Simply Encredible

In a time where technology was widely believed to be a type of witchcraft, in an age where Ronisgald stood in fear of invasion from the mysterious elves of Ircandesta, the strange beast-men of Longshore, and the enigmatic inhabitants of Rimstak, a lone heroine with a tragic past rose from obscurity to restore Truth and Justice to a country in desperate need.

Wielding the tools of her trade, she fought the corruption of the church, stood fast against those who would harm the innocent, and defiantly faced the darkest of forces to protect those lucky enough to be her friends.

This is the tale of Excelsia Encredible.

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4. Hallowed Halls

Dren, Janis, and Flit waited patiently in the alley across from the west entrance of the church.  The sun was at the very edge of the horizon and slowly sinking as night fast approached.

Janis stared at a piece of paper littered with notes he had written earlier.  Both sides of the paper were covered with observations, guard patrols, the names and behaviors of monks and priests who had left the church, and even a sketch of the main chapel.  He murmured to himself, his eyes flitting from point to point behind his cracked glasses as he planned.

Dren was double checking their supplies.  It had taken all the money Flit had pickpocketed plus everything he and Janis had earned that day, but they had picked up a number of useful items, including several flasks filled with a strange powder that the shopkeeper had promised would create a concealing cloud, a strong rope about fifty feet in length, several darts whose tips were coated with a paralyzing poison that would incapacitate the most hardened of warriors in a matter of seconds without killing them, and a dozen small balls of rubber.  They had used the small balls in the past as distractions to great effect.

Glancing at Flit, Dren sighed and said, "Stop beating yourself up over it, Flit.  It wasn't your fault; you warned her this morning to be more careful with her magic."

"Yeah." Flit said, hugging her knees to her chest. 

"I mean, it sounds like they were looking for trouble as it is.  You know what they say; if you go looking for trouble, you're gonna find it."

Janis nodded, saying, "He's right.  It's not common knowledge, but priests recieve a small reward for every heathen and witch they bring in from King Carik's original edict."

"It wasn't about the money." Flit told him.  "I could tell just listening to them; they wanted  someone to purify.  They wanted someone to hurt in the name of the Creator."

Dren spit into a large rubbish bin.  "Too bad the Creator can't just rise from the Myriad and show them, eh?"

Flit smiled a little.  "Yeah.  Can't imagine he's too happy with those jerks corrupting his teachings."

Dren patted Flit on the arm.  "You said it, Flit.  He may not be here, but I'm sure he's on our side.  We'll get her back fine, you'll see."

The sun finally vanished beneath the horizon, leaving the city covered in darkness.  The lights of the chapel were the only lights in the city still on, save for some in the castle.  From the sounds of the organ, a service had started.

Flit shivered at the organ's melody.  It scared her more at that moment than it had the last time she had heard it.

"Easy, Flit." Dren said soothingly.  "It won't be long now."

Indeed, a few minutes later, a large woman in a gaudy purple dress approached them.  She wore a hat covered with tiny birds that were quite obviously fake.  Flit stared at her incredulously; surely, this wasn't the agent of Lady Fresca.

"Pardon me, young man." She said, looking down at Dren through her glasses.  "Do you happen to know the time?"

Dren replied instantly, "Even the darkest night is broken by the coming dawn."

The woman gave him a polite bow and immediately walked away without another word.

Dren gave Flit a questioning look.  Normally, Flit would've just shrugged it off as odd behavior from a noble, but seeing the woman just walk away made her angry.  She started forward, intending to call the woman back when a pale white hand rested on her shoulder.

She turned to see the most beautiful woman she had ever seen standing behind her.  Her skin was pale, even more than Sky, and her features delicate.  Despite her hair being silvery white, the woman looked quite young, no older than twenty in Flit's opinion.  Her dark clothes made her pale skin all the whiter in the flickering light of the street lamp.

"Hey, is that ... "Dren's jaw went slack when he saw the woman standing behind Flit.  Even Flit found herself speechless at the woman's beauty.

"Lady Fresca?" Flit asked once she found her voice.

The woman nodded, a smile crossing her lips.  "I am glad to see you all here.  It shows the bond that exists between the four of you.”

