|Reader Note: This log details some of what the Pontiff of the Church of Light and Dark, his holiness U’Selekma, tells the group CrIsis during the time period from Selestra the 8th, when they arrive, through Selestra 20th, the day before the Festival of Ra.|
After speaking privately to Asher, who silently joins the group after his conversation, U’Selekma raises a single finger to the sky. Bells, as if commanded by that simple gesture, peal throughout the Temple City of Sekti-Abtu, plaintively calling all to the main square. Come they do, and suddenly, quickly, CrIsis finds that at least one hundred thousand souls are gathered behind them.
‘’Hear me those of Light and Dark! Let it be known to all peoples of Palladium, be they Human or Troll, Elf or Ogre, Dwarf or Kobold, Gnome or Wolfen, that the group CrIsis is welcomed here in the Holy City! Anubis himself has declared that no harm can come to any active member of CrIsis within these walls! All those of the Dark know this! I myself am here to acknowledge this, for while it has been whispered to all those of the Dark, it was I who heard it said, across the Table from the Lord Anubis himself!’’ Here U’Selekma pauses for dramatic effect, and those followers of Light forever will say that he seemed to grow in stature, and his robes glowed with the power of the Light. Those of the Dark that witnessed cowered at the next words, some running from the city itself, into the woods of Lopan, others throwing themselves into the outstretched arms of the Sea. The crowd, made up now of cheering worshipers and priests of light, seems to swell in number, and cheers for CrIsis and the Pontiff.
‘’CrIsis is welcomed by ME! I am U’Selekma, Pontiff of the Church of Light and Dark, Holder of the Sacred Ankh, possessor of the Greyhound Head Staff of Ra, and wielder of the Sun Disk. I can no longer sit idly by while the Dark abuses its power, and plays the people of Palladium for fools! CrIsis wishes to restore the god Osiris back to his rightful place as the Lawgiver, to bring Law back to not only the Church, but to Palladium and beyond. They are bringers of Balance, and as such, welcome to me, for it is well known that I seek to bring Balance to the Church!’’ He looks out at the cheering crowd, and smiles, for he knows that the one lasting legacy of his papacy will be his working to bring unity and balance to the Church.
‘’CrIsis is welcomed by the People of Palladium!’’ With this statement, the crowd is now in a frenzy. The ovations last about 10-15 minutes, while cheers for each of the members are circled around the throng. It is obvious that this is a holy-centric crowd, for the priest Indaris is favored the most. U’Selekma waits for the cheers to die down, and then continues.
‘’There are few cities where children do not wear the replica CrIsis ring, or play with small wooden likenesses of each of them! Look upon them! They bring the races of Palladium together- do you think that the Gods and Goddesses of Light chose them in Error? A dwarf, Overkill, rare in his knowledge of Sail and Sea, so blessed by the Gods that he has died 6 times, yet stands here, hale and whole, before you! A gnome, Tyvernos, so honored by his goddess that his Dog has become her Scion! Then there is the Minotaur, Xerx’ses- yes, a minotaur!!! sent to show all of us that judgement before facts is wrong- what better symbol of the need for Osiris, I ask of all of you!! There is the cheery elf Azariel, whose good spirits are only exceeded by his knowledge of the magic arts! I am proud to call Indaris one of our own!‘’ Here U’Selekma pauses, to let the cheers die away again.
‘’Brother Indaris has shown that the Gods still grant miracles to those that are true in conviction, belief and love! He has brought Oathbringer back to the Faith, where she belongs, reeking Holy Vengeance in her path!’’ Again, here the Pontiff works the crowd, letting the energy feed and flow throughout each individual.
‘’Last in order of time in CrIsis, but not in impact is the kobold Asher. Asher is the ultimate story of Redemption, and perhaps even more a worthy symbol of Osiris in CrIsis than Xerx’ses. You see, Asher is known personally by me- he broke into my office in Haven when I was the Bishop of the Eastern Territories, and I had him thrown in Jail!‘’ U’Selekma pauses while the collective gasps and murmurs die down.
