Part 1 - The Silver Eye

Thick snow blanketed the Wysoomian city of Sauronan, choking the streets under an oppressive white mass. It was an idyllic scene, especially since a nice day by Wysoomian standards could best be described as 'a little overcast'.
Sauronan was use to adverse weather conditions, in fact it was a common attitude amongst the citizens of Wysoom that snow was just slow rain. If a little rain kept the populace of Sauronan indoors, then they wouldn't get anything done. Markets had routinely been held in hurricane conditions, so not even a minor inconvenience like a blizzard could prevent public gatherings of any sort.
"The gods as you know them are uncaring and deceitful!" A white-clad preacher bellowed, his brown-leather clad fist shaking in righteous indignation. "To Sikkar, to Gaia, to the Nameless One and Varkyll-an-Bluge you are nothing but pawns in a colossal game! One where only they shall succeed and you pawns shall be swept aside!"
Religious differences weren't new. Cities have been raised and razed due to conflicts of belief, entire countries wiped from the map, races dragged beyond the brink of extinction. Nothing new in a little zealous preaching, even if the religion was new. Not that any religion would admit to being founded five months ago, but for the Followers of the Silver Eye it seems as if they hadn't existed that long ago.
"Harren, the Silver Eye believes in you! He respects you, he believes in you, in fact he worships you! You lowly mortals who serve no purpose other than amusement to the other gods, who have the mighty god Harren in your thrall!"
Let us observe a typical Acolyte of the Silver eye; He, she, or it may be of any race and creed, though for the most part the entire religion is mainly humanoid. It's not as if bloodworms don't belong in the Silver Eye, it's just that they aren't allowed to make public speeches. They wear white tabards with silver filigree of an eye front and back, with a hood that even in weather such as this is rarely raised. On their shoulders rest massive solid silver pauldrons, each about twice as large of the head of the wearer and vaguely teardrop shaped, an eye has been etched on each one with a cluster of gems in the pupil; for the lesser acolytes these gems may be zircon, but for the higher-ranked followers such as the preacher they're pure diamond. From the pauldrons hang strips of purest white silk like drapes practically around the circumference of the silver domes. Heavy brown leather boots and gloves complete the dress, though obviously some sort of shirt and pants are obscured by the floor length tabards and shoulder hangings must factor. Whispered rumours whenever the dress of the Silver Eye is discussed suggest the possibility of thin and strong suits of armour beneath the long robes, and this may be true - Most Silver Eye are armed with battle maces, the heads marked with a typical eye motif. All in all, every last member of the church was an impressive, almost persuasively intimidating sight. Three acolytes stood addressing the crowd; two elves and a human, with the human speaking.
"Listen to me, brothers and sisters..."
And by the gods did people listen. The Followers of the Silver Eye were growing in numbers almost daily. It was as much a surprise to all the religions of the six worlds as it was to the two observers that watched the scene from a nearby balcony that was covered to protect from the rain, but impotent against the spiralling snow. Perhaps it was the promise of immediate paradise that the Silver Eye made, since it was something that most other religions offered following death.
Now consider the two observers leaning against the stone balustrade and watching the backs of the acolytes. Both share identical uniforms; coats of green leather, the right leg side cut shorter than the left, and both were male and barefooted, but that's where the similarities ended.
The tallest of the two was a muridan, rat-folk. Tall, muscular, with thick black dreadlocks hanging around a long brown face. He leans easily on the balustrade and is idly scraping snow off the granite and tossing pressed handfuls over his shoulder. The snow had done a good job of making his hair more salt than pepper, his coat is smart if battered due to battle, and he observed the scene with a practiced mix of contempt, disdain, and amusement.
The shortest was a vulpin, a particularly cunning fox-man who had to stand on a discarded fruit crate to lean on the stone banister and get the same view as his companion. Somehow, even his leather coat is creased and crumpled, and both words could offer a good description of the wearer. Unlike the muridan next to him, no two strands of fur are aimed in the same direction, and the damp of the snow has granted him a certain spikiness. He looks on the scene with an expression of understanding, recognition, and a dash of fear.
"Can you believe these rubes?" The muridan growled, sweeping some snow off the balustrade and letting it splat onto the ground below. "Can you believe how damned popular these creeps are?"
The Silver Eye's influence had spread far and wide. The Ocular Temple had been founded on Raji and built with surprising speed into a grand palace of blissful serenity, and had managed to draw many native Rajians into their fold. Then they had spread to Wysoom, Sosel, and Perdow; though it seemed that they were smart enough to try and compete with Sikkar and the Nameless One on their own turf, though there was evidence that they had been recruiting from the smaller settlements on both worlds. It was surprising to many how many Perdeese had gone over to the Silver Eye.
The vulpin shook his head and sighed. The air froze from his muzzle and mingled with the snow without diverting a single flake from her course. Many of the vulpin's colleagues had notice a hint of sadness in him as of late, and many had erroneously placed the blame on a recent debacle that had cost one of the Paladins of Sikkar her life. "That's the thing, Carn. I can't berieve it."
"Ho-boy." Carnely Krysospas muttered. "Cadnos the Con can't believe something put before him. Hell hath frozen over."
Schrau Cadnos scooped up a handful of snow and held it in the centre of his paw. He smiled lopsidedly at Carnely and limply tossed the frozen slush at the muridan's arm. "No, that's just Wysoom." He waved a hand at the procession. "'Perfect peace and wearth beyond the dreams of kings'? They're promising that, and peopre are farring for it?"
"People are gullible." Carnely pointed out. "Hell, prettyboy, you've made a living on that principle."
"Gurribre, yes." Schrau snorted. "But this stupid? If I had any faith in peopre, it would be shattered by now." He sighed once more. "This is wrong. So very wrong."
"'smatter, vulpie? You've been on edge for a while now." Carnely blinked, then as calmly as possible added, "This is about Havral, ain't it?"
"No, Carn. This is not about Havrar." Schrau snapped. "It's not about her, nothing's been about her since she died, dammit!" He growled. "You want to know what's wrong with me? Why I've been, as you say, 'on edge'?" He waved a hand at the three acolytes. "Them! It's them! Ever since they strorred into town I've-" He abruptly stopped, then added, "You wouldn't understand."
"'cause." Schrau sniffed. "Because... You're not rike me."
"Izzat a loaded statement, pretty-"
"A srave." The vulpin snarled. "The way they speak, they talk as if they rearry care and that they're sincere and honest but rearry... They talk rike Ardar and Rory and every sraver that I've ever known." He shuddered. "It scares me. Every time I risten to one of these bastards preach I feer as if I'm back in the den..."
Carnely whistled lowly, "Whoa. These guys must've done something pretty sick in a past life to deserve that kind of reaction from you."
"They're doing something pretty sick right now." Schrau grumbled.
"Well, I know you just want to go down there and haul their asses in, but that'll be harassment," Carnely noted, then added, "and I think you're almost out of free-harassment coupons for this month, prettyboy."
A slight smile crossed Schrau's lips, he straightened and hopped off the crate. "Werr, as two officers of the raw we should go down there and make sure everything is hunky-dory, maybe something wirr present itserf in time."
Carnely groaned, "Sounds like trouble. Don't do anything stupid."
"Yes sir."
"Remember who is the senior officer, Cadnos."
"Yes sir, of course sir." Schrau said, now grinning.
"Sikkar, why the hell do I wind up bailing your tail out Schrau."
"Yer a friend, ratty, and you'd farr asreep during the paperwork you'd have to fire if you ret me die on patror."
"Good point." Carnely stuffed his hands into his pockets as he followed Schrau to the stairs. "Say, what are you doing for Sikkarmas this year?"
"Runch at the Barnacre. You?"

"...So come with us, brothers and sisters! Join us in peace under the bountiful gaze of the Silver Eye!" This was usually the part where the public display wound down, and the inevitable few people interested in becoming a Follower would then approach the acolytes and then never be seen by their friends and family again until a time when they would be standing on street corners in white silk and gleaming silver. "Join us! And we shall hold the worlds in-"
That aura, that presence, that impenetrable field that surrounds any enforcer of law that is instantly detectable by the guilty and those who believe they have nothing whatsoever to hide. It's like a poisoning, with the most extreme sufferers exhibiting temporary rapid mobility away from the source of the infection and possible weapon-related death, but in its mildest form it causes people to just stop whatever they're doing and accusingly declare, "what have I done?"
And that's how you spot criminals, how you sort the innocent from the not. Anyone looking on with anything but a casual interest is guilty of something. Of course, if that was sufficient evidence, the life of a sentinel would be a very easy one.
The acolytes turned as one, and they beheld two sentinels wearing expressions of pure practiced innocence that not even the pious could achieve.
"Gentlemen." Carnely cheerfully said, nodding, smiling, looking as non-threatening as possible. The acolytes' reaction was better than any optimist could imagine.
Again, as one, they spun back to the crowd. "People of Sauronan, I present to you your gaolers!" The human Follower spat. "The sentinels! Who keep you all chained together with bonds crafted of nothing but lies and deception!"
"I don't remember seeing you at the rast office meeting." Schrau deadpanned, raising a few chuckles from the crowd. "It's rike you were there when we revised the guird mission statement."
"Silence, trickster!" The acolyte bellowed. "I know of you vile vermin! Cunning and deceitful and despicable!"
"Hey, he knows you."
"True." Schrau sighed and crossed his arms. "It's not often I get a response rike that from someone, Carn."
"Usually only if they're wearing a skirt, too."
"What do you think is under those robes?" Schrau scowled. "Gentremen, we are but two simpre sentiners on patror. We're not here to cause trouble." Schrau smiled, demonstrating perfectly that vulpins had a lot of teeth through which to lie.
"Bah! I care not! People of Sauronan, it is from this chaos that the Silver Eye will deliver you from! These thugs and brutes violate your very freedom all in the name of justice! We-"
"Zearot." Schrau muttered under his breath, but still managing to interrupt the acolyte in full flow. He turned again, and this time the vulpin was scowling. "What you said back then was racist and offensive."
"About... 'My kind.' Vurpins. Rearry, I should be arresting you right now for breach of the peace but I'm feering generous this Sikkarmas."
The acolyte was finally speechless. He eventually got around to stammering, "B-b-but you actually admitted it was true."
"In my case, it is." Schrau responded. "I have a good and generous nature where I am wirring to appreciate peopre highrighting my foibres..." He carried on straight through Carnely's sardonic snort, "...but such a sweeping generarisation of my species, I feer, is the sign of a bigoted mind that has no rightfur prace in any organised rerigion."
"Want me to point out the irony now or later, prettyboy?" Carnely whispered very quietly.
"Rater." Schrau replied. "Werr, sir? Do you have a probrem, or wirr you be moving on?"
"I and my colleagues have a right to be here, vulpin."
"Wrong." Schrau sternly warned. "This is my city, my beat, if I decide someone shouldn't be here, then they're not here. Your papers, prease?"
"Yes. A permit to hord pubric audiences." Schrau snapped impatiently.
"The Followers of the Silver Eye has no need of permits!"
"Sikkar, boy, I'm a bureaucrat in training. I know when peopre need a permit for something and when they don't. Pubric gatherings for mercantire purposes outside of the merchant's quarter requires a permit."
The acolytes laughed. "We are not merchants, friend." One of the elves said.
"We are bringers of truth." Said the other.
Schrau glanced this way and that. "Werr, since you're not engaging in open debate, you are effectivery serring your rerigion, which farrs under the category of generar sares."
"It's true." Carnely muttered morosely.
"But surely if I were a Sikkarite-" The lead acolyte incredulously spat, before petering off as the vulpin nodded.
"You wouldn't berieve."
"Hah! Lies!" He spat. "People of Sauronan, do not listen to these-"
"Your name, prease." Schrau demanded.
"Whatever for?"
"So we can arrest you." Carnely explained.
This time, the acolyte's lip trembled. "So you need my name to arrest me?"
"No, it's just ress interesting if we don't."
"I'm afraid I cannot have that." The lead acolyte sternly said, and the two elvin Followers stepped forward.
"We will not let you harm master Saithis." The first elf said.
"We will die before you harm our master Saithis."
Schrau and Carnely exchanged wry glances. Like anybody could be that stupid.
"Let me get this straight," Carnely said. "Are you resisting arrest?"
"You have no right to arrest me." Saithis growled.
" You're breaking the raw." Schrau snarled. " Pray it coor, and you'rr just get off with a warning."
"Once again, I ask you; are you resisting arrest?"
The sentinels took a meaningful step forward.
The acolytes drew their maces, oval heads gleaming in the light reflected from the snow.
The sentinels took another step and drew their weapons. "Due to the nature of your response, I am forced to take it as an affirmative response to my companion's question." Schrau muttered.
The acolytes raised their maces in righteous indignation. "For Harren!" Saithis roared.
Snowflakes flickered in all directions as Schrau casually swung his blades. Carnely said, "I hate you, Cadnos."
And then it got ugly.

Part 2 - Diplomacy at its Best

His name was Jash Pashnor, the First Follower of Harren and, technically, the highest-placed member of the Silver Eye that was not a deity. Though he is in his late sixties, he is a formidable man standing at over six and a half feet in height. The leather gauntlets define rather than obscure the power of his hands, hanging at the end of massive arms that made it difficult to buy shirts off the peg. A long white beard covers the eye filigree on the front of his tabard and is matched at the rear by equally long white hair, though his pate is bald on the top.
His pauldrons shine with an almost platinum gleam, diamonds glittering with a ferocity matched only by the stars even in the gloom of the office. With his gloves and boots hidden beneath the robes and tabard, every inch of the man is a glimmering vision of white and silver. Everything but the flesh that shows above his nose and ears, and every inch of that is red.
Red because the First Follower is shouting at the other occupant of the office very, very loudly. Probably not a wise move, considering where he was.
"One of my most dedicated of acolytes is dead by your hand and I demand an explanation, heathen!"
This is not how you enter into diplomatic relations with Gilgal Radisgad. First foot of the sentinel guild, a living deity to officers everywhere. A former and pious knight of the highest standing in the Paladins of Sikkar, though he was said to be already rough around the edges when he requested his current position as Guildmaster of the Sentinels. Gilgal, too, was built like a brick outhouse even in his advanced years and was said to possess a right hook that would make the steel-capped battering rams that Cutter Gyrdant stocked in the sentinel stores unnecessary.
He also had a large white beard, though his was slightly more unkempt than the perfect facial hair of Pashnor. Unlike the boiling fury of the First Follower, Gilgal blocked the demands made of him with the stolid patience of an iceberg, only a hundred times more threatening and a million times as cold.
On the wall behind Gilgal were the three things he really cared for these days: his shield, the sentinel's badge (Or rather, a large metal replica of one), and the Sentinel's Creed. Any of which would be suitable for ripping off the wall and beaning Pashnor across the head with so hard that his neck would shrink two inches.
"My acolytes were on a mission of peace and truth and your... criminals assaulted and murdered them!"
Gilgal's eyes flicked down to the report sitting in front of him. It was in the simple script of Schrau Cadnos, and since Carnely's report wouldn't arrive for another two hours - probably with the muridan's tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth the whole time - then that was all he had to go on. Still, Cadnos certainly knew how to cover his tail.
It was a thick report. A thick report consisting of many, many eyewitness statements.
"I demand satisfaction!"
That demand jolted Gilgal back into the present. He gave the Follower a look of pure 'sorry, you still here?' and said, "Excuse me? You're demanding satisfaction from a... heathen?"
"Harren is a forgiving god, unlike your Sikkar. He is a peaceful god, and it is my purpose to spread that peace. We have tried to cooperate with the established-" He all but snorted the word, "-religions of our worlds, however we have faced nothing but-"
Gilgal grabbed the bound report and stood up sharply. He came almost impossibly close to slapping the acolyte across the face with it, and instead resorted to waving it threateningly at Pashnor. "This report states that your men were in charge of an illegal public gathering. This report states that your men resisted arrest. This report states that your men drew their weapons in a threatening manner and attacked my officers!"
"Lies." Pashnor growled. "My men are harbingers of peace. All that report states is the word of your men, corrupt as they may be!"
Gilgal removed about two thirds of the papers from the report. "Eyewitness reports. Independent eyewitness reports that validate every single aspect of this report."
"A bullied and frightened populace." Pashnor spat. "Coerced into supporting your officers through threats and intimidation!"
"Cadnos! Krysospas!" Gilgal bellowed so loudly that Pashnor's hearing only returned fully when the door behind him clicked respectfully open.
"Oh, sorry sir. I didn't know your brother from the dwarf mine was in town."
And that is not how you address your superior officer. Still, this time at least Gilgal was grateful of Schrau's special ability of knowing exactly what to say in order to piss someone off. Pashnor spun on heel, his heavy robes whirling and almost wrapping around his body. "Ah! The culprits."
Both sentinels made a point to take exaggerated glances over their shoulders and then, upon finding no one else to shoulder the First Follower's accusation, rewarded Pashnor with identical 'who, me?' expressions.
Gilgal ran a hand through his beard and smiled the once while Pashnor was otherwise distracted. "Cadnos, Krysospas, are you both aware as to why I have summoned you both here?"
"Because you want us to announce the results of the Sikkarmas raffle for you?" Carnely offered.
Actually, and somewhat depressingly, he was right. "Aside from that."
"Because this cretin is accusing us of murder?" Schrau enquired in his naturally condescending way.
"How dare-!"
"Enough." Gilgal warned. "Cadnos, I have your report regarding the incident this morning. Answer me this: Is it accurate?"
"Of course it is not! This vulpin lies easier than he breathes!"
Schrau stared, almost growling, at Pashnor. "Before you dismiss my rie, at reast ret me terr it."
Pashnor snorted, but otherwise said nothing.
"Yes, it's the absorute truth." Schrau said. "We attempted to break up an unrawfur gathering, and the three Forrowers drew their weapons and advanced on us."
"We calmed the situation." Carnely grimaced. "Unfortunately, one of the acolytes lost their life in the fracas."
"As you can see, sir, my report is corroborated by many eyewitness accounts." Schrau added. "Anything erse?"
"Yes, the truth!" Pashnor demanded.
"And that is what I've offered."
"Bah! You'd sell your own mother to cover your own hide, vulpin!"
Both Carnely and Gilgal involuntarily inhaled sharply, and the temperature in the room dropped a few degrees towards zero. Pashnor stood staring down at the vulpin, obviously still wound up, while Schrau just stood there.
Shoulders set, muzzle locked firmly shut, and fists clenched so tightly that after a brief moment blood trickled from between his fingers. His fists were clenched so tightly that his blunt claws were cutting into his palms.
"Pashnor..." Schrau quietly said. "If you knew anything about me, you would know why saying that was a very unwise and stupid thing to do. If you knew anything about me, then you would be thankfur that I'm not strangring you with your own robes. If you knew anything!" He spat the word, "Anything at arr, then you would just back out the way you came before I cram Girgar's desk up your chakras!"
This failed to suitably intimidate Pashnor. "We do not believe in cha-"
"Shaddup!" Schrau snapped. "Your boys gave us attitude, your boys resisted arrest, and one of your boys wound up dead because he couldn't take a godsdamned hint! And yet here you are, accusing us of murder when the arrogance of your own church is what got your man kirred!"
"Believe me, he's an expert on the subject." Carnely snorted.
Pashnor spent a brief moment considering this, then said "I did not come here to be insulted, vulpin!"
"Don't say it." Gilgal warned Schrau just as his mouth opened.
"I came here, a reasonable man, hoping to settle this matter in a polite and civil manner." Pashnor announced. "Instead, I have been heckled, berated, belittled, and threatened!"
"You know where the door is." Gilgal said. "Of course, if you were really a reasonable man, then you would have accepted the recorded sequence of events provided by the independent eyewitnesses and have been satisfied. Instead, you impossibly sought an outcome that would please you specifically." Gilgal sat down. "Now, would you like to be escorted out or would you like to cling to your dignity and make your own way to the door?"
Pashnor's eyes narrowed. "I will find my own way out. I have a good memory, so I should not have to rely on directions offered by your officers." He started for the door, shouldering Carnely out of the way. "You have not heard the last of this."
"No. Unfortunately I feel I have not." Gilgal sighed after the door clicked shut. "Cadnos, was that wholly necessary?"
"Yes." Schrau snapped.
Gilgal rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed again. "Well, at least this time you're declaring war on a new religion as opposed to an old and established one."
"I'm not entirery sure it is a rerigion." Schrau said.
"I would ask for clarification on that statement if I thought that it would make sense to anyone other than yourself. Krysospas, your thoughts?"
Carnely shook his head. "I'm not sure. Really, boss. There's something crooked about this whole thing, and I'm surprised that they're so damned popular, but I guess I don't share Cadnos' loathing for these creeps."
The sentinel guildmaster heaved a weighty grunt. "I must say, this time you both got lucky. True, they were gathering illegally today, but in other situations and in future they probably won't be so careless. Is there any other justification for halting these gatherings?"
"Well, crime has been up since they started showing up." Carnely pointed out. "Pickpocketing, robberies, even kidnapping to a certain degree. Even if it is unrelated, criminals are taking the opportunity to prey on people while their backs are turned."
"The kidnappings are more serious." Schrau claimed. "The Sirver Eye's growth has been phenomenar, and I think that this is in no smarr part due to press-gangs and kidnappings. It's pretty obvious that quite a few of the 'acorytes' have been brainwashed to some degree."
"I agree with you, Cadnos. However, the epidemic will have to become much more serious before we can set a curfew of any variety."
"I've got a feering that they wirr." Schrau said. "I'm positive."
"That's a pretty hefty accusation, Cadnos."
He smiled. "Sorry sir? What part of that was an accusation?"
"Forgive me." The guildmaster growled. "And, boys: Be more careful in future. As contemptible this church of the Silver Eye is, we cannot afford to appear to be in full war against them. Unless either of you have a reason that is sufficient to bring us to that state."
Carnely shook his head. "No sir."
"Good; and Krysospas, I want your report as soon as possible. Cadnos?"
Schrau stood there, fidgeting, visibly uncomfortable. He opened his mouth to say something, then clapped it shut.
Schrau's eyes flicked briefly in Carnely's direction, then closed as he shook his head slightly. "Sir..."
"Well Krysospas?" Gilgal quickly said, understanding Schrau's hint fully. "Haven't you got a report to write."
"Yessir. Right away sir." Carnely saluted smartly, then sidled rat-like from the office.
When the door closed behind the muridan, Gilgal looked demandingly across his desk towards the vulpin. "Well?"
Schrau shook his head. "It's hard for me to say sir. I don't rike this curt at arr."
Gilgal's eyebrows raised slightly, this was the first time he had heard the Silver Eye referred to as a 'cult' though he wasn't particularly surprised to hear the vulpin be first to draw the conclusion. "No one, save the Silver Eye itself, is comfortable with them Cadnos, but is there something to this or is it just irrational prejudice?"
"There's something, sir. I'm... I'm just not sure if I can exprain it."
"Then untir- until you can, it's irrational and has no place in-"
"They're sravers." Schrau quickly interrupted.
Gilgal blinked in the face of this accusation, considered it, then blinked again. "Slavers?"
"It's hard to exprain..." He said, rubbing his left arm. "Hard to exprain to anyone unress they were a srave."
"Then try, Cadnos." Gilgal ordered. "Though I must say they don't sound like slavers to me."
"But they do to me. It's... It's not their words, it's not anything in their words. They could be ordering fried chicken and they'd stirr sound rike a damned sraver to me. I don't trust 'em."
"Most people in their right minds don't trust them." Gilgal said, wholly in the face of presented evidence.
"But I trust 'em ress."
Gilgal spent a few moments stroking his beard, dislodging crumbs hidden for decades beneath the thick white strands of facial hair, then he shook his head. "Cadnos-"
"I'm going to find out about these peopre. Find out what their true intentions are, and I'm going to stop them."
"And you want my blessing?" Gilgal said in a voice that suggested that Hades was still a few quadrillion degrees too warm before that would ever be a consideration.
"With or without the guird, I don't trust these peopre werr enough to just reave arone." Schrau said, a slight shudder in his voice.
"Was that an offer to hand in your badge, Cadnos?" Gilgal smiled.
"No, it's just up to you if I'm wearing it or not when I get to the bottom of this."
Gilgal sighed, "Cadnos, despite your confidence in your own abilities, I do not believe that you have the skill required to single-handedly launch a full-scale investigation into the Silver Eye's motives. I'm sorry, Cadnos, but while I do give you permission to keep your generous ears open, I doubt that you would get anywhere by sticking your big muzzle into this." Gilgal opened a desk drawer and pulled a slim foolscap folder from it.
"What's that? A muzzring order?" Schrau asked with a lopsided grin as the guildmaster slapped the folder down.
"Believe it or not, fifteen separate sentinels have insisted that I sign orders that would require you to wear a leather muzzle while on duty. No, this is a bounty."
Bounties: Bounties were an inevitable result of a failure to track down and reign in hardened criminals by established law enforcement groups, and was often something not discussed comfortably in sentinel circles. However, everyone acknowledges that bounties are sometimes necessary to an effective level of law and order, and a guild existed for professional bounty hunters.
Still, whenever a criminal had been left for long enough to be issued a bounty, sentinels preferred to collect the dues as often as possible; always helps to be paid twice for doing the same job.
"Marcus Kane." Radisgad informed Schrau as he flipped open the file. "Remember him?"
"How could I forget? That bastard has sripped by me too many times."
"Well, another sizable price has been levelled on his head, and we are looking for someone to pull the trigger, so to speak. I thought you should get first refusal."
Again, this was unusual. Logically, if a guard or sentinel had already failed to catch a criminal on many previous occurrences, then they would not be suited to drag them in on a bounty. There was also the issue of a conflict of interest - Why catch someone today when you could bring them in next week for a sizable bonus?
Schrau idly flipped through the folder, noticed what he was looking for, then flopped it shut. "Werr then. Thanks for this fifth chance, sir. I'rr make sure I drag him in kicking and screaming."
"The bounty is dead or alive, Cadnos." Gilgal suggested, added emphasis on the dead.
"What? Not everyone I meet I wind up kirring." Schrau said, fully on the defensive. "Most of them manage to die by themserves without my intervention."
Gilgal stared back at him.
"Some." Schrau retracted. "Just three."
"Okay, I onry chipped at the barcony edge a rittre bit. Not my faurt it was rotten."

