Part Two: Beside the Parco del Sapienza
The Disciplinati had formed a ring around the wooden platform. Unusually for such lay-brothers many carried crossbows, which they held ready-spanned as they scrutinised the crowd.
Some among the watching crowd pondered the reason behind the crossbowmen. Was it intended that they would shoot any who approached too close? Or perhaps anyone who made a nuisance of themselves by shouting abuse, complaints or comments of any kind contrary to Father Carradalio’s speech?
No-one was willing to test these theories, and instead all listened in silence, almost motionless. Most of the guards also stood stock-still, their eyes alone moving to scrutinise the little portion of the encircling crowd before them, while a handful of guards strode menacingly back and forth, as if to better see whoever they suspected of being trouble-causers.
Nearly all the Disciplinati wore hoods to their robes. Some had not pulled them up, all the better (perhaps) to inspect the multitude before them. Others, however, made use of them, so that their eyes were concealed in shadow to appear even more threatening.
Immediately beside the platform supporting Father Carradalio stood a brace of torch bearers. Considering the afternoon’s bright sun, their presence had to be symbolic. Of exactly what, time would tell, for Carradalio intended to talk a little of burnings, and had thought it right and proper that the flames should be ready-lit.
The crowd was kept at a distance that seemed inconvenient for an open air speech, but Father Carradalio was no ordinary speaker. His voice carried impressively far, so much that there had to be magic wound into it. Although several scriptures spoke of holy men who could perform such a feat, it was not something that had been experienced in recent years. Sagrannalo, more than fifty years previously, was the last known to have employed such an holy enchantment. Few listeners were surprised, however, for it was commonly held that the spirit of Sagrannalo was reborn in Carradalio, returned from Morr’s garden to the mortal realm just when he was needed, grown more powerful than before to suit a more dangerous time. The first time, it was said, he had been defeated by Tilea’s own corruption, proving the realm was unworthy of him. Now time again would tell whether the realm was ready for his guidance.
This was Father Carradalio's speech:
“Calictus is dead, his grand army scattered, the abhorrent foe victorious. Remas is threatened with oblivion.
“But know this - a threat is not fate. Defeat is not inevitable. Remas need not be weakened by these losses. We can instead grow stronger. We simply need to do what must be done.
“Should we perpetuate Calictus's mistakes? Are we forced to repeat his errors? No! But we can learn from them. He strayed from true religion, possessing only a feeble understanding of Morr’s glory, for he was mired in ages-old ignorance, swayed by the scholarly teachings of those who attempt to balance the powers of every lawful god. We must not wallow in such obfuscations, but lift ourselves above all that has gone before, above the murky eminence of other gods, to see Morr’s light, bright and clear. With full faith in Morr we can attain true understanding, becoming stronger than ever before. Morr the Supreme is our destination, our eternal end, the god of gods. He is everything and all we need, now and evermore. Through him, with him, we cannot be defeated.
“I need not prettify up my words for political gains, nor do I bend them to serve the plans of mortal masters. I serve only Morr, and so need never lie. Neither do I guess, nor gamble, nor grasp at hope. I speak only the truth, and I speak it plainly.
“To serve Morr fully, with all due reverence, our own house must be put in order. All those priests who pander to the nobility, or who play at politics, have lost touch with true faith. They know neither Morr nor those who dwell in his garden. Arch lectors and lectors alike have sought worldly wealth and power, patronised artistic endeavours and lived luxuriously. None of this satisfies Morr.
“The vampires are the dark truth of nobility, for they seek worldly power beyond even death. Robed eternally in silks, wallowing in riches, and ruling their downtrodden servants with a cruelty beyond measure, they are the very epitome of greed, lust and pride. How can we expect to defeat their vile extremity of wickedness while we remain obsessed with our own wealth and power? If we fail to divest ourselves of such yearnings, and prove unwilling to discard all gaudy trappings of wealth, then we become merely pale imitations of the evil that is vampirism. We become as naughty little children faced with wicked monsters.
“Our Tilean lords, in every principality, care not for the people, nor how they might best serve Morr, but rather seek only to squeeze gold from their realms, to conquer new territories and to steal more from their neighbours. In pursuit of such, they are spendthrift with their subject people’s lives, while miserly in the piling up of treasures. How many towns and villages have been plundered by rampaging armies or razed to the ground to deny plunder to the enemy? These wars of spoliation, more suited to brute ogres and bickering greenskins, enrich the rich but weaken the land. In behaving this way, our warrior nobility reveal their true nature as pale imitations of true evil and apprentices to vampirism.
