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BONUS Bonus: Demoni Vankil

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Höbin Luckyfeller’s Fieldguide

DEMONI VANKIL

(available in print or FREE through a WantdHero.com subscription)

 

 

As a fishis (Field Scribe Historian), you tend to collect a lot of …well, stuff. I collect more than most. That’s why I’m the best at what I do.

In my rented room one night I found myself staring at the towers of crates and packages—unevenly stacked and precariously reaching over my bed and small table. My eyes wandered over the field dates and priority numbers on each container—a system I developed to allow me to keep track of current work projects in order of priority. Filled with the knick-knacks of my adventures, each item held a story already written…or a story waiting to be discovered and told.

I absentmindedly ran my fingers over the surfaces of metal, wood and heavy plastic—lingering at the soft woven cloth of scroll pouches. Checking the numbers, my memories were working their way into the past.

For some reason, I was trying to remember when this collection started. Reflecting on the decades of research and discoveries of my life I located the medium-sized, faded blue ‘smuggle crate’ I acquired while at University. Scratches and dents adorned the surface of my very first piece of equipment.

I remembered one of my professors encouraging me to ‘Be creative, if necessary, to collect the data you may need someday.’ Chuckling to myself, ‘It’s called creative acquisition,’ they told us in training. ‘Often the story you are trying to uncover is not the story you will tell. Store away the dross until you can connect the facts and complete another story.’

‘Steal what you have to’, was what they meant.

My hand slid across the worn surface searching for the hidden latch. There’s a soft ‘click’ as the seal releases the false bottom inside the crate. Removing my old field journals, the letters from Sylvia and Alhannah’s first hunting knives, I lifted the separator out.

Perfectly nestled in the bottom was a rectangular wooden box. A puzzle box made of a glossy red wood—sifterwood or manzanita, I think, from the grains. The smuggle crate preserved it well all these years, the polished wood still looking like new. Except it wasn’t new. The box was already hundreds of years old when I found it.

I was working for King Robert III on my very first job outside Clockworks City. Morphiophelius had been insistent. Said the job needed a ‘professional touch’ but the priests had never worked with a Gnome before. From their wide-eyed looks…I’m not sure they’d even seen one until I showed up. The Church was determined to fill the holes of their history and prove their rights of succession and they wouldn’t let any other humans on the dig site.

The remains of an old kirk was being excavated not two days ride from Castle Andilain. A kirk is a building where a priest of the Brotherhood lived and served out the days of his vows. Administering to the poor and needy, caring for the widows, teaching the orphans…and when someone was at deaths door, the priest would administer last rights and prepare a proper burial. His ‘flock’ were those within a two day walk.

What made the Brotherhood unique, at least in my opinion, was their reverence for life. It was a firm belief among all the ancient priests that every living soul had a purpose, some purposes obvious in life and others unknown until death and should not be forgotten. It would be an affront to the Gods if a life was lived without any acknowledgement of its existence. The priests felt it was their solemn duty to write about those abandoned souls—people at deaths door without family or friends to care for them.

From a historical perspective, I can appreciate that. It was a beautiful belief.

Anyway, priests would take their life work, specifically their journals and store them in hollowed out foundation blocks of their kirk before they died. This was what the Church was looking for—records which would provide the name of the priest and his line of authority. All other records, such as the letters and testimonies about the ‘flock’—the very ones this dead priest sought to have remembered, were cast aside. Unimportant. Discarded. Rubbish.

That’s when I picked up the puzzle box. The priests couldn’t open it…and it rattled, so they assumed it was broken. Probably just a loose piece inside, preventing it from opening. Thus had it been discarded, left on the research table…in the rain.

So I put it somewhere for safekeeping.

Shaking it lightly, I could still hear the loose piece inside. Never did figure out how to open it. Adjusting the cybernetic implant in my left eye, I examined the box more thoroughly. The craftsmanship was extraordinary. Evolu make, would be my guess. It almost looked like the box was grown from a single plant, the mark of a true master’s hand. There were small symbols, almost invisible, hidden in the very knots of the wood, but not ones I could identify. These were new to me.

If I slide the carved shapes in the right combination, it should open. Well, nearly a week and more than a hundred attempts later…the lid slid open. The puzzle was solved.

…or so I thought.

Contained inside was a set of letters. Fourteen in all, neatly folded and stacked together tied with a simple blue ribbon. Setting the box aside, I untied the bow and lightly examined the letters with the end of a pencil, careful not to let the oils of my skin mar their surface. The two top letters were deeply creased, worn and lightly stained, while the other twelve were crisp, showing minimal wear. Actually, they looked as if they could have been written yesterday. Fascinating.

I would soon discover that the answers to the greatest mystery of my career had been in my possession for decades…

 

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