Part 3 - Homecoming

Vulpins! Follower Arton Dur thought incredulously as he surveyed the scene before him. Vulpins of every kind! Male and female, young and old, cunning and crafty and suspicious. Pashnor must be truly insane to believe that this village could be swayed.
Nevertheless, this is where Harren led his followers, and here is where the Silver Eye may find more resources. Last year, this village wasn't even here, and given the nature of its rapid growth the more materialistic followers of the Silver Eye had reasoned that this village was very wealthy indeed. Financially speaking, the vulpins grew sizable crops of wheat and grains, and since every last person living in the village ate only meat, carrion, and fish that meant that every single bushel gathered from the fields would be sold to nearby Gydnia and Keystone. A hundred percent profit margin.
And of course the various thieves, cutpurses, safebreakers, con artists, crooked card dealer, and general scum that made up the population of russet rogues in the village supplemented that income with coins of their own. Dur was positive that the bastards were robbing his caravan while they held this gathering.
Dur took a final drag on his cigarette; a vice that was granted to certain select members of the Silver Eye, before flicking it onto the floor and grinding the end beneath his boot.
It was a good boot. A perfect mirror image of the other good boot on his other foot.
Dur grumbled to himself and shook his head. He did not trust vulpins one bit, despite the rather severe handicap of being one.
Oh, he knew vulpins all right. He knew their lives, and how that they were essentially a destructive and voracious race. Traipsing across the six worlds wheeling and scheming their way through life. Preying on the ignorant and the weak and the stupid and regretting not one thing.
Of course, irony was not Dur's specialist subject in the weekly pub quiz in the Dragon's End.
Dur had been one of them, he and his sister both. They had been good little criminals, and now they were good little acolytes of the Silver Eye. To the cynical, not much had changed during the transitional period, but to Arton and Seita there was a world of difference.
However, despite his obvious advantage in discussing the glory that was a life under the watchful gaze of Harren, Arton could not bring himself to address them. Instead, he had granted that honour to the junior Acolyte that had been assigned to his care. It would be good practice, and the changeling was a regal and persuasive presence. Oh, this Acolyte was less than perfect before arriving at the steps of the Ocular Temple, but who had been?
Nevertheless, despite previous successes the young disciple was having trouble swaying any of the crowd over to his way of thinking. The gathered vulpins seemed to stare back at him and the rest of the Silver Eye entourage with contempt and loathing and not a small amount of fear.
This was not going well at all.
Arton considered returning to the caravan, rolling another cigarette to calm his nerves, and returning to his old persuasive self which Harren would not approve of, but if he could convince just one person in the crowd that Harren's way was the right way, then Harren would surely approve.
Belatedly, he heard footsteps approach from behind and felt a newcomer come to a stop by his side, easily circumventing the two Fists of the Silver Eye that stood at his rear and side. The Fists were specially chosen warriors to execute the often necessary and unpleasant task of protecting Harren's Eyes wherever they should roam. Their weapons were better, and instead of regular silk they wore robes of purest and most perfect silksteel.
The newcomer was another vulpin, scruffy and with a black mark across the left of his neck which he idly rubbed as he smiled at Arton. "Wotcha." The newcomer cheerfully said. "How're things?"
"Please be quiet." Arton whispered back, noticing that the vulpin wore a pair of matched thin blades across his back. He didn't have the muscular bulk typically associated with a sword-for-hire, so that meant he was either a rogue of some description, or had attained ownership of the weapons through dishonest means.
"Sorry." The vulpin grinned, glancing down. "Hey, nice boots. Not many cobblers actually make boots for us. They'd rather make boots out of-"
"I said be silent." Arton snapped. "What is your business here?"
The vulpin scratched his muzzle and smiled sheepishly. "We-ell... That's a bit tricky, y'see. Technically, I own this village, but I don't have much to do with the people here."
"Oh, collecting rent?" Arton asked, his interest finally piqued. If this vulpin actually did own the village, then he could surely be swayed into offering generous support to Harren's cause. Of course, there was always the possibility that this roguish fellow was lying, or had stolen the deeds to the village and owned it through dishonest means, since Arton knew more than anyone that vulpins could steal practically anything.
"Eh... No. No. I gave this place away really, or rather I gave away the funds for founding this little collection of shacks and huts."
"Where would one get funds sufficient to create a wonderful place such as this?" Arton asked, deciding that being flattering while he sharpened a blade was preferable to alienating this benevolent benefactor totally.
"Killing people, usually." The vulpin coldly said. "Anyway, thank you for taking the time to talk to me, but I've got work to do."
And with that, he stepped forward toward the crowd, toward the Acolyte. Arton dimwittedly realised that a vulpin with a pair of swords was now walking towards the unguarded back of a fellow disciple and began to bark an order for the two Fists to stop this.
The mysterious vulpin had pulled something from a pocket, fastened it to the front of his roughspun cloth vest, then produced a pair of shackles. One loop went around the changeling's wrist as he swung an arm wide to emphasise a point in his speech.
The Acolyte was being arrested!

Schrau knew he had maybe ten seconds or less before one of the two goons standing not that far away behind him would cave his skull in with one of those maces that they so cheerfully swung around, so he had to work fast.
"Awright, mate. Remember me?" He said to his quarry. "Of course you do. Marcus Kane, I'm arresting you on-"
"Stop!" The vulpin that Schrau had pigeonholed into being in charge of this little gathering sputtered. "You can't-"
"-severar warrants incruding three for conspiracy to murder, two murder, four abductions, and five attempted abductions. On your knees with your hands behind your back."
"You can't do this, vulpin." Kane spat, tugging at the manacle while trying to keep his free hand as far away from the vulpin's grasp as possible.
"On your knees with your hands behind your back." Schrau ordered again.
"This man is one of my-"
"You: Shut up." Schrau barked. "You: On your knees. Hands behind your back. Finar warning."
And when Marcus Kane resisted once more, Schrau took great pleasure in drawing a short stubby cosh from his jacket.
It looked like a simple blackjack, but had less weight. The reason being is that in the middle of the leather and the lead shot was a dense spine made of bottle caps that gave the cosh just a little flexibility not to break bones but retained more stiffness to ensure that when you hit someone with it that it really, really hurt.
The blackjack cracked across the front of Kane's right kneecap, and the man instantly folded. He dropped to one knee, then onto his stricken joint.
"Now your arm, otherwise you get this across your brain next."
Marcus meekly accepted as his fellow Followers eventually finished crossing the distance. Schrau slapped the other manacle across his wrist and then pushed him face down into the dirt. He turned. "Yes?"
"I demand to know-"
"This is Marcus Kane, right?"
"Acolyte Kane, yes." The Follower clarified. "But he-"
"Werr, Marcus Kane has severar murtipre outstanding warrants for his arrest and probabre execution." He lowered his voice. "Can we discuss this vulpin to vulpin? My jaw has really been aching lately."
"He is a faithful follower of Harren."
"He is a wanted criminal with a sizable bounty on his head."
"Cadnos." Schrau offered. "And you are?"
"Arton Dur. Follower Dur."
"Right then, Dur. Were you aware of Kane's reputation when you took him into your church?"
Arton Dur took a deep breath. "I had heard that he had some-"
"Because if you did, then I would have to charge you and your two goons here with harbouring a dangerous fugitive. Kane has escaped arrest six times before now, and I intend to reel him in." The sentinel flashed a predatorily grin, and Arton suddenly felt like something distinctly edible. "Of course, that would be bad publicity for the Silver Eye, eh?"
"I had no idea." Arton confidently said.
"Good! Well then, if you have no other business here I suggest that you and these two brick walls here turn tail and just walk away."
This rocked Arton somewhat. He had his orders, and he would displease his god greatly if he returned from this village empty-handed. On the other paw, a member of his order was arrested in full view of the crowd that he was trying to convert which made the situation that much more impossible. His will was strong, but...
"To the caravans." Arton grunted to the two Fists. "We move right now."
Schrau held up a finger to correct the vulpin Eye. "Um. Slight problem. I have to impound your vehicles."
"You what?"
"They have been used as a base of operations for a wanted felon." Schrau plainly said. "It's possible that there is evidence in any of those carts that could prove further guilt."
"You cannot be serious!" Arton spat. "This is a trick!"
Schrau produced a small but thick volume from a pocket, then threw it into Arton's clutches. "Page three-seventeen."
Arton fumbled with the crisp book for a brief moment, taking note of the green leather cover with the sentinel badge embossed in gold print on the front. A handbook of Sentinel Law. The Follower of the Silver Eye cracked open the book, flicking through fresh pages until he reached the relevant numbered page. As sure as his predicament was dire, the small-printed letter of the law corroborated the sentinel's demand.
"You cannot expect me to believe this." Arton pushed one final gamble. "The ink on this page is still wet!"
Schrau shrugged sheepishly. "Uh, yeah. It's actually a new replacement for my last book. Fifty gold replacement fee." He fidgeted nervously. "My old one's inside a tortle."
Arton blinked at the sentinel.
"Long story. Humourous, but long. Now then, I propose you three start walking."
Arton threw the book down fiercely onto the floor and glared long and hard at the sentinel. "This is simply unbelievable! I-" He twitched. "I... Cadnos- Mark my words, Cadnos, you have not heard the last of this!"
The sentinel sighed and nodded. "I've heard that one before. Really." He stooped down to retrieve his book of law and smiled with a grim satisfaction as the three Acolytes turned and set off into the Charthurian forest.
"You can't do this to me, vulpin." Kane growled from his position on the floor, "Harren will judge you, and you shall be found-"
"One day, one of your kind is gonna be abre to intimidate me, Kane." He slapped Kane across the back of the head with his book and tucked it into his pocket. "Kenna?" He added in lupin.
A watery-eyed young vulpin stepped from the gathered crowd and nodded respectfully at the sentinel. "Yes sir?"
Kenna was a particularly unique vulpin in that he walked tall despite being substantially shorter than the rest of his race, in that he walked without stoop nor skulk. Almost like a human would. Then again, Kenna was particularly unique for any race or being.
Schrau barely remembered him from their time together in Aldar's den. Schrau was one of the first generation of children to be wholly brought up in the lair, while Kenna would not be born for another four years. When Kenna was a very little child, everyone in the den, the slavers included, were afraid of the boy. Everyone had believed that he was possessed by demons.
It wasn't until he was sold to the Kuroryu family and when one of the Kuroryu sons acknowledged what Kenna's abilities were that anyone understood his true nature. Kenna was not possessed, he was gifted - Gifted with the ability to read minds.
Of course, not in the same way that psionicists could and he certainly lacked the ability to infer any thoughts or his will onto the minds of others, and nor could he read the actual thoughts of a person's mind. He could however read a person's emotional state over a period of several weeks; the remnants of emotions long felt. It was both surprisingly useless and deceptively useful. Much of the fear felt by everyone around Kenna stemmed from the fact that he was infinitely patient, spent every waking moment watching everyone around him with an almost macabre interest, and then saying simple and bland sentences that made anyone receiving them wishing he would stay out of their damned head.
Schrau had been a scared little boy who spent much of his life guarding himself with arrogance, and had been afraid of Kenna just like everyone else. Now he was just arrogant, and now he could see what Kenna really was: A useful asset.
And of course, Kenna was more than happy to help. Four years under the fists of Aldar and his men, followed by a time being ordered and bullied and treated as a source of amusement by the Kuroryuan children had taught the boy how to be extremely subservient. He walked straight and tall, eyes never subconsciously seeking gold purses and potential escape routes; he spoke with an unerring honesty without a modicum of cunning or guile. He was barely a vulpin.
"What were you getting from them?"
The boy nodded politely and said, "Of the two guards-"
"The Fists." Schrau corrected.
"-There was... A blind devotion, yet no belief. I don't believe that they believe in Harren and the Silver Eye cause, but they are with the church to sate a lust for violence... I think."
Schrau nodded, but had to disagree with Kenna on that point. The archetype of the two Fists was one he was all too familiar with. "Close. They want to be involved in cracking skulls, but really they're just hanging around to feel important. How about Kane here?"
Kenna looked down at the acolyte kneeling on the floor. "Blind devotion."
This did surprise Schrau somewhat, since Marcus Kane was not the type to follow any cause. Then again, he had expected a threat from the man as opposed to the religious rhetoric that he had supplied. "Go on."
"Love dominates his mind, an unquestioning devotion that I've rarely seen in anyone. And..." Kenna struggled to find the right description, then settled on something he believed Schrau could understand. "Before then there's nothing."
And this still confused the sentinel somewhat. "Nothing?"
"A complete blank."
"Nothing whatsoever?" Schrau snorted. "Well, that would explain his usual MO; you mean you can't read him at all?"
"I'm afraid so." Kenna said. "Also, about that vulpin you spoke with..."
"His name was Arton. Arton Dur." Schrau muttered, finding the name somewhat familiar now. "What about him?"
Kenna sighed, "Again, the same sort of devotion I found in Kane. However it was tinged with something else. Shame."
"He was ashamed of something?"
"Ashamed that he was going to do something, almost constantly. It rose to a peak just before you arrived. There was something else too, if you don't mind me saying."
Schrau nodded. "Continue."
"Well..." And the child smiled. "It was something faint, very indistinct and almost smothered in the devotion and the shame. It's always there, always gnawing away at it, and it rose just before that peak of shame killed it off."
"So what it is, it's what he's ashamed of?"
"You understand."
"So, what was it?"
"Something I see in you every time I see you." Kenna tilted his head down a touch and looked up at Schrau with those pale eyes of his. "A distinct criminal tendency."
"He's a vulpin." Schrau muttered, pulling a battered green tin from a pocket. "That doesn't surprise me nearly as much." He opened the tin, tenderly removed a small white mint and popped it into his mouth. "Doesn't surprise me at all." He added with a satisfying crunch.
Kenna smiled even wider. "Of course, that streak does flow through most vulpins, but his... It is exactly like yours. Faint, but familiar."
"So he was trained in criminal arts like I was?"
Kenna shook his head. "No, your sense is a perfectly natural one. It's a crucial part of how you operate, and his is a crucial part of him."
Schrau nodded, and then with an understanding moan he mumbled, "Seita Dur..."

Part 4 - Understanding

"...It's just that I find it odd that this church is attracting so many criminars..."
Gilgal briefly held his breath. It was such an outrageous statement coming from the vulpin that he wholly expected the entire pantheon of the gods to materialise in his office and call Schrau a flaming hypocrite in turn. Cadnos blood ran so thickly with criminal intent that it could steal a vampire's fangs if one attempted to feast on any given member of that family. Gilgal had always assumed that Schrau's coat carried more knocked-off gear in its many non-regulation pockets than any crime lord's warehouse.
Yet it was delivered with such casual professionalism, such sincerity that Gilgal felt the vulpin had somehow tricked the universe into allowing him to continue without punishment. The problem with having such strong faith in something was when another had an ever stronger faith to the contrary. "I agree." Gilgal muttered, feeling an aneurysm almost form in his brain, "but I ask you again - Who the hell is this Seita Dur?"
"Her and an accomprice have been responsibre for a number of robberies across Werstar, sir." Schrau stated.
And this did not surprise Gilgal in the least. Vulpins committing crimes on Welstar. Next, Schrau would reveal on how werewolves howl at Ragnaraok on Perdow. That was not what Gilgal had an issue with. "So how come I, the guildmaster of the sentinels, know nothing about these crimes? The only crimes in this universe I am not normally aware of is the pilfering of the petty cash from my desk."
"Werr, first things first, you're not short and orange and smerr bad in the rain." Schrau helpfully noted as he shifted from one foot to the other. There was a clink of coinage mixed in with the usual cacophony of noises caused by the junk in the sentinel's coat. "And arso, they are very, very good at what they do. From what I've heard of Seita, I'm surprised she's invorved with them."
"We do not know if she is."
"Her brother is. Sidartonis Dur, Arton to his friends and, apparentry to the rest of us now he's in the Sirver Eye."
"Sidartonis?" Gilgal enquired. "You're wondering why he shortened it?"
"Yeah..." Schrau muttered. "But he was her partner, so if he's in the Eye, then so is his sister."
"Cadnos, it sounds to me that you're jealous?"
"What? Nah." Schrau blinked. "Rook, the Durs couldn't match what the Cadnoses had in terms of sheer abirity. Things have changed, o' course since the onry remaining Cadnos is now an honest, raw-abiding citizen."
And before the universe could stop on itself and start thinking "wait, what the hell did he just say?" Gilgal replied to that with, "Law as a loosely-defined term, possibly."
"Ain't been caught yet, sir." Schrau smiled. "But rearry, I'm worried. First Kane, then Arton Dur. I wonder how many other criminars are in the Sirver Eye."
"Perhaps they believe in redemption, Cadnos." Gilgal mused. "And if you want a definition of that, there's a dictionary on the shelf behind you."
"Pfft." Schrau snorted. "Why would a vurpin need redemption?"

With much fear and trepidation, Follower Arton Dur stepped into the small antechamber outside the room of Jash Pashnor. He had failed in his task, and had also lost valuable equipment and had abandoned a fellow acolyte to a sentinel.
The vulpin took a deep breath, then knocked on the door.
Arton hesitated, backing away from the door as if it had rejected him somehow, before gently grasping the doorknob and twisting.
Pashnor was just standing up from kneeling in prayer before the statue of Harren, he turned with a slight breeze from his robes chilling Arton's blood, and then Pashnor smiled.
"Ah, Follower Dur. How did your expedition to that new village go?"
In an instant, Dur dropped to his knees and hung his head low. "Prease, forgive me! It was a dismar fairure!"
Pashnor simply replied with, "Oh?"
"We faired to bring one person to Harren's grace. Faired to garner one donation. The peopre there, their ears were shut and tongues sirent. Arso-" The vulpin hesitated.
"Go on, brother."
"Acoryte Kane was arrested and detained, and our caravan seized. By a sentiner."
"What!?" Pashnor bellowed. "Follower Dur! This was your responsibility! This was your task! And yet now you return to me with even less than Harren granted unto you to accomplish it?" Pashnor felt his hands and his throat and his stomach tighten. "Give me this sentinel's name so I may take it up personally with that heathen, Radisgad!"
"It was Cadnos- A vurpin." Arton quickly offered in a 'do-not-kill-me-please' manner.
Pashnor immediately calmed down. "Schrau Cadnos? Oh, right." He cleared his throat, then stomped over to a side table where he picked up a glass of water and sipped it. "Thank you, Follower Dur," The First Follower croaked, "you may return to your daily duties."
"Th- Thank you, sir." Dur mumbled in confusion, then with a bow he quickly turned tail and escaped from the room.
Pashnor drained his glass, then shattered it in his fist. Shards tumbled from his hand, yet not a single piece had cut through the First Follower's gloves.
Cadnos! That blasted wretch! Pashnor was going to make preparations to leave for Wysoom immediately, then return to that blasted guildhall and ensure that Cadnos not-
"Do not anger the beast." A quiet voice told Pashnor. "Small, wretched, but a beast nevertheless. It would be unwise to stir up his emotions while unprepared as you are."
Pashnor turned towards the statue of Harren, looked into the eyes of his god and growled, "His impertinence is proving disastrous to your will."
"Ah, Pashnor the Indignant. Don't be so rash. One vulpin by himself cannot destroy all that I have created, but one vulpin by himself may attract the aid of those who can."

