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Tales Of Moonsea - The Herald of Chaos
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  Based in the Harbor district of

he Dreadlord's Throne, The Temple of Bane

The smell of burning candles and incense floated thick in the room. It had been designed to be a ballroom, not a sacrificial chamber, and the smoke couldn't go anywhere but the hastily arranged vents on the ceiling and the heads of those attending the ceremony. The old priest by the altar tried to control his anger and give a certain dignity to the ritual, despite the demeaning location where it was taking place. If it hadn't been by the unfortunate events of the day before, the offering would be taking place on the obsidian slab that topped the main altar in the Dreadlord's Throne, as it was meant to be. With a gesture, he commanded the choir to start their praises to the Dark Lord. A deep drone filled the already charged room as the monks began their chanting.

The screams could be heard in the chamber well before the side door opened and once it did they drowned the chanting with a series of vile curses and insults. The goblin, bound and with signs of having been flogged, was dragged into the room by two slaves entirely dressed in red robes. Much to the delight of the attendants, he unsuccessfully wiggled and tried to free himself from his handlers, which unceremoniously dumped and then shackled him on top of the altar, where he remained spouting incoherent threats. The priest was not amused, and he moved on with the ritual.

"All bow to His Might, All obey His Command, All submit to His Will. Praised be our Dark Lord Bane!", he shouted over the maddening noise. The audience kneeled, and the choir stopped chanting all of a sudden. Startled, the goblin paused for an instant, only to resume his litany of obscenities. He paused again, this time prompted by a fist slamming into his face. "Be SILENT!" the priest commanded as he punched the goblin. And if that was not enough, he placed an ornate dagger on his throat. That seemed to convince the creature to remain quiet.

"Yes, brothers and sisters, we gather here today to praise the Will of our Lord, to whom we humbly submit our bodies and souls. Rule us, oh Bane, with an iron Fist and let us not stray from your Path, lest we be crushed by your Wrath", he continued as he looked up to the audience, the dagger still firmly placed against the goblin's throat.

"Come forth, Haleb, and tell your brothers and sisters of your grievance, by Bane's Will", he continued. A frail old man stood up among the kneeling audience and walked toward the altar, where he turned and faced the gathering.

"Your Holiness", the old man said in a trembling voice, "I am not worthy. I am weak and old and my time on this plane is already spent. All I have is the joy of seeing my progeny grow and become strong servants of Our Lord Bane. But I could not... I could not..." As his voice broke and tears flowed from his eyes, the priest laid his free hand on the old man's shoulder. "My eldest grandson", the man continued, "he... he was snatched by one of these creatures", and as he turned to look at the goblin his old eyes flared with unrepentant ire. "He was taken! Taken and never to be seen again! And all he did was to stray once into the ruins! My poor daughter, she..." He could not finish the sentence and burst into tears. The priest muttered something on his ear and the man walked down, back to his keeling place, consumed by grief.

"You know Haleb", the priest said, making a short pause to let the words sink. "He is a good citizen and a faithful Banite. Two of his sons died defending the Word of Bane against the heathen. And just when his life of dedication and worship is rewarded with a quiet life and a caring family, these beasts... these despicable creatures that roam unchecked the ruins of the once proud streets of Phlan, these things have taken what Haleb loved most. His grandchild, probably dead… hopefully dead, for life among the goblins is worse than death itself. His daughter, the child's mother, found dead by her own hand. And what does the City Watch do about it? Send a few patrols, a pitiful display of power that sends the vermin into hiding but does not root it out." The priest paused again, allowing the murmur from the crowd to grow.

“What do I hear? What do the people of Phlan call for? Speak LOUDER!" he called out.

“Justice!" one woman shouted.

“LOUDER, I SAY!!!"

“JUSTICE!" “LAW AND ORDER!" “DEATH TO THE RUIN DWELLERS!" “REVENGE!" The congregation was howling at this point, so the priest raised his hand, demanding silence with a swift gesture.

“I hear the good people of Phlan demanding justice. The Church of Bane is a defender of Justice. Those who break the law should receive swift punishment, and be made an example so others do not dare following on their steps."

“I hear the good people of Phlan demanding the empire of the law. The Church of Bane is a Champion of the Law. Everything and everyone must be bound by the law, and the law must be enforced not just when crimes are committed, but well before! A strong Watch is the embodiment of the law, and they should be allowed to destroy the criminals before the thought of committing a crime is nurtured in their hearts".

