The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Church

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The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Church

Postby Graybeard » July 25th, 2014, 10:08 am

This is just to let people know that with "Lorrin's Story" wrapping up (there are either two or three installments left, not sure yet), I will soon be starting another fanfic series centered around my character Sister Rose from the Errant Road on-line role-playing game. Launch date on that is about a month out. Rose has been enormous fun to play, and I think, for other players to interact with, and I'm looking forward to getting her back active after she "retired" from the game, which is also in a state of reduced activity until Poe/Impy resume drawing for the Errant World. I can promise interesting things yet to come with her and her -- well, family, or partner, or entourage, or whatever it turns out to be.

A favor, if any Errant Roadies are reading this. I'd like to have some of the other Errant Road characters put in at least occasional cameos as she goes about her life. (Argus, ideally, will be putting in much more than a "cameo," but he's a special case.) If you've run one of the characters who interacted with her, would you mind if I included him/her/it occasionally, and would you mind dropping me a PM with your decision on that? I don't want to step on any toes here, and Rose's world will be shaped to include those who are OK with this and not to include those who are not, except as off-stage name dropping.

Thanks for your input, and Sister Rose will be back soon with more fun and adventures!
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Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » October 19th, 2014, 11:52 am

[Okay, the long-delayed start of this. This first installment is a little slow-moving, but has the goal of getting the two main characters, Rose and Argus, introduced, for the benefit of anyone who hasn't been following their long-running adventures in the Errant Road game. Things will speed up soon enough.]

Volume I, Chapter One: Coming home

Dawn had scarcely broken in Saus, and the first sleepy call to worship had not yet been proclaimed (although the more devout, or traditional, of the priests and nuns of Luminosita would have done their clergy-only devotions), when a military airship came in, low and fast, from the north, to moor at the end of the airship terminal reserved for the Veracian Church. Lines were made fast, and a magical Warding applied that would have distressed many of the population of Saus had they known about it. The hatch opened, and out stepped a man and a woman, a peculiarly light load for such a vessel, but this was no ordinary couple returning from a mission in the Northern Confederacy.

The woman, the primary passenger, wore the robes of a nun of the minor Reformed sect of the Veracian Church, which was remarkable enough; military airships were almost exclusively for those of the main Orthodox Church who had risen far enough through the ranks, and seen enough of the world, not to be intimidated by such an unnatural, magical conveyance. (“Almost” exclusively; the country’s Special Forces had more than their share of Reformed among their troops, and if the populace of Saus would have been disturbed by the magic of the landing field, they would have been alternately amazed and horrified at where the airships had taken the Special Forces and what they had done. They would have been further startled to learn that this nun had been a Special Forces officer in past times … and some of what she had done would have astounded, and possibly appalled, even her Special Forces colleagues.) She was of average height or a bit greater, of slender build, and looked to be in her early thirties. In fact, she was closer to forty than to thirty, but inspection would show that the years sat very well on her, very well indeed. (Well, that and the Polymorph magic that was her thaumatic stock in trade.) Medium-long, light brown hair, with a tinge of red, framed an oval face that normally would have been notable for its serenity and its startling green eyes. However, on this morning, her eyes were shadowed and her face showed the signs of a long voyage – and of many shed tears.

The man with her was even more out of the ordinary for a Veracian airship, for he wore the robes of a Tsuirakuan archmage, which he was. He was of medium height and lean build, with short graying hair and a carefully-groomed beard. His eyes spoke of a commanding presence, but he too looked tired from the travel, and from other things. An onlooker would have guessed his age as late forties, which would have been correct, somewhat anomalously; most upper-class Tsuirakuans of a certain age had been through at least one rejuvenation treatment and would be older than they looked, but this man had been gone from Tsuirakushiti for a long time.

A Veracian priest was waiting for them at the bottom of the ramp, a slender, bespectacled young man in the slightly ostentatious uniform of one who served in the government offices at the main temple in Emerylon. As the pair approached, he sketched the Sign of Luminosita in the air with his fingers, and the gesture was returned by the nun, to whom he now spoke, ignoring the Tsuirakuan to a degree that was almost insulting, but not quite. “Welcome home, Sister Rose, ma’am. My name is Brother Byron, and it is my duty to assist you in your time of sorrow. The Patriarch himself sends his condolences on your sister’s departure to the bosom of Luminosita.”

This broke Rose’s mood for just a moment. I don’t think she departed to the bosom of Luminosita, she thought; if she did, she’s not going to be very happy there, and vice versa. But let it slide. This was just a prepared speech. As for the Patriarch … well, this sure sounds like a warm-up for an interrogation, not that that’s unexpected. She smiled politely and dipped her head. “Thank you, Brother, and please give the Patriarch our appreciation for his kind thoughts.” Yes, his reaction to that definitely suggests a “debrief” coming. “Is my brother here?”

The priest nodded. “He is. He is waiting for you in the terminal.”

“Then we’d better go meet him. Argus, are you ready?” She gave the Tsuirakuan’s hand a soft squeeze, and he nodded silently as the trio headed into the building.

A tall, bespectacled man was waiting for them there, and the family resemblance was obvious enough. He too looked rather the worse for wear, and not just because of the earliness of the hour. However, he perked up as Rose and Argus entered the building. “Rose … Argus … thanks for coming home for this,” he said.

