Chapter 0: Prelude
From the Journal of Hugo Brandt, Illuminator of Luthien
Coming home is never easy, but when one leaves under troubling circumstances, one can never expect a warm reception. Not that the village of Voller Creek is forgiving or warm.
A mining town, Voller Creek is full of hard people who live hard lives. The fact that my family leads a slightly less hard life is not lost on many of my fellow villagers. My behavior, in my youth, didn't exactly prop me up as a paragon of virtue, either. Still, I never expected the knives of assassins in my own family home!
But I get ahead of myself. I return to Voller Creek a wiser and more tempered man, for I have found the light of Luthien and have dedicated myself to sharing Her wisdom and light with all who will hear me. I'm now an Illuminator of the Faith, a title within the church I never thought to achieve, but one I've worked years to earn. Though I've reached this spiritual pinnacle, my title and position in the church is not the reason I returned after being banished from my home all those years ago. I return to answer a summons from my father, Mueller Brandt. It seems that mother is sick and on her deathbed. If I can give her a modicum of comfort or, Luthien willing, cure her of what ails her, I owe it to her to try.
It is a blustery, late fall evening as I return to the family home. My twin, Harald and our younger half-brother Torvald are already there. Father greets me coldly, as I knew he would. I'm not sure I'll ever repair that particular broken bridge. My brothers greet me with a little more warmth, but nothing in their demeanor tells me that I'm wanted or welcome again in our family home. Mother is too weak to descend from her bedroom on the second floor, so I prepare to go up to greet her. It's been years since I've seen her and I feel confident our reunion will be far warmer than what I've already received from the male members of my family.
A melee ensues and I lose track of events: Knives flash, screams of pain, grunts of exertion, blood sprays on the wall. Harald grabs a brand from the hearth and thrusts it toward the high ceiling, bringing light and clarity to the surge of shadow and blade. A window crashes as a figure hurls itself through into the cool, night air.
As the brand crackles in Harald's hand I survey the suddenly quiet scene. Father lies face down on the floor, a pool of blood spreading across the flagstones from his still form. Another figure, dressed in black leathers, his face covered by a black cravat, lies crumpled on the floor at Torvald's feet.
Upstairs, Mother screams....
To Be Continued