The Adventures of Zeron the Priest.
Today we join the story of a poor little priest named Zeron. Zeron is a very devout priest of humble beginnings that has suddenly been thrust into the middle of the greatest advent rue of his life. He was the most promising of the acolytes in the small town of Stillwater, and so when a rash of unexplained thefts needed solving naturally he was the one entrusted with the task. It started off simple enough, the church sent out a call for help, asking anyone who was able and wanted to make a small reward to please come help root out these vile bandits.
So on a bright and sunny morning there were 12 mercenaries gathered in the church courtyard, all itching to get on with the hunt. They were divided among the four acolytes evenly, Zeron getting stuck with a couple humans who seemed to have been raised by pigs, and an elven maiden. At least she was attractive enough that it might make dealing with the other two worth it, and hey, he was half-elven so he had an in.
But we digress. The mission plan was simple, each group would travel a set distance in one of the four cardinal directions and then turn right, and would make a sweeping pastern clockwise. When they got to the starting point of the group beside them they would extend out further and continue clockwise until they found the dirty bandits. Simple, yes, but nothing is ever as simple as it seems. It was all a rouse, the church it seems had other information sources. Oberon, the high priest, took our young hero aside and told him that they were positive that the bandits were coming from the south, which just happened to be the direction to which he was assigned. This, it turns out, was no accident. "We are counting on you," Oberon told him. And so, our young hero set out full of confidence both in himself, and in the fact that was doing the will of God.
They all set out to the south and it became quickly evident that his men did not share his confidence in Our Just Lord. This did not phase the young priest, for he had faith enough for them all. He was certain that he would be one of the glorious few who's prayers were answered, and the power of God would flow through him and manifest physically at his call. It wasn't long until he got his chance to prove it to his troops, a noise caught there attention. Zeron prayed to God for help and blessing and it was granted, for they encountered the enemy and slaughtered them in the just name of God.
Things were not so simple anymore though, for it turns out the raiders were not human, no they were something else entirely. They stood somewhere around 4 feet tall, with fur all over their bodies. They seemed to be rats breed with men, and they stank of pure evil. Luckily one of the humans was a tracker, and under the guidance of the young priest their lair was discovered. After harassing the rat men to test their strength, they returned to the small town of Stillwater for supplies and to report what they had found.
Yet again, things became more complicated. Oberon informed young Zeron that there was suspect that a library of blasphemous writings existed in the lair of these rat men. Tomes so vile that the eyes of man mustn't ever fall upon their pages. He entrusted the young priest to destroy it, and gave him the tools to do so, two flasks of a special oil that would send it up in flames.
The next morning, fresh and prepared, his little set out again, this time, to go deep within the heart of the rat men's lair. They fought their way past the door guards and into the gloom. They were not prepared for the odds they faced, and it was only by the grace of God they lived. They were wounded and in need of healing, a role which young Zeron took quite seriously. They made themselves a makeshift hiding place, and holed up for two days while they recovered. They decided they needed more supplies and so fought their way out of the stronghold, and made a daring dash for cover. They managed to escape and headed back to Stillwater with more than two score rat men dead behind them.
Now, during the time they were there, something happened that started out young priest to question his orders. He found a note in his pack that said the church was trying to destroy some very important information. That it was with-holding truth from the people that they supposedly served and protected. This would have normally been easily dismissed, but things were not adding up. It seemed every time he talked to Oberon he found something new the old priest had with-held, and it was Oberon who had his mentor executed on false accusations of blasphemy, just so he could be the soul priest in charge of the Stillwater church.
While in town he decided to get to know his troops better, to be a better leader. The church dropped another bombshell on them, they knew what the rat men were. Zeron was sure that it had escaped his less wizened hirelings, but he did not miss the fact they claimed to have never seen or heard of one of the rat men when they brought the prisoner back from their first outing. Things were not adding up, not at all.
Back they went, and stormed the stronghold, this time they met the enemy head on, and the swarms poured out of the walls up the tunnels and they fought valiantly. During the battle one of the rat men used arcane sorcery to summon a swarm of rats that would have surely spelled doom the band of adventurers. Perched on a stairwell trying to hold off a hoard of rat men, the swarm appeared at the top of the stairs and was going to sweep down upon them. Zeron did the only thing he could, he retrieved the vilest from his pack and hurled them at the swarm. The flames engulfed it, and saved them from certain defeat.
The fight on the stairs was rough, and bloody. But they held their ground and the Lord answered prayers of healing and blessing. Though suddenly it seemed yet again that they were lost. The tracker fell, opening a hole in their line that would allow the hoard to surround them, and rend them to pieces. Zeron risked his own life, and called upon the Lord yet again, beyond what he should have been capable of. The lord heard him and not only healed the tracker, but also their fighter. With that the battle was won,
The rat men's leader fell and then the last few that were resisting turned and ran. Zeron surveyed the carnage of more than another two score dead rat men. It seemed so much more when they were fought as a single group, and not a series of smaller groups. They decided to go back to Stillwater and rest, recover from their grievous wounds and then come back to finish things off. Our young priest had much to think about, for the rat men had priests, who could heal. He saw it, it was as powerful as his own, but it was none-the-less healing. All his life, the church had taught him that all healing had to come from God. That if God did not will it so, it did not happen. Yet here it was, enemies of the Lord, healing. If the church was wrong about that, then perhaps they were wrong about the tomes. Maybe the reason that this was shown to him, and the reason he was guided into the situations he was in, was that the Lord was trying to show him the truth?
As he walked back to town he took stock of his companions again. Perhaps they were more wise than he gave them credit for? One thing was for certain though, he no longer looked at them as servants, or hirelings, or lessors. No, he saw them as friends, probably his first ever. He had come to like them, despite the constant barbs and jests about elves. Yes, this was the reason the Lord had sent him, to learn the truth of the world that he could never learn inside the walls of the church.
Next week... Into the bowels of the rats' lair.