Sunday, 9 October 2016

Anonymous’ Transcriptions…

Given its full name, Anonymous’ ‘Transcriptions of the Oaths, Questioning, and Judgement of Lord Aesinger Fortescue Concerning the Disappearance of Earl Jacob Fortescue, his Lady Wife Isabella Beshing, and their Son Sir Hugh Fortescue’ is not, perhaps, the most historically useful of documents, nor is it the easiest to read. Foremost, this is most probably not an actual transcription taken at the time of Lord Aesinger’s questioning. It is more likely a fabricated dialogue put together after the trial by a cleric who was either present during the questioning or heard of its events first-hand. Furthermore frustratingly, this cleric deigned not to include their name upon the below-transcribed document. Whether this was a mistake or a deliberate act to preserve his or her anonymity is unclear, for other such documents from the Imperial Archive with similar contents have been found to be both named and un-named.

Irritatingly, Anonymous does not appear to have been the most proficient of writers. His sentences are often unduly long and contrived, concerned more with cramming as many lengthy words or lavish descriptive phrases into the text as possible. For this writer, it seems as if the Transcriptions were intended to be an exercise in vernacular writing – one that he may well have failed. As a result, a great deal of detail from the questioning of Lord Aesinger Fortescue seems to have been lost. Because of this, many scholars have dismissed Anonymous’ Transcriptions’… usefulness. It is a hard to read text, though with careful editing it can be made to make sense. One thing that is clear from the writing is that the anonymous author is strongly pro-Aesinger. The lord can do no wrong throughout the document, and though the structure, written word, and overall appearance of the document is quite sloppy and hard to understand, the pro-Aesinger sentiment shines through like a lighthouse in a sea mist.


Here commences the transcription of the oaths, questioning and judgement of Lord Aesinger Fortescue concerning the disappearance of Earl Jacob Fortescue, his lady wife Isabella Beshing and their son Sir Hugh Fortescue. In the one-hundredth and seventieth year of the Second Era of Imperial History, Lord-Inquisitor Imalden did summon unto the imperial city of Vidoropolis and the Imperial Citadel within the esteemed Lord Aesinger Fortescue accompanied by his son Sir Darry Fortescue to answer questions regarding the disappearance of his brother and his family. This was done in summer [edit: this is not actually true, for following the disappearance of the Earl of the Western Heartlands, several other parties were questioned before the authority was granted by the Imperial Senate for Lord Aesinger to be questioned - it was well into the winter when this took place] and when the Good Lord [edit: this refers to Lord Aesinger and his entourage - which was said to be rather large, though no detail is given here] did arrive at the Imperial Citadel he did so with great splendour and paid many visits to the Bastion [edit: this refers to the Bastion of the Divine Empress. Other records say that Aesinger was only at the Imperial Citadel for the day and only made one visit to the Bastion, as is customary] and there for many hours prostrated himself in the light of the Divine Empress and asked for her blessing, intercession, and assistance in questioning and the exposition of the guilty party who had so wronged him and his beloved brother. Also, he beseeched her with many fat tears and much wailing that the truth be revealed from the trial and that his brother and much loved family were swiftly returned to him so that they may rule as the rightful wardens of the Western Imperial Heartlands as deigned upon them by the Divine Empress [edit: this almost certainly did not happen, for Lord Aesinger was not known for either his piety or humility].

[Edit: a large amount of text has here been cut for this extract. Anonymous provides a colossal list of names he claims were present at the trail and in the bastion, as well as the lineages of a few of the more important ones.]

The trial began the very same morning which the lord arrived at the grand city of Vidoropolis in the Grand Sept beneath the Imperial Citadel and that day many inquisitors and clerics were present to witness the trial of such a great and well-revered lord, including this writer [edit: this is the only reference the author makes to himself throughout the whole document. No more is known about him other than that he was one of a possible ‘many’ present to witness the questioning]. Immediately upon his arrival the well-loved and highly-revered and noble Lord Aesinger prostrated himself at the feet of the imposing and stern-faced Inquisitor Imalden. ‘O, Inquisitor of the Divine Empress,’ he said loud unto all those present, ‘please make haste in returning my family to me.’ To this, the lord-inquisitor did make his reply that ‘should you, Aesinger, make ready this trial this day at this hour then most certainly shall I do my utmost to see them returned to Westwarden Castle’ and did bade the good Lord Aesinger away. Once he was secure in the seat he [edit: Aesinger is still being referred to here] did begin again to weep tears of sorrow at the thought of his brother’s loss. To this, he [edit: still Aesinger] did espouse unto the audience of noble folk, clerics, Mothers, and soldiers, ‘O, such a trial demurs the good Fortescue name, for my very presence here makes my guilt implicit unto those present! Such an accusation is deeply hurtful to me, and to my good son who is ill and yet still with me this day, as neither of us have any clue just why given the circumstances that had taken place that night that caused my sweet brother to flee as he did!’ to which the audience responded with many tears and much sorrow. 

