Plot: Octavious Kelteel



  • Everything regarding Octavious Kelteel's story. Currently this only covers him as Lenik Thostis.

    Writers:

    Michal Datteel - lizard-man
    Sarah Steelgate - O'louth
    Octavious Kelteel/Lenik Thostiss- RwG
    Conclusion (Brazol) - Vruraol Amuur



  • Introduction
    Brother and Sister

    The dry night air hung lightly around them. Michal Datteel, a young man of average height and dark hair. He stood in the blazing red and silver of House Fezznick upon the roadside. Just beside him were the ruins of the old House Bresk, but they did not concern him right now. For the past month he had fought a war of beliefs and interpretations of one dogma, against a chosen of Helm, Sarah Steelgate, the woman whom he now faced. She had fiery red hair and was garbed in the blazing red and silver of Helm, the vigilant one. The Watcher, Helm, taught his followers that protection and truth were all important. Above all else. The innocent must not be harmed and if you wage a war do not involve people whom it does not concern. Sarah was a chosen of Helm, a true watcher of the vigilant one, and Michal was nothing more than another warrior who praised Helm, yet it was his fault that the Helmites of the city were torn apart, a rift between them. Here, tonight, a bridge would be built or the Helmites forever broken in rank.

    “You held a man at knife-point to restore his faith in Helm!”
    “We all make mistakes, Michal, I have made mine, no doubt you have made yours.”
    Jaron Weden’s voice cut through between them. He was new to the city, garbed in simple robes, but was obviously willing to help. Unfortunately, Steelgate had gotten to him first and Michal cursed himself for his lack of foresight. If he had a priest on his side, a chosen of Helm, there would be no question about his allegations and Sarah would be cast out without a second thought. “Brother, sister! Let us not fight – look – let us give praise-”
    “Michal, you are turning us against one another! Why can you not see that? This dream of yours is tearing us apart, this is not the way of Helm.”
    “-and give thanks for all the-“
    “You still don’t see it, you must be truly blind, Steelgate. Helm himself has retracted his gifts that were once bestowed upon you. You strayed from the true path, Sarah. You struck the blows which harmed your own and now all I am doing is questioning them. Even Rond, your famous convert, despises you.”
    “-for Helm is all seeing and all-“
    “Tell me something then!” Sarah had finally broken her iron control. For the first time since he had seen her preaching in some seedy tavern, her features were no longer calm, nor dulled by discipline, but flaring with anger. “Tell me just what it is you want me to do! I have fought demons in the pits of the abyss. My faith held when my very soul was at stake, you have no right to question my devotion to Helm!“
    “-lest we disrupt the holy-“
    Michal tried to think quickly, he had never thought of Sarah to give ground, yet here she had opened the door and he was risking falling flat on his face. What did he want? What would he ask for in return for amnesty to Sarah?
    “Oh by Helm’s great eyeball, you two.”
    Jaron!” Both of them gasped at once at the priest.
    “This is too far out of hand. We should not fight amongst ourselves, we are Helmites. We are the supreme guardians and it is not our place to quibble!” Jaron took the right hands of both of them. Michal resisted at first but then decided to let the priest see his plan through. He was a bit of a zealot, unwise in the ways of the world, praying at every opportune moment. In a cave. In the forest. Spouting sermons like a crossbow. He held both their hands at chest height, hung in the air. “Now, this ends tonight. You must make a pact, as Brother and Sister in the name of Helm, with a Watcher of Helm and Helm himself as your witnesses. Make the pact, our wars are against Banites, Cyricists, Maskarrans and the rest of the scum of the city, not within our own.”
    Michal could have stopped and pulled his hand back, but something stopped him. He let Jaron clasp his hand to Steelgate’s and then released them both. The two quakedin the air a moment as both seemed uncertain of what to do, until he felt Sarah tighten her hold and did likewise.
    “Brother and Sister in the name of Helm.”
    “Brother and Sister”



  • Chapter I
    The Sharpened Shield

    Michal’s heart was pounding as he strode through the polished halls of the young Lord Fezznick’s estate. He’d heard of a Helmite priest come to the city – a new one – and of how he had tried to save an emissary of the House on his way here on the road, failed, but avenged him and brought his equipment back. The details didn’t matter, he knew not who had fallen, his duties regarded the Red Falcons’ adventuring company sponsored by the House, and the family Fezznick’s image mostly, not its envoys. The man had been granted permission to use the shrine of the estate, a great honour considering how strict they had become about allowing outside access to it. He pushed open door after door without breaking stride, it didn’t matter that him and Sarah had made up long ago; sworn a pact, an alliance, all that mattered was that he finally had his priest of Helm, someone to mould as he wished and lead the Helmites in the direction that he wanted. At last he came to the foyer.

    “Where is he? I was told the priest had arrived.”
    A nearby house guard raised his visor and nodded Michal towards the shrine. “Went to the shrine straight off, barely managed to give her Ladyship a bow before marching off.”
    Michal nodded, offering a polite bow of the head to Lady Loretta Fezznick – an aging aunt of the young Lord – as he shuffled off to the shrine.

    Within the raised hall of the shrine, the atmosphere changed and forced him to slow his pace to a respectful walk. The smell of candle smoke hung heavy in the air, and a dark-brown haired man sat praying silently at the head of the chamber. Michal coughed into his fist, and the man slowly stood up. He had sideburns but no beard or moustache to speak of. His face was almost gaunt, but stiff with discipline and and experiance. There was an air of authority about him that made Michal frown in shock.
    “Retainer.” The priest nodded. “For what reason do you interrupt my prayers?”
    Michal could feel his own resolve slipping just by being in the man’s presence. He was nothing like what he expected, when Jaron had come the man was as soft as a follower of Ilmater, the priest who stood before him now on the other hand, was a true Helmite, and nothing like what Michal was used to. The priest waited patiently with a stern face while he tried to gather his thoughts together again. “I came to see our new priest for myself, all I was told is that you are newly arrived to this city, Watcher. I wished to welcome you to our ranks.”
    “That I am. My name is Lenik, Lenik Thostis of the Sharpened Shield.” His chest raised with the last words, and even his breath carried pride in its voice as it spoke the words.
    Michal was confused now. “The Sharpened Shield? You are a Helmite, are you not? What is this Sharpened Shield?”
    “It does not surprise me if you have never heard of my order, retainer, it is not a widespread order. Yes however, I am a Helmite.”
    “Call me Michal, or Datteel.” He did not know why he had just told him his name, but again the authority that the man radiated flooded the room and made Michal feel a new emotion. The desire to follow, not lead, and he tried to force himself to banish these thoughts. He was a retainer of Lord Fezznick and had as much influence as a Watcher in the Helmite community, if not more, and held countless high members of society as friends and allies, and yet he was as well as bending knee to this stranger.
    “Very well, Datteel, I am the Patriarch of the Helmite order known as the Sharpened Shield. My purpose for coming to Arabel was to recruit people into my order, for the benefit of Lord Helm and Arabel.”
    “You are the Patriarch? Why did you come alone, you left your own temple to recruit? Do you not have guards to accompany you? Or is this all some farce?”
    “The road slips by quicker and more quietly when one can travel under the gaze of the moon, alone. Indeed if I was marching with a procession, it would have drawn far too much attention.”
    Michal’s frown returned, but this time he could feel control coming back into him. No longer could he feel blind loyalty pulsing through him but suspicion “What kind of Helmite hides his presence? What kind of order is this of yours, that it lets its leader walk alone and unguarded?”
    The priest’s eyes locked onto Michal’s own, and though he managed to contain himself from looking away, he could not help but watch as his resolve disintegrated once more and his mind acknowledged this stranger as a superior. “Because,” he began, “Helm watches over me.” The two stood facing each other, until he continued. “I have been here but a few days, but already I can see how weak the Brotherhood of Helm has become. You are nothing but bickering fools, lost in your own petty struggles.” Michal clenched both fists, but found he had not the will to use them. Lenik raised a hand and gestured to the entrance of the shrine, but neither turned their eyes to look at it. “You see before you a city full of corruption, of evil, fear. Even your own are too afraid to act. The Banite scum walk free upon Cormyrian soil, Zhentarim loyalists preaching the Black Hand’s word within these very walls!” Thostis was barking out every word now, leaving the retainer flinching at the end of every sentence. “The slums are ruled by gangs, the nobles would sooner wall them in with brick and mortar and forget these helpless people exist than help them!”
    “That is a lie, House Fezzni-“
    “Silence! You know I tell the truth, Helmite, I can see it in your eyes. I am a chosen of the Vigilant One. I do as he commands and no action of mine serves any purpose but his own. I speak the truth and if I lie then may he strike me down and discard my corpse amongst the damned!” Michal remained silent, finding his body leaning away from this priest. Thostis looked as calm and controlled as ever, before he began once more. “I came here because my agents have told me of the state of Arabel, the lack of strength and initiative of your Helmites.” He walked forwards until he was almost nose-to-nose with the retainer. “You wish to know whom the Sharpened Shield is? We are an elite cadre of Helmites. Our duty is to Helm before any other. Our swords are not held in check by foolish hearts, we have all seen the face of the enemy, we have watched the blood of the defenceless spilled before our eyes and we have not stood down. We did not run as the soldiers of the Black Hand marched into Cormyr, we did not guard the rear and make an excuse that it was the will of Helm. We drew our blades and we gave not an inch of ground to the dogs of Bane, nor shall we ever to any foe we face. The path of Helm is not to stand idle. No doubt your own mother described him as something akin to a suit of armour, forever watchful and prepared to defend. This is not the way of Helm! It is the lie agents of the Black Sun spread amongst the people of this world many aeons ago in an attempt to denounce the supreme Guardians. There are countless amongst our own still who believe if they grab a shield and stand between a predator and his quarry that they are fulfilling the wishes of Helm, such is the extent to which the deceit has spread. The Sharpened Shield is all that stands now between the end of the Helmites as a force of protection, and the beginning of Helmites everywhere imitating empty suits of armour.”
    Michal stood shock still, he could not even hold his gaze any more but found his eyes lowered. His entire body refused to obey him, his mind paralysed in response to the priest before him. No, not a priest, this man was something beyond that, he had never met someone with such force of will nor anyone who could bring him into this state of utter shock before, this was the kind of man who was born, not made. His senses were torn out of control, he could not even block his thoughts to Lenik’s words, and it seemed as if everything else had become non-existent. He spoke with the same voice Michal had once had himself when he had fought to end Steelgate’s reign. The voice of conviction; the voice which knew no reason, only that it was right, and its foe was wrong.
    “The city grows ever weaker. It turns to gangs for protection. It turns to Auril and Bane out of fear. Its people stand divided and unguarded, vulnerable to the evil that plagues the lands. No shield will ever be enough to hold back the tides of these agents of darkness. No shield can ever provide victory, surely you, a warrior, know of that. Victory and defeat are decided through the blade of the sword, you cannot hope to defend someone if you are not ready to deliver the killing blow to their enemies.”
    Michal forced himself to step back finally, and raised a hand almost shaking into the air between them. “Enough. You can walk your own path, and I shall walk mine. I have come too far to resort to simply killing all in my path, Watcher. You can hold your sermons in these halls, you can preech the word of Helm, but do not let me find you preeching the word of this Sharpened Shield in my Lord's estate.”
    He turned too quickly and walked impatiently from the hall, never turning back lest he lose himself again. Just as he left the room, an expensive cape flowing behind his back, he heard Thostis speak once more.
    “Evil thrives because it knows not the meaning of mercy.” Michal paused at the archway. “While your heart wields your sword arm, you can fight only the forces of good. Evil knows no honour, if you wish to fight it, Helmite, you too must sacrifice mercy. Evil knows no laws, if you wish to fight it, Helmite, you too must allow the ends to justify any means.”

