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I think I'm outta here boys, on the off chance you ever need to find me then look on Discord. Cyclone#8777

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I unfortunately seem to have run out of time for this, and as such will have to be withdrawing. Thank you for your consideration, and good luck with your future writings!

@Cyclone@Oraculum


Sad to see you go. Thanks for the kind words, and should you find yourself with more time on your hands we’d love to take you back.
Hey Page! This looks like a really cool idea. Unfortunately I don't think that I'll have enough time to where I could responsibility commit my interest or intent to join this RP, but I wanted to offer you some words of praise and encouragement nonetheless.
Penance

The Holy City of Paterdomus, and its Country
Early Spring, 315 P. F.


The road from Marcester to Paterdomus was fairly well travelled and accordingly in fairly good condition--which is to say that it was identifiable as a road and that it was unlikely you would complete a journey without seeing another soul. Sir Aulus of the Knights of the Searing Dawn had made his way upon it for several hours so far without so much as glimpsing the signs of another person, for which he was (in this rare instance) extraordinarily grateful. Ever since he'd slain that... thing, whatever it was, something had been wrong with one of his eyes. He could feel a strange warmth from within it as his heart beat, and it felt as though a claw or a talon had raked its way across his vision like a lash--but despite that, he could still see through it as though nothing were wrong until he looked at something that felt dark or strange. When he settled his right eye upon it he could swear that it seethed within his skull and threatened to burn it to ash from the intensity of the feeling, and he could feel a pall of profanity settle over him like a shawl. It'd happened with the innkeeper's son, and with an Arcosi merchant, and he'd had to avert his gaze from them to avoid them noticing his reaction--thankfully, as a Knight Templar, he was mostly accustomed to peasants trying very pointedly to avoid his gaze. The thundering of hooves brought his thoughts back to reality as he rode back towards Paterdomus, and he heard the sound of a convoy approaching from that direction which settled his gaze upon it.

A fellow knight--a Sir Luci of the Argent Verdict, if his fiery red hair and distinctive shield were anything to go by--seemed to be headed out at a pace leisurely enough that he could wait for an opportune moment to call the beleaguered knight over for a brief conversation. As if on cue he raised his hand to his eyes, and bellowed out a "Ho there!" with wide swings of his right arm in the air. Sir Aulus stiffened his grip upon his reins instinctively, and turned to look at his fellow as the distance between them lessened. Thankfully only the barest coals of an ember lay dormant in his eye upon the knight coming into his field of view more clearly. In but a moment or two the pair were side by side, just at the westward edge of the road, and they exchanged greetings and blessings of the Exalted One in the fashion expected and proper of them.

"Hail, Sir... Aulus? A little early for travel, is it not?"

Sir Aulus smiled grimly with just the right corner of his mouth, and beckoned at his fellow knight with an open sweep of his palm.

"I could say the same to you, Sir Luci. I set off from Marcester immediately after my prayers, for I have news to bring to my order," he replied, somewhat flatly, attempting to play his stress off as simple fatigue from an overlong journey. He gave a quick, weak smile and shuffled his hands about the reins of his horse tentatively, and it let off a whinny at just the right time to give off the illusion of impatience.

"Safe travels then," Sir Luci began, giving a deep nod and a friendly wave as he turned back to the road and continued his gentle pace onward. Sir Aulus likewise began the process of coercing his mount to motion, but took one final look at the knight and the road to see whether or not he would ask further questions--and though he did turn briefly it was mostly to look at the sky, and resulted in a brief but friendly smile. Something about his smile sparked that barely contained heat within his eye, and in its fervor it railed against the leash of his willpower terribly. He winced sharply and brought a hand to his eye, but it only took a second for that same infernal heat to spread throughout his skull and spots of a strange and oily black to coalesce within Sir Luci's form. He averted his gaze as quickly as he could, but something about what he'd seen stuck with him for a second and he had to fight the urge to choke and sob at the same time. Then it was over as quickly as it had begun, and before he could really collect his thoughts or his breath he was already back on the road to the Holy City.




Father Caius wiped a bit of sticky apple juice from his chin as he made his way through the grandiose foyer that led into that main chamber in the Temple of Brazen Justice, the one where the trials were being held. He had to be back in his place so that the next case, that of Caius’ man, could resume as slated; however, there was still a short time left, as his meager meal of the one good apple hadn’t taken long. And before him he saw a familiar face!

