The Mural on the Wall

Tome of Maralues Kierbold

Having heard the expression, “Pity the man who outlives a child,” numerous times before, I’m curious what the author would have us do for the man who has out lived and buried a god. Without having experienced either, I can only sympathize with both. I came to Hill Haven an unwashed farmhand hoping to pick up odd jobs to help my father meet ends after a series of poor harvests, but a glance at the man who owned the two story farmhouse was enough to dash my hopes of finding a feeble old man no longer capable of maintaining the grounds. Despite the mantle of years wore across his face and shoulders (he must have been in his late 70’s then), Maraleus Kierbold retained a physical presence still capable of breaking a man in half. In dire need of copper for my mother and sisters, I swallowed my fear and asked if he required help. Maraleus stared me down for five minutes, taking in my shabby apparel and calloused fingers, before asking if I could read. “The eyes,” he explained in a voice far more refined than I had expected yet tinged with sadness, “Are the first to go.” According to rumors, he was last in line of peculiar family known for their spartan existence and stoic demeanor. Maraleus, who visited Triel twice a year to stock up on provisions, proved no exception. He kept to himself, speaking to no one besides the Tarmikos family and the general store owner. It was commonly believed that the family had presided over a merchant house in Scornubel before constructing Hill Haven and relocating 100 odd years ago, but why they chose Triel, no one could say. Some speculate that the Kierbolds had family here, or that they themselves were long ago natives who, having found success abroad, had become too proud to keep or acknowledge their traditional name. Eight years later afterI was taught to read and write, Maraleus, whose voice by then was wracked with a violent cough that spoke of his undoing, sat up in his bed and demanded I record the truth. Triel had been selected by the “Kierbold” family purely for location. Small and sparsely inhabited, yet possessing a great deal of traffic as a trade route, the town was the perfect place to construct and hide an underground prison without drawing untoward amounts of attention. Unbound by blood, the Kierbolds were members of the Vigilant Eye, a secret order of Helmites who serve as wardens for evils that cannot be vanquished but only contained. Whatever lies beneath the hills of Triel, Maraleus wouldn’t say; although I inquired numerous times before his death. I believe he felt the secret was safer to let die with him, or perhaps, the Vigilant Eyes were oath bound to never again speak the name of the imprisoned, least they be heard. However, he did say, “Should strangers come and families begin to die,” the tomb of his superior, where the armaments of their order were stored, could be found 873 yards east of the prison. To enter one had only to approach a marked stone and speak, “Vigilance without rest. Forever do I heed the unblinking eye.” I have recorded the Iron Hedge’s traditions and creeds down in cypher as Maraleus, Justicar of the Vigilant Eye and last of the Kierbolds, desired. I know, however, that he has withheld information. He still must fear whatever is hidden below, and I know he is deeply ashamed of something…. something his grandfather did in service of Helm that was a horrible but necessary evil. Helmites, he told me, were required at all times to do whatever was needed regardless of morality or consequence. To save and guard the innocent, they could not be above staining their own hands and souls. He also warned that though Helm was dead and all but forgotten, followers of other faiths will prove far more patient as they zealously wait their leader’s return. In payment for my years of service, he left me his armor, a chain shirt of dwarven steel that once belonged to his brother and colleague Reginold, a man who committed suicide in order to protect the prison’s location. Though honored by Mareleus’ gift, I have left the shirt here with this journal. I can write and read now, but I intend, Chauntea willing, to remain a farmer. I pray whoever finds these notes and armor has of little need of them as I.

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