The Lies That Bind

The PCs come to a settlement where many of the population have gathered in the centre to listen to the words of a rough clad traveller. The settlers hang on his every word as he recounts tales and proverbial wisdom based on the life of Prios – words that make no sense to someone with Loremaster, as they appear utterly at odds with the word of the Church. At the close of the session, the Prophet finally waves the crowd away, looking tired; as the people disperse he allows any children to take offerings of food left for themselves and gifts any coins to those who appear most needy.

Whether the player characters intercede during the initial encounter or approach later, the Prophet says something that utterly convinces one of the PCs of their genuine connection to Prios. As GM, you will need to apply your own knowledge here based on the actions and background of the characters so far – but the insight should be significant and of sufficient note to leave a character utterly motivated in the interests of the Prophet’s safety.

The words of the man (or woman — you should, again, adjust as fits your campaign, but this article will adopt the approach of referencing the Prophet as a man) should be impactful, but teasing enough to not provide a complete solution or revelation. The character should desire the Prophets ongoing freedom and survival out of belief in their talents and a desire to learn more.

At this point, the witch hunters arrive. A black hearted militia of the Church ride into the settlement and make themselves known. They quiz the settlers, who themselves have reason to protext the Prophet, but lack the resolve to resist protracted interrogation. The Prophet seeks the help of the characters, asking them to help ferry him to Thistle Hold to meet with Father Sarvola. If the characters have not heard of Sarvola, the Prophet claims him another follower cast in the light of true faith.

A fight with the witch hunters will certainly follow, whether within the settlement or on the road. The head Black Cloak, Okulları, leads a band of Ordinary Black Cloaks and Weak sword-swinging hirelings intent on capture. Okulları should be a challenge equal to half the total experience of the whole character group and will not seek to engage directly in combat. Instead, he casts Bind at Adept level on the Prophet, targeting a hand and a foot, with the intent of slowing him down and hindering resistance.

The mystical power would not be an issue under normal circumstances (as it dissipates at the end of a Scene or with a lapse of concentration), but Okulları has an artifact – a silvery chain with a token attached etched with a symbol that looks like a chain of links. If clasped while casting Bind, the artifact maintains the power indefinitely. The only means of escape then are to destroy the artifact or hold the bound victim in a Magic Circle for a full day.

Beyond that, it is left for the GM to handle the detail of the journey to Thistle Hold and how the PCs might locate Father Sarvola and get the Prophet to him without falling foul of the authorities. After that, if successful, the Prophet might surface as a recurring character, a cog in the grand wheel of machinations at work within Ambria. If unsuccessful, the characters will have earned the ire of Okulları, something that might become more obvious and obstructive as they become more visible in the wider communities of Ambria.

Bind

Tradition: Only available to Inquisitors or a character with at least three other Mystical Powers from the Theurgy tradition.
Material: A pair of blessed manacles.
In the field of action faced with heretics and inhumans, the Inquisitor relies on faith and the blessing of Prios to inhibit and encumber their enemies with the weight of the wrong-doing. Failing that, they have the means to physically hamper or slow the inrighteous, binding their extremities with blessed iron

NoviceActive. A target is affected if the mystic passes a [ResoluteResolute] test. The mystic summons a binding glove or boot into existence that manifests around the extremity of a target. It appears like a shimmering haaze of light and cold fire. The target has a second chance to fail all success tests that require use of the limb until the end of the scene or the mystic loses concentration. If the mystic binds a hand, anything held immediately drops to the floor and requires an action to retrieve.
AdeptActive. Same as the novice level, but the mystic summons a binding that prevents movement of two limbs. If the character loses their hands to the binding, they cannot holding or manipulate anything, nor gesture. If the characters loses their feet to the binding, they cannot move and will risk falling prone if struck, requiring a [StrongStrong] or [Strong←damage] test to remain upright. A bind on one of each means a second change to fail on all success tests.
MasterActive. Same as the adept level, but the binding burns hot with the natural corruption of the target. Each turn roll 1D6 against the total corruption of the target. If the roll is greater than the corruption of the target, they may attempt a [Resolute] test to dissolve the binding, freed from their incarceration by the purity of their soul. If the roll is equal to or lower than the corruption value, the target suffers the outcome of the roll in damage, ignoring armor.

