Camon sat in shock and horror as the old man lay on the floor, not five feet from him. After a few seconds, Camon came to his senses and jumped up and ran to the old man’s side. “Satda!” he screamed at the man, but there was no response. Camon jammed his hand into his pocket, removed a stone, and then started chanting with his hand on the man’s back near the wound. Blood was gushing out from the injury itself, and no matter how much Camon tried, the wound did not close, nor did the old man ever come around. After more than ten minutes of trying to help the man, Camon fell back on his back and gripped his hair and gritted his teeth. It was too late to chase the assassin, and he looked at the old man, then at the wall where he said his last words. All he could hear was the man saying, “Here,” pointing to a map. Camon never got a good look at it from his vantage point, but he knew the man’s finger was in the southeast corner. He then stood up and examined the map. He couldn’t read the scribblings on the map, and it was covered in runes in a language that he did not recognize. The geography was familiar, as it looked like the lands occupied by the Empire. Camon reached out to take it, but hesitated and left it there.
Camon went over in his head what the old man had said to him the moment before. It was all a blur in many ways – an incoherent string of mumblings and questions that Camon didn’t quite understand. He recalled, “The woman. Her child. The demon. The seer. All important. Not all are necessary…. Corruption. A great fall. A rise… The past.”
The shock of the assassination was beginning to set in. Camon recalled the deaths he had seen in the past, but none were quite sudden. Camon tried to gain his composure, looking at Satda’s body on the floor and then breathing in and out with deep breaths. After he stopped trembling and the rush subsided, Camon thought about what to do. He decided the best thing to do was to tell the bystanders of the old man’s death. He rose, then went downstairs and found them all still standing around, where he announced, “The old man is dead!” The bystanders didn’t seem too surprised at first. Camon added, “A bolt to the back of the head. Someone killed him, and it looks fresh.”
“Murdered?” one of them said.
“Yes!” Camon said. They all went into the building one after another to check it out. Camon followed them upstairs to the room where they saw the old man lying on the ground with the bolt in the back of his neck. The horror came over them fast, and one ran to fetch an Imperial. Camon himself backed away slowly while more bystanders crowded the room. Murmurs flooded the room as to who or why someone would kill the old man.
“He was crazy, but he never hurt anyone. And it’s not like he had many things. Nothing seems out of place.”
As the room crowded, Camon slipped out the door then back down the stairs back onto the street. He thought again about what the old man said, “The woman. Her child. The demon. The seer. All important. Not all are necessary… A woman, a seer? Not all necessary? Achara?” He stopped dead in his tracks, and he shouted, “Achara!” At this, Camon bolted down the street, then back out onto the avenue. He quickly dashed back through the gates toward the inner city. He sprinted past the fortress and around the gardens right back down the avenue leading towards the causeway he came in on. He then made it back to the street with the inn. He threw open the door and glanced around the room. Achara was not there.
He then ran up the stairs to her room and banged on the door, “Achara, are you in there?”
“Yes,” a voice said. “Coming.” The door opened, and Achara was looking at Camon, confused.
Camon, sweaty from his sprint across town, exhaled a sigh of relief.
“What happened,” Achara asked. Camon looked to his left and right up and down the hall, then went into the room and bolted the door closed.
“Someone assassinated the old man right there in front of me,” Camon said.
“Assassinated? How?” Achara exclaimed, her face visible with shock.
“A crossbow bolt to the back of the neck,” Camon explained. “It killed him instantly. There was nothing I could do to help him.”
“That’s insane!” Achara exclaimed again. “Who would do that? And why?”
“I wish I knew. But I suspect someone doesn’t want us to find out about what is going on. Whoever he was, he could have killed me if he wanted too.” Camon thought for a moment then asked, “Are we still being followed?”
“Last I checked was a day or so ago,” Achara said. “I think it is safe to assume that we are.”
“Can you check again?” Camon asked. “And see if you can read anything else about the presence that’s been following us.”
“I’ll try,” Achara said. She sat down in a chair nearby and stared blankly ahead before closing her eyes. She was still as a statue for several minutes, breathing steadily and deeply before opening her eyes again. “Yes,” she said. “We are still being followed. The presence was nearer this time. Exactly how close is uncertain, but I didn’t have to reach far before feeling the presence.”
“Still no indicator on who it might be?” Camon asked.
“None. Whoever is following us is keeping a distance. Could it be the Inquisitors?” Achara asked.
