Storms over Kelerak, Part II - Page 2 - Myth-Weavers

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Storms over Kelerak, Part II

   
Good point, at best that would be their own name for themselves.

They would probably pick something more arrogant and grandiose. haha

Well, if you've got a suggestion, drop it in. I'll give it some thought myself in the interim.

I think it would depend on the sect and they probably wouldn't have a set term. Many would say they're "Followers of the True God," or "Followers of the Mightiest God," crap like that. You might have Dwellerites though, a cult of Vornoth worshippers who also worship the Dweller as a god, which would cause schisms on the Church of Vornoth. I am sure that sort of thing exists. The Dweller would encourage it and Vornoth would be angered by it.

The next hour was spent in conversation, most of it consisting of an exhaustive detailing of the events of the last year to a captivated Burcan, from their initial meeting in Ettinrun and the group`s narrow survival at Mavarra, to the desperate struggle below Arden that had nearly killed Brokk and the most recent encounter at Fisherman`s Solace.

"I am certainly on the road to recovery now," the dwarf reassured Burcan. "I needed to be carted most of the way here at first, and slept for perhaps twenty hours each day. Still, it wasn`t until I gave myself up to the will of the gods, working through their relic, that I began to heal properly."

Burcan`s eyes asked a wordless question and, hesitantly, Brokk gave him the stone tablet for examination. The instant he touched it, Burcan ceased to see the mortal world, and felt as though he was falling into an infinite abyss, inhabited by creatures and powers beyond his wish or ability to understand. A short eternity later, the priest returned to himself and snatched his hand away as though stung, and leaving Brokk still holding the tablet and very confused.

"This is not something that I can help you with," Burcan said with a firmness that could silence a king`s protests. "Some burdens may not be shared, and that is one of them. I will pray for you, my friend, and if the wound in your soul is one that the magic of men can cure, I will try my hardest to heal it. But under no circumstances shall I touch that...that thing, again. It is forbidden to the servants of the gods."

Brokk frowned. "I would never disbelieve you, but that cannot be the whole truth. Here, look at this."

With notably less hesitation than before, he passed the tablet over to Aidan, who held it as gingerly and unhappily as he might a screaming baby, but crucially, held it. Burcan breathed in sharply, more than a mere gasp, his eyes wide and glittering with fascination.

"I told you that Aidan is a paladin," said Brokk. "He is a true servant of Heshtail, as are you. He even woke up half of Arden when he renewed his oath to the Merciful One. So why can he touch it? Keep touching it, even, not just for a few moments? The whole truth cannot be that no servant of the gods may handle that relic."

Burcan stayed silent, deep in thought, for close to a minute. From time to time, his eyes flicked between Aidan and Brokk, and once over to where Isolde was effectively hiding herself by being extremely small next to the eye-catching bulk of Embla. For most of that time, he seemed to be arguing silently with himself. Brokk waited patiently, and once he had returned the stone tablet, so did Aidan. Then Burcan came to a decision.

"I have a favour to ask," he began, then held up his hand to forestall Brokk`s immediate acceptance. "Think carefully on this. If you do this for me, it will have consequences that only a prophet could see. Not just for you, or for me, but for all Kelerak, and perhaps the lands beyond. It is the reason that I am here today, along with everyone else."

He indicated the surrounding crowds of nobility, and merchant princes, and priests of note from every faith. "This is not the first time this assembly has been called, even this month. It has been proposed that a new barony be created in the south. Everyone here is making and breaking alliances and deals with each other to ensure that their own power is strengthened, or at least unaffected by whatever decision is ultimately made. Once enough of them are convinced they can emerge on top, they will go to Lord Osbern with their official proposal."

"I have been trying to keep the peace, but there are storms brewing in a dozen noble hearts. Storms that may well lead to civil war when Osbern makes his judgement, no doubt based on claims that the decision is unfair or invalid. However, with your help, we can forestall this. I can demand that such a momentous upheaval of the country`s political geography requires the presence of every existing baron in order to validate. Most are already in Dragonspur, but there is one who would claim that he has no reason to be here, being but a mere duke."

