Packing up his things, Pretzel sighs, looking back at the hall and reflecting on all that it had stood for all of this time. The hall had been a good home to him. The heroes in whose hands he was leaving it were capable. They had all grown tremendously in the time he had known them.
Atramor was no longer the Podunk arms seller he once made him out to be. The lad had grown and would be a worthy leader of the hall. The respect others had for him and his ability to make even the rulers of the city listen to him would be massively important to the new political structure of Eubric and Heroica’s role in the city’s affairs.
Rone was a dependable lad. He would fight for what he thought was right. Was his sense of right and wrong good enough? Probably not, but then again, with Eubric the way it was and with most people looking out for themselves, just having someone willing to fight for what he thought was right was good enough. Besides, he would have the other heroes to balance him out.
Other heroes like Throlar. Another good lad. Probably the best of the lot as far as his sense of right and wrong, though possibly too slow to react in intense times. Nevertheless, he had had enough sense to speak to the Founders and try to win the battle through diplomacy instead of allowing it to continue as a massacre. It was a good thing that Arthur too had taken to negotiating at that time.
Where would we be if the Founders, even if it was only pixie dust images of them, had not joined us in fighting Rosier! I’m glad their spirits could come to peace with what was done and even help us in fighting off that old demon.
Pretzel’s thoughts returned to the other new veterans of Heroica.
Karie…well…he had had his reservations about her becoming a veteran. He had not been pleased by her outburst at Patricia when they had met. Could she be trusted to fight for what was right when she was so personally involved in the city with a husband and child and all? She had reacted in vengeful anger against Patricia, probably one of the few people who had really done some good for Eubric, and because of that it seemed that the command of the watch would be going to Hoples… hopeless Hoples.
Let’s pray he can do better than he did in the last investigation. At least he stood up for us when we needed him.
Who was the last of the new veterans? Ah, that green…
Pretzel shook his head, wondering how it was that the other heroes had not even nominated him, the man who probably had gone on more quests than any of the other heroes. Instead they had chosen a greenskin just for the sake of keeping up appearances of political correctness. Just to win over the “poor, oppressed” races of Eubric.
Bah! If we had not fought them off so long ago they would have raped and ravaged Eubric. But Eubric has forgotten those times. Just as they have forgotten and rejected the Bonapartes and Paladins who delivered them. But it’s good. Eubric had corrupted those noble organizations beyond measure. It is most unfortunate! Let’s hope Fervent can remain steadfast in his resolve.
Choosing the big greenskin as a veteran had seemed a slap in the face to those who sacrificed much in their much longer service to Heroica and Eubric, but…
Perhaps they did not choose the old king or I because they want a younger generation of heroes as veterans…
In any case, Heroica was not in bad hands. Even the greenskin had fought nobly when it had been required of him and, in truth, Pretzel could not think of much to say against him.
Damn, I’m growing soft, aren’t I?
Stepping out the door, Pretzel noted how unusually it was bright today, much brighter than normal, so bright in fact that everything around him began to disappear as the light clouded his vision.
“What in God’s name is this? Is this blindness? I thought I was immune to that.”
Pretzel looks down.
No I can still see myself, and yes, I am still wearing my cloak.
“Good day, Petrikadoc!” comes the unfamiliar voice from the familiar figure.
“Oh, no! Not you again,” Pretzel groans, seeing his angel approach, arrayed as she always had been. “ “You know, you were one of the reasons I sought a different path than the Paladonic way.”
“Do I offend you and your sense of righteousness?”
“Well…no, but, yes…I don’t know.”
The angel laughs.
“Where am I?”
“I think you know well enough…”
“True, true, I do, but…will I meet…?”
“No, not him, but…I do not even know if I am write in saying ‘him’.”
“The great God. The creator of Ennoc and—”
“No. Not while you are yet living. Not while your mission on Olegaia remains.”
“Then I am not finished?”
“I will leave that for my lord to answer himself.”
A figure drifts forward, seemingly from out of the light, though in truth at the same time it seems as if the light is emanating from his face.
“Well done, Petrikadoc.”
“That name sounds familiar…”
“It is your name, though you have forgotten for some time.”
