The Pawn XVII
The Divine temple stood an enormous white structure, the mass of which was the center room of prayer: the Equiltarium. The arched entrance to the temple had no gates, a design intending to make it feel open to all. If, however, the great steps leading up to it didn't overly intimidate the worshipers; for the climb up them was tedious even for William himself.
The roof of the temple was a round dome with a skylight around the center to allow more natural lighting into the temple. At the far end were the statues of the three divine gods, each standing 70 yards apart. The Judge stood on the left, the Sage in the middle, and the Outlander on the right.
The Judge statue represented a fierce man in his middle ages with a bustling beard, and bald head, made from dark slate stone. His hands wrapped around the hilt of a massive broad sword, where the edges were made from iron, and in the center a line of gleaming titanium.
The Sage resembles a humble elderly man with flowing robes of white granite stone. In one open palm held up was a sphere of gold, gleaming in the sunlight, to represent his wisdom. In the other hand held steady a massive mirror reflecting everyone who entered the temple. Writings etched in the stone at his feet read: Reflect upon yourself in the light and wisdom of the gods.
And the last statue was the Outlander. The statue was a simple dark granite stone carving of a cloaked figure with no visible face behind the hood. The sleeves went down past where there would be any visible hands, and the bottom also concealed where the feet should be. Little is known of the Outlander, so little is seen of her.
William had seen numerous other temples before, most of the same structure design overall but this was the only one where the Equiltarium took up the most space of the temple. It was clearly designed to be almost exclusively for the worshipers to come and pray. In the others, he has seen there were Equiltariums of sizes no larger than his own house, set in the far back of the temple while the rest of the space was dedicated to the library, or alchemy lab, or even the Sage's own quarters.
He took a left through the arched doorway into the outer ring of the halls. Brown wood doors, with hinges on the outside that made them open outward, lined the left side of the curved hall. The hall was empty save for a few acolytes in their simple wool breeches and uncolored tunics running errands for their sage mentors.
They paid him no heed, and he, in turn, stepped sideways to hinder them as little as possible when they rushed down the hall. He went all the way to the back, where his Holiness the Golden Sage Ordon, resided with his office. The double arching doors were made from polished Maple wood. Golden plaque lined the center of the doors with the figure of the Sage on it holding his sacred staff and orb.
William knocked on the doors and waited patiently. Just a moment later the door opened outward, William stepping back as they did, to reveal the golden Sage Ordon behind them. The gold sage Ordon, an elder man well into his eighties, had trim snow white hair, a clean face, and clean alabaster skin. He was a head smaller then William and wore white robes of silk laced with golden thread in a ring pattern.
He looked up with faded sea-blue eyes, which once might have gleamed brilliantly in his youth, and smiled. "Good day young man, what brings you here this day? Certainly not for prayer it seems," he chuckled at the last part.
William couldn't help but smile, "Umm no, your holiness-"
"Please call me Ordon young man."
"Ordon," he corrected himself. "I came here to talk, might I come in to do so?"
"Of course, of course, what use would an old sage be if not for his vast knowledge?" He turned and walked inside, William following behind him. "Been a rather boring day, and I don't often get many visitors. People seem to think the older you get, the less you want to be bothered, that goes double for Sages."
The office inside was well spaced, larger than his living room. On one end were a desk and a padded chair, sitting in front of a diamond shaped paned-window. In the corner of the back wall was a bookshelf, filled completely with thick books of all sorts, and a curving wooden roost jutting from the wall, from which a silver owl was perched. Another door sat in the back of the office, simple in design and light in weight, closed; probably the sage's sleeping courters.
Sage Ordon turned his padded chair away from the desk and sat in it, gesturing with a hand for William to take the other (and far less comfortable or elegant) chair. He set it, so they were facing each other and sat down.
"So what brings you to me today child?"
"I'm hoping you can tell me more about the coupe, from twenty-five years ago."
Ordon seemed to flinch from the question, hesitant for a moment in his response. "The coup? Such a prejudicial term for it. Why are you inquiring about that, you couldn't have been more than a toddler at that time?"
"A young lad of seven, to be precise. You do remember things from that time don't you?"
"Of course, I do!" Ordon snapped back at him. Quickly calming himself after his action, and sliding his fingers through his short hair. "Things were so calm before any of it. Truly nobody could have seen it coming, even now the whole things sound's so surreal it's almost hard to believe the young man sitting upon that throne is our rightful King."
"Those must have been some dark times," William said sympathetically. "Though I admit yes, I was too young to remember them well."
