2018-05-29: The Butcher of Lastonbell

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  • Log: The Butcher of Lastonbell
  • Cast: Runette Forton, Neriah Parringer
  • Where: Pendrago Shrinechurch
  • Date: 5/29/2018
  • Summary: In the wake of Lastonbell's collapse, Cardinal Runette Forton decides to up the stakes.

<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

War has come to Rolance. By now, word has come to the capital: Lastonbell has fallen, and the armies of Hyland may soon march into the imperial heartland. Rolance's nobility and ruling class are handling this with all the calm one would expect: which is to say none. The nation's entire strategy relied on keeping Hyland from taking Lastonbell, and the disparate armies moving to reinforce the city now seem like separate targets that would be easy to pick off.

Whispers shoot through the nobles, already: Cardinal Forton should sue for peace, and if she does not, then the emperor should have her replaced as regent.

Runette, with that in the air, has summoned Sister Domitia. She is in the innermost sanctum of the Pendrago Shrinechurch, the enormous cathedral in Rolance's castle district. The Cardinal is a pretty woman in her thirties, with dark green hair. She wears robes of white, lined in black and gold, and a hat that matches her station. She awaits the Sister's arrival.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

When she's at court, Sister Domitia only keeps her hood up some of the time, and never around ecclesiasts who outrank her.

Dark curls spill free as the arriving priestess lets that hood slip back. Sister Domitia's a solid ten to twelve years younger than the Cardinal, still with the elegant prettiness of someone of maybe nineteen, though with her hair long and curled now it's much harder to identify her as Neriah Parringer even when she's not taking steps to prevent it. Her steps are slow and stately as she makes her way into the sanctum, the only sound the soft click of sharp heels against the flooring.

When finally she comes into range, the Sister clasps her hands and bows her head deeply, closing her eyes - a simple acknowledgment of the supremacy of the Cardinal in these parts. "Peace be with you, Your Holiness," she says, her voice low and throaty, but clear enough. "I came as quickly as I was able."

The news out of Lastonbell concerned her, too - in her own way. It had concerned many at court.

Domitia, the abjuress, had been one of the more steadfast voices in believing in Cardinal Forton's leadership.

<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

"And you, Sister Domitia." Runette has a stern demeanor; some of this is an affectation, to meet the needs of a nation at war. She regards Domitia for a moment longer than need be. If she ever suspected her nature, she never let that slip. Her head tilts, slightly, as she takes her subordinate in.

Then, she nods her head slightly.

"I will dispense with any pleasantries," she says. "We are at war, and that requires a certain... directness. What do you know of war, Sister? I know you are not, originally, of these lands."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

The Sister's origins are a little obscure. She arrived from a distant village and brought a more direct approach to her duties with her, less a healer than one who banishes Hellions and monstrosities to dust.

Her mannerisms are not so much stern as coolly dispassionate, a serenity with all the air of a cold, dry winter day. She keeps her hands neatly folded, simply nodding as the Cardinal brushes back the niceties. There's no point in them. If there is anything for Runette to see as she looks through her, Domitia has hidden it well.

"I am no stranger to war, or to combat," she says. "In my travels here I have battled not merely the monstrous, but conventional foes on conventional battlefields. I have been with the men in the field enough to understand what they face."

<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

"That is well, then," Cardinal Forton says, "for Rolance needs, today, its guiding hands to wield swords."

She turns, arms folded behind her back. She strides into the middle of the sanctum; stained glass in the roof, replete with imagery of Shepherds, of Calamity, and of Althena, shines down upon her. Her voice is quiet. "Our people are at a great disadvantage. You see... while the loss of Lastonbell is frightening, war with Hyland is not. War with Hyland is... sport, to our people."

She says it distastefully. "The nobility, specifically, sees it as that: a trade of land here, for coin of blood and pride. They do not see how it affects the commoners--and, in turn, so few commoners are truly affected. There is something our people lack."

She pauses, a moment, before she explains: "Hate."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

As Runette moves forward, Sister Domitia takes a smooth step to one side to make way for her, then turns to look after her. Light streams through those stained glass windows, the regular light of day, but it plays across one side of the abjurer's face and deepens the shadows cast by her hair. For a moment, only the pale orchid of her eyes stands out, before she turns her head and the light plays just right to cast her features in the many tints of a colourfulf fresco of the Goddess herself.

Her red-painted lips turn downwards slightly. "A game, to them," she concurs quietly.

