He was a ray of sunshine, carrying the Light from the Sun above to the faithful below. His radiance cascaded off the gilded domes of Brighthill Cathedral to dance over its marble spires and illuminate the lands of his duchy around. Indeed, his guiding light touched most of Malqish, all the way to Solmuth; an island amidst the darkness of this faithless region.
As Arcald basked in the glow from above and the warmth of belief from below, the surrounding darkness began to roil and twist. In the west, the lethargic beat of the golden heart at Lake Seren’s shores became erratic as shadows flickered across its surface. Wyrm’s Wood in the south shed its leaves, uprooted, and sent forth its very trees like an army of twisted, lifeless things.
He barely registered the black heart of Malqish as his gaze slid back west, to where a veritable stormfront of sandy clouds billowed behind the distant mountains. The green sea before him grew restless as it rolled forth. Waves mounted, the very land displaced by the coming storm, and the sea foamed and frothed against little islands of light and life.
Where the clouds passed, darkness and decay was left in its wake.
Arcald fell with a crash.
Saint Arcald’s voice boomed in the cathedral, reaching everyone gathered within. There was power there, and certainty, and promise; promise of a better life, a brighter future, and of untold blessings from on high.
He could still remember the first time he saw Saint Arcald preach. It’d been at the market in Raven’s Nest, maybe ten years ago. He’d still belonged to the Emir back then; a prized servant but still just a possession, a slave.
Saint Arcald’s words had been foreign, speaking in a tongue he didn’t understand; of things which were forbidden back “home”. Faith, divinity, something greater than the world around him and the people in it; loyalty to a higher power.
That time, the man’s voice had reached out to him; had embraced him; had offered him a firmament under his feet, a blanket to warm his soul. Now that he understood the words, it provided him so much more; a wall to protect his soul from evil, a purpose to light the path through life.
A light that now guided him to take up arms. The Divine needed him; a war was coming. It had been revealed to Saint Arcald by the Light, and now he was calling the faithful to his banner.
Their blessed march would be long and hard. Many would die; their sacrifices would be celebrated and they would become one with the Light. Those whose lives were given freely and out of necessity in service would be given the greatest gift, reach the highest goal.
But all who answered the call; all who marched would be blessed.
He’d always known this would happen one day; the Sollim had no place for faith, even feared it. He’d hoped that day would come when he could no longer fight, but he held no doubts now that the day had come. He would stand with Saint Arcald; he would die with Saint Arcald!
He knew nothing of this festering darkness in Raven’s Nest, but it was a taint to be cleansed; with holy fire if necessary. He had heard the rumors of crag trolls emerging from the forest to plague previously safe roads, even some whispers of villages being attacked.
The trolls, too, would burn. The Faithful were righteous; were glorious; were carrying out the will of the Divine.
“We are blessed!” Flames of holy light flared to life in Saint Arcald’s eyes as his voice demanded everyone’s attention. “We. shall. prevail!”
He knew in his heart that Saint Arcald was right; there was no room for doubt; no room to wonder how peasants and crafters would defeat trained soldiers or vicious trolls. They would win.
The Light would show the way.