Has It Been So Long

Feet kicked back and forth as Min sat on the graveyard fence gazing down at Shadow’s grave. The Aconitum house seal dangled down from a chain tangled in her fingers, forgotten for the moment.

Five years had passed since she’d arrived, sent here on errands by people that seemed worlds away now. Had it really been so long? She tried to add up the time in a new way that made it concrete, but it just kept slipping away into a jumble of memories. She’d always tracked time by people, but now those steady threads had all been pulled free.

Vanna had left. The last one who had known her before Stragosa.

It had been the right call. Vanna wasn’t a fighter. She was just another person who needed to be looked after. One less risk to track. Even so, no matter how Min tried to bend her thoughts, the flippant pragmatism she’d always fallen back on was nowhere to be found. She couldn’t swallow the lump in her throat or blink the burning from her eyes. This sting was new. Something she’d only started feeling here, and she wished it had never taken root just as much as she clung to it.

Jo had left years ago.

Back to her and Vanna’s family. The softer of the twins, she’d taken something Min couldn’t quite pin down with her. She’d taken it from Vanna too. A kind of laughter and gentleness she’d only seen in a few others. It had been a fascinating novelty and a notable absence.

And then there was Oliver.

If he hadn’t… If he’d just not for once in his life… Her thoughts pushed tentatively in that direction, but bounced back each time seeking safer spaces. Borso had found her adoption papers Sunday morning. Stupid, worthless, fucking papers with Karston’s fucking signature.
The Aconitum seal hit the grave mound and bounced with the force of the throw.
If she ever saw that bastard of a bishop again she’d make sure he knew exactly what he’d taken when he stole Oliver.
Revenge was easier than reverie. It resolved.

Now it was just Leonce. He hadn’t known her, but he also had. In the way all the street children knew one another by sight. In the unspoken rules and familiar wisdom. Don’t get attached. But they always did. The lie they all told themselves and one another right up until they had to choose whether or not to make it true. She’d picked. She couldn’t pretend she hadn’t. It was a lot to ask one person to make up for all the others, but they all did it when no one else was left.

Min exhaled in a long, drawn out sigh. Ruminating was a problem. Another bad habit she’d picked up here. Probably came of staying in one place for so long. Her eyes flicked towards the Casa in accusation and reproach, but as she did their faces began drifting through her thoughts. Each saying it didn’t always have to hinge on only one or two people. Perhaps it was alright if they came and went. Another annoying, new thought from here that she tolerated with a loud “Ugh” of frustration.

Hopping down, she strolled over to where the seal had fallen and picked it up. Wiping the dirt away, she rolled her eyes and stuffed it back into her bag. Pulling a knife from her belt Min stabbed it down into the freshly turned earth.

“Trade ya, Vaska.” She piped, running a thumb over the hilt of the new knife resting in the old one’s place.

And yet, a quiet part of her mind mused as she walked away…it is a nice thought.

The Struggle of Writing Vows

“Two years ago when your father offered me your hand in marriage to solidify the alliance between our clans I thought that I could be content with. At first glance you were a right fit lass and when you demanded I take you to Saragossa with me I was impressed with your spirit. You took the journey in stride, the trials and tribulations of the city, my admittedly limited capacity for coping with stress—all of that you took in stride. You kept our home warm and inviting, food ready for me even when I was returning home from the taverns at ungodly hours in the morning. You’ve been a rock since we came to this cursed valley, and even then I couldn’t say to myself that I loved you. I was a bloody idiot.

As I held you in those woods and watched the light fade from your eyes I knew at that moment a world without you waiting for me when I got home was not a world I could not accept. As I chased the people that had done this to you through the woods I was hardly concerned with my sword…I just wanted to hurt them for what they did to you. That was the moment I realized that there was nothing in the world that meant more to me than you. Every kind word, small gesture of affection, every moment spent with you drove me forwards and I truly believe brought me out of that alive.

Fiona MacLaren I love you with all of my heart and soul, and until I draw my last breath I will continue to work to be a man worthy of your love. I will live my life as the sword and shield that protects you from all the bad things in the world and nothing and no one will keep us apart.”