Once all was settled again and peace and order restored to the heartbroken folk both secular and ecclesiast present, the stoic Lord-Inquisitor Imalden did raise high a fragment of the Shield of the Divine Empress in his very hands and pronounce to the good Lord Aesinger ‘Lo, for this is a fragment of the shield of the Divine Empress herself, struck from her arm during the battle of Ghent Bridge night one-hundred and seventy years ago. Do you, Lord Aesinger Fortescue, swear upon such a sacred relic to uphold all values of truth and goodness within this room, and to surrender yourself to the questioning and judgement of those inquisitors present here this day?’ and to this the good Lord Aesinger did raise both his hands high into the air and declare ‘Upon all relics of the Divine Empress I swear to be as truthful as She in her doings throughout her life, and to provide all the information I as a mortal man am able to give to pertain to the truth of these terrible events’ [edit: this is not strict imperial protocol. Better quality transcripts of questionings and inquisitorial interrogations show that most oaths are made to a set script, and that certain relics are used that pertain to a theme of the case. The shield fragment here mentioned also does not exist, and it likely a fabrication by the author].

After this, the questioning of the good Lord Aesinger Fortescue did begin. After minor questions concerning the good Lord Aesinger’s name and heritage, and the confirmation that he was in fact the brother of Earl Jacob Fortescue from Inquisitors Jessana, Llweyl, Aethus, Olivachus, Blanchus, Aelfrida, Aelother, Lothair, and Dobsar, the true inquisitorial trial did begin. The lord-inquisitor did look down from his judicial seat upon the bowed and sombre head of the good Lord Aesinger and said, ‘Were you not present that night when your brother, sister-in-law, and their son did vanish from Westwarden Castle?’ to which the good Lord Aesinger did reply ‘Indeed I was.’ The lord-inquisitor did then ask, ‘And is it not true that you arrived that day at Westwarden Castle to attend the knighting ceremony of Sir Hugh Fortescue, Earl Jacob’s son of ten years?’ to which the good Lord Aesinger replied, ‘Indeed, I did.’ After this, the lord-inquisitor did ask ‘And is it also not true that you did arrive at Westwarden Castle with a large detachment of men whom were directly under your command from your lands further in the east?’ to which the good Lord Aesinger did reply ‘I arrived with men, though their number was not undue. I had less than my sweet, dear brother had in his castle and I traveled with so many simply because of the journey. The roads are treacherous and I would not wish to see harm come to my family, especially my dear unwell son who is here with me this day.’ After he had provided this answer, the good Lord Aesinger did break into more tears as he lamented the loss of his brother and his family. Once the good Lord Aesinger had been calmed, the lord-inquisitor did ask him ‘And once you were inside Westwarden Castle, you attended all the appropriate ceremonies?’ to which Lord Aesinger did reply ‘Yes I did.’ Once this was done, the lord-inquisitor did ask ‘And is it not true that, on the testimony of a serving woman who was busy carrying washing, your son was seen to threaten the young Sir Hugh in the hallway before the great hall?’ To this Lord Aesinger responded with shock. ‘Absurdity!’ he cried loud to the heavens with a great wave of his mighty arms. ‘My boy Darry is a sweet boy of good nature and he is sick and ill. How could he ever hope to threaten and challenge a boy so young and fine as Sir Hugh, bastard though he may have been born?’ to which the lord-inquisitor asked ‘yet did your son not duel with Sir Hugh that evening with swords and beat him?’ to which Lord Aesinger said, ‘I had heard of this and was greatly proud of Darry for it must have taken great effort to beat one so versed with a blade as the young Sir Hugh.’

[Edit: a number of the paragraphs of questioning have here been removed from this extract. The middle-section devolves somewhat, and the questions that are asked of Lord Aesinger focus around his travel from his lands in the Eastern Imperial Heartlands to Westwarden Castle in the days before the events that led to the disappearance of the earl of the Western Heartlands. They are of little consequence, and although they have been studied in great detail, very little can be learned from them.]

