13 September 2014

The Brotherhood of the Burning Brand

Ranald, god of thieves and tricksters
in some of his many guises: cat, 
crow or magpie, and charming 
chappy. He achieved godhood by
tricking Shallya, goddess of mercy
into letting him drink her tears. 
A good con, eh?
Mael crept forward nervously, his breath ragged and harsh in the silence of the night-filled corridor. Nearly there, he thought, nearly there. And, as he stepped out into the larger hall, he saw he was right. There, nestling upon a velvet cushion, atop a little but finely carved stone altar, was the object of his criminal intent - a gently glowing firestone. One cautious step into the room. No sound. Another step. Still nothing. A third step and... click... as the flagstone shifted slightly. That was when the crossbow bolt hit him in the back of the head and the world went even darker than the dimly lit temple.

He woke to a splitting headache and the wry chuckle of a hooded man crouching beside him and repeatedly tapping his chest with the padded end of the bolt that had floored him. Mael groaned with the pain in his head, but more from embarrassment at having been caught out so easily; he'd been avoiding that particular sort of Tilean two-way trap for months without any bother. The groan brought another chuckle from above him.

"Don't despair, little novice," came the voice, heavily accented with the nasal twang of Altdorf's Reiksport and rich with amusement, betraying the speaker to be Brother Gregoire, "But do learn!" The good humour vanished. "I have no intention of burying another over-confident boy this year."

In the silence that followed, Mael tried not to groan again and struggled up onto one elbow, vibrant colours bursting across his vision with every tiny move of his head. When Gregoire spoke again, his tone was light once more. "I tell you what, boy, to soothe that aching head of yours and because you got so close, I'll give you your three answers. Ask away."

Mael licked his lips and cleared his throat. "Thank you, Brother. I do have questions or I wouldn't have struck this deal with you. First off, why do we have a torch as our symbol when we're thieves and don't want light? Second, what do I have to do to become a full Brother? And third, why were you and that spice merchant talking about me a few days ago?" The words had come out in a rush, but he hoped that keeping the most important question to last would work in his favour, that Gregoire would get more talkative as he went along. He held his breath.

Gregoire nodded slowly. "Good questions, boy. Where to start? With the torch, I suppose. The Brotherhood of the Burning Brand! Sounds mighty fine, almost like the sort of thing Sigmar would approve of, eh? That's the first reason, gives us an air of... respectability. Something that's sure to amuse Randal*. Second, without a torch, there is no light and therefore no shadow to hide in; people get false confidence when they've a lantern or the like illuminating a small patch of their property. And third? Gold, my boy, gold glitters wonderfully by torchlight; always take a torch underground into storehouses and strongrooms so you can spot your prize." Then he stopped. Mael waited for him to continue... then felt the crushing disappointment wash over him as he realised he'd been tricked and groaned aloud. Gregoire laughed delightedly at the groan of realisation and clapped him gently on the shoulder. "That's right, my boy, three answers promised, three answers given, but all to the same question. Now, go and get some rest; you're going to need it!" 

* In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Randal is listed as the god of thieves and tricksters who exhorts his followers to lie, cheat, deceive and steal but without violence. The trickery is the thing and a well executed con is almost an act of worship.

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