Fable - Ask The Path of Purity

A roleplay which may be open to join but you must ask the creator first

Lexi Quinzell

Commander of the White Ravens
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Mathias let out a hearty chuckle at his comrades words and put his elbows upon the battlements, head canting to the side to fix Lilien with a lazy smile full of mischief. It spoke of a far deeper connection and friendship between the two that went beyond simple comradery.

"Darling Lilien, so quick always to put monsters to the blade and flame. Our oaths - all of our oaths - are about ensuring humanity wins and what greater win is there against the tide of darkness than to turn one of them back into a human?" he sounded incredulous, as though he couldn't believe she was so dumb and blind to even question it.

Ulgrim was the one whom Kain had been watching and he maintained his bored looking expression as the two argued back and forth like children. He was closer to Ian in age with only a year left of his service. It meant he had seen more and knew that the lines were more blurred than the black and white younger Watchmen believed. In the end his frown deepened before eventually he spoke.

"Let the path decide. If she survives then she is worthy of saving. If she does not then our problem is sorted."
 
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Heike Eisen

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Whatever hope dared rise from Ian's lack of an outright dismissal of Heike's final entreaty came plummeting back down once Lilien spoke from the high wall. And what made it worse was that Heike truly agreed with with most of what Lilien had said. She respected Lilien staying true to the code of the Watchmen. She would have drawn a map to Reikhurst herself and handed it to Lilien and the Watchmen, for Reikhurst did need to be cleansed with fire and blood--none who dwelled there now were human.

Yet still came the dismaying frustration. Alaric and Alexandria had both clearly explained their intentions and their motivations to the Watchmen. Heike pleaded her case with as much sincerity and passion as she could possibly muster. What else could they do?

Then one among the Watchmen broke ranks from Lilien's hardline thoughts, and that recently plummeted hope came soaring back as Heike regarded him. Another, more terse in his thoughts, spoke up, saying to let the Path itself decide. Could it be...?

Back down on the ground before the door, Ian held his sword in one hand and his forehead in the other, looking beset by a creeping torment. His heart was at war with two differing opinions. Lilien, mirroring the stalwart fervor of his younger self, and Mathias and Ulgrim, mirroring the experience he had come to gain. He could not disagree with either conclusion. Had he...had he grown meek in his waning ninth year? Was it meekness, or was it temperance? Surely this was the sort of doubt that would have gotten him killed in the early days of his service. Here before him stood a sworn enemy of the Night Watchmen, and he was entertaining her words. But was she not once human? Weren't they all human once, even those possessed of such monstrous cruelty and malice? Was the vampire actually sincere? Was she a master manipulator, seeking to learn the secrets of the Sanctum for her vampiric clan such that they might be undone?

Ian didn't know what to think. The Path could decide. He knew it could decide. But years and years of battling against vampires, demons, and all their corrupted ilk was not so easily put aside. The world seemed so much more right, so much more ordered, when his blade was the final answer to matters like these.

Like Ian's current thought manifest, one more voice spoke up: "I agree with Lilien."

Norman. Five years of service, and who had fought with distinction during the Pandemonium Crisis. He hopped down off of the edge of the Sanctum and landed on the ground as Ian had earlier. The talon of his poleaxe he planted in the dirt, standing sentinel before the giant door to the Sanctum.

"And I have had enough of this farce," Norman said, casting a brief and disdainful glance over to Ian--and up to Mathias, but not to Ulgrim--before returning to regard the Pariah and the White Ravens. "Begone, you of lesser Chapters. Begone and leave the creature to us, since the lot of you have ears which hunger to hear its honeyed words. Do this or draw your weapons, Templar. You may have time to prance about with your foes, but we Watchmen do not."

Alaric Lexi Quinzell
 

Alaric

Pariah Templar
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Alaric had never needed to be cajoled into a fight.

As soon as the other Templar threatened him his hand reached back and grasped the hilt of that odd knife on the small of his back. The expression on his face never changed, but he slowly looked over towards Norman with a blank stare.

"This creature is my charge." That was likely rather presumptive.

Heike had however come to him. Lexi and her cadre of peacocks might have interrupted, but he had come first and seen to her task. There was a sense of duty that lay heavily upon his shoulders. He did not...care, about her, not in a normal sense.

Honor however demanded he see this through.

"I will see her live." Or die. "Lest she be slaughtered by the harpy as soon as I turn my back."

Lilien seemed to stiffen as she was insulted, her fingers slowly fluttering over one of the arrows within her quiver. There was an anger there, simmering below the surface, and she could not help but want a fight. Slowly an arrow drew, sliding against the wood of her bow as she peered down.
 
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Lexi Quinzell

Commander of the White Ravens
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There was a rasp of steel being half drawn and Lexi held up her hand again. The Raven's stayed their hands reluctantly but they didn't re-sheath their blades but rather left them half out of their scabbards in preparation and as a marked threat. Their Commander remained far more relaxed in the face of a fight than they did. Even Kain gave Lexi an odd look as though he were trying to work out what her thinking was. In truth it was nothing deep or meaningful but an age old agreement from the Ravens to other Chapters that they would not cross blades. Evora would always be neutral and there were plenty of other Templar Orders who would fight to the death to ensure it was kept that way.

