Argyle's Reverie

As the creature in the portal chamber finally fell to the ground, I breathed easier. I had run out of useful options, excepting ones that were likely to prove severely harmful to some of my companions. I was quite glad that it had not come to that eventuality... this time.

In the aftermath of the battle, I moved about our group, ministering to their wounds. None of them were out of the ordinary, except one. The githyanki tattoo on Mist's arm was charred and smoking, with the cloyingly sweet smell of burned flesh that is so reminiscent of roast pork....

..........

The young man's arm was charred and smoking, with the cloyingly sweet smell of burned flesh that is so reminiscent of roast pork. I quickly cut away the remnants of his tunic sleeve, and applied a salve to the burn, then swathed it in light linens, before saying a quick prayer to Sol for rapid healing. His light green eyes were glazed with the pain of the burns, and I wished that I had more time to do a more thorough job, but many others still awaited my attention.

As the next wounded militiaman was being brought to me, I looked about at my fellow priests, hurriedly administering to the injured. I noted how low the supplies available for us to work with were getting.

After three days of dealing with the stress of constant ritual healing and prayer, I was able to keep working while thinking on other things, and I found myself reflecting on how I had come to be in such a situation.

I had received my newest directive from the seers, and I found myself sent to the port city of Kamalen, part of the kingdom of Diuth.

When I started trying to make travel arrangements, I found that Kamalen was under siege. The southern empire of Y'Marr had made claims to Kamalen for generations, and when their latest attempt at bribing the nobles of Kamalen had failed, they had assaulted the city. Y'marr had brought north catapults and trebuchets, and used them to fling burning pitch, naphtha, and alchemist's fire into Kamalen.

Kamalen had only held out as long as it had so far, due to its sea lines... and those had just been cut by a band of pirates that Y'marr had paid to blockade the port.

And I had to perform a ritual step at the Temple of Sol Rising in Kamalen, in less than a month.

I arranged passage to Lonabel, as the nearest port to Kamalen which was not under blockade. There, after much wasted effort, I finally made contact with a self-styled "free buccanneer" by the name of Rusmis Thistlewhiskers. Rusmis was willing to run the blockade of Kamalen, for a price. Fortunately, the Temple's writ was accepted by a local moneylender, or I would never have been able to come up with enough.

Rusmis' ship, the "Mara sha'Imbris" ("The Lady of Imbris"... Imbris was apparently Rusmis' home port, far, far to the north), was unlike any I had seen before. He termed it a "Schooner" and boasted that it was more weatherly than anything else in these waters. He even professed to have gotten the design from a shipwrecked "Sea Vrolfin" that claimed to have come from the other side of the Endless Sea.

While he was obviously delusional, I had little choice in the matter... he was the only one even willing to TRY to run the blockade. And besides, he already had my money.

After seeing how much faster his "Schooner" was than the pirate vessels, I felt much better about spending Sol's geld on his services. The Mara drew pirates out of their position in the blockade, and then came back around on the tack much faster, and further into the wind than the pirate's Galleys could manage, leaving them far in her wake.

The Mara saw me safely to port, and I made my way through the streets towards the Temple. Along the way, I noted the huge amounts of fire damage to the city. Fire-scarred buildings dominated the view, and not a few were gone entirely. I passed no less than 3 bucket chains leading from the bay, and various cisterns to blazes being fought. If not for the construction tending towards brick on these plains, and the ready supplies of water, the city would surely have burned into flinders long ago.

When I reached the Temple, I found the main hall a scene from hell.

Tables were scattered about the floor, covered with wounded and burned militia and civilians. Priests and laity moved purposefully among them, applying salves, chanting prayers, and even using lesser disciplines such as (I shuddered at this...) surgery. Usually "surgeons" were kept in their dingy little holes, bloodletting and dosing their patients with mercury. Things must be truly desperate for their services to be called upon.

I found the abbess in charge, and offered my services. They were gratefully accepted, and I spent the rest of the day dealing with a steady stream of casualties. After 16 hours, we were forced to take a break, and renew ourselves physically, and spiritually.

I found a sleeping pallet in the commons room among the other young priests, but sleep refused to come. The horrors of the burns kept replaying in our minds, forcing us to try to push them out through gossip and chatter.

