The Seven Scriptures of the Just God
When the threat of Bedlam loomed over Rhiassa in the winter of 1011, Sir Aeston was given the opportunity to bring to bear the power of The Just God to help keep his lands and his people safe. His task was to gather together the lost scriptures of the The Seven Saints of the Just God. These people from times long ago were each worshipers of Justari who were called to the highest level of service in his name and epitomized what it meant to wield Justice in word and deed. Their stories would form the bedrock of the modern faith of The Just God. The original documents these scriptures are written on are housed in The Grand Parthenon of Justari in Southland, Rhiassa.
A1. Brut Legor spoke with a steady voice and wielded his holy cudgel in the name of The Just God. A warrior by training and a priest by devotion, he traveled the lands of the realm with his single aim; to bring justice to those who were oppressed. 2. Brut Legor, in his travels, came upon the hamlet of Roughstone. Roughstone was a small place, and the men fed their kin by working long hours in the mines, pulling out blocks of marble to sell to the gentry in nearby cities. 3. Brut Legor observed how the people toiled without observance of days of rest, from before the rising of the sun until long after it set. 4. The men were not miserable, their spirits, not trodden. They knew that they were well rewarded for the effort they put in. Each block of marble fetched a fee that would put a year's food on the table for a family. 5. They were proud, industrious people that made their own fates. The Just God smiled on them for taking nothing they did not deserve and being thankful for what their efforts provided.
B6. There was a magistrate who oversaw the law and labor of Roughstone. He was a jovial man whose pockets were full. It was through his mercantile dealings that the marble was sold and that gold flowed into the town. 7. The magistrate himself lived in the courthouse, a great stone building on top of a hill. There he lived in comfort, surrounded by silk and ivory and incense. 8. The magistrate never entered the mine, but earned his gold by sitting in judgment over matters of dispute and in determining the fair shares that belonged to each of the men who worked in the mine. 9. Brut Legor met the magistrate, and saw the lavish conditions in which he lived; through he had no calluses on his hands from wielding the pick, no scars on his arms from bracing the marble. Brut Legor inquired of the magistrate; what justified this opulence without toil. 10. The magistrate defended his importance; when men worked too slowly, or otherwise failed to toil with all of their heart and sinew, the whole of Roughstone suffered. Great was the burden of the magistrate to place the most suffering on the shoulders of those who most failed in their obligation to their work and to the town. 11. The magistrate claimed that he prayed to The Just God often, and that he was a vessel of His wisdom.
C12. Brut Legor knew that those who claimed the wisdom of The Just God were too often agents of injustice in the world. Justice is not a wrap that one wears when weighing matters of gold in a room that smells of incense. 13. Justice is part of a good man's soul, he makes no pretense toward being a fount for The Just God. He does not wear Justice as a mantle, or raise it as a banner over the heads of others. 14. The work of The Just God is humble. 15. Brut Legor looked upon the inequity of the magistrate in the incensed room, and felt in his soul that there was need for him to intervene in Roughstone.
D16. Brut Legor went amongst the working men of Roughstone and learned from them about the magistrate's justice. He spoke at length to an aged man who everyone called the old miner, one of the first citizens of Roughstone and a man held in very high esteem by all who labored there. 17. Brut Legor learned that each passing month saw the ebbing of income from the nearby cities. He learned that each month one hard laboring man was brought before the magistrate and denied his wages on some pretense of idling too greatly or laboring too slowly. 18. No one amongst the men of Roughstone agreed that any ever deserved to be denied their fair earnings. 19. They acted with great Justice toward one another in response to seeing their brethren go wanting. The old miner was unwilling to let any family go without, so by his urging the wages of all other workers were willfully split among those who had had their earnings denied. 20. In this way the men of Roughstone showed one another great kindness, and showed to Brut Legor the grace of The Just God within their souls; tempering a sense of self for a sense of what they know to be right.
E21. Brut Legor went again to the magistrate of Roughstone wielding the information gained from the old miner. In civil tones and still with friendship in his voice, Brut Legor told the magistrate of the arrangements of the old miner. 22. He explained to the magistrate that the people of Roughstone provided for one another, and that they had, through the direction of the old miner, determined their own system of Justice by which they could care for one another and share equally in misfortune. 23. He beseeched the magistrate to learn from these stalwart men who had the true blessing of The Just God upon them. He asked the magistrate to no longer deprive one family of their wages for the sake of all the others. 24. Brut Legor, before he reached for anger, labored to explain to the magistrate the type of true Justice loved by The Just God, and give him new direction in how he sat in judgment in Roughstone.
F25. The magistrate sat in deference to Brut Legor as he professed this new understanding of Justice. He nodded in agreement and stood tall as Brut Legor finished his speech. 26. With admiration in his voice, he grasped the wrist of Brut Legor and thanked him deeply for his tutelage and his patience. He resolved there, before The Just God, to speak at length to the old miner and to change the methods by which the workers of Roughstone came to be rewarded for their efforts. 27. Brut Legor, pleased that wisdom had settled well upon the shoulders of the magistrate, excused himself from the courthouse and left in search of his next quest in the name of The Just God.
G28. The moons waxed and waned and Brut Legor went on to accomplish great deeds with cudgel in hand and love for The Just God in his heart. 29. After adventures manifold and a weariness from travel began to overtake him, Brut Legor realized he was near again to the hamlet of Roughstone and thought it an auspicious place to find some rest. 30. In arriving at Roughstone, Brut Legor was struck by the feeling that the spirit of the town had changed greatly. 31. He looked at the men, once cheerful laborers who knew their work had a purpose, and saw trodden souls with their heads bowed toward the ground. Brut Legor stopped some men who he recognized and inquired as to this sullen nature of the once proud Roughstone. 32. The eyes of the men were dull, but behind them, some spark yet remained. In seeing Brut Legor and the resounding will of The Just God within him, there was a stirring of strength he knew they still retained. 33. The men pleaded with him to go to the courthouse, for the source of their ills remained there. Upon asking to see the old miner, Brut Legor's gaze was unmet, and the men shuffled away uneasily.
H34. As Brut Legor made his way to the courthouse, he was stunned to behold an array of armed men in sentry around its borders. As he approached, spears flashed and he was halted in his progress by claims of authority and threats of force. 35. Brut Legor, always reaching for understanding before anger, inquired of the guards as to their existence and to their purpose. 36. A savage looking man explained that the guards were comprised of mercenaries, hired by the magistrate, to protect the grounds of the courthouse and guard the jails, the mention of which came as a great surprise to Brut Legor. 37. The guards allowed Brut Legor to see the magistrate on the condition that he leave behind his cudgel in their care. 38. Always patient, Brut Legor complied, and went on to speak to the magistrate about the unwelcome changes he beheld in Roughstone.
I39. The magistrate was welcoming to Brut Legor but on his guard as the man beheld the even greater-than-before opulence of the magistrate's chambers. 40. To Brut Legor's inquiries, the magistrate was curt and unrepentant. He claimed that old miner had attempted to lead a rebellion against his rule and the law of the town and was placed under arrest for his own safety and that of others. 41. The rest of the miners had refused to work, in protest, and so the magistrate was forced to imprison many to urge the others back into the mines. 42. The mercenaries were necessary to help him maintain order and to protect him from the unjust ire of others.
J43. The wisdom of The Just God potent within him, Brut Legor knew well the sound of lies and the evil behind them. Yet his patience held as he asked to speak to the old miner and visit him in his cell. 44. The magistrate started to refuse but caught a glimpse of the fury behind Brut Legor's eyes and agreed to escort him to the prison. 45. With two guards in attendance and the magistrate looking warily on, Brut Legor asked the old miner to explain what led him to this state. 46. In the eyes of the other prisoners there was clearly great dread, a worry that the old miner would say something that would become his undoing, but such was the old miner's faith in The Just God that he felt no fear of the truth.
K47. As the magistrate glowered nearby, the old miner explained that the day after Brut Legor left Roughstone, the mercenaries were hired and came for him in the night. He was placed under house arrest by the magistrate for defying his will and providing for those who were determined to be undeserving of wage. 48. Shortly after that the jail was built and the old miner became its first captive. 49. The other men in confinement were those who sought his release, either through refusal to do work or through active protest of the magistrate's judgment. 50. After many had been arrested, the will of the rest of the town had become broken, and the free men who remained had little strength to do other than act in thrall of the magistrate's wishes.
L51. Brut Legor's suspicions were confirmed, his anger, fully realized. He turned to the magistrate and asked, slowly, one question of the fallen judge. Where had the gold come from that built the prison for the innocent, that now lined the pockets of the mercenaries paid to guard his wicked life? 52. Clearly shaken, but confident of his strength and the position Brut Legor was in, the magistrate haughtily replied that it was the withheld wages that he had been hording, keeping from the families he had judged as unworthy of their monthly earnings. 53. Then, with the spears of the guards pointed at his throat, Brut Legor was commanded by the magistrate to leave Roughstone and not return. 54. For he claimed that the town was his to sit in judgment over, his to rule, and that The Just God's blessing was upon his right to govern the town as he see fit.
M55. Brut Legor, at the pinnacle of his fury, knew then that his presence in Roughstone had been ordained by The Just God, and that the Judgment of the magistrate was his to carry out. 56. Though he was alone and defenseless, surrounded by enemies, such was his faith in The Just God that he understood completely his role. 57. Within the heat of his own anger, then, Brut Legor felt a much more ancient rage dwelling up inside him and he understood that The Just God's grace was fully upon him. 58. As the mercenaries' spears drew closer to his neck he held aloft his empty arm and found his cudgel pressed into his open hand through the miracle of The Just God. 59. In a swift, experienced maneuver, Brut Legor felled both of the guards and turned his weapon upon the astonished magistrate.
N60. The prisoners were released in short order and Brut Legor, the magistrate his captive, led the evil man back to his adorned and lavish quarters. 61. There, Brut Legor looked about the room, at the opulence and waste, each whiff of incense and each glimmer of gold bought with the toil of honest men and the crime of depriving them of their due. 62. Brut Legor turned upon the magistrate to pronounce sentence. There was fury in his stance and every action he made betrayed the truth; there would be no mercy for pretenders to The Just God. 63. Brut Legor stepped forward, and raised his cudgel once more.