"As much as I am reluctant to agree with the Pariah a contract was agreed upon for us to help her with her task. If your intentions are to kill her then we will be at odds. If you cannot help her then we will simply leave with the vampire," perhaps there was something Rose could find in their vaults that could be tried. Lexi wouldn't be alive today if she hadn't meddled in the darker secrets their library held. Perhaps the same new breath of life could be granted to her.
 

Heike Eisen

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Norman had slightly more experience with Pariah than Ian. Enough to know through interactions with them that they were to a man...unsettling. He knew not what initiations they underwent to become Templar within their shunned chapter, but even the word "interaction" seemed too strong when quantifying dealings with them. They were like shells of men and women, robbed of some essential component which made them living and breathing people. Such a thing unnerved Norman more than knowing the precise hour of his own death by walking the Path of Purity.

Yet he bottled up his trepidation. Spoke as an adamant Watchman, saying to Alaric and Lexi alike, "Your 'charge.' Your 'contract.' These are your mistakes, you of the Pariah and you of the White Ravens, and these have definitively put you at odds with us. That creature shall not defile our Sanctum, nor can we permit it to leave."

"Norman," Ian said.

"What?" Norman replied, testy in his tone with the senior Watchman.

Ian looked to him. A dour and resolute expression, for one thing was clear to him at last. "I will not spend my final days fighting fellow Templar."

"And so you would join them in their dereliction of duty?" Norman, his tone low and accusatory.

Ian canted his head backward. "Mathias is right. Yet also Lilien is right, and as are you. All of us here want to see the scourge of vampirism gone--one way or another. The creature is compliant. Look at her."

Indeed, Heike still stood with her arms outstretched and openly inviting any and all blows of retaliation. She looked at the Watchmen all with a beseeching gaze, one of hope that some manner of resolution might be found.

Norman, relenting just enough to give some deference to the senior Watchman, asked, "What are you suggesting, then? That we let them do as Commander Quinzell says? Simply leave? With the vampire?"

"If it so offends that a vampire should enter our Sanctum and attempt to walk the Path of Purity, then yes." Norman scoffed at this, but Ian continued, "But we need not let the White Ravens and their Pariah leave alone. A Watchman could accompany them. Let them try--and try earnestly--to cure the creature elsewhere, as is their contract. And if they fail, our Watchman can put the vampire to rest..." Ian glanced at the other Templar and Heike, "...if they should agree to these terms."

Heike, without hesitation, said, "This accordance has my consent!" If all agreed to it, then Heike would gladly submit herself for execution upon such a failure to be rid of her affliction. As it had been in the Monster Hunter Fortress, she was loath to see the Templar of the White Ravens, Pariah, and Watchmen at each other's throats, for she viewed them as good men and women all, their causes noble and just, and such a conflict would be nothing short of tragic.

"Hmph. I have a better solution," Norman said. He cast his eyes as well to the Templar and their pet vampire across from him. "You wish to bring that vile creature into our Sanctum? This I will not stand, and I will place myself at hazard to keep the Sanctum clean of the taint of our sworn foes. Who among you will place yourself at hazard for the sake of a vampire? I say we settle this here and now. Whosoever has the courage of their 'conviction,' step forward and face me in a duel. Should I lose, I will have done what I can to prevent this affront to our Sanctum, yet my failure will grant the creature entry. Should I win...then the vampire is mine to slay."

Heike bristled. She did wish dearly to endure the Path of Purity, so close was she to it and thus the tantalizing potential (perhaps even promise, dared her wishful thinking to interject) of being cured of her vampirism on this very day. But a duel? It did not sit well with her, even if such an option was better in her mind than an outright battle between the opposing sides of Templar.

Two choices.

Ian's solution.

Or Norman's solution.

Or, perhaps, a third option.

Alaric Lexi Quinzell
 

Alaric

Pariah Templar
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Alaric stepped forward.

There was no hesitation to it, no consideration. The moment that he heard the challenge was the moment that the Pariah knew what it was he had to do.

He did not care for the Watchmen, they were dead men all. He did not care for Heike either, but it seemed...right, to grant her the humanity that she so sought. There was no motivation behind his actions, no morality. There was only a sense of logic.

Why keep her an enemy?

Why force her to remain a monster when she could become an asset. His role as a Pariah, as a Templar, was to fight the Evil's of the world, to quell monsters and magic. This was a step, a rightful one, and if this fool stood in it's way then he would cut him down.

"If you are so eager for death then I will grant your request." Alaric said as he drew the strange short-sword from the small of it back.

As soon as it left the scabbard the blade made a shrill noise, it's sound carrying to only a few capable of hearing it.
 

Lexi Quinzell

Commander of the White Ravens
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Lexi rolled her eyes both at the challenge and of the acceptance of it. Both posturing like a peacock to prove that their Order was the best, that their staples and their carefully drawn rules were the ones which would rain supreme. This was nothing much to do with the Vampire herself but the principle of the matter. Ethics. It was the biggest reason she tried to avoid any interaction with the other orders. With a sigh she sat down on one of the numerous rocky outcrops that lined the footpath towards the keep. She gently tugged her gloves off, tip of the finger by tip of the finger then lay them across her lap.