I learned that Y'Marr was ruled by their emperor in name only. That the true power lay with their great Alchemist's Guild, who ran the privy council and controlled the emperor. (Depending on which rumor you wanted to follow, the emperor was variously a weak fool who did not even realize he was a mere figurehead, a sot who didn't care what the alchemists did as long as he was given all the wine women and song that he desired, or just flat out controlled through the alchemist's potions)

The Alchemist's Guild was run by an ancient named Krenet Y'Namthaz, whos life was unnaturally extended through his mastery of the potions. Through his control of the alchemists, Krenet had levered his family into many positions of power in the empire over the years. It was truly said that any position of power in the empire was either outright occupied by an Y'Namthaz scion, or else had one holding it's ear.

The Alchemists had pushed the war when it was found that a rare type of coral was to be found in the sea-caves below Kamalen. With it, they were able to make their alchemist's fire burn even hotter and be more difficult to extinguish.

Having seen what their current batches could do, I heartily understood why their enemies felt that they needed to be kept from the coral at any cost.

The next days passed in a wash of healing, the faces of the injured blurring, each one into the next. And now, as I neared the end of my endurance on the third day of this ordeal, I was no closer to getting the space that I needed for my ritual freed than when I had begun.

The orderlies took away the man I finished working on, and brought another onto my table. I could tell immediately that he was a lost cause. The poultices and salves remaining simply weren't up to the task of dealing with burns as extensive as this young man had sustained. I eased his discomfort as well as I could, praying to Sol to help ease his path into Dolurrh. Just before he passed on, he gazed up at me with his light green eyes, and I recognized the boy that I had first healed that day.

I stood, stunned for a moment, then the disbelief turned into fury. I demanded the nearest orderly explain how the boy had come to be burned further. He stammered out that the empire had actually hurled a crystal containing a fire elemental into one of the buildings that we had been using as a recovery ward. It had slain most of the wounded, as well as the few guards, and burned the building to the ground, before they had been able to banish it.

I strode out of the Temple, and headed south, towards the battlements facing the thickest of the enemy lines. Strode up the access stair, and looked out over the parapets at the siege engines that were undoing my hard work.

The fury I had felt in the Temple, boiled over, and I shouted Sol's name in a rage, my anger and the torment from all the wounded I had treated bundled up into an incoherent whole. A fiery column lanced down from the clouds overhead, striking a catapult, and igniting it into blazing flames. The earthenware jars surrounding it exploded from the heat, spraying burning naphtha over the siege engine's crew.

I shouted again and again, drawing from a well of anger deeper than I had thought could exist within me. With each cry, another burst of Sol's flame struck down one of the siege engines. Alchemist's Fire and blazing pitch clung to the shoulders of the southerners as they shrilled their agony, and tried to flee from the sudden conflagration surrounding them. Terrible flames devoured their flesh and stole the air from their bursting lungs.

And I did not cease.

........


I had gotten to perform my ritual in the Temple of Sol Rising, and left to continue in my great quest. I would have considered it a pure victory... except...

Over a year later, I learned that Kamalen had finally succumbed to a renewed assault from the empire. I had won them a reprieve, but they had been unable to follow it up effectively.

Also, rumors had come to my ears of an enraged Krenet Y'Namthaz... One of his favorite great (to some huge Nth degree... how old WAS this guy, anyway?) grandsons had been among the southerners tending to the alchemist's fire around the siege engines that I had destroyed. The rumors had it that he had taken it upon the guild to restore him, and make it so that he would not fail so easily next time.

The stories told of a huge bone golem, powered by their new Alchemist's Fire, and able to breathe huge gouts of it at his foes... containing the soul of the grandson, who was driven further and further insane by his memories of the fire consuming his flesh, and unable to get away from the heat, forever burning inside of his new form. My nightmares were focused on this abomination for many a night thereafter...

........

I tried to clear my head of the visions, as I once more became aware of the present, and of Mist's wounded arm. The burns were bad, but nothing compared to what I had seen in the siege of Kamalen. And I had learned Many further ways of healing since then. She would be fine in short order.

I shook my head ruefully, surely having a reverie which included remembering another reverie must be against some sort of universal law... I decided not to dwell on it, lest I be drawn into some sort of paradoxical time loop, like brother Jervis had.

To think that I had once thought myself to be called to the pacifist healing sect. Kamalen had made clear to me that I was meant not only to heal others, but also to smite down those enemies of Sol that dared to inflict the injuries in the first place.

And so I shall.









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