Myska felt sick. Her head kept pounding and the last thing she wanted to do was stare at the page of paper. There was barely anything on it, apart from a few crossed out names.
She tried to put down ideas on how to appease Akai for Viktor's sake. But nothing seemed to fit. She still couldn't pen down what she really thought and knew that, which was why parts of the page were so crossed out.
"Hey, you okay?" Myska looked up to see the familiar crimson-haired rider, smiling as usual, "Mind if we sit and talk a bit?" (edited)
Myska looked up. Her eyes widened in shock, but she quickly calmed down. There was nothing really visible on the page. Still she tried to mask the fright with looking even more sick for a moment.
"I may have overindulged." She said very slowly and shook her head. "It's this damneable Akai thing really."
"Maybe we can figure something out together then," Pieri sat down next to the smaller rider, wrapping an arm around her in an attempt to comfort the poor girl, "I've studied up on all of the angels, after all."
"Well a way to make them stop causing grief to good people would be helpfull. If not all of them, Akai would be enough." The girl shrugged. "Viktor suffered enough with...Pavel. There's Aks ought to have any kind problems with him. But apparently the angel might"
She paused and scribbled down an errant runemark before crossing it out again. "Has to be apparently honest. Which is where my problem rests."
"Akai probably sees the sacrifice of Pavel as a grave insult, unfortunately," Pieri rested her chin on one hand, "Dragons and drakes are quite beloved by her. A central theme of both her punishments and worship is sacrifice. You need to devote yourself utterly to some difficult task. Something that is very challenging for you and requires you to give up something else in return. She is of course, rather fond of hunting but you'll need more difficult game than deer..."
"I was thinking of showing those bloody nutters running around talking of mental and physical cleansing some actual decent prey. A sewer rat or two. Buuut I don't think they'd be very receptive. Tougher prey it might be, the clergy is probably too civilised to see it like that."
She took a slow breath. "But I don't understand why the angel even dares to ask something like this in return. It isn't like someone got past guards, walls and picked up the prized possession of a lord. Viktor and Pavel had no inkling where they were, and Akai did not even protect them. Akai barely intervened, if at all."
Her voice slowly rose in pitch near the end. There's was a soft anger behind it. The world wasn't right and it hadn't been for a long time. At least that was what Myska felt.
"First, if you believe they are a difficult hunt it doesn't matter what the cultists themselves think as long as you offer the bounty to Akai, " Pieri replied, choosing her words carefully, "Second, ignorance is no excuse, for angels or most of those in authority. If, say, you entered an unguarded family vault and took treasure while someone observed but did not intervene directly, are you still not guilty of the theft and can be arrested for it? Or if you hunted on a noble's land illegally and got harmed, does the owner of the land have an obligation to aid you freely? I'm not going to claim it's fair because it isn't, but it's something that must be done. In your case, I would surmise that prayer and the offerings you proposed should be enough. Viktor will find his own way and unfortunately I cannot help you beyond suggestions as that is another rule of Akai. She is short of temper and holds onto her anger far more than, say, Jalren would." Pieri pulled the young rider closer. It seemed even after five years, poor Myska hadn't become used to her new position. The best the paladin could do was support her.
Myska tensed up under the hug at first, not used to allowing anyone to touch her. But Pieri was gentle, not pushing on any of her wounds and Myska felt safe for the first time in a long while. The closest to this was how she sometimes slept curled up against Mutrab. The drake not minding it and she finding solace and protection around his scales.
"Sometimes it feels like that's all the angels do. Hold grudges. Against each other, against us. Pieri, Pavel died because of me. I want to help somehow. But all I can think of is that I would pay two marks to see a grudge match between Akai and Judah. With any luck they'd end each other."
