EVERMORE PLOT: APRIS 1022 A.ORDER - Milton Krape
SUMMARY: King Justin, ruler of Holt, orders Sheriff Milton Krape to the Inn at Evermore to find the Avatar believed to the “Daughter of Eldin”.
Sheriff Milton Krape smoothed the wrinkles from his surcoat as he waited in the hall outside King Justin’s throne room. The polished metal of the door reflected a hard, leathery face that was full of lines and wrinkles earned from a lifetime of living in the wild. He rubbed the grey stubble of his beard with the back of his gnarled hand.
Why in Eldin’s name had he been summoned to the royal castle? Krape wondered. He was getting too old to be King Justin’s… scout… problem solver… killer? He didn’t have a place at court anymore. The nation had changed. The worship of Eldin had changed. Everything had changed. Justin was not the king his father had been. And the nobles at his court sought power and wealth. Krape didn’t want to be here.
Flanking the entrance to the throne room stood a pair of royal guards in their white lacquered plate armor with their helmet visors down, looking more like statues than living persons. Flickering firelight from the hall lamps reflected off the guards’ white kite shields that were embellished with the Blood Cross of Eldin. The guards held polished steel swords in their right hands with the flat of the blade resting on the fluted disk-like pauldrons that protected their shoulders.
Krape had never been much for spit and polish, but he had wanted the opportunity to clean the dust from his boots and polish his helmet and armor. He hated going before the nobility of Holt wearing his travel-stained surcoat with its faded red cross. He felt it unfair that the chamberlain had hurried him through the castle. The haste had worried Krape. He’d heard rumors about an Avatar being created in Evermore. The first in more than one thousand years.
The chamberlain opened the doors to the throne room and the herald announced. “Sheriff Milton Krape. Ranger of Guildhall.”
The nobles and coteries who filled the throne room grew silent as Krape entered the chamber. They moved from the center of the room, giving him space to approach the king. A group of high priests moved to stand by the king. A knight in polished silver plate accompanied them. Everyone stared, most looked puzzled, probably wondering why this disheveled Guildsman was daring to approach the king in such a state.
King Justin watched him approach, smiling, as if happy to see him. The king’s blue eyes looked happy, but Krape knew the ruler of Holt had terrible mood swings. The man had once thrown his lover out of the tower window after learning she was a Highland spy. Krape been the one to tell him, and he had also disposed of the body.
Justin stood. The most powerful man in the Five Kingdoms was looking older. Krape remembered the king as a young prince. The lad who had led the armies of Holt to retake the Highlands. Now there was a touch of grey in king’s blond hair even though he was only a few years past thirty.
The sheriff knelt, “Your Grace, I came as quickly as I could. Please, pardon my appearance. I was given no opportunity to make myself presentable.”
Everyone stared at him. He felt out of place among these high nobles. He was a simple scout, a sheriff, a hunter of criminals. Everyone in the room wore fine clothes. Doublets and dresses of expensive cloths. He wondered why the King was seeing him amid his court. Most often, he received his missions in a side room in secret.
Justin stepped down from his throne. He placed a hand on Krape’s shoulder. “Nobles of my court, this Guildsman is Sheriff Krape. Adept of the Rangers’ Guild. Two decades ago, during the Inverness rebellion, he was my best hunter capturing more Highlander dissidents than any of my other agents. His efforts contributed greatly to my victory and the closing of the Inverness Inn in 1003.
In 1017, I sent him to Evermore during the Asgarn Invasion of the Dale. He is a national hero, a fervent worshiper of Eldin. He was my mentor when I was a young man, and now, he will undertake for me the most important mission of his life.”
The nobles muttered appreciably. Krape just felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He really was too old for adventure. His last visit to Evermore had nearly killed him. He’d gone there hunting a Highlander rebel and got caught up in a war that nearly destroyed Guildhall. One good thing had come from his mission to Evermore, though. He’d met Mriyeh Pride Clawbright and learned that the faith of Eldin had not been totally lost. Some still believed Eldin to be a god for all peoples.
Justin lifted his hand and motioned for Krape to rise. “Have you heard of the Daughter of Eldin?”
Krape stood. “Rumors, Your Grace. Nothing firm.”
As he returned to his throne, the King gestured to one of the high priests of Eldin. The woman stepped forward and stared with eyes that seemed to look and not truly see. These priests with their point hoods were all insanely loyal to Justin. They pushed the new faith of Eldin. The sect that preached human supremacy.
Krape remembered growing up and being taught that Eldin saved the realm by killing Grotar and ending the Orc Empire so that all people could be free again. There were not many of his generation left to object to the way children were taught these days, and those that spoke out didn’t live long.
The priests with the high pointed hoods had become much more numerous in the past few years. They were surrounded by rumor. Personally loyal to Justin, they had begun replacing clerics of Guildhall in the church in all the major cities. It wasn’t just the clerics, the cavaliers were also being replaced by these Knights of Eldin. From what Krape could tell, these were common people blessed by Eldin to become un-common, to gain Guildsman-like powers.
