January 28th - Prison in Oritolon
Cathal tossed and turned on the filthy pallet, his sleep disturbed by vivid memories from his childhood in distant Cagil. Visions of his mother Siobhan in her flowing yellow gown, the summer light amidst the geren blooms of late autumn.
"Cathal," her voice was lighter, more melodious than he remembered. The sweet call of the horn on the field of battle.
"Cathal. Awake," A shifting pattern of red streaks moved across the surface of the gown as if gifted with an inner life and the soft eyes of his memories had taken on a sharp, bright, terrifying aspect.
"Cathal Dubhaine, Knight of Alowca. AWAKE!!!"
He stared into the darkness of the prison cell, his body involuntarily shivering with fright.
"You have been called to my service Cathal," the voice filled the darkness, at once both terrifying and comforting.
"W-w-who are you?" the young nobleman stammered for words, his tongue cleaving to his dry palate.
"I am The Way."
Cathal sat dumbstruck, consumed with fear as the darkness closed in all around him. He had travelled to the Colonies imagining a life of bold adventure, only to be captured in his first ever battle and cast into this accursed pit.
"I... I... I..." he could not form the words.
"Look within and find the courage you seek, for none who follow me shall ever fear."
And Cathal felt fire coursing in his blood as fear gave way to hope, and hope to faith. The darkness that had shrouded his eyes was lifted and he saw the fertile plains and dry valleys of Alowca laid out before him, armies moving like pieces on a chess board, and by his side stood the possessor of The Voice. Denariel herself, in all her raiment of war. Darkness flowed from the west and the north, black as night and howling with the tongues of beasts.
"Do you understand?"
"No. What would you have me do?" he was shocked at his own boldness in addressing her so directly, by try as he might he could find no shred of fear within his spirit. It was as if she had filled him with but a mote of her glory and in so doing changed him utterly.
"Use this gift wisely Cathal, for you will need it in the time of trials. Now sleep," and the dream receded, returning him to his slumber.
A passing gaoler looked in and was surprised to see the young noble sleeping soundly, as if in this cell at his own behest. And later that day, the same gaoler accepted the lad's largesse to run errands that unwittingly made him traitor to the whims of his own black heart.
January 29th - Prison in Oritolon
Darkness hung heavy across the pits of Oritolon, a blackness of the mind born of night and despair and the corrupted souls of those imprisoned within.
And yet Cathal slumbered as one safe in the arms of their sweetheart, remembering the mighty spires of distant Cagil. He longed for the city of his youth with her many gay pennants and soaring buttresses, the capital of the brightest Empire in all the world. And yet her beauty was but a pale shadow of the shining temple-city of Alowca with her shrines and votaries, her peace-loving citizens worshipping the triple power beyond all mortal comprehension.
"Cathal," a measured voice seemed to hang across the streets of his adopted home, and he found his feet furiously running towards it.
"Cathal. Awake," there was wisdom in that voice, weary with the knowledge of evil unfathomed and yet merciful. The voice of one who judges without prejudice.
"Who calls my name so?" once more Cathal was shocked by his own courage.
"Cathal Dubhaine. AWAKE!"
The young knight opened his eyes and saw spread beneath him the bay of Oritolon, her jet walls rising towards the heavens, her turrets crooked fangs belching smoke-stained venom at the silent stars. Before him hung a balance, it's laden arm tipped down towards that hellish pit, overspilling with the anguished dead.
"The judgement will be made," the sadness of that voice filled Cathal's heart with pity for those who had sinned so against the truth.
"Can none be saved?" he watched plaintive children writhing in the pan of that mighty scale, too young surely to have sinned against the Gods?
"Use this gift wisely," and Cathal once more slipped into slumber. But where before his heart had known anger at the wrongs of those who sinned, now he felt only mercy and the desire to bring the truth to those who lived in darkness.
When on the morrow he awoke, he had the gaolers bring him pen and paper that he might write his experience down. And so moved were they by the blessing upon that loathsome place that they feared to deny him.
January 31st - Prison in Oritolon
"My Lord, I can find none who will deliver this message. They fear the wrath of the King," the gaoler trembled where he stood.
"You do not need to fear me Galro, I am not your enemy," Cathal took the parchment from his outstretched hand and touched it to the guttering torch which provided the only light for his cell. The dry reeds smoked and curled as the flame consumed them, the words he had carefully composed floating high on the icy drafts.
"I know my Lord," his eyes downcast he mumbled the words and shifted his weight from one foot to the other, "but I have failed you. I am a small, cowardly man and I have lived my whole life in fear."
"You have failed no one Galro," the young noble smiled and there was genuine affection in his voice. "For years you have lived in darkness and now that you have stepped into the light you see but dimly the path ahead. Have faith my friend, for your feet are upon that path and a power much greater than mine will lead you to your place amongst the blessed," Cathal hugged the startled man, careless of the many sores and lesions which marred his ageing and corrupted flesh.
"I... wh-what can I do to make amends Master?" Galro felt a strange euphoria filling him. Courage stilled his shame and for the first time in his long, sorry, misspent life he understood why men and women would choose to die rather than forsake the truth.
"For the time being my friend you have done all that you can do. A time will come when the balance must be measured, and then you will know what is required of you. Now return to your duties before you are missed."
Cathal turned his attention to the ashes smouldering in the dirty straw bedding of his cell. "Thus pass all the deeds of a man," he thought, "and yet not all is in vain."