A White Knight’s Oaths

Candlelight flickered over bare stone and filled the otherwise chilly chamber with warmth. A knight in white armor knelt in the center, his sword on his hip, a heavy book in his hands and his head bowed.

The others in the chamber watched impassively, almost all decorated knights themselves. Dame Blackiron stood closest to the door, watching the ceremony but alert to the danger of them all being gathered here. Lord Sonnenheim stood with Sir Ansel to Sanguine’s right, a stark combination of black cross on white and white sun on black. To Sanguine’s left stood, Sir Hezke. She was the last to enter the room and didn’t speak, but put a hand on Sanguine’s shoulder briefly as he prayed and then stood beside him.

Bishop Adeodatus stood in front of Sanguine with his hands folded and head bowed, the scripture of Dumal covering his missing eye. As all were gathered, he spoke.

“You have come before us today to swear Oaths before God. The Oath of Integrity and the Oath of Reprisal. Speak these Oaths and what they mean to you, Sir Sanguine.”

Sanguine took a breath and looked up.

“There was a time in the past that I thought deception could be excused in times of great need, when the cause was righteous and when the results were more good than bad. I have studied and gained experience since then. I have atoned for my deception. I have learned that the method is as important as the result. Even more important.

We must be honest so that others can trust us. Our word must be kept, even when it is inconvenient. I swear that I will be an example of trust and honesty going forward. I swear that none shall find deception in my words or deeds.”

Adeodatus nodded gravely. “Now speak to me of the Oath of Reprisal.”

“The Order of the White Lions has even more responsibility to be an example of right action than most. And in Stragosa, we struggle more than elsewhere. By my action and inaction, men and women have been led astray. Sir Suriel made mistakes that risked his soul. Paladins have made excuses for actions done ‘for the greater good’. This is not the way we should be. I have learned this lesson in difficult ways. And because I have learned it, I now have the responsibility to pass it on.

I swear to take responsibility for the failings of my order and see that they are corrected. I will not allow the hope that we bring others to be tarnished.”

“Well said, Sir Sanguine,” the Bishop spoke with gravity. “God has heard your Oaths. Keep them and be stronger for their swearing.” He extended a hand and helped the knight to his feet.

Ansel embraced Sanguine. Reinhart clasped his forearm. The white knight exchanged a warm smile with Kirsa and Hezke caught his eye and nodded with approval. They departed the small room together, with much still to be done before the next forum.

Introspection

It’s been a long time since I’ve organized my thoughts like this. Getting it down on paper makes me think about it, much like transcribing the Testimonium. I envy the true writers, though. I fear my own efforts, if they are ever read one day, will be deeply boring.

Hezke is gone for a few weeks. She told me what’s been weighing her down, finally. She’s chosen a dangerous path, but I’m committed to helping her and if we succeed it will be our life’s work. She told me she’s committed to resisting temptation and I trust her. I only hope she can trust her chosen ally and resist her enemies long enough to succeed. I’m happy, though. She trusts me and relies on me. Having someone really believe in me is the strongest feeling in the world.

The long work of getting Stragosa on its feet is almost complete. We’ve improved the city in every way except digging a moat- which is absurdly expensive and unnecessary. We’ve built almost every village we can manage and I hope to have a Confectioner operating in the city by mid-winter. At that point we’ll have all the food we can produce and it will be up to Reinhart to stabilize things with the military. Father apparently brought two thousand spearmen. I’m not sure he’s ever engaged in war himself before, but even I know what a waste that is.

My current frustrations lie with Silbrin and Borso. Both would be solved by transparency, but I’m also not sure how much I can trust either of them.

The Baroness exaggerates the status of her city to aggrandize herself. ‘A second district has been built’ means that a second district is being built- that sort of thing, but it’s constant. As far as I can tell, Silbrin is struggling due to far too many people and no infrastructure to feed them. In contrast, Corvo seems to be learning quickly. He’s started building villages for them, and has even discovered that such villages operate well on hills as well as plains- a boon to us all. They’ll probably need more villages and to tax them strenuously over the next year, but I believe Silbrin will survive. Hopefully they take my advice and leave some of their markets unused to slow their growth.

