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Savage Ep. 4

C Withey's picture

I've never grasped religion as an art quite as well as my station would have commanded. Take, for instance, those followers of Rygecroft, sentinels of the White Hand; self-proclaimed purists, ridding the known world of imperfection and deviance. Their goal is nothing less noble than preserving the world for the best and brightest, the strongest, the noblest, and the most righteous. Their humble intent was to do nothing more than encourage natural selection, weeding out the lesser so that the strong may thrive.

It is their decision process that I have come to question. I support their ideas, their basic theology, but find myself wondering what kind of man should wield the power to choose which persons are superior to others? What type of man is fit to determine which race is more fit for survivor? What type of man is fit to condemn hundreds of people to their death for no better reason than they were born differently from those in power?

Not far from the outlying boundaries of Stonetide, there was a monastery, where humble monks and devout worshipers of every religion come to pay homage to whichever god they choose to kneel to. The cathedral is without ideology; the alter without icon. This monastery, since its creation, was free to all men of all races and origins, to cast aside their differences of flesh and pay tribute to the higher powers.

So it should have been, outside those walls as well as in. But, alas, it was not so.

There was one monk, small and contrite, humble but without a true calling, who dwelt among the others in this monastery. He came to these doors a young runaway, and was taken in by the only people the world over who would accept him for who he was. He took up the calling with the other monks, dedicating his years in the service of others, ensuring that those who sought aid upon their doorstep would receive it, not unlike what he had done not long ago.

The name of this monk was Velius, a harekin, though none saw him as such. Underneath the hood and robes of his fellow monks, he was no different than the others.

Every one of these monks lived in peace, farming their farms, tending to their livestock and their cathedral, embracing all forms of life that passed through their temple. They minded their own, not turning towards any power or religious group but remained open-minded and decisively neutral.

That was, until one day not long ago, sin walked in through the open doors of the monastery and despoiled everything that cathedral stood for. Only nobody at that time saw it for what it was.

A young visionary by the name of Rygecroft entered that secluded monastery, arrived from parts distant, and started preaching of a world united, of all the peoples of the world joyous and tranquil, free of war or persecution. Looking back at those days, it seems easy to spot the beautiful wool pulled over the monster beneath. Had their eyes been open at the time, they might have had the opportunity to stop the beast in its tracks.

Embracing the idea of universal harmony, that one small monastery took in Rygecroft with open arms. He was treated as an honored guest, and everyone listened to his preachings, Velius among them. He was as charming as he was charismatic, and off his tongue flowed promises of a world reborn. And they took in those promises, those monks. They drank in every last one.

The suffering and oppression of the world was caused by the weak, so claimed Rygecroft, trying to upstart and rebel against what the strong of the world had created. All the misery and pain felt the world over was directly caused by the lesser. Thus, the lesser needed to be rebuked, to be reformed.

For the first time in memory, that monastery began closing its doors to certain individuals, disallowing entry of those of the lesser, no matter how in need they may have been. The monks had conformed to the teachings of their newly appointed leader, and, hopeful for a brighter world for all, they began to shun those that they believed brought the darkness upon them.

It is a shameful page in the tomes of history. My only consolation now is that the monastery would not be the only to fall under Rygecroft's charm. A shocking number joined his cause, flocking to him like so many sheep. Many were eager to blame their troubles upon others, turning ear toward the man who cried perfection for these recent believers. It wasn't long before he had the numbers to begin enforcing his 'teachings' upon the world, oppressing those less fortunate as they had been supposedly oppressing the world throughout history.

Rygecroft's origins remained a mystery, but from where ever it was he arrived, Rygecroft brought with him the tools to make his dream a reality. Several drawn wagons worth of goods, loaded and arriving from the northbound roads. In them were supplies for alchemy and magicks unseen in these areas. Possessing control over the miraculous, over powers that could not be comprehended, his reign was solidified.

Velius watched all of this, marking the progress of events on parchment. The harekin had scarcely left his private chamber over the last few weeks, worried of what the others might think of him, fearful that their tolerance of his presence would one day vanish.

More than fearful, Velius felt also shameful, and he spent many days in deep meditation, seeking forgiveness of the gods for ever being fooled by such a man.

Velius had knelt with the others at the feet of Rygecroft, absorbing his philosophies, intent on purging the world of the outcasts so that the remainder could live in peace.

That was, until the list of 'undesired persons' was published, printed in Rygecroft's own hand. At the very top of that list there was but one word, simple and bold: Savages.

Only then did Velius open his eyes, his long ears catching now what his brain had missed before. All those sermons he had sat in, all those lectures and speeches made; Rygecroft had identified Savages as the main component to the world's disorder. Since that day, his fellow monks began to shun and avoid him, persons that were once his friends. His only true friends the world over, turned against him overnight.

