2.1 Prelude - Servus

Three years earlier:
Servus can't take his eyes from the letter at the center of the table. Phoenix - like the flaming bird he had seen in his vision. He realizes that he has missed some of debate in Duresca's austere council hall. Irritated by his lapsus, he tries to focus on head quaesitor Baruch's concluding words: "...which is why I think we should keep an eye on this dubious covenant."

He rises, still feeling a bit insecure about addressing his sodales, the men and women who had been his masters for so long. "I volunteer. I feel that by joining Phoenix and can serve both the order and the Lord."

When he hears the other quaesitores mumble approvingly, he realizes that the others had expected him to do just that. The rest is easy: It is decided that he stays at Duresca for another three years, overlooking the scribes' efforts to copy his gifts of welcome. The list the council decides on contains mostly mundane tomes - it may be too early and too dangerous to trust Phoenix with powerful summae.

(Minor adjustments in red)

[b]Winter, 1212 AD[/b]

It is rarely good news when you receive a wax tablet from Baruch's personal secretary. The few short words are decisively written and to the point.

As your face registers understanding, Secretary Chrysalis makes a grim face, "How can I help?"

"Chrysalis, destiny calls me." Servus' voice shakes with emotion as the reflections of the fire in the chimney dance in his eyes. "The time has come for me to go. Help me get my things ready and brief me on what we know about the Enemy's appearance. Choose the most reliable servants to pack the books."

Servus and Chrysalis stalk through the halls of Duresca, feeling each choice they must make is vital and overly rushed. They wade through a firestorm of activity, the fervor and excitement growing with each passing hour, as more and more magi prepare themselves for a hurried departure. Chrysalis summarizes the key points as Baruch made available to him, but much of his information seems to be contradicted by the snippets of overheard conversation from other scurrying magi.

  • The Reconquista forces won a major battle at Las Navas De Tolosa, but at heavy cost. The dead on the battlefield number in the thousands.

  • Order of Hermes mages, as well as Islamic wizards, openly supported at least one side of the battle. Chrysalis says they were Roman magi, but several passing Quaesitors are in fierce, open debate about this. In particular, there is heated debate about whether or not Rafas was there.

  • Demons and infernal agents were also present on the battlefield. It is unclear which side they were fighting on, or if they were even on a side. At least six demons were counted. At least three survived the conflict.

  • Powerful Dominion forces were also on the battlefield. Their exact nature is unclear.

  • Cersei Lannister, a Flambeau of Phoenix Covenant was positively identified as fighting a demon in the skies above the battle. She defeated the winged monstrosity at the cost of her own life. As Servus already knows, Phoenix Covenant is a Roman group that has been investigated many times for breaches of the OoH laws regarding direct interference in mundane affairs.

  • Tyrion Lannister, a Jerbiton also of Phoenix Covenant, was seen on the battlefield as well. He is presumed dead by Quaesitorial agents who were watching the battle.

  • The dead upon the battlefield have spawned many ghosts, who continue to fight, weeks later.

With his traveling party assembled and supplies requisitioned, Servus finds himself in a dining hall, along with a handful of Quaesitors and Redcaps, all reading a pile of scrolls that sits upon the table. Though the day has been fruitful, he is tired now, and nodding off. As he stares sleepily into a candeflame, the glow of it grows to fill his vision....

Sand falling through space.

Blood drops, like tears, falling through space.

Silver coins falling, passing from one sinful hand into another.

The last of the sand pours through the hourglass, the world turns upside down for a moment, and then the sand pours once more.

Blood pools grow in rhythm with the dripping beat of a heart, and touch the edge of a footprint in the sand.

A bag held open by a cloaked figure. Silver coins fall into it. A harsh Latin query, “Where is he now?”

The king’s throne is his own cross. Blood drips from his feet and into a footprint in the sand. The blood pools, turning the footprint into a map of Iberia, marching across it like the tides of the Reconquista.

A bag of coins, spilled across a table. Thirty silver tears flow from his eyes and land on the coins.

Coins falling. Blood falling. Tears falling. The world turns upside down for but one moment, before everything can be made right again.

Silver coins fall into the tide of blood sweeping across Iberia.

The king on the cross screams in despair, “No, father! I will not forsake them!” It is too late. His journey has ended, but he will not leave us alone. He screams in agony as three nails rip out of his hands and feet. They spin for a moment, like blades, before hurling themselves downward.

Two of the nails bury themselves in the sand and disappear from sight, but the third? The third lands in the Iberian bloodbath, amid the silver coins.

The world turns upside down for a moment, for just one tiny moment, and then a choice is made.