‘’I saw a man on the edge of finding himself when I talked to him as prisoner, and searched for a loophole to spare his life, for the penalty of his crime was execution. Upon finding it, I made sure that I was right, and he did eventually turn fully to the Light! Rather than following the path that he was expected to, he now follows the path he wanted to. One of the Lawgiver’s traits was to be able to truly see into a soul, and see what was true and what is false. Asher is a living example of that trait.’’ Cheers erupt again, and the aged pontiff leans over, holding himself up with the Staff of the Greyhound, seeming to draw strength from it.
Rising again to a height seemingly inhuman, he calls in a clear voice, ‘’I have spent my life not choosing sides, attempting to unite the Church. I will spend whatever time that is blessed to me after CrIsis’ quest is complete again doing the same. Hear me Clearly Now- Until that time is done, I am firmly placing my Faith, my blessed Power, and my Being, on the Side of Balance- I STAND WITH CrIsis!!’’ A rolling thunder pierces the clear late Spring skies on the last four words, seeming not only to punctuate them but carry them. Upon Phi, the fog shrouded island to the west, and Llorn, across the Inland Sea, people talk of the thunder that stood with CrIsis.
With that, U’Selekma motioned CrIsis, and those honored friends that had joined them on this section of their quest; the elven bowyer Nath Everall, the beautiful Nara Tureld, the strong Rostam Stonemace, and the Bishop of the Timiro and old friend of CrIsis, Bishop Tutu, into the main sanctuary.
Moving with speed that should not be possible for a man past the century mark, U’Selekma rushes the large group of CrIsis and friends up to the top floor, where U’Selekma’s office looks out over all of Sekti-Abtu, temples, coliseums, and even a Pyramid of Osiris can be seen. He sits behind a modest desk, and motions the others to sit upon couches and chairs strewn about the large room. He sighs, and seems to age before them, looking every bit of his 120 years. There is, however, a bright gleam in his brown eyes, and his voice is clear as he addresses the holy crusaders.
‘’Before I begin, Nath, Rostam, and Tutu are known to me, but I am unsure of the young lady. Are you Nara Tureld, that had been taken because the Dark had misread the signs?’’
Nara holds her head low, but speaks clearly, ‘’Yes, but I am firm in my resolve now to be on the side of the Light. I would like to become a priestess of your God Horus, for he appeared to me, and said he would protect me. As you see, I am unblemished- their arts had no effect, despite the Dark’s efforts. I would see the Agent’s life terminated.‘’ On the last sentence she turns her head up, death in her eyes. U’Selekma seems to pray, briefly, and then rises slowly, moving to a small podium near his death.
‘’Come here child.’’ He places one hand on the book on the podium, the Book of Ma’at, and places the sacred ankh on Nara’s head, who he motions to kneel. ‘’وسوف تضع حياتك لإلهك حورس، ونسجد له إلا من خلال أيامك الموت. أرى في قلبك، وأعلم أنه هو الصحيح. Rise, Priestess of Horus.’’ Nara rises, and then goes back to sitting next to her love, Indaris.
‘’So, CrIsis and friends of CrIsis. You deserve answers. Anubis himself appeared to me, the day after I had lost contact with Bishop Rose. He asked if I desired to join the other Bishops. I should have recognized the trickery in the question, but I did not- my concern for my old friends and compatriots, not to mention concern for what was happening around the world due to their absence, outweighed logic. I was taken to Anubis palace, which is on Ma’ip itself, and remember little after that. I know that the one that calls himself the Agent tortured me. I remember seeing each of the other Bishops,‘’ and he stares briefly at Tutu, ’’but much was erased. Then I remember being in the tall grass of Ma’ip, being cradled in the bloody arms of Apis herself. Apis the gentle, Apis the reasoned, Apis the kind had herself rescued me!‘’ A tear slides down the elderly pontiff’s cheek, as a beam of light seems to follow it down to his desk.
U’Selekma gathers himself again, and continues. ‘’As I previously told Indaris I appeared here on the 12th of Grekar, and made a speech condemning the Dark. I then spent almost 2 weeks in negotiations with the Dark God Anubis himself, on the side of Light, as I also told Indaris earlier. Here is a summary of the agreement.’’
