Part 39: Circle of the Sun- Circle of the Sun
I went immediately back to the High Council of Fire Mages.
"I have found the Eye of Innos. It's broken." I told them.
"But.. that cannot be. What happened?" Pyrokar demanded.
"Some really nasty customers had it. Anyway, I came too late. They were performing a strange incantation on a crescent-shaped ritual site up in those woods."
"Innos be with us. They have desecrated our Circle of the Sun. Even in my worst nightmares I could never have imagined they would possess this kind of power."
"What is the Circle of the Sun?"
"Every year, all the magicians and novices of the monastery travel to this place at the time of the solstice to mark the beginning of a new cycle. The place is filled with immeasurable power of the sun. Never have I entertained the slightest notion that its power could be reversed. And yet that is what happened.
"What can we do now?"
"The enemy has become very strong. Still, this ancient artifact meant a powerful threat to them. We must heal the Eye and restore its old power. But time works against us. I cannot begin to imagine what is now going to become of us all. Without the protection of the Eye, we are helplessly at the mercy of the enemy. Go to Vatras, the Water Mage in town. In this terrible situation only he will know what is to be done. Take the Eye to him, and hurry!
With the rune that Lord Hagen had given me, I was able to reach the harbor city quickly.
Vatras was preaching at his usual spot in the center of town.
"Pyrokar sent me. The Eye of Innos is broken." I told him, interrupting his lecture.
"I know. I have already learned of it from some very upset novices. The Seekers have used the Fire Magicians' Circle of the Sun to destroy the Eye. I would call that an inspired move by the enemy."
"News spreads fast in this city" I observed quietly.
"That's a good thing, too. The enemy won't be sleeping either."
"What will become of the Eye now?"
"We must join it back together. But that is no easy task, I fear. The setting is broken into two pieces. A skilled smith should be able to repair this. That is really not the problem. It's rather the inlaid gem that worries me. It is dull and powerless. The enemy seems to have known exactly how to weaken it."
I already knew where to find a Smith, it just so happened that we had one sitting in a jail cell. "How can the gem get its power back?"
"I see only one way. A union of the three reigning divinities should achieve the desired effect. A well prepared ritual of reversal in the place of its destruction will give the gem back its fire. However the problem is that you must bring an earthly representative of each of the three gods to this place. Furthermore, a lot of swampweed is required for this ritual. I estimate it should be at least three plants."
"Where can I find the swampweed?"
"I've heard of an old quack in the woods named Sagitta. She supposedly sells such herbs. You could also try your luck down at the harbor."
"Who could those three earthly representatives of the gods be?"
"I shall represent the god Adanos myself. Pyrokar, the highest fire magician, would be the right person to represent the god Innos. But for Beliar, I cannot think of an appropriate candidate. It must be someone who commands black magic."
"Black magic? What about Xardas?"
"That's it. That could work but I ask myself how you will bring the three of us together. I can just see Pyrokar's face when he hears that he must cooperate with Xardas."
That left me with a lot to do. First, I'd see what I could do about Bennet. "I've got to go."
"I shall also set out and prepare the ceremony at the Circle of the Sun. Send Xardas and Pyrokar there and don't forget to bring the swampweed. I am counting on you."
As I walked away, I heard Vatras address the assembled worshipers. "Listen people! I am needed elsewhere. It won't take long. When I return I shall tell you the rest of the story. May Adanos be with you!"
I entered the barracks and went straight to the jail cells.
"Can you repair jewelry?" I asked Bennet.
"That depends. You would have to show me the piece first. Also, I need to get out of here first."
"Can you have a look at this amulet?"
"Sure, let me see. Hmm, that is a beautiful piece of work. The setting is shot. I think I can fix it, though."
"How long will it take you?"
"Well, I'm stuck here for now. Or do you see a forge in this place? If I were in my smithy I could do it all in one day. But, of course, first I'll need to get out of here."