There was a surprised squeak from Isolde`s direction and Burcan nodded at her understanding. "I need you to go to the Eaglesreach and fetch me that deranged trollson Marius Sonnesberg. I need the Silver Duke. Bring him to me and for the rest of your days, the Church of Mercy will be at your side. Officially. Whatever help you need, you will get."

Brokk smiled broadly, still needing no time to think about his answer. "I would do this for you without the promise of reward, Burcan. We shall leave immediately."

"Hold on a moment Brokk!" Isolde exclaimed, forgetting her desire to stay unnoticed. "Do we not get a say in this?"

The dwarf just rubbed his forefinger and thumb together at her, and she got the message: church-backed coin was a rare and valuable thing indeed. She still muttered foul things to herself for the rest of the day.

Cool! Good ole Marius is coming back.

It was Isolde, still hiding practically underneath Embla and trying to look in all directions at once as they made their way out of the square, who first noticed that Aidan had dropped to the back of the group, and then disappeared into the crowd. It was also Isolde who made the connection between this sudden absence and the fervent preaching that had been going on in the background, but which they had so far tried to ignore - such doomsaying madmen were to be found in every major town and city, and Dragonspur was no exception to this rule.

However, for all that Isolde had not been here in many years, and the borders between Kelerak and Zeland, between a free and an enslaved realm, were watched closely, there was still enough trickle of news that seeped through to reach her ears. She worked it out quickly enough.

"Oh Bunga help us!" she gasped in true prayer. "We must get him back now! NOW! Follow me!"

Steeling her will, the halfling leapt out of cover and plunged into the masses, without care for who might see her. Embla thundered after her a second later, hand on the hilt of her sword, and forced her way through. Cries of surprise changed to anger and fear as she passed by, and the numerous bodyguards began to ready their weapons, placing themselves between the Erunian and their charges, and resisting the urge to pursue as Embla hurried past them.

Suddenly her path was blocked by a great shield slamming down in front of her, in its own way as battered and grizzled as the swarthy warrior who held it there. He was shockingly tall, nearly able to look her in the eye, and there was not the faintest hint of fear about him. Unlike that of the ordinary bodyguards about him, his mail was unpolished and bore only a single coat-of-arms, almost invisible under the accumulated dust and dirt of years of hardy service. Even his hair was cropped close to his skull in the historic fashion of the Farlandish battle-masters.

Embla felt the rage growing in her, but the aura of competence this warrior projected gave her pause. Unthinking fury would not help her if she had to fight this one. Slowly and deliberately, she angled herself towards him so that he could best appreciate the size of her weapon and her arms both. He matched her dance with a step of his own, adopting one of the classic combat stances pioneered by the legendary troll-hunters of ages past. As a space cleared all around them, and he drew his own sword from its scabbard, the pair carefully closed the distance between them.

"Let me pass, brave one," said Embla in a stern voice, and as he made no move to allow this: "You stand between me and my friends. I give you this chance to save your life."

"As my lord Neltak commands, I do offer you the same chance," the warrior countered formally. "Surrender your blade and you will live to be judged fairly. You have the word of Sir Kelphin of the Spur, as the gods do witness and we mortals do attest."

Embla considered this for a moment. Then she smiled. "I like you. I will let you live. You move or hurt. Five. Four. Three."

Before she reached 'two', she threw herself forward, ramming her shoulder into Kelphin`s shield. He had anticipated the attempt and braced himself against the charge, but even so the sheer force behind the impact nearly knocked him down. Kelphin could feel his opponent`s strength pressing against him and knew that to any attempt to resist it in this position was doomed to failure. Instead, he allowed himself to be moved aside, returning the favour by heaving against his shield and using the warrior woman`s own inertia to push her away from him.

