I WENT THROUGH THE ADMISSIONS lottery and was lucky enough to draw a late slot. I was glad for the extra time, as my trial had left me little opportunity to study for my exams.
Still, I wasn’t terribly worried. I had time to study and free access to the Archives. What’s more, for the first time since I’d come to the University, I wasn’t a pauper. I had thirteen talents in my purse. Even after I paid Devi the interest on her loan, I would easily have enough for tuition.
Best of all, the long hours spent searching for the gram had taught me a great deal about the Archives. While I might not know as much as an experienced scriv, I was familiar with many of her hidden corners and quiet secrets. So while I studied, I also allowed myself the freedom to do other reading while I prepared for admissions.
* * *
I closed the book I’d been poring over. A well-written, comprehensive history of the Aturan church. It was as useless as all the rest.
Wilem looked up as my book thumped shut. “Nothing?” he asked.
“Less than nothing,” I said.
The two of us were studying in one of the fourth-floor reading holes, much smaller than our customary place on the third floor, but given how close we were to admissions, we’d been lucky to find a private room at all.
“Why don’t you let it go?” Wil suggested. “You’ve been beating this Amyr thing like a dead horse for what, two span?”
I nodded, not wanting to admit my research into the Amyr had actually started long before our bet had taken us to Puppet.
“And what have you found so far?”
“Shelves of books,” I said. “Dozens of stories. Mentions in a hundred histories.”
He gave me a level look. “And this wealth of information irritates you.”
“No,” I said. “The lack of information troubles me. There isn’t any solid information about the Amyr in any of these books.”
“None?” Wilem said skeptically.
“Oh, every historian in the last three hundred years talks about them,” I said. “They speculate on how the Amyr influenced the decline of the empire. Philosophers talk about the ethical ramifications of their actions.” I gestured to the books. “That tells me what people think about the Amyr. It doesn’t tell me anything about the Amyr themselves.”
Wilem frowned at my stack of books. “It can’t all be historians and philosophers.”
“There are stories too,” I said. “Early on there are stories about the great wrongs they righted. Later you get stories about the terrible things they did. An Amyr in Renere kills a corrupt judge. Another in Junpui puts down a peasant uprising. A third in Melithi poisons half the town’s nobility.”
“And that isn’t solid information?” Wilem asked.
“They’re soft stories,” I said. “Second- or third-hand. Three-quarters of them are simply hearsay. I can’t find corroborating evidence for them anywhere. Why can’t I find any mention of the corrupt judge in the church records? His name should be recorded in every case he tried. What was the date of this peasant uprising, and why can’t I find it mentioned in any of the other histories?”
“It was three hundred years ago,” Wilem said reproachfully. “You can’t expect all those little details to survive.”
“I expect some of the little details to survive. You know how obsessive the Tehlins are about their records,” I said. “We have a thousand years of court documents from a hundred different cities squirreled away down in sub-two. Whole rooms full . . .”
I waved my hands dismissively. “But fine, let’s abandon the small details. There are huge questions I can’t find any answers for. When was the Order Amyr founded? How many Amyr were there? Who paid them, and how much? Where did that money come from? Where were they trained? How did they come to be a part of the Tehlin church?”
“Feltemi Reis answered that,” Wilem said. “They grew out of the tradition of the mendicant judges.”
I picked up a book at random and thumped it onto the table in front of him. “Find me one bit of proof to support that theory. Find me one record that shows a mendicant judge being promoted into the ranks of the Amyr. Show me one record of an Amyr being employed by a court. Find me one church document that shows an Amyr presiding over a case.” I crossed my arms in front of my chest belligerently. “Go on, I’ll wait.”
Wilem ignored the book. “Maybe there weren’t as many Amyr as people assume. Perhaps there were only a few of them and their reputation grew out of their control.” He gave me a pointed look. “You should understand how that works.”
“No,” I said. “This is a significant absence. Sometimes finding nothing can be finding something.”
“You’re starting to sound like Elodin,” Wilem said.
I frowned at him but decided not to rise to the bait. “No, listen for a minute. Why would there be so little factual information about the Amyr? There are only three possibilities.”