He didn't have to say that twice. Before he finished that sentence I walking out of the jail and toward Lord Hagen's office.
I was direct with Hagen. "I need to talk to you about Bennet"
"But that's the mercenary who murdered one of my men."
"Bennet could help us to repair the Eye of Innos."
"Even if he could summon down the power of Innos himself to earth, he has murdered a paladin. He will be executed for that!"
"I believe that Bennet is innocent."
"The evidence is clear. He is guilty. Be careful what you say. You raise some serious accusations. If you cannot present me with evidence that the witness lied, then you had best hold your tongue."
"How come you're so sure that Bennet is the killer?"
"We have a witness. As you see, there is no doubt about the mercenary's guilt."
I didn't see that. He just had the word of some vaguely described witness. "Who is that Witness?"
"Cornelius, the governor's secretary, saw the murder. His description fits Bennet, no doubt about that. As far as I'm concerned that settles the matter. The mercenary will hang for treason."
I wasn't satisfied with that. I crept upstairs to meet with the secretary himself.
"You saw the murder of Lothar, didn't you?" I asked.
He appeared nervous. "I need not answer any questions about a current investigation. Lord Hagen already has everything I know on record."
"What was it you saw?"
"Really, I haven't got any time now."
"Enough of that! What did you see?"
"I... I saw how the mercenary struck down the paladin from behind."
"Are you completely sure?" Cornelius was acting quite suspicious for someone who was simply a witness.
"Yes, of course! I saw it with my own eyes. But I really haven't got any time now. There's a huge pile of paperwork I need to do."
Cornelius put his attention back on the lectern where he'd been working. With his attention elsewhere, I took this time to snatch a small book that had been poking out of his tunic's pocket.
I walked into the other room and skimmed through it. In the last entry, I found proof that Corenlius was lying and, worse, that he'd been corrupted by a servant of Beliar. I needed to get this to Hagen immediately.
"Cornelius lied." I told the Paladin leader before handing him the diary. "Here, I've got his diary. Every thing's in there."
Lord Hagen reddened. "That slimy little criminal! In view of this new evidence, there is nothing else I can do. By virtue of the office granted me by king and church I declare that the prisoner Bennet is exonerated of all charges and is thereby a free man. Cornelius is to be taken into immediate custody for perjury. Your deeds would redound to the honor of one of our own."
Since he'd said that, I felt that it was the proper time to bring this up. "I want to take up service with the order."
"Good, you have proven that you have the courage, the skill, and the knowledge to serve Innos. Your deeds bear witness to a pure heart. If it is your wish, then I shall bid you welcome to our order."
"I am ready."
"Then so it shall be! Many men have taken this path and given their lives in the name of Innos. Do you swear that your deeds will honor their deaths and proclaim the fame of Innos?"
'Then, from now on, you are a member of our fellowship. I hereby appoint you a warrior of Innos." Lord Hagen had sent an aide to fetch a suit of armor which they had just returned with. "I give to you the weapons and armor of a knight. Bear them with pride, knight! Here forth, by virtue of your rank, you shall have access to the monastery. Albrecht will teach you our magic, just go and talk to him. And, of course, our quarters in the upper end of the city are now open to you."
My new armor afforded me a great deal of protection. I reckoned I could take on the Orcs in the valley pass now. I went to see Albrecht.
"Can you teach me something?" I asked him.
"If you prove yourself worthy, I shall bestow the magic runes of the paladins upon you. Beyond that, I can teach you to increase your magic power."
"Am I worthy of receiving a rune?"
"As a sign of your rank, I bestow upon you the Rune of Light. It is the symbol of truth and justice. Light the way for all those who walk the path of Innos. You must earn all other runes. Come again when you think you have proven yourself worthy.
I returned to the monastery via rune and met up with the council once again.
"I've talked to Vatras."
"Ah, good. Where is he?"
"He's preparing a ritual at the Circle of the Sun in order to heal the Eye of Innos."
