I was completing my early rounds yesterday morning as was customary. There is much preparation to be done before the members of the court awaken. I was tasked with disposing the waste. I went outside and thought I saw somebody, so I went to investigate. I know it was improper of me, but curiosity has always gotten the best of me. I suppose I should have known it would bring me to trouble eventimes. So I had already disposed of the trash as I had to, and I went around the corner where I had thought I had seen the figure and saw nothing. I thought it was just my eyes playing tricks on me when I walked a little ways down the alley and saw something for real this time. There was something unusually dark on the ground, and I figured it was not water because of the cold. Or perhaps it was freshly spilled, I don’t know. Whatever my reasoning was, I went to look and saw…him. You know. And I screamed. What else was I to do? He was lying there and…I never thought I would find…I had no idea what to do. I ran back screaming for help, and that’s when one of the guards rushed up to me. But I was too terrified to form words. You don’t believe me, do you? You think I was…. I would never. Never. And now multiple servants were swarming me and I had to get them to follow so they could see. But when I got there another guard had already found him. And they didn’t believe me until I was searched and Solkha—you know Solkha, he was in charge—told them I had been with him. And I had been asleep before then and could not have left. Somehow they didn’t fully believe me. And here I am, still not believed, and now people think I’m a killer. Like I would ever have any reason. I have a job and lodgings. Why would I risk all that? He is an advisor. I don’t know of the advisors. I mean, I know of some of them, but my work is not about them. I am low level, you see. Only been here five years. Low level and needing to keep my job. So no, I did not notice anything before that, have no idea how others thought of him, anything. I am a maid, after all. Well. I know you won’t believe me, but that is all I have to say.
Editors’ Note: Our reasoning for including this entry and its successors is twofold. First, it provides a glimpse into the current situation and culture of Tokavsk and its inner court. The diary entry of the chief advisor is of the utmost value to this anthology. We have confirmed its legitimacy through careful study, though were it a forgery it would still warrant a place here. The murder of advisor Jalic Seshet sent the court into a state of chaos that we are attempting to sort through. Thus, the following pieces form a reconstruction of the ensuing events that took place over several weeks. They are not in chronological order but are rather arranged in such a way that they tell a cohesive narrative. When originally compiling this, we were only to include the report of the guards because it was all we had, but the wealth of information we later overturned lead to the need for significant revision.
Seshet is no more. I was aroused by this news, and now that I have time to think I am penning it ere it slips from my memory. I still have not processed the fact that he is dead. Though it was hours ago, I hear the frantic words of Pellin over and over as though for the first time inside my mind. The truth of it sinks into me, and then I blink and the initial shock fades again. Jalic Seshet, dead. The flinch, the watering of the eyes, then the strange indifference that is the substitute for grief.
The meeting with the King was sullen. With one less robe and voice among us, our positions felt strained and empty. We could not close the circle around the throne without noticing the greater distance. The room was too silent, but no words were sufficient to penetrate it. Even the King was at a loss. We still had appointments to prepare for and bills to consider, but none of that could be done when one of our number was now dead. A heaviness settled about us, and all and all we fulfilled none of our tasks.
The body of a man in matted red robes was found just outside the ramparts of the Royal Palace early in the morning. Little could be discerned of his features for how badly they were disfigured. The man, in addition to having been stabbed, looked as though he had put up a fight.
There were few identifying features beyond the robe, which marked his as an advisor to the King. He was well in his years, and he seemed to…[Editors’ note: here, the writing is smudged beyond readability.], but little else could be discerned. He carried no personal items saved for a single key.
I have set to asking the guards who were on watch what they saw. The guards who were on rotation at the time and could feasibly have witnessed the act were Roskid Alyanin, Ygnid Pulnin, Argsat Fralyatsin, Vengor Chivortin, Palor Palgordin, Ista Khrenveyen, Fereydor Utkaran, and Dzeyshet Tos. Of the eight guards, only two, Chivortin and Khrenveyen, reported unusual instances occurring during their shifts. The testimonies of all eight are recorded below.
Alyanin: My shift was cold, but I saw nothing that drew my gaze. It was an odd, silent night. I don’t favor night shifts. I do them, but they unsettle me.
Pulnin: I was on rotation with Roskid. We never saw anything and spent most of the time shivering and trying to keep warm. Say, why is it so important we answer this question? Of course I am not suggesting insubordination. I was asking cause I want to do my job.
Fralyatsin: See anything? No, not even on this night. It was clear, but I didn’t see anything of note. It was colder than expected, but no, Vengor and I, we made conversation of our lives and things. Vengor isn’t the conversationalist, but I could not think of any other way to pass the time that was permitted. He is too serious for me.
Chivortin: Did I see anything unusual? Well, actually, now that you say something, my companion left his post for what felt like almost an hour partway through. I don’t think we were at the halfway point yet. I don’t know his name, but I think I could pick him out if you showed me the men. He liked talking, he did. Loved talking. I don’t know why he suddenly went off like that.
Palgordin: I didn’t see it, but my part did. Said he saw something moving, but I told him, no, that wasn’t it. Musta been how tired he was. Always nervous on these shifts. He gets nervous, I see nothing. It was nothing. Just him being him.
Khrenveyen: I saw someone moving across the grounds at one point, but when I pointed it to Pal, he said he saw nothing. I don’t know why I decided to do it then, but I looked up and saw that the moon was three quarters of the way to dawn. I like to keep track of the moon.