Rose’s face lit just momentarily with a broad smile to match her brother's. “Wild horses couldn’t keep me away, Aron,” she said. “I … Margot was …”

Whatever the rest of the thought was, it fell away along with the smile, as brother and sister rushed into each other’s arms for a long, tearful embrace, while Argus and Byron watched discreetly from the side.
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Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » October 26th, 2014, 10:23 am

Chapter 2: Nuria family matters

“How is Mom holding up?” Sister Rose asked her brother, as Brother Byron set the carriage in motion.

“Better than I would be,” Aron answered. He smiled awkwardly. “Better than I am, for that matter. Mom is such a strong lady.”

“That she is,” Rose agreed. She’d also seen this coming, Rose was pretty sure. Luminosita’s Nethers, Rose had seen it coming. That last time she and Argus had seen Margot, penniless, living in the street, ravaged by alcohol and Luminosita alone knew what else… She shook herself at the thought, and found her hand being squeezed by her husband (or was it boyfriend? lover? something else? She really didn’t worry about that any more).

“You know, that could have been me,” Argus said softly, accurately gauging Rose’s thoughts; he didn’t have her magical Empathy skills, but they’d been together for long enough now that he didn’t need them. “Instead of your sister, I mean.” That was for Aron’s benefit; Rose knew, obviously. “I was heading down that same, self-destructive path, with nothing to live for except hate for Tsuiraku, and I guess for myself too. You saved me from that.”

“I love you,” Rose answered simply, and gave him a quick, discreet kiss. If Aron was discomfited by that, he hid it well, and most likely, he wasn’t. (Argus, of course, did show a quick blush, but it passed quickly. Their driver, being Orthodox, would have made a face at the sight if he had seen it, but he was too busy avoiding other carriages on the road away from the airship terminal to notice.) They rode in silence for the rest of the way to the large, comfortable house of Rose’s and Aron’s mother and stepfather.

Dorothy Ordial, formerly Dorothy Nuria, was waiting outside the house when they got there, her second husband Donald at her side. “Thank you for coming,” she started formally, but that charade didn’t last long, and the tearful group hug that followed lasted every bit as long as the one between Rose and Aron at the terminal. Argus, Donald Ordial and Byron stood off to the side for the moment, fidgeting self-consciously, until the priest finally worked up the nerve to ask Argus a question. “Uh, Mr. Rose – I mean Father – Doctor Clee-vain, soor, should I be stayin’ round here to be givin’ you and your wife a ride to the temple?”

Even through the hug, Rose noticed that the stress of the moment had caused this young man, who had appeared temple-polished at the terminal, to slip back into the accent of the Veracian hill country where he’d grown up, and she felt a moment of sympathy at his distress. However, before she could intervene (Argus looked too shocked to get words out for the moment), Donald Ordial stepped forward. “That won’t be necessary, good brother,” he said. “I’ll put one of my drivers at their service for as long as they’re here. You may go, and Luminosita’s Blessings be with you.”

“And with ye, in this time of loss,” Byron said, recovering his composure word by word, and shaking the older man’s hand. He didn’t wait to be asked twice, but made the Sign of Luminosita, boarded the carriage, and was off.

Rose had observed these proceedings as well, and a sour thought intruded on her mourning. We’ll see him again, too soon, she thought. Strange how he got so flustered so quickly. There’s more to him running us around than he lets on. Whichever satrap sent him over here is going to ream him out when he comes back empty, and then he’ll be back with his tail between his legs, apologizing for “leaving” us and coaxing us back onto that stage for a quick little trip to the temple so they can express their “condolences” – for which read, interrogate us, or at least me. Her assessment would turn out to be accurate.

She put this possibility out of her mind for the moment and turned back to her mother and brother. “Well,” she said, “I guess we’d better talk about funeral arrangements.” But the others were not ready to end the hugs and comforting, and that was just as well.

* * * * * *

A long way to the south, other funeral arrangements were also under discussion, for a man who had died under very different circumstances.
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Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » October 27th, 2014, 2:47 pm

Chapter 3: Provatiel

Meanwhile, in southern Veracia:

Thunder crackled and rolled through the mountains above the town of Provatiel, their tops obscured by clouds. At least, the residents of Provatiel, if they had noticed the sound at all, would have believed it to be thunder, as would even most of the troops quartered in the castle that rose imposingly on the far side of the river. They would have been wrong. Only a few men, among them the two blond-haired, blue-eyed soldiers gazing down into a carefully concealed valley, knew otherwise.

“Well?” the blond man with the slightly more ornate uniform asked his colleague, who was the shorter of the two, by perhaps a millimeter or so.

“We won’t know for sure until the dust clears, Commander,” the second man said, “but that sounded much better.”

“You can’t see it yet?” the first man persisted; he knew that his subordinate’s magical talents included the ability to see through concealments.

“No, sir. The dust itself isn’t magical, so I have to wait for it to settle, just as you yourself do. The sound was good, though. I think we’ve managed to achieve decent synchronization this time … ah, there we go.”

Down in the valley, a cloud of dust, rather than water, was indeed settling to the ground, and in its wake, certain things could be seen. At one end of the valley, there was a gaping crater where a hill had stood only moments earlier. At the other end, as though arranged by Luminosita Himself, a shaft of sunlight shone through the clouds overhead, on an array of metallic tubes, each on its own horse-drawn caisson (that was an expedient; in the future, their propulsion would be magical), arranged nearly in parallel to point at the new crater. Their gleam of magic was visible even at the distance of the observation platform.