He hands to each member of CrIsis a sheet of parchment. On it reads-
Agreement Between Light and Dark Regarding Pieces of Osiris on Palladium and Treatment of Current Members of CrIsis
1- The Gods of Light will cease to take a direct hand in assisting CrIsis. They will be allowed one Godly resurrection of one member only until either all of CrIsis has perished, or they have succeeded in acquiring all the pieces on Palladium. Isis Torch can no longer power Matilda. Legitimate priestly, magic, or psionic resurrections are allowed.
2. The Dark must return all members of CrIsis’ family, friends, and loved ones. This includes all Bishops as well.
3. The Agent and CrIsis must now be self-sufficient. Gods of Dark may advise him, just as Gods of Light advise CrIsis.
4. The Agent and the Dark may grant a group equal in number to CrIsis powers equivalent in power. This means, at current writing, that the Agent may recruit 5 members to his cause.
5. All Gods of both Pantheons, as well as minions of both Pantheons, must agree to this statement.
6. The War of Osiris is to be halted until CrIsis succeeds or fails. Any God or Minion that breaks this enforced peace agrees to a Severe Body Investment.
7. Knowledge must be earned, not granted! This means, upon reading this agreement, both the group of Light, CrIsis, and the group of Evil, hence known as ReSet, must earn their knowledge through effort, not Godly gift. This includes locations of Osiris’ parts, where to return the parts, and knowledge of CrIsis’ location, and ReSet’s locations.
With a slight intake of breath, U’Selekma continues, "As you plainly see, the Lords of Light and Dark have agreed to the terms now. It will be only a matter of time before the rest of the Pantheon’s signatures appear. Hold these documents closely- they are power incarnate- can destroy minions if they disobey, and you shall be assured that all must follow. A God taking a Severe Body Investment means that they must lose one half of their physical being immediately! (OOC note- 1/2 SDC and HP) They will not take this lightly! These rules are understood by all of you?’’ He waits to see all of CrIsis either nod or voice their ascent.
‘’I had wanted to give you all the time I could with the full blessings of the Light before you arrived, so that is why I had not shared the Agreement with you until you arrived. I cannot tell you how proud I am of all of you. I have much to tell each of you, but I feel that I should allow each individual some time to ask some questions.’’ The wizened pontiff looks at each CrIsis member, awaiting the inevitable questions.
Asher is the first one to speak. “I am worried about knowledge that has already been granted. I know that before this jaunt I had never known a thing of the sea, and that I did not speak the language of dragons and elves. Will those be taken from me now that I have agreed to this document, or will this type of investiture only be prevented in the future?”
U’Selekma smiles as he replies. “All previous knowledge will be kept. No new knowledge will be awarded. This means that, the Gods forbid, any characters that come to replace you will not have any blessed skills.”
“You have been an elder of the church for a very long time. During that time, I’m sure that you heard at least something about the locations of a piece or two. Now that we must learn the locations of these pieces the hard way, what can you tell us that we might not already know about any of the locations of pieces of the Lawgiver that might help us out?”
U’Selekma looks somber for a moment. ‘’Other than the ones that you know of I know of only 2 legends that might assist you. One of them may have already cost a good friend’s life- you may have heard of Rystrom Khejas?‘’ The Pontiff waits for some acknowledgement before continuing. ’’Well, unknown except to a select few, we at the Church helped fund his last expedition to the Nimro Kingdom, partially to search for the Left Arm of Osiris. He has not been heard from in quite some time’’
‘’The other is a fool’s folly. There was a boast, during my time with the Agent, when I overheard something just before the Goddess Apis, bless her, saved me. This meant the memory was not a boast. I heard Zizean say to someone, ‘’It is no matter. Modeus has the Skull, and if he will not give it to Anubis, there is no way he will ever give it to Isis!’’ I fear that somehow it is true, that while not on Palladium, the Lord Osiris’ Skull is actually in Hades!’’
Azariel is the next to speak. “’You will put your life to God Horus, and worship him only through your days of death. I see in your heart, and I know that it is true,” eh?
