Chapter Three - Canticle

"Anyone can find their way to the God of Light. Even the most wicked of men is able to repent, and to follow the path of the One." - from the Penitent Rede, "The Book of Days"


Sebastien winced as Lily giggled seductively in his ear. Not that it was a bad sound, oh, no…

There was only one reason he could think of that this was happening, and it was that livid purple cut on her cheek. He'd sent for a healer and was now just trying to keep Lily calm until they arrived; not as easy as it may seem. If she wasn't arranging herself in various suggestive positions (and just /where/ had a girl from the sticks learned of such things?), she was fussing with the laces of his tunic, or, in one particularly disturbing incident, his belt.

He glanced skyward and prayed to every god he could think of for the healer to get there soon.


The green-clad woman shook her head, completely baffled. Sebastien tried to not let his shoulders slump too much. "I'm sorry, but I can't do anything to help her. You'll need at least a master-class white mage, maybe even a priest. And you'll probably want to hurry," she advised, noting Sebastien's disheveled state with a raised eyebrow. "Try the Temple of the God of Light. They've got a rather tiny sect on Savarcat Way, near the outskirts of town." Apparently finished, she left in a hurry.

Sebastien sighed tiredly. "Okay, Lily, I have to go for a few minutes."

She turned huge blue eyes on him. "You're leaving me /all alone/?" Her head was nestled cozily on his shoulder, long fingers twining around his hands. She'd already tried climbing onto his lap, but was firmly rebuffed. "So you don't love me anymore?"

"L-l-love?! Love has nothing to do with it!" he managed, escaping from her grip. "Now… just don't go anywhere. Stay here until I get back, okay?"

She smiled lasciviously. "If I'm good, do I get a reward?"

He fled.


The healer wasn't lying; the temple /was/ tiny. It was nestled between two other buildings, an apocathary and an armor shop. The only indication that Sebastien had that this was indeed the temple was a sign hanging on the door with an image of a fire inside of a crescent moon.

Inside incense burned in hanging censers, and the small room was lit only by candles in shallow holders on the walls. There were three rows of pews, and flowers strewn liberally over the gold marble altar. Although Sebastien tried to be silent when he entered, a white-robed acolyte burst out of an antechamber almost as soon as the door shut.

"Blessings of the God of Light upon you," he greeted breathlessly. "What brings you to the temple?"

He took a deep breath. "I need help."

Once Sebastien had explained the problem, leaving out some of the more questionable details in an effort to save the acolyte's innocence, the young man slipped out again, presumably to fetch his master. He returned a few moments later, a handsome, curly-haired man bearing a staff in tow. He was dressed in a different sort of robe than the acolyte, an elaborate white and blue affair with gold embroidery on the hems.

"Jamiel Elazar, cleric," the newcomer introduced himself. "I hear you have a problem."


Jamiel was a follower of the Holy Dragon God, just passing through the Temple of Light on his way south to Turenn'in. He said it was lucky that Sebastien had come when he had, because he'd been about to set off again. On the walk back to the Inn of Seven Arms, Sebastien also heard almost all of the cleric's personal history. Eventually he gave up trying to get a word in edgewise and just nodded occasionally, striving to appear interested.

Jamiel didn't stop talking all the way to the inn, when they got inside, or even when Sebastien opened the door to Lily's room only to be pounced on and smothered with kisses. He very carefully detached himself and set her down on the bed. "See what I mean?"

Jamiel blinked, stopping in mid-sentence. "Let me take a look." He knelt in front of Lily, muttering a spell under his breath. "You were right, it's that cut on her face. The dagger must have had some sort of poison on it… a poison to turn her into a sex toy, most likely." He stood, looking frankly at Sebastien. "Those who follow the dark paths often use such magicks, since there is a lot of power to be drawn from sexual energy. Thank the Dragon God that you were able to wipe out their nest and stop such evil from spreading."

Sebastien shrugged. "I didn't do it alone. A necromancer helped me. She said she'd been hunting them too."