Kain joined her and then so did the other Ravens.

"You might as well sit down," she directed what she said to the vampire who perhaps did not know the Templar ways so well. "This could take a while."
 

Heike Eisen

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Norman smirked in a self-assured manner. "You Pariah truly are lost. Seems that I must save you from yourself, lest you live long enough to do the bidding of vampires, demons, and monsters all the world over."

Neither Heike nor Ian liked that their respective comrades were about to duel one another, and for a brief moment they actually met one another's eyes and saw their own feelings on the matter mirrored in the other. But Alaric and Norman were both set to engage in willing mutual combat, unlikely to be talked down by their fellows let alone anyone on the opposing side of the matter at hand. Lexi and her Ravens had already taken seats. Heike, despite her misgivings at this resolution so quickly struck upon by the two men, resigned herself however hesitantly to let it be.

Before she joined Lexi, she stepped up behind Alaric. Raised a hand and intending to place it on his shoulder for emphasis on what she was about to say. Her palm hovered close to him, but...she stopped. Thought better of touching the Templar and awkwardly lowered her hand back down to her side.

"If it can at all be helped," Heike said quietly to Alaric, "do not kill him. And...thank you. For doing this."

Heike moved back and out of the way. Off to join Alexandria and her Ravens, but she did not sit as they did. The side of one hand to her chin, the other holding her elbow, she watched the two men facing each other with no small amount of disquiet marring her expression.

Norman held his poleaxe in two hands, keeping the dague pointed straight at Alaric like the point of a spear as he circled slowly. "A while, says your Raven 'friend.' Perhaps the taste of your own blood will bring you to your senses sooner, Pariah."

He did not attack immediately after he spoke. He waited. Circled.

Then jabbed the sharp point of the poleaxe's dague at Alaric. Testing his opponent.

Alaric Lexi Quinzell
 

Alaric

Pariah Templar
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Alaric had always been fast, faster than most of the other Pariah he'd trained with.

His sister was a step quicker, one of the few who could beat him in single combat. When the Pole Axe came the Pariah quickly swept to the side, batting the long haft of the weapon away and taking a quick step forward before suddenly drawing to the side once more as the Watchmen shifted his stance and tried to hook his foe with the back of the pole-axe.

That was how it went.

Norman tested the Pariah, swept forward, back, shifted, then went at it again. He forced Alaric to stay at a distance, pressed him and never allowed him anywhere near where he had to be to win. A few times the blade of his massive weapon nearly swept into Alaric's side, either cutting against his mail or nearly stroking through his flesh.

The man was good, there was no doubt, but Alaric seemed to stay half a step ahead, he just couldn't get close enough to end it.

Then there was a sudden shift.

Like a Viper Alaric lashed out just as Norman thrust out his weapon one last time. The blade of the pole-axe swept forward, and as soon as it came Alaric was ready. His free hand whirled out, grasping the haft of the weapon and suddenly wrenching forward. Norman stumbled, pulling himself up, but before he could withdrew completely Alaric suddenly whirled and threw the strange singing blade directly at Norman.

The sharp needle like blade flew like a lance, and with the sound of scraping metal it pierced through the Watchmen's armor and buried itself in his shoulder. There was a cry of pain, a shudder as Norman dropped his weapon. Within seconds Alaric was upon him, one hand grabbing the nape of his neck and drawing him down into a raised knee that smashed Into his face.
 

Lexi Quinzell

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Lexi reclined back amongst the rocks as though she were on a pile of cushions not jagged stone. The bored expression that had been on her face began to melt away and a new tenseness entered her jaw. Alaric was good. There was no denying that - she had trained enough Greenies in her time to know when one of them had the potential to be one of the elite. The youngster might have had arrogance and an ego big enough to fill a city but at least he could back it up.

However, Norman was not a Greenie from what she could gather.

As the lad brought his knee up as though to smash into the Watchman's nose, Lexi wasn't at all surprised to see the little smirk across the man's face...
 
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Heike Eisen

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Heike clenched her teeth, hissed and grimaced when Alaric's sword, through some arcane means or another, pierced through Norman's armor and found flesh. Never one for duels even in the most amiable of circumstances, Heike liked neither watching them nor participating in them. So it was here, despite what was held in the balance if Alaric won.

The knee smashed into Norman's face, and Heike canted her head down and away from the sight, eyes flicking back up to keeping watching a moment after.

Norman fell down. But he did not stay down. He grabbed for the shaft of his fallen weapon and dragged it toward him and scrambled back and found his footing and stood in a dizzied stance. He winced and let out a prolonged groan of pain laced with determined anger, and he brought his poleaxe back up straight with the hand and arm that did not have the accompanying injured shoulder.

"Norman..." Ian said, a firm rise to his voice.

"I am not yet bested!" Norman said. Growling, he switched the poleaxe to his other hand. Reached across his chest and grabbed the hilt of Alaric's shortsword and ripped it out of himself and flung it away as hard as he could, the weapon spinning like a discus through the air.

