Ptolus: City by the Spire

St. Valien's Mercy

The party made their way to the Temple District, en route to St. Valien’s Cathedral. As they crossed the Blessed Bridge during this late hour, they discussed their plan. They knew from Malkeen Balacazar that the Slave Lord Brother Millerjoi had sought refuge within the confines of the massive cathedral to Lothian, but that he had done so disguised as a half-elven monk.

Feruch and the two Knights of the Dawn explained that it was a mortal sin to spill blood within the confines of the Cathedral, and that should that be the plan: to simply go in, find the slave lord and slay him, they would take no part in it. Likewise, they explained that only Knights of the Dawn were allowed to bear weapons within the Cathedral.

With this information in mind, and having no desire to fragment the party over such an issue, Gideon compromised on this point. Should it be possible to capture Brother Millerjoi, then so be it. He also reasoned that if weapons were not allowed within the temple compound, Millerjoi may be caught unarmed.

St. Valien’s Cathedral sits in the midst of a great garden in the Temple District, not far from the Street of a Million Gods. Rows of tall buildings, housing the apartments of varied Lothianite clergy and barracks for the Order of the Dawn surround the outer edge of this garden, effectively serving as a wall protecting the Cathedral within. Four streets at each of the cardinal directions allow entry to the garden, but are blocked with stone gatehouses allowing the entire compound to be sealed off in times of crisis. These gatehouses are manned at all times by a contingent of Knights of the Dawn. From an hour before midnight until sunrise, these gates are closed, denying entry to any who lack the proper authority to gain access.

The party’s plan is to enter the south gate of the compound, and then position Feruch, Ronas and Brynnan at each one of the remaining gates. They are to simply keep their eyes open, should Millerjoi seek to escape. The rest of the party will make their way into the cathedral, itself, reveal to the priests within of Millerjoi’s presence and hope to capture him.

The party entered through the southern gate, where they easily passed a group of Knights of the Dawn without challenge. The garden beyond was truly opulent, a vast and verdant green space that almost seemed out of place in such a gritty and dirty city. A path of granite flagstones led them between a pair of wide rectangular pools reflecting the starry night sky above. At regular intervals, lifelike statues of lions – one of the sacred symbols of Lothian – flanked the path.

Upon passing the pools, the path split. Feruch and Brynnan followed the path to the left and right, moving into their respective positions. Ronas led the party forward, drawing towards the massive cathedral looming before them.

It was perhaps the largest building most of the party had ever seen. A massive and elaborate, baroque styled structure. The stone walls were punctuated by countless columns and buttresses, narrow windows rising several stories in height and life-like statues of various men of great import standing like sentinels in many alcoves at different heights on its facade. Ronas explained that the statues on the exterior of the building were to honor great inventors, philosophers, and statesmen, pointing out several by name as the party approached.

They soon arrived at the main entrance to the cathedral, a tiered double staircase ending at a wide landing before a set of bronze double doors nearly twenty feet in height. Again the now common lion statues stood guard, flanking the entrance, alit by a pair of large braziers. A troop of Knights of the Dawn stood guard over the entrance.

Ronas stepped forward to speak with the Knights, and after a moment one of the knights entered the cathedral to fetch a priest. Ronas returned to the party, “There is an issue about our weapons and armor. I’ve tried to explain the necessity, but they lack the authority to allow us to enter in such a manner. A priest will be out to speak with us in a moment. I’ll go take my position now.” Ronas then left the party, moving towards the north gate, he was assigned to keep watch over.

As promised, a few moments later a priest emerged with the returning knight. He was a rather plain looking man, dressed in pale blue robes. The ankh-crucifix of Lothian hung from his neck. He introduced himself as Brother Cimed.

Gideon explained that a slave lord of the Ennin was currently staying somewhere on the Cathedral grounds and that the party was there to secure his capture. Naturally, Cimed had no knowledge of this, but after some discussion, he began to understand the severity of the situation. Although he stood firm on the party leaving their weapons here, under the guard of the Knights, he did agree to escort the party into the cathedral to meet with Bishop Verdun, explaining that Archbishop Theobold (the head of the cathedral) was not currently present.