U’Selekma shakes his head slightly, the smile not leaving his face. “My Lord Ra, through his blessings, and the blessings of my station, allow me to decree and gift upon a being that deserves the rank Priest or Priestess of any of the Gods of Light and Dark. So no, I am still a true follower of Ra, but must still observe the duties at all times as Pontiff of the Church.”
Azariel continues, excitedly. ‘’What is the official stance of the Church regarding worship of other gods of light in different pantheons, such as The Church of Algor or Dragonwright, in conjunction with their own deities? What is the stance of the Gods of the Pantheon of Ra regarding the same? What is the stance of the Church regarding dedicating chapels of Light to include the same, whether the followers that frequent them worship the gods or not, or there are two people that each worship a different god faithfully from two separate pantheons, but in the same Chapel of Light? What is the stance of the Gods of the Pantheon of Ra regarding the same?’’
U’Selekma chuckles softly. ‘’Remember to breath Azariel! Church doctrine is very clear on this. One may worship any of the Church’s, Sects, and Sub-Sects of Light and Dark. Some, such as the Church of Light, includes many Gods. Some hardly acknowledge the other gods, like the Cult of the Great One. However, while we can acknowledge that some gods, such as Kym-nark-mar are good Gods, with many of the same values, they are not to be worshiped. Cross-pantheon worship is frowned upon. This does not mean we should disrespect those other Gods and Goddesses- just not worship them.’’
“Would the Gods allow to add an addendum to the Agreement?”
U’Selekma shudders slightly. “It would require a new meeting between the two sides, rare beyond comprehension.”
Azariel pauses, considering that response, before asking, “Is there an active Proselyting arm of the Church of Light and Dark, or even just of the Church of Light?”
“I hope that you all consider yourself part of it, especially Indaris. All of us in the Church hope to spread its works and goodness.” U’Selekma smiles again, broadly.
“What does the Agreement mean in regard to Indaris’ priestly powers? Will there be any major changes because of it or will he be able to operate as he has been?”
“You are full of priestly questions, especially for a budding alchemist, Azariel. Since I am sure that all of your interactions” looking towards Indaris, ‘’have not been fully recorded by Rod Rambler, I cannot fully say. I know that as long as he stays true to the Light, and to the lady Isis, he should remain as a favored priest.’’
‘’Do old members of CrIsis and honorary members of CrIsis, like Terramore Gleba, Sir Quixis Ote, and Jidian Kulder, count toward the number of members of CrIsis that is used to balance ReSet?’’
‘’Absolutely not, although I am sure that ReSet will gain friends to assist them as well. It is only ring bearers, holders of the True Sacred Eternal Torch Rings.’’
Indaris, the Priest of Isis, bows towards the pontiff, and sheepishly begins, ‘’Your Holiness, what is the Churches stance on interference or help from other pantheons. What are the detection powers of the scrolls for breaks in the agreement, would they detect Set saying casually to an ally in another Pantheon, those CrIsis guys are irritating, and his ally, say Panath interpreted that as a request for an assassination and using one of his (Panath’s) assassin followers to kill us. Would that hurt Set?‘’ Indaris hurriedly adds, "The light side isn’t likely to try to get around the conditions as much as the dark but desperate times are desperate times."
“My son, it is not a Church decision, or for my opinion or anyone in the Church to determine. Demons and minions you face from now on must be called upon by an individual with the power to do so. If Set tried to bypass the Agreement by using an ally he would suffer, just as would Ra if he did the same to protect you. Once signed, it is binding.”
Indaris sits, humbly, and considers this.
Humble rarely describes Tyvernos, who stands atop Otto’s back to be better heard (and seen). He clears his throat, and begins.
