Chronicles of the Graceful Knight

Chapter Twelve: Secret Societies

Having little to do with book research, Kadan, Lady Koralia, and Paxton decide to talk to some of the people who would have interacted with Novitiate Darryl Fane in his daily life while Enhenduanna looked for any information she could find on Doramos, the World Shaper Heresy, or the phrase “I am He Who Builds Bridges” in the Eskatonic libraries. With the assistance of Philosophus Belesis, they get a list of people who might have some information.

They first go to speak with a young woman of low birth named Alice Jall, who was essentially purchased from her family by the Eskatonic Order when she displayed a natural talent for Theurgy. According to Father Belesis, she studied with Novitiate Fane in his Empyrean Theory course.

Novitiate Jall is afraid that the group has come to punish her for some imagined slight, but is easily assuaged. At first, she denies all knowledge of the very existence of Novitiate Fane, but after some cajoling and borderline intimidation, she finally admits to having known Darryl Fane. She has no idea what happened to him, but she was confronted by an unseen man with an unfamiliar voice one day a few weeks ago during confession. She has only received her instructions from the mystery man once, but they were quite clear: pretend that Darryl Fane never existed, forget all knowledge of him. She was told that if she disobeyed, then her family would be reported to the Inquisition as heretics, and she herself would be excommunicated. She fears daily for her life now, and doesn’t know why. She thinks that another Novitiate, named Xander Azoth, might know more. He was Novitiate Fane’s best friend. Lady Koralia notices a particular look in her eyes when she mentioned Novitiate Azoth, a look she knows all too well. The girl is in love with Novitiate Azoth.

Meanwhile, in the library, Enhenduanna and Doctor Wulfric have run into a road block. Every book regarding Doramos, as well as every book that Novitate Fane had used in his research, and every book referencing the geomancy of Pentateuch has been checked out. A brief talk to the Novitiate working the library desk reveals that all of those books were checked out about a month ago by Illuminatus Ning Zhao, the Illuminatus in charge of the Cathedral’s libraries and reliquaries.

Reassembled, the group decides to speak with Provost Auri Torenson. Lady Koralia recognizes her family name as that of a Minor House, though one with which she has had only limited dealings. According to Father Belesis, Provost Torenson was Darryl Fane’s Empyrean Theory instructor. Though she is only in her twenties, Provost Torenson has a haunted look in her eyes, and carries herself like a woman much older. She is reluctant to speak with the group at first, but eventually opens up. She remembers Novitiate Fane; he was an excellent student. After he disappeared, she was confronted while giving confession by a man whose voice she did not recognize. He told her that her and her entire family would be turned over to the Inquisition as Antinomists if she ever spoke of Fane again.

Having made precious little progress in unravelling the plot before them, the group goes to their quarters for the night. Paxton and Lady Koralia argue about how to proceed with Novitiate Azoth, with Paxton losing his temper and yelling harshly at her when she disagrees with his methods. Lady Koralia is fuming, and Kadan tenses noticeably, clearly just waiting for Lady Koralia to give the order to attack him. Doctor Wulfric is flabbergasted that Paxton would dare to raise his voice at a Noble, and Enhenduanna just wants them to stop arguing.

The following morning, they find Novitiate Azoth. He is an attractive, muscular young man with fiery red hair and a noble bearing. What skin he has visible bears a number of striking tattoos. He is less receptive to their attention than Novitiate Jall was, though Enhenduanna and Lady Koralia can both tell that he is hiding something. They do finally get him to admit to having known Novitiate Fane, but he insists that he doesn’t know what happened to him. He does admit that Fane left him a letter, but he refuses adamantly to tell them what it contained, insisting that it is private. Later that evening, Kadan and Paxton tail him back to his cell, intent on searching it the following day.

The next morning, while the Novitiates are assembled for breakfast and prayer, they search Novitiate Azoth’s cell. They find the letter he claimed Darryl Fane left for him, and it is indeed personal. Novitiate Fane and Novitiate Azoth were having an affair. While romantic entanglements are not forbidden to the Priesthood, they are strictly forbidden for Novitiates. They confirm this information with Kadan’s psychic abilities, as well as get a sense that Novitiate Azoth is wearing a pendant with that same symbol their found near Novitiate Fane’s corpse. It seems as though Xander Azoth is a member of the World Shaper heresy.

Confronting Azoth once again with their new information is much more fruitful. First and foremost, he admits to having changed his name when he joined the Church. He rightful name is Xander Decados. He changed his name to avoid scandal, both for himself and for the Eskatonic Order. In a private room, assured that no one would be around to hear him, he admits to his affair with Novitiate Fane. He says that they were deeply in love. He speaks of being recruited to the World Shapers by Illuminatus Ning Zhao himself, and asked to spy on his lover when he started researching Doramos and the catacombs under Pentateuch. He claims that he has no idea what actually happened to Darryl Fane after he left on his expedition, though the letter says that Fane was convinced that the World Shapers were going to have him killed. When the group breaks the news to him that Darryl Fane is indeed dead, Novitiate Azoth loses himself in emotion. It is evident to all that the emotional display is legitimate.

After comforting Novitiate Azoth, the group heads to their quarters to rest and plan their next move. As they are en route, they are approached by an elderly Asian man, still graceful despite his obvious age. Enhenduanna immediately recognizes him as Illuminatus Ning Zhao. He tells the group that they should cease their interference in Church affairs, and “politely advises” them to leave before walking away.

With little more to go on an a quite obvious threat to their lives, the group begins packing. They briefly discuss trying to take Alice Jall, Xander Azoth, or Auri Torenson with them when they leave, but realize quickly that there is no logical way they can smuggle anyone off world on such short notice. As soon as they are able to get a shuttle to the docking rigs in orbit around Pentateuch, they head to Byzantium Secundus, where they have ample allies, to plot their next move in this dangerous game of cat and mouse in which they have found themselves. They take Father Belesis with them, assuring him that they are not running away: they just want Illuminatus Zhao and the World Shapers to think that they have.


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