The inside of the cathedral was even more grand and lustrous than the exterior. Polished marble floors of the foyer gave way to a massive nave lined with tall stone columns holding aloft a ceiling at a breathtaking height above. Three tiers of balconies rose above the main floor. The ceiling, some 90 feet above, was decorated with fabulous murals of great angels looking down approvingly. Nearly every surface was covered in some sort of statuary of saints and bishops, worthy priests and noble paladins. As Cimed led the party through the nave, the party noted several smaller chapels dedicated to singular saints or specific causes branched off from the main nave to either side. Here could be seen tombs of notable and worth adherents of Lothian, laying at rest and comfort within the holy confines.

Maur likened the level of grandeur as being equal to that of the dwarven king’s court at Grail Keep.

Arriving at the end of the nave, the party now found themselves not at the rear of the cathedral as expected, but at its center – the presbytery. A terraced stone dais rose up some ten feet or more, where rested a holy altar of Lothian, draped in a pale blue cloth. A pair of white candles burned softly on the altar, illuminating a silver bowl of water, a golden box containing rich soil and a platinum sconce with sweet smelling incense.

Another large hall, the quire, extended towards the rear of the cathedral, and beyond that, further still were even more chapels, the destination of thousands of pilgrims who made their way annually to the cathedral. Two other halls, or transepts, extended east and west from the presbytery. It was into one of these that Cimed led the party towards.

Each of the transepts held shrines to the saints of Lothian, towards the rear of the one Cimed was moving towards, was a wrought iron gate, beyond which was a well worn stone stairway leading down into the catacombs beneath the cathedral. Naturally, this made the party uncomfortable and a degree uncertain of what was to come next, but they continued to follow.

At the base of the stairs, the foundations of the cathedral were revealed as a series of vaulted hallways extending in all directions, like a honeycomb beneath the cathedral. Tombs lined the walls, stacked three or four atop one another as far as could be seen in the cold darkness. Cimed stopped at the bottom of the stairs, directing them to a simple wooden door. “Bishop Verdun will receive you now,” he said simply, motioning to the door.

“You have led us this far, please continue,” Gideon said, not sure if he could trust the situation.

Slightly annoyed, Cimed opened the door. The party followed him in.

Bishop Verdun was a terribly old man. He was not dressed in fine vestments or regalia, as expected, but instead wore only a coarse burlap robe and was barefoot. His head was mostly bald, with a few strands of wispy white hair above his ears. He sat at a simple wooden table in a small cell-like room that held nothing more than a cot. A lit candle rested on the table. As the party entered, Verdun looked up from a holy book he was studying.

Brother Cimed apologized for the intrusion, then introduced the party. To assuage the party’s concern, Bishop Verdun explained that he preferred to keep quarters near the crypts, in that it was much quieter, seldom visited and helped keep him mindful of his own death to come. Gideon, satisfied with this answer, again related that a Ennin slavelord was hiding within the cathedral. A monk by the name of Adfaren.

After a moment consulting with brother Cimed, Bishop Verdun mentioned that a monk of that name was, indeed, currently housed at the Cloister on the Cathedral grounds. Adfaren had arrived at the Cathedral just a few days earlier. He then instructed Cimed to go to the Cloister, locate him and report back.

As soon as Cimed was gone, Bishop Verdun, who preferred to be called simply, ‘Father Verdun’, asked Gideon to help him to his feet and hand him his cane. “Let us make way to the Cloister, and speak with Adfaren”.

The Cloister was located in an adjacent building to the cathedral but was only accessible by passing through the west transept. Along the way, Father Verdun was rather talkative. He mistook the party as being members of the City Watch or agents of Dalenguard. With this, he took the liberty to share with the party his general disdain for delvers, “skulking down in the sewers and catacombs beneath the city, rousing the evils down there, better left alone”. This went, for the most part, ignored by the group as they were soon approached by Cimed, returning from the Cloisters.