Then turned his attention back to Alaric, newly unarmed. Blood ran down his nose and over his lips and dripped from his chin. Though he held his poleaxe with both hands, one arm could muster more strength than the other. His plan was simple. Keep Alaric away from his sword, keep driving him back.

"A battle won, Pariah," said Norman. "And a war lost."

His good arm powering the swing, Norman made a quick horizontal chop at him with the axe blade of the poleaxe.

Alaric Lexi Quinzell
 

Alaric

Pariah Templar
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Alaric swept backwards as the weapon came towards his stomach. He could hear as metal scraped against metal and the weapon scored his armor.

Eyes cast down for just a moment, checking to rend had been placed into his belly.

Then he looked upward just in time to see the pole-ax turn and come from above. No curse echoed from his lip, and instead he moved to the left with a single quick serpentine step. His foot raising just as the Ax came down.

When Norman attempted to pull the ax upward Alric kicked it down.

The blade buried itself between the mud of the cobbles for just a brief second before Norman roared and suddenly wrenched it back.

Alaric moved his foot just as the other man pulled, his own speed and momentum unbalancing him for just a moment. As the other Templar rocked on his feet Alaric rushed forward. His fist collided with Norman's face, the crack of bone echoing audibly before the gates.

This time Alaric did not make the same mistake as before.

The Pariah gave no chance for his opponent to recover, and before Norman could stabilize himself he had three more blows to the first. The strikes were quick, vicious, and sundered bone. The man eventually collapsing into a bloodied twitching pulp.

Crimson dripped from Alaric's silvery gauntlet.
 

Lexi Quinzell

Commander of the White Ravens
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Silence fell across the sanctums gates.

Lilien was the first to react. She had watched the fight with her fingers tightening into a white knuckle grip upon her bow. Everything within her had agreed with Norman and she had known he was no easy mark. When such a young Templar had taken up the challenge she had thought the match already won. But to see him, butchered now, by these intruders hands... In the second it took for her temper to run hot she had notched an arrow and let it fly straight towards Alaric's unguarded throat.

Kain didn't even see Alexandria move but one moment she had been beside him and the next she was in front of Alaric with an arrow caught between two fingers.

"Witch," Lilien snarled and readied another arrow but this time it was Ulgrim who stopped her. He snatched the weapon away and hurled it over the battlements where it splintered against the rocks beneath.

"You dishonour your comrade by not sticking to the rules clearly set out at the beginning of the dual. You dishonour the Watchmen," his voice was a gravelly growl which she shrunk back from even though her cheeks blistered with anger.

"She cannot be allowed to walk the Path! She cannot!"
 

Heike Eisen

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Heike again could not watch. She closed her eyes when the hammer blows of Alaric's fists struck in rapid succession, when Norman's face became unrecognizable. That grimly familiar sound of an armored body hitting the ground followed, and slowly Heike opened her eyes. Why did it have to come to this? Heike knew well the answer to this question, yet she lamented anyway. Why did it have to come to this? Would not Arethil be better served if good men kept their blades and their ire oriented toward enemies held in common? It was a terrible waste, and a regrettable tragedy to see this come to pass. Yet it was all Heike could do, should she survive the Path and regain her humanity, to earn that blessing. To make the absolute most of it. To do the good in the world that Norman may well have done.

Ian made a hard face. But he bowed his head respectfully for a moment.

Of the few other Watchmen, Lilien's reaction was the most inflamed.

Even for Heike, whose frame of reference for what she considered "quick" certainly having changed after her affliction, what followed happened quick. Lilien had an arrow loose in the air by the time Heike saw that she had her bow raised. Alexandria seemed to teleport, crossing not only the gap between herself and Alaric in a near instant but also catching that very arrow as it was in flight. Heike was left among the other Ravens, stunned.

Ian turned back to regard his comrades Lilien and Ulgrim atop the Sanctum, his stern gaze centered on the former. "It is done, Lilien. Through lack of timely objection, all present were in agreeance with the terms of the duel as laid out by Norman himself. I will not retract my honor on a whim."

Heike approached Alaric and Alexandria at a slow pace while the Watchmen had their internal troubles. She stopped behind them. Looked to Alaric. "I'm..."

Then her eyes were cast down. I'm what? Sorry? She was in some senses, but not in others, so it felt as though the sentiment evened itself out to neutrality. What troubled her so? The fact that Norman lay dead, Alaric's hand to forced to slay him, for her sake? What would expressing the sentiment, even if she could do so with perfect clarity, mean to a man like Alaric? He seemed wrought from the same stone that comprised the Watchmen's golems.

She looked back up to him. Her lips moved as if in search of words, then stilled. And she settled for a slow and slight nod instead, the acknowledging gesture for what Alaric had done on her behalf the best she could do in that moment.

Ian, meanwhile, said further to Lilien. "Ulgrim was right, and I wish dearly that Norman had seen his wisdom too. The Path can and will decide. If she decides to proceed, once I impart what walking the Path entails."

