From the records of Fr. Benedict de Monte, dated 6 March 2007
When we arrived in Iravati we were immediately greeted by a 20-strong contingent of the city guard, who swept us along past the gates and market into the throne room where the Queen of Heaven was holding court. The room fell silent and all activity stopped when we were led in, the crowd parting for us the only movement. We continued on until we were face to face with the great two-headed naga, who gazed down on us with a cold fire in her unblinking eyes. I began to wonder if answering the summons had been the best option for us, but before I could weigh the value of voicing that concern, I heard a door open and chains dragging on the floor. I turned to the source of the sound, in the process noticing that Akshainie was not breaking her focus away from the Queen, and as I finished turning I saw Michael Hudson in shackles. He was being led by two soldiers.
“Priest,” he said, softly, as soon as he was close enough.
“Mage,” I replied.
He smirked at that, which inspired a sharp jab from the elbow of one of the soldiers into his side. The blow caught him off guard enough to nearly knock the breath out of him, and as he coughed through the recovery I turned my attention back to the throne.
“Repeat your claim, Hudson,” one of the heads of the Queen of Heaven demanded, the last word said through clenched teeth.
“Of course, your highness,” he said, before taking a deep breath and regaining his composure. The shackles glowed faintly for a moment, and when it did both soldiers adjusted the grip on their weapons as if preparing to strike. “I was recently made aware of my family’s involvement in Iravati’s severing from the mortal world. In light of this information, and in response to help received from the naga Akshainie—” Akshainie scowled when he said her name, “—I participated in a study on how to reverse the damage done to your land by my ancestors. I have come to offer the plan of realignment and, if so desired, my assistance in accomplishing it.”
As the head that had spoken to him continued to watch Michael, the other turned toward us. “Tell us what you know of this,” she commanded.
Akshainie stood at attention and straightened her armor. “My queen,” she began, “it was the Brood of Nachash. The Hudson estate discovered evidence of their presence and active operation on their island, and this man,” she indicated toward Michael without turning to face him, “was put in contact with Father Benedict de Monte for assistance. Benedict and I argued extensively about my ability to assist the Hudson estate, but in the end I was promised I could end him myself if he proved to be beneath our effort to assist.”
“You gave her permission to kill me?” Michael hissed at me. I cleared my throat but offered no answer.
“When we arrived, I referenced his family’s history with Iravati and he swore to investigate my claim. During the course of our work against the Brood, he discovered records of the Schism and, armed with those records, worked with Benedict, a servant of his named Roderick, and I to develop a spell to counter the one cast by his ancestor and their lap dog.”
“He only called upon the two of you, against the Brood of Nachash?” the Queen asked.
“He had assistance from an embodied spirit in his own region. We were also aided by two others who came from Benedict’s contacts in America.”
“These were not contacts of the Hudson estate?”
“One is a relative of the Hudsons, but was not aware of their magical work or nature until our arrival. The other was not acquainted with them at all.”
“Were these associates religious figures like yourself?” the Queen asked me. “Or perhaps mages?”
“One has potential,” I answered. “The other is an Anchor.” The room exploded into gasps and conversation. The Queen of Heaven recoiled at the last word and glared at me. “I recognize that you have valid distrust of Anchors, and would never dare to bring one here. But please understand that our methods in this instance required a means to stifle the magic of the Brood. The Anchor was crucial to our plan to weaken and then ambush them.”
“You have made strange allies in the world of man, Akshainie.” The Queen of Heaven raised her arms and the room went silent again. “Did you test Michael Hudson to ensure he could be trusted in this matter?”
“I did,” Akshainie replied. “While I do believe he is more concerned with his own interests than reconciliation with our people, I believe realignment of Iravati with the mortal world is in line with his interests.”
“There’s benefit in this for him?”
“His promise to carry out this work assured my assistance against the Brood, which he was not adequately prepared to eliminate without me. And, I suspect, he has a vested interest in establishing a sphere of influence beyond his island. He is in line to become Lord Hudson in a waning empire likely to lose its monarch while he holds the office. He traffics with spirits whose loyalty to the crown are questionable, works with agents of an external political and religious body, and has carried out this work without the permission or knowledge of his queen.”
“You think he is anticipating a time when he may need Iravati to look favorably on him?”
“It seems a possibility, your majesty.”
The Queen of Heaven considered this answer for a moment, then turned to me. “You have shown yourself to respect my authority in this place. Will you submit to me in this matter?”
“Of course,” I answered.
“Good. I will need much of my guard involved in this plan the young man has brought to us. You assist these two soldiers in caring for and supervising the future Lord Hudson. If he moves against us, kill him.” She waved us away, but as we turned to leave she stopped Akshainie and assigned her to help with the realignment among the city guard. We nodded to one another, and she left with a group of scribes and soldiers through a different door as we made our way to the prison.
“Will you really kill me?” Michael asked, once we were away from the court.
“Will you give me need to consider it?” I asked.
“I suppose I’d better not.”
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.