That Which Is Unholy [FanT/PT, IC]

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Founded: Oct 31, 2018
Moralistic Democracy

That Which Is Unholy [FanT/PT, IC]

Postby Tasuirin » Thu Dec 20, 2018 1:36 am

That Which Is Unholy


The man sat chained in his cell, thinking things over. He had been found on a street, raving about many impossible things - magic, werewolves, witches, vampires, beings of the night who preyed on the villagers, peasants and serfs of Meridia and disappeared without a trace. And as such, the man who spoke these complete falsehoods was rejected by many in the village in which he resided as simply deluded, some even going as far as to say crazy. The village idiot was the only title that his reputation earned him. That was, until he killed someone on the street, raving about seeing them as something else. He was arrested, and sent into seclusion in a dungeon. Which is where he was at this point. Three men and a woman stepped into the door of his cell, too dark to see much about them. Two of the men and the woman stood back, while one took a stool and sat upon it, sitting and looking at the man.

"Hello," the sitting man began an introduction of himself, "I am Tulomar. You will not need to remember much about that, it i not most relevant to this whole set of circumstances," Tulomar laughed slightly at his statement, "Regardless, that is my name. What is yours?"

The village idiot made a pained sigh, looking up at the figures hidden by shadow. Tulomar, however, was sitting in a bit of light, and from his face, seemed friendly enough, with a slight smile, and round glasses on his eyes. The man was put slightly at ease, but the fact was that he was still chained inside a cell - how friendly could anyone truly be? Regardless, being kept on your own for an extended period was not something that kept one quiet. The crazed man was simply happy to hear a non-accusatory voice thrown his way. He shook once, rattling the chains as he did so, finally gaining the composure to speak - "M-my name is Jacob."

Tulomar smiled slightly, a friendly smile. He nodded at the man's information, "Thank you, Jacob. I am here for one reason alone - to see whether we can allow you to walk free. Believe me, I would want that. I don't believe anyone should be kept chained up like some kind of animal, as is the case in most..." Tulomar looked up and around at the location they were in, trying to find a word, "Places of internment,"

Jacob gazed up at Tulomar's eyes. They seemed honest enough, at the very least enough to warrant listening to further. Jacob's head dropped and he looked back to the ground, "They say I murdered someone. Do you believe that?"

Tulomar removed his glasses, turning them over in his hand as he thought, "I do not believe anything until we arrive at evidence. Empty belief leads to wrongful convictions, and wrongful convictions are a strain on my conscience. I simply yearn for the truth, and that is why I am here," Tulomar put his glasses back on, "I need your help to find that truth, and together, we can sort out right from wrong."

Jacob turned it over in his mind. It was a tempting possibility - being let free, proving his point, even maybe vindicating his reputation. It had seemed like a pipe dream such a short time ago - like no-one could ever have brought him back from such a point, one where he was reviled and detested by all. Maybe he could open the eyes of this one in front of him, this Tulomar... No, it was too risky. Tulomar would only think of him in a worse light, as the others always did. But... He felt it was the truth. And perhaps the explanation of his position would make it obvious that his actions were not a premeditated act of violence against regular people.

"There... There are beasts. Creatures. People that look human, but they aren't like us... They are different... Many of them want to kill us, and I've seen them. Please, Tulomar... Tell me you believe me..."

Tulomar looked back at the other three in the room, then back to Jacob, "Do many people believe your tale?"

Jacob hung his head, "No. Most people think I'm just crazy..." Jacob looked back up, eyes hopeful as he continued, "Do you believe me?"

Tulomar removed his glasses, "Oh Jacob, more than you know..." He grinned, large canine teeth showing most prominently as his lips moved back. The vampire Tulomar bit into the neck of the village idiot as he cursed, the begging becoming screams of terror, and screams of terror becoming screams of pain, gently lowering in intensity before the peasant slouched back, form no longer moving, pale skinned and completely still. Tulomar walked back to the other three.

