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  1. ::[ Lilith ]::   <<> Benedicto enters from the west. <>>
  2.  
  3. The bank of a marshy island. (Peshwar Delta.) (14743) [-Auresae-]
  4. A smattering of clouds fills the sky, lacing it with spiderwebs of grey. High stalks of green-brown grass grow tall here, surrounding a stone platform that possesses a pillar of fire. Towering above all else in the area, the blazing bastion looks more than a little out of place, piercing the sky and casting its brilliant illumination across the marshlands. The ground underfoot is very wet, with sucking mud and pooling water, but each blade of grass blooms bright golden flowers that basks in the glow of the looming Pillar. Rising as an indisputable bastion of Fire, the Pillar blazes skyward, an impressive testament to the power of the Goddess. Flickering candles lit by the faithful surround a large golden bowl, comfortably set in an opulent ruby pedestal. The shining figure of a guardian angel floats in the air here. Surrounded in an aura of defilement, Benedicto Silverain is here. He wields a rustic, storm-engraved scimitar in his left hand and a rustic, storm-engraved scimitar in his right.
  5. You see a single exit leading west.
  6.  
  7. You have emoted: Haven is here, facing the blazing pillar stretching skyward. He does not appear to have noticed Benedicto's arrival.
  8.  
  9. Your pose is now set as:
  10. Haven is here, studying the Pillar of Fire.
  11.  
  12. Benedicto emerges from the beneath the nearby waters. "Brother." He greets you tersely, attempting to draw your attention. He looks out towards the blazing pillar, his face clouded and drawn with lines of weariness.
  13.  
  14. A slight bulge forms in the pillar and multi-colored lights swirl around the protruding flame.
  15.  
  16. Silently, the bulge explodes outward, sending sparks raining down on the slab where they dance and skitter before fading out.
  17.  
  18. You have emoted: Haven is slow to draw from his trance and respond to Benedicto's call. It eventually comes, however, as he cranes his neck to regard Benedicto over his shoulder. "Brother." He repeats, his fingers folding tightly over the token of the Malevolent's esteem pressed in his palms. Was it in effort to conceal it? Or was it something else? Whatever the case, the Azudim shifts on his heel to better face Benedicto as he offers a firmer nod and more of his attention after a short inhale.
  19.  
  20. Quietly, you ask Benedicto, "What brings you here?"
  21.  
  22. <You think, "I wonder if he has heard."
  23.  
  24. Though his gaze flicks to the movement of your fingers, Benedicto says nothing of it. Instead he responds to your direct query, his voice as weary as his stance. "Comradeship. I have not spoken to anyone since our Lord's recent act of...displeasure."
  25.  
  26. <You think, "Oh...well. I suppose that's good."
  27.  
  28. The sound of trickling water can be heard beneath the discordant and intermittent harmony of frogs.
  29.  
  30. You have emoted: The token of the Malevolent's esteem is tucked readily away before he draws his fingers together behind his back in his usual semi-formal fashion. Haven's eyes are rather light to match the softening of his normally grim expression. Even the silver in his gaze seems to have completely receded to reveal the seablue orbs. Perhaps a relic of his humanity... Or a reminder. "These are trying times, brother. Our faiths are tested."
  31.  
  32. If your words are meant as comfort, Benedicto clearly does not take any from them as his large, webbed hands curl into fists. "Trying times." He repeats, his scaled brow furrowing with anger. "Indeed trying times. Over one hundred and fifty years of service pissed away!" He spits vehemently. "Indeed, my very loyalty is tried. My beliefs are tried."
  33.  
  34. Flecking the darkened sky with streaks of orange and magenta, rays of early morning light streak upwards from a newly awakened sun.
  35.  
  36. You have emoted: "Benedicto..." Haven's tone is kept strangely level as he pries himself away from the torrent of fire. Even as the distance broadens, the Azudim could still feel the intensity of the flame. Its call. Its power! "someone dear to me once told me that our emotions are not to be feared less they control us. We must embrace them." His expression sours a touch at the thought but he trudges along with the thought all the same, "Embrace the anger in you. I will not try to extinguish it."
  37.  
  38. You say to Benedicto, "But know that despite our Lord's actions...are service continues. All is not lost."
  39.  
  40. The last croak of a consumed amphibian breaks the silence.
  41.  