With a heavy sigh Niall crumpled the parchment he was writing on and tossed it to the side. This was the seventh time he’d attempted to scribe his weeding vows to Fiona, and the seventh time he’d found himself increasingly disappointed at the lack of words he could muster to describe his feelings. He looked over at the bed they shared and smiled softly watching the heavy wool blankets rise and fall as she slept. As much as he wanted to send her to Porto Fino, there was a great comfort in having her here. Seeing that she was alive and well, reminding him that he didn’t lose her. Occasionally he’d find himself in a moment of panic unable to calm down until he saw her or heard her.

The last few days he’d been so focused on tending to her recovery that he’d still been putting off the emotional labor of working through his own truama. As far as Niall was concerned that could come later, keeping Fiona safe and seeing them and the rest of his circle of friends through this crisis was top priority. Though he could hear Saorise and Arineh chastising him now about taking care of himself, in fact he was overdue for one of those conversations sometime soon.

As he set his writing supplies away Niall found himself thinking to the conversation he had with Sinnoch last forum. At the time when he was asked if he was happy Niall couldn’t respond. He didn’t know what happiness was, all he knew was his duty. But for now as he crawled beside the woman he’d given up his moorsword to protect he could imagine that one day he could very well answer yes to that question—and that was all he could ask for at the moment.

All those little details

Alexandra watched her mother bustle about, instructing various servants in what tasks must be completed before the April forum and Alexandra’s wedding to Herulf von Corvinus. After all these years spent learning at her mother’s side, she was still in awe of just how confident her mother could be. She knew she would do well to emulate that confidence, even if, at the moment, Alexandra was as uncertain as she had been in a long time.

It wasn’t as though she was unhappy with the marriage match that had been made-far from it, in fact. She had long since accepted that a love match like her parents’ was almost certainly out of the question, and had prepared herself for quite some time that her future husband may well be a stranger on their wedding day. That the match had been made to someone that she actually knew and conversed with, a man that had escorted her on the road between Stromberg and Stragosa, that was a pleasant surprise. It was a happy bonus that she had, thus far and within the boundaries of the sort of arms-length interactions that were appropriate for unmarried people of their standing, found his company pleasant enough, even if, at times, she worried that she came off as far too frivolous for an experienced Gothic military commander. The idea that her soul and his would soon be as one hadn’t fully set in-she knew it was true, and the time was drawing near, but the concept that Lord von Corvinus would soon be her husband, that at some point she ought to become comfortable with using his given name in conversation hadn’t quite solidified in her mind. She supposed she ought to come to terms with the idea before she embarrassed herself by acting like a timid, silly child.

No, it was the prospect of the change in her role in life, no longer an inexperienced maiden, still learning the ropes of rulership in this strange and wild place, but truly an adult, a wife, and, God willing, before long a mother. She suspected, based on comments from both her mother and her betrothed, that her time in Stragosa was likely going to be coming to an end sooner rather than later-but wasn’t entirely sure what her new role would be, what exactly she would be doing or even where she would be doing it, other than continuing to prepare to one day inherit her father’s countship and working to continue to raise her house’s reputation in the Throne.

But before that, the wedding. The wedding itself was hardly a minor detail. “Never forget, the feast is as much a battlefield as any other.” The words her father had written to her over a year ago now weighed heavily on Alexandra’s mind as she began to consider the details of her upcoming wedding. So many people were all too dismissive of the idea of the power of events and the symbols that made up most of them, but the lessons she had been learning for her entire life told her an entirely different story. This wedding, for example. Every little detail would mean something, whether or not it was intentional. It was unavoidable in the world of noble politics. Alexandra knew, on the one hand, that it would be wise to plan for her Stragosa wedding to be on the austere side-to do anything else would be callous in the face of all who had suffered so greatly in the time since the necromancer made its play for Stragosa and the dead began terrorizing the people. She accepted this, and couldn’t even bring herself to feel saddened at the idea, knowing that her house was planning a grand formal wedding for later in the year in North Pass to celebrate the new alliance. But she also knew just as keenly that to fail to honor the marriage and the alliance it signaled in a way that wasn’t worthy of the standing of both houses would be to undermine it. Perhaps, then, the wise course would be to find some way to make the occasion one that may also bring joy to others, some sort of representation of the joy of two people uniting in the eyes of God. A solemn celebration of duty to God and Empire.
Even the details of her dress would matter, she thought. No, not just the dress on the day of her wedding, whether the small celebration in Stragosa or the grand one in North Pass. How she chose to dress, to wear her hair, to carry herself could signal so much from this day forward. She must show the maturity and strength she had gained in her time in Stragosa, for any show of weakness would be a tool to be used against her and her house. But she had also worked so hard to find a way to relate to the common people that she had found herself surrounded by, and knew that this, too, would be valuable for her future. She must show appropriate sobriety and seriousness for the sensibilities of her betrothed’s Gothic house, to demonstrate a commitment to being as one soul with him, but she must absolutely not allow anyone to think that she considered herself something other than Rogalian. The politics around the match and the Pactum Domini were far too volatile for anything else.

