Recruiting, part 1

Back even before I was the owner of Tramp’s, there was talk of somehow incorporate my passion for writing into the store.  There was briefly talk of the business commissioning me for a project, or giving me a forum to post things.

Well, I was always a bit hesitant because I had the idea that if my work was to be presented, I wanted to be paid for it.  Well, I’ve come to a bit of a compromise with myself.  I very occasionally write fiction set in the settings of RPG’s that I’ve played, and I started writing one that I was sort of a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen of characters that I had played either in tabletop, or in console games.  It occurred to me that I could start posting what I had down so far.  It would give me something to put up on this blog, while also exposing people to some settings they might not ordinarily encounter.  It might also entertain, and that’s always a bonus- and since I can’t every actually publish these, due to not owning the settings, no harm down to my potentially writing future.

So, without further adieu, I present to you the first part of Recruiting, a multi-universe story by Christopher J.P.S. Roberts.  I hope you enjoy.

***

Losing his Soldano blade is what really upset Domingo. Yes, he was about to die, and although Cardinal Verdugo promised him the fires of Legion awaited him for his sins, there was no doubt in the heart of Domingo Garcia that he instead walked into Theus’ embrace.

Since his ordination two years ago, Domingo had walked the lands of his beloved Castille, preaching the Truth of Theus, and His Prophets. Already a national hero for his part in the deeds of the Seven Swords, his following quickly grew, and his word quickly spread. And while the new Padre knew his words of Humanity’s basic worthiness in the eyes of Theus would not sit well with the Vaticine Church, he was firmly based in the Vigils of the Prophets, and he did not fear censure for those words. It was instead his teachings on the Third Prophet that had condemned him to the stake, as he knew they might.

Teaching the people that they already had all that they needed to understand Creation did challenge Church authority, but the foundation was there in scripture, and could be forgiven. Teaching that the man celebrated as the Third Prophet was an impostor, however, this was unforgivable.

Domingo had known it was only a matter of time. He was not so foolish as to share news of the True Third Prophet with everyone; only his most trusted students would hear of it. Still, he knew that eventually rumour would reach the Inquisition, who looked upon the Third Prophet as their founder, and they would come for him. He had been ready for them.

There was a secret side of Padre Domingo Garcia de Soldano del Castille, a side his flock knew nothing of, a side well versed in subtlety, stealth, and ambush. The Knight-Inquisitors thought to take him unawares in the night. Instead they found that Domingo, like Alvara Arcineaga before him, was more than capable of defending himself.

He could have run, of course. Once he knew the Inquisition was onto him, he could have fled to Avalon, or Vendel, even parts of Eisen would have been outside the Inquisition’s reach. But his people were in Castille, and he was a man of True Courage. He would not be chased from his home, even if it cost him his life. And so they had caught him in a trap where to resist would have endangered the innocent, and Padre Domingo Garcia was arrested as an accused heretic.

So famous was Domingo Garcia that the chief Inquisitor himself came to oversee the hearing. The trial was brief, essentially composing of the question “Do you deny the charges of heresy against you?” and Domingo’s answer “I do not deny the Truth I have spoken.” And so he was found guilty, and sentenced to cleansing by fire.

And so the noon-day sun found Domingo tied to a wooden stake in the market plaza, awaiting the ignition of his execution flames. He had no hopes of rescue by the Rilasciare. His was a cell of political activists, true mischief-makers; to defy the Inquisition was beyond them, especially with Cardinal Verdugo overseeing things. No, Domingo was resigned to his fate. He bid a silent farewell to his former comrades-in-arms, the Seven Swords; to Remy, Karlen, Dalla, Nicole, even Guiseppe. He had sworn a Vow to always be there to help them find their way on the path of Theus. He hoped they would understand.
As the sun beat down, Cardinal Verdugo looked over the crowd from a balcony opposite Domingo.
“Padre Domingo Garcia,” the Cardinal called down. “You have one last opportunity to return to Theus. Do you recant your heresy against Theus, His Prophets, and His Church?”

Vero Coraggio, Domingo thought to himself before answering. “My answer has not changed, Lord Cardinal,” Domingo answered clearly, respectfully. “I have spoken only Truth. You ask me to ignore the voice of Theus within me, and this I cannot do.”

“Padre Garcia,” Verdugo commented sadly. “You are dangerously misguided. May Theus have mercy upon your soul,” and he signalled for the fires to be lit.

Domingo began to recite the Credo of the Church, intent on keeping his eyes open, meeting his fate face to face. His eyes, like those of most others, were upon the Inquisitor approaching him with the lit brand, but his attention was quickly diverted when the cry came from within the crowd:

“El Vago! El Vago has come!”

All eyes looked past Domingo, and he heard the thud of booted feet landing upon the platform behind him. Then, quicker than any snake, the end of a whip flashed past his head, cracking at the flame that heralded his death out of existence.

“I hope you are not set on meeting Theus today, Padre,” said a muffled voice just behind Domingo’s ear. There was something in the voice, something Domingo had heard before, but he had no time for such considerations. An instant later, his hands were free, and he turned to see the white and purple porcelain face of the Vagabond.

