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 Male x Male  Dark/Violent  Historical/Historical Fiction  One x One Roleplay  World Building Poison and Piety (Capreo and Kilenath)

Discussion in 'Roleplay Execution' started by Kilenath, Apr 28, 2019.

  1. Kilenath

    Kilenath Wild Member Member

    Messages:
    41
    Local Time:
    4:45 AM
    “Make way! Make way for our Lord’s Eminence!”

    The bark of the ushers had a harried looking group of sodden pilgrims hastening off the road and into the grassy verge, leaving the route clear for the great lumbering beast that was Cardinal Rüdeger Stetten’s retinue. It snaked behind them, churning the Holy road to a sucking mire under hoof and foot, and making no secret of its advance on Velenstein, the castle stamped dark on the hillside some five miles south, an ugly smudge against a whitewashed sky

    It had been the better part of a year since Rüdeger had last seen his ancestral home, the seat of the Stetten family for centuries, until they had gifted it to the church. Gifted it, as he had been in his youth. Third sons such as he could not inherit, but that did not mean they weren’t still useful pawns for ambitious noble houses; a highborn clergyman could demand as much respect as a prince, should be make the right connections, and Rüdeger has been schooled to do precisely that. At twenty a bishop, six years later a cardinal, the youngest to be raised to the position outside of the Pope’s circle of nepotism in the capital, Lotenberg.

    The capital lay at the far end of the Holy road, still several week’s travel, but the reprieve of a few nights at Velenstein would ready him for that particular hive of hornets. Word had already reached him that dignitaries from several noble families had convened there, ostensibly to greet his eminence and swell the numbers of his retinue for the final leg of his journey. Hangers-on, but numbers never hurt, nor would the gifts they delivered in an attempt to buy his favour… or buy their way into heaven. One could never be quite sure.

    One thing Rüdeger could be sure of, was that he’d had enough travelling astride the mule labouring beneath him to last him a lifetime. Tradition had deemed it essential that a prince of the church tour astride the beast. Many might have trapped it in gold and satin, for the sake of impressions, but the simple tack was as austere as the his own inky attire and accoutrements, as gloomy as the charcoal grey vestments the priests in attendance were robed in.

    Part of Rüdeger’s popularity with the people was precisely because they could see that the taxes they paid to the church were not wasted on pageantry. He would suffer the sneers in the capital gladly, knowing that in truth, the severity of his colours made them squirm under the weight of their hypocrisy.

    It began to drizzle as they passed the pilgrims, stooped low in obeisance as he passed. Rather than ignore them, Rüdeger reined in with the intent of addressing them, having them supplied with victuals from his own stores – these would once have been his people, after all – but hesitated at an odd protuberance his pale, grey-blue eyes glimpsed warping the side of one’s cloak.

    These pilgrims were armed.

    Not pilgrims at all, but bandits, with the audacity to organise a strike at him within less than an hour’s ride to the castle. He almost admired them for it.

    “Dietrich!” he called for his Sergeant at arms.

    His mule flattened its ears, trampling backward through the mud as the bandits cursed, recognising it would be futile to keep up the act. They surged upright, swords and knives ringing from scabbards as the foot soldiers moved to engage them.
     
  2. Capreo

    Capreo Lore Hound Member

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    Local Time:
    11:45 PM
    Blessed was he, and it was by God's mercy alone that he had enough strength in his hands to tie each lace of his jacket, every buckle on his boots. It was not muscle that moved his old, weary form, but faith. If it wasn't for the forgiveness he sought, the retribution taken willingly, the guilt of his own sins would have surely eaten him alive. The other men, soldiers of muddled pasts were surely the same, all swords donated to the church as reward for their penance. No one asked, their beds, their meal hall, all much more quiet than the noise he grew up with. The most chatter he'd hear were during the table games they would play, with nothing to bet on but rations and munitions. Holy blades spoke little of glory and pillage, and no one was disappearing late into the night only to return at a suspicious hour of morning.

    Or was it he who changed? Wearing a cross embroided into his surcoat proud as a man could given such wretched crimes. He made for himself close companions with sodomites and danced in the devil's lap. He made a mockery of love, and now sentenced himself to celibacy for it. The men around him had good hearts, and he felt more a sense of clarity as their lead than he ever did campaigning for a Godless Graf, or fighting over his own hide on the Lenzburg countryside.

