A somewhat tired figure is seen leaving Rhydin by a road he is told will lead him to Stormpoint. He appears to be in his mid 40's, standing about 5' 10". He is dressed as a scholar-preist from the 16th century. He carries a large knapsack, filled with books, judging by the shapes you see in it.
With a kind of defeated resignation, he begins walking along the road, humming to himself. Were you listen carefully, you might recognize the modalities of the tune as being vaguely "gregorian."
In one hand, he clutches a scroll. It is an unsigned invitation for him to take charge of a vacant parish in Stormpoint. He has learned it was sent to him by Lady Samantha.
He continues on toward town, shuddering slightly against the misgivings he has in heading through this land at all..........
"Twilight, what in heaven's name is the matter?" She says as she glares at the dragon darting wildly about the room in a flurry of shimmering dark scales and leathery wings. The sudden and unceremonious entrance of the black dragon had interrupted her rearranging.
The barrage of mental images Samantha recieves in reply is overwhelming and it takes her a moment to catch the gist of what has so upset her dear little friend. When she has deciphered it, she smiles.
"I know the priest is coming, petite. I invited him. It doesn't surprise me, then, that you would have seen him on the road to Stormpoint."
Twilight stops to hover in front of her, tail lashing in annoyance.
"Oh stop! There will be no dragon hunts! He's just wasn't used to you...what did you want him to do? Pick you up and hug you on first sight?" The dragon's snort is answer enough and Samantha chuckles. She had to give Twilight credit; she did have spirit.
"Well if you feel so out of place then you can go greet him and let him get used to you. I'll give you a note petite."
~I wouldn't do this for anyone else you know, Sam.~
~You are a dear, Twilight...merci beaucoup~
The vampiress sits at her desk, penning a note in her elegant, scrawling script.
"Monsieur...merci once again for accepting the invitation to the cathedral. The bearer of this note is a dear friend, strange though it may seem, and she will show you to the cathedral or anywhere else you desire to see. Merely tell her and she shall lead. Good journey until we meet again,
~The Lady Samantha Jeanteau Du Cheval, Queen of Dominia."
She does not bother to add that the small dragon's prescence will mark the priest as a guest of the Lady Samantha. That, in and of itself, would provide him protection against any who might seek to harm him. Stormpoint may not have much crime, but religious figures were not that common in the area and she did not wish to risk confrontation.
”Twilight...keep an eye out for trouble, petite."
The dragon takes the message and flutters off into the night.
The priest continues his journey toward Stormpoint.
"Lord, but I'm tired of all this," he thinks to himself. Mile follows upon mile. The knapsack seems heavier than he remembered. He wonders if he really needs all his books, but catches himself - "You can never really have too many, can you?"
His legs ache as he finds the land changing beneath his feet. He rises up one side and down the other of hill after hill. He has entered Dominia, though he doesn't know the name of the realm. In time, he is into Dominia's forests. For the most part, the trees seem deciduous, but here and there, he finds evergreens and pines.
The forest thickens, and soon, the trees canopy the road. As he moves on, the forest darkens. This unsettles him and pleases him at the same time. On the one hand, he is a creature of the light, so darkness in the daytime is never a happy thing. On the other hand, the forests of Dominia send him into a reverie. It is like his homeland. The hills and forests of Saxony come to his mind, and his chest tightens with a pang of longing. "Oh God, would that You would end this pilgrimage and return me," he sighs.
At length, he come to a place in the road that is thick with trees and undergrowth, but which presents him with a fallen stump upon which to sit. He sets his sack sown heavily, and sits with obvious relief. Removing his boots, he stretches his feet and legs, and begins rummaging through his sack. He pulls out bread, cheese, a knife and a wine bag. While he only indulges in a small lunch, he eats what he takes greedily, but is rather parsimonious with the wine. Then, he puts the meal back into the sack, and pulls out a prayer-book. He cocks an eye toward the forest canopy, but fails to find the sun, shrugs, and mutters, "Well, its noon somewhere......"
With that, he kneels at the side of the road, crosses himself, flips open the book, and begins to recite the noon prayer-office: "Oh Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise....." He begins somewhat mechanically at first, but then seems lost in prayer. Until.....