O64. The deed complete, Brut Legor stepped out upon the streets to the people of Roughstone, who awaited his direction obediently as the faithful of The Just God. The remainder of the mercenaries were dismissed by Brut Legor's piercing gaze and the stain of blood on his robes. 65. Brut Legor spoke to them, then. He spoke of their value as a people and their strength as worshipers of The Just God. 66. He spoke of the great things they had accomplished as a people and a kinship he had seen unequaled in his travels. 67. He called upon them to reclaim their lives as industrious, determined workers. 68. To tear down the corrupted courthouse that loomed above them and rebuild it with a renewed sense of resolve and faith. 69. To pursue with the same sense of holy purpose living a life blessed by The Just God.
P70. The old miner stepped out from the crowd. Gaunt and pale from months of captivity, the strength of his character still hung about his bony frame. 71. He took the wrist of Brut Legor and offered him praise and thanks, and then turned, himself, to the people of Roughstone. 72. With little more than a gesture and a grunt, the old miner beckoned forth the townsfolk, and led them back. Back to their homes. Back to the mines. Back to the tasks that formed the structure of their existence. Back to having the grace of The Just God upon them in every aspect of their being. 73. Brut Legor, secure in the belief that Roughstone would thrive, turned his back and set off on his next task in the name of The Just God.
A1. Kent Worden was a wise and learned man who had studied history and faith in the monasteries of The Just God for the greater part of his very long life. Often called upon to adjudicate disputes between kings and lords, his keen understanding of the purpose and meaning of law was well respected throughout the whole of the known Realm, and his faith in The Just God was beyond reproach. 2. Kent Worden had been journeying some forty-four days throughout the northern Realm, learning what he could of the people there and offering his humble services where they would be useful. 3. When he found himself in the large town of Mason Ridge his face was recognized in the town square, and people began to gather around him, hoping to hear him share his well-earned wisdom or to grasp his wrist in friendship and respect. 4. Kent Worden was obliged, then, to speak, out of thanks for those who had honored him and out of his calling to educate others in the ways of Justice.
B5. Kent Worden spoke before the people of Mason Ridge. 6. "The law is not the ultimate expression of Justice, as many would ask you to believe. Rather, the law is a flawed reflection of Justice. 7. The law is flawed not because it is without merit, not because its fails at its basic purpose of allowing civilization to thrive; it is flawed because it is a creation of mortal man. 8. Justice is immortal. It is divine. It is the very being of The Just God. 9. As a mortal could not stand before The Just God and perceive Him in all ways, a mortal cannot speak of Justice with true understanding of it. 10. The right of Judgment belongs only to The Just God. It is the weighing of our souls. Judgment, in the true sense of the word, is not the domain of man.
"C11. Must we then abandon the law as hopeless, knowing it cannot achieve perfection? I say to thee we must not, and we may not! 12. We cannot look upon the true form of The Just God, but we may still know Him! 13. We do not wield true Justice; our hands are unfit to do so, but we are not charged by The Just God to stand unarmed in the path of inequity and crime! 14. The law is our armament. It is not without tarnish, it is not free from flaw. But its edge may still be honed to blessed sharpness. Its blade may still be tempered by experience. Its hilt, gilded with the great purpose of protecting the innocent. 15. As Justice itself belongs to The Just God, the law belongs to us, His children, that we might seek His agency in the world.
"D16. The law, however, is too often misunderstood and misused. Too often, shortsighted men have faith in it as an absolute, as an immutable truth, as a dogma free from critique. 17. I say to you now, build not your courts out of stone, but out of straw! 18. For when courts are built of stone, along with them is built the belief that the law must endure unchanged. That it is reason free from circumstance. That we as mankind cannot move forward because our foundation is cold, dead, and still. 19. Better that our courts are fashioned from straw! Better that each year the windy season tears them asunder and forces us to rebuild, rethink, react! 20. Better that the court is at times on hill and at times in dale, its perspective changed and considered year after year! 21. For when courts are built from straw, along with them is built the belief that our work is never done. That each passing season will bring new challenge and new understanding. That our law must grow and change as we do as individuals and as a people.
"E22. Mistaken are those who maintain that it is the job of man to decide what is right and what is wrong. 23. Right and wrong are primal, ancient things that are far beyond our ken. 24. Our understanding of them was forged into our very being by The Just God. 25. When the world about us is filled with right, it is not our minds that recognize the tranquility, it is our hearts. 26. When a wrong has been committed, we recognize it not because we decide in our rational minds that it is wrong; not because we compare the occurrence to the volumes of law that we have accumulated over the ages. 27. We recognize a wrong not in our heads, but in the very core of our beings. Our mind does not recoil from the sight of it, our soul does!
"F28. Law then, is not the description of what is right and what is wrong. Law, by its very nature, can only be a description of what is lawful and what is unlawful. 29. If we say that something is right because of the law or wrong because of the law, our reason is insufficient. 30. Rather, we must say that something is right or wrong because of what we know in our hearts! 31. This reaction, this instinct that gives us the wisdom to discern right from wrong is The Just God's greatest gift. 32. How do we best repay this gift, then? How do we use it to its fullest potential? 33. When we craft our laws not out of duty to gold; not out of duty to kings; not out of duty to building mighty empires; not out of duty to felling our foes. 34. When we craft our laws out of duty to our hearts, out of duty to the inclinations of our souls, out of duty to the sense of right and wrong bestowed upon us; only then do we honor The Just God and show him thanks for his greatest gift. 35. The law can only be a reflection of His Justice if we make the best use of The Just God's gift!
"G36. How then must we construct our laws? How must we forge them from this raw understanding of Justice, this primal regard for righteousness that we inherit from The Just God? 37. Well constructed laws must have three facets to them to best reflect the will of The Just God. Lacking any of these facets, we must disregard any pretence that our laws reflect the purity of His Justice.
"H38. The first facet of law is that the law must give all people, regardless of their station or their means, equitable access to the law. 39. The part of our soul that understands Justice knows that it is blind, that each of us deserves to receive fair and equal treatment in the eyes of the law. 40. But the eyes of the law are human eyes. The eyes of the law do not have a steady gaze. The eyes of the law do not have true sight! 41. The eyes of the law are wanting. Their vision clouded by the trappings of fear and desire and sorrow. 42. Justice, then, blind of the differences between class and wealth, does not naturally come from the law. Rather, we must strive continuously to insure that the laws we create and the laws that we tend do not give way to this human failing. 43. Kings and farmers, knights and sheppards. Each must feel free to step before the law and be heard! 44. Justice exists for all people under the care of The Just God. So then, must law exist for all people, be them great or small!
"I45. The second facet of law is that the law must exist to protect what is righteous, and not to provide a safe haven for the wicked. 46. When laws are codified, we have no choice but to do so using the tools of human language. 47. But the tool of language is imperfect. It is a blunt, imprecise instrument that lacks the ability to convey true meaning. 48. Evil men gain license to act immorally when they find recourse or exception to do so within that law. But that is not Justice! 49. Justice does not provide a shield for the wicked to hide behind! The purpose of Justice is to deprive wickedness of its power. 50. Knowing that our language carries with it that fault, we must be vigilant of the evil that hides within the law. 51. We must empower our laws to find exception within themselves to punish the wicked and protect the righteous!
"J52. The third facet of law is that the law must find purpose outside of itself, and not simply exist as its own end. 53. Too often we become wed to the laws that are made. We hold them up as sacrosanct and have faith in them as the only fortification against chaos and fear. 54. In truth, law does have the power to stave off discord but we must be careful to what extent we do so. 55. To make too many laws, to make them without regard for brevity or intention, is to slowly trade away our freedom for security. 56. Each law we make binds ourselves to its consequences. Each edict restricts our ability to choose our own fates. 57. It is not the will of The Just God that we live each moment of our lives governed by strict code, but rather each day of our lives be our own quest to walk a path of righteousness. 58. To act with morality simply because we fear the law too much to do otherwise does not bring us closer to The Just God. 59. Each law we codify must be chosen carefully and considered thoroughly.
"K60. Only when we craft our laws in accordance with these wishes of The Just God can we have faith that he will smile upon us and bless us with wisdom and strength. 61. But then we must ask ourselves, with our laws constructed though His will, how best do we act as agents of The Just God in this world? 62. How are we called upon to act in the name of The Just God? How can we, not as magistrates, not as kings, not as knights, how can we as humble men and women further the cause of Justice throughout the Realm? 64. In order to live a life blessed by The Just God we must conduct ourselves according to three maxims of worship.
"L65. The first maxim of worship is to be a champion of Justice in the world. 66. Justice exists in many forms, both great and small, and it is only through pursuing that Justice in all ways that you do honor to The Just God. 67. In the most humble way, you act as a champion of Justice when you choose to live your life within a lawful society built upon trust and faith. Your calling, however, is greater than that alone!. 68. Always deal with others honestly and promote equity in all things. 69. Never take from another more than you have earned through effort and skill. 70. Respect, always, the laws blessed by following the facets of The Just God. 71. As a champion of Justice, the mark of The Just God sits well upon you.
"M72. The second maxim of worship is the be an agent of righteousness in the world. 73. The purveyors of evil and wickedness spread easily their poison into the hearts of the people of the realm, sowing fear and bitterness amongst men who are otherwise good and pious. 74. This seed of evil takes root when, because of that fear, men lose their hope for a life of order and virtue and law. 75. As an agent of righteousness, you are tasked to keep that hope alive in the hearts of men! 76. Oppose evil and wickedness in all of its many forms. 77. Call to Judgement those who are harbingers of malevolence. 78. Guard with unwavering duty the goodness all around you. 79. As an agent of righteousness, the sword of The Just God is yours to wield.
"N80. The third maxim of worship is to be a speaker of truth in the world. 81. Much of our existence is choked with the miasma of lies and falsehood. Men surround themselves with layers of deceit, not so much to commit evil as to protect themselves in a world they do not trust. 82. The return of that trust, the power to transcend that falsehood, lies in speaking the word of The Just God! 83. Be not false to those around you but let them understand the truth of who you are. 84. Openly proclaim yourself as a worshiper of The Just God and strive to bring others to His side by leading them with your example. 85. Teach others of the purposes of The Just God and tell them of the greatness they may achieve in seeking Him. 86. As a speaker of truth, the plan of The Just God has a role for you to play.
