This story takes place before Backstory.
Sam was very excited to receive his first hearthstone and hearthstone amulet. The Stone of Thieves had been awarded shortly after he passed his first initiation rite into the All-Seeing Eye, and he really felt that it was going to be a great help as he continued his work. While he was walking to surprise his parents, he thought about how proud they’d be that he had been recognized so early in his career. Looking down, he saw that it had gotten twisted so the hearthstone wasn’t showing. He quickly fixed it to show it off to its full effect when he saw his parents.
Sam knocked on the door, and his father quickly answered. “Sam,” he said, sounding surprised. “I didn’t know you’d find out so soon.” Once his father stopped talking, he heard tears coming from the other room.
“Find out what?” he asked.
“About your sister. Or is that not why you’re here?”
“No, but never mind that. What’s wrong with Dora?” he asked, as his mother came around the corner and into the entryway.
“She… she was killed yesterday,” she said. “They’re bringing her body home, and her funeral will be the day after tomorrow.”
“What!?” Sam was shocked. “What happened?”
“She had gotten herself into a fight aboard her ship—you know Dora—”
“Yes,” Sam interrupted, “but she’d never upset anyone enough to kill her!”
“Well, that wasn’t their intention, but…” Sam’s mother broke off and started sobbing again.
His father continued the story. “She had a pretty hard hit to the head, and she went overboard. She must have been knocked out, because with her armor, she sank like a stone. They said she probably never knew what happened. By the time anyone found her under the water, well, it was too late.”
Sam couldn’t believe it. His little sister, barely 17, was gone. They had been fairly close, and memories came flooding back. “I… I think I need some time to think.”
His father said, “Why don’t you sit for a while in your old room? We’ll be down here if you want to talk.”
Sam headed halfway up the stairs and turned the corner. Overcome with grief, he sat down on the top half of the stairs and dropped his head into his hands. He must have sat there for hours before his father came and gently suggested that he spend the night in his old room. He numbly agreed, but only slept fitfully.
Sam somehow made it through the next day and night, and he woke early on the day of Dora’s funeral. It was quite an affair, with several poems and eulogies. Sam somehow gave a fairly eloquent speech, but he found when he was done that he hardly remembered a word of it. He was too focused on the tragic nature of her early death.
Early the next morning, Sam set out for the school where Dora had been studying. Near the end of her training, she had been spending time aboard a ship to work on sailing and teamwork. Sam was determined to find her killer and exact… perhaps revenge wasn’t appropriate, if it truly was an accident, but he needed something to ease his pain.
After arriving at the school, Sam demanded to see the headmaster. He was made to wait, but eventually the headmaster approached and invited him in to her study.
“Sam, it’s good to see you again. I apologize for the wait, but I had matters I had to attend to. I assume you’re here about Dora?”
Sam nodded and opened his mouth to speak. Instead, he was interrupted by the headmaster.
“It really was such a shame, but I’m sure you understand that training accidents happen. The fall was unfortunate, but she died instantly. I’m quite sure she didn’t suffer.”
The fall? Perhaps the headmaster meant the fall from the ship to the water, but that didn’t make much sense. “Thank you,” Sam said, his mind racing. “I was hoping I could speak with someone who witnessed the incident,” he added, trying to be as vague as possible.
“Well, the instructor is back with the rest of the students now, but he told me that her fall from the crow’s nest appeared to be a matter of an unfortunate mis-step. She landed poorly and was killed instantly.”
There were different two stories now, and Sam was determined to find out which was true. If the headmaster was lying, there was no point trying to talk answers out of her. “I see. Well, thank you for your time.”
“If there’s anything else I can do…?”
“No, I just needed to hear what happened. Now I think I’d like some time to myself,” Sam answered. He quickly scanned the room and found what he was looking for—the planner on her desk. Reading it upside-down, he saw that she had a meeting with her instructors later that afternoon. Perfect.
“Of course. Feel free to stay in one of the guest rooms if you’d like, to recover from your journey here.”
“Thank you. I think I’ll do that.”
Sam spent some time in the guest room, and he traveled to the main compound shortly after the headmaster’s meeting began. Once he got close to her office, he ducked into a small hallway. Making sure he wasn’t being watched, he activated his Everyman Armor to look like her and pulled out his lock-pick. He considered walking in casually, but since the headmaster was supposed to be in a meeting, he decided to look flustered and pretend he had forgotten something. He raced over, waved off the secretary, and entered the headmaster’s office.
He secured the door and quickly started searching. The files for each student were carefully alphabetized, but Dora’s was missing. A closer inspection revealed that her file was buried under some papers on the desk itself—no surprise that it was out, once he thought of it. There was, however, no helpful information to be found. School records and notes from her instructors, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Sam continued his search and came across a folder with a small note clipped to it. The note simply said “Burn”, with “soon!” penciled in underneath. This could be interesting. He opened it and found a letter written in impeccable script—handwriting that was quite familiar, as it clearly belonged to his father.
You’ll recall that you offered us a favor in return for help with funds. It is now time for us to call in that favor. Our daughter, Iselsi Dora, has been your pupil for many years. While we were willing to tolerate her at times juvenile behavior, we are not able to accept her lack of Exaltation. It is true that there is still time, but that is precisely why we must act now—for no child of ours has reached adulthood without Exalting, and Dora must be no exception. It pains us to say this, but you know what must be done. Please take care of it, and you may find more funds in your coffer soon.
Understanding dawned on Sam. His head spun, and he felt as if his heart skipped a beat. His parents. His own parents had arranged for her death, just so they wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of having a non-Dragon-Blooded child. He couldn’t believe his parents could be so callous.
Sam automatically put everything back precisely where he had found it, and he stalked out of the room without a word to anyone. He changed his appearance back to his normal visage, gathered his belongings, and left for his home. While he traveled, he would decide how to confront his parents.