The Silver Wolf-Behind The Mask: In Word And In Deed
Date: Thu, February 02, 2023
Topic: Stories & Fiction

They both saluted the fallen heroes of Emridy Meadows and stood in silence, thinking of all the warriors who’d given their lives so that others could live.

 Chapter Nine

In Word And In Deed

“So the sylvan elves of the Dapple Wood helped you?” Jolene asked Larissa and Luna as she took tea with them the next day.

“That’s right, Your Highness,” Larissa said. “Their archery helped us slay the bandits that were taking your ransom.”

“They also gave Weimar directions to the bandits’ keep,” Luna said. “My sister and I needed a day to prepare the spells we planned to use.”

“And you provided the ransom yourselves, didn’t you?” Jolene said, sipping her tea. “It was very kind of you and your friends.”

“Well, we planned to recover it immediately, Your Highness,” Luna said. “We didn’t want to actually lose those gems.”

“Your gaining them was an adventure in itself, I’m sure,” Jolene said. “Where did you find them?”

“The Glimmering Hall, believe it or not. The things we saw and fought there don’t bear describing,” Luna said, shuddering.

“No doubt,” Jolene said, patting Luna’s arm sympathetically. “In any case, I owe your band my gratitude for saving both me and my citizens. You’re sure you don’t need payment?”

“We have as much treasure as we can carry right now,” Luna said. “Besides, the people of Vala Real have more use for the bandits’ horses and plunder than we do.”

“Where are you headed now?” Jolene asked.

“We’re heading north through Furyondy to visit Highfolk,” Luna said. “Revafour has some friends he wants to check in on. I also wanted to attend some of the forums the clerics of Rao hold. I want to see how their faith intersects with mine,” she said, holding up her Pelorian pendant.

“I think I can help with that,” Jolene said, smiling. “Perhaps you and your friends could stay at my estate in Devarnish as my guests? You’ll have no trouble attending the Raoan forums, I assure you.”

Luna’s eyes lit up at Jolene’s words, shining as brightly as the sun itself.

Luna’s friends all eagerly accepted her proposal. They accompanied Jolene’s entourage to Devarnish, a day’s journey from Vala Real, and set about putting their treasure to good use.

Over the next week, the companions diligently trained and studied, in between enjoying Jolene’s kind hospitality. They replenished their supply of enchanting oil for their weapons, replaced some of their battered and worn-out equipment, and bought some other potions they knew would be useful.

Some of their other activities, though, were more personal.

“Why’d you want to come with me?” Airk asked Weimar as they walked through the streets of Devarnish on the seventh day of the companions’ stay.

“I…I feel like I ought to pay my respects,” Weimar said. “Keoland didn’t help Furyondy or Veluna against the Elemental Evil. I could’ve fought at Emridy Meadows…”

“You’d have just been a boy then, wouldn’t you?” Airk said. “Barely out of basic training. Don’t feel bad about that, Weimar-Emridy Meadows was something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

“What about when we stayed at the Inn of the Welcome Wench in Hommlet last year?” Weimar asked, referring to the companions’ journeys to and from the gnome city of Copper Crossing in the Kron Hills. “You spent half the night trading stories with that Elmo fellow the first time we were there. He’s no older than I am.”

“Elmo is why I wouldn’t wish Emridy Meadows on anyone,” Airk said. “He fought there, and he barely lived to talk about it. Did you see that scar down the side of his neck and shoulder?”

Weimar frowned as he tried to remember.

“That came from a goblin’s sword that cut too deep,” Airk said. “Luckily there was a chaplain of St. Cuthbert nearby. The chaplain managed to save Elmo’s life, but he couldn’t do anything about the scar.”  

“At least he survived,” Weimar said. “I have to ask, though…”

“What is it?” Airk asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Do you have the same problem with Emridy Meadows that you did with the Hateful Wars?” Weimar said. “If you don’t want to say, that’s fine-“

“No, I don’t mind talking about it,” Airk said. “And no, I don’t feel the same way I did about the Hateful Wars. Emridy Meadows just saddens me. A lot of good men lost their lives that day, Weimar. Many more lost their lives before the Elemental Evil’s fall. I’m here to pay my respects as much as you are.”  

Airk and Weimar walked into an open square with an elaborately carved stone monument at its center. The monument depicted a sword in a pedestal, which was surrounded by statues five vigilant warriors, one each of human, halfling, dwarf, gnome and elf ancestry. The pedestal and statues were surrounded by a ring that had the arms of Veluna, Verbobonc, Furyondy, Celene and various realms from the Lortmils, the Kron Hills, the Welkwood and the Gnarley Forest all carved into it.

“In honor of the fallen heroes who fought at Emridy Meadows,” Weimar read, looking at a small plaque on a sign next to the monument. “I take it those are all the realms that contributed troops?” he said, gesturing to the coats of arms carved into the monument’s ring.

“That they are,” Airk said. Walking past Weimar, he knelt down and lay a small pouch in the monument.

“You’ve got gemstones in there?” Weimar said, knowing the symbolic importance gems had in gnomish culture.

“Let the humans and elves leave flowers at memorial sites,” Airk said as he stood up. “Gemstones are more practical. Garl Glittergold doesn’t have many priests in Veluna, but the ones he does have will put these gems to good use. My brothers in arms know what I mean by leaving these stones here.”

