Ramaih's Mettle

Prologue

Aoth shifted in his seat a little. There were more important matters requiring his attention than waiting in a cold, silent office. His eyes searched the room in boredom. The tapestries that had been rushed from Skuld covered a large portion of the extraordinarily ugly, brown walls of the temple. A particularly large one hung behind the desk, and depicted Horus-Re smiting his evil uncle Set. The others, all a good deal smaller, bore images of Horus as a wise and powerful ruler. The rest of the small room was rather plain, which pleased Aoth, for it meant that the church wasn’t squandering his donations on trinkets. Still, every time he donated money to the church of Horus-Re, the high priest always had to be summoned to greet him and give him thanks. Aoth was a natural business man and hated to lose the time, but the church came first, for he was, first and foremost, a paladin of Horus-Re.
The door handle clicked.

p. “Sir Aoth Ramaih, my Lord.“ The simply dressed scribe escorted Cadras Reodemi into the office. He backed out of the room and quietly closed the doors, after the high priest reached his desk. The small man was probably no taller than an elf, though he could have easily outweighed three. He seated himself, wearing his typical priestly accouterments, with a large grin upon his cherry red face. Many considered him an unusual sight, especially for a high priest of Horus-Re, but Aoth knew the man was as honest and faithful as any.
Aoth rose and bowed his head. “Well met, high priest. I hope my coming has not disturbed your studies.”

p. “Not in the least, dearest Aoth!” The High Priest was always known refer to a select few as his “dearest,” which mostly comprised those who gave faithfully to the church of Horus-Re, particularly to his own temple. “I had just finished sermonizing on the rightful authority of Horus-Re to a few younger initiates, when I heard of your generous donation. You know, with such grand gestures of esteem it is no wonder we have seen a massive influx of Untherite citizens wanting to join the ranks of our temple!”

p. “That is good to hear, the more the Church plays a role in this adoption of the Untherite state into Mulhorand, the better. I would still remind you to keep an eye out for those who you admit into the temple. There are a great number of natives opposed to our presence here.”

p. The portly man shrugged this off with a look of complete triumph, as if he himself had trumped the Untherite people’s attempts to remove the Mulhorandi presence in Unthalass. He raised a finger, shaking it a little. “Yes, they have tried many a time to infiltrate the church, but every attempted entry by one of these violent renegades has been prevented by our mark of justice, which is a requirement to join. You see a mark of justice is . . . .”

p. Aoth was quite familiar with the magical technique, probably because Cadras had explained it to him nearly every time he visited the temple. Though his eyes were fixed on the priest, Aoth’s mind began to wander. The clergy used them on inductees of the many different temples, as well as criminals, to help keep their actions honorable and good. The inscription, cast on the head or the right arm, acted as a safeguard against acts of evil, keeping the members of the clergy honest and faithful to the temple that they served. As Priest Reodemi mentioned, Aoth knew of a few attempts to infiltrate the temple, though the mark prevented such incursions.

p. “Yes, but be careful just the same,” Aoth warned the small, rotund man with true concern in his voice. “There have been many more instances in the Undercity since Mulhorand’s arrival in Unthalass. I fear it may be more than just rebels this time.”

p. Cadras shrugged and walked over to the window, narrowing his eyes a little. He peered at the bustling crowd outside. “Yes, I understand. I noticed as well, and will mention that you should take care too. Not only are the temples in danger, but so are those who support them.” He paused for a moment his eyes became downcast and he bit his lower lip, as if to reflect on his previous statement. He quickly straightened himself, regaining his naturally jolly demeanor. “Anyway, I suppose you have business to take care of. I confess that the temple has been such a busy place lately I hardly find time to sleep, not too mention eat and preach.”

p. Aoth chuckled at the statement, trying to picture Cadras forgoing food for sleep. He was also glad that the church was busy, for it meant that he would be able to leave the temple earlier than planned and possibly get a bite to eat on the way to his newest business venture. The paladin rose and smiled at the priest, who had found some sort of smoked meat to satisfy his hunger.

p. “Yes, then I’ll see you on tenth-day?” The little priest said in between a bite of the meat.

p. “I can guarantee it. Take care high priest.” Aoth said excusing himself from the small foyer, with a quiet chuckle and a slight nod.

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