Such uncertainty would not do, she knew. It was not fitting for a highborn woman. So she watched her mother, hoping to learn all those little details she must master in the coming weeks. There was much work to be done.

The Voice of the Voiceless: Fleeing

The following is found scrawled in one of Olivier’s journals:

“How are you doing, mon amour? I’m shaking as it is, and he wasn’t my Uncle. I can only imagine what it’s like for you”

“I can’t believe he’s gone either. I didn’t want to kill him. It just happened. I hope you can forgive me.”

“It’ll take some time. You know me, I’m not a killer and don’t want to start anytime soon. I just want to create, not kill.”

“Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I hope this new place is alright.”

“I’m scared, too. I’m going to miss mother and father. I’m sure Anastasie, will as well. I also hope I can protect the two of you in this new place”

“It all sounds really scary, but also somewhat safe from your father’s reach.”

“I know that sounds harsh, but remember what he did to my mother, to you, and what he said as we were running”

“It was really weird how violent he’s become. He’s always been such a nice man.”

“Remember when he’d get us pastries when we’d watch mother perform in the square?”

“He’d stand up for us too when Gregory and his family would harass us”

“I can’t imagine what would have changed him so much”

“And now we’re running from him. The man who raised you and helped raise me”

“I hope mother and father are alright. At least we’re together, I can’t imagine taking on this journey alone.”

“I know it’s only been a few days, but I already want to go back home”

“I know it would be a death sentence, but at least we would have some kind of happiness until then”

“But what if this new place is as horrible as the stories we’ve heard?”

“You’re right, as long as we’re together, we can do whatever we set our minds to”

“Have you thought about things you want to make? It’ll be around early winter when we arrive, and the Mari Lwyd should be taking place. I’ve been trying to write poetry for the others there”

“A scarf? That sounds great! I would love to wear it. You’re such a thoughtful person, Alexander”

“I love you, too, mon amour”

A half written letter sitting in the monastery

Mother,

I am sorry it has been so long since I last sent a letter. Between building and farming, my time in Stragosa has been more busy than I’d thought. The last letter I sent, I believe, was a little over a year and a half ago, shortly before I left Lethia, and much had happened. I learned to read, for one! In fact, I am writing this very letter myself!

I’ve learned much in my time here. I feel that I’ve grown into a stronger person, both within and without. I’ve met wonderful people from all corners of the Throne, some even from Sha’ra! I’ve met Mages and Princes, repelled Ghouls and Malefic, and heard the most wonderful songs and stories. In truth, as much as I miss home, I am beginning to feel happy here. My feet finally feel as though they’ve settled on solid ground, and I’m finding myself planning for the future.

Sanguine says we’re to begin working on the Fortress Monastery this coming season, which I’m quite looking forward to. I’ve been preparing for the upcoming Hearthwise ceremonies (they’re celebrated here as well) and I’m quite looking forward to the Ice Doll next season. I’ve begun planning a large Springtime feast as well! I’ve met quite a few herbalists in the city, and I believe that with their help I could feed the entire market! I feel as though I’m finally finding my place, that I’m finally doing good in the world on my own terms.