"Yes, yes a very hard and dark time," his eyes went distant, and his face grew solemn as if recalling a horrible nightmare. "Dark times indeed, and many hard choices. Even now I question myself, wondering if I'd made the right choices. Looking at what's happening now in the world because of it all, I pray for wisdom, but it hasn't come to me since then."
"Could you tell me a little more than that, what exactly happened after the coup attempt?"
"A war of politics erupted. Who should be the stand-in king, or Hand, for the years to come while the future king, a mere infant, grew to age? All the members of the court were gone, including the kings own council, so every Lord in every land with ambition was fighting for those few great spots of power.
"Before too long they would have raised their own armies against one another, and the whole world would be at war again as it were so before the three nations became one. I had to assert my authority at once before swords were drawn and blood spilled."
"And you did this alone, pick out the Kings own council while he was to come of age?"
"I-I, umm why yes of course. W-well I and the last surviving kings guard ser Erquin." There was hesitation in his answering, a pause to think. He was lying, William knew. "He helped me a lot in finding the proper hand to rule the kingdom, and council to guide the future king."
"Duncan White-Tree, forgive me your holiness, but that's an odd choice, thinking about it now. The man was a general of the Highlands before his new title, was he not?"
"He was indeed, but he had the backing of a majority of the highlands, something most valued at the time. His becoming hand, even if intended for a temporary role, promised the peace between the lands once again. After all, no one wanted to rise against the entire Highlands plus the crown with no hope for victory."
The sunlight coming in the windows set upon Ordon more directly, giving William a real good look at him and his robes; and their soft glow. He realized right away what they were, hidden before outside of the sunlight. It always goes back to the money, he thought. It's all connected, and it goes right up there to the top. This is what Erquin sent me for; he can't talk to me without being noticed, perhaps even targeted.
"It's said the sage's wisdom comes from a golden light, almost like the sun streaming through the window down on you."
Ordon chuckled, believing what William was saying was flattery. "I suppose so yes."
"That's Pyren Worm silk, is it not?"
"Your robes, I'm just now noticing with the light pouring in on them. It's insanely rare, must have cost a fortune to make those robes, Ordon."
Ordon said nothing, only scowled at him.
"You could buy out a noble’s lands and castles in the Green lands with those robes. You must have been an extraordinary Sage to have earned yourself such an exquisite robe."
"Yes, my many years of service have been generous to me," he said with a huff. "Now then I have matters to attend to this day, and I think you've taken enough of my time. See to your leave now."
"Of course sage, I thank you humbly for granting me so much of your valuable time. But I beg you one question more if you will?"
Sage Ordon glared at him indecisively. Thinking for a long moment before asking, "Just one?"
"Very well then, go on with it."
"How do you believe justice is delivered by our holy Judge?"
The question caught him so off guard that he just stared at him baffled. "Excuse me?" Was all he could say.
"You see," William began, digging into his pocket with one hand. "I believe that justice from the Judge is delivered not on the soul of men. No, those souls belong to the Outlander, out of the Judges reach. Justice is delivered by the Judge to us, the people of whom worship him."
"What are you prattling on about?"
"I won't lie and say I'm a holy man, Sage. But I am a man of justice, so was my father. I believe the Judge gives us the power to deliver those who have committed the most heinous of crimes to their rightful punishments, for no man’s action shall go without reward or consequence.
"Not all men, nor woman, choose to wield that power, so that's why there are men like me in the world. My father, Adam Royce, spent his entire life trying to judge rightfully men of crime. But he was just one man, and when he stumbled upon a crime so great, he was murdered, and betrayed by the very men serving under him."
"And what are you insinuating exactly?
"Honestly, I don't know your holiness. I've been chasing his killers for years now; they're shrouded in mystery and seem to have eluded the rightful wrath of the holy Judge. We can't bring every man to justice," he pulled out the bronze Rook and tossed it to Ordon, who caught it and stared at it with wide eyes. "But we can bring the Titanium sword to the worst of them, the ones who believe they are above all men."
Sage Ordon tossed the bronze Rook back at William, who caught it, then looked away sullen and guilty. Not saying a word.
"You follow the light of the Sage and his wisdom. I follow the righteous sword of the Judge." William bent to his knees, looking Ordon in the eyes. "Please, your holiness, share your wisdom and knowledge with me. Light up these shadows, and reveal to me those hiding in them."
Sage Ordon turned away. "You're just a man," he frowned. "Much like your father indeed, but he too was just a man. I'm sorry, but I cannot help you. If you wish to pray to the gods yourself, might I suggest kneeling before their statues in the Equiltarium. If you do not wish to pray might I suggest leaving the temple? Either way, I have much to do on this day and shall no longer be bothered."
He rose from his chair and left the room, so roused he seemed to forget this was his own office.