  42. Casting off her final fetters, the luminous lady awakens fully, shedding her joyful light from horizon to horizon.
  43.  
  44. The cloud cover clears, and sun fills the skies.
  45.  
  46. "That is easily said." Benedicto retorts bitterly as his posture relaxes somewhat. "But none within the Order have give as much to our Lord as I have for nearly all of my life. That service is now made to be inconsequential." His chest rises and falls heavily, as if in exertion, as his passion and emotions swell within him once more. "I have endured the Shadow Realm for Him! Yet I feel cast aside and discarded. Service?" He turns and spits venomously into the water behind him. Symbolic perhaps?
  47.  
  48. <You think, "The right is yours, Benedicto. Truly, it is...but we must be strong!"
  49.  
  50. You have emoted: Haven spreads his hands out to either side of him as he slows his approach, watching Benedicto closely. The passion and emotion that surges through Benedicto's frame is something that reflects well in the Azudim's gaze. His expression is one of approval if not out right agreement. Despite this, the former Knight utters, "Easily said, indeed, brother. But it does not change the truth of it. These are trying times and though the hour grows dark, all is not lost. Believe it. You must!" The Azudim's lips begin to peel back, wilting his expression further and essentially inviting the grimness to return. "If not for yourself then for the others... Many count on you. Lean and cling. Some you might not even be aware of."
  51.  
  52. <You think, "Light! Lend us both strength in this dark hour. The Faith must remain intact."
  53.  
  54. A waft of foul gas passes under your nose.
  55.  
  56. <You think, "...did Benedicto just pass gas?"
  57.  
  58. You have emoted: Haven wrinkles his nose.
  59.  
  60. <You think, "No, no...must be the swamp nearby."
  61.  
  62. The bright sun shines down upon you.
  63.  
  64. Benedicto slashes one of his scimitars through the air. The action clearly intended to punctuate his frustration as he replies, "Indeed! It has been to me that the Order has looked for over a century! How can I believe when that belief is shaken to it's core. I feel BETRAYED!" He howls the word skywards, towards the heavens, the cords on his neck bulging with the prodigious effort of his bellow. "BETRAYED! DO YOU HEAR ME?!" He crumples inwards suddenly as though he were a puppet with his strings suddenly cut. His head falls forwards towards his chest, his arms held limply by his sides. The scimitars in his hands point loosely towards the ground as he brokenly murmurs, "Betrayed."
  65.  
  66. You have emoted: "Our faith..." Haven's words are lost to the wind following Benedicto's outcry. What could he say? What should he say? Surely, something uplifting and inspiring but the Azudim found that it was only silence left in him. That grim and neutral tether, lingering about aloof like a Syssin. The former Knight manages a swallow before partially turning from Benedicto in thought. His blue orbs seek the ever churning torrent of fire coursing to the heavens. His breath rises and falls with a steady pace to match his relatively calm demeanor. He could not show the trouble twisting within. He would not! Not now. "Our faith," he repeats, his tone resonating firmer, sharper now, "will be rewarded, Benedicto. In time, it must be so."
  67.  
  68. Your weapon ceases its burning.
  69.  
  70. Chanting fiery words, you run your hands over the weapon, and flames spring up about it.
  71.  
  72. "You feel it too, don't you?" Benedicto lifts his head from his chest and narrows his pearl-white gaze at you. "I can hear it in your tone, despite your effort at persuading me otherwise." His voice is a hoarse rattle as he smiles bitterly and without warmth. "That...thing that you tried to conceal from me? Doubt swirls around you like the stench of attar. Malevolence's blessing clings to you like a whores perfume. She has seen the doubt in you, hasn't She?"
  73.  
  74. Benedicto's eyes widen at the sudden flames that spring up around your mace. "You will attack me?" He gasps with disbelief.
  75.  
  76. You have emoted: Haven looks down at his enflame mace before letting it drop to the swamp floor. "The Weaver... She is not as She seems, Benedicto." He leaves the question purposely unanswered, leaving Benedicto to think what he will. With a slow and sure swagger, Haven steps away from the crackling of his mace as it remains strangely upright against the moist soil. "There are wrongs that we are charged with setting right. And sometimes those wrongs are meant --" The Azudim scowls, twisting his head this way and that as he struggles to finish the thought, "to remain as they are so that others may learn from them. Sometimes, we must be the sacrifice. We must endure the pain. Don't you see?" With a rush, cloak flaring behind him from the effort, Haven turns to face Benedicto again with his arms outstretched to either side of him and fingers slightly curled. "This is such a time. We are meant to be cast low so that perhaps the others will rise!"
