Unknown

Being an Unknown is tough. It's a hard life, even if it wouldn't seem that way. There are strict rules to follow, unimaginable consequences for the slightest violations once you've become a full member and the constant travelling isn't nice either. And then there's that little fact that no one outside the Brotherhood can ever be allowed to remember meeting you.

Sølv-vinder af konkurrencen "Fantasy".

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3. The Inverted Citadel

It was early night when we arrived at the Citadel. I’d known that we were close and pressed on for longer than I normally would, in hopes of reaching it today. We did, but only barely. If it had been any longer, we would’ve been forced to stop, as the daylight was quickly disappearing, but finally I was home.

I dismounted as soon as we entered the clearing where the Citadel stood and threw Asha the reigns to my horse with a nod towards the stables. Her expression was amusing. I knew already that the citadel didn’t look much from the outside, but it was always funny to watch someone take it in for the first time.

In the middle of the clearing stood a little two-storey house with an adjourning stable. I made my way to it as Asha took the horses to the stable. While she clearly wasn’t pleased with what she was seeing, she’d learned a couple of weeks ago to obey my orders after I’d made good on my promise to knock her out and sling her over a horse if she made any trouble.

I knocked three times on the door before entering. At the expectant look of the guard I pulled up my sleeve to show the tattoo of the mark of the Order. She nodded before pulling up her sleeve to show her own. It was a caution installed after a group of people had killed and impersonated the guards at a Gathering and locked the entire Brotherhood within the Citadel. Only the usual late arrival of Balian the tardy had saved the Brotherhood.  He’d slain the impersonators and freed the Brotherhood. For that he got the title of Balian the liberator and would have gotten a seat on the Elder Council if he hadn’t arrived three hours late for his induction.

“Hile Brother,” She said. “Welcome home.”

“Thank you Brother. It is good to be home.”

****

I waited for Asha to join me before descending to the Citadel proper. She looked rather grumpy at the thought of going into the basement of a small house when she’d been promised a veritable castle. I smiled at that. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a new apprentice thinking that. Heck, I’d probably thought it myself back then.

The illusion didn’t last long though. Asha wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but she wasn’t stupid either. She soon realized exactly why we called it the Inverted Citadel and when she did, her jaw dropped to the floor. We’d only reached the first level of the Citadel by then, but it was enough to show that this was way more than just any old basement. We’d entered the Inverted Citadel. The Citadel Under Ground as the builders had once called it.

 “Welcome,” I said. “To the home of the Unknown. The Inverted Citadel.”

****

I dropped her off at the Apprentice Wing with a junior Master, thankful to have someone else be responsible for her. She’d gotten on my nerves much more than any other young talent I’d brought to the Citadel.

I must have been far away in my thoughts, for suddenly a voice behind me said:

“Cutting it close this year, aren’t we?”

I turned around slowly while replying. “Perhaps. And as always you’re here with plenty of time and no apprentice in tow.”

We looked each other in the eyes for a while before embracing each other.

“It’s good to see you Luc,” I said.

“You too Chris,” he replied.

We let go of each other after a while and I took a step back. Strictly speaking, the Unknowns aren’t supposed to form familiar bonds, even with other Unknowns. It’s one of the looser rules in the regulative, but still not something you’ll want to flaunt in the Citadel.

“Any news of the west I ought to know?” I asked.

He shrugged before replying. “Not really. The west has been surprisingly docile the past year, with little to no problems. They still have a problem with robbers in the woods, but that’s not our problem.”

He paused for a second, as if considering whether to tell me the next bit of information, but finally decided to go ahead.

“There is one little thing I think you should know…” He said. “A little bird told me that Elder Brother Uriel is retiring.”

I must have looked shocked, a very unusual thing for an Unknown, for he looked curious.

“How reliable is this little bird?” I asked.

“As reliable as such things get.”

Damn it all, I mentally cursed. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. Elder Brother Uriel was the Master of Ranging and my direct superior. A new leader would mean an adjustment period which was always perilous, but the news I had would only make it worse.

“Who stands to replace him?”

“Your old apprentice, Brother Malcolm.” 

I cursed out loud this time. 

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