"I'm not sure if the Followers have anything to do with this, or perhaps the radical factions of Lycans and Nosferatu, but more people are finding out. This endangers us, and puts us into a weakened position... Tell the Archon that we must step up our strategies if we are to survive with the threat of exposure and retaliation on our doorstep, and the constant looming threat of these so-called 'followers of truth'. Get to it, else we may see people like this becoming more prominent rather than simple outliers to be ignored."
IC'ly, Tasuirin is:
An Absolute Monarchy, A Federal Monarchy, Neo-Feudalistic, Anti-Democratic, Mercantilist, Five Kingdoms, Ruled by One King
⊱ ──── {.⋅ ASEXUAL~ ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ ☭ ★ ☭ ★ ☭ ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ ATHEIST ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ CELTIC ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ AUSTRALIAN ⋅.} ──── ⊰

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Posts: 12756
Founded: Dec 28, 2011
Democratic Socialists

Postby Nuridia » Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:07 am

Wizard Imperial’s Tower
Meridian Imperial Residence
Aelle Grimdark

A brown-skinned woman with a mass of white hair was poring over what may have been for fourth...or fifth? She lost count, after the first three they all start to blur into each other after a while. Anyway, all these books and she still hadn’t found any definite information about the Grand Coven. Well it’s not like anybody hadnt ever heard of them, and some wizards and adventurers had to have faced them before, right?! If so, why had none of them written down their findings?! Honestly, either they were too caught up in glory and gold at the time or the witches had simply killed them before they could...both could be equally likely at this stage. Drawing another magical sigil in the notes she was carefully taking, she flipped the pages with a sigh.

His Majesty being here would be an enormous help...where is he always disappearing off to anyway?! I understand that Meridia is a vast empire, but you can’t ignore your concern in the heartlands. You lose that, you lose everything. Or maybe the damned royal court could stop worrying about their pathetic squabbles and power grabs for five seconds and concentrate on the people they’re supposed to be in charge of! Gods, ever since the emperor went ghost...again...things have started to fall apart. Again. He never would’ve been so negligent before, this isn’t normal. But, he won’t confide in anyone. Including me these days. I’m one person and I’m doing my best, but I fear..

“Mom?” She was suddenly broken out of her thoughts by a voice penetrating the silence, relaxing when she realized who it was. A tall young man with pale hair braided back, dark eyes suspiciously similar to hers were the first thing she noticed. “Squall, when did you get in?” Aelle gave him a genuine but somewhat tired smile, he smiled back and propped a tall, white staff topped with a deep blue gem against the wall. “You left your staff downstairs.”
“Oh. Damn. Well, thanks for bringing it up. Sit, because it’s a lot of stairs.” Squall sat down in the chair across from his mother’s desk, hands folded on the table. “You closer to finding anything yet?”
“Nothing in these tomes yet, sadly. How was your time with your father?”
Uru, Queen of Diamonds.
The Diamond card suit represents fire, strength and power. Sister of the Queen of Hearts, Queen of Spades and the Queen of Clubs.

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Posts: 552
Founded: Oct 31, 2018
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Tasuirin » Fri Dec 21, 2018 5:28 am

Castle Velet,

Upon every wall in the ancient halls of House Jagest hung the blue and gold banner of Velet, alongside the white wolf on red that had become a not so subtle indication of the house's nature as Lycanthropes and was, for many generations, an indication of the house itself. Since Velet expanded to include all of what is today Tawillon, the modern crest, the blue and gold alongside the white wolf, has been the standard for the ancient and noble house. But the stain of previous transgressions weighed heavily on the house's conscience, even if they hadn't become mainstream.

House Jagest has been a Lycanthropic family for much of its history, since so far back that no records of this exist to be found by nosy scholars or more malicious figures. This has made plausible deniability somewhat easy for the family - while former Lycan supremacists and members of the Brotherhood of the Sacred Claw, now they support the cause of peace, one which has taken a beating even amongst the members of House Jagest, a house which has suffered greatly at the hands of both supernatural beings and human zealots.

But that never stopped some.

Whether simple shamelessness, or perhaps the cold utilitarian philosophy shared by many in the Society of the Black Cloak, Duke Lothair Jagest had indeed received many messages from that particular organisation. Lothair was tired and stressed enough as it was, having been tasked by his now-dead father to keep Tawillon, both the humans and non-humans, safe from whatever conflict emerged. But the Society of the Black Cloak did not make this situation better. The stressed Duke read through their latest message, penned, as all others had been, anonymously.

My dear Duke of Jagest,

Regardless of what many say of us, we do not hate humans. We see them not as evil, but as a powerful barrier to our freedom. Not all of them carry ill-will, though you have seen firsthand the violence of the humans who do. They share no love for our kind. They would be happier that we all lay dead. Surely, for the sake of peace, you must realise that the time to pick a side is now. Only then can there be any chance to save your whole duchy from the wrath of radicals.