"Yeah, well, of course." Dren said, gulping.  "Sky's family.  We gotta look after our own, right?"

This seemed to amuse the woman, but she refrained from laughing.  "Indeed.  We must breech the church and rescue your friend before daybreak.  Fortunately, we are not going in blind.  My agents have already determined she is being held in the northeast tower."

Flit turned her gaze to the northeast tower immediately.  In her mind's eye, she could see Sky sitting alone surrounded by stone walls, perhaps even tied up. 

"I'm ready." Flit said, starting forward.

"Do you have a plan of entry?" Lady Fresca asked them.

Janis pushed his glasses up his nose.  "Most of the assembly is in the chapel for evening service.  If this church maintains the same schedule as most, they'll be in there for an hour after sunset."

"So we go in, bust Sky out, and get out in under an hour.  Piece of cake." Dren handed Janis and Flit each a belt loaded with a little of everything he had picked up.  He started to strap on his own belt when he suddenly stopped and looked up at Lady Fresca.  "I don't suppose you need any of this?"

Fresca glanced at the contents of the belt, an amused smile on her face.  "I have brought my own equipment, rest assured.  I wouldn't refuse one smoke bomb, if you can spare it, however."

Shrugging, Dren pulled one of his smoke bombs and handed it to her.  Nodding at the others, Dren said, "Okay, we're ready."

Flit lead the group across the street, Lady Fresca taking the rear.  Kneeling beside the west entrance, Flit pulled out her trusty lockpicks.  It had been a few months since she had needed to spring a lock, but her fingers remembered the work well enough.  In a matter of moments, the lock made a clicking sound as it opened.

Flit stowed her tools in the lining of her sleeve as Dren slowly cracked the door open and used a bit of mirror tied to a stick. 

Nodding at the others, Dren crept inside the door.  As the others crept inside, Flit whispered, "We're coming, Sky."

The inside of the church was nothing short of decadent.  The west entrance led straight to the church kitchen, and even the kitchen was immaculate; dozens and dozens of cooking implements hung from the walls and ceilings.  Flit couldn't help but marvel at how clean and shiny everything was; even the stove seemed spotless.  Dinner had long since passed, so the kitchen was thankfully empty. 

"This is where I must leave you, children." Lady Fresca said.

"What?" Flit asked, "But Sky ..."

"I have no intention of abandoning you all or your friend." She told them.  "There is something else I need to do while we are here.  It won't take long."

"Okay." Dren said, nodding.  "If we aren't there when you reach the tower ..."

"You must wait for me there." She told him firmly.  "I will rejoin you all as fast as I can."

She smiled at Flit, saying, "Before this night is over, we will rescue more than just your friend; we will save those threatened by the Inquision.  I promise you this."

"I ... I believe you." Flit told her.  "Just ... be careful, okay?"

Lady Fresca gently rubbed her cheek for a moment, an odd look on her face.  Without a word, she walked away and slipped out of the door leading to the north part of the church.

"Huh." Dren scratched his head.  "Wonder what that was about."

"Doesn't matter.' Flit said, shaking her head to get rid of the weird feeling that came over her.  "We need to get to the tower.  Janis?"

"That door." Janis told them, pointing at a door on the east side of the kitchen.

Flit took the lead, as she tended to be a bit more perceptive than her friends.  The hallway beyond the kitchen was just as lavishly decorated; the gilded tiles were almost completely smooth and had been cut completely flat along the edges, giving the floor a very organized and oddly cryptic-looking pattern.  Small shrines had been set up in niches along the wall, portraits of various saints and deities considered to be good adorning the candle-covered tables. 

Flit recognized a few of the pictures;, Saint Devon of Castore, Lord Unas of Silver and Jade, and a particularly beautiful image the goddess Astoria the Ascendant.

"Kind Astoria, guide our steps away from darkness." She whispered.

Dren glanced back at her.  "What?"

She shook her head.  "Something mum used to say."

They started down a passage to their right near the end of the hallway.

"Should be close to the stairwell." Janis whispered.