“Aulus,” he breathed, forgoing the formality of giving the knight the ‘sir’ that he was due. There was some degree of familiarity permitted between holy men, especially those who had been long friends, and Caius had known few for as long as Sir Aulus. The knight had been one of the two others from Caius’ village on that fateful day when old Father Titus (Exalted preserve his soul in the heavenly halls) had come to claim a new generation of boys for service in the church. Aulus had been a bit older and stronger, so they’d gradually drifted apart as one boy took to books and law and the other was given to the temple knights for training, but each of them still remembered their childhood friendship back in Stonetree, and that fondness had never faded.

Even though he wasn’t as familiar with Aulus as he might have liked, Caius still hadn’t failed to see how the knight had winced at his gaze, how he carried himself with a troubled and almost pained countenance. Caius found it somewhat disturbing; he saw in his old friend the same bearings that he saw in all too many men that ended up being found guilty. “Aulus, my friend,” Caius started again. “Is something amiss?”

Sir Aulus had been hurriedly walking through the hallowed halls of the city when he'd bumped into Caius--and though it took more than one attempt to stir him from his reverie his face was a picture of genuine joy and even relief when he looked into Caius' eyes and saw nothing awry. He did not quite choke back a breath as some part of him desired to, but immediately the weight of whatever had been troubling the knight dissolved and he embraced the man in front of him with a single arm and a wide grin.

"Caius! Did I make it back in time?"

Aulus offered a deep laugh and swept a sandy brown fringe of hair from the front of his face to his right, then took a moment to shake himself off as he smiled expectantly as his friend. Next to the man he looked absolutely bedraggled--where Caius was dressed in fresh and clean garments, practically all of Aulus' gear (sans his tabard, which had miraculously remained mostly free of grime) was coated in some mixture of muck, sweat, or blood. He'd not even thought about quite how dishevelled he actually looked until seeing Caius had brought his attention back to reality instead of his thoughts (and, admittedly, a few prayers). Sir Aulus made a motion with his free left hand to motion for Caius to walk further into the temple with him so that they'd be efficient with their time, a habit he'd picked up from his training under the Temple Knights (and Drusus specifically, who very much valued the virtue of good timekeeping).

"You look good. Ready. I am sorry that I am not in a better state to..." he began, before cutting himself off to allow Caius room to actually speak and settling his focus squarely upon his friend's silhouette.

Caius might have allowed himself a small grin and a chuckle, but the thought of making light of another man’s trial (and all the dread that it must have entailed) was not one that sat well in his stomach. “Justiciar Drusus is just about to preside over my man, the very first one that I was assigned to counsel. Alas, I had little sage advice to offer him save to suggest that he confess and plead to Drusus for penance; he stands indicted for thievery against the church itself, and the evidence against him is strong. But I ramble! You...what happened to you? Trouble on the road?”

Aulus' face fell a little as he heard Caius' tale, suddenly overcome by an inch of worry for his friend. He was not trained in the law like Caius was, but possessed understanding and experience enough to empathise with the predicament this left Caius in. Justiciar Drusus was a truly worthy of the title, and as long as the criminal confessed he would be spared the worst of the Exalted's wrath and instead find contrition--but getting the smallfolk to see that was never an easy situation, Aulus had found as much in his own trials, and he gripped Caius shoulder gently and firmly in resolve.

"As long as he shows that his commitment to penance is true I am certain that he will emerge better," Aulus began, taking a moment to breathe in through his nose and let out a sharp exhale. He stopped in his tracks and turned to Caius, narrowing his gaze to a steely point of resolve (his "knightly" face, they'd often japed as children) before talking.

"A charge of apostasy and witchcraft, though it ended messily. A local ‘wise woman’ had been... consorting with something, and I caught her in the middle of some blasphemous ritual within the local Temple--it... it just shook me that such foulness could be attempted in so holy a place. I am glad to have ended that threat before it progressed further, truly." Suddenly it was Aulus' turn to feel the merriment sink to the pit of his stomach and vanish from the situation. He wanted to go into further detail, but voices up ahead seemed to be growing in volume and it became abundantly clear that the time for the adjournment to end imminently. Aulus nodded swiftly to Caius and ushered him forward, waiting to step in and be told what to do with himself by the Justiciar.