    Michal strode from the hall, it seemed not one other in the estate had so much as heard a part of Lenik’s speech. His body was still shaking from the force of it, and his head pulsed with its words. He stopped in his steps in an empty corridor and held his forehead. His other hand found a wall and supported him against it. A thought came to his mind, but he knew it to be a lie. There was no magic used in the conversation, he had not been charmed or spellbound in any way. Lenik spoke the truth and it cut deeper than any sword Michal had ever owned.

    The Sharpened Shield was a danger, he could not allow its membership to spread, and yet he could feel the seeds of doubt already sown under his own skin. There once existed a rift within the hearts of the Helmites, a chasm which was only bridged in the heat of a moment long ago, and now Michal found himself standing on the opposite side. He had crossed the bridge by hearing Lenik's words, and he knew now that Sarah was right all along.



  • Chapter II
    Clandestine Prerogative

    The young warrior pulled himself away from the wall and walked through the maze of the estate until he was standing in the cobbled streets of the courtyard. Lenik looked like he would be a while, so Michal decided against magically sending for Sarah, and finding her on foot instead. Despite the burial of conflicts long ago the situation was still less than desirable in his eyes. Sarah had vowed against turning towards her past life of freelance adventuring and ignoring the needs of the Helmites of the city, yes, but now she had become Senior Watcher of the Helmites. Michal had not turned a blind eye to how she achieved this of course, as the Senior Watcher could – by Sarah’s own rules – be chosen only by the ‘Council of Watchers’. At the time, this included all of Sarah and Jaron, who did not share Michal’s views of Sarah, and had too much of a tendency to burst into prayer to be converted to his cause.
    Regardless, he had to find Sarah since she had been around the city a lot longer than the rest of the Helmites, and if anyone knew of this “Sharpened Shield”, it was her. The bustle of the city closed around him fully as he entered its main market. A few people gave him some room as he walked when they saw his uniform, others shuffled out of the way simply to avoid the metal plates he wore as armour. Everything from the smell of cooking, to a chicken trying to escape its lightly spiced untimely demise, to the rough shouts of arms and armour merchants trying to be heard crashed against his senses. Michal pushed himself up and peered over the crowd as best he could for that familiar auburn ponytail, but it was impossible on market day.
    “Please sir,” Michal glanced down at whatever was tugging at his cloak to see a gaunt boy with sunken eyes blearily looking back at him, “please, it’s my sister sir. She needs medicine and my family, we can’t afford it none sir.” Michal reached beside his belt and pulled out a couple of gold coins, the boy’s eyes shone as he hastily grabbed them and ran off. He did not even say thank you, but such was the way of a Helmite, to act without asking reward.
    “Sarah!” A few people nearest to him gave a puzzled look, but then were moved on by the surge of the crowd. “Sarah, where are you!” Something soft and thin bumped lightly into his left. He shrugged it off, but found it was leaning on his shoulder now, and turned around to see a dark haired woman with a mascara so deep that her paling eyes were almost nothing more than orbs floating in blackness.
    “For a small donation to… the church of Sharess, I can be Sarah for you.” A broad wink followed the suggestion, before Michal swatted two more coins into her hands and spun her back into the crowd silently. “If you change your mind I’ll be waiting by the sausage stand!”
    He turned back to face the crowd and was about to call out again when someone else tugged at his cloak. “Oh for Helm’s sake. Take your coin and leave me be!” Michal stuck his hand into a small pouch, but left it in there when he realised the small boy was wearing the colours of house Fezznick, the red and silver. “It’s Jack the Page sir, the Chamberlain told me to come and find you. There’s some miss waiting at the estate for you. Says it can’t wait.”
    “What does she look like?”
    “Well sir, she looks kinda like me older sister, only a little taller maybe and carrying around a big sword.” The little boy stumbled to the side as Michal walked brusquely past him.

    As he pushed open the great doors of the House lobby, Michal found he was only greeted with the usual solemn mood. Sarah was indeed sitting on a chair by a doorway, and stood up as he came into view. In the time that had passed since the fateful day when they made their pact, she seemed to have become friendlier and yet more controlling than before. Her claim to leadership was more or less approved by the Helmites unanimously after her vow to Michal. Only Rond Steelhand - another Helmite in service of Lord Fezznick - and Michal himself still held any sort of grudge against her, ironically. He felt that sentiment return to him now as he saw her stand, any pride was judged as arrogance in his own eyes. But at the same time he was brought up a gentleman, of sorts, and it was not seemly to display disgust openly, especially at a lady.
    “Watcher Steelgate, good of you to come, I was just looking for you right now.”
    “Well I’m here now so you can tell me what you wished to speak of and I can speak of what I wished to say.” He walked past her and lead her further into the estate, until they came to a deserted room that served for small meetings. The carved mahogany wood of the central table was polished to a sheen, which made it appear as if it were coated in oil, and richly coloured draperies decorated the walls. It was a warmer room than most, and fully carpeted, kept in perfect condition by the House servants. Light magic illuminated the room with a dull, almost pale glow. Normally ornate candles were used throughout the halls of the estate, but the inner rooms such as this one where no daylight entered were lit during the day to avoid accidents. He lead her in and closed the silent door behind them. Sarah helped herself to a nearby seat and leaned back in her usual easy-going manner when she knew there was nothing to fight for. Helm favoured her though, greatly at that, she was a master at channelling the divine power of Helm, and Michal was forced to admit that he needed to learn from her. He turned around and stood in front of the door, facing her.
    “I don’t mind if you do it in private of course, Michal,” Sarah tapped a finger by a nearby glass of exquisite quality, “but just call me Senior Watcher in front of the others. The Helmites need leadership.” At that her hand waved at the air absently to emphasise. “We’re not Tymorans, but enough on that anyways. What did you wish to speak to me of?”
    Michal took a slow breath before he began. Sarah’s need to remind him to remind others she was in charge irritated him, in her situation he would do the same but the Voice was speaking to his mind now, and wisdom was being blinded by jealousy. “It’s Lenik, the priest I told you had come to the city after saving an envoy of my Lord’s house. I spoke with him, and I am no longer so sure that his presence here is a blessing any more than a sellsword is for a guard.”
    The priestess raised an eyebrow contemptuously. It occurred to Michal that she was still garbed in full battle armour. He was wearing such himself, but such was the offence that it did not count to himself in his mind anymore. “Helm is all-seeing, Michal. Anything that happens, happens for a reason. The arrival of this priest here is a part of Helm’s vision, for he has surely guided him to Arabel and us.”
    “He is of the Sharpened Shield.”
    “And I will not have you- What?”
    “The Sharpened Shield. It is some sect of Helmites he told me, and he is its current patriarch, come to recruit. Is there any truth in this?” Sarah’s face had gone pale and her fingers were curling up, while her eyes stared unblinking at a wall to the right of Michal. “Sarah?”
    “The Sharpened Shield? Those were his exact words?”
    “Yes, that is what he called the order. You have heard of it then?”
    “Please Michal, I must be sure. Forgive me but swear now. Swear in front of myself and Helm that those were the exact words he spoke. Swear it now if it were so.”
    Michal gave her a look bordering on annoyance, but she persisted. “I swear by Helm, that the priest Lenik Thostis of Helm told me that he was the patriarch of the Helmite order known as the Sharpened Shield. If I tell a lie then may Helm strike me down where I stand”
    Sarah sank back a little in her chair, and to Michal’s surprise started to almost chew on the metal guards covering her forefinger. After a while, she began to speak to the wall, not looking at Michal. “The Brotherhood of the Sharpened Shield is a true Helmite order. Make no mistake, for they trained me originally as well, and these tales you heard tell of my deeds in Arabel – holding a man who lost his faith at knife-point, and the rest of it – is as nothing compared to what the order aspires to be.” Michal took a chair, turned it around and sat on it, leaning his chin and arms on the back and looking intently at Sarah’s eyes. She did not turn to face him still. “What I did horrified you, what they do would not horrify you because you would never hear of it. Think of them as assassins of the Church. Openly, they are not named friends nor denounced, but simply accepted. Under the shadow of night however, they are as welcome as any other Helmite – if not more.” Michal wanted to ask why Helm would gift such people with divine gifts, as good as naming them saints and marks of what Helmites should aspire to, but he did not wish for Sarah to stop her recollections. “They march under the banner of the Sharpened Shield because they do not believe in the traditional method of defending someone by standing between them and harm, but defending someone by removing the threat itself. They are true Helmites, make no mistake, but they are utterly heartless. Duty above all; love friendship, honour, mercy, fear. They are perhaps truer than most Helmites, and as such perhaps Lord Helm is willing to overlook some shortcomings elsewhere.”
    “When I was still in the monastery, I was rarely allowed out. My mentor, Darrias Quayle, was as harsh as any other. He had five of us under his care, and we spent our waking hours stating and restating the laws of Helm, and through our day we were trained physically, mentally and emotionally, to show no terror, passion, nor mercy. Our final hours were spent reciting the Sharpened Shield’s own laws; hold true to your word and every word you speak is a promise – that is the only one I remember now, I am glad to say. Some of them were truly ruthless ideals by which they lived. I was a child of ten, when Master Darrias told me to mount up beside him one hazy dawn. It was the first time since my earliest memories that I left the fortress which was the monastery, with countless others riding with us, armed for war. I was afraid but I could not show it, so I feigned curiosity and asked why everyone was dressed for war. My Master simply bade me keep my silence and watch.”
    Sarah stopped, and Michal noticed that her eyes were shimmering. Her face hardened itself, but she made not one sound and carried on. She hid her emotions, but her eyes could not lie.

