After splitting up with the group, Skyeyes approached the cathedral with wide eyes and optimism. He knew that Sarel was taking Merdon to the kobold district, and he could catch up with them there later, maybe even try preaching to the masses about the grace of the goddess. They might not listen now, but even kobolds knew about the gods and their powers. In the world Skyeyes envisioned, the kobolds and humans could pray together, to the same deities, in the same churches, and one day the orcs and elves, and everyone else as well. To him, the bright white walls of the church, of the grand cathedral, were a beacon of much more than hope inside the city of Ardmach. It represented a bright and wonderful future for all the races of the world as a whole, and it did not disappoint.
This was Skyeyes' first time going to the church in Ardmach, the first time seeing the grand cathedral, and it was fairly evident by the way he looked around at everything. Statues that dwarfed even humans in size stood on either side of the massive wooden doors. The cathedral looked big enough for a giant to live inside and the small white kobold felt awed at the sight. He approached and was glad to find the doors open, though rumor told him the doors to the grand cathedral were never closed, there was always that shard of doubt. Standing in the doorway he could see a few things were similar to the one in Bereth. Pews hundreds of feet long were arranged neatly in front of a podium where the priest or priestess would speak to the public during services, the stained glass windows were more elaborate, more fantastic, but it was overall very similar.
Inside there also stood several nuns and priests going about their day. Few stopped to look at him, but the ones that did muttered among themselves. They noticed his robes, as any one of the clergy should, and before long no one was ignoring him as he walked through the main area of the church. He was overcome with a sense of peace, devotion, and at one point fell to his knees before a statue and prayed. All the while, the members of the clergy followed a ways behind and watched. This kobold was curious to them, but they didn't interrupt him, much as some of them wanted to. None approached, except for the head priestess, and even she waited for Skyeyes to stand before getting his attention.
“Who are you?” she asked, once he was stood and turned around. She was a larger than average woman, as tall as Merdon, more fit to be a warrior than a priestess with the way she wore her robes. But, the regalia on her said it all, told Skyeyes exactly who was speaking to him.
Skyeyes bowed his head and said, “My apologies, high priestess. I am Skyeyes, a devout follower of the goddess.”
The priestess frowned and looked at him. “A follower, perhaps, but you wear the robe of a priest of our order, and I can assure you there is no kobold among our rank.”
Where a normal person may have been shaken by that statement, Skyeyes shook his head and pulled out his amulet and showed it to her. “My mentor he gave this to me after teaching me the ways,” he stated, though his tone was respectful. This was the high priestess of the Ethral after all. While most would be put off by her presence, her size, her stance that demanded respect, to Skyeyes she represented the perfection the goddess wished for. Someone strong that would stand for everyone, a leader of the highest caliber.
The high priestess looked at his amulet for a moment, bending over to examine it closer, even touched it, before standing up and calling over a nun. She whispered something to the girl and then addressed Skyeyes. “The sister will show you to my office. I'll be with you in a moment, little kobold.”
Skyeyes' eyes went wide and he nodded, following the nun devoutly, with a spring in his step. To speak with the high priestess of the goddess Ethral was nothing short of a dream come true for the white kobold. He continued to eye the church as they walked, shoes and claws clacking in time on the polished surface of the floor. The cathedral was built to last, Skyeyes could see that, and though it was stone it was warm inside. Well lit by a chandelier made of magic-infused crystals, warm, it was all of the comforting things it should have been for a church, for a house dedicated to the goddess. While he didn't know what was to come, the white kobold hoped one day to live there, to read the sacred texts that were only kept in the grand cathedral would be an achievement of his lifetime. One that he could happily pass away after accomplishing, and as far as he knew, it might happen sooner than he expected. Meeting with the high priestess was serendipity at its finest.
The nun led him behind the pulpit and into a series of rooms behind where the worshipers usually saw. A long hallway awaited them with a plush, fancy rug, red with gold trim, lined the middle of the hallway to suppress the sound of feet in the night. As much as it was a place of worship, the grand cathedral was also home to the many nuns and priests that worked for the church as a whole. Late night studying, emergencies, there was no telling what reasons they had to be up and down the hall at all hours of the day, especially if the cathedral never closed.
Skyeyes was curious and considered poking open a door or two as they walked, but the nun sped up once they were outside of the main floor of the church. Reluctantly, the white kobold followed her pace. It took them several minutes of walking to eventually end up in a large office space behind a thick wooden door. Inside there were a pair of comfortable, large chairs, a desk covered in paperwork, and a roaring fireplace despite it being the middle of Spring. There was a bookshelf, which Skyeyes was keen to investigate, as well as a decanter full of water for him to sip on while he waited. For what, he didn't know, but the nun informed him the high priestess would be along as soon as she was able. Until then, he was not to leave the room, as if he wanted to.
