A Spirited Church-Visit - RPLOG
It is early in the morning in Ironstead, and the sun is only barely rising above the horizon. Yet, the town itself is quite lively already, with various beings cleaning up the remainders of yesterday's feast with surprising efficiency.
The priestess, for her part, is resting on one of the pews inside the church, facing the entrance with a smile on her lips, and her strange, unintelligible First Text in hand...
Ironstead was wrong. There was something just not right, from the smell in the air, practically. He didn't know what to say, what to do. He didn't have a copy of the first text with him; he couldn't counter her arguments with fact, only from memory. But he was right. He had to be. At least the church was... mostly intact, from the outside. Krove shudders, though, and it pales quickly from hope to horror as he sees what has happened to the Creator Saints within.... but why? Even blessed St. Alan... why would they do that to him, too? He's speechless.
Fenris saunters after Krove casually, and looks around, as if he is surpised to find himself here and in company. "What are the odds we would both end up here?" he asks with a grin, "I was sort of hoping to catch a noon meeting, but the place looks pretty empty."
"You are early, if you were looking for a noontime meeting, Fenris. But you're free to wait around, if you prefer?" the owl offers, before gesturing Krove along."
"You will have to pardon the mess. The villagers were a bit... Overzealous. While I can't say I worship the saints, I do recognize Eric and Patricia's achievement. I am certain uplifting a species is no small task," she offers, as she gestures towards the sanctum. "However, that is not what we are here for, is it? You wished to see the treasures the Church hides."
That... that wasn't quite it. The Church wasn't hiding anything. The Church protected, saved, brought peace and health. They didn't hide anything. They kept it safe, kept the people safe, from the Creator's wrath. "I wish to see the Church respected. We wouldn't be here without the Saints... and Alan, more than anything--why would we ever want to disrespect his memory?" It almost physically hurt the doctor to see a church this way. No wonder they were so lost and confused.
"I AM a little early, aren't I? How silly of me!" Fenris says easily, "Well, as long as I am here, you don't mind if I tag along, do you? I always love to see something new!" In his odd, Creator-esque garb, it is not hard to imagine the tiger aboard one of their great flying machines and tinkering with the strange magic of the Creators.
A smile, a nod, and a small gesture towards the sanctum once again. "Ah, yes. Alan," she offers. The one that purportedly gave us Promise? What a world he gave us. One where the world, all around, will try to kill you. One we had to make habitable ourselves. And then, there's the shadows. Quite a coincidence the Creators decided to apologize for that, no?"
"When's the last time you thanked a Noble for convincing the Crown you were useful?"
He grunts. There was no need to thank a noble for convincing the Crown. He didn't work for the crown, there was no need to feel needed. He just helped people in need. "What reward is there without work? How could we love what we have put no effort into? There's a rule that work makes reward great." He was trying to dig in his heels, and prepare for a conflict. "I get my use from seeing someone breathing after apoplexia. From hysteria giving way to rest." Still, he was nervous, and shaking a bit.
Fenris scrunches up his face in confusion and looks to Krove. "She must be talking to you," he says, "I can't say that the crown has ever found me particularly useful." The tiger turns a smile on the owl. "As for the whole planet thing, well, there is a reason they called it Promise and not Eden," sounds like someone has been reading up on literature from the Creator preacher in residence in Thera'Dor, "Call it a parenting move."
The big tiger saunters over and pats Krove on the head between his antlers. "But now you have peaked my interest! What are you going to show us?"
"Follow, and you will see," the owl offers, as she strides through the double doors, into the inner sanctum, where several devices are stalled out, and several valuable materials are stalled out. "Behold. The Church's riches. And this Church isn't even that big," she notes, as she gestures to one device. "A machine capable of slicing even the toughest of creator steel."
Another gesture, this time at a smaller device. "A compendium of knowledge in the first tongue. Most of it, unfortunately, beyond the common being's grasp, but some, some of it very valueable. And of course," she offers, as she guides the two along to a large tube made out of creator steel and glass. "The sacred doctor's more powerful relative."
Creator steel... that was basically a powerful scorcher. The compendium of creator knowledge... that was a query. But the giant tube? That didn't make any sense. "That couldn't go anywhere. How could anyone use that for someone lying in a fever in the slums?" He could figure out ways of bringing the sick here... but it was treatment. That wasn't how to end a plague, one victim at a time.
