The Saga of the Inquisition

The alleys still belong to the rats, whose kingdom has always been hidden by darkness, as two inconspicuously dressed men step into the fountain courtyard of Azalea Ground, the oldest quarter of Troqulesia. They laboriously drag a lifeless body, wrapped in coarse burlap, across the centuries-old pavement. They act silently, avoiding the routes of the night watchmen, which they have studied well. Nothing in their appearance, clothing or demeanor reveals which lord they obeyed or on whose behalf they act. Only their heinous work, which they perform under the cover of the night veil, testifies to their disposition. But when the first rays of the sun turn the gables of the roofs bright red and the light, as it does every morning, gains dominion over the realm of shadows, they have long since disappeared.

Life is stirring behind the closed doors. Shortly thereafter, a shrill shriek resounds across the fountain courtyard, its echo reverberating, swelling, and dying away in the adjacent alleys. It is not long before a huge crowd of people pushes out of the houses onto the small square below the cathedral to gaze at the momentous deed that is to have an impact far beyond the city walls of Troqulesia. Stunned, they stand before what only the deepest darkness can evoke.

The great wheel of the fountain is adorned with a corpse. Arms and legs are spread in it like spokes. On his head he wears a crown and is clothed in blue velvet, a robe such as the elders of the alchemists' guild have always worn. His facial traits are strangely distorted, his jaws are dislocated, and blood runs from his mouth. The shield he wears around his neck looks just as grayish as his disfigured body. His blood has served as ink and his tongue as a writing tool, which has been lifelessly nailed to the piece of wood. In letters that have not yet dried, it reads, "The king of heresy must be silenced."

Quiet speculation and restrained conjecture mingle with silent accusations. Who can be responsible for such a heinous crime? In their hearts, people know the answer, but no one dares to say it aloud. As word of the "Dead Alchemist King" spreads through the city like an incurable plague, the Grand Inquisitor stands on his balcony high above the rooftops of Azalea Ground and watches his seed sprout and take root deep in the minds of the people. With a small gesture, a point of his finger, he summons his two nameless lackeys to give the order in a toneless voice, almost a whisper, "The hunt has begun!"