he Waiting, The Temple of Tyr
up already, boy! If we're late for dinner two days in a row, Mother will make us
for dinner". To further motivate his son, Loric Gerssen used the age-old method
of kicking his butt as he spoke.
“OUCH! DAD!!!". Young Talmir complained loudly, not so much out of pain,
but to make a point. Little more that ten years old, he was however a master in
manipulating his father. A fake persistent butt pain here, a well timed whine
there, and he might be able to get an extra serving of dessert. Guilt was a
powerful tool. “And why do we have to go to the temple e-ve-ry day anyway? Mom
isn't even going there once a week!"
“Now don't get me started on your mother, will you? I'm not raising a
godless child and that's that! And if I have to kick you all the way through the
Old City, so help me Tyr, I'll do so with pleasure. Now move it!"
Talmir didn't need a second kick to learn that Father meant business that
day. Dessert wasn't worth a real persistent butt pain, so he started walking
briskly down the street. A few leg lengths ahead of Father. Just in case.
They walked through the narrow streets of the Old City, eventually coming
out of the cramped buildings to the relatively open area that was Vahlegen Park.
The canopy of the main tower of The Waiting, the tallest structure in Phlan,
could now be seen above the treetops. No matter how many times he had seen the
temple before, Loric's heart was lifted at the sight of the white marble and the
Scales of Justice. It was difficult for him to instill this feeling into his
son, but he was confident the kid would eventually learn how much the old temple
and the values it represented meant for the city and its people.
It didn't take long for the father and son to notice that something was
not normal. The noise from the heated conversations of a large number of people
could be heard growing louder as they went around the park's wall. As the temple
came into full view they saw several dozen people standing outside the temple,
apparently waiting to enter. People were talking to each other and sometimes
pointing towards the temple main gate, which was wide open yet nobody crossed
the threshold. Only then the father noticed the Watchmen standing guard outside
the gate, a few more mixed with the people and apparently engaged in
conversation with some of the men closest to the entrance.
Loric approached a group of men he recognized as frequent attendants to
the evening prayers and asked them, “What's the matter here? Did something
happen in the temple?".
“Well, it seems the prayers will start late today, Councilor Summerset is
here and the Watchmen are asking everyone to stay outside until a meeting ends,
or something", one of the men answered.
Another man chuckled and remarked, “Hey, give the old man a break! It
probably takes him a lot longer to ‘meet' a woman properly!". The comment
sparked laughter among the group, including Loric. The kid just stayed there,
eyes wide open, not understanding the joke. “Oh, come on!", said Loric, “Don't
tell me you believe the rumors. Even if they were true you'd at least expect old
Holondos not to invite her and her bloody escort to come over at prayer time".
“Who knows? I don't think they've had a lot of privacy since she got
elected and moved out of the temple, so OOF!!". A well placed elbow kept the man
from making any more comments in front of the child, who was at this point
“Father, what is he talking about?" he asked.
“Nothing important, son. The Councilor still has duties as part of the
Waiting clergy, and she needs to come every so often to discuss religious
matters with the High Priest. It's probably just taking a little longer than
expected. In fact, look, I think someone is coming out already". The Watchmen
noticed that too, and they quickly organized themselves to make a corridor
through the crowd.
However, the person leaving the temple was not the Councilor, as most
expected. Instead, it was a middle aged man dressed in full battle gear. The
sunlight reflected on his breast plate made the inscribed symbols of Tyr stand
out even from the distance. The man did not look a bit happy, Loric thought.
Most of the people gathered outside the temple appeared surprised as well, and
the noise level went low enough to hear the few voices saying “The Bishop! It's
The Bishop walked down the steps at the entrance of the Waiting, and
stopped to talk to the officer that was in charge of the patrol. He then barked
a few orders to a couple of Watchmen, who in turn allowed three men, also geared
for battle, to join the Bishop. The four men then walked away from the temple
and towards the bridge of Umheer, which led to the River District and on to the
Watchmen held the crowd in position until the Bishop and his companions had
crossed the bridge and were out of sight, then let everyone go about their
business. As if anyone had wanted to follow the four men into the goblin
The crowd started to move slowly into the Waiting, most still chatting
about the unusual sight and even more unusual behavior. Loric took his son's
hand and pulled him alongside, so they could get inside before everyone else
choked the entrance. This allowed them to catch a glimpse of another unusual
sight. At the far end of the temple, there were the High Priest Holondos
Stimpiir and Councilor Summerset. Talmir was surprised both by her beauty and
her youth. Not having seen her before, he had assumed she'd fit the stereotype
of what he thought a Councilor was: someone more or less old and angry shouting
slogans in the streets about how he would, really, really, take the city afloat,
but who once elected was nowhere to be seen again.