    Before them lay a village, Sarah was mounted on the great grey mare of her Master, behind himself. He rolled off the saddle and then lowered her down as well. They stood on a high hill, rocky on its outcrop facing the small village. High grass cut at her legs and she noticed that there were a total of no less than a dozen others of the Monastery here. She even recognised the Lord Watcher dismounting, a grim man of the veteran years, his right eye was pale and lifeless now, but no man dared to challenge any order he gave. He was the voice of Helm. There was no question about it, and he was utterly devoted to the cause of the Sharpened Shield. The sun was by now setting behind them, casting long shadows across the village. In Sarah’s eyes it seemed almost as if a clawed hand with countless fingers were reaching out to claim the village. Her Master crouched to her height and turned her face to the village.
    “You see that village, Sarah? A few weeks ago, some Banites stole into it. They forced themselves into its hierarchy and killed all who refused to bow to the will of the Black Hand. Our own were among those, and they lined the town hall with their heads. Our own. It makes the people believe the Sharpened Shield weakens, and they turn to others in place of Helm. They turn to Bane to protect them from His own servants!”
    “What is going to happen, Master?”
    “Fortunately, one of our agents was not in town at the time of its capture. He brought us word of what happened. Yet more important, he explained how the Banites had recruited from amongst the villagers and planned to spread the word of the Black Hand.”
    “What will we do?”
    “Watch, child, and learn. Do not turn your eyes away, for if you do there will be no place for you in our Brotherhood. You will become one of those ‘tired woman’ who reside at inns, nothing more, nothing less.”
    Sarah had not turned her eyes away. She watched as first the Lord Watcher discussed his plans with the elders, and then, as night fell, she stood on the hill with her Master and the elders to witness the assault. In a dazzling display of divine might and cold steel, the darkness was lit up and the empty void filled with the sounds of death and battle. She saw that not one person was allowed to escape and no prisoners were taken. Men who dropped their weapons were given a clean, warrior’s death like everyone else.
    She had ridden down then. The trotted through the village, escorted by ten faceless warriors of the Monastery, wielding abnormally lengthened, twisted pieces of metal in place of shields, and dark blades slick with blood in place of swords. They could not be called sword and shield, the equipment they bore was emptier than metal could be, as heartless as its owners, but each link of chain, each length of metal, was consecrated to the cause of Helm and the Brotherhood of the Sharpened Shield. The streets stank of blood and gore littered alleyways. The faceless brethren of the Sharpened Shield stood silent around the small village. At last they entered a house, Sarah following closely behind her Master. The Lord Watcher was inside with his two personal guards – each one capable of laying waste to a dozen Banite swornswords with ease no doubt – talking at a smaller, bearded man. Sarah was ushered to the side, and though much of the conversation was hard to make out, she could not forget the words which rang through the entire village.
    “Please, milord, they would have killed us all otherwise. The volunteers were only so by name, their families would have been left for the dogs-“
    “Enough. I’ll hear no more of this. Nobody leaves alive.”
    “I’m a Helmite! Truly! Look, look!” Sarah stood bewildered as he tried to dig through a jumble of amulets around his neck. Before he could find what he was looking for, the Lord Watcher was walking away. “Milord, I beseech you! Don’t do this, they are but woman and children!” Sarah dared to face the Lord Watcher’s back in search of a reply, and surprisingly he turned around. “Your crime is High Treason. Aiding and abetting the enemy and putting the lives of others at risk for the sake of your own pathetic existence. I spit on you and your kind.” A large gob of watery liquid landed on the bearded man’s boot. “And I sentence you to death.”
    “Milord! Please! In the name of Helm!”
    “Leave none alive. Burn the village.”
    With that the nearest bodyguard to the pleading man unsheathed his blade and sliced its jagged black edge through his target’s torso and bent him double in one fluid yet powerful movement. There was a horrid gurgling sound, then the other raised his shield and jarred it sideways at the man’s neck. There was no crunch, the shield slid right through and the lifeless body part landed and rolled across the floor. Before the body even lost its balance, there was a cry and the sound of little feet racing down stairs. Their eyes were red and a brown haired woman still white with shock held them close as they slowed at the sight of the head. She remained speechless as the two guards approached her. The children looked younger than Sarah, and one was wailing openly. Master Darrias took her by the shoulder and lead her away at a casual pace. “You will learn with age, child.” The last she saw was two dark red cloaks swirling behind their owners, a silvery gauntlet with a glaring eye stitched onto their backs. Slicing noises sounded as she left the door, the cry stopped suddenly and it seemed to Sarah for the first time, that this was not right. Protection of life alone was useless, protection of the innocent a mere point of view, protection of freedom ordered by varying levels of opinion. Murder sang through the night well after both Sarah and Master Darrias were mounted.

    She would leave somehow. She could not live this life, not her.

    Michal’s eyes were lowered to the carpet by now. Sarah had ended her story a good minute or longer ago, he had lost track of time. She had not dropped one tear, and her face betrayed no sorrow beyond her eyes. The sombre mood was not lifting, and he was not sure what to say. If Lenik recognised Sarah she was surely as good as dead. If he was sent as an assassin, she was as good as dead. But Michal did not want that, he could not allow Sarah to die in such a way, nor ever if he could somehow hold the blow, despite all his hatred for her history. She was lost, not fit to lead, but he was not of the Sharpened Shield. He knew compassion and was not without mercy in his heart, he knew. Lenik said he must let go of it to serve Helm truly, but if this was the price he would demand from others who sided with an enemy, he could not allow Thostis to spread his plague.

    At last, Sarah spoke again. “We cannot allow him to spread this dark message of death.”
    “I am with you, Sarah, you know I am.”
    She nodded reluctantly. “I was afraid you still bore ill will towards me, but I am glad to hear you speak these words.”
    Michal felt his collar go hot, he was not comfortable with lying, and Sarah was looking at him now.
    “The Helmites need more than Watchers to guide them. We are warriors and guardians before preachers. The Helmites need you, Michal.”
    He could feel greed pulsing into his system, the desire for power. Under his command, the Helmites could truly become a force to be reckoned with, truly. “I shall do what I can, but this… Lenik Thostis, he is one foe I cannot fight. Jaron would crumble before him, and if he seeks you… who will face him?”
    “I will. If he has come to kill me he can try. The Sharpened Shield is not proud of desertions, I do not think they will have forgotten my case, but if he does not draw blade on sight then I can prove to him I am worth more alive than dead. If he does, I will arrange some contingency.” She leaned forwards and brushed Michal’s cheek with a hand covered in metal guards. “Oh, Michal. The Helmites need us now more than ever. Never forget that. Your life is no longer yours to give away.”

