Part Fifteen in the Blood and Lies series
Part One: Blood and Lies (pt. 1)
Part Two: Blood and Lies (pt. 2)
Part Three: Blood and Lies (pt. 3)
Part Four: Blood and Lies (pt. 4)
Part Five: Blood and Lies (pt. 5)
Part Six: Blood and Lies (pt. 6)
Part Seven: Blood and Lies (pt. 7)
Part Eight: Blood and Lies (pt. 8)
Part Nine: Blood and Lies (pt. 9)
Part Ten: Blood and Lies (pt. 10)
Part Eleven: Blood and Lies (pt. 11)
Part Twelve: Blood and Lies (pt. 12)
Part Thirteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 13)
Part Fourteen: Blood and Lies (pt. 14)
“I assume you are all familiar with the history of rise of House Karilas,” Jacob begins slowly, having moved inside the conversation to his home. Seated at the dining table Telfor, Rubin and Pan are served each a cup of tea. Removing the threat Rubin’s university given duty posed to Zsófia allowed her and Aria to tend Vahkragg’s injuries in peace.
The old man holds the trio’s interest firmly with the force of his words. Each needing his explanation for their own reasons. He reads from their silent comprehension that they each have at least a passing knowledge of the story of William Karilas the Holy. The legends of how he conquered the disparate tribes and establishing the Kingdom and the ordering of the gods are common knowledge for even the youngest children. With their acknowledgement Jacob continues, “Our people have been removed from the greater part of the church’s influence. Here the old gods still hold still hold power.”
Telfor watches Rubin’s reaction through the corner of his eye. The scholar’s upbringing had been a product of the kingdom. His worldview still needs to be shaped by experiencing the broader world.
As an anointed crusader Verumalleus had been a positive moderating influence on the young scholar’s zeal. Deeply versed in the teachings of the church with empathy gained through years of experience working with people far from the centres of power, she was able to challenge his black and white notions of the world. As simple soldiers, none of the others could hold Rubin’s respect on an intellectual level.
Seeming deep in thought to Telfor’s eyes, the soldier feels his concern for the younger man’s future actions alleviated very slightly.
“I understand that you must see Zsófia’s magic as a profane thing,” the old man directs the words mostly to Rubin, “We recognise the divinity and virtue of the pantheon and worship them as faithfully as any of the folk in Pike’s Reach, but the gods cannot be everywhere at once. In the corners of the world where civilisation has less of a presence, the gods that were cast out by the pantheon rule in the pantheon’s shadows.
The Anathema is part of this, it is an avatar of The Wild God that is created by sins against him. Zsófia is a priestess of The Wild God, the power you saw that allowed her to treat the poison of the Anathema is His power. While her power would be considered necromancy by the kingdom, it is necessary for our survival here. She does not pursue the power to violate the natural order or profane the dead, but to protect the living.”
The old man’s speech is as one pleading for the life of a loved one. In Telfor’s eyes, the question of arresting Zsófia is a simple one, as he already owed his life and Vahkragg’s to her.
Beside him Pan and Rubin’s expressions are less easily read. The revenant seems by Telfor’s knowledge of him to have grown more suspicious since hearing the truth, while Rubin seems to remain deep in thought.
Jacob watches the three of them closely for any response. With nothing given by the others Telfor chooses to speak, “I owe Zsófia my life. Vahkragg’s as well. I will keep her secret.”
“What sins specifically summon the Anathema,” Pan asks quietly.
“I’m not the most knowledgeable on The Wild God’s rules,” Jacob admits, “As I said, we only follow the pantheon as in the kingdom proper. Zsófia can tell you more when she has helped your friend, if the power hasn’t drained her again. I know that he demands sacrifices, that is the true purpose of the hunt our young men and women are on now. There are offerings that must be made when one is born or dies, Zsófia guides the families through the specifics.”
“How does the village get a priest?” Rubin asks next.
“The tradition is passed down from parent to child. Zsófia’s family have always been The Wild God’s servants here, her father before her and his father before him.”
“What if Zsófia died or left the village without having taught a child?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know,” Jacob’s voice gives no indication to his thoughts on that admittance.
Pan’s suspicion seems to have diminished again in Telfor’s eyes, while Rubin’s light red cheeks have turned a darker shade with his internal struggle continuing as he struggles with the implications.
“How do you know The Wild God creates the Anathema from your sins?” he at last asks, putting the thought to words giving him the confidence to continue, “How do you know it isn’t a naturally occurring beast or that the offerings aren’t what gives the god the power to create it? Beyond the words of a single family of necromancers, what proof do you have?”
Telfor and Pan look back at Jacob, the question seems to stump the old man who hesitates before answering, “She can neutralise the Anathema’s poison when no other treatment can and the Anathema don’t come when we make the offerings.”
“I assume from Zsófia’s pressence that you have been keeping up with your offerings, and yet an Anathema did come.” Rubin crows, “And when it came, it was not The Wild God who protected you, but Atyx.”
The smugness in Rubin’s voice gives a cruel twist to the flippant reminder of Verumalleus’ sacrifice. He can see Pan feels the same way, only ignoring the comment because of a desire for the answer.
Jacob’s mouth opens and closes several times as he struggles for an answer. The pause even longer before his answer this time, and the words are delivered more slowly, “That is true, we have kept up our sacrifices. It is also true that our salvation was paid for by your companion’s noble sacrifice, Atyx bless her soul. I guess I cannot offer you definitive proof, the Anathema has always come in the past when we have failed to make the sacrifice. This is the first time in almost a hundred years that one has came.”
“How do you know it came from a missed sacrifice when it was almost a hundred years ago?” Telfor interrupts Rubin to ask.
“My grandfather told me the story when I was a lad, a storms interrupted the hunt and we couldn’t make a sacrifice in time. He said that many men died, more would have without Zsófia’s grandfather tending to the poisoned.”
“At the university there are toxicologists who could create an antidote from a sample of the poison,” Rubin responds, then seeming to realise something continues, “Can you be sure Zsófia’s family haven’t simply done the same and abused this knowledge for status privilege?”
“I would never do that!” Zsófia cries, having just entered in time to hear Rubin’s accusation. She storms towards the scholar looking pale and weak, but with a powerful fury in her eyes. The scholar rises rapidly from his chair, to meet her charge as she continues to shout, “Do you think I enjoy letting that bastard use my body to enter the world? Can you even imagine how painful it is to be the crucible for the might of a god?!”