The villagers had gathered outside the temple, and the priest came to call them.
But Sylvester didn't leave immediately as he remembered the Spirit Mirnor's words. Something that could gravely help him in solving a mystery.
"Priest Maligard, for how long have your people occupied these forest lands?" He inquired.
"For as far as I can remember, Priest of Solis. I remember my grandfather telling me that his grandfather and even his grandfather lived here. It ought to be thousands of years."
Sylvester took out a small parchment and showed it. "This crescent moon symbol. I found it in many locations across the Sol. Even inside the Broken Mangroves, in a ruin. Do you know what this means?"
Priest Maligard looked at it carefully. "Hmm… I don't remember it clearly, but I think I have seen this before… Ah! I know! My grandfather once showed this to me. This is the symbol of Goddess Luna, the Moon Goddess."
The reply instantly piqued Sylvester's interest. "Can you tell me more? Does this religion still exist?"
"It's an extinct religion. I know not when it went out of fashion, but I do know that it was abysmally powerful. The people were so fanatic that every brick they'd put in their buildings would have a symbol of Luna." Maligard explained.
'Why was the first Pope researching Goddess Luna? What did he find out?' Sylvester wondered.
"Tell me, has a Pope ever visited this place in the past? Perhaps he left something here?" He asked further. Hoping that the First Pope left behind something there.
The priest rubbed his chin in wonder. "For all this time, we have tried to stay away from the others, and Mirnor protected us. I don't remember learning about a Pope visiting us. If he did, I reckon it would have been a major thing, or we'd all be extinct."
'Makes sense. All this time, I only found the first Pope's words in places inaccessible to common folks. If he were a good man, he'd have known that by implicating this tribe, he'd be putting their lives in danger.'
Sylvester reasoned and accepted the little help he got. At least now he knew what those crescent moon engravings meant.
"Thank you, Priest Maligard. Let's move out now. I shall address the people."
Sir Dolorem picked up Augustus' body, and they walked out behind the Priest. As they arrived outside on the high steps, the horde of people was diligently waiting there, confused and scared.
Sylvester raised his palm and let it shine some light before he started singing to ensure that every single man, woman and child in the crowd would remember him for generations to come.
?The trees, the leaves, the grass.
Its beauty nothing can surpass.
For all of you are nature's blessed.
You lived long despite being oppressed.?
?So raise your heads now, for I'm no enemy.
Merely Solis' bard, creating a sweet melody.
I come as your pain's ultimate remedy.
The light that shall bring you clarity.?
?Spoke to me, the goddess Mirnor.
Taught me your history and much more.
I learnt a fact that I now can't ignore.
Solis and Mirnor—They are none to abhor.?
?The light feeds the earth with magic.
To hate Solis, it's utterly tragic.
Just like nature, the sun is static.
Without both, we all would panic.?
?So let your hearts accept the two.
For the sky is full of warm blue.
And the land moist with morning dew.
Solis and Mirnor—Let their blessing through.?
Sylvester stopped singing and bowed his head towards the crowd from the height. Everyone looked at him with wide eyes and confused faces. They heard him loud and clear, but his meaning was not easy to grasp.
So, Priest Maligard came forward and revealed the true meaning of the hymn. "My brothers and sisters, Mirnor has graced us, for she spoke to me last night. She has revealed who her father is—The one who rules the nature of existence itself—The supreme one who loved us despite our cruel words.
"As the bard said, the light feeds the earth—Without daylight, can any of you imagine living? Goddess Mirnor and God Solis belong to the same family. They are the gods that rule our world; without their blessing, we are nothing. Therefore, from today, all of us shall also sing the name of Solis. We are no heathens! We are the beloved of Solis and Mirnor!"
Sylvester appreciatively looked at the Priest. He was impressed. Because Priest Maligard easily swayed the crowd through the careful use of words. He noticed how the man did not try to show Mirnor as anything less than Solis by calling them one family instead of father and child.
"Speak with me!" Priest Maligard raised his hands towards the sky. "O' father Solis! Grace us with your warmth! O' Mother Minor! Grace us with your love!"
Sylvester repeated the same with the rest. The people seemed to honestly believe in what he and the Priest said.
"I must take my leave now, Priest Maligard. I must deal with the storm raging inside the Baroness' castle. But I hope you remember my words and ensure your tribe's survival."
Sylvester reminded the man about the ways to save the tribe. He wished the people would remain safe so he could one day utilise the powerful ally, Mirnor, he had just made.
"It was a pleasure to meet you, blessed bard. On behalf of this village, I thank you for protecting the children from that vile Baroness. We will never forget this boon you have bestowed upon us." Priest, along with the people of the tribe, lowered their heads. But this time, not from fear but rather respect.
Sylvester moved and crossed the narrow path between the crowd. "May the Holy Light enlighten us! May Mirnor's motherly magic keep you protected!"