"O87. My good people of Mason Ridge..." Kent Worden paused and considered the people before him. The righteous and the Just, the pious and the diligent. 88. He knew them to be honest, worthy people who worked every day in their own humble ways to further the influence of The Just God in their lives. And as he summoned up the strength in his aged lungs to complete his speech, Kent Worden felt something else, something much greater, flowing through him and gathering in his breast. 89. Kent Worden spoke one more time before the people of Mason Ridge, and it was as if he had never spoken a word before as the word and will of The Just God echoed in his voice. 90. All those assembled understood and felt the presence of The Just God amongst them and knew that they were greatly blessed to have heard His voice once in their lives.
"P91. Faithful Men And Women Of Mason Ridge. Go Forth Now. Champion Justice. Promote Righteousness. Speak Truth. I Am With You, Always." 92. And the moment was over, and silence hung in the air of the town square, and the elder Kent Worden, spent with the effort of speaking for The Just God, collapsed to the ground. 93. And the good people of Mason Ridge, dutiful and kind, bore him up and took him to rest.
A1. Zel Gothen was a pious man who had spent many years in study of The Just God. 2. With The Just God by his side, he had overcome many hardships in his life. The loss of his home and wife, due to war. The loss of his two children each to a great sickness. 3. Though he bore great sadness for his losses, Zel Gothen had never lost his love for The Just God, nor his belief that his humble losses were somehow part of a greater Justice in the world beyond his ken. 4. With no earthly ties to a home or family, a venerable Zel Gothen felt a calling to go out into the unknown regions of the realm, serving The Just God as an ascetic.
B5. Zel Gothen came upon many wild peoples in his years of travel, and to each of them he preached the tenants of The Just God. 6. He lived among the Shore Walkers of the Marble Coast, culling the warring clans into a cooperative society governed by law. 7. He spent countless moons traveling with the nomadic men of the River Valley, educating their leaders to become fair and ethical adjudicators of their people's disputes. 8. He lingered for years with the reclusive warriors of the Reaching Stones until he could coax them out of their secret places and forge a lasting peace between them and the nearby people of Drury. 9. Through such methods did Zel Gothen spread the love and law of The Just God, and The Just God smiled upon him.
C10. In his fifty-second year of life, Zel Gothen crossed over the long barren expanse of the midrealm, seeking the Grassland Tribe of the Ghe. 11. Zel Gothen followed the will of The Just God and came upon them as the sun was just rising over the distant hills, and he beheld the great beauty of that land, and of the sprawling villages and tended fields that the Tribes of the Ghe had built. 12. The Ghe were a farming people, and had cultivated vast areas of land called Milpas for the growth of their livelihood. The Milpas stretched out far and wide and spoke of a people that understood that there was an order to the world. 13. The chief of the Ghe was a welcome and honorable host. As Zel Gothen expressed his desire to live among them for a time and share what wisdom he could, he was gifted by the Ghe people with a small house, and a Milpa of his own to work so as to grow his own personal crop.
D14. Having lived many years as an ascetic, Zel Gotten had little need of food. In a small corner of his Milpa he planted a humble crop of onions and potato, and went out amongst the Ghe to learn and teach what he could. 15. He found the Ghe to be a surprisingly cultured people, with art and dance that reflected a deep understanding of the beauty of existence. 16. He saw that they held the land itself up with great reverence, but had given scarce little thought to the pantheon of the gods. 17. In his observance of their peaceful and ordered life, Zel Gotten knew that the Grassland Tribes of the Ghe would do well as worshipers of The Just God.
E18. The first days amongst the Ghe were a source of great satisfaction to Zel Gothen. He spoke often with the chief of the Ghe, sharing his knowledge of The Just God and learning about the Ghe way of life. 19. He spent hours in meditation and thought with the priestesses of the Ghe as they divined the will of the land and he imparted to them the will and necessity of law. 20. He spoke with the children, smiling as they played their childish games, but also sitting them down to teach them the written word using texts of The Just God. 21. And he went amongst the Ghe people, tending their Milpas, listening to them sing to the land, letting them tell him the stories of their lives and their families, and telling them of his own travels, the other people of the realm, and how The Just God has guided him in his life's work.
F22. The days turned into weeks, and the humble crop of Zel Gothen began to grow. He had his first true meal in many days as he feasted on a broth of onion greens before he again went out to do the work of The Just God. 23. Yet, as Zel Gothen went to the door of the chief of the Ghe, he found it would not give way to his knocking. 24. He still sat amongst the priestesses, but they were slow to share their wisdom and paid him little import. 25. He went to the children and saw their play stop as he came nearby, and their attention drifted easily as he taught them to read the stories of The Just God. 26. He traveled to the people in their Milpas but found them uneager to share stories and impatient to listen to his own. 27. Zel Gothen grew confused and he went to his small house to pray to The Just God for guidance.
G28. The weeks passed and the moon ebbed to complete darkness, and the humble crop of Zel Gothen continued to grow. He felt a pang of satisfaction the first time his daily meal could be a bowl of boiled onions rather then simply a broth of their greens. 29. Zel Gothen then set out to spend another day learning what he could of the enigmatic Grassland Tribe of the Ghe. 30. Knowing the door of the chief would be closed to him; he went instead to the temples to pray with the priestesses, yet found them closed as well. Nor did the priestesses respond to his summons with Zel Gothen appealed to them to appear. 31. The children shied away from him when he walked to their playgrounds, and only very reluctantly did they sit to hear their lessons. 32. The Ghe people working their Milpas would not make eye contact with Zel Gothen, and they excused themselves quickly when he began to tell them his stories or speak of the Just God. 33. Zel Gothen knew that his presence among the Ghe had offended them in some way, but he could not discern how, nor coax any of the Ghe people to speak of it.
H34. The moon waxed and waned once more and Zel Gothen's crop was beginning to reach its time of harvest. He began to delight in his daily meal as he was able to season his modest bowl of boiled onions with the flowers from his potato plants. 35. Zel Gothen went out again amongst the reclusive Ghe people. His task was to accomplish the will of the Just God, even if it had become a more difficult task then when he had first started. 36. He knew that the chief and the priestesses would not yield to him his desire for audience, and so he went to the children for their lessons. 37. As Zel Gothen approached their playing grounds, however, he lamented at the faces of the children as they recoiled from him in fear. As he called out to them, they scattered and fled. 38. Crestfallen, Zel Gothen went among the Milpas to speak to the people of the Ghe. He found them stoic and unresponsive, and many bore him no mind at all. Worse yet, Zel Gothen felt from them an ire that he could not comprehend. 39. Zel Gothen felt despair for the first time. He felt in his heart that he had failed The Just God, but he could not understand why. 40. Zel Gothen retired to his small home and lamented.
I41. The moon waxed and waned again, and a weary and defeated Zel Gothen dug from his Milpa a harvest of dark potatoes. Finally able to eat a meal in full, Zel Gothen buried the starchy roots in the ashes of his hearth and smelled the deep aroma that pervaded the room. 42. As Zel Gothen had risen to his feet to retrieve them and fill his belly for the first time in many years, a loud knock resounded on the door of his home. Outside he could hear many voices. 43. In his venerable age, Zel Gothen moved slowly towards the door, but it burst asunder before he could reach it. 44. Into his home poured the Ghe people. Many looked angry, but what struck Zel Gothen the most were the few that peered into his eyes with great sadness and hurt. 45. The chief of the Ghe people spoke then with a voice full of thunder and spears. He spoke of a great injustice, a great evil. He spoke of a wound that the Ghe had sustained, greater than any other in twenty generations. 46. He spoke of the crime of Zel Gothen and the Milpa that had gone untended.
J47. In that moment of fear and confusion all of the efforts of Zel Gothen were finally torn asunder. His eyes widened as he began to comprehend how extensivly he had offended the Ghe people. 48. Zel Gothen understood then how sacred the link was between the Ghe and the Milpa, as deep and as profound as that between soul and flesh. 49. He realized the selflessness of the gift he received when the Ghe had allowed him to cultivate a Milpa of his own, and the honor they had bestowed upon him, an unknown guest, by allowing him to partake of the sacred connection between their people and the land. 50. And he recoiled in horror at how he had abused that gift and violated that trust by allowing so much of the Milpa to remain fallow. 51. Zel Gothen felt a weight upon his heart as great as the loss of his family, for his ignorance had hurt too many people too deeply to ever be pardoned. 52. He shuddered at the depth of his sin.
53. Zel Gothen, truly alone and despised amongst the Ghe people, fell to his knees then and cried out for forgiveness. 54. But it was not to the Ghe, nor to the sacred Milpa that he appealed. From the deepest regions of his soul, he knew that he had failed The Just God. 55. In neglecting, even through ignorance, the imporance of the Milpa to the Ghe, Zel Gothen had visited upon those people a great evil, a terrible wrong. 56. In front of the bewildered Ghe people Zel Gothen wept openly, choking out a plea to The Just God that his foolishness and his nescience had not shaken the faith and the profound harmony that the Ghe people had when he first wandered into their lands. 56. Zel Gothen, prostrate before The Just God, begged that the wrongs that he had done could be righted in some way, yet that his body, his mind, his soul, must be the payment for it.
L57. Zel Gothen's prayer did not go unanswered by The Just God. 58. There, as he cried before the people he had so greatly wronged, Zel Gothen was visited by the spirit and wisdom of The Just God. 59. His brow shone brightly as he was touched with the countenance of The Just God's mercy and forgiveness. 60. From his brow, the wisdom shone into the eyes of all of the Ghe, and through them into the land itself where the Milpas drank of it deeply. 61. In a moment that went by like an aeon, true understanding of one another resounded within the souls that were there. 62. The moment of clarity passed, and Zel Gothen rose unsteadily to his feet. He and the chief of the Ghe people exchanged a long look, for no longer were there any words that could be said. 63. Zel Gothen had been Judged and given penance by The Just God. 64. The Ghe people understood and accepted this judgement, and had forgiven Zel Gothen within their own hearts. 65. No person's tongue moved to labor this holy moment with speech.