“The poor are forced to watch their children starve, their daughters raped and their sons mustered to fight for some lord's pride and ambition. And what becomes of all this wickedness? Only more wickedness, as Tilea, reeling from her wounds, is now attacked and overwhelmed by the foul undead hordes. And then all the children die, our daughters become vampires’ playthings, and every soldier is transformed into a putrid puppet manipulated by the dark magics of necromancers. We shall all be nothing more than shambling, mindless slaves, cursed never to dwell in peace in Morr’s garden, but to spend eternity lost in the hell between life and death.
“Yet I say to you, if we are willing and able to endure all that must be done, to remain steadfast in the cause, to give ourselves wholly and humbly to Morr, then such horrors shall not be our fate.
“Until now the holy war has been fought by the likes of Sigmarites and Ulricians, dwarfs and elves, even Arabyans - mercenaries all, who would fight for any cause, whether good or bad, if pay were forthcoming. They have grown accustomed to fighting their own kind. This time, however, the enemy is not as a mirror to them, sharing the same goals of wealth, success, power or adventure, but rather a foe of unbounded wickedness, bereft all compassion, contrary to all that is natural and heavenly, set directly against the laws of men and gods. And so the condottieri have failed - their lack of faith their undoing. When faced by the living dead, all lucre loses its promising glitter, all pride pales, and all professed honour and skill is found wanting. How can such dogs of war stand firm in the face of such a foe? They cannot! Their arms and armour, their drilling and postures, their hurried prayers to Myrmidia, Sigmar or some desert devil – all these things are entirely insufficient for the task.
“This war is Morr's war, our war, and it can only be fought by those truly dedicated to him, whose every thought is of him, whose every act is in his service. Who are these saviours, you ask? They are you! All of you! For you shall be warriors of Morr.
“There are those few among you descended from families of faith, possessing a purity of lineage that makes you his perfect servants, who have been taught from infancy to embrace the truth. You are ready to fight now, your mortal frames ripe to channel Morr’s mighty will. And then there are the rest of you, the vast throng. Perhaps your blood is tainted through no fault of your own? Or your understanding is weakened by false teachings? Or your merits stained by past deeds and thoughts. Yet you too can be made perfect in the eyes of Morr, fashioned into his weapons, by nothing more nor less than scourging yourselves of all weaknesses and doubts, mortifying your flesh until all contrary desires and distractions slough away, relieving yourselves of all material distractions, and focusing your bodies, minds and souls on Morr and Morr alone.
“All those who cannot be so purified must be destroyed, for our purpose is pure and oneness is the very nature of purity. One god, one people, fearlessly striking the foe as one. We must weed out the unworthy not merely to save their souls, but foremost to prepare Tilea for war, by ensuring that only the pure, the tried and tested, remain, and that Morr’s army is a perfectly honed blade. Who can doubt that our deadly justice is in fact a medicine, ordained by both mercy and necessity, for the good of all, be they sinners in peril or the blessed of Morr, be they living or dead? How else can we become the limbs of Morr, by which he can smite his enemies?
“Rank and nobility, offices and preferments, are of no consequence to Morr. Anyone and everyone, no matter their title, must accept the truth, and gold buys nothing from Morr the Supreme. Straying souls must be punished, that they might be purified, and if they cannot perform the correction upon themselves, then they must yield to Dedicati’s attentions. The irredeemably wicked and sinfully weak among us taint Tilea, nor are they welcome in Morr's heavenly garden, so they must burned, just as the undead are burned, for neither are welcome in the afterlife. Purity - regardless of wealth, power and office - is all that matters. It is all that will save Tilea from the approaching evil.
“So I say to you, if you yourself have, or anyone else you know has, committed an error in the faith, then you must come before the inquisitors of the Dedicati di Morr to confess or denounce.
“And I say to you, if you yourself, or anyone else you know, covets the glitter of gold, the gleam of gems and the fangles and baubles of material prosperity, then rid yourself and others of such distractions.
“Tear up both sinful flesh and fancy fripperies. Burn away both evil thoughts and rich distractions.
“In this way we shall cleanse Remas of corruption, cure it of weakness, and so prepare it for the fight to save all that is good. Now more than ever we must nurture the vine that is the church supreme, cutting out all heresies, all vices and all weaknesses from our hearts.
“When we are all made equal before Morr, in humility and purpose, cleansed of wickedness through penitential acts, he will pour his blessings on us. Some will be gifted the strength to fight fearlessly, for they will know that heaven awaits them. Some will become the blessed channels of Morr’s unstoppable power to destroy the undead.
“Made strong together our victory is inevitable, and we shall win salvation for all our souls and the souls of all those who come after.
“All praise and thanksgiving to Supreme Morr!
“Let the purification begin!”