Chapter 92: An Act of Worship

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The bonds of brotherhood are stronger than any vice the Eight could induce. These bonds are the bonds forged in Heaven, borne by spirit, not by blood. They are not what will end the Eight -combat and military might is still needed, after all- but they will be the source of the inspiration to rise against the Eight.

-The Necromancer's Notes, Vol 5543 A.L3, Uncategorized

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The Chapel of the Blessed Sage Alaqin was modest by Saefel Caeld's standards, which meant it was a thousand times more massive than Laidu's home, and a hundred-thousand times more ornate. Stained-glass windows, bearing images of the sages of the Light, the prophets of God, the martyrs of history, adorned the building, jewels in the crown of the cathedral. Statues of the prophets and sages stared imperiously down at Laidu, all but the one. 

He was clothed in flowing robes, parted to show the marred and broken flesh, the body of the Broken Sage rent asunder. He alone stared upward, eyes fixed on some indeterminable point oriented heavenward.  There he lay, broken by us. All of us, each a part of the murder. He didn't recognize which voice said that, but he willed them all to be quiet.  

Laidu stared up at the Broken Sage, murmured a prayer, and entered the building. 

Immediately, a young man confronted him. "Excuse me... oh my. What are you?" he asked. 

"A Changed," Laidu snapped. The young man -a priest in training, no doubt- breathed a sigh of relief. He wore a black cassock with large sleeves rather than the grey tunic of Laidu's homeland- but then again, here everything was different. 

"Ah. I was thrown off," he said, "because of the fact that all of you looks like an animal. Not just one part." 

Laidu nodded. "Yes. You wanted something? If you're going to try to shake more money out of me, before the offering, don't bother. I've been through that shakedown before." 

"No, no," the young man said. "It's just... well, I don't want a bunch of children screaming because they see a monster." He looked around. "If you don't mind, sir, can I take you up to the balcony?" Laidu nodded. 

He pulled Laidu into a cramped staircase and adjusted his voluminous black robes. Laidu had to double over so his horns didn't scrape the roof of the passage. 

The cramped stairway wound around a stone pillar, tight as a coil of rope. Going up the stairs wouldn't normally have been a challenge, but seeing as Laidu had to perpetually crouch, by the time he reached the second floor, his legs were burning. 

The acolyte opened a door and ushered Laidu through the door. "Here. Do you need anything, sir?" he asked. Laidu checked his surroundings. The balcony he was on was a smaller one, connected to the main, upper balcony by a hallway behind him. This place had a few pews, and little else. 

"No, no," Laidu said. "I'll be fine up here." He settled down in a pew. "Thank you." The acolyte nodded and left him alone with the voices. 

Why are you here? Kasran asked. You're a monster. A demon. You should be uncomfortable here. This place is not of you. This place is everything you aren't. You belong in some bloodstained alleyway or in a whorehouse or an opium den. Not here. You're dirty, stained, sinful. Laidu chuckled to himself. Kasran was firing out accusations with his usual hatred and vehemence, but there was an underpinning in his thought-voice, a subtle hint of fear. While he told Laidu that the Ranger shouldn't feel right in this holy place, Laidu realized what was going on; Kasran didn't feel right here. 

Kasran wasn't a demon, Laidu knew that much, but he was far from pious, far from righteous. It was willpower, not prayers and faith, that repelled him, though judging from his aversion to the chapel, prayer might work on him too. But the idea of holiness and divinity was anathema to someone wretched and proud of it. 

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