"Can you prove that this Dur is the same Dur?" Gilgal asked. "Can you get a witness to testify?"
Schrau rolled his eyes, "Uh, no."
"Have you even tried?"
"What would the point be?" Schrau asked. "The victims were humans and other humanoids."
"So?" Gilgal said.
"The Durs are vurpins."
"And your point being?"
Schrau sighed. "You recognise me easiry enough, right?"
"Of course I do, Cadnos!" Gilgal growled, "I recognise every sentinel in my charge!"
"No, you recognise me because I stand out. I'm different. I've got this mark..." Schrau tapped his neck and winced. Gilgal almost commented on the fact that drain clogs usually appeared smarter than Schrau, but the point was essentially moot. "I'm different from arr the other vurpins."
"With all due respect, Cadnos, I recognise each and every one of my vulpin subordinates."
"With arr due respect, sir, may I bring to your attention Kerr Morrin?" Schrau's eyebrows arched. "What would you say if I tord you that his cousin, Ton, has covered four of his shifts in the rast month?"
Gilgal's mouth opened wide, then clapped shut immediately. "Seriously?"
"And you never informed me of this because...?"
"Ton's actuarry a better officer, truth be tord." Schrau shrugged. "He's got better handwriting for one. I've considered recruiting him on more than one occasion."
"Bah! Whatever, I see your point..." Gilgal managed to bite back the seething rage building up inside him. "So what do you propose?"
"Werr, as unusuar this might sound coming from yours trury, I've kicked up a smarr hornet's nest and they're going to react. We have one of their acorytes, we have a caravan of their goods, and I'm just waiting for any response from them." Schrau grinned. "In fact, and on a more personar note, I'm wirring to bet that I wirr be approached by representatives of the Sirver Eye in the hopes that I can be brought into their ford."
There was that awkward pause that Schrau was used to whenever someone had to mentally translate something he said. Good, it was proof positive that whoever he was speaking to was actually paying attention to his words.
"How can you be sure?"
"Because I seem to be the sort of sirver-tongued bastard they're rooking for."
Gilgal leaned on his desk, "If so, then be very careful. Dismissed... Oh, and send Kerr in to see me."
"Wirr do, sir, but you're going to have to put up with Ton today."

Seita Dur closed her copy of the Witness and stood up. The knock on her chamber door repeated itself and the vulpin glided over to it. Stopping only briefly to adjust her pauldrons, she opened the door.
"Oh, Arton. How did your-" She began, before noticing the haggard expression on her brother's face.
"It did not go as planned." Arton sighed. "They were deaf to our words, and Follower Kane was arrested."
"Arrested? What for?"
Arton then proceeded to recount the tale of deceit, corruption, and trickery to his sister. It took about as long as it did when he gave his report to Pashnor, but without the disgrace associated with it.
"That's awful..." Seita muttered, shaking her head. "What... Person would do such a thing?"
"Cadnos." Arton stated. "Schrau Cadnos."
That name seemed to stir some memories in Seita's mind, just out of reach from her normal reasoning. The memory, the thoughts, they almost came to light and yet something pushed them away. "He seems a duplicitous sort."
"Of course he is." Arton nodded. "He does not know Harren's grace."
Leathered footfalls echoed down the corridor outside Seita's chambers, and Arton turned his head to see. "Ah, Forrower Margus."
The anakim stopped at Seita's doors and nodded politely. Truly, the anakim was a sight to behold in her robes with her wings allowed to be displayed in their full grace. It was a vulpin's shame that they were of a race associated with being cunning and untruthful and fast-fingered, and so the uniform of the Silver Eye covered all that they were - hands and feet and tail and all - leaving but the head, which could be covered with the hood if needs be. However, an anakim was a glorious being, long associated with truth and justice, and the same robes that covered a vulpin's shame simply magnified an anakim's might.
Oh such a curse it was to be born such a creature as he! Though not strictly jealous, Arton couldn't help but feel the shame that burned through his soul every time he saw the anakim that was his direct superior. Malgus smiled.
"Ah, Followers Dur. How pleasant to see you both."
"We are ready to serve," Seita said.
"Margus, I must apor-" Arton began.
Malgus raised a hand and a smile. "All is forgiven, Arton. Do you feel that you need redemption?"
Something twisted in Arton's mind, an old saying almost brought to the fore; Why would a vulpin need redemption? But Arton knew he needed that more than anything right now. "Perhaps..."
"Well, this concerns you both." The anakim said. "It is Harren's will that you both make contact with a certain someone, and explain the glory that is the Silver Eye to this person."
Now something was screaming at the back of Arton's mind. He had a very clear picture on who it would be.
Seita, however, just smiled and nodded. "Of course. Who wirr we be bestowing the grace of Harren on next?"

Part 5 - Immovable Object

A cascade of cogs and gears flurried from the gnome's many pockets and splashed across the cobbles of the street below. Though not intrinsically strong himself, Schrau had no trouble dangling the gnome upside-down from the roof above. "Werr, it would onry be irregar if I purposefurry dropped you, then it would be murder though I'm sure I can talk my way down to mansraughter."
"On the other hand, I could arways say that you sripped out of my grasp, Camshifter." The vulpin mused. "Easy enough to do. These socks are pretty greasy, I must admit."
"Pleasepleasepleasewhatdoyouwantwithme!?" Camshifter babbled.
"Egads, peopre comprain when I speak." Schrau sighed. "Where's the damn gord, Camshifter? I asked you that before I dragged yer ass up here."
"And I tord you I didn't berieve it. Gods, you think I'd be here wasting my time if I didn't know that you know what I want to know?"
Camshifter paused briefly, then said, "ButifyouknowthatIknowwhatyouwanttoknow... Thenwhydon'tyouknowwhatitisthatIdoknowthatyousayyouknow?"
Schrau let his grip slip for just long enough to make poor gnome drop a heart-stopping inch. "But if I knew what you know and you know what I want you to know that I don't know what you know, then why are you saying that I don't know what you know when I rearry do know that you know that I don't know that you know?"
"Hnrgh!" Camshifter spasmed in the sentinel's grip. "Doesvulpinlogicusuallycauseaneurisms?"
"If you're rucky." Schrau smiled. "Now, you were about to terr me where-"
It was at that point that he noticed two white-and-silver clad vulpins walking down the street towards his position. He recognised one of them easily enough as Arton Dur. "Oh. Wonderfur."
"I say," the other vulpin said, now obviously female despite the ambiguity granted by her robes. "What is the meaning of this?"
"Ah." Camshifter cheerfully said. "ApairofSilverEyeacolytes! SavemeHarren! IamyoursandIlo-"
Schrau dragged the gnome across the precipice with a grunt, causing Camshifter's teeth to close around his tongue.
"Owdatwuthmahdongue." The gnome complained.
"Shaddup." Schrau muttered, shackling the gnome "And trust me on this, I wouldn't wish the Sirver Eye on even you."
Before the gnome could complain, or even say anything, Schrau had picked him up and then lobbed him over the edge. With a strangled scream, Camshifter dropped towards the ground, his life flashing before his eyes. Fortunately for future reference, the tiny detail that he had forgotten about his latest crime was included in that montage, which further solidified the gnome's own loathing for his particular short memory defect that often got him in trouble with the law.
And he was allowed to live long enough to regret it because, his nose a few inches from the cobbles, a sturdy hand gripped him by the ankle. Camshifter twisted uncomfortably to see a boot, some feathers, and the sentinel greens of an anakim in uniform before he was unceremoniously dropped onto the floor.
"Thanks, Sev." Schrau smiled, tossing the sentinel recruit a casual salute as the anakim picked up the gnome the right way up and proceeded to march him back to the guild hall. Schrau paced around the rooftop, eyeing an awning below which he used to come to a less-than-graceful bounce on the street below. He didn't bother to straighten his coat as the two Silver Eyes approached.
"Greetings." The female said, as her partner seemed to stand at a sulk behind her. "We are-"
"I know who you both are." Schrau interrupted. "Sidartonis and Seita Dur."
"I prefer Arton," The male muttered. "And we have met before, haven't we?"
"Oh yes." Schrau smiled. "Funny you should ask that, I usually leave a lasting impression on someone while I'm working."
Arton stared back at the sentinel. "Well, you see, it's that I've been... I've been... Um..."
Seita looked concerned. "Are you quite all right, brother?"
Arton nodded. "I'm fine."
"Lovely." Schrau snorted. "Now, is there a reason why you two are bothering an on-duty sentinel, or are you both attracted to my natural wit and cunning that you would normally be avoiding like the plague?"
The two acolytes stared back at him blankly.
"Oh yes, I know you two better than you think." Schrau smiled. "So, what is it?"
Seita smiled. "Friend, have you heard of the Grace of Harren?"

The door slammed open and actually fell of its hinges. The loud clattering of wood being introduced to hard stone and rug fibres briefly drowned out the complaints of Gilgal's secretary as she impotently trailed behind the First Follower as he strode magnificently into the office of the sentinel guildmaster.
Gilgal Radisgad, not even looking up from the papers he was reading, calmly said, "Enter."
Pashnor stepped up to the desk and swept the papers off its chipped surface. "Guildmaster Radisgad, I think we should talk!"
Gilgal looked beyond the indignant Silver Eye to the selkie behind him. "Tekild, could you please leave us in peace?"
The secretary nodded, then turned tail and slithered as quickly as possible out of the room. Gilgal heard the outside office door click shut before standing up to face Pashnor.
"Let's get one thing straight, boy; The only reason you're still here is because I have the common decency not to bounce you off your head through that door that you now owe me for. What. Do. You. Want?"
Pashnor's nostrils flared. "Well, let's discuss debts first; If the property of the Silver Eye isn't returned to us as soon as possible you will find that the few coppers I owe you for that cheap door is a mere nothing."
Gilgal smiled. "If you're referring to the two carts officer Cadnos confiscated, then they will be returned to you following the successful conclusion to our investigation into the movements of Marcus Kane during the period he disappeared from our notice and his eventual arrest." The guildmaster sat back down. "If, however, by 'property' you are referring to Marcus Kane... Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"Harren forgives," Seita confidently said, "whatever thou hast done to now, he can and will forgive you if you would just-"
Schrau snorted. "Nope. Believe me, sister, I've done things that no one - Sikkar, Harren, hell, even the Nameless One - would forgive." He grinned. "And that was just this morning."
Arton blinked. "And you are... Satisfied with this?"
Schrau stuffed his hands into his pockets and continued walking. "Listen up, son. Four years ago I was a slave. I would wake up every morning in the fetid cell I shared with my mother for as long as I could remember wishing, praying to any god that would listen, that today wouldn't be the day when Aldar caved my head in because I wasn't learning his complex fighting routines fast enough. Eating slops and whatever bugs I thought would give me nourishment and all the time hoping that anyone, even the boy standing next to me would be killed instead of me." He removed a small twist of thread from his pocket and held it up for his inspection before discarding it. "All my life I had hoped that something, someone, anyone would pull me from that quagmire and into a better life and you know what? Nobody ever did. So it was down to me to get myself out of that mess, and Aldar then killed everyone I had known and loved before I got the chance to stick him first."
"That's-" Seita began.
"So it got me thinking." Schrau quietly said. "Why the hell should I expect forgiveness from any god? In fact, why should any god forgive me when there's no way that I'll forgive them."
This, much to Schrau's surprise, had less of an affect on the two Silver Eyes than he had hoped. "What happened to you was a tragic incident..." Arton simply stated, "however, you cannot expect the gods to be responsible-"
"If the gods aren't responsible to what happened to my people, then what the hell are they responsible for?"
Schrau felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Seita's. "I can understand why you're angry."
And Schrau being Schrau, he just had to correct her. At length. "Oddly enough, I've never been angry. At least, not in that way. I know exactly what I am; a somewhat skilled fighter and a damn fine criminal mind. Really, that's all you need to get anywhere in the sentinel guild. Being angry helps too, I can name a handful of senior sentinels that have bile practically spilling out of their ears, but what I've got is enough and I don't want any more."
"What about faith?" Arton asked.
"What about it?" Schrau smiled. "I've found that faith is a bigger impediment than it is a benefit. Have you heard about a young paladin called Havral Glommon?"

A clatter of silver and a flurry of silk, and Pashnor lay sprawled out on the floor of the senior sentinel office. It's hard to retain a sense of grace when you're flat on your back, more so when your nose is streaming blood down your immaculate white beard.
Gilgal Radisgad stepped into the room, fists clenched so tightly that the muscles in his forearms were popping. As far as dignity was concerned, Gilgal had a few points on Pashnor since his nose had been broken so many times before it no longer bled when damaged, and he was also still upright.
Gilgal lazily tossed something at the stricken Follower, which clattered heavily against the stone floor. It was Pashnor's battle mace. "Here, you dropped this when I punched you in the throat."
"You attacked me..." Pashnor rasped.
"Incorrect. You attacked me." Gilgal replied. "I just knocked seven bells out of you in self defence. The eighth bell was for good measure, mind you."
"I'll have your badge, Radisgad..." Pashnor unsteadily pulled himself upright, "I'll have your shield and I'll have you, Radisgad!"
Gilgal crossed his arms across his massive chest. "We'll see about that. I fancy my chances, mind you. Now get out of my guild hall before we force you out. Through the wall."

Schrau was suffering of the giddy light-headedness associated with his usual bloodlust as well as the gnawing sensation associated with leaving far too many witnesses. Arton and Seita Dur were not as he had known them, or more specifically, what he had heard of them. They were essentially the same thing. To a vulpin, reputation was the one thing you could not fake, reputation was what defined you and how other vulpins knew of you. Schrau had a reputation; every vulpin he had known had a reputation of sorts, and if there's one thing Schrau had learned is that reputation is always accurate.
Now here was Dur and her brother; not cunning sneaks well versed in the skills of humiliating and blackmailing stupid young socialites with more money than sense (which, as a defining rule, was true both before and after Seita had taken them for every copper they had). Something had taken them both and tore the very soul from them and replaced it with woolly Harren-love. If there was one thing Schrau could take heart in, it was his experience with the three Silver Eyes just before Sikkarmas, and the fact that they had been just as misguided as these two vulpins but had proven to be duplicitous enough to resort to outright violence when tipped.
For the last half hour they had been tailing him, and Schrau kept enough small knick-knacks and tools in that tangled mass of fur he laughingly referred to as a tail to ensure that there would normally be insufficient room for two vulpins. Thirty minutes of preaching and persuasion and "did-you-know". Schrau was keen on making enemies in the Silver Eye, but the thought that more of this would somehow be the punishment for gutting these two twerps and stuffing them into a narrow alleyway in the gnomish district somehow kept him in check.
Well, to hell with this. Time to resume the offensive.
"Yeah, yeah, sweetie." Schrau muttered, neatly cutting Seita off in mid sentence like a guillotine. "Harren is yay, other gods are icky. Tell me, blue-eyes-"
"They're brown." Seita corrected, for once displaying a hint of vulpin pedantry.
"Blue-eyes, what made you get out of the business?"
They walked on in unison for a full three steps before Arton asked, "Business?"
"Yeah, ginger. Business. Vulpin business. Our kind of business; the type of business I'm ostensibly a part of." Schrau sighed. "Oh come on, now. I've heard of you two through the grapevine. You two were good, you were great. Why the hell did you... Jack it all in for this crap?"
"We found a greater purpose," Seita said. "one that was more fulfilling, it's as simple as that."
"Tell me, Cadnos." Arton quietly said. "What made you get out of the business?"
This was more like it. "Well, gosh darn it and bugger me all to heck if I ain't actually proud that I managed to shoehorn at least one of you out of your shell. What you're asking, Sidartonis, is why am I a sentinel instead of the skilled thief and bastard that I was brought up to be?"
"Yes." Arton calmly said. "Why did you become a sentinel?"
"The answer is simple: Easy access to both weapons and sources that would be useful in tracking down slavers so I may hogtie them with their own entrails. Then I found out I was rather good at it. There's a couple of minds that are well suited to sentinel work, and I just happened to possess one of them."
They rounded the corner and started down the long trek that was Sun Dragon. "Besides, like I said I'm ostensibly in the business. Just that now I'm allowed to be more creative in my deeds."
"It's tragic..." Seita shook her head. "A man with great potential still clinging to the golden age of our racial history."
"The time of the cunning vulpin thief has passed." Arton added. "When we saw the light, well... Really there's only Pandrada Whiplash left."
Schrau almost buckled at the sense of nausea that he had accustomed to hearing that name. "Oh yes, Pandrada Whiplash. Over a hundred daring heists and robberies in the last year alone, even two simultaneous ones on Raji and Welstar." Schrau promised to gather up all the Whiplashes out there and tell them 'look lads, enough's enough. You don't want to be pretending to be a vulpin thief invented by a muridan for the rest of your life, do you?' "Anyway, I'm better than all of 'em put together. You wouldn't believe the stuff I've done over the years."
Pandrada Whiplash again.
"Despite being a sentinel?" Seita asked.
"Especially by being a sentinel." Schrau added. "Now then, cupcake. I think I see your boss wandering down the street towards us, so let me tell you this: Whatever you're selling, I ain't interested. Now bugger off and leave me alone." And then he broke away from the two Acolytes following him and started walking down the street at a brisker pace. As Pashnor came closer, Schrau nodded and smiled. "Nice beard dye. That fashionabre in the Sirver Eye?"

A slim leather-bound volume slapped down on Gilgal's desk. The sentinel guildmaster looked up at Schrau. "What's this?"
"Something I thought you'd find interesting, sir. It's their book."
"Their book? The Silver Eye's?"
Schrau nodded. "Yes, I thought you could browse through it and terr me if there was anything interesting in there."
Gilgal snorted. "Oh, so now you're asking me to do your work for you?"
Schrau shrugged, and not his usual shrug of indifference. "Sir, despite the fact that I strut around rike some genius most of the time, I'm vurpin enough to know my rimits. If I need to know something about the seerie, I ask Naga a few questions. If I want to know about Farren, I ask Zeamass. If I want to know a few things about muridan customs, I take a few stiff drinks to steady my nerves and ask Carn. I'm not rerigious. That's something that got squeezed out of me before I could talk. I would appreciate your input on this, sir."
Gilgal picked up the book and started flicking through it. "That's astoundingly humble of you, Cadnos. Thank you. Where did you get this from?"
Schrau grinned smugly, looking more like his regular self once more. "Werr, as indoctrinated as the Durs were, they were stirr vurpins and somewhat naturarry cagey about their berongings. However, I rearned enough from 'em both to know where they kept their copies, and Pashnor was rather distracted as I passed him on the way in."
"You stole it from the First Follower of the Silver Eye?" Gilgal said, dread not so much as mounting as pole-vaulting over the bar of his disposition.
"Yes. Good job I took it from him too, since we could arways craim that he dropped it during the rittre incident I heard about on the way in."
"Fair enough." Gilgal said, returning his attention to the book. "So, what are you going to do now?"
"Dunno. I think I may forrow up this Seita Dur connection. I remember she had a rover, a Bart Llwynos."
Once again, Gilgal's gaze crept up from the book to the vulpin. "What did you say?"
Schrau answered irritably, "I said that there was once a vurpin she was boinking on a reg-"
"No, not that. His name."
"What? Bart Llwynos?"
"How the hell can you not say 'vulpin' but you can say Lchwo- Lth- Lywn-"
"Vurpin thing, sir. You wouldn't understand."