So Caius returned to his place as the Justiciar once more ascended the dais, held up an oversized ceremonial sword, and carried out a prayer just as he had earlier in the morning. Drusus was ever diligent in that manner of thing; to hear him say it, if you ever presumed to judge a man without first praying to the Exalted for guidance, then whatever decision you proclaimed was no true justice at all. When the ritual was complete and the sword laid down upon the Exalted’s altar with proper reverence, the next case began.

Caius’ man was brought forward from the benches by a Temple Knight serving as bailiff for the day, and Drusus’ eyes peered into the accused man without betraying anything of the Justiciar’s thoughts.

“I was told that you wished to confess to this crime and plead for penance?” Drusus asked after a time, though his words came across more like a statement. The man, a little slow and doubtless terrified, remained still and silent. “Well, did your lawyer tell me true? Speak!” the Justiciar prodded after the awkward pause.

Then it was Caius who suddenly grew cold and pale. Was this man about to make a fool of him, to decide at the last moment to demand trial by combat or deny the crime, and right before Sir Aulus too? After Caius had already told Drusus that the man would conf--

“Y-yes, Father,” the accused finally stammered. “I confess it.”

Drusus raised an eyebrow, silent.

The thief gulped, realizing it wasn’t enough. He found his courage again after a moment and said, “I confess to taking the jewels from the temple. Jewels that wasn’t mine to take.” The man breathed. “But I didn’t--” he started, then stopped himself. Caius had begun to panic; he’d warned the man a dozen times not to make excuses before his judge, told the man that it’d make him look unrepentant.

“You what?” Drusus pressed, a bit of fire creeping into his tone and eyes.

“I--nothing, your honor, I got no excuses to make. I did it without thinking, ‘twas wrong. I confess that I done it and that I’m sorry, and I beg for penance.”

And then the fire was gone from the Justiciar (though it’d been there long enough to singe the man!) and Drusus nodded. “I see. You shall have your penance, and should your heart be true in its regret, you will emerge better and more learned from the ordeal, as will all these present to witness.”

The Justiciar signaled to another one of the Knights Templar attending the room in the back, standing just beside Sir Aulus (who Drusus’ gaze lingered on for just a moment). That knight nodded and quickly disappeared to another room, emerging moments later with an iron brazier in hand. Caius’ man looked on in anxious confusion, but then another knight produced a sack of coal and dread coursed through the room as all came to realize that this was to be an ordeal by hot iron.

“...and it is written in the scriptures that our Exalted God wielded no weapons, for his hands were ever burning, and with nothing more than his fiery grip did he deliver justice. It was his flaming hands that wrought a flawed world twisted by the Black God into one of good, when he cast down the Great Enemy,” Drusus had been didactically explaining, though few seemed to be hearing his words in the moment. Caius spun to look upon his man, and he saw a face pale as milk.




Balbus -- that was his name, the poor man whose house and village had been burnt by the marauding warband of orcs, the man who had taken jewels from the ruined church to feed his family and then tried to flee elsewhere in desperation -- Balbus was frozen. A thousand thoughts raced through his mind in a second, though he’d never been the smartest of farmers or had a sharp wit. He’d never thought so fast before, nor conjured so many foolish ideas at once. The thought of the brazier and fiery irons terrified him even more than that cruel old judge did! He wanted to shout out that he hadn’t done it, that his confession was false, that his brother or somebody else had stolen the jewels, that anything had happened but that he’d done it! No lie was beyond him in that moment when all his thoughts were consumed by fear and self-preservation, and yet he was paralyzed, unable to speak or do anything.

He remained transfixed to the Justiciar even as the man showed him his back and stepped away from where he’d been on the dais to go behind the altar, kneeling down and murmuring something. And then he rose and stepped back to the dais with a flat hand raised to the vaulted ceiling and the stained glass depiction of the Exalted One above. “...and so in the name of our Divine Lord and Master and the spirit of his teachings, this humble servant claims a spark of His fire.”

And then Drusus, who the boys mocked as Candlehead, suddenly did not have a head that seemed afire, but fingers. It started as just a tiny flicker at the tips of each one, but then the Justiciar uttered one sacred word (and every man in the room heard something different) andthe tiny flames burst into life. They spread, and suddenly his upraised hand was immolated from fingertip to palm, burning and yet not blackening, not being consumed at all.