“Good,” the first man nodded. “You’re right, we got enough synchronization, and even better, none of the cannon seem to have ruptured. We’re starting to get this right.”

“We are, sir.” The second man cocked his head; it wasn’t really necessary for receiving the telepathic report from the lieutenant down below who commanded the firing crew, but it was an ingrained habit by now. It was good to have Bindiel down there, doing this duty. Very few of the troops had the magical skill to send a telepathic message over that kind of distance, but Bindiel was … unusual. He smiled, liking what he heard. “All weapons fired successfully, no casualties among the crews.”

“Good,” the first man repeated; his vocabulary for approval appeared rather limited. “It would be very disappointing to have another one rupture. Speaking of which, have arrangements been made yet for the disposal of Brother Ephraim’s remains?” “Body” didn’t exactly capture it; the blast of magic when the cannon exploded had reduced the man’s physical body to ash, plus the three dental fillings that a soldier was allowed to have before being pronounced too impaired for service and retired.

“They have. We’re fortunate that he was a drone because of his bad teeth, so there are no wives or children to create a cover story for. His father has been notified that there was a training accident involving render-safe on a heathen munition. That was enough, since he was in the first generation army, of course.” The man did not add that Ephraim’s mother, or mothers, had not been told; there was obviously no need to do that; if the father got the message, the mothers would not even think to dare to ask questions.

The Commander was by no means completely humorless. “Render-safe on a heathen munition. That’s a good one,” he chuckled. “And it fits, too, after a fashion. I’m pretty sure that the day after we use these weapons to win our battle over the apostates, we’ll take the precaution of declaring them heretical and prohibited, so they’re never used again – specifically, used against us.”

The thing was: he was completely serious about that last part.
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Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » November 4th, 2014, 12:03 am

[Another one that's a little slow, for the purposes of synching up with things that happened during Errant Road. There will probably be one or two more such "slow" chapters, then the action will pick up. Links to some of the things Rose is thinking about are provided if anybody wants to dig into Errant Road for backstory.]

Chapter 4: Funeral arrangements


The hugs and comforting went on for a long time, with Argus and Donald Ordial joining in, but all good things must end. A servant brought tea, and the family sat down to do what must be done. “Well, I guess we’d better get on with the funeral arrangements,” Sister Rose said. “I assume Uncle Stefan will be handling them?”

Dorothy Ordial looked uncomfortable, and hemmed and hawed for long enough before answering that Rose already suspected something was up. “Well … no, actually,” she finally got out.

Rose frowned. This was very odd. “Uncle Stefan” was actually Father Stefan, senior priest of the Reformed Veracian Church in Saus. Technically, he was a cousin to the family rather than an uncle. Like many of the Reformed clergy, he was a distant relative of Dorothy, Rose and Aron (and Margot), a fellow descendant of the legendary Bishop Nuria who had founded what would become the Reformed Church, many decades before the sect had a name. However, when Rose had first run across the adjective “avuncular” as a schoolgirl, she immediately figured out that it had been created to describe people like Stefan. He wasn’t just a priest; he was effectively family. She wondered what might have caused him not to be in charge of arrangements for a death in one of the Reformed Church’s more illustrious families … and then she knew.

“The Orthodox people are getting involved, right?” she asked her mother, already sure of the answer.

Dorothy nodded. “Afraid so. That young man who brought you here says he had direct orders from the Patriarch himself to ‘offer all the services of the Mother Church,’ as he put it – in other words, to take the body and make all the preparations for an Orthodox funeral. She’s over at the main temple, getting embalmed and prepared for burial.”

Argus, who had been mostly silent through proceedings to this point, had a question. “Swe— Rose, I may be missing something, looking at this from – outside your church.” (He’s still nervous about whether that’s going to be a problem for us, thought Rose, but it won’t be. I wish I could tell him why … but it’s going to have to wait until after this mess.) “From everything you told me about your sister, it sounded like she wanted nothing to do with the church, even less than my people would. So why would they want to have an Orthodox service for – oh.” He’d figured out the answer for himself.

“Right,” Rose replied, shaking her head in obvious exasperation. “It’s got nothing to do with Margot, or with the rest of the family, and everything to do with me. By doing us this ‘favor,’ or ‘honor’ or however they put it, they’re putting themselves in a position to expect a ‘favor’ from me in return. Damn them. Well, let’s go find out what they want.”

