“Lord Abbot,” whispered the young messenger upon entering the library. He looked all around at the tomes and scrolls stacked high, upon tables and shelves, and strewn even on the floor. The messenger looked for the abbot among the records, but couldn’t find him. He called out slightly louder this time, but still there was no reply.
The messenger delved a few aisles further in, yet still the abbot went unseen. Feeling pressed for time, the impatient messenger was about ready to call more loudly, when a strong hand gripped his shoulder. It stifled the young man instantly, and he smiled when he saw the hand belonged to Lord Abbot Qadir.
Qadir was an old man, whose beard extended well past the sash of his robe, and thus it was tucked in to prevent it becoming snagged on anything. And while looking frail and incredibly ancient, he was actually quite spry and there was a gleam in his eye that was quite sprightly.
“My Lord Abbot, the priory is assembled. They are only waiting for you now.”
“They sent you to fetch me?”
The youth nodded in agreement.
“Very good. Good lad. Tell them I will be right along,” Qadir smiled, waiting for the boy to leave. Eventually, he did, giving a bow before shuffling out of the library.
Qadir quickly glided back to his work, hurrying to the alcove where the soldier was waiting.
The soldier rose when he saw a look of worry on Qadir’s face.
“Lord Abbot, what is the matter?”
“Nothing Landred, nothing. Please, sit,” said Qadir waving him back into his seat, and Landred obeyed.
The paladin had lived in the monastery since he was an infant. And Qadir had always thought of him as a son. Devoted, and intelligent. But he had seen little of the world. His only regret was that he would soon send his son out on his own. For the rest of his life.
“The priory is assembled. They are expecting me.”
“Do you think they know?”
“I suspect they do. If not, I will tell them.”
“What? No, you can’t tell them! They would have you executed!”
“That is a very real possibility,” Qadir replied casually. “In the meantime, since you have learned all the secrets the relics possesses, it’s time for you to leave.”
“My lord,” Landred protested, and stressed every one of his next words, “You will be killed.”
“I know,” Qadir chuckled, “but we all die someday.”
“Please, let me try to explain to the priory—”
“No Landred!” exclaimed Qadir, silencing the paladin. “…This I must do alone. Besides, your journey far exceeds mine in difficulty. And it cannot be accomplished if we are two dead men, now can it?”
Qadir strode over to Landred, and prompted him to his feet. Landred did so, and Qadir put his hands on the young man’s shoulders for reassurance. Qadir took a deep breath, and so too did Landred.
“As soon as I tell the priory, they will look for you. So be scarce. Do not use your real name. Take a horse to the port of Artum, and sail to Karkivol.”
“Yes my lord.”
“Be safe. Now go.”
Landred gave a final smile, sensing it may be the last time he ever saw the abbot again. Then he hurried, his robes flapping as he made away with haste.
Qadir wandered to the other side of the room and lifted the candle from its holder, careful not to move it too hastily. Then he lowered it to the rolls of parchment, and lit them on fire. For a moment, he watched as the flames overtook the scrolls like kindling, and then closed the door, trapping the smoke inside.
Immediately he left the library and went silent over the stone floor, to convene with the priory.
Two sentries closed and bolted the double doors behind him, and hoisted him off his feet by his underarms. They then sat him down in front of a slate table where a dozen other geriatrics were gathered, before returning to their post. Though they didn’t expect Qadir to run.
Everyone in the priory glared at Qadir, except for its youngest member, who looked away, ashamed. Abdullah had no doubt been pressured into revealing what he knew to the elders, but he betrayed Qadir nonetheless.
Balding Prior Hazan who was at the centre of the panel, glared at Qadir the most angrily. The most harshly with his sinister grey eyes, and after a moment he grumbled, “We’re glad you could finally join us this evening Lord Abbot. We were about to send out a search party.”
“I’m glad you didn’t waste your time.”
“Would you care to share with us, Qadir,” said Hazan informally, “what you have been studying these past few months?”
“The relics of Hayden.”
Murmurs came from the priory but Hazan quieted them, with a hand motion.
“Why? Hayden is dead, and her tools of destruction are long and forgotten.” Hazan inquired.
“I believe Abdullah has already told you everything you need to know.”
“Yes. But I was hoping you might tell us in your own words.”
Qadir crossed his arms, and shut his mouth, infuriating Hazan, making his face contort into frightening expressions.
“Where is Landred, Lord Abbot? The monks and his fellow paladins are having trouble locating him?”
Hazan gave him a moment to, but Qadir didn’t answer.
“It matters not. We will find him eventually, and we will punish any other accomplices you may have had.”
Once again, Hazan waited for Qadir to reply, and became increasingly aggravated every time the old man defied him.
“We must align ourselves, Qadir, with the Imperator Barutahn! Can you be so blind? The survival of our order depends on it!”
“Barutahn is a madman with a disposable army, and you are mad to follow him! I am the only one in this convent who is seeing things as they are! And I am the only one with the authority to make an entente with the devil.”
“Not any longer, Qadir. This panel acknowledges that you are now unfit to hold the position of Lord Abbot. Furthermore, a verdict was reached before your arrival to appoint me to the post temporarily until such a time that a proper vote can be conducted.”
Qadir smiled at Hazan, not at all surprised by how ambitious he had become, and that he would not hesitate to depose anyone who stood in his way.
Hazan said to the guards, “Take him away. And find Landred as soon as you’re finished.”
They lifted Qadir up by the arms once more, and dragged him to the exit, as Qadir called out for the last time, “It won’t last Hazan! Barutahn will summon Idris! And then it will be too late to stop him!”
The guards transported with ease, so he didn’t struggle. He was about to die, but Qadir was pleased with himself. He had done everything right by the goddess Kaðin, and his countrymen, and soon Landred would complete his mission, and all would be well in the world. And now he could smell the burning parchment clearly.