(Protectorate Year 644)
A fine morning, day, or night to you. I am your most adventurous and spirited child, Caster Tria Hel Malcrucia, 17th Student of Caster Kariga Futus Vine of Class 13, born in the Hethalwell University Spawning Pits on Crown World Y’varda.
After completing my training in Hethalwell University, I decided to spend the next few decades traveling the breadth of Crown World Y’varda, bringing your magic to the poor, stupid Workers of your vast empire.
My journey has been going well so far. I come upon a new settlement, use your magic to assist their crops, help their animals, or otherwise dazzle them with a display of your limitless power, then they give me shelter for my travels. The hospitality of your creations is just as endless as you wanted.
It was a few months ago, right in the middle of another harvest, when I came upon the land of Moros.
Along the dirt path in a mountainous valley, my backpack clattered with every step. It was hot and dry, not a cloud in the sky, the grass brown and crispy.
I passed a house on a small hill. A cute little residence on the outskirts of the Moros village, all the farmland around it was devastated. The earth cracked, the stalks of corn bent and withered.
“A drought?” I rubbed my chin, then smiled, “haha! Looks like a perfect opportunity to swoop in and rescue them.”
I continued towards the village with an eager bounce in my step. It was the same sight everywhere. Dead fields, bugs chirping, a dried up river, it was awful to see what happened to your land. Despite it all, I was proud to see that statues of you silently watched over each farm. I placed a hand over my heart and gave a bow every time I passed one.
The village of Moros was a central meeting point for all the families that lived in the outer fields. A blacksmith, the church, meeting grounds, stockhouses, all kinds of stuff to cater to the villagers needs.
Normally, I’d see the freshly-spawned run and play to explore this new world, I’d smell bread baking and carts delivering goods to the storehouses. But the village was empty. Wind whistled between the buildings, wooden window flaps creaked as they were slowly blown open and shut, small clouds of dust occasionally kicked up before quickly settling.
I cupped a hand by my mouth, “hellooooo?” No response. “Maybe they couldn’t handle the drought and moved on?”
The best place to begin my search was the local church, a large stone building with a bell tower overhead. Maybe you would shed some light on what happened.
The double-doors were about your height, in case you ever decided to visit, and heavy. I put a hand on one, but it didn’t open. I put both hands on one and pushed, but it only slightly budged. They were stuck, or perhaps had been barricaded on the other side. I slammed my shoulder into the door a few times, pushing it open another inch with each impact. When the gap was wide enough, I squeezed through with my backpack.
It was oppressively hot. Sunlight poured through the multi-colored windows that depicted some of the local legends about you.
But then I saw it.
It was terrible.
Hundreds of emaciated Slavani strewn about the church. Hanging overtop pews, clinging to your statue in the back, kneeling with their hands clamped in prayer, laying on the ground or piled against the walls. Their bodies were so frail and weak, wrinkles scarred their bodies, patches of fur had fallen out in clumps. Their wings were shriveled up and their horns were crumbling apart.
“AAAH!” I threw myself onto the ground and cradled the nearest sister. “What happened to you? Are you okay? Err, obviously not, are you still alive?”
She weighed almost nothing and was limp in my arms. Her cheeks had sunken, her eyes were dull and lifeless.
After opening her jaw and putting an ear to her mouth, I heard the faint sound of air escaping. Putting a hand on her tummy, it felt even hotter than the air of the church.
You probably figured it out right away, Master, but it was only then that I understood. The church was so hot because their bodies were burning their emergency reserve of energy just to survive. So many Slavani doing it at once, of course the enclosed room was sweltering.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Based on the state of their bodies, they’d probably been starving like this for 7 or 8 days. Fixing them would be simple.
I gently sat the girl down on the hot stone floor, then rose to my paws. From a strap on my back, I pulled the large staff that was entrusted to me upon my graduation in the Caster University of Hethalwell.
A staff about 3/4ths my height. Its shaft made twisting, rough, dark wood, ending with a tight hold around a polished green orb. Limitless magical power! The conduit for your boundless mercy! The orb glowed a bright green as I put my training to good use and activated your magic!