    In his greying years, the good knight vowed never to lose faith again. This path was right and only damnation would be left for his lowly corpse.

    A pair of helping hands helped to fasten his pauldron, another half-clad in armor and awaiting assistance with his own. They were afforded no servants, though at least he wasn't necessarily used to having any. He spent fewer years in court than one could count on a single hand.

    The courtyard began to run slick with mud by the time they reined in the horses, a gentle rain he could see slowly stretch unto the horizon through the slit of his visor. He could only pray it didn't storm. Such a perilous journey would be of no joy to their particularly prestigious cargo. The pilgrims and their covered wagons they often guided had enough qualms keeping their stores dry, but His Eminence shouldn't have to bear witness to a downpour.

    Cobblestone faded into packed dirt, until the men were led off the path with haste towards the holy road. God's earth inclined to a hill that he rode along in a line, overlooking the clearing so many faithful traveled. It stretched from one corner of sky to the next, and would've been kissed by the sun if not for the gloomy weather that had taken hold.

    A line of shadows came into view, still on the road and surrounded by a flurry of specks further shrouded by the overcast. It caused the knight to pull at his reins, heavy hooves kicking up mud behind him as his company steered to a sudden halt. A halt that didn't last long either. It took but a moment for him to register that the figures scrambling on God's path for their lives were His Eminence's cordon. "There's an attack, all charge!" His shout echoed off the bevor, a sharp swing of his fist down for those who couldn't hear through their helmets and the rain. With a kick of his spurs he joined the soldiers in their advance down the hill with glaive tucked under arm.

    With the mere sight of their arrival the bandits began to flee, some already having abandoned their cloaks and the facade of being simple pilgrims. The knight rode along the lord's retinue with a thunderous noise, swinging without hesitation and letting the prongs of his polearm rip a man off it's tail and into the mud by his shoulder. One of his men clad in brigandine had already cleaved one dead before he managed to yank down the bevor covering his mouth and bark his commands. "Alive! Keep them alive!" An anger permeated his voice. What sort of venom lie within these men that they would attack simple worshipers of God. The gold adorned priests from the capital were often made victims for their own greed, but these bandits must reek of hate to see these blessed officials worth.

    He raced towards a straggler, fleeing for the hills in vain with fear in his heart, knowing there was no outrunning the cavalry. Only did the good knight return with a prisoner in tow, body slung over the back of his horse, drooling and muttering something under his breath after being knocked and beaten with the blunt of a glaive. Someone relieved him of the extra weight in the aftermath of the bandit's attack, though he made a show of riding up and down His Eminence's retinue to assure their safety. "Tie up the survivors and let God judge them. Lothar, Folke! You two are dismissed." A pause, and two turns while the soldiers tended to their duties, "Someone get these bodies off the road!" The knight spent no delay making his way to the head of the line, the shroud of his visor meeting his Eminence's gaze for mere seconds before he tucked pole under arm and pulled off his helmet to bow from where he sat.

    "Heinczel II, of Lenzburg." He traced a cross over his plackart with eyes shut in prayer, before drowning in the sight of a man most holy. "Your Eminence, I apologize for myself and on behalf of my men, should we have been here sooner you wouldn't have been placed in danger's way." It was the first time he had stopped shouting, bevor pulled down to his chin and face solemn. It held on it the sincerity of a man who could tell no lies, flecked with grey and scars. "I can send word of your charges with them, should you find a punishment."
     
  3. Kilenath

    Kilenath Wild Member Member

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    4:45 AM
    Rüdeger had been unseated when the bandits struck, his mule barrelling and braying further along the road, skidding in the treacherous slick of the mud. By some miracle, the cardinal had not ended up on his rear, supported by one of his attendants as they’d closed ranks around him to keep the threat at bay for as long as it took the thundering cavalry to reach them. His personal guard, led by Sergeant Dietrich, had suffered no casualties, and were assisting those who’d fallen to their feet, restoring order to the column and seeing a wagon righted, its supplies gathered.

