The Righteous Fire

EVENTS NEWS #409
Date: 12/07/2012 at 03:05
From: Anonymous
To : Everyone
Subj: The Righteous Fire

"I'm scared Father," a small child whimpered. One hand clutched a
stuffed animal, while the other held tightly to Father Garron's own.
Each time the doors of the Sleeping with the Fishes Inn rattled, her
grip tightened with a fresh bout of fear. The stout oak planks the
villagers had used to barricade the entrance held against the ormyrr's
attempts, and the efforts had grown less frequent and more lacklustre.
Garron suspected that the ormyrr had abandoned the idea of storming the
inn and were shaking the doors merely to keep fresh the terror of those
who had taken shelter inside.

"Do not fear, child. You are safe." Garron spoke the words, and while he
felt they were true, he could not help but feel hollow as they left his
lips. Earlier in the day he had choked down a dose of skullcap, and now
his mind was full of images of death and devastation. While Jaru
survived to see another sunrise, the Jewel had not. Garron was certain
the gruesome images that filled his deathsight would haunt him for the
rest of his life.

A sharp rap on the door roused Garron from his thoughts, and the priest
turned to glance at Mayor Cotridge. "Knocking?" Cotridge asked, raising
his eyebrow. "That's a new tactic."

Again the clear knocks rang out. Then could be heard a muffled voice
speaking in the Achaean tongue. "Ho Jaru. Have you survived? We are from
the Shallamese Royal Guard, or what's left of it. We're clearing the
ormyrr from the streets. If you can hear us, let us know you're all
right."

A palpable wave of relief broke through the common room. "Praise the
Gods," Father Garron whispered out of habit, before remembering his Gods
were gone. "With your leave, Mayor?"

Cotridge nodded his acquiescence. Smiling down at the child holding his
hand, Garron squeezed her grip with reassurance before passing her to
one of the other townsfolk and heading to the door. Gunder stepped
forward to help the priest clear away the tables and chairs pressed
against the door, and then to remove the stout planks pressed into
service to barricade against the ormyrr. Fitting a rusted key into the
iron lock, Garron breathed a deep breath and whispered a prayer as he
unlocked the door and went to greet what remained of Shallam's defenses.

~ ~ ~

Hours later Garron looked out over the weary refugees who had escaped
the destruction of Shallam. The crowd huddled close together in front of
the pyre Gunder had helped him build before the invasion. Their eyes
were glassy, their expressions full of grief. A few eyes blazed with
anger, rage even. Sir Gladius stood at the front of the host, jaw
clenched and fists balled with fury. They pressed in close, waiting to
hear why he had called them here. Nodding to their former Caliph, Father
Garron stepped forward to speak.

"Citizens of Shallam, there are no words to convey the grief and loss
you must feel in this dark hour. My heart and my prayers go out to you.
I grieve with you for what has been lost. Valour, Compassion, Justice,
and the radiant Lady Sol have laid down Their lives to fight the tyranny
of Bal'met. Enslaved in the bondage of undeath, the Father of Dragons,
once a noble creature by Han-Tolneth's telling, has led the Dala'myrr to
destroy the Jewel of the East. There is terrible darkness all around us.
The skies seethe with anger and the seas froth and foam. We are caught
in a battle between titanic forces, and we feel small indeed."

"But do not lose hope. The Te'Serra have fallen, yes. But They fell
fighting for the ideals They charged us with defending. They fell in
service to Good, wielding the power of Light to protect Creation from
the grave threat we now face. Great as the Gods are, Lord Lucretius
foresaw that one day we would rise up to outstrip the Gods. Another
terrible war was fought as a result of that premonition. When all hope
seemed lost then, victory arrived, borne on the wings of the noble
dragons. Victory came because Han-Tolneth refused to give up. Even in
his terrible grief after Han-Silnar's betrayal, he refused to succumb to
defeat. Now, just as then, we are surrounded by a terrible darkness, and
our continued existence is threatened. What will we do? Will we give in
to despair and doubt? Will we surrender our will and yield?"

"No," murmured the inchoate crowd. The word began as a whisper, barely
heard. As it rolled across the gathered refugees it grew in strength and
sharpness, bringing a measure of light back to their dull, flat gazes.
"No!" they repeated, and the priest nodded.

"No," he answered back to them. "We will stand strong. We will be
faithful to our oaths. We are champions, not cowards. We who have raised
cities and empires will not crumble. We who broke the Black Wave will
not succumb to this dark tide. Stone may crack, glass may shatter, and
steel may rust, but Good and Light are eternal. We are their sworn sword
and shield. Let us show the truth in Lord Lucretius' foretelling, and be
a mighty bulwark against this darkness."

