“The Temple of the Burning Blade – I see now where the name comes from…” Bramble said quietly.
Sheets of gold had been hammered to the cream marble of the temple’s massive construction, the late afternoon sun reflected an orange blaze across the courseway. One of Pice’s rivers ran past, split by the temple’s shining glory.
The barbarian walked through the crowded streets, as if in a dream. Bramble speaks, but he hears it with only part of his mind.
Long ago, a great warrior came to the city of Vardeman, as Pice was once known. He had lived a long life of conquest and battle, and his skill with a sword was unmatched. With blade in hand, the rain could not touch him, the wind could not catch him, and his foes fell before him as wheat before the scythe.
The warrior had sought long for a suitable challenge worthy of his skill, for an enemy that could make his heart pump quick blood as in his youth. The Seers of Seroholm told him that if he came to Vardeman, he would find such a challenge.
The city was much smaller in those days, and mostly empty. In an abandoned square, by the river he found a stone fountain. The fountain was dry, and filled with dust. A young woman sat at the fountain, holding a vase.
“The warrior was impressed by her beauty, even though his youth had long since fled. ’I come seeking a great challenge.” said the swordsman, and the girl smiled and said ‘You have found it.’
Agnar stepped across the stone bridge, the water sounds of the river finding their own place in his mind. The worshipers of the sun goddess moved quickly to avoid the bemused barbarian.
Bramble continues, her voice dropping to a whisper as she and the barbarian enter the chapel proper. Vast marble balustrades span the high-domed chamber, stained glass refracting a million images of the Sun.
‘Let us fill the vase’ the girl suggested, ‘A simple task.’
The old warrior laughed, but the girl smiled so that he could not resist. He reached into the nearby stream, and brought water to the vase from his cupped hands. To his surprise, only dust poured into the vase. Determined he tried again – faster and faster his hands flew trying to fill the vase with water. Only dust fell from his hands.
The warrior’s ire was great, but he found himself calmed by the simple touch of the girl’s hand on his brow. He stood back a pace, as she simply said ‘My turn.’
She reached, not into the river but into the dry fountain. Grasping a handful of dust she flung it into the vase. A splash. The dust had become water, even as it left her hands. A few more handfuls of dust, and the vase was overflowing with pure, clean water
The girl smiled at the old swordsman. ‘Do you understand my riddle?’
Bramble grinned, and pulled Agnar down into a stone pew at the back of the nave. Sunset Service would be soon, and the people were entering in a steady stream.
“This was when my tutor would always look at me over his spectacles and ask, ’ Well, do you?’”.
He adds, “Unless you mean to say that there are tasks in life that require more than a blade or a killer’s skill. That a man must go beyond himself, open himself to the touch of the unknown, and thus become something more than dirt and bone. That the power to make dust from life is a trifling thing when set against the power to make life from dust.”
He shakes his head slowly, turning his eyes upward to the stained glass above.
“But otherwise, no.”
[Response stolen from Agnar – J. Darnell]
Bramble pinched the bridge of her nose with two fingers and sighed.
“I’m never telling you a story again.”
Most of the worshipers have been seated, and a tall half-orc, wearing the bright orange robes of an Arcleric steps forth onto the grand pulpit. Hovering behind him, seemingly suspended in a beam of sunlight is a sword. Agnar’s practiced eye immediately recognizes it as a greatsword.