Fenris is pretty sure that while the church in firmament may have a defunct cutting tool and maybe an archive, they definitely do not have a device like the third one. His unflappable demeanor is momentarily flapped. "Creators above," he breathes, "A regeneration tube. I never thought I would ever see another one of these. And it still works?" Fenris may be one of the few beings on Promise to ever see one of these things in action.
"Here's the marvelous little thing, Mister Krove. This machine here works together with the Sacred Doctor. You bring someone with an unknown illness here, and by using the right setting on the Doctor, the Doctor will be able to administer the proper treatment," the owl offers. "The Doctor isn't infalible. But when combined with this beauty, it can combat any plague," she offers with a smile. "You could save a city within two weeks, and even then, you'd only have to ask the machine to do its work very rarely."
That, combined with the fact that Fenris wasn't responding, finally crumbles the resistance. This could save lives and end plagues! What--why was it here? Why wasn't it the first thing turned to, whenever sickness came? In his investigations, the doctor hadn't found anything to explain the pallor and the sickly demeanor of some of the residents... it didn't add up. They were all healthy, but looked sick.
"Is that--" He furrows his brow and turns back to look at the entrance to the plaza. "Is that why nobody here is sick? But they all look so--" It's hard to justify himself, but he could find nothing wrong. "How did you know of this?"
Fenris shakes his head and steps back from the tube. Used correctly (or incorrectly, as the case may be) this machine could do rather more than cure plague. "Last time I saw one of these, it exploded," he says, recovering his jovial attitude, and turning his eyes to Krove. "Oh, kid," he says, "None of those people are ill. They are marked." He looks sidelong at the owl, to see if she is going to take umbrage at the explanation.
"Mister Fenris? Would you like to enlighten Mister Krove? I believe you may know more about this than you might've told him," she offers with a smile on her lips, a small gesture at the machine. "The last one you had was poorly operated, then. There is no risk of that here. The compendium provides every bit of knowledge we, -I- need to operate it safely. And I'm well-aware it can do much more than cure plagues. However, those other powers are a little... Selfish, aren't they?" she offers with a smile on her lips.
"As mister Fenris said. The town is Marked. I'm sure he can explain what that means."
Marked... "Dedicants, all? I mean--the tusks, the pallor... that's what this place is? A giant... cult?" Being so blunt about things was likely hazardous to his health, but they didn't seem intent on hiding anything, here. Except the one the Freeswords were hired to find. This was not somewhere he wanted to be--there had to be a way to fix all of this; but he couldn't figure out an easy solution. "Did they all take oaths, then? Swear fealty, make bonds?" He needed to figure out a way to stop this from ending in massive bloodshed, but with the town as it was... that seemed doubtful.
Fenris smirks at the owl, "I was younger then," he says, "And its effects were hardly on purpose. I have learned quite a bit since then. I think I could give you a run for your money on these things." The tiger turns his attention to Krove, who seems to gradually be working himself into a frenzy. "Yes," he says, "Dedicants of three different Spirits, though I have never seen so many gathered together like this." He considers the owl priestess, whose name, he realizes, he has never asked for. "Olloch, the Glutton, Pyrrha, Lady of Bones, and Akros, Lord of Decay. A strange trio for townsfolk," he says, "And even stranger for their sheer numbers." A vivid, green ? appears on the fur of the tiger's cheek. "But it is you, priestess, that leaves me confused. There are at least two more Spirits influencing this town, but I can't decide which you serve."
"Now now, Mister Krove. A cult? We are clearly a community unlike any other. But a cult? You wound me," he offers with a smile, a gesture at the machine. "And we are enjoying the benefits of the technology the creators left us with," she notes, a smile on her lips.
"Care to make a guess, Mister Fenris?" she offers, before turning back to Krove. "I am certain you would love access to technology like this. No more relying on untested medicine. No more uncertainty about your cures. Instead, you'd heal those who need healing, without fail. Isn't that your goal in life? To be a force for good?"
The concept of a cult or a community was merely in the phrasing. And did he want to use such things? So very dearly, he did--to be able to prevent death, to strike back at the great beast which laid waste to all, eventually. But he couldn't. He shouldn't. It was coming down to that one question which Fenris asked, which was the water deer's best grasp on reality. "Yes. Which do you serve? Who has torn your loyalty from the townsfolk? From the Saints? What caused you to--" he winces, knowing she's got to be right, at least, "to cast aside caution, for the sake of these... secrets, of yours. A book which cannot be read, even."