He hears a flapping and shuffling through the canopy above him. Annoyed, he looks up, but sees nothing. He returns to his prayers, but is listening attentively, and is half-disappointed with himself for not being able to offer a better sacrifice of praise to his only Lord. As he reads the words, he thinks of home, and listens for strangers.
Again, a shuffling and rustling comes to his attention.... now in the undergrowth by his sack, His head snaps turning to look, and he watches as something tries to pull the knapsack into the depths of the forest.
"Hey now! What's that, then?" he exclaims. He rises, book in hand, to chase after his possessions. Catching hold of a corner of cloth, he is surprised to find something equally strong pulling at the other end. "You there, let go of it!" he commands. As he gives a tug from his end, suddenly the other end is released, and he tumbles backwards onto his rump. "Ow! Ye miserable cur......" he barks at the dark undergrowth. To his ears, what sounds like a mocking laughter comes to him in a strange mixture of chirps and growls.
He stands, brushes himself off, and tries to regain his dignity. Then, he solemnly speaks to the bushes, "Okay then, out with ye." From the undergrowth, a black snout appears, followed by the rest of a small black dragon's head. She appears to be grinning.
He jumps back. "God and the saints preserve me, it's a demon!" He makes a quick sign of the cross at the creature with his eyes tightly closed. When he opens them, he finds the dragon staring at him blankly, as if she were watching a madman. Since the holy cross has not chased the creature off, he inches forward to examine her more closely, at which she pulls back slightly.
"Hey, don't I know ye, then? I've seen tha' before?" He asks, not quite sure whether he remembers the creature from a bad dream, or from Rhydin - thinking the difference between Rhydin and a dream may be a distinction with no difference. The dragon snorts at him, and chirps something he finds unintelligible. He thinks to himself, "Feh! This place and it's unnatural beasts.... I'm no better off here than in Rhydin...." As if reading his thoughts, the dragon takes to the air in a huff, and perches on a tree limb several hundred yards down the road.
"All right then, you just keep your distance." He says to her, wondering why he's speaking to a dragon at all. He finds his prayer-book, deposits it back in the knapsack, re-shoulders the load, and begins heading north along the road once again. When he passes the dragon, she takes flight once again, and perches further down the road, watching him almost protectively.
This goes on for a bit.
After a few hours, he finds a clearing and sits to rest. As he sets down his pack, the dragon flies down toward him, and settles about 10 yards off. He stares at her for a moment, and decides to ignore her, pulling out his prayer-book to finish his interrupted prayer office. As he reads, she inches forward, and soon has her head buried in the knapsack.
When he notices, he starts and barks, "Hey you, out of there!" She pulls back, but stays near. He looks at her quizzically. "So, I'm not to be rid of you, eh?" She growls, and chirps in reply. He grabs his sack, "Well, this is mine," he says somewhat defiantly. But then, remembering the charity he was taught in the monastery, he blushes. He pulls out his bread and cheese. "So, are you hungry then?" he asks. The dragon stares at him uncertainly. He holds out the food. She inches forward, sniff at the bread and cheese, and snorts with plain disgust, moving off.
With a little agitation, he tells the dragon, "Okay- suit yourself....but you can't say I didn't offer." The dragon looks at him, and takes to the sky again, disappearing. A few moments later, he hears an animal cry in pain and surprise, but then silence. After that, the dragon appears again....looking rather content, and chirping at him with a few growls that almost sound prideful. He looks at her, eats from his bread and cheese, and mumbles - "Well, we've both had our snacks then, eh?"
The dragon approaches him again, and he decides to be more bold. He holds a hand toward her. This causes her to retreat. "Look, I mean you no harm if you mean me none. I'm just trying to give ye the smell of me...." The dragon, understanding him better than he does she, comes forward, sniffs his hand, and then nuzzles her head against it, eyeing him suspiciously. Instinctually, from being with pets too much in his youth, he begins to gently scratch her about her crown and neck. This produces an odd chirping, growling purr. He looks at her, "That's not so bad then, is it?" She playfully nips at his hand. He sternly rebukes her, "Careful!"
An accord having been established, she suddenly reveals a scroll, and excitedly chirps and growls at him. He puzzles at her. "Look good dragon, I don't know what you're used to, but a mere mortal such as myself, from old Earth no less, has no idea of what you're trying to say." The dragon snorts, and shoves the scroll toward him with her snout. "You want me to take this then?" She rolls her eyes, as if in disbelief at his density, and nods slowly and deliberately, hoping he'll get that much.....
