“I can see it, brothers! A blessing. A reward for our good service. We have put our faith in the Lord and He has put His faith back upon us. After all this toil, after all this blood, this Lion Age, humanity is being given its chance.
The raids were becoming more daring, of late. After the last, the slaves the mad dogs had taken had done their duty to the Throne. Signs of struggle marked the trail the entire way through the deep wood. The hacked remains of peasants marked out their trail where they had been forced to put down the heroic men and women who paid for our path with their blood. Weather slowed them next, making the wet forest mud our ally and slowing the slave wagons in deep ruts. Melandiel’s blessing put us past two abandoned cages by sundown, and by Lurian’s moonlight we saw their grim destination. A black city in the deep of the wood, forgotten by all, erased from all record.
Dawn brought us down upon them with the force of the Remulthian. They were everywhere, like rats. Heretics barked and bayed from the cracks and crevices of the crumbling stone. As we dismounted to bring our reckoning upon them, the smallest and weakest of their cursed hive fled from our hammers and swords, their coward’s faith in the Red God nothing in the face of the Lord’s justice. When their zealots came, our holy work began in earnest and we put out their lizard eyes and tore open their wolf throats, undoing whatever years of blasphemy had gone unpunished in this hidden bastion for whatever centuries this place lay secret. A cursed warrior came forth from a crumbling archway, his fanged mouth slopped crimson from some earlier blasphemy. Across his fur-covered palms he held some great reaver of bone, and as his nails closed around its haft I spoke a prayer to Zuriel, invoking the heroes of our order who came before me. My muddy greaves pounding the cobbles of the ancient street, I tore forward to meet my foe and banish it with my sword. Its eyes a sickening red, I felt by breastbone stiffen as it hulked toward me on hooved legs, and in my heart I knew it to be like me, though I knew no fear. Even as the reaver pushed through my gut, I knew no fear. My sword found its throat as I heaved myself onto its ragged sword, pushing harder onto it to lock its weapon into my wound and ensure it did not escape. As its black heart stopped beating, I felt my own strength fail.
My brothers pulled me from its carcass, my sword still in the beast’s throat. My blood painted the street as they set me aside, and I heard the Hospitalier, Father Attanus intone the last rites over me. I thanked him, and then died.
That is how I know, brothers. My soul did wait beside my brothers and in the gloom of that place I could see the Shrine on the hill shining with light. When I awoke, my brothers did not trust me, for in the shadow of that black city, my reanimation seemed a frightening prospect, a thing of wickedness. When I begged the Father annoint me with the holy oils, and perform whatever exorcisms he could, the father took me to you, my masters. It is not so. I am remade as the Lord made me. In that revelation I saw that the Kuarlites haunt a holy place, a place where the righteous may be saved from injury, the just need not perish against the wicked. My brothers and I have seen the place, my lords, and I am its proof.
A miracle has occurred, and by the grace of God and our Emperor’s holy armies, we must see it occur again. We must return and make that place holy.”
~Brother Martellus, 44th Chapter of the Vigilant Order of Templars
For my whole life, I have not traveled more than 10 miles from the place I was born. Never saw much cause to, truth be told. Why would I want to go to exotic places and see strange things? My little village has everything a man needs to live a good life. I get up each morning, work through the day, then am blessed to be able to spend what little coin I’ve managed to set aside after caring for my wife in our old age to spoil my grandchildren rotten.
When I first heard the rumors of a forgotten town that hid a great Miracle that could bring back the dead, I took it for just another traveler’s tale. I’ve told similar stories to my children and grandchildren before bedtime. But by the time I had heard it for the fourth time, then heard that the great lords were taking heed, well, it lit a fire in me I suppose. Not really sure why I did it, but something moved me to give the shop to my son, kiss my family goodbye and spend all the coin I had to get a place with this here caravan to see this Miracle for myself.
Not for me of course. I’m old now, and ready to go and join my father at Benalus’ side in the afterlife. But something about the very idea of a real Miracle in my lifetime just made me go a bit mad I guess. But why not, I suppose? I never had an adventure in my youth. I’ve always been a good faithful man, attending Convocation every week, giving what I could spare to the Church. And seeing that faith vindicated and proven here on earth, well, the temptation is just too much to pass up. So I’m gonna go see this blessing put down by our Lord with my own two eyes before I die. Now that will really be something I can tell my grandkids about.