Ian turned his head back halfway and glanced Lexi's way. "Which I'm certain our White Raven friends will be all too willing to hear."

Alaric Lexi Quinzell
 

Alaric

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Alaric shrugged his shoulders at Heike. "He made his choice."

Just as he had made his.

The man's death was not a stain on his soul. He was a Templar, a man of the Order, but his Chapter had forsaken the Truth. He had not been an enemy, not until he declared himself one. Yet the moment that switch had been flipped nothing else mattered.

Norman had all but chosen to die. Alaric had given him a chance, and he had decided to reject it. There was no emotion there, no hatred, no anger.

Nothing.

That was the true mark of the Pariah.

They were husks. Pale reflections of what men might have once been. They did not care or partake in the lives of others, simply did their duty as it was seen fit.

Of course Alaric offered no thanks to the Witch, likely believing that he would have survived the arrow anyway. Instead he stepped away, putting down his pack and methodically setting about cleaning the blood off his armor as the others conversed.
 

Lexi Quinzell

Commander of the White Ravens
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For those who had a keener eye than most might have noted the arrow which Lexi dropped to the ground was indeed now stone and the eye patch she had been wearing until now looked as though it had hastily been put back into place for she fiddled with it now to set it more comfortably against her skin. When the Fangs joined them looking at war with herself she hesitated a moment and then set her hand on the girls shoulder.

"It is the way," words most Templars would understand no matter the Chapter. Despite how much they all liked to think themselves different there were echoes of the big organisation they had once been in all of them still. Moments like this, of duals concerning honour and to settle disputes, was one of them. Her hand fell and she patted herself down for her pipe again but Kain saved the day by passing it too her, the other Ravens having joined them now.

"Ah," she waggled it thankfully then put it in her mouth and lit it with a sigh. "I would have said I'd had enough excitement for one day but that would be a lie," she grinned at Ian's words. "Out of honour, of course, we will not record what we see here today. This we do swear."
 

Heike Eisen

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Heike knew the road of honor was a hard one indeed. Herr Dieter had said just that many a time during her squiring. Both men, Alaric and Norman, walked it. But Reikhurst be damned if she did not still regret that it had come to this. Alexandria's gesture and words helped, offsetting the disturbing indifference shown by Alaric. Heike gave her an appreciative look in return, and then turned her attention back to Ian.

Who at last sheathed his sword. Said, "Then allow me to thank you for your discretion, Commander Quinzell." He sighed, turned halfway toward the giant circular door of the Sanctum and added in a mournful tone, "It is not mine to say whether the secrets of the Watchmen should be added to the Libraries of Evora. Yet, in our Chapter's perishing days, I do not know whose lot this would be."

Ian turned back. Faced Commander Quinzell and the vampire--Heike, so she said her name was. The Pariah had stepped aside to tidy himself. Ian walked up closer to them and regarded Heike directly.

"If you so choose, you will undertake the Path which turns ordinary men and women into Templar of the Night Watchmen. And you must choose, and want it with all of your being, for the boon of the Path cannot be forced onto anyone."

Heike made a motion to speak, ready to assent to this commitment, but Ian raised a hand to quell her.

"I know. You are willing because you think it may cure you of your ailment. And it may very well do so. But first, hear me. It is not a decision to be made lightly or in haste."

Heike, thinking solely of what the Path could do for her affliction and not of all else it might entail, stayed her eagerness. Took on air of attentive stolidness. Said, "Very well."

And Ian explained. "The Path of Purity is the manner in which we Watchmen shield ourselves from the virulent taint and foul corruption exuding from our sworn foes. The Eternal Watcher, a Templar of legend whose deeds surpass our Chapter's own founder, discovered and honed the magic to make this so and thus constructed the Path, and it has endured for hundreds of years."

Ian touched his gut with a finger. The side of his head. His heart. "Body, mind, and soul. These are the three steps in the Path. And once your Initiator, a senior Watchmen, binds the magic all together at the end of the Path and it is sealed into you and indeed becomes a very part of you...it is done, and it cannot be undone. No blessing nor curse shall ever alter your body again. No boon nor ill shall affect you. Means of healing, which restore your body to its fundamental state from injury, are the only exception to this. You will be made incorruptible. You will be a human being, and, for better and for worse, with all the virtues and limitations thereof, so shall it be forever."

Ian drew in a breath through his nose. "The Path will render you sterile. The Eternal Watcher ensured that the Path's boon will not and cannot be passed on to children."

Heike gave a slow nod. Her vampirism...already assured that. Perhaps it would be so even if there was some other cure out there in the world, even one so ideal that it neatly and cleanly removed her affliction and her affliction alone, surely there were some permanent alterations. Heike's face nor body had aged not at all since she was human at the age of twenty-four, the five--nearly six--years of her affliction seemingly freezing her, pallid in skin and yellow in eyes, in time.

Then Ian spoke of the final tenet of the Path. "And this Purity, this incorruptibility, comes at a price, as all magic does. That price...is years of natural life. Once you walk the Path of Purity and should you survive, you will have but nine years left upon Arethil. The very hour of your death will be known to you, as mine is known to me, and indeed, comes for me in a matter of mere days now. That is the sacrifice that will be demanded of you."