On the drive to the Veracian temple, Rose brooded in silence as she tried to think through what loose ends the past few months had left in her life, that the Veracian bureaucracy might ask her to do the “favor” of solving for them.
  • First and foremost, the disturbing business with Father Egbert and the convergence had yet to be settled. Somehow she didn’t think this would be the main topic for them to engage her; the last communiques she’d received in the Northern Confederacy suggested that for better or worse, that one was going to be swept under the carpet.
  • The business with the Millenarians, however, looked like a real possibility. She knew her report on the private army that the Millenarian sect seemed to be assembling had made it back to some attentive ears in the military. Was someone actually going to pay attention to that? Maybe.
  • Or maybe it was the resolution of the deaths around the Artifact of Absonial. If the Church had gone to the trouble of getting Professor Indianel to send the thing up to Emerylon under conditions of secrecy, they certainly would look askance at Indianel’s murder and want a good investigation done. But why me? she asked herself, and had no answer. Surely, by now, they have a good idea who had done that dirty deed – don’t they?
  • There was always the weird set of events around Centoriel, particularly the giant war golem that had last been seen heading for Farrel, and getting destroyed by the Farrelites when it got there. Yes, that might be the kind of thing that would cause an international incident that someone with Rose’s skills might be asked to step in on. On the other hand, there was still a large Veracian presence in Farrel, and the churches there would be taking the lead on that problem. Wouldn’t they?
  • And speaking of Farrel, the Malletarian heresy was still out there somewhere. She really didn’t want to think about that.

It’s been an interesting couple of months, Rose thought as the carriage reached the temple. “Hang on, there’s something I want to do before we go inside,” she said as the group alit. Her green eyes glowed with what Argus recognized as the casting of her Empathy spell. “Well, let’s go find out what they want,” she said, thus prepared, and the group headed inside.
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Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » November 6th, 2014, 6:06 pm

Chapter 5: Sleuths that pass in the night

Meanwhile, in southern Veracia:

Dawn had broken over the small town of Gervasiel, and most of the townspeople were getting ready to start routine days at work, when a small man with a nightingale perched incongruously on his shoulder emerged from his room at the Stone Man Inn.

He’d had a long, hard trip to get here. Gervasiel was a decidedly out-of-the-way place under the best of circumstances, and “best of circumstances” was not an applicable concept when the traveler was a Tsuirakuan moving through rural Veracia and trying to remain undetected. Even Saus, the barbarians’ window on the world, was not exactly welcoming where Tsuirakuans were concerned; once he’d moved away from the warp gate, he had had to keep a studiously low profile as he arranged travel to the southern part of the country. The further south he had come, the more suspicion, hostility and outright paranoia toward Tsuiraku he had noted among the bumpkins who drove the stages and staffed the inns. He’d had to change into an in-country disguise considerably earlier in the trip than he wanted to, and now he was getting uncomfortable in it. (It was remarkable, he thought, how unpleasant the sensations could be that were associated with something as simple as wearing another country’s style of underwear.) Well, at least the man he was meeting here would have had as much discomfort as he himself had. For an upper-class Tsuirakuan, that was mildly amusing, although of course he would never admit it.

Here he was now, another nondescript-looking man emerging from one of the other rooms on the property. At least that was probably the man he was meeting; the two had never met before – part of Kitaura’s opsec – and would not meet again in this country after their mission had been accomplished. From now until that time, however, they would be traveling together. The bird took wing as the two men converged. “Pardon me,” the second man asked in fluent Veracian, “but could you tell me how to get from here to the Lost Farrelite Mine?”

Good; the first half of the password had been given, so he gave the countersign. “I believe it is on a ridge above Stone Man Pass.” Young Lochlear’s reports had been helpful in naming some of the local geography.

“But will the stone men allow us to go there?” the second man asked again; the second half of the password.

The short man smiled and answered. “If Luminosita allows it.” The second man also relaxed and smiled, the exchange of credentials complete. “Come, let us get some breakfast.”

Another useful thing that Lochlear had reported was that the barbarians didn’t seem to look askance at the use of Damping spells; something associated with their religious rites, apparently. At least the curiously powerful nun that Lochlear had traveled with had used it with impunity – powerful, and if the reports were to be believed, possessed of a very un-Veracian outlook on life despite her nun’s robes, and even more interesting, military past. (I would truly like to meet this woman, the short man thought, but the Captain forbids unnecessary contact with Veracian clergy. That was probably just as well.) That would make the next stage of their journey easier to plan. Breakfast devoured (it had been surprisingly good, and rations had been short and unsatisfying on the road), the two men retired to the gazebo where (unknown to them) Porpington Bree had met his violent end, now repaired and peaceful again. A quick glance around to make sure that no one was watching, and magic glowed briefly as the Damping went up.

“Call me Cosmo,” the short man introduced himself, unaware that a certain very powerful figure of the Veracian Church, whose interests overlapped with his own, also bore that name; he hadn’t bothered to clear his cover name with Kitaura. It was easy to remember, though, being close to his real given name of Kazuo. “’Shem,’” the other man countered, also with a variant on his real name of Shinichi. “Let’s get casting.”

“Cosmo” removed a small item from his pocket, what appeared to be a cheap souvenir of Veracia that might have been sold in a market in Saus. In fact, it had indeed been sold in such a market, and had been among the personal effects of the late Rebekah Codoin that a grieving Hannah Codoin had retrieved following her sister’s murder. The girl had mentioned tearfully that Becky had had a curious attraction to this little trinket, although she hadn’t realized why until the details of the affair between student and advisor came out; evidently Professor Indianel had bought the thing for her soon after they became lovers. That would mean, thought Cosmo/Kazuo, that part of Indianel’s own remanent life force might still be on the object. Ordinarily, that would be a complication, but since student and professor had not only been lovers but also victims of the same hideous crime, it would strengthen the signal seen by the spell they were about to cast. That was good.