“Possibly,” Camon said. “And it would be hard to know if whoever assassinated the old man is the same person that has been tracking us. It would be unlike an Inquisitor to murder someone, though.”
“Do you think they were trying to frame you? Murdering you would make the old man look guilty, but no one would probably care, but murder the old man, and now you’re a target.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Camon said.
“Why did you come running back here?”
“The old man said something that made me think you might be in danger.”
“He said, ‘The woman. Her child. The demon. The seer. All important. Not all are necessary.’ I don’t know if he was talking about you or not, but when he said, ‘the seer’ and ‘not necessary’ I ran.”
“Was he as crazy as you thought?” Achara asked.
“Not really. He was off, but a patient ear I think might have learned something,” Camon noted. “Chak seemed to have thought that he was knowledgeable about lore, which is why I went there. He went on and on about prophecy, which didn’t make any sense at first, but it was starting to make sense towards the end. He kept going on and on about how prophecy was knowing and understanding the past and seeing it in the present. He also had some ancient relics, which made me believe he had spent his time and effort searching for knowledge of the past. Right before he died, he talked about ancient history and some events that happened, wherein he proceeded to point at a map with geography similar to the lands of the Empire. However, it was covered in a language that I did not recognize. His finger was pointing to somewhere in the southeast corner of the map, saying ‘here,’ which was his last word before he fell.”
“You didn’t take the map?” Achara asked.
“I think it would have raised more suspicions, and if I was searched and they found it on me, they would have certainly pegged his murder on me. Even so, I think we should leave as soon as possible. Even if this wasn’t a frame job, they will almost certainly want to hold me for questioning, which can only mean getting bogged down in the past few months. And with that, comes Inquisitors and their ilk.”
“But we just got here,” Achara said.
“I know, which is all the more reason we should leave before nightfall,” Camon said. “We can leave through the gate we came through and take the road west.”
“West? Why not southeast to where the old man was pointing?”
“We need to go west,” Camon said. “We came here looking for answers, and the one who had them is dead on my account. Which means that we must go west to the only other place that I think we will find them.”
“And where is that?” Achara asked.
“I’ll show you in time. For now, please trust me. I don’t want anything happening to anyone else, and the less I share, the better off we all may be. Right when I was rethinking about being more open, I am reminded why I don’t like enlightening people.”
“You’re letting your guilt get the best of you,” Achara said.
“The old man died on my account. He had no part in this whole thing. I brought trouble to him.”
“But it wasn’t you that killed him,” Achara said. “You did nothing wrong. You’re trying to help people and save them from the assassins that killed him.”
“I’d like to believe that,” Camon said.
“Rune’s disdain for us is well deserved in many respects,” Achara noted. “He felt like a pawn in my scheme. But look at what that got us. I think you have to trust people, even if it means that it might endanger them. Knowledge is power, and ignorance is not always bliss.”
“You’re right, as usual. So I suppose the thing to do would be to tell you. Chak mentioned that there were two places that we could probably find what we are looking for – the first was the old man, the other is… is a library. Not just any library, but an ancient library maintained by a secret order. There are probably twelve people in the entire world that know about it, and by me telling you, that makes thirteen. We will journey there and see if we can find the answers we’re looking for. If they can’t be found there, then it’s likely that we won’t find them anywhere. The visit to Satda was not in vain though. He has helped narrow the search. He was intent on some events that happened in the ancient past that happened in the Southeast. Something about that event has to do with what is happening now. At least according to Satda, it does.”
“Do you think he is right?”
“Whether I think he is right isn’t going to be helpful at this point. There’s not much else to go on, so I see no other options at this point. But if you must know, I do believe he was.”
“How long will it take us to get there?” Achara asked.
“It’s beyond the West Watch. At a brisk pace, we could be there in four months.
“West Watch? I’ve never been this far south and hardly west of Rahtclang.”
“We’ll have to cross the plains and go into the desert,” Camon said. “It’s a pretty mundane journey, but at least the roads are good, and the people are nice.”
“What people?” Achara asked.
“Gypsies. They are Ratana’s ancestors and seers like yourself.”
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Achara asked.
“Get your things,” Camon said.
Achara started to repack her things and neatly made her bed. Camon did likewise. Without as much of a whisper, they went downstairs and slipped out the back of the inn into the stables. They found their horses and saddled them, but didn’t mount them. They walked the horses out on the street and onto the avenue, then back out the gate where they had come in that morning, then down the causeway. The causeway rejoined the Pilgrim’s Way, and they started west along the road towards the plains.