She recovered her footing cat-quick, though thankfully her monstrously oversized blade remained out of her hands. Kelphin readied himself for another clash, only for it not to come, as several of soldiers of the Spur Elites emerged from the mass of onlookers and stood between them, dressed in their eye-catching royal blues. The most senior of them offered up a quick half-salute.

"Matthias ack-Baldwin, 3rd Division Archers," he spoke hastily, trying to calm the situation. "Hile Sir Kelphin, noblest defender of the Spur. May I present milord, and hile to you, friend Aslaug, she who wrestles the Battalion and Elites both. And guardian of master Brokk Loreseeker, companion of His Grace Burcan the White."

Kelphin frowned. "You do not suggest I permit her to pass by unhindered, purely due to whom she travels with, and their unproven connection to the Potentate? This...your 'friend Aslaug' disturbed the peace. At any moment, she was ready to draw sword and spill blood. She made a threat on my life. These are snubs to the sanctity of the laws of Keler that may not be brushed aside so easily."

"Valid points all, Sir Kelphin," Burcan`s voice reached them, a little breathless as he hurried up, a worried Brokk following as best he could. "And I assure you, recompense will be made for the insult made here to the laws. You have my word, as the gods do witness, and we mortals do attest."

That seemed to satisfy Kelphin and he relaxed his posture somewhat. "Thank you, Your Grace. You know where to find me when you need me."

"I do indeed," Burcan said, audibly relieved. "Now then, you two, we had best be after your friends before it is too late for at least one of them. If we are not too late already."

*****

They arrived to the sight of a makeshift podium surrounded by dozens of people, Aidan among them, standing enraptured by the preacher`s words, nodding in agreement at almost every other word. Isolde was tugging at the paladin`s sleeves and kicking him in the shins, trying to draw his attention away, but to no avail. As her efforts became more frantic, he simply waved her off without taking his eyes off the preacher, who - despite all the commotion mere feet away - had continued his inexhaustible exhortations and was clearly reaching a climax:

"Here in ourselves do we behold the chaos born of that blackness in the East! Insidious some call it, yet these are blinded by their own corruption. With every spoken word of foolishness and through every act of ignorance, the Darkest God recruits us to war against those who ought be our allies. Under a thousand crests do our houses stand, under a thousand banners do our forces march, and against a single unyielding adversary are we arrayed."

"A night, black and storm-lashed, has befallen our world. Yet just before the dawn is when the night is darkest, and the hottest flames of purification must be born as ember and spark. We must ignite torches of such brilliance that the sun itself shall rise to greet them! The long night shall pass and never return! Only in unity shall we have this strength! Only together shall we vanquish the foulest of our enemies! Hearken to me, friends, and together we shall cleanse the world of Sin! To me, to the Spur, and to a new, pure, glorious Kelerak!"

A great cheer rose up and the preacher finally rested his voice. The faintest of frowns passed briefly across his face, as if he was reviewing his speech and found some aspect of it wanting, but the thunderous applause from nobles and merchants and guards alike clearly went a way towards mollifying him. The expression returned, for longer this time, when he saw Burcan approaching.

"Good day, Your Grace," he announced loudly and boldly, not intimidated by the High Potentate of the two strongest churches in Kelerak. "What an honour it is to be graced, ah forgive me, blessed by your presence at my humble stand here. Have you come to be enlightened, seared by the truth of the Ineffable Flame? All are welcome into the ever-burning embrace of Flamgart."

Burcan gave the preacher a look that could wither a forest. "The day I abandon the path of mercy for that of immolation is the day that Asmodeus is granted redemption."

The preacher did not seem remotely offended or surprised by the rejection. Instead, he turned his attention back to his enthralled listeners and raised his hands in thanks for their time, stepping down from the podium. As the crowd began to disperse, reforming into the smaller separate groups they had been in before he started speaking, he walked over to Burcan with a polite smile on his face. At the same time, Isolde finally broke through to Aidan, who looked especially contrite as he realised how he had been acting.

