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 Prologue: Precipitation

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The House of Ainsley
Keeper of the Dark Mirror
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Male Number of posts : 1996
Age : 45
Location : The Dark Heart of Bardosylvania

PostSubject: Prologue: Precipitation   Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:56 am

"But as the day descends into night,
What once seemed so wrong now seems so very right."
--Anonymous






The Grounds of the Ainsley Estate
November, 1330 SE

The hammer had done its work. Only the scantest rays of evening's light could pierce the thick juniper planks to find the darkness in the well's throat beneath. On the verdant earth around the well, flecks of stone had scattered from the violations of Lord Heward's longest and stoutest steel nails biting into the masonry, holding the planks fast.

Lord Heward had dismissed his servants hours before, for he would trust none but himself to the task of sealing the old well on Dorren's Hill.

And at the foot of that low hill, two little ones awaited his return. The small boy stood vigil by his infant sister, keeping her swaddled in her basket against the autumn chill. That responsibility and more he bore for one who had seen so few winters in his dawning life.

And at long last Lord Heward did return, frogging his masonry hammer to his belt and brushing motes of wood and granite from his ebon beard. And the boy came to him, dragging his sister in her basket behind him.

"Father? When is Mother coming home?"

For a long moment Lord Heward stood silent and despondent, rocking as if all the world's weight were bearing on his shoulders. Through chapped and quailing lips came forth his faltering reply. "Your mother...is going to be gone for a very long time, Darrovan. 'Twould be best not to worry for her. We will all meet with her again one day."

"Where did she go? Can we go with her?"

A twinge of anger creased Heward's gaze, but an anxious shake of his head dismissed the irritation with the question which provoked it. He stoically stepped past young Darrovan and took up the baby basket's handle with a grip of stone. "Come, Darrovan. Let us not dwell on such things. Our servants can draw water from one of the wells nearer the house."

"But the servants are gone."

"Quite right," Heward acknowledged with a nerve-wracked snort as they began their walk together. "When we get back to the manor, you can take your sister Lyria inside and set her near the fire. I will draw the water."

"Yes, Father."

Heward's unyielding hand then clapped hard on his son's shoulder, stopping both in their tracks.

"And Darrovan?"

"Father?"

"You must promise me...swear to me that you will never...never again go near that well behind us. It is very dangerous. I have boarded it up, but the well is...still very dangerous. And I do not wish to lose you. Promise me that."

Somewhere behind the boy's eyes, fear danced in spirals with uncertainty. Something bad lay in Father's words, something mired with sorrow and regret. But he trusted Father. Father would never lead him astray.

"I promise, Father."

A bleak smile was Lord Heward's only reply, and their stroll resumed. The manor house rose higher and higher before them, and the infant Lyria cooed as ample golden lamplight from the quarters inside cascaded over them.

Dorren's Hill lay far behind then...so far behind that none could hear the muffled echoes of something mewing pitifully, and weakly raking and scratching the juniperwood from beneath.
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The House of Ainsley
Keeper of the Dark Mirror
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Male Number of posts : 1996
Age : 45
Location : The Dark Heart of Bardosylvania

PostSubject: Re: Prologue: Precipitation   Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:55 am

Saturninity Chapel
April 13, 1344 SE

Come the morn, all of Saturninity Hill came alive with the tenor of orchestrated hymns and pealing bells. The chapel atop the hill had been restored after so many years of neglect and decay, and twoscore of the Ruby Goddess' priests and acolytes had converged from as far as Brustagg to take part in the rites of consecration and renewal. Lord Heward would have naught but the highest celebration to be had, not after he and his servants had invested so many years and so much work into giving Saturninity Chapel new life and new purpose.

Septimus Fahrenfir, one of the seven most exalted priests forming the Scarlet Order's papacy, rose from his humble rosewood chair beside the looming statue of Wee Jas and took his place before the goddess' effigy and her somber-stoned altar. With both hands raised to the chapel vaults, he bid the choir and the congregation unto silence. As silence fell, his own prayer of consecration rose.

"O great and wise Wee Jas, keeper of the Shroud, matron of light and darkness! We give you thanks for joining us in this hour of hope...."

To the rightmost reaches of the congregation, Lord Heward stood beaming, flanked by his teenaged children. Darrovan took note of every head, every face and every garment in the orderly crowd with a solemnity far beyond that due his age, while honey-voiced Lyria continuously busied herself with tossing her hair and preening her snow-white springtime dress, the better to make good her first impressions with all the far-reached attendants.

Behind them, a new voice made itself known. "Lord Heward Ainsley, I presume?"

Heward and his son and daughter all turned about with a start to find another trio, a highly decorated priest flanked with his own pair of subordinates. "Yes, good sir, I am Lord Heward. And you would be...."

"Cardinal Ansel Crowholme, your humble servant. And with me are Domn Kelser and Deacon Menlott. We came to commend you on restoring Saturninity Chapel and making it once again a vessel worthy of our Scarlet Lady's glory and testament."

"I am but a man who seeks to make himself good with the gods, Cardinal. I deserve no glory."

"Ah, but you do!" the cardinal retorted. "So few rulers in the Empire bother themselves with the affairs of the Scarlet Order and the goddess whom we represent. Yet in these past fifteen years you have taken such ardent strides to support us and to serve as a champion to our faith! All of Bardosylvania has become a refuge for the clergy of Wee Jas, for so often are we distrusted or shunned elsewhere. Surely you yourself have been touched by our Ruby Goddess to take such strides in her name, yes?"

The mists of ambivalence and retrospect briefly clouded his eyes. "Why...yes. Yes, I was. You could certainly say that."

Cardinal Crowholme cast a sweeping gesture to the teeming chapel around them, to its walls of white stone, to its sconces and icons of dark brass, to its windows of scarlet-stained glass. "But such a chapel as this would demand its own resident priest, and my visit with you concerns that. As I understand, this chapel has its own rectory or priest quarters...or once did, for the Scarlet Order formerly kept a priest here until we abandoned this chapel during the reign of your uncle, Lord Borogon. Do these quarters yet stand?"

Heward's answer was prefixed with a sharp nod of affirmation. "Indeed they do! And they are fully restored, with a rather lavish bed, bath and privy. The rosewood armoires were the most expensive pieces, but their size should be quite ample for a priest's vestments. I spared no expense for our goddess' majesty, you will find."

"Wonderful, wonderful!" the cardinal tittered, nudging forward the deacon at his left hand. "Then let me introduce your chapel's new resident."

"I am Deacon Bereghel Menlott, from the town Scarlet Green west from here," the deacon offered, grasping the lord's hand and shaking it cordially, "and I am at your service."

"And I am at yours," Heward countered. "By your leave, I shall show you around your new residence now."

But the cardinal interjected. "No. Begging your pardon, but let us wait until the ceremonies are at an end."

"Ah, yes. Of course."

And all returned to the solemnity of the occasion, though Darrovan alone, in his heart of hearts, harbored utter indifference.
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