I held up fingers to mark them off. “One: nothing was written down. I think we can safely discard that. They were too important to be so entirely neglected by historians, clerks, and the obsessive documentation of the church.” I tucked that finger away.
“Two. By an odd chance, copies of the books that do have this information have simply never made their way here to the Archives. But that’s ridiculous. It’s impossible to think that over all the years nothing on the subject has ended up in the largest library in the world.” I folded down the second finger.
“Three.” I pointed with the remaining finger. “Someone has removed this information, altered it, or destroyed it.”
Wilem frowned. “Who would do that?”
“Who indeed?” I said, “Who would benefit most from the destruction of the information of the Amyr?” I hesitated, letting the tension build. “Who else but the Amyr themselves?”
I had expected him to dismiss my idea, but he didn’t. “An interesting thought,” Wilem said. “But why assume the Amyr are behind it? It is much more sensible to think the church itself is responsible. Certainly the Tehlins would like nothing better than to quietly erase the Amyr’s atrocities.”
“True,” I admitted. “But the church isn’t very strong here in the Commonwealth. And these books come from all over the world. A Cealdish historian wouldn’t have any compunctions about writing a history of the Amyr.”
“A Cealdish historian would have very little interest in writing the history of a heretic branch of a pagan church,” Wilem pointed out. “Besides, how could a discredited handful of Amyr do something the church itself could not achieve?”
I leaned forward. “I think the Amyr are far older than the Tehlin church,” I said. “During the time of the Aturan Empire, a great deal of their public strength was with the church, but they were more than just a group of wandering justices.”
“And what leads you to this belief?” Wil said. From his expression I could see I was losing Wilem’s support rather than gaining it.
A piece of ancient pottery , I thought. A story I heard from an old man in Tarbean. I know it because of something the Chandrian let slip after they killed everyone I ever knew.
I sighed and shook my head, knowing how crazy I would sound if I told the truth. That was why I scoured the Archives. I needed some tangible evidence to support my theory, something that wouldn’t make me a laughingstock.
“I found copies of the court documents from the time the Amyr were denounced,” I said. “Do you know how many Amyr they put on trial in Tarbean?”
I held up a single finger. “One. One Amyr in all of Tarbean. And the clerk writing the transcript of the trial made it clear the man they put on trial was a simpleton who didn’t understand what was going on.”
I still saw doubt on Wilem’s face. “Just think on it,” I pleaded. “The scraps I’ve found suggest there were at least three thousand Amyr in the empire before they were disbanded. Three thousand highly trained, heavily armed, wealthy men and women absolutely devoted to the greater good.
“Then one day the church denounces them, disbands their entire order, and confiscates their property.” I snapped my fingers. “And three thousand deadly, justice-obsessed fanatics just disappear? They roll over and decide to let someone else take care of the greater good for a while? No protest? No resistance? Nothing?”
I gave him a hard look and shook my head firmly. “No. That goes against human nature. Besides, I haven’t found one record of a member of the Amyr being brought before the church’s justice. Not one. Is it so outrageous to think they might have decided to go underground, to continue their work in a more secret way?
“And if that’s reasonable,” I continued before he could interrupt. “Doesn’t it also make sense they might try to preserve their secrecy by carefully pruning histories over the last three hundred years?”
There was a long pause.
Wilem didn’t dismiss it out of hand. “An interesting theory,” he said slowly. “But it leads me to one last question.” He eyed me seriously. “Have you been drinking?”
I slumped in my chair. “No.”
He came to his feet. “Then you should start. You have been spending too much time with all these books. You need to wash the dust from your brains.”
So we went for a drink, but I still harbored my suspicions. I bounced the idea off Simmon when I next had the chance. He accepted it more easily than Wilem had. Which isn’t to say he believed me, just that he accepted the possibility. He said I should mention it to Lorren.
I didn’t. The blank-faced Master Archivist still made me nervous, and I avoided him at every opportunity for fear I might give him some excuse to ban me from the Archives. The last thing I wanted to do was suggest his precious Archives had been slowly pruned over the last three hundred years.