–Walther Goener, Gothic Peasant
In the long run, on the scale of Empires and Ages, the truth of this Miracle is ultimately irrelevant. Yes, the ability to revive the dead is undeniably important and interesting, but reviving the dead immediately after death is a limitation that simply cannot be overlooked. And the requirement of proximity to the cursed city itself, means that the true usefulness of this discovery is not, as many would claim, in its practical use, but rather in its symbolic value.
Just think on it My Lords. What we have here is tangible proof of the Miracles of God as our faith and doctrine proclaims. This is proof, the like of which has not been seen in the Throne since the Age of Heroes, when Holy Benalus strode this land himself. That kind of proof, and the outpouring of faith it will inspire, are tools that, if wielded correctly, will add fervor to our people the like of which has not been seen in generations. Let us not forget what happened the last time Miracles were rampant on earth. I do not exaggerate, for the last time anything like this was seen was at the hands of Holy Benalus himself, and the fervor that spread from those actions freed all of humanity from the shackles of slavery and the blasphemous worship of false gods!
My Noble Lords, hear my words that this great discovery is one that we must harness. We have all heard the reports of the dangers facing our Empire. From the north, the Njordic savages growing ever more aggressive and recalcitrant in their old ways, heretics popping up like weeds faster than they can be stamped out, Orc forces marshaling outside Cappacione, the Sharaqyn and their Elf masters growing ever more insidious in their attempts to destabilize all we have built here. My Lords, this is our opportunity. With this Miracle to galvanize our people as never before, this is a chance that few throughout all of history will have. This is a chance for a Grand Crusade of the Faithful that we can direct toward the good of the Throne. If we do this properly, we may not even need conscription. If we can pound the drums of faith hard enough, the peasants will be lining up for the privilege of dying for the glory of Benalus and the Throne.
–Lord Mathelwein Engel, speaking at a special council of Gothic Lords assembled to discuss the Miracle.
While My Lord Engel speaks with passion and fervor befitting a man as pious as he, I fear that I must now take the grim duty of laying bare the true danger that he has overlooked. Lord Engel was quite right to speak of the potential of this great discovery, this Miracle in the forgotten city. He was quite right to speak of the great fervor such a discovery is sure to cause, the outpouring of faith unlike anything seen since the Age of Heroes. In fact, I do not disagree in principle with anything Lord Engel has said, save with his conclusions.
My Noble Lords, take a moment to think on the repercussions of this. Remember the last time such Miracles were present in our land? Yes this was the great Age of Heroes, when legends walked the earth and great evil was overthrown. This was unquestioningly for the good, as those in power then were wicked tyrants posing as gods who could not be stopped save by such power and faith. Yet now we find ourselves in a similar position. Though I am loathe to draw comparison between their vile rule and the great and bountiful Throne of Benalus, this situation forces me to take that distasteful step. For my Lords, remember that the last time such Miracles were known in this land, Empires fell. The order of the world was completely upset, and all fell to chaos. Such fervor as this Miracle will inspire is the most dangerous force that could be imagined in a time of stability and peace, for such fervor brings with it change, and change is seldom a desirable outcome for those of us at the top.
It is hardly unimaginable that the peasants, those whose station requires lives of hard work and little comfort, take such a Miracle as a sign that perhaps they should have more. We must be very cautious My Lords of the effect and direction this fervor will take. It is far too late to stop the tales at this point. Pilgrims already flock to the cursed city to see this Miracle for themselves. But we must have a firm hand in how this outpouring of faith is properly channeled, and ensure it is not channeled at the very foundations of our Throne.Miracles and Wonders are great and powerful tools, but they are tools of upheaval and change, not of order and stability.
–Lord Neiderung Fafnir, responding to the statement of Lord Engel.
Gather round my children and hear of the great blessing of our Age. I’m sure that by now all of you have heard of the rumors of the Great Miracle discovered in a forgotten city in Gotha. Well I am here to tell you that, incredible though it may sound, those rumors are true. Praise be to Benalus for blessing our age with such a Miracle! The glory of such a wonder stands as proof of our worthiness and righteousness my children. This is a sign, a message from God himself that we are pleasing to his eye.