Flit held up a hand, her ears catching the sound of footsteps approaching.  Glancing around, she spotted the nearby shrine of Astoria.  "Quick!  Behind the shrine!"

It was a rather large elaborate work that was set up so it was partially leaning against the wall, so there was enough room for all of them to hide.  Moments after they crowded behind the painting, they heard several footsteps approach the shrine and abruptly stop.

Moments later, they heard the voices of several men whispering, "Mother Astoria, Ascendant of the Eternal Flame, we ask for your guidance."

The footsteps started walking around moments later, only to stop again abruptly.  Flit sucked in her breath, fearing they had been caught, only to breathe a sigh of relief to hear the monks say, "Unos, Knight of the Jade and Silver bands, let your courage give us strength."

Flit peeked around the edge of the painting to see three monks in red robes kneeling at Unas's shrine.  She watched as they approached the next shrine and proceeded to say another prayer.

"Huh." She whispered as softly as she could.  "Must be some monk or priest thing."

"Is it clear?" Dren asked; being the oldest, he was also the biggest, and had to twist his body uncomfortably to remain hidden.

"Hang on." She stared at the monks until they started to kneel at the fifth shrine down from them.  As soon as they closed their eyes in prayer, Flit nodded to the others and quickly tiptoed across the hallway.  Once she was in the passage to the stairwell, she held up a hand and watched the monks again.  When they reached the next shrine, she motioned for Janis to follow.  Janis hurried across, looking more than a little nervous.  He very quickly ducked behind Flit just as the monks rose again.  When they started to kneel at the next shrine down, Flit motioned to Dren.

Dren stepped out from behind the painting; unfortunately, his large size caused him to upset the painting.

He met Flit's gazer, his expression more annoyed than anything.  "Go on." He whispered moments before one of the monks shouted, "Hey, you!"

Dren started running immediately.  Flit and Janis quickly ducked under the stairwell moments before the monks ran past them in pursuit of Dren.

Flit wanted to say something really impolite, but held her tongue; Dren was more than capable of taking care of himself.  She and Janis could spring Sky without him, if need be.

The velvet-carpeted stairwell spiraled up to the upper floors of the church.  The extra padding was ostentatious, but Flit was grateful that it was there to pad their steps.  They were able to move much quicker up the stairs, though they still had to keep an eye out when they reached a new floor.

It wasn't long until they stopped reaching floors and had only the stairs leading up to the tower.  By that point, Janis was beginning to get nervous.

"Dren's gonna be okay, right?"

"Phhb.  Dren can run circles around those monks.  He'll be fine; heck, he'll probably keep the rest of the robed weirdos busy long enough for us to get to sky."

"But what if they don't?  What if this is a trap?"

Sighing, Flit stopped climbing and turned to face Janis.  "A trap for us?  Really?  The big bad Celestial Church is setting a trap for three kids who just came to town?"

"Maybe they know who we are." Janis shuddered.  "When they took Mom and Dad, it was more than just a moment's whim; they had templars there.  They planned it out; if they were after all of us ..."

Flit put her hand on her brother's shoulder.  "They think we died in the fire, remember?  They don't know we're still alive, let at their largest cathedral.  We'll be fine, Janis."

"Y-yeah." Janis stuttered, adjusting his glasses.  "Y-you're right.  I'm just getting nervous; doesn't it just seem too easy?"

"You're plan is just that good." She told him, grinning.  "Even the high and mighty templars aren't a match for you when you get to thinking."

He gave her a weak grin.  "Thanks, sis."

"Anytime.  Now let's get moving before someone does figure out that Dren's just a distraction."

They hurried up the stairs until they neared the top floor.  Flit pressed  finger to her lips and slowly crept up the final stairs.

The top of the tower was enclosed; the stonework was rather impressive, and Flit had to fight an urge to peer out the window to see the city from above.  The outer stonework surrounded a central stone chamber with no windows and only a single door.

Unfortunately, the door was not unguarded.  A single guard patrolled the tower, and much to Flit and Janis's discomfort, it was a templar.  The templar's heavy armor, massive sword, and face-covering helmet made him seem like some kind of metal golem.

Flit and Janis ducked back down the stairs before the templar noticed them. 

