The Soldiers Of Ereal Return


Written by a player:

Everybody's heard of the Soldiers of Ereal. They've been gaining power over the last decades. I remember my father telling me the story of Junia Gracious when I was a child — how she was struck by lightning from a clear sky for falsely swearing by Ereal, and then became a militant priestess in penitence. Of course, I always took Dad's stories with a grain of salt — he also used to tell me the Soldiers of Ereal went around the Steps killing little girls whose eyes were too dark a shade of blue.

I don't know what the truth is now. Except that Sempron is awesome.

Cyrillius had asked me to post a notice offering financial assistance to innkeepers who would house refugee families, especially women with children. No one had taken up the offer, but the other day our thoughts were troubled when Lapis the merchant asked for a constable's assistance.

Curiosity compelled me to go along even though I'm not a constable recruit any longer. Cyrillius and Alsask came too, and it's a good thing they did. What had happened, it seemed, was that a poor refugee woman had rented a room that was almost immediately claimed by a huge, hulking Soldier of Ereal named Cytheria and her subordinate Fidren. The So E had a wagon full of something that they needed to store. The refugee just wanted a place to live — her husband was off trying to find work.

Cytheria had a penchant for threatening to remove people's tongues. The refugee had courage, to stand up to a bitch like that. Still, the argument seemed completely insoluble, despite Cyrillius' repeated rational suggestions. Lapis and Cinis, who owned the room, were coy and indecisive, which I suppose is an advantage for a merchant.

The argument was taken indoors, but everyone was still unreasonable. Cytheria asked Cinis, "Will you be making a profit, or will we need to impose our will?" Cinis replied, "Now, lovely, those who know me know I'm not one to answer threats." But Cytheria just said, ""It's hardly a threat. It is a requirement that you will submit to." What naked arrogance. No normal soldier acts that way, and certainly no priest.

There was a lot of argument about just what was in the wagon. Most people assumed it was piles of gold, revealing a singular lack of imagination. Cyrillius had made some dark hints about what some of the So E had been up to in Rock Valley, and I suspected that the wagon didn't contain anything as innocent as gold.

Then Jacardus showed up. I'd heard about him — everybody wondered, at the sack of Rock Valley, why the Soldiers of Ereal didn't show up to fight. Jacardus had been their leader. He had a natural air of authority about him and silenced Cytheria with a gesture. Jacardus solved it all by telling the refugee woman, "My soldiers will billet here. In return, I will find you a place to stay." The refugee was sullen and distrustful, but Jacardus has a way about him. When the refugee charged him with deserting Rock Valley, he wouldn't say where he had been, just that he hadn't deserted. And he flatly refused to allow even the Vigiles to examine the contents of the wagon. Cytheria went so far as to say, "Curiousity's been the end of many a person." Deanon kept mocking her, and he's funny, but I didn't feel like laughing. Something was very wrong — just the presence of that wagon was like a threat. I remembered that Olethea had hunted a den of morleus in Rock Valley, and that Wirrut had said such creatures might come from Twilight. All sorts of mad possibilities raced through my mind. I told myself I was being over-imaginative, but that didn't dispel my sense of dread.

In the end, Jacardus simply ignored Deanon's authority and the wagon was hustled off without being searched. The refugee was found a place to live. Jacardus said he would be visiting the Temple, so lots of curious people figured to go along too. I myself wondered what the Temple thought about Jacardus and his ilk. On our way to the Temple, I plied Jacardus with questions about what Nimulus had been doing in Rock Valley. Cyrillius had instructed me to find this out for myself, as a test, but of the people who knew, one was Dumond whom I can't speak to and the other was Ibios who's a Centurion unlikely to indulge the inquisitiveness of a vigile recruit. Jacardus was also indisposed to discuss the matter. Later Cyrillius did tell me, and it had to do with practicing illegal magic. The sort of thing one doesn't speak about lightly.

Anyway, we arrived at the temple and Jacardus placed his gladius point down on the floor, gripping the pommel with both hands. He was very still. In the splendor of the Temple, I noticed how dingy his clothing was — you couldn't call it white, though it had been… once. I felt a poignant pang of admiration for this soiled soldier's determination, but I also wondered what secrets he concealed.

Priestess Astri came in, accompanied by another priestess I hadn't met before named Elestis. Jacardus rose to his feet. He greeted the priestesses, and Elestis gazed at him intently. Then she cupped her hands around a sunstone, gazing into it with unnerving concentration. So she was a seeress. That meant every word she spoke would be fraught with meaning.

Eventuallty, Elestis mentioned vaguely to Astri, "Removal for the higher authorities of the word and code and whim of Ereal." Seers seldom make common sense: it requires intuition to comprehend them. Astri and Elestis exchanged glances, and Elestis tucked her crystal away. Elestis said softly to Astri, "Those who can, should. Those who cannot, must be assisted." Astri nodded, and Elestis gazed through the window for a time. Redemptio was talking, and suddenly she looked at him and said sadly, "There is a throbbing in the air of the pain which has past ..and that which is to come." She smiled serenely at him, and I found myself envying that smile. I try to be serene and imperturbable, but I usually just end up seeming stupid.

Astri hesitated a long moment, then told Jacardus to follow her. Elestis said, "Aide is always given to those whose hearts are open, willing and pure." Perhaps his heart was in such a state. I'm not a trained seeress, so I didn't know.

When they were gone, Alsask wanted to try to find Revealer Kassandra, a priestess who had helped him with his work in the past. I followed along, wishing I'd had an opportunity to talk to Elestis about my dreams. While we were waiting at Kassandra's tent, everyone discussed the Soldiers of Ereal and what might have been in that wagon. I mentioned it wasn't a coincidence that as soon as the Soldiers of Ereal were brought up by Tyrlindax before the Senate, Arrakath had adroitly deflected the conversation to mockery of Calastor Triarchus. Cyrillius explained about Nimulus and the mutinous Soldiers of Ereal in Rock valley, and their practice of Ars Magna, an evil art by which men attempt to supercede Ereal. Cyrillius cautioned us, "This is not to say it is true, only that a soldier - Nimulus, believed so."

When it was obvious Kassandra was not home, we went back to the Temple. Elestis came out. People plied her with questions, and I have to admit I did it myself — I asked her about my dreams. She gazed at me and said, "Sleep not, unless you wish to dream dreams of what has been, what may be and what has not yet come to pass."

That was scary, but when Cyrillius asked her what became of Nimulus, the answer was even more frightening. Elestis held her crystal high above her head and gazed at it with unnerving intensity, then returned her gaze to Cyrillius, her eyes unfocused. She said, "I cannot say…"

Serexia whispered, "Does that mean he's dead?" But I knew, and Cyrillius knew, that she meant what she said literally — she could not say what had become of Nimulus. Cyrillius' question had touched on the unspeakable. Elestis pushed a loose tendril of hair off of her forehead and gazed out through the window, concern evident on her face. Eventually she explained it to those who didn't understand: "It is not permissible for it to be spoken.." She paused and added, "There is…" And another pause. "…much that cannot be spoken." People asked other questions, but the strain had clearly exhausted her and she retired soon after.

What did Jacardus bring from Rock Valley, and why is the Temple apparently sanctioning him? What will Tyrlindax make of this — what will his fellow barbarians do? I learned a great deal from this experience, but it seems I'm left with more questions than ever.

I just wish I could sleep without dreaming.

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