Monday, January 31, 2011

What do You Stand For?

Recently we crossed paths with Colonel Victor Garrett, an officer in the service of the Arcadian Army. At the request of Raell’s half brother, Darmot Kromwell- an Arcadian lord of some repute, our group had agreed to seek out this man and his soldiers in order to gather a report on their progress in this budding war that has come to Eystlund. Once located, the good Colonel revealed to us that he and his force had come against an impasse. He needed to get his men through a narrow trail in the mountains which was controlled by Kitja-Lorian mercenaries and giants. When we offered to help the mired Arcadian forces we were regarded with skepticism which I can fully understand. How could three elves and a half-human, cure a problem which one hundred skilled Arcadian soldiers could not? But, above this skepticism was the very pointed question which struck me, and I believe some of my companions as well, completely off guard.

He asked, “What is it that four elves want with this? Why do you care, honestly?”

I do not believe that Master Garrett meant us any insult or, that he was untrusting of us as elves. The man honestly could not understand why we, of all the peoples on Majius, would come to the aid of he and his men without provocation and without pay. Elves are not uncommon in the land but, they do not generally concern themselves with the affairs of the world at large. This has led me to many restless hours of contemplation when I surely could use sleep and light-hearted dreams. Who are we exactly? And, why are we running toward a reported war when every sane mortal is running away from it?

Well, I tell myself that I know who we are. We are a storm bringer, a wolf-friend. We are a dwarf tracker, and he who cleanses evil from the land. We are a new-born man; a protector of the weak. We are a vengeful night shadow and- And what? What am I now that my blood oath has been completed? The question of who I am now rests just as heavily on my shoulders as the query of why.

Many nights I have been visited by the specter of Deacon Jones, an innocent man whom I wrongly assassinated; the people of Snoam ’Schlabach who I allowed to be cut down by orcs, especially Magda Dervish; and Anna McDunugh who we did not try hard enough to save. They haunt me in my temperance and so, I have often given to staving off those specters with generous doses of wine before stumbling off to oblivion. Will I ever do enough goodness in this world to wash these stains from my hands?

I think I am just now beginning to see what can be accomplished by my companions and I. We have great potential to rid many evils from this world but will we ever reach it? I sometimes find myself hesitating in battle, holding back the deadly power of Est’Perolyne as I wonder if the enemy before me is truly an enemy or, if I am being manipulated once again. Sanastarus has given me a second chance in this realm and I desperately hope that I am picking the right path moving forward. I pray to the Elf-father that he may give me strength to face each new day and I hold faith that I have found companions who will help me on my path to redemption, wherever that may lead me. I see now that I have found a new purpose, a reason to move forward. I know that it is my duty to protect those closest to me, my traveling companions who have gone to battle at my side so many times. But, to a larger degree, it is now my responsibility to seek out those of ill-intent, those others who share dark souls like my one-time mentor Kendrick Cwik, and the rotten dwarf slaver Farkas Winslow.

Why do we care? What do we want? We care because we have seen too much innocent blood spilled on the ground in the name of greed and power. We care because our conscience will no longer allow us to stand idle. We care because our souls can take no more darkness. In our hearts I think my companions and I all want the same thing, we want to know that when our last day in this realm finally comes, that we did all that was in our power to make the world better than it was when we came to it. We want to face the gods with a clear mind and a light spirit.

I know that I am not perfect, I indulge too much in drink, I take liberty with the property of others, and I leverage the subjugation humans have toward their women to my advantage. But, I feel that I am finally on the right path and, although my habits may not change drastically in the future, I am now doing that which is right. When I slip from this world I will do so triumphantly and all will know that when I meet Sanastarus himself he will welcome me to the home of my ancestors. I hope with all my being that my companions will be able to say the same thing when they meet the gods.

-Ademar Helyanwë

11, Attina 1014 pr

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lost Steel

‘Zender, take a deep breath and think about what you are about to do’. It was something Zender’s mother told him whenever she saw that her son was upset over something or that his temper was on the verge of destroying all that lay in his path. The majority of the time, it was her youngest son that she was looking out for. ‘You have your grandfather’s temper, it sent him to his grave and it will do the same to you if you don’t take care.’ It was something he thought of often the last few days. While the teachings of his god might get blotted out by the red ball of rage, his mother’s voice never was. As Zender stood over the body of Bishop Drent, he remembered her words again and took several deep, calming breaths.

“That was a hell of a shot kid, I am shocked you didn’t take his head clean off.” Zender could hear Commander Anderson behind him but he didn’t turn to look at him.