Both men made subtle motions with their hands, motions that could have been interpreted by the casual onlooker as just conversational gestures. In fact, they’d practiced this maneuver (with other partners, of course) carefully before leaving Tsuirakushiti, and what was actually going on was the gathering of magical energy. In Tsuirakushiti, an onlooker would have recognized this magical concentration as the weaving of a Path-Finding spell by a pair of operatives of the Department of Homeland Security, and given them a wide berth; that was not an outfit any civilian Tsuirakuan wanted to tangle with. Here, of course, none of the barbarians would even notice that magic was being used at all.

Cosmo nodded and smiled as the magic took effect. “Good. I was worried that the life force might have decayed too much over time to be useful,” he said in Tsuirakuan – no need to keep up the masquerade here, with the Damping spell in use. “But the directional signal is clear enough.”

“It is,” his compatriot agreed. “This is the clearest signal we could hope for under the circumstances. The murderers’ path from here is clear. They must have gone to embarrassingly little effort to conceal their thaumatic footprints.”

Cosmo smirked. “What did you expect from these barbarians? Let’s check out and hit the road.” The two men parted for the moment, to reappear a few minutes later aboard bicycles (another thing they’d had to train long and hard for in Tsuirakushiti) that would speed them on their path – speed them incredibly rapidly, at least when no one was looking, on that path.

The path to Provatiel, although they didn’t know that part yet.
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Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » November 20th, 2014, 6:08 pm

[A little short, but time to get this moving again:]

Chapter 6: Into Luminosita’s Presence

“Bigger crowd than I expected,” Aron mused sotto voce to his sister as they entered the chapel. (Argus had started to mind-say something similar to Rose, but caught himself, realizing that the Empathy magic she was using might not let her concentrate on telepathy.) “I didn’t think Margot had many friends in town.” That was a delicate way of phrasing it, Rose had to admit.

She nodded. “See those six over there?” she whispered back, tipping her head to indicate a small group sitting over to the side and wearing traditional mourning clothes of the Orthodox church. “Professional mourners.” She couldn’t help producing a soft, muffled snort. “Not one of them knew Margot, from the way their emotions are running. They must have been hired by the church. I wish I knew why. Those other four, though…” She tipped her head in the opposite direction, toward another small group of men. “They did know her. They were the ones taking care of her when – when they came to get me to heal her.” She shook her head sadly at the memory. You did what you could. Don’t beat yourself up because it wasn’t enough. Their sorrow was more genuine than the professionals’, she deduced. It would be; the men of her old military unit might have fallen on hard times themselves, and their emotions were simple, but they were good men and they would be grieving the “little sister” they’d only had for a few weeks, if she’d understood the former Private Mufiel correctly. Three weeks of that, to my twenty-eight years… Stop feeling sorry for yourself. She shook her head, getting first a surprised look from Argus, and then a gentle hand squeeze from the man; they’d been together long enough now that he had a pretty good idea of what that particular head shake would mean.

There were another twenty or so people in the chapel, mostly relatives of the Nuria family, plus a few others that Rose did not recognize. Aron’s wife Gretta had joined them in the family seats, her usual perky demeanor subdued and her formal dress sober; their children were being baby-sat. (Ostensibly to spare the young ones the grieving, thought Rose, but I think it’s more because they’d see through the light show and see what was really going on. So when did I get so cynical?) There were Nuria aunts and uncles and cousins, including Brad’s parents, looking particularly downcast. Had they heard about their son’s remarriage and impending fatherhood? It seemed credible that they hadn’t, communications with Santuariel being as tenuous as they were. Rose resolved to give them some good news after the service ended, but that would have to wait, as the light globes were dimming now to announce the start of the service.

For a moment, the room went completely dark. Then, a glowing, bearded face appeared over the altar. There were muted gasps from some of the congregation, but not from the Nuria family; they knew full well about the Luminosita’s Visage spell that Rose had used to save her and Argus’ lives at least once in the last few weeks. Hermie Mufiel and his fellow veterans were sitting with their mouths agape. They don’t get much exposure to magic any more, Rose deduced. It was a shame, really; she’d seen how even in Farrel, hardly the “godless slaves to forbidden magic” that popular culture still insisted on painting the Tsuirakuans as being, magic was starting to help the average working man (and woman), rather than being saved for the elite of the Church. These poor men were just the ones to benefit from a growing acceptance of magic for purposes other than aweing them into submissiveness.

Which is part of why I’m going to do what I’m going to do.

She fought back a sigh as a magically-amplified, deep bass voice resounded in the chapel, maybe coming from the Visage, but in the acoustics of the domed room, also seeming to come from everywhere at once, as a god's voice should.. “Margot Nuria, prepare now to enter into Luminosita’s Presence. Let us pray.” She bowed her head in prayer, but not before casting a quick glance toward the alcove where she knew the presiding priest would have been standing when he made that chapel-filling intonation … and that brief glance, combined with her Empathy spell, was enough to tell her that she had sized this funeral up exactly correctly.
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Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » December 2nd, 2014, 11:08 am

Chapter 7: Ritual and watchers

<”I hope you don’t mind me saying it, but that was weird,”> Argus thought at Rose as the service broke up.

<”Not at all. It was,”> she thought back, meaning it.