“I hear the good people of Phlan demanding the cleansing of the Western Ruins. By Bane's will, it shall be done! The Church of Bane summons all volunteers, local or foreign, to destroy those who wish to destroy us, to make the ruins habitable again, to rebuild the lost city!"

The crowd was roaring again and the priest paused once more, this time smiling. By now, the goblin's eyes were about to pop out of their sockets, the dagger's point about to break his skin as the priest spoke to his audience in a softer voice.

“I hear the good people of Phlan calling for revenge. Revenge. No, brothers and sisters. Revenge is but a lesser evil, brought forth by the lack of proper Justice, a necessary shortcoming when the Law does not reach the most wicked, a substitute of the ultimate Order, which can only exist in and by Bane's Will. Because when Bane rules over Faerun, all will be subject to his Might, and those who refuse to do so will respond to his Justice! ALL PRAISE BANE!!!"

The congregation was incensed, the moment was right. The priest turned to look at the terrified goblin's face. He stared back at him, afraid of even begging for his life. The priest took the dagger away from his throat, to the surprise of goblin and congregation alike.

“Creature. I ask you now, and will not ask twice. Do you submit to the Will of the Dark Lord Bane, may He reign over Faerun with an iron Fist for all of eternity?"

The goblin blinked, utterly shocked by the question, but quickly reacted to yell “Yes!!! Yes!!!"

The priest smiled, “Good. Good. Because it is His Will that you pay with your life for the crimes of your brethren", he said as he plunged the dagger deep under the goblin's ribcage. “And so is his Will…" He removed the dagger and inserted his free hand through the wound. “…that you and all those who threaten the city of Phlan…" He pulled his hand back, and with a ripping sound he retrieved the goblin's heart and lifted it for all to see. “…be CRUSHED by the Might of His Church!!!" And as he said those words, he squeezed the heart into a bloody pulp which he then threw to the altar. He then turned and left through a door behind the altar, followed by the roaring chants of the faithful.

As soon as the door had closed, two slaves helped him remove the bloodied clothes and a third one offered a moist cloth to remove the goblin blood that stained his face and white hair. The priest no longer disguised his anger and yanked the cloth from the slave's hands, prompting him to bow and leave hastily. A small man dressed in non religious garbs was leaning against the corridor wall, looking at the priest with an expression of concern but also with a hint of amusement.

"A nice ceremony, milord. The populace will be impressed", he said.

"Spare me your sarcasm", the priest snapped back. "You know this was a mockery of a true sacrifice. This should have taken place in the Dreadlord's Throne, not in this pathetic shack trying to pass as a temple. I only pray Bane does not take offense by our lack of progress". Slightly calmed down after his tirade and with a clean new set of clothes on him, he continued walking down the corridor, the small man walking one step behind. "Tell me, what is the body count from the incident?"

"Four dead slaves, two missing. Also two free workers were killed, including Tirkang, the night shift foreman. Both from Melvaunt, that'll save us the public embarrassment".

"The real embarrassment is not being able to complete the building in the scheduled deadline, and not being able to eliminate these threats by our own!". The priest showed frustration, as if this was an old story repeated once again. "How are the cleaning operations going?"

"Slow, your Holiness. Adventurers are not a reliable bunch, as you surely know. There are the odd faithful Banites that volunteer to go into the catacombs and not go out until they are cleansed, but those are a minority. It's much easier to recruit hunting parties to kill roaming creatures in the ruins". He stopped for a second. "Of course that is good for the public image of the Church and it speeds up the reconstruction work, but does little to move the main operations of the temple back into the Throne".

"This is unnerving. We are spending enormous amounts of gold that would be better spent in the reconstruction, and we are already months behind schedule. I will be lucky if Fzoul doesn't summon me to the Keep to be dragged and quartered". They took a staircase leading up into the living chambers. "I'm depending on you for this, Ralik. We cannot afford any more slippage. If the temple and its surroundings are not properly secured we will give an image of weakness, and you know what that means!"

"Indeed, milord. I am honored by the trust you have placed in me".

They stopped by a window. The massive bulk of the old temple of Bane, the Dreadlord's Throne, cut a shadow against the starry sky, barely illuminated by fires lit by the men working day and night to bring it back to its former glory. It was far from being finished, but it was already suitable for the cult. "If only the locals weren't so easily scared…"

“If only, milord".