I hope you’re doing well, also. I know that the Gothic winters have never agreed with you. I assume Clypeus is reading this to you, have him get my blanket from the loft, should you need it. I hope the horses arent giving you too much trouble, did you ever find a new farmha

Lysander looks up from his desk as a cry comes from the courtyard. He stands and crosses his small, sparsley furnished monastery room, a look of worry on his face. He sees the city of Stragosa, his new home, under siege, the vision cutting through him like a cold knife. He hastily dons his leather armor and weapon, slinging in his satchel over his shoulder, and then rushes from his room.

Letter from Dana Isabella Scordato to Counte Scordato

Dead Brother,

I pray event back home are going well for matters in Stragosa have taken a turn for the worse. I apologize for the delay from my last letter but much has happened that has prevented me from writing.

Four months ago, I lost two hundred marines saving our distant cousin, Sir Reinhardt Sonnenhiem, from certain death. Acting in his roll as Lord Marshall of Stragosa, he was leading his men against the heretics. Myself and my own force provided support on both of his flanks. We had just routed a force of dark riders when Reinhardt’s own men turned on us, falling to heresy. I personally led a charge to rescue him from a duel with his own traitor turned captain. We were successful in saving him however we lost the aforementioned 200 marines to do so.

Afterwards, I took to investigate one of the main sites we have found in the valley, and came to an ancient elven site. It had twelve statues, with two oddly enough human. I must tell you I felt I was being watched the entire time though. I heard rumors that the same elf that killed father was also seen in Stragosa shortly after my scouting expedition. I am not sure if the two events are tied or not.

Once I had cleaned up from the trip, I set out to coordinate the defense of the Princepessa’s city of Portofino and the House Drake city of Silbran. While I was with Captain Maria di Segrati in Silbran, we were attacked by forces of Kuarlites. The small team of Spotters I was with were vastly outnumbered by the horde and one after one fell in combat. I only survived due to being knocked unconscious and my warhorse somehow escaping. I have since returned to Portofino.

I write you this letter on the eve of my trip to Stragosa to see if this war is salvageable. I am sorry brother but I must also apologize. For I intend to seek out the elf. Both honor and duty require me to do so. I must also get answers to the elven site I visited for one of the statues confused me greatly. I know this puts my marriage at risk should I perish but it must be done. I will however make sure contingencies are in place to ensure our interests are protected should anything happen.

I close with this. If the valley is held, the land surrounding the ancient dwarves fortress is legally our now. My guess was right on the land being valuable since dwarves once held it. For the very first mine Sergio, you remember our old tutor and papi’s friend, opened was a gem mine. The fortress is in good condition and I have multiple forces of Spotters moving to man the battlements when the mountains open in spring. As they do not require large amount of rations, once we erect additional defenses, it will be well secured outside of a large army assault.

That is all for now. I hope to write to you in a few days hence, with my success in Stragosa but if not, know I love you brother.

Harvesting the past, we flourish.

Love,
Isabella

The Message

Gideon could smell the smoke rising. The sounds of battle and yelling of combatants rode the wind. He stared out the window, watching the fires blaze and the shadows of figures rushing each other, full of fury and intent.

He turned back to the letter in front of him. The writing was scribbled and distorted, a hand writing as fast and recklessly as it could, desperate to get it’s message out.

“To Lord Percival:

Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming…”

It extended to the bottom of the page, that same phrase that pulsed behind the Lurihim’s eyes and rang in his ears. There was another on the desk, addressed to Sir Sanguine. And another, for Seneschal Kirsa. And a third, for Father Ansel. And a final one, for Bishop Adeodatus. All contained that same phrase, repeated over and over like a mantra. Gideon hoped that if he wrote enough letters, spread His Message widely enough, that perhaps the urgency of it would abate from his mind.

Gideon’s personal journal lay on the floor nearby, swept off the desk in his frenzy to compulsively spread the message of the Archangel that pounded in his skull. Half of it was introspection and contemplation on the healing arts and the Miracle until it abruptly became that scrawled feverish message halfway through.

Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming…

~Yes I am, Gideon. And when I arrive, I will take them all. My Hand will claim your friends and allies. And then I will claim the rest of Stragosa while you watch.

All will be Mine. Except you. You will be my Herald. You will be the last.~

Gideon was sweating. He clutched his head, eyes squeezed shut.

