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  A Pilgramage Of Justice

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Registration date : 2007-04-26

 A Pilgramage Of Justice Empty
PostSubject: A Pilgramage Of Justice    A Pilgramage Of Justice EmptyMon 28 Jan - 8:17:03

A Pilgrimage of Justice
And verily I continue to struggle with my personal daemons as I plough on through a crisis of faith, a crisis that has me doubting the number of gods or godlike entities and our debt to him, her, them or it; if any; a crisis where I find it difficult even to visualise the shape, dimensions or even existence of my holy symbol. I seem to have forgotten how my devotions are carried out, the strength and scope of my deity’s powers; the existence and expectation of afterlife or future incarnations, a point on which I really should be 100% crystal; in fact every aspect of my faith seems to elude me; other than three solids: we clerics seem to bless stuff a lot, we build churches not temples and wear cassocks to avoid the gusset issues that have plagued so many holy men throughout eternity.

At least I know my name: Reverend Mannis Erabis, one of the many members of Baron Samuelle Ronaldson’s Chaplain staff, who enjoy well established prestige and prividege as a just and wise second estate. For the Baron is a pious man, progressive in his outlook, just not vindictive, judicious and prudent in his taxation, a benign master to his many serfs, and a true patron to the arts and paragon here on Trebizand. His only flaw as far as I am aware; his insistence on having a name that is so difficult to spell.*

*Sameul obviously. Or is it Samuell?

An example of this man’s wise governance is the commission that yay even now I and my colleagues are undertaking. On the far flung reaches of his lands where civilisation still contests the wild untamed godless frontier, a series of disappearances are reported. Whilst these are mere serfs in the main, where would our congregations be without them, who would till the fields, man the battlements and in particular in this case, build monuments to the glory of the Supreme Being or beings whose worship is of course our solemn and sacred duty?

Mudflats is the name of the town to which I and my companions travel as special investigators with sheriff’s powers to determine the cause of the vanished workers, whose main task currently in this shire is the construction of a place of worship for the good folk of the neighbourhood. Once stablished we need to remedy the situation with the aid of the local yeomanry by whatever means necessary, or report back for reinforcement if the situation is sufficiently dire.

My associates in this task are an oddly matched couple, though more have been promised to follow: Jud (definitely not double DD) is a fine figure of a woman despite this, a well-muscled warrior with a crossbow slung over her back and a deadly looking pistol at her belt. The other is a brutish tough named Vizral Hetherjetts as he seems to enjoy telling all and sundry he meets along with an unnerving handshake. I sense a darkness in him and find his lack of faith disturbing. His voice is a grating rasp that seems to threaten unspeakable horror and menace in the most mundane comment. His more conventional revolver sits in a shoulder holster and I sometimes glimpse knife hilts strapped inside his sleeve and on the back of his neck.

Overseer Bracknell is the local designated representative of the Baron and we get down to discussions with him as soon as we arrive. The town is modest, home to a few hundred souls that swells three or four fold on the bi-weekly market days. Stone buildings are rare and even those that do use stone usually resort to wood for higher storeys, for the area is plentifully forested. The exception is the great church being built, already the main building structure is complete though fitting out has far to go. The tower though can be seen as foundations only. Stone from a quarry some miles distant arrives daily to ensure its completion before the rains that signal winter arrive.

To say that the Overseer is not a powerful intellect is like saying that water is not very dry, and he is of little use: No one sees the disappearances occur, they can be individuals or families, take place from the quarry and farmstead in the district’s hinterland. There is always a worker involved, lending credence to the theory that kidnapping by rival lords short of workers is an explanation. The flaw in this theory as confirmed by our investigations over the next hours and days: Not a shred of evidence. No groups of men dragging people away screaming, no sitings of bandit bands, no obvious nearby suspect rivals, no failed attempts or people killed or injured in raids to seize prisoners, no witnesses.