Part 6 - Following Through

One of the more personal problems not often discussed regarding carpenters is the sawdust. Sawdust, as anyone who has attempted to hack apart a piece of cheap wood in the effort to make a spice rack will tell you, gets everywhere. Especially in your hair.
Now carpenters may complain about splinters, cuts, hammer-related accidents, clogged lungs, woodworm, varnish fumes, and the metric/imperial systems of measurement; delete where appropriate, but few discuss the matter of sawdust in their hair. As anyone who has had a haircut will testify (and something Schrau could not comprehend) stuff sticks in hair, and anyone who is still shaking loose hairs out of their hair days after a trip to the barbers, days after washing, will sympathise.
Sawdust is worse. Not only because it gets everywhere, but because it stinks. Some people may like the smell of sawdust, but it should be noted that some people like eating wasps. People are different and crazy and quite often wrong.
So, we've already ascertained at length that sawdust sticks to hair like iron fillings to an electromagnet. Now let us consider a carpenter that's simply covered in hair.
Bartholomew Llwynos was short for a vulpin and stocky for a dwarf. Despite submitting half a foot in height to the average vulpin, Llwynos had more surface area to deal with. Llwynos submitted himself to a lot of brushing to try and dislodge the waste of his profession, a lot of "against-the-grain" brushing, which gave the carpenter a fuzzier appearance than normal, and of course made the sawdust cling worse. His tail was a splendid example of bushiness never seen before beyond the Sciuridae family, and as such had earned Bart Llwynos the nickname of "Duster."
"Thank you for seeing me." Schrau said as he entered Duster's home-cum-workshop. He lived for his work; as well as slept, ate, and drank around and on top of it. Not one single stick of furniture in his home was complete, held together by vices, held up on workbenches, and generally fortified by prayer. The air in the home was thick enough with sawdust to stall a jumbo jet, disregarding the complications that would arise should such a contraption find itself in the home of Bart Llwynos.
"Not a problem, officer. Though I thought you would be here a little earlier."
"Yeah, there was a problem back on Wysoom that stopped me getting here sooner." Schrau sat down on something, heard it creak, then adjusted his weight.
Duster was a remarkably honest vulpin; paid his taxes, was respected in his community, and made some damn fine furniture. Schrau had called ahead to confirm an appointment with Duster and, wouldn't you know it, leaning against the wall was a new door that looked exactly like the door to Gilgal's office that had been swept into the trash a few days ago. It had a receipt pinned onto it. To most people a relationship between Duster and a known criminal such as Seita Dur would be considered highly unusual, but the fact of it was this: He was a vulpin, she was a vulpin. Seita's parents would have probably been proud of the fact that their girl was seeing a boy with a career. Or hell, just seeing a boy. Vulpin parents often had a whole bunch of stories to tell the grandkids, a requisite of which being the grandchildren themselves.
Duster ploughed straight into business in the no-nonsense manner typically associated with labourers. "So, this is about Seita. Right, Scruff?"
Schrau nodded. "She and her brother has joined up with the Silver Eye. Frankly, I'm concerned."
Duster nodded in agreement. "Maybe there is some cause for concern."
"First, I'd like to hear about your relationship with her." Duster seemed uncomfortable enough for Schrau to add, "If you don't mind."
"Well, the truth is that it wasn't much more than a casual relationship." And with one sentence, he explained the reason for his discomfort. Vulpins usually placed a lot of stock in family units, and casual relationships were on the whole pretty unusual if you were a traditionalist like Schrau was. Still, Schrau had seen so much stuff that he no longer cared much about the trespasses of other people. "It was really all about the companionship."
"I see." Schrau neutrally said.
"And the sex, of course."
"Of course." Schrau said in an equally vanilla tone. "Okay, maybe that wasn't the start I wanted. How was Seita? As a person?" He added, his mind already collating and summarising Llwynos' potential answers to that question had he not added that clause.
Duster shrugged, "Oh, your typical average girl. Extremely confident and strong-willed. Almost tenacious when it came to getting what she wanted."
Schrau shook his head, "Really? That doesn't sit with the Seita Dur I met a few days ago. She was distant, polite, I don't think she was thinking for herself."
"Um, the truth is that I haven't seen her in a long time." Duster helplessly said, "Six months or so, in fact. What's happened to her to change her so much?"
"The Silver Eye."
"Ah." Duster said.
"So you weren't with her when she joined up? You don't know what she was doing when that happened?" Schrau asked.
"Well, if she had dedicated her life to Harren then..." Duster shook his head. "I don't know, but I do know something. She was planning some sort of sting. Not with me, of course."
"So who was it with?" Schrau asked.
"Well, they'd been spending a lot of time together. Discussing every single aspect of the plan... Maybe she can tell you more." A brief flicker of a grin hit Duster's face. "Jastes Moore."
"Oh, god no."

Schrau propped the cloth-wrapped door against the empty frame of Gilgal's office and straightened up. Displaced joints and muscles popped back into place.
"Thank you, Cadnos." Gilgal absently said as he turned a page of the Silver Eye book that he had almost finished.
"It needs two coats of varnish," Schrau gasped, "otherwise it's the same wood as your ord door. And do you have any idea how difficurt it is for a vurpin to carry that damn thing from Duster's workshop on Werstar?"
"Somewhat less difficult than a gnome would have." Gilgal muttered. "So, how did your meeting with-"
"-thank you. How did it go?"
Schrau stretched his left arm over his head. "It was a breadcrumb. He hasn't seen Seita Dur in over six months. He seemed worried about her, actuarry."
"Go on."
"So he gave me a name of someone Seita had been spending a fair amount of time with before she appeared in the Eye. Jastes Moore."
"Never heard of 'im." Gilgal said.
"Nor should you. And he's a she." Schrau didn't look a happy bunny, "Moore's a wereworf. Not a good scrapper and somewhat of a coward, but she's smart or thinks she is at any rate. I shouldn't have any troubre with her."
"So what's the problem?" Gilgal asked, still occupied with the book.
"There's two. The first is that she's a paranoid nut who just happens to be on the opposite side of the raw to us. She sees a green walking towards her, and she's gonna boogie on out of there faster than muridan with squits." And that was a mental image Gilgal would regret having to carry to his grave. "And the second is that she was a ritter mate of a certain psychotic bitch on heat we arr know."
"Astane Tasna." Gilgal muttered as a statement of fact.
"Bingo. Rike I said, she can't muster up the courage to try and take me on, but when I talk to her she's gonna cram up rike a bad oyster. There's a third probrem."
"Oh? Fancy."
"She currentry resides, permenantry, in the Gorden Boar." Schrau caught Gilgal's look, "Not in that capacity. She pays rent, she stays, she gets three square mears thrown in every day."
"So what you're saying is that you're going to have to try and talk or force your way into the roughest bar on this planet, not annoy the guards and clientele for long enough to get to the back rooms with all your teeth intact, find what room she lives in and find a way to get into that room and interrogate a cowardly werewolf who hates you because you’re a sentinel and that you turned an old childhood friend into stir-fry."
"She's arso a resbian." Schrau added. "And has an irrationar fear of men."
"Oh good, I thought it was going to be easy for you." Gilgal flatly said as he turned another page.
"So." Schrau said by way of segue. "Whire I've been busting my spine not-dragging as per your request that heavy door that's armost four times my size halfway across a pranet and then through two busy offices and a narrow corridor, have you rearned anything from that book or have you just enjoyed the opportunity to ret your backside expand?"
"Less of that tone, Cadnos." Gilgal warned him, in exactly the right tone that Schrau had wanted to hear. "It's an odd faith, a faith in Harren."
"Fancy that."
Gilgal set down the book. "For one, most faiths promise providence in the afterlife, be it paradise or purgatory. The followers of Harren, however, believe in providence in this life."
"Go on, sir."
"They believe that Harren will one day manifest himself in this realm having slain or subjugated all the gods in their realm and lead them into control of the Six Worlds. Not by force or by diplomacy, but by their natural right to rule, a right granted to them by Harren in his victory over the pantheon. Then, that day, all the faithful followers of the Silver Eye who have passed away since then will be returned to life and they and the rest of the Silver Eye shall rule, immortal and eternal."
Schrau nodded understandingly. "Interesting take. Providence in this rearm is pretty unusuar for a faith, so it's no wonder they've grown so quickry."
"You think?"
"Yeah, if for the noverty factor arone." Schrau nodded. "Thank you very much, sir. I think I understand these peopre some more. Now if you'rr excuse me, I've got a paranoid coward of a man-hating resbian wereworf who doesn't rike me because I'm a kirrer to rough up. This could be fun."

Part 7 - Out There

Schrau had made it through to the Golden Boar's upstairs, and his left knee might never be the same ever again. Now he just had to find the room that belonged to a paranoid nut who believed that the world was ruled by alien pigs from another dimension. Still, if you want to spot a crazy, look for the security.
A thick door with many locks and metal covering over the sweet spots that the agents of 'The Man' might whack with large and heavy logs of wood capped with reinforced steel. Not a problem; Schrau was fortunate enough to find himself part of an experiment.
He checked the room opposite Moore's to see if it was open and empty, and satisfied with his inspection he stuffed one hand into a pocket and felt for the leather package inside. With his free hand he hammered heavily on the door, nearly breaking a finger on the thick door just to be heard.
"Who is it?" A female voice growled in common.
"Someone who wants to speak to ya." Schrau snapped back in lupin. "A fellow intellectual."
"If you want in, you've gotta give me a valid pangram." Typical. There was such a thing as taking things too far.
"Brick quiz whangs jumpy veldt fox." Schrau replied without hesitation, the words spilling easily from his mouth.
Moore responded initially with hesitation, then; "Wazzat 'felt' or 'veldt'?"
"Veldt. Vehl-udt."
"What kind of pangram is that?"
"A 28-letter one. Lemme in, Moore. I think something's chewing on my leg out here." Schrau heard a succession of deadbolts snapping open and added, "No damn foolin', chewing on my actual leg."
"No way was that a real pan-" A voice muttered as a glint of grey muzzle and spectacles appeared in a crack in the door. "Cadnos!"
"I gotta ask you ab-" Schrau managed before the door slammed into his muzzle. Stepping back, rubbing his nose, Schrau heard the same deadbolts slamming home.
No problem, time to take that door out. Of course it was something of a pain to have to lug around a one-man ram everywhere you went, and even against the flimsiest of doors you couldn't actually break down with a stiff sneeze it usually took about twenty to thirty seconds to knock down a door, and by then the target on the other side of that door was either destroying evidence or readying weapons.
So the guild was looking for something more portable and efficient. Unfortunately, that call went to the alchemist's guild.
Schrau took a brief glance at the small parcel-like leather object he had pulled from his pocket. A simple oblong object that was about half again the size of his hand with a small tab in the centre and an arrow indicating which end should be held upright at all times except when it needed to be operated. The alchemists had described the object as a breaching charge, and contained two simple chemicals that were harmless by themselves but combustive when shaken and mixed. Then again, the same could be said about anything an alchemist produces: If one invites you for a cup of tea, wear a crash helmet.
Schrau peeled away the wax paper that protected the adhesive on the one face of the charge, shook it for a couple of seconds before slapping it onto the main lock of the door with the arrow pointing downwards and, having started taking a step back, pulling the tab free.
He dived into the opposite room and hid around the corner of the door, counting to three. On two, a muffled bang rang out so quietly that Schrau had begun to assume that the alchemists had made something that didn't explode.
He peered around the corner to see the door blasted and buckled and hanging on its hinges, and a very surprised werewolf sitting on her backside on the floor some seven feet away.
"What the hell was that?" She asked.
"Something I'm gonna buy ten more of first chance I get." Schrau honestly replied.
Now, Jastes Moore was somewhat scrawny and bookish for a werewolf, but Schrau couldn't help but feel somewhat amused by the fact that she was scrambling across the floor to back away from him as he approached. "Stay away from me, pig!"
Schrau sighed, "Hello, Jastes. What conspiracy has your attention today?"
"Back off, man!" The werewolf feebly warned. "Don't think I've forgiven you for what you did for Astane!"
"Sikkar, girl. I hope nobody forgives me for that piece of work." Schrau grinned. "I'm still getting free beers in pubs across the six worlds."
"You're a heartless, cruel tool for a corrupt ruling caste, pig!" Moore spat. "Interrogate me if you want, you'll get nothing from me!"
"Finished yet?"
"You can silence me, but you will never silence the truth!"
"Oh, and what truth is that?" Schrau huffed, "The one about the unidentified flying objects in the skies of Perdow? The one about the kobolds dressed in black?"
"They-They do something to people's memories," Moore babbled, "but I remember them!"
"You're lucky if you can get a kobold to wear anything!" Schrau retorted. "How about those pamphlets you wrote that claimed that our existence is really simulated on a giant super-advanced difference engine somewhere in a giant world-wide network of similar machines?"
"Parts of it is broken!" Moore snapped. "Why do you think people are constantly failing to extract minerals from the earth?"
Schrau hazarded a guess. "Shoddy tools?"
"Because it hasn't been coded yet!"
Schrau grunted and shook his head. "Listen, doll. There's only one person in this room qualified to screw with someone's mind and it ain't you."
"What do you want with me, pig?" Moore snapped. "And make it quick."
"Well, right now all I want is for you to get up, sit down, and let us have a civilised discussion like two rational people." He rolled his eyes. "Of course, I'm not entirely naive. I'd settle for asking you a handful of non-invasive questions, savvy?"
"Well, unless that's what you really want." Schrau shrugged. "I can be really invasive if that's what floats your boat."

Moore kept her distance as she led Schrau into the dingy den and sat down at a table, and in response Schrau just stood in the doorway and tried to be as non-inquisitive as possible. Something that's hard to do when you're naturally attuned to looking for evidence to present and valuables to swipe. Anyone who thinks that being a vulpin with an interesting dichotomy has never considered what it's like to be a vulpin with an interesting dichotomy in a situation where they couldn't execute either sides of their personality.
"I heard you spent a lot of time with Seita Dur." Schrau said.
"Who told you?"
"Duster Llwynos." Schrau answered. "Heh, in fact from what I heard Seita left him for you."
"We were friends." Moore said.
"I heard you were more than that." Schrau corrected, and just when Moore was about to retort he added, "I heard you were planning some sort of sting together."
"Sting?" Moore squeaked. "B-b-b-b-but I don't."
"Relax, Moore." Schrau said reassuringly. "I'm not here to investigate any crimes you may or may not be committing. Hell, it'll help me if I knew what you were up to with Seita, but you don't have to go into it if you don't want to."
"She was the only one who believed me." Moore quietly said. "Or at least she said she believed me. I wanted to get some dirt on a few members of the mayor's office. Prove who they're really working for."
Yeah, the mayor. Fancy that.
"And Seita was working on helping you out, right?" Schrau asked. "Blackmail and extortion is her thing. Was. She was probably in it for the cash."
"Yeah. Maybe." Moore mumbled. "Anyway, we almost had everything planned out. Seita had scored us a couple of tickets to the Annual Sentinel Benefit Ball where we'd approach a few of the mayor's officials. We never made it."
"And praise Sikkar you didn't." Schrau groaned. "My revenge list almost trebled after that little debacle." Still, you had to consider the fact that somehow a known criminal and a conspiracy nut managed to get a pair of tickets to the sentinel's ball. "So what happened?"
"Well, we often planned down in the restaurant, in the booth in the corner. The one with the table with toothmarks imprinted onto it where ol' Mrand used to eat."
"Fancy that."
"And one day one of those Silver Eyes walked in. An anakim. She was beautiful." Moore wistfully said. "Of course, Seita was onto her like fleas to a vulpin. We hadn't heard of the Silver Eye then, and Seita figured that someone wearing that much silver and silk had to have a fair amount of cash."
"Can't blame her."
"Anyway. They got talking, and soon she was talking to that Anakim more than she was to me. I told her I didn't trust that anakim."
Schrau hummed in thought. "Now, rip my jugular out and call me a meatbag if I'm wrong here, but you don't trust anyone right?"
"But Seita on the other hand is good at controlling people. It's her skill, her means. She doesn't think that anyone can outsmart her, especially if that someone is rich." Schrau smiled. "You didn't take to that anakim because you naturally didn't trust her, but Seita thought she could manipulate this one, and went along with her preaching and the meetings and everything. Play along, and then rip 'er for every gold piece she had." He shook his head. "But it went wrong. Seita didn't spring the trap because she got trapped herself."
"Yeah, it seems that way." Moore agreed. "Um. If you see Seita again-"
"Tell her I miss her."
Schrau nodded. "I will. Anyway, thanks for the help."
"Don't mention it."

Schrau studied the ceiling above his desk, thinking about where to go next. Okay, he now had a vague description of the Silver Eye that had indoctrinated Seita into the faith, and had at least gone part way to earning the trust of someone who had hated his guts less than a day ago.
Something was bothering him though. He couldn't exactly place a finger on it, but it eventually dawned on him as someone passed his desk and caught his distracted gaze.
"Hey, what's up?"
"I just rearized I've gotta be a rot more carefur..."
Part 8 - Suthnas City

Suthnas City was hardly how Schrau remembered it. Had he not visited for several months, then the constantly-changing dynamic of a city would have accounted for this, and the urban veteran would normally dismiss it.
Schrau had last visited the city three days ago.
Now the law was the Silver Eye.
With a great dose of hindsight, Schrau realised that the Silver Eye offering their services as city guards to the city of Suthnas, replacing the currently ineffective guards of the city, was inevitable. Sultan Odie ruled the city, was far too busy controlling his own internal affairs to govern Suthnas properly, and was also quite greedy. The Silver Eye were rich, pious, and could crack skulls. Perfect.
What surprised Schrau was just how quickly it all happened. One minute, the old city guard were bumming free pints of beer and pastries from the local shopkeepers, and the next a hundred-or-so clowns in silk had started pounding cobbles flat.
The city had changed, even from outside the gates Schrau could sense the aura of respectful fear that emanated from within the very walls of the buildings themselves. The sentinel was off-duty, wearing a baggy dark-blue cloak with a multitude of pockets and a hood that was currently down. A thief's cloak.
Of course no thief would enter a city through the front door. That would be idiotic, and therefore no city guard in the entire universe had the competence to stop and search people as they entered a city; which was extremely fortunate for the sentinel. Still, he fumbled for almost too long within the large and many pockets of his cloak for the gate tax, and worried that the two Silver Eyes on duty would decide to take a closer look at what he carried on his person.
He met her at a small outdoors cafe on Nql & Yesil, a tall and strong woman with silver hair that had nothing to do with age and everything with possessing werewolf blood so diluted she barely looked at the moon with a passing glance. Despite this, Elma Coccinni could still understand lupin despite being unable to speak it. Schrau knew her from way back, from just after he joined up with the sentinels and started searching for his deceased sister on Nineveh.
Elma stood up and scooped Schrau up into a tight, friendly hug. "Oh, thank heavens you're here, Schrau."
Back on solid earth (a very relative term for anywhere on Raji), Schrau sat down at her table and smiled. "Sorry I'm late Elma, I just had to get something from Nimbus."
"It's no problem. If you can help Darick I'd wait until the end of time."
Darick being Elma's husband, and a general tradesman and compassionate soul. Schrau had worried when Darick had joined up with the Silver Eye, but that arrangement hadn't lasted longer than a week. Something had spooked Darick enough to get him out of there, and he had wanted to meet with Schrau later that week to discuss something. That first message had arrived three days ago. Two days ago the Silver Eye took over Suthnas, and yesterday Darick had been arrested by the Silver Eye on some trumped-up charge.
That left a day for Schrau to stuck his little white muzzle into places it shouldn't be and work out a plan.
"I don't believe this has happened." Elma muttered. "When he finally got out of the Silver Eye I was so happy, because nobody has ever left that... cult. But now they've taken him away from me and-"
"A temporary measure." Schrau smiled. "Don't worry, Elma. I've got everything under control."
"Really?" Elma asked. "What vulpin tricks have you got up your sleeve this time?"
"A good one." Schrau said, leaning forward and glancing carefully around before reaching into his cloak and producing a small object; eight triangles of alternating obsidian and amethyst, arranged in an octagon and set in rune-carved gold.
"What is that?"
The octagon disappeared back into the cloak. "Something nobody is supposed to have." Schrau said. "What do you know of the old Zacchyrrian Cultists?"
"The what?"
"They were an extremely old order of demon worshippers that were utterly eliminated by the Sikkarian Church all the way back in the eleventh millennium. At the time, an outright ban on the study of the Zacchyrrian and their artefacts was placed and still applies today. Trade in little objects such as this summoning stone is hideously illegal, as is just looking at them."
Elma stared at Schrau. "Okay, two questions: Where did you get that from? And what the hells are you doing with it?"
"Well, when I heard that Darick had been arrested I did some research into the arresting officer. A certain man called Tristam Maine. Fortunately, he's a scholar, which means he's an idiot. It didn't take long to find out what his particular vice was."
"He studies these Zacchyrrians." Elma said, then realised something. "Hold on, one thing I learned about the Silver Eye from Darick was that they are expressly forbidden from studying other religions. Wouldn't-"
"-it utterly ruin him if anyone in charge found out? Yes, yes it would. I know they're forbidden from studying other religions, I've got my guildmaster reading their holy book for me." Schrau grinned, "And now for your second question: I was on Nimbus on... Business a short while ago. It put me in a position to discover the secrets of quite a few businessmen in that city. Like, for instance, Jeynus Falrath deals in quite a few of these little trinkets and also has a somewhat tricky lock on his store's back door."
Carnely had wanted to bust Falrath there and then and it had taken Schrau a lot of effort to convince him otherwise. Basically, they couldn't do anything with the evidence they had since it had been discovered during an illegal search. They couldn't come back later on some trumped-up reason to "discover" said evidence, and they couldn't do a damn thing until circumstances brought them back to Falrath on legal business. It was a hell of a position to be in, and one that the average sentinel found himself in quite a few times during a career.
"So how will turning Maine in help Darick?"
"It wouldn't." Schrau said. "However, the usual routine of blackmailing and persuasion will."
"Be careful, Schrau." Elma whispered. "Don't risk your-"
"Elma, I'll be as careful as I can be. Now there's one thing I want you to agree to."
"I know, but I can't-"
"Look, I know this is your home, but for as long as the Silver Eye exists..." Schrau shook his head. "Just be ready to move out as soon as Darick is free. Out of Suthnas, off of Raji. Out of their influence, just for a few weeks until we deal with the Silver Eye once and for all. Welstar's safe, I promise."
Elma hung her head low for a moment. "Okay. Just please help Darick and please be careful..."
Schrau stood up. "I'm a vulpin. We do everything carefully."
"Yes," Elma smiled weakly, "but you're also a sentinel. A contradiction exists there somewhere."