    The sergeant himself hadn’t gone far though, and had reined in conspicuously close, as if he were displeased to permit anyone, even the heroes of the hour, closer to the cardinal than necessary.

    Rüdeger observed all of this impassive and patient. The mud now caking the hem of his garb bothered him not at all, and his attendants knew better than to fuss over such small things. These were not the crimson vestments, stiff with embroidered gold, velvet thick, that the other cardinals wore. Indeed there was little to delineate his from those of his priests, who seemed a good deal more shaken by the ordeal than he. Truly, he might have been overlooked if not for the thicket of people who had hastened to his side, as if drawn into his orbit by unseen forces at the alarm of his call. “Peace, my sons,” he told the flustered flock, who stepped awkwardly away from him so that he could receive the unknown knight.

    He mirrored the cross Heinczel had traced, pale hand sketching its branches upon the air toward the man with an inherent grace. No sign of tremble. Not a hint of the temporary heightened nerves, the unexpected excitement. There were too few moments such as this, where he was exposed to physical threat, and it made a refreshing change from the incessant cold war insidiously infecting the College of Cardinals. True safety was hard to come by, so one learned to accept the fact that some among his peers were undoubtedly plotting his downfall.

    “Be at ease, Heinczel of Lenzburg,” he intoned, studying the face of his saviour. The name has the taste of familiarity, though he could not yet recall the details. Someone amidst his clerks would recall the particulars. “You have done the church a great service this day. You and your subordinates are to be commended for your efforts.”

    What he could see of the exposed face suggested no arrogance, no guile. Now there was a rare thing indeed. It was not often Rüdeger met a man truly afflicted with piety… it was that, or skilled acting, and he determined it would behoove him to discover which. Still, there was the matter of the bandits to deal with first, if bandits they were. One could never be sure if such an attack were so simple, or a contrived effort from ambitious opposition.

    “Custody of the prisoners is to be given to my personal guard,” he instructed, tone one that brooked no argument. “Sergeant Dietrich, I believe you have the wherewithal to satisfy my concerns as to the true nature of this incident.”

    His sergeant offered a stiff half-bow in his saddle, and moved off to do as he had been commanded.

    The mule was distant by now, and standing afoot waiting for its return impractical in the rain. One of his guards dismounted, eager to earn favour, and drew a sorrel mare abreast of him to mount. Rüdeger declined assistance, settling in the saddle with the obvious ease of a man familiar with horsemanship, a spryness which could not often be expected of a clergyman. His face was difficult to discern beneath the dark hood, age impossible to determine, but there was a vigour in the flesh to be sure, that suggested a man in his prime.

    “You will ride with me, Heinczel. I desire to discuss Velenstein with one stationed there. I am sure it must be much changed since last I visited.”
     
  4. Capreo

    Capreo Lore Hound Member

    Messages:
    218
    Local Time:
    11:45 PM
    His Eminence Rüdeger greeted him with all the grace and clarity that was expected of a man of the cloth, or simply just one that made his name in the fatherland. Heinczel's dark eyes managed to shine just from his reflection, wracked by awe and obedience. The filth that crept up the hems of his vestments seemed to bring about a grimace on the faces surrounding His Eminence, though he still wore his holy robes proudly. Humble, swathed in black as if God himself loomed overhead. The knight was sure to commit his voice to memory, if not what little of face that could be seen.

    Heinczel found himself sitting stiffly, not to command respect like he did in his courtyard, among the men, the battlefield. Instead he fought to make himself look deserving of such an honor, the weight of such he couldn't have hoped to prepare himself for. "We owe you our greatest thanks, Your Eminence. No matter of treasury can match a cardinal's praise. The prisoners will be relinquished right away, my men are most compliant." Velenstein awarded him the best, after all.

    He watched as the cardinal mounted, the line behind him regaining some form of order and the ever prudent sergeant leaving them in as much peace as a man of such a lofty title could be afforded. The invitation hit him a moment later than it took to touch his ears. Perhaps he was too busy noting just how fluid His Eminence's movements were, the skill exposed when he settled in his saddle. Practiced, Heinczel thought. Or moreover he was taken aback by the gracious offer, eventually bowing with a fist to his chest in thanks. "At your pleasure, Your Eminence."

