Phantasmagoria - Chapter 5
The four friends went to bed with their heads filled with dreads: killer goblin crossbows, fungal blights, invisible angry divine messengers and visions of Kelloran as a demon snack at the Lost Gods Altar. It was not a restful night. The next day, they gathered for dinner. Kelloran still looked shaken. The other three worried silently as they ate.
“I had a dream. “ Kelloran finally spoke. “I don’t know if it is my dream or some divine vision, but there is a connection between the blight, the otherworldly beast Thomas saw and the unseen messengers. I think we need to start somewhere and I think it’s with the angels.”
The four looked at each other for a moment before Chells spoke. “Okay, let’s start reading.”
Many, many hour passed. Leafing through the oldest scrolls of the library, Stone, Kelloran and Chells continued to try to find out the secret of the silent angry ones and the divine Messengers. Thomas dozes in the corner. The alchemist drifted off to sleep while the other three chattered on about their own half-baked theories about who or what the unseen visitors are. Chuckling, the trio quietly buried Thomas' slumbering form in the stacks of discarded scrolls.
They had gotten into the more rare theological scrolls that discussed divine entities that hold a rank lesser than Deity. They had read all about Elder Spirits such as the Telltales, the Damned Musician and the Gatekeeper and muse agents like the Wild Huntsman and the Crier of Fate's Warning. They all decided that none of these descriptions fit the Messengers but there was no lore about Angels in the Fallenstar Library. The three friends skimmed through more scrolls and cracked-wise about where Rowan hid the scrolls on angels before she vanished.
A sudden rustle of cascading scrolls startled them as Thomas arose from his plot-induced stupor.
''You guys suck." he muttered as he swiped off the last of the clinging scrolls. ''So why don't I just cast Limited Retrocog to see where the angel scrolls were last seen?"
Kelloran thought for a moment. ''That's actually a good idea Thomas."
"Go back to sleep Thomas and think up something else." Stone quipped.
"JuSt CaSt ThE sPeLL ThOmAs." Chells retorted in that ghostly voice he gets when he is tired or transitioning between life and death.
The drowsy alchemist took a moment to clear his head before casting his spell. In his mind's eye, Thomas saw a window to the past open and he directed the spell to show this window to be visible to all present. A templar in monastic robes sits in a dark cloister amongst stacks of religions texts and scrolls. Two scrolls rest on the desk. The monk seems to be transcribing the information onto a third partially finished scroll. The script and style are identical but the text appears to be different. Thomas can only make out the two titles; one scroll reads The Nine Orders and the second scroll is titled The Twelve Orders. The vision faded. The four friends looked at each other in bewilderment.
"Okay, what the hells was that?" Stone asked. "Got me." Kelloran replied.
Obviously, not wanting to admit he had wasted a spell Thomas focused on the spot where the vision had flickered into, and then out of, existance. "Did you guys recognize the priest that?"
Chells' blurred for a moment as he searched his memory. "NoPe. NeVeR sEEn hIm BeFoRe."
"The monk's cell looked really old. Maybe he is from the Great School?" Stone theorized.
Kelloran shook his head as he swiftly did the math of the spells time scope and Thomas' level of power. "Too long ago. Thomas can't see much more than 200 years into the past."
Thomas nodded his head. "I can feel that it wasn't long ago at all; just a few months at most. This is current events not ancient history."
"So who the hells is he and why did we see him when we are trying to find the library's angel scrolls?" Stone inquired clearly intrigued but evidently stumped. ''LeT's FiNd OuT." Chells proposed.
In short order, spells were cast, spirits were interviewed, skills were applied and patron deities were beseeched. An hour later the four reconvened in the tavern. Thomas poured himself a Ymir Ice Ale. Stone sipped cider and tossed darts through the disencorporated Chells. The spirit-believer floated cross-legged above the ground, while Kelloran spoke. The Restorer absent-mindedly fiddled with his extremely rough-hewn Staff of the Templar.
"I brought this to help awaken Sinjinkin. Of course, he would recognize the staff of his brethren."
Tossing another dart through Chells' phantom sternum, Stone cracked-wise. "The thing looks like it lost the fight with a deranged beaver."
Chuckling, Kelloran considered the wood-carved staff and continued. "Its not pretty but it is potent. Anyways, Sinjinkin woke up from his sleep of the dead and he started talking and talking and talking about angels. Seems like there is about a billion opinions as to who or what angels are, their powers, their organization and their very nature. Some say, angels were the gods chosen beings until the creation of Mortals who possess free will. A few just look at than as over-grown other- dimensional fairies, but it’s not a popular opinion. Sinjinkin droned on and on about the different orders of angels. Some scriptures mention only two ranks in the heavens: Angels and Archangels. Other holy texts mention Seven Orders, some talk about nine ranks of angels and still others mention Twelve Orders. There are Thrones, Dominions, and a whole bunch of other types of angels. In short, despite hundreds of years of scriptural references to divine messengers the Templars know officially jack about angels."
Chells spoke next. "WhILe you woke up sInJiNKin, I..."