The moment the door was shut and Skyeyes was alone, he walked to the bookshelf, grabbed something choice, something he hadn't read before, and got comfortable in one of the big chairs. He assumed it would be a moderate wait time if the high priestess didn't come with them. His choice of book was good for that, several hundred pages long, detailing the travels of the goddess Ethral when she walked on the earth like a mortal. It was written from a second-hand account and was quite old, but fascinating in the things it covered, the differences between the divine and the mundane. Skyeyes was a good reader, very good in fact. All of the lessons he'd gotten from his mentor had sharpened his mind significantly when it came to learning. Unfortunately, it had dulled him in other ways.
Skyeyes finished the book before looking up and realizing hours had passed. Many, many hours. It was getting dark out and he looked at the door with concern. Had he been forgotten about? Curious, and a little anxious, the priest stood and walked over to the door. He turned the handle, or rather he tried to. The door was locked from the outside; he was trapped. That didn't make sense, not to him. Hopeful it was an error, he knocked on the door but was only greeted with silence after. Desperate, he knocked louder. Still, no response, not even a question as to what he was doing knocking on the door as if he'd been abandoned.
Figuring there had to be a way out, he stepped over to the window and looked out. It was sunset, the perfect time to slip out in the dark, but he didn't want to break a window and he didn't see a way to open it otherwise. Fretting, tapping his claws together, Skyeyes started to pace around the room. Certain bodily functions also started returning as he did. For one, he was quite hungry now. He'd had nothing but water for the past several hours and his body wanted something with more nourishment to it. Beyond that, he hoped this meeting wouldn't take too long, though he didn't know what it was about. A call of nature was sure to be on the horizon and the less trapped in a room without a place to answer that call would be much better than this. All he could do for the time being was pace though, waiting as the sun went down.
Shortly after sundown, the door opened and the high priestess came in, flanked by two men in what Skyeyes knew to be robes of the inquisitors. They were the guards of the church. The priestess sat down and gestured for Skyeyes to do the same, her gaze was level and cold all of a sudden. At least, it seemed sudden to Skyeyes. He complied with her gesture without a word while the two inquisitors closed the door and took positions next to it. There was no reason for them to be there. Skyeyes hadn't done anything wrong, that he knew of. That danger sense that had escaped him was still catching up, and with the two large men behind him, Skyeyes was starting to see the high priestess in a different light.
Something was wrong in the high priestess' mind about Skyeyes from the moment she saw him. Kobolds were animals, not priests, and so she asked him, “Where did you get that amulet?”
The white kobold looked concerned. “It was given to me, by my mentor.” He had told her that, hadn't he? His face scrunched as he recalled their earlier conversation. Perhaps she had forgotten.
“You're lying,” she said coldly. No longer did she sound like the loving high priestess Skyeyes had spoken too among the pews. If she ever even had. “No priest of the order would give their rights to a kobold.” The way she said that word, kobold, like speaking of an unforgivable sin, it made Skyeyes' stomach squirm.
“It's true,” he insisted. “You know, your holiness, that the amulets cannot be taken by force.”
She nodded. “You're correct, but they can be taken from the dead.”
Bile filled the kobold's throat, his eyes dilated, his mouth went dry. That accusation was so heinous he didn't know how to protest. The idea that he would, that he could, kill the man that taught him so much. It was like suggesting he murdered his own father. “Never,” he finally managed, his voice shaking and on the verge of a breakdown. He could feel tears forming in his eyes. A baser instinct formed in the back of his mind, one that wanted him to fight, but he held it down. Skyeyes would not prove her accusation right. There was no need for violence among the clergy.
“Yet it must be,” the priestess continued. “No member of my church would ordain a mere kobold.” It was an arrow to his heart, to his core, to his soul.
The time for protesting ended when an inquisitor grabbed the chain around Skyeyes's neck and power coursed through it. His amulet shone and then went dim, the protection around it fading. He was helpless but to watch them pull it from his neck harshly, breaking the chain and yanking him forward in his seat as they did it. There was no care for his comfort in this process.
“We would take your robe,” she added, “But a naked kobold would be too offensive to the goddess. You may keep it.”