    There was much to say of Velenstein, even in his short stay there, being so lucky, no, truly blessed as to attain the status of captain once redeemed. Perhaps the food was plain, accommodations modest but the church provided them well with munitions and expenses were saved by having the men do a great deal of labor about the castle. Heinczel found the countryside beautiful when it wasn't stained red, was he so spoiled?

    The line began to move again, with the knight at the cardinals side as per His Eminence's bequest. With the wagons in tow, they would take the roads to the castle and at a leisurely pace. Heinczel's polearm was thankfully rinsed clean by the persisting rain, only needing to be hung at his side by a leather sling. He kept his helmet in an arm as he would the basilica, even if riding alongside such a humble figure. A bit of rain bothered him none, if anything he much favored damp hair over the incessant pattering of water against metal.

    "I cannot speak for how Velenstein would've been during your last visit, but in the time I've stayed I've learned every name and stone. Hopefully I can still be of use to Your Eminence." He was still tense beneath his steel shell, thankfully masked save for his face in which his mouth pressed into a staunch line. Heinczel only faltered to smile on the next word. "Of course, if it's simply passing entertainment you seek, the menial stories might serve until we arrive. I cannot bring myself to express what an honor it would be for a man such as yourself to listen to the ramblings of an old knight."

    Perhaps it was not all worthless, his travels alongside pilgrims and the rumors that spread all this way from Lotenberg. Heinczel could be quite chatty when allowed, though still he suffered heavily from self restraint alone. "I've been at the command of Markgraf Stoyan since I arrived." He noted, "He seems a good man, serves us just as well as he does yourself. The church was wise to place him there, and in my current position I have no complaints, of course." Heinczel had drifted court to court since free of the shackles named penance. Strangely lost for his age, but he found himself wanting to settle in Velenstein. He had his own number of soldiers and worked hard to impress even after the months rolled by. It had been so long now since his warring days, but granted faith he found a fire again and the markgraf was wise to see a veteran's worth.
     
  5. Kilenath

    Kilenath Wild Member Member

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    Local Time:
    4:45 AM
    The Cardinal did not interrupt Heinczel, nor did he appear to glance his way as they rode, the bright mare beneath him picking up her hooves neatly as they followed in the wake of the distant mule. He could feel her eager to hasten toward the castle, to return to the shelter of her stall (nor could he disagree with her wants in such inclement weather) but he kept their speed checked, lest the retinue fall behind. He doubted they would be preyed upon again, but it had been a remarkably bold move for a strike to be made so close to Velenstein. The significance of his death in his ancestral lands would have been stark, a message for the rest of the Stetten family, slowly but surely seeding itself into each province, into neighbouring principalities.

    The prisoners would have to be questioned, and thoroughly.

    “Stoyan has always been a competent man, and sufficiently spartan in his tastes. He is a fine example of the restraint and probity I pray becomes more commonplace in the years to come.” Such commentary from Rüdeger could hardly be surprising. Where the other cardinals’ fingers glittered with precious metals, gems and pearl, his were barren of ornament, and his personal rooms within his properties, though extensive, dedicated to function rather than leisure. Whilst he’d never openly decried the opulence his peers preferred, nor wagged his finger in the direction of the Pontiff and his ill-veiled sins, his actions alone painted them in very poor light.

    Could the attack have come at the command of his Holiness himself? No, more likely his vice chancellor. Such unworthy acts were possibly hinted at, in subtle language, to be orchestrated by that eager underling…

    For now, Rüdeger turned his benevolent eyes toward his loquacious escort, pale face in three-quarter profile. The Cardinal was not a young man, but the lines upon his brow and about his eyes were fine enough to place him in his late thirties. His jaw had not softened into jowls, his brow high with no sign of recession at the hairline. There was an understated nobility to his features, the more desirable traits of his provenance obvious, yet tempered by an absence of arrogance, by the inattention to his appearance. What little of his hair could be seen beneath the cowl of his cloak was a rusty, light brown and appeared in need of a trim. His chin and jaw were peppered with stubble at risk of becoming a beard if not soon introduced to the edge of a razor.

