While investigating the city of Halfgate, seeking our contact within the Scarlet Chorus, a familiar face turned my way in the crowd. “I thought you might be poking around here,” he chuckled without mirth. “No matter where you go, you sure churn up a wake, do you not?”
“Fatebinder Nunoval,” I answered, nodding. The Fatebinder of War was one of the fairest of all Tunon’s agents, though as befitted his name, his pronouncements were often heavy-handed in the extreme. He had few words when last I saw him in the Bastard City tribunal hall, but now he was eagerly eyeing myself and my companions. This did not bode well.
“I have been asked to look into you, Fatebinder,” he growled, voice dropping and any hint of friendship drying up. “Voices of Nerat’s Blood Chanters claim you have been hiding magic from them; magic which may be an affront to Kyros and the barring of forbidden knowledge.”
“It’s true,” a Scarlet Chorus member standing just behind him exclaimed. “He has roused ancient, long-slumbering magic through the Spires, found a way to unlock them! Whatever knowledge he has gained, he has not shared them with us! We are entitled to any weapon that will aid us in winning Kyros’ war, and demand that information be turned over at once!”
My eyes narrowed. Undoubtedly the Voices of Nerat had his hand in this, perhaps a handy way for the other Fatebinders to remove someone he saw as a growing problem to his rule of the Tiers. “My duty is to interpret and enact Kyros’ will. The Blood Chanters have no say in how I do so or what actions I take,” I replied flatly, staring down the wizard.
Fatebinder Nunoval adhered to a strict and nuance-less interpretation of Kyros’ laws. I knew that, to defend myself before him, I would have to argue the law, not my actions. The Blood Chanters may argue and dispute the latter, but none of them knew the former as I did. As I hoped he would, the Fatebinder of War nodded at my response and turned toward the Scarlet Chorus. “A Fatebinder is answerable only to Tunon and Kyros. Do you have any proof of wrongdoing, that would justify your summoning me here?”
The crimson-robed man visibly shrank. “I… no, Fatebinder. But it’s true, I swear by–”
Nunoval held up his hand, silencing the man. “Then I would deem the only guilty party here is you; guilty of wasting my time, and guilty of slandering a Fatebinder in good standing.” He studied the man, whose face was now flush with rage, fists clenched at his sides. “With no standing in which to bring charges, I declare this trial over.”
He turned to me, as grim-faced as he had been when levying charges just moments ago. “Fatebinder, as the wronged party, what do you recommend the court do with the Blood Chanter who has attempted to offend your name?”
Custom dictated, both in the Empire generally and with the Scarlet Chorus in particular, that the wizard suffer mortal punishment – burning most commonly, but staking was also a popular choice. I had no need to demonstrate or exert my superiority over the local army; to do so would to harm any future dealings I had with the Scarlet Chorus whose support, at least for the time being, I still required in order to fulfill my task.
“Leave the sorcerer be,” I suggested after a long moment, letting the foolish man wait long enough to realize that his fate was entirely at my discretion. “Their devotion to the Scarlet Chorus, while overzealous in this case, is commendable.”
At the Fatebinder of War’s solemn nod, signaling the official proceedings concluded, the Scarlet Chorus member turned and ran, thankful to have his life. “Feeling generous? You know, letting the guilty go unpunished merely sets a bad precedent.” He looked slightly disappointed, but a sly grin danced at the corner of his mouth. Though there was some joviality about him, I knew that Tunon would hear of my failure to issue punishment in this matter. Undoubtedly I would have to answer for my decisions, but in this instance I placed my existing orders ahead of a small interpersonal dispute.
I offered to buy Nunoval a drink, to talk about what I had seen in my time here, and to catch up with more news from my homeland to the North. Misery, the contact Voices of Nerat sent me here to entertain, could wait.