  77.  
  78. Benedicto relaxes somewhat as the mace is lowered. "Do you believe that? Or are these words something you say for my benefit?" His face twists at the sudden smell of decay. "Something you say to try to convince yourself that our service is still desired? That we haven't been betrayed by our Lord?" He manages to keep his voice steady, though he fidgets with the weapons in his grip.
  79.  
  80. You angrily say to Benedicto, "I have to believe it, Benedicto!"
  81.  
  82. You exclaim, "I would not have all our service cast away. I would not see my back...your back turned on the Light!"
  83.  
  84. "What did She say to you?" Benedicto asks you suddenly.
  85.  
  86. You have emoted: "I think She has been under duress for too long. The vice of pain can be maddening...even for a Goddess." Haven utters darkly as he crosses his arms over his chest. The gesture might be just as protective as it is defiant, the Azudim's eyes purposely adverted from Benedicto. "She spoke to me of the injustices against Her. Committed by Her brethren. How the Dreamer stole from Her... I know the price of pain, Benedicto. I know you do as well. Duty is not always easy and full of smiles and clear choices. She looks to the undead because they were among the only ones to welcome Her return. Welcome Her change."
  87.  
  88. "And yet Her acts of cruelty? Of unspeakable horror?" Benedicto returns, noting your protective stance. "Her favor and encouragement to the Undead? These are justifiable because of Her so called pain?"
  89.  
  90. A patch of cold, damp air wraps around you, carried by a slight nighttime breeze.
  91.  
  92. Benedicto hums a soft melody and a feeling of warmth and comfort envelops you. Your spirits buoyed, you feel less vulnerable to harm.
  93.  
  94. You have emoted: Haven shakes his head, his eyes hard. "Her acceptance of Undeath is not but I cannot help but wonder now if we did not push Her towards them with our revulsion of Her transformation. Life is cruel, Benedicto. It comes with its own horrors. Its own evils... I've decided." Haven drops his arms down to his sides as if waiting to bear Benedicto's judgment as he says, "Once I have finished my sermon project for Slyphe, that I will begin a quest to see Her restored. To see Her tome and Her eyes returned to Her. Perhaps then She'll see the truth again and return to the Light."
  95.  
  96. Benedicto stares at you for a long, tense moment. As it passes, he rolls his shoulders in an uncaring shrug. "If that is the path you choose to take. I do not know what I will do. The actions of our Lord have not just shaken my belief and my loyalty..." His tone is quiet and fraught with doubt. "...But also my sense of who I am. My service to Him has been the core of my existence for more than three quarters of my life. I find myself questioning myself down the very roots of my soul."
  97.  
  98. Solemnly, you say, "You are a Herald of Change, Benedicto. Whether or not He recognizes you as His Avatar matters not. You rise and you fall with the times. You ride the tide, Benedicto."
  99.  
  100. With a dull roar, the pillar of fire is engulfed in a white glow for but a few moments, before returning to its normal yellow blaze.
  101.  
  102. Benedicto snorts with a mixture of bitterness and amusement at your words, "Terrible words." He replies with a tight smile. "It is not my position that I care about. It is the negligence with which my service was cast aside. Not a single word has He said to me. I awaken to my service being discarded without even an acknowledgement."
  103.  
  104. Benedicto sighs bitterly, frustration and helplessness writ upon his features. "I am trying so hard to move past this...shaming. But I'm finding it harder with each day that passes."
  105.  
  106. You have emoted: Haven turns to the pillar and says, "I find fighting eases the nerves, brother. Perhaps something to get your blood pumping again is the answer. The Lord will come to you in time... He must."
  107.  
  108. "He'd better." Benedicto returns quietly as he follows your gaze towards the pillar. He observes the sparks for a moment before turning and entering the waters that surround you. In almost near silence and with barely a ripple, he slips beneath the surface of the water and glides away from you.
  109.  
  110. ::[ Lilith ]::   <<> Benedicto leaves to the west. <>>
  111.  
  112. The aura about you fades, leaving you somewhat more vulnerable again.
  113.  
  114. Deepest Stygian night steals over the land as the symbolic hourglass empties and turns, ready to begin a new day.
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