Join the Society.

Lothair had seen far too many of these messages. He threw the most recent in with the previous ones, sighing as he massaged his temples. His father had taught him that peace was most important, but he lived in a time when peace was conceivable. Now was the time when war was imminent, and Lothair did not know whether to take a neutral stand would be perceived as standing against the one society of the two major ones who even had a chance to accept him as a living soul.

But even in that instance, surely peace must prevail.

Callan and Luca Jagest, Lothair's younger brothers, were still away from the castle, Callan at Fort Harkon, while Luca was at Woodcross, the one place where diplomacy could occur with House Jagest. But the one who remained in the capital with him was his wife, Georgina. She stepped into the room, noticing yet again Lothair's dour mood.

"Another letter?"

Lothair nodded his head slowly.

"When will they learn that we have no interest in their conflicts?"

"Read it," Lothair instructed. Georgina put down a book she was carrying, and read over the letter.

"'Surely, for the sake of peace, you must realise that the time to pick a side is now,'" Georgina quoted, "... 'The wrath of radicals'... Who do they think they are, denying their own radicality?"

Lothair swallowed, throat dry, the Lord having not drank substantially for a number of hours, "The question is this - are they or are they not the lesser of two evils?"

Georgina noticed the gravelly tone of voice. She came closer, producing a glass of water she had been carrying with her, "My love, you're not doing yourself any favours. Keep yourself healthy, please," Lothair drank from the glass, the water quenching some of his thirst, "I am not sure whether they are the lesser of evils, but they are by no means good. Plenty of lords are keeping the peace, staying neutral. We aren't surrounded by enemies, but they want us to think that we are. That they are our only hopes."

Lothair nodded. His wife made sense, "I don't want them roving on our lands any more than the Followers of Truth. How could I stop them if they wanted to? With a full army across all Meridia?"

Georgina placed a hand on Lothair's cheek, "And they can't. Not as long as we don't do anything to anger them. I could send them a polite response, if you'd like. One that will force them to treat our lands as off-limits."

Lothair shook his head this time, "It must be me. They will know. They always have..."

The lord produced a parchment and quill. Georgina, concerned, stood and returned outside of her husband's study. Lothair penned a letter of response.

To the Society,

I am afraid I cannot join in your quest. My duchy must remain at peace for the populace to remain safe. I request that you accept and vow to uphold this peace. We have nothing against your organisation, simply the wis to remain separate from this conflict.

Duke Lothair of Tawillon.
IC'ly, Tasuirin is:
An Absolute Monarchy, A Federal Monarchy, Neo-Feudalistic, Anti-Democratic, Mercantilist, Five Kingdoms, Ruled by One King
⊱ ──── {.⋅ ASEXUAL~ ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ ☭ ★ ☭ ★ ☭ ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ ATHEIST ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ CELTIC ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ AUSTRALIAN ⋅.} ──── ⊰

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Posts: 552
Founded: Oct 31, 2018
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Tasuirin » Fri Dec 21, 2018 6:50 am

Hall of the Faithful,
Meridian Central Highland

Reinhardt Geraldson stood on the balcony of the Hall of the Faithful. The procession of nature flew and snaked around the valley in which the Followers of Truth made their home. In his hand, a goblet, filled with wine. Reinhardt sipped at it gently, enjoying the taste. A white banner with a golden sun fluttered softly in the cool breeze. The hall was colder than most places, yes, but Reinhardt had long since become accustomed to the cold of the Followers' headquarters. Either way, while the men had begun to complain of the cold, Reinhardt remained stoic, gazing out over the valley with a certain intent. Perhaps he felt he was keeping vigilant watch over the one place where enemies could attack. Or perhaps he was just enjoying nature. In any case, Reinhardt was deep in thought.

One night, many years ago, Reinhardt stood in the same place, looking out over the valley. He saw the enemy approach, and he saw it too late. Within moments, vampires and werewolves, witches and changelings all assailed the castle, piling against the Hall's gates before the loosely-formed militia that Geraldson's mentor, Lawrence Ghautier, had created before they could even react effectively. The gates were down, and the few valiant defenders of the outer courtyard of the castle lay dead by daybreak. Including Lawrence Ghautier. Reinhardt could not help but feel somewhat responsible for the error. Yes, he was on guard, but mostly for not pushing for his aims sooner. Had Ghautier listened to Geraldson's requests for a larger military presence in the Followers, perhaps he would not have been dead.