    He seemed to be considering Heinczel quietly, studying the aged captain with eyes unclouded by judgement. The stains of his past were still a mystery, whatever sins he might be hiding not obvious from appearance alone. He made a mental note to discuss him with Stoyan when they dined that evening.

    “I suspect Velenstein will be graced with the presence of guests from afar in the coming days,” he informed the knight quietly. “Couriers from several great houses delivered missives, requests for audience and confession when last we stopped. They will of course be welcomed, but I bid you ensure their personal guards understand the nature of Velenstein, and that order be kept. Not all of our guests will exercise such staunch control as good Stoyan does, and I will not have new life breathed into old enmity. Upon holy ground, grudges must be set aside.”

    There was a gravity to his words, the weight of responsibility. He was entrusting Heinczel personally with this task, and while he knew that some might perceive this as a burden, he suspected that the old knight might instead consider it quite the opposite. He seemed eager in the way of zealots, respectful in a way he had become accustomed to from his hand-picked favourites. Men who believed every word from his lips to be glorious, golden truths.

    “My Sergeant at Arms, Dietrich will assist you should order be tested. Be sure to brief him upon arrival, should there be incidents upon the Pilgrims’ Road you have documented since my last visit.” From whence they came, their frequency, and any revelations garnered under questioning would all no doubt find their way to Rüdeger’s study.
     
  6. Capreo

    Capreo Lore Hound Member

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    Local Time:
    11:45 PM
    Heinczel considered himself blessed to be spared from that particular taste of temptation rampant in the capital, surely among His Eminence's peers. The indulgences in which fatherland dukes would partake paled in comparison to Lotenberg's avarice. Once, in the infant days of his redemption he might've stared upon their granduer starry-eyed, in awe of their power and their reach. But just how much of it was granted to them by God alone? And surely that same lust for control didn't sit in the Pope's seat. The knight felt but a single man lending his blade and guiding hand to the church's most lowly worship, not wholly prepared for even the honor that company granted him now.

    "I find that the men flock to that sort of modesty, myself too can freely admit that I've found more purpose in service to the markgraf than I have any noble plight in year's past." The knight had turned his gaze to the horizon in which the holy road seemed to sink into, half shrouded by a low fog that had set in during the rain. His face had softened from it's taut restraint. "What is there for soldiers when a war passes? Little more than competing in tournaments for another man's wealth. And they only joust with the mere promise of compensation on their lord's behalf, lords that have long strayed from God's path and know little of honoring words." The feeling of being lost and wholly unsatisfied was one that he knew too well, something he wasn't afraid to mention here and especially so when His Eminence stood closer to God than he. "There will never be enough drinking and whoring to soothe a man's sinful whims. The Markgraf's men- my men, dream of simple ambitions, intentions pure. A good day's work or say the safety of Your Eminence alone is enough to put their hearts at ease."

    Had he already made himself out to be so talkative? The overbearing tension of a deep-seated will to please faded slowly, bit by bit as comfort set in. Part of him couldn't help but ponder if His Eminence knew of pillage. Heinczel had been a part of the last war to rip through the fatherland, and he was born into another before that, swept up by the traveling cavalry as a pittance. His whole life he heard of the church with their arms only wrist-deep in each conflict to tread on their doorstep. It seemed only natural, His Holiness had great power to his name, a voice that swayed kings, but never did Heinczel see the extent of their involvement. A mere mercenary in an age where templars seemed a distant myth. Had His Eminence ever the horror of seeing the atrocities of war?

    The cardinal spoke again, deigned to entrust Heinczel with matters although deserving of his station, far exceeding his own expectations. The prospect of guests was met with no doubt, surely despite his humble attire, many would travel far to call upon the wisdom of a cardinal. Surely they all wouldn't be simple pilgrims come to ask for the blessings of their sick, their injured, and even fewer would bear gifts.

