Story:Holy Opposites Chapter 8
Axio knelt behind the tiny shrine in the garden’s entrance. Dozens of friars, Paladins, Clerics, and other divine warriors knelt around the little vegetable patch, eyes closed, listening as the Grand Cleric lead them in prayer.
“And thus we see,” the ancient half-celestial wheezed. “Ryaire’s hand shall not be the hand of revenge, but justice. Taking a life shall not be an act of light consequence, nor should it ever be… but in the hands of the righteous and the selfless, it can be just.”
The Grand Cleric spread his hands over the little red fire burning at the center of the bowl-shaped shrine. The empty hall of the rectory stretched out behind him like an immense shadow. “So it shall be, my Lady Ryaire, Mother of the Sacrificed, that we shall observe your obedience to Lord Ilmater, and strike out against the Baneites who defile the young of Waterdeep and Faêrun. We ask for your wisdom, to know our foe, intelligence, to know when to strike him, strength, that we need only strike once, and love, to cleanse us of the dirty business of war.”
He let his hand fall to his side. “And most of all, we ask that you guide us to you, should we fall in battle, and need your light to find the Fugue Plane. Let us not stray from the path of your virtue, nor cross from your sight, in the haze of battle. Please.”
“Please,” we echoed. I was sitting behind Axio, lost in the darkness of the hall, which suited me well. My darkvision let me see the whole assembly as clear as day.
The old Cleric let the silence hold for a moment before reaching out with his stave of office and squishing the candle in the middle of the shrine. “And now, my children, go to sleep,” he said. “We all have so very much work to do in the morning.”
The assembled faithful rose to their feet and walked towards the hallway entrance. I ducked beside the door to let them pass, earning a few confused glances as I did. Who was this girl with the pretty pendant and the Paladin’s mark, in her peasant clothes and ratty hair?
I let them wonder. I waited until only Axio, his little sister, and the Grand Cleric remained.
“Triera, thank you for coming,” the old cleric said. He looked almost skeletal in the darkness, but he still faintly glowed. His half-goddess lineage was easier to see at night, when the platinum nimbus around his head caught the moonlight, and the double shadow he cast stood stark.
The little human girl beamed. “Yes, grandpa Solen,” she said. “I wanted to be here.”
Solen smiled. “You’ll walk in your brother’s footsteps soon, little one,” he said indulgently.
Her smile instantly evaporated. “Yes, sir,” she muttered.
He noticed her discontent, of course. “Triera. Your training is not to be feared,” he started, but she interrupted.
“No, but you never went through it,” she retorted. “I don’t want to be a Paladin. I want to be a missionary. Does my opinion count for nothing?”
Axio hovered protectively behind his waifish sister. “Grandfather, she’s not being unreasonable,” he said carefully.
I swallowed as Solen’s jaw set. He was a mighty Cleric, for all his age, and it seemed that though he had not inherited his mother’s longevity and patience, he did have a measure of her strength. “No, but the needs of the church outweigh the needs of its flock,” he said in the same tone. I had a sinking feeling that I was watching them tread old ground.
I caught Triera’s eye and jerked my head at the door. She took her opportunity and slipped away, as the two male members of the family started to argue.
“Uggghhhhhhh,” Triera opined eloquently, as soon as we were out of earshot.
“I agree,” I quipped.
“I just… I want to serve Ryaire, and that’s not enough any more!” she said, throwing up her hands.
I decided not to step on that bear trap. “Well, little one, your brother’s a strong advocate. Maybe he can-”
“Change Grandpa’s mind?” Triera cut in. “Hah. You are new here.”
“Well, yes, I suppose I am.”
We arrived at the girl’s bedchamber in the little rectory, and Triera paused with her hand on the knob. “Cavria, right?”
She turned to look at me. “You’re working with my brother to catch some kidnappers or something, right?”
She squinted at me in the darkness. “Keep him safe, okay? He’s as dense as dwarven concrete, but I’d be unhappy if he got himself hurt out there.”
I chuckled. “I’ll do my best.”
Triera nodded and shut the door. I turned on my heel and walked back out to the garden, walking past Solen as I did. He looked distinctly grumpy, and I steered clear. I found Axio sitting in the garden, staring up the sky. “Hello, Cavria,” he said, without looking down.
“Hello.” I followed the line of his gaze and spotted Selûne’s Tears, the trail of asteroids that followed the moon through the sky. “Am I disturbing you?”
“Not at all.” He levered up off the bench. “In fact, I think this will be one of the rare nights where I actually sleep.”
I nodded. “Me too.”
“You can find the dormitory alright?”
“I’ve been here for two days,” I reminded him. “I’ll be fine.”
“Right, right, I forgot.”
“Actually, though,” I said as he walked by, “is there any convenient way to leave the city nearby?”
He looked back at me with a quizzical glance. “Leave the city?”
“Well, no, the Gates are about it,” he said. “Why?”
“I prefer to meditate outside in the wilderness, I’ve discovered,” I admitted. “A product of learning how in the Arbor, I guess. Are there any streams nearby that are nice and secluded?”
He considered. “Not inside the walls, but out on the islands on the far side of the harbor, sure. Outside the walls, yes, there’s a few, mostly out in farm country, but they’re a long walk.”
“Oh. Ah, well. Thanks anyway.” I bade him goodnight and watched him go. Our work would begin in earnest tomorrow, and I said a silent prayer to Ryaire for patience. It was time to wait.
|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