    There was a knock on the door. Michal stood up and opened it. There was a small boy in the Fezznick house colours standing in the doorway. “I’ve been looking all over for you, Mister Datteel, sir, there’s a man in the lobby waiting to speak to you. He’s been kept waiting some time too.”
    “Did he give a name?” Sarah asked from her chair.
    “No, miss, but he looks kinda like me uncle Tumro, like with lamb-chops of his dark hair.”

    Final version will read "Patriarch" in place of "Lord Watcher". My mistake there.

    Dramatised a fair bit since Sarah never told Michal her past, but it is taken from Sarah's journal hence it is meant to be part of her story, and I wanted to highlight Sarah's character a bit as something other than what Michal is jealous of.

    O'louth, would you be up for writing another chapter for this, of Sarah and Lenik's first meeting? You'd have to take it from here, where Michal + Sarah go to the lobby, and then Sarah/Lenik go off without Michal to talk. I was never sure what happened there since at times it looked like Sarah had allied herself with Lenik, and at other times it seemed that she was completely against him. You could turn it into the duel Raemos had, where he challanged Lenik and Sarah at once, and Sarah refused to join Lenik incase it was a plot to kill her and so on. Michal wasn't around for that either, so all that in one chapter would be perfect.

    The chapter after (the next one I write) would be the meeting we had with Nathan in the Pride where Michal stood up for Lenik. It'd start with Lenik converting Michal somewhat more to the Sharpened Shield, and then Michal making a decision on which side to take and eventually standing beside Lenik in that encounter.



  • @--lizard-man--:

    Everything regarding Octavious Kelteel's story. Currently this only covers him as Lenik Thostis.

    Writers:

    Michal Datteel - lizard-man
    Sarah Steelgate - O'louth
    Octavious Kelteel/Lenik Thostiss- RwG



  • My mistake there, fixed it now. I seem to remember saying it'd work best in my view if it ended with Octavious' face-lift session, and then Michal/Sarah take over the narrative. Still okay with that? And where do you want to start the whole shebang from exacty?



  • Well. In all honesty, I have no idea.

    Kel was around for a -very- long time (Like, years. I played him off and on between application characters, before making him a premiere character) before he ever got involved in the underworld place he was at before the face-lift.

    I'll think about it and get back to you.



  • Alright, but at the risk of creating a story as complex as the plot seemed, if you're up for it we may be able to cover the plot from all three angles at once. Ie. With Kelteel doing a joint intro with the "Brother and Sister" intro of him sitting in a jail cell, and whatever happened, and then jumping to the actual story.

    I think keeping the rest of the story slightly ahead of Lenik's thoughts - apart from keeping pace at the introduction - would work well. So the duel happens between Lenik and Raemos, and that chapter ends (done by Sarah) and then there's a chapter from Lenik's view of an earlier event. Perhaps the first meeting with Michal done again from Lenik's perspective, or scheming to draw Sarah into a duel to the death with yourself against Raemos.

    So first the story runs through with a headstart, and then Lenik's chapters come in a little behind the others, but illuminating every final detail as they go. For instance explaining that the duel with Raemos was a failed set-up, rather than a real duel in a chapter that comes somewhere after that event. Or of telling Malik/Neraj to go to Michal and explain he was a random Helmite who was taken by the Sharpened Shield's view rather than another of Kelteel's agents a chapter or two or more after that event occurs.

    Just a thought.



  • Final chapter, from Sarahs point of view. No actual title yet. This is the version with your actual changes Lizzy.

    Death to the traitor

    The sun was shining brightly as Sarah ventured towards the market. Her fiery hair placed in a slobby ponytail, she walked with her usual confidence directly towards her goal. Lenik was standing near the market carelessly watching the usual bickering and business transactions conducted there. She walked up to him, doing her best to keep on her emotionless mask of sternness. “Say Lenik, care for a little patrol around the city? I need some fresh air.”
    “Getting bored already Sarah? That is most unlike you. But sure, let us be off.”

    They took off from the market, directly towards the east gate, Sarah in her freshly polished plate of red and silver, Lenik in his black and red garments. Sarah had often thought that the two must have been a good laugh for the common man when they walked together; Her with a militant walk, her heavy armor, the huge sword on her back and the doctrines of self-control and constant vigilance displayed in her eyes and Lenik, often dressed in but a simple tunic, and with either a mace or a dagger at his side and with his cold eyes.

    They headed out of the gate and proceeded to the north, through the farms towards the wilderness surrounding the northern Gate. “So senior watcher, how does it feel to be a little miracle the helmites use for recruitment? You know, with all that stuff about Helms servants bringing you back to life, you getting your powers back and all that?”

    The way Lenik said the words senior watcher and powers always had a hint of disapproval, something which always annoyed Sarah greatly. You are just making what I am about to do even easier Lenik, keep it coming, she thought to herself. “Well Lenik, I would lie if I told you it didn’t feel good. But you know full well that it is something I myself would never brag about. My actions should by now speak for themselves. Any more recruits for the sharpened shield lately my dear?”
    Lenik shrugged, and the two walked through the wilderness, Sarah’s eyes constantly gazing to the cliffs and large boulder. “Not many, but they get the job done.”

    Sarah took a turn to the east, landing the two at a small stream. Lenik stopped a few feet in front of Sarah, his back turned as he gazed at the stream. It’s now or never, she said to herself. “Helm, forgive me should I be wrong!” she yelled, starling Lenik. Out of a portal came to huge Golems, each of them with the vigilant eye of Helm on their chests. She pointed her right index finger at the startled Lenik who were desperately trying to conjure a shield of invisibility so he could escape. The golems charged, their huge fists slamming into Lenik again and again, until the handsome priest's garments were soaked in blood. “Hold!” The golems stopped instantly, and positioned themselves as guardians while their red haired commander walked over to the pile of broken bones and clothing. She placed a hand on his forehead and mumbled a few incantations, the wounds closed and a gasp for air escaped Lenik’s mouth.

    As Lenik awoke, his hands were tied on his back. Sarah was standing beside him. His bag with his belongings was at her feet and had clearly been opened. “Glad you are awake Kel." The man mumbled and spat out some blood. “Let me guess, you didn’t think I would find out? What do you take me for, sir? I worked for you once remember?”
    “I am not Kel. I don’t know who you are talking about.”
    “No?” The waved a hand, and one of the golems walked over and sent a fist right into his stomach, the sound of breaking bone echoed between the cliffs. “Don’t lie to me Lenik. I want the truth. Who do you work for and who made you infiltrate my community?!” Another Golem fist slammed into Lenik. It then took hold of his shoulders and lifted him up so he dangled a feet from the ground, his head now levelling Sarah’s. “Don’t lie to me Lenik. Who do you work for?! Who grants you your powers? The Deschurr retainer gave you up before her execution, its over. Now tell me the truth!”
    He spat some more blood on the ground, and as she glanced down at his torso she saw something unnatural poke out, likely one of his ribs. She mumbled a few incantations, blue light appeared and the rib seemed to find its way back to its original position. “I can do this all day Lenik. Who do you serve!?”
    “I. Serve. Helm! You are torturing one of your own you demented psychopath!” A gauntlet fist smacked Lenik in the face with such a force that four teeth left their sockets.
    “Do not dare speak such blasphemy to my face again you filthy rat. I know you have been trying to convert people to some demon of sorts. Or is it Mask? I don’t care which, I just want the name. Now tell me!” A fist slammed into his side, and a scream of pain left Lenik’s mouth.
    “I am telling you! I serve Helm!” She sneered, waved to the Golem to drop him, and grabbed him by his hair, hanging his head a few feet over to the stream. “You wanted action from the Helmites Lenik, you shall have it. Tell me who you serve!” With a firm hold in his hair, she violently placed his head under water, and held it there just long enough for his body to stop squealing. Then she pulled him up, let his breath in air, and held his head down again. “Who do you serve?”
    He coughed, and then spat out “Helm!” and his head went under again. After 20 minutes of not getting a result, she grabbed him back to his backpack, and let him fall in front of it.
    “Lenik, Kelteel. By the power vested in me, I declare you guilty of blasphemy, necromancy and of treason to Helm. Any last words before I send you to your maker?” She drew her longsword, looked at how the sun reflected in it, before placing the sword gently on his neck.
    “Ill… ill tell you, just… Could you let me play my pipe one final time? I beg of you Sarah, please? I will tell you all you need to know, just one final time.”
    She ventured to his bag, produced a strange looking pipe. “This old thing? I suppose you can.” She sheathed her sword, and as she walked over to him, played a single tune.

    Heat, fire, a scream from a man. And the world went up in a bright light.

    Sarah awoke, the smell of burned flesh reaching her nostrils. She glanced over at a burning body, only slightly recognisable as Lenik. Looking at the broken pipe in her hand, she finally noticed the old runes. “One tune for a quick escape, one for bringing the sun to the player”. Sneering, she threw it into the stream. She picked up what little belongings of Lenik’s hadn’t been destroyed in the blast, picked up the body, and quickly preceded east. She managed to place Lenik’s body a bit north of the large gate, tore a piece of an old magic robe he had had and placed it on the dagger he usually used as a weapon. She then drew a small cut, letting her blood cover both the dagger and the robe. Now, when he was found, it would look like a mage had attacked and killed him.



