An excerpt from something I’ve been working on for a while.
The stairway was dimly lit, the faint light of several torches flickered along the alabaster walls, a dance of lights and long shadows. Just as the rest of the city this internal stairwell, made from the same stone of the outer walls showed no signs of age, or wear, as if the stairs had been cut that very morning. Some found this place to wondrous, a blessing from the Overseers to the Halmorian Empire, for their great faith and dedication. Farin was not one of these men. He had been of the first to notice the disturbing trend, one of the first to smell the foul odor of blasphemy, and sacrilege. He noticed the odd happenings, the strange writings on the walls, and the shift in many of the settler’s demeanor, and actions. But that was his job as a Templar, to seek out heresy, and eliminate it without second thought, without hesitation.
Farin’s heavy footfalls echoed throughout the tight stairwell, his armor was of the highest quality, heavy plates, reinforced with chain beneath. Around his neck hung a simple black talisman in the shape of a grinning skull, a symbol of his faith in Faergol, the Overseer of death. Shadows seemed to cling to him as he descended the stair, even in his heavy armor, had he wanted to he could have came down completely unnoticed. The stairwell came to an end at a solid oaken door, a simple iron knob resting near it’s center.
The door opened into a mostly empty room, well lit by several torches, and hanging chandelier in the middle. Against the far wall sat a man, his hands bound to the wall with irons, and his head covered by a heavy helm. The smell coming from his direction was deplorable, urine, sweat, and worse emanated from the prisoner. A second man sat in a simple wooden chair, his gaze turned toward the door, as Farin entered. His skin was the dark olive color, typical for Halmorians, his features were sharp, akin more to a predatory bird then a man. His eyes were narrow, and his garb a simple leather tunic baring the mark of the Legion, and a six pointed star, depicting the symbol of Leeya. Typically thought of the Overseer of life, and healing, Leeya also held a title that this man took to extremes when necessary. Leeya held dominion over justice, and even more important to this man, truth, for he was an inquisitor, the inquisitor in fact for this small colony known as Atalan.
The inquisitor nodded to Farin, who’s gaze turned again to the prisoner, who was now rhythmically beating his helmed head against the stone wall. Farin knew that inquisitors could often get people to talk without any threat, or violence, from the blood on the floor, and dour look on this one’s face, it did not seem like this was such a case.
“Trouble?” Farin asked as he entered the room, walking toward the inquisitor.
“It is unlike anything I have ever encountered, this one’s mind is quite gone.” The inquisitor spoke quietly, a calm authority, “I was forced to place the helm upon his head, after he began trying to crack his skull upon the wall.”
Farin’s face twisted into what amounted to a short sneer, then returned to it’s more neutral state. He looked back to the prisoner, who was now muttering under his breath between smacks against the wall, which rung louder with each strike. Farin approached to hear what he had to say, when the inquisitor spoke again.
“Inane babble is all that comes from his mouth, but listen if you wish, perhaps the lord of secrets may lend you insight my lady has denied me.” His tone, and demeanor made Farin doubt he believed that he would have any better luck.
Farin approached regardless, leaning close to catch the soft spoken words from the obviously touched man. With a sudden burst of movement, the prisoner snapped forward, and Farin found himself gazing into empty pale eyes, glaring out at him from the dark slits of the dented helm. The man’s gaze seemed to focus suddenly, and locked onto Farin’s gaze, and screamed words that would confuse, and haunt the Templar.
“He who cannot be born, shall give birth to himself! The world will burn in ice, the clouds will part to reveal the storm!” The man thrashed about several times, his speech turning to guttural growls, his wrists dripping red where the manacles had bit into his skin.
Farin looked back at the inquisitor, who only shook his head, and through up his arms slightly. Farin glanced one more time at the madman on the wall, who had relaxed back into banging his head against the wall, the helm sounding like a bad drum.
“How many does this make?” Farin looked to the inquisitor who was now packing up his things with a quick efficiency.
“Twelve in total now, this latest example.” He motioned to man chained to the wall, “Comes from the house of the Baroness, a servant there. He was found writing on the walls,with his own filth, “The Overseers are blind.” A deep frown crossed over the inquisitor’s face, “It is as nothing I have ever seen before.”
“The mad heresy spreads then.” Farin’s features contorted with a barely held back rage, soon to be replaced by a wash of calm. “I will subdue his mind long enough to clean him, so that he may meet a proper end at least.”
“A kindness at this point to be sure, The Overseers have mercy on his soul.” With that, the inquisitor left Farin to his work, his soft footfalls echoing for a time up the long stairwell.
