.”
“If you can call that a choice,” Achara said. “Mom was happy for the first time since Dad died after she met Thotani, and he loved her too. But Thotani predicated the marriage on me not living with them. It was a way out for her, and she would have married him anyways with or without my approval.”
“What you chose was not that, rather that her happiness and wellbeing was more important to you than your own,” Chak said. “So you chose her interest over your own. You gave her the grace to marry and to live without forcing her to choose her husband over you. That is exactly how your father understood things.”
“Even if what you are saying is true, it just makes more sense that my father didn’t care for Mom or me,” Achara objected. “And that his actions were self-serving, not self-sacrificing. If he cared about us, he would have left the Imperial army and focused on taking care of Mom and me.”
“Regardless of what your father did, what you did was undeniably self-sacrifice,” Chak noted. “And ever since that time, we have had our eyes on you. It’s no accident that you were able to care for the girls after leaving the street gang you joined. And it’s no accident that Camon showed up a few years later.”
“No accident? I left the gang because it was wrong and took care of girls at the orphanage because I didn’t have anywhere else to go that wasn’t either selling myself or doing something illegal. Being the daughter of a traitor is just about as bad as being the wife of one. Nobody trusts you.”
“Yet, here you are,” Camon said. “We trust you.”
“Because we know the truth about your father,” Chak said, “And we know that you are more like him than you might realize.”
“I’m sorry if I am having a hard time accepting this,” Achara said. “It’s all a bit much, especially when you’ve lived your entire life believing one thing only to be told something else. I am not sure who or what I should believe anymore.”
“I understand,” Chak said. “I really do. It’s hard to trust anyone. Especially a stranger like me or someone who’s profession constantly requires deceptive practices like Camon. But in time, I think you will be able to trust yourself to know what is and isn’t true. Your gift gives you insights to discern the truth from lies.”
“I hope so,” Achara muttered, looking at the floor.
“Cheer up, kid,” Camon said. “You’ve got to be hungry. And from what I hear, Chak has some of the finest mead in Rahtneua.”
Achara looked a Camon and gave a smile, “I think I could use a good drink.”
Chak went over to a cabinet and pulled out a large, corked jug and a set of wooden cups. He uncorked the jug and poured the mead. Camon, Chak, and Achara drank, telling stories of adventures until time to eat dinner. They then left the room and had a big dinner in the hall, feeling merry.