Jamiel shook his head, a patronizing smile on his face. He clasped one of Sebastien's shoulders in a brotherly grip. "Lies, my friend. I am sorry that you fell pray to her charms, but those who follow the dark paths cannot be trusted. You are lucky that she let you escape with your life. All too often, one of them will put on a pleasant façade to draw you into their clutches. You could have wound up as just another sacrifice… praise the Dragon God that you did not."

The swordsman wasn't so sure about that, but he held his peace. Arguing wouldn't get him anywhere, especially since he'd really only known Azazel for a few candlemarks. "Just help Lily, please."

"That I can do." Jamiel said, kneeling again and speaking directly to Lily. "You're under a spell, my dear. I need you to close your eyes and try your best to fight that spell." He cupped her cheeks firmly in his hands, staring into her glazed blue eyes. The place where their skin touched began to glow faintly.

When the light grew almost unbearable to look at, Sebastien started to hear a faint high-pitched noise, like a solo voice holding out a note. It sounded familiar… so familiar…

The voice! His dreams! He hadn't even thought of them since meeting Lily, because inexplicably… they'd stopped. But that voice… it was, without question, the same. What did Lily have to do with his dreams?

The light flared suddenly, knocking Jamiel back as Sebastien covered his eyes, wincing against the sudden brightness. He blinked in the aftermath, thinking that the room now seemed frightfully dim compared to that holy brilliance. The sound was gone as well, and for that he was thankful. He had a sudden, sinking feeling that tonight would be a night where he'd have to drink himself into unconsciousness. Why the dreams had stopped was a mystery, but he had no desire for them to start again. They were… unsettling, to say the least.

Lily blinked, one hand coming up to her forehead. "What… oh, my…"

Kneeling beside her in an instant was Jamiel, one hand covering hers in what Sebastien thought was a most uncleric-like fashion. "How do you feel?"

"I… what happened? I was in my room, and then all of a sudden there were people there…"

"You were kidnapped." Sebastien told her bluntly. "And almost sacrificed."

Even as he told her that, her fingertips traced down to her cheekbone, to find the cut left there. It was now no longer a livid purple, but more like a pale pink scratch. Jamiel's magic must have extended to heal that as well. Her eyes filled with tears. "Oh, no… I remember… it was because I left my window open… you told me not to, Sebastien, but I did anyway, I'm so sorry! I'm so stupid, I shouldn't have-"

"Now, child, it couldn't have been your fault." Jamiel said soothingly, interrupting whatever Sebastien had started to say. "And Sebastien was wise enough to seek out the help of the Holy Dragon God to free you from the spell they held you under."

"What… kind of spell?" she asked, looking from one man to the other.

Sebastien coughed, a red flush creeping into his cheeks. "It was just-um… you know…"

Jamiel, blunt as a rusty sword, interjected. "It was a poison on the dagger to turn you into a slave more of their liking." When Lily still looked confused, he added, "In a sexual manner. You apparently got quite close to your friend Sebastien, here."

She blushed a pure fiery red. "I-I did?!"

Her bodyguard coughed awkwardly and nodded, desperately trying to think of a way to change the subject. "Um… I had help rescuing you, from a necromancer."

"A heathen." Jamiel muttered.

"Her name was Azazel of Darkstar. She was very helpful," Sebastien finished, putting emphasis on the word 'very'. He didn't much care for Jamiel's attitude.

Lily looked intrigued. "What kind of outfit was she wearing? Was it a black shirt and leggings with a blue tunic?"

"Yes, that's the uniform that the followers of Valan wear," he replied.

"I saw someone like that in Kolee. She said she was coming to Novallar. I wonder if it was the same person."

Sebastien nodded, glad that the conversation had been steered to less embarrassing topics. "It might have been. Although there are a lot of necromancers here, I suppose."

"Something that I'm trying to remedy." Jamiel put in.

It took a great force of will for Sebastien not to glare at him.

"So I was kidnapped by necromancers and rescued by a necromancer…?" Lily asked, confused.

Sebastien explained about the heretic necromancers and the ones who followed Valan, and the differences between them. He ignored Jamiel's side comment about "the heathen who led him astray with false promises" and sat down on the bed by his charge. "How are you feeling, Lily?"