"Ideas?" Flit asked.

Janis started checking his belt and muttering to himself.  Flit continued to watch the guard as well she could; he continued walking around the top of the tower, occasionally stopping to stare out over the city.  The poisoned darts were no good, as there was no way they'd be able to pierce the thick armor, the smoke bomb seemed pointless, as it would be obvious what they were up to, and the bouncing balls would most likely be completely ignored.

"There's nothing for it." Flit said.  "Next time he passes, I'll head to the door and try to get it open."

"Okay." Janis said, sounding grateful.  "I'll ... uh, cover your back."

She couldn't help but smile.  "Yeah, you do that."

Once the guard passed by, she hurried over to the door as quickly and quietly as she could.  Ducking down into the doorway as best she could, she pulled out her picks and started to work the lock.  Unfortunately, the lock on that door was much more complicated than the kitchen entrance.  Trying hard to force the templar's presence out of her mind, she worked the latches and tumblers within as quickly as she could. 

As the seconds passed, she realized that she didn't have much time left.  The Templar would be back at any moment to catch her and drag her away to the priests.  Just as the clanking of the templar's armor started to grow far too loud for her liking, the final latch slipped open.  Flit tried to pull out her lockpicks, only to find one had become stuck.  Holding back a swear, she turned the handle of the door as silently as she could and slipped inside the room, quickly closing the door behind her.

The inside of the chamber was almost completely dark.  The only light came from the moonlight slipping through crack beneath the door, but it was enough for Flit to see a dark figure huddled against the back wall.

Flit walked over as quietly as she could manage.  She started to reach for the person when Janis's concerns crossed her thoughts.  What if it was a trap?  What if it wasn't Sky, but some agent of the Inquisition waiting for her?  She didn't think they cared about her, but the tension between the priests and Lady Fresca had been palpable.  What if the trap was for her?

Pulling the knife from her pocket just in case, Flit whispered, "Sky?  Is that you?"

The figure moved at the sound of Flit's voice.  Flit felt a hand grasp hers.  Another hand gently pressed against the side of Sky's face.

The next thing she knew, the figure had thrown her arms around her.

"Thank the Creator." Flit whispered, as Sky hugged her close.  "Are you okay?"

Sky pulled away from her.  A moment later, a glowing light appeared cupped in her hands, allowing Flit to see her.  As far as she could see, Sky seemed perfectly fine, though her eyes looked a little puffy from crying. 

"INTRUDER!  STEP INTO THE LIGHT!"

Sky and Flit both jumped at the templar's shout.  They hugged each other again, both staring at the door and expecting it to be kicked open at any moment. 

After a few moments, the tempar spoke again; while he wasn't shouting, his voice seemed unnaturally loud as he said, "I SEE YOU, BOY."

"Janis!" Flit whispered.  She pulled away from Sky and started towards the door, only to have Sky pull her back. 

"Sky, it's Janis!  He's in trouble!  We gotta help him!  We wouldn't have gotten this far without him!"

Sky still seemed terrified, but she slowly nodded and followed Flit to the door.  Flit pushed open the door and saw the Templar approaching the stairwell.

An idea suddenly popped into Flit's head.  She pulled a rubber ball from her belt and threw it at the templar.  Unfortunately, her aim was off; the ball flew through an opening in the stonework.  She pegged the Templar in the head with her second shot, making him stop immediately.

Flit pulled a smoke bomb from her belt and grabbed Sky's hand.

"Don't let go." Flit told her before throwing the smoke bomb to the ground.

The smoke bomb was very effective; in just a few seconds, a mist-like cloud filled the room.  Flit pulled Sky to the side of the door just as the templar burst through.

Almost immediately, a bright light shot from the eyes of the templar's helmet.  The Smoke still made it impossible to see, however, so the templar soon started forward.

"ESCAPE IS IMPOSSIBLE." The Templar intoned.  Ironically, Flit and Sky were already slipping out of the door.

Slamming the door shut, Flit grabbed the lockpick still stuck in the lock and twisted it as hard as she could; the lockpick snapped, but not before the latches clicked back into place, effectively locking the door.  The door shook with the force of the templar's mighty blows, but the door miraculously held firm.