    "I'll make myself familiar." Dietrich, his tongue played over the name behind closed lips in thought alone. He knew him from their brief meeting of eyes after the attack on their convoy. "Markgraf be strict, I would not see Velenstein thrown into disarray due to unruly guests, especially after Your Eminence has already been placed in danger. Hopefully few will see promise in penetrating the walls. Imposing as Velenstein looks, your attackers were fool enough to strike Your Eminence with just one leg on the road. I wouldn't put it above the others. Suicide mission, that is. All arms are to be placed at your disposal, there will be no blind spots." He cast the cardinal a look of sure confidence. There was no inkling of consideration for the possibility that something would go awry in the coming days.

    Blood would be spilled for the protection of their holy church, should they be challenged.

    The path was still long, even when the towering shroud that was Velenstein tore through the sky in the distance. And, a great portion of their journey in the rain slowly abated, drifting behind the with the clouds that hung low to the earth. Again the holy road shined, winding and laid bare to the sun and sky, to God, bordered by green plains that had yet to freeze over as winter would inevitably pass. But in these warm days, pilgrimages were frequent and the view alone was enough to make the soul tremble. They only need to step in Velenstein's shadow, black as a cardinal's robes.

    "Do you know of Velenstein before the markgraf's occupation?" Heinczel softly inquired, more to fill the void of silence left by the absence of rain against armor, than out of curiosity. But the latter still stood. "There's a long history there, you can see it on the stones. But I know little of castles despite seeing so many in my life's time, and Velenstein is a greater mystery than any laid waste to siege." Even now, years after lash marks turned to scars, he'd never forget it. The knight would even wonder if it was obvious he stunk of blood and steel, if mere men could see the reflection of torchfire in his eyes. The thought set him tense again as he had been when first addressing His Eminence, as if the introduction of ease and familiarity had caused him to slacken at the memories. "
     
  7. Kilenath

    Kilenath Wild Member Member

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    41
    Local Time:
    4:45 AM
    “Would that opportunity permitted such exploration,” Rüdeger said, a touch of whimsical resignation in his tone. Genuine enough, for he rarely found time to get acquainted with anywhere that was not his official residence. “Alas, Velenstein will be much better known to thee and thine. The luxury of personal time is not common to good men of the cloth, and certainly not when there is such effrontery to our Lord to be remedied. This is not the time for introspection and reflection, good knight. Nay, there is ablation required, to carve away the corruption. It would be a sin to remain inactive.”

    He did not state that the majority of this would begin in earnest at the very pinnacle of the church, that the Holy Throne itself was stained by he whose sagging buttocks currently occupied it. To say such things to a man like Heinczel would be to see him unduly excited, and he needed to be sure that the eager knight believed in the course he was setting before he dropped such juicy morsels of bait.

    “Chivalry should be the aim of all knights,” he went on, digressing. “You fairly point out that the majority spend years of peace in idle occupation, the glory of tournaments, but you know the codes every bit as well as I. I believe this to be true.” His smile was a magnanimous thing, his teeth straight and strong save for a singular, subtly crooked incisor in the lower row, an often entirely concealed flaw. “It is the duty of knights to observe the directions of the church, and the church directs that they protect the weak and the defenceless. They are to be their defenders, as you and your men are, here upon this most holy of roads.

    “Their liege lords should see that their time is spent in such endeavours, that such otiose activities as they partake of does not diminish them as it does now. Their troth was solemn when it was made, and it should be reinforced, not forgotten as soon as they are rewarded by peace. Whilst there are roving bandits, whilst there are heathens infiltrating our provinces and whilst there are such disasters as are visited upon us, they should not rest.”

    It would not take Heinczel long to perceive which ‘disaster’ it was he averred to. A mere month gone by, the river had flooded, laying low several villages situated too close to its banks. Rüdeger had ensured that his tour brought him to each site of its devastation, to offer what succour he could to the survivors.

    Not one knight had he seen, assisting in the repairs, or in the recovery of the bloated bodies along the swollen banks. It would be another piece of ammunition for his cause. Another shame to hold above the heads of those lords whose protection the common folk had lived under.

    He let his diatribe of the idle knights subside, and took a slow breath, as if to re-centre himself, to find the composure expected of him.

    “I will gather those to me, who share my vision. They will be my shining examples of how men can live within the grace of God. I am glad that the markgraf has already begun to gather such men to himself.”