He takes the scroll, and reads. "Ah, this is from Lady Samantha." He looks to the dragon. "And you're to be my guide, eh?" The dragon snorts in disgust, and nods reluctantly. "Ah well, Twilight is it? Well, we can't all draw prime jobs. Hell, look at me...I'm off to a cathedral with no parishioners that I know of." The dragon chirps again, then strangely shakes her head.
"What's that? You think you have good duty in leading me about?" The dragon rolls her eyes as if to say "puuleeeze, give me a break!" He seems to get the drift, and asks "then there are believers in Stormpoint?" The dragon snorts, and simply shrugs. He replies, "I'll take that as a definite 'maybe.'" The dragon looks at him blankly again. Then he shrugs.
"All righty... sure you don't want a bite?" He holds the bread and cheese toward her again. She snorts, wondering if he'll ever catch a clue. He replaces the food and his prayer-book in the sack, and lifts it to his shoulder. He nods to her, "Good Lady Twilight, I am Father Selnecker. Why don't you lead on, faithful guide? To the cathedral, if you please. Time's a wasting."
She appears to smile, nods, and takes to the air....leading him further into the forest, further down the road through Dominia, and further toward Stormpoint, and whatever may await him there.
If it weren't for Samantha, she wouldn't be doing this. Twilight flaps her wings in annoyance again. All right, all right. So the priest had indeed been far more civil this time. But he had thought she was a demon! She scratches one clawed foot down a branch in frustration and watches the bark peel back with a certain amount of satisfaction. Well at least the journey was almost over. Besides, Sam was sure to give her a piece of jerky for all this trouble. She still needed to check on Myst and Chimera and a few of the other dragonets too.
Twilight wonders, for a moment, if she is becoming a little to duty bound like her mistress.
Nah, Sam didn't like shredding things like she did. And she *loved* baths. Twilight's snout wrinkles at the thought of soap suds.
~Come on! Almost There! One more block!~ The thought of jerky spurred her on and she gives a dragon sigh. The priest was not going to be able to hear her mind speech. That would make it too easy. Instead she hops further down the street and waits for him, watching his struggle with the bag of books.
~Never understand you humans with your books. Hmmf...~ She skitters back to him, grasps the bag in her jaws and pulls. Okay...so maybe they weren't that light. A little harder and a flap of her wings and she hauls the bag after her. ~Better...oof...get extra jerky for this.~
But at least the cathedral wasn't far. Another block and a few feet and she dropped the sack in the doorway. Twilight sits there in the arch of the building, unperturbed by its religious significance. Her tail twitches and she chirrups as if to ask. "Okay? Done now? Can I please go?!"
The priest followed the dragonet through the forest - the relief of apparently friendly, though incomprehensible company, outweighed by the growing unease at the palpable darkness and unfamiliarity of the land around him. He looks to the black figure shredding bark up in the trees several yards ahead of him. She looks down to him, scolding him with a shrill barrage of chirps, whistles, and growls. He frowns with a little annoyance, "Eh? Ye want me to hurry along then, do you?" He sighs wearily, shifting the weight of his sack to a place that aches less than the rest. "Well, I don't have wings now, do I? Hmmm? And I don't see you carrying anything, do I now? So, give a mortal a break, would ye?"
The dragonet snorts, and takes to the air again.... looping about a couple of times as if to drive home the fact that she thinks the priest is far too slow for one of her grace and speed, and to show her pride in her wings. She wonders how nature had ever tolerated humans to emerge from the primordial oooze so long ago..... if it hadn't been for that blasted asteroid, or whatever, that had wiped the earth clean of most of her ancestors, the early humans would have been a light snack between breakfast and lunch, every one of them. Then she caught herself thinking of jerky, and one human in particular.... and returned to her task of getting this priest to Stormpoint.
Father Nicolaus continued on, wishing that this creature ("Yes, she may be no demon, but there are demons about in a place such as this.....") would give him time to take in all that he was seeing and sensing. He thought he had seen a castle down the road a way.... but its towers kept appearing and disappearing through the thick trees, so he had never gotten a good look. Finally, he reaches the marble pillar that read "STORMPOINT." He draws his cloak about him as he feels a slight chill. He smells the air, "Ah, it's a port town then? Lord knows they'll need religion, the only question is whether they'll want it......."