She smiled sweetly at him, and he was relieved to see that it was a smile with no traces of the poison. "I'm feeling alright. You weren't hurt, were you?"

He shook his head. "No, I'm fine."

"This is a touching moment," Jamiel said, breaking the mood, "but that spellcasting left me starving. I don't suppose either of you would be willing to buy me dinner?"


Sebastien sighed, bellying up to the bar. He'd left Jamiel and Lily alone, since Lily seemed to be hanging on the young cleric's every word, and the only time Jamiel had shut up was to take a few bites of food.

"What for ya?" the bartender barked, absently wiping a glass clean.

"Whatever you have that'll get me gone in a hurry," he replied, head hanging. /Wonder what the Immaculate Jamiel will have to say about this?/ His mind conjured up an image of the cleric berating him, throwing in praises of the Holy Dragon God and vague mutterings about heathens and necromancers, since in his vocabulary the words seemed to be interchangeable.

A full mug of something dark and thick was slid over to him, and he drank without even smelling it first. It was very near to syrup, tasting heavily of licorice, and it burned all the way to his gut.

He drank faster.

In what seemed like no time at all, the edge seemed to have been taken off of everything, and he hit that placid, warm state of being drunk. This was /potent/ stuff. Sebastien peered into the mug to see how much was left - it was about half-empty. Finishing it only seemed polite to him, and he set about to do just that.

A voice in his mind whispered that he was going to have one hell of a hangover the next morning, but he ignored it. First, there was the matter of those dreams to consider. /Anything/ was better than dealing with that at night. And second… he didn't want to have to see Lily fawning over Jamiel. Did he?

By the time he finished the mug, it no longer mattered. He waved to the bartender to put it on their room tab and stood unsteadily - very unsteadily - to make his way back up to the room. Why did all the tables seem to be jumping in his way? Finally-there was the hallway that led to his room. /Wonder what Lily would do if I climbed in with her?/

Now where had that thought come from? He shook his head, a snarl of anger curling his lip. Jamiel was probably already in there with her, if their dinner conversation was any indication. Only certain religious orders were vowed to chastity, and he didn't think that the clerics of the Holy Dragon God were among them.

After some fumbling and cursing, he managed to get his door open and fall into bed. Oblivion overcame him, and he slept without dreaming.


The building looked like all the rest of its ilk in Novallar. Square in shape, made of gray-brown brick with a tall red-tiled roof and heavy wooden door. The sign read simply 'Oskar Lilne and Family, Procurers of Magickal Artifacts and Antiques.' For the benefit of those who couldn't read, there was also a painted image of a glowing sword crossed with a jeweled wand.

Lily and Sebastien, walking side-by-side and deliberately not talking, entered the shop and immediately split up. For that morning, they'd gotten in their first real fight. Sebastien was furious because last night, Lily had asked Jamiel to travel along with them - without consulting him first. Lily didn't see what the problem was; she considered Jamiel a friend and a good conversationalist, and since all of them were headed southward, it seemed to make perfect sense.

So it was a very awkward walk across town to the Lilne shop; neither of them was ready to apologize just yet, although Sebastien still didn't want to let Lily out of the range of his protection. He immediately and deliberately walked away from her once they entered the shop, however, and began to look at a rack of swords and axes, neatly marked with the name of the weapon (if applicable) and what manner of enchantments or curses it possessed.

Lily, on the other hand, was headed directly to the counter, where a redheaded girl was immersed in a thick book. The young summoner had to clear her throat before the girl glanced up with a start. She was fairly attractive, with her hair pinned up in a complex twist that kept it out of her clear ocean-blue eyes, high cheekbones, a tiny button of a nose, and a broad forehead. Sapphire drops hung from her ears, a hint at middle-class wealth, and her dress was… actually not a dress at all, Lily realized when the girl got up from her stool. It was a pair of loose dark brown breeches, cut cleverly so that it maintained the appearance of a skirt. Paired with that was a lighter brown leather bodice that somehow resembled armor, and a cream-colored linen blouse. A short sword on an embroidered baldric hung on the wall behind her, along with a plain belt-knife.

