Session 12 (Part Two)
The Cathedral of Oar
The main avenue snaked through the tall buildings for half-a-bowshot before emptying into a large plaza. A three-tiered fountain rose in the center of the plaza, adorned at each point of the compass by larger than life statues of regal looking men clad in antique armor. Directly across the plaza soared the façade of the Cathedral.
Sextus estimated that the main face of the building was ten times the height of Rosë, with flanking bell towers rising higher still. The central nave rose to the same height as the bell towers and the entire façade was festooned with carvings and statuary. Four shallow steps led to the main entrance, an enormous set of double doors. A low wall, perhaps 5 paces high, connected the main part of the Cathedral to the adjacent city walls. It was pierced in two locations by small postern gates. Beyond the wall, the group noted the roofs of several other buildings and a multitude of treetops.
A wide variety of shops lined the plaza, although most were shuttered or in the process of closing. A small crowd, mostly comprised of children, was gathered around a colorful stripped awning to their right. The evening sea breeze wafted an enticing smell towards them from the shop. Following a brief discussion, Lew and Quintus headed for the Cathedral to seek entrance while the others spread out and inspected the various shop fronts. Rosë’s growling stomach led him to source of the smell and he was soon munching on an huge puffed pastry covered in a sweet white substance. He grinned foolishly at the children around him and smacked his lips in delight.
Lew’s ringing of the door chime brought a fresh-faced young aspirant, a lad of 16 winters with a shock of unruly curly blond hair. He presented his holy symbol and requested sanctuary for him and his companions. He also mentioned that he had business with the Bishop. The lad invited them in, then asked him to wait for a few moments. While Quintus waited in the Foyer, Lew slipped into the main worship hall to give thanks to Osirian
for their safe arrival. The sheer immensity of the place almost overwhelmed him. The entire abbey of Glynden could easily have fit in the alter area of the Cathedral. Stone and woodcarvings, rich tapestries and gilt decorations bespoke a richness that the simple shrine of Father Thomas could never hope to approach. Overawed, Lew mumbled a quick prayer of thanks and returned to Quintus, wonder reflected in his honest face.
The aspirant, Viato by name, returned shortly thereafter and indicated that the Abbot had granted them sanctuary in name of the Bishop. Lew inquired about the Bishop and Viato indicated that Bishop Attelus had been ill for sometime and the senior clergyman present, Brother Patroclian, had temporarily assumed the mantle of Abbot and was acting in the Bishop’s stead.
The news struck Lew like a hammer-blow! Brother Patroclian was priest that his brother, Marcus, had traveled south with several moons previously and he had overheard Father Thomas exchange heated words with Patroclian shortly before he departed Glynden. He absentmindedly chewed on his lip in concern as Viato directed them to enter through the western postern gate and he would see to their needs. He also told them that the Abbot had requested their presence at dinner following the 8th bell.
The party was soon comfortably settled in a small, 2-story stone guesthouse toward the back of the Cathedral grounds. The grounds themselves were almost park-like, well kept and inhabited by numerous well-fed squirrels that chattered noisily as the party passed. Viato saw to Pratto the mule, while the party settled in.
The first floor of the guesthouse contained a small sitting room and bathing facility. Viato had lit the hypocaust before departing and informed the party that the water would be suitable for bathing in 30 turns of the minute glass. The upper floor had eight small, simply appointed rooms, which were plain but comfortable. The party rested, bathed and cleaned up for about an hour before Viato returned and fetched them for dinner. He led them to a larger 3-story stone building they had passed on their way in – the 2nd Rectory.
He led them past the kitchens and common room on the first floor via a wide circular stone staircase. As they passed the second floor, they saw a score of aspirants, lay brothers and acolytes eating in a large communal dining hall. Reaching the third floor, they were ushered into a private dining room, complete with ornate table and well-appointed sitting area. A large olive-skinned man with curly, shoulder-length black hair, oiled beard and piercing dark eyes, dressed in silken blue robes, rose from a divan to welcome them.
“Greetings and welcome to the House of the Lightbringer. I am Abbot Patroclian, please make yourselves comfortable while we wait for the others. It is good to see you again, Brother Lew, will you introduce me to your friends?”
Lew made the introductions and Abbot greeted each one warmly while looking deeply into each person’s eyes. Lew then produced the letter of introduction from Father Thomas and handed it to the Abbot. Brother Patroclian quickly read the missive and indicated that the resources of the Cathedral library where open to Lew and his friends.
The Abbot made idle conversation, asking about their journey from while several others entered the room. Introductions were continued and the party soon met:
- Mercator Zoe – The sole supplicant to Myriel. A homely woman of perhaps 40 winters, she wore her years heavily.
- Ensign-Brother Elias – He tended the shrine to Gabriel in the absence of Captain-Brother Vandarius. Captain-Brother Vandarius’ vessel was 2 moons overdue and thought to be lost at sea.