More personally, the Baroness and her strange Paladin companion originally claimed that she was no longer human- a fact that was disturbing enough that many were sharpening knives. However, in mixed news that was proven false when her Paladin killed her (later resurrecting her on the Miracle) and found Wrath on his soul and his Covenant broken. Those things would not have happened without her being human- happy news. Unfortunately, Areteus now is burdened by his Mortal Sloth and Deadly Wrath- a situation as dangerous as Suriel’s a year or more back. We will have to watch him closely. I hope the atonement from the Bishop is enough to heal him and the community.

Borso is another sort of problem. My fears were confirmed by a masterpiece song he commissioned and I heard in the morning at forum- his greatest drive is Greed for more gold. It affects every part of his interactions and I have fooled myself into thinking there might be something beyond it up to this point. I had hoped that gold was just his chosen method to help others and advance Mankind. But it is not so. He tempts the people with ‘silver for their pockets’ knowing that it will come back to him and what he pays is only a tenth of what he receives for their labors. He exploits the Princess’s generosity in using her lands for far less than any other noble. I have seen his ‘lack of coin should not get in the way of a good deal’ contracts- they indenture people, especially nobles, to him for years and cost three times the loaned amount to buy out of early.

Deep breath. I want Hestralian economics to work. I want to see how competition works toward innovation. But I don’t see it yet and I’m not sure Borso is the man to do it. I hope he can be convinced to do the right thing and set aside his Greed soon. The goal is to bring everyone together. But so far he just seems in it for himself.

On a brighter note, I continue to meet good people and grow my relationships with old friends. I met a huntress named Daciana at forum and hit it off immediately. She is so enthusiastic with how our little brotherhood operates that I feel like it must be Cyaniel himself guiding us together. Adrian approached me and wants to work with us more closely- I think he’s starting to see that what really unites us is the good in our hearts. That means a lot to me. He came from a pretty rough world before coming to Stragosa and it makes me happy to watch people grow. I met another young woman named Saiorse, a farmer who was going to help staff our Dairy, but she ended up going to Silbrin instead. Strangely, I’m at peace with it despite the strain on our resources. She is doing it to help those most in need and that’s admirable. Reinhart, Kirsa and I are getting closer. I love my brother, but I often kept the other nobles in our group at arm’s length to give him his space. I miss him, but his absence gives me the opportunity to know everyone a little more personally. Speaking of, Lord Volksnand is a godsend. I hope I’m not being completely deceived, but he feels to me like a good man wearing the clothing of an evil man. It makes me laugh when he speaks of villainy while selflessly helping everyone around him more than himself. As efficient as Bakara was, and the right man for the job at the time, Volksnand has added something we previously lacked in our ruling council. Ansel, Sif, Heinrich and Lysander provide me with a strong spiritual environment. It’s nice to finally talk with others who understand as I do and want to learn more about the philosophy and theology of our faith. Alonzo and Sif made me very proud this forum. Sif was knighted by Dame Rundelhaus, Ansel’s mother, which is a big commitment for her. She’s going to be an excellent Templar. I also got to know Alonzo better and he has gained a new passion for purity of action. I’m not sure I understand him fully yet, but he’s a wonderful artist and I look forward to sharing his enthusiasm. The Beggar Kings also deserve praise for bringing him closer to God with their beautiful music.

I could go on all day with the good people in my life, but I’ll save some for the next entry, I think.

Father is here in Stragosa. He is upset at his daughter for disowning the family name. Sebastian and I knew he would be, but it seems I was left holding the bag. I defended her choice as well as I was able- and as I had sworn to do- but Father was set in his purpose. He has cut her off from the brotherhood. I have mixed feelings. I want Father to reconcile with his daughter and meet his grandson, but at the same time I feel he is justified, politically. If I could choose the resolution it would be that Alexandria makes her own way, on her own merit, but that she and Father can treat each other as family again privately and spend some time together while he’s here. I pray for neither full support nor enforced distance from our brotherhood. She was never fully invested, more than materially, in the work we do and that’s ok. But she deserves credit for the help she has given us and I want to support her goals when they are good ones.

