The Old World, Protectorate Territory, Ramuh, Capital of the Protectorate, Halls of Judgement
The towering spires of the Halls of Judgement pierced into the dark and gloomy clouds which threatened to break into a storm. The Grand Jury, mandated by the God of Creation and Justice to govern all of its creation under the sky, ruled the lands of the Protectorate from within the Halls of Judgement.
Inquisitor Mathias paused at the foot of the stairs that led up to the Halls which had ninety nine steps and every ninth stood a pair of Guardians in red heavy armour with a steam glaive and tower shield resting before their feet. Mathias looked up at the Halls which always made him feel a sense of dread, making him feel small and like a child which had committed a crime and he was to be punished by the Head Master.
"Inquisitor Mathias!" An ignorant voice called him from behind him and Mathias turned around, his eyes narrowing beneath his white mask as he recognized the voice. "What a pleasant surprise!"
A masked figure dress in a crimson long form fitting coat stood behind him, flanked by two assistants who lowered their head to Mathias. The colour of his coat matched Mathias exactly, with the same blood red hue. A person's rank within the Protectorate was by the hue of red. The darker and deeper the colour meant the person's rank was higher.
"Judgement be with you, Inquisitor Rism," Mathias replied coldly. All in all, there were ten levels of ranks and both Mathias and the newcomer was the same hue of blood red, at rank 9, just a step below the members of the Grand Jury. "Such an... coincidence!"
"Ha!" Inquisitor Rism's mask wobbled as he laughed. "Coincidence? I think not, my old friend!"
"We are not friends!" Mathias coldly replied and he turned and started climbing the steps, showing his back to Rism.
Inquisitor Rism's eyes glittered dangerously as he stared at the Mathia's back. He whispered softly to himself, "Enjoy all you can for now... Soon... You will be Judged! Hehehehe..."
Mathias strolled into the Halls, his steps quickening as he sought to avoid meeting Rism again. They were rivals ever since they first met, with Rism constantly making troubles behind his back. He was certain Rism came to the Halls today was not a coincidence, as Mathias had received a summon to appear before the Grand Jury.
He ignored the murals of torture scenes of sinners that covered both sides of the massive hallway. Round arches and pillars supported the entire roof of the Halls that was also covered in murals depicting scenes of Ramuh the Judge, creating life and order to the world.
Hooded figures looking for the redemption of their sins, kept the halls clean and bowed deeply as Mathias swept past them. A giant hooded statue of Ramuh stood at the end of the hall with hundreds of lit candles and burning incense at his feet. Other souls seeking redemption kneeled in rows before the giant statue of Ramuh and two Redeemers walked up and down, using a short barbed cat o' nine to whip their backs while chanting.
Mathias turned into a corridor and entered into another area of the Halls of Judgement. The cries and chants of the devoted disappeared and the Halls was replaced by alcove after alcove of shelves filled with ancient scrolls. More Guardians stood guard at intervals and they lowered their helmeted heads as Mathias walked past.
Another few more turns and climbs of stairs, he reached the waiting room of the Grand Jury. The clerical assistant bowed deeply and gestured to Mathias to a seat, assuring him that the Grand Jury will be informed of his presence and will he like some refreshments?
He waved the clerk away as he sat down and the clerk quickly departed to inform the Grand Jury of his arrival. Not long later, the clerk appeared again and gestured for Mathias to follow him, leading him to a pair of double doors, glided with gold and covered with a mural of Ramuh the Judge bringing light to the world.
The Guardians opened the doors for him and Mathias entered into a chamber where floor to ceiling windows covered all three sides of the chamber. A horse shoe shaped table sat in the middle of the spacious room where nine figures wearing exquisite dark red coats that looked closer to black, overlaid with silver.
A single chair sat before the horse shoe shaped table and Mathias walked up before the chair and bowed to the Grand Jury. "The Judgement sees the Grand Jury! Your humble servant awaits your Judgement!"
"Be seated, Inquisitor," A deep rumbling voice came from the centermost member of the Grand Jury. The speaker had a thick silvery beard that reached his chest and a grey hair that was bound into a long ponytail. A pair of clear and sharp eyes stared directly at Mathias who nodded and sat down.
"Now, Inquisitor," The junior most Grand Jury seated on the extreme left side of the table spoke up. "Before we start, is there anything you would like to address to us first?"
Mathias frowned inside in mask as he rotated his head like cannon, turning his attention to the speaker. "Esteemed Jury, I do not understand your question."
"Have you reported every truth, nothing but the truth since your return..." The Jury member looked down at his notes. "From the sea of clouds? Did you left out anything?"
"Are you doubting my abilities as an Inquisitor?" Mathias's voice had a hint of anger. "Be careful, Esteemed Jury, doubting the Inquisition... bears... serious consequences!"
The junior Jury member swallowed nervously as he felt a chill down his spine from the cold stare of Inquisitor Mathias boring into him. He shifted himself uncomfortably in his seat and cleared his throat uneasily as he changed the question. "W- We are not doubting the Inquisition, nor y- you abilities!"