“Damn it, Lurian… stay your Hand, you bastard…”

~I will not, Herald. All are Mine in the end. Look out the window for the proof. It has already started. It is already here. Now return to spreading My Message.~

“Yes, Lurian…” The priest muttered. He turned back to the page automatically and began to write again.

Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming…

Love & Duty 10: Despair

A few embers and sparks fly as she tosses another log into the small tent stove before returning slowly to her makeshift desk.

More of a controlled fall than the gentle easing she probably needs, Isabella is again in her chair. With her right hand she takes back up the small pouch filled with snow and places it on the bruise around her right eye. It is one of many but also the only that concerns her when it comes to presenting herself in front of the troops. It would not due for the soldiers to see just how injured and close to death she came.

Agonizingly, she lifts her left arm. Somewhere in her mind, sheknows she is lucky it was not broken and only sprained but it is proving a larger hinderance than any of the other injuries for her as she can only write for a few moments between breaks to rest.

The sound of ink dripping onto parchment can be heard between the cracklings of the fire. She has ruined dozens of letters so far by allowing this to happen. Yet, she is unable to stop it. All her mind goes to when she attempts to draft the orders is back to a few days ago……………

In what seems like an eternity in the moment, the beast, not man anymore, grabs Maria by her hair, lifting her body off the ground before cleaving through her neck with his axe. Maria’s lifeless body falls to the ground and the heretic carelessly tosses her severed head behind him into a pack of hounds.

As time feels to resume again, Isabella fires her pistol at a hound to her left that was mauling Luigi. She Scores a slicing cut across the face of another on her right while Bella kicks the final with her hooves from the group that had encircled them.

The leather of her gloves creaked as Isabella tightened her grip on the reins. She heard what sounded like Marco’s voice scream out in agony as she kicked her legs against Bella, urging her into a charge towards the heretic. Isabella screamed out in challenge at the beast. Who in turn, turned towards Isabella and readied himself. Taking a steady position with his axe at the ready.

Isabella’s focus hyper focused on her target. Though it mattered little, for the screaming had ended with Luigi’s death cry. The entire scouting party lay dead. Bodies being torn apart by the hounds and Kuarlites. As the two finally came into striking distance of each other they both struck out. Right as the heretic was at the climax of the arc of his swing, a dagger flew out of Isabella’s left hand sailing right at his axe. Simultaneously she attempted to make a low cut for his stomach. Wanting him to have a slow and long death from a gut wound. However, with a shift of his legs, he was able to correct the interrupted arc by instead using the blunt end of the axe to score a hit right to Isabella’s head. That was the last thing Isabella remembered prior to waking.

When she woke, still in the saddle, it was in a forest clearing as Bella grazed. Isabella was able to dislodge herself from her entanglement in the reins and unceremoniously feel to the ground with a grunt. Every muscle and bone in her body screamed in pain and she laid there for hours on the ground. As her mind continued to clear of the concussion and the events started coming back of earlier in the day, she began to openly wept.

Maria, Franco, Alfonzo, Luigi, Cosimo, Sisto, Leda, Severa, Turk and Ambra were all gone. Men and women that had served with her for years some even over a decade like Maria. She’d known Maria for over a decade. Back when she was only a marine and Isabella a fresh knight errant. All had been there with her during the skirmishes to bring House Zane to heel. She’d drank with them. She’d played dice poorly with them. She’d met their children in the cases of Luigi and Sisto while in port at Segrati.

Back in the present, Isabella continues to feel nothing, no emotions, as her mind continues in this looping of memories of the event. No energy to cry. Barely any to move to relieve herself even. It took her a full two hours the last time she finallywent. Maybe the valley had finally broken something in her, permanently this time.

Off to the side of the growing ink pool on the parchment lay two other parchments, completed. Both the same with only the addressee differing.

Captain,

The south and thus the pass is no longer secure and presumed lost. Captain Maria and her unit of Spotters were slaughtered by a force of Kuarlites while patrolling the perimeter of Silbran. I spoke with Baronesse Drake before she fled for Regalia as her. There will be no additional aid from her house also they have fled the field to leave the valley to fend for itself.

The Orcs in the north continue to breed and solidify their position around both sides of the only river out of this valley. With the fall of the south, this river is the only means of obtaining the much needed supplies for the city and armies.