The new guard house felt instantly familiar to Schrau despite the smell of new varnish and wood. It was the sense of sitting at the saddle of some wild beast on the edge of panic and trying desperately to placate it with more stick than carrot. At least Schrau knew that the Silver Eye weren't just playing at being guardsman.
A few enquiries later, and Schrau was sitting on the desk of one Tristam Maine. Literally sitting on while the human looked up at him with an expression that was equal parts befuddlement and "get-your-hairy-arse-off-of-my-desk-cretin".
"Tristam Maine?" Schrau quietly said, perching like a gargoyle on top of Maine's paperwork.
"Who wants to know?"
"A friend of Darick Coccinni." Schrau whispered.
Maine squinted. "A vulpin with a black mark? You're that Schrau Cadnos that pretty much everyone in the Silver Eye has been warned about."
"Very perceptive of you. My reputation precedes me, I see."
"Enough talk, Cadnos. What do you want?"
"What I want is simpre: I want Darick Coccinni out of your cerrs and free on the streets within half an hour, no questions asked, and no further attempts to reign him or his wife in."
"He assaulted an officer of the Silver Eye, Cadnos-"
"A trumped-up charge." Schrau said. "I've seen the incident report, I know a crock of ries when I see one."
"You ask the impossible." Main snarled.
"No, I know from experience that the average competent officer can sign and fire the rerease papers for a prisoner and srap him on the back and send him on his way in ten minutes. My personar best is four minutes, twenty-three seconds. So get cracking, boy."
Maine leaned back in his seat and grinned.
Schrau pulled a paper from the stack next to him. "Rook, you've got a brank form here. I'rr herp you with arr the rong words if you want."
Maine, still grinning, said, "You really expect me to release him on your demands?"
"Better than rereasing him after I've brackmaired you."
And that one guilty twitch, the bodily spasm that was like a thunderstick-crack to a lawman's subconscious confirming guilt of some sort wracked Maine's body in an all-to-brief moment. "Blackmail? Hah, and what are you going to blackmail me with?"
And Schrau revealed for an all-to-brief a moment the gold-and-gem summoning stone to Maine in such a way that the Silver Eye had almost believed that the thing had just materialised before him for an instant. "Who's been a naughty boy then? I'm debating who wirr make the quickest work of you, your superiors in the church or the Sikkarians. Want to offer me some odds on those scenarios?"
Main nervously smiled, "Ah, but will they believe you when you present something that was clearly stolen from Falrath's storeroom?"
"How do you know it was storen from Jeynus?"
"Because I paid that idiot a very large amount of money to get me-" Maine's mouth said before his brain belatedly strangled it.
"And the thought of spending ten minutes discussing the matter with the Sikkarian Inquisition - nice chaps, by the way, though their Sikkarmas dinner tends to go on for far too rong - wirr make him oh-so-talkative." Schrau shrugged nonchalantly. "Now then, get Darick pardoned, and I'rr make sure this thing vanishes into the hottest pit on Crypt where it berongs and nobody ever hears of this ever again."
Now Maine was sweating profusely. "I need some time to think-"
"No!" Schrau snapped. "Don't think, you're not paid to think. You are paid to forrow orders and right now those orders are coming from me." He leaned in closer. "And you arso don't need time to think of what sort of tragic accidents can happen to a man at any point between walking between his cerr and the front door. If Darick isn't returned to his wife in anything ress than mint condition, I wirr end you. Personarry." Schrau pushed the release form towards Maine, spilling the papers he was currently working on onto his lap and onto the floor. "Beat my personar record, and I'rr give you a hug."
Exactly four minutes and twenty-four seconds later, Maine slapped the release form onto his out tray and snorted indignantly at Schrau. "There! I shall now see to the release of the prisoner personally! You are impossible, Cadnos."
"Yeah. Many peopre think so. Better than being simpre at any rate. I'rr be right here when you come back."
Maine shot to his feet and stomped towards the stairs down to the cells, and idly Schrau took the release form from on top of the stack and read it.
Then, producing a thick envelope containing a selection of Zacchyrrian texts as well as Maine's handwritten notes on the subject that had been hidden in a concealed strongbox in Maine's home as long ago as three hours ago, he placed the envelope with the release form on top back onto the out stack. Thirty seconds later, a typical office gofer scooped up the contents for filing before moving onto the next desk.
One day, Schrau vowed, he would find a hobby that wasn't so petty and malicious.

Schrau escorted Darick to the sky port, where Elma was already waiting. The couple embraced, kissed, and promised Schrau all types of thanks.
Schrau smiled and humbly accepted them, before reiterating his cautions as they boarded the ship.
"So Darick," Schrau quietly said as they leaned against the side rail of the ship and admired the view. "What was it that you wanted to tell me about the Silver Eye?"
Darick shook his head. "I'm sorry, Schrau. I had compiled a whole pile of evidence on them, but they were seized when I was arrested." He sighed. "I've failed you."
"No, you haven't." Schrau whispered. "If you can tell me anything, just one thing, you've done more than anyone could have expected of you."
Darick nodded. "Well, the truth is that the Silver Eye claims to be an entirely voluntary organisation, that people can leave whenever they want, but the truth is that anyone who has left wound up like I was or just plain missing."
"Arr of them?" Schrau asked.
"That's what I was collecting. Names of the people who left the Eye and vanished." Darick shook his head. "That's what made me leave."
"Despite knowing that you could vanish too?" Schrau asked.
"I had to tell someone the truth."
Schrau patted Darick on the shoulder. "Thanks, ord friend. This herps a rot." He reached into his cloak and removed the summoning stone.
"Schrau... We can't let them-"
"I know. I'm working on it." Schrau said. Weighing the stone in his palm, he then hurled it from the side of the ship deep into the Rift. "I just need a few more pieces to work with."

Part 9 - In Pieces

Winter snow had given way to spring rain, and a midnight street fight was going on in the city of Sauronan.
The midnight prize fight that was happening between two bare-knuckled scrappers in a circle of roaring spectators wasn't exactly legal, but it wasn't exactly enforced against. The sentinels and the Guardians kept a watch on such fights whenever they had a chance, but usually all they did was make sure that the fights went ahead without any serious incident. If a combatant produced a knife or a more-than-usually aggressive attitude, a crossbow bolt would suddenly appear in their shoulder. Besides, you never knew who you would meet in these little get-togethers.
Schrau stood on the same balcony he stood that fateful day when he first decided to get involved with the Silver Eye. Now the crowd's attention was fixed on a totally new focus point.
A werewolf and a irrdu were slugging it out in the loose ring of men and the former was doing much better than the latter. The werewolf was heavily muzzled to keep him from biting his opponents, but even then it wasn't a fair match. The young jotun was being slapped silly by the cocky lupin with a grin still plainly visible beneath the leather.
It's always hard to drag yourself up from a slump. Schrau's greatest failure was to realise when he was in too deep in a situation while expecting to make results. Look at his current situation: He had tasked himself with the duty of single-handedly bringing about the Silver Eye's downfall, but he had no clear evidence that they were doing anything illegal, which technically put them out of his reach. There were those troubling disappearances to consider, but even that left him without clear evidence. Short of a dead body belonging to one of those missing persons appearing on his desk with a note attached signed "- Love, Harren & The Silver Eye xXx" Schrau had less to go on since the day the guild hall outhouses were demolished in a freak hurricane. Schrau felt like he needed to get drunk, arrest someone, and hit something; possibly even in that order.
So rather than indulge in his own self-loathing, he decided to revel in that of others. Besides, being somewhere is always the first step of going somewhere else. Vulpin logic was a bitch.
Teeth rattled, and not just inside the irrdu's skull. The jotun was looking really unsteady on his feet right now, and a stiff breeze would probably floor him; so you could call it overkill when the werewolf hunched up and planted a solid punch square on the jotun's nose. The werewolf's arm still had about a foot and a half of follow-through left by the time it made contact with flesh, and the irrdu smacked against the cobbles as if his feet were hinged to the ground.
Schrau nodded approvingly; despite the brevity it was a good fight, and that's what he had wanted to see. Nothing trumps self-deprecation than watching totally random strangers getting hurt. The werewolf raised his arms in triumph and then beckoned to his next opponent.
And that's when things got interesting. Three Silver Eyes stepped out from beneath the balcony Schrau was standing on; two were very familiar vulpins, while the third was a tall female anakim.
The anakim started unbuckling her pauldrons as Arton and Seita flanked her. Seita turned and inspect her surroundings as Arton bustled alongside the anakim. The vixen's gaze caught sight of Schrau.

"-respect strength, Arton." Follower Malgus calmly replied, though Seita barely heard her. "Words may be a powerful weapon, powerful enough to subvert entire planets. But through strength we can move them."
Seita studied the sentinel, who had noticed her but was pretending not to pay any attention to her. She felt a sudden tightness in her chest, the moonlight illuminated his regal face perfectly, and the way he rubbed the mark on his neck gave him an oddly wistful appearance in the night shine. Seita couldn't remember feeling this way about any man before, and it really frustrated her. The Silver Eye allowed marriage, but only between members.
So why couldn't he see the wonder of Harren's Grace? Seita knew he was a smart, capable man. Surely he was intelligent to realise...
"There are those who respect knowledge, and there are those who respect strength." Malgus continued to Arton as the chains holding her pauldrons and hangings secure rattled loose. "These people respect strength above knowledge, and will follow anyone who displays strength."
It was a simple statement, and one that Seita found an amazing amount of comfort in. it. Schrau could become a solid Follower, a respected Follower, and if Seita could figure out exactly what he respected then she could bring him into Harren's loving embrace.
"I accept that, Forrower Margus," Her brother wheedled, "but why these peopre?"
"They are strong, but lack guidance, Follower Dur." Malgus replied. "They come here every night, seeking something to follow but every night all they find is the instant gratification of the fight. We can show them the way, Arton. We must show them the way. Seita."
Seita snapped out of her reverie and stared blankly at Malgus' left pauldron as the anakim offered it to her. "Oh, sorry." The vulpin mumbled as she took the pauldron and wrapped it up in its hanging.
Malgus gave her a condescending look, "Do try to stay with us, dear Seita." Malgus chided as she began removing her gloves. The anakim got a fix on what Seita had been looking at less than ten seconds ago and smiled. "Hmm? The notorious deputy Cadnos?" she smiled as she handed Seita her left glove, Arton her right. "Oh, I remember that look of yours, Seita. I was your age once."
"Forgive me, For-" Seita began to apologise.
"Don't." Malgus replied. "I understand your feelings. Perhaps tonight he shall see Harren's strength?" The anakim swished around towards her opponent and pointed. "You, muzzle off."

Seita seemed to stare at him for far too long, but Schrau wasn't paying any attention. He was more interested in watching the anakim's preparations, and his neck was giving him enough trouble to make him curse every single generation of the Noradda family known to him in alphabetical order.
The anakim seemed to take her sweet time with it, but she eventually removed both her pauldrons and gloves, leaving her bare armed but otherwise fully dressed in her underclothes and tabard. Schrau noticed that the tabard was tinged with a slight pink hue, and idly realised that the anakim probably got into enough fights to permanently stain the brilliant white silk with blood.
She also ordered the werewolf to remove his muzzle, and to the delight of the spectators he obliged and treated the anakim to a wide sneer which displayed each and every single sharp tooth that would soon be sinking into her soft, tender flesh.
Schrau grinned to himself and settled in for a good show. It could turn out to be a very interesting fight between the bare knuckled anakim and the bare toothed werewolf. Schrau hoped that Harren's tenets allowed the Follower to shave regularly.
Confidently, the anakim strode into the ring and nodded politely to her opponent. She then adopted a horribly familiar fighting stance and Schrau suddenly realised that the fight would no longer be interesting, nor indeed a protracted one.
It was horribly familiar because Schrau recognised the associated fighting style, and it was designed solely for the systematic concussion of lupins. Schrau had been personally schooled by many a young dwarf in the same style and knew it intimately enough to know that the following battle would be a distinctly one-sided one. Werewolves, the stronger and more powerful examples of the lupin metarace, still suffered from the same physical problem as vulpins did. For all their muscle, their head and neck had a series of small flaws: For example; the closeness of the brain to the surface of the skull, the way the jaw was jointed, positioning of the muscles and nerves in the neck and various pressure points across the entire head and neck. Hell, a decent, well-placed strike square to a lupin's nose would instantly trump anything it could throw at you.
It was like fighting a shark or wrestling an alligator, but you didn't even have to get wet. Unless your tastes ran that way, of course.
So Schrau turned tail and started down the stairwell, knowing full well that by the time he reached the bottom step the werewolf would either be unconscious or concussed enough to be impressionable enough for the Silver Eye to get their hooks in him.

The crowd dispersed following Malgus' fight, and during the time when the werewolf regained consciousness and before the concussion wore off she had a nice little talk with him. Tomorrow morning, the fortunate werewolf would arrive at the steps before the Ocular Temple and begin the joyous procession towards becoming a Fist of the Silver Eye.
As Malgus finished locking her pauldrons into place, she became aware of a slow, sarcastic clapping from behind. She and Arton turned to the source, which had already attracted Seita's attention.
Deputy Schrau Cadnos stood there, his applause a clear indication of what he thought about her fight.
"Nice going." The vulpin sneered. "Boy's rucky if he doesn't have a brain crot. Stirr, I'm sure he wirr just fit right in."
"Ah, deputy Cadnos." Malgus beamed brightly. "We meet at last."
"Yeah, rike I give a damn." Schrau snorted. "And you are? Or are you just a nobody?"
"I am Follower Loriel Malgus of the Silver Eye." Malgus responded.
"I hate your name arready. So, a Forrower, huh? I didn't expect to see that much mindress brutarity from anyone outside of the Fists."
"I know how to handle myself, thank you very much." Malgus proudly nodded, obviously choosing to accept the barb as a compliment as opposed to blindly accepting it as one. Clearly, senior members of the Silver Eye were allowed to regain some of their brain cells. "I believe you are familiar with my two fellow Silver Eyes, yes?"
"Yeah, they tried the indoctrination bit on me a few weeks ago." Schrau replied. "Stirr, they never tried the brain damage route, which obviousry works pretty werr."
"There are many ways to approach a situation," Malgus responded. "I mearly follow one route."
"I rike to keep my options open. I'm a very creative person." Schrau said. "So. Anyone who joins the Sirver Eye can reave when they want?"
"Of course, that's not something many-" Arton began.
"Of course they are." Malgus quickly interrupted. "But, as my colleague here mentioned, why would they?"
Schrau nodded, then feigned realisation. "Ooooooh. Right. Thanks for that. Onry I heard that pretty much everyone who quit the operation were either arrested on trumped-up charges by your thugs in Suthnas or simpry vanished from the six worrds."
Malgus laughed this off, "Now, why would you pay attention to such petty rumour-mongering?"
"Angre-face, can we have a word in private. Away from the kids?"
"Of course. Seita, Arton, wait for me in the street."
The vulpins nodded in agreement and left them, Arton seemingly reluctant to leave Malgus' side and Seita reluctant to leave Schrau's.
"Okay Miss Priss; we both seem to have the same mentar capacity. I know what you're doing is wrong, you know what you're doing is wrong on some rever. So now we can both stop with the pretending and the rhetoric and arr this Harren crap." Schrau's eyes narrowed. "Who. Do. You. Work. For?"
Malgus slightly shook her head and smiled sweetly. "Harren. He is my-"
"Enough!" Schrau snapped. "Gods! Is your hory abirity to cause brain tumours?" Schrau turned and waved dismissively at the anakim. "Whatever. I'm sure you're gonna see what's right soon enough."

Schrau Cadnos slapped a sheet of paper torn from his notebook down on Gilgal Radisgad's desk and pointed insistently at it. "Who is she?"
Gilgal pulled the sheet of paper towards him with all the delicate grace of a bomb-disposal expert and turned it so the writing was facing him.
"Hmph. Arr these years and you've never rearned how to read upside down."
"And you have?" Gilgal muttered, studying the two words scribbled hastily on the sheet.
"The onry words I knew were on Arder's desk. I rearned how to read upside down before I rearned how to read properry."
"Loriel Malgus." Gilgal plainly stated. "Yes. I knew her. Anakim. She was a drill instructor for the paladins about ten years ago. Retired quite young, actually. Literally vanished off the faces of the worlds."
"She's now a recruiter for the Eye." Schrau said. "Her idiom is to beat someone unconscious and then exprain to them Harren's good grace before the concussion wears off. Smart bitch."
"Well, in all fairness Malgus only lived for conflict." Gilgal stated. "She was a strong and capable fighter, however her faith in Sikkar was never that strong."
"Her faith in Harren is pretty damn strong." Schrau pointed out. "I don't think she's in this just to bust a few heads."
"Thank you, Cadnos." Gilgal nodded. "I'm sure Sorush would appreciate knowing where one of his errant knights wound up."
"My preasure." Schrau nodded. "Stirr doesn't get me anywhere though."
"Oh, I'm sure you'll figure something out."

Part 10 - Tipping Point

The beating was sudden, brutal, and definite. The three sentinels could see the beginnings of the conflict from down the street, but only one knew that it would be a fatal one.
In all fairness, the victim was entirely innocent. He had stumbled outside of a bar drunk, caught sight of the three Silver Eyes casually walking down the street and proceeded to verbally abuse them. He couldn't have expected them to gang up on him, draw their maces, and proceed to beat him to death.
Neither could Carnely or Rynne, who had been approaching the scene from the opposite direction. Somehow, Schrau did expect this turn of events; and even before the three Silver Eyes had drawn their weapons he had started to sprint down the wide avenue.
Rynne was second off the blocks, but even on all fours she couldn't match Schrau's pace. By the time the three battle maces were drawn, the catfolk was trying to keep up with the sprinting vulpin. By the time the unfortunate drunk was horizontal with half his skull collapsed, Carnely had drawn his weapons and was making long strides in catching up.

The three Eyes were still beating the victim's deceased form by the time Schrau reached them. He leapt onto the nearest Silver Eye's back and proceeded to try and beat him unconscious with his bare hands. Ballsy, but stupid.
The Silver Eye reacted like a steed having suddenly been mounted by a knight wearing red-hot armour. He tried to batter the vulpin away with his mace and free hand, while Schrau continued to claw and rend.
"You're under arrest!" Schrau yelled into the Silver Eye's ear as he made a spirited attempt to gouge his eyes out. "You murdered him and- Hey!"
The Eye had managed to get a grip on the sentinel's collar and then whipped him onto the floor, making sure that the sentinel landed head-first. Schrau's vision started fading to black, and almost the last thing he saw before passing out was the Eye raising his mace to crush his skull.
Of course, the last thing he saw was the point of Rynne's polearm bursting through the Silver Eye's chest as the catfolk made a rare appearance on just two feet to drive the spear home with deadly force. The mace thumped into the ground just above Schrau's head and he grinned at Rynne's chosen action. He wished he had thought of it.

"He was already dead." Carnely said, sitting on his desk opposite Schrau's. The vulpin was seated and holding an icepack against his bruised skull, while Rynne was seated on his desk, her polearm across her knees. Schrau idly wondered if he was the only deputy in the office that bothered to use his chair. "By the book, you did the right thing, going for the arrest instead of gutting him like a trout."
"Maybe." Schrau muttered.
"Of course, when Rynne saw that he was about to flatten your skull, she did the right thing in skewering him like a cocktail sausage."
"Yeah. Thanks, by the way."
"Don't mention it." The white catfolk with blue-hinted stripes said.
"So in short, we all did the right thing tonight;" Carnely continued. "Prettyboy here couldn't be brought up on charges of excessive force. Rynne, you got a nice and clean execution, and we both got legal arrests."
"Yeah, and I wound up with concussion." Schrau grumbled.
Rynne grinned. "Oh, come on. It wasn't that bad."
"Maybe not, but I stirr don't rike getting my head bashed in." The ice pack thudded onto Schrau's desk. "Maybe it's just the brain damage talking here, but something about that didn't seem right."
"C'mon. They're complete psychos." Carnely muttered. "He was mouthing off, they hammered him into oblivion."
"From what I've seen, they don't take to kindly to crrriticism." Rynne added.
"Something's wrong." Schrau muttered. "They're not the raw here rike they are in Suthnas. They shouldn't have thrashed him, it's not for not having the audacity, but it's for not having the authority."
"Look, it's prrretty simple. We just had to clean up the mess."
Schrau grunted and hopped up onto his desk, before pacing several times across the available surface.
"What's up, prettyboy?"
"Thinkin'." Schrau muttered. "Okay, ret's work this out. We have a new curt- Sorry, rerigious organisation with a mass of members. For the most part, they're meek geeks who just spend arr day wandering around spreading the good word of Harren. Then we have genuine ass-kickers, who spend arr day wandering around spreading the noses of the insorent across their faces. Peopre rike those three morons you dragged in, peopre rike those erves we met rast year Carn, peopre rike Margus."
"And people like Kane?" Carnely suggested.
"Right. Crooks." Schrau muttered. "Seita, Arton, Marcus." He sighed. "I've talked to Marcus. He rearry doesn't remember a damn thing about what he used to do before joining up with the Eye. Seita is the same. Arton... I think there's something of him there, the boy remembers something but it's been suppressed." He rubbed his muzzle. "We're getting sidetracked here. Back to tonight."
"I love it when he gets this deep in thought." Carnely muttered.
"Yeah, he keeps talking in sentence fragments." Rynne added.
"Bite. Me. Both of you. Urgh... Where was I?"
"Tonight?" Rynne suggested. "The types of people involved in the Silverrr Eye?"
Schrau nodded and clapped. "Rrright. Awright, despite their popurarity, many of the Sirver Eye aren't in the business of making friends."
"Who was the stiff we brought in anyway?" Carnely asked.
"Dunno." Rynne shook her head. "He was beaten so badly it'll be impossible to identify him. None of the rrregularrrs in the barrr rrrecognised him, orrr knew him, and the serrrving wench harrrdly noticed his face."
"Just the type of person I know. Someone on the run." Schrau added.
"Maybe the Silverrr Eye goons knew him, and he just happened to be stumbling out of the barrr when they happened to be walking by?"
Schrau shook his head. "Nope. Nope, nope, nope."
Rynne shrugged. "What's wrrrong with that?"
"Coincidence. It's too big a coincidence."
Carnely nodded. "Yeah, prettyboy dun' like it when the whole idea is based on one huge coincidence."
"Arr the bars in arr the worrds, and someone who happened to know one or more of those Eyes had to step out of the bar they happened to be walking by? No thanks."
The door to Gilgal's office opened, and Josh Pashnor stepped out with his robes flowing. His pace was calm, subdued, and perhaps morose. He made a beeline towards the three sentinels.
"Hey, he's still standing." Rynne noted.
"When did he get here?" Schrau asked.
"I've no idea." Carn shook his head. "Must've been here before we got here."
Pashnor swished his way and came to a stop at Schrau's desk. Schrau refused to come down from his standing position, and so actually managed to stare the tall human down. Rynne and Carnely only shifted their seated positions to appear only marginally more presentable, but still enough of a slovenly appearance to give a good impression of not giving a damn.
"Deputy Cadnos." Pashnor nodded respectfully.
"Aye?" Schrau responded.
The First Follower took a deep breath, obviously not liking his current situation. "I have spent the better part of three hours with Sheriff Radisgad negotiating the release of Followers Xayne and Lowes and to collect the body of Follower Lombardi for proper interment. Radisgad has informed me that I should discuss the matter with you."
Schrau's brow arched quizzically, rearranging a lot of fur. "Me?"
"You were the arresting officer, correct?" Pashnor queried, unwavering from his uncharacteristically respectful tone.
A flicker of a smile crossed Schrau's lips. "I'm afraid not. I was incapacitated during the initiar attempts to subdue your three Forrowers, and was not actuarry responsibre for arresting the two survivors."
"Oh? And who was the arresting officer?"
Schrau gestured towards Carnely and Rynne. "That would be officers Krysospas and... Hey, what the herr is your surname, Rynne?"
"Frrreyja." Rynne smiled.
"Right. Why didn't I ask that sooner?" Schrau sighed. "Anyway, it's these two you should make that request of."
Pashnor turned expectantly towards the other two sentinel deputies, but before he could request anything Rynne began. "Yourrr two Followerrrs have been charrrged with murrrderrr, rrresisting arrrrrrest, assaulting a sentinel officerrr, attempted murrrderrr of said officerrr, and a furrrtherrr two counts of rrresisting arrrrrrest. I'm afrrraid we cannot rrrelease them."
"The Silver Eye treats such incidents harshly." Pashnor promised. "We will conduct their trial and punishment according to the tenets of-"
"The incident happened in the city of Saurrronan in full view of thrrree on-duty sentinel officerrrs and a barrr full of Saurrronan citizens." Rynne informed the First Follower. "The rrrights of the city take prrriorrrity overrr any tenets of any rrreligious grrroup such as yourrrs."
Carnely shifted on his desk. "However, we can release the body of Follower Lombardi to your care, First Follower Pashnor. And while it was a regrettable incident, his actions did leave us with no other course. He was threatening the life of a fellow officer."
"They acted accordingry." Schrau added.
"I see." Pashnor coldly said.
"See officer Despayre regarding to the release of Lombardi's body." Carnely announced. "He's on the morgue shift right now." And was also a solid-minded individual. The last person you would expect to be taken in by the words of Harren.
Pashnor nodded and started to speak, "Thank-" He actually visibly choked on the word, "-you for your cooperation, officers. Good night."
The three officers watched possibly the most important member of the universe's newest standardised religion walk out before muttering to each other in hushed tones.
The springs and leather in Schrau's chair squeaked and creaked as he backflopped from the desk into it. "Was that even Pashnor?"
"I'm guessin' he's going all poh-lit-ick-kal." Carnely pointed out. "He probably knows that his boys are gonna swing for this. Doesn't want to tread on no toes, and of course the last time he left this building he wound up with a broken nose."
"Yeah, Gilgal does make an impression on people."
"Often a four-knuckled one." Carnely said, scratching his head. "Anyway, where were we?"
"Werr, we were pointing out to Rynne that I don't rike coincidences."
"Okay," Rynne said. "Well, how about this: They knew wherrre he was going to be. The speed in which they took care of him indicated that the murrrderrr was prrremedidated to me. They werrre going to kill him anyway, in orrr out of that barrr."
"That seems possible." Carnely added. "Could've been a whole lot less convenient, but-"
"Wait." Rynne interrupted. "I just rrrealised something."
"What was that?" Schrau asked.
"The old coot gave us theirrr names."
Schrau and Carnely blinked in unison; she was right: When they had arrested the two surviving Silver Eyes they had took on a vow of silence of some sort and refused to even give their names. Pashnor, however, had supplied the sentinels with that crucial information. The deceased being Lombardi, and the two survivors being Xayne and Lowes.
Schrau hopped up onto the desk, grabbed Rynne's large head in both paws and kissed her on the spot between her eyes. "I feer ashamed for not noticing that, Rynne. Thanks."
"I suppose." Rynne grumbled, wiping her forehead. "What for?"
"Werr, put it this way: The Sirver Eye have been recruiting criminars, they've been making anyone who quits vanish, and they've probabry got a bunch of other stuff they don't want anyone outside to know about. I've been itching for an excuse to stick my muzzre into their affairs but I haven't had just cause." He hopped off the desk onto the floor. "Murders. Harbouring fugitives. Assaurt. Kidnappings. Now I've got some just cause there, but nowt to work with. Now, I have some names. Names I can ask questions with."
"That's swell, vurpie." Carnely muttered. "But what are you going to do?"
"Take a trip to Raji." Schrau said, snatching his swords from his desk and strapped them to his back. "Gonna pay my new best friends a visit."
"Oh. Send your new girlfriend a postcard when you get there." Carnely added, waving at Rynne.
"Was the kiss necessarrry? Rynne grumbled.
"Sweetheart, if you'd been a vurpin it would've been on the rips, I promise."

