The City of Arkasia was much larger than Callindra thought possible. The wall was visible from miles away and there were quite a few carriages and wagons on the road as well as other horses and a multitude of foot traffic. In spite of all the travelers the traffic barely slowed at the gate. A system of checking wagons and processing visitors allowed efficient entry without impeding the majority of them.
It only took a few minutes to give names, origin, destination and duration of stay. Tryst handled the majority of the questions and all the others had to give were their names. Inside the gate was a scene of chaos, throngs of people selling everything hungry, thirsty, tired travelers might want, sedan chairs being carried by well-muscled footmen, men and women in livery hurrying about on some errand or another for their House.
The noise was deafening and had it not been for Tryst’s sure knowledge of his destination and single-minded determination to reach it they would surely have been swept into the crowd and separated. After the initial crush, the people thinned out and they were able to re-mount their horses. They wound their way through the streets at a trot and arrived at a towering cathedral built from huge basalt blocks.
There was a large courtyard but no gate or fence. Tryst handed the reins of his horse to a waiting stable boy and walked straight through the open front door. “Tryst Te’Chern to see Biscop Mida.” He said to the first acolyte he came upon. The unfortunate boy stared at the mountain of chainmaile and gaped in open-mouthed awe.
“Te’Chern? THE Te’Chern?”
“The Biscop is engaged in a meeting with his advisors at the moment.” A man with greying hair, “You may wait for him in the antechamber.” He wore a simple robe but Tryst bowed in deference.
“As you wish Sir. Do not trouble yourself, I know the way.”
He led them down a long hallway and through a plain wooden door. A simple oak table had bread, fruit, salted pork and wine laid out for them to eat.
“THE Te’Chern?” Cronos asked, raising an eyebrow at his brother.
“I may have made a bit of a name for myself in the academy.” He replied with a hint of chagrin, “Think nothing of it.”
Callindra sat at the table and poured herself a cup of wine. It was cool and soothing on the back of her throat. She loosened the straps on her armor and leaned back in her chair, looking around the room with idle curiosity.
In spite of the size of the cathedral, this room wasn’t all that much larger than the ones she had seen in the much smaller church in Thornehold. The windows were tall, narrow slits with steel shutters that could be closed against weather or attack but still left ample room for an archer to fire from. What reason could anyone have to build such a defensible structure in the middle of a large city?
“This was one of the first buildings to be completed when this area was first settled.” Tryst said, noticing her taking account of the militant construction of the room. “We are also an Order that strives to uphold justice and peace, defending the weak and protecting the defenseless so much of our training revolves around combat. The austere aspect of the building quickly winnows out those looking for a life of ease among the Priesthood.”
“Well-spoken young Te’Chern.” A deep voice spoke from the hallway as a short, thick man entered. He was barrel-chested and his arms were the size of Callindra’s waist. His robes were the same rough woven wool that every other priest she had seen wore; however he wore a richly embroidered alb around his shoulders.
Tryst started, then turned and dropped to one knee. “Lord Biscop, may I please have your blessing?”
The Biscop placed one hand on Tryst’s head and the other on the rim of his shield, “An arm to defend. A mind to discern. We offer Sanctuary of body and soul in a world of chaos. May your arm be swift and your mind strong.”
He turned to the rest of them with a quizzical look on his face, “So these warriors have agreed to join you and complete the task I have set you to?”
“We agreed to hear you out anyway.” Cronos said, looking up from where he slumped at the table. “Nobody’s said more than that yet.”
“The news I share with you is grave indeed.” He turned to face Cronos, “We began feeling a disturbance some time ago. The Gods were restless, which is never a good thing and after a time we became aware that the followers of Gode had ceased to have their prayers answered by their God.”
“What?” Tryst sprang to his feet from where he had been kneeling, “How is that possible? If the God of Creation is no more, then Onde can destroy everything!”
“Calm yourself child, if Gode was indeed gone we would cease to be. This is not a problem that will end all of creation; it is merely a problem that faces us here in this realm.” He paused and shook his head gravely, “Although the further a stone begins rolling downhill the more difficult it is to stop. Tryst, you and your companions must find the remnants of the Lost Order. Only they have the knowledge needed to re-establish contact with Gode.”
“Sounds interesting. What’s in it for me though?” Asked Vilhylm.
“Your needs will be provided for along with suitable reward upon completion of your task.” The Biscop said, “We offer each of you the sum of one thousand pieces of gold for returning with the information we need.”
Callindra gaped in disbelief, she could buy a farm or a business, she could live comfortably for years. More importantly she could finance her journey to find Glarian easily with that kind of money. “Done.” She said as soon as she recovered her composure.
After a few moments the others also voiced their assent.
“Excellent.” The Biscop said, “Now you will need to keep the horses lent from our Brothers in the south, we can ensure you have rations for the trail and coin for re-supplying. Do any of you require armor or armaments?”
“I could use some greaves to complete my leather.” Callindra said, “But Brightfang is all the weapon I need.”
“You don’t have anything I could use.” Vilhylm said, “Thank you for offering though.”
“A brace of daggers wouldn’t hurt.” Cronos said, “I wouldn’t mind a chain shirt too if you can spare it.”
“I will have someone show you to your rooms then and make sure that your requests are fulfilled before you leave in the morning.” The Biscop clapped his hands and a pair of figures wearing identical gray robes with the hoods pulled over their faces entered, beckoning them to follow. “Tryst will be along shortly, he and I have some Church business to attend to.”
Callindra followed the robed figures to a room that could have been the exact same one she had slept in while in Thornehold other than the window looked out on a practice yard instead of a busy street. Dozens of figures drilled with hammers and shields under the watchful eyes of several armored men.
There was a pitcher of chilled white wine and a plate of bread on the table in the common room and two separate sleeping quarters. Feeling tired from her long time on the road, Callindra found a bath, then a bed.