“I think Tungsten is on that good shit today,” Rigo said calmly, holding the eponymous figure up by the arm.
Von was on the opposite side of Tungsten, holding him up and trying to prevent the man from plunging headfirst to the pavement. He looked around frantically. “Shit, Rigo. We’re going to be in so much trouble if we’re caught with Tungsten like this.”
“Why are there people in the walls?” Tungsten said hazily.
“Easy there, my friend,” Rigo said, looking for a place to sit Tungsten down. “Von, we didn’t do anything wrong. We found him like this.”
Von was looking around the campus grounds, the sun vanishing at last and twilight settling onto the day. Von wondered if their job security was disappearing with the daylight.
“It doesn’t matter! It’ll still get us all kinds of questions that we don’t need.”
Together, the men began to move – in opposite directions. Tungsten, left without any support, crumbled to the ground. The men stared at him in shock for a moment.
“There’s no moaning,” Tungsten said, the ground obfuscating his voice. “The earth isn’t moaning. Whyyyy?”
Rigo and Von quickly knelt and dragged Tungsten up.
“We just need to get him back to his room,” Rigo said.
“Are you crazy?” Von said, eyes wide. “We’ll never get him back to his room without being seen!”
Rigo considered this. “We just need to get him close to his room. Or as close as we can without us being seen.”
Tungsten promptly threw up all over Rigo.
Von slapped his hand over his mouth, the stench causing his stomach to roil. Rigo remained stolid.
“That… wasn’t okay, man,” Rigo said at length.
“Sorry,” Tungsten whispered, swaying for a moment as he stood straight again. He then looked at the setting sun, squinting. “Every corner. Why are they in every corner?”
“I can’t do this,” Von said, turning away. “I’m going to just going to call it a night and go home.”
“You can’t,” Tungsten sleepily. “No one ever leaves early.”
Von froze mid-step, and he felt the earth tilt, every ounce of blood shifting from one side of his body to the other. His arms felt heavy. He turned slowly, facing Tungsten. In the dying light, Tungsten’s eyes looked like abyssal caverns.
“What did you say?” Von whispered, his voice cracking.
Tungsten simply stood still, appearing as though in a dream that was descending into nightmare. He brought a trembling hand to his lips.
“Shhh,” he said. “The Breakers will wake up.” A pause. “He’ll know.”
Von’s heart raced. He looked over at Rigo, who was staring down at the vomit on his clothes.
“We have to go!” Von said in a loud whisper.
Any stupor that held sway over Rigo was broken when Tungsten collapsed into a heap and began to scream. Incoherent, agonized screams that caused Rigo to stumble back as though physically struck. He looked at Von, and without preamble both men ran into the burgeoning dark away from the curious madness that Tungsten had wrought, no longer fearing being caught with him but rather, afraid of contracting his insanity.
Judicar recalled the old texts, the proverbs and knowledge only allowed to certain dedicated Saints of the Order. He was fascinated by them, often wondering what the early days of the Church had been like when the Creator’s Boon was first bestowed upon the first Saints and Holy Thiat. What mysteries they must have considered on their path to true enlightenment, towards building the pillars of what Judicar himself swore to protect today.
He recalled the earliest of those texts to describe visions that the Holy Thiat received, of messengers of ivory and lightning who controlled the air and darkness. Those same messengers who gave the Thiat the highest mission for the Order, and the great responsibility of not only shepherding them through those early years but also staving off threats to the fledgling group. It was a responsibility that Judicar did not think he could bear, let alone fathom.
Yet, on the road towards the city-state of Pruss, tracking the heretical Vanguard, Judicar encountered something he dared not believe.
He experienced a vision.
“Holy Thiat?” he said, his voice lacking his usual reverence and demeanor. The words fumbled out of his mouth before he knew it.
Before him stood a ghostly image of the Holy Thiat, regarding him with steely eyes.
“Saint Judicar,” came the gravelly voice. “I trust you are well and on your way to carry out your orders?”
“I…” But the words died in his throat.
The Thiat offered what Judicar surmised was a chuckle, despite never recalling such a sound coming from his Grand Master. “Do not be perplexed, Saint Judicar. It is truly I, the Father of All Fathers. You find it so strange that I can communicate with you across such a distance?”
Judicar dumbly shook his head. He was aware of techniques others had employed, Thoughtspaces conjured by particularly skilled Saints. But this felt… different.
“I do not,” Judicar said hastily, before prostrating before the ghostly Thiat. “And I forget myself. Forgive my ignorance, Holy Thiat.”
“No need, child. Rise.” After Judicar rose and faced him, the Thiat continued, “I rarely use this ability. It comes at great cost to my strength, and in my advanced years, I am not able to create or maintain such a connection as I once did. But this matter was of great urgency.”
Urgency? Judicar’s mind flowered in confusion, but he willed his face in a mask absolute attention. Why would the Holy Thiat himself, of all people, be reaching out to him?
“There has been… a change in plans,” the Thiat said. “When you last spoke with Archbishop Valex, he gave you orders to kill the Shadow Vanguard Aedyn Locke, and any other of that rabble he may be traveling with.”
Judicar nodded. “Yes, Holy Thiat.”
“You are to ignore those orders.”
This time, Judicar could not hide his confusion, and again there was the sound of arduous chuckling from the Thiat.
“There have been some recent… developments… that require me to… adjust… those orders. I have new commands for you. These are of the utmost importance and require discretion. Are we clear?” The Thiat favored him with a stern, knowing look.
“Of course, my Lord.”
“Very well,” the Thiat said, smiling. “Now listen closely.”
And then he commanded him.