  • Alright, the edited/fixed chapter II: Changed section is in bold.

    I decided to just take out the whole story section rather than just edit it to 'fit', it didn't really happen IG to anything like that extent, and it was just making it a more confusing story for me to write, if nothing else. I'm not a fan of leaving gaps like this, but I thought it just about fit in here. Thoughts welcome as always.

    Chapter II
    Word of Warning

    The young warrior pulled himself away from the wall and walked through the maze of the estate until he was standing in the cobbled streets of the courtyard. Lenik looked like he would be a while, so Michal decided against magically sending for Sarah and alerting Lenik as a consequence, instead finding her on foot. Despite the burial of conflicts long ago the situation was still less than desirable in his eyes. Sarah had vowed against turning towards her past life of freelance adventuring and ignoring the needs of the Helmites of the city, yes, but now she had become Senior Watcher of the Helmites. Michal had not turned a blind eye to how she achieved this of course, as the Senior Watcher could – by Sarah’s own rules – be chosen only by the ‘Council of Watchers’. At the time, this included all of Sarah and Jaron, who did not share Michal’s views of Steelgate, and had too much of a tendency to burst into prayer to be converted to his cause.
    Regardless, he had to find Sarah since she had been around the city a lot longer than the rest of the Helmites, and if anyone knew of this “Sharpened Shield”, it was her. The bustle of the city closed around him fully as he entered its main market. A few people gave him some room as he walked when they saw his uniform, others shuffled out of the way simply to avoid the metal plates he wore as armour. Everything from the smell of cooking, to a chicken trying to escape its lightly spiced untimely demise, to the rough shouts of arms and armour merchants trying to be heard crashed against his senses. Michal pushed himself up and peered over the crowd as best he could for that familiar auburn ponytail, but it was impossible on market day.
    “Please sir,” Michal glanced down at whatever was tugging at his cloak to see a gaunt boy with sunken eyes blearily looking back at him, “please, it’s my sister sir. She needs medicine and my family, we can’t afford it none sir.” Michal reached beside his belt and pulled out a couple of gold coins, the boy’s eyes shone as he hastily grabbed them and ran off. He did not even say thank you, but such was the way of a Helmite, to act without asking reward.
    “Sarah!” A few people nearest to him gave a puzzled look, but then were moved on by the surge of the crowd. “Sarah, where are you!” Something soft and thin bumped lightly into his left. He shrugged it off, but found it was leaning on his shoulder now, and turned around to see a dark haired woman with a mascara so deep that her paling eyes were almost nothing more than orbs floating in blackness.
    “For a small donation to… the church of Sharess, I can be Sarah for you.” A broad wink followed the suggestion, before Michal swatted two more coins into her hands and spun her back into the crowd silently. “If you change your mind I’ll be waiting by the sausage stand!”
    He turned back to face the crowd and was about to call out again when someone else tugged at his cloak. “Oh for Helm’s sake. Take your coin and leave me be!” Michal stuck his hand into a small pouch, but left it in there when he realised the small boy was wearing the colours of house Fezznick, the red and silver. “It’s Jack the Page sir, the Chamberlain told me to come and find you. There’s some miss waiting at the estate for you. Says it can’t wait.”
    “What does she look like?”
    “Well sir, she looks kinda like me older sister, only a little taller maybe and carrying around a big sword.” The little boy stumbled to the side as Michal walked brusquely past him.

    As he pushed open the great doors of the House lobby, Michal found he was only greeted with the usual solemn mood. Sarah was indeed sitting on a chair by a doorway, and stood up as he came into view. In the time that had passed since the fateful day when they made their pact, she seemed to have become friendlier and yet more controlling than before. Her claim to leadership was more or less approved by the Helmites unanimously after her vow to Michal. Only Rond Steelhand - another Helmite in service of Lord Fezznick - and Michal himself still held any sort of grudge against her, ironically. He felt that sentiment return to him now as he saw her stand, any pride was judged as arrogance in his own eyes. But at the same time he was brought up a gentleman, of sorts, and it was not seemly to display disgust openly, especially at a lady.
    “Watcher Steelgate, good of you to come, I was just looking for you right now.”
    “Well I’m here now so you can tell me what you wished to speak of and I can speak of what I wished to say.” He walked past her and lead her further into the estate, until they came to a deserted room that served for small dinners in the wintertime. The carved mahogany wood of the central table was polished to a sheen, which made it appear as if it were coated in oil, and richly coloured draperies decorated the walls. It was a warmer room than most, and fully carpeted, kept in perfect condition by the House servants. Light magic illuminated the room with a dull, almost pale glow. Normally ornate candles were used throughout the halls of the estate, but the inner rooms such as this one where no daylight entered were lit during the day to avoid accidents. He lead her in and closed the silent door behind them. Sarah helped herself to a nearby seat and leaned back in her usual easy-going manner when she knew there was nothing to fight for. Helm favoured her though, greatly at that, she was a master at channelling the divine power of Helm, and Michal was forced to admit that he needed to learn from her. He turned around and stood in front of the door, facing her.
    “I don’t mind if you do it in private of course, Michal,” Sarah tapped a finger by a nearby glass of exquisite quality, “but just call me Senior Watcher in front of the others. The Helmites need leadership.” At that her hand waved at the air absently to emphasise. “We’re not Tymorans, but enough on that anyways. What did you wish to speak to me of?”
    Michal took a slow breath before he began. Sarah’s need to remind him to remind others she was in charge irritated him, in her situation he would do the same but the Voice was speaking to his mind now, and wisdom was being blinded by jealousy. “It’s Lenik, the priest I told you had come to the city after saving an envoy of my Lord’s house. I spoke with him, and I am no longer so sure that his presence here is a blessing any more than a sellsword is for a guard.”
    The priestess raised an eyebrow contemptuously. It occurred to Michal that she was still garbed in full battle armour. He was wearing such himself, but such was the offence that it did not count to himself in his mind anymore. “Helm is all-seeing, Michal. Anything that happens, happens for a reason. The arrival of this priest here is a part of Helm’s vision, for he has surely guided him to Arabel and us.”
    “He is of the Sharpened Shield.”
    “And I will not have you- What?”
    “The Sharpened Shield. It is some sect of Helmites he told me, and he is its current patriarch, come to recruit. Is there any truth in this?” Sarah’s face had gone pale and her fingers were curling up, while her eyes stared unblinking at a wall to the right of Michal. “Sarah?”
    **“The Sharpened Shield? There is a sect of his? Helmites?”
    “Yes, that is what he called the order. You have heard of it then?”
    Sarah sank back a little in her chair, and to Michal’s surprise started to almost chew on the metal guards covering her forefinger. After a while, she began to speak to the wall, not looking at Michal. “Tell me, Michal, what do you know of Helm’s followers – outside of our own group I mean, what do you know of Helm’s followers in other lands?”
    The pride of being a Helmite swelled up his chest visibly. “Why, just that we’re the greatest known defenders of… just about anything and everything. You can’t have a better guard than a devout Helmite, and you can’t expect to be safer with anything but Helmite blades watching over you.” When he looked back down at Sarah, her expression had not changed. He was sure this knowledge proving he was more than just another guy with a sword would make her more positive about the Helmites’ chances in Arabel, but she seemed almost disappointed.
    “You’re right, Michal.” She offered a nod. “You’re completely right of course, but even the Helmites are divided in their views on how best to defend someone.”
    Eager to try and fix his mistake, Michal blurted in again. “But surely the way to defend a man is to stand between him and his predator? Self sacrifice and valour, the flagstones of Helmite tradition.”
    “Perhaps you’re right there as well, but not all Helmites believe that. There are some who believe the best defence is a good offence. Those things, rumours and the rest that you heard of my past deeds, Michal, you remember them?” Her eyes glanced over, before returning to the wall. “Good, perhaps they can prepare you for this, this Sharpened Shield…”

    Michal’s eyes were lowered to the carpet by the time Sarah had ended her story. A good minute or longer ago, he had lost track of time. She had controlled her voice, and her face betrayed no sorrow beyond her eyes. The sombre mood was not lifting, and he was not sure what to say. He did not want to believe what he had just been told, that Helmites could become such heartless creatures. Relieving their shield arm of its weight to better wield murder, a force as merciless as any Banite swornsword. Yet the truth was there, but surely if Lenik was evil, a paladin would have seen his taint.

    “Sarah!” He burst out, an almost hysterical grin on his face. “This can’t be it, if he was one of these evil Helmites you spoke of, then surely Troy of Helm would have seen such!” But she did not seem to be stirred.
    “Michal, you spoke to Lenik. Does he seem compassionate? Kind? Understanding?” She stopped a moment while Michal shrank back into his chair. “Paladins see the darkness in our hearts. People see others as they are, so tell me, just what it is you saw in Lenik.”
    He thought of how best to sum up his feelings, though he was already convinced against Lenik possibly being a force of good. “Duty, above everything else.”
    “Self sacrifice, Michal. His kind are willing to surrender honour, purity, are willing to pay any price, and that is why Helm favours them so.” There was another pause, with Michal lost in his own thoughts on what to do from here. “Troy spoke to me of him.”
    “Troy? Then what did he say?”
    “He carries the taint in his heart.”