Fenris keeps his eye on Krove, unsure of what game the owl was playing. "My first guess was The Scholar," he says, "You know more than you should, especially out here. But then, Olg'Ish is also here. I am in a city overflowing with Callers for the Corrupt court and I cannot seem to get worried about it. All I can seem to think of is how nice the place is and how good all those tusked beings look. The Master of the Third Eye is looking hard at this place."
The tiger rests a hand on Krove's head again. "Keep a cool head, kid," he says, "Remember, everyone thinks they are the hero of the story. And there is no such thing as an unreadable book."
"In due time, Mister Krove. In due time," the owl offers, as she pats her Text. "Perhaps you might obtain your own copy. She will be visiting you when she feels it best to approach. Without Outside interference," she offers with a smile, though she doesn't seem too intent on clarifying her words just yet.
And then, she turns to Fenris. "Time will tell, won't it? Perhaps you will have the pleasure of finding out. Perhaps not," she offers, smiling warmly. "However, I have no intentions of secrecy beyond that which is absolutely necessary. The doors to the sanctum are open. Any may walk in here, and study the text, the machines. Any may approach with questions, and I try my best at answering them."
"Although that doesn't mean I have to spell anything out, does it? Mister Fenris here oh-so-loves a puzzle. Doesn't he?"
"Perhaps, though, you should consider a third option?"
Visiting when she wishes... that was a hint, at least. But while he didn't want anyone endangered by his encounter, trying to face off against a spirit seemed a very poor decision. "It's--I don't--" He didn't like being on the ropes, but he didn't see a way out of it, either. She was in control here. He tries to figure out something he can say, something he can do, to get it all fixed and neat. "But what is your goal, then? More importantly, what is the goal of the one you serve?" There were ways to skew even the holiest of artifacts... maybe that was it. A skewed perspective. As Fenris said, there's no unreadable book.
Fenris perks his ears up. "A third possibility?" he asks, another large ? fading into being on his white furred chest, "I am listening." At the open invitation to peruse, the tiger saunters over to the archive machine, waving his hand over it in a complex gesture to wake it and do a bit of research of his own.
He looks up at Krove for a second when the machine starts to hum. "Be careful what promises you make," he says, "And remember that getting what you think you want is not the same as getting what you really want. It's the best advice this old tiger can give."
"Ah, but that would be giving it away, wouldn't it? We wouldn't want to deprive mister Fenris of his puzzle, do we?" the owl offers once again, a smile on her beak, as she gestures at the device. "My goal, personally, is to show the opressed the truth. To provide them the means to fight back against those that opress. Be they church, state, or Creator themselves," she offers with that same smile of hers.
This was very hard to dispute. Freedom. The choice, the ability to do something with your life... that was so important. That was sacred, even. Like the creators were sacred. But to take it all, what did it cost? Nothing was free. Even the inherent rights of freedom were bought with continual labor and toil. He needed to just keep the promises in mind. Not to make them, that is. "And what did you give in return? To show light, to bring knowledge?" Figure it out, find a way around it all... be safe, in some way.
"My commitment. I do not keep secrets. I -cannot- keep secrets," she offers. "Nor would I want to, for that matter," she offers, shaking her head lightly. In exchange, though... Well, you've seen the town. There are several others," she notes, smiling faintly. She seems quite pleased with herself.
He blanches. "You did this? All of it?" Decay, bones, gluttony, corruption everywhere. But the secrets... that was the key. He had to think on what was going on here, but he effectively had an open book. Unless it was, as the book she had was, unintelligible. "What about lies? Could you keep a secret if it was a lie? Something which was not truly a secret?" It would be difficult to test, but it could give some insight into what interrogation techniques could and couldn't work.
"I may lie or withold information, should it please my Spirit. Should it be required for their purposes. But I may not lie for selfish purposes. As you may understand, should it save my life, I may lie, because a dead dedicant is not going to further a Spirit's goals."
"Truly marvelous, isn't it? Beings, freed from the shackles of life and death. Freed from the curse of starvation. And freed from any preposterous thoughts of purity."
That earns a full double-eyebrow raise, and he strokes his one good tusk for a moment while considering the implications. Free from hunger. Free from death. Free--from life? That causes the temptation to wane, and he struggles to figure out what is being said. "Life is beautiful. What do you mean being freed from the shackles of life?" He spent enough time seeing the natural world, the gifts of the fields and the craggy mountain peaks, to feel that there was something greater offered. He just needed to place it in the context of life, not outside of it. "How is life a shackle? What else is there?"