"That's mostly Akai," Pieri said sympathetically, "And if she truly held a grudge neither you nor Viktor would be alive. You upset her and she just wants you to find a proper way to apologize, and thank her for the assistance she did provide. It likely took a great amount of effort on her part. Did I tell you about Cassandra and I fighting Faustus earlier? We crossed paths with an emissary of Rilath accidentally and it was only because of Jalren and Haron's aid we survived a fight we would have easily lost. Doubt if you must, but I'm proof they're not all bad."
"The emissaries are dangerous." Myska whispered, "but it seems the princeguard is drawn to them. Judah and Faustus weren't the first we've met. Do you remember Von Salzburg?"
"I do," Pieri stated, "By his other name of Jon Falstaff, but how do you know that?"
Myska looked strangely at Pieri. How exactly did she know that Salzburg was Falstaff? "I found it out. An old Pavesi tome had pictures of what men tought all the emissaries looked like." She decided to test Pieri a step further. "Surprised that there were so few women amongst them though. Typical of a man like Rilath to keep a posse."
"Well, I doubt they had all of them. A few are terribly secretive. Several have not been seen in decades so no one knows if they still exist. The only women confirmed among them are the murderess Pandora and an unnamed creator of abominations of flesh. The latter is hardly known because no one has seen her yet remained sane. Other women are rumored, but as usual with Rilath it's hard to separate the truth from stories used to scare children straight."
"I've heard the stories as well." Myska said. "Mostly about Judah, Faustus and Falstaff in truth. Pandora shows up in some as well. People probably remember her for being with Jalren, since she comes off as the best of them. Though not by much."
Myska considered this to be very dangerous, so she was testing, stringing words together until the intention was opaque enough. In truth she needed someone to, at least in part, confide in. She of course could never tell Pieri that she sometimes met with Pandora. But a few very careful words might loosen a load on her own shoulders.
"They say some Emperors of Sors in the past considered Pandora an ally and confidant, if you believe the stories," Pieri replied, "In fact, it could be argued that she still worships Jalren in a way. Her actions are not that far detached from some of the more zealous believers of the endings sect. She mostly differs from Jalren in being less...nuanced with her form of punishment."
"You mean unlike the Venatori? I think there is a reason why Viktor left that group." Myska quipped.
"The Venatori are called for only the worst case scenarios," Pieri noted, "While their work could hardly be called pleasant, when you have powerful Rilathian mages sacrificing entire villages to fuel their own power you can't exactly respond softly. Their work comes at the cost of many innocent lives in a lot of cases, but saves a tenfold more. Pandora, on the other hand, resorts to murder for the smallest infraction and cares not one bit about the suffering she causes by doing it. A good man goes out one night and drinks so much he is not in his right mind then returns home. His wife accidentally burned his meal. He hits her once, but deeply regrets it. Pandora has the man executed. He is the money maker for the house, bringing in the money needed for his wife and children to live. Pandora cares not if they live or die. That is Pandora's way. She is justice without empathy, without sympathy. With no care of the consequences. I admit sometimes her approach is needed to punish a few that are otherwise untouchable, but I wonder how many innocent lives she ruins in her pursuits."
Myska shrugged. "I hope she is one we never meet then. I don't think someone with my past would live long around one as her. I think getting stabbed by one emissary is more than enough." She tried to pass it all of as a joke.
She sighed and continued, "probably best I try to find some ideas before Frederik finally admits his everlasting love for Hans."
Pieri laughed. "Honestly, in your case Myska I think daily prayer is enough. Akai likely knows you're not terribly fond of her, but it's the effort that counts. Maybe you could even offer some help to her hunters in a similar fashion to recent events. If there's one thing blood-red Akai loves, it's a good hunt."
"I'll think about it. And Pieri, thank you." Myska said.
Pieri let go and gave Myska a pat on the shoulder. "No problem," she replied with a smile, "If you need me again, you only need ask. Helping people seems to be my calling, after all. Get some rest; it'll do your mind and body some good. We've all been through a lot today."
The young woman nodded and left Pieri go. Perhaps a few hours of rest might be good afterall.