My parents were members of the Defilers. Their struggle, ages ago, was not unlike ours. And yet we are here, today, battling evil and combating the Darkness. Pray tell — how can we end this cycle of fighting once and for all? Can we raise the stakes so that the outcome is permanent? CrIsis is a tool for the gods of light to play out the war on a battlefield of good and evil // order and chaos. What are these primordial forces if not alternate axes of alignments? What can we do to prevent Palladium from ever needing saving again? The gods of darkness? Are they beholden to other, higher powers? What do you know of the Old Ones?‘’ At this statement U’Selekma grips his Greyhound staff tightly, and stands, but lets the Gnome continue. ‘’What do you know of demons and deevils? Do they war with each other? To what end do we march onward and struggle? The Defilers did the very same thing, thwarting evil and darkness only to fade into oblivion and leave a legacy of…incomplete megaverse-saving. Is CrIsis doomed to follow in their footsteps? We labor tirelessly, ceaselessly to rebuild Osiris. Do you know his mind? His wife’s? What will he do when he is once again whole and how will his restoration aid in our quest. For, yes, we toil to restore Osiris — but ultimately we pledge our lives to see evil vanquished and see our world — Palladium — saved, free from oppression, happy, healthy, and sovereign. If the gods are willing to amend their bargain and draw-up terms of service and the rules of engagement would they also submit to terms of VICTORY? Let here, now, and for all time — the victors sentence the gods to exile. Let men, women, children, and the sentient races preside over ourselves? Will the gods agree to this? Light AND Dark? Leave the world of men to its own devices? Their agendas and dark designs — their propaganda and power-struggles — for good or ill — banished with them from Palladium. There cannot be balance when one stands over another. Regardless of who wins.‘’ Tyvernos takes a brief breath, put continues his impassioned plea.
’’What of the dragon gods? What of Kym-Nark-Mar and Styphon? What of Algor and Od? What of Yin Sloth and Lopnel? What of the OTHER pantheons — the cracked opal, the Cult of Dee’vag, the pantheons of Hades and Dyval? The world is bigger than what we see, the gods we worship, the mission we were given. The Megaverse is bigger still. Please, Pontiff, I beg you — put us in perspective. Put me in my place. If collecting the pieces of Osiris is a pragmatic means to an end I would know that end. It is…not enough, anymore, to be the thoughtless instrument of divine will. To be the hand…or a digit on the hand of the will of the pantheon of Light. This little finger…this little piggy…it needs to know about the wrist and the shoulder and the arm. It yearns for enlightenment. It quests for and questions blind, faithful devotion and acceptance. Peace is made in such ways, they say. Fools. Slaves are made in such ways.
Ooohselekmah , your wisdom bolsters me. You are the divine mouthpiece and interpreter. Thank you for your service and thank you for answering my questions. ’’ Tyvernos climbs down, gives Otto a quick pet, and returns to sitting.
‘’You are definitely your Father’s son, Tyvernos,‘’ U’Selekma says with a chuckle. "I only am a humble man, granted gifts that I try hard to measure up to, each day, each hour, each moment. I cannot begin to grasp the stress you all are under, and I will try to mollify your concerns best that I can, without going past the Agreement. If you fail in your quest, balance will not be achieved, and the World will slip to the side of the Dark in my opinion. As far as permanently stating that there shall only be one side, that is the talk of the Old Ones. I said a while ago, ‘If there is no room in a good religion for those of small evil, how will they find the prosperous merchants? If there is no room in an evil religion for those of small good, how will they find gallant warriors? And if there is no room in a selfish religion for the generous, then how will they raise money?’ I believe in that balance, but if you do not succeed….’’
Xerx’ses, uncomfortable not only in this situation, but seeming uncomfortable with himself, does not stand, and seems to shrink as he speaks, softly. “She of Many Names told me when we first met that her husband, my lord, the Lawgiver was not just on this world and that there were others helping her gather pieces on other worlds. So how many worlds did Lord of Darkness dispatch the Lawgiver’s corpus form to?”
“Xerx’ses, you are welcome here, as I stated in my speech.” U’Selekma rises, and comes to sit cross-legged in front of the giant Minotaur. “I know only the legends, and what I have read, and what I believe myself. I know not of how many other worlds, or what worlds they may be. I know only that there are ones. What else concerns you, that I may hope to shine light upon?”