    Gentle praise, and nothing more said as the slope leading in sharp ascent to Velenstein was finally reached. With Heinczel more familiar with the terrain, he indicated that the knight should lead the way up the treacherous rode, and himself stayed behind to observe that the rest of his retinue was safely delivered, Dietrich remaining obediently beside him. Often, the cardinal’s eyes found their way to Heinczel’s armoured back. There would be a use for this man yet.
     
  8. Capreo

    Capreo Lore Hound Member

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    11:45 PM
    "I can tell Your Eminence that few knights find themselves so well acquainted with the church after they receive their colours." He offered his company a half-hearted smile in turn, and a breathy laugh that made attempts to bring humor to such a pitiful topic. "At the very least, in this age when their ranks employ the more worthy dregs of wars. Those are men beaten by blood and sun, not squires. They see their armor as a new way to win land, earn munitions to keep fighting. Vice begets sin, like a damned wheel. There is no glory in that."

    When the cardinal spoke of disasters there was a hint in his shrouded eyes, a hint that he was not speaking so vaguely. "The River Thuress?" Word traveled fast on the holy road, especially surrounding the matters of peasantry. "A tragedy." Smiling no more, he gripped his own chin for a moment to compose his words, glove scratching at the beard there, sheared short not for fashion but to not catch in his bevor. "One would believe that God again places a deluge on this earth to test the faithful." Where were they though? His followers, men of the cloth and strong arms to offer respite to those in need? The question certainly lingered, as did His Eminence's words.

    They prepared him for the end of that speech, talk of great visions and what Heinczel might've interpreted as flattery sooner than he did, had he not been so lost in thought. The knight didn't share comment, only dipping his head in something halfway between a nod and a bow to helm himself. He relished the safety that steel offered.

    His Eminence was a remarkable man, he decided, if not when simply hearing of his arrival then certainly upon their meeting. The quiet reverence one would offer a monarch's parade gave way to something truly moving. Many men commanded Heinczel's respect but the same lacked a cadence that inspired him so.

    He pushed forward, finally shouting to command his men as His Eminence drew back. They made short laps about the cardinal's retinue as their pace sputtered, making sure to keep wheels steady and wagons upright on the steep path. It was a difficult task even for the occasional pilgrims to keep their travel's rations from spilling down the hill, even when Velenstein sent a hand's worth of arms to stamp out the road after a year's worth of dust and rain rendered it something of a cliff.

    An exchange between Heinczel and the soldiers of the gate transpired in more sharp commands before the wood bellowed and began to give way, like an old man shaking dust off his legs. His Eminence greeted into the walls along with the retinue in tow and the final soldiers even further. Velenstein's courtyard faced some chaos with their new arrivals, men moving whichever way to help guide wagon and steed whichever way. In only a few minutes time Stoyan emerged into the dust to greet his most esteemed guests and seemed eager to relieve the cardinal of his journey, at least from what Heinczel could see while fighting to maintain some order and organization amongst the others. The cardinal quickly disappeared that evening, in the markgraf's good hands surely. There was no reason to concern himself with such formal events unless he were to be present as a guard, and good Stoyan saw such duties more befitting of the men below himself than any captain. No, Heinczel had a long list of duties to attend even still, between familiarizing His Eminence's sergeant with Velenstein's current workings to making sure that His Eminence's companions weren't left lost nor neglected. They had cells in the lower reaches of the castle that could be emptied of storage for the prisoners, and none had qualms giving Dietrich the freedom he needed to serve His Eminence best.

    Only then could he begin the arduous process of stripping himself of his steel, freeing himself of the weight and a padded coat made damp at the neck from what rainwater ran down his neck. Dietrich was sure to remind him of the coming wave, visitors clamoring for the cardinal's favor and wisdom and each would have to be accounted for. Heinczel would urge the men to keep their meals and rests short- shorter than usual anyway, so that they'd be up and in arms for even the early arrivals. A demand that few considered with as much enthusiasm as Heinczel himself.

    When the sun set and he was finally left to his own thoughts, Cardinal Rüdeger's words drifted back to him. Gather those to me, who share my vision. There was a threat of action in those words, subtle enough or under the heavy mask of preaching that now without His Eminence's voice, Heinczel was suspicious of his own expectations.
     