From the orb, a prominent green mist spread across the church floor, each small particle absorbed by the skin. A shot of energy, equivalent to about a days worth of food, for everyone. The lost fur and chipped horns regrew, their emaciated bodies returned to their natural shape, and their sunken cheeks filled in until the adorable Slavani features were visible once more.
In just a few short minutes, each Slavani was back to normal, like the day they were spawned.
“Eugh… my stomach feels empty…”
“Are we dead?”
“Looks like our church?”
“Is heaven just a church?”
I cleared my throat, drawing all eyes to me. “Hello. My name is Caster Tria Hel Malcrucia of Hethalwell University. I used a spell to replenish your bodies and save your lives. What happened here?”
They all scrambled over and mobbed me, crying their eyes out and clinging to my robes. The sheer flood of people pushed me outside the church. They all spoke at once, an inaudible mess of whimpering and murmurs.
“Whoa-whoa-whoa! One at a time, I can’t understand you.” It took a bit of time for them to stop sobbing and finally give me a straight answer.
The village elder, a sister named Tamera Vat Nomestry, walked forward. Her knees shook and her bottom lip quivered, “we… we’ve been cursed.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“We’ve run afoul of Master’s divine mercy. The state of our village is the punishment for our failures.”
My heart stopped. Had I just saved a village of heretics and deviants? Did you want them dead and I ruined the execution? I gulped, “o-oh? Really? That’s um…” I scratched the side of my face. “What did you do?”
“We don’t know. We have no idea!” Elder Tamera, who looked just as young and fresh as everyone else thanks to the spell I used, started pacing back and forth, running her fingers through her hair. “Everything was going so well. The harvests were good, the river was plentiful, we were selling to travelers, and we kept praying to Master and giving her her due percentage of crops.”
Everyone started to tear up, sniffling, outright crying. A few sisters fell to their knees and cried out to the sky, but I ignored them.
The elder grabbed her horns in frustration as she ground her teeth. “Then our crops started failing, the river dried up and traders stopped coming. B-but we didn’t do anything wrong! At least, we couldn’t think of anything… We donated all our food to Master. When that failed to appease Her, our last option was to head into the church and pray until we earned Her forgiveness…”
“And you all ended up starving?”
She nodded. “We got hungry but we… soon realized that we already gave up all our food. The only thing we could do was pray more.”
I was hesitant about being in the middle of a group of heretics, but I figured that, if they were willing to go so far for your forgiveness, I might be able to help redeem them. Nay, on my honor as a Slavani, I HAD to help redeem any who wished to reenter your good graces.
So, I jumped up onto the well in the center of the village and addressed my sisters. “The road to redemption is a long and painful one, but if you stick with it, I’m positive I can bring you all back into Master’s light! Indeed, I think she sent me here to save you. A few days ago, I was traveling up a dirt road in the forest north of here. Well, I got to a fork in the road. The sign pointing left said that it’d take me to a nice, new, paved road that linked a whole bunch of towns together, while the right path didn’t have any signs, just more dirt paths that I had been traveling on for the past few days. I wanted to take the left path and find some merchants to hitchhike to the next town, but I saw a snake in the road. Now, I don’t like snakes. I was tired of dealing with them in that stupid forest, so I went on the right path, which led me here, to all of you! If that’s not a textbook definition of Master subtly influencing the word, I don’t know what is. She clearly wants me to help,” I clasp my hands together, “so let’s get started!”
The village erupted in cheers and thanks. You hadn’t abandoned them, you hadn’t ignored their prayers. Or, at the very least, you had given them one last chance.
During the celebration, I hopped down from the well and walked to the Elder Tamera.
She spoke first, “can you really save our village? What about our harvest,” she looked out into the brown landscape outside the village, “can Master really save that?”
I put a hand on her shoulder. “The harvest won’t be a problem, I can use Master’s magic to fix that in a jiffy. The real issue at hand is we need to figure out why Master’s mad at you guys. Without addressing the root cause of her anger, it’ll just happen again.”
“I see. I-I can escort you around the village then.”