"Makes sense." Flit said.  "It'd have to be strong enough to hold a real mage."

Sky and Flit rejoined Janis on the stairwell.  He was trembling all over, a smoke bomb in one hand and a dart in the other.

"You okay?" Flit asked, patting him on the arm.

"Y-yeah."

"Okay then; let's get the hell outta here."

"What about Lady Fresca?"

Another loud hit made the chamber door shudder.

"I think she'll realize we're not there." Flit told him.  "We need to get the hell out of here."

They started running down the stairs, only to stop almost immediately when they heard the sounds of people hurrying up the same stairwell.

"Damn!" Flit grabbed Sky and Janis's hands, saying, "C'mon!"

"Back up there?" Janis said, his face almost completely white at that point.

"Better than what we'll get down here!"

They ran to the top of the tower.  Flit pulled out her rope, but one look over the side of the wall made it clear that even if she tied her rope to Janis's rope, there was still no way they'd even be close to the ground.  They'd be lucky if they'd survive the fall to the roof of the cathedral.

"Janis?" Flit asked, her eyes darting around for anything that might help facilitate their escape.

"I ... I don't know!"

The templar banged on the door again, making Flit jump.  Rolling her eyes, she shouted, "Shut up already!"

Janis's eyes lit up.  Flit noticed and smiled, saying, "Whatcha got?"

"Oh, you're going to love this."

The priests reached the top of the tower and immediately started towards Flit just as she managed to unlock the door once again.  She immediately hurled herself aside, and a good thing too; the templar immediately slammed the door open and started forward.  He only managed to take a step before the rope caught him just above his armored ankle; the ropes Janis had tied to the pillars just in front of the door held perfectly as the templar tripped and hit the priests like a human-sized cannonball.  Two of the priests managed to get out of the way, only to get hit with darts thrown by Sky and Janis.  They collapsed almost immediately.

"Nice!" Flit said, rejoining her friends.  "Let's get outta here!"

They hurried past the pile of priests and the templar and started down the stairs.  Janis ran down first, followed by Flit and Sky.

The templar rose from the ground much quicker than his heavy armor should've allowed.  He grabbed Sky's arm with one hand and held her fast, booming, "YOU CANNOT EXCAPE, WITCH!"

"Sky!" Without a thought to her own safety, Flit made a flying leap into the templar's shoulders as he started to drag Sky back to the chamber.  As crazy as her assault was, it actually worked.  The Templar let go of Sky and immediately started flailing.  He twisted and jerked about, trying to throw her off.

She tried to find some kind of latches on the armor as she held on for dear life, but the armor seemed to be one solid piece.  As the templar staggered back, Flit caught a glimpse of Lady Fresca near Sky.  Even she seemed unsure how to act.

The Templar suddenly stopped twisting about and seemed to focus on Lady Fresca.  He drew his weapon and started towards her, seemingly unencumbered by Flit.

Desperate, Flit pulled one of the darts from her belt and jabbed it as hard as she could into the eye hole in the templar's helmet.

The Templar let out a large roar and stumbled backwards, one hand clutching the damaged eye.  Sensing an opening, Flit grabbed her last dart and shoved it into the other eyehole.

This time, the templar managed to grab her right arm before she could pull back.  His grip tightened until she felt her arm snap.  Flit screamed as the templar continued squeezing her arm, the rest of him going oddly still. 

Something strange was happening with the templar; a bright light was beginning to emanate from every crease in the armor.  The hand holding her broken arm began shaking wildly, making the pain even worse.  A shrill rising pitch shot through the air, giving her goosebumps.

Without warning, the Templar exploded as though packed with explosives.  Fire raced over her, most of which seemed to be absorbed by the gauntlet and her caught arm.  It burned her clothes, hair, and skin as the force of the explosion threw her clear from the tower.  She fell through the sky, the templar's gauntlet still clutching her burned and broken arm. 

Moments later, everything began to slow down.  Even time seemed to slow down as she floated gently down towards the ground.  The last thing she saw before unconsciousness claimed her was the sight of their warehouse in the distance.

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