A Bloodstained Journal

Winter had fallen on the cold, cavernous halls of Brigobaen. The once joyous echoing of the fountains now sang a different tune in the underground garden, a tune of hushed murmurings, absence, loss. At the dais was the imposing figure of Father Vei, standing before the six statues of the Disciples who looked on with cruel indifference at the throng of mourners gathered around. In tones most sombre and severe, the Father spoke, but only now and again did his words reach Aldus’s ears. It had now been an entire year since the earthquake, since the recovery of that ancient, bloody journal... accursed journal! The work had finally been completed, the journal ready to be published, but now…

“The death of a priest is unlike the death of any other,” Father Vei spoke. “We feel it differently, deeply. We sense that in losing Father Evaristos, we have lost not only the man, but his unique way of manifesting the Goddess as well.”

Aldus drifted back to that morning, that dreadful morning, not seven days before…

* * * * *

”Brother Aldus...” Evaristos gasped, his face drained of color and sweating profusely. “I think you gave me.... gave me the wrong tea this m... morning! I have to say, it was really... real... awful.”

Aldus looked on at the pale-faced man with shock. “But, Eva, I... I haven’t made any tea today. I’ve only just returned from the beaches not one minute ago!”

It was then that Evaristos stuck a bony finger out, pointing toward the tidy little desk in the corner of the restoration atelier. “What’s… that note?” The man said, before slumping into the chair by the door.

Aldus followed the cleric’s eyes to a tattered scrap of parchment left carelessly on the desk. He snatched up the note, and read with a trembling voice. “Some things are best left forgotten. You will not publish this journal, for the love of all things holy.”

Just then, a sharp groan of pain arose from the chair. Aldus rushed over and began to prepare a detoxification spell. But it was too late.


* * * * *

“Always dignified, humble, enquiring…” Father Vei continued. “He truly inhabited a different world from ours, a bygone world of civility and kindness. It was his passion and—“

The words trailed off as Aldus marched away from the garden. His mission now was clear.

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  • edited July 26
    A towering mass of murky clouds hung over Mirith, all but obscuring the pale blue light of the now-full moon. Beneath these clouds, the shadowy figure of Father Aldus donned his hood, relieved and thankful for the serendipitous cover as he crossed the bridge into the castle, and crept through the overly wide halls. The echoing of his footsteps on the hard stone floor seemed to reverberate through the empty spaces so loudly, that he was certain the guards would come waylay him at any moment. He turned the corner, stopped suddenly, and listened. Had that last footstep echoed one time too many? Somewhere behind him, a torch crackled and sputtered. He spun around - but no one was there. He turned back to his course. Ghastly shadows danced on the wall before him, twisting and distorting the scowling, snake-like face on the portrait of some long-forgotten monarch. The beady, inky, painted eyes seemed to follow him as he tiptoed onwards. At last, he reached the door to the library, and knocked twice, then three times, in the previously agreed upon pattern. An almost imperceptible response sounded from the room beyond. Carefully, silently, he pushed through the heavy, oaken door. There at the far end of the room, standing with their back to the door, was a slender figure in robes darker than the skies outside.

    “I was beginning to think you would not be coming,” the figure whispered hoarsely.

    “They were watching the portals,” said Aldus. “There was no other choice.”

    “Ah… you have come a long way for this.”

    “Longer than you may know. There are those who seek to suppress this volume… those who will go to terrible lengths to do it.”

    “And you are willing to put your life at risk to thwart them?”

    “If I must… yes. But I do not believe it will come to that. The Mirith of the ancient past, and yes, the Brigobaen of the ancient past… we may debate day and night the extent to which we are accountable for their deeds and misdeeds. But in the end, the younger generations are not necessarily the same as their distant ancestors. We have come a long way over these centuries - our ancestors were no strangers to violence, but we live now in a time of unparalleled peace.”

    “Indeed. And Mirith, I can assure you, has long distanced itself from the cruel and violent rationales of King Gralage.”

    “Be that as it may,” said Aldus, “in order to move forward, we must first reckon with the past… and not let it remain just another dusty old secret.”

    “Very well then - I see your choice has already been made. Let us just hope the rest of our holy brothers and sisters are as sympathetic to your ideals as I.”

    “Well… I certainly do count on it.”

    * * * * * * * * * *

    The next morning, without warning, a new volume finds its way into the libraries of Mirith.

    A Bloodstained Journal - Musings on the Siege of Neiv
    Author Unknown.
    Published by the Brigobaen Restoration Atelier.
    Dedicated to Father Evaristos, may he rest in peace.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    One hundred and eleventh day of the Growing Moon, of the five hundred and eighty-first year of The Third Era.