  9. Kilenath

    Kilenath Wild Member Member

    Messages:
    41
    Local Time:
    4:45 AM
    The first birds began to arrive the following day; long-necked carrier pigeons, stately doves and all manner of bedraggled avians bearing their furled missives. They littered the roof of Velenstein with white lime spatters, cooed and strutted while the scribes struggled to catch and enclose them, and arrived in number enough to draw the attention of raptors eager to snatch a well-fed target from the air. Their parchment burdens were collected and delivered to Cardinal Rüdeger’s attendant clerics, who would allow no one past the threshold of his rooms, even to the point of taking his trays come mealtimes rather than permitting markgraf Stoyan’s kitchen staff entry. It appeared that single dinner in company had been all the welcome Rüdeger would permit. The rest of his retinue kept to themselves, cloistered in the quarters they had been provided and watched over attentively by Dietrich’s men, who were as sternly supervised by their Sergeant at Arms.

    Judging by the air traffic leaving Velenstein, the Cardinal had occupied himself with penning responses, and come evening, a list had been produced and made available to Stoyan’s staff that they might prepare enough rooms for the expected dignitaries and nobles who had made it known they would be ascending the steep slopes to pay their respects (or more likely attempt to weasel their way into Rüdeger’s good graces). The kitchens were abuzz, close to panic as they attempted to see enough supplies in to feed the hungry horde, but notably nothing purchased was worthy of a nobleman’s table. Those visiting His Eminence would be expected to dine upon fare as simple as that which he supped upon. It quickly became clear why none attendant to him were carrying extra pounds. They shared a certain gaunt, zealous parity, as if they were sustained by their faith and saw even simple nourishment as an indulgence. Undoubtedly they fasted from time to time, and rumours spread that the most fanatical would have themselves immured, and fed through tiny apertures while they spent their ascetic existence in prayer and solemn silence.

    While the upper class awaited responses for the sake of propriety, the pilgrims did not. Come evening, a half dozen little family groups had arrived seeking the Cardinal’s blessings, and often as not, begging to be heard by him personally in the confessional. Some had come dragging their crippled kin on litters, their elderly, blind and trembling seeking forgiveness before their looming ends. And of course, also with them, was risk. How easy it would be to arrive disguised as a simple peasant, and enter Velenstein in plain sight. Dietrich had each rigorously searched of course, before permitting them to be housed, at Stoyan’s instruction, within one of the castle’s halls. Some Cardinals, perhaps most, would have turned them away, but Rüdeger was insistent that the common folk be treated courteously, and did come evening, appear to visit them in their draughty lodgings.

    Not, of course, that he would do so alone. The honour of being his guard that evening was given to a likely unsuspecting Heinczel. Dietrich apparently occupied with the interrogation of their prisoners, it was left to the knight to escort the ebony clad Cardinal as he emerged from his apartments, a pair of lowly priests trailing them, their heads bowed and faces grey and anonymous.

    It was not by chance that Rüdeger’s visit to the common folk had been timed to coincide with that of the interrogations. Dietrich was a loyal servant, of that there was no doubt, but his determination to see Rüdeger kept safe could sometimes be constricting when the Cardinal required time to engage in his private curiosities. Heinczel was just one such curiosity. This would be the perfect opportunity to observe his behaviour amongst the poor, to gauge how shrewd his attention seemed. The Cardinal would almost have welcomed another attempt on his life, if it had given the knight an opportunity to demonstrate his capabilities, but it *was* a little much to hope for. He would be satisfied instead, if he saw demonstrated the kind of respect that would make the poor forget to revile their betters. That evoked the kind of hero worship that would test a man’s ego.

    “Tell me, Heinczel of Lenzburg,” the Cardinal encouraged quietly as they moved soft-footed towards the gothic arch of the doorway leading into the hall. It was flanked by a pair of Stoyan’s guards, but large as the room was, they would never reach the Cardinal in time if there were trouble. “Is the church failing these families we harbour?”

    It was a loaded question. One which demanded utter honesty, but also risked causing a great deal of offense. Which was of course, precisely why Rüdeger had posed it. It was time to see whether the knight valued more his truths, of his superiors.
     

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