“It is no less than what he deserves. Still, he has questions to answer and not from me.” After bending over to pick up his hammer, Zender turned to face the older man. “What is to become of the temple, will we all share his fate?”

“You fellas might take a beating in the court of public opinion but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. You are that Zender fella York told me about?” The priest just nodded his head. “Well, when word gets out that you brought those kids home and you helped arrest that one, it will be fine. Now I am going to need some help from those slackers outside. Can you call a couple of them in for me and then I need you to keep your people out of here for a little while. We need to search this whole place, see if we can find anything else out. Does he have his own room or is this it?”

“The first door on the left, just inside the hallway is his room. Take anything you want or need to prove my brothers and I had nothing to do with what he did.”

“No problem” he remarked as he waved his hand in the air. “By the way kid, thanks. He might have left me to bleed out had you not come along. Just don’t go anywhere until we get done here, just in case I have to ask you a few questions, understood?” Commander Anderson raised a single bushy eyebrow at the cleric as he spoke. Zender could only nod at the older man, he then took one last look down at Bishop Drent as he walked back towards the entrance of the temple. Shaking his head as he walked, he pushed open the doors to the outside and called out to the waiting guards.

“Commander Anderson would like three of you to come in, the rest can wait outside.” Zender watched the gaggle of men standing about, not a single one moved to enter the temple grounds. “He said now!” the cleric shouted at them. The first of the three jumped right away, the next two got pushed forward by their companions. Zender just eyed the men as he held the door open for them, pointing them towards the office where Commander Anderson was waiting. He could hear Anderson telling them to ‘truss’ up the one on the floor for transport to the city jail. Zender couldn’t even watch, he just turned towards the main temple doors and went inside to join his brothers. Sitting in the back row, Zender looked forward at Prior Methner behind the altar, leading the group in prayer. It will be his turn now, Zender thought to himself. Prior Glen Methner, he was a good man to take up the spot. If for no other reason he often disagreed with Drent on temple policy.

Once Prayers were completed, Prior Methner stepped from behind the altar and came forward to the first step. He lifted his hands up and blessed the gathered priest and asked if anyone had anything to say before they were dismissed for their afternoon chores. On an average day, someone would stand up and tell the Prior if anything was needed, fire wood for the kitchen, hay for the stables, feed for the chickens or anything else that might have been needed. The Prior would then go to the Bishop with the request and the Bishop would give approval for the funds to be taken from the temple treasury. This however was not an average day. As Zender stood up, having forgotten the shield strapped to his back, the sound of metal scraping on the wood pew filled the temple. As if their heads were all being pulled by the same string, twenty men turned around to look at where the noise had come from. Zender felt a slight twinge of guilt over the damage that he had caused but he had to speak now.

“Brother Zender!” Prior Methner said. “Come forward, I see the trouble in your young eyes.” As Zender walked up the ale towards the altar, every man in the temple had their eyes on him. Most of them focused on the hammer he wore at his hip. It was not normal for a man of the faith to come strolling into temple with both weapons and armor. Some of the older brothers took it as a bad omen. Yet some of the others, the younger brothers were in awe. They too were told the stories by Bishop Frost of a time when Clerics of Solarth would ride on the field of battle with the Knights of Ulygnguard, defending their king or country. Not that anyone had told those stories within these walls in many years. As he reached the foot of the altar, Zender went down to one knee to say a prayer to his god. With that completed, he turned to face his brothers in faith.

“Three days ago I found a woman sitting in here, late at night. Some of you may have heard her cries over the loss of her children. I could not sit here and listen to her story and not do what I could to help, to ease her pain. I set out with a small band of fellows who were all seeking the same answers as I. Where were all these children going? Who had taken them? This was not just one or two who had come up missing. More than twenty were taken from all across Eystlundtowne. With some luck and perseverance, we were able to find where they were taken. North of town, in a deep hole, they were being held by some evil men. Men who sought to do some kind of dark rites, using these children as a sacrifice. My companions and I, by the good grace of Solarth, were able to rescue some of the children. It was then that I learned something most unsettling. It would seem Bishop Drent had a hand in giving some of the children over to these cultists. I only know this because we found several letters signed by him, stamped with his seal.”

What had been a captive audience turned into an outraged mob as this last line left Zenders mouth. Every brother in the temple stood up to voice their disbelief. Zender lifted his arms out, asking them to please let him finish, it wasn’t until Prior Methner came down from the altar to the floor where Zender stood did the voices quiet. No one spoke but all eyes in the room were on Prior Methner.

“Brother Zender will be allowed to continue, one more outburst like that and I will find a use for all this excess energy.” The Prior then held out his hand for Zender to continue.