"If that is true then maybe there is hope after all. Vatras wants Xardas and you to help with that."
Pyrokar pushed himself out of his seat. "WHAT? Xardas will be there too? You cannot be serious!"
"Hey. This wasn't my decision. Vatras insists."
"It is always that Xardas. I am tired of it. Things could hardly get worse. How do I know that Xardas is not in league with the enemy? I cannot trust Xardas, no matter how much we may need him. I am sorry, but I cannot help Vatras under these circumstances."
"It can't be done without you. Vatras wouldn't be able to perform the ritual otherwise. You will have to trust Xardas."
"There is nothing that I have to do, you hear? I do not have the slightest proof that Xardas is not working against us. I cannot do this."
"What if I could bring you some proof?"
"That is impossible, I fear. It would really have to impress me. As far as Xardas is concerned, I have my doubts whether he can still impress me at all."
It seemed like it was time to visit my necromancer friend once more.
"The Eye of Innos has been destroyed." I reported.
"What are you saying? Destroyed?"
"I found it up in the northern forests - unfortunately I've only been able to salvage its fragments."
"That was our only chance to stand up to those dragons, and it's gone. We have failed."
Xardas was quite the pessimist. "Vatras sent me to you."
"That's good... what did he say?"
"He said something about a reversal ritual at the Circle of the Sun."
He laughed. "That old devil. I think I know what he's up to. You have come to summon me to him."
"Looks like it. When will you set out?"
"I must not keep Vatras waiting. I shall be on my way immediately. You must fulfill your tasks and then join me again.
Xardas was gathering his things and about to leave when I spoke up once more. "Pyrokar refuses to show up for the ritual. First he wants proof that he can trust you."
"Ah, really. Pyrokar. How interesting. That old geezer is getting to be a nuisance. But I think I've got something for you that will be useful. Back when I left the Order of the Fire Magicians I took a few things with me from the monastery. I didn't want a troop of Paladins or Fire Magicians to turn my tower upside down at some point and find all those things. So I hid them in safe places where the magicians would certainly never look for them."
"Some of them lie locked in a chest on Sekob's farm."
"You trust that Sekob?"
"No, but he can be bought and asks no awkward questions. Also, the chest is locked. Here's the key. There's a very old book among those things. When Pyrokar sees that book, he'll know it came from me. It is of no further use to me. So I guess it can at least fulfill this purpose."
With no rune directly to the landowner's farm, I set out from the Tavern to the farms.
(VIDEO, CLICK THIS)
I decided, first, to see about speaking to Bennet and beginning the work on repairing the Eye. While walking down the road I came across an old friend. When I'd just woken up, Sentenza had been one of the many to take advantage and extort me because he was bigger, stronger, and better armed. Now I had the upper hand.
I puffed out my chest and approached the bully, staring him in the eye for several moments before coming up with a suitable insult. "Say, is that a face you have at the front of your head or is it a butt?"
Sentenza looked as if split between anger and utter confusion. A moment later he decided on anger, drew his sword, and attacked. "Okay, that's the way you want it..."
The fight was fairly quick, with myself as the victor. I looted him of the coin he'd taken from me those weeks ago and walked into the mercenary's camp.
Bennet was about to go to bed when I found him in the workers barracks.
"Man, and here I was thinking they'd really hang me!" he said upon seeing me.
"Well, it worked out all right in the end."
"You can say that again. You should have seen the face of the soldier when he had to let me out! Ha! He was so scared he almost did it in his pants. Which reminds me, I've got something for you."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
He grinned, handing me an amulet. "A present."
"We have heard of the dragons that are said to be in the valley-"
"They're really there!" I interjected.
"All right, I believe you. Anyway, I thought you would surely want to participate in the upcoming dragon hunt. Here, take this amulet. I think you'll need it more than I do."
I handed him an amulet of my own. "Here's the amulet, please repair it for me."