“Will I remember when I leave here?”
Pretzel sighs, glancing towards the angel, but then looking away.
“The helper I gave you offends you?”
Pretzel casts a sceptical sidelong glance.
“The other paladins I worked with had respectable angels. Some great, some small, but all—”
“I choose the angels I assign to my warriors with care. My decisions are not random.”
“That is of little comfort. It seems you chose my angel to humiliate me.”
“Perhaps you needed it.”
“Were you afraid to hear my voice, Petrikadoc? Were you afraid of the mission I had for you? I see that you ran from the path of the paladin, that you feared the road you were on.”
“Was I meant to stay?”
“You made your decision, and even though it may have been a bad one, it could not hinder your destiny.”
“Then all of this was part of my destiny?”
“Would you have had it any other way?”
Pretzel hesitates, but a feeling of anger wells up inside of him, anger that he suppressed for so long, anger against himself and against the decisions he had made. Suddenly, the words rush from his mouth as if involuntarily.
“But I strayed far from my purpose. My mind is not as single as it once was. I put up with gross shortcomings in those around me. And why? Just because I lacked the will to stand up for what I knew was right. Damn it! I sided with those bloody werelions posing as your warriors to fight off soldiers more noble than they. I stood with my infatuated party leader and his flame simply because I liked him, even though they sought to uncover the mysteries of the deep. Hel…am I even allowed to say her name in these halls?”
“She is a creation of Theleg Oco, just as you and I are. Why would you not? Do you think I fear her name? …But do go on.”
“Well, the noble warriors. They tried to stop us. They fought with us against criminals, but they sought to stop us from uncovering the mysteries of the deep, and for good reason, but I fought them instead of siding with them as I should have—”
“Are you sure you should have sided with them?”
“How could I not have? They had the best interests of the world at heart. They knew the dangers of meddling with such things. They stood for something and—”
“But tell me. What did they ever accomplish?”
“How can you say that their way of going about protecting the world was right unless you look at what they accomplished for the world? Compare, for instance, the achievements of Heroica against their achievements. Who outshines whom?”
“Well. I don’t know how I could quantify such a thing.”
“What?!? Coming from just taking down your second archdemon, you tell me that you’re not sure if Heroica has done more good for the world than the Order Imperial?”
“Well…I suppose, but…”
“Tell me, Petrikadoc. Do you think the Order Imperial could have taken down the archdemons?”
“Could you have done it alone, then? Or only with the ‘acceptable heroes’?”
“Think about it seriously.”
Pretzel shakes his head.
“You may have compromised what you thought was best, but you built friendships; friendships that lasted. The other heroes would not have stood by you had you not stood by them when they needed you. Yes, the Order Imperial sought to glorify my name, but, they chose to put undue importance on minor issues all the while missing the major issues that desperately needed addressing.”
“Such as the protection of Eubric. Tell me, how many times did the Heroes of Heroica save Eubric from destruction?”
“More times than I can recall.”
“And how many times did the Order Imperial save Eubric or aid Heroica in doing so?”
Pretzel looks down, knowing he had no answer. Finally, he speaks again.
“But…but…it’s more than that. Granted, some good came from my decisions, but much evil came about as well. I…I killed the boy. The prophet. I mean, I know we fought him and the others as good as killed him already, but he was still alive.”
“Oh, I reasoned that it was the right thing to do. I have told myself over and over that it was the only choice, but…”
“I know you have. You have attempted to deceive yourself while condemning yourself at the same time.”
“Will I ever be free from the memory of what I have done?”
“When you strive for good, but do wickedly, those wicked deeds will always come back to haunt you…unless you harden your heart to them, but that is worse still.”
“I have killed many people, but he was but a child.”
“Yes, you have. Many lives have been cut short before their time, including the boy’s.”
“Does he…do you think?”
“Forgive you? No. You have wronged him greatly. Though he himself was not above reproach either, and many have cried out to me against him and against his order.”
“The Order Imperial?”
“Then we were justified in bringing them down?”
“They had to face the consequences of their actions, but that does not excuse you or the paladins in your turn. Justice will be brought to all when my light shines on them at the end of time and the motivations of their hearts are revealed.”