The dragonet, catching him slacking again, and sensing that she is near done with her commission, flies back to him, hovers in the air, scolds him with a sharp chirp and growl, and bats lightly at the top of his head with her tail.
"Ow! Hey!" He looks up at the dragonet. "Now what did you do tha' for? I thought you were supposed to be helping? Friendly? Yes? " The derisive snort he receives is all the answer he really needs. He nods his head sadly, "Ahhhh.... I see. A duty to your Lady is it, looking after me, but one with no joy?" He shrugs, adjusting his sack again, "Well, that I can understand.... I am bound to a Lord Who often calls me to do what I would not.... such is life, eh?"
He looks up to the dragonet again, but she is already several hundred yards down the street, waiting for him to catch up. He heads into the town. Soldiers, the occasional vampire, and plenty of the locals look at him as if he were a two-headed chartreuse, polka-dotted, ogre. No - such a creature as that, they'd think to be quite in place here - it is the priest who is out of place. One or two figures approach him, and he, oblivious to their malice, greets them with his customary "Peace attend you."
The dragonet swoops down from nowhere, and stands on her hind legs, wings unfurled, and holds the ground between the priest and those approaching him. She growls with an a restrained, but unmistakably animal vigor. The "locals," recognizing Lady Samantha's companion, move off.
Twilight scolds the priest again, and takes off down the street, urging him on. She is tired of this charge, and doesn't want to risk anymore "encounters" with the locals - not that she worries for herself, mind you, but there is simply no telling what sort of trouble a priest will get into in this town.
He passes by the Eventide Inn, stopping for a moment to listen to the dulcimer music, the rhythms and melodies reminding him of the dance music from his homeland. The dueling arena only fills him with sadness as he walks past it. "Ah God, will the warring madness of the flesh never cease?" he thinks to himself. He notes the library with interest, stopping to examine its architecture. But again, Twilight comes to him, now nudging him forward with her head, as if to say "There will be time for sight-seeing later, priest, but now you need to get a move-on." To hear, what for him is clearly un-holy, music spilling from the church bearing the sign of "The Raven" is upsetting. He stops again. "What's this? Is Stormpoint so far returned to heathenism that they have made churches into dens of iniquity? God defend us!" he mutters.
The dragonet leads him to a turning in the road, and past a toy-shop, and through a marketplace. Again, he slows, trying to get a sense for what the various stalls, carts, and shops might be selling.
When suddenly, the dragonet is at his shoulder, grabbing his knapsack with her powerful mouth and jaws. He turns, "Hey, what's this now?" he exclaims, startled. Twilight ignores him, and stumbles back under the weight of the books. She regains her footing, flaps several times with her wings, and slowly takes to the sky. "Come back with that!" he shouts, running after her, forgetting how tired he is in concern for his valued possessions.
And, hardly noticing where he is, he arrives at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. He notices his sack unceremoniously dumped at the cathedral's doors. He looks up to see Twilight perched on the arch over the doorway, tail twitching. She chirps at him excitedly. "What's that?" he asks her as he divides his attention between his books and the dragon. He is answered with more chirps, a few growls, and a couple of snorts. He nods - not understanding, but getting a sense of her urgency. "Yes, I suppose you've now completed your charge from Lady Samantha, and want to be off elsewhere. Well, then" he sighs, thinking that he will miss the companionship of the creature in this strange place, "I thank ye for your assistance, and give you leave to go with my blessing."
No sooner has he uttered the word "go," when the dragonet takes to the sky, heading for the docks and the gypsy encampment thereabouts. The priest, recognizing his words are pointless, but saying them nonetheless, calls to her, "Feel free to come back any time for a visit......."
Alone again in the midst of the town's bustle, the priest climbs the stairs to the cathedral doors, picks up his sack, and opens the door to the cathedral. He steps in uncertainly.
His long road to Stormpoint having reached its terminus, he now wonders what longer journey he may be beginning as he prepares to open the cathedral for "business," in a town that both needs what it offers, and seems to be singularly uninterested.
Continued in The Bishop of Stormpoint
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