Resistance of Manny HQ, City of jik’ton, Kal’renth
Thursday, about 2:00…
“And this is the armory,” Brother Thom was saying. “You’ll get a locker for your stuff. We can give you a lock, but everyone knows the combination anyway, it’s just two smashes and a good hard tug.” He held up a lock that had seen much better days. The newbie nodded, something told him that Manny approved. “If you really want something, go get a lock from the city, but it’ll have to come out of your pay. Father Wilhelm is very strict on spending.”
Brother Fred understood. Money was hard to come by these days, economies were completely isolated. Lately the city had been offering incentives for workers and youngsters to go farm. The chromatic citizens had brought up the old debate about raiding before city council. It was an interesting time, Fred thought, but such concerns were beneath him now. Ever since he had felt the blessings of Manny come to him after that sermon in Bluesky, he had a sense that his purpose involved less accounting and more smashing (and occasional rage-accounting, a skill probably unique to Brother Fred). To that end, he had been given an axe upon arrival. He took another look at it reverently as Brother Thom went on about the other recruits. It wasn’t a greataxe, or even a very-good-axe. It was the sort of axe your grandpa might have, only a bit thicker and more suited for chopping heads. And it bore the symbol of the Blessed Manny, the Exalted Dreadnaught, the Barbarian of Light and Freedom, He Who Smashes Bad Guys, Eater of Pies, etc.
“Um, excuse me, Brother Thom?” he interrupted. Thom raised an eyebrow. “Well, when do we get to the training?”
“Oh, the fighting starts tomorrow morning. Someone will grab you from your bed in the early morning and throw you out into the training ground. Then they’ll grab a weapon and attack. You’ll have a shield somewhere, if you can get to it, but you’ll probably die once or twice until you can figure out the rage.”
“Die?” Brother Fred gulped, confused and scared.
“Yup! I mean, it’s not real death, but it’s as close as you’ll get before you actually kick the bucket.” He laughed at the expression on Fred’s face. “Hey, I went through it, too. Hurts like hell and real scary, but don’t worry. See that weapon you’re holding? All the weapons here have the mark of Manny on them. As long as you use one of those in HQ, they can’t actually kill or main you. They still hurt, you’ll still bleed and fall unconscious as if you died, but Father Wilhelm arranged for a special enchantment on them.”
“What happens if someone…” Fred drew a line across his neck. Brother Thom smiled. It was a good smile, the worst kind. The kind someone gives you right before- squelch!
Brother Fred hit the ground with a wet smack. He couldn’t move, couldn’t feel anything, couldn’t breathe. Above him Thom smiled and the world went dark. And then all of a sudden he felt a punch in his lungs. He opened his eyes and his vision blurred, then cleared, and he began coughing. Blood, there was a lot of blood. He felt his neck. Oh good, his head was still attached. There was blood there, and maybe even a scar, but then all of a sudden he felt a wave of warmth from his hand. He didn’t even register he was mumbling something. He could feel his wound closing and could see a faint yellow glow from his hand. His breathing cleared and he sat up, still taking stock of the world.
“Magic? That’s weird,” he murmured. He reached a hand down and helped Fred stand up. “There, easy now. Your first is always the hardest, but you’ll get used to the disorientation after a little while.”
“Did you just…why?”
“We’re the Church of Manny. We smash first, talk later. At least that’s what they teach us. And really how else should I have explained how it all works? We’ve got healing available after each round if you need it. Some folks are more resistant than others.”
“But why this? I thought you’d use training weapons like sticks or something?”
“Because the Wyrd will never use a training stick on you.”
Fred thought about this for a moment. “So we dance with death now, so that we’re not afraid of it in a real fight.”
Fred nodded. It kinda made sense. Kinda. He really felt like he needed some time to meditate and pray. “What about time to pray?”
“Well, there are vespers before breakfast and again before bed, if that’s what you mean.”
“Not really. When do I have time to think on Manny’s teachings?”
“His teachings are battle. How can you think on them without fighting?”
“I just…feel like I need some time to prepare myself each day, that’s all.” Fred stared at his holy symbol.
“Hmm, maybe we’d better have you talk to Father Arroway.” Thom looked out at the training grounds. Sister Elone was fencing with another recruit. The newbie had already lost a lung and taken a hit to his shoulder. That he was still up was a sign of progress. “I think you’re going to need a different training regimen than the barbarians. Come, let’s go see him.”
Brother Thom led Fred out into the sun. Father Arroway’s quarters were on the other side of the compound. they walked along the outer edge of the arena, staying away from the real fights. Suddenly, Fred stopped and looked to the sky. “What is it?” Thom asked. “The sirens would be blaring if Sid was attacking.”
“It’s not that. He is sending a messenger.” Fred stepped out into the arena holding out his holy symbol. It was beginning to glow. Thom watched as Fred walked toward the center, not even seeming to be aware of the training battles around him. The glow was spreading from his symbol across his body. Fighters who turned to strike him for getting in the way, saw the light in his eyes and backed away in awe. “He is coming, I need to let him in… He is coming, I need to let him in…” Fred repeated.
Fred had stopped and stared into the sky, glowing with power and staring at the sky. By now most of the arena was watching him. Sister Elone’s opponent had done well, but turned his head to look at Fred and let his guard down. A quick stab through the heart finished him and Sister Elone took a moment to look. “By the heavens,” she whispered. “Get out of the way! Move away from him!” She ran over, yelling at the slowpokes. “Hey, kid, can you hear me?”