Balbus’ eyes were still glued to Drusus when the priest’s hand suddenly combusted, and he felt a wetness creeping down his trousers, accompanied by a sour smell -- but his entire body was already hot and sweating so much that his clothes clung to him as tightly as the pungent reek of fear. His knees began to wobble as Drusus walked closer. The priest with fiery hand was as terrible to look upon as the sun, and Balbus’ eyes watered, but he could neither blink nor turn away. And then Drusus and the brazier were suddenly both right before Balbus, as was the knight who held up the sack of coal.

“These black stones represent the gravity and the weight of your sins,” the Justiciar proclaimed as he reached one hand into the sack, the other one still flaming and held aloft. “One for every gemstone that you took from the Exalted’s temple,” Drusus announced as he took one, two, three, four lumps of coal out and placed them upon the brazier. Had it been that many?!

And then Drusus knelt in one quick motion and brought down his fiery hand to rest beneath the brazier, the sudden movement fanning the flames enough for a small wave of heat to wash over Balbus’ face. And suddenly the coal brazier was alight, and Drusus was standing once more, murmuring something into his palm before closing his fist and extinguishing the flames that he’d grasped within it.

“The White God’s flames represent purification. The true and the devout need not fear them; this brazier is your soul’s salvation,” Balbus heard the Justiciar say, but his eyes stared into the brazier and saw only agony and doom.

Conversely, as another set of eyes laid themselves upon the brazier, thoughts of hope and redemption blossomed within the chest of Sir Aulus. He could detect no such malignancy as he’d been forced to suffer that day within the heart of Justiciar Drusus, nor in the holy magic he appeared to be wielding to inflict this penance upon the farmer. Though the cold throes of fear settled into his veins as his eye gazed upon the thief and saw plain the tiniest seeds of Darkness he had ever imagined might exist, he took heart in his faith in the Exalted One and was moved immediately to sink to his knees in prayer.

As he spoke the words he did sincerely feel a weight lift from his shoulders, and as he raised himself off of the ground after his exhortations had concluded he found himself drawn towards the burning brazier. His foot did not take another step forward--the discipline of his training saw to that--but the fiery impetus to act blossomed in his face and in his fists. Even after taking a short breath in he could not cool the passion, and so he closed his eyes but found that his right eye would not remove itself from the spectacle occurring in front of him. His right hand found itself to the pommel of his sword and he clenched it fiercely, until his knuckles themselves were also white and he found himself unable to will himself to move further.

The blaze stretched and grew, long fingers of fire and heat stretching and grasping ever further upward. But Drusus suddenly cast his eyes towards the kneeling knight. “Sir Aulus,” he finally addressed his returned charge, “I see that you have returned from your task.”

And the Justiciar’s sweeping gaze made quick note of Aulus’ disheveled and sullied whites, and seemed to know then what the outcome could be. He had been a paladin in his day, so he could see the signs. “Does your blade require cleansing?” Drusus asked.

The knight nodded, and drew his blade reflexively for the Justiciar to inspect. He took a step forward to ensure that it was fully in view, and he found himself listening to his mouth speak the words:

”Yes, Father.”

He bent his knee slightly and kept his gaze down, towards the sword and the ground, to show proper deference to the Justiciar. It also did not hurt to play up a certain sense of awe around the smallfolk in the room after such a display, and the thought of striking the fear of their Exalted God into the heart of the thief brought him no small amount of satisfaction.

So all eyes were turned to Sir Aulus and the naked steel he held. The blade was sharp and drenched in ruby-red from the reflection of the burning coals, yet neither any chips nor scar marred its form, and the diligent knight had of course already washed free the blood that it had been made to shed. Still, some taints were not so readily visible to an untrained eye. Drusus claimed the sword and raised it high for the confessed-thief Balbus to bear witness.

“And just as the coals are your sins and the flames are your purification, this blade represents you, for all men are but instruments in service of the Exalted God. Like you, this blade bears a weight upon it, for it has shed unholy blood and such stains are not easily removed.”

Drusus laid the sword across the top of the brazier and left it to bathe in the heat. A ewer of water was brought forth and its contents were blessed before the crowd. “And this is the Exalted One’s grace and forgiveness, your salvation. You must claim the sword that is your body and douse it in this water. Steel your nerves and do not falter, for the steel grows only hotter with every moment of trepidation.”

