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07-27-2011   #1 (permalink)
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Default Vindictus Preludes – Conversations Among Good Men

The world of Vindictus is vast, filled with tales both great and small. Some are grounded in truth as solid as the rock beneath your feet, others are flights of fancy with no more substance than a rainbow. Vindictus Preludes invites you into the world of Vindictus, opening new perspectives on the ongoing saga. These are just stories – but then again, aren’t they all?

Pontiff Laurys sat in his beautifully decorated office and signed his name over and over again.

Sometimes I wonder if even the Goddess Herself could rescue me from the mountain of paperwork this office generates, he thought. Then he mentally excoriated himself for his unworthy thought. If the Pontiff of the Goddess’ Cathedral could not keep his doubts under control, what hope was there for lesser mortals who looked to him for spiritual guidance?

“Your Eminence?’ The voice was gruff, yet servile. It grated on the Pontiff’s ears.

Speaking of lesser mortals… Laurys thought. He sighed and looked at Gilliam, exasperated at the interruption. Gilliam was as oblivious to the sigh as anything else directed at him. The man took the dictum to “punish the unrighteous” too seriously, and often missed the big pictures in his zeal..

“I have a report from Keaghan,” Gilliam said. “It’s been confirmed. The heretic and traitor Ingkells is dead, apparently at the hand of one of the new Royal Army recruits.”
Laurys nodded. He would have to issue an order to have that mercenary brought before him. It never hurt to cultivate friends among the up and comers in the military. His train of thought stopped abruptly.

“Heretic?” Laurys repeated.

“I took the liberty of branding the rebels heretics as well as traitors, Your Eminence.” Gilliam said, a touch of pride in his voice. “It will still the voices of some of the more vocal doubters within the military.”

“You idiot!” Laurys hissed. “By branding him a heretic, you invite investigation into the reasons for his rebellion. That could be traced back to us. We cannot afford that!” The Pontiff stood up and pulled down a false book in his bookcase. The wall slid back, revealing a dingy staircase that led down toward the Cathedral’s basement. “Come with me.”

Gilliam fell into step behind him, realizing that he had made a mistake. Curse this old man, he thought. That fat, beatific face and the aura of righteousness he wore like armor had caused more than one opponent to underestimate Laurys. He had sworn he would not be one of them.

The two men walked down the stairs until they came at last to the part of the holy building that few people ever saw – and even fewer ever left. Racks, iron maidens, wheels, clamps, and other instruments of righteous punishment littered the room. Barred cages lined the walls, each with their population of beaten prisoners. Men, women, children. Most were human, but there were Fomors among them. Sometimes Laurys would come down here just to clear his mind with the beautiful sound of evil being burned from the bodies of the Goddess’ enemies. This time though, he had a different purpose in mind.

He approached a battered and broken gnoll, currently lashed to an angled table. Despite the grievous wounds that laced its body, the creature’s remaining eye was still a glittering gem of hate.
“Your Eminence,” the creature mocked. “Have you come to kill me at last?”

Instead of answering, the Pontiff pulled a hot poker out of a brazier and proddedthe gnoll’s flesh. When the howling shriek died away, the Pontiff looked down at the gnoll.

“You told me it would work, animal! You lied and now it’s all falling apart! Ingkells found out and he might not be the last.”

The gnoll did the last thing that Gilliam would have expected and laughed through its broken teeth. “I didn’t lie, human. He did. Or maybe She did. I don’t know. Who can know what goes on in the mind of a God… or a Goddess? Maybe it was never meant to work for a human and you played into His hands when you tried it.”

The Pontiff raised the hand with the poker in it and, much to the gnoll’s surprise, slammed the side of the metal bar into Gilliam’s stomach. The priest doubled over in pain, the wind knocked out of him. The Pontiff shoved him to the ground.

“Get out to Ortell Castle, you idiot. Find out what Ingkells knew and when he knew it. Find out who he might have told and what he might have written down. Lean on Keaghan, the man thinks too much. Use Riordan if you have too. Get a handle on this situation, Gilliam or I’m going to be very upset.”

The younger priest scrambled up, one hand still protecting his wounded abdomen, and left the room without a word.

A gentle smile returned to the Pontiff’s face. Gilliam would handle things. Despite the setbacks, he knew he still had the Goddess’ promise to depend on, and the time was now very near. He looked over at the gnoll and began heating the poker up in the flaming brazier.

The Pontiff had earned some relaxation.
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