The priest began speaking. “The king wishes you to understand the events as we understand them. We learned that conditions would be proper to create an Avatar at a node near the Inn at Evermore. A group of vigilantes known as the Brothers of Redress actually secured a reconstructed ceremony from the Age of Death written to create an Avatar of Justice.”
“During the Maris Market Days, various groups converged on Evermore including the Cult of Shivakas and the Comedy of the Damned. All of the groups tried to recover the ceremony from the Brothers of Redress during the Market, but all were unsuccessful, including our team. So that evening, our priests made a bold move. Without informing the leadership of Cross Tower Keep, our priests and a unit of guards travelled to the ceremony site, attacked the Brothers of Redress, and seized the ceremony from the lawless vigilantes.”
“When we notified the Guildsmen of Evermore of our intent to create a Daughter of Eldin, they attacked our ambassador and began marching to the ceremony site with the intention of stopping us. They were delayed by a group of commoners, which gave us ample time to perform the ceremony. The Guildsmen arrived as the ceremony was being completed. The Avatar took some time to form, and everyone, including our people, thought that the ceremony had failed.”
“After the energy coalesced into Galaya, the Guildsmen spoke with her kindly and some told her she could leave. Trusting their words, she started to leave, but was attacked by some of the Guildsmen. She would have been killed, but the Guildsmen of Evermore started fighting amongst themselves. After a lengthy conversation, the Avatar and one of her guardsmen were able to escape by using the trick of dispersing their spirits. However, the Daughter of Eldin has not been seen since.”
The priest of Eldin, having provided her summary, withdrew to stand next to the knight of Eldin.
The king spoke into the silence. “Krape, you know the lands around Evermore. You know the people. I want you to find the Avatar and bring her to me.”
Krape did not wish to return to Evermore, the place held too many memories, but he could not refuse his king. Duty had always been his life. Loyalty to the land of his ancestors. “Yes, your majesty.”
“I am sending Knight Klein and one hundred of my personal guard to accompany you.” The king motioned to the armored man with the priests. “Knight Kline will be searching the Highlander villages to ensure they have not captured the Avatar. You know how those rebels are. They will do anything to undermine the good order of our nation.”
“Sire,” Krape said. “As a Guildsman, I am required to state that the Guild Council of Evermore passed a law that makes it illegal for agents of Holt to conduct investigations among the Highlanders seeking political asylum in the lands of Evermore.”
Justin’s eyes narrowed. “We are acting in the interests of our national faith. The Guildsmen of Evermore have no right to interfere.”
Krape opened his mouth to speak, but Klein spoke over him.
“Your Grace,” said the Knight. “Clearly, the Guild Council of Evermore is not acting in good faith. They made an unprovoked attacked on our people during their Maris Market Day. They continue to harbor and protect Highlander dissidents and criminals. Let us treat this Inn at Evermore like any other sovereign nation. If the Guildmasters of Evermore are acting like a government and passing laws that threaten Holt, let us simply declare war and crush them.”
“Let us not be hasty,” Krape said quickly. “Inns are places of peace for all Guildsmen. It’s not as simple as….”
“It is that simple,” the Knight declared. “The Guildsmen of Evermore killed our people. They killed our holy priests merely for performing a ceremony. The attack was unprovoked. We are a lawful faith. We have every right to create an Avatar of our god.”
“The Guild Council…”
The Knight shouted over Krape. “We are a nation in good standing with Guildhall. We do not need their permission to use our ancient lore. These Guildsmen are the criminals. They are the murders.”
“Silence,” spoke the King. “Knight Kline you will deal with the Highlanders as I have ordered. Sheriff Krape, you will explain to the Guildsmen of Evermore our position. We are a sovereign nation exercising our authority.”
Justin paused as if waiting for Krape to object, but the Sheriff had been around the king enough to know that there was nothing more to be said. The orders had been given and fealty demanded they be followed. This would not be the first time his oaths as a Guildsmen conflicted with his duty to Holt.
The king continued. “I will also be sending a retinue of priests. He gestured to the priestess who had spoken earlier. Priestess Hanna, you will lead nine of my Priests of Eldin. That should be enough to crush any resistance should the Guildsmen of Evermore try to enforce their unlawful authority.”
“And Krape….” Justin paused. “I want you to take over the garrison of Cross Tower Keep.”
“You honor me greatly, but I am a ranger. I am no politician.”
“You will have Knight Klein and the Priestess of Eldin to advise.”
Krape clenched his jaw together. There was nothing more he could say. Not in this room of sycophants.
Justin must have seen his disappointed. “Krape, my old mentor, the position is only temporary.” Justin’s voice softened. “When you locate the Daughter of Eldin, you will bring her here to me. But until then, I want you in charge. You will be able to use the entire garrison of Cross Tower Keep to find my bride.”
“Your bride?” Krape stammered.
“Yes. Krape,” Justin said. “Holt needs an heir. I shall marry Galaya, and together, we shall bring the Light of Eldin to the World.”
Everyone in the chamber cheered for their king… everyone except for Krape.