Movement, just in the corner of her vision. She looked up from the book she was trying to read, irritated. She knew it was irrational but ... One of the damned guards was standing outside the latticed windows leading into the garden, with a lantern, watching her. She turned round and gave him an exasperated look and mouthed "still not dead".
She stared at him until he moved away. Then she stood up and pulled the long velvet drapes across the glass doors.
it had taken her long enough to persuade them to leave her study. Honestly. She was at home in her own library; there were guards at the front and back, one in the cellar and one on the roof. How did the imagine an assassin was going to get to her? She had half a mind to compose a strongly-worded note to Senator Adamah of the Silent Tide; apparently this whole ridiculous arrangement had been his idea.
Still ... she checked the drawer at her desk as she sat back down, to reassure herself that there was a naked blade within easy reach.
The drawer was empty. She frowned. Someone cleared their throat.
She turned and for a moment found it next to impossible to take in what she was seeing. A plump fellow in a simple white mask, wrapped up in a long billowing cloak, was standing near the mirror. He had her knife in one hand, and in a smooth motion that was almost too fast for her to follow, stepped close and put one hand on her shoulder. The strength went out of her limbs and she slumped backwards trying to remember how to shout for help it was so hard to focus and ...
Her confusion ended abruptly as the doors from the garden exploded in a shower of glass and splinters. A large orc, roaring at the top of his lungs, with a sword in each hand, charged into the room straight from the garden. Her assailant was obviously as surprised as she was. He made an attempt to drive the knife into Helena's throat but the sudden appearance of the orc had broken the strange malaise that had fallen over the civil servant.
"How dare you come into my home!" she bellowed, as she threw herself backwards. The assassin over-extended himself. Before he could recover, the orc guard had barrelled straight into him and brought him down with a bonecrushing tackle.
As the two tussled on the floor, the other guard - a no-nonsense Highborn woman - appeared in the shattered lattice, made a quick assessment, and tore down one of the long curtains.
"Hakkah! Over here!" she shouted as she rushed forward.
The orc stopped methodically smashing his fist into the would-be murderer's face, and rolled to one side. The Highborn guard threw the drape over his prone victim, and kicked it twice - once in the head, once in the crotch. A hand holding a knife emerged momentarily from under the edge of the heavy crimson fabric and swiped at her knee ... and she stamped on it repeatedly until it dropped the blade and withdrew.
Helena stood up, shakily. She looked from one to the other. The orc was shouting something at their prisoner, straddling him, ready to pound him into submission if he tried to put up a fight. The prisoner moaned faintly, but had the good sense not to continue struggling.The door burst open, and two more guards and a pair of militia volunteers crowded through into the library. As the Highborn woman barked instructions at the newly arrived militia, Helena closed her workbook. Slightly regretfully, realising it was unlikely she was going to get any work done. For one, she would need to get a glazier into fix the doors into the garden; for two, she was going to be busy setting up a camp-bed in her sleeping chamber, and discussing her itinerary for the rest of the month with her new best friends ...
In the last three months, there have been further attacks against the remaining civil servants associated with the department of historical research. The first attack came a fortnight after the end of the Summer Solstice; Edgar of Woldstone was assaulted while researching the origins of the Vallorn in Rundhal for the Advisor on the Vallorn.
The attack resulted in a slightly different outcome to the terrible crimes of the previous season.
When the assassin attempted to murder Edgar, he was unprepared for the sudden appearance of the civil servant's bodyguards. Warren of Aldstock and Jennifer Greenwood, yeomen of the Marches, intercepted the masked assassin as he approached the oblivious researcher and engaged him in a short, bloody scuffle. Taken by surprise, the assassin was completely outmatched and attempted to flee. While the two yeomen made every effort to take the murderer alive, he died of a nasty wound inflicted when Jennifer threw her hatchet after his fleeing form.
According to Edgar of Woldstone, who examined the body with the assistance of several Kallavesi mystics, there is no doubt that the assassin was not a mortal man at all, but a herald. Beneath the bone-white dramaturgy mask the would-be murderer wore, the creature had no face; simply a featureless smooth surface. Perhaps more compellingly, the body dissolved completely over the course of the next twelve hours leaving behind only the mask and a pair of blue leather gloves. Even these last pieces of evidence have disappeared; they vanished from a sealed box while in transit from Rundhal to the Castle of Thorns in Astolat.
The second and third attacks went more or less the same way. An attempt against the life of Edgar of Woldstone saw the assassin escape by throwing itself through a window into a canal.
The third attack came against Helena Raminci di Sarvos. Attacked in her personal library; the guards employed by the Senate managed to capture the assailant by wrapping him in a long velvet drape.
The magistrates were immediately called, and the would-be assassin taken into custody. Following this, there have been no further attacks against civil servants from the department of historical research.
The Senate has passed a motion to assign significant funds to providing the historical research department with constant, round-the-clock protection. While the remaining civil servants have had a few frightening encounters, no more have been slaughtered. The upkeep of these elite bodyguards is ongoing. If the Senate abrogated these fund it is likely that the attacks would begin again if the underlying situation was not redressed..
Furthermore, recruitment within the civil service for the department of historical research is at a standstill, and several of the remaining members have chosen to take early retirement or to seek transfer to other departments. As such, the Senate still has the ability to commission only two historical research projects each season.
Magistrate Karkovich has confirmed that he intends to seek the assistance of the Archmage of Night during the upcoming summit. The would-be murderer will be brought to Anvil for interrogation by magical experts, and to face trial for his crimes.
The captured herald readily confirmed it was an agent of the Eternal council known as the Whisper Gallery. It was questioned extensively, and found guilty of murder and attempted murder by Magistrate Avedon de Remourics. The creature apparently destroyed itself rather than allow itself to be executed.
During a later Conclave session, a human magician presented an address from the Whisper Gallery laying out possible terms to end the conflict between the Eternals and the Empire. Later during the same session, the Conclave voted to place the Whisper Gallery under enmity.
The Senate has continued to allocate funds to protecting the remaining agents of the Department of Historical Research, and the rate of early retirements has slowed, but the Empire can still only commission a maximum two historical research projects each season.