Hatred, Anger and Strife

Kythorn 12, 1368

“Keep your guard up, lad!” The salle master shouted at the young man, who’d let the point of his waster drop, just in time for his opponent to knock it out of his hands with her own wooden sword, then poke him in the left side of the chest.

“And that’s why. Someday, some horror might stab you through the heart.” Brother Norvin, the armsmaster, said with a sanctimonious air. “This time, it was just a practice sword. You,” he said to Meliantha, “pick up his waster and make sure it’s not damaged from your action.”

She said, suppressing her urge to attack Norvin, “Yes, Armsmaster.” Holding her own, she crouched to get it, then went sprawling as Norvin kicked her in the back.

“Know your place, pitspawn,” he hissed. “Embarrass him again and I’ll have you beaten until you bleed out!” Looking from behind him, Felger smirked at her position.

She left her arms ache to move, to drive both wooden swords into Norvin’s eyes, to drive them upwards into his groin, and with the practice of all her fourteen years, she drove it down. She rolled over and looked right into Norvin’s eyes, and said, “If he wasn’t incompetent, he might have a chance against me.”

She expected the order for the entire class to attack her. She expected the half that did attack her. She expected the painful beating, and the beatings she delivered. She even expected the cheap shot from Felger and the charge from Brother Norvin. None of that meant she expected to win. But she knew there were enough of them down that she’d given a good accounting of herself.

Norvin casting a spell that slammed two bursts of magical energy into her back was not something she expected, and as things went dark and quiet, she heard a cry go up. She wasn’t sure what they were saying, only that someone was yelling fairly loudly. She didn’t have to chance to wonder what they were yelling about.

* * *

When she woke, it was dark again. She shifted, and was surprised to find herself in her own bed. “Did not expect the afterlife to be like this,” she muttered, and started to rise. The amount of pain she was in started to convince her she must be alive, as she groaned.

“Oh, by Helm’s gauntlet,” came a voice from the doorway, and her father came in. “Get back in bed, girl. You should be resting!” He came over and pushed her back down. She didn’t resist – it hurt too much. He checked her bandages, and then sat down in the chair next to her.

“I’m forbidden from healing you,” he said, quietly. “There’s going to be a tribunal, and your wounds will be inspected, as part of the evidence. You were lucky, child, that Sergeant Taralanth was coming to see how the class was coming along. He saw what happened, and how you fought back. He was quite impressed, but Brimmerbold wants you there, unhealed but for what time brought.” Darvin looked at his adopted daughter. “I don’t know if you know that, but you beat a third of your class before Norvin stepped in.” He shook his head. “It’s going to be a problem for all of us.”

“What will happen to me? Will I have to go?”

He blew out. “I doubt that very much. There’s too much evidence against them, and that you didn’t do anything at all but state truth. Some may not like you much, but their faith is such they’d defend you as the wronged.”

Meliantha nodded. “But there’s still a chance.”

“Yes. But we knew it might happen someday. What did you say to make him so angry?” She told him, and he shook his head. “You’re better than he is – much better – but that was not terribly tactful.”

“Tact is for bards and diplomats,” she said, a line he’d said many times.

“Perhaps, but it can save you from beatings if you use it. Like the one you just had.” He rose, and got her a mug of water. “This will help you sleep. The inquest is in the morning. Stay here – there’s guards outside.”

“To keep me in?”

Darvin sounded grave as he said, “To keep their friends out.”

* * *

The inquest was held in one of the inner chambers of the temple. Norvin was there, as was Felger, both seated, the second looking terrified. Sgt. Taralanth was also there, as was his sponsor for paladinhood, Sir Brimfold Torvallos. Darvin was present and so was Tathlosar Brimmerbold, who had recused himself from the inquest, but stood in his position of leader of the temple. The inquest was held by the next three senior members of the temple: Inquisitor Taran Goldshade, Most Blessed Archivist Zalgar M’Diesa, and Quartermaster Aemon McFallgar.

She took a few moments to study the three and remember what she could of them. Goldshade was a seeker after truth, and would let none stand in his way of finding it. M’Diesa was a stiff, strict woman, who had no tolerance for games, and seemed annoyed to be out of her archives. McFallgar was the only dwarf in the temple, and was very organized, from his polished armor to his carefully plaited beard to the storage rooms of the temple, where nothing could be lost, because he knew every single box and bag and shelf by heart. A trio to respect the letter of the rules. And neither of them seemed either particularly adversarial or sympathetic to her.

This might work out all right, she thought.