Balbus’ eyes widened. ’Go,’ thought Caius, ‘go now!’ He even mouthed the words, hoping that his man would look, but the thief was of course transfixed solely upon the blade. He stepped forward and reached out to grab the thing before it had become red-hot, yet his fingers hovered just a hair’s width away from the hilt, doubtless feeling the heat radiating out from even there. Drusus observed silently.

Balbus at last found the resolve to clench his fingers around the hilt, and he winced at the pain but did not cry out. He lifted the blade from the rim of the brazier and took one, two, three shaky, rapid, and desperate strides to the ewer. Panting, he thrust the sword’s searing point into the water before releasing the blade with a gasp of pain. The sweat upon the man’s brow was complemented by the beginnings of tears welling up in the corner of his eyes, and he fell down to his knees, but it was a joyous enough moment. All attendants murmured blessings and prayers or made holy signs with their fingers, and Balbus was released -- without the clerics rendering any aid to his hand, of course, for the lasting pain was his burden to bear and it would be half the penance. If the wound festered, it would be only due to a heart that hadn’t been fully repentant.
I guess my whipping boy Ora can catch a break.

@Tuujaimaa for Sir Aulus
Any room for another late joiner?


Certainly, and happy new year! You wouldn’t even be that late because we’ve only just started the IC and several of us have yet to post. I’ll PM you a link to our discord server.
Justice

The Holy City of Paterdomus
Early Spring, 315 P. F.


“The items were found upon your own person, and then identified by one of the paladins who apprehended you. It’s quite damning evidence, and stealing from the Exalted One’s temple would be a grave crime indeed,” Father Caius mused to the man before him, the very first that he’d been assigned to counsel. Caius was freshly ordained, and he looked not even thirty, a truth that certainly wasn’t lost upon this man before him. The accused fellow had deflated the moment he had seen the lawyer assigned to help defend him, no doubt assuming that Caius’ youth meant ineptitude. Fortunately for him, with that youth came not incompetence, but rather diligence and a desire to prove himself that many of the older lawyers lacked.

“...did you do it?” Caius abruptly asked, cutting straight to the point within moments of this first meeting with the accused.

“I, uh -- what, I thought you were s’posed to be the one helpin’ me defend my name, not tryin’ to get me to confess, or...”

“I am indeed meant to counsel you and help you defend your name, as best I can,” the young lawyer admitted, “but if you are truly guilty, you might as well confess and beg to be given penance and forgiveness. In doing so you would save much time, mend your conscience and your standing with the Exalted, and no doubt also spare yourself a harsher punishment than need be.” The young priest stopped with a pregnant pause to let those words set in. “I see that I took you by surprise, but when I asked, the guilt looked plain in your eyes. If even I can see as much, then you must realize that the Justiciar will too, for he would question you even more sharply. I shall not waste time or mince words; I repeat that this evidence is damning, and know enough of the courts and of our Justiciar that declaring yourself innocent and taking this to a trial would not go well for you.”

“I didn’t hurt or steal from nobody! Only took from that church what them orcs left behind, after they burnt it down. Didn’t know if they were runnin’ to the mountains or not, they might’ve come back later and taken the rest anyways!” By now the peasant was sweating and shaking, even more nervous and despairing. But he still clung stubbornly to forlorn hope, even as Caius told all with just the look in his blue eyes. “I guess the church could call that stealin’. But I got more choices right? If I don’t wanna confess or chance meself in the court, I could demand a--”

“--trial by combat,” Caius finished, looking down at his desk. “Yes, you could demand as much; however, you are not accused by a neighbor but by the church itself, and for its representative the Temple of Justice would name a Knight-Paladin. He would be a holy man who was chosen for that path by his aptitude and body, and who had trained with sword and shield from the age of ten. He would be armored with steel and padding, and you with only your own innocence and swiftness, or lack thereof. I do not suppose you are deft or skilled with a sword, or that you have some kinsman who is and who might stand for you as a champion? If I might be so bold, I suggest that a trial by combat is the last thing you should want.”

By then Caius’ gaze had left the desk to meet the man’s face. There was a great deal of fear and nervousness there, and some of it surely rubbed off and fed back into Caius’ own doubts. But his was a disciplined mind that could set aside such burdens, and so he forced his own countenance into a kindlier one. Perhaps that would help to soothe the fellow’s nerves.

