The relief on his weary expression was palpable. Never before in his long years had the Templar felt so relieved to cast his eyes on the hard wooden door of his chambers. The long years of service to The Light had earned Everard the reward of his own room to rest in and right now he was thankful for it. He’d only returned to the Holy Island that morning and had to deal with over-the-top gratitude from the High Priest when he’d handed over a new reliquary, which had exhausted him beyond all measure.
Everard pushed the door open and it creaked in protest. How long had it been since he’d been here? Several months at the least. When he pressed into the room it smelt stale and fusty, but the window was open allowing fresh air into the bed-chambers and as he ran his gloved hand over the mantlepiece his finger came away clean. Clearly, his return had been noticed and one of the lower orderlies of The Light had given his room a quick dusting.
He undid the leather strap of his belt, pulling his long sword from his waist and hanging it on the weapons wrack next to the door. Over his head, he pulled the tunic that normally rested atop his armour; which had been doffed with the aid of his squire, Pierre, earlier in lieu of simple supplicants robes. He carefully folded the cloth and placed it on an ottoman at the bottom of his bed. A bed that looked soft, comfortable and inviting despite its simplicity. He sat down on the edge of the bed and eased his aching bones carefully under the covers.
He lay back looking up at the ceiling, contemplating his work. It was tiring chasing relics all across Parrvolis, but his work was vital for the church. He’d given thought to retire several times over the past couple of years as he wasn’t getting any younger. Nearing his sixties, he was feeling all the trials that his physically active profession required, but what was the alternative? Retirement? Joining the Priesthood? The ideas made him laugh and he rolled over, pulling his pillow around his head as the need for sleep overcame him.
The Templar woke with a shuddering start. A vibrant shaft of light speared through the open window and a bird was loudly trilling a song at him on the windowsill. He’d been dreaming. A vision in his resting hour’s hand led him deep into the Taikos region where the snow met the pines. His hazel eyes narrowed as he tried to capture the vistas of his sleeping mind before they faded beyond recognition.
Swiftly, he took himself to the desk and scrambled around for a piece of parchment and charcoal. Feverishly he etched out the buildings that had come to him in his sleep, a drawing growing as he scuffed the coal across the paper. His eyes narrowed, as he looked at the sketch. Something was missing but he couldn’t find what that was. He huffed in frustration as he stared at the artwork he’d just drawn. Visions were tricky things, they never spoke plainly, never gave the full picture, requiring faith to fill in the blanks.
From the etched landscape, it was easy to see that whatever relic he’d been sent a vision about – so much for retirement – was in the Northern reaches of the Taikos valley. A place he’d rarely had cause to visit, until now. His eyes squinted at the picture and he turned it on its side, hoping for a better view. He put the parchment down in frustration.
A knock sounded at the door before it opened inward. A young woman entered his room with a tray of bread and cheese, with a glass of water on the side. Everard smiled as she put the food down for him. She startled when she noticed him awake and hovering over his desk.
“I wasn’t expecting you to be here,” she apologised making to hurry back out of the door.
“Wait,” the older gentleman spoke softly. “Might I borrow you?” He asked cordially.
She nodded, uncertain about being in a man’s chambers alone.
But, he passed her the drawing he had been working on. She took the parchment from him hesitantly and looked at it. She then looked at him with a blank expression on her face.
“You don’t recognise it?”
She shook her head passing the paper back to him.
He huffed as he took it. Giving it another look.
“But, it’s Taikos, right?” She asked nervously.
“Dernard, one of the Kitchen boys is from there. He might be able to help?” She offered, bringing with her words a small instalment of hope.
“Thank you,” Everard quickly stood, pulling on the tabard of his office over his head and making his way hurriedly through the door, leaving his weapon behind and the young woman bewildered. On his way down the corridor to find the young man, Dernard, he passed his squire. “Follow me, Pierre,” he ushered the young lad with him, leading him deeper into the vast halls of the Cathedral Monastery.
The Kitchens were a hive of activity and Everard boldly walked amongst the staff. He called out the young man’s name a couple of times and a scruffy, waif of a boy looked up from washing his pots and waved his hand to the older templar. “Here,” he stated in an accent thick from the northern counties.
“You’re from Taikos, if I understand correctly?” Everard asked him with a pressing sense of urgency.
“That’s right, boss,” Dernard replied, his accent unmistakable.
Everard held out the charcoal sketch to him and repeated his line of questioning.
“Yeah, sort of,” Dernard answered, with a slight frown on his face. He wiped his wet hands on his apron and took the piece of paper from him. His damp fingers left a wet mark on the thin paper. He swished it a couple of times to get it straight. He then ran his thumb across the etching, and Everard went to voice his alarm at the destruction of his artwork.
“But they ain’t buildings no more,” Dernard explained, showing the smeared sketch to Everard. “They’re ruins. All that stuff up in the north is.”
Everard alarm turned to a broad grin and he reached out and gripped the young man on the shoulder in a manner of thanking him “You’re doing The Lights work, thank you.” He affirmed.
A loud shout across the kitchen broke their conversation in two; “He’s doing no work, thanks to you Templar, let him get back to those pans and get out of my kitchen!”
Everard, nodded to the young man who hurried back to his duties and left the kitchen, looking at the grubby parchment. He made steps back to his chambers and looked to his Squire. “Well, Pierre, it looks like we have another errand in service of The Light.” His smile was a mere smirk on his face, whatever adventure awaited them he was assured would be holy in nature due to the manner in which he’d received his vision; a dream, revealing a secluded location in the depths of Northern Taikos. A trinket lost to the annuls of time to be reclaimed from its resting place and who was better to retrieve it than he? Ser Everard, Reliquary Venator of The Lights Holy Order.