"You've seen the beings. The ones you called 'sickly'? Death no longer scares them. Illness no longer dares touch them. The maladies of life no longer shackle them," she offers with a smile on her lips. "Life burdens. Life takes away the things you love. They no longer worry about it. They no longer fear it."
"Each of them has had a close call with death. They've lost loved ones. But now, no more."
That staggers the doctor, well and truly. "The--what? No. Life is about--it's about experiencing joy. It's about fulfilling dreams, achieving goals, becoming much more than who we are now." There had to be some way to-- "Wait... are they not alive, then? No beating hearts, no breath to--I should have caught that. What has happened to them?"
"Their hearts beat. Their blood flows. They exhale breath. You've seen it. But they are free from the shackles of life and death none the less. Although, like mister Fenris said, you should see them on a bad day. Truly a sight to behold," she offers with a smile.
"They are alive. And yet, in a way, they are not. But not like the zombies in Mossy Stone. While it is not my place, I daresay the Mistress of Bones went a litle out of bounds there. She can be a bit... Ill-tempered."
One and the same...And on a bad day, a sight to behold? That didn't sound good either. "Then--why--what--" He was stuck, trying to think of how to restore those who were lost. "Can someone ever be freed from their dedication to a spirit?" That, of course, was an incredibly dangerous question to ask--he knew it would come either as 'no', or 'you'll have to find out'. He couldn't get a direct answer. But maybe he could at least get some idea of whether he could bring life back to those who had forsaken it.
"Our court, it has certain thoughts about that. You would need the help of another spirit. One in particular. The others are, perhaps, more lenient. Though in the end, you would have to see for yourself."
He frowns deeply. That was hard. Very hard. 'The others are more lenient'... other courts? This was the corrupt court. And to get the help of a spirit would likely require giving up something in return. Each question he asked was getting him deeper in this web, and he was very much the fly, not the spider. "Which spirit is that?" And the question of what would be needed to free them would be another question entirely. One for that spirit personally.
Fenris has had a very informative session with the creator archive, keeping an ear on the ongoing conversation. "Kendrac," he says, "He and his followers have the power to break a spirit pact." The tiger leaves the glowing terminal he was working at and starts to search the area, though he does not say what it is he is looking for.
"Like mister Fenris said. Kendrac can break a pact. But remember. The second time he does it, the dedicant dies. And of course, there is irony in the whole thing," she offers, before shaking her head. "It doesn't matter. Unless the one being 'released' wants to be released, they would just find their patron once again."
"Find anything interesting, mister Fenris?"
The words from Fenris help bring another thought to the fore. He could use reason to get out of this bind; it was simple enough. "If your patrons are right and true... why would they need to compel you to stay with them? Surely, those in the right would never have reason to fear a dedicant going astray. They would have no need for force, no threat to entice others to remain. Why does your court not allow freedom?"
"Absolutely nothing," Fenris says cheerily, "Honestly, the tube is about the only interesting thing here." He pauses thoughtfully, "And you. You are a curiosity. I mean, you are utterly mad, but that doesn't make you all that special." He delivers this the same way someone might compliment on hair color. "Somehow, I think you are a very good follower of the Whisperer and a mediocre follower of the Web Web Weaver, THAT is interesting," he says, finally giving up on an apparently fruitless search. He then turns to Krove. "Honestly? The Spirits ask for very little. I am not sure how the game is played. They grant power, and all they ask in return is that you use it. I would never blame a Spirit for the actions of their followers," he says, leaning close to stage whisper, "Most of them are a little nuts."
A smile, a nod, a gesture. "As you wish. I'm sure there's somethng interesting to be found, but perhaps, not to you, hmm? After all, you do have a habit of snooping around places you really don't belong. Don't you?" she offers with a click of her beak. "Of course, with your job..."
"As for your question, Mister Krove. My court has been scorned several times over by the others. Can you blame them for keeping their allies close? They have so, so few of them," she offers with a small smile.
