The world of Vindictus is vast, filled with tales both great and small. Some are grounded in truth as solid as the rock beneath your feet, others are flights of fancy with no more substance than a rainbow. Vindictus Preludes invites you into the world of Vindictus, opening new perspectives on the ongoing saga. These are just stories – but then again, aren’t they all?
Melor squinted up into the clear sky and offered a prayer of thanks. He leaned back in his chair next to the tiny lake behind the castle, shifted his hands on his fishing pole and sighed. This was his idea of a perfect day. He felt truly blessed by the Goddess.
“You are Melor, chief bookkeeper.” The old man started at the strong voice behind him. As he stood and turned, Melor’s annoyance quickly turned to fear when he saw who the voice belonged to. He froze, then began sinking to one knee.
“My lord… “ Melor began.
Ingkells, the lord of Ortell Castle, waved his hand.
“No need for that,” he said. “I’ve come to talk to you about the matter you brought to my chamberlain.” The normally regal Ingkells was barely recognizable in the muslin doublet and trousers of a common worker. “If what you say is true, we must keep this as quiet as possible.”
“Of course, my lord,” the bookkeeper said. “I know you to be a man of honor and wisdom, just like your father and grandfather. I knew that you wouldn’t dismiss my report.”
“You served both loyally, did you not?” Ingkells asked.
“Indeed, my lord. After my loyalty to the Goddess, serving your family has been the greatest joy of my life. It was your grandfather who first made my family freeholders.”
“After you discovered an insurrection plot against him,” the lord finished.
“Yes, my lord,” Melor agreed. “There are only two things one can truly rely on in this world. One is the promise of the Goddess, and the other is that numbers never lie.”
It had started some time earlier, during the course of a normal battle inventory.
Melor still shrank from the smell of blood, sweat, dust and bile that accompanied a victorious army through the Ortel Castle gate. First came the hale, those who had survived with of the fewest wounds and bore only scars and future nightmares. Then came the wounded, lined up in neat rows where the Physicks would examine them and decide which of them were worth saving and which would be left to die. The dead came last, placed with minimal reverence outside the walls of Ortel. They would be either washed and returned to their families or unceremoniously dumped in the Martyrs’ Trench, the last stop for those warriors of the Goddess so badly damaged they could not be identified.
Melor was supervising the blacksmith’s young assistants as they stripped the weapons and armor off the corpses. One of them, no more than eleven by his look, looked queasy. Melor put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“First battle inventory?” he asked, not unsympathetically.
The boy nodded, unable to speak.
“I understand,” Melor said. “It can be difficult to see the warriors of the Goddess so. I comfort myself with the knowledge that they die for a greater cause than you or I can comprehend.”
The boy nodded and resumed prying the breastplate from the body of a man who’d had half his head caved in by a Fomor mace. At a glance, Melor could see that the helmet was a complete loss, but with a few hammer blows, the breastplate would eventually armor another of the Goddess’ warriors.
…Except that it wouldn’t. This particular breastplate showed the marks of a crude repair job. Melor was no blacksmith, but he would never have trusted his own life to this junk. He noted the tiny inventory number chiseled into it, then checked it against his records.
“This is impossible!” he muttered. Then he shook his head. He knew numbers never lied, but he would need a lot of evidence before he made an accusation of this magnitude.
“You realize what you’re saying, don’t you?” Ingkells said.
“Of course, my lord!” the bookkeeper said. “But numbers never lie. Someone in a high position is stockpiling equipment, arms, and armor, and substituting hastily repaired junk for our warriors in the field. The size and distribution pattern of the materiel clearly indicate a major rebellion is brewing. And by deliberately providing inferior equipment to our men, these conspirators are murdering faithful warriors of the Goddess. May She protect us, we may even be talking about treason!”
The lord of Ortell Castle nodded, but he didn’t look shocked or horrified.
“You do believe me, don’t you, my lord?” the old man asked.
“Oh, I believe you, Melor. That’s what makes me sad.” The lord took a step closer to the bookkeeper.
“I don’t understand, my lord.”
Ingkells moved blindingly fast, grasping the old man by his shirt and shoving him face first into the waters of the pond.
“You’re a good man, Melor, a man of faith” Ingkells said as the water began to fill the bookkeeper’s lungs and darkness swam at the edge of his vision. “So how can I explain to you that while numbers never lie, people do.”
The darkness was eclipsing everything now and the bookkeeper was sinking into the abyss. He barely heard the last words of his Lord.