"The Chronicles of the Smith in Exile, concerning the time of the Great Peril."
Translated into common tongue by Octopus.
1) The Cathedral.
The keepers do not think we still know they exist. They think that we are weak and foolish for our worship of the Master Builder. They think that only they see proper balance in things. They think that no one knows they exist. We knoweth of them though.
I think that, all things considered, the Master Builder may spare the keepers for their sins despite their great folly in spurning him in pursuit of humanism. They were of use to us in the time of the Peril.
The Eye was our greatest trophy from the time we battled with our hammers of iron and stone against the pagan curse of the Trickster God. The Keepers fought with us that day, for so they do when their misguided notion of balance suits them. We Hammerites, the keepers, half the armies of the city’s noblemen and many unbelieving peasants were with us on that day when we stormed the forest and drove out the Trickster and his followers. The Master Builder looked down on us with kindness that day, and, I, with Brothers Murus, Renault and Martello lead the righteous and we pleased the Builder that day with the blood of his enemies.
The Trickster God himself escaped to his own demonic lands, but in his haste to avoid the Master Builder’s wrath, he dropped his key to return to our world; a gemstone known as the Eye. One of the keepers gave this unto me and said "This you will keep safe in vaults of your new palace. Never shall you not know its location."
When at last our hammers were soaked in the blood of our foes, and we could do no more fighting, we took as many bodies as we could carry and interred them into the foundations of our great cathedral. For it was thought that, we in time, would save the souls of these pagans by their service to the Master Builder in death.
I recall at the time that my most trusted Lieutenant, Brother Murus, did not agree with this course of action. He considered, rather than bless these corpses, interring them in our walls would only serve to curse our cathedral. Over time he became more and more vociferous about this until finally it fell to me to give him a final warning of the cost displeasing the builder. He received it with humility befitting a true follower of our Lord and he died a week later.
2) Brother Murus.
Oh, Brother Murus, how we had wronged thee! How stupid I was in not heeding thy advice! Even when that damned Eye kept moving onto the altar – the altar! – where it persisted in presenting itself as an idol affront to the Master Builder; even then I did not heed thy warnings to take those pagan bones from the walls of our vaults. Every day I live in the knowledge of my sin of not affording thee the proper rites of burrial.
After his death some accused Brother Murus of Heresy and therefore it could not be right to grant him full funereal rites, they said. My wish until my dying day shall be that one day the Master Builder shall give someone the strength of mind and body to return to our Cathedral, bless his grave, and say those prayers denied him on his deathbed.
2) The Keepers’ Warning.
It started five and twenty years to the day since our great Cathedral was erected on the bodies of the Master Builder’s enemies – and also six months since the passing of Brother Murus.
A young novice by the name of Ellogan, that same Ellogan who is now heir to my position, was returning to the Cathedral from some errands he had been sent to run by his tutors. He looked up at our great Cathedral after passing through the gatehouse and said he felt consumed by a sense of dread. His tutors thought he spoke heresy and dragged him unto me, but I was not so fast to denounce his utterances. Had I not, that very morning, seen what I believed to be the figure of Brother Murus walking the cloisters?
When Ellogan had gone, a dark figure stepped from the shadows. I knew of the Keepers and so I did not demand to know how he had entered my chambers.
"You will secure the Eye and take it far from here."
"Who are you and on what grounds do you so order me?" I responded, but the Keeper merely shook his head.
"You will secure the Eye and take it far from here." He said again, "Then you will ready your hammers and your holy waters and you will prepare for battle."
Thinking that he wished again to enlist us in the destruction of some "unbalancing" element, I asked of him:
"Which enemy do you wish us to vanquish?"
The Keeper spoke again.
"This enemy you cannot vanquish, which is why you make safe that which we gave you to guard before commencing battle. But fight you must or the balance will be broken."
A rebuke of his harsh words formed in my mouth, but by the time I came to deliver them he had vanished into the shadows, and although my chambers are not grand, I could not find him again.
3) The time of the peril.
I consulted with Brother Martello, who said that we were bound to take the warnings of the Keepers seriously, heathens though they were. Brother Renault was despatched to the cellar to retrieve the Eye where we had placed it, but shortly after he had gone we noticed that the eye was once again upon the altar. I put the wretched thing in a chest in the vestry.
It was the sixth hour, shortly before dusk of the last day our Cathedral bells would ring.
At seven we settled to our evening repast yet Brother Renault was not present. I remarked upon this and bade a priest and a guard to go search for him. We continued our meal but conversation in our dining hall drifted into an unnatural silence as each minute past and our colleagues did not return.
"We shall investigate the cellars." I decreed at last, when I could stand the silence no more. "Not only that we shall search every last section of our ground until we find our fellow believers."
Our repast half uneaten, we left the hall and made for our armoury. Our hammers gave us comfort, and remembering the words of the Keeper, I gave orders that each man who could use one be further armed with a bow and as many water arrows and vials of holy water as he could reasonably carry. Those who were versed in the art of fighting with fire were also armed accordingly. Many asked of me why we were armed for battle against the dead, but I did not answer them at that time.