- Sergeant-Brother Fortian – The younger brother of Petrosian of Tyrial. He was also a Church Knight and commanded the Cathedral Guard in his brother’s absence.
After 10 turns of the minute glass, Abbot Patroclian suggested they take their seats. “Reverend-Father Jarvis, our Master of Ceremonies and Chief Librarian, should be along any moment. He is not as spry as he once was and may be a few moments yet.”
As if on cue, the door opened and a stooped man with long white hair shuffled in. Ill-fitting robes hung from his frail frame and he leaned heavily on the arm of a short, chubby aspirant with short brown hair and pockmarked cheeks. The room was quiet as Reverend-Father Jarvis took his seat. “Thank you, Stephen.” the old man whispered, “I shall send for you when the meal is over.”
Dinner, served by several young aspirants, was quite good. Numerous courses, including many dishes that the party was unfamiliar with, were accompanied by several bottles of wine – ranging from a dry red to a very sweet white. Sea bass, oysters, spicy rice and pomegranates all graced the party’s pallets and several - Rosë and Sextus in particular - downed copious quantities of wine. The dinner conversation revolved primarily around the happenings about Glynden and the Cult of Ashai
. Reverend-Father Jarvis echoed Abbot Patroclian’s pledge to make the library available to the party.
Lew learned that his brother Marcus had traveled to the Jewel Cities to request assistance for the Bishop, who was plagued by a malady that won’t respond the miracles of Osirian
. The Bishop was sequestered in a special infirmary in the 1st Rectory adjacent to the Abbot’s quarters. They conversed late into the night and everyone but Quintus was heavy-headed from wine when they finally returned to their guesthouse.
A frantic knock awoke Lew far too early the following morning. “Brother Lew, Brother Lew! Come quickly, there is trouble in the Cathedral!”
He opened his door to find a wild-eyed Viato standing before him.
Lew’s first thought sprang from his mouth. “What has Rosë done now?”
Viato stammered, “It’s not Rosë…there is a large group of people gathered in the Foyer demanding to see you. You better come quick!”
Sighing heavily and somewhat perplexed, Lew pulled his clothes on, grabbed his belt and staff and followed Viato, who sprinted ahead to the Cathedral. Alarmed, Lew hustled forward and quickly made his way to the Foyer.
He slowed his pace as he noticed a large group of people, perhaps a score, milling about. They were largely unwashed and dressed in dirty, tattered clothes. Many were missing limbs or were terribly deformed with all manner of unseemly defects. Faces, filled with desperate hope, turned toward Lew as he approached.
“What are you people doing here?” he inquired.
A jumble of responses burst forth, but one oft-repeated chorus was clear. “We seek the Miracle Worker! We seek Brother Lew of Osirian whose touch can heal the afflicted! Are you Brother Lew?”
The young priest was stunned for a moment. ‘Miracle worker,’ he thought to himself, ‘what in the name of Osirian were they talking about?’
Then it came to him! Kordas, the young man whose back he had straightened, must have spread the word of the “miracle”!
Mind whirling, Lew stood indecisively, trying to figure out what to do.
The crowd edged toward him with plaintive cries of “Help us” and “Heal us” and “Where is the Miracle Worker?”
Lew spread his arms wide, “Brother Lew is busy serving the Light in important ways…”
He trailed off as the crowd closed in even more. One crippled man fell forward and grasped Lew about the knees. The man’s legs were thin and twisted, like gnarled tree limbs, but his arms were strong. “Help me!” he croaked.
Panicking, Lew called upon an orision
to bathe the area in blue-white light. Drawing himself up to his full height and using his most authoritative voice, he boomed, “Brother Lew serves the Light. He has important work. If it is healing ye seek, go north. There you will find Brother Lew... Seek out the light...travel to Fort Scipio...”
The crowd drew back for a moment, although the crippled man continued to hold Lew tightly about the knees wailing for help. A woman whose face looked like it was being eaten away by disease looked past Lew towards Viato, who was standing, white-faced and quaking, several paces behind Lew.
“Is he not Brother Lew?” she beseeched with a nasally whine.
Lew turned awkwardly to look at Viato. The young aspirant, eyes as big as saucers, looked from Lew to the crowd and back again.
“Y-y-e-e-e-s-s-s he is,” stammered Viato, before casting a hopeless glance at Lew, turning and fleeing the room.
“SAVE US!” echoed from the walls of the Foyer as the crowd surged forward all about Lew. They grasped his clothing, tugging and wailing in a growing frenzy. Lew tried to twist away, but more and more hands pulled at him, wrenching him to and fro. Suddenly, the crush of the crowd knocked him from his feet and Lew screamed as he disappeared beneath the mass of struggling bodies!
To Be Continued…
Next: Session 12 (Part Three): Martyr or Madman?