And then the Cardinal says something that Domitia may not have expected - but the dark-haired woman does not show surprise beyond the slight curving of one eyebrow. Even that is quick to pass.

The sharp tap of heels on stone echoes as Sister Domitia turns and takes a couple of slow steps. "There is a way that it drives them," she concedes. "An emotion that seeks to be sated. A dangerous one... and yet, in its own way... potent."

Disguise aside, Neriah Parringer understands hate. She broke her chains for hate's sake - hate for Ge Ramtos, hate for Id, hate for Ethius, hate for anyone who dared to tell her no. She's in her element a little here as she surmises, "And you wish to foster those feelings in them, I assume."

<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

"Yes," Runette says. "It has strength... but it will yield. It will bend. It will only allow them to go so far--and I do not think that Rolance should satisfy itself with a return to the status quo. I believe, with all of my heart, that our way of life must be spread. That we are the heirs of the Asgard Empire, that the blood of the line of Dragonia has the rightful place as ruler."

She continues to face away.

"...but that greatness cannot be realized, when base greed is all that drives us." The Cardinal shakes her head, sadly. "So, yes. I intend to remind them that there is something to hate."

A moment passes.

"How much would you do for your nation? For your Goddess, Sister? How far would you go?"

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Behind the implacable facade of Sister Domitia, Neriah's mind makes a few calculations.

The soldiers who stumbled into Felkirk Village had already either died or taken her lessons to heart. Building hate among the people of Rolance would practically invite her to share those lessons with more of them. What had begun as a flight of whimsy could be something more.

Keeping her hands clasped, Sister Domitia is outwardly unreadable, simply listening as the Cardinal speaks her piece. She tilts her head a little to one side, watching what she can of Runette's body language - that sadness emerging in her voice at the thought of the lesser sin driving her.

The fateful question is asked. Domitia doesn't hesitate to answer, her voice as level and cool as ever. A statement of fact.

"I will go as far as it takes, Your Holiness, for the sake of the ascendance of Rolance... and for the glory of the Goddess."

<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

There is no compliment from Runette at that. Perhaps she assumes it is so; perhaps, she thinks Domitia's answer may change, once she gives her mission. She doesn't, truly, understand just what this errant priestess is.

But, she offers a certain advantage: deniability, if discovered.

"A number of wagon trains have departed from Lastonbell. They flee in a disorderly fashion, making way over the highways and roads towards Pendrago and other settlements," she says. "A panic, which isn't warranted. Hyland's soldiers have not butchered the city. Our people think they have nothing to fear."

She turns, looking over her shoulder. Dark shadows are cast along her face. "We have some two dozen Hyland uniforms, including ones of officers. We also have... a cadre of men, who feel as you profess to. Those trains of refugees are unguarded. If you wish to serve..."

Runette does not smile. Her expression remains cold; under it is an unholy fury. "...then take those uniforms, find one such group of refugees, and deliver unto our people a reason. A reason to hate Hyland, and all it stands for."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

For a moment, a tiny corner of Neriah's psyche quails at what Runette asks her to do. All too clearly, she recalls the faces of the innocent people of the village called Three Cucco Springs.

Villagers whose life she spilled from them, leaving only a blood-smeared ruin full of mangled bodies and orphaned children.

    AND YET...

Outwardly, Sister Domitia merely clasps her hands. When Runette looks back, she will find the orchid colour of Domitia's eyes unblinking as it finds hers. To read them is to read little - that snowy, dry cold that never seems to fall from her completely.

But it is soon stirred by one thing.

A slow, sober nod, and a quiet tightening around the corners of her eyes. Not of contempt or of sadness. A little sign of some deep, zealous resolve

And a little dark voice, in a corner of Neriah's mind, reminding her from behind the mask that a part of her enjoyed the power to determine who lives and who dies - and that, for once, it will be she making that choice.

"It will be done, Your Holiness," Sister Domitia says. "The people of Rolance will know what anger is."

<Pose Tracker> Runette Forton has posed.

Runette's gaze is unflinching and unmoved. Whatever journey she took, whatever path she tred, she is well past the point that proposing such a monstrous course of action is beyond her. She stares back at Domitia, and when she agrees...

Then, Runette nods to her. "Then, I shall leave you to your task. Walk in the path of the Goddess, Sister Domitia. When you have finished... you will have done all of Glenwood a great service."

She turns, after giving that dismissal, and closes her eyes. Around her, a few black motes of Malevolence drift upward.