chapter 127 – embers

By the System it hurt. It had ever since he’d lost it in that one moment, where the shining picture he had painted of himself had been ripped away along with his limb. Even now, several days later, Beyn was at a loss to explain exactly what had occurred at that time.

The fear that had gripped his heart, when that monster had burst into the middle of his sermon, he could recall it perfectly even now. When the beast had remained so still, so accepting, that fear had been replaced with wonder. It was as if the holy System had been speaking to him directly, offering itself to him, asking that he accept the fruits of its blessed creations!

What joy! What reverence! In that moment Beyn had felt as if he had touched the foot of God!

The surging emotions that had blazed in his heart as he had brought the church screptum down on the head of the offering had been so powerful he almost shook now just recalling it.

He had been so wrong.

His visions of a grand destiny, of being a prophet of the system had been torn away as that terrifying monster had darted forth, so quickly he couldn’t even see it, and brought those serrated jaws down on his arm, shearing it away with ease.

Since that moment he had barely spoken, the haunting zeal in eyes had intimidated the townspeople to the point they couldn’t meet his glare. They had taken him to the apothecary for treatment and left him there, speaking softly as they passed by his door. To be honest he needed no physical healing. The spell performed on him by the godless monster had closed the wound. To do better would require a powerful specialist in the healing arts to regenerate his arm.

Even in his dazed state, laying in his bed,  Beyn was able to pick up bits and pieces of information from the nervous conversations he overheard.

There was trouble at the capital, fighting in the streets. People had been fleeing the city until the gates had been barred. The Queen was dead. The Queen was alive. It was a coup, it was an invasion, it was the Dungeon rising for a second cataclysm.

Only allowed on

On the second day he heard that the town council had called a meeting to discuss the crises.

Slowly the blood began to stir in Beyn’s veins. He couldn’t lie here forever. The system, his god, was stirring, he could feel it. He must be a part of the events to come, and he would be! Casting off his blankets, stood and strode out of his room with purposeful steps.

As the wounded priest strode through the town the people subconsciously turned their eyes away, doffing their cap or offering a brief curtsy before moving out of his path. They could not bare to meet the righteous zeal ablaze in his eyes.

 The priest marched through the town to the mayors house, sweeping open the door with his good arm and entering with long strides.

Inside a huddle of the town’s dignitaries huddled around the desk of a beleaguered fat man, the livery of the mayor hung over his silk robes.

The mayors eyes brightened when he saw Beyn enter.

“Ah! Look gentlemen, our good priest in the faith has arisen from his convalescence so quickly! This is cause for celebration, we should delay this meeting until after we have properly toasted this happy occasion!”

Several people in the chamber erupted in cheers whilst others sighed, heads falling into hands. The owner of the market, Mrs Ruther, attempted to protest the suspension of discussion but to no avail, the mayor hand already called on his servants to go and fetch wine for his guests and be quick about it dammit!

Contempt flickered in Beyn’s eyes but he quickly suppressed it. This idiot would do anything to get out of his responsibilities and drink. A few more years of soaking and his family wealth may just run dry, with the wine soon to follow.

“If it please my lord Ebruis, the discussion should not be delayed, it is for the purpose of conversing with you and the council that I have arisen from my rest” Beyn smoothly interjected.

The quivering intensity in his voice was unnerving enough that even Ebruis could not deny it.

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“Oh… Oh very well. Are you sure you would not rather rest father Beyn? You do not appear to have even had a chance to change your robes” the mayor spluttered in a feeble attempt to put off his work.

“Do the robes of my faith, marked with the blood I have shed in the name of the System offend you, Lord Mayor?”

The fat man paled in fright before raising his hands and shaking them in protest. “I dare not father! I intended no such thing!”

“Very well then. If I may” at this Beyn took a vacant chair and gestured towards Mrs Ruther, “I would be grateful to you Mrs Ruther if you would appraise me of what has occurred in the last two days. Have the monsters threatened us?”

Somewhat surprised at being called on the elderly matron took a moment to gather her dignity before replying. “They haven’t father. We’ve not seen so much as a leg of those ants since they marched into the forest after you were…. Attacked.”

After saying this she quickly met Beyn’s gaze before flicking her eyes away, as if scalded by the fire she saw there.

“More troubling than the monsters, as strange as that is to say is the disturbance in the capital. We haven’t had a reliable message out of there all day. Fighting in the streets, the soldiers setting fire to the merchant district, blood on the steps of the castle. It sounds dreadful. The people are too scared to work, gazing at the smoke rising over the walls from dawn to dusk!”

With his good hand Beyn gripped his chair so hard his knuckles cracked.

“This disturbance in the capital is more important you say? More important than the agents of the Dungeon rising from beneath our very feet?” more than just passion, hatred now dripped from every word from the priest’s mouth, causing those closest from him to draw away from him.

Mrs Ruther gathered herself before she retorted, “there hasn’t been a single victim of those monsters in this town but we hear of hundreds dead inside the city. Most of us have family in there father, I’m terribly sorry for your injury, we all are but we’ve got more pressing issues than those ants!”

At this Beyn rose to his feet and burst out loudly. “For the first time in a thousand years the Dungeon has reached up and delivered its servants to the very surface and you are distracted by petty fighting in the city?! Do you not see the grander destiny that has been laid out before us?”

A few people shifted uncomfortably in their seats at these words. Mayor Ebruis attempted to calm the agitated priest. “You did say something similar at the church two days ago father, and, well, that didn’t turn out… so well?”

Beyn turned his blazing righteous gaze on the mayor and then at the others one by one until all had turned from him and were silent.

“At first I believe that the great System had called on us, had blessed this town by delivering his greatest blessing, experience, to raise us up and forge us for a new purpose. I still believe that is the case! This!” here he waved the bandaged stump of his arm in the faces of the council, “was my misjudgement. I had foolishly believed that the System had delivered its fruit to us and all we had to do was pluck it but no, there are no gifts within the System, only rewards! Rewards that are rightly earned and so I was punished for my transgression!”

Ebruis waved his hands to try and relax the priest but it was to no avail.

“We have to take up arms, can you not see that!?” Beyn exhorted the council, “those hideous beasts, led by that demon ant shall return. Not only this, more will come! I assure you! Our trial is not yet complete! The people must be told. We must rise to this test!”

After these words Beyn strode forth, leaving the flabbergasted council behind. He marched to the town square where he began to preach with mesmerising power, stretching the limits of his Oratory skill to bend the hearts of the people.

A crowd slowly gathered, and that evening, when several monsters emerged from the hole in the church he urged the people to arm themselves and led the crowd personally in a great charge up the hill into the building wherein those creatures were defeated.

The people roared in triumph and celebrated their victory but Beyn was unmoved. He asked that a watch be put on the church and turned his gaze towards the forest.

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