But what did a robe matter without his amulet? Without the proof that he was a priest of the goddess Ethral? It was pointless, just dyed wool. A sick reminder of what had happened. Even as he opened his mouth to defend himself the inquisitors picked him up by the arms, with ease, and started to carry him from the room. Skyeyes couldn't even squirm. He felt numb all over, his vision was blurry and tunneled. The impressive architecture around him seemed to dim as his desire to throw up increased. If the goddess were favorable, he thought, he would pass out before they could get him outside. Maybe they would be forced to take care of him, but he knew better than that now.
While dragging him through the halls, Skyeyes dimly saw the faces of people in the church, and a thought occurred to him. They were pleased he was being removed from the premises. Why were there so few kobolds that believed in the goddess? Or, more to the point, why were there no kobolds in the church, either working or worshiping? Because they weren't welcome there, at all, in any capacity. The people who saw him enter weren't impressed or curious, they were disgusted, scornful; he realized that now. Summoning the high priestess to see him was the only thing the nuns could think to do, they didn't want to deal with him, but she would. It was, essentially, her church, her cathedral, and she would deal with any unwanted guests. Skyeyes could almost hear their laughter at his embarrassing mistakes, though no one was laughing. How stupid he felt to believe he had warranted the presence of the high priestess for any other reason than this. No one had been curious about him beyond wanting him gone, and now he was almost out.
When they reached the open doors, the inquisitors threw the kobold, literally, outside. Skyeyes landed face first and tumbled over onto his back, landing finally with a thump and staring at the cloudless night sky. Tears welled up in his eyes. He didn't want to move, to think, to exist. That wasn't his choice though. As long as he was alive, he had things to do. Red and the others were counting on him, and for the time being that was what mattered. All of his efforts went into standing up, wiping the moisture from his eyes, and starting down the stairs of the cathedral. It was difficult just to move due to all the factors weighing on him. Hunger was chief among them, he hadn't eaten in over half a day, but the emotional weight was there too. Parts of him still felt numb.
Not more than a few steps down the stairs, however, and his eyes spotted Sarel, the blue kobold was running hard with Red behind her. He squinted at them and missed the armored man stepping out in front. Skyeyes forced himself into a run as Sarel was kicked to the ground, disarmed, and slavers came up behind her and Red with weapons and collars. They grabbed her and it sent a whole new sensation of fear through his body, it vaguely reminded him of what had just happened in the cathedral. A guard stopped him short though and demanded his identification.
“Here,” the white kobold said, scrambling into his robe for the papers that proved he was his own owner. The guard seemed satisfied, and so he asked, “What's happening?”
“Couple of lizards that don't have the sense you did,” the guard said.
Skyeyes stepped to the side and watched as Sarel was kicked right in the ribs. She pushed off the ground as the foot connected, making it look like the man had kicked much harder than he actually had, and she landed partially under the guards surrounding them. Her hand moved and it was only just barely that Skyeyes saw her magical ring rolling towards him. He quickly grabbed it as she whispered to him, “Merdon.”
The former priest watched in horror as Red was struck for crying out against her enslavement, and the pair of them were shackled and collared. He couldn't stand to watch any more than that, and the guards were the only reason the slavers weren't adding him to the list. Their eyes told him that. They looked at him like a walking bag of coins. Skyeyes walked away, quickly, slipping the ring on his finger and concentrating to summon the power inside as he stepped around a corner. Merdon, the needed Merdon, and he knew that now more than ever. In the dark of an alleyway, he concentrated on the ring, calling on the enchantment. A wolf to help him find Merdon, to stay a step ahead of the slavers.
Usually, a glow accompanied the wolf when Sarel summoned it, but this time there was a light, bright, shining, blinding. When Skyeyes opened his eyes, he saw a half dozen forms in the alley with him, all of them with the same golden eyes. Fear held him for only a moment, long enough for him to realize they were wolves. Not just one, a pack. Elation passed through him for a moment, he felt this was a gift of the divine, of the goddess. He reached up for his amulet and found it missing, reminding him that he was alone now, completely. This pack was conjured from his own power, his own magic.
Skyeyes set his jaw and walked over to the biggest one, mounting it and grabbing the fur along its sides. “Merdon,” he said, closing his eyes and focusing through the wolves. He could see and smell what they did. Having traveled with Merdon they ought to smell the same, he figured, so he sought scents like his. It was tough, but he found it and urged his wolves forward. The only thought on his mind was hoping Red did not experience the horrors he knew many kobold slaves faced, that she could be rescued before then.
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Bio: I have dreams of being a full time, full-fledged author, and I have for years. If it weren't for foreign language classes I would have a Bachelor's in creative writing. My goal is to write good stories that help people forget their problems, no matter what happens.