"Dude, what the hell did you say? I can't understand you. It sounds like you are in an echo chamber." Thomas interrupted.
Chells cleared his throat and spat out a gob of ectoplasm.
"Ew!" he said, his voice now sounding more human. "As I was saying, while Kelloran woke up Sinjinkin, I tried to rouse Hergyn. Once I finally got the old bat up, he was surprisingly lucid. He covered a lot of ground as usual but the main thing I pulled from his musings were angels are aligned to air. Not sure what that had to do with anything but then we switch to the scrolls. There he became a lot more useful . He said that the two scrolls we saw weren't the same. One is a deliberately flawed counterfeit of the other. The monk was mis-scribing the original for sense reason but I can't think of why someone would do that. What did you two figure out?"
Thomas spoke first. "I tried to figure out where the scrolls were, so I hiked up to Candlewood and prayed to Allahn. It was so great to light the candles and stared into the flames as I recited the old ritual. I lay down in the grass and looked up at the stars. Then I heard his voice and he said the scrolls lie with the False Brotherhood."
"Who are they?" Kelloran inquired.
"My divine intercession was even more cryptic." Stone commented. "I tried to commune with the Phoenix to find the key to the missing scrolls I pumped all my prayer mana into the spell and the only thing I got from a fourth tier spell was a cryptic clue. Luckily, it wasn't in the form of a rhyming riddle. It was one word 'apocrypha.' Whatever that means."
"It means bogus or non-canonical writings. Things outside the agreed upon holy scriptures of the Templar.” Kelloran recited.
“Someone was paying attention in Sun’s Day school.” Thomas smirked.
“No, I just like obscure lore so I’m drawn to apocrypha more than the standard scripture.” The Restorer replied.
Growing mildly frustrated, Stone asked. “So my Bocu, fourth tier divine message helps us out exactly how?”
They were all silent for a moment. Kelloran closed his eyes and concentrated and then looked startled for a moment. He looked around the room as if something in the shadows would suddenly appear. He turned back to the others and spoke. “I think I got something. Virtue-wise, I have a strong bond to Truth and …”
“Me too.” Stone interjected.
“Me too.” Thomas concurred.
Chells shook his head. “Love lore but Truth is not my Virtue now Spiritu…”
“It’s a capital A!” Kelloran blurted clearly excited about his epiphany and miffed at his friends’ side-tracking.
“What’s a capital A?” Chells asked.
“Its Apocrypha with a capital A not apocrypha lower case! It’s a person place or thing!” The Restorer exclaimed.
The truth crept into Stone’s head. “Oh… Dawn. I guess I need the flaming pigeon to write shit out for me not just whisper it in my ear.”
Thomas already had his eyes closed and was deep in silent prayer when a scroll appeared from thin air and drifted down to the tavern’s floor.
“Cool! It never did that before. I used my Truth Boons and Know Lore spell to find out about Apocrypha. Since it is a person or thing the spell worked but it also made a real scroll pop out!”
“Read it!” The other three said in impatient unison.
In his booming voice Thomas read aloud from the mysterious scroll:
His nom de plume is Apocrypha and it is only as Apocrypha that he has any real significance. His real name is unimportant, for he is an unimportant man. In his everyday life, he is an insignificant and nearly unknown research librarian of the Scribes Guild. His unceasing task is to scour through old, moldering texts searching for canonical or historical inaccuracies. Everyday, he reads, rereads and then compares and contrasts a dozen or so texts. He weighs the author’s reputation, merits and schooling, the sources of information, and their past record of embellishments to decide what is true, what is untrue and was is blatant fraud. After two decades of unwavering and unrewarded diligence, the absurdity of his chosen profession finally dawned upon him. One can’t search for truth like panning for gold. It’s all subjective speculation and perception. No one can tell you exactly who started a war and why. They can just tell you a war occurred. Years of maddening hair splitting and fact finding, led this inconsequential librarian to begin to fabricate inaccuracies out of boredom. Some of his frauds were so well crafted that they were never detected as counterfeit but instead were accepted as part of the historical canon. The lowly scribe found creating false religious doctrine, apocrypha, to be the most challenging and rewarding.
Eventually, his skills at forgery and fabrication drew forth the attentions of the Cult of the Deceivers, the conclave of the once-demon Cinder. The Deceivers are a minor cult compared to the insidious Cult of the Dead, the merciless Cult of the Pentacle, or the secretive Cult of Darkness, but their flair for high-brow deception and undermining the linchpins of society’s “Truths” greatly appealed to the anonymous scribe. He took the cult-name of Apocrypha, his favorite flavor of ruse.
Kelloran groaned. “We have to take on the damned Cult of the Deceivers just to get a frickin’ straight answer! This sucks!”
Chells replied. “Maybe we are approaching this from the wrong angle. Maybe we don’t need that lore or to fight the Deceivers to get it. Maybe there is another way to deal with all this weird shit collectively or as separate issues. “
Clearly discouraged, Kelloran responded “Maybe.”