Reinhardt took a sip of wine. Of course, he did not blame Ghautier himself for that lack of judgement. As much as Geraldson disagreed with him, Ghautier was a great man. Perhaps he was too quick to dismiss the real threat of the Society of the Black Cloak and other supernatural beings, but his heart was in the right place - the revealing of the supernatural world to human eyes. Following truth, as he had pledged to do so many years before Geraldson met him.

No, Geraldson laid the anger solely on one other group, one which remained staunchly against Reinhardt's ideals even after the death of their leader. Some called them 'the Old Guard', and that was a valid description. To find a member of their faction in the newer recruits was rare, and they held the view that defence should overrule offence. But Geraldson took much greater issue with the name they had for themselves - 'Ghautierites'. In Geraldson's mind, they were nothing but pretenders to Ghautier's legacy, whereas Geraldson himself knew the man well. Had current circumstances taken place during his tenure as leader, surely such a great man would not have supported such a crackpot alliance of pacifists, advocates of 'acceptance' and other traitors to humanity.

But still... Geraldson could not afford to lose them. From them came much funding and a strong base of support. Perhaps Geraldson would never convince them, but perhaps it was best to let old men be old men. The younger and fresher recruits, and those who advocated for the cause of peace out of fear, would be swayed in time. Geraldson would see to that.

He finished his wine and stepped back into his study. On the desk was a half-written note. He picked up the quill, and worked solidly to complete it. After it had been completed, he handed the note to a number of scribes for the Followers, and they copied it out in every detail, sealing each one with yellow wax.


The Followers of Truth

invite you as a

Loyal Member

of our organisation

to attend the

Hall of the Faithful

for a discussion of recent events.

IC'ly, Tasuirin is:
An Absolute Monarchy, A Federal Monarchy, Neo-Feudalistic, Anti-Democratic, Mercantilist, Five Kingdoms, Ruled by One King
⊱ ──── {.⋅ ASEXUAL~ ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ ☭ ★ ☭ ★ ☭ ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ ATHEIST ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ CELTIC ⋅.} ──── ⊰
⊱ ──── {.⋅ AUSTRALIAN ⋅.} ──── ⊰

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Reverend Norv
Posts: 2263
Founded: Jun 20, 2014
New York Times Democracy

Postby Reverend Norv » Fri Dec 21, 2018 8:27 pm

The Marble Palace
Castle of Hauteclair
Duchy of Septimonia

"So why don't we tell everyone?"

Guilhem Montange smiled, and took a shallow breath. He smelled jasmine and honeysuckle. To his left, veiled by marble pillars and trailing vines, the cloistered garden opened onto empty air, and through the stone arches Guilhem could see the gentle hills of Septimonia roll away as far as the eye could follow, laden with wheatfields and olive groves and vineyards.

Alays turned the corner of the cloister's collonade. Guilhem followed her, listening to the running water of the fountain in the center of the small garden. He repeated her question, like his tutors had once repeated his: "Why don't we tell everyone?"

"Panic," Alays replied. "Yes, I know. 'Man, by grace, becomes a congregation; by discipline, an army; by fear, a mob.' I did my reading for today."

Guilhem nodded and smiled again. Hauteclair had one of the finest private libraries in Meridia, and Alays was currently working her way through On the Justice of Government, an ancient Septimonian treatise older than the Empire. "So what is your question?" asked the duke.

"If people are actually dying all over the country" - Guilhem noted that, by country, Alays clearly meant Septimonia rather than Meridia - "if they can't set foot outside at night in safety, then surely panic is inevitable anyway? So what do we have to lose by telling the truth?"

Guilhem considered that for a moment, then paused, and gently took his daughter's elbow. He pointed through the columns that marked the cloister's outer limit, beyond which the artificial mountain of Hauteclair dropped away in sheer cliffs. "Follow my finger," Guilhem murmured. "You see that?"

Alays squinted at the cluster of terracotta-roofed houses, miles away in the distance. "Yes," she said. "A village."

