Cleric Journal: Day Two Hundred and Eighty

DearFatherMulcahy

 

 

It was full on night by the time Sebastian returned with Meredith so they both could confer with us.  She told how her tavern had never been fuller, with everyone in the village wanting to see the room where the demon had stayed, and look at the places where the bully boys had disappeared through foul sorcery.

She instituted a cover charge to even allow anyone to enter the tavern with the proceeds (minus a hefty fee) to go to the repair of the caravan warehouses which accounted for most of the economy of the village.  That was met with a rousing chorus of cheers and oblivious men and women dropped their silvers in an old boot before roaming the inn in search of mystery and ale.

We sat for a bit, just absorbed in our own thoughts. It was obvious how tired she was.  There was something bugging me, and I didn’t know how to approach it, so instead of dwelling on it for far too long, I decided to take a new path and tackled it head on.

“Meredith,” I said, “I’m confused about something.”

She yawned, covering her mouth with her hand for  a moment, then waving at me to continue.  “Ask away.”

“I’m know nothing of your life, nor your sister’s life.  I’m finding that I barely know anything about the history of the monastery I grew up in, and this nonsense about this One True God,”  I shrugged, spreading my hands wide in between us in supplication.  “My instincts tell me they are foul to the core, but what do I really know?”  I paused, collecting my thoughts.  “Honestly, the more I learn, the more I realize I know nothing.”

Meredith, Blargle, and Sebastian all laughed.

“Wiser words have not been spoken,” she said, reaching over and taking my hands.  “The world is a vast place, full of tragedy and wonder.  Anything you have learned in books is tainted with the perceptions of the author.  Any story you have heard only rings as true as the teller’s world view.  There are hard men and women who dearly yearn for answers to why the world is so unforgiving, and there are soft men and women who believe the world owes them glory, riches, power, worship.”

She let go of my hands and stood, leaving a small ring in my left palm.  “This ring will help keep you from harm.  It is not a powerful artifact, but it will serve you well.”   She bent in and kissed my cheek.  When she pulled back, she brushed her thumb against my cheek, wiping away the kiss.  At least that is what I always accused Sister Edna of.  How alike these two were.

I squeezed the ring in my fist.

“I fear your good heart is not ready for the world of men.”  She said with a sigh.

“She speaks true,” Blargle said, standing and waving at the stone overhead.  “The world must seek to destroy you.  It is the only way to preserve the balance.  For if you are to proceed,” she lowered her voice an octave which made her sound more the crone, than the child, “you will break the world as we know it.  There is no cure for decay, but to excise it from the body and allow the new flesh to grow in its place.”  She handed me a thin twist of wood, longer than my hand, and gnarled like a widow’s knuckles.

“This willow wand will show the way to safety in even the darkest places.  Use it with caution for it can mislead the flippant user.  You must use your judgment, make rational decisions.  Use this magic only in case of an emergency.”  She mussed my hair and went back to stand beside Liz, who patted her on the elbow, bringing a smile to the half-orc’s face.

“It matters not if you are he who breaks the wheel,” Sebastian said, walking over and laying a small box on the table in front of me.  “Greater powers than we have set you upon that course, and it is incumbent upon you to follow your heart.”

I opened the box and inside I found a simple glass orb, shot through with streaks of amber and jade.  I took it out and held it up for the others to see.  The lantern light scattered from it, sending rainbows across the room.

“That came at a great cost,” he said, grimacing.  “It is rumored to have once belonged to a most malevolent spirit who cursed it upon her first undying breath.”  He held out a placating hand when I looked up, panicked.  “It belonged to one you have faced already, if we are to believe your tales.”

“I have faced many,” I said, eyeing the stone askance.

“Truth,” Sebastian said.  “But this one is special.  It was an artifact taken from the First Temple by a young priestess named Abigail, lover of the first Merric, who slaughtered those in the Hallowed Fortress and paid the price of her very soul for her crimes.”

“I did face her, and send her on to the Far Shore,” I responded, looking at the sphere with fresh eyes.

“This is said to be the stone in which Abigail captured the essence of the first among peers.”  He pointed to the box where a folded note resided.

I took it out and saw it was from Captain Kershaw.  I traded you for this artifact, it read.  Brother Durham pressed it into my hands at the ripe age of nine and bade me take it as far away from the temple as I could.  He said that you and it could not be in the same place without triggering cataclysm.  And before you ask, it is cataclysm that we need.  This world is broken and must be made anew.

I  looked up from the note.  “What does it do?” I asked.

Sebastian shrugged.  “No one knows.  Keep it until you find its purpose.”

I stared into the crystal, willing it to release its secrets, but nothing happened at my command.  Foolish to think it was possible at this juncture in any case.

Then slowly  I looked up to catch the three of them watching me.  That is when the truth dawned on me.

“This is good bye?” I asked.

Meredith nodded.  “I cannot answer your questions, young Merric.  You must seek your own wisdom,”

Liz stood, holding both our packs.  “We must go,” she said.

“What of,” I paused, glancing at Kithri.

“I will carry her,” Blargle said.  “I would travel with you a ways.  My research here has been disrupted by the red cloaks.”

I looked around, confused.  Things were moving too fast.  Where were we to go?

“But what about Far Spire?  What will happen here?”

Sebastian nodded.  “The captain said that would be your first concern.  Your amazing friend here,” he said, pointing to Liz, “has allowed us to copy your most amazing maps, and we have sent an emissary to the Hallowed Keep for aid, or shelter.”

Liz grinned and ducked her head.  “It’s what you would have done if you weren’t moping,” she said.

“But the gnolls,” I tried, but Sebastian was shaking my hand, and Meredith was hugging me, and we were marching down the long corridor, following the lizard folk sigils, my new possessions tucked safely in my pack.

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