Anur had enjoyed catching up with his capital friends on his brief run to Haven, invited to his yearmate Dirk's wedding. It had been seven months since Ancar had declared war, and he could use the break from the constant battling and frantic preparations along the border.
He could also hunt down the resident expert on Karse and hopefully pry some answers from the weaponsmaster in exchange for intelligence and a chance to beat him back into shape.
The fierce and fearsome Weaponsmaster Alberich didn't bother to look over when he entered, probably getting an alert from Kantor. He kept his focus on the guardsmen sparring under his watchful eye. Anur sat down and watched, equally critical as he'd been posted with seasoned border-guards for long enough to know a lot more about weapons work than when he'd started, even after the Weaponsmaster's tutelage.
"Anur Bellamy," the man's rough voice brought him out of his musings and he stood, smiling slightly, "Still favor your right hand, do you?"
"Ah, yes, I've gotten better though! Just injured the left in a skirmish a few weeks ago, haven't gotten it back into shape yet," Anur admitted, somewhat shamefaced. And he had just finished thinking about how much better he'd gotten since his Trainee days!
"Questions, Kantor says you have. Come, over drinks we can discuss it," the Weaponsmaster said, nodding briefly to the departing guards before leading him into the quarters attached to the salle.
Anur was feeling like he'd been here before – the grammatical structure, the drinks – just without the risk of being set on fire. Well, that made a large difference, he admitted, fingering the intricately made sun motif he carried in his pocket. He had taken to wearing it around his neck down south, but for the wedding he had decided to pocket it, not wanting to answer questions that might arise. He wanted some answers first.
Sitting in front of the empty fireplace, he accepted the glass of amber alcohol with murmured thanks, taking an appreciative sip while the Weaponsmaster settled into his own chair. "What brings you?" he asked finally.
Anur opened his mouth and the entire story spilled out: he hadn't told anyone about his truly bizarre encounter, both because everyone was too busy worrying with the war and because he didn't know what to make of it himself, and didn't want to hear everyone else's opinion before he had developed his own. Aelius didn't push, probably appreciating the chance to mull the encounter over himself.
Halfway through describing the terms of their truce, he found himself pacing, sun motif in hand as he ran his fingers along its knots in what had quickly become a nervous habit. The Weaponsmaster didn't interrupt him, for which he was grateful, merely sipping his water and listening as he waved his way through an explanation.
He finally wound down with the tale, hesitating before returning to his seat and clasping his hands together in front of him as he watched the Weaponsmaster. Herald Alberich eyed him thoughtfully before saying, "May I?" and pointing at the pendant he still held.
Anur hesitated only briefly before handing it over, the man sliding his chair back a hair to get it in the light of his beautiful stained glass window. It was only now that Anur recognized the similarities in the motif style, blinking as he made the connection. It made sense – he had never considered if the Weaponsmaster was still a follower of Vkandis, but there was no reason for him to not be.
Well, minus the whole witch-burning but he had obviously gotten over that and it wasn't like everyone who followed the religion could be like that.
"Good craftsmanship, this is," Alberich said, handing it back to him and Anur pocketed it quickly. "Seaman, this priest was?"
"Well, sailor family – Karse has a rather large lake further in, right?"
"Ruby, and rivers from there carry much trade into the farm-lands," Alberich nodded, "Sailor is a rare trade in Karse though. Now, his robes, he was wearing?"
"Not the formal ones, the field ones," Anur agreed, "Rather alarming, to hear Aelius screaming he was a sunpriest and then have a fire start up."
"Recall coloring, details, do you? Was there black trim to the robes?"
Anur furrowed his brow, digging through memories of drunken storytelling to try and recall just what the edge of the robes had looked like in dim, flickering light. "I… think so. It was snowing out, so the darkness might have been melt, but it seemed a bit too regular for that."
"Then you are fortunate indeed," Alberich sighed, sitting back in his chair, pouring himself some alcohol now and taking a sip, "Your Kir Dinesh is a Firestarter."
"He called himself that," Anur admitted, hesitating, "But – ah, I thought all sunpriests could burn witches?"
"In theory, yes, in practice it is wandering red-robes who do so. Few local priests would be willing to set members of their own flock on fire, and those that do seldom last long in their towns," Alberich explained, "Of these wandering red-robes, there are those who are only on their route for examinations and routine inspections, and there are those whose explicit duty is to hunt out heresy and witchcraft to set them alight. That is the duty of a firestarter. They have black-trimmed red robes, as they are seen as falling between a red-robe and a black-robe in status and responsibility."
"He seemed to imply he'd been assigned to the Sunsguard for some time though," Anur recalled, brow furrowing as he remembered those adrenalin-filled introductions. "Introduced himself as a chaplain of the guard."
"And of chaplains, there are also two types," Alberich smiled wryly, "Those who are there to gain heads for their promotion and those who are there to die in convenient coincidences. Your Dinesh is probably in the second, as he did not immediately set you on fire and actually deigned to set foot in a Hardornen stable."
"He sounded…" Anur hesitated, not sure why this was bothering him so much and why exactly he was unloading all of this onto the weaponsmaster, but something in that craggy face urged him to continue, "He sounded lonely, sir."
"Full Herald are you, brother. No sirs I will accept," Alberich said, accent stronger for a moment. He considered Anur's words, before responding, "And I imagine he would. A Sunpriest is friend to few, in Karse. Respected by all, sometimes even loved, but friend? Other Sunpriests, only, who would dare call a member of the Priesthood a friend as if they were equals. A firestarter?" Alberich shrugged now, continuing, "They are feared more than the black-robes. It is in their title, what they do. At least summoner black-robes can pretend they are just a priest. A firestarter has no recourse. Their robes, their name, set them apart from the rest of the priesthood. Small, vicious order, it is."
"Kir didn't seem very vicious," Anur said defensively, surprised he felt so protective of a Sunpriest he had met only once.
"Rare, he is," Alberich replied. "Very rare. Very fortunate, you are, to have met him."
"Yeah," Anur said thoughtfully, fingering the sun-pendant again, "Yeah. I am."