M66. Zel Gothen, moved towards the door as the Ghe people made way for his passage. 67. With an aged, but purposeful hand, he picked up his trowel and walked with heavy steps toward the Milpa he had been granted. 68. Zel Gothen, Judged and sentenced by The Just God, began digging. There was much of the sacred Milpa that he had never touched, much of it's strength and kindness that he had never felt. 69. Zel Gothen knew now that in leaving idle this holy earth, he had lost out on so much of what he was there to learn. 70. The Ghe people watched for a time, and began to walk away one by one until only their chief remained. The chief of the Ghe stood in patient sentry as each clump of dirt was turned by the laboring Zel Gothen. 71. When the task was done, and the whole of the Milpa was ready for planting, only then did the chief of the Ghe finally speak; weighted, slow words that were in equal parts stern and kind.
"N72. You are Ghe now." said the chief of the Ghe. "You will plant and tend the Milpa. You will eat of its harvest and share it with others. You will learn how deep the roots of the Ghe hold onto the earth. You will comprehend the things about us that have remained hidden until now." 73. Zel Gothen opened his mouth to speak, but could find no words. 74. Zel Gothen met the steady gaze of the chief of the Ghe, and nodded his understanding. 75. "Good," responded the chief of the Ghe, "Tomorrow, come once again to my home. You will find that my door will be open to you. 76. Go then to the homes of the priestesses, there is much they will wish to teach you. 77. Go afterwards to the playing fields of the children as they will have need of the knowledge that you wield. 78. And finally, spend time again amongst the people and their Milpas and talk to them all about The Just God. We have all felt His presence in our lives now, and we will need you to guide us to his worship." 79. Then the chief of the Ghe walked away, leaving Zel Gothen alone with his thoughts, and the lingering blessing of The Just God.
A1. Ward Yannok was a herald and petty officer in the army of the Barony of Lymm, and an ardent follower of The Just God. 2. He had served as part of the army for the past five years, for in the Barony of Lymm, all men and women were pressed into obligatory military service when they turned sixteen, and released from their burden at the age of twenty-two. 3. As his time as a herald of the army was coming to a close, Ward Yannok was accompanied by an apprentice named Saf, who was learning from Ward Yannok how to one day assume his position as the new herald of his division.
B4. It was a hard time in the barony of Lymm. The neighboring Kingdom of Stalbridge had staged an invasion several years ago, around the beginning of Ward Yannok's time as a herald, and had been slowly conquering the barony of Lymm, river by river and town by town. 5. The great majority of Lymm's soldiers had died in battle over the years of war, and several regions that would normally send forth fresh troops had already fallen under the control of Stalbridge's ceaseless advance. 6. The Kingdom of Stalbridge was months, perhaps just weeks away, from total conquest of Lymm, and without some great act that would change the course of the war, little hope remained for the small barony.
C7. Ward Yannok was given a vital mission that his superiors believed had the potential to turn the tide of the long conflict. He was to travel to three towns that had not yet exhausted their supply of conscripted soldiers, and with them occupy the ancient and currently vacant fortress of Patina. 8. Once there, they would be able to seal of the most traversable part of the wide Cary River, and create a defensible northern border to hold the army of Stalbridge at bay.
D9. Ward Yannok beamed with pride, having been handed such an important task. He retrieved the brass horn that was the tool and token of his station, and along with his apprentice Saf, set out for the first of the towns where he was to sound the clarion call. 10. Along the way, Ward Yannok spoke to his apprentice, Saf, revealing to him the duties and complexities of being a herald, and also speaking to him of The Just God. 11. Ward Yannok explained to Saf that The Just God smiles upon those who serve loyally in the army of Lymm, for they are fulfilling their duty during their six years of labor so that those who are younger and those who are older can live a peaceful life.
E12. As the sun was just creeping over the eastern horizon, Ward Yannok and his apprentice arrived at the first town along their journey. 13. At the haphazard gates of the small hamlet, Ward Yannok raised his brass horn, and sounded the summons that would bring forth the new conscripts under his command. 14. Presently Ward Yannok saw them emerge from their homes and come forward towards the town gate. Quickly they moved, but every motion they made portrayed their lack of experience, and perhaps even a significant lack in training. 15. They were clearly recruits of the greenest kind. 16. Trained as a herald to raise the morale of men, Ward Yannok prepared to speak a boisterous and inspiring greeting to them all, but before he could begin, something that he saw gave him pause.
F17. The men seemed ill suited for war. Their armor hung too loosely, their helmets sat crooked on their brows, and their swords sat too heavily in their hands. 18. Upon closer inspection, Ward Yannok realized that these conscripts were little more than children. 19. He asked one of them their age; thirteen was her response. The next said fourteen. The next, eleven. 20. Something was wrong. The officers in command clearly had made an error in determining who was of the proper age to enter military service. 21. Ward Yannok considered for a moment how he should respond to this mistake and then spoke aloud to the young men and women in his herald's voice. 22. "Brave soldiers of Lymm. I have been dispatched here to tell you that you have been called to service too early. 23. But your resolve is true, and from the set of your stance it is clear to me that when your years of service come, you will make a fine addition to this army. 24. Go now and practice your swordplay. The need for your strength will come soon."
G25. There was relief and joy in the voices of the brave children and many came up to thank the herald personally for his complements. 26. Before long, Ward Yannok and his apprentice Saf found the road again and began to travel to the next town from which they would draw their forces. 27. For a time, Yannok wondered if a force reduced by one third could still complete their mission, but he pushed such idle thoughts out of his head. 28. He spoke to his apprentice, explaining to him why he felt it the Just thing to do to have left those soldiers at their homes. 29. To have taken those children to war with him would have been wrong. It was not their time yet to fight, to risk their lives. 30. Ward Yannok had recognized the mistake of his superiors and acted according to his belief in The Just God.
H31. As the sun reached its zenith overhead, Ward Yannok and his apprentice came upon the next town along their route. 32. Like before, Ward Yannok took from his side his ceremonial brass horn and blew it clear and strong to bring forth those who would join his command and endeavor to save their homeland. 33. For a time, nothing happened, and Ward Yannok wondered what had become of the people of this town. He raised the horn to his lips to sound it again when finally men clad in soldier's attire came out of their homes. 34. They were slow to move, however, and the keen eye of Ward Yannok did not miss it when several stumbled as they paced forward.
I35. As the conscripts knowingly formed their lines in front of the herald, Ward Yannok could see through their helmets the tufts of white hair, through the rings in their maile, wrinkled skin. 36. He asked one of the men their age. Fifty-three was his response. Another was forty-eight. Another, sixty-one. 37. This was indeed a strange error. Again, the leaders of his division must have made a great mistake, and even as Ward Yannok attempted to understand how such an error could happen, he began to suspect that it was not an error at all. 38. It was clear to the herald what he had to do. "Brave soldiers of Lymm," he began, "I have been sent here to tell you that there has been a mistake. You were summoned to war well past your time. 39. You will not be made to take up sword and spear once again after so many years. This country thanks you for the years of service you dedicated in your youth, and bids you to go back to your home and rest well."
J40. There were protests from those among soldiers who were willing to be called to war again in a time of great need, but such desires were put to rest as Ward Yannok bade them all farewell. 41. Soon he and his apprentice Saf were on the road again, moving towards the third and final town that housed conscripts for the completion of their important task. 42. Ward Yannok knew that with a much depleted force the mission would be a difficult one, and part of him regretted rebuffing the aid of the old soldiers. 43. Yet he knew he had abided by the Just path. 44. He spoke to Saf, explaining to him that those old men and women had already given their years in service to the army. They were promised a peaceful life afterwards in thanks for their efforts, and to transgress against that promise would be an act of deep betrayal. 45. He did not fully understand the actions of his superiors, but Ward Yannok chose to stay true to his belief in The Just God.
K46. As the sun inched towards the western horizon, Ward Yannok and his apprentice arrived at the last town where they were to recruit soldiers. 47. Somewhat apprehensive about what his brass horn would reveal, he took it up and sounded out a summons to those who were expecting to go to war. 48. As the doors to the homes opened, however, Ward Yannok stood aghast at the men and women who emerged. 49. One soldier, crutch in hand, swung himself forward using his one remaining leg. Another's right arm had been severed below the elbow. Yet another was missing her left hand. 50. Ward Yannok realized that these men and women were soldiers who had been maimed in the war and were still recovering. 51. Moved to tears, and without a thought, Ward Yannok levied his herald's voice and said "Brave Soldiers of Lymm. 52. It is a great error that brought me here this day to summon you again to war. You have already given enough. You have already made sacrifices on behalf of your country. 53. I bid you now to go back to your convalescence and know that all of us are in your debt."
L54. A great many of the young men and women insisted that they were ready to return to battle, to death if need be, but Ward Yannok could not abide any further martyrdom on their behalf. 55. He said his goodbyes and before long Ward Yannok and his apprentice Saf had continued on their journey, no destinations remaining other than the Fortress of Patina on the River Cary. 56. Ward Yannok marched onward towards the final destination of his task. 57. He was silent as he traveled, and after a time his apprentice Saf, used to hearing his master speak aloud his thoughts and convey his teachings, could not help bust ask Ward Yannok what they were to do now.
M58. Ward Yannok considered this for a few moments and then began to speak. Not in his herald's voice of command, but as a teacher talking to a student. 59. In tones betraying a great sadness, Ward Yannok said, "Truly it is a sign that the Barony of Lynn will not stand much longer. I suspected it as we neared our destination, but now I am sure. 60. There are precious few soldiers left to recruit. We have been pushed to our limits in resources and in manpower. 61. That the officers of this army would call upon the young, and the old, and the wounded shows the great desperation that they now feel. 62. Yet how could I, Saf? How could I bring to battle those who had not the strength or experience to even hold their swords? 63. How could I bring to battle those who have already given the time that was asked of them long ago and have earned in full measure the rest they were promised? 64. How could I bring to battle those who had already made the greatest sacrifices, giving of their bodies to keep the rest of the country safe?"
N65. Saf nodded his understanding but still pressed Ward Yannok to answer his question; what fate awaited now the both of them, having still a mission to complete and no army with which to do so? 66. Ward Yannok lost himself in thought for a time and then spoke again, a sense of conviction returning to his voice. "Our commanders have lost their way, of that there can be no doubt. In their fear and hopelessness they have lost their sense of Justice and their belief in the system by which we have all lived our lives. 67. But I will not do so. I will abide by the teachings of The Just God. 68. I told you before, Saf, that The Just God smiles upon those who serve faithfully in the army of Lynn, and I will serve with faith until I breathe my last. 69. I will go on to the Fortress of Patina and I will attend to my task, doing everything within my power to hold it against the forces of Stalbridge. 70. I will certainly die in the attempt, but in doing so I will have served both my country and my faith."
