By Chance Lunceford
Nobody was entirely certain – or if they were, they were certain in their silence on the matter – when or where the first poisoned-wine wagon event took place.
The poisoned branches in the blighted old-growth bureaucracy of Governance City had dropped neither fruit nor nut of substance – nothing new in any of that, of course – but the normally fruitful fungal undergrowth, that thrived digesting the steady supply of corpses and secrets that were the natural byproducts of the benighted forest, had little more to consume.
What was certain, however, was that the phenomenon was no longer something which was whispered of in the studies of polite and powerful gentlemen while shouted about in the commons by unkempt men with piercing blue eyes and little more than a bottle of wine and the rags on their backs to their names.
No, the poisoned-wine wagons had continued to appear with an alarming increase in frequency throughout the Shattered Kingdom. Even I, sanctioned by the chief of each and every splinter to conduct investigations on any subject using any and all of the substantial skills at my disposal, in my position as the Seeker Archon had found little in the way of threads to pull in my quest to unravel the mystery.
Little, but not nothing.
The broken image I summoned from the mind of the dying scholar had revealed pieces of a geometric pattern overlaid upon a map of the Shattered Kingdom. Before he died, and the image faded, I was able to burn most of the image into the surface of a sheet-crystal.
When I compared the pattern to the map of the kingdom on my desk – with each known occurrence of the poisoned-wine events marked out with small goblet shaped figurines moulded from the unreasonably heavy metal mined from the mountains of the Wildersplinter – the convergence points on the patterned map corresponded exactly with several of the known events which had already occurred.
In the time since first making this discovery, 3 of the 7 following events had corresponded with a location on the pattern. Watchers had been assigned to each of the remaining convergence points, and my hope was that there would be opportunity to put the wagon drivers to the question, and perhaps then I would be able to trace these events to their source.
In addition to the steps taken to place eyes and ears throughout the Shattered Kingdom and especially in and around the convergence points, I had enlisted the help of a very peculiar – quite likely mad, certainly often unintelligible, but utterly singular in his genius – man in the shape of the Royal Geometrist, Walltorn Indralsmith.
A mechanical rodent had, only moments before, delivered a small box at my feet before scurrying away in a flurry of jingling metallic absurdity. I stooped to retrieve the box, mildly amused yet again at the unfathomable tasks the Geometrist put his alien intelligence to work upon, and after returning to an upright posture, I inspected it.
His army of mechanical servants never delivered a simple box, it was always some sort of mechanism that revealed the contents of the containers which delivered his strange correspondences. After a puzzled moment, I noticed a slight depression in the surface of what was either the top or the bottom of the box.
In the depression, when I looked at it from a steep angle, could be seen an iridescent image in the shape of an oilseed. I reached into my meal pack, and removed the stoppered vial of oil within. I placed a small amount of oil on my finger and touched it to the depression.
The box began to grow very hot, very quickly, and I dropped it to the ground, cursing as I did. The box grew red hot as it suddenly and universally glowed into life as one box shaped ember.
The embers then died, fading into white ashes which blew away in the light breeze present in the evening air along the thoroughfare which I then – as I often did – took my nightly stroll.
I stooped yet again, cursing once more at the imposition of it all, to inspect what remained. Two exquisitely formed miniatures, perhaps half the size of my thumb, were laying upon the cobbles.
The one on the left was an eerily realistic rendition of a disembodied eye, with the stringy flesh attached behind the orb present as well. The one on the right was a very disturbing – unflattering in the way accurate imitations so often are – full-body miniature of me, accurate and detailed down to the level of wrinkled skin and wearing the very same habit which I then wore.
The Royal Geometrist wanted to see me.
(End Part 1, To Be Continued)