'And did,' Lord-Inquisitor Imalden continued, 'you have any idea of the tragedy which is alleged to have befallen the Fortescues that eve, so shortly after the knighting ceremony of their once-bastard son?' and to this Lord Aesinger did reply, 'I did indeed,' he said, tears leaving his bright and loyal eyes, 'for once it was reported to me that my good brother was missing I went to his chambers to see for myself if it were the truth, and there found Lady Isabella dead in her marital bed, covered in the blood of a most foul miscarriage.' To this, those present wept, and their sorrow did infect some of the inquisitors and the Good Lord, and more tears were there shed. But to this the lord-inquisitor did ask 'And yet you had the body of the Lady Isabella burned before the proper authorities could come and confirm the cause of her death. Why was this?' and so, truth plain on his face, Lord Aesinger did raise his hands to the heavens and cry, 'Am I not the authority? I was bonded by blood to my sweet sister-in-law, and when it became plain to me that my brother had fled in his grief to end his own life, I had her body cremated with the highest of honours to send her to the embrace of the Divine Empress for fear her spirit would linger and do ill unto those present.' To which the lord-inquisitor did ask 'Yet in the Bloody Bestiary does it not say spirits only return should they have been done ill by the machinations of others in life?' so the Good Lord did answer, 'And so she was! She was done the ill of being taken from this blessed realm too early by a cruel hand of fate!'

For a few moments, the inquisitors did confer with the lord-inquisitor until they were ready to proceed. When they did, the lord-inquisitor did say ‘The events that did follow are of great trauma to the Empire and cast a shadow within the Divine Empress’ light. Is it not true though, good Lord Aesinger, that the moment word was sent up that the earl your brother was missing, you sent all your men to the walls of the castle and to guard the keep?’ to which the good Lord Aesinger responded ‘Of course I did, I wished no harm to come to the rest of the inhabitants of Westwarden Castle for I had no clue if there were enemies in the castle and its grounds, for when I gave such an order I knew not of the tragedy that had befallen Lady Isabella,’ to which the lord-inquisitor responded ‘and yet it was one of your men whom reported that they were missing,’ to which the good Lord Aesinger responded ‘And what of it? For surely this suspicion would not be cast unto me had I not been there! My men and I are innocent, and I cared greatly for my brother and his kin!’ After this the lord-inquisitor fell silent for a time before asking ‘And what of Captain Aethlar, the swordsmaster, captain of the guard, and mentor of Sir Hugh Fortescue?’ to which Lord Aesinger did reply ‘And what of him?’ Lord-Inquisitor Imalden did then ask ‘For has he too not been reported missing from Westwarden Castle by his own men, those directly under the command of Earl Aesinger Fortescue?’ to which the good Lord Aesinger did respond ‘are you suggesting I had this man killed? Do not be absurd! This man had given his life up to my brother and the defence of his family and his realm, and I would do nothing other than reward his loyalty to the Fortescue line! For he was a fine and upright man, steadfast in his honour and strong in the arm of his sword!’ and as he spoke he began to weep fat tears, ‘Lo, for I have made my own inquiries into the disappearance of the good fellow and have found no evidence of his continued survival and some of my men say he was seen leaving the castle shortly after the earl and his son after his lady wife had fallen to birthing-sickness.'

[Edit: the next few paragraphs are partially destroyed in the original text, though a second copy survives in which they are detailed to include further questioning concerning the sudden demise of Lady Isabella Beshing and what Aesinger asserts to be the joint suicide of Earl Jacob and Sir Hugh, and the disappearance of Captain Aethlar. Constantly, throughout those paragraphs missing, the typical pro-Aesinger elements remain, and the anonymous writer asserts he had no less than six other shows of humility through his weeping and prostrating. Interestingly, though, all questions about Captain Aethlar appear to be treated in a similar fashion to the one above: Lord Aesinger always, to an extent, dodged the question, and the anonymous transcriber/author always ends such questions with more shows of humility and grief from Lord Aesinger, which seem to be intended to absolve him of any suspicion of guilt.]

And then when Lord-Inquisitor Imalden was ready to pass judgement he did stand before all those assembled and say in a strong and clear voice ‘Lo, all ye faithful to She who walked Esdaria in the first years of the Second Age of Imperial History, and burned it clean with her fire, and did drive from these places the dark things, and the old king, and with them their dark gods of the days of yore, hear now the judgement of the Vidorian Inquisition upon this Lord Aesinger Fortescue. The Vidorian Inquisition does pronounce that on that fateful night Lady Isabella Beshing was taken by sudden and total loss of blood following a miscarriage [edit: there is no mention of any evidence beyond Aesinger's testimony for this miscarriage anywhere in this text, nor any other] and the hole she left in her dear husband and son drove them to such grief that they took their own lives, perhaps by throwing themselves into the South Seas. And as for the missing Captain Aethlar, a man of lower station lacks little consequence, yet possibly he too took his own life through grief of loyalty, or perhaps ran afoul of wolves or bandits or brigands or beasts when he left the castle in search of his lord. For it seems as if he [edit: Lord Aesinger] is innocent in the involvement in the disappearance and possible demises of his brother’s arm of the Fortescue family. As a result, the Vidorian Inquisition sees it fit that the office of earl of the Western Heartlands be bestowed upon Lord Aesinger Fortescue, and shall petition his highness Emperor Lyshir III and the Imperial Senate to this end.’

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