The service had been weird, at least given the circumstances. Margot Nuria had always been the least religious of the Nuria family, long before that final, jarring rejection of the Veracian Church when Rose and Argus had found her in a near-terminal alcoholic stupor. She probably had not been to a Luminositan service in fifteen years, let alone inside an Orthodox temple. Nevertheless, the Church had chosen to give her a High Orthodox rite, complete with interminable prayers, eulogies for someone the speaker obviously did not know, and plenty of showy magic to impress the bumpkins, never mind that there were few bumpkins present in this particular congregation. At the climax, another casting of Luminosita’s Visage had gently “reached” for the coffin, to gather a glowing, misty form, obviously a magical representation of Margot’s soul, to His Presence. It was all Rose could do not to roll her eyes and snort at this – theatrical use of magic. She could see that the rest of her family were similarly unimpressed. The professional mourners were weeping profusely, of course, even though they’d seen the thing uncounted times before and presumably knew exactly the spells necessary to accomplish the special effects. The only participants who appeared genuinely moved by the display were the former soldiers who had taken Margot in.

“I should go talk to Mufiel and his friends,” Rose sighed. “We’ll have family time later to talk this all over. I should thank them for – for caring.” That could be interpreted several ways, couldn’t it? She started to move toward the soldiers, several of whom were still wiping their eyes with their sleeves; give them credit, their grief was sincere enough. However, before she could get there, she was intercepted by the senior priest, a Father Gisbert if she remembered the name correctly … and she swore a most non-Luminositan oath silently to herself as the man reached her.

“Luminosita’s blessings be on you, Sister, in this, your hour of sorrow,” the man orated, as though he was still standing in the niche in the chapel from which he “operated” Luminosita’s Visage and made his god-like pronouncements. “We of the Church stand ready to assist you in your mourning, in –“

“Thanks, but that will be quite unnecessary,” Rose cut him off. “Our family is very close. We will do our mourning surrounded by those we love most.” It wasn’t necessary to say that a random Orthodox priest wasn’t one of those whom the Nurias loved most.

The priest’s demeanor changed, from lugubrious to business-like. “As you wish, Sister. I am charged to say to you, nonetheless, that the Patriarch expresses his personal sympathies, and desires that I have a brief, private conversation with you.” He gestured toward the door to his personal chambers.

Well, that made things clear enough, didn’t it? “My –“ what should she call Argus? “—husband will be joining us, of course,” she parried.

A moment of distaste flickered across Gisbert’s face before the business mask went back up. “Alas, that will not be possible. Only those of the Church may be admitted to that place. An in—a spouse who is outside the Church may not.”

A quick telepathic exchange occurred between Rose and Argus, all in the time it took for Rose to form and hold a resigned look on her face, shake her head sadly, and gather up her personal belongings. <”I was expecting this, and I don’t think I can get out of it. Sorry.”> <”Want me to insist?”> <”No, that would make things worse. I’ll be okay, just keep your detection magic up.”> <”Oh, I’ll do better than that…>” Now what had he meant by that? Rose wondered as she headed for the door … but then she noticed a small, furry figure ahead of her, one whom the Tsuirakuan Obfuscation magic prevented anyone from seeing unless Argus wished it.

“I am glad to see that you can still smile under the circumstances, Sister,” Gisbert said, apparently sincerely, as he held the door for her. What he couldn’t know was the reason for the brief expression. Having Harker in there, she thought to herself, isn’t just going to be a security feature … I can already imagine the statue of that guy that he’s going to be carving when we get out of here. Her smile broadened even more for a brief moment as the unseen Harker vanished under the large, ornate desk and the priest prepared to get down to business.
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Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » December 7th, 2014, 2:24 pm

[Acknowledgment here to Impy, whose words I have borrowed and adapted for one bit of exposition below. Note, incidentally, that the following is at odds with information Rose received about the golem's fate, back in Errant Road. This isn't a continuity lapse; the Farrelites would have had plenty of reasons not to be 100% truthful with Veracia about what had become of the thing...]

Chapter 8: A golem and a murder

Meanwhile, in eastern Farrel:

“Luminosita’s Nuts,” Carson Jeromiel gasped, gazing at the figure prostrate on the ground in front of him.

The Tsuirakuan mage standing with him smiled tolerantly, not the least bit offended by the profanity used by the barbarian, never mind that it originated with the pathetically superstitious adversaries of his own country; what could one expect from such an – uncultured man? “Yes, it is indeed an impressive accomplishment,” he smiled, with just the right tone of voice to convey amused condescension if one of his countrymen had heard it, although it would be wasted on this bumpkin. (That was all right, too.) “At least a hundred fifty meters tall, if standing upright, as it shall be.”

“It – shall,” Jeromiel repeated, keeping his own feelings about the Tsuirakuan’s language to himself for the moment. “But how do we do it?”

“By applying thought, and magic,” the Tsuirakuan answered tolerantly, as though speaking to a small child. “We will start at the head.” He made a complex motion with his fingers, magic flared, and the vegetation in front of him parted in a makeshift trail leading west.

They were standing at the feet of the largest golem either of them, or much of anyone else, had ever seen. After emerging from the ocean separating Veracia and Farrel, it had forged a path inland, simply flattening anything in its way, until its magical energies, or fuel or whatever, had run out in this valley. Then it had pitched forward, landing with enough force to have been felt in distant Isabel as an earth tremor, and smashing tall trees beneath its body like matchsticks. Its heels projected up in the air at least twenty feet over the two men’s heads, and its body was sized to match them.

