Previously, the heroes managed to fight their way through the horde of skaven they found skulking about the ancient waterways underneath Kingsport. In doing so they managed to liberate the rebel lords from the carceratum, allowing lady Annabella and lady commander Miranda to make good on their promise to keep them safe while hostage to the crown.
James was unhappy about the way in which the situation in the carceratum was resolved, for many reasons. There were many casualties that could have been prevented, and he was looking for ways in which to karmically right the balance. In the meantime the group was invited to a special sermon being held by prior Benedict at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father, while the heroes only had a speedy departure from the city on their mind.
Tenth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262
(Silvermoon is waning. Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is waning.)
While Quentin took Astrid to the Sacred Baths of Sedna in order to get Astrid patched up, James was going up and down the docks, speaking to captains and deckmasters in order to arrange for passage to Eastray.
Luca and Emrys went to the Temple of Light to find out whether they could purchase some more of father Devon’s healing ointment. When the good father refused to sell the heroes any more of the ointment, claiming it would take away from the ability of the clinic to care for those in need. It almost seemed as if if the old man had been forewarned of the doom that was coming to the city. The pair decided to go to Ecgbrith the Kaedwyni herbalist instead, but not before tithing to the temple.
A conversation with the Kaedwyni revealed that the magical healing potions were not only in short supply, they were also very expensive. A deal was struck whereby the heroes would purchase three healing potions for half the gold crowns it normally took, provided they would return with one of the fabled ghost orchids. Earlier the Kaedwyni had sold Luca a herbalist kit after all. If the heroes would not be able to secure themselves a ghost orchid to return to the herbalist, they would pay the other half of the coin instead.
All this while, James waited patiently for the Old Queen to come into port and cast its ropes to one of the piers. He noticed several familiar faces while he waited for several passengers to disembark; Neiman, the handsome blonde bosun, Ridley, the tomboy deckswab, and Lorne, the barrel chested captain with the ugly scar across his face. When James came aboard he spoke with Neiman who instructed the captain of James’ arrival. The captain invited James into his cabin, out of the pouring rain. James shared some of the plum brandy he had traded with the Szygani in Pinefall with the captain.
James came right out of the gate; what would it take to charter the Old Queen for a trip to Eastray as soon as possible. Captain Lorne said he had already come to an arrangement with another to head to Eastray on the morning of the next day. James correctly guessed that the other was captain Randall and revealed that he was to be on board the next day as part of Randall’s expedition. Still, he would like to move up the departure time as much as possible.
Captain Lorne was willing to depart earlier provided that Randall would agree and he had a chance to resupply the ship before departure. This would mean a late afternoon departure from Kingsport, with an early evening arrival in Eastray if all went well. The two agreed to head to the Careless Wanderer and speak to Randall and get his agreement.
When James departed the cabin he found that both Ridley and Neiman were eavesdropping at the door. Ridley was genuinely happy to see James and glad that they would likely be traveling together again. When James departed, he did so together with Roddy, the friendly, plain-faced bosun; he was disembarking together with his fishing equipment, looking to get hired onto one of the teams entering the competition like he had done every previous year. The Old Queen would come to pick him up at the end of the competition and he would rejoin the crew.
On the way back from the herbalists, Luca and Emrys decided to visit the Ravensbourne estate to visit the lady captain. Miranda received them in the hall of the manor. She seemed cagey about talking openly about the rebel lords and both the heroes picked up on the quick enough to hopefully avoid suspicion from any of the servants in the vicinity. Instead, Luca shared with Miranda a copy of the translation of the missive that he had found on the skaven shaman’s body, penned and signed by Epidemius. Miranda suggested the two report their findings to lady Annabella instead. They would be able to find her by presenting themselves to lieutenant William of Eastwarren at the palace crownsguard barracks.
When the two heroes arrived at the palace they were soaked through. Lieutenant WIlliam was dressed in full ceremonial armour and explained that he had been invited to the sermon which was being held at the cathedral. It was at this point that Luca explained to Emrys that the heroes had received an invitation to that event as guests of honour. Emrys was disappointed to hear about the event so late and expressed a strong desire to attend. Considering his special relationship to prior Benedict it made sense to Luca make good on the invitation.
After using some minor magics to clean and tidy themselves up the heroes were brought to the handmaid’s quarters, sited right next door to where the queen was laying in torpor, watched over by Dr. Arkenward. After a casual inspection of the handmaid’s antechamber and some more magic to obfuscate the conversation, the pair informed lady Annabella of the fate of the two rebel lords.
Lady Annabella appeared quite interested in the skaven and their goals, asking the heroes to speculate on why the skaven may have been down in the waterways underneath the city. The heroes hypothesised that it was likely in order to find more of the 144 Arms of the Senhadrim. Annabella confirmed the rewards for the heroes’ efforts; James got a letter of credentials, Luca had been registered as a Baronet of Evenshade Hall, Astrid was gifted a writ of credit with the Silver Bank worth 150 gold crowns. Emrys got a deep and passionate kiss from the lady for his effort in liberating the rebel lords.
When all had returned to the Careless Wanderer and it was decided that the Old Queen would set sail for Eastray later that day at the last tide. Some decisions would need to be made about the horses and Luca’s cart and about some of the things that the heroes might want to leave behind, but first the heroes decided to go and attend the sermon while Astrid remained in the room to rest.