I had a revelation on Saturday evening. I used my Sacred Blade to face the plague wraith once more. The Lazarine who tricked me appears to be controlling it now. But my blade did not seem to do lasting harm to the creature, which made me think. The blade isn’t intended to defeat Malefic- it’s intended to defend against them. I drove off that creature and only one very tough Njord got sick and was subsequently healed. That is an accomplishment. But I’m not a monster slayer- monsters aren’t meant to be slain. They’re meant to be helped. Realizing this will help me work better with the Nuranihim. I can watch their backs while they help these lost souls and that feels pretty good.

Overall, I feel like I’m growing every day. I read a book on the Age of Heroes and even in there, before the time of Benalus, there is wisdom to be gleaned. One thing that resonated with me that I read from an ancient leader’s journal excerpt was that people sometimes need someone to more forcefully guide and train them into being good people. You can’t expect children to make all the right choices. That’s what parents are for- teaching them the hard lessons learned by generations past so they can stand on our shoulders and be even better. I can’t just present the information and avoid conflict anymore. I need to start really teaching and taking responsibility. I don’t know how I should do that or what it’s going to look like yet, but it feels like time to learn.

Organizing the Harvest

Sent by crier into the fields:

“Sir Emeric Sanguine requests the brief attention of all farmers intent on harvesting over the next six weeks.

As the Lord of Reaping festival and it’s great success was unknown to me, we have not sown as much as we might have throughout the year

However, there is still a great deal of work to be done to feed Stragosa. The construction of Farming Villages and staffing of our food-producing buildings is of great importance.

If you would like me to help direct you, please reach out. I would love to be of service.”

Victory of the Soul

Dear friend Alonzo,

You caught me unawares at forum and I was unable to express my joy about your new path. I’m so glad you were as moved as I was by the Beggar King’s song. I’m so glad to be walking with others and see that same light of righteousness in you.

It’s easy to make excuses. Things that can’t be done without magic. People we have to kill or they’ll kill us. The necessity of war. Just another drink to drown our sorrows. Lying for the greater good.

It’s much harder to take the righteous path.

I do not accept the quick and easy aid of magic- not because I hate mages (I don’t) or even because I suspect it comes from dark places (I do), but because relying on it stunts our growth as a people. Invention is the holy alternative to seemingly insurmountable problems, even if it takes generations. Using magic leads to dependence on magic, and magic isn’t the righteous path.

I don’t kill. I protect and I disarm and I try to rehabilitate. And I fail sometimes. But I try.

For every task there are a thousand temptations- a thousand easier paths to accomplish our physical goals. But this world was made so that we can improve ourselves- find solutions to problems without sin. It’s our duty and our joy to be better people every day.

The path we walk is hard, but it can be easier with company. It’s with that in my mind and in my heart that I write to you. My friend, your gift touched me and brought me joy. It inspired me to further our shared dream. You have a Gift greater than any of mine- the Gift to touch the hearts of others. Will you use it? Will you make more masterpieces to inspire others to our cause?

I dream of a city filled with the righteous. Our days filled with joy and betterment. And art that reflects our path all around us. Supporting each other in our struggles and helping end sin in our time.

Write me soon, brother, or visit me.

I believe in you.
Sir Emeric Sanguine

International Man of Mystery

Shadows dance in the firelight as the man in black descends from the ceiling. He carefully adjusts his mask and then dashes like the wind into the next room, hiding behind a column.

Sanguine… is reading a book.

*****

She is an expert in her craft, capable of getting information out of anyone. A man is tied to a chair in this forgotten ruin, the soup of drugs in his system causing him to babble everything he knows.

“He has enemies! Powerful ones! Tarrantists and atheists and Vecatrans!!! Please! Please let me go! I’ll tell you anything you want! He works for his father and the Master Paladin!!! Pleeeeeease!!!”

The man screams, but no one hears. She writes it all down. No one has heard this information before.

*****

A pouch of silver sits on the table between them. Shadows obscure their faces. One of them scoops up the pouch and carefully examines its contents.

“He cares a lot about his morality. He’d be very upset if he ever sinned. He lives in the castle. He’s staffing a monastery just west of the city. His honor code is pretty obvious.”

He lists it anyway, seemingly from memory. He should remember it at this point. It’s the fifth time he’s been paid for it. He smirks.

Hide Bundles Needed!

I am in urgent need of Hide Bundles in any amount for a project to help the city. If you have a stockpile of any amount or know of someone who does, I would like to speak to you and negotiate terms.

