Death of a Nobleman: Tales of Onus

A tray of measuring tools clatters to the ground. A boney finger readjusts a pair of half-moon spectacles on the bridge of a long crooked nose. Scrivener Malkin pores over the transcription scroll in his hands, a long ream of parchment that snakes around his small chamber and terminates at the vox-receiver. It has been furiously producing vox reports for over an hour now, its transcription arms squealing under the sudden workload.  

He had read enough. His pallid cheeks had drained of what little colour they had left. He gathers as much as he can manage and bunching the bottom of his robe together in one hand, stuffs the transcription into the cavity with the other. Holding the bundle of robe and scroll close to his chest he barrels out into the dark stone corridor.  

He staggers his way through the Lithologist Guild undercroft. The thick parchment had been re-purposed from heavy duty field seismograph readouts, and he finds himself stumbling every few steps. The sound of his feet slapping against the smooth floor echoes down the hallway.  

“Master! Master!” He bursts into Lithologist Tamfrey’s quarters in a flurry of paper. Tamfrey barely looks up from her quillwork.

“What is it now, Malkin?” She responds in a throaty rasp. “I thought I told you to stop scrubbing the vox network for data, you know full well we don’t have the resources and if anyone finds out we’ve-”

“Lord Hojo is dead!” He exclaims breathlessly, cutting her off mid-chastisement. “There was a gas leak on board his train and-”

In a blink Tamfrey was within inches of Malkin’s face, thumbing through the readout for herself. Malkin is breathless at how fast his crippled master in a wheelchair can move.

“Tell me, scrivener,” she scrutinises the quivering scribe with her good eye, “this engine, millennia old, the pride and joy of the Mechanicus of Forlorn Hope, archeotech from the Golden Age, a vehicle that has never once stopped for refuelling or repairs since records began – you want me to believe it runs on gas?” The sounds of her bones creaking as she moved was painfully audible.

Malkin tries to suggest a half-baked theory in consolation but is cut short by the spittle of his master’s conjecture.

“No no no, this is not an accident,” she continues, her good eye glazing over, “This is a power play alright, but by whom? House Chosokabe? House Cutter? The Glassmakers’ Guild?”  

She postulates loudly while sifting through papers, each one headed with a different noble household crest. Malkin watches, wide-eyed and dumbfounded.

“Whoever it is will come looking for us sooner or later, such is the price for corruption and moral bankruptcy.” Tamfrey continues, sweeping piles of Hojo-branded documents into Malkin’s arms.

“Burn it all.”

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