"All right. I'll have finished the new setting by tomorrow."
While I was here, I stopped by both Lee and Gorn to say hello. They had little to say, however, though Lee did give me a rune that'd teleport me to somewhere on Onar's property.
From Onar's farm I headed to the outskirts where Sekob's land was located. By now, the sun had begun to rise.
Unfortunately, a group of Seekers had gotten to Sekob's farm first. How had they known what was hidden away there, or that I would be coming for it?
Using some scrolls I'd accumulated, I took out the seekers without much damage on my end.
Just inside I found the chest that Xardas had referred to. The old book was still intact and inside it, as well. I took it, along with everything else, and set off to the monastery to show it to Pyrokar.
Sekob, his family, and his workers were gathered by the road. I informed them that the 'black hoods', as they called them, had been eliminated. They all returned to work, and I collected a 250 gold reward from Sekob.
Once again, I teleported to the monastery and met up with Pyrokar.
I presented the tome to him. "I brought this book from Xardas. It's a token of his trust."
"But this is incredible. Do you have even the slightest notion what it is that you just gave me?"
"This is an ancient, long-lost tome from days gone by. We all thought that it was lost for good and now we learn that Xardas knew all along what had become of it."
"So will you be there for the ritual?"
"Yes, I shall depart for the Circle of the Sun, but certainly not because I am convinced of Xardas' good intentions. In fact, I am going to make this jackal explain where he has kept the book hidden for so many years. He has definitely gone too far this time. I shall see you at the circle of the sun."
I was beat. I headed to the monastery's shrine, where I was greeted by a fellow Paladin, to pray before retiring in one of the novices' chambers.
Come morning, I used Lee's rune to return to the rebel farm. The spell dropped me near Cord, slightly south of the farm's building.
Bennet was working the forge when I found him.
"Is the amulet ready?" I asked.
"Yes, here." He handed it to me. "I had to make a new setting for the stone. I worked on it all night and now it's as good as new."
It turned out that I'd previously collected swampweed from somewhere, possibly the swamps of Jharkendar, so I had everything I needed. I set out on the long trip to the Circle of the Sun, using a potion of speed to expedite things a bit.
The three mages were assembled and waiting on me.
"I did everything you told me to do." I told Vatras. "Here's the repaired Eye."
"Indeed, there is nothing missing now for the performance of the ritual."
"What about the swampweed?"
"Ah, yes. Do you have 3 swampweed plants, then?" I did.
"Ahem. Yes. Here are the 3 plants."
"Excellent. You have done well, but now step aside so that we may begin the ceremony. May our spirits unite."
Bursts of energy emitted from each of the three mages, all aimed directly at the Eye of Innos which rested on the stone slab in the center of the circle.
This ritual continued for a few minutes. Eventually, they all stopped and Vatras turned to me.
"It is finished. We have succeeded in thwarting the enemy's plan and restoring the Eye. Let Pyrokar explain to you how to use its power. I hope that I shall see you again, once you have accomplished your mission. Farewell."
"You did it!" I told Pyrokar. "The Eye of Innos is healed."
The High Mage looked exhausted. "I would hardly have believed it possible."
"What remains for me to do here?"
"Do not waste your time on trivial things. Go and Vanquish the dragons. Here, take the eye. Bear in mind that you need to talk to a dragon first before you can attack it. The power of the Eye will force the dragons to speak to you and tell the truth. Furthermore, it offers protection against their attacks when you wear it. However, its power does not last. You will have to fill it up again with magical energy. To do that you need the essence of a dragon's heart which you join with the eye at an alchemist's bench. Only then do you dare face another Dragon."
"Thanks. I'll remember that."
Pyrokar began walking back to town.
"Now that the Eye of Innos is healed, you must face the dragons! They all serve Beliar, the god of Darkness but there must be an earthly power that controls them. That much has become clear to me. Find out what the source of their power is. As soon as you have found that out, come back to me!