Airk moved to salute the memorial, but then he saw Weimar looking at him uncertainly.

“You’re welcome to join me, if you like,” Airk said. “I appreciate your coming.”

They both saluted the fallen heroes of Emridy Meadows and stood in silence, thinking of all the warriors who’d given their lives so that others could live.

Seline stretched and sighed happily as she dressed and left the changing-room at Jolene’s manor. She enjoyed studying the arcane arts, but she also enjoyed pampering herself after a long day of study and work. After relaxing in one of Jolene’s heated baths and getting a masseuse to ease the tension out of her shoulders and back, she felt like a new woman. It’d been far too long for Seline’s liking since she’d been able to enjoy a bit of luxury.

Seline was thinking about what kinds of activities she’d be able to do in Highfolk when she heard Jolene’s voice coming from further down the hall. Picking up her pace, she walked into a sitting room where she saw Jolene embracing another woman who bore a striking resemblance to her. The other woman seemed somewhat younger, her skin slightly lighter than Jolene’s and her eyes a bright green, but otherwise she could have been Jolene’s twin.

“Oh…Your Highness?” Seline said, blinking in surprise.

“Yes?” both of the other women said at the same time, before Jolene spoke up again.

“You’re referring to me, I take it,” Jolene said to Seline. “This is my younger sister Eirene.”

“A pleasure,” Seline said, curtsying briefly with her robe. “I’m Seline Roas Del Cranden, of the Company-“

“Yes, the company that came to Jolene’s rescue,” Eirene said, bowing her head in response, “just the way anyone would. I take it that’s why you and your friends are taking advantage of our family’s hospitality?”

Seline blinked in surprise, not expecting that response.

“…My friends and I were invited by Her Highness Jolene,” Seline said. “We’ll be leaving in a day or two for Highfolk, and-“

“-and you don’t need to apologize,” Jolene said, frowning reproachfully at Eirene. “Eirene, perhaps-“

“Yes, I should be the one apologizing,” Eirene said, giving Seline a curtsy of her own. “Forgive me-I’m still upset that you were abducted,” she said, turning to Jolene.

Seline looked from one sister to the other, suddenly aware of a distinct chill in the air. She felt distinctly uncomfortable, and quickly took her leave as Jolene and Eirene resumed their conversation.

The chill remained with Seline as she went to retrieve her spellbooks.

“Rao emphasizes the need to find common ground  between different points of view,” the Raoan priest said, clasping her hands on the table in front of her. “By finding that, we can find the way forward.”

“But how far do you take that?” the priest of St. Cuthbert, emphasizing his point by waving his hands. “If Iuz or the Horned Ones were to invade, St. Cuthbert forbid, would you invite them to talk religion over tea and biscuits? Or would Rao advocate finding a compromise between demons and devas?”

“That’s hardly a fair position,” the Raoan said, frowning. “We know there’s a world of difference between our deities’ disagreements and their enmity with Iuz or Asmodeus.”

“I wonder if there’s too much insistence on consensus,” the elven priestess of Sehanine Moonbow said. “Wouldn’t it be wiser to let everyone seek their own path? Or would humans need coercive leadership in a crisis?”

Luna was finally participating in one of the multifaith discussions that were so common in Veluna. She represented Pelor as part of her training, and the discussions were everything she hoped. When the elven priestess spoke, she saw the opportunity she was waiting for.  

“The problem with simply letting everyone seek their own path is what some sages call the ‘tragedy of the commons’,” Luna said. “That can lead to people depleting resources, or failing to cooperate when needed. Elves are often better at that type of conservation and collective action than humans. So I can see the case for compulsion in some cases, even as a last resort.”

“Exactly my point!” the Cuthbertine priest said, slamming his fist on the table. “Some good folk understand only one thing, as the Saint preaches. He further preaches that any evil that can’t be removed must be eliminated. Meanwhile, other faiths act as though they’d throw the gates open to Iuz or the Horned Society!”

“Doesn’t your faith have its share of disagreements?” Luna said, raising an eyebrow. “Like on how to oppose the slave trade, particularly in Greyhawk?”

“That’s entirely different,” the Cuthbertine priest said. “We already understand the Saint’s most critical precepts. We merely disagree on their application.”

“And the Saint tends to restrict his blessings more to those who already revere him,” Luna said, frowning. “Meanwhile, Pelor’s light shines on anyone and everyone who wishes it. He would have us help defend anyone that Iuz or the Horned Ones attacked-surely St. Cuthbert would do the same?”

“Of course he would!” the Cuthbertine priest said, his face reddening. “The Saint tells his followers to lead by example.”

“And if they don’t convert afterwards?” the Raoan priest said, building on Luna’s point.

“Then they lack enlightenment, which we’ll try to provide,” the Cuthbertine priest said. “The Saint preaches the need to help the poor and unfortunate, but able-bodied nobles and adventurers are another thing entirely. They’re community leaders. If they don’t see the Saint’s wisdom, how can we be sure they’ll live up to the social contract he commands us to enforce?”

As the debate continued, Luna felt appalled at the limits St. Cuthbert’s church put on sharing their god’s blessings.

She also felt a surge of pride at dedicating herself to Pelor, and prayed her hopes that she was doing right by him.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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