Part 11 - A Limit on the Tourists

The Ocular Temple was an absolutely mammoth ziggurat of a construction that stood high on the island of Suthnas. Built entirely out of a blazingly white marble (Though Schrau suspected correctly that it was merely marble cladding over cheaper stone), and could bee seen from practically any point on the island. It was a huge and ostentatious building, with hardly a window across its surface.
Schrau guessed that the average person would bake their brains out after spending an hour in that building, which probably explained much of the Silver Eye.
Crowning the pyramid was a massive crystal-and-silver eye that caught the light in interesting patterns and, probably, could be focused onto Suthnas City and burn it to the ground if needs be.
There were also a lot of stairs. Dozens of the bloody things, all leading up to the entryway, where two Fists stood on eternal guard duty. In the cooler climes of Wysoom or Welstar the ascent would have been doable, but with the sun blazing down through the thin Rajian sky, Schrau could feel his tongue practically dragging on the hot marble. He eventually thudded onto the floor in front of both Fists, panting heavily, before springing to his feet and dusting himself off.
"Ahoy there." Schrau cheerfully said, brandishing his badge before hooking it back onto his jacket. "Officer Schrau Iestyn Cadnos. I'd rike to visit your fine estabrishment."
The two guards exchanged glances, before turning back to the sentinel. "I'm afraid we cannot permit you access." The leftmost one announced. "You are not one of Harren's flock."
"Oh. I see." Schrau blanked. "I heard that visitors were arrowed to visit the Tempre."
"They are." The guard said.
Schrau let the pregnant pause gestate for a few moments more and then said, "Werr... I'm a visitor."
"And I want in."
"I'm afraid I cannot do that."
Schrau sighed. "Okay." He turned to the second guard. "You seem ress agreeabre. You could probabry terr me why I'm not arrowed in wrapped up in an insurt."
"Piss off, furlicker." The guard growled. "He said you ain't getting in."
"I do apologise for my companion." The first guard serenely said. "He's new."
"Oh, that's fine. I'm more used to his sort than yours." He really was, bless his crooked soul. "It might get nasty though." So Schrau turned back to the second guard. "Awright, bucko. Why ain't ya gonna ret me in to your open prace of worship?"
"Because you're not allowed in." The guard grunted.
"Oh, so it's a personar thing?" Schrau nodded. "Yeah, okay. I should've seen that coming." He glanced sideways. "Say, is there a rightry-guarded back door to this prace?"
"I'm afraid not." The first guard said.
"Are you expecting any deriveries of goods packed in crates that a vurpin could hide in any time soon?"
"Y'just missed this week's delivery." The second guard grinned.
Schrau drew his blades. "Anywhere 'round her I can hide the corpses of two idiots where they sharr remain undedected for as rong as it'rr take for me to finish my business?"

Carnely and Rynne shared identical expressions and positions. They both sat at their desks, staring up at the ceiling, breathing shallowly. It was the type of silence you would get when an identical thought was shared across two brains, when communication between the two parties was entirely nonessential.
Then Carnely lowered his head, looked at Rynne, and said; "Y'know, the prettyboy would have been thankful for that little piece of info."

The thing about stealth is that most people get it wrong in one of two ways. The first is the most obvious way of getting it wrong - Stepping on a twig, loose stone, or creaky floorboard at an inappropriate moment, being caught in the light, sneezing.
The second is to lack the necessary faith in yourself to actually be stealthy, to rely on the shadows or whatever items you have that aids in stealth - Dark clothes, silent shoes, various gadgetry. Really, if you have to rely on black neoprene, night vision goggles, or fantastic devices for dousing lights from a distance, you're just a tourist; a lazy, feckless tourist.
Schrau clanked when he walked due to the sheer amount of crap he carried in the many pockets of his jacket; the leather creaked and the trinkets clinked and his paws clattered across the floor. However, Schrau was a vulpin, and a thief, and very good at being both of those. Just because he walked like a xodar unsuccessfully abseiling down a cliff face without a rope didn't mean that when he needed to be sneaky he couldn't move without neither sight nor sound.
He stepped quietly and confidently through the halls of the Ocular temple, his paws making no sound, his leather as silent as a shroud, and the detritus in his jacket remaining absolutely still. This was the sort of trick no guild in the universe would teach, and even Aldar's most cruel and unusual training regimes barely scraped the surface of what every vulpin in the den knew on a genetic level about silence. Silence could be deadly, but quite often profitable.
The halls of the Ocular Temple were brightly lit with very little in the way of shadow. A so-called trained individual well-versed in the theory of sneaking about would take one look at the environment and submit instantly - All the skills they knew, everything they had been taught would never in a billion lifetimes allow them to prepare for this. Whichever architect that designed the temple had probably consulted a master of stealth on its design.
Pity he hadn't consulted a vulpin.
Or perhaps fortunately, for Schrau had been hiding from various wandering collections of Silver Eyes by simply hiding in what could be considered plain sight. Hidden in a half-crouch, Schrau weaved around the zealots like a persistent insect. Making sure he was wherever no one was looking. Of course, it wasn't easy: Sometimes he had to keep continually moving while simultaneously estimating how several people at once saw the world from their point of view in an amazing display of empathy. The best groups to tail were the chatty, distracted ones; those groups he could sneak around close enough to pick at the loose threads on their tabards. A few Silver Eyes that just walked through the corridors silently were to be tailed at a distance, they were more likely to notice a vulpin sniffing their boot leather than anyone else.
It was an oddly exhilarating exercise, and made possible due to the fact that Schrau simply had no respect for his victims. To respect someone was to acknowledge that they were equal or better than oneself, and when your continued safety is down to relying on the abject stupidity of groups of multiple persons, then taking the time to respect one of them was the first step to failing.
Schrau was under a tremendous strain, for not only did he have to pay attention to where he was hiding, not only did he had to listen in on the conversations of the people he was hiding from, but also for the tiniest sound that someone else was approaching, he was also mentally mapping out the temple in his mind.
When the pair he was following was suddenly hailed from behind by a third Eye, Schrau barely managed to get between the two Eyes as they turned and, using the bulkiest of the pair as cover from the third, he drew his swords. Just in case he had to suddenly take down the pair as quickly and as quietly as possible. The third joined the group, and they continued a rather banal discussion for about five minutes before setting off down the corridor together.
Schrau took the first opportunity to duck into a side room and catch a breather. His swords went into their sheathes and Schrau fumbled around in his jacket. Sometimes, when sneaking about, the fine art of creating a sudden distraction was paramount. Some went so far as to have special and fantastic devices created for them to do the job, but really a tiny pebble would do the exact same job.
Schrau preferred small lengths of copper wire, about two inches in length and curled around into a small circle. They made the tiniest of noises when flicked away, loud enough to draw the attention of someone, but quiet enough never to be investigated. If they were noticed, then so what? As far as most people were concerned, small foreign objects were a naturally-occurring phenomenon, while a manufactured noisemaker cap was an all-channels broadcast that someone was here that shouldn't be.
Schrau hoisted himself up onto the doorjamb above the door and waited for someone to pass. It didn't take long for another pair of representatives of the Silver Eye to clatter down the hallway, their robes swishing with surprising loudness. Schrau dropped onto the floor and melted into their shadows as they twittered on.

"What do you mean you lost him?" Pashnor snorted to five of his minions, including the two door guards. "He's a vulpin wearing green leather! It's not as if that's hard to lose!"
"My lord, we were following him once he broke in through one of the air vents, but we lost him with surprising speed."
Pashnor paced his office. "He's somewhere in this temple and I want him found! It's a ridiculously simple concept! Now get to it!"
"Yes sir." The five Eyes chimed before filing out of the room. Pashnor sighed to himself and shuffled into the back room.
Harren wasn't going to be pleased. Not one bit.

The stench practically screamed "mess hall" and, considering the noise usually associated with such areas it wasn't a good place for Schrau to consider staying long. Since the very sounds that could mask his passing could be those that masks the sound of someone sneaking up on him.
However there was a nice, quiet room down the hallway where many Silver Eye gathered to discuss matters away from the clattering of plates and food containers. The perfect place to eavesdrop.
He still needed the information on the killing, and the best way to get that would be to question an unfortunate member of the Silver Eye. Unfortunately for Schrau, every single one of them had been going around in pairs or groups. That made it nigh on impossible to corner one and shake the information out of them before leaving them somewhere hidden to have a nap.
Of course there was the hope that the incident itself was suitably scandalous, and the Silver Eyes would allow themselves to be overheard discussing the shameful activities of Lombardi and his colleagues. So far that had turned nothing of worth, but Schrau was hopeful.
Crouching against the side of the entryway, listening in on a trio of Silver Eyes while constantly checking down the corridor for anyone that would discover him, it was here that he finally hit pay dirt.
"Brother Talus, did you hear about the Lombardi brothers?"
"Aye, indeed. Hopefully, their sacrifice will not be in vain."

Imagine if you will what a sentinel usually has to put up with whenever a death is involved. Not only is there the issue of, quite often, cleaning the blood off their jackets but there's all the associated fallout that follows. Paperwork, mainly, but you do get the occasional grieving relative who wants to know exactly what the hell happened.
In this case, it was a mother. Momma Lombardi wanted to know exactly how her boy died, which resulted in a long discussion with poor officer Freyja. Rynne had explained, in pretty much every detail, how Follower Lombardi had died at her own hands, which is something most sentinels would rather forget about, thank you very much.
And then a question was asked. Which Lombardi boy had died? Because both of the unfortunate woman's sons were Followers in the Silver Eye.
Rynne shrugged her shoulders and admitted that she did not know, because she only knew the Silver Eye on a surname basis only. Could she describe him?
Well, both boys were twins. But Marco Lombardi had a birthmark in the shape of a crescent on the back of his left hand while Enrico had a tattoo of a serpent on his neck.
That settled it, Rynne said, it was Enrico that had been speared by her. She recognised the tattoo readily enough.
However the victim of the beating had a crescent-shaped birthmark on the back of his left hand. Rynne could not identify the victim since his head wasn't so much as beaten as obliterated like a ripe watermelon flung from the top of the Crystal Tower, but she recognised the birthmark readily enough.
And then momma Lombardi simply said, "Oh."

Schrau listened to every syllable of the discussion. About the two Lombardi boys willing to sacrifice their lives for the Silver Eyes in a display that would hopefully bring confrontation between the sentinels and them, or at least give a certain nosy little vulpin enough reason to poke his muzzle into their affairs.
And as the three men left the rest room, oblivious to the nosy little vulpin hiding in plain sight, they chuckled confidently that it wouldn't be long before something happened.
Schrau quickly scanned the rest room before taking up residence inside. He needed time to think about this, time to plan.
The full weight of what this implied practically crushed the vulpin, probably all to late he realised exactly what kind of trouble he was in.
"It's a trap." He mumbled, before his thoughts turned to how he was going to extract himself from this temple. That's when it hit him.
The sneak behind him was a pro, almost as good as Schrau himself. Almost, because Schrau felt the tiniest movement that gave away his position. Excellent technique, but not perfect.
Schrau didn't have time to sufficiently react, but he did have time to give his assailant the briefest of indications that he knew that he was there. You're good, kid, but not good enough. A sort of tradesman's exchange, all the interest of professionalism.
Still, whoever it was turned out to be somewhat skilled with a blackjack. Schrau felt the cosh kiss the back of his head with promise of pain when he woke up, but first he had to be consumed by utter oblivion.
Schrau blacked out.

Part 12 - Irresistible Force

When Schrau woke up, he did so without a headache. You would have supposed that he would have been grateful.
But no, he was not grateful. Had he woken up with the splitting headache that is the usual result of being coshed over the skull, then that would have been the normal course of things; what Schrau would have expected. If you wake up with a clear head, then that means you've woken up at some point in between, and if you can't remember that then anything could have happened.
That 'anything' seemed to involve Schrau waking up on a comfortable bed in a comfortable room wearing an uncomfortable Silver Eye uniform. He was lying in the centre of the still-made double bed, flat on his back.
In retrospect, it was the cramp in his tail that had woken him up. Vulpins weren't exactly built for sleeping on their backs or their fronts, but with the pauldrons he could hardly sleep on his side.
So, here he was: The pauldrons were heavy, the gloves cumbersome, and the boots awkward despite the fact that they were specifically designed to fit on the vulpin foot.
Schrau vowed he would never sleep again. Weird stuff happened when he did.
He hauled his legs over the side of the bed and stood up, almost falling over in the process. The pauldrons raised his centre of gravity somewhat higher than normal, and the boots sure as hell weren't helping. He considered kicking the boots off as he staggered over to the sideboard and leaned heavily against it.
It was a solid mahogany dresser, otherwise bare except for a lit candle and a slim black leather-covered volume: 'The Witness'. The same book he had given to Gilgal to read.
Schrau snorted and went to open the book with his left hand, only to notice that his fist was clenched absolutely tight around something. Tight enough to cut into his flesh. Struggling to pry his fingers back, Schrau almost snapped a few knuckles as he tried to see just what he was holding onto. Whatever it was sat beneath the glove an in his hand, but Schrau had a fairly good idea what exactly the mystery item was when he pried back his glove from the comforting weight and shape of it.
Edged with blood, sitting in the palm of his ruined hand, the golden six-pointed star of his sentinel's badge shone against the ruddy brown paw pad.
Schrau stared at the badge for a very long time. It was his badge. There had been several badges leading up to this one. Copper, bronze, silver, two gold-plated badges, and this solid gold chamberlain's badge. Next step would be a platinum bailiff's badge.
That would be some ways yet. Right now, the Silver Eye, this was what he had to concentrate on. But the badge was his, every single generation of badges were his, and he was all the better for somehow keeping hold of this.
Schrau wasn't sure if he would get the rest of his possessions back, his jacket and his swords and everything else, but he had his badge.
He tried to attach the badge to his robes, but couldn't find a suitable tab onto which it could hang comfortably. Instead, he managed to clip it onto the holding straps for his pauldrons, hidden beneath the hangings.
Schrau studied himself in the mirror. The silk was fine, probably worth something. As for the pauldrons the market in silver was clearly a seller's market since the Eye were snapping up huge quantities of the stuff. The gems were zircon, but Schrau probably still had enough worth in the rest of the raw materials to buy a new pair of swords.
Schrau spent a furtive ten minutes looking in every single nook and cranny of the room hoping to find something useful, maybe even the key for the door despite the fact he could plainly see that there was no lock on the inside of the door. Obviously, Harren had a thing about newbie Silver Eyes wandering the temple. Typical.
With nothing else to do, he turned to the Witness and idly started flicking though it. It was the usual religious rhetoric that made his brain seize up every moment that he read it. At least that meant he wasn't going to last long here.
In frustration, he hurled the book against the wall near the door, which may not have prompted the door to open and Seita Dur to step through but it could have done.
Schrau almost capitalised on the fact that the door was now clearly open, but before he could even take a step forward, Seita had bounded across the room and leapt into Schrau's arms, their pauldrons smacking together like jousters.
The door clicked shut and Schrau felt hardly anything else but Seita's passionate kiss. Now Schrau was confused and annoyed, and that meant he usually got violent.
Schrau managed to force Seita off of him, where she nearly fell and cracked her skull on the door. "Okay, what the hell-" Schrau began, before a grim realisation hit him. "Oh lord, how long was I out?"
Seita stared at him with her usually quizzical blank look. "Um, your initiation into the Silver Eye was yesterday and you were exhausted, but-"
"It's the eighty-ninth day of Shabatu-gn, right?" Schrau asked.
"Yes, you-"
Great. Schrau had lost an entire day from his memory. A day was a lot of time to cause trouble in, but not to get that deeply entrenched in said trouble. In a day you could, say, join up with a religious cult and-
Schrau couldn't help but stare at Seita and the look of undying devotion in her eyes. "Oh, we didn't-?" He asked with not so much as dread as outright horror in his voice.
"Declare absolute and undying love to each other?" Seita suggested. "Yes, we did during your initiation yes-"
Schrau rubbed his forehead. "That part isn't what's bothering me, cupcake. No, what I'm asking is that..." Schrau hesitated. "...that we didn't...?"
"Consummate our relationship?" Seita bluntly said.
"Yeah, that's the bunny."
"No." Seita shook her head. "Not yet. You were quite exhausted after the initiation ceremony yesterday and I thought I should let you rest. That is why I stayed in my old room last night with my brother."
"Oh, thank Sikkar." Schrau mumbled.
Seita sat down on the bed. "I mean, we could if we want. Morning meditation is not for another ten min-"
"No time!" Schrau yelped. He had to get out of here fast.
Okay, there was no keyhole on this side of the door, and Schrau's lockpicking skills extended only as far as shackles and small jewellery boxes, but he might be able to work a miracle. Schrau crouched before the door and removed his gloves before feeling along the base of his tail. They may have stripped him of his jacket, but they didn't know about the metal picks he kept hidden amongst the fur on his tail.
"There is plenty of time before the morning meditation, my love." Seita said, stretching out on the bed and seemingly ignoring her beloved's actions as he cursed and fumbled his way around the door. "Also, I don't think that nobody would mind if we're delayed for a few minutes."
Schrau rasped an annoyed sigh as the pick broke in the doorjamb. He discarded it and selected another. "Do you love me?"
"With all my hear-"
"No. Trust me, sister. You do not." Schrau grunted. "You don't want to love me. Do you know what happened to the first person that ever loved me?"
Seita sat up. "I don't-"
"I killed her." Schrau bluntly said. "In fact, I butchered her. I snapped her brain like a fragile twig and then hacked at her with my swords until she collapsed. I then dumped her remains in a lava flow and that was the end of that." Schrau grinned. "Good times. Do you know what happened to the second person who loved me?"
"You killed her as well?" Seita asked with horror.
"Eh, close. No, she's dead but I didn't do it." Schrau tried to inspect the lock bar. "A woman killed by her faith. Tragic, really. See a pattern emerging?"
Seita sighed, "We are safe here, my love. In the protection of Harren you can find peace and security."
"It's not going to work, Seita." Schrau said. "For one thing, I don't love you and you're not in your right mind. And even if you were what you normally were, then there's the fact that I'm a Cadnos and you're a Dur." Schrau grinned. "There's an awful lot of bad blood between our respective families, and I'm not sappy enough to believe that love eternal can spring from the rivalry."
"But Schrau! I-"
"Forget it!" He snapped. "Seita, listen to me! You are Seita Dur! You have to try and remember who you were if-"
It was at that moment that Schrau noticed a line on the open copy of the Witness that lay on the floor next to him. A simple line of text that was indeed a massive revelation.
"Oh my stars..." Schrau whispered, dropping the picks and scooping up the discarded book. He re-read the line a few times as he walked over to the sideboard.
"Do you see the truth of Harren, brother?" Seita asked, misinterpreting his rapt stare.
"Oh yes." Schrau mumbled. "More than you could ever know." He slapped the book down on the desk and whirled towards the door. "I've gotta get outta here!" He snapped. "Gotta get out of this place and- GAH! How the hell do you open this door!"
He kicked the door hard and it barely rattled on its hinges.
"What sort of idiotic cult locks-!" He began as the door snapped open.
"Yesss?" The guard outside hissed. "Are you ready for morning medidation?"
Outside his door stood a female rose-scaled dragonian in full Silver Eye gear. Schrau took a moment to recognise her. "Addra? Addra Rosescare?"
Addra Rosescale was the dragonian knight that had spearheaded the evacuation of the slaves that Schrau had rescued from the Kuroryu estate, and had been an solid Sikkarian. Now she was here.
Schrau was all for seeing a familiar face in a place like this, but he didn't like the circumstance. "Addra... Why?"
"Are you both ready for meditation?" Addra repeated. "I will take you there now."
Seita was already on her feet and walking towards the door. Schrau harrumphed and snapped, "I arready know the way."
It wasn't a lie, Schrau's mental map was still pretty fresh despite the day-long gap in his memory, perhaps even because of it. He had worked out where they probably massed for such a get-together. So he stepped out into the corridor and set off in the opposite way.
"The meditation harr is this way." Seita said by way of correction.
"Nature carrs." Schrau replied. "Herr, have I even eaten in the rast day?"
"The latrinesss are thisss way asss well." Addra said.
Schrau grunted and carried on down the corridor. Neither lady seemed interested in following him.