“You are not wholly doomed or lost. I do believe that if you confess and request penance, you will have the best outcome. Justiciar Drusus is to preside over your case, and he is a most fair and just servant of the Exalted One.”

“Then that’s what I gots to do,” the thief finally relented, slumping back into his chair. “I’ll confess.”




The Justiciar was a just enough man. Nothing less could be expected of one who stood in judgement of others in the name of their Exalted god, a deity who embodied that very element of righteousness. But what was it that made the Justiciar just? Was it how he knew the scriptures all by heart and had memorized the Exalted One’s prescribed punishments for each mortal offense, and those prescribed by the kings of old for pettier crimes? Or was it how he had toiled and suffered pains in his own life, and thus could understand even if he did not pity or show improper mercy? No, by Caius’ reckoning it was foremost because the man’s eyes could taste honey and vinegar alike and set aside the difference. He was not blind, but able to see and then still set his heart aside, to treat a leper no differently in his judgement than he might a maiden most fair.

And lepers and fair maidens alike could wilt before Drusus’ stern, fatherly face! If he had ever laughed in his life, there were no lines to show it. Indeed his face was bereft entirely of wrinkles or scars or anything else to mar it, even as his age was growing more venerable and the top of his head had balded. Around the sides of that shining bald peak of his head there was a fringe of hair the color of ash, and then below that the rest was black as soot. When they thought they were beyond the hearing of their elders, Caius knew that the youngest boys in training to be priests would call Justiciar Drusus ‘candlehead’, the jape that the flame was that shining bald spot, and that black and white hair around made up the burning wick. If that were the case, then every time Drusus held court then each and every man and woman standing judgement (and the witnesses, too! He did not suffer anything save silence from the witnesses!) must have all been the wax.

On that day, Caius too felt like he was made of wax. He had only just been ordained and assigned as a lawyer to serve under Drusus and give counsel to the accused, and this was actually the very first man he was to stand for, though certainly not the first time he’d been before a court as a clerk or witness, or even before Justiciar Drusus. As the young priest left his cell in the dormitory at sunrise and made his way up one of the city’s high hills and towards the great Temple of Brazen Justice, he passed at least a dozen smaller ‘temples’ that were really more offices or schools than places of worship, then by one of the temple knights’ barracks that doubled as a holding prison for those awaiting judgement, and then he’d climbed to the steps of the great marble temple top the hill.

Twin Knights Templar clad in ornamental armor and white tabards stood guard on either side of the entrance, and recognizing Caius as the lawyer, one of them kindly pulled open the heavy oaken door. The young man gave a gracious nod and murmured a greeting, then slipped inside. The first thing to meet the eye was of course the artwork: massive statues guarded corners, engravings elsewise covered the walls and great pillars, the tiled floor had mosaics, and the windows had panes of stained glass. All of this was sacral imagery depicting the Exalted One and his champions: saints, paladins, and kings of old, near all of whom stood locked in combat against inhuman monsters or else in judgement over shackled warlocks or other evil men. The dawn filtered through massive windows high up near the temple’s vaulted ceiling, and those first few anemic rays of sunlight served as the only illumination, so gloom filled the air, and yet that only brought the decor to life. The dim animated and embellished the brilliance of the Exalted One’s gilded eyes and fiery hands just as it did the gleaming bronze born by his paladins, all of which was juxtaposed by dark voids and swirling red-eyed shapes that represented the servants and beasts of the night. Every man to stand on trial that morn had already been brought into the temple and made to wait an hour or more, left to stew in the unsettling aura of the monsters and the forces smiting them down.

Caius found his place besides other clergymen serving as clerks and lawyers, well away from the benches of witnesses and the line of accused. Silence filled the air but for the occasional hushed whisper or grating of the door being pushed opened. They waited while the stained glass slowly became aglow as more sunlight poured in through the windows, the gloom finally being staved off, and then Justiciar Drusus at last entered with the scabbard of his greatsword in hand. He took his place upon the high dais by the altar, drew the sword as tradition dictated, and surveyed the crowds.