Well that was just rude. "Just because he's a bard, doesn't mean he's sneaking into noble ladies' rooms at night like some paramour du jour! Fenris is a good and honorable sort!" Sneaking in places he didn't belong, indeed. "Can you honestly see him sneaking anywhere? He's huge!" That takes a bit of the edge off her words, as he tries to regain the ground he had lost so much of earlier. "Yes, well, I can't say I fancy much being a possession either. An ally is one who stays by your side by choice. A man chooses, but a slave obeys. If you're so liberated and free, why can't you choose to leave? Perhaps you don't want to--but wouldn't that be proven by having the choice in the first place?"
Fenris laughs long and loud, "That is me!" he says, "nosy as they come! It is only a wonder I am not an elephant with all my nosiness." The tiger wanders over to examine the large tube as the discussion continues. "And as far as choices go, everyone is asked to make choices, especially Spirit callers! They choose how to use their powers. Even if they are influenced by their patrons. You know, I have met most of them, the Spirits, I mean. Well, the ones who have appeared on Promise anyway."
"You don't know half of mister Fenris's life, mister Krove. Perhaps I will show you a thing or two, later still. I certainly understand your concerns, though. They were once my own. But once you see the kind of -good- you can do when you see what it is the Spirits can offer. Perhaps then you will see differently. We will have to see what kind of secrets the future holds to be discovered, don't we?"
"Perhaps I may've misjudged you. Perhaps, you would prefer discovering these cures yourself, taking years of work, and countless lives?"
That hurt. It hurt him deeply, and she was able to see right to the core of who he was. What madness was her power? His jaw trembles, for a moment, as he tries to figure out how to counter her. Was he really so proud as to waste life? If he could save even one being... creators, was that what was needed? Was his own concept of a soul greater than that of healing, of saving life?
"I--" He falters a few times, trying to reconcile what was here with what must happen. "No. No, that's... I can't. Not with their lives." He's feeling utterly crushed, but those outside... are they really the future? "But that life--the 'bad days', if you will... there has to be something better than that, isn't there?"
"It is a part of life, Krove," Fenris says gently, "We win some and we lose some. Most of those who follow the corrupt court have lost much and want a quick panacea for the pain. It takes time and work to learn that a hastily applied bandage can cover a wound, but hide a deeper illness." He looks thoughtful as his eyes scan over the controls of the large tube. "I think that many of these spirits are the same," he says, "A little broken. Especially those called the Corrupt Court." He looks at the owl when she offers to tell Krove about his life. "Those sort of things are not yours to tell, Miss. . ." he pauses, brow wrinkling, "Huh. I never learned your name."
"Perhaps not. But like I told mister Krove. I am quite terrible at keeping secrets. Unless that was a threat you plan to follow up on?"
"A bandaid, Fenris? We'll have to see, won't we? And you never asked. "Anne-marie Snowfeather, at your service."
A panacea for pain is not a true cure; that was his reminder, outside in the courtyard. Callers, stripped of the joie de vivre, a hollow shell of what they were. He could avoid that; he knew better than to trap bad air in a wound. But it hurt to think that he'd be condemning others to die, time and again. "What could wound a spirit, then--if they are not inherently evil, what has twisted them so?" Unlikely it would be for the ex-priestess to decide. "If you have forsaken the Creators... why keep a copy of the First Text, Miss Snowfeather? You're no longer interested in the Church, I see, but you read from it to the masses. Do they share your views?"
Fenris laughs again. "I didn't threaten anything!" he says, "I just ask that my life be my own." The tiger then turns his attention to Krove. "The Spirits and the Creators are all people," he says, "And are hurt just like beings are. I know a little about the internal strife of the courts, but it is not my story to tell." The tiger looks at Anne, "I imagine you have a story of your own, Miss Snowfeather. Maybe you want to share it?"
A smile, a shake of the head. "My story is of no importance right now. Perhaps later, though. I'm sure you would find it... Enlightening. As for the text. Could you learn anything from it? What do you think it is? Is it it a normal First Text? A real one? Something else entirely?" she offers. "And with that, I unfortunately must leave you. Try not to break the machines, please. We might need them later."
"As for you, Mister Krove. One of my... Associates will be in contact with you, later. I am sure you will receive their message."
This was not what he had intended; he was trying to save lives, to somehow keep this clean--but now he was neck deep in a town which was clearly taken by madness. The physician trembles just a bit at the implications, and tries to work out just how he can get out of this mess. Best to stick close to Fenris. He might not entirely agree with the Tiger's methods, but it wouldn't hurt to bank on education when the chips fell.
Fenris gives a lazy salute to the departing owl and goes back to enjoying the tech.