Fluff Post #4 - The Offering
Olaf pulled his cloak tightly to his breast as the wind fought to wrestle it from his grasp. His seat upon the wagon afforded him little in the way of protection from the rain and he cursed his ceremonious position for the second time that day. He had never been particularly devout, apart from in a maidens bed chambers, and had found himself thrust into his position after fathering a child with a peasant woman unworthy of his status. His noble family had removed him from the families fortune and had offered him the choice of banishment or servitude. He had chosen servitude, assuming that he would be given a title and position worthy of his families name, only to find himself a transporter of the punished. Each month he would lead a convoy of carriages containing prisoners of the realm and captured enemies to the very outskirts of the kingdom. He found little solace in leading the small contingent of guards that accompanied him on his journeys and often found himself the butt of their crude jokes. As if his fall from grace was not embarrassing enough he now had to endure the jeers and barbed tongues of those beneath him.
He signalled to the convoy to slow their pace as the woodland opened up around them and he spotted the familiar statues. The statues depicted shrouded figures in various states of grief and mourning. No matter how often he saw them, they always sent a cold shiver through him that even the weather couldn't rival. The horses came to a halt and he dismounted from the carriage. Leaning against the cart to shelter from the rain he withdrew a pipe from his cloak and lit it from the carts lantern. Through deep puffs of the acrid smoke he watched as the guards emptied the carriages of prisoners and formed them into lines linked by chains from their wrists and feet. Even with such restraints and trained bullies on his side, he still never felt truly safe around these accursed people and found the pipe was as much of a distraction from their murderous gazes as it was his small weakness he allowed himself. Edmund shouted the prisoners into silence which was Olaf's cue to speak. He broke the silence by slowly and deliberately tapping the remains of his pipe out against the cart, the embers floated eerily in the cold wind before vanishing as abruptly as they had appeared. Olaf pocketed the pipe, cleared his throat and began to recite the words he had spoken so often.
"You come to this place as sinners. Criminals who have opposed the rules of your baron and your church, War criminals who have conspired to do the realm harm and as devils who have cavorted with the ruinous powers. You have been sentenced to banishment into the undying crypts where you will face challenges to cleanse your souls. Should you rise to these challenges and survive your journey you will emerge as free men, innocent and reborn. Should you falter you will face damnation. May the god of light bless your journey and may your hearts be lifted of your dark afflictions."
Olaf bowed his head and watched as the guards formed a ring around the prisoners forcing them towards the catacombs maw. two men wrenched open the heavy stone doors leading to the crypt and the prisoners were herded into its dark mouth. The shackles which bound them were removed one at a time and the criminals were jostled further down the corridor. Once they had all been unchained the guards retreated as one, weapons drawn. The stone doors were sealed behind them and the head of the guard blew upon a horn, which released a droning blare. The horns cry was echoed by guttural roars that came from beneath the ground that made Olaf grit his teeth and wince. He pulled his cloak tightly around his bulky form and signalled to his retinue to leave. The prisoners were at the mercy of the gods now.
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