O71. Ward Yannok traveled onward then with a strength and confidence in his step that caused his apprentice to have to labor to keep pace. 72. As the first stars began to appear overhead, and Ward Yannok and his apprentice Saf crested the top of a great hill, the ancient Fortress of Patina stood mightily against the dim backdrop of the sky. 73. Beyond it, across the river Cary, countless spots of torchlight dotted the hillside. 74. With his experienced eyes, Ward Yannok estimated the size of the enemy force, easily twenty times the size of the makeshift army his superiors had planned for him to cobble together from those who did not deserve to die. 75. The hopelessness of the situation came as a great relief to Ward Yannok, for he took it as a sign from The Just God that the hard choices he made along his journey were the correct ones, and now there was but one more remaining.
P76. Ward Yannok turned to his apprentice Saf and said to him; "Saf, you have done well to follow me here, and you have shown me the depth of your loyalty and valor. 77. Now, however, I dismiss you from my service. I will go on to complete the mission that our commanders gave to me. 78. You must go back and report to them what I have done, and what they have failed to do, for that is the duty of a herald, and that is the duty of a follower of The Just God."
Q79. Saf opened his mouth for a moment to protest, but upon seeing the determination in Ward Yannok's eyes, he only returned the seriousness of the gaze, and saluted to Ward Yannok his understanding. 80. Saf turned and left, then, and the darkness soon hid his departure. 81. Ward Yannok, alone, but still with a duty to fulfill, marched onward to the gates of the Fortress of Patina. Found his way inside the ancient doorway. Climbed up onto the reaches of its highest tower. 82. From there, Ward Yannok took from his belt the horn that symbolized his duty, that symbolized his faith, and let sound from it a brazen call that rang out across the river, across the landscape, across the whole of the Barony of Lymm. 83. With his brass horn Ward Yannok sounded out his warning to the army on the other shore. 84. A warning that the Fortress of Patina was now garrisoned by the army of the Barony of Lymm. 85. And as the blast trumpeted through the hearts of all that could hear it, there was something great and mighty and supremely Righteous within the depth of the instrument's tone.
A1. Gram Taggart was a respected magistrate with many years on his shoulders, and who had spent his distinguished career serving The Just God, sitting in judgment over the disputes of the people. 2. In the City of Wilhelm, Gram Taggart sat alongside six other judges to form the Court of the Wise, a group of equally reputed arbiters who assembled in order to preside over the most difficult matters of law in the city. 3. Even at his venerable age, Gram Taggart was the least senior of the judges there, each of them appointed to their position by the Council of Lords, each of them beyond reproach in their understanding of the laws of Wilhelm.
B4. It was not often that the Court of the Wise was summoned, only when a matter of great importance needed to be weighed were they called from their normal duties as adjudicators. 5. It was a night in early spring when Gram Taggart was visited by a court messenger and told that he and his colleagues were needed to sit in judgment the next morning and that Wilhelm again had need of his sagacity and experience.
C6. Gram Taggart arrived at the House of Law early in the morning. Alongside his six compatriots he took his seat at the long bench reserved for when they presided over a dispute. 7. Sitting at the far left of the long oaken counter, Gram Taggart could see to his right the six judges with whom he shared this honor. Gram Taggart looked along the mammoth table and considered will these colleagues with whom he had become so familiar. 8. Each of them had proved their worth as a judge, and each of them brought a different perspective to their interpretation of the law.
D9. Closest to him was Polonis, a good man from a wealthy merchant family that had maintained their holdings from the very birth of the city. 10. Next to him sat Vindic, who had presided over the trials of the most dangerous criminals in the history of Wilhelm. 11. The next seat was taken by Doubis, a dutiful man who had always displayed great loyalty and patriotism towards the city. 12. Beside him was Rhegan, who was actually in line for the succession of lordship until he chose instead to pursue the path of law. 13. Next sat Lorac, who dealt mostly with the disagreements and disputes between the peasantry. 14. Finally there was Ordell, a man who had worked his way up through the ranks from being a neighborhood constable, and who well appreciated the structure that law provided to society.
E15. All seven men of The Court of the Wise sat at their great bench and prepared to hear a difficult matter of law. 16. As was custom, the judges knew nothing about the case they were about to preside over, thus they could bring in no bias to tarnish the purity of their decisions. 17. Into their courtroom then, a man was lead by chains. He was dirty and calloused, clothed in rags, and the limp in his step was pronounced. 18. The courts of Wilhelm were well accustomed to dealing with characters of ill repute, but it was rare that a criminal trial would be heard by The Court of the Wise; their domain being mostly the disputes among the gentry. 19. Gram Taggart raised his eyebrows at the oddity of the sight, but not nearly so much as when the next man burst through the doors.
F20. Preceded by retainers and vassals, one of the lords of Wilhelm himself strode into the courtroom. 21. Seldom would any lord of the city appear in court, more often an advisor would appear on their behalf. Yet even more strange was this apparent showing of a lord at a criminal trial. 22. Everything before Gram Taggart's eyes spoke of an exceptional situation, which would no doubt require an exceptional solution. 23. He felt his duty to The Just God heavily, then. It was in these kinds of exceptional cases where the path to Justice was often hard to see.
G24. In turn, each man, the lord and the criminal, spoke and made their cases before The Court of the Wise. 25. The lord explained that the unsavory man used to serve him as his stable master until he was dismissed for insubordination. 26. He had been seen sneaking into the personal treasury of the lord and apprehended as he attempted to lay his hands on a rare good that was worth a great deal of money. 27. The lord made it clear as well that he had demanded this case be heard by the Court of the Wise to make an example to all of the city, that to act in defiance of the Council of Lords was the worst kind of crime, and that the stable master's sentence must reflect that reality.
H28. Then, the criminal, the former stable master, spoke. He told the court that he had served the lord faithfully for three decades. 29. That, although his treatment in that household was rarely kind, he had been a loyal and worthy servant who always acted in the best interests of the lord's horses. 30. That he had never, while he was a part of that household stolen a thing or committed a single impropriety. 31. The stable master then freely admitted that he did attempt to take from the lord an item of great value, but he begged the indulgence of the Court of the Wise to let him establish why.
I32. The stable master explained that he had a son who was very sick, a disease, unnatural in origin, had drained from the boy all of his strength until he could do naught but linger in his bed and await death. There was, however, a chance for his son to recover. 33. There was an old witch who had divined that the pollen of the potent, but rare, yulue flower would yield a panacea for the disease. 34. Yet the scarcity and relative obscurity of this plant made affording one impossible for a servant. 35. The stable master had little choice but to approach the lord for help. 36. With feigned benevolence, the lord offered to purchase a specimen of the yulue flower, but in return for the vast sum that it would cost him, the stable master's son, himself, would have to be the payment. 37. That a lifetime of servitude by the boy would be the only worthy compensation that any one of the peasant class could offer.
J38. Crestfallen, but out of options, the stable master agreed to these terms. The yulue flower was purchased, then, and a great herbalist was employed to create the tincture that would save the boy's life. 39. Yet when the time came to administer the drug, the stable master's son refused it. He had seen the cruelty with which his father was treated as a servant in that lord's house, and maintained that he would rather die than be sold into servitude for the price of the potion.
K40. Overwhelmed with rage, the lord dismissed the stable master from his employ. The potion, mixed and ready to use was locked into the lord's treasury, and the boy was sent home in order to die a slow death. 41. The stable master, driven only by love for his son, felt he had no option but to thieve the antidote, no matter the consequences that came thereafter. 42. He was apprehended in his attempt to do so, thrown into prison, and in the days where he sat waiting to come before the courts, his son had passed away from his illness.
L43. The lord verified that the stable master's story was true, and maintained that none of it had any bearing upon the case. 44. He demanded that the stable master's crime be well known and that a harsh punishment be handed down in order to maintain the social order and the sanctity of the laws of Wilhelm. 45. Having heard the accounts of both of the parties, it was time for the Court of the Wise to move to their chambers and render their verdict. 46. Gram Taggart rose with his colleagues and they made their way to the back of the House of Law.
M47. Once inside their cloistered room, the matter of the guilt and punishment of the stable master was weighed by each of the members of the Court of the Wise. 48. Yet, as they discussed what a fitting punishment could be given the difficult circumstances and the desires of the lord, Gram Taggart felt the presence of The Just God deep within his chest. 49. A thought pierced him, and he said in a loud clear voice heard over the din of his compatriot's discussions "I feel that we should levy no punishment at all upon the stable master."
N50. At once there was outrage from the other members of the Court of the Wise. Before them was a criminal who had admitted his guilt freely. 51. There was no discussion to be had over whether or not he should be punished, only to what degree of severity his punishment would have. 52. Yet Gram Taggart maintained his stance, that the stable master was worthy of no punishment at all. And, with the understanding that his burden would be to defend his unconventional point of view, he asked each of them to make their argument against him.
O53. Polonis began, stating that the flower the lord purchased was an expensive commodity paid for with gold, and that the purpose of the law was to protect the wealth and holdings of the people of Wilhelm. 54. Gram Taggart responded, "What purpose does wealth have? Is not gold nothing more than a rock that shines in the sunlight? 55. Gold only has value because of the good that it can do on behalf of those who spend it. A single copper to buy a poor meal of onion and broth for a starving man is worth more than the heaps of gold locked away in the vaults of all the lords. 56. The yulue flower was worth a great deal to the stable master because it was the cost of his son's life. To the lord, the flower was worth nothing and the shiny rocks he parted with, sitting idle in his treasury, were equally worthless."