And this gave Heike some pause. She looked to Alexandria. To Alaric, even. Beseeching with glances their thoughts. The price of life she did not expect, but...but it was a price she was quite willing to pay. And it was a far better solution than the one Tzuriel Alanthis had engaged in to cure his own vampirism.

The chance was here. Hope in her hands and not kin with the clouds.

All it took was a sacrifice.

Alaric Lexi Quinzell
 

Alaric

Pariah Templar
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Alaric listened as he cleaned his armor.

What they spoke of was, unshockingly, not to dissimilar from what the Pariah went through. At least not in general anyway. It was different, that much was sure, but he could hear the notes that rang exactly like those of his own Chapter.

Briefly he wondered if he should speak up about that, but he remembered about what the Grandmaster had said in regards to volunteering information. Best to keep silent and simply observe and stay quiet. "The Pariah have no interest in heresy."

Alaric added, offering the testimony that he would also not transcribe the Watchmen's ways.

As he wiped the last of the blood from his knuckles the Pariah slowly came to his feet. He cast a glance towards the corpse of Norman, then looked over towards Heike.

He could see the tension in the Vampire, but said nothing in encouragement.

Instead he glanced down at his own hand, considering the procedure that had made him this way. The Pariah did not considering it magic, never had. It was a surgery, alchemy and medical science. Yet based off the same concepts that had birthed this chapter.

Alaric took a breath, but said nothing.
 

Lexi Quinzell

Commander of the White Ravens
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"All magic has its price," Alexandria echoed once the older Watchman had said his peace and silence began to sink in to the little gathered group. No doubt every man and woman here was thinking through the reasons why they had agreed, in the case of the Watchmen, and what they would do if they were ever asked the same question, in the case of the rest of them. Those who had already done and those who would never have to make that choice, hardly the types of people that could offer the vampire help in her unique situation but yet she turned to them.

It showed there was a little humanity left in her after all. No matter the fangs, the yellow eyes, the inability to walk in the sun and feel the warmth upon her skin. In the end she turned to the comfort and support of other people, as was natural with humankind. Alaric was his usual helpful self so it fell to her, apparently. Lexi took a deep draw on her pipe and when the pain from her earlier injuries eased once more she spoke her piece.

"Nine years doesn't sound like a lot of time but there would be no guarantee that you found another cure and then didn't die in your mission the day after anyway. Life is unpredictable in all ways but one: it ends," she glanced to Norman's body. "It is enough time for you to accomplish what you want to if you are lucky to survive each day and every day you can walk in the sun, taste food, will not be compelled to take a life to live. Not be something you hate," her shoulders rose and then fell. "Which is it that matters to you more? Completing your mission as a human and enjoying every day you live, or living forever craving blood?"
 

Heike Eisen

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Alaric offered a sentiment that, more or less, appealed to Heike's Reikhurstan sensibilities. But such sensibilities would not serve her well here--this she knew. How wonderful would it be if there were some combination of rare and potent natural ingredients, some alchemical concoction prepared by an apothecary, which could dispense with the affliction of vampirism as the mild illnesses of winter are likewise remedied. If only that were the case. Yet it was not so, what with the continuing plague of vampirism still infecting the world and no common apothecary able to readily offer such a concoction. Suspicious and wary of magic though Reikhurstans in general were, still they turned to it--even the Ninth King, whose example all kings who succeeded him aspired to, did so in a time of great peril. And what greater peril did Reikhurst face than this now, the city itself occupied by vampires and the surviving citizenry in exile all across Epressa?

Alexandria echoed many of Heike's own thoughts on the matter, giving them breath and life aloud. While initially perturbing to hear, nine years was far more than enough time to see the battle for Reikhurst's liberation fought. And battle would claim the lives of many Reikhurstans, perhaps even herself among them. There was no guarantee that she would live to see victory over the False King Jürgen, but it was all but assured that she would never see the battle come to pass if she remained a vampire. And if she remained a vampire, the thirst would only grow and worsen as the years went on. Heike had not taken a life in her feeding, but with each passing day and passing year...that might happen. The thirst, the craving, incredibly euphoric and difficult to stop once started even now, might overpower her. And Heike would be damned if she allowed that to happen.

Heike nodded to her. Said gratefully, "Thank you, Alexandria."

And turned her attention to Ian. "I know the sacrifice that I must make in walking the Path of Purity. And still, I wish to walk it. I must, and yet I will do gladly and without reservation."

Ian regarded her, this creature who was once a woman. Nearly nine years ago he never would have thought it to be so, that a vampire would enter into the Sanctum. In present times, he never would have thought he would live to see a new recruit--or the closest approximation thereof--enter. How the world could be so similar and as well so different in that span of time...nothing short of a marvel.

But he was getting ahead of himself. There was now the very business of entering the Sanctum.

Ian turned. Walked toward the giant circular door to the Watchmen's Sanctum and spoke over his shoulder as he did. "This door has kept secure our Chapter and our secrets for hundreds and hundreds of years. Yet the Eternal Watcher ensured that a physical barrier was not the only thing which would guard us."