“I never trusted those werelions from the start…and working with that kobald…ugh!”
The general frowns.
“Remember, Petrikadoc, times are changing. The camps of the gods are no longer what they once were. Theleg Oco has put an end to much that once was. No longer do I war against Torrik and his children. I am sure you have yourself seen many children of his who have taken on my garments.”
“I have, but…you cannot tell me they are indeed sincere.”
“They are. One of my greatest servants in Heroica has been a child of Torrik. I know him and he knows me.”
“But…they are evil. They slew so many.”
“They did indeed. And you slew many of them as well. But that was a different time.”
“But…you told me. My mission was to fight them.”
“Your mission of a bygone day. Your mission was to protect the people from them; the people of Uland and of the kingdoms. You did that. Your mission was complete, but you were not content with that. You were not content to make peace when the time for peace had come. There was a time when I greatly valued your determination, but times have changed. Dark forces have arisen and no longer can we toss our power at one another, as we must combine our power against the forces of evil.”
“So you are saying I must now be on the side of the greenskins?”
“You have done admirably well in working with them so far in spite of your inner misgivings.”
“Has it been so awful thus far? Have they always sought to stab you in the back?”
Again, Pretzel had no answer.
“Have you any further questions?”
Trying to sort out the mental confusion his mind was in, Pretzel struggled to form the questions that were hidden somewhere in his mind.
“Just…why Eubric? Why do so many problems seem to stem from that city? There are quieter corners of the world where the archdemons could have done their work unopposed, and yet, instead, they choose a city in which they are sure to face opposition or at least realms that are within Heroica’s sphere of influence. I don’t understand it.”
“There is much that you do not understand and which you do not need to understand. Suffice it to say, Eubric is an important city. It is a sort of hub of the spirit world. Yes, the demons look upon Eubric with great lust and desire. They know that whoever holds Eubric holds the fate of the world. That is why they have thrown their all into fighting for it, not just once but continually. Eubric’s freedom has a magnetic pull on both the good and the evil. That is why it will never be free from problems, but also why there is always hope for it, so long as it remains so. Eubric must remain free, Petrikadoc. It is absolutely vital.”
“I…I do not know if I still have the power to keep fighting for it. I am so worn…so tired.”
“You may not need to. A stage of your journey is complete. The enemy’s power has received a critical blow by your banishing those two demons and their peons. No, the enemy has not the power to launch another full-scale attack on Eubric. Not now, anyway. Their forces will gather and attack once again at some point, but now they are too weak. They need time to regroup. Your work in Eubric is over for the time being.”
“Then what I am to do?”
“You will retire to a country, to a land that I will lead you to. Now is no longer the time for war and strife. You will put down the garments of the guardian of Heroica once again. You are no longer to be the shield of others. Now, you will to be a light to the people of the world. To minister my gift of healing to the nations, that when the time comes and the enemy’s forces grow strong yet again, many will remember Heroica and come to their aid because of the good that you have done for them.”
“I do not know if I can do more. I feel weak, spent.”
“Do not worry. Go in the strength of my power. Take on the garments of light. You shall be called a High Priest now. So cast aside your weapons of war, and keep only those things that you can use in your current profession.”
Pretzel removes all of the excesses in his inventory, but as he removes the Prophet Imperial’s Armour, he is stopped.
“Keep the armour of the lad. May it serve as a reminder to you of where you have come from.”
“But this armour weighs on my mind. Every time I see it, it drives into my conscience. There is nothing I would rather rid myself of.”
“But that is why you must hold onto it, that it may be in your memory, a reminder of the evil that you have done, but of the power I have to turn that evil around. Besides, Simon has a mission for you to fulfil for, having snuffed his life out, you must now bear his burden. Yes, the time is coming when you too shall take on the robes of a prophet and minister my words to people, but that time is not yet. For now stay faithful to the calling I have given you, but never forget that more is to come.”
“Will I ever return to Eubric?”
“Undoubtedly. You will be led to return, just as you always have, in their hour of greatest need, but you and your friends have done enough to ensure that that hour will be some time in coming. So do not fear for Eubric, for you leave it in capable hands.”