    At last, Sarah spoke again. “We cannot allow him to spread this dark message of death. The Sharpened Shield shall never thrive inside the walls of Arabel.”**
    “I am with you, Sarah, you know I am.”
    She nodded reluctantly. “I was afraid you still bore ill will towards me, but I am glad to hear you speak these words.”
    Michal felt his collar go hot, he was not comfortable with deceit, and Sarah was looking at him now.
    “The Helmites need more than Watchers to guide them. We are warriors and guardians before preachers. The Helmites need you, Michal.”
    He could feel greed pulsing into his system, the desire for power. Under his command, the Helmites could truly become a force to be reckoned with, truly. “I shall do what I can, but this… Lenik Thostis, he is one foe I cannot fight. Jaron would crumble before him, I trust that you can handle him.”
    “I will.” She leaned forwards and brushed Michal’s cheek with a hand covered in metal guards. “Oh, Michal. The Helmites need us now more than ever. Never forget that. Your life is no longer your own to give away.”

    There was a knock on the door. Michal stood up and opened it. There was a small boy in the Fezznick house colours standing in the doorway. “I’ve been looking all over for you, Retainer Datteel, sir, there’s a man in the lobby waiting to speak to you. He’s been kept waiting some time too.”
    “Did he give a name?” Sarah asked from her chair.
    “No, miss, but he looks kinda like me uncle Tumro, like with lamb-chops of his dark hair.”

    O'louth: For the next chapter, could you work it in to all take place at the end of the day? As in your own chapter taking place in evening/nightfall/early night. As a reminder, the main part i'd like covered would be the Raemos duel, in everything else you've got free reign, just flesh out Lenik a little more.



  • Psst, O'louth, still waiting on that chapter of yours to come in (regarding the duel vs Raemos and such) If you're busy, just give me where/how you plan to end that chapter of the story so I can at least get started on the next chapter (the meeting in the Pride: Nathan, Sarah, Mich and Lenik). I'm getting itchy to get it all down now since my holidays will almost certainly be spent doing work while on msword, at this rate.



  • Next chapter from Mich's view. Starting part yet to be added since it goes on from a chapter O'louth is covering (just the four going to the Pride)

    The door closed silently, cutting an almost graceful arc through the air, the wood grain was masterfully embellished to a mahogany sheen. The knight turned around to face the other three in the room. Lenik had immediately made for a sumptuous chair on the opposite side of the central table, and indeed Michal would not have been overly surprised if he had instead opted for the bed but for the seriousness of the situation. Nathan Goldmane stood regally in his suit of office; a fully plated swordsman sworn to Helm, he was everything Michal could hope to become and yet as he looked at Nathan now, he saw something different, something which almost repulsed him. Sarah took her side beside him, facing Lenik over the table’s surface, and for a moment Michal was standing on neither end of the table. It lasted but a moment, and it did not seem as though either side was looking for him though he had called this matter to attention, but regardless of whatever anyone could have said or done, Michal knew he would still have walked over to Lenik’s side. As he turned his eyes from Lenik’s lax form towards those standing on the other side, the slightest hint of a smile played on the edge of Patriarch’s lips.
    “Fellows, we have much to discuss, now let’s hope it can be discussed here, and now, and settled here, and now.” Nathan nodded his ascent. Without his helmet on he still looked the very image of the iron guardian Helm was said to be, and his face bore the scars yet of battles fought. Only one eye served him now but it never left Lenik’s face.
    “Well, Sarah? Sir Paladin? I am here, with naught but yourselves and Helm as witnesses, so speak freely.” The face darkened. “I do not like to parry words unnecessarily.”
    “We are here to save what we can of the Helmite community in Arabel, Thostis, and we will settle this matter.” Goldmane’s voice flung across the room, and Michal was certain as ever that the contents of this meeting would be far from secret. “Helm has granted me sight beyond that of normal men, along with several others of our own brethren. They have all sensed that you carry something dark and twisted within your soul, as do I, and the paladins of Helm can not and will not abide working alongside a man so blackened to the core. Helmite, or not.”
    “Sir Goldmane, I am a chosen of Helm, not just some mere ‘Helmite’. I have no secrets to hide from you, and nor do I have any knowledge stored which I will not happily impart upon your gracious self in this setting upon your asking for it.”
    “Play it your way then.” Sarah moved forwards a bit, let both armoured hands fall onto the table, and spoke in clear conspiratorial whisper. “We have to choose between the paladins – not just of Helm, but all paladins – and your sharp shield. We have to choose between our old allies and our new acquaintances. Give me a reason, that I may tell the other Watcher and so we may decide on what is the best course of action for the entire community.”
    Lenik coyly held a forefinger up to the side of his mouth, lolling his head with a broad, unconcealed smile in stark mockery of Steelgate’s rigidity. “I will tell you what, Sarah: I will leave you to your paladins, along with the rest of the ‘community’ you have gathered. I will remove my Sharpened Shield from your Helmites’ ranks, but I will not leave Arabel. I came here with a goal and I mean to complete it. With or without the aid of my ‘fellow Helmites’.”
    Michal looked between the once more solemn-faced Lenik and Sarah’s expression of having had a surprise victory. “This is madness, and both of you know it.” Lenik looked over his shoulder at the standing Datteel with apparent surprise, still wearing his own fully plated armour. Michal did not look back at him, but instead faced the paladin. “Before Lenik came we were scattered, leaderless, and ready for the slaughter by whichever scum first chose to rise to the occasion. Even once pacts were struck and the cracks sealed with fresh steel, we did about as much good for this city and its people as the militia’s done in the slums over the past few days. Too little, and too late.” Lenik turned back to the front, and Sarah stood herself up once more. It only now occurred to Michal that Lenik was the only one to have come to this little gathering not dressed for war. “Since the Sharpened Shield showed up, there has been some direction, some goal, and even fresh Helmites from as far off as the Anauroch! I ask you this, Sarah.” He let his eyes fall to Sarah’s, who he knew he could never convince to anything without Jaron around to cushion the blows, but talking to Nathan was like talking to a solid wall. “What have the paladins done for the city that they could not do without the Helmites, and what has Lenik done for the city which the paladins could never do for anyone, let alone an innocent.”
    “The paladins are holy warriors, Michal. They fight evil, they can sense when it is time to act and when there is yet hope for an individual, and most of all, they are guided by a higher power, perhaps even more so than Watchers.”
    “What have they done?”
    Sarah looked as though she were almost insulted at the question. “Nathan here, amongst other paladins, went into the depths of the Abyss and fought a demon to save my soul. Knowing full well the chances of anyone surviving or coming back were close to nothing, let alone of saving me if I were still alive.” Lenik sat with eyes closed, a smile on his lips. “Is there something amusing about this? Please, enlighten us as to what you have done which deserves greater approval, Thostis.”
    “You fail to realise, that this business with the demon put unnecessary lives at risk, and you abandoned Arabel to the dogs of Bane, as it were, and were fortunate to have made it back. Perhaps you should be thanking Tymora right now. The threat we face is in Arabel, Cormyr even, if that’s a large enough area within which you can operate.” Lenik stood up from the chair and walked towards a second table, which held a jug and a glass upon it. “There are Banites roaming the streets unchecked. There are gangs holding the city’s poor at their mercy. The slums have become a battleground where there are no two sides to any one battle, and mobs carry out the death sentence on innocents day in, day out.” He poured out a glass of water and carried it back, holding it daintily in his right hand while the others watched him as warily as if he could draw a sword out of thin air at any moment. “No, my fellow Helmites, our war is not in the Hells, and nor is it against any demon to the best of my knowledge. Our battleground is Arabel, and our foes innumerable against our small band, and our allies all but non-existent!”
    “The city has laws, and these foes you speak of are protected by them. There is evil amongst their number which I see as clearly as I can see your own twisted soul at this very moment, Watcher, and yet I do not strike you down for all it would achieve, is chaos.”
    “You dampen my spirits, Sir Knight,” smiled Lenik as he sat himself back down with the glass in hand. “I had thought we were beyond these petty squabbles. Decide for yourself, who is the more malignant force? The man who kills for pleasure, for revenge, causing harm and pain to innocents?” The smile faded, “Or the man who believes that in order for any good to survive in this world, those who fight evil must know fully of its nature. Those who seek to shine the light eventually understand they must venture into shadow. Evil will never die by torches alone, I can assure you. I do not claim that which I do is likely to be agreeable to yourself. I do not ask for you to try and understand me and accept me for who I am,” Michal began to wonder how much longer Nathan would allow this to continue. “I ask, however, that you understand that in the short time they have been here, my Sharpened Shield has done more for this city than your ‘Helmite Brotherhood’ has.”
    “Enough. Watcher of Helm or not, I’ll not have you besmirch my honour so. If you believe you’ve done so much for the city then go ahead and explain yourself.”
    “You do not take the word of a chosen of Helm?”
    “I am curious.”
    “Curious.”
    Sarah raised her chin, looking down her nose at the seated man, “As are we all, Lenik, so out with it.”
    “Perhaps I can give you a better demonstration with a purely hypothetical situation. Say you walk into a Banite, a true follower of the Black Hand who seeks to spread pain and tyranny and generally be an ass, and you bump into him outside of Cormyr. Say, in the Anauroch, where our laws are not so well enforced. What do you do?”
    Michal remained silent still.
    “Sarah? Sir Goldmane?”
    “If he draws his sword on me, then no, I don’t think he’d live to see another day.”
    “And if he doesn’t? Perhaps he’s a docile one when not with his fellow Banite warriors? Content with chucking the odd snide comment.”
    “Then there is nothing to be done, but pass him on and await the day when he drops a foot on the wrong tile and condemns his life to end by the sword. If when he is forced to his knees, and brought to within an inch of his Dark Lord, he still refuses to bring an end to his foul beliefs and embrace Helm, that shall be the end of him.” Nathan seemed satisfied with the result.
    “I killed him”
    “What?”
    “I happened to come onto this purely hypothetical situation, as it were, and I chose to end his life there and then for crimes against Lord Helm.”
    Even Michal was aghast, Lenik was an activist, though in a different way to how Sarah had been, but he had not suspected that he would already have taken lives in the name of Arabel’s people, even if they were Banite. “Did he draw a sword? What did he say?” Sarah stood watching as well, as Nathan put forward his question.
    “He claimed Bane was all powerful. He then stood there, and died. I told him he could either repent and embrace Helm’s teachings or fall into bleak death, alone and forgotten. He refused, and Helm struck him down through his loyal servant. As to your other question: no, he did not have the chance to defend himself.”
    “You are a fool and a murderer, this is not the way of Helm! You killed a man in cold blood!” The outburst almost shook the room, it seemed, but the paladin did not seem to notice the height of his own voice; fortunately in the only adjoining room, there was no one but a drunkard who’d lost his wits. “If we were to kill everyone so, how could we be any better than them? The kind of protection you offer is no better than what the Banites plan, it is no use to replace tyranny of one sort with tyranny of another.”
    “You may believe what you will, Goldmane, but I assure you that it is quite impossible to win any battle while your army is too frightened to draw swords and rip down the enemy, and slaughter them wherever possible, taking up every opportunity to win the day, regardless of the means required to do such.” The Watcher no longer had the smile on his face as he stood, wiping his mouth clean with the back of a hand. “I will leave ‘your’ Helmites alone, Steelgate, but I shall not disband the Sharpened Shield nor take back my actions, nor cease them. And if any should come to me seeking the guidance of Helm, I shall not turn them away.” Lenik let his cloak - emblazoned with the eye of Helm upon its back – straighten out, before making for the door. “The Sharpened Shield is here to stay, you can cower behind shiny steel plates and show off your shiny steel swords all you like, but it is we who will deliver the blows you are too morally-challenged to dole out. What you offer is some brief respite, Sarah. What you offer is a wall, but walls can be crossed and scaled and blown apart. What I offer is a cure.” He closed the door behind himself.