"Good." Guilhem lowered his arm. "Keep looking at the village. Now think: panic and fear are not the same thing. What's the difference?"

Alays thought for a long moment, and then said. "You can live with fear."

"Yes." Guilhem nodded. "The people in those houses fear many things. They fear drought, and also storms; prices that are too low, or too high. They fear taxes and they fear bandits and they even fear us, high up here in this marble citadel overflowing with gold. And yes, they fear to set foot outside their homes when night comes. But none of those things panic them. Why not?"

"Because they've always been true." Alays looked at her father. "So they know that they can live with them."

Guilhem nodded. "A man can live with fear like an old friend. But panic is a consuming fire, and he will do anything to quench it. And sometimes, it only takes a spark to set it ablaze."

"So we keep our own counsel," Alays nodded. Her wide-spaced grey eyes, Montange eyes, watched her father. "Alone."

"Whenever possible," Guilhem replied softly. "We tell the truth when it has already escaped anyway, and folk have put the pieces together. But the full scope of it all? That is the burden of your birth." His own grey eyes stared out into the distance, at something visible to their sight alone. "That the load you carry will always be heavier than anyone else can be allowed to see. It's why we are not so entirely different from those we hunt."

Alays gently leaned her head against Guilhem's arm. Her dark hair brushed the fine white linen of his burnoose. He sighed quietly, and blinked, and smiled down at her. "But there are compensations," the duke murmured. "And God is always near."

"I will be ready, when my time comes," Alays said. Guilhem heard the steel in her voice. A promise.

"I know," he replied. "I know you will, butterfly."

"Your Grace?"

Guilhem's hand fell to rest lightly on Revelator's hilt. He turned toward the source of the voice, and saw one of the castle guard: a tall, dark-complexioned man whose mail was covered both by a blue surcoat bearing the Montange arms, and by a white burnoose to keep off the heat. The man touched his chin to his chest - by tradition, the only bow a Septimonian knight was obliged to offer any man. "Your Grace. They're ready for you in the Hall of Judgment."

Guilhem nodded once. "Thank you, Fulques." He turned to Alays. "Come on, then. Let's see what you remember from your studies."

* * *

The Marble Palace's Hall of Judgment was a high, vaulted chamber, fairly compact in size, one wall of which was composed only of a line of columns beyond which lay a cloistered garden. In design, it resembled a chapel: the walls were frescoed with astonishingly lifelike scenes of crime and punishment, and from the mosaic of the vault above, the stern faces of saints and long-dead Septimonian rulers looked down in judgment. Instead of the conventional dais, Guilhem took his seat in a modest throne of carefully worked ashwood, in front of which was a sturdy table piled with legal texts and reams of parchment. As the duke sat, a few dozen courtiers and scholars - plus a gaggle of Septimonian peasants, looking anxious and very freshly scrubbed - settled into their hardwood pews. Alays sat in a smaller throne at Guilhem's elbow, next to a scribe.

Raymond was absent, as always. He is young yet, Guilhem thought, and knew that was not the reason.

The duke pushed the thought from his mind. He nodded at the guards who waited beside a reinforced side door to the chamber. "Bring in the accused."

One of the guards banged on the door with a mailed fist. It opened, and two more guards emerged, escorting a young man in his twenties wearing a peasant's smock. The prisoner's hands were manacled, and he had a few days' growth of beard, but he otherwise showed no signs of harsh treatment.

Guilhem glanced at the sheet of parchment in front of him, then at his daughter. Alays' grey eyes carefully studied the man's powerful musculature, his raw-boned and lupine features, the whiteness of his teeth as he wet his lips with fear.

"Estol of Pineto," Guilhem announced, his voice carrying easily through the marble hall, "you have been accused by your neighbors of unnatural acts: changing your form into that of a beast, preying upon the livestock of your village, and placing your fellows in fear of their life, wherefore they have referred you to the duke's justice."

Several of the villagers in the pews nodded, exhausted relief apparent upon their faces. The prisoner shook his head violently. "No, I - "

Guilhem held up a hand, and Estol fell silent. "No," the duke said, "hear it all, before you make your plea." Guilhem steepled his fingers. "You stand accused of two crimes, Estol. The first is the destruction of livestock. For this, if guilty, you are bound by the ancient laws of Septimonia to restore the value of the lost animals, in addition to a fine. But the second is much more serious." Guilhem glanced to his left. "Daughter?"