For those who might still harbor doubts, know that I myself traveled to Gotha, to this lost city of Stragosa and witnessed the power of this blessed shine with my own two eyes. I watched as a corpse, dead and cold from a stab wound through the heart was placed on the altar in the holy shrine. I watched and prayed with the faithful and saw our faith rewarded for the dead man opened his eyes and sat up on his bier. I saw the tears of gratitude streaming from his eyes as he thanked us for his deliverance and the chance to continue to do good in this world.
I tell you my children, if you had seen what I had seen you would fall to your knees and weep with joy at the coming of this Miracle. Think on it, all of you. How many times have each of us prayed for the souls whom we have lost to this life? How many times have we suffered, wishing only for a chance to see our loved ones return to us, wondering why God has chosen to take them unto himself. My blessed children, those prayers have now been answered! This Miracle, appearing in the heart of God’s Throne on Earth, is our reward for our purity and faith. Go now, rejoice and praise the name of Benalus our Lord. Tell all whom you meet what you have heard here today, for none of the faithful should be denied knowledge of the wonder of our age.
Sit laus Benalus. Sit laus Deo et Angelis Septem. Sit laus Lurian qui reditum nostri carorum in eius misericordia. Amen.
[Praise be to Benalus. Praise be to God and the Seven Angels. Praise be to Lurian who returns our loved ones in her mercy.]
–Father Superiour Bertram Wyatt of the Order of Saint Istra
Throughout the long history of this land, there have been many fanciful tales of the miraculous. The priesthood thrives on such tales for the belief in the unexplainable and unquantifiable is the product such men sell. That is not to say that such a product is false or even intrinsically worthless. On the contrary, the common people willingly pay for such a commodity in their time, their coin, and their devotion. Any reasonable student of anthropology can understand that what the clergy is truly selling is hope, and if their product is intangible and unexplainable, then that hope cannot be dashed by the mere application of logic.
While this may be a worthy pursuit for priests and may bring much needed hope to the peasants, that is not cause for those who have taken to the vocation of true scholarship to be lax in our duties. In fact, more than ever with cases such as this Miracle, when the uproar is loudest and the mob of fools is stampeding across Gotha to witness the miraculous, is our charge a necessary one. Passion and fervor are the mortal enemies of truth, and as seekers of the truth it is our duty to look at the reports of this Miracle objectively. We understand what priests by their very nature are unable to, that when something appears unquantifiable it is due to a lack of understanding on our own part, not divine intervention that breaks all the rules.
In the case of this Miracle, the evidence has thus far been somewhat tainted as all we have to work with are accounts from those either terrified or overcome with awe, neither of which make for particularly reliable sources. However, just because a source is not fully reliable does not mean that such a source should be wholly discounted. There is much to learn by comparing the tales coming out of Stragosa and looking for commonalities. We know now for instance that this shrine which for want of a better term we shall refer to as an autonomic reinvigoration device has returned those who appeared to be deceased to the semblance of life and vigor. However we also know that this phenomenon has limits. According to some of the more reliable reports, the autonomic reinvigoration process can only function within a limited time after the apparent death of the subject. Furthermore, the energy that powers the process appears to be finite, though it does appear to have the capacity to recover said charge without outside intervention in time. In this humble scholar’s opinion, this very fact strikes me as incompatible with the idea of a divine Miracle sent by God. After all, if God himself as defined in the scriptures were to gift mankind with a device that allowed the resurrection of the dead, why would such a device have such practical limitations upon it? It is simply contradictory to believe at the same time that God is a source of infinite power, and that this Miracle is a gift from God, powered by his divine will, for if this device were powered by divine will alone, then the device’s power supply would be equally limitless. Therefore, I must conclude that whatever the source of this autonomic reinvigoration device, it is not a divine gift. Further study is warranted to determine the truth, and it is my opinion that all use of this unknown and potentially extremely dangerous device be halted immediately until a proper study has been conducted by experienced scholars to determine the risks and benefits of such a device.
