Thursday, July 2, 2015

Question of Faith - Prologue


They stood in the center of the room waiting. He was one of the old guard, mid-thirties and worn by fighting. His armor marked by repaired damage and stained with the blood of the dark ones. She was much younger, untested and nervous. Even her armor betrayed her lack of experience, new and unmarked. Both stood beside each other looking about the room. Two empty cells made of barred walls, a table in the middle of the room covered with papers, books and some writing instruments, wooden stools and a single oil burning lamp hanging from the ceiling.

Within a few minutes a third man enters the room through the door. Wearing the leather armor of a town guardsman with one arm colored black to denote his rank as a sergeant. Carrying a bowl of soup in one hand he stops just two steps in as he raises his eyes to meet those of this visitors.

“Chevaliers... I was unaware of your presence or I would not have kept you waiting. It is an honor to be graced by your company. Please have a seat.” he motions to the chairs as he sets his soup onto the table, “I was attending to tonight’s orders and grabbing a late dinner. There is still more left if you are hungry. I can have a man bring you...”

“That isn't necessary Sergeant we are not in need of food at this time. I am Brother Joseph and this is Sister Mary, we are here to look into some matters involving some of your men.” He motioned for the guard to sit down, “Do sit down and enjoy your meal, we have a few questions to ask you while you eat and then we'll be on our way.”

With a little nod he takes his seat. A bit of sweat already appearing on his brow. He pulls a spoon from his his belt and stirs the soup a bit. “Anything you say Brother Joseph, I am always ready to aid the servants of our Lord.”

“Then before your first bite... put this in your mouth for a moment.” He drops a silver coin onto the table where it rolls a bit before stopping. The guard stares at it for a moment, sweat building more on his face, before looking up.

“Why do I need to do that? I mean what is it for Brother?”

“Just put it in your mouth please, on top of your tongue.” Her voice was a bit soft compared to the two men. But very clearly spoken and slow as if every word was premeditated long before they were spoken. Staring at her for a moment he then reached over and retrieved the coin from the table top and rubbed it slightly with his fingertips. Glancing back over at Brother Joseph while laying the coin onto his tongue.

“Good, now please swear your loyalty to our Lord who...” His words are cut short as the coin is spit back on the table, smoking with a good deal of burnt flesh and blood clinging to it. The guards mouth hanging open and a charred twitching chunk of burnt meat laying out of it. The body shook, eyes rolling back into the head, “A prayer of cleansing now Sister Mary!”

The thing that was the guard stands up quickly, inhumanly fast, bringing the table up with it. Running it forward slamming against his enemy as he tried to draw a blade. Running him back into the bars with a metal clang as they met with his armor. Sister Mary pulling her Lords Badge from beneath her robes immediately begins reciting a prayer in a clear determined voice.

With its face growing red with blackened veins it looks over to her and lets out a shrill scream. The skin of it starting to smoke faintly. Joseph regaining a bit of footing shoves the table back pushing the creature back across the floor and against the wall, shattering the table between them. In the close quarters neither are able to pull their swords reducing the fight to short strikes, kicks and shoving each other into the walls. As the prayer continues the smoke gets thicker and an acidic smell fills the room. Finally as the two tumble through the middle of the room one manages a grip on one of the chairs, bringing it across the others head knocking them down in a heap.

“Stop... that... you... wench...” Gurgling out the words as it turns towards her. The eyes bulging out now, face an almost purple red and the neck swollen to twice the width of the head. With a forward lurch and a cracking noise as a jaw dislocates itself a spew of intestines is vomited forth onto the last the Sister. Moving around her body and slithering upwards towards her arms. Pausing for a moment to keep from throwing up herself she keeps on with the prayer as the guts wrapping around her smoldered as well. They continue to pull around her, gripping her arms tightly as they constrict, trying to pull down her arm that holds the badge forward. Her throat burning with each breath from the smoke and eyes running with tears from it as well. Each word a struggle as they fight to see who can outlast the other.

Suddenly there is a flash of steel from behind the thing and the tendrils of guts go limp around her. Brother Joseph had regained his feet and finally managed to pull his sword. Headless and spurting blood the creature falls to the floor. The Sister backs away shaking the gore off of her and stumbles back against a wall gasping for breath and covering her mouth.

“Sister Mary are you injured.” She shakes her head in response as she swallows hard still keeping herself from throwing up. “You did good, your faith did not falter. Well done, especially against a Baalarashi. They are quite a nasty bit of business.”

Speaking from behind, her hand still at her mouth, “I fear my stomach may not be as strong as my faith...”

“Nonsense,” with a grin and a laugh. “the first time I came face to face with one I threw up all over it and myself.”

Lowering her hand and finally smiling a bit she nods. Reaching down and retrieving the fallen coin he tosses it to her. With clasped hands around it she utters a silent prayer and the flesh and blood of the creature turn to dust. As she hands it back over to him she looks out the small window into the night. “ Baalarashi almost never travel alone do they?”

“No... they do not. I fear we have our work cut out for us in this town Sister.”

They both turn as the door suddenly flies open, one with sword at the ready the other holding forth their Lord's Badge. A guard stands stunned by the sight at the doorway, short sword in a trembling hand. “Sergeant! What is going on here? What has happened?”

“Your Sergeant is no more, he had succumbed to the dark ones. Look for yourself at his remains he was one of the unholy soul and body.” The guard glanced down towards his fallen commanding officer and winces holding back emotions. His eyes narrowed and watery now. Finally he looks back up, holding his sword towards the floor and straightens his stance.

“I understand Chevaliers, you do what must be done.” Pausing to swallow hard and keeping his eyes averted from the mess at their feet. “What are your orders for me now?”

“What is your name watchman?” Mary asked.

“I am Morgan Wright sister, named after our patron savior Morgan the Black.”

“Well Morgan,” Joseph fumbles his free hand into his pouch, “you can start by putting this coin in your mouth and swearing loyalty to our Lord who stands behind us at all time.”