It took but one question, and Schrau had discovered the location of his possessions. Everything that the aspiring Silver Eye had on him or her once they decided to give their life to Harren was to be offered, including the clothes on their back, to the church. It's just as well that Schrau had managed to smuggle his badge along with him, since they could have done anything with an authentic deputy's badge.
Back to the possessions: Everything was basically piled in a huge room near the mess hall awaiting process. Anything that could be sold was then sold, anything that could be melted down and reforged, or remade, or whatever would supplement the burgeoning stores of the Silver Eye. Just as well that the Silver Eye was growing so rapidly, since it meant that there was a tremendous backlog.
Schrau quickly ducked into the storeroom and greeted the muridan maiden sitting at a desk reading her copy of the Witness. "Greetings, sister. I'm here to watch the storeroom whire you attend morning meditation."
The Eye turned a page. "That is most kind of you, brother. However I have been granted an exclusion to fulfil my duties."
Okay, a failed gambit is not necessarily a failure. Schrau still carried on the bravado in which he used to try and usurp the muridan and managed to walk up alongside her. It probably was a hideously boring job, just sitting here with nothing but the Witness for company, probably a low-mentality one.
So it utterly caught her by surprise when Schrau quickly struck her with his fist across the back of his head and rendered her unconscious. Before her head thumped into the desk, Schrau quickly grabbed the muridan by the scruff of the neck.
Muridans were prone to mental diseases, all sorts of psychoses and neuroses that could afflict a mortal. An interesting side effect of this that muridans were easily susceptible to hypnosis, hypnotherapy, subliminal messages, and other forms of neuro-linguistic programming. It was a fairly simple matter, for example, to sneak up on a muridan as he slept and implant the suggestion that when he woke up he would be suffering from a non-existent parasite indigenous to a world and would be itching for as long as he stayed there. Or to make them deathly afraid of scorpions.
Schrau managed to hold the muridan upright and open up one of her ears as he held his muzzle close. "Okay sweetheart, you're going to take a brief nap and when you wake up you won't remember a scruffy young initiate who just walked into your room and offered to take on your job before knocking you unconscious. It never happened, you just nodded off after spending too much time reading in a darkened room. You won't mention this to anyone, you won't remember a thing, and this talk never happened."
Schrau let go of the muridan's ear, before rethinking and opening it back up again. "Oh, and crean your ears out. Now I know what they do for candre wax around here."

Most of the Silver Eyes in attendance at the temple sat kneeling on the massive floor of the main temple room, all in supplication before a massive stone statue of Harren as Josh Pashnor led the meditation cadence.
Despite her position in the Silver Eye that would have normally granted her a position next to Pashnor along with the other Deacons, Loriel Malgus actually preferred to sit with the lesser members of the church. She knelt next to Arton with some room next to her for some latecomers. Besides, this would be Follower Cadnos' first meditation, so she wanted to keep a close eye on him.
It wasn't long until Seita and Addra sat down next to her and Arton, but there was no sign of the Silver Eye's newest member.
"Where is Follower Cadnos?" Malgus whispered to Addra and Seita.
"He left." Addra replied. "He claimed that he would be here, but-"
So the little sneak had decided to shirk his duties. Malgus felt her blood boiling, but managed to keep a suitably cool exterior. "Addra, come with me. I think I know where to find our erstwhile companion."

Schrau had found his jacket and his swords, which despite the fact that every pocket on his jacket was stripped of all their contents, was pretty much all he had brought with him. He felt the lining of his jacket and confirmed that the six platinum coins he kept as an emergency cash supply for a sky ship ticket, gate tax for Nineveh, and possibly a meal with the change was still sewn into the lining. There was also a single remaining bravo mark, which was a faithful reminder that he should pick up another batch when he got back to Wysoom.
Happy, he stripped down to his underclothes having spent a futile five minutes attempting to figure out how to remove the pauldrons. The coat went on beneath the tabard, and he strapped his swords to his waist beneath the pauldron hangings. Walking would be a little stiff, but he could still pass for a member of the Silver Eye.
Now all he had to do was walk out the front door and get out of there. Schrau's telemantic training gave him enough knowledge to realise that the entire temple was shielded from telemancy, so he had to get outside before teleporting back to the mage's tower.
Schrau started stepping out of the darkened storeroom into the small antechamber where the muridan napped when Malgus and Addra burst in through the door. The muridan bolted upright and stared in horror at the anakim while the dragonian started inspecting the surroundings. As Addra's gaze swept past Schrau, he hoped he was in a good enough hiding spot.
It seemed he was, since Addra completely missed him.
"What are you doing asleep?" Malgus barked to the muridan.
"I-I-I must have spent far too long reading..." The muridan blurted, jamming a finger in her ear and cleaning it.
"Did you see anyone? A vulpin Follower, perhaps?"
"N-no." The muridan shook her head. "I did not."
Schrau started backing up into the storeroom, hoping to get a better hiding spot when tradition dictated that he just had to kick over a pile of metal that had probably been someone's suit of plate mail.
"He's in there." Malgus hissed, and Schrau responded by leaping up along the corner of the room and crouching up near the low ceiling. The brickwork was exposed on the walls of the storeroom, and there were plenty of foot- and hand-holds for the nimble vulpin to get purchase on.
Unfortunately, Schrau neglected to count on the fact that he was wearing three layers of clothes and gloves and boots. He hated the boots, he should never have put them back on, but had done so for the purpose of 'blending in.' Maybe all digitigrades had to spend a hazing period of staggering around like a drunk monkey on their boots before they were accepted as a full-time member of the Silver Eye.
So just as Malgus and Addra stepped into the storeroom, Schrau slipped and landed heavily onto the floor aided by the weight of the pauldrons. He made a satisfying clanging noise as he flopped onto the floor.
Both Silver Eyes drew their battle maces, a piece of equipment Schrau hadn't been issued with yet, but that was fine, he had helped himself. Schrau drew his blades and aimed one at each of the women. "How much protection does those tabards offer, I wonder?"
"You don't have the guts, Cadnos." Malgus hissed.
"I wouldn't bet against it, sweetheart." Schrau replied.
"You can't kill usss both." Addra said, nodding in agreement with Malgus.
Schrau lunged at the pair, and both winged women stepped aside to parry the strike. However, Schrau carried on with the lunge and used the forward momentum to carry him past the two Silver Eyes and give himself a decent running head start.
It wasn't an exactly long distance to the front door, but Schrau had managed to steadily gain a lead over the pursuing Silver Eyes, relying on momentum more than strength to barge aside anyone foolish enough not to get out of the way when something that's more a flurry of steel and silk than a vulpin charged towards them. And, fortunately for the vulpin, the front door was wide open.
"Stop him!" Malgus yelled as she turned the corridor, and the shadows of the two Fists that Schrau really should have killed yesterday appeared in the sunlight. Time to fix that little mistake.
Schrau leapt, turning in mid air where he lashed out to the sides with his blades. The very tips of the two dwarven swords managed to score a deep strike on both throats of the guarding Fists in an instant fatal blow. The sentinel landed, sliding backwards on his feet in a half bow with his blades fully out to the side. He then stood up, sheathed his swords, and started mumbling a spell.
Halfway through it, the two Fists actually collapsed having spent some futile moments clutching at their ruined throats. He would have actually liked to have watched them die, but he had a lot of places to visit and a lot of work to do and only about a day to do it all in.
By the time he had finished, Malgus was at the door. Schrau vanished in a small tornado, leaving nothing behind but a small silver card that landed upright on a corner in the cracks between the paving stones.
Malgus stooped to pick up the card as the Fists wheezed pathetically, it was a black card covered almost entirely in silver foil. She could tell it was black because part of the covering had been etched away in a simple calligraphy to create one word: Schrau.
The two Fists breathed their last, and Malgus tossed the card down the stairs. "I want him found!" She barked to no one in particular.

Part 13 - Belong to Us

"How long has he been missing." Pashnor asked.
The gathering consisted of himself, Malgus, Rosescale and the Dur siblings, and though Pashnor was not exactly happy, he could hardly express it.
"Almost half the day." Malgus reported. "He escaped during morning meditation, slaying the two Fists on guard duty outside. He's an initiate telemancer, and was able to return to the mage's tower safely. We lost track of him shortly after he entered the Nineveh teleporter."
"And what measures have you made to recover him?" Pashnor asked.
"We sent a group to search the village he claims to own in Charthur, we literally turned the place upside down, but there was no sight of him there. He owns a stronghold north of Keystone, but has yet to return to it."
"And the sentinel guild?"
"He has not returned there either." Malgus reported. "However, I have sent Followers Drask and Bentoro to the guild hall to try and secure his return."
"And what exactly are you doing here?" Pashnor finally snapped. "Get out there! I want him found!"
"Yes, father." Malgus nodded before leading the group out of Pashnor's room. As the door shut behind them, Pashnor turned and stormed into the back room where the massive statue of Harren stood framed in sunlight through one of the temple's few windows.
He knelt before the statue and waited for Harren to speak to him. It didn't take long.
"Oh, Pashnor. What a tremendous failure this is."

The two Silver Eyes were certainly negotiating the return of the former sentinel Cadnos, even if the term 'negotiating' meant repeatedly yelling demands at the vulpin's fellow deputies while they yelled back explanations that they had not seen him in nearly two days.
Then the door burst open and Schrau stepped in, a scene that could only be improved by the addition of organ music. He was wearing an odd mix of clothing, with his sentinel jacket beneath the pauldrons of the Silver Eye, their hangings thrown over around his back and tied together in a faux cape. He was carrying a brown paper package beneath his right arm.
Followers Drask and Bentaro, both dhampirs, turned to face the vulpin. "Follower Cadnos, it is time you returned to the temple." Drask suggested.
"Get out of my face before I kirr you both." Schrau snapped, pacing between the desks and slapping the package down on his desk. "Right now, I have enough just cause to string you up and send you back to Harren in a box!"
Eagerly accepting the threat, the Silver Eye followers drew their maces.
Schrau wasted no moments in hesitation. He charged at them both as they charged in response and scored easy strikes on the muscles in their weapon arms. Two maces thudded into the stone floor of the guild hall as the sentinel weaved between the Eyes and raked his blades across their backs. In agony, Followers Drask and Bentaro dropped to their knees, and then eyed their maces.
Suddenly, every sentinel in the office was armed. Bentaro looked up the shaft of a long polearm that was being held by a white catfolk sitting on her desk.
"Get out of my sight." Schrau snarled as the two Silver Eyes staggered to their feet. As they moved forward, Schrau quickly slashed a hamstring apiece. "Don't rush on my account."
Everyone waited until the two Eyes hobbled out of the office before lowering and sheathing weapons. Schrau returned to his desk and ripped a corner from the package, removing a small silver box and dumping the package into a desk drawer. He then opened the box, pulled out a deck of fresh bravo marks, and hid them in a pocket. "There's a smarr vurpin virrage in Charthur. I'm sure a few of you have heard of it, it's carred Cartreth. Those goons have just turned the prace over rooking for me and they need some herp. Some of you get over there now and start putting things back together. Now!"
He then stormed into Gilgal's office.
"Where the hell have you been, Cadnos?" Gilgal demanded as a silver card embedded itself in his beard. With a disgusted grunt, Gilgal plucked the card free and tossed it into the wastebasket next to his desk.
"It's arr your faurt." Schrau snarled. "If you had made me do my work myserf, we wouldn't be in this mess."
"I heard you joined up to the Silver Eye." Gilgal said. "By the way, the pauldrons suit you."
Schrau shot his best withering look at Gilgal. "They knocked me out and brainwashed me. It didn't rast more than a day, which is fortunate, because I'd probabry be making puppies with someone I don't care for right now if it hadn't."
"Oh?" Gilgal said with a much-raised eyebrow. "Anyway, you were levelling baseless accusations against me?"
"No, you asked me a question first. I should answer it." Schrau took a deep breath. "Werr, just now I went to visit an ord friend."

Sorush sat in prayer before the statue of Sikkar in the paladin halls. Times were indeed troubling, with the Silver Eye's actions become more and more brazen.
Suddenly, a thick scroll of Soselian parchment landed on the floor in front of him. The anakim leader of the paladins looked up and saw a scruffy vulpin sentinel wearing Silver Eye pauldrons.
"Herro, Sorush. You stirr owe me a favour."

"He's waiting outside, he wants to have a word with you." Schrau said. "In fact, I think he just wants you to come out of retirement for one rast crusade."
"You demanded that the Holiest Paladin of Sikkar fulfil a favour to you?" Gilgal asked with some bemusement.
"He had no choice." Schrau smugly grinned. "I dragged my nuts over hot embers to try and correct his mistake and arso save a paradin whom he faired from eternar damnation. It was the reast he could do in return."
"On what grounds?" Gilgal asked.
"Funny you should ask that. Before I went to see Sorush, I dropped in on Cartreth..."

Sitting high up in a tree, Schrau watched the team of Silver Eyes tear through everything he had worked so hard to rebuild. Because pulling a lump of diamond out of a dead maniac's eye socket is not exactly a wholesome activity.
They were after him, they were after him because he had escaped. They weren't after him because he knew the truth behind the Silver Eye's foundation; they couldn't have known that he knew that. The fact that they were doing this because he had 'stepped out' for five minutes made it all the worse. At least normally they treated such situations with a little discretion.
Oh, right. He had killed the two doormen.
Still, they were undeniably after him. He didn't exactly want to give them what they wanted so he had to watch every painful moment in which a Silver Eye upturned a food supply, released a whole coop of chickens, invaded the homes and the privacy of his kinsfolk, all for nothing.
The Silver Eye eventually retreated with promises to return, and Schrau just waited until he was sure that none of the Eyes were watching his return to his village. He then leapt from the tree and covered the distance to his ruined village in a matter of seconds.
The first person he met was Canwen Aurnos, the unofficial mayor of the settlement. Technically, old Canwen probably would have been more likely to hold the position of town preacher, but since vulpins didn't have a lot of truck with religion, he would have to settle with being the unofficial leader of the township.
"Schrau!" He hissed. "The Silver Eye were here! They were-"
"I know, Canwen," Schrau sighed, "I know. And they're going to pay for what they did."
"But Schrau-"
"Is Kenna still here?" Schrau whispered. "I have to see him."
Canwen nodded. "Yes, he's still here. Schrau...?"
Canwen gestured towards the pauldrons. "You didn't join the Silver Eye, did you?"
"That's what I'm trying to find out."
Schrau was ushered quickly into Kenna's home, and explained his situation. He wanted to know exactly what he was thinking for that missing day.
So they sat down, and Kenna simply told him: "Rage."
"I was that angry?" Schrau asked.
"Almost incandescently." Kenna explained. "I'm surprised you never exploded as a result. You felt... Violated, trapped, you wanted to lash out at everyone around you." Kenna shook his head. "If I were to guess, it was probably what snapped you out of whatever they did to you."
"What they did?"
Kenna sighed. "There has been... some reorganisation of your thoughts. Certain parts of your conscious has been relocated, moved, placed elsewhere from where they should normally be. I've seen it before in other people, victims of mental programming, usually magically."
Schrau took a moment to absorb this fact, and Kenna looked briefly pensive. "This... I have seen this before. Several times."
"In Silver Eye members?" Schrau asked.
"In Marcus Kane, yes." Kenna replied. "However, the Biomancers have allowed me to observer several of their patients when such events happen. I... With Kane, I did not rightly know of his condition at the time, but now I am familiar with it."
Schrau stood up. "Thanks Kenna. You've helped a lot. It's time to-" He halted.
"What?" Kenna whispered.
"Someone's outside." Schrau replied, drawing his blades. He signalled for Canwen to stay where he was, before crouching low before the window.
A second later a kanku Silver Eye walked by with purpose. As he passed by the window, Schrau leapt through with it his blades flashing.
A few seconds later it was all over. Vulpins spilled out of their homes, and Schrau stood over the kanku that lay in a spreading pool of her own blood. Her fingers were loose against the mace that lay on the floor, and Schrau leaned heavily on the sword still jammed in her back.
"Bury her." Schrau ordered. "She can't be seen here. Take her out into the woods and bury her!" He stood up and sheathed his swords. "Time to fix this mess."

"For the most part, peopre join up voruntariry." Schrau explained. "But then again there are those, sharr we carr 'em, idiots who stick their noses into the Eye's business hoping to profit in some way from them."
"Oh. Imagine that."
Schrau grinned. "Anyway, they get a quick smack across the noggin, and then they have their minds reorganised. You're rucky if you snap out of it, ruckier stir if you do it in a day." Schrau shuddered. "But now we know how the Eye does business."
Gilgal leaned back in his seat. "But that's still not enough cause to wage a holy war on them."
A thick roll of Soselian parchment bounced onto Gilgal's desk, and the sentinel guildmaster eyed it warily.
"But before you read that, I bring us back to the point I made before. Remember when I made you read the Witness for me?" Schrau dug out the copy he had stolen from Josh Pashnor from beneath a pile of paperwork on Gilgal's desk, opened it, and pushed it towards Gilgal. "If I had read this myserf, that rine would have been a dead giveaway." He prodded the page with a claw. "Verse seventeen."

"We did what we thought was best." Pashnor sternly said. "How were we to know that he would eventually come to his senses."
"Had you listened to me in the first place, Cadnos would have come to his senses in a deep grave." The voice of Harren rasped. "He's not a mental genius by any means, but his conditioning and his upbringing have made him into an especially stubborn-minded young fool."
"We shall recover him, my lord." Pashnor promised.
Harren tutted, "Oh, Pashnor the Indignant... He will return to us."
"Yes, he belongs to us-"
"No!" Harren barked. "He will be back here with an army! Pashnor, we will be exceedingly lucky if we still live this time tomorrow!"
"My lord-"
"Don't 'my lord' me! This is your fault! Your fault, you cretin! Now go! Make your prrreperrrations for tomorrow. It will prrrobably be your last!"

Part 14 - Indignation!

Of the five witnesses whose collected works form the holy words upon which the Silver Eye is founded on, the Third Witness known as Sashron is the most well-known. Verse twelve declares this: "And so we gathered together for the first time in the miasma of the Rift."