Fred looked down at her, awe and worry on his face. “How do I let him in?”
“Sister Elone!” Thom ran over. “Do you know what it is?”
“It’s a messenger, an angel from the gods.” She took Fred’s hands in hers. “Go fetch the High Fathers.”
“All of them? But I-”
“Yes, Thom! All of them, quickly. They’ll come.” She glared at him and he ran off. Then she looked back at Fred. The power was building up and forming wings of light on his back. “Can you hear me, brother?” Fred nodded. “Good then listen to me. I will guide you.” She knelt down, pulling him with her. The holy symbol of Manny held up in their hands white-hot, but not burning them. “Repeat after me:” She began to pray in Celestial, a simple prayer inviting the angel inside. Together they chanted, and the light around Fred flowed up into the air forming a magic circle above them. Blessed Manny, Echoe, gods, Elone thought, give Thom speed. I can’t complete the ritual, this needs a real cleric.
As if he had heard her quiet prayer, Fathers Arroway and Hirzon arrived. Hirzon barked orders to the cadets to clear the area. Amoss and Lomasi flew in a moment later. Father Arroway understood immediately and called for Perilune Clair to be summoned. He walked over and placed his hands on the holy symbol and chanted a new prayer. The light scribed his words in the circle and a beam shot forth to the sky, reaching above the shield to scribe another circle.
“My, my, is that a summoning circle?” Wilhelm commented, ever casual. He had joined them with Clair.
“Almost, Sir Chaoite,” she replied. “It is a calling and it is only used to call forth celestial beings. In this case, I would guess someone wants to visit and your shield is in the way.”
“Will this ritual allow them in?” Hirzon asked.
“Not exactly,” she pointed up. “It could plane shift up there, but in this case, we’re giving it a conduit, calling it here instead.” Hirzon gave her a blank stare. “It can’t come and go as it pleases.” He relaxed, as much as he ever did.
With a final prayer, Arroway lifted his hands and completed the spell. A burst of holy power shot up the beam to the circle in the sky. It shone and four wings manifested around a ball of light. “Sister Elone,” he said, “stand down. The holy one has chosen a host.” Elone looked up at him a little surprised and then over to Clair. The Perilune nodded and she stood and stepped back. Above them, the ball of light and wings flew down the pillar of light and into Fred. He gave a cry and floated into the air. The wings enveloped him and with a mighty gust of air they unfolded to reveal a great and powerful angel, a Solar. Everyone knelt.
“Rise and hear ye, mortals, my proclamation of the ascent and true divinity of Manny Kilore, the Exalted Dreadnaught! From the plane of Arborea he rules with Justice and Freedom. He protects the Court of Stars and crushes tyranny and before him no evil stands. He of the mighty axe commands me to inform you, his church, of his teachings. Know that only those whom he has commanded me to speak to shall hear my words.
The Blessed Manny Kilore has ascended to godhood because of the work that you, his church, has so faithfully carried out. He commands you to continue spreading his word that his power might grow and he might stand ever more radiantly against the evil of Lachesis and the Wyrd. He commands that you hold no ill will toward other gods. As a god, the Blessed Manny chooses to abide by the Divine Contract for now as the vile Lachesis holds sway over the paths between your plane and the planes of the Wheel. Thus he has designated, through me, this mortal to be his herald. Let it be known that this mortal, this Brother Fred, is Manny’s first true cleric. Speaking to him is as speaking to me, and speaking to me is to speak to the Great Barbarian. Should he wish to command you, it will be through me and through this mortal. Treat him with respect, but do not soften his skin or dull his edge. Prepare for war with the Wyrd as the Blessed Manny labors in his mighty forge and trains his army and know that to fall in battle will be to join him in his ranks.
Hear me, mortals, for the Exalted Dreadnaught blesses you. May you go forth and smash all that is vile and may you spread the word of Manny, that his power might shine ever brighter against tyranny and corruption!"
The wings closed about the solar and a powerful gust of wind blew forth, knocking some to the ground. They opened to reveal Fred, floating amidst the bright heavenly light. With a flash the light and wings rose swiftly up the pillar to the calling circle in the air. There they burst in a shower of feathers and Fred’s feet touched the ground, the glow fading from his eyes. He looked around, confused. Father Arroway put an arm around his shoulders. “There, easy now. The first time’s a bit rough.”
“What? What was all that?” Fred looked around at the confusion. “What, why are you all staring at me?”
Arroway laughed. “Not everyone understands Celestial like you do, Brother.” Fred blinked a bit and then blushed. He reached up to scratch the back of his head and jumped.
“What? What’s this!” He looked to the left and tried to pull his hair around to the front, pulling out a feather instead.
Amoss smiled and walked over to him, matching his height. “Hey, don’t worry. You’ve got some feathers now, griffon ones it looks like. Here, like this.” She turned around and morphed her hair to match so he could see what everyone else was staring at. On the back of his head, his hair, already brown, now gave way to the large brown feathers of a griffon. “It’s alright,” she said, smiling. “The Blessed Manny will look out for you. Welcome, Herald Frederick, to the Church of Manny.”