Goldshade rose. “I call into session this inquest into the events of yesterday. The foundling Meliantha stands accused of assaulting the youth Felger, cheating in the training ring, insubordination, blasphemy, and inappropriate conduct. Norvin Silversword stands accused of exceeding his mandate as training master, misuse of the powers granted him by Helm, and conduct unbecoming a priest of Helm. Felger of Berdusk stands accused of improper behavior in the training ground. By the blessings of Helm, we will guard against falsehood, guard against evil, and guard against the wicked. The Blessings of Helm be upon these proceedings.” The last sentence was repeated by all present. “We will hear the testimonies now.”

Meliantha was first. At the request of the tribunal, she awkwardly stripped to her undergarments, and they inspected her injuries with a clinical air.

“Numerous bruises on the body, with a few having broken the skin,” M’Diesa noted. She reached out and ran her hand over Meliantha’s head. “Two rather sizable goose-eggs. One eye bruised.” She reached for a hand, and inspected it. “Numerous bruised and bloodied knuckles, injuries similar to that of having a hand hit by a waster multiple times.” She circled Meliantha, then nodded. “The injuries are consistent with the sergeant’s report, and decidedly inconsistent from Norvin’s or Felger’s.”

She was allowed to redress, and Felger and Norvin went through similar inspections, the Archivist recording their own marks. Then, the taking of that evidence done, the Archivist turned to Brimmerbold. “Vigilant Godseye, I ask you give healing to Meliantha. None of her injuries are life-threatening, but she has borne them without complaint and I believe she has earned a respite from pain.”

The leader of the temple bowed, and quietly prayed, and when he was done Meliantha felt good enough to give them both another beating, but the time had come for the testimonies of the witnesses.

“Now, Sergeant, please tell this tribunal what you saw,” Goldshade instructed the paladin-candidate.

Taralanth took a position of battle-rest. “I approached the training ground as part of my duties – remedial instruction in combat, as well as keeping an eye out for trouble between trainees so it can be handled before things get out of hand. As I approached, I saw Brother Norvin kick Meliantha from behind, sending her sprawling. I was not close enough to hear what they said to each other, but whatever it was caused Brother Norvin to instruct all the other trainees to attack her, even when she had not been able to rise. About half the class of trainees did so, and many of them were bested by her. I was about to intervene – without knowing what was said, I did not wish to do so until it was obviously improper to continue – when Norvin uttered a prayer and struck her with a Castigating Ray. At that point, I charged in, called a halt, and disarmed Norvin. As I was doing so, Sir Brimford arrived to assist me.”

Sir Brimford took up from there, his deep voice ringing out in the room. “When I arrived, Taralanth had Norvin on his face, immobilized on the training ground. The students who had not followed the order to attack had taken up a defensive circle around Meliantha at Taralanth’s command – I commend him for that thought. I ordered the attackers, including Felger, to stand down, which they did, laying down their weapons. Once the melee was calmed, I called for medical help and for Watchful Godseye Brimmerbold.”

Brimmerbold’s testimony was next: “When I arrived, I spoke to each of the lads but Felger. The ones that attacked believed that Norvin had spoken as the training master and were to be obeyed, and that Meliantha had used some kind of demonic power which had not affected Norvin, and he was calling on them to defend him. Those that did not attack believed that there was no reason to do so, and that Norvin had not ordered them within the limits of his authority. Those who attacked were part of the …laundry incident a number of years ago. I have separated those out and they are being given supplementary instruction in behavior.”

Meliantha told her story next, leaving nothing out, and then it was time for Felger.

“After she cheated and disarmed me sneakily, Brother Norvin commanded her to pick up my blade, as she’d been the one to make me drop it. She fell over, being clumsy, and when Brother Norvin told her to get up, she said a word I didn’t know – some pit language, I expect – and that’s when Brother Norvin called on us all to strike her down, her being evil and all. Then when she got all demony, he called on Helm to cast her down, and she dropped like a stone.” The Inquisitor watched him the whole time, almost unblinking, as the Archivist took notes on all of them, and McFallgar sat there, paying just enough attention to be part of the proceedings.

“So,” Goldshade said, “Despite being clumsy, she was able to sneakily disarm you, then fight against half the training class of her level until a spell was cast at her. Interesting,” he finished, dismissingly. “Brother Norvin, your testimony?” He said it in the same tones, as if he expected nothing but deceit from Norvin.