The Prophet

The prophet could be genuine and that would seem to be a real problem for the Church; his words make it very hard for the body of Prios to hold sway with their words if this prophet’s proclamation serve to undermine them. The prophets grounded lifestyle and enlightened demagoguery appeal to a people who have seen nothing but war, hardship and torment over the last generation.

Once, the word of the Queen proved enough, but the common man no longer hears her words as they did on the road or across the battlefield when the people first came to Ambria. After her release from imprisonment she led from the front and her words gave the people strength and hope; now, the nobles, politicians and the theurgy garble her words – and few hear anything to give them heart or purpose anymore. For most, the daily graft to simply stay alive and keep a family in food means the words of politics and religion have become a distant noise.

The Prophet will change that. In the midst of the people, his words ring true and leave people with a renewed sense of purpose. He selfishless acts and asceticism have swayed onlookers to trust his words and believe in something again, seeing Prios as a living and caring god rather than some distant and unintelligible light translated by the chosen and lofty few within the enclosed santums of the theurgy.

When playing the Prophet, speak clearly and with a raise chin when uttering the true words of Prios. Catch and hold the players with your gaze when delivering his speeches, punctuating the close of each statement with a pause. When not engaged in energetic demogoguery, the Prophet speaks softly, but with unwavering certainty. He expects no gift – of coin, deed or word – for anything, though accepts graciously and with courtesy. As with their first encounter, he will gift anything received to others in more need at the first opportunity.

Alternative Facts

If the truth isn’t enough or a true Prophet doesn’t work for you, he can be something else entirely and with far from selfless motivation.

1 – The prophet is the third son of a nobleman who spent time in a seminary. He has a genuine sense of the Light of Prios and sees something more than the stultified preaching of the Church. The Church has lost its way. as a the son of noble, he knows his way around people and the courts – enough to pull off the occasional acts of charlatanism that allow him to ‘predict’ events yet come to or guess at the woes or discomforts of those who come to see him. He has a genuine talent with people and a silver tongue, something that if not for the happenstance of his birth order he might have put to other use.

2 – The prophet is a Knowledgeable Demon (Advanced Player’s Guide, p95), escaped from the Yonder and seeking to create chaos and disorder. It uses its rituals to uncover choice facts and hidden truths to bend others to its cause. A sun shaped scar around its face seems to add greater credance to the validity of the prophets words as a mouthpiece of Prios. This scar, in fact, is a perversion of eastern Tattoo Magic, a ritual called an Occluding Glyph (that has an effect similar to Exchange Shadow for the purpose of this article). The demon likely has no long term plan other than to create disorder, but Knowledgeable Demons have a reputation for cunning lacking in their more hate-fuelled brethren. The demon might have plans to weaken the barrier between the Real World and the Yonder using the focussed faith of those it corrupts.

3 – The prophet is a spy from the City States (see Rapport 220108, the diplomatic report to the Queen concerning the regions beyond Ambria) blessed with a gift of prescience that empowers his demagoguery. This is a charlatan with a purpose and one wrapped up in a deep layer of cover – the prophet genuinely believes in his persona, imprinted by mystic rituals unknown to the loremasters and magic-users of Ambria. Effectively, the prophet has a mission to further weak the grip of the Church in Ambria and effectively destabilise the authority vested in Queen Korinthia. The City States know all too well from their espionage that Korinthia has withdraw in the past dozen years from her position in the forefront and that this weakness offers an in to undermine Ambria and the possibility that one day bullying barbarian tribes will no longer satisfy and they will turn their militant attention elsewhere.

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