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Originally written March 21, 2012.

The light burned low in the nearby lamp, the flame flickered with faint wishes of more oil to be fed. Another late hour, another evening spent in the war room.

 

Arialynn Maewood stood partially armored over a table with papers splayed from one end to the other. The lady knight shed her gauntlets hours earlier to better leaf through the documents, then her shoulder pauldrons to spare weight from her shoulders. Her shield laid nearby, leaning against the table leg, its metal dully gleaming with the faint lantern light. All was silent except for a hushed flutter as she turned a page.

 

The lady knight recalled the many conversations in these chambers over the past days. Circumstances changed so abruptly, altered the mood of the Templars, threatened to shift their focus. Death was never taken lightly in the order, and the recent death of a Templar cast disquiet over the ranks. Templars who only seemed to nominally know the deceased stepped forward at her funeral to speak. Many blamed themselves for shortcomings, for opportunities missed to assist her, avoid her death. Arialynn herself privately entertained such notions, then silenced them as she stood in the company of others who bore the same line of thought. With death, there always came thoughts of responsibility and blame. She sought to quiet both.

 

"She told me that she tired of fighting. This is a familiar burden to many who stand here today," Arialynn spoke at the funeral. "With her long life, she bore the burden far longer than most. Take solace in that she no longer fights, and instead rests in the peace she fought to obtain for millenia."

 

 What was left in the wake of death was mystery. The cultists took painstaking care in sending letters to individual Templars and allies, their knowledge of the private lives of the recipients impressive at best, disconcerting at most. It was clear that the Choir sought to undermine Templar and ally resolve, which came at a dangerous time when the order was in mourning, more vulnerable.

 

Several such letters lay on the table, adjacent to one another, written in scrawl with letters oddly capitalized regardless of where they occurred in the text. It was thought that perhaps the cult wove some sort of secret message or code into the letters, but now the lady knight was inclined to believe it was no more than a ruse. The messages in the letters themselves were proof enough that the cult meant harm, discerning extra clues would likely not yield far more progress other than waste precious time.

 

She sent the latest letter aside, its heading addressed to Sarah Tinderspeck. It bore the same handwriting as its fellows, and another message that displayed prying knowledge into the recipient's privacy. How the Choir knew such things, Arialynn was only left to guess.

 

But in the wake of death, of continued attacks, of chasing shadows in the night, she set her tiredness and the late hour aside, and replenished the oil in the lamp.

 

The letters forgotten, she began work on a new task. It was clear from her quick preparation that this was a task well-practiced, if even routine. In the silence of the locked war room, the lady knight set to work on the next stage in the private, personal war between the Templars of the Rose and the zealots who sung homage to the Choir.

 

A few hours from dawn, she completed her work. Her efforts came with a familiar exhaustion, one she knew needed immediate rest. She donned the shed pieces of armor before she departed the keep, mindful that Theramore was still being watched.

Author Ari
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