    Sarah and Nathan turned back to Michal, who was still silent as ever. “Do you side with him, Michal?” Once more, Michal began to see Sarah as an enemy. The ironic part was, that he had once torn the Helmites apart to stop her ruthless methods and crusader attitude, yet now he was standing in what was once her home ground after having forced her to cross the bridge to his.
    “He speaks the truth, Sarah. Even you must see it, Nathan. There is nothing to be gained by the way we have operated. Too long have we waited and watched and watched and waited, never being ready to risk ourselves for another.”
    “Datteel, I have gone into battle crying Helm’s name and jumping between foes and allies to save lives so often that I have lost count-”
    “That is not what I mean. Lives are an easy thing to risk, or rather deaths. But to fear the law bearing down on us, that is a sacrifice harder to make.”
    “It is much harder to protect anyone when you have the guards chasing you, it’s in our best interests not to resort to Lenik’s ideas.” Sarah turned around to walk towards the door, put an ear to it, and then came back to the table. “Mich, we risk everything if we use the Sharpened Shield. Everything. You play not just with your life, your lord’s reputation, or just the Helmites in Arabel; if something should go wrong we would be as good as damning all Helmites as just another form of Banite in the eyes of the common man. The paladins have built our reputation, we owe it to them not to turn our backs on them now.” Nathan’s one good eye shifted from Sarah to Michal, a slight nod escaping. Michal stood rigid in his armour, looking at neither of the other two but the table with the now empty glass. “Michal, we have to know where you stand on this matter.”
    “You are both chosen of Helm.” He looked up at the two, so close they seemed now yet were forever beyond reach in any sense of the word. “Both of you. But me? I’m a nobody, I’m just a Helmite, what am I but something of a zealot who cannot even hear the voice of he who he fights for?”
    Sarah’s voice cut in, “You’re wrong, Michal. The Helmite faith has always had three stones at its base: the priests, the paladins, and the guardians. Always three, and each as important as the last and the next. I can only represent Helm, Nathan can but smite in his name-”
    “And I? I cannot blast heretics with holy fire, I am mortal.”
    “As are we, Michal.”
    “I am mortal. Cold steel cuts me as sure as it does anyone else. I cannot tend to my wounds with anything beyond cloth and herbs. I don’t have the strength of ten men, nor can I command the soldiers of Helm to do anything. I am nothing more, than a man!” Sarah and Nathan remained seemingly nonplussed, watching just as they had Lenik, and it only served to aggravate Michal even more. Why could they not understand? “I have nothing but skin and bone beneath my armour, Sarah, I am afraid.” Something close to recognition became present on her face. “I am mortal and I will die just as easily as those I seek to protect. Why should I risk my life as nothing more than a shield to take the blows against them when I have the power to step forward and cut down their foe.”
    “Fear, Datteel, is an obstacle all Helmites must learn to overcome.”
    “What would you know of it? Helm shields your mind from such thoughts, paladin.”
    “I know that.”
    Sarah stopped Nathan from getting any further, “We know, Michal. We all face challenges, not all of them are the same as the ones given to others, and one challenge Helm has set you is to test your courage, it would seem. You are brave, Michal, and no one doubts that you are a capable fighter, but if we are to survive the coming of this Sharpened Shield, you cannot turn your back on us now. Not here.”
    He felt like a child now, whining almost, but he was red faced and hell-bent on some instinct which had popped up. “I am done with hiding and watching and waiting, Lenik is right. The Sharpened Shield is the cure.” At that very moment, the door creaked open a smidgen, and Lenik’s face reappeared at an angle to peer inside. Michal faltered, and began to hope that this man had not just heard his speech, even though it concerned him.
    “Not interrupting am I?”
    “No. I believe we were just leaving.” Nathan nodded curtly towards Michal, replaced his helmet and made for the door.
    “Remain vigilant.” Sarah followed him out, watching Lenik as she did. The Patriarch turned back out, his ever-content smile disappearing behind the corner, leaving Michal to pay for the room.



  • I still get goosebumps every time I read this, and I just came upon it while 'rescuing' files from my old hard-drive, and thought it should be posted here since it's not likely that the full version would ever make it into the story. Several events built up as the background to this: Trystan and his group were marked for murder by an underground gang and he sent a letter to the Helmites to gather their aid in his defence; on the one hand, Lenik Thostis (Octavious Kelteel incognito) was adopting a very activist approach, while Sarah Steelgate was suggesting a more careful approach; and the meeting I wrote about in the above post where Lenik basically agreed to step away from the other Helmites, but not to stand down.

    A bit of the middle was posted in Michal Datteel's old journal, but the rest is just as good. It really inspired me OOCly to get the 'feel' of a true Helmite.

    @The_Broodwhich/RwG:

    [Distributed to all of the faithful]

    As per request, I have hindered my actions against the Banites.

    Against the foul faiths of this city.

    Against those who seek to harm others.

    And what has happened?

    Nothing.

    Helm is a god of defense.

    Defense is not passively standing by and waiting for men and women to be harmed.

    We know they will fight. They harm innocents. They harm the weak.

    Clearly, Steelgate's hould have the Helmites prefer to set the weak out in the open. "Let us stand by them, but not act until attacked" is how she seeks to remedy the threat on the Merchant Trystan. We are Helmites, and granted we often protect innocents, any Orcblood with mental issues can "Stand by them as a bodyguard".

    When the defenders, The men of helm, stand idly by and "Defend" by simply witnessing crimes-

    This strengthens the banites.

    Walking through the Slums, Or even sitting in the pride, You hear of Laws being subverted.

    "If I kill a man, I will be captured and tried. I'll find someone desperate enough to kill for me. If he dies, I'll find another".

    This is how the banites operate.

    This is how Steelgate would have criminals operate.

    Between the Purple Dragons, and the Militia, there is a veritable military mass unlikes any criminal can dream.

    Yet why do they walk free?

    Because Helmites stand idle.

    The house Of Helm reduced to "Law" of Man.

    The Knights of the Merciful, offering Mercy to our foes.

    The Clergy tainted by twisted and jaded views of peace against known threats.

    The Sharpened Shield, By the hands of this community. Stand idle.
    [Scribbled fervently] _To arms, my brothers and sisters.

    Do not allow the Tiamatians to spread their filthy lies. Do not let them spread the glory of the Red, who dared to snatch Our King from this realm, be it for gold or faith or otherwise. A king died, and with it, hope.

    Do not allow, the pathetic Banites, who's armies dared to crash these gates, only to be fended off in a crimson crash of blood and horror.

    Who's soldiers marched, singing hymns of praise, who dared to walk on this soil and proclaim "Kneel, Kneel before the black fist".

    The Black Fist.

    Individuals cower in fear for many reasons. The Unknown, Death, The judgement of their peers.

    The Shadovar thrive on the Unknown. The Tiamatians, Death of our king, Banites. Banites thrive, nay, yearn, for the Judgement of their peers.

