“You are late, Preceptor,” said Septimus Seraphim as Maximilian Rho entered the room with Arcadius Pi and Constans Mu trailing him. Rho frowned to himself. The Archon was flanked by a group of grizzled, older Eremites that he’d never seen before, men who were quietly glaring at him.
“I took a walk out in the garden. For old times’ sake,” replied Maximilian quietly.
Septimus’ always present frown deepened. “Is that answer supposed to suffice.”
Rho stepped quietly forward, his eyes narrowed. “It will have to.” The Preceptor’s eyes turned to the other Eremites. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced...”
The Archon nodded and gestured towards his men. “May I introduce you to Sir Ashareus Kerabim, Sir Tiresius Ophanim, and Sir Perseus Ishim. They are serving as my adjuncts.”
Maximilian attempted to keep his surprise under wraps. He was fairly certain he failed. “Quite a few knights,” he noted with forced casualness.
“Frankly, I’m rather surprised you have so few…” answered Septimus pointedly.
“We lost a lot of men when Lord Shaddad invaded,” said Maximilian, crossing his arms. “After that for a long time, we weren’t getting enough squires to fill the gaps. And then the famine happened, and we got quite a few all at once.” The Preceptor shook his head. “The Sacristans are built of old men and young boys these days. Not ideal, but one makes due with what one has.”
Septimus managed a mirthless chuckle. “I’ve often noted that your order’s keeping to such an old, lax Rule has left it in a sorry state. It is most fortunate that we have come to pick up your slack.”
Maximilian felt an urge to mention that the state of their respective orders might have more to do with the fact that while the Sacristans had been boldly dying against Lord Shaddad, the Eremites had been boldly sitting up in the Concordat. He stifled it, largely because of the man who entered the room at that moment.
“Let us not cast aspersions, Archon,” said Prince Amfortas calmly. “The Knights of the Sacristy have served Leonais and the Faith nobly and well these many years, just as the Knights of the Hermitage have served their calling.” He gestured to the cloaked Stylite by his side. “Or the Knights of the Tower serve theirs. You are all here because Leonais needs you, in her hour of need.”
The Archon bowed. “You are right, Your Majesty. My apologies for my uncharitable words. My temper is… less than well, tonight.” He blinked as he regarded the Prince. “I… Sir, is that..?”
Amfortas raised the sword at his side. “It is. This is the Blade of Day. The Holy Sword of the Seven. Clarent.” Maximilian stared at the sword for a while. It was a strangely… humble thing, a sword with a plain hilt, kept in wooden scabbard that had been lacquered white at some point in its past. And yet despite this, it was… strangely impressive, on some root level. “This shall meet Mansemat Cthonique’s Blade of Night in battle. And it will destroy it.”
Septimus and the Eremites seemed to regard the sword with an almost religious relevance. “May--may I touch it, sire?” asked Septimus in a quiet voice.
Amfortas lowered Clarent. “No, it is best for me to keep it at my side.” The Archon gave a disappointed nod. Amfortas turned to the Stylite. “Master Bloodstone, is all ready?”
The Stylite gave a single nod. “Master Sepulchre is with our acolytes. We move when we are told to.”
“Excellent,” said Amfortas cheerfully. “That means that soon…”
At that moment, another Eremite rushed in. “Apologies, Archon…” He glanced at Amfortas and bowed. “Your Highness.” He looked away nervously. “I… the squires we set to watch the east wall have not finished their most recent rounds…”
Amfortas raised an eyebrow. “My, my. It seems we have less time than we thought.” He chuckled. “Oh, well.”