P57. The Court of the Wise considered well this understanding of wealth and the purpose of property, and there was understanding amongst some of them. 58. Vindic responded then, explaining that the purpose of law is to punish those who are guilty, and that the actions of the stable master demanded the retribution by the system of law by which they all lived. 59. Gram Taggart responded, "How can we know that our laws are correct if in enforcing them we visit evil upon those not deserving of it? 60. One of the aims of law, no doubt is to ferret out and punish evil in our midst. Yet can any of us hold up the actions of the stable master as truly evil? 61. Perhaps, by allowing his son to die, the laws of our society are inadequate to eradicate the evil around us. Should we not, then, as judges, rise above those inadequacies and revise our understanding of the law? 62. Let us be part of the solution here instead of, in ignorance, allowing the problem of evil to continue."
Q63. The Court of the Wise thought long upon the nature of law, and a few of them nodded their appreciation. 64. Next to speak was Doubis, who maintained that leniency towards the stable master might give others who seek to steal license to do so, allowing the criminals of the city the thought that they can escape punishment. 65. Gram Taggart responded, "There must me a distinction in the law between those who commit crimes and those who are criminals. Criminals seek to profit from the loss of another, they are motivated by greed or vengeance or perhaps something worse. 66. A good man might commit a crime without being or becoming a criminal and if he does it should be taken as a sign to us that it was our failure as the creators and the interpreters of the law to create laws that safeguard good men. 67. What we seek to do now is not the punishment of a criminal. If it was, you would have my silence."
R68. The Court of the Wise reflected upon crime and criminals and several of them voiced their agreement. 69. To that Rhegan responded, claiming that their responsibility as judges was to maintain the social order and the authority of the lords of Wilhelm. In taking action against a lord, the stable master had wounded the foundation of their society. 70. Gram Taggart responded, "The people do not exist as fodder, as nothing other than subjects to be ruled by their lords. 71. Rather, the lords exist to protect the livelihoods of the people in their care. 72. You claim that an affront to the authority of a lord erodes our society, and perhaps you are right that it is harmful. Much worse, however, is when a lord through his own callous inaction allows harm to befall those who he is charged to preserve. 73. The social contract between ruler and ruled was broken first by the lord here, not by the stable master."
S74. The Court of the Wise long contemplated the relationship between lord and peasant and many of them spoke out their concurrence. 75. Lorac then spoke, indicating that he had much sympathy for the stable master, but saw little reason to grant him leniency. For, if the lord had treated him so inequitably, then it was up to him to use the due course of the law to seek a solution rather than resort to an immoral action. 76. Gram Taggart responded, "Indeed working within the law is the best of all paths, yet only when that law provides equitable access to Justice for all people. 77. Perhaps we should take it as a sign that our law lacks that quality. If the stable master came before the courts with his grievance, would the courts have not sided with the lord? 78. If the stable master truly believed that the only path open to him was to work outside the law, should we not take that as indication that our laws were not sufficient to protect him and his son, that he did not harbor the belief that the law could offer him any aid? 79. Should we not admit that the death of his son is in part our doing?"
T80. The Court of the Wise deliberated over the adequacy of their own laws and most of them found a common understanding. 81. Finally, Ordell had his say, warning that their power as the Court of the Wise was invested in them by the power of the lords. If the decisions that they as a group render seem like they no longer support the aims of the rulers of the city then perhaps their authority could be revoked. 82. Gram Taggart responded "Perhaps that is the case. In fact, I believe it is the most likely outcome if the lot of you finds my arguments worthy and my decision correct. 83. But our duty lies not with satisfying the politics of the lords, but rather in seeking Justice however we can. 84. If in doing so we are dismissed from the roles we were given then Wilhelm was never the mainstay of law that it laid claim to. 85. Regardless, if this to be our last ruling, then it should be one built upon the teachings of The Just God, and we should have faith that rendering Judgment in his name will not bring us to harm."
U86. With that, the whole of the Court of the Wise had had their say. Gram Taggart looked upon all of their faces and could see in their eyes resolve and agreement as to the course of action they must all take. 87. They exchanged a few other words, deciding upon the language and the specifics of their ruling, and found their way out of their chambers and back to the oaken bench where they would pronounce the results of their long debate. 88. Presently, the lord and the stable master were called back into the house of law. They stood, the stable master weak and afraid, the lord confident and expectant. The rest of the Court of the Wise looked over at Gram Taggart, for it was his privilege, and his burden, to render their findings.
V89. Gram Taggart spoke. "Stable master, you are guilty of the crime of theft, yet this court shall levy against you no fine and no punishment, for we have found that you had no other recourse. In this case you did not fail your obligation to the law so much as that the law failed to find any kind of Justice for you and your son. For that we are sorry and you are free to go."
W90. There was astonishment and relief on the face of the stable master, and through tears he mouthed a silent thanks to the Council of the Wise and to The Just God as his chains were removed and he was helped out of the room. 91. The look of indignation on the face of the lord, then, was terrifying, and he drew in his breath to bellow a response. 92. He was cut short, however, by the overwhelming bang of Gram Taggart's gavel. 93. As the sound echoed across the room a greatness of spirit could be heard resounding within it, and it was clear to all present that the manifestation of The Just God existed in the words that were about to be uttered. The lord, hushed and humbled, stood in fearful silence.
X94. The firm and steady tone of Grim Taggart spoke. "Lord," he said "we have also found that the actions you took, while within the bounds of our currently written laws, lacked the virtues of Justice and Righteousness. 95. You allowed that child to die when you had the means to stop it from happening. It is the finding of this court that you are to be detained in custody until we can present the case against you to the rest of the Council of Lords. 96. Perhaps they will take no action the punish you. Perhaps they will relieve us of our obligation as judges, offended by our presumption. 97. Their decision, and the events to follow them, will determine if Wilhelm can stand as a bastion of law and order or if your wickedness is a herald of the grim future of this city. 98. We, however, will continue to act as agents of The Just God as long as we are able to." 99. And with a final bang of his gavel, Gram Taggart called to close that session of the Court of the Wise.
A1. Ella Petra was an explorer of great fame, and a faithful worshiper of The Just God as well. 2. Embracing a love for adventure and a curiosity about the ancient secrets of the world, she traveled about the realm on great expeditions for both treasure and knowledge. 3. It was not uncommon that some noble or government would employ Ella Petra to quest on their behalf, and it was for that reason that she found herself in the kingdom of Brookefield, called before his royal majesty who she knew to be a good man, and who wished to broker for her services.
B4. The king, an eccentric who often sought out and purchased ancient artifacts, had hired Ella Petra a number of times to seek for him several invaluable items. After all, she called The Just God her patron, and there were few honest folk in the business of treasure hunting. 5. This time his eyes sparkled as he talked about his latest quarry, an ancient statue of marble that was reputably used by past civilizations as an instrument for marking the passage of time and in their worship of the stars. 6. Such a discovery would no doubt carry a wealth of information about the past, and Ella Petra shared the king's desire to bring its secrets into the light for the world to understand. 7. The king promised her a suitable fee for the endeavor, and put in her command three units of soldiers. 8. For the last known location of the ancient statue was in the untamed north, a region shrouded in mystery and danger, and a place few could travel without fear for their lives.
C9. Making a journey to the untamed north was not a feat to be taken lightly, and Ella Petra was not a foolhardy woman. 10. It took a number of days to put together the supplies and chart the course that would be taken. Nonetheless, within a week's time, Ella Petra and the soldiers under her command left the kingdom of Brookefield along with two wagons and a half-dozen horses. 11. For three weeks they traveled through the known realm over the cart-roads well worn by years of trade and passage. 12. Then, as if a curtain was drawn over the sky, the temperature dropped and a dirty cloud-wrack blotted out the sun. 13. Ella Petra and her band had entered the untamed north.
D14. There was precious little information by which Ella Petra could set her course for the ancient statue, but her cause was worthy and The Just God smiled upon her for her bravery. 15. Guided by intuition and the scattered knowledge she had about these bleak lands, Ella Petra led the soldiers onward into the frosted terrain. After another week of travel, of bitter, forced marching during the short days and long anxious nights that offered little rest, the group did finally find their reward. 16. As they crested the top of an icy hill they could see it in the distance. In a small valley between two unspeakably large mountains sat the marble artifact. 17. In joyous celebration, the band of soldiers set out to rush forward, but a warning command from Ella Petra bade them to stop.
E18. For while the men and women in her command had focused their eyes upon their rare prize, the experienced gaze of Ella Petra had seen instead the odd and unexpected. 19. She noted quickly that the mountains on either side of the valley were speckled with the mouths of caverns, and from those caverns, she could see people beginning to emerge. Whether they had not noticed Ella Petra and her band or whether they were simply uninterested was not clear. 20. The adventurers stood in marked silence as these native people, clad in leather and furs, left their dens and surrounded the marble statue in the valley. 21. There they began a dance, or a ritual, or both, clearly honoring the artifact and whatever strange meaning it held for them. 22. Minutes later, when their worship was finished, they all sat in place and seemed to relax into idle conversation.
F23. Ella Petra took this as leave to reveal herself, and as she emerged over the top of the hill, the voices stopped and the many eyes of the native people were upon her. She told her soldiers to reveal themselves but to stay in place, and slowly, with her hands raised, she walked towards the statue, and the strange people whom she did not expect to find. 24. As she got closer, she could feel no small measure of apprehension from her observers, and when she was only a spear's throw away, Ella Petra called out her greetings to the people clad in leather and fur.
G25. A moment of silent tension stretched itself out between Ella Petra and the native people, and then, with hardly a moment's warning, they were upon her with greeting and smiles and questions. 26. Whoever these strange people were living in the untamed north; they were certainly a friendly lot. Ella Petra motioned for the soldiers in her command to come forward, and the two sets of people exchanged greetings and conversation for the few hours of daylight that still remained.
H27. From her discussion with members of the native people, Ella Petra learned that the oldest members of the tribe remembered journeying from the southern realm when they were very small, driven northward by some enemy who was ridding their lands of their people. 28. They remembered traveling for countless days, wandering the desolate landscape, scrounging out what existence they could, despairing all the while. Many died. 29. Then, when little hope remained for their exodus, they stumbled upon the valley and the marble statue there. As they looked upon its majestic form they could feel warmth flowing in their veins and hope returned to them. 30. Taking it as a sign from the gods that this was their new home, and the artifact a gift in their time of need, the people clad in leather and furs built their new lives into the warm embrace of the mountains and had remained there for three generations.