As Verdugo shouted for reinforcements, El Vago kicked the Inquisitor into the crowd and unslung two spare rapiers from his back, handing them to the freed priest. “I hope you do not mind, but I took the liberty.”

To Domingo’s astonishment, one of the swords just handed to him was his family’s Soldano blade- the other was the blade that his friend Dalla had inscribed runes upon. “I would ask how you knew, but I doubt we have the time.”
Indeed, even as Domingo spoke, the platform was being surrounded by Knight-Inquisitors, sixteen men in all.

Domingo unsheathed the twin blades.

“You take the ones on the right, and I take the ones on the left?” El Vago asked, and Domingo could feel the Vagabond smiling behind his mask. The words brought Domingo back to a bar in Avalon, those selfsame words spoken by his friend Remy.

But surely, Remy was in Montaigne, and besides he could not be El Vago … no, could not be. But then it was time to think of swords, and Domingo spun into the whirling flourish he used when engaging groups of foes, parrying and riposting in a circling flash of blades. Then, as Domingo was clearing the last of the Inquisitors from his path, he heard a crack like a peal of thunder, and the men facing El Vago fell to the ground, stunned and lashed by the Vagabond’s whip.

“This way!” cried the masked Vagabond, and led Domingo up the plaza wall on a waiting rope ladder, which they cut down behind them. They raced through the street, Domingo a step behind the brightly clad shape of El Vago. The Vagabond suddenly ducked through a doorway, and slipped through a trap door that Domingo might not have noticed on his own. Once safely hidden, they waited for the sounds of pursuit to die away, barely breathing in the gloom. Finally, Domingo spoke.

“Where I come from, El Vago does not pick up mewling cats who are handing out pamphlets, and that’s the way things are.” Domingo spoke in the code he had developed to speak discreetly with his friends, expressing surprise at being rescued by a masked man due to his revolutionary ideas.

“Padre Garcia, where I come from, swords do not lie idle when they can secure the bonds of Montague’s wedding, and THAT is the way things are,” El Vago answered. If there was any doubt in Domingo’s mind as to the identity of the man behind the mask, it was now gone. The thundercrack whip strike was a very rare technique, invented by Remy, and the Vagabond’s coded reply that a trusted friend will not stand by when he can help someone escape from such an unwanted assassination could mean only one thing.

“We have been in mischief before, El Vago,” Domingo continued in code, speaking of shared secrets. “I am glad you are no Ussuran.”

“I am always your friend,” El Vago replied, his Castillian now accented with Remy’s Montaigne. “And I fear sharing no secret with you. Now, you be more careful, eh? El Vago will not always be there to save you, and how can you keep your Vow to us if you do not look after yourself?”

“If you boys are finished your moment,” came a familiar voice from beyond the trapdoor above them. “I need to speak with Domingo.”

Priest and Vagabond looked at each other, and then up, saying together: “DALLA?!”
Indeed, when they had climbed back up into the room above, there stood waiting, as though she belonged there, Dalla Björnfindel, one of the Seven Swords, and Skjæren of the Vestenmannavnjar.
“Dalla?!” exclaimed Domingo. “What are you– how did you–?”

“Oh, hush Domingo,” she put her hands on her hips. “Is your head so full of Theus that you’ve forgotten Gåte?”

“It seems I am to be at a disadvantage with everyone today,” Domingo said ruefully. “You- you seem different, Dalla.” In fact, she seemed older, older than she should be.

“The powers of the Runes are a heavy burden, my friend. Think nothing of it. In fact, it is on their business that I seek you.”

“What do the Runes want with Domingo?” Remy asked from behind his El Vago mask.

“Through the power of Gåte, I have seen many things and many places. You are needed, Domingo; your swords are needed.”

“Where am I to go?”

Dalla reached forward and began to trace a shape on Domingo’s forehead, the power crackling through him immediately. “Go with the blessing of Him Who Watches Us All, Domingo.”

His world turned white.

When the strange silvery glow had swallowed Domingo and winked out, Remy peeked out of the window. “Well, I should not overstay my welcome. I imagine you’ll be seeing yourself out, Dalla.” He slipped off the mask, and began removing El Vago’s distinctive purple costume.

“I know you wish you could have gone with him,” Dalla said, more or less ignoring his words. “But even my powers have their limits.”

Remy was silent a moment, pausing in his transformation from Vagabond to simple swordsman. “Where did you send him?”

“To be honest, I am not certain. I am only a conduit in this. But I trust the Runes, and Grumfather. And I trust Domingo.”

“As do I,” Remy replied, stuffing his mask and costume into a sack that he slung over his shoulder. “It was good to see you again, Dalla. Perhaps we should all get together some time.” And with that, he slipped away into the streets.

“We will, Remy … but perhaps not how you imagine.” There was a flash of light, and she too was gone.

When sight returned to Domingo Garcia, he stood before a great inn, whose board announced itself as “The Crossroads.”
“Where in Theah have I landed myself now?” he said to himself as he approached the inn door.
As it happens, Domingo Garcia de Soldano del Castillo was no longer in Theah at all.

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