"Message for the Sunpriest!" a small child came running up to him, waving a scroll and obviously proud of himself for delivering a message to the Sunsguard's priest. Kir took it with a smile and brief blessing for the child, too young to flinch away from the black-edged robes of a firestarter, cracking the seal and reading with increased disbelief.
His cousin from the north passed on greetings, and wondered if he'd heard news of the extended family in Hardorn? He'd been trapped in Sunbeam Brook by some well-meaning in-laws and would appreciate any aid which could be offered, even if it was simply a merciful death, because they would not stop asking him when he would settle down and produce children for the glory of Vkandis.
He felt a deep, desperate desire to travel ten months back in time and light a certain white-clad demon-rider on fire. Truly. A meeting in a Hardornen inn when it was freezing was one thing, asking him to break him out of imprisonment with the Sunsguard (and probably some Sunpriests, maybe even a black-robe!) was an entirely different matter.
"Your Holiness? Your letter is smoking," one of the scouts, Beltran, spoke up with only a slight tremor in his voice. Kir snapped his attention to the slowly smoldering corners and grunted, the brief excitation in the paper quieting, leaving it cool to the touch again.
"Thank you, Scout Beltran," he said courteously, deciding to ignore the fact that the child had immediately made himself scarce at the sight of smoke. His expression had probably also not been particularly welcoming. "Where might I find the Captain?"
It had been a mere two weeks since he first actively interfered in battle. His subsequent collapse from exhaustion after the Sun-Setting service had at least stilled any rumors or fears of his being superhuman, but even now only the Sergeant could meet a frustrated glare from him without reacting. He had hopes though, the Captain was only blanching.
That would probably change, with the ruse he was going to have to put up to deal with this. Damn and blast that Herald. Now he got to become a true heretic should he act on this, and for the low cost of reminding the entire blessed unit of the realities of a Firestarter's duties.
At least it would get him some credit with the black-robes that had started arriving in the area as their "reinforcements," summoning Furies and then vanishing back behind the lines and leaving them to deal with the wretched things.
As Kir had overheard the sergeant snarl, "We wanted less violence, not massacres!"
So now he got to go and deal with a Herald, on top of his already careful work to ignore and cover-up 'heretical' thoughts that were nothing more than those he kept locked behind his own teeth. Blasted witch probably deserved the burning, but if he knew anything about Hardorn, which he must, then Kir's unit could use the intelligence.
And Sunlord how he hated those screams.
Following the scout's directions, he went to the tavern where the Captain was meeting with the village headman. The Captain, not too many years older than Kir, looked up and raised an eyebrow at his expression, actually managing to restrain his reaction to a twitch of his fingers towards his knife. The headman paled dramatically, but Kir ignored him, that was a common reaction to an angry Firestarter amongst civilians, he was probably afraid that Kir had found evidence of witchcraft in his little hamlet.
"Your Holiness," Captain Ulrich acknowledged him.
Kir held up a different letter – the one that had assigned him to this unit in the first place, just under nine years ago. The seal of Sunhame had been carefully preserved by him, as that seal opened many doors.
"I must depart for Sunbeam Brook," he said shortly, "My services are required."
He watched dispassionately as the headman visibly flinched and the Captain, at least, restrained it to a tightening of his expression. "Will you require an escort?" he asked instead, obviously hoping the answer was no.
Kir thanked the Sunlord that he was able to refuse, citing both his own skills and the needs of the unit. The last thing he needed was a terrified Sunsguard to deal with. "I will not," he replied calmly. "I will get supplies from the quartermaster and ride out at once, if that is acceptable."
"Far be it for me to stand in the way of Vkandis' Will," the Captain backed down immediately, Kir nodding and turning away to leave, grimace twisting his features. Vkandis' Will, to burn children. To burn true malicious witches, and Hardornen enemy soldiers, that he would accept. But children…
He could almost feel the trust, carefully, meticulously built over these years unraveling in his hands. He had worked so hard to find a place as a mistrusted Firestarter, and in three short weeks the entirety of it was falling apart thanks to Ancar and one wretched Herald.
The quartermaster had apparently already heard, handing him a full pack with stiff wishes for his safe travels. Kir had simply nodded, accepting the pack and riding out immediately, Riva not particularly happy with him, but used to it. The life of a Sunpriest's horse was either a luxurious, rider-less one or one filled with fearful servitude and little appreciative attention outside their rider. Riva had gotten the short end of the stick.
He reviewed his knowledge of the area as Riva loped down the well-maintained road. It was a ground-eating pace he knew the gelding could keep up for a few marks with brief rests. He let the horse have his head for pace at the moment, so long as they were going briskly he didn't particularly care.
Sunbeam Brook was a large farming settlement, one of the furthest north that was truly profitable, and lay two days hard ride away. He would take three at Riva's pace and taking back-roads, because he didn't want his presence reported until he determined what approach he was going to take to the problem. It depended on what he heard in the last town – if the Herald had already burned then… well, he had tried.
If the Herald had been taken to Sunhame… it depended on when he had left and if Kir would be able to catch up, but an acquaintance of a night was not worth assaulting the entirety of the Sunhame priesthood.
There were small chapels and prayer areas all around the roads, as usual, and he would probably easily be able to find an empty one to use near Brook. In Brook proper there was a decent sized cathedral, permanently manned by a priest and two acolytes from what he remembered. For a Herald to be captured, there had to at least be a squad of the Sunsguard, probably a small cluster of squads, possibly even a full unit. He doubted it was a full-sized Company, there would have been rumors of a Company on the march.
There would also be Sunhame priests, possibly a black-robe, definitely a red-robe or two. He touched the soft white Sun-in-Glory hanging on a similarly-made prayer-chain around his neck. He kept it hidden under his robes, but he had only been able to hold out a month before boredom and the high quality of the horse-hair led him to making a personal pendant out of it, embedded with as many repenting prayers as he knew.
He hadn't been struck by lightning or accidently set on fire during the battle-pyres he burned regularly, so he supposed he wasn't a total heretic. Just a tiny one.
He snorted, Riva's ears flicking back as the gelding slowed to a jog. A tiny heretic. Just a few minor acts against Sunhame: collusion with the enemy, failing to kill a witch and demon, and now intent to offer aid to One Who Is Condemned.
Yes. Not a heretic at all.