The lands approaching the Burning Library well-reflected its name; molten lava flows oozed and bubbled up from the ground in searing hot waves, shattered stone from the original library’s construction strewn across the countryside. I knew of the devastation Kyros’ Edict caused, I was the one who enacted his will and brought his magic down on this place, but I did not expect that even now, years later, the region would be so desolate, so inhospitable.

Seeing the terrain cracked open, belching acidic smoke into the air, put Kyros’ power in a whole new perspective for me – not only could he exert his will through agents across the continent, the ramifications of that will were neither subtle nor short-lived. Decisions once made could not be un-made.

The Scarlet Chorus had been busy, attempting to round up sages and former librarians, impaling them at the roadside as was their custom. Their ways were not my ways, nor those of my homeland, and I was not here to argue the manner in which they exercised the Overlord’s dictates.

“The Fatebinder!” I heard a guard yell over her shoulder back towards the camp. “Your bloodletting is legendary, my lord. The Censor would be most honored to receive you,” she said to me with a respectful nod. When this campaign began I didn’t expect my name or position to carry such brutal connotations; Tunon had other Archons for more blood-soaked work, I was here to adjudicate the law, nothing more.

Approaching the well-armoured Censor, she greeted me with a pleasant tone that didn’t quite ring true. Bowing with enforced formality, she lamented that she had been unable to acquire the Silent Archive herself, it having been locked away behind a truly impressive magical barrier that had cost many Chorusters their lives. A single tome containing within it the wisdom of whole arcane libraries, she had set several different teams into the library for its retrieval – with only one winning team allowed to live.

Again, it wasn’t my place to criticize her methods, though I earnestly considered it.

“Kyros’ Edict hasn’t run its course with this place,” she suggested almost conspiratorially. “I think because the Silent Archive still rests safely inside. Whomever can bring it out can fulfill the Overlord’s will and make this place at least a little habitable again.” A mischievous glint shone in her eyes. “If that is to be you, you’ll have to play by the same rules as everyone else.”

“Rules?” I asked, not liking the mental image of her sharpening knives with every word.

“Same as every other team – find the Silent Archive and return it here and you get to survive. If another team beats you, well, the Library is a very dangerous place.”

As much as I appreciated their zeal, I really detested the Scarlet Chorus’ games. Barik kept his thoughts to himself, but Sirin clearly did not appreciate the idea. Verse was indifferent, having grown up around these sorts of “entertainments.”

I sent Sirin back to the Mountain Spire, that she might send Eb along in her stead. What I needed was companions whose focus would be on the task at hand, not distracted by personal misgivings or judgments of how I followed my orders.

After Eb’s arrival, her magic undoubtedly going to prove necessary for the battles ahead, I agreed to the Censor’s terms and was allowed into the remains of the ruined library, there to further Tunon’s investigation into the Voices of Nerat.