Xerx’ses softly, and quickly, pours out his remaining questions. ‘’How many pieces are left on Palladium? I have noticed that Demons are helping the dark, did Set entrust a piece of Osiris to a Demon Lord? Will we need go to Hades to get it if indeed they have one,? Will you send aid to the Church in Troker the Good Brother and I have sent it priests and money? The Soldiers of CrIsis led by Commander Terramore Gleba spread our name and try to bring aid to our cause, must they desist now? Or, will ReSet be allowed to raise matching forces as well? If that is the case for raising forces then are we both groups the harbingers of doom for the small folk as Armies of Light and Dark spread forth to battle mindless of what gets caught in our wake? Did the Gods learn nothing from the fall of the Fair (gestures at Azariel) and the Strong (gestures at Overkill)?’’
‘’I will attempt to answer these in order. By the Agreement, I may not tell you how many pieces are left. However, please avail yourself of the libraries here on Sekti-Abtu, as well as the resources that you have used or have been mentioned in the past- the Credia library, the Library of Bletherad, and the Royal College of Navigation- not to mention the Tri-Arcanum Magic Guild, among other places.’’
“I again cannot reveal Piece locations, but even Set would not purposefully place a piece in the hands of those of Hades!”
“What Church in Troker? I can have someone see if it is there, and would be happy to do that! There is no such thing in my sight, but I am just reaching my full abilities again.”
“Terramore is his own man, just as I am sure there will be those that follow ReSet- they are acting upon their own free will.”
U’Selekma stands, and raises Xerx’ses head to look into his eyes. “Your last statements are truly troubling. The Gods do not control free will, so if WE, as a People, choose to start a Holy War, that is upon our own heads. It was my hope with the Agreement that I would stop a vision I had of a possible future away, that of a Holy War that killed good people on both sides, of all Races. This is one of my greatest fears.”
Xerx’ses asks sheepishly of the Pontiff, “Most holy Pontiff I have a chance to learn a spell that would help me at the games in winning the lung fairly. Could I be blessed by the light with two scrolls of Teleport to make it there and back?” He prostrates himself when done.
“Rise my son, please. To make sure that the Agreement is not broken, you should pay for the scrolls in the proper manner. If it were up to me I would happily grant them, but I feel constrained.”
Xerx’ses holds the Pontiff’s gaze, “Master’s Azariel, Tyvernos, and Brother Indaris asked much and more than this servant of Light would have thought of. Thank you.”
Overkill stands, looking to make sure no other person is speaking. “U’Selekma, It seems that no other pantheon has interfered. How any other god could get involved is opprtunities a plenty. Think of it. Kym-nark-mar, Algor, Rurga.. etc. These are just a few that could of messed with us but haven’t. Even when Lopnel didn’t side with anyone to mess with Cava but kept to his own strength. I am sure that the gods would not get involved outside of the pantheon. i get the feeling that its kind of like a family mafia issue and those outside the family just don’t want to get involved.”
U’Selekma moves over to Overkill. “There is a reason that the Gods have so smiled upon you. As I had said, while there may be relationships between the Gods, they typically will stay out of each others business.”
Overkill smiles, and continues, more confidently. ‘’You mentioned a Pyramid of Osiris, may we place a piece there? Also, our next destination is the Pyramid of Shandala, after the Games, and I am unfamiliar with these seas. Do you have any maps to assist us?’’
U’Selekma heads to the door, where he pulls a rope. Shortly, an acolyte priest shows at the door. He whispers to him, and the priest leaves, shutting the door. ‘’You can in fact place a piece here, for that knowledge is my own, and does not break the agreement. You must port at Oceanside, and make your way to the Old Kingdom Frontier through Shinkasa, Be thee all aware, there is evil amongst these lands.’’
U’Selekma goes back to his desk, and sits down. “Well, I hope that I have helped you. I have business I must attend to, but please stay here in Sekti-Abtu. Your needs will be accommodated, and you will be safe.” The previous Acolyte returns, holding a couple of maps. Pedramos will show you to your rooms. We will talk again soon."
The speech occurred on the 8th of Selestra, as did this initial meeting.
This account was written by U’Selekma, Pontiff of the Church of Light and Dark, Holder of the Sacred Ankh, possessor of the Greyhound Head Staff of Ra, and wielder of the Sun Disk.
Map of Sekti-Abtu stolen from the City of the Gods, with the green belt added by Killervp (our Sekti-Abtu is not an island).