–Excerpt from Miracle and Myth, a treatise by Adelbrande Locke, Magus of the Third Circle of Mysteries of the most eminent Guild of the Magicians of Fire, Dextera Inflamatio..
Those of you who hold to the true faith, heed my words. I am certain that by now you have heard the tales of the great Miracle of Stragosa, the shrine that can resurrect the dead. These tales spread like wildfire all across Throne, from the Imperial Crown Mountains in the north to the bogs of Cappacione and even farther to the heathen lands outside our Empire. I am certain you have heard tales of wonder, of noble knights returned to life to continue their valiant cause of defending the weak, of innocents who died too soon returned to the loving arms of their friends and family, of a great blessing given to us by God as reward for our faith and purity.
Well I am here today to expose the falsehoods of such tales and warn you good folk of the truth of this blasphemous shrine. Far from being a Miracle from God, this shrine is nothing more than a vile pit of sin and temptation. All of you good and faithful people know of the nightmare tales of the LazarInes, those vile heretics who make a practice of using foul magics to revive the dead, trapping their souls away from the eternal reward they are due in the afterlife to use as slaves for their own twisted purposes. Does this supposed Miracle not stink of their heresy? Do you not see the stain, the sin of Vanity in thinking that we mortal men might be fit to judge as God does, deciding who should live and who should die? Such thoughts are pure arrogance, and any truly faithful man will agree. Each of us must trust in God’s judgment. We may mourn when he in his wisdom calls the soul of a loved one home to him, and I understand the temptation and fervent desire that something could be done about it. But good people, listen to me, there is only one word to describe the process of thought that would lead to choosing for ourselves who should live again, and that word is Vanity.
Furthermore, this goes beyond the mere Vanity sin. Use of this blasphemous shrine is placing your own judgment above that of God himself. Those who would use this pit of sin are fallen into the trap laid by its LazarIne creators, who wish only to destroy our faith and pull us down into damnation with them. They know that if offered this temptation that many will forget the stain on their soul and do anything for the chance to save a loved one. While the urge to save and protect is noble and right, we must recognize the limitations of mortal man and not delve into wickedness and sin on the false promises of Heretics. For the good of the Throne and all those of the true faith, this heresy must be shut down and stamped out.
–His Excellency Bishop Ignatius the Pardoner, of the Sepharahim Order of Saint Sariel
You think this Miracle is a creation of your wicked God? You are fools who simply cannot see the truth. When has your God ever returned the dead to life? When has your God ever truly shown mercy in such bounty? Only Lazarolth has been so generous, and what is your reactions? God curses you with plagues, war, famine, and all manner of evil and suffering and you praise him for it. Praise him for making your lives on earth a living hell. Lazarolth allows her chosen servants the gift to return your loved ones to your arms, snatch their souls from the captivity of that jealous tyrant you worship and let them walk once more in this world, and your reaction is to scorn her gifts and call those of us who practice them vile heretics.
Fine. We accept your mantle as heretics. We make no secret of our opposition to the tyranny of your God. Yet now when you find a shrine that can resurrect the dead, you truly believe this is the work of your God and not the bounteous gifts of Lazarolth? Honestly, where is the logic in that? Why believe that your God completely changed his ways, granting you a Miracle he has never granted in all of human history instead of accepting the clear truth that Lazarolth has won a great victory and created this refuge from the tyranny of death, this blessed place where any man might reunite with his lost love or have the opportunity to thank the noble knight who sacrificed his life so he might live.
Stragosa is truly blessed, but not by your God or his brash and foolish prophet Benalus. Stragosa is a haven of truth, a place where those who truly seek it shall find the right path and learn of the evils perpetrated in the name of your God. For who can truly continue to believe in the rightness of any cause that would deny you the joy that is so near at hand, all while their priests and nobility use it for their own purposes. People of Stragosa, take a long look at just who is being revived on this Miracle each day. I’ll bet a great deal that when the choice comes down to a priest or nobleman against your dear husband, that the choice will be very clear to the hypocrites who lie to you each day to keep you from breaking your self-affixed shackles. Come and find us, and we will show you real Miracles.
— Vendamar the Watcher of Skulls, Lazarine Priest and Necromancer