Utkaran: Oh, Dzeyshet and I had the dullest shift on the southwest side. Nothing happening for hours and hours, and boredom so deep we could not make conversation. When I was relieved of my shift, the first thing I did was return to my barracks and sleep. I was so bored and dull I could not think of any way to interest myself. I have a reputation for knowing the serving women, but I did nothing of the sort. I was too bored to even consider such.
Tos: It was an ordinary shift. Nothing happening, no unusual sounds, everything going as it should. The kind of shift where you start to stare at everything and your eyes and ears grow kind of dull from staring at the same thing for so long. I didn’t know anything happened till you summoned me.
There is something to be said about the stars. When the night is full and the clouds hidden, I take it upon myself to venture into the night and study them alone. Their empty vastness compels me more than any meeting, problem, or intrigue; they are, from my vantage, infinite.
I revel in my smallness. It reminds me that the matters to which I bestow great importance shall not linger long. Most of what I do is too insignificant to be remembered by history. I take comfort in that, for it makes my troubles seem less daunting, my fears less prominent. I am but one figure amidst the million forms of life that occupy this space. My smile, my laugh, my body, they will not be remembered. Memories of my existence will fade within a lifetime after I am gone. It is a sobering thought, yet I find it peaceful.
Tonight was the night that the Archer passed the realm to the King1. This is the time in which royal power is at its strength, when King Stergye is most likely to gain counsel for the stars. I am looking at the stars for him. Even if they do not give me counsel, the presence of them allows me to think through all that troubled me during the day. The Roshevian ambassador, the harshness of my Lord, the worries of the King. The strange rumors I have heard about the ambassador who left rather abruptly seem distant when I am surrounded by cold, clean air.
I have lived a good life. Fifty-six years of existence, thirty of them serving the King, have led me to accept my insignificance. King Stergye will be remembered for some time, and I will not. Eventually, memories of Stergye and Tokavsk will fade from the consciousness of our yet-distant descendants. And to me, there is nothing but peace.
- Denoting constellations.
Editors’ Note: We have compiled multiple accounts of one Lord Eskyil, chief advisor to the King of Tokavsk, into one document. We paid special attention to similarities between multiple docutments, though we find it is the oddities that linger in our minds the most.
Lord Eskyil is a tallish man with a slim build and short dark brown hair graying at the edges. He would have a rather plain face were it not for the prominence of his nose, which resembles a beak and draws attention from the pale, roving eyes. His skin is pale and loose upon the cheeks, and his face is shaven to indicate his status. His gnarled hands are often clasped behind his back. Lord Eskyil is easily distinguished by his robe, which is a dull blue compared to the other advisors’ robes of red.
A distant individual, Lord Eskyil keeps the personal matters of his life private. As such, little is known about his marital status. Though the consensus is that he and his wife are still together, some speculate they are unlinked, meaning they live completely separate lives. He is generally regarded to be cold and even harsh, but his brutal logic is what makes him effective. He never softens his words and is considered to be ambitious by those nearest to him. Some ascribe to him the trait of brutal honesty, while others say he is adept at withholding information to get someone to do his bidding. He is not easily fooled or prone to anger, though he is not what one could call calm. Rather, he seems to exist in a state of perpetual negativity, carrying with him a slight furrow in his brow no matter the hour. It is perhaps for this reason that he has no familiar colleagues. However, by many accounts he seems satisfied by being alone and is in fact repelled by human interaction.
As for whether there is reason to believe he stands against the King, the accounts are divided. Three say he is fiercely loyal, three a man merely doing his job, two a conniving liar. The rest do not address this question at all. With consideration for recent events in Tokavsk, the verdict remains inconclusive.
After Breakfast—Must find Kazhen and discuss matters of Markoren with him. (Is Markoren intentionally evading me, or is he forgetting? Should I discuss Markoren with him over breakfast? But what if Markoren is within hearing distance?)
9 o’clock—Complete morning duties.
11 o’clock—Daily walk in the garden.
Luncheon with Ambassador today. Must remember to remain silent and not fidget this time. Kiryan and one of the Tokavskans have started looking at me strangely. If I act normal and remember Tomon is my priority, I will not make myself the fool again. (Am I the fool? Markoren will say something to me if he sees me writing this. He thinks I cannot keep track of things because I do not have brains, but he is not the one who can write. Oh, to have been the first son in my family.) And I will ensure Tomon is well taken care of and his needs are met. The Tokavskan servants insist I not help, but I worry that by not attending to Tomon personally during luncheon I am not being an adequate attendant. (I never would have met Tomon if my father had left me a decent sum in his will. I will do what I must to please Tomon because I rely on him to stay afloat. I should have respected our family servant more when I was younger. She did far more for us than I in my youth imagined.)
After Luncheon—I am to accompany Tomon to his meetings. I must remember Tokavskan procedure and stay still. I will not fidget excessively this time. Kazhen understands me and says I do my job well, and he says being in a new land requires some getting used to. (He and I became attendants at the same time, but I know Tomon favors him.) I wish I could remember all the procedures as easily as he, but I am so absentminded I must write down this schedule.
Tidy My Quarters. I must do this today. I will do it today because I will not have time tomorrow. My section is so messy that Kiryan and even Kazhen are annoyed with me. There is no Tokavskan procedure that dictates how you keep your things. The servants expect us to tidy our own spaces. One of them said something about the state of my quarters the other day, but I do not understand enough Zheren to know what it was.
Be Nicer to Markoren. After all, maybe he despises me because of how I am.