“I have located Adfaren, Your Grace,” Brother Cimed whispered, “He is in the Cloister gardens…he appears to be in prayer beneath the stars”.

Verdun nodded, then glanced to the party, “Then we shall speak with him in the garden. Come now.” He hobbled along, with Brother Cimed offering his hand to help steady to frail, old bishop.

Beyond the West Transept, the Cloister was a three story building surrounding a large central courtyard garden. The building housed numerous small apartments for the many monks who studied and devoted their lives to prayer and service to the Church. Each floor opened up to an arcade balcony overlooking the courtyard below. As they entered this area, Ian separated himself from the group, moving among the shadows cast by the arched balconies, making his way around to flank Adfaren/Millerjoi who was clearly visible under a small rowan tree near the center of the garden. Maur, likewise, entered the garden, moving to the side oposite Ian. Cimed, and Gideon accompanied Verdun who approached Adfaren directly.

As they drew near, Adfaren took notice, rising to his feet. Keeping a safe distance, Father Verdun said, “This man accuses you of being other than what you propose to be, Brother Monk. What say you?”

Adfaren, appearing as a half-elf about the same hieght as Gideon with long straight black hair, hanging past his shoulders, glanced towards Gideon. It was at this moment, as Ian inched towards Adfaren in the shadows that he suddenly realized he had seen him before. Months ago, in the North Market, he had spotted this person following the party, along with a pair of thugs that were either loyal to the Balacazars, the Rat Temple or Linech Kran. But why had Millerjoi been there following them way back then, long before the party had any dealings with the Ennin?

Adfaren asked Gideon, “Who do you accuse me of being?”

“Millerjoi, an Ennin slavelord,” Gideon said without hesitation.

Unexpectedly, Adfaren then raised his hands to his face, peeling back his disguise, tossing his wig to the ground. Sure enough, the familiar shaved head and squared features of Brother Millerjoi were revealed. “I do not deny it,” he said, “I am he, whom you accuse.”

“The rest of the slavers are all dead or in prison, Millerjoi!” Gideon said forcefully. “It’s over. Time to come with us!”

Millerjoi dropped his hands to his side, “I’m glad to hear it, Gideon. I have come to realize the error of my ways and am ready to be judged by the Commissar.”

“Why did you come here?” demanded Verdun.

“For mercy,” Millerjoi said without hesitation. “When I saw the Slaver’s City swallowed in fire, when I heard the screams of the innocent and helpless,” Millerjoi bowed his head, “I knew then how far I had strayed, how much of myself I had lost.”

“The other slavers found humor in the sight,” Millerjoi continued, “though I could not stomach it. What I saw will haunt me for the rest of my days.”

“So you admit to being a slaver?” Brother Cimed asked with a hiss of disgust.

“Tell me, Gideon,” Millerjoi ignored Cimed, “now that you have your vengeance against the guilty, will you be able to also kill the innocent, if duty required it of you?”

Gideon wasn’t sure what this question meant, or how to respond. He only wrinkled his brow in slight confusion. “Answer the question!” demanded Father Verdun.

Millerjoi turned his attention from Gideon to the bishop, “I do, and I seek judgment in accordance with Imperial law.”

" Tie him up," Gideon motioned towards Ian, who quickly rushed forward with a coil of rope. At that moment, Brother Cimed waved his hand, however, muttering a prayer to Lothian. Millerjoi’s body suddenly grew rigid, as the hold person spell seized him.

Ian hastened towards Millerjoi, tying his hands behind his back, running a loop around his neck so that when the spell passed, any attempt by Millerjoi to break his bonds would choke him in the process.

“Alright, we have what we came for,” Gideon said, turning towards Father Verdun, “We will take him to Dalenguard and the Commissar now.”

“I shall send some guards along to escort you there,” Father Verdun said, then turning to Cimed, “have a troop of the Sisterhood of Silence meet them at the West Gate.”



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