Ian touched the door. Nothing happened at first. Then came a hiss, a rumbling, and the door began to open of its own accord, a previously imperceptible split down the middle of the circle becoming pronounced. The two halves of the great stone door slowly swung outward, and Ian casually backed up to allow for this. The Sanctum stood open, the large interior of the main chamber visible.

Yet in the circular portal, just behind the giant doors and before the main chamber: a thin curtain of magic, greenish in hue, hazy in nature, akin to a sparse morning mist dwelling above a lake.

An inscription etched in stone hanging from the top of the portal read:

ᚡᚩᛁᚳᛖ ᛖᛪᛈᛁᚨᛏᛖ
ᛏᚻᛖ ᚤᚩᚢᚱ
ᚹᚱᚩᚾᚷ ᛋᛁᚾ​

"I do not recognize that writing," Heike said, looking at the inscription after eyeing the curtain of magic.

"Nor would I expect you to. It is an ancient script, surviving from a time when the Templar were one, and used solely by the Order to guard our secrets and our ways," said Ian. And then he looked Lexi's way. "Commander Quinzell and her White Ravens may hold some tomes, some histories, at Evora written in such script. Prized tomes indeed, I would imagine."

He told Heike to step forward, and she did, and he likewise invited Alaric and Lexi with her Ravens to come as well.

"I cannot read it, but I know its meaning, and what it is you must do to gain entry into our Sanctum," Ian said. "We are imperfect beings all. Humans, drow, orcs, komodi, avariel, select any one person of any people across Arethil and you will see that this remains so. We make mistakes. We falter in our virtue. We may even do explicitly harmful things. Yet what separates the good from the wicked is the ability to recognize one's faults. The truly wicked, in their pride, cannot bring themselves to acknowledge and face their evil--however grievous or venial--and see it for what it is. They cannot do better. They who are ultimately good in their hearts, and who have hope of redemption, can."

Ian swept his hand out toward the curtain of magic in the giant doorway. "To gain entry into the Sanctum of the Night Watchmen, you must confess the unconfessed. It matters not how big or small your confession. There is a failing somewhere in the course of your life, a misdeed of some character, that you have not spoken aloud. You must face it now. See it with your heart. Take responsibility for it, and own it."

To Alaric and Lexi (and her fellows), Ian said, "If you wish to enter and observe the vampire walking the Path, then you must do this as well." Then, to Alaric specifically, Ian said with a flat firmness, "And I would ask of you, Pariah, that you not simply undo the magic which has endured and been refreshed since the bygone time of our Chapter's most esteemed member."

Heike looked to the curtain of magic, her mouth slightly open, a breathlessness which had nothing to do with her vampirism having taken hold of her. She dispensed immediately with the thought that her Slaughtern strain, with its inherent magic dampening, might simply allow her to walk through the curtain. She would do what was asked of her, in the true spirit of which it was being asked. She would follow the rules.

But what to confess?

Yet, as her mind superficially searched for something to say, she already knew the answer. She quietly knew of something. A great failing, and the actions unbefitting a knight that followed.

She knew.

Yes.

She knew.

The inscription reads: Voice the wrong. Expiate your sin.

Alaric Lexi Quinzell
 

Alaric

Pariah Templar
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"I cannot undo any magic." Alaric corrected, though as soon as he'd said the words he regretted them.

It was better to have an enemy think you possible of doing something rather than not. Revealing your abilities was never a good thing. Lips thinned for a brief moment, but he cast the folly aside and focused on what lay ahead.

He did not entirely know what to say.

There were few things in his life that he would consider a sin. He had been born an orphan, done what he'd needed to do in order to survive and protect his sister. His training had been harsh, but there were no regrets that he carried. Everything he'd done had been done with good reason.

Everything.

He knew that to be true. It was his conviction, one that sat heavily on his shoulders. Even among his brothers he was known as righteous, and yet there was something in the back of his mind.

Alaric stepped forward, unbound by hesitation. No emotion flickered across his face.

The Pariah was confident that the magics of this place would not touch him, that he could simply walk through it. Yet he would not break this Chapters traditions. He might think them broken, he might think the Witch a Witch, but they were still Templar. They deserved some small amount of respect. "When I was young, I strangled a boy who threatened my sister."

A confession he'd never spoken out loud, not even to his sibling. The boy had been a savage, a vandal. He had perhaps even deserved death, but murder was a crime that few forgave.

For a few seconds he stared at the portal, waiting for some response, then realized that it's magic likely wouldn't work even though he had tried. With a shrug he simply stepped through the odd haze, figuring this obligation met.

As he suspected, Alaric slipped into the chamber unabated.
 

Lexi Quinzell

Commander of the White Ravens
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A distinct change overcame the commander of the White Ravens as the fighting and posturing was dispersed with and the real crux of why she had come began. Knowledge drove her chapters. They protected it and passed it in so that it would never be lost. It was, unsurprisingly then, that the secret nature of most Chapters was infuriating to her. Who knew what secrets different Templars knew that could help them all?