Arriving in the miserable weather at the cathedral, it was a very busy affair. Many carriages of wealthy and influential people were pulling up to the marble steps leading up to the elaborately carved entrance door beneath the large, stained glass façade. Merchants, magistrates and nobility were all accompanied by guards, impatiently shuffling through the doors to get inside and out of the rain.
Inside, along the entire length of the nave, on either side of the aisle, from the entrance until the altar, stood wooden pews filled with people. On either side of the pews were pillared galleries where the escort of the guests were standing. The heroes were met by lord Lothar Grey, whom had been the one to invite them. He stood next to his older brother, lord Bishop Aldred Grey, who was dressed in opulent white robes, decorated with silver thread. On his head he wore a mitre adorned by rubies and sapphires. He held an equally ostentatious sceptre in his hand.
The heroes took a seat in one of the front pews on the right side of the aisle and took a moment to take in the splendour of the cathedral. The altar stood in the middle of the transept, separating the two minor chapels from one another, as well as the nave and the major chapel. The minor chapels were dedicated to Saint Catherine and Saint Aureus, while the major chapel was dedicated to Paladine himself. High above, the vaulted ceilings were richly painted with famous scenes from scripture. The vaults were connected with flying buttresses on the outside of the building, which could be made out through stained glass windows depicting angels and saints.
The lord steward could be seen on the other side of the aisle, sitting together with princess Mildred, surrounded by crownsguard. Lords and ladies, mages, merchants and magistrates; each was waiting with bated breath. When the ceremony first got underway, a choir started sitting while the lord bishop and several cardinals performed a ceremony of praise. Afterwards, prior Benedict was introduced and the tale of the crusaders was told, as well as the part that the Heroes of the White Eye played, pointing the heroes out to the crowd.
When prior Benedict came out he was dressed in full, ceremonial regalia. The blue lapis lazuli on his armour sparkled and shone. Adelard the young priest stood at his side and patiently translated each of the prior’s words, making sure to catch every inflection, every emphasis and every bit of passion.
When the Heroes of the White Eye liberated us from Hell and for the first time in countless cycles we dared to hope, we wondered how the world had changed since we became incarcerated. Some of us spoke amongst each other and fantasised how the divine might of Paladine had wrought the world and prepared it for the new cycle. How had Paladine’s followers explored the scriptures and had deepened their devotion?
I was shocked and horrified when I first looked upon the scriptures; copied and rewritten so many times that they are barely recognisable for what they once were. Instead of focusing on Paladine’s laws, it has introduced ambiguity, leaving His flock to interpret scripture according to what they consider convenient; picking and choosing what to care about and what is righteous. Religious relativism opened the door to entropy, to disorder… to chaos.
At this point, Luca started to notice a familiar, dark disturbance around the periphery of his vision. He felt more than he saw an inky black cloud descend down from one of the minor chapels.
Spreading the faith became more important than obedience. With obedience comes sacrifice; with faith comes a tithe. Those in positions of power have cloaked themselves in faith for personal reasons. Instead of sacrifice they seek profit. The Ecclesiastes are complicit to this piety for pay, as they reap monetary rewards that allow them to build splendour in this life and forego the splendour they could obtain in the next life. Tithing benefits the corrupt. Paladine does not want your coin. Only your obedience.
The horrors that lay beyond the veil are pure chaos. It will tempt you to stray from the path of lawfulness. It will tempt you to abandon Him as the object of your devotion. For the first crime death is merely a just retribution. The second is a heresy so terrible that no punishment can be sufficient.
And I see a lot of people who have strayed from the path, only seeking power and riches. They bicker, fight and wage war upon another, sowing chaos and discord, rather than unity and harmony. These people, these selfish goals are the chinks in the armour against the demonic onslaught that awaits you if you do not unite under the protections of Paladine’s divine law.
Luca saw the darkness grow and Aurion materialise from it, slowly descending down on prior Benedict. He managed to look inside his master’s hood and for the first time he saw six pairs of eyes burning hungrily in that dark void.
“When people forget their duty they are no longer human; they are less than beasts. They have no place in the bosom of humanity, nor at the top of Celestia, nor in the heart of the Platinum Father. Let them be forgotten.” – Catechism of Aureus the Golden One, Book 1, Chapter 3, Verse 17
…before it was removed from scripture.
”I tread the path of lawfulness. Though it paved with sharp stones, I will walk it barefoot; though it crosses rivers of fire, I will pass over them; though it wanders through the dark, the light of Paladine guides my steps,” from the Gathalamor’s sermon on the road to Blue Harbour before engaging Barazod the Fiery Dread.
…again, removed from scripture.
You are sheep being lead to the slaughter, kept blind by the greed and selfishness of people who have embraced entropy. Saint Catherine of Dunagore, whom you hold so dear, once told me that it takes but one to start a landslide with the casting of a single pebble…
It was at that point that the gleeful burning of Aurion’s six eyes reached a height. Luca saw as his master put one arm around the prior, while the other arm drew one of the wicked scythes and raised it high overhead.
Luca panicked and was afraid that his patron was going to do something terrible to the prior.
Everyone saw the prior raise his arm and slam a single pebble down on the marble alter. At that moment, Aurion sliced the air in front of him with his scythe. There was a moment of silence as people struggled to see what the prior had placed on the alter. Then a rumble and a sudden crack which echoed through the cathedral, as the alter sundered in two.
Prior Benedict jumped down from the dais and marched down the isle with Adelard in tow. Reaching the door the prior met James, who had tried to make a swift exit. The prior turned to the young elf and said “thank you” in broken Lyrian, before leaving out into the pouring rain.