    How many more restless feast days must pass in this manner? Who can enumerate the hours which will pass in anxious preparation, under the shadow of fear and paranoia that has been cast over the lands by the enemy, fear which strikes deeply but must perforce be concealed? Alas, nary a thought is now spared for revelry and merriment, nary a sound arises from the hall of the revered flautists whose soothing strains once filled the courtyard and danced freely upon the windows of the mind—lo, how wretched it lies in juxtaposition with the carefree recollections of the Festivals of Elara from yesteryear! Like the waxing of the vernal moon, misfortunes swell; like the torrents of the daunting maelstrom, the days whirl by tumultuously. In the face of such torrents I venture to take up mine unwavering pen, in the face of the crushing weariness which will forevermore opress, even in the face of grandfather’s exhortations to me to lower my pen and seek the meager salves and remedies of the ever fleeting land of Sopor. But it is solely this pen that vouchsafes me the command of my faculties and the strength of will without which survival is impossible, and that sets alight mine unyielding soul with indomitable hopes that one day we shall sit before the hearth, warming our bones and spinning rousing tales of the trials and tribulations and resolve and sheer iron fortitude that carried my countrymen through, all in spite of the city of Elara and the wicked snollygosters who desecrate her grounds with their abominable lies and deadly maladies.

    [Several pages here have been lost.]

    * * * * * * * * * *

    One hundred and fourth day of the Bleeding Moon, of the five hundred and eighty-first year of The Third Era.

    Father and the other miners arrived unharmed today. At the head of the procession marched Sir Philippe, countenance glowing with splendor, and eyes ablaze with light more irradiant than the flames that Haven disgorges. His rousing speech incensed even the most forlorn constituents of the throng which gathered to receive him. Yet in spite of Sir Philippe’s undeniably stirring proclamation that there be not one territory nor city nor state which has the temerity to claim to be more naturally well-defended than ours, it is readily apparent that the entire city is on edge, nay, petrified. Like arrows in the night doth the burning questions now beleaguer mine understanding. Questions of what fate will now befall the outlying settlements, beyond the western mountains – will our persecutors burn them to the ground? And questions of what cursed hand has Fate dealt to the other Knights of Silver, those who are scattered throughout the lands – will they hasten to the homeland’s aid, or will they too be beset by traitorous enemies? The answers threaten to elude us for time unknown: once the mighty Gates of Neiv are sealed on the morn, and the arcane magicks of the Blue Portal severed come eventide, and the benediction intoned, then we will be well and truly cut off from the world, and there will be naught for us to do but offer up our prayers.

    But hark, we were estranged not from diligence! Ergo, the provisions in our pantries and the grains in our garners surely promise to nourish us for years. But what unforgiving, unfamiliar world will await us when those gates open up again at last? Doubtlessly, the venomous words spit by the wrathful king, that snake Gralage, hath spread to every last town and hamlet—it is enough to make one forfeit and abandon all hope. It makes one wonder, where now might we be, were Consul Lucahn still counted among the living? Would wicked Gralage hath found some other slanderous pretext for his invasion, and his revival of the bygone enmities? Of this, I am all but certain. Even before the consul’s assassination, devious Gralage had already issued the decree enjoining all Knights to depart from the city of Mirith within the allotted time, lest they be branded on the head and expelled regardless. At how such monstrous villainy can proceed in this world, while the Goddess and her alleged servants in Brigobaen beholdeth, I shall never cease to marvel. Nevertheless: whichever poisons that the haughty Gralage may promulgate through the minds of the unlettered, we shall cure, as he will sully not our righteousness; and whichever buildings he may burn to their foundations, we shall rebuild, as he will subdue not our strength nor our will.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Twenty-sixth day of the Red Moon, of the five hundred and eighty-first year of The Third Era.

    The blessings of Sopor hath all but abandoned me – such is the recompense of a rambling mind. It would thus be incumbent on me to rotate to the night watch, as though a miserable bowman I may be, I doubt the High Magistrate, in his unfeigned wisdom and practicality, will forbid the *******(A few lines are missing here), but ultimately their scaling ladders will serve them not, on account of the natural protection afforded us by the mountains, and the vantage points *********(The rest of the page is missing.)

    ******* was Father’s peculiar observation today: all the while, there hath been no indications of smoke nor fire from beyond the western mountains. A most baffling thought it was, whose explanation remained beyond my ken for the better part of a day, until ********************* under the cloak of the wee morning hours, when the manoeuvrings of my mind are at their most swift and productive. Simply put: if Gralage the Oppressor hath left the mining settlements and the facilities contained therein unmolested, I can only conclude that he seeks to use them for his own gain. And in this manner, his true motivations manifest themselves! Not for a moment were they ever the subject of doubt; quelling an uprising of “heretics”, as he now calls us, was never his aim—merely his justification. The one prime mover in his heart is, now and always, pure avarice. Woeful though this may be, to the observant eye it contains a blessing in disguise: those same settlements and resources he seeks to leverage for ill gain, will surely remain intact and fully functional for our rightful use upon the breaking of this accursed siege.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    One hundred and thirty-sixth day of the Hunter’s Moon, of the five hundred and eighty-first year of The Third Era.

