Ceannric slid down off his mare and groaned as his knees took his weight...he did not recover from fighting like he used to. Of course, taking an Orc's axe to the leg hadn't helped much, either, and he was grateful there had been healers there at the Rites to ply their trade. Quite an abundance of healers, it seemed, perhaps the current strange times led people back to their faith? Whatever the reason, it had been a fortuitous circumstance, and if the gods had lent a hand, then so much the better.
He started unsaddling the horse and making preparations for camp, laughing at the ways in which the gods petulantly demanded attention, usually through their overzealous adherents. Both Xoticus and Gareth immediately sprang to mind. Not for the first time, Xoticus had tried drawing a correlation between an animistic approach of revering Nature, and outright worship of the Black Lion. Not even close to the same, Ceannric scoffed...Tharros was a specific embodiment of a particular portfolio of divine aspect. Nature simply *was*. But leave it to a zealot--and Xoticus most assuredly was that, albeit a skilled one--to pigeonhole everyone into black and white categories. He supposed it was easier to brand someone a heretic that way.
He piled up some tinder and set to striking sparks off the flint until a thin line of smoke began wafting upwards, snorting a bit as he thought of the other half of that odd duo. Gareth was a fine fellow, generous and noble and upright (likely because of that stick up his arse) but he had not been at all pleased to suffer the presence of the necromancer, Geth. From what he had seen, Ceannric thought the swarthy man to be relatively harmless, even gregarious in his fashion, but then he currently had no power by his own admission, and that might change. After all, had not Rika's power begun to return to her since coming to this realm? The same could happen with any magic, even necromancy.
Even so, he mused, Gareth's sanctimonious ire was better aimed at the larger threat looming on the horizon--the Everwar. If the cryptic missive in the Orcs' chest was legitimate--and it seemed it was--then a lone necromancer (or even a cadre of Tharros zealots) was the least of their worries. A veritable apocalypse was brewing on their doorstep, and they needed to be unified if they were to face it. The enemy was organized, that much they had seen, with the Orc encampment barely a hundred yards away from the Ritual site...and from what the Quartermaster Randy had said, they had arranged distractions to draw off the human forces, the better for a softer target. It had almost gone *very* badly. The ones left behind had been mostly inexperienced fighters and children, hesitant to step into battle, and he had watched many of them cut down before the Orcs were overcome. Once more, he was thankful for the apothecaries and healers, or they'd have been arranging many more funerals with the next dawn.
He was particularly proud of Wolf...his Squire had risen to the occasion, challenging an Orc champion to single combat (and winning), then braving the prospect of a trapped chest at their camp. Between that and the way he had fought at the tournament, Ceannric was glad he had given the lad the swords and favor. He would do the colors proud.
He was also proud of that bevy of kids who had managed to open the puzzlebox, and then forged ahead to unravel the secrets of the letter secreted therein. That was impressive. Who would have thought it? 'Out of the mouths of babes', or so the saying went. He knew plenty of adults without that level of focus or wisdom, and the fact those striplings had delved in without fear gave him some measure of hope.
His mood fell a bit as he remembered what Kailos had said of the northern tribes and their savage obeisance to their portals. He had no doubt it was exactly as Kailos said...though the young man's memory was incomplete, and he'd had that episode with possession, he was still level-headed and did not seem one to leap to conclusions willy-nilly. He might even make a valuable addition to the Portal Guard, if it ever got off the ground. Ceannric swatted at a bee trying to investigate the slowly simmering stew, and scowled at the work ahead. No rest for the weary. Lord Chronos had given his blessing for the notion of the Portal Guard, a brotherhood with but a single purpose--to keep the portals out of the wrong hands. But establishing an Order in theory and making it happen in reality were two entirely different things. There were precious few people he trusted to fill the ranks, and weeding out applicants would prove a bit of a chore, but it had to be done. Already one portal had been swiped out from under their very noses, suddenly & inexplicably. That could not be allowed to happen again.
He fished for a jug of mead in his saddlebag and sat back on the log. Aye, things were about to get very, very sketchy and no mistake. The multiverse would not likely miss a little realm on a single world if they managed to blow themselves up. In the greater scheme of things, they were but a tiny speck of dust with delusions of grandeur, desperately trying to be relevant. All their feuds and petty arguments and pretty favors were nothing compared to the much larger cosmic conflict heading their way. Somebody had to keep an eye on the bigger picture. He hoped it wouldn't have to be him, but with his luck it would be. He cursed and took another swig of mead.
Well this little speck of dust was going to get drunk and then find its bedroll. Fuck it.