The men picked their way along the trail, the Tsuirakuan pausing occasionally to create a magical breeze blowing away from them; although the golem’s flesh appeared immune to decay, it had smashed enough living things when it fell that the odor of decomposition arising from the ground beneath it was – distasteful. (Jeromiel didn’t particularly care; he’d smelled worse.) Now that he was recovering from the initial shock of the discovery, Jeromiel took advantage of these pauses to cast a professional eye on what he had to admit was the greatest weapons system he had ever seen. Not bad, he thought. Not bad at all. It would be better wielding a gun as big as it is, but I don’t think even the northerners ever built anything like that. Maybe we can get somebody to make it some throwing knives or something. Of course, they’d be bigger than an oxcart – no, probably not practical, too brittle, they’d break the first time it threw them. We’ll probably have to make do with rocks. He chortled to himself, drawing a glance from the Tsuirakuan. Really big rocks.

First, however, came the question of getting the thing back into working order. The Tsuirakuan was already at work on that, as he was setting up some kind of gadget that Jeromiel thought he might have seen before – no, he was sure he’d seen it before, at the introductory magic lessons given by a visiting Tsuirakuan trader a few years back, lessons that Jeromiel was definitely not going to mention to the man accompanying him now. He had no difficulty in feigning ignorance as to how it worked, though; his understanding of thaumatic gadgets was still too superficial for that, which had the advantage that he could ask an appropriately innocent question about the thing.

“Magic concentrator,” the Tsuirakuan explained when he asked. The mage couldn’t resist an opportunity to lecture. “Magic is everywhere, part of the basic fiber of the universe. You may not sense it, but it is there.”

“Like air and water?” Jeromiel asked, noting but ignoring the condescension of the last sentence.

The Tsuirakuan did not answer for a moment, instead fiddling with the concentrator, which began to emit a quiet hum. Contrary to the man’s barb, Jeromiel was pretty sure he could feel a change in something surrounding him when the hum started, maybe a tiny increase in air temperature or some odor that he couldn’t define or a tingling of his skin, but something. He smiled softly to himself as the mage continued. “Not exactly, but you would need thaumatic training to grasp the distinction. With magic it is difficult to separate the resource and the effect. When one performs magic, one uses one’s own innate abilities and those of the environment to manipulate what is already there, just as a non-mage does when you walk over and pick up a chair, or you open your mouth and sing. The only difference is the mechanism. The energy paid is the energy that was needed to manipulate one’s environment, just as for running or singing. Ah, there we are.” There was a change in the gadget’s hum, and Jeromiel could see a slight flutter in the eyelash of the massive head pressed to the ground in front of him. “This apparatus serves both to tap more directly into that resource, and to project it into our target here, without the spellcaster’s attention,” the Tsuirakuan continued

“So a non-spellcaster could use it?” Jeromiel asked, trying to keep his voice neutral and un-threatening.

“Yes.” Good; the man was too busy with his “concentrator” to grasp the implications of the question.

The golem was definitely coming around. The eyelid fluttered again, and Jeromiel fancied that he saw a twitching of the left hand that towered above him – no, not just a twitching, but a finger motion large enough to uproot the vine that had grown up to cover the appendage in the weeks since it had come to rest here. That was a good excuse for him to ask the next question. “But how does one control such a magical entity as this thing?” And he smiled again when the Tsuirakuan gave the answer he’d been hoping for.

“With this.” He produced another instrument from a fold in his cloak. “When your government contacted ours for assistance in evaluating this golem, we immediately began researching a controller. Its function may be imperfect, as we had only a general description to work with, but the general principles of golem design and operation are well understood, and it was just a matter of applying those principles to an unknown target. In a moment we shall see whether it works. Stand back, please.”

The golem’s hand twitched again as the man gently turned a knob on the instrument. The vine-covered index finger made a more coordinated movement, and the thumb beside it also moved, seizing another vine and uprooting it in a single movement. “There,” the Tsuirakuan said happily. “This hand’s control lever is working just as hoped, and there is every reason to believe the other functions will as well. A little practice and a magically sophisticated user, as are the advisors my government is sending yours in exchange for certain trade goods, will be able –“

He stopped in mid-sentence; stopped dead, in fact, as the bullet Jeromiel fired from the handgun he’d been carefully concealing struck the back of his head. It was a better shot even than he’d hoped for, as the controller went flying from the deceased Tsuirakuan’s hand to land gently on a pad of moss. Excellent; that would save Jeromiel the trouble of digging it out from under the man’s body, and there would be no risk of damage. Apparently it had landed on the lever controlling the right leg, because the golem did produce a sudden backward kick that knocked a passing bird right out of the sky. That wasn’t a bad thing either; it gave the gadget’s new owner an early lesson in knowing left from right, arm from leg.

“Well, it’s still a bit early for the holiday season, but I think I got my present for this year,” Jeromiel said aloud, to no living thing in particular (the Tsuirakuan no longer fitting in that category). He set to work trying to figure out how to control his new toy, happily whistling a seasonal tune that seemed appropriate.
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Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » December 20th, 2014, 6:12 pm

[Brief hiatus coming after this one, until the holidays are past, but Rose will definitely be back...]

Chapter 9: Duty

“Okay, what do you want of me?” Sister Rose asked, as soon as the door to Father Gisbert’s private study was closed.