Suddenly the lights went out. The hum of our generators had ceased. "If this be Brother Renault playing a joke upon us the Master Builder shall crush him" I said, but my words rang hollow for we all knew that Brother Renault was trustworthy.
It was then that we heard the first deathly groans of air being sucked through lungs long past their time for accepting it. And shuffling footsteps. Hundreds of them. Our brothers raised their hammers and made ready. I looked up at the altar and prayed to the Master Builder. The moonlight shone through our great window and reflected off…
And then did the dead rise up against us. Those bodies we had buried in our foundations, re-animated by some dark power. They were not particularly strong or fast but they did not need to be. Within the walls of our great Cathedral they seemed invincible. Only dousing them in the holy water or burning them until there was nothing left to burn could stop them. Our hammers of iron and of stone prevailed not, for the enemy came from within.
For perhaps a whole hour we battled with them without loss but soon sheer numbers began to overwhelm us. It was only then that we realised the true horror of our fate, for as our brothers fell, they rose again, and, spurning their holy hammers for heathen swords, took arms against us, the fires of hell now burning in their eyes.
4) The end of the Cathedral.
It became obvious to us that the cathedral could not be held. Whatever had cursed the place evidently served as a block between us and aid from the Master Builder. Giving orders to all who had not been turned by death to abandon, I went with Brother Martello to the bell tower so that the bells my wake the people of the town to come to our aid. With no power we were unable to ring the bells from the floor of the church and thus, we climbed up familiar stairs that now seemed both alien and evil.
Brother Martello cursed our miserable fate and these were to be his last words for at that moment the re-animated corpse of one of our departed brethren struck him down with a blade fashioned of a dark metal the likes of which I had never seen. I thought that this would also be the end of my life for not only had I abandoned my hammer in aid of making better flight to the tower but also I thought that Brother Martello would shortly join this fiend, who in life had been one of my better sergeants. I raised my hands to the skies and prayed to the Master Builder as the blade was thrust towards me. "Join us!" said the fiend…
I praise the Master Builder that he didst see fit to make happen the next event. Brother Martello, who had been mortally wounded but not killed, rose up and smashed the vial of holy water he had been across the back of our assailant. It collapsed but not before we heard it whisper "Thanks be…" In the next moment, Brother Martello lay dead but he died with holy water on his hands and did not rise.
5) The Keepers seal the gates.
The bells rang deafening in my ears. I turned to see a dark figure hitting them as hard as it could with one of our hammers. Keepers! Before he disappeared into the shadows I grabbed him and demanded to know why he had not shouted a warning to Brother Martello.
"Time for arguments there is not." Said the Keeper. "The city has become engulfed in the evil released from here. You must leave here and join your comrades in fighting it. We shall seal the entrances to your temple."
I could have felled him with one blow for his complacency the legions of the dead were already massing below us.
"What about the Eye?" I asked, looking at the evil stone that had caused us so much trouble, shining proudly on our altar.
"It will be sealed here – now go." I heard when I turned back but the Keeper had long gone.
I realised that I was not going to escape by stealth – my robes and armour would not allow such a feet to be performed so I watched how the dead walked and tried to emulate them. Fortunately, my late Brothers seemed more pre-occupied with the destruction of the holy relics and symbols than to search for living people they thought had long left. I was able to save the First Hammer and Second Hammers and St. Yora’s skull as I walked from my cathedral for the last time.
When I had reached the gatehouse I noticed the shadows around me were moving. Keepers, a lot of Keepers were heading back towards the Cathedral. There was no time to ask questions of them, for although they were not visible to the hoards of dead abominations around us, I clearly was. I heard a zombie’s deadly groan right behind me and realised that they had worked out that I was not yet one of them. I ran…
6) The Master Builder be Praised.
Somehow I reached De Perrin Street, which seemed now to be the front line of the conflict. Our ranks had now been joined by the City Watch, the noblemen’s armies, and our brothers from Cragscleft who had heard the Cathedral bells. I did not feel inclined to tell them it was a Keeper and not I who had rung them.
Goodness knows how many people of the city were lost to the great conflict that ensued. I know that in all ten score and seventeen of mine own Brethren were so lost. While we Hammerites are not always the most popular people in the city, I tell you that in these ensuing weeks we gained more converts than we had in the quarter century beforehand. Even Ramirez, the father of the current low-life who holds the title of Baron for the family currently, even he leant us his second mansion as a staging post for the combat that followed.
Everyone knows the rest. We were able to contain the evil to an area of the city some three streets from the Cathedral in each direction and the great wall was then built. Our new temple was built – not this time on the bones of cursed pagans – but on the bones of those of our own brethren who had seen fit to doubt the Builder’s plan during the time of evil.
One day we shall return to our Cathedral, destroy the evil that it has fallen to, and again make it our own. Until that day, I decree that the High Priest shall be known as the Smith in Exile.
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