Five minutes to morning meditation, and Malgus joined up with the Dur siblings as they walked down the corridor. Seita had become possibly inconsolable over the loss of Schrau, though Arton was certainly trying his best.
They walked and talked. As much as Malgus wanted to cheer up one of her favourite initiates, she couldn't help but feel about the fact that she had been ordered to bring Cadnos in alive but preferably dead.
"But why would he do this?" Seita moaned. "After swearing the oath to Harren, the oath to me! This- This doesn't make any sense..."
Arton put an arm around his sister's shoulders. "I'm sure that he will be back with us soon enough."
"Yes." Malgus announced. "We have some of our fine- Uhnn..."
The vulpins turned to watch two bloody points spear through the anakim's chest, tenting the tabard. Malgus pawed ineffectively at the swords that now ran her through back to front, tried to scream but was prevented from that simple and reflexive act by the blood welling up in her lungs and throat. Malgus dropped to her knees, her wings sagged and revealed a hooded figure standing behind her.
The figure drew a third sword, with a longer and thinner blade. The short creature had to hold it two-handed as he positioned it next to Malgus' neck.
"Sikkar wants a word with you." The figure simply stated, before swinging the sword back and fore and neatly decapitating the anakim, a clean execution.
The anakim slumped, her headless neck pumping the final few heartbeats of blood across the two shocked Silver Eyes. The executioner locked the long blade onto the arrangement on his back and drew back his hood.
"Sch-Schrau?" Arton babbled as he and his sister backed away.
"Last time I checked, yeah." Schrau grinned, pulling the two glammrings free and sheathing them.
"Oh Schrau..." Seita whispered. "Do you realise what you have done?"
"Yeah, saved myself a severe ass-kicking trying to beat her in a fair fight." Schrau pawed at the blood coating the silk hangings of his uniform, though he wound up smearing it across the material. "Hey, we all saw what she did to that werewolf, right?"
"This is inexcusable!" Arton yelled. "You murdered her!"
"Executed." Schrau corrected, producing a sheet of paper from the depths of his clothes. "On Sorush's orders, no less."
"The Silver Eye will never forgive this!" Seita replied.
"Good. By the way, you two are my accomplices in this, so if I were you I'd help me ditch the corpse."
The vulpin siblings blinked in confusion. "Accomplices?"
"Yeah. This was all part of the plan." Schrau leered as he picked up the head of Loriel Malgus. "You two were to distract her for as long as it took me to sneak up on her and end her. Works quite often."
"Pashnor will never believe you." Arton spat.
"Oh no? So how come I let you two live?" Schrau tossed the head to Seita, who caught it and studied it with a grim curiosity. "Arton, grab her legs, I'll take her arms. We can stuff her in the closet in my room."
This was too much for Arton, who drew his mace and snarled. Schrau grinned in reply and drew his blades.
"That's right, Dur. Man up."
It was at that point Addra Rosescale stepped around the corner, took in the grim tableau of vulpins with weapons drawn over the body of Loriel Magnus. The dragonian sighed and hissed, "Cadnosss, jussst how exactly were you planning on getting rid of the body?"
"Addra? You're not one of them?"
Addra Rosescale slung the corpse over her shoulder. "I'll explain once we've disposssed of thisss." She flipped a key towards Arton who clumsily caught it. "Arton, open that door." She ordered the vulpin.
"No." He defiantly said.
"You don't have a choice." She snarled. "Open that door while you're ssstill ussseful."
Hesitantly, Arton did so and Schrau ushered him and Seita into the quarters.
Addra followed and dumped the body on the floor. Seita finally put down the head, almost having forgotten that she had been carrying it. "I-I-I need to sit down..."
"Okay, Addra." Schrau muttered, closing the door. "What gives?"
The dragonian shrugged, pauldrons rattling. "What can I sssay? Pretty much every guild and organization has someone on the inssside of the Eye doing... Resssearch."
"Spying, you mean." Arton snarled.
"Frankly, Cadnosss. When I sssaw you I thought that you were the sssentinel'sss agent."
"'fraid not." Schrau replied.
"Hmm. Ssso the sssentinelsss did not know of thisss arrangement?"
"If they did, I must've missed the memo."
"But why-" Arton began.
"It's broody obvious, Arton." Schrau sighed. "To bring down the Eye."
"Well, actually we're trying to find out who isss behind thisss little cult." Addra announced. "I don’t sssupossse you have any idea?"
Schrau nodded. "Actuarry, I do."
Addra arched her eyebrows. "Oh, good boy."
"Anyway, it's arr happening today. Now. We're bringing it down. During morning meditation." Schrau explained. "Paradins and Temprar are on their way, and I want to get to Pashnor when they do."
Addra nodded. "Okay, I'll wait outssside jussst in cassse sssomeone wantsss to make sssomething of the little messssss you've left in the corridor. Ssschrau, whatever you've got planned for thessse two, make it quick."
The dragonian stepped outside and locked the door behind her. Schrau leaned against the door and stared at the two vulpins.
"Why are you doing this, my love?" Seita tearfully whispered. "Why do you seek to undo everything that we believe in."
"It's simple." Schrau replied. "This isn't religion, this is penance."
He then told them everything he knew, right from the sordid beginning.

Verse thirteen declares this: " It was there that [Harren] made his creed: That his followers were blessed,"

A vulpin Silver Eye, albeit one with an impressive collection of swords on his back, knelt over a small and unremarkable gravestone.
This was not just the Nineveh cemetery, not just in a dilapidated section of the cemetery dedicated to pauper graves, but the dilapidated section of the cemetery dedicated to the pauper graves of the many prostitutes that were often recovered from the gutters of the city.
The fact that a member of the Silver Eye was visiting a prostitute's grave probably would have raised a few eyebrows, but the fact was the same held true had a sentinel been visiting in full uniform, which was something that Schrau often did. He made a point to visit the grave every time he was in the city, regardless of any impressions that it left on his uniform.
"Everywhere we go," he whispered, "there's someone there to try and take advantage of us, sis'."
He removed a glove and started picking at the mould that had started encroaching onto the engraving with a claw. The stone read in simple yet stern letters: 'RHIANNON CADNOS'.
"Aldar, Kuroryu, the Silver Eye. All of 'em. You know better than most."
The stone just sat there in silence.
"Not anymore. I'm going to finish this today. No matter how many people I hurt, no matter how bad the truth hits 'em."
Schrau stood up, slipped the glove back on, and righted his robes.
"I'm gonna bring you home, sis'. I promise."

"But-But Harren is real." Seita whispered incredulously. "He speaks to me."
"No, he doesn't." Schrau explained. "You just think he does. It's... It's an intended effect of what you went through."
"What I went through?" Seita asked.
Schrau pointed at Arton. "He knows. In fact, he knows that this whole thing is a sham."
Arton twitched guiltily as Seita turned to him. "I-I-I don't know what you mean..."
"Everyone here is a slave." Schrau explained. "Quite a few came here voluntarily, like you Arton. The rest were forced into servitude. Like you, Seita. Like me. Only I was good at breaking the chains that bound me. They messed with your mind, Seita. They wiped it clean and implanted your love of Harren into the blank slate. Arton knows this, of course."
Arton sighed. "Nice attempt, Cadnos. Now try and prove it. Explain why I would still be here if I knew that this was all untrue."
Schrau held up a pair of fingers. "Two reasons. First, you're weak and a parasite. You cling to anyone you perceive to be stronger or smarter or better than yourself, and you've got such a low self-esteem that you think everyone is better than you. It's why you stuck by your sister, why you went along with her schemes. Why, when you met Malgus, you started clinging to her instead. You didn't respect the faith they held, you were just a tourist."
"That's-" Arton spat.
"Second..." Schrau interrupted, "Seita. You care for her, you would do anything to make sure she was alright and that she was safe. Hell, any brother would." Schrau shook his head. "When you had found out that someone had taken your sister, brainwashed her, turned her into this! So you went along for the ride, just to be close to her, to protect her.
"So start doing it!" Schrau snapped. "Get her out of here!"

Verse fourteen declares this: "that they shall ascend to their rightful place as rulers over the mortal realm,"

Josh Pashnor was delivering the morning cadence as the doors to the meditation hall swung ponderously open. This was hardly a new occurrence, since quite often people were late and Pashnor insisted on having the doors closed every time someone entered just so he could see every single latecomer as they opened the door.
This time it wasn't members of his flock.
Gilgal Radisgad and Sorush stepped into the hall, the latter in plate mail and the former in a sentinel jacket made of reinforced hardened leather. Both carried their swords and their shields and were followed by a legion of paladins and templars.
"What is-" Pashnor began, before fully realising just what was going on. "Stop them!" He ordered his Silver Eyes.
Quite a few stood up, several with their hands to their battle maces. The rest, however, drew hidden weapons and used them to good effect to threaten the rest into inaction. Traitors.
"Surrender. Now." Gilgal warned. "We don't necessarily need you alive, Pashnor."
"I demand-! I demand-!" Pashnor kept tripping over the words, but he realised it was futile. The Sikkarian warriors were subduing any indignant Silver Eyes, and Gilgal and Sorush were bearing down on him.
He had no demands to make.

Verse fifteen declares this: "while Harren makes for them a path in heaven,"

"Fine." Schrau exasperatedly said. "It's all over anyway. Gilgal and Sorush and any paladin and templars willing to bust some skulls is in the hall right now, and the sentinels are currently rounding up every single Silver Eye in the wild as we speak. All I've gotta do is talk to an old friend and this nightmare ends. You want to be there for it? Fine. Just wait in the hall and someone will be there to look after you both."
Schrau tugged at the tabard and ripped it free, revealing green leather beneath. He then tied the two pauldron hangings together before him and threw them over his shoulders.
"Schrau." Arton said. "You are sure of this?"
Schrau never replied directly, just snorted and smiled as he kicked the boots off.
"Why are you doing this?" Seita asked.
"I've got a thing for slavers." Schrau snarled, throwing the gloves to the floor. "Addra, open up. It's time for morning meditation."
The door clicked open and Addra poked her head into the room. "Ssso are we leaving thessse two here or letting them go or what?"
"They want to see the truth," Schrau said. "They're coming with us."
"Schrau." Arton added. "Why are you stirr wearing the paurdrons?"
Schrau looked over his shoulder and brushed at the left pauldron. "Because they're chains. Our chains, my chains. None of us are free yet."

Verse sixteen declares this: "paved with the bones of the false gods."

Pashnor knelt at the front of the hall, every single eye in the room bearing down on him as he sat there shackled with the Most Holy Paladin of Sikkar and the Sentinel Guildmaster standing at either shoulder.
"This is outrageous!" He spat. "I demand to know why you are doing this!"
"Because some very interesting evidence has come to our attention." Gilgal announced, producing a roll of parchment from his jacket and threw it down onto the floor before Pashnor. "A letter to your god."
"Should we read it?" Sorush asked.
Pashnor stared at the paper, the familiar seal depicting fangs biting down on a sphere cracked. He had never actually read the contents of these scrolls before, he just delivered them.
It was at that point four latecomers arrived. Pashnor took a moment to recognise the taller of the quartet as a dragonian known as Rosescale, the rest were vulpins, with one wearing a mix of sentinel leather and Eye silk.
The dragonian and the Dur siblings stayed near the door while Schrau Cadnos paced the entire length of the hall in a matter of seconds. He mounted the stage, snatched the scroll from the floor and backhanded Pashnor with it. "Where is your god!?"
Pashnor remained indignant. "You shall be seeing him in the afterlife soon enough, vulpin!"
Then Gilgal grabbed Pashnor's hair and held his head back. Schrau drew a sword, aimed it at his neck, and swung.
Most of the hair from Pashnor's beard slid down the silk on his chest and pooled around his knees.
"Where is your god?" Schrau repeated.
"You may as well kill me now!"
Now Gilgal's blade was across Pashnor's almost bare throat.
Schrau leant in, his muzzle against the First Follower's ear.
"Wherrre is yourrr god?" He whispered in a catfolk-like way.
"Through the door behind me..." Pashnor whispered, finally defeated. "Up the stairs into my room. There's a room behind the curtain. There you will find my god."
Schrau straightened and made his egress through the door without a further word.

Verse seventeen declares this: "We shall hold the Six Worlds in our jaws,"

Twenty minutes later, Schrau returned through the door. The scenery in the hall hadn't changed much, though a few of the Silver Eye faithful were getting antsy about the fact that they and their leader were essentially being held hostage.
Schrau stepped up to the front of the stage, eclipsing Pashnor's kneeling form and started to fumble with the catch on his pauldrons.
"Peopre of the Sirver Eye, behord your god!"

Verse eighteen declares this: "and hold dominion over all."

Part 15 - Calon Lan

It was a pretty long walk up to Pashnor's quarters, with about five minutes worth of twisting, steep, and harsh stairs. Eventually, Schrau made it to the unguarded doorway and broke the lock with the tip of his blade.
Like most of the Silver Eye, Pashnor obviously did everything in the single room they were assigned. Pashnor's room had a desk, a wardrobe (for what, Schrau couldn't comprehend. One exception aside, he had never seen a Silver Eye in anything but their robes), and a generous bed. There were no windows despite the fact that the room was at the very top of the temple, to be close to Harren.
Schrau grinned at this and swept aside the red curtain that led into the back room. This one was a stark contrast to the one before it - A tiled mosaic floor, a massive statue of Harren stretching from floor to ceiling that provided the only decoration in an otherwise bare room, and a massive paneless window behind the statue. Harren cast a long shadow across the entire room.
Schrau had never really studied any images or representations of the Silver Eye's god, so now was a good time to do so. Harren stood in the Silver Eye's robes, a massive warhammer in his hands with the head resting on the floor. The pauldrons were fastened together with a massive chain, on which a brooch depicting the head of a wolf linked the chain together. Harren was a typical long- and blond-haired prettyboy, lacking facial hair and a low forehead. Though the statues always depicted Harren with two pupil-less eyes, Schrau knew well enough from the little amount of the Witness he had bothered to read that Harren's right eye was blind, a perfectly white orb that probably gave the religion its name.
Schrau should have figured it out then.
More out of disrespect than anything, Schrau knelt briefly before the statue while using the opportunity to study the floor. The mosaic was, essentially, a massive caricature of an eye. The pupil however was a intricate model of Raji, and the iris a pair of ivory white fangs surrounding and holding the planet.
Schrau stood up and announced, "'His forrowers were bressed, that they sharr ascend to their rightfur prace as rurers over the mortar rearm, while Harren makes for them a path in heaven, paved with the bones of the farse gods.'" He approached the statue. "'We sharr hold the Six Worlds in our jaws,'" he whispered to the image of Harren, "'and hord dominion over arr...'"
The vulpin sighed and started to circle around the statue. "Rearry, Harren. You made it armost too easy for me."
"So how come it took you this long to figure it out?" The god replied.
"Because I was stupid, arrogant, and crueress." Schrau honestly replied. "And it arso herped your cause that I never once imagined that you and your masters were capabre of such subterfuge."
"Well, it's really you that we should thank for this, Cadnos. It was from you we got the whole idea from."
"Oh yes, that rittre performance." Schrau nodded. "That armost drove me insane, 'Harren'. Of course, that shouldn't matter to you."
"You moved too fast, there's no way you could have spurred Gilgal and that fool Sorrrush into action on just one line in the Witness. Tell me, Schrrrau." The voice growled. "How was a pathetic sentinel such as yourrrself able to convince the most Holiest Knight of Sikkarrr?"
"Prease, compose yourserf." Schrau chided the voice with much satisfaction. "And Radisgad and Sorush weren't the hard part. Radisgad trusts his officers werr enough to know when they are right, and Sorush owed me a major favour. Britzar was the one who needed convincing, for a man of faith he is amazingry resistant to hearsay and specuration. He needed evidence more than anyone erse."
A seat was carved in the back of the base of the statue, and sat on it behind a desk cluttered with papers and books and a glass of wine was the withered form of Kahn Nahai.
Schrau practically sat on the arm of the seat and leaned in to Nahai's stumpy ears. "I'rr terr you."

Another hall, another mosaic floor. A single vulpin Silver Eye stood in the middle of it all and studied his surroundings.
The room had changed somewhat since he had last visited. For one, there was less blood spattered across the room, and a corpse had given way to a life-size statue of a dragonian raising the shattered haft of a solid diamond spear in sheer defiance.
The mosaic beneath Schrau's feet was protected by a thick layer of lacquer, which had been cracked open and replaced in haste. Schrau remembered the mosaic of a massive dragon head clutching Sosel in its massive fangs. The fangs were now pure ivory, though they had been diamond scythes that had once belonged to the crown of an old statue.
Clearly the diamond fangs were more of a nest egg than a true decoration, and clearly the fangs had been used to fund a project that Schrau was intimately familiar with.
It all made sense. Finally, after nearly half a year of chasing leads and watching the Silver Eye grow, a single line from their book and a few recently-dredged memories had put it all together like an exquisite puzzle of diamond and silver and silk and steel.
Schrau heard the heavy clawed footfalls approach and turned to face the only visible door into the hall. He recognised the dragonian that approached; strong, massive, impossibly imposing and near naked save for a loincloth.
Schrau had a blade across a shoulder and smiled at Kanno Kuroryu. "Come to pay your respects to the true Rord of Agony?"
"Away with you weapon, Cadnosss." Kanno hissed. "Ssso, you've finally figured it out."
"It took too rong, but I've got everything I need." Schrau replied, still not sheathing his sword. "So, this is his punishment for fairing you repeatedry?"
"Punissshment?" Kanno grinned. "He is loved by thousssands. Hisss name isss ressspected and feared and loathed and worssshipped acrossssss the Sssix. He isss a god, Cadnosss. A god!"
"He's a srave, Kanno. Just rike the rest of the Eye." Schrau tapped an ivory fang beneath his feet with the sword's tip. "You can't be that poor."
"The Witnessssss of Arvo, verssse thirty-nine:" Kanno began. "'[Harren] has no need for money. But ssstill he sssitsss and countsss it. As a meditation.'"
"Oh, come on now." Schrau grinned. "I took your precious workers away from you. Ruined your Panappa seed carving business. Destroyed the Kuroryuan income."
"That wasss never more than pocket change to usss, Cadnosss." Kanno informed him.
"So why did you start this mess?" Schrau asked.
"Control. Dominion. Asss is our dessstiny, we will rule over all and the Sssilver Eye wasss our meansss to do ssso."
"The money couldn't have hurt." Schrau added.
"Alasss, we needed the fundsss for another reassson." Kanno said, turning to face the door. "One which ssshould be arriving right now."
The doors swung open, and in stepped a trio of black dragonians. Two were male and restraining a struggling young female that had been stripped naked and bound heavily in chains. She screamed and roared and was led past Schrau and Kanno through the hidden door that had provided a handy escape route for Schrau and the slaves.
"I remember a fork in the path as we escaped." Schrau said. "A hunch and some rogic as to how the estate is constructed tord me to go reft. What if I had chosen right?"
"You would have found the lair of our Matriarch. Our mother, mother to all the generationsss of our clan." Kanno shook her head. "However, ssshe wasss taken ill and died before I could sssire the next generation of our blood."
"I think I get it now..." Schrau whispered.
"It hasss taken usss thisss long to find the youngessst of our sssissstersss." Kanno announced. "And ssshe wasss hardly cheap."
"You sord any femare chirdren, I remember." Schrau snorted. "My, but what if you had to reprace the ord Matriarch? Could you even stomach an outsider?"
"Purity breedsss ssstrength." Kanno hissed.
"No, variation and adaptabirity breeds strength." Schrau said. "That's where we differ. Hey, you do know that Hadas is stirr arive?"
This seemed to surprise Kanno. "He livesss? We had thought hisss life had been taken by Dassste."
"Daste says otherwise." Schrau said.
"Hmm." Kanno mused.
"So now what?" Schrau said. "I know too much. What are you going to do?"
"You are but a sssingle dissssssenting voice in the choir," Kanno mocked. "Your sssussspicionsss are yoursss alone. You know the truth becaussse you alone have ssseen it. Now try to prove it." Kanno left Schrau and started to leave for the hidden door. "No one will believe you. The Sssilver Eye isss powerful and influential. We are ssstrong. It is our dessstiny. You are jussst a sssentinel."
Schrau let the door click shut before snorting a laugh and grinning.
"Nope. I'm a thief."

The scroll thudded onto Nahai's desk.
"I don't normarry pray postman." Schrau said. "But, boy oh boy, Kanno must've howred the entire estate awake when he found this missing from his desk."
"More orders?" Nahai sighed.
"A retter to god." Schrau said. "But yes, more orders. Triviar stuff, but it does impricate you as Harren, bound with the Kuroryu sear. It was arr I needed to turn my suspicions into hard truth. Wanna read it?"
"I doubt there's any point in doing so." Nahai said. "Well done, Cadnos. You have ruined lives, shattered the faith of thousands, and all for what? To prove you were right?"
"'Via quislibet facultis." Schrau quoted. "What's important is that I fert that the Eye was wrong, and I had to stop it."
"You really don't care, do you?" Nahai said, taking the glass of wine and drinking it all in one gulp. "These people had something missing frrrom theirrr lives and you took it away frrrom them."
"Prease, compose yourserf."
"They werrre meaningless little crrreaturrres." Nahai continued. "Blind, dirrrectionless. We gave them something they needed. I made them belong to something worrrthwhile. If faith can brrring happiness to them, why take it away?"
"Because it wasn't faith, rearry." Schrau said. "They worshipped a farse god."
"Arrren't all gods false?" Nahai asked.
"No." Schrau replied.
"So what makes you morrre imporrrtant than them? What makes the law more... special?" He spat.
"Oh, that's easy." Schrau sat on the desk. "Gods can make mountains, but the raw can execute anyone who tries to ascend them."
"I see." Nahai said, before falling silent. His eyes open, the only good one staring into eternity.
Schrau took the glass the catfolk had taken his last drink from and sniffed it. It sure as hell didn't smell like fermented grapes. The sentinel sighed and hopped off the desk. "Sorry about this, Kahn," He apologised, drawing a blade, "but there is no way in heaven or herr that I'm dragging your corpse down those stairs."

Schrau stepped up to the front of the stage, eclipsing Pashnor's kneeling form and started to fumble with the catch on his pauldrons.
"Peopre of the Sirver Eye, behord your god!"
He shrugged the silver pauldrons from his shoulders and let them clatter on the floor. Schrau held up the severed head of a catfolk and presented it to the congregation.
Many recoiled in horror, which was certainly the usual reaction to a decapitated head and definitely the reaction in seeing Nahai's ugly face. Schrau almost felt happy for those sitting at the back of the hall. He had to wait for the gasps and mutterings to cease before continuing.
"His name was Kahn Nahai, and he was the major-domo for a untir-recentry powerfur dragonian cran, the Kuroryu famiry." Nahai's head was surprisingly heavy, but Schrau kept it aloft. "One day, someone infirtrated their estate in a bid to free some sraves herd within, and Nahai was resonsibre for retting that someone have the free run of the estate instead of doing a simpre background check.
"To you, your faith was a way of rife. To Nahai, it was a punishment. Something to be in charge of untir he paid his debt." Schrau finally let the head drop. "You were to be used, to be instrumentar in conquering the six worrds. Maybe that's what you wanted anyway, I dunno." He shrugged.
"Anyway. Your faith is a sham, you were used, and had the Kuroryuan scheme ever came to fruition we would not have stood for it. We would have stopped you then, and we are going to stop you now.
"Anyone want to argue?"
The entire hall was silent for the briefest of moments, then a quiet and defiant voice from behind said, "Yes."
Schrau turned quickly, drawing a blade, and viciously slashing Josh Pashnor across the right eye; blinding it, scarring it. Pashnor sagged in pain, unable to tend to his stricken eye.
"Anyone erse?" Schrau asked, shaking his head. "Peopre of the Sirver Eye, risten to me: You have been corrupt. You have defied the rures that binds our societies. You have storen, and murdered, and kidnapped arr in the name of a farse god. It ends now. It ends here. Your Harren had died and yet the worrds spin and turn. This faith has run its course and it is over."
The sword clicked back into its sheathe. Schrau took a deep breath and steadied himself.
"It is over." He repeated. "Go home."