“Bishop Drent has been arrested by the watch commander. The watch is also checking the Bishops office and his room to see if there is anything else linking him to this crime. They have asked us to stay here until they have finished.” Zender then looked down at the temple floor, resting his hand on the top of his hammer. “Pray that they find nothing else. So please, remain seated and I will come back for you all when it is all clear.” Zender then turned to Prior Methner one last time. “I believe this puts the temple in your hands. May Solarth guide your way.” Zender thought he heard the Prior say something in return but it was lost in the sound of his heavy boots walking away from the Prior. As he closed the doors behind him he let out a sigh that seemed to come from the bottom of his very soul. It was then that he noticed Commander Anderson standing in front of him.

“We’re all done kid, seems Drent was trying to run off with anything that could have pointed at him. If anything else comes up, let York know. And before I forget, we found a hidden door in that office of his, we didn’t touch anything but you might want to take a look at it. Good luck kid, hang in there. Just remember, every day the world turns over on someone who was sitting on top of it.” With that Commander Anderson turned and walked from the Temple of Solarth. Zender watched his back until the door closed and his view of the outside world was cut off. For one small moment Zender thought about following the Commander out when it dawned on him that his brothers were still inside the main temple, waiting for his word. When he pulled the door open, he wasn’t surprised to see Prior Methner and all of his brothers standing there waiting.

“They are gone.” Zender said in a somewhat relieved tone.

“Very good, now you men get back to your chores, Zender come with me.” Prior Methner said as he started to move. Zender stepped back from the door as everyone filed out of the main temple and went on with their lives. Once everyone was gone, Zender looked up to see Methner standing in the doorway to the Bishops office. “I am waiting for you young man.” Zender felt something in the pit of his stomach as he started to move. Once he was inside the office, Prior Methner told him to close the door.

“Sir, I am sorry about all of this.” Zender said once he pushed the door closed. Not that it would stay that way with the door handle destroyed.

“Sorry for what, doing the right thing? No my boy, you have nothing to be sorry for. I knew Bishop Drent was doing something outside the temple but I did not have the courage to look into it. I forgot that while we may be priest, we are still just men.” As Prior Methner spoke, he moved around the office. Looking at everything the guards had torn apart in their search of the office. He stopped in front of an old bookshelf in the back of the room. “No man is perfect, even you for all the promise you hold, have short comings. Drent told me long ago that he had a problem with the dice before joining the church. I assumed that this was the demon he was facing. I was wrong, as I said, no man is perfect. Now, come help me with this.” He said while pointing at the bookcase. As Zender stood in front of it, he could see the opening in the wall behind it. The guards had not pushed it all the way back into place when they finished. Zender had expected the full bookcase to be heavy but it moved with ease. Looking into the opening he saw a stack of books, several small bags and what looked to be a man covered in an old bed sheet.

“What is all this?” Zender asked.

“Those books are the temple ledgers, to help keep track of how much money we have in the vault, what we have spent it on and how much we have had come in. I assume those bags are filled with coin that have not been entered into the vault as of yet or perhaps Bishop Drent never intended for them to be entered. Now, pull the sheet down.” Zender reached out and slowly pulled down the sheet to reveal a full set of plate armor on a stand. “At one time, every temple of Solarth had two leaders on hand, a bishop and the knight commander. The Knights of the Sun were paladins, sworn to Solarth and pledged to protect us and our people in times of great need. While they were often seen helping to protect the land, they were beholden to no king or country. I assume this armor once belonged to the Knight Commander here in Eystlund. So much of our history was lost; we know very little of what it was like before the fall of the order. The only temple that wasn’t burned out during the purge was the one up in Arcadia. Many knights fell defending that temple but many more men were killed trying to take it. The king of the time ended up having to ask the knights to abandon the temple, to prevent the further loss of life. He had to promise them that the temple would not be harmed. Heavy chains stayed on those doors for more than a hundred years but the temple was not harmed.”

“Is that why we have so many rooms here? Is that why the stables are so large? How many knights were assigned to each temple?” Zender asked him without taking his eyes off the age’s old armor.

“As I said, so much of our history was lost, we only know as much as we do because of our elf friends. Not that it matters now. We will never see that age again, you should take the armor. Put it to good use, no point in it sitting in there waiting for someone who will never come. I think your days of doing chores in the temple are over, it would be for the best if you took it. While this temple will always be your home, it is clear Solarth has other plans for you.” Zender wanted to argue with Prior Methner but he couldn’t find the words. “Put the armor on, go out into the world and continue what it is that you have started. Just don’t forget where your home is.” Zender smiled at the older man and told him he would never forget. Until the day he died, he would never forget.