Craftsman of Strife
In which Lorasin Draxos faces trial for his role in the siege of Amalcross.
This ballad was shared at the 49th Conclave of Bards by Livia ‘ja Yeoh.
It was not color, but rather the impression of color, nor form, but rather formless matter, that nonetheless offered the suggestion of meaning.
The meaning itself would rush upon its object and then tumble away the moment before it could be grasped.
In a word, it was chaos, as of shadow upon shadow at night and of blood upon blood in battle. All, and nothing, amidst the oblivion of all.
During endless days and nights of siege, the catacombs of Old Amal had offered solace in the form of anonymity for the nobles and peasants packed inside, as numerous as the barnacles upon the hulls of the ships resting on the bed of the city’s bloodied waterways.
Now the catacombs offered something kinder — solitude borne of a fearfully forgetful populace eager to put the warfare behind, to scrape and shove the carnage into the strait and out of mind, to rest with the sunken ships.
The Imperial Justice, however, was blessed with a longer memory, and a harder heart.
“Let it be recorded in history,” the Imperial Justice said, “that Binder Lorasin Draxos has chosen to craft his own defense against the charges brought to bear upon his name. These charges include—”
“Pardon me, Mr. Draxos?”
“Let it be recorded in history that I am not a Binder.”
The thin man was unimpressive to the scribe’s eye. His voice carried a nervous stammer, and his posture was so atrocious that one might wonder if his chest had caved in. He looked, in fact, as though he had already shrunken into himself, as though he had already been erased from history. But here he was, dictating how his name was inscribed in records that would carry it longer than the scribe’s beloved grandchildren would live.
“Before the Judiciary of Amalcross, please. I am no Binder.”
The scribe looked to the Imperial Justice, who looked on impassively from the bench where she oversaw the proceedings. It had been weeks of trials for the highest crimes: murder, treason, accessory to murder, and accessory to treason. Draxos was only one more in an endless lineup of sniveling mages and rebels — only one more damned coward.
The scribe clucked his tongue but scratched out the word nonetheless, leaving only the name.
The city contained formalized temples and shrines to nearly every known god and plenty others, alongside lesser deities or Uncannies who had at one point or another masqueraded well enough to have gained some cult of worship.
There was, however, no temple or shrine to Syzygax recorded upon any map, nor inscribed in any book. Those wishing to pay homage to or ask favors of the supreme deity of chaos found more unusual places of worship.
Such a place marked the entrance to the storm drains that bridged the Old Amal catacombs with the Boern River. It had been erected as many times as a storm surge had washed it away, nothing more than a chalk drawing of a tangled knot and a small pool of spilled blood, dried within a gap in the stonework where the mortar had long been dug away.
Lorasin Draxos gashed his palm wide enough to wring another stream of blood into the crevice, then shimmied a plain, shoddily made candle, engraved with a single gnarled glyph, into the pool, just wide enough to stick between the stones.
The glow of the single tongue of flame cast a harsh sallowness upon the face of the Amalguard captain who emerged from the shadows before him, flanked by four armed guards. Far too many to outrun, of course, even for one who knew the sewers and catacombs well.
The rank upon their breasts was unfamiliar to Lorasin, which further complicated any thought of escape.
He had assumed that they would find him, one of these days. Every criminal and mage in the city had spoken of friends swept up in the night in the siege’s wake. The war had only ended for the innocent, it seemed, and Draxos had quickly learned that this was the only way a war — such as the one that had so recently laid siege to the city — ended.
Perhaps that was true of any war, but this was the one he had known.
When the Amalguard placed the chains upon him in the light of dawn, he went quietly. At his back, the wax of the candle mingled with his blood and, when the wick had run down, smothered the flame. If anything happened in that instant, it went unseen and unnoticed.
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