The Church of Prios is not without hope that the sickness that grips Ambria can be cured. The zealous may insist that all corruption must be met with fire, but there are more liberal voices, too, and those with an agenda that outweighs naive politicking.
The Church may not broadcast the existence of the euphemistically named sanctuaries, but it both funds and staffs them. Admittedly, the truth of the matter might be that in experimenting on the blighted ones caught and detained by the Black Cloaks it could both provide insight and, perhaps, a cure for the faithful. The Monastery of the Twilight Friars is not alone in securing the blighted within its walls. Elsewhere, scattered in less obvious and secluded spots, the Church works tirelessly to break the grip of corruption on the throat of the Ambrian people.
This is the first part of several articles concerning the personalities, locations and events surroundings the Aret Isle. My apologies if the developments come out of sequence or somewhat fragmented.
The Sanctuary on Aret
South-west of the Kasandrien capital of Agrella lies the Isle of Aret. On the isle stands what appears to be a fortress and, to all intents and purposes, that is the identity offered when official query arises. If questioned on the matter, the office of the commander of the guard would – if they answered at all – confirm that the fortress supports a full company. The Isle itself, sitting close to the centre of Lake Ebel, is off-limits to all access. Traders plying the waterways know well enough to avoid it, sticking as close to the northern shoes of the Lake as traffic will allow.
Visendo, Agrella’s commander of the guard, has a vested interest in the Sanctuary’s safety and relative secrecy. You can roll 1D6, choose one or come up with something of your own:
- Sibling’s sickness. Love. One of Visendo’s siblings took gravely ill, long after he left home and found his fortune in the guard at Agrella. He leveraged his connections to have the Black Cloaks treat his sibling rather than enact a more inhumane judgement. When the Church opened the sanctuary, the Black Cloaks saw the opportunity to make the agreement work for both parties. Visendo has since done everything the Church has asked of him, frequently to his own detriment.
- Darker half. Fear. Visendo has a twin and whether the revelation came about before or after he took his position at Agrella, the Black Cloaks have not been shy in taking advantage. Visendo attends the chapel at the Sanctuary with a clockwork-like commitment, and he takes a medication supplied by the Black Cloak, they claim wards his spirit against the taint. His twin resides in one of the secure cells of the sanctuary.
- Loyalty’s yoke. Devotion, Duty. Esmeralda, Duchess of Kasandrien, has Visendo’s unswerving loyalty and service. He would never let her down, betray her trust or dismiss any duty she might ask of him. He knows that one of her cousins has taken ill; they disappeared from court circles months ago. He doesn’t know precisely why, but that is not his business. Duty is everything, come what may. He organised the small guard that escorted the duchess’s cousin to the old fort on the Isle of Aret and he has taken it upon himself to devote all his time to his charge.
- My weapon is truth. Faith. Visendo has the light of Prios within him and has always accepted the word of the Church as incontestable and irrefutable. When one of the Black Cloaks, Arilano, approached him, he suggested the old fort on Aret as an ideal location and did all within his power to smooth the way. The Church has his unquestioning support, just as Prios has his faith. Visendo doesn’t feel he has ever done enough to warrant the surety of his immortal spirit and hopes that in acting for and on behalf of the Church he might yet assure his place in the Light.
- Secret shame. Disgrace. Master Garias, of the Ordo Magica, holds Visendo to account with evidence of most serious wrongdoing. Others might have found a way to combat such blackmail, but Visendo feels genuine shame for what he has done and cannot face the possibility that anyone might know of it. Garias has Visendo spy for him, as the Ordo Magica has strong misgivings about the action of the Church and their activities within the sanctuaries. Visendo returns to the mainland fortnightly and provides his report, in person, under the guise of duties associated with keeping the peace amongst the key institutions, guilds and business in Agrella. Between times, Visendo maintains a diary he keeps well-hidden within his quarters within the barracks at the sanctuary.
- Faith demands sacrifice. Zealotry. Fervour trumps all else and the cult Visendo founded in the name of his beliefs has driven him for the past nine years, a ceaseless and unquestioning path that has extinguished hundreds of lives. In other circumstances, Visendo’s violent and sudden conversion, founded in a searing vision of light and pain, might has seen him inducted into the Black Cloaks. Instead, he has taken the quest to cure the blight of corruption into his own brutal and sadistic hands. Visendo’s life runs along two paths, parallel and distinct. And yet they cannot remain truly separate forever…
(Or Visendo may not be involved at all!)
Give No Quarter
The Great War saw the fort on Aret Isle serve as a outpost, though like so many other constructions in Ambria, an older structure preceded it. The position, at the confluence of river traffic at the heart of Lake Ebel, has meant that others have seen the importance and potential, capitalising on it with fortification. In the past twenty years, further work has bolstered the defences with wood and stone, both readily available and easily transported to this position.
The attachment of soldiers from Agrella, now stationed here, serve as the watchful guard for the sanctuary, active in a quarterly rotation of duty. The outer towers and the multi-level building in the south-eastern corner provide a permanent barracks and station. As a detachment of the duchy’s soldiery, the guard have standing orders that should anything go awry, nothing should be allowed to leave. Guards will destroy all potential threats, no matter their outward appearance, before they reach the waters around the Isle. To that end, all guards have composite bows and the skills to use them, but also have access to two-man bolt throwers, more commonly seen as siege weapons.
They answer only to the word of Commander Visendo in martial matters – and some might go so far as to give pause in their actions were they commanded by an official of the Duchy.
The only place for you beyond these walls is in the pit…
Manner: Taciturn, watchful
Resistance: Challenging (100)
Accurate 11 (-1), Cunning 7 (+3), Discreet 10 (0), Persuasive 5 (+5), Quick 10 (0), Resolute 13 (-3), Strong 9 (+1), Vigilant 15 (-5)
Abilities: Marksman (master), Rapid Fire (novice), Siege Expert (novice), Six Sense (novice), Trick Archery (novice)
Boons/Burdens: Pathfinder, Nightmares
Weapons: Composite bow 5 (Deep impact), Bolt thrower 7 (Massive, Unwieldy), Sword 4
Armor: Supple leather jack 2 (Flexible, -1)
Toughness: 10; Pain Threshold: 5
Equipment: Within the tower, they have access to common supplies and provisions without question; Quiver of Blessed Bronze Arrows (12)
Shadow: Dull bronze
Tactics: They have a standing order to act without question or pause if any individual should leave the sanctuary without written leave to do so. Their expertise with their bows means they will strike to immobilise, pinning down an escapee. The Black Cloaks will deal with the violation from their, the guards only loosing a killing shot if ordered or where any doubt exists. Each tower of the fort has a bolt thrower, a heavy weapon that requires two guards to fire with accuracy and a third to perform a reload with any speed.
Next: The Lay of the Sanctuary