Drusus was a tall and hard man, still lean and strong but not quite so formidable as he’d once been in his fighting days. Some wounds to the leg had left his limp and ended his time as a paladin guarding the borders, yet he still moved with dignity (albeit slowly) and stood straight as a spear, chin ever high. His eyes were red, Caius saw, but it was no doubt the product of his reading all the briefs upon these cases before him. Drusus cared for detail and read closely; he’d probably been awake and at his desk somewhere within the temple long before even the first of the lawyers had arrived.

Keeping the tip of the greatsword high above his head, the Justiciar finally broke his silence by beginning a long prayer out loud. He beseeched the Exalted to look down from his Heavenly Hall and unto his faithful, to aid in his loyal servants’ peace and help them to deliver justice. By the end even his strong hands were trembling from the sword’s weight, so he placed it back into his sheathe and laid it upon the Exalted One’s holy altar, and only then motioned for the judgements to begin.

The first case was a most scandalous and salacious one that involved one man accused of having grown too familiar with his brother’s wife. Neighbors and kin aplenty had come to bear witness for either side, and it seemed as though half the entire village had been questioned on the matter, but most had work to attend to and had merely been interviewed at their village rather than summoned to come in person. Still, their testimony had been recorded and compiled into one document that was read out loud by a priest. During the proceedings impassioned and wild accusations were flung between the two brothers and the witnesses, but there was only one swear (it came from the aggrieved brother and was directed at the other brother’s innocent wife, of all places) hurled -- Drusus’ icy gaze and sharp condemnation of that first one was enough to discourage such undignified words and prevent a second, so the court was able to maintain that much civility, at least. The case took the better part of three hours to resolve, and the two accused were finally found guilty of adultery, yet mitigating factors (namely intoxication) made Drusus unexpectedly restrained in his sentencing. The adulterer and adulteress alike were each to be sobered by having a hot nail driven through the palm of their left hands, and then the adulterer was additionally made to pay some silver in reparations to his shamed brother. The adulteress he did not punish further, instead relegating the matter of any more disciplining for her unto her husband.

The next matter was one of graver crimes -- apostasy and witchcraft, from an elder woman that the village had accused of spurning their village’s priest, consorting with trolls in the shadow of the mountains, and haunting the local children in their dreams. Paladins had been sent to search for signs of this supposed troll, and after days had found nothing, so she was cleared quickly enough of that charge. But a letter from her village’s church did indeed show that she frequently claimed sickness and did not attend; Drusus rebuked her and suggested that her propensity for colds and other minor afflictions might well be caused by weakened morals and a lack of faith. Still, she had sometimes attended, and she knew enough prayers to appease Drusus, so that rebuke was her only punishment on that count. There was not, however, any evidence save her own denials to prove her innocent of using witchcraft to project herself into dreams and haunt the children, and two children had indeed claimed to have been haunted by a shadowy figure in her likeness. As he was no fool, Drusus understood that even the minds and memories of the young and pure could err from time to time, and so the testimony of a few children was not enough to give him certainty. For the nature of the crime made it very difficult to find the truth, it seemed apparent to all that a trial by ordeal was necessary, that the Exalted One could judge more wisely.

A purplish elixir of ground trollsroot, a most noxious and deadly plant, was concocted and she was ordered to drink of it with all those present as witnesses, so she had no choice but to feebly nod and accept her lot. It was said that witches and those that bound themselves to the Black God were oft immune to such poison altogether and might even enjoy the taste, for such vile fluids flew already flowed through their veins, but that less insidious ones with wicked hearts would merely wither and die over the course of a few hours. A pure soul, however, would always repel the substance and give the body strength enough to expel the poison before its effects could kill. Indeed this woman did quickly gag and vomit, and so demonstrated her purity of heart. She still did seem deathly pale and was soon shivering, but she was shown innocent before all. Drusus ordered her put into the charge of a temple infirmary, and she was carried out on a litter.

Those two cases had taken longer than expected, and so the Justiciar adjourned the court so that all present could have the respite of some rest and take their midday meal. Caius stepped outside to breathe in fresh air and feel the sun upon his face, only to find himself standing in a great and slender shadow. Those who lived in Paterdomus long enough could learn to tell the time just from where the shadow hung, splitting the city in two. This shade came from the Silver Tower a whole hill over, a massive spire that crowned the Cathedral, grandest temple of all Paterdomus and indeed all Outremer. That tower loomed over the entire city and even had a commanding view of some of the surrounding country beyond the great walls, and it was from those heights that the ruler of this realm (and he with most righteous claim as successor of the Holy Kingdom, to hear any priest of Paterdomus tell it) could preside over his lands, that great jeweled crown no doubt resting over a troubled brow. That was of course to say that the Silver Tower was home to the study and living quarters of the High Father, the Beacon of Light and Hope, Flame of Wisdom, First Servant of the White God, High Priest of Paterdomus, or whatever other style you wanted to give to Pontiff Aulus.