Soon, he crossed the boundary of the tribe. Although they didn't have horses, as they had gotten lost during the storm and the battle, one mad horse always somehow found his master.
"Good job, Frost.
"Sir Dolorem, you should sit on it with the body of Augustus." Sylvester offered.
However, the blind knight rejected it. "Both of us shall walk. Let the body be carried."
Sylvester didn't object, and they started their long trek on foot. It was primarily plain forest, and only wild animals inhabited it. Nevertheless, it was extremely lively, with various sounds of birds and others.
They didn't talk the whole way and walked for six hours without stopping to reach the Rosewood castle. It was all empty by now, as most of the fighting-age men had gone to battle the previous morning and, as expected, had not returned since they were dead.
"Open the gates!"
The guards shouted and got to work in a frenzy once they recognised Sylvester.
Soon, the drawbridge fell, and the Prima of the Baroness came running. The man saw the dead body draped in cloth and fell to his knees. "I-Is that… My lady?"
"No," Sylvester responded nonchalantly.
"Then where is she? Is she coming with the soldiers?" Prima stood up again and asked.
Sir Dolorem came forward and patted Prima's shoulder. "She and her entire army perished in the battle. This is the body of Archpriest Augustus—Who also lost his life."
The man fell to his knees again and cried. "No…! How can this be? The whole army? How?"
Sylvester looked at the man with indifference as he smelled the inner emotions of excitement and hope, going against what was appearing outside. "That's what happens when you fight a Bloodling unprepared. Your master-at-arms foolishly trapped us all into a fight. I killed the Bloodling, but the price was too high."
"W-What will happen to the young Master now? He's a child with the burden of the entire Barony. He's so naive and inexperienced." Prima, Sir Mormor, mourned openly and ensured he shouted loud enough that the soldiers could hear him.
The man continued shamelessly. "I swear in the name of Solis that I will guide him well, Lord Bard. You can count on me—I won't disappoint the Barony."
Sylvester, however, unsheathed his sword. "But you already have, Sir Mormon. Your greed knows no bounds. You planned all this, didn't you? You were the one who lured master-at-arms to feel more jealous and go against me. You were the one who pushed him to kidnap the tribal kids. You are the reason behind the death of Baroness, Sir Mormon."
"What? What ar—"
"Silence!" Sylvester roared and aimed his sword at the neck.
Without any wait, he severed the Prima's head, throwing it down from the drawbridge. Inside the moat, the crocodiles happily feasted on it.
'Forgive me, Sir Mormon, you didn't deserve this, albeit being a smaller crook. But you needed to die for Augustus' sacrifice to not go to waste. You needed to die so I could take this Barony for myself.'
Sylvester had no regrets. He lived in a jungle world where the stronger stepped over the weaker all the time.
"Guards! Throw the rest of the body to the crocodiles! I'm sure you don't want to pay respect to a traitor!" Sylvester ordered the mere dozen soldiers standing nearby.
"Understood, Lord Bard!"
With that, Sylvester killed the last one who could go after the land of the Mirnor tribe. That only left him the ten-year-old son of Baroness.
"Come, Sir Dolorem. We must prepare Augustus' carcass and write a few important letters. We can't leave the Barony without a regent, after all. We may even have to spend a week here."
Sylvester had direct access to the Holy Father for being his private student. So, Sylvester wrote the letter to the big man directly and asked for something.
"When did this happen?" The Pope asked while being in his ceremonial attire as he attended the occasional public gathering to bless the common folks.
Saint Wazir stood beside the throne as the administrative head. "Your holiness, it likely took two days for the letter to reach us. So, the demise of the Baroness occurred on a stormy night."
The Pope nodded while patting a woman's head who held a baby in her arms. Instantly, his hand shined, and the woman's eyes widened.
"May the Holy Light enlighten us! Thank you for the blessing." She cheerfully walked away as her minor back injury got healed instantly.
The Pope wasn't even focused on her. "Accept the request and tell the Young Bard to hurry back. His training can't be held back longer."
"Understood, your holiness."
After six days, a carriage from the Holy Land arrived at Rosewood castle. In it was a man ordered to be the Barony's regent for the coming years until the young heir became eligible.
The carriage door opened before the inner castle gate, and a brown-haired, too-short, thin man walked out in church robes.
"Sylvester! You bastard! How can you put me on such a huge task!"
Sylvester chuckled and went ahead to hug his friend. "I see—You're still a toddler, 'Archpriest' Henry Rockwell."
"Fuck you, Sylvester. But I thought you had forgotten me after I dropped out of God's Favoured class. You've surprised me."
Sylvester chuckled and patted the latter's shoulder. "They may have called you average in God's Favoured class, but that automatically put you at the top rank of the normal class. I remember you and everyone else just fine—Along with the oath of brotherhood we took. Come, let me show you around before I give you an unfortunate news."
"Ugh… I feel overworked already." Henry joked and walked with Sylvester.
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