The other main theory: Serfs are absconding. However I have earlier in this missive noted my admiration for the Baron’s enlightened approach even in the context of a feudal structure that can be an excuse for abuse and ill treatment. We will have to see if the Baron’s local agents work in this spirit. It does seem clear from the review of what might laughably be called the Overseer’s forces that no local resources are ever likely to stem the problem: There are fewer than 20, equipped with weaponry that might tackle an evil shrubbery or allotment, or perhaps give a rampaging haystack a run for its money. Their tactical skills would probably be challenged to outwit a headless chicken on an off day.

But I am being uncharitable, which may or may not be a sin depending on the exact details on my doubtless intricate and totally logical belief system, so I err on the side of caution and fall back on what I usually do to help in these situations. I bless them all. They are pathetically grateful. I find that this becomes a theme, the folk here I can sense are genuinely pious and god fearing, and those building the church seem to feel it is sacred work, so who am I to disagree?

We ride out by Cart to the quarry, some four miles distant, our ramshackle mode of transport drawing a range of envious/ awed glances from the local yokels. The quarry is smaller than expected with some 50 workers chipping away and we talk to a number of workers. I say talk, Vizral does a lot of the talking and whilst he doesn’t actually do any harm I feel that his technique would normally be accompanied by removal of fingernails and punctuated by the screams of his interviewees.

What emerges is a picture of quite a happy Ship: They are well treated, have volunteered, they work in month long rotations, the food’s ok, the church is a good thing. .. The people who disappear give no outward sign of discontent in the hours leading up to it, no hordes of hostiles descend on the quarry and drag people away, indeed you could see anyone approaching from a good distance. The only black mark – Health and safety not a priority, some injuries and fatalities caused by problems with the crane. The foreman, Erik, is another example of the low quality of staff working in the region, he seems to mean well and I sense nothing hidden in any of our conversations.

We decide to head back to town via the nearest farmstead. Reaching it at dusk we find a simple multipurpose building standing by a well with some twenty workers who dine and sleep in the one room building with their families. We get the same feedback from the populace here and sleep over, rising with the dawn as they do. Talking to the farm manager, generic chief farmer #1, we discover that here some people have left unexpectedly, just ignoring and throwing off attempts to stop them.

It seems then they are runaways, but to where? And why piecemeal? And why do they take no provisions or gear? And why go when they are apparently so happy? Are they drugged? Are they being controlled somehow by some sort of nefarious mental attack? I’ve heard tales of people with mental powers that can do all sorts of evil. Are they being blackmailed with harm threatened to their loved ones? Nothing makes sense to this simple priest and my esteemed colleagues seem to have less idea than I.

I read nothing but general harmony in this place, it’s like a perfect community but where people vanish, if I were aware of HG Wells noted piece of work ‘The Time Machine’ I might draw comparisons, but of course I am not. So I won’t. The next day I offer to spend the day at the well drawing water and offering a listening ear as it’s possible my religion involves confession, but even if it doesn’t I feel it’s a plan: perhaps someone will confide in me, a respected representative of the faith and the well-loved Baron, if they feel they are away from prying ears.

Jud decides to scout the perimeter looking for anything unusual and (I must confess slightly to my relief) the rather unpleasant Vizral says he will return to town to investigate further there. Now this day saw a strange development but as we now have three stories not one, let me take each of our days in order of interest: I spent the day by the well, in the sun, getting sweaty drawing water and engaging in desultory conversation with a number of my temporary flock. The most exciting information I learned was that little Benjamin had left his father an unwelcome present in his knapsack overnight after being caught short. Devastating news for one father perhaps, but hardly our concern. I blessed the little scamp of course.

Vizral had the thrill of another cart ride and recounted to me later that he had visited a shop in the Square; ‘Solomon’s Forest Remedies’. He had parted with an unwise quantity of credits I felt for some healing herbs which he told me had to be infused into a hot brew, plus some mushrooms that he showed me with an unsettling wink, and a small bottle of white liquid which when I enquired as to its providence drew the response ‘I’ll let you know Reverend’. Somehow he manages to make the word ‘Reverend’ sound like something you might regret stepping in, possibly left in your shoe by Benjamin. I really dislike that man may I be forgiven.* He also mentions something else at the shop to which we will return. Finally, he visited the church and talked to some of the clergy there. I shudder to think what they made of him.

*If by any chance forgiveness should be a major element of my religion.