Her fingers ran reverently over the engraving of words and her lips moved silently with the translation. It was a language she knew though not as well as she would have liked. Still on they went and she reluctantly let the piece of history go. The magic curtain was just as interesting though and she listened intently to what it was they needed to do. Lexi was acutely aware of the price of magic and the problems involved with getting it wrong.

Though it seemed the issue was finding something she hadn't confessed. Lexi, like most other Templars, attended confession. Her kills were laid out bare for the records along with her highs and lows; it was the duty of their predecessors to cast the judgement that came with hindsight upon her. She pressed her lips into a thin line as Alaric disappeared first and folded her arms over her chest as she pondered on her own confession. Eventually she spoke.

"I lost the woman I loved because I valued my job over her affections," it stung to say it outloud for the first time but it was the truth and she stepped into the curtain with no resistance.
 

Heike Eisen

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Ian made a grunt of acknowledgement to Alaric, but said nothing. A courtesy in kind to be extended, he resolved, that he say nothing more of the matter since Alaric would keep the secrecy of what lie within the Sanctum.

Heike listened as the Templar did what was asked of them: made their confessions and entered. Alaric's was...troubling to her. Yet, knowing nothing of this happening outside of Alaric's sparse words, Heike could not make a judgment. Due punishment could not be discerned, and had perhaps already been passed upon him for what she knew. Mayhap it played some role in the man he had become today.

Alexandria's struck very close to Heike. Very close. Heike had lost Gunther and Maria for differing reasons, but Ferelith could well be the same as what happened with Alexandria's loved one. If she was not careful. Yet the demands of duty were high indeed, and, if the agonizing choice came, Heike could not forsake all that she had sworn. She simply could not, and would never forgive herself if she did.

Now it came time for Heike to speak. She stepped forward, up to the subtle curtain of magic. Raised up her head in a proclaiming manner.

"I took an orphan, Ella, into my care. And when the caravan we traveled with was set upon by savage orcs, I...failed to protect her. I lost myself to a rage unbefitting a knight, swearing to avenge the girl. Those orcs who were responsible for Ella's death I never found, but I went north, to the Blightlands, to kill many of their kin who were likewise engaged in savagery. That anger, that pursuit of vengeance for its own sake...it was unseemly, villainous, and I am ashamed."


She lowered her head and her gaze. Let it be so for a moment. Then looked back up and took a step.

And she passed through and into the main chamber of the Sanctum of the Night Watchmen. The circular chamber was large and imposing, with halls leading this way and doors that way, and in the center a grand spiral staircase which went down into the depths of Arethil.

Ian stepped through the magical curtain and walked ahead, pointing out that very staircase. "This way. The Path begins below us."

Heike followed. Cast a glance to Alexandria as she did. It seemed wrong to comment directly on another's confession, like pouring salt into a wound torn open once more--though Alaric might well be immune to such pain of the heart. Hopefully the look in her eyes communicated the empathy that she dared not express with words.

As the descent down the stairs began, Heike did say one thing to Alexandria and Alaric. "No matter what happens, I am glad that you took a risk in trusting me. Both of you. I would render a salute to each of you with a truly human hand, one shed of this affliction, and I will do all I can to endure the Path such that I may."

Alaric Lexi Quinzell
 

Alaric

Pariah Templar
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Stoic as always Alaric gave the vampire a simple nod.

Once, before his procedure, he might have liked Heike. Despite her confession she was the picture of a Knight. A woman who valued owner, who had failings but desperately sought to make up for them. There was something to be admired about that fact, something that in a previous life he might have respected.

Now she was just another person.

Another thing that lay outside of the scope of who he was, what he had become. His duty as a Pariah superseded everything else. "I have a request."

He said suddenly as Heike finished speaking.

"When you return to your lands to purge them." There was a pause, then he continued. "I will accompany you."

The words hardly sounded like a request at all, but Alaric knew that it was what he wanted to do. It seemed a natural progression of his duty, of this task that had been set out upon. He knew that his Chapter Master would agree, and perhaps even send aid if he asked.

He waited for Heike to respond as they began to descend.
 

Lexi Quinzell

Commander of the White Ravens
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And I'm never making that mistake again.

Cassian would wait, she knew it in her heart, but the difference was she couldn't make that decision again. When it came down to it if it was her job or him she would choose him. Wouldn't she? Her confession had brought up troubling thoughts about the past as well as the future so she almost missed the vampire's empathetic look, though it did still startle and confuse her. Her lips pressed into a thin line and she chose instead to pretend none of it had happened. Rose was the past. She was happy and content with her new babe and husband, and Lexi had brought the White Ravens through some of their toughest years.

Her sacrifice was necessary.

Again, the vampire surprised her though with her words. Lexi glanced back at her and was about to speak when Alaric beat her to it. More surprise. Gods I'm going to need a drink after this. If the Pariah was actually showing some sort of human emotion the world must be ending and she intended to be shitfaced when that occurred.

An odd silence fell over the group after Alaric's 'request'. Lexi cleared her throat.

"It is the way, no thanks necessary. Just do your job once this is over, less work for the rest of us."
 
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