Stimpiir and Summerset seemed to be arguing, although it was more as if
she was complaining and the old priest was trying to calm her down. The chat,
which took place too far away to be heard by anyone, finally ended with a long
monologue by the High Priest, during which the Councilor simply nodded every
once in a while, and a strong embrace after which the Councilor left through a
side door. Talmir couldn't help but noticing the subdued chuckling from several
people during the embrace. Grown ups were odd.
The crowd was already settling down in the main hall of the temple, a wide
open area with high gilded bronze ceilings presided by the altar, a statue of
Tyr the Even Handed and the relic that attracted so many pilgrims: The Silver
Scales of Tyr. Notoriously missing from the altar was the even more important
relic that was lost when the city was last razed: The Hammer of Tyr. For Talmir,
though, the Hammer was little more than ancient history mentioned by the priests
in their prayers every so often.
“Talmir, I'm going to greet the Irrkins. You can go play with the other
kids, but don't leave the hall and be here on time for the start of the prayer."
Loric shoved Talmir gently in the direction of a group of snot-covered six year
olds that ran carelessly around a main column of the temple, then he left to
meet his acquaintances. “I mean it, boy. The prayer is starting late and the
last thing I want is to delay it even more."
Talmir would rather die than be caught by his real friends playing tag
with a bunch of babies. He thought he would rather go around the temple and look
for “Bubs" Jerpag, who was a true master hunter of toads and often made a point
of it by bringing and releasing his hunting trophies to the temple.
The boy wandered aimlessly among the congregation, not seeing “Bubs"
anywhere. Perhaps he had gone home because of the mess outside the temple. Then
he heard a noise coming from one of the relatively darkened side wings that
branched out from the main hall. “Bubs?" he asked, not all too convinced. He
took a few steps further inside, trying to see with the aid of the light from
the torches that illuminated the hall.
All of a sudden, he felt the firm grip of a hand holding him by the
shoulder. “What are you doing here?" Startled, he leapt and almost screamed. But
what he saw as he turned around to meet this left him mute, his jaw dropping.
There was a man in shining armor, holding him by the shoulder. But the way
he looked… He had a dark glove in his right hand, and a handkerchief tied around
his head, covering one eye. The stylized symbol of the Hammer of Tyr engraved in
silver and gold on his armor, right by his heart. But as impressive as the
innuendo was, all that was nothing compared to his face. He was stunningly
beautiful… and at the same time wrong. His blonde, almost white hair and his
extremely pale complexion seemed to produce a glow around his head. And his eye…
it was an unnatural blue, deep blue as the sea under the noon sun. Talmir felt
naked under his gaze, as if he was peering into his soul. “What are you doing
here? This is no place for a child".
“I… I am Talmir. Talmir Gerssen, sir. Uh… my father is… uh… I didn't know
I couldn't…I'm sorry!"
The man kneeled down on one knee, as if to peer at the boy at his own
level. This didn't calm down Talmir a bit, assuming that was the intention.
“Please don't hurt me!" he said in a cracking voice.
“My name is Amalric. I have no reasons to hurt you". It didn't sound
comforting; it was more a statement of facts. Talmir thought he would pass out
at any moment. But then the man released his grip, stood up and smiled. “Do not
stray away from your father, boy. Even in this site of holiness there are wicked
men. Stay away from the wicked ones."
Talmir stood there for a few seconds, as if paralyzed. Then ran toward the
congregation, looking behind for a second only when he thought he was far enough
away. The man had left already.
“Boy, are you crazy? Why are you running without looking? Do you want to
break your neck?" Talmir had managed to run into his father, quite literally.
“Come on, the prayer is about to start."
As he finished saying this, a choir started humming a lifting song, and
with a crack and a whirring sound, the ceiling broke apart into seven sections
that receded into the walls, letting the dusk light flow in, and giving a cue to
Holondos Stimpiir to begin the prayer.