Dear Wise Brother Eustaquio,
I don’t know if you have ever had cause to travel through Carpathia. It isn’t a very friendly land. I can see why the Empire has been thwarted in their conquest of it; it’s hard enough to live here when you are native, and the land rejects the advances of the plow and the ox as much as the people reject the outside world.
Everything here is old and there’s layers of permafrost over attitudes, over hearts and minds, and over conditions. The land endures and the people try to emulate it.
Oddly, that’s not the hardest place to be in this land. Not by half.
You see, we were facing a demon in disguise as the Captain of the Guard (I called him a bodyguard or a constable, but I’ve since learned that’s the best title for him), and had fled since it had separated Smriti, whom I believe you met, as well as Eul, a cleric of Zheenkeef who is traveling with us, from my companion Ian and myself. Worse, the creature made itself keeper of my soul, and I could not stab at the black heart and try to vent my spleen by venting it’s ichor.
How we came to be in this situation is difficult to explain, but you may be familiar with Wolfgeorge the Merciless? I don’t know how well the Great Church overlaps with the beliefs of these people when it comes to him and his many divine aspects, but Wolfgeorge had taken hold of a holy man who was passing through a town where the children were to be possessed of the devil and then slay and cannibalize their parents. As you may imagine from his title alone, Wolfgeorge’s divine vessel did what even I find difficult to accept, chopping the heads of the children from their shoulders like the ends of a carrot.
Naturally, a strange Cossack beheading their children didn’t sit well with the townsfolk, so a mob quickly subdued the man, but not before the local high priest saw the divine glow about the man, and claimed the man deserved sanctuary as a holy man. The mob, between the rock and the hard place of wanting vengeance but fearing a curse should they go further, didn’t challenge his authority.
This happened about a day and a half before we got to town, and tensions still were high, for (we later learned), two of the three children slain were not brought back in the ceremony of life.
We tried to piece together the clues to figure out how a holy man could behead children and still be holy, and it was a right mess of it, but we found sanctuary after Kumori and his horse Kaminari appeared from our cursed lamp into the small stone chapel, covered with blood from some just and noble war in another land at another time. I will lead Kumori to retell that tale, but the gleam in his eyes of talking about it suggests he yearns for a just and noble war where he is the waterwheel grinding down the unrighteous into so much dust and blood.
Ultimately, I think Eul’s lack of interest in healing the poor man delayed our uncovering the truth, so we suffered a frustrating encounter with the demon, in full demon guise, and he took none of the blows and fled, allowing us to regroup and set a plan.
Kumori, despite swearing to face the monster to the death, changed his mind right before it retreated, and decided to go away to a town 2 days hence. Since I was riled from the previous investigation into the clues, I was already a rock, a boulder to his waterwheel, and he prepared to draw steel on me, but something about that shook him free from the control of the demon.
The Captain of the Guard had wanted us to leave town, the younger priest in the temple had suggested we leave town, and we almost would have left town, but for my pig headedness. I even gave Kumori the party funds to take with him should he go because I was not moving, weakened and alone, I was going to stay here and kill whomever I had to try to stop the demon’s plot.
Thankfully, since Kumori was no longer in a rush to get people to leave, and we’d seen the church had some beneficial effects on one of the possessed children, that managed to get us the information we needed – the high priest had healed the wounds of the flesh, but not the wounds of the mind nor the soul. Eul took the man outside the temple – apparently, though hallowed to the Great Church, the divine connection to our gods was blocked in the temple – and restored him, and he was instantly much better.
He was still a basket case, unfortunately, talking mainly in proverbs in Rus which Ian had to translate for the party, but making him whole allowed him to become a divine vessel once more, as did the other two priests. After the children and citizens were sent to the back of the church, Wolfgeorge through the Cossack explained that 5 generations ago, a deal was struck to survive a very harsh winter, and the sixth generation was the harvest of that seed planted so long ago.
Our solution was to kill the children, each and every one – all 22.
I admit, at this point, I was not as opposed to the plan as may be hoped. Killing a generation, if corrupted, is not without possible justification, though it’s one I know many, including probably yourself, doesn’t easily accept and may never accept.
Kumori did ask what I expected, though, which was whether there were any other way, to which the answer came force of arms. Having felt the force of our arms like a fan against it’s skin previously, I asked if in blessing the Cossack whether his saber would also be divinely blessed.
The answer, it turns out, was no, but that we could have a boon – I asked if we could have a holy weapon, and though that was not a boon Wolfgeorge chose to grant, he made Kumori’s satori blessed with goodness and righteousness and returned my soul.
Eul is sleeping, but we may ask him to cast align weapon Ian’s arrows and Smriti’s spear, since the spell reportedly can’t be used on natural weapons. Though, in writing this out, the vajra she carries may allow for being aligned; I can’t believe we’ve not gotten her brass knuckles of some sort, but that’s something I will ask Eul and the priests here, though I know not if they have the same spells offered that Eul does or if they work the same way.
If this is my last letter, I am sure you’ll explain the reason to my family and Brother Calen.
Thank you for your friendship,