    They walk the blood-stained streets.

    Their black and green glistening in the yellow sun.

    The Zhentarim army, with Bane's Chosen son at the helm, dared to crash our gates.

    For months, perhaps longer, they held our cities in fear.

    Rolling us as a fine purple gem, waiting to be crushed by the black fist.

    Watching the little purities and impurites roar along their daily lives, constantly offering praise from his dark army.

    The judgment of his peers.

    My mentor once told me, "Gods gain power from followers. Leaves of a tree gain life from the water sucked up by the roots. Sever the roots, the leaves wilt."

    Their roots were severed.

    In a daring feat of survival, or perhaps human existence, Helms work was done.

    Father, Brother, Sister, Mother, Adventurer, Deschurran, Bhaliiran, Criminal, Miliita.

    All one.

    "Crush our bodies. Lay waste to us. Unleash your hordes. Crush us with your black fist."

    Their lives were put on the line. Daring operations, massive defensives, War.

    "Crush our bodies. Lay waste to us. Unleash your hordes. Crush us with your black fist".

    And so he did.

    And he failed.

    Peasant to Lord, Elder to Child, Be it through words or Actions, proclaimed.

    "Crush our bodies. Lay waste to us. Unleash your hordes. Crush us with your black fist".

    And so they did.

    The gates were stormed, North Arabel breached. Flashbacks and horrors of the Orcen Encampment of the slums stirred the citizens.

    It is said, by some, Lord Deschurr himself stormed the lines, aside militia and any other brave enough to take up arms against this menace.

    Fezznick retainers. Knights of the Merciful. Clergymen of Helm. Purple Dragons. war Wizards. Adventurers.

    And as they fervently stood their ground, as any helmite should, they proclaimed-

    "Crush our bodies. Lay waste to us. Unleash your Hordes. Crush us with your black fist".

    And then a pause.

    A glistening from the sun.

    A perplexing event to any onlooker.

    A smile?

    Surely not. Against a horde of Banite sworn swords, hellbent on seeing the purple gem of Cormyr, the Golden Glisten of Arabel, the trade city, dimmed.

    A smile, An a glisten of hope.

    A boastful challenge.

    A bluff calling.

    A valiant last stand, worthy of legend and mythos.

    "Crush our bodies. Lay waste to us. Unleash your Hordes. Crush us with your black fist".

    The glisten widens.

    "And we will smile. We will laugh. We will draw steel, knowing full well what we face. We smile because we can. We laugh, because you cannot. Joy, raped by your master, cast out long ago."

    The banites grew enraged.

    "We will Smile, and We will die."

    Why, a child would ask his mother.

    "Because, They are of the Watcher. And he is always watching over them."

    "But they will die!"

    The elder mother gives a weak, weary grin to her son.

    "We all will."

    The child looks taken back by the grim truth.

    "Every day is one day less, for some people happiness is a reduction in suffering".

    The Banite confused. "Obey Bane. Serve none other. You will have power" is the Zhentarim national anthem. Yet in spite of this power, the smiled.

    "We will smile and We will die. And helm will witness our actions. Our flesh will be bruised, our skin cut, our lives ended, perhaps, But we will smile, and we will die. In the face of death, we laugh, because no matter how much power Bane offers you, We are the better. Simply for the fact, that we can. Such is freedom."

    Enraged the Banites charged the gates, only to be fended off in a crimson crash of blood and horror.

    Many fought, Many died.

    Yet-

    Many lived.

    And amidst the chaos and terror, the glisten grew with each won battle.

    Deschurran and Bhaliiran and Fezznickian and Thondite all subsided their petty squabbles, and sought to defend their homes.

    And, As they bled, sweat, and died for their city, country, and fellow man-

    Helm Smiled.

    Their first attempt failed.

    Their second attempt, strategic.

    Cold, Calculating, as expected from any banite.

    Will you wait for the gates to be crashed, innocents dieing long before hand?

    Will you wait while the Banites move into position, dancing about the law with a bright, twisted, hallowed smile?

    Or will you knock their teeth out?

    Every day is one day less, for some people hapiness is the reduction in suffering.

    The weak and the innocent have no glisten.

    For myself, Hapiness is the reduction in their suffering.

    The voiceless scared into subdual.

    Bane's favored targets.

    While I may be "Tainted" according to Paladins, this city needs a glisten.

    The day the Banite Ramoes bashed my skull in with a swift mace, in a duel, A spark.

    Rond of Fezznick, along with others, praised me. In light of impending doom, I stood fast, as a helmite, and silently proclaimed-

    "Crush my body. Lay waste to me. Unleash your Strength, Crush me with your black fist".

    And now, I smile.

    Gifted a chance by helm to spread my message.

    A smile so bright, He himself cannot help but watch.

    I offered the Banite priest a chance to stand before Helmite law, Even Arabels, but he passed on both with a sneer and a mocking laugh.

    His sneer, Met my smile.

    Much as the Zhentarim met that of this City.

    I smiled, as I tore the black heart of William Goodman from its hallowed cavity.

    A priest of the Black Fist.

    Granted, he was far from the might of Tyrants, but he was already moving upward, yearning, thirsting for more to cower before him, Raemos' favored.

    I stood, His black heart oozing with thick, disgusting fluid, and I crushed it.

    Murder? No.

    Is a man who subverts the law, hires assassins for the purpose of harming the innocent, and using their deaths to stir fear, Innocent?

    Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, were crashed under the heel of the Zhentarim, and the black fist.

    A fist is but a strengthened, guided hand.

    Hands can be severed.

    If you do not wish to join the march to remove the Banite threat, then at least ponder this-

    They crashed the gate. They stand everything we stand for, and this city stand for. They continue to subvert laws to spread their tyrrany.

    Yet we stand around.

    At least attempt to rally the masses against them. If you would prefer not take up arms in combat, then atleast make it hard for them to spread their influence and reputation.

    If you are harassed for "Blaspheming a god", insist it is the individual you slander, not the deity.

    Any man who bows in the face of tyranny of his own free will, then spreads it, deserves nothing short of a head severing. Destroying their reputation hardly is a strech, simply spread the truths of their history. The Truth is hardly slander.

    But By the Nine, By Helm I swear, Any Helmite who sits idle while Tyranny is sowed, or refuses to defend the innocent for fear of repercussions from human law, Or because they are beholden to a mortal, regardless of their station is a helmite only in name.

    Simply a man, who clutches tight his shield in hopes of bettering himself.

    If you are afraid of combat, then defend with words.

    if you fear words, then hire others to spread these truths for you.

    If you cannot find a way to be noticeably -**public-, a rallying call to the people as the Helmite you are, then perhaps you should reconsider your faith.

    Arabel views us as stoic, to a point even cowardly individuals, as the banites freely walk these streets.

    Steelgate wishes me to bear this burden alone.

    The Paladins cannot operate because of their code, and because I am forced by Helm, to do what is necessary because none others will.

    It is to those of you, those helmites unbeholden, that I hope to speak to regarding taking action. Seek me to speak of the Sharpened Shield.

    The rest of you,

    Think well of ways you can fight our foes, while remaining true to your codes, your mortals, or whatever reason you have for up until this moment, being nay but a "Watcher". Watchers watch. Helmites Do.

    Steelgate once drew a line, "With us, or against us" to me and those of my faith.

    It was cancelled after a meeting. Words solved it.

    I return the line, but at a deeper meaning than something that can be remedied by words.

    I draw the line on Actions.

    Act, my brothers, be publicly a helmite, and denounce or fight our foes.

    Else, there will be conflict.

    For while I seek to act in the name of helm, many stand idle. While we may not stand together, stand by Helm. Fight his foes. Back-room plotting and planning, while effective, hardly lets the people know that Helmites are there for protection. If you do not act, sully the name of Helm.

    I would advise against sullying the name of Helm, and then calling yourselves Helmites further.

    May he watch upon your every action, guiding your blade and tongue as you take the fight to your foes.

    ~Lenik Thostis**_



  • Chapter V
    Judge, Jury, Executioner.

    Michal tried to make sense of the recent events in his mind while his feet carried him across the narrowing stone alleys towards the northwestern part of town, towards the Wild Goose inn. The same inn where Bradley Larks – a former retainer to Lord Fezznick himself – once backhanded a man in the face for making a suggestive magical sending across the city; besides that one incident it had no real claim to fame.
    Since the Sharpened Shield broke off from the other Helmites, it had only become clearer that people seeking protection would sooner approach Lenik and his sect than Sarah. One such person was the merchant Trystan, who had indeed asked both groups for aid; Sarah had offered him Helmite bodyguards to combat the threats on him and his wife; Michal could only imagine what Lenik had offered, or done, but he had not heard much from Trystan since.

    Barging through the doors, Michal remembered why he had come. The sending - much like a rogue had done long ago, a boast and a bluff, which had brought Larks’ iron gauntlet to the culprit’s face. Trystan and his wife stood at the bar, ordering some drinks while Lenik stood alongside the man named Khasim – the only other member of the Sharpened Shield Michal knew of. It took a while for him to realise that, again, he had arrived in full battle-array whereas Lenik and the others had garbed themselves in casual clothing… all but Khasim. Before he could wonder if that piece of information was significant the doors burst open again behind him, and three men entered, the target of Lenik’s sending: Banites.
    “You’re walking a thin line, Trystan,â€


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