"Can I help you find something?" she asked sweetly with a smile. "Or is it your friend who needs the help?"

Lily looked quickly over at Sebastien, who seemed to be absorbed in a rack of bespelled weaponry. "… I'm looking for an item," she replied, keeping her voice low.

"What sort of item?"

"It's a staff," she said, trying not to look too shifty while also trying not to let Sebastien hear what she was saying. "Average length, made of metal, with twisting wires on either end. No jewels, but there's runes on the length of it that appear when it's in the hands of its chosen holder. Supposedly there's the spirit of a sum-of a mage trapped inside it."

The girl was all business now, pushing stray bits of hair out of her face and taking shorthand notes on a spare bit of parchment. "Do you know the name of the staff, by chance?"

Lily swallowed. "They say it's called the Staff of Sorine."

The girl's hand stilled briefly. "Sorine, you say?"

"H-have you heard of it?" Lily asked, briefly wondering if she'd offended the girl in some way.

She set her quill pen down. "I've heard of it, yes, but anyone who's not a scholar or a… well, anyone who's not a scholar wouldn't have heard of it. It faded into obscurity more than five hundred years ago, right around when the legends about summoners stopped. That was in 770 A.C., what they call the beginning of the Age of Darkness. According to legend, though, Sorine was a great summoner who went on a mad rampage for reasons unknown and was sealed away to prevent further damage." The girl paused, then looked a little sheepish. "Sorry, I'm a historian by trade. I didn't mean to talk your ear off."

Lily smiled, with a shake of her head. "No, it's alright. The story's fascinating." She stuck one hand out. "I'm Liliandry Eiblhlin, but most everyone calls me Lily."

The girl shook her hand. "Rosaria Lilne. Oskar, the owner, is my father."

"I was sent here by your cousin Brielle of Kolee." Lily told her. "She asks that I send her regards."

Rosaria giggled. "How's Cousin Brielle doing? Is her shop still full of all those plants?"

"She's an impressive herbalist… I wish I'd had more time to spend in Kolee, but this had to take precedence." Lily sighed regretfully.

The redhead picked up her piece of note-parchment and blew on it to make sure the ink was fully dry before slipping it into an unseen pocket. "I'll ask Father to send out his couriers, since I know we don't have the staff here. If anyone can find its current location, they can. It might take some time, though, especially since no one's heard anything of it since the sealing."

Lily nodded. "I understand. I'm willing to wait."

"Alright, then, I'll ask my father to get right on this-" Whatever else she'd been about to say was interrupted by the sound of people screaming wildly in the streets. Lily couldn't make out what they were saying, but Sebastien, who was still by the door, heard it clearly.

"They're saying that there's mages and mage-monsters attacking the gate!" he called to her.

Lily stepped back an involuntary step, fingers closing around the staff that she was suddenly glad she'd brought, rather than leaving in the inn room. "We've got to do something!"

He walked over to her, addressing her directly for the first time since their fight. "Why? It's not our problem. They've got gate-guards to take care of this kind of thing."

"I know it's not our problem… but I've got to do something about it anyway! And if you won't help me, I'll go alone!" she said defiantly, challenging him with her eyes.

After a long moment, he sighed in defeat. "Fine, let's go." A glance at the shopkeeper Rosaria showed that she'd donned her sword-baldric and belt-knife and was looking at them expectantly. "What are you doing?"

She crossed her arms over her chest and silently dared him to try and force her to stay behind. "Coming with you, of course. Avery!" she called to the back of the store, "Mind the shop for a few minutes!"

"What a merry little party we have," he muttered darkly as they left. "Let's all run off and get killed now."


The eastern gate of Novallar had been blown completely off its hinges; it lay some twenty feet away in the middle of the road, amidst a pile of splinters. Lily stopped short when she saw just /what/ was attacking. There was a handful of the same wolf-creatures she and Sebastien had run into on the Highroad, and some other things with long, serpentine bodies and scales, but the head and forepaws of a hunting dog. And, Lily noted with some trepidation, teeth about as long as her hands.