“Indeed, she was rude and disruptive. I don’t know the trick she used, but she probably learned it from that blasted fool Olbrimsur she sneaks out to meet! Then when I told her she should not use those tricks, she called Felger ‘incompetent’, and blasphemed! It was at that point I chose to teach her a lesson on not insulting those she’d serve with. Then, when she lost control and started beating them, I had no choice but to strike her down! She’s been nothing but an insult to this temple since the day that idiot brought her across our doorstep and for whatever reason, Brimmerbold let her stay! She’s been bewitching with her foul powers since the moment she came here, and none of you see it!” His voice rose, an ugly tone as he spoke. “She’s a creature of sin, and her first sin was murder! She killed her own mother, clawing out of her, and we all know it! But we ignore it and let her stay here, a festering wound in the temple, her blood and sin and corruption tainting all of you! I see the truth! I know it! And there will be a cleansing!” He turned, suddenly, and glared at Darvin. He reached into his robes and withdrew an ornately-carved piece of wood, and said in a voice that echoed unnaturally, “Give in to the hatred in your heart, and do what you know must be done!

Darvin’s face contorted, briefly, as a sudden rage and hatred at his foster daughter seized him, but the spell’s effect drained away in a moment. Before he could react, a throwing hammer caught Norvin in the side of the head, dropping in to the ground.

“Not sure about the rest of ye, but I’m thinkin’ the lass is innocent on most charges now.” McFallgar turned to look at Meliantha. “Sorry, girl, but ye were insubordinate.”

“I think we’re done here, yes,” M’Diesa said, primly.

“Mm, yes. Guards, bind and gag Norvin, and place him in a cell. Felger, you are expelled. Meliantha, report to the quartermaster’s for punishment duty for insubordination. This inquest stands adjourned.”

As the guards came to pick Norvin up and bind him, he recovered his wits and started yelling. “No! I’m the righteous one here! She’s a creature of evil! She must be purged!”

McFallgar harrumphed, standing, his thumbs in his belt and one hand right next to another small throwing hammer. “Shut yer trap, ye beef-witted blatherskite, afore I decide to take my own action against ye. I haven’t missed with me hammer in ten years, and your melon’s lookin’ very much like a target to me today!”

The gag suppressed any other comments from Norvin.

* * *

Darvin emerged from the priory to find Quartermaster McFallgar standing in the courtyard, watching the walls. It was unusual for him to seem so …idle. “Good day, Quartermaster. May I ask what you’re doing?”

The dwarf turned and bowed. “Greetings to you, Brother. Supervising your daughter’s punishment for insubordination. I’m having her run the wall patrol a dozen times.” Something in the dwarf’s eyes twinkled. “It’s been very illuminating – wait, here we go!” He turned to watch the wall again, and Darvin watched as well.

Meliantha came running full-tilt from behind one of the buildings into view. She kept running, made a turn as two of the wall-guards stood aside, and then ran for the main gate. There was a gap of perhaps five feet in the walkway over the doors from a battle a century before, and in commemoration of that battle, it had never been repaired. She showed no signs of stopping as she approached it, and then as she got there, she flung herself forwards, cleared the gap by a couple of feet, and continued on without pause.

“How many times has she done that?” Darvin asked.

“Nine. She’s got three more to go. She went for the leap first time, and just keeps going.” McFallgar glanced over. “I think I want to see her in fighting training. She’s fast and she’s strong, and she doesn’t tire easily.”

“Indeed,” a deep voice came from behind them, as Sir Brimfold emerged. “And she has no evil in her heart. I would know.” The paladin watched as she came around and did the leap again. “Indeed, if she was a bit less rambunctious, I’d suggest she might be a good trainee once I am ready for a new one. But she is willful and argumentative – too much so for a paladin-candidate. Not that it’s entirely bad – anyone willing to debate a paladin in matters of law is courageous enough, but her destiny does not lie in the path of a paladin.” He glanced at Davlin. “Still, she was raised well, despite everything.”

Davlin cleared his throat nervously.

“Perhaps I should test her at arms as well,” Sir Brimfold continued. “I’d like to see how she fights. After all,” he noted artlessly, “she’s obviously been tutored outside our temple. And she very obviously has other skills.”

Davlin coughed. “One takes what one is offered.”

“Indeed. Shall we, Aemon? I would like to see what she’s made of.”

* * *

I will kill her someday, Norvin thought, over and over. She has humiliated me, seen me cast out, and now I will kill her. She’s corrupted all of them, and I will kill them, too. The cell was dark, and cold, and he sat on the pile of straw on the floor. And he thought of all the ways he would torment and kill her.

And then, he heard a voice whisper in his ear.

Come to the fourth floor of the third house from Copper Lane on Blackwood Row and we will help you in revenge.

He did not recognize the voice, but he would, at the least, listen to the offer.

* * *

The next day, he was stripped of his place in the temple, whipped, and expelled. He picked himself up, and, wearing nothing but a pair of sandals and a pair of thin breeches, walked into the city.

 

The term “Beef-witted blatherskite” used with the kind permission of Morgan Wagner.

Posted by Meliantha Demonblood

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