The Gothic’s continue to refuse to recognize use as equals nor offer recompense for our many losses.

Due to your valiant efforts we have the best picture or how this war may likely play out. And thus, I will be recalling all scouting parties back to Portofino with the spring thaw. I will waste no more of your lives scouting for threats for a people that care little for us. Many of you I have not seen in person in over a year and I thank you for your dedication and bravery in completing your assigned missions.

Once the entire army is assembled, we will take some time to enjoy the tavern in Portofino first before we discuss what must be done next. By then, I will have made one last trip to Stragosa to attend the Heidrich Court and see if this war can be saved from itself. Maybe now they will understand my desire to secure the waterway, mi
fratelli.

Harvesting the Past, We Flourish

Dana Isabela Scordato
Knight Commander die Seekers

A Cold Morning at the College

The city was waking. A wagon creaked past, wood complaining of the chill like an old man. Servants called to each other, spreading the morning’s news as they delivered packages. The air was scented with wood-smoke from a hundred chimneys and stoves.

These sounds and scents slipped into the room through the window, finding cracks in the shutters meant to protect against the cold breeze. They combined, losing individual meaning but creating something else – the background presence of living humanity. It settled in, filling those spaces not already occupied by shelves, books and papers.

Neither of the room’s occupants paid attention to the city’s rising presence, but both felt it without realizing. The young woman sat up straighter. Her quill danced across the parchment just a bit faster. The turbaned man raised his voice slightly, unconsciously speaking above the murmurs.

“With the inventory complete, I will be preparing a report to the Rulership. What do you think they will focus on?”

Sarah responded quickly, “I think they will want to know what you’re doing with the rare books, and which ones you’re going to get next!”

Azzam nodded. “Likely. The first matter is simple – demand is not yet overwhelming, so the priority distribution system should continue to work for some time. The latter, of course, will be more difficult. How would you plan the library expansion for the next two seasons?”

This kind of conversation was already familiar. Azzam would query his apprentice constantly as she worked, and Sarah would answer – sometimes eagerly, sometimes hesitantly. The master scholar favored open-ended questions, and never admonished her for a “wrong” answer. Sometimes, though, it was clear that he thought an answer was particularly insightful or well said – and other times he pressed her for greater detail, or challenged a claim.

On this occasion, she had a longer answer ready at once. “I would want more Exoterics. The Fundaments series we talked about last week – I would have it expanded. And books on languages, and some histories. I would write some myself and also ask merchants about purchases from Melandir.”

Azzam gestured for her to continue. “And why these things?” As he listened, he glanced down occasionally at the work in front of him. Records lay on the desk, half-sorted. He selected a few, absently continuing the sorting as he focused on his apprentice’s answer.

“Well, the fortress-monastery is going to be done soon, right? And you want to get started on research right away, and a broad base of Exoterics is important for that. And the archaeologists will want histories to better understand the ruins they find.”

Azzam nodded, but raised a finger. “All good points. Now, what of battle?”

“Battle?” The question caught Sarah by surprise for a moment, but the quick-witted youth recovered easily. “You mean books about it?”

“Indeed. Come, look.” Azzam rose with a slight wince. He stepped over to the window and swung the shutter open. Both of them shivered against the sudden cold air. Sarah half-skipped up to the window, dancing around boxes, and peered out. Azzam pointed across the street – past the elegant walls of the nearby estate, and to the row of collapsed buildings just beyond.

“We must never forget that this city is a place of danger. Even within the walls, who knows what awaits us below? And when it might decide to rise to the surface?” Azzam’s tone was serious, but not fearful. “Our rulers, knights and warriors must prepare against threats internal and external. It is our duty to support them in this as well. The vizier must be ready to advise on matters of both peace and war.”

Sarah pulled her shawl closer, her demeanor temporarily dampened by the more solemn topic, but nodded. Azzam continued, gesturing to the staff leaned against the wall.