Pretzel nods and bows.
“Go now Pretzel, High Priest of my Righteous Light.”
High Priest Pretzel, the Super Sleuth (Played by Palathadric) 465-year-old male “Apostle” High Cleric
Level 41.2 *Immune to Darkness, Wood, Earth, Water, Light, Fire, Lightning, Ice, Wind, *Blinded*, *Weakened*, *Frailty*, *Asleep*, and *Confused*
Power Bonus: 2 (+5 Front Row)
Defence: 6 (+11 x # of Party Members) (+5 Back Row)
Health: 74/74 9 + 15 + 40 + 3 + 2 + 5
Equipment: Cloak of the Grand Vizier (SP: 11 multiplied by the number of party members; Grants immunity to Darkness, Wood, Earth, Water, Light, Fire, Lightning, Ice, Wind, *Blinded*, *Weakened*, *Frailty*, *Asleep*, and *Confused*; Backwear), Strategist's Shako (+5 power while in the front row, +5 SP while in the back; Headwear), Darksteel Armour (SP: 6; Max. Health +3; Bodywear), Rock Gauntlets (Grants the wearer Iron Fist at no ether cost; Suitable for anyone; Handwear), Lens of Speed Reading (allows a scroll to be read in addition to a normal action; Accessory; Suitable for scroll users), Dual Staff (WP: 14; Ice, Lightning, Fire, Wind, Light; Deals *Bleeding 3*; Dual Strike; Staff)
Inventory: Weapons: Tyrant's Maul (WP: 29; causes *Hexed*; Hammer), Quarterstaff (WP: 4/8 against Humanoids; Staff), Staff of the Necromancer (WP: 12; damages Undead; +1 Level to raised Undead; Staff), Flying Cross (WP: 11; Darkness; Broomstick), Steak (WP: 1; instantly kills vampires on successful hits; suitable for all) Artifacts: Bumble Fanshirt (SP: 1; Vermin with level less than half of the wearers are scared and won't directly attack the wearer; Bodywear), Order Imperial Prophet's Armor (SP: 8; Grants Command; Suitable for Prophets; Bodywear), Soothing Slippers (Meditation restores 5 ether; Footwear), The Good Book (Grants the Convert job trait - the user can turn any allied or neutral NPC to their faith, gaining their respect; user gains 10 gold from each conversion; suitable to Monk Pretzel only; Accessory) Gems: Amethyst, Emerald, Garnet, Aquamarine, Ethereal Opal (Ice and Fragile) Scrolls: Scroll of *Sealing*, Scroll of *Blindness*, Scroll of *Confusion*, Scroll of *Minimizing* (Has 1/2 chance of causing the *Minimizing*-effect on the target; costs 10 ether.), Scroll of Arc *Sleep*, Scroll of Elemental Aura (Enables the user to cause the target's attacks deal only elemental damage corresponding to a gem available to the user for the duration of one battle. Each casting has a 50/50 chance of success and costs 5 ether) Consumables: 10 Grand Potions, Cherry (Restores 1 ether), 5 Grand Tonics, 2 Tonics, Ether Core, 15 Remedies, 3 Neutralizers, Grand Elixir (Restores full health and ether to target and remedies all negative effects), 7 Bones, Milk, Soma, 2 Elixirs, Smoke Bomb Tools: Bedroll, Pickaxe, Magnifying Glass, Telescope, Shovel, Magic Compass, Magic Shovel (will always find something when used, limited to three uses per quest), Dice Bag of Fortune (tool; when used on an enemy, causes their loot rolls to be rolled twice)
Karie, sitting at a table in Heroica Hall, suddenly notes a pink slip of paper appear before her with a bag of holding beside it.
Karie, forgive my sudden departure. It seems I have been driven to other lands. I doubt I shall ever see you again for my calling is in other lands. But take this bag of holding. You will find many useful weapons and artefacts therein. Perhaps you may keep them in Heroica’s Armoury. That way they may be of use to any new heroes on their first quests and returned when not in use. Whatever the case, I trust your judgment.
PS: Keep well and prosper. I wish you, Masson, and your child all the best. Congratulations on your new appointment.