Alays blinked: the only sign of her surprise. She did not miss a beat. "If you do change into the form and likeness of a beast, and conceal it from this court, you have violated my father's Edict of Collioures, and you will be banished from Septimonia upon pain of death." Guilhem saw Alays swallow very slightly at her own words, but there was no quaver in her voice.

"So," Guilhem concluded, "you have a choice. If you are guilty, confess now, and you will be liable for fines and damages but nothing more. If you claim innocence, we will hold you here until the next full moon. At that time, if you retain your human shape, you will be released and held innocent of all charges. But if you undergo any unnatural transformation, after lying about your nature, then you will be banished from these lands, never to return." Guilhem sat back in his chair. "How do you plead, Estol?"

The young man's hands shook; Guilhem heard the rattle of his shackles. For a long moment, he said nothing; then his voice was a dry reed. "I confess."

"Burn it!" It was a woman's voice, shrill with terror. A grandmotherly villager was on her feet in the pews, rending her headscarf in her anguish. "Kill the beast that wears the face of man!" A few of the other peasants murmured their agreement. Guilhem felt the tension in the air, a living nauseous wave of panic-fear.

Crack. The ancient signet ring of the Montange dukes was a heavy piece of worked bronze, and it made an astonishingly loud noise when rapped against the courtroom's hardwood table. Guilhem extended one finger. "This man has confessed his crime, goodwife. He will make restitution for your lost livestock. If he cannot, then he will work your fields until the value of his crime, and the fine, is paid back." Guilhem took a breath. "The laws of Septimonia prohibit him from hiding his nature, or from profiting by it. But they do not prohibit him from existing. Any harm to him, and it will be you who stands next in his chains." The duke raised his eyebrows. "And the penalty for murder is far less merciful than banishment."

The woman's mouth opened, then closed. She subsided back into his seat. Guilhem waved his hand, and the guards led Estol away. At the edge of the Hall of Judgment, patiently watching the proceedings, the duke saw a familiar shape.

"We will recess before we hear the next case," Guilhem announced. "The room, please."

The villagers and scribes collected their belongings and drifted away through the garden. Guilhem saw Alays' eyes follow the old woman. "This doesn't feel like preventing panic," she said quietly.

"No," Guilhem agreed. "But they already knew what he was. Or believed they did. You can't put that eggshell back together again." The duke's long fingertips dug into the bridge of his nose. "More and more cases like this, now," he murmured. "It used to be just lone cranks. Now it's whole villages. And somehow we have to tell the truth, protect the people, and prevent mass hysteria."

"All at the same time," Alice nodded.

"Exactly." Guilhem sighed and waved toward the chamber's entrance. "All right, Peyre, you've waited long enough. I see you there. What is it?"

A man stepped forward: older and grey-haired, but still with a dancer's careful grace to his stride. "A message. From the Hall of the Faithful." Guilhem's chancellor handed over the parchment. "Senhor Geraldson wants to - ah - 'discuss recent events.'"

The duke scanned the letter, and then dropped it onto the myriad other parchments that littered the Hall of Judgment's central table. His fingertips drummed the carved wood armrest of his throne. "Hm." Guilhem glanced at Alays, then back up at Peyre. "I will go."

"I've never been to the Hall of the Faithful," Alays remarked. Excitement danced in her eyes.

"No." Guilhem rose from his throne. "I will go. Send word to Bertran to sail upriver. We'll meet at the Red Ford. You will stay here, Alays."

Guilhem saw the unspoken question rise in his daughter's eyes, saw her work through the possible answers to it, saw her reach the only possible conclusion. "He wouldn't," she gasped. "Not even Geraldson. Surely - "

The duke held up a hand, and Alays fell silent. Guilhem took her shoulders in his hands. "No," he said quietly. "I don't think so either. I'll be back. But just in case, I need someone here, someone I can trust to run things while I'm gone."

Alays nodded. "I won't let you down, papa." Her eyes shone with tears, unshed, and Guilhem's heart could break with pride.

He took one last breath of the Marble Palace's air, and smelled honeysuckle and jasmine and sweet running water. And then Guilhem Montange turned his face toward the road, and made ready to ride.

For really, I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he. And therefore truly, Sir, I think it's clear that every man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that Government. And I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.
Col. Thomas Rainsborough, Putney Debates, 1647

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