Looking out at the frothing sea beyond the refugees, his back pressed up
against the unlit pyre, Father Garron realised the tide had come in and
he was struck with a sudden clarity of thought.

"Let us also take a moment to remember those who lost their lives, those
who the Great Mother has commended to Thoth's embrace. The sea returns
their bodies to us. Let us in turn commend them to fire. Bring their
corpses here and place them in the pyre before us, so they can rest in
peace." Garron turned to Father Halos, who nodded and stepped forward,
igniting the pyre with a spark from his tinderbox.

Garron watched as the crowd dispersed to fulfil the grisly task he had
set them to. After just a few moments the first of them returned: Salik
Rian. With careful deliberation, Salik laid the first waterlogged corpse
on the pyre, and the flames seemed to rise up to embrace the departed
with reverence. Tongues of fire leapt and danced, hungry to welcome the
dead, and their growing heat kindled something familiar in Father
Garron's heart... something he had not felt in centuries. As he tried to
place the sensation, Garron felt a faint awareness brush against his
mind.

"Father," whispered the soul of Silas, his plea filled with an urgent
fear. Silas, who had borne the sword and ensured its safety for months,
had perished against the ormyrr. "Father, the sword is gone. The ormyrr
may have just taken it. Do you sense its presence?" Father Garron looked
up, eyes filled with wonder as the Sword of Dunamis appeared in Father
Halos' hand with a burst of fire, burning as a mirror image of the
raging pyre.

Garron stood slack-jaw and mute, unable to understand, but desperate to
hope. He watched as heat and light began to radiate from the sword, and
the blade rose of its own accord in Halos' grip, its length pointing to
the pyre. Understanding rushed into Halos' eyes, and he tossed the sword
into the flames. In the instant blade met fire the world turned white,
and everything changed.

~ ~ ~

As his vision returned, Father Garron watched a beacon of brilliant,
white hot flames shine forth from the pyre, rising up into the sky.
Unbound from the burning wood, the scorching blaze expanded far beyond
the confines of the pyre, enveloping the crowd. As the fire reached him,
Garron felt its hungry tendrils lick at his skin. He flinched, waiting
for a pain that never came. The heat of the fierce flames was
undeniable, but somehow his body suffered no ill effect. As he watched,
the blinding conflagration coalesced into a titanic humanoid outline
that towered overhead. The radiant light dispelled all shadow, and the
figure reached down with a massive hand, fingers grasping at something
minuscule by comparison.

Whether seconds or centuries passed, Garron could not tell; he was
spellbound by the sight unfolding before him. Eventually, time asserted
itself again. As the light dwindled the pyre dimmed to its original
size. From the blazing inferno emerged a man, a coruscating nimbus
outlining the statuesque form. Grasped in his right hand was the Sword
of Dunamis, white-hot fire coursing down its blade. The crowd dropped to
one knee instantly, and Father Garron felt himself kneeling without
conscious awareness of the decision to move. The silence that blanketed
the refugees settled thick, until the man spoke.

"Tassad Baraslan called Me here, and I answered His call. He sacrificed
himself to bring Me forth. That sacrifice was honoured by the Logos."

"In time I made My own sacrifice, giving up My power and form to save
Achaea from the destruction of Death's Heart. Since then, I have existed
as less than a spark while others carried the torch I left behind. I
remember Maran's call to Me. The gulf was too wide for a mortal to
breach, but it was not too wide for an immortal."

"Pentharian, Heir to My power and My responsibility, called to Me. I
heard in His cry His need. Your need."

"Much is unknown to Me, but this is clear: A foulness has corrupted
these lands. It has brought low men and Gods. It has brought you low,
making you refugees. I feel the pestilence, digging its tendrils into
the bones of the world. I taste the oily wrongness that hangs on the
air."

His eyes reflecting the raging fire of the pyre, the man thundered, "I
return to you now, remade! Fire scours away all that is impure. I am
that fire. You shall be that fire. We shall scour away the impurity that
poisons the land and see it made pure again. We shall purge Creation of
this filth, root and branch!"

Throwing back his head, the figure's voice boomed from Shastaan to
Baelgrim Fortress as he thundered, "Servants sworn in fealty to Good,
bound to Light as I am. I see the hunger for justice that burns in your
souls, the valour that shines against the dark. Follow Me, and we will
turn the tide against our foe!"

Father Garron felt tears of joy wetting his cheek as the words seemed to
sear into his flesh and ignite his very bones. "The Righteous Fire," he
whispered, "Lord Deucalion."

Penned by My hand on the 6th of Mayan, in the year 612 AF.