"All right Burcan, what do you want of me now? There is neither a legal nor a moral injunction against my bringing over people to my point of view. Especially not when it comes to a matter quite so important as the one we are all here to discuss."

"I want Kelerak to remain at peace with itself," Burcan said firmly, soft eyes now hard and unblinking. "And if anyone can keep that from happening without truly wanting to, it is you, Lord Starsul. Do not forget that when there is nothing left to burn, fire will die as well."

The plot thickens.... the barons of Kelerak enter the stage. Love it.

Whilst the two Kelerites bickered, Aidan listened carefully to Isolde as she explained to him about Russel Starsul, a matchless demagogue and effectively the leader of the Flamgartian faith in Kelerak. As Aidan had experienced, his voice had a quality to it that demanded attention, a quality so potent that it bordered upon the supernatural, and only seemed to grow stronger in the presence of adversity. The rumours that had crossed the border in Zeland had certainly not done his charisma justice.

"If anything," Isolde added thoughtfully. "They undersold him as 'just' an unusually good speaker. By Bunga, for a moment I thought I`d start listening to him as well, and I knew what was happening! Thought for a bit I`d lost you to him. We. We`d lost you to him."

Aidan knelt down to meet her gaze, and smiled with genuine affection. "Aww, you do care. And Embla bet me a whole gold piece you tag along only because of a certain pair of dice."

Whatever Isolde was about to say to that was lost as a barely-choked-back howl of outrage reached their ears: "If you dare bring that madman here, I swear to Flamgart, your white robes will be stained red by day`s end, be it by my blood or his! None try the patience of others more than he, and next to me all others are as his dearest companions. You want Kelerak to be at peace with itself? Burcan, you naive old fool, he will have us at our own throats! Even that Moon-kissed Felmund has more sense than to summon that walking insult."

"Sun and Flame! Pray your god shows you the mercy he professes to embody, and you die before you see what your schemes have wrought of our nation! I shall pray you live instead, that I may set a fire in your flesh, and avenge Kelerak of your reducing her blazing heart to cold and windswept ashes."

With that dire pronouncement, Lord Starsul turned on his heel and strode away. In moments he was swallowed up by an admiring group of younger, 'new money' nobility unashamedly seeking to ride his coattails (or more accurately, his ostentatiously plain and humble preacher`s robes) further up the political ladder. A more obvious dismissal was difficult to imagine, and even the calm, pale face of Burcan the White darkened in anger at the insult.

Aidan fought back his shock to voice the question: "Did...did he just threaten to burn you alive?"

Burcan nodded slowly, his breathing deep and measured as he strove to master his feelings. "I could never admit it to his face, but I feel such pity for the man. He has such a strength in his convictions and such a love for our country that he might unwittingly crush her in a heartfelt embrace. He would skin himself for such a deed, of course, and devise worse punishments for himself besides, but that would not undo the death of Kelerak."

"The wars to come must rise in the east, can he not see that? Such a fire he carries in his soul, ignited in but a tenth of the hearts of the faithful, could carry us to victory over the darkness. Nothing could withstand such a fervour, not even the blackest minion of the Dark Walker. Starsul is blessed, I truly believe that, by the Everflaming Lord, and I also truly believe his fire will burn us long before it does the enemy."

"Be that as it may, we may be able to delay that for a time. Bring me the Silver Duke. He is mad indeed, but he has wisdom enough to douse a flame that threatens to escape its hearth. Kelerak needs him, she will fall without him. And with Kelerak gone, how soon will Daven and then Kale follow her into darkness, and the monstrous days of Occupation return?"

Once again, Brokk reassured his old friend that they would do this for him, and hurriedly led the others in the opposite direction to that Lord Starsul had taken. Just in case.

Love the politics! Speaking of love... am I sensing something between Isolde and Aidan?

Also, think you could have a chapter for the 15th of this month?







 

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