Chapter 14; Cold Resting Place
A fragment from the fourteenth chapter from the unfinished book, The Life Chronicle of Abedi Terik, the Dragon Emperor by Emil Tark, the head librarian of The Imperial Archive.
I have discovered something hidden beneath the Palace. It was during my hunt for places where hidden records might be stored that I found the entrance to this concealed basement. My status as head librarian allows me much access to the Palace and its grounds. However, I have a distinct feeling that should they discover me here within this place, I would be in an enormous amount of trouble. Many of the things I have done and learned would be problematic if discovered but I think this might be the one that would cause me the most difficulties. Concerning the door itself, they hid it behind a tapestry depicting one of the Emperor’s first marriages. A fitting location, I feel, knowing now what is down there. Behind the door was a tight spiral stair of stone, layered with the dust of centuries. It was clear as I descended that none of the cleaning staff were allowed down here and very few people visited. At least none that entered the same way I did. Thinking about it now, there must be another mode of entry, for it was hard enough to travel down the stairs alone, let along carrying anything that I found down there. Once I reached the bottom of the stairs, I found myself in a long, wide chamber. My torch just touched the walls to either side of me, but the chamber ahead continued into darkness. They had made the whole place from blocks of a pure white stone, maybe a marble or a granite. It was hard to tell without close inspection, and I regret that my attention was drawn elsewhere almost instantly. Along the sides of the chamber were set a series of stone burial caskets or monuments. Each one was the size of an adult with a heavy stone lid. Atop the lids lay carved effigies of, I assume, the people inside. As I slowly walked down the line, I examined each effigy and reading the carefully chiselled headstones. Every effigy I examined was a woman. None looked older than 30, or thereabouts, and all were beautiful. The clothes they had chosen to depict them wearing were regal and ostentatious. They tugged at my memories, but at that moment I could not place them. The epitaphs all listed the names of the occupants and their ages upon death. They also mentioned their places of birth and the causes of death. Many of these were simply ‘Childbirth’. It was then I realised where I recognised the clothes from. They all resembled the designs I had seen brides of the Emperor wearing on their wedding days. I remember gasping at the implication and realisation that I had stumbled upon the resting place of his many, many concubines. The mention of childbirth also interested me as it proved, or went towards proving at least, that the Emperor himself must have been fertile. Or rather fertile at some point. I marvelled at all these discoveries as I slowly walked down the line of burial vaults. There were hundreds of these dead women, all with effigies immortalising their appearances. As I reached the end, I gaped at what I found. More burial vaults lined the far wall but these were without effigies and were significantly smaller than the ones of the brides. I approached them carefully, reverently, for I already could guess what these held. The epitaphs of each of these just displayed a name and a cause of death. A small few said simply “died at birth” however the vast majority just said “Umbric Exenteration.” These words meant nothing to me in this context. What manner of death is this? It was at this point I heard a noise far off echo through the crypt and fear gripped me and I fled as fast as I could. What I had found stuck with me, however. I had discovered the secret of the imperial heirs, but I did not understand it. Not at this time, at least.