    I passed today’s wretched resting hours in desultory ambulations amid the blustering winds of the upper mountain trails this evening, beyond the ancient ruins of Trince. Like a legion of ants the foreigners spread out beyond eye’s reach, garbed in heinous cobalt blue. In boundless anguish I ***********(A few more lines are missing.) There I found a most peculiar crevice in the rocky outcrop, too narrow to squeeze through, yet stretching far back enough that mine eyes could behold not the extent of the depression with mere torchlight. I must explore further as soon as I am able.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    One hundred and twenty-fifth day of the Dancing Moon, of the five hundred and eighty-first year of The Third Era.

    Precious few minutes remain ‘til the changing of the guard. The routine is ever more familiar, but no less painful. Alas, how terribly my wrists now ache and quiver, that to take up the pen requires such strenuous effort! But what is such pain in the face of tragedy, as the one unfurled before my weary eyes today? The banners of our persecutors ************************************** Hath fortune no shame! The world grows apathetic under the falsities of King Gralage, and now we needs must pay the toll. **************** Nevertheless, that the enemy has not yet abused their awesome Curio fragment paints a more comforting portrait. Such an act of untold aggression would surely earn Mirith the ire of Andris and Marali, and in so doing they would seal their own doom as surely as they have sought ours. Curious how the balance of power shifts! And what of Brogan’s Keep? The banners of their legions, with their unprecedented strength and discipline, have not once appeared on these bloodstained fields - just what is it that Aborek is toying at? With such a vast standing army that seemed to only grow stronger with each passing year, one *************************

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Eighty-second day of the Blue Moon, of the five hundred and eighty-first year of The Third Era.

    Curiously, the rising of the sun was greeted by a laughably small yet startling ear******* (The rest of the entry is missing.)

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Eighty-third day of the Blue Moon, of the five hundred and eighty-first year of The Third Era.

    Seven moons gone, and light emerges on the horizon at last. The imperialists make no progress against our mighty ramparts, but we now hath begun in earnest a cunning ploy of our own. Mine own passageway through the mountain caves widened on account of yesterday’s shaking, unearthing a tunnel which stretches back significantly farther than I had first surmised. We work doubly hard now to bore the tunnel southward, far from the walls and the armies that wait menacingly below. Per Lord Jeques, it will not be long ere we carve our way through the mountains, and make a daring strike while the enemy sits in unwitting lack of preparation for the harsh forces of *********************************** (The rest of the entry is missing.)

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Ninety-eighth day of the Blue Moon, of the five hundred and eighty-first year of The Third Era.

    The temblors continue to increase in both frequency and magnitude. The augurs warn it is but a portend of terrible things to come, but I hath seen far worse in mine own time, to speak naught of the great earthquakes recounted in the oft-heard tales of the elders, from the days when the blessed disciples still walked the earth. We hath not persisted for such great lengths of time only to cower from falling stones, least not of all when those very same stones are they that unearthed the avenue to our freedom. And lo, what fortuitous timing: the first blizzard will be upon us overmorrow, and thus our erstwhile persecutors will learn firsthand what havoc a northern winter can wreak upon the unprepared. Perhaps if it were the men of Marali and Brogan’s Keep who assailed us instead, they might not be overly vexed, as they hath oft endured similar brumal forces, rendering them better suited than most to weather these storms. But these men who do assail us have been spoilt on the fair shining of the sun, and thus hath wrought their own doom. Doubtless Mirith expected not to be mired in battle still, after so many days and so many moons. But Neiv, the City of Valdonna, shall stand tall forever, and whoso would stand against her, will surely be forgotten.

    The journal ends.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    A note from the editor: it is here, at this tragic point, that the infamous, historic Earthquake of Neiv occurs, toppling the towering walls in a way that the invading armies could not. What follows is now well documented: a vast majority of the citizens perishing in the violent temblor and subsequent conflagration, and the rest falling to the advance of the invading army, who razed every last trace of the city, and built a temple atop the ashes, to give thanks to the Goddess for the absolute victory. This temple, now, counts only snakes and gapers among its congregants.

    But as with most things, it seems there is more to this harrowing tale. It is the educated guess of this particular scholar that, unbeknownst to the conquerors, a very small number of Knights and other inhabitants survived the initial destruction, and fled through those mountain tunnels even as they collapsed behind them. Perhaps these tunnels are the same as those which were unearthed during the latest set of earthquakes, and those in which this very journal was discovered. If this were the case, these survivors would be the same as the ones who would return to the last surviving temple of the Order of Silver, a temple which still exists to this day on a small, forgotten island, far away in the southwestern seas. These survivors somehow managed to feign the destruction of this temple, and thus they kept it safe and secret for centuries. The world believed the Knights all wiped out - and only fifteen years ago did we finally learn otherwise.

    So, dear readers, what are we then to gain from this fascinating, tragic account? May it be a deeper understanding, a bigger heart, and a renewed passion for serving in the name of the Goddess, and in the name of truth, of love, and of beauty.

    Goddess’s blessings upon you all,
    Father Aldus

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