I31. As the moon rose and darkness descended, Ella Petra and her soldiers were invited into the caverns to and the hospitality of the native people, but the explorer declined the offer, saying that her people would be more comfortable in their tents and wagons which they hurried to ready before nightfall. 32. Soon afterwards, in the structure that served as the officer's tent, Ella Petra was joined by the captains of each of the units of soldiers in her care. 33. Though Ella Petra had solicited no advice from the lot of them, they were each eager to share their opinions with her.
J34. The captain of the first unit began, suggesting that though the statue was large, he was confident that they could load it silently on one of their wagons and escape unheard in the dead of the night. 35. The captain of the second unit spoke next stating that such stealth was a waste of effort and that fear of the soldier's weapons and armor would keep the native people away as they loaded and took the statue the next morning. 36. The captain of the third unit then had her say, suggesting that they not take such a risk and first use their might to detain the native people until they could get the statue safely placed on a wagon and be on their way.
K37. In hearing the opinions of each of the captains, Ella Petra was taken aback by the horror of their intentions. 38. She spared no effort chastising them for their callousness and the wickedness of their plans. 39. As a treasure hunter, Ella Petra had taken many things, forgotten by time, from the deep and secret places of the earth, but steeling from a people the source of their hope and strength was an action that The Just God would never abide from one of His followers. She dismissed the captains from her presence. 40. Yet, as Ella Petra prepared herself for her night's rest, she could not help but admit to herself that she did not know what to do next.
L41. In the respite of her slumber, the agency of The Just God found Ella Petra and she awoke understanding the correct path. 42. She could not take from these native people the artifact that now belonged to their culture, but while she had the time to study it she could carve a suitable copy and bring that back to the king with her story. 43. He would, of course, not be completely satisfied. She would, of course, not have earned the full measure of her pay. But she knew the king to be a good man who would not wish these people to be harmed in order to satiate his passions for ancient history.
M44. Ella Petra went to the native people to barter. She realized that to carve out their homes from the barren rock, the people clad in leather and furs must be skilled masons, and that they must have tools worthy of such great feats. 45. In exchange for many days worth of supplies, Ella Petra traded for hammers and picks and chisels, and she led her band of soldiers into the mountains to find a vein of marble. 46. There was unrest within the ranks. The soldiers clearly shared the inclinations of their captains, and saw the work they were now engaged in as unnecessary and foolish. 47. The search was not a quick one. The minutes stretched into hours and it wasn't until the darkness began to creep across the landscape that a suitable vein of the mineral had been found. 48. Marking well its location, Ella Petra led the soldiers in her command back to the valley for their night's rest.
N45. With faith in The Just God, Ella Petra found easy sleep, but awoke in the morning to discover a third of her camp missing. 46. The two remaining captains told her that the captain of the first unit had taken his soldiers and deserted during the night, making their way back to Brookefield to report on the foolishness of the explorer and her plan. 47. Ella Petra's heart sank, but she was not to be distracted from the Righteousness of her work. With the two remaining units of soldiers by her side, Ella Petra again entered the mountains and again found the marble they had searched so long to locate the day before.
O48. Armed with hammers and picks and chisels, the two remaining units of soldiers fell upon the mountainside to free the hunk of marble. 49. It was relentless work, labor of a kind that they had not been trained for, and it took a quick and heavy toll upon their strength and upon their morale. 50. As the day began to wane, however, they succeeded in their task and the great block of stone broke away from the face of the mountain. 51. Just in time to escape the dangerous mountain paths before the darkness overcame the valley, Ella Petra and the soldiers made it back to their camp and retired for a well earned rest.
P52. Again, with the knowledge that her cause was honest and true, Ella Petra slept deep and well, but again awoke to a lamentable sight. Another unit of her army had left in the night. 53. The remaining captain told her that the captain of the second unit, disgusted with the suitability of Ella Petra's command, had deserted in the night and fled with his soldiers back to Brookefield where they would no doubt speak of the explorer's unworthiness and betrayal. 54. Ella Petra felt the deep pains of grief, then, but was resolved to continue what she knew was the right and noble path.
Q55. Only a third of her original force remained, but Ella Petra knew it would have to be enough to retrieve the block of marble and allow her continue with her work. 56. With ropes and planks and labored step after labored step, Ella Petra and the soldiers pulled the great stone through the narrow paths and down the mountain. 57. It was slow, difficult work, and the danger of it angered many of the soldiers whom Ella Petra commanded. It took many hours, but by the setting of the sun the block of marble had descended the crags and cliffs and now sat in the valley beside the statue that it was destined to mimic. 58. Sore and exhausted, Ella Petra and the soldiers in her command went to their tents.
R59. Knowing that she had stood by her duty to The Just God, Ella Petra quickly fell to sleep that night, and awoke the next morning to find her heart rendered. 60. The third captain, in the dead of the night, had taken what was left of the soldier's in Ella Petra's command, and had left. No doubt to return to their homeland like the others and speak ill of the good intentions of the explorer. 61. Yet, even without a single ally amongst her save a horse left with the remaining wagon, Ella Petra did not lose faith in the worthiness of her plan. 62. The marble had been brought down to the valley, and even without a single bit of aid she could take chisel and hammer and craft a copy of the statue to bring with her back to the king of Brookfield, be it months or years in the making.
S63. She began her work then. Chisel and mallet in hand, ancient statue in her sight, Ella Petra brought the might of her conviction and faith to bear on the hunk of solid rock, and it began to give way to her determination. 64. And as each impact of the hammer to the chisel, and the chisel to the rock, rang out in echo throughout the valley of the native people, something unexpected began to happen. 65. As each peal of the chisel resonated throughout the caverns, something deep and powerful within their chimes began to call out to the people clad in leather and furs. 66. They recognized some kind of truth among each knell, for the countenance of The Just God was interred within them, and as the native people struggled to make sense of what they beheld, they began to understand that the labor of Ella Petra was for their sake. And that it had cost her a great deal to pursue it.
T67. From their homes in the sides of the mountains, the native people descended. 68. With their own hammers and chisels in hand they came upon the block of marble that Ella Petra had freed and in only a few short hours their combined efforts and skills produced a new statue of marble, indistinguishable from the old, betrayed only by its freshness. 69. Ella Petra was overjoyed, and thanked the native people deeply for their gift. 70. It was then that the eldest among them spoke to her in a sturdy voice.
U71. "This statue that we have carved is not a gift to you. 72. We know that your original aim was to take back with you the object of our worship and the source of our hope. We know that you have given up a great deal to protect us and to preserve our hope when others would steal it away. 73. We know these things because we heard them in each strike of your hammer. 74. Something ancient and mighty came to us then, as each blow hit the rock, and its grace settled upon our shoulders. 75. My people, through those chimes, have regained a strength that has been lacking in us for three generations, when the despair of these barren lands first took it. 76. Together, we have carved this new statue to help us remember you and the gift that you have given us. The statue that you came here in search of, it is yours to take."
V77. Ella Petra was overcome and could do little but weep and smile her deep gratitude. 78. Onto the remaining wagon, the native people helped load the ancient statue that was Ella Petra's original quarry, and the strongest of them climbed on board with her to make the journey and to tell their story to the king of Brookestone. 79. As the wagon rolled away, Ella Petra felt deep in her heart the love of The Just God, and she knew that she had served him well both in honoring her obligation to Justice, and in bringing an understanding of him to these people of the untamed north.
A1. Korin Matrim was a humble soldier of the rank and file, and a pious worshiper of The Just God for all of her life. 2. Serving the country of Riverbend as a pikeman in their infantry, Korin Matrim took orders well, understood her duty to her comrades and commanders, and fought with great faith that The Just God held her close to His heart. 3. For fourteen years the country of Riverbend and the country of Low Meadow waged war over rights to the fertile land between them. 4. Bitterness and hatred flowed from the endless months of conflict, and Korin Matrim grew up knowing that those from Low Meadow were nothing more than hated enemies. 5. She had joined the army seventeen months before, when she was finally of age, to fight on behalf of her beloved Riverbend and stand against what she considered a great injustice, Low Meadow's claim to Riverbend's territory.
B6. It was but six months after she first swore her oaths as a soldier, everything about Korin Matrim's world changed. In the very fertile land over which so much blood was spilt, the earth was torn asunder, and from chasms deep and dark arose a new, greater enemy. 7. Legions of foul spirits and demonic monsters spewed from the land, greedily pushing forward from their beachhead, driving back both the soldiers of Riverbend and Low Meadow. 8. Korin Matrim, on the field that day, beheld with her young eyes displays of evil and carnage that chilled her very soul and that troubled her sleep each night afterwards.
C9. Though divination and prayer, the priests of both countries learned that the many years of hatred and bloodshed had weakened the spiritual strength of the land between them, and that these denizens from the underworld exploited that vulnerability towards their own wicked purposes. 10. Faced with an enemy beyond their combined experiences and understandings, a fast, yet uneasy alliance was forged between Riverbend and Low Meadow. 11. Korin Matrim, taught from a young age to despise the thieves from Low Meadow, now found herself their comrade-in-arms, standing beside them in the rank and file, ready to face an unearthly enemy with much more at stake than the rights to the now destroyed fertile land.
D12. The remaining soldiers of both countries were pressed together into a single haphazard army in order to withstand a superior foe, but old hatreds deeply forged do not simply vanish due to circumstance. Between the two, great animosity still existed. 13. Brawls and arguments amongst the troops were common, and the honor and trust that is necessary between comrades on the field of war evaporated, as neither side had any faith in the other. 14. The fear of betrayal and the shadow of distrust loomed over the battlefield as the war against the demon army stretched into weeks and into months.
E15. Korin Matrim saw her own unit mostly obliterated with the first appearance of the demons, and so was placed amongst a company of pikemen from Low Meadow. 16. She found no peace amongst her fellows, but her faith in The Just God preserved her. 17. Korin Matrim understood that duty was part of that faith, and though she could not overcome her hatred, she pushed it aside in order to serve Riverbend and in order to oppose the servants of evil that now held all of their lives under siege. 18. Still, her life amongst the soldiers of Low Meadow was not an easy one and she sometimes despaired. The little slights that they levied against her wore down on her soul, in particular at mealtimes, where she was forced to be last in the mess tent and often was left with very little food, if any, that was not the last, burnt scrapings. 19. Korin Matrim took to saving part of her meal every day so that on the days when there was no food left she would still have some small rations to sustain her.