Farin watched the other man leave, then turned to the man hanging in the wall. Farin removed his heavy gauntlets, and placed them on the small wooden table near the chair the inquisitor had been sitting at. He walked over to the prisoner, his footsteps now soft, incredibly quiet in the heavy mail, only making a slight creak in protest as the large Templar knelt down in front of the madman, who did not seem to notice his presence. Farin removed the helm, the man’s hair was matted with sweat, and more then a little blood. Farin placed one hand on the man’s chest, pushing him gently, but firmly against the stone wall, his other hand came up to rest upon the man’s face. The Templar closed his eyes, and muttered a short prayer, around him the shadows darkened ever so slightly, and the prisoner’s head slumped suddenly, his breathing evened out into the relaxation of deep sleep.
The prisoner subdued, Farin moved with practiced ease, unshackling the man, and throwing him over his shoulder. The Templar walked over to a long wooden bench, and laid the sleeping man down, not gently, but not roughly either, an air of professionalism in everything he did. He gathered a bucket of clean water set aside in for drinking, and a produced a clean rag from pouch at his side. From there, Farin set to the task of cleaning the blood, and filth from the unconscious prisoner, and changing him into a new tunic and pants, gathered from an armoire near the entrance of the room. The prisoner cleaned, and clothed, Farin went to treating the man’s injuries. He was not the most proficient, and did not call upon the blessings of Faergol to aid him, but his work was neat, and sufficient in the end. All this complete, Farin called up the stairwell, and several guards clambered down.
The extra guards picked up the sleeping man, and carried him up the stairs. Farin put the room back into a tidy order, then followed the guards up the stairs. The two guards carried the man through a door into the temple proper, while Farin continued past the landing, up another spiral staircase. This one was far better lit, blessings from the Leeyan priests, cast small lights from several alcoves, bathing the stairwell in a comfortable luminance. This stairwell to led to another simple wooden door, this wondrous city hadn’t come with any doors, either their wood had long since rotted away, or the original inhabitants had no sense of privacy. With a turn of the iron knob, Farin pushed open the door easily, and was greeted by the familiar sight of the abbey.
It was a simple affair, compared to the extravagance of the chambers of the eight below. The furniture was bare, simple, but serviceable, and comfortable enough should one be tired. The interior walls were carved from wood, the floor had been a single wide room when the Halmorians had arrived, and had since been modified for the House’s needs. The upper abbey housed the personal quarters of the eight Prelates, and the armory of the Templars. Farin’s path led him to armory’s door, where he paused to present the pendant of Faergol around his neck. A hiss, and a resounding click came from the door, and it swung open, Farin entered swiftly, and closed the door behind him.
The Templar armory of Atalan was not an extensive one, only two armor racks, one of which was empty, Farin having been wearing his own plate at the moment, and a single weapons stand. Farin crossed the room now to the stand, and removed from it a large two-handed sword. The blade was thick, heavily weighted to provide for a powerful swing. It’s cross guard was a simple affair, with no excess frill, or decoration, it’s handle was much the same, simple black leather lent greater grip and comfort. The blade’s pommel bore the same dark grinning skull that hung around Farin’s neck. This was Diresteel, a blade who’s history stretched back to the founding of the Templar order, and the single oldest relic housed within Atalan. Farin held the blade reverently, and placed it in a long sheath, which he then placed over his shoulder.
Farin closed the door as he left, and listened for the click indicating the lock, and wards had renewed themselves. Satisfied, the large man walked back down the stairs, and exited the House through the Leeyan alcove. The light of the midday sun struck him as he entered the street, beyond the long stone bridge that separated the House and the rest of the city, a wooden platform had been constructed, and crowd of people now gathered around it. Farin’s footfalls became steady, and deliberate, an air of absolute professionalism taking hold in his approach to the platform. The crowd cheered as the headsman approached, he ignored their praise, and their cheers. They were here for blood, he was here for duty.
The madman lay upon a chopping block, awake now, Faergol’s blessing had since worn off, and he was just now spouting some madness about dreams, and some thing giving birth to itself. Farin shook his head, taking no pleasure in what was to come, he never did, simply a man of duty, he did what must be done. The bright sun beat down upon him in his heavy armor, droplets of sweats beaded on his brow, and ran into his eyes. Farin bore the discomfort in stoic silence, as he stood next to the condemned man as the Prelate of Leeya pronounced his sentence. The madman was asked if he had any last words, all he responded with was a growl, and a guttural utterance that could not be understood.
Diresteel flashed in the sunlight, gleaming brightly into the eyes of the witnesses, the crowd that was out for blood. Farin tried to hear the swift whistle as the blade swept through the air, but the collective gasp, and clamor of the crowd washed it out. The blade fell upon the madman’s neck, and never paused, the heavy sword passing right through until it bit deeply into the chopping block. Farin watched as the head rolled, and came to settle, dead eyes looking up at him, a grin upon the madman’s lifeless lips.