Standing on the outskirts was a tall woman dressed in the blue and black outfit of a necromancer. Lily tried to get a closer look at her face-she looked so familiar-of course! It was the woman she'd seen in Kolee, at the weapon shop!

"Azazel!?" Sebastien exclaimed, shocked.

The woman turned to face him, looking startled. "Sebastien?" And then, "Lily?"

"Why aren't you helping?" Lily asked. This must also be the woman Sebastien had told her about, the one who had helped rescue her from the cult. "You're just standing here."

Azazel smiled faintly. "I don't want to waste my powers if they can handle it themselves. But," she sighed theatrically, "It seems I have no choice. Shall we?"

She walked boldly into the middle of the fight, flicking her fingers and sending balls of dark-colored fire flying. Sebastien shrugged, unsheathing his sword and following her. Rosaria did the same a second later. Only Lily hung back, unsure.

"What are you planning to do?" a voice said to her right. She whirled to see Jamiel standing there, watching the fight with calm aqua eyes.

"I-" She trailed off.

He smiled at her. "You're not a fighter, Lily. I can see that in you. The Holy Dragon God has a plan for all of us, and you're not a fighter." He didn't flinch as they watched one of the creatures grab Sebastien's shoulder and shake him like a rag doll until he stabbed it through the heart; didn't even blink when Rosaria barely dodged a ball of Azazel's dark fire and narrowly avoided the swords of two of the gate-guards. She shifted her grip on her two blades and dove for the nearest creature, slicing its throat and stomach open.

"Why-why aren't you fighting?" Lily asked, unable to tear her eyes away. It was so disgusting, all of it, but somehow drew her like a moth to a flame.

"The edicts of the Holy Dragon God bar me from fighting alongside heathens." He nodded toward Azazel, who seemed to be in her element out there. "People like her refuse to see the light that the way of righteousness can bestow."

Despite everything, they seemed to be winning. The creatures that hadn't been killed were fleeing, as a laughing Azazel flicked fire at their heels. Sebastien wiped his blade clean and resheathed it, wincing at the wound on his shoulder. Lily gasped; his shirt was shredded. She ran to him, examining with gentle fingertips. He smiled and batted her hands away. "It's not as bad as it looks, really. Didn't even break the skin. If you can sew, though, I might need that later."

"They were after something." Azazel stated flatly. "They had the marks of sending on them, of something very specific. What were they after?"

Rosaria saved a potentially awkward moment by shrugging carelessly. "Who knows? Or cares? They're gone now, right?"

"Quite right, and thank the Holy Dragon God for that!" Jamiel intoned, glancing heavenward in a worshipful manner. "Without His blessings and kindness, we would all surely-"

"Oh, shove off." Azazel snapped. "I saw you just standing over there. Your bloody Dragon God didn't do anything."

"I beg your pardon, /heathen/," he sniffed derisively at her necromancer's outfit and the blood, both her own and that of the creatures, on her hands, "but your wicked mind cannot fathom the divine way in which He works."

"The only thing I want to fathom is whether or not gouging out my ears would save me from your idiotic babble."

"I don't think they like each other very much…" Lily murmured, to which Sebastien grinned evilly.

"Azazel," he asked in his most pleasant tone, "how would you like to travel with us? You too, Rosaria. We're heading south to Turenn'in."


The next morning, it was a group of five that set off from Novallar on the Southern Trade Road. Azazel and Jamiel were pointedly /not/ walking near each other; however, Rosaria had taken to Azazel almost immediately and was badgering her with questions concerning the "mysterious" necromancers. Lily and Sebastien hung back a little, looking at each other shyly. Lily was the first to speak.

"I'm sorry that I didn't consult with you before asking Jamiel to come along. He just-he said he was going south too, and I thought it might be nice to have more people with us."

"Well, I didn't mean to make such a big deal out of it. Even?" he asked, holding one hand out.

Lily took it firmly. "Even. Now let's go!"