Story:Holy Opposites Chapter 3
Warm, fragrant wind washed over the little temple. Axiopistos, a Paladin of Ryaire and her Chosen, watched as a colony of seagulls flapped by his window. He grinned and shielded his eyes. He’d always loved watching the birds from the windows of his childhood home in the upper city. He’d had dreams, as long as he could remember, of joining them in flight.
He couldn’t, of course. Aasimar though he was, he had no wings. Axio leaned against the windowsill and sighed happily. His day would be dark, no question, and he could feel the tension amongst his friends at the little temple, but for now, he still felt a few motes of contentment.
He stood in silence for a few more minutes before a quiet knock at the old wooden door drew his ear. “Axio?” a male voice asked.
“Hm? Friar?” Axio said over his shoulder.
“The delegation is ready to depart,” the aging patriarch friar of the temple said. Friar Dreblin had been a constant figure in his life, ever since he’d started attending services at the age of four. Dreblin had served his grandfather, Solen, since Solen had turned thirty and left the Church of Ilmater.
Axio sighed again, this time in resignation. The road he walked involved entirely too much killing sometimes. “Yes, Friar,” he said. “I suppose the city is ignoring the problem?”
Dreblin coughed. He did that a lot. He insisted it was allergies. “Well, no, actually, my son, the Masked Lords are dispatching a force of mercenaries to join the campaign against the Baneites.”
Axio finally turned, surprise written on his face. “Waterdeep, actually doing things? I’m shocked. Not even hyperbolically, I’m amazed.”
“The Cult of Bane is entirely too strong, my brother. Even the Masked Lords of Waterdeep understand that,” Dreblin pointed out. The laws of the city made practicing the worship of all gods legal, but the actions of their parishoners were not exempt from the law. Mass kidnapping was as illegal in Waterdeep as it was everywhere else. He joined his former student at the window and looked out over the water. “The Year of Three Ships Sailing, they call this, but it’s a portentous time for Waterdeep no matter the name.”
The young soldier of Ryaire nodded gloomily. “So it is.”
The two Ryairans looked out over the grand harbor of Waterdeep, and its ugly northern shore. As Axio had observed, the Sundering and the Spellplague had not been kind to the City of Splendors. Time and godly squabbling had brutalized the city, and now its decline seemed, to some, irreversible.
Axio thought that to be quitter talk. He loved the city, he’d fight for it, and he knew that if everybody did their part, it could be cleaned up and purring like dwarven machinery in no time.
“So… it’s time for me to march in a proper war, then,” Axio said. “I admit, I’m curious. I’ve fought in small parties, to be sure, but I’ve never taken to campaign.”
The friar was silent for a moment before turning to his Chosen. “You won’t be, Axio.”
Axio turned and stared down at the much shorter man. “I don’t understand.”
“You’re not joining the campaign, Axio,” Dreblin said. “That’s what I came here to say.”
Axio slowly sat down behind his desk, to avoid intimidating the old friar. He had to be intimidating him, he realized. He had been looming over him. What else would have convinced his old friend to stay his tongue about his real message? “Please explain,” he said levelly.
Dreblin sat, too. “Axio, the war isn’t for you.”
“What does that even mean?” Axio asked quietly. His mind was whirring, but he kept his tone level and respectful. He could be good at that. His parents and others had trained him, for his entire life, to show good face always. He wasn’t perfect, but he was trying.
The old friar leaned back in his chair. “Axio, the frontlines belong to the soldiers. You’re a warrior, my son, and your talents lie elsewhere. Fear not,” he said, as the Aasimar opened his mouth. “You’ll be helping in a much more direct way.”
“Than fighting?” Axio asked, flabbergasted. “Like what?”
Dreblin sat back in his wood chair. “Axio, I have been given a new mission for you, by your grandfather. He says that he is acting on explicit instructions from Ryaire herself.”
“Explicit?” Axio was stunned. He was her Chosen, wasn’t he? What role did he have to fill that she couldn’t tell him about?
“Please enter, my friend,” Dreblin said loudly. A woman walked in, shutting the door as she did.
Axio rose to his feet. She was a human woman, with plain brown hair, simple features, a slender chin and face, pinched-looking and somewhat dumpy, but she held her back ramrod-straight and her eyes were darting around the room as if somewhat overawed. Axio noted the pin on her collar and holy symbol around her neck were slightly less ornate versions of his own – she was a Paladin of Ryaire.
“Hello, Master Axiopistos,” she said humbly, bowing low. “I am Cavria, a Paladin of Her Holiness.”
Axio leaned forward over his cluttered desk. A Paladin of Ryaire he hadn’t met? “Pleased to meet you, Paladin Cavria,” he said smoothly. “I’m surprised we haven’t met, if you’ve been inducted as a Paladin in the Order of Ryaire before now.”
“I was inducted only a few days ago, and haven't taken my final vow,” she said. Her voice was surprisingly quiet and shy for her proud bearing. “It’s an honor to meet Her Chosen, sir. I will happily oath my blade to your service.”
Axio looked her over. She had no weapons on her person, and she wore no armor. All she had on was peasants’ clothes and soft shoes.
“I see,” he said, to have something to say. She was actually rather unappealing, now that he focused on her. Then he caught himself. He never thought that way about people. He had made a conscious effort never to judge people by their appearances. Why was he doing it to her?
“It was through Sister Cavria that Ryaire passed along her orders, Brother,” Dreblin put in. “She has come from the Arbor.”
Axio jerked back upright. “What?”
“I was in the Arbor, sir,” Cavria said. “Ryaire brought me there, years ago, for salvation.”
“I do not understand.”
Dreblin rose and stood behind Cavria, who looked down in… shame, perhaps? “It’s all right, sister. I know this will be hard,” he said quietly.
Cavria reached up for the holy symbol pendant she wore around her neck and squeezed it. “Yeah,” she said sullenly. She pulled the loose pendant off and put it on the desk.
Axio’s head spun. He leaned back against the chair at the impossible sight before him. He opened his mouth to say something, and for the first time, words failed him.
She wasn’t unattractive. She wasn’t technically a woman. She wasn’t even human.
Cavria looked at him sadly. This was his reaction she had feared second to worst. Her bare skin was blood red now. Her hair was black as starless night, and her eyes… no mortal looked like that. Her sclera were black, her irises and cornea were cream-colored, and her pupils were glowing bright red. Her ears swept back to points like an eladrin’s, but there was nothing fey about her.
“You are… a devil,” Axio finally said.
“I am, sir, and I’m sorry,” Cavria said quietly. “For what it’s worth… I didn’t have a choice.”
|The tale of the Holy Opposites ||
|Arc 1: | Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 |
Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10
|Arc 2: | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 |
Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20
Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25
|Arc 3: | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 | Chapter 28 | Chapter 29 | Chapter 30|
|Arc 4: | Chapter 31 | Chapter 32 | Chapter 33 | Chapter 34 | Chapter 35 |
Chapter 36 | Chapter 37 | Chapter 38 | Chapter 39 | Glossary