Thank you
Sir Emeric Sanguine
Knight Protector of the White Lions

Declaration of Triumph

I, Sir Emeric Sanguine, am saddened that those who prey on the desperate and so depend on their exploitation that they burned down a church. A church that did nothing but help and feed the downtrodden with its Refectoria.

But I will not allow this to stymie God’s will in helping the people. By the Grace of God, I swear that I will arrange for the Church to be rebuilt and Refectoria to be re-established and running again by the end of Autumn. For nothing can stand in the way of Mankind when we work together.

Convalescence

The white clad man’s hopes weren’t high. Each time he approached he had heard a muffled dismissal from inside. After the first week, he had started leaving boxes of food on the doorstep. The neighbors reported that the occupant came out some time later to retrieve them. It was some small comfort for the guilt that the Paladin felt.

It had been ten weeks now and Sanguine devotedly approached the door and knocked softly, expecting another terse rebuke. But this time it was silent. Worried, Sanguine knocked again. What if something had happened? What if his friend was hurt, or worse? He turned around looking for someone nearby to see if there was any news- and just then the door creaked.

Whirling around, what met his eyes was a sorry sight. A long and dirty beard with streaks of grey. Grimy lines on the poor man’s face around his eyes, streaked by tears. Torn clothing still stained with blood.

The two men stared at each other for a long moment and tears welled in both their eyes. “We’re even,” the poor man finally croaked with a wry smile hidden behind his beard. Sanguine practically tackled him into a hug with something between a sob and a laugh. “We’re more than even,” Sanguine agreed in a whisper, holding him tight.

That night, Sanguine cooked Connor a hot meal and helped him clean his home and then himself. Connor’s neighbors gave him clothes in true Gothic tradition and they told stories back and forth of happier, simpler times. As the hour ran late, Sanguine poured Connor a cup of wine and the neighbors said their goodbyes.

Connor sipped at it as they sat alone before the fire. “Am I gonna be ok?” he asked quietly, looking down into his cup. His voice betrayed the hurt the hurt done to him and his doubt at his own recovery.

“You are, my friend,” Sanguine answered with determined warmth, watching him. “I’ll make sure of it.”

Citizenship and Staffing

The Citizenship system adapts and improves, as do we all.

Beginning today, all those staffing a building or room that directly fulfills a city need will receive the benefits of Citizenship for the duration of their duties there, rather than just their training period.

The city is also looking for more such individuals for the following locations with the following requirements:

Delicatessen: basics of cooking (performance) and farming
Cheesemonger: basics of cooking and farming
Meadery: basics of farming and slightly more experience in cooking
Dairy: basics of farming
Apiary: basics of farming

Anyone performing these tasks will be keeping hundreds of people fed and will be honored accordingly.

On behalf of Grafin Hezke Heidrich and the ruling council of Stragosa,
Sir Emeric Sanguine, Knight Protector of the White Lions

The Beacon of Dawn

I am happy to report construction of the monastery is complete. The architect, Marcellus, along with Sif Farstrider, Bishop Adeodatus, Master Alonzo and their many friends joining them in labor have done tremendous work and the structure is beautiful and functional.

Marcellus has somehow managed to survey and construct the tower in such a way that it reflects the sun at dawn and creates a shining beacon in the western mountains visible from Stragosa. I’ve decided to name this place the Beacon of Dawn after its appearance at that time. Hopefully, it will be seen as an inspiration to the whole valley.

The pathway up to the monastery is still somewhat rough, but I’m sure it will be widened over time and perhaps a road can even be built.

I’ve moved some of my older notes and testimonium research out to the Abbot’s quarters here, though I’m spending my evenings at the castle. I’ve set up a hall for debate with inward-facing pews and desks. It feels empty yet, but it will be filled with voices soon enough. The courtyard is also a bit bare, but we have a stable and high walls and we’ll start moving in arms and training equipment and decor to inspire the faithful soon enough.

I plan to spend the summer training with my shield and will hopefully be ready by the autumn to turn this place into a true redoubt. In the meantime, I’ve been studying with a few itinerants and with Heinrich, Ansel and Lysander. All three have different insights and it’s rewarding to be able to work on exegesis, hermeneutics and homiletics with the ordained when so much of our time is taken up with praxis at forum.