Julian pulled the folds of his cloak tightly together as he walked silently down the stone nave of the Temple of Law. Chants of the patronage echoed from the pews on either side as the Judge glared down from the Holy Bench, spouting his sermon’s judgment to the masses. Julian couldn’t help shaking his head at all the costly and unnecessary extravagance on display as he turned the corner and headed toward the quiet confessional booths located far away from prying eyes.
The priest let out a long sigh as he settled into the worn wooden seat. He relished the silence of the confessional, all the mindless droning from the choir outside completely cut off once the door shut. He allowed his eyes to close and his mind to drift off for a moment, before the gentle feminine voice from the window to his right brought him back to reality.
“You have come to unburden the guilt from your shoulders in preparation for salvation’s cometh, haven’t you my child?” The shadow beyond the screen shifted, and Julian marveled at how sweetly her voice washed over him.
“Yes Sister… I have sinned and now seek to confess myself before God.”
“Hoar’s justice comes swiftly to those that sin without repentance. Speak now and perhaps his vengeance can be abated.” The shadow’s voice filled Julian’s ears, and he felt his stiff muscles relaxing into calm.
“I have betrayed the men and women who placed their trust in me. I promised to keep the harbor safe, yet I consistently fail to repel the needless attack dog’s set upon them. And now, I have had to watch as fires have spread across the docks and consumed those very people I pledged to save… I deserve judgement for my crimes.”
“Silence yourself, my child. There are many who could step up to protect the people. You can’t bear that weight alone.” Her voice was as sweet as before, and Julian marveled at how effortlessly genuine it was.
“Tell me then, Sister… Who is to blame?”
“Strong?” Julian raised an eyebrow, “The Nobleman?”
“Yes.” The shadow continued, “He ruthlessly participates in the slave trade based in Melromarc, utilizing the caravan smuggling operations and funding your enemies in the process.”
“So Strong is helping fund Vito’s rackets… Two sins for the price of one… Anyone else, dear Sister?” Julian leaned back, eyes closed, taking in her words.
“Captain Bellafonte of the Forged Militia… He has orders to sweep the D section of the Wharf and claim a hold for Belmont. It seems the Bull has aspirations to turn this disaster to his advantage.”
“Belmont… Always muscling in on another’s hard work… No bother, the good Captain can be persuaded and the security tightened in anticipation of their arrival… Anyone else?”
“No one else at this time, my Son…” The shadow sat still, waiting for her guest to leave, but the priest just sat silently, drumbing his fingers against the hard wood of the confessional. After a few moments, the shadow broke the silence, “Was there more you needed, my Son?”
“Yes Sister,” Julian started, “What have you heard about our three guests?”
“The Halfling and his two Elven companions?” The shadow shook her head, “Nothing substantial. Following the fire, they skirted Belmont’s guard post and returned to their resting inn. They were present when the good Sister Margrette shed Helm’s protection upon their threshold, as well as when four of Vito’s Goons brought threats and trouble to their hearth. They must not have been intimidated, for they ventured into the Agricultural district to speak with Vito personally… Nothing is known of what was said.” Julian stifled a smile as he listened to her words. Her pattern had broken, she had not anticipated this line of questioning. “Afterward they headed to the docks to purchase bait for their upcoming trip-”
“They purchased less than expected, I’m afraid…” Julian sighed, cutting her off.
“I’m sorry to hear that… Does this mean…” The shadow paused as Julian motioned for her to continue, his silhouette jutting out even in the darkness of the booth. " Of course… Leaving the docks, the trio was seen dining at a local restaurant… That is until they were taken by the Civil Watch, and were last known to be heading for the Red Keep. I believe that’s where they reside now. Arrested perhaps?"
“Doubtful, Sister… It is likely another player has decided to join our game…”
“Should we deal with the trio? Perhaps you were wrong to place your faith in them after all.”
“Fear not little Sparrow,” Julian said, adjusting his cloak and preparing to rise, “My faith has not failed me in some time… Leave this matter to us, and keep your ears open… Our enemies are converging upon us simultaneously now, and we need your whispers more than ever.”
Ariel stepped from the confessional and smoothed the wrinkles from her habit. She strained herself, but couldn’t hear the footsteps of the cloaked traveler who had just left her company. Despite herself, she smiled, unable to hide her admiration for his skills. As she began to make her way back toward the choir, a voice rang out behind her.
“Acolyte Churstain!” Brother Marc cried, hurrying to her side. “Please, let me help.”
“Thank you, Brother.” Ariel allowed him to take her arm and marched willingly beside him.
“You mustn’t push yourself. It wouldn’t serve any good if you were to fall ill from exhaustion. I know you are Archbishop Stern’s right hand, but even you should pace yourself.” Ariel allowed the man to speak, holding her tongue and smiling politely. “It is amazing though, what you’ve accomplished at your age… And despite your affliction too!”
“Well Brother,” Ariel chuckled, “God’s will does not require eyesight… Only a righteous heart and strength of will.”
“Yes, you are right as always… Justice is blind…” Brother Marc continued to walk alongside Ariel as he lead her through the choir and beneath the Holy Bench. Ariel stared ahead blankly, a dull glare in the milky white irises of her eyes. As they passed a Deacon, he couldn’t help but note how contrasting her eyes were to the black tattooed six transcribed on her cheek.