Meanwhile Jud inspected the surroundings and came across an odd metal object clamped firmly to a tree trunk pointing at the farmstead. The tubular metal object ended in a mirrored surface. She managed to detach it and brought it to me. The material was unlike any normal metal reminding me of Jud’s pistol and was of very fine manufacture with no seams or joins that I could see suggesting a smith of rare or unnatural skill. Jud was unable to dissemble it or make much of it, though I was reminded of the telescopes at the observatory I visited during my semester year in the capital.

Jud then undertook a more vigorous search to see if there any more such objects. Imagine our surprise when she found no fewer than seven more. On Vizrals’s return he mentioned he had been offered a similar object at Solomon’s for a princely sum he could not afford and the shopkeep seemed as ignorant of its purpose as we were. Progress? Perhaps, but at the moment, just more questions resulting from our efforts.

We retired for the evening to the communal building. Vizral was out like a light in seconds, was I imagining or had he taken a gulp from that white bottle? Now perhaps the object of my worship smiled on me this night or perhaps it was blind luck, but in my crisis of faith and in unfamiliar surroundings that fell well below my usual insistence on at least three star accommodation, and with alien artefacts nestled just a few feet from me, I was not sleeping, and such sleep as I had was fitful and troubled. Thus it was that I heard the sounds of distress from the sleeping Vizral, who seemed to be convulsing.
I rolled him over, slightly horrified that he might try and strangle me in some sort of frenzy. I was rewarded by a sharp spurt of acrid smelling vomit, then another. He twitched a couple more times, then his breathing resumed a steady deep rhythm. He seemed quite oblivious and deeply asleep again, but I needed to do some cleaning up and Sharon, the girl currently responsible for sanitary arrangements was resolutely asleep across the room and had also been receiving rather mixed reviews for her work. I decided to act.

So I crept to the door and took a bucket across to the well where I had enjoyed my day in the sun sweating in my cassocks. I filled it and turned back, noticing as I did so some noise away in the trees -perhaps some stray animal. As I neared the building though I heard a couple of low voices, one definitely telling the other to be quiet. I hastened as quickly as I dared back into the farmhouse and shook Vizral and Jud. Only Jud awoke and I quickly warned her that we were about to receive visitors. Looking around I could see that one or two others had awoken, but were frozen in terror: It appeared they had received this kind of visit before.

Vizral was no use to anyone, I sat against the wall with my primed shotgun concealed in my cassock pointing forward. Jud had slipped to one side concealing herself as best as she could, a bolt resting in her cocked crossbow. Two intruders were at the door, humanoid shapes, one at least carrying what was clearly a gun of some kind. More hissed undertones, they are looking for the girl but can’t see her, must be Jed? Then another harsh whisper- the accent unmistakeably very foreign ‘There’s the priest, against the wall’ How do they know us? How can they see me? They are silhouettes in the starlight against the open door, whilst I’ve seen manuscripts illuminated by the Monks in the seminary back home that shed more light than the dull embers of the fire in the centre of the room.

The tension was unbearable: I was frozen in place, if he could see me, could he see the shotgun shaped bulge in my cassocks? He came closer. If I fired too early the scattershot could wipe out some of my flock sitting opposite. Jud was silently raising her crossbow, still unseen. My finger tightened on the trigger. Three feet. Two feet. I offered a silent prayer to …someone and fired.

Gut shot, the man was blown back and down by the force of the blast. The other was going for a weapon in the half second before a crossbow bolt emerged through his nose, lodging in his face liberally splattering brain matter in my general direction. Ouch! Vizral let out a snore.

Jud checked outside for any more visitors whilst pandemonium broke out in the farmstead; families recoiling from the two twitching corpses. I tried to reassure and bless them to bring calm and Jud returned with a brisk thumbs up and dropped to her haunches to search the bodies. This brought forth a lot of pouches, some obvious pieces of armour, some sort of advanced if much repaired shotgun, a pair of dark goggles that appeared to be of no benefit and a whole lot of questions. Their clothing was very odd and they had some strange tattoos too. Vizral meanwhile, slept on, dreaming dark thoughts I had no doubt.



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