Longetalos writes "Nestled within the rugged foothills of the Lortmils, only isolated villages and freeholds make up the southern border of the peaceful land of Veluna. That peace is shattered when a band of humanoids and giants seek to raid one of the isolated villages, with only an aged priest and a handful of ill-equipped villagers to stop them.
The Greatest Sacrifice
by Richard Di Ioia (email@example.com)
Used With Permission. Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
Father Loran was worried for his flock. The news the trappers had returned with was dire indeed. A few days ago, they spotted a large number of humanoids in the region. The village was nestled between mountains in the Lortmils range in the western part of Veluna and the populace knew that flight would be impossible. The children and aged would not be able to out-run the wolf riding goblins and giantkin. So here they would stand, defending their homes and families. The trappers were surprised by the number of humanoids in the hills and mountains, for the demi-humans had long ago rid these lands of the humanoid's evil ilk. Perhaps these are deserters from the war to the north or perhaps some more insidious villain had sent them in secrecy to this location. Regardless of the reason, here they were and ready to slaughter the villagers to satisfy their thirst for human blood.
Father Loran had retired to this village after having served as a priest in the nearby city of Haut for two dozen years. He had a small chapel built and has been the only priest in the village for the last 15 years. Rao has seen fitting to give his follower a long life of peace and happiness in his retirement as recompense for his years of service in the bustling city.
In the twilight of his 85 years, the priest had come to view the villagers as an extended family. Indeed, he blessed all the children currently living in the village when they were born. The adults all attended his weekly mass on Godsay and the priest performed all the religious ceremonies required by the villagers - wedding, funerals, as well as the blessing of the crops before each planting season. In exchange, the villagers donated food, drink and labor to the aging priest.
The village itself was a peaceful community of 220 people, mostly farmers and herdsmen with a few part-time trappers to hunt some wild game. The village was quasi-independent with the ruling lord many miles away to the east. Once a year the lord sent an emissary to collect the Prelates' taxes. Since Father Loran set up residence in the town the taxes have been collected by him and reduced in accordance with the services he required from the villagers.
Today the villagers prepare for war for they know that the humanoids will rush from the surroundings hills once Pelor's face no longer graces the heavens. This would be the night of the attack, for neither Celene nor Luna would be there to watch over the battle and grant their pale light. Father Loran has already ushered all the children and aged within his chapel, the only stone building in the village. As the day grows late and the villagers sit down for their last meal before nightfall, Father Loran walks among them and prays for their souls. Once the meal complete the villagers walk off into the night and their assigned locations around the earthen fortification dug during the last few days.
For perhaps the hundredth time in the last few days Father Loran began to doubt his calling. Had he chosen to become a monk or a paladin instead of a priest he would be better prepared for this attack. What good would his rituals and benedictions be for a people prepared for battle. He could not call forth the might of his god with his prayers nor take up arms to fight by their side. The best he could do would be to make a rousing speech to motivate his friends to fight and die - poorly armed villagers against the violent humanoids within the Lortmils.
As Pelor's light was extinguished by Nerull's hand and only Celestian's children graced the heavens, the humanoids let out their war cries and charged the village. At first the villagers hold the humanoids at the rapidly dug defenses and the Father's hopes rise. But then the giants enter the fray and the defenders are scattered like ants. All semblance of order is lost as the giants step over the earthworks and begin to crush the villagers with their clubs and stones. Father Loran orders the doors to his chapel closed as the last few villagers run through the doorway with the humanoids but a few steps behind. Standing at the top of the bell tower Father Loran knows that his doors cannot withstand the punishment the giants will bring to bear.
But wait, the humanoids move away from the chapel! They seem to be scattering back into the village, but it is hard to make out their forms in the twilight. All too soon their plan sinks in and what little spark of hope the Father had dies with that knowledge. The humanoids begin pilling up wood from the village around the chapel. With gleeful shouting and cheering the giants place a huge boulder in front of the door to entomb the villagers within the chapel.
With a heavy heart Father Loran climbs the ladder down from the bell tower and back to his flock. Falling to his knees, he prays that Rao grants his peace to the villagers trapped within the chapel so that they feel no pain as they slowly suffocate and burn to death. He stands and walks among them, praying for their souls and performs the funeral prayer over the villagers as he blesses each one in turn. Father Loran has trouble keeping his voice even and calm as he does this - remembering the fun times he had with each of them as he blesses them. Especially the children who he helped to bring into this world. Children who have no concept of what is to occur next and stand their crying out in fear because they sense the panic from their parents. With tears rolling down his face, a vision appears to Father Loran during one of his blessings. A vision of St. Siwainon, the patron saint of the city of Haut, appears to him. St. Siwainon speaks to him of a prayer that could save his flock. Unfortunately Father Loran knows he does not have the power to cast that prayer, only a few of the most powerful monks of Rao could cast the prayer that his patron saint has shown him.
Then with an insight born of faith in his god, Father Loran understands. He will not be performing the prayer. The prayer will be performed by St. Siwainon using the body of Father Loran as a conduit for his power. So with his heart uplifted Father Loran returns to the bell tower and looks down at the humanoids below. As Father Loran begins his prayer it is not the voice of an aged man that is heard, but one loud with power. As the prayer increases in tempo Father Loran's body begins to glow and grow. Wings erupt from his back and a large wooden staff appears in his hands. The humanoids remain frozen in awe at the sight before them as a cool blue light spreads out from the Saint above them and bathes them in its light. With a final shout, Saint Siwainon explodes into a thousands shards of blue sparks.
After a few minutes, a villager belts on his courage and with a quick prayer to Rao climbs the ladder to the bell tower. Once there he quickly notices that nothing remains of the Saint, the humanoids nor their dear Father Loran. It is said a new Saint of Rao was born that night and any who would contradict this statement had better not speak too loudly within a small village nestled within the mountains of the Lortmils...
Note: Lortmils, Rao, Veluna"