The Pontiff, once a greatly respected and perhaps even feared figure indeed, was alas rarely spoken of in Paterdomus now, and reduced to laughing stock everywhere else. He had long secluded himself up in that tower, supposedly in prayer. His last public appearance had been years ago, within the great cathedral below his tower, and there he’d delivered a fiery and frenzied sermon of doom and darkness, promising a second Great War and speaking of a time of strife and judgement when the sky would grow black as it wept acrid tears over burning lands. At first the paladins were eager, expecting this to mean another great crusade, but the call to invade Arugoth hadn’t come. Now the commoners whispered about His Holiness under their drinks, claiming Aulus to have lost his wits at best (perhaps a fair assessment; all that Caius could remember of the Pontiff’s visage on the day of that sermon was how his once-magnificent beard had become a great long mess of unkempt white and of how all the other clean and proper-looking senior clergymen around had been furrowing their brows and frowning) or an outright madman who spent his days poring over ancient spellbooks and tomes, and every other oddity and artifact in the temple’s reliquaries. A few particularly loathsome fools had even started spreading preposterous rumors of strange lights coming from the tower’s Hall of Mirrors during the dead of night as the product of Aulus performing queer magical rituals. Naturally, men had been arrested and the Knights Templar had tried to quietly suppress such heretical and malign rumors, but that had seemingly done nothing but inflame the gossip. Many among the ranks were all too eager to choose a replacement, yet the Pontiff retained his title for life, so they could only circle round like vultures.

Father Caius shook those disturbing thoughts from his mind as he walked, eventually leaving the great shadow behind and venturing down the hill to a stall where some man was peddling apples that he’d carted in from some orchard in the country. Caius paid the man a copper coin then claimed two of the larger apples for his midday meal, eating them as he climbed up the hill to the Temple of Brazen Justice. He quickly finished the first apple, the thing sweet and good inside even as it’s peel had been spotted and marred, but as he came back into the shadow of the Silver Tower, he bit into the second and prettier-looking apple only to discover that it was half rotted. With a sigh, the lawyer spat out the bite of apple and tossed the rest of the fruit away, and then a few minutes later he stepped back into the temple. His man’s case was slated to come next.
Next round of reviews.

@Cyclone for Caius


More serious reviews should be along soon, hopefully even today; Oraculum's finished most of the batch already. And the IC can probably start either today or tomorrow depending upon how quickly I can iron out a post.
@Cyclone

Here's my new character! I worked long and hard on it!


It's funny, I was actually talking to a friend when I saw this. I had commented it had a very "Dungeon Keeper" style vibe to it before I finished reading.

I can't wait to see how this story unfolds!

Remember, "It's Good to be Bad"


Thanks for the kind words and encouragement! Should you be interested in joining, we're still open to new applications.
And another round.

@Dead Cruiser for Emel


@Forett for Sol’Kureth


@Tuujaimaa for Máthair-Amaidí


@Legion02 for Allura


@Leotamer for Cucaniensis


Lauder, Oraculum hasn't had the chance to give me his thoughts on your sheet yet, so it hasn't been reviewed. Unfortunately I don't think he or I will be doing anything on RPGuild for Christmas, so you'll probably have to just wait until the 26th. In the meantime I'll give you some quick and informal feedback: I like what you're going for and most of the character ideas, but for the dying words of some tired of great seer, those parts at the beginning were pretty long-winded and filled with what seemed like an unreasonably big amount of information. In Christmas terms, the present was good, but the wrapping was quite sloppy and it bordered closer to a description (as compared to a narration) than we would've liked; you know, the point of the sheet's weird format with the myth is to challenge you to 'show us, don't tell us'.

Merry Christmas everyone, and hopefully when we reconvene in a day or two the IC will be sprung into action! I already have a solid idea for an opening post.
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