F20. The war had dragged on for the greater part of the year, and slowly, the armies of Riverbend and Low Meadow were pushed back. Seeing the ultimate futility of continuously giving ground, the army commanders knew that a greater offense was required, and a bold plan to press the flanks was decided upon. 21. The company of pikeman in which Korin Matrim found herself was to lead that charge. One early morning, on the Northern end of the battlefield, her company and many others stood in formation, prepared to prove that the war they waged, a war for their very souls, was not doomed to end in defeat. 22. As the sun peaked over the nearby mountains, their advance began and, their initial push successful, the soldiers found themselves in the once-fertile, now hell-scarred, land that had been the source of all of their pain. 23. On those broken fields they fought, sword and spear, tooth and nail. There was even a chance, then, of driving back the hell born to where they first erupted from the ground. And then, the earth shook.
G24. It was as if the ground fell out from underneath them. All around her company, Korin Matrim saw flames spew forth and the ground rend open. 25. All around her, Korin Matrim saw her allies swallowed by fire or fall screaming into the depths. 26. Then Korin Matrim, herself, felt the sear of demonic flame, felt herself, the ground give way beneath her, felt the sickening pull on her stomach as she fell. Then, all was darkness.
H27. Korin Matrim awoke. There was no way of telling how much time had past, but from the dark, dried blood on her clothing she knew it could not have been a short while. 28. All around her was stone and darkness, but from the faint, unnatural embers scattered about, Korin Matrim was able to see that she was trapped beneath the earth, surrounded on all sides by the sheer face of rocks, no sky visible through the small cracks above. 29. Whether her prison of stone was natural or constructed Korin Matrim did now know, but she harbored little hope for rescue in either case. A pain shot through her arm and leg as she attempted to get up. Both were likely broken.
I30. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, Korin Matrim realized she was not alone. Another soldier, a young woman, laid unconscious only a few feet from where she sat. 31. At first Korin Matrim noticed the heraldry on the other's tunic, the colors of Low Meadow, and a wave of hate, almost otherworldly, came over her; it was the fault of those thieves that the war had come to this and that she would die in this cave. 32. But as Korin Matrim bit back on her anger, she took in the severity of the enemy soldier's wounds. It was clear that one of her arms and both of her legs were burnt and shattered. Her face was bloodied and the scars of flame hung across her eyes and forehead. 33. The young lady had not stirred, but Korin Matrim could hear her shallow breathing and knew that she still lived, for now anyway. 34. As Korin Matrim crawled closer she recognized the girl as a soldier from her own unit. One of the many who had caused her to go hungry on so many nights. 35. Korin Matrim's stomach growled in response to the realization.
J36. Korin Matrim felt her anger rising again, but knew that she must attempt to wake this enemy soldier despite her feelings. She gave the other soldier a gentle shake, and just barely dodged as the young lady sat up straight, and then howled in pain. 37. After the moments of chaos and confusion subsided, the other soldier revealed to Korin Matrim that she was blinded and unable to move without intense suffering. 38. What is more, her voice was dry and cracked and she strained to move her lips to talk. 39. Korin Matrim instinctively reached for her flagon to give the enemy soldier a drink when she was struck by the thought that she should stop.
K40. At once, inside her own head, she perceived a voice. It was at once her own but unnatural as well, as if she was listening to someone else speak with it, unaccustomed as to how to use it properly. 41. "What are you doing?" it asked. "You are trapped and your only chance of surviving long enough to escape is to stay alive long enough to do so. 42. Why share your water? Why share your water especially with one of those despicable thieves from Low Meadow?" 43. Korin Matrim did not understand what was happening to her; why her own thoughts resonated so oddly within her own head, but she could not fault her thinking.
L44. The woman beside her was a hated enemy, the source of endless years of war, the cause of the virtual death sentence that Korin Matrim would now have to endure. Why then share her water? 45. Surly it would be unwise, especially since the enemy soldier's wounds would see her dead before long. 46. And as Korin Matrim realized that the voice inside her own mind was correct in every possible sense, she lifted the mouth of the flagon to the young woman's lips, and let her drink long and deep. 47. Deep within her mind she heard her own voice call her a fool. 48. Deep inside her heart she knew what choice The Just God would ask her to make by virtue of her duty, and she abided by it.
M49. There was no daylight to ebb as twilight drew near, but Korin Matrim knew that night must have fallen by the chill in her bones. She was glad that within her pack she kept a small sheepskin, a gift from her father to keep her warm while she stood guard during the winter eventide. 50. She dug it out of her pack with her one uninjured arm and placed it around her shoulders glad to be shielded from the damp and dreary cold that even the unworldly embers could not drive back. 51. Shortly she heard her companion stir once again, from the uneasy sleep that she had slipped into. 52. Korin Matrim's fellow soldier called for her then, since she could not see, and the shiver in her voice was grim and pitiable. 53. Korin Matrim realized that the young woman would not make it through the night exposed to the raw elements, and so began to remove her sheepskin to give to her companion. 54. Again, the thought struck her that she was being foolhardy and she heard her own awkward-sounding voice echo in her mind.
N55. "Ignorant girl!" It cried. "This thief, the cause of all of your suffering, the bane of the existence of every one you have ever loved sits here at your mercy and you seek to coddle her. You will likely not survive the night without the warmth of that blanket and yet you insist on giving it up to her. 56. Why does she deserve it? She will die in either case and depriving yourself of warmth will not stop it from happening. Guard yourself from the cold and forsake her!" 57. Korin Matrim reflected upon these thoughts and knew that everything that was said was the truth. As she painfully crawled closer to the enemy soldier it was clear to her that she was unlikely to survive the night. What difference would a little warmth make? 59. Again the voice inside her mind spoke the truth. And again, Korin Matrim ignored it, and braving the merciless cold about her, removed the sheepskin from her shoulders and draped it across the body of the enemy soldier from Low Meadow. 60. Deep within her mind she felt a surge of great, otherworldly anger. 61. Deep within her heart she knew what choice The Just God would ask her to make by virtue of loyalty, and she abided by it.
O62. Korin Matrim slept poorly that night, barely able to withstand the damp and cold. The lack of sleep did no favors for her condition, and she felt sick and depleted in every sense. 63. She was aware of the break of day only by the slightest hint in the scent of the air, for around her all was still dark. 64. Between the severity of her wounds and the wiriness from a troubled sleep Korin Matrim labored to even sit up straight and perceive the enemy soldier, her fellow prisoner under the earth. In doing so she could tell that the young woman still lived and so her sacrifice was not in vain.
P65. Presently, Korin Matrim felt a sharp pain in her stomach and knew that she needed food. From her pack, she extracted her most precious treasure. The small bundle of food that she had saved from the mess tent to sustain her when she was denied her supper. 66. She dug out her spoon and eagerly began to partake of the humble, but much welcome meal. After only a moment she heard her companion stir and again call out to her, this time in a weak and faltering voice. 67. She asked Korin Matrim if it was truly food that she smelt, and admitted that her hunger was so great that she should think of little else. 68. Korin Matrim, overcoming great pain and exhaustion, crawled over to the young woman and drew a spoonful of food over towards her mouth. 69. In that moment she felt almost overwhelmed by a fury that was not hers own as the voice in her head boomed loudly.
Q70. "Fool! Simpleton!" it bellowed. "This pitiful girl is your enemy! She is a villain of the worst ilk! She has hated you and everything that you hold dear from the very moment she was born. She has robbed from the very mouths of your family and killed your kinsmen contentedly in battle. 71. And now you seek to offer her the last morsels of your precious food despite the fact that meal after meal her and her fellows have denied you the same? 72. She is mangled, burned, moments from death, and nothing you do will make a difference. Keep your food for yourself. She has not for even a moment shown that she is deserving of it!"
R73. A great weakness overcame Korin Matrim and she fell to the ground, her spoon clattering across the floor. Her body was seized by pain, she felt dizzy from the untreated wounds and the loss of blood. 74. As she lay still, summoning the strength of spirit to rise again, she could not help but admit that the voice that echoed in her mind was correct. 75. This woman was, in the end, her enemy. She was one of the thieves of Low Meadow. The tip of her pike had spilled the blood of Riverbend's soldiers. 76. She had treated Korin Matrim with nothing but disdain and dishonor even when pressed together in the same cause. 77. She could not summon forth a single good reason to offer the young woman a single bite of her meal. 78. Yet her dedication to The Just God was true, and Korin Matrim understood that to follow His way was to choose honor, even amid the darkness where no one would see.
S79. With no small effort, Korin Matrim pushed herself to her knees with her unbroken arm. In a slow, methodical crawl across the floor she retrieved her fallen spoon, and, summoning what remained of her endurance she dragged herself back to where the soldier from Low Meadow lay. 80. There was precious little of the food remaining, hardly a single mouthful, yet Korin Matrim longed for it as if it was the greatest banquets ever set out for man or god. 81. Still, she was resolved to her course of action. 82. She lifted her spoon to the mouth of the young woman who was at once her enemy and her ally, and raised her chin so that she could eat.
T83. The moment the food passed the lips of the enemy soldier, Korin Matrim's mind became ablaze with flame, the weight of the anger that assailed her forced her again to the ground, darkened her sight, and left her gasping for breath. 84. The voice returned, no longer speaking in Korin Matrim's own voice, but one dripping with malice and hatred, demonic and foul. 85. "Useless girl" it said. "I had hope to draw strength from your hatred, to squeeze from you the last vestiges of rage and terror in your soul. But you have bean a meager, disappointing feast. 86. I am done with you now and your death is all that remains."
U87. Korin Matrim no longer had any strength left to resist. The pain in her arm and leg was replaced with numbness and a great cold began to creep through her body. 88. Yet she felt no fear. For in revealing himself and his purpose the demon had unwittingly given her peace. 89. Korin Matrim realized that, through her love for The Just God, she had achieved a victory greater than any she had ever won on the field of war. 90. She had held true to her faith, even in the midst of temptation and misery. 91. As the last vestiges of life ebbed from her body, Korin Matrim felt the presence of The Just God within her, and as she closed her eyes for the final time, resounding within her mind was no demonic presence, no otherworldly voice. 92. Only the countenance of The Just God and the promise of her eternal reward at His side.