Randidly’s attention on the sky was torn as he received a message from Trentyon.
Wow. Wow. Wow. Come to the scroll room.
With a small smile, Randidly shook his head. Trentyon had been… conspicuously difficult to talk to. Randidly had initially hoped his access to the scrolls of the Hall of Stances would be fruitful for learning more about the history of the Spearman, but it soon became clear that his interest lay in areas that were at best, historically adjacent.
Basically, Trentyon was quickly caught up in the minutia of anything. Apparently, the scrolls present in the Hall of Stances predated anything Trentyon had seen before, and Randidly had asked after him a few days prior only to find that he was skimming through conjectures on pre-Spearman religions.
Randidly was somewhat heartened that there was information available from prior to the Spearman but was rather annoyed at the form that Trentyon pursued it. Honestly, the shame and self-hatred that Trentyon had experienced as a literary-focused person in a spear world were exploding into a gluttonous attitude towards the scrolls available. Not that Randidly could really blame him. For better or worse, Randidly had encouraged him in a way that Trentyon had never experienced before. But a lifetime of refusing to meet other’s expectations wasn’t so easily shaken off.
But the fact that Trentyon had reached out now was a good sign because the few times he had done it so far were due to concrete information about the Spearman. Although Randidly had wanted to finally head down into the Hall of Stances proper, he wouldn’t mind the diversion if it helped him find out more information. Whistling, he walked down into the deep basement where the scrolls were kept.
Whereas Trentyon’s original home had a deep pit with haphazardly piled scrolls, these scrolls were in tall shelves that reminded Randidly of wine racks. After descended down a steeply slanting staircase, a high ceilinged cavern held the history that the Hall of Stances had collected.
As Randidly approached the corner that Trentyon had appropriated for his ‘research’ his eyebrow twitched. There were several tall scroll piles next to a giggling Trentyon, making Randidly wondered whether the poor treatment of the scrolls wasn’t a function of Tellus, as he initially thought.
Perhaps Trentyon was just a messy person…
“Good, good, good!” Trentyon said when he spotted Randidly approaching. “Ah, I have finally made the definite discovery you were waiting for! To think you wished for me to focus on fruitless endeavors… it was actually during my perusal of the effect of the Spearman on the study of ethics that I stumbled across this gem.”
Trentyon proffered a scroll. Proudly displayed at the top was “On Trust, by Edric Zolan”.
“And this is relevant because…” Randidly drawled.
But Trentyon’s good cheer only became brighter as he smiled in response. “At first, I believed it was truly just a commentary on trust. But then I started to realize it was a regime critique of the Spearman’s government using strange examples. But the more I read into it…”
In spurts of excited talking, Trentyon began to explain the contents of the scroll, unrolling it to indicate each portion as he reached it. And as he did so, Randidly’s forehead creased.
In Zolan’s story, there were 6 ‘Avatars’ who lived in accord. Amongst them, there were two that were devils and four angels. Originally, there were over 20 Avatars, but a great war rocked them, pitting the angels against the devils. In the wake of this, the remaining few decided to let the war lapse. Due to the nature of Avatars, growth would stagnate without the war, but their people’s would be safe.
During that time of peace, one of the angels and devils became involved and fell in love. This, Zolan opined, was the ultimate mistake, for no rational decisions could occur while the mind was clouded.
The peace continued until the world was ‘hollowed out by slow consumption without present sources.’ In that emptiness, one of the two lovers died. Such was the love that the surviving Avatar had that they grieved for one hundred years. Afterward, their heart was broken by seeing the suffering of the people of the deceased people.
In their name, that Avatar once more fanned the flames of war. The Avatar wielded a long rod of black iron and wore a cloak of darkness. Before this Avatar, none could stand, and in their grief, they were able to finally unite the world under one banner, with one name.
But a cheaply bought peace was easily shattered. Two of the angels opposed the new order, while one supported it. One devil chose to remain neutral, content to remain in their self-created paradise.
The Avatar won that war and named himself with his bloody tool. They would call him the Spearman.
“Stop,” Randidly said, raising his hand. “Is this…?”
“It isn’t named as such, but it seems very likely this is a biography of the Spearman, written by a contemporary,” Trentyon said with glittering eyes. “I’m unsure of what angels and devils meant, but… perhaps it reflects their style of leadership?”
Randidly said nothing, but inwardly his gears were turning. Avatars could be a general term to describe Champions and Nemesai, or even terminology used in the earlier cohorts. It also might be a clue about how to activate the Calamities, because it seemed like they had allowed the world to stall out there somewhere.
It seemed that a great war amongst the Champions and Nemesai occurred, which might have been one cause. There was also the mention of uniting the world…
“Is there more?” Randidly looked up and asked. Excitedly, Trentyon continued to explain the text of On Trust. But very quickly, Randidly was shaking his head. After naming the focus of the treatise as the Spearman, the text quickly devolved into meaningless dribble. Exactly the sort of stuff that would be useless to Randidly’s investigation, and that Trentyon ate up.
But what Randidly had learned was more than enough to give him several leads. And it seemed to indicate something extremely strange: the Spearman was either a Nemesis or a Champion. Perhaps, that was the reason that t problems happened during the final parts of the Second Calamity? Was it impossible for one of them to be the source of the image that would defeat the Second Calamity?
But that didn’t make sense either. The image was victorious against the Wights: but it seemed that at the last minute, the Spearman had severed the image from himself. The images were left to lay fallow, quickly stiffening. Why?
After talking to Trentyon a little longer about other scrolls that he insisted were relevant, Randidly left the deep portion of the Hall of Stances and walked towards the actual core of the building, the spiraling ramp of images.
But as he approached the entrance, a figure was leaning against the wall, almost as if waiting for him. Helen’s eyes flashed as she looked him up and down. The examination was extremely thorough and lasted almost a full minute. Finally, she shook her head sadly and said. “You aren’t afraid to see me. You also aren’t embarrassed, or angry. Which means you aren’t concerned with the fight. Will you make a bet with me?”
Randidly’s lips twisted. He was somewhat surprised by her words because it implied that she realized something about his plans. So Randidly stayed silent and tilted his head to the side in askance.
After a long breath, Helen said, “I bet I am stronger than you. In the future… in a year… no, probably only six months, you will be past the point where I could fight you. But right now, I can crush you. I will not let you dodge that by surrendering now.”
Randidly grimaced. He had truly been thinking about surrendering in his match against Helen. Truthfully, the reward for the tournament was only to view the images in the inner sanctum. That was likely useful, but it was nothing compared to figuring out how to protect Earth from the Calamity. It was even less important than identifying and address the current Second Calamity that was doing so much damage to Tellus.
At the moment he didn’t have many concrete ways to address those issues, but when Shal arrived, that would change. In addition, Randidly had heard that a procession from the North was arriving in Hastam. Some old faces would be making an appearance, and they would how the power and knowledge to help him. At some point, it seemed like the tournament would only get in the way.
“...so what’s the bet?” Randidly said softly.
“We fight it out in the match until one of us loses. And then the winner concedes.” Helen said. The only light in the hallway was torchlight, and it highlighted her tanned skin in the darkness. Her large brown eyes were fixed on his own emerald gaze. “If you aren’t even strong enough to defeat me, Randidly… do you really think it is your place to set aside this tournament and attempt to tackle bigger things?”
In spite of himself, Randidly chuckled.