“We ourselves are not warriors, so we cannot teach from our own experience. Thus, in a sense, tomes on martial subjects may be more valuable – for they fill a gap in our own capability. We can educate directly on matters such as mathematics and philosophy, and perhaps even on the theory of tactics and battle, but not in the practical applications. Always be aware of such gaps. When you serve, know how to fill them. This does not mean you must become a savant of the blade as well as the quill; but draw upon those who are such savants.”

“It is also why I hold the Knightly orders such as the White Ravens in high esteem. There are few such orders, who learn both the blade and the quill. Despite their small numbers, they produce the majority of the great treatises on combat within the Throne. In Sha’ra, the monks of the Temple have a similar dual training, along with magi’tariq of certain traditions. These few sources must be respected and valued.”

Azzam glanced back at his apprentice. He noticed that she had opened her personal diary, taking quick notes as she listened. He smiled, approving of her studiousness. –She would have done well at any madrasa. This land has fertile soil for the seeds of education, and the saplings already grow strong. Is this how my teachers felt, I wonder?–

Dreams of Holy Fire

the heat grew and grew as the fire below her started. she tries to steel herself and be brave but the moment flame hits skin the pain is unbearable….

“Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh!” Xyandriel bolted up awake, drenched in sweat. Where she thought she was feeling heat now became cold as the winter wind comes through the window in her room. She’d been having the same dream every few nights and always woke the same way. No matter how she tried, though she could put things to the back of her mind when she was awake, the guilt of what she did took the opportunity to remind her in her dreams.

It was seemingly so simple at the time, Sir Lyssander brought a man to her who was requesting her healing ability. She had been having great success in not only being able to exorcise the disease from Dame Sith the previous forum, but several chiurgeries to reattach hands to 14 people. She willingly provided the blessed bandage to take care of his damaged hand. So simple to take care of. It was after that he confessed his sin of taking part in a Vecatran ritual to revenge against the church for burning his mother as a witch.

Xyandriel knew that pain all too well when her own mother turned in her sister, Irma, as a Heretic. Manifesting the abilities of a Fire Mage, she took her newfound power as a sign that she herself was a God. This is what made her recent mistake make her feel even more stupid. After one turns away from God, there is no going back from the ultimate sin of heresy. While circumstances were different the result was the same, rejecting God.

She watched her Aunt Irma burn. Both her parents didn’t want to shield the truth from her. It was difficult emotionally to see, to hear her screams echo through the lands of Woefeldt, to smell the stench of burning hair and flesh. “This is why we must remain free of sin.” her mother held her close and whispered, “Staying with God is the best way to live and the only way to be welcomed back to him when we die.”

Xyandriel would never turn from God, nor his divine plan for her. It was her mistake to even think for a moment this man could atone, no matter how intense his regret was. How could she had forgotten one of the most basic rules? It was even more important now that she seclude herself at the Monastery. She spent every waking moment reading the Testimonium not only to improve her bibliomancy, but to ensure she would know better if such an issue would happen again. She reviewed the various forms of heresy to watch out for and which could be atoned for.
As she looked through the window with the snow coming down, knelt to Pray.

“Dearest God, did I care too much to be blind to the heresy right in front of me? Is this your way to show me I was taking too much Pride in my recent successes? I do not fear death, that is not the way of the Covenant I am devoting my life to.”

“But… I don’t want to die this way. I don’t want to bring shame to the Church, my Family, my community and the people here in Stragosa. I need to continue to spread your glory and help those who sin so that Lurian can lead them to you. The moment I realised my mistake I could have kept it secret, but I confessed. Even before that I was doing everything I could to let the Inquisition know what had happened.”

Please don’t believe I would ever turn away from you and provide the Inquisitor the wisdom to know the same. I know Sir Sanguine, Sir Lyssander, Sir Renatus and Bishop Adeodatus don’t believe I have. Please also give me the strength to tell my story and not break down so that I may prove myself to the Church once more.”
“I look forward to my atonement and what I can further learn from this ordeal. All I ask is to live to carry it out. Deus vult.”

She took a few moments to change her bedsheets and nightgown and lay back down buried in the blanket knit by her Grandmother. Sleep did not come the rest of the night, the same phrase playing over again and again in her head:

Please don’t let me burn,
Please don’t let me burn,
Please don’t let me burn,
Please don’t let me burn,
Please don’t let me burn,
Please don’t let me burn,