"B- But we have credible information that you, Inquisitor Mathias..." The junior Jury member paused and nervously tugged at his collar. "Ah... Might have forgotten to... inform us of some... minor details?"
"And does the business of the Inquisition ever been the concern of the Grand Jury?" Mathias turned his glaze to the senior most Jury member who sat in the middle. "What the Inquisition does... Is none of the business of the Grand Jury! Unless... the Grand Jury wants the Inquisition to be involved with the matters of the Grand Jury too?"
"Enough!" The elf in the middle of the table spoke loud enough that the rest of the Grand Jury settled down as they were incited by the words of Inquisitor Mathias. "We shall no longer talk about this..."
Inquisitor Mathias gave a bow as he ceded the issue. The elf stared at Mathias for a while before he said, "In your report, you said that the Judges have sensed the presence of the other artefact, yes?"
"Yes, Grand Lord Luthor," Mathias replied. "I have requested for a fleet to be assembled to cross the Sea of Clouds to retrieve the artefact."
"There are people living in the lands there?" Grand Lord Luthor asked again."Your theory was that those people are the descendants of our ancestors that had crossed the ocean over three hundred years ago?"
"Yes, Grand Lord," Mathias replied. "From... evidence we had gathered. There is a high chance that that is true!"
"Interesting..." Grand Lord Luthor looked down at the scroll he was holding. "From what was written in your report... You had stated that their fighting strengths seemed to be below that of even the weakest kingdom here. Yet, you requested for a full fleet of twelve battleships! Please explain."
"First, the reason is due to the size of the land," Mathias replied calmly. "Even with the Judges' power, it will take too much time and effort to scour the land for the artefact if just a token force was dispatched."
"Secondly," Mathias continued. "We only encountered a sailing ship of the natives there's and some strange small flyers that were faster and more nimble than our own small flyers. Hence we do not know the full extent of their might. I might be wrong that they are weak, therefore, it is better to be safe and have more ships at hand."
"Third, distance," Mathias added. "It will be a journey lasting for months, and there are risks involved in crossing the Sea of Clouds. Like the loss of two of the Inquisition ships."
"But news of one of the Inquisition ships was destroyed by the Iron Kingdom!" The Junior Grand Jury member remarked from the side. "While we do not look into the affairs of the Inquisition... But we do need an answer for that as it draws valuable resources away from the nation!"
"The Iron Kingdom and the Loose Conferedation are always looking for weakness with us!" The Junior Jury member said hotly. "With the loss of one of our ships, we, not only lose prestige, our people's lives... We made the infidels believe they can be lawless and disrespect our God!"
"Our God has decreed that we must bring back law and order to the lands!" He spoke in a fervent voice. "These infidels have all forgotten who gave life and order to this world! We must bring the lawless to heel!"
"I do not disagree with your words, Lord Turner," Mathias replied coldly. "It is the duty of the Inquisition to bring those who betray God's teachings to his Judgement."
"And to the fourth and final reason," Mathias turned his attention back to the Grand Lord Luther. "It is to bring those who have been lost across the sea into the Judgement!"
"If we can succeed in making those lawless who had gone so long without the Judgement of our God," Mathias said. "We can raise another force beyond the Sea of Clouds to serve as Paladins!"
"It will raise our strength and bring us closer to Judgement Day!" Mathias explained. "Our righteous Paladins will bring back order to this world! And the unworthy will be judged and purged!"
Grand Lord Luther stood up from his seat and he walked to the windows, where the skies were overcast by storm clouds. He clasped his hands behind his back and looked out to the city, seeing the hundreds of fluttering red prayer flags that people hung from the numerous roof spires that covered the city.
"Your words ring true..." He said after a moment and turned around. "We will greatly consider your proposal. Now leave us!"
Mathias stood up and gave a low bow. "The Judgement sees all!"
As he exited the Grand Jury's chambers, he spotted Inquisitor Rism with his legs crossed on top of each other, lounging away in the waiting room's sofa. He paused slightly before ignoring Rism and walked briskly off while Rism remained seated as he watched Mathias walked off with a cold glaze.
"That bastard must have tipped the Grand Jury off..." Mathias said to himself in a low voice as he exited the Halls of Judgement. The skies suddenly opened up and raindrops fell, slowly soaking his blood red coat.
A steam carriage rumbled and puffed to a stop before him and the footman quickly hopped off and opened the door and set down the steps for Mathias to climb in. Once he was inside and away from the rain, the driver cranked the boiler up and the steam carriage lunged forward on its four large wheels.
"To the Inquisition Hall!" He ordered the driver and sat back, pondering on the meeting earlier. He was very certain that Rism must be up to something with the Grand Jury. He knew that Rism was a person who always prioritises glory over his duties as an Inquisitor. Yet he could not find any evidence to Inquisition Hall, as Rism was always very careful to leave no clue behind, as his victims tend to have grisly endings.
"Could he have found out about her?"