The older Orthodox priest smiled more or less benevolently at her, an expression she guessed he had practiced daily for at least thirty years. “Sister, the Patriarch expresses his personal sympathy for your loss,” he said. “We have made the services of the One True Church available in your time of need, to guide you through the mourning process –“

Rose cut him off. “My family will do our mourning in private, as we always do.” She did not add without the “help” of the Orthodox church; she didn’t need to. “We appreciate the service, but we both know that’s not why you brought me here. You want something of me. Get on with it.”

Gisbert’s demeanor changed; he was all business now. “Very well. Your assistance is – requested in investigating a possible threat within the bosom of the Church.” He sat back in his chair.

Keeping a stiff upper lip was not normally one of Rose’s strengths, but there was a time and a place for everything. At least he only said “requested,” not “required,” so I can get out of this – maybe. And he did say “threat” rather than “heresy,” and he didn’t even stumble over that. “Go on,” she said.

“Very well,” Gisbert repeated. He frowned. “What I am about to say, and particularly what I am about to do, stays within this room.” ”Do”? Rose wondered, but she nodded assent, and the man continued. “Here is the source of this possible threat.” He raised a hand and made a complex motion with his fingers. Magic flared, and an image appeared, floating in mid-air above the table in the room’s center.

Rose was impressed. She’d seen similar displays of Imagery magic during her time in Kiyoka; it was well within the repertoire of a decently adept Tsuirakuan spellcaster. However, seeing such a thing from a senior Orthodox priest was, to say the least, unexpected. Maybe they were starting to get the idea that “heathen” magic wasn’t so heathen after all, at least when it served Luminosita. On the other hand, they still aren’t using it to serve the Veracian people much, the cynical side of her personality reminded her. Well, one small step at a time, the optimistic side responded, in the kind of inner dialogue that she had with herself all the time.

The image itself was also attention-catching, and it wasn’t exactly what she was expecting. “I know that place,” she said. “The castle above Provatiel. I’ve been there.”

“We know. Your reports are part of why we perceive there to be a possible danger there. So are the reports we have received from our parish priests regarding this man.” Gisbert’s fingers flickered again, and the image changed. Rose recognized this one too, and her eyebrows went up, the straight face forgotten for the moment. “We don’t know his name,” Gisbert continued, “but –“

“Elgin Bindiel,” Rose interrupted, getting a startled look from Gisbert. “I’ve met him. He –“

Now it was Gisbert’s turn to interrupt. “Bindiel? That cannot be. Brother Elgin is a faithful servant of Our Lord Luminosita. He is a Millenarian, true, but he has been so trustworthy that he has been made a lieutenant in Our Lord’s army, and has been entrusted with access to some highly sensitive intelligence. This man is someone else, a man known to our priests of the region only as ‘The Preacher.’ He has been stirring up trouble in some of the small towns, and –“ He didn’t finish the sentence, as the implications of the possibility that the two men might be one started to sink in on him. “Oh.”

“Yes, ‘oh’,” Rose affirmed. “We figured it out on the road. I think it was my cousin who put it all together.” This may not have been rigorously true, but if Gisbert didn’t know that Elgin Bindiel had seduced away Brad’s first wife, she certainly wasn’t going to tell him. “He’s not just an army officer, he’s also important in their own church, and he’s apparently a recruiter.” And you bloody fools cleared him for Top Secret information, and sent him after that spider golem we ran into in Centoriel. “So what do he and the Millenarians have to do with this ‘investigation’ you’re trying to get me to do? Surely by now you know that they’re building a clandestine army outside the government’s control. Isn’t that enough to get you to move against them?”

“It is not,” Gisbert said sternly. “It may surprise you, but Patriarch Jeramel, in his wisdom, insists that before the powers of Luminosita are released against an enemy of the Holy Church, we must know not only that it is a possible threat, but that the threat is going to be carried out. Your own faction of the Church should be grateful for that.”

That hit home. Was there an implied threat to the Reformed Church? Possibly. Luminosita knew, the Millenarians were closer to doctrinal Orthodoxy than Rose’s own Reformed people were, and if this man was hinting that the Patriarch was preparing for a crackdown on unorthodox behavior, Rose didn’t want her own people to be part of it. On the other hand, the Reformed Veracian Church wasn’t building their own private army for use in Luminosita alone knew what conflict. “So you want me to investigate, find out what they’re up to, what they’re planning on using this army for, when, and so on, so the case against them can be developed,” she said, keeping her voice neutral.

“In a word, yes.”

You don’t have to, Rose’s inner voice told her. If he could force you to, you wouldn’t be having this conversation. It’s not like dealing with the Malletarians, who were already pronounced heretical. You’re not even going to be here past tomorrow if you don’t want to. You’re still assigned to the temple in Kiyoka, and you can go back there and do the weddings for Farley and Kristi and Miguel and Marilyn, like the nun you are. They can’t get on you for keeping those promises. And then you and Argus can go off to run that little winery there; Father Redmond basically gave you his blessings to do that. And then – and then –

“As you wish,” Sister Rose of the Veracian Church, who was also Major (ret.) Rose Nuria-Lucas of the Veracian Army, sighed; she’d do the weddings, and run the vineyard, and live with Argus, and other things, but duty came first.
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