Thus, Velius shut himself away, casting his mind into deep meditation, deciding exactly how he felt about himself and the changing world around him.

A monk he still was, in service to the gods and the persons of the land. His calling had never changed. But how could he continue his service in the company of people that despised and hated him? Whom would take him in now? How could he continue his calling, helping the others of the world, if they were to refuse his help, simply because he was different? What had he done to upset them so?

It was these deep questions that Velius was pondering in comforting solitude when a commotion outside his door pulled him from his thoughts. He heard the voices of several people, excited and shouting. Stonetide had been attacked. The Unclean had been cleansed by fire.

Ease dropping further, Velius became convinced that Rygecroft was behind this attack. He had ordered a small band of infiltrators to carry his alchemy into the city under the guise of purging specific targets as ordered by the king.

Velius felt his stomach drop nearly to the floor, a large lump forming in his throat. He hung his head in shame, weeping silently for those souls lost in the city, and for the lost souls just outside his door, praising this madness. Across the room, leaning against the far wall, was Velius' lute, beckoning him. He wished he could pick it up and play, for the sounds of the dancing strings had soothed him ever since learning to play, years earlier.

But if the others were to hear his lute's song, they would awaken to his presence here, and come for him. It was best to remain forgotten.

And there Velius remained, in his room, deep in meditation without food or drink, until well after nightfall.

The otherworldly light reflected from the lunar body above poured into the single barred window of his small room. He sat upon his cloth cot, his legs folded under him, his large feet tucked underneath. A single small table stood opposite him, near his silent companion, the lute. It remained his only loyal companion and friend in a world of confusion and intolerance. Several candles stood upon this table, as well as his large leather knapsack he kept for occasional journeys into the wilds.

Velius had sat upon his cot for several long hours, motionless, eyes closed and breathing steady and regular. At length, his bright green eyes suddenly flew open, taking in the darkened, unlit room around him as if for the first time.

He knew what he had to do. There were others like him; Savages, still living inside of Stonetide, too many to kill in a single strike. Many must still be alive, alone and lost. They would require aid, and none would be there to give it to them. Every door would be closed to them, every hand turned away.

All but his. He knew that it was now his calling to take up.

Velius leapt to his feet, wrapping around himself his heavy traveling cloak, filling his knapsack with candles, a length of rope, a lantern, a length of parchment with quill, and other items he thought might be of use.

Hefting the pack across his shoulder, Velius silently slipped from his room, closing the wooden door behind. Plodding down the wooden corridors of the monastery, his first destination was the main cathedral, with its arched ceiling and heavy stone slab of an altar. Here, in this room he had spent many years maintaining and comforting those lost souls in need, he knelt one last time, humbling himself before the gods.

At this late hour, the other monks had long since retired, so his brief stay remained uninterrupted. When he had finished his silent prayers, he took one last look around and headed for the doors ahead, closed for the night. Doors that had been long since closed to everybody but the chosen few.

Slipping into a night filled with noisy crickets and the occasional croak of a frog, Velius began the long trek into the city with only the moonlight to guide him. He walked slowly down the cobblestone track, savoring the tranquility of the night, enjoying the freedom of a peaceful stroll, a freedom he wasn't likely to experience again for some time. He hoped that the others of his kind were safe, and enjoying the comforts of the night as he was now.

.

Amongst the trees of the wilderness, not far from where Velius leisurely strolled, two felinekin sisters slept fitfully in a bed of dirt beneath the stars. One bullkin lay silently in a bed of leaves, vigilantly awake and listening for oncoming sounds of intrusion. One bearkin sat against the outer wall of the city, throwing curses at the gods above for their injustice. And one unfortunate foxkin, who had tasted the scent of freedom for but a fleeting moment, stood hunched over in a stockade, head and paws trapped in shackles at the very center of town. She was to be made an example of come morning, charged for crimes against humanity itself. No sleep came for her that night. Instead, she mourned her loses silently, tears falling rhythmically to the ground below, one after the other. They were tears of sorrow, frustration and anger. She was sorrowful for everything she had lost, frustrated that she was robbed of her once chance at escape, and, above everything else, angry at the world over for condemning her to a life of such misery and torment.

The humans had once more taken everything from her, only this time they masked themselves behind dark cloaks and masks instead of the expensive clothes of royalty. And come sunrise, this new group of humans would take the only thing she had left to her name: her very life.

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This is the last of the introductions, I swear. Also, this is the last piece of Savage that continues in this direction: of backstories, introductions, and scene building. From here on I have no choice but to shift focus. The protagonists should begin converging soon, and the story will switch to being character-driven, as it was meant to be in the first place.

What happens from here, precisely, I can't quite fathom. I've painted a portrait bigger than I had originally anticipated. I'll have to rethink my overall strategy.