Arnven Burns
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Martch 15, 709

Had it been under any other circumstances, this sudden pilgrimage to the City of Shrines would have been a celebrated event.

But dark times have come to the Holy Foundation. The heathen animals snarl at our fringes, eager to destroy the Church of Lord Bright. The Expunged’s cursed lands grow with each passing day. The Chaos Insurgency infiltrates our deepest reaches and destroys them with the fury of thrice-damned heretics, killing our Doctors and our Brothers.

Yet I am not here for any of them.

A week ago, I, Brother Jaelen of the Monastery of Our Holy Saints, was stationed in the village of Kilser as a scion of the Holy Foundation. There, I had lived a peaceful life, administering the rites to the peasants as a fellow of the Church should. I heard confessions, conducted masses, anointed the dying, and blessed the dead. Under normal circumstances, it is not my place as a humble brother to destroy the heathen and purge the heretic- but these are not normal circumstances. Three weeks ago, I had heard of an ancient Witch who lived near the swamp close to the village of Veken and made her livelihood as a magical healer. That was until a corpselike man visited her under the light of the midday sun and whispered a word into her ear, causing her to remember all that she had forgotten- including some of her magical spells. With them, she laid waste to a nearby monastery- my monastery- killed my brothers in faith, and burnt my home to the ground.

I was full of grief - no, anger - at the atrocity that the witch had wrought upon my brothers and fellows, but I also realized the urgency to send word as soon as possible to the Doctor Cardinals and the Council of Thirteen. With my Brother Raleigh, the only survivor of the attack, I sent a letter to the Overwatch Cathedral bearing the dire tidings that I had come to uncover. I, meanwhile, made for the Holy City of Arnven with all due haste to do what I could in order to stop the doom that the witch will bring with her.

Yet the heathen Papist animals draw closer to the City of Shrines with every day that passes. Bright only knows if I’ll be able to stop whatever it is the crone witch intends to do with the city. We know not the power that she wields, or of the things that Saint Clef is reputed to have done to her to cause the Breach of the Seventeenth Monastery all those years ago.

Night falls on my first day in the Holy City, and the mood among our brothers and sisters in the laity is grim. Even now, at the onset of dusk, we hear the baying howls of wolves and the roars of bears. They draw closer with every day, and I hope I can save the city before the witch can destroy it. I can only hope to find her in the coming days, for I am certain that she hides here even now.

May Bright help me in this holy quest.

Martch 17, 709

The Shrine of Saint Rights is burning.

As I look upon the Hill of Agatha, I can see the forms of burning men, women, and children. I have seen none of the Brothers or Doctors that were supposed to man the Shrine, and I fear the worst. The freemen are calling the travesty an accident- “a lantern dropped carelessly”, or a “barrel of oil set alight”, but I know the true cause.

The Witch is here in the City of Shrines.

I have not spent the past days in idleness, for I have spared nothing in order to get at the bottom of the coming catastrophe. I have sought the assistance of my Brothers in the shrines, from the Gearics in the Rivershrine to the Rightsfellows who now burn with Right’s Shrine- but they do not seem to believe me. In the entire City of Shrines, not one houses the written Procedures that describes the Witch. Why or how, I do not know. It seems that my Monastery may have been the only place in the Foundation that still remembers her and the threat she brings. Could it have been the Chaos Insurgency, infiltrating our holy places to prepare for the emergence of the Witch? Could it have been the animals, using their sympathizers in the clergy and laity to destroy all records of her? I do not know, and I cannot afford to care. The razing of Right’s Shrine is a sign the Witch is here- a sign of the destruction to come.

I will redouble my efforts on the morrow. The lives and sanctity in the City of Shrines depend on me, now that my brothers disbelieve the news that I bring while the Witch burns and destroys the Holy Shrines of Arnven.

Martch 18, 709.

I found her. She was there, when the Rivershrine was set ablaze. With its proximity to the Heilas, the Shrine itself was saved from the razing that Right’s Shrine had suffered. When we entered, what I and many of the laity saw when we entered was a sickening scene- dozens of Gearic Brothers and Doctors dead, with not a single one surviving among them. Now the Brothers of the other Shrines are certain to believe me, but I no longer need their help. When the Rivershrine was set ablaze, I saw a young woman, no more than fifteen or sixteen years of age, run out from the Shrine. She escaped my attention in the moment, until I saw her stare at me with wide eyes that shimmered with a grey-green light, hair the color of the sun flowing past her shoulders.

It was just like the Procedures had said, but she was not the crone that I had come to hear of, nor the young girl that she was described to be in my prayers. She is Sigurrós, impossibly young yet ancient, her eyes flecked with recognition.

She spoke to me in my mind at that moment, asking me if I knew how to teach her. I gave no reply, but I am certain she heard my thoughts during that short saintforsaken moment- for now I know what she wanted.

I tried to run after her, to catch her before she could flee, but she evaded me. Tomorrow, she will strike again, I am sure of it. I will catch her when the time comes, for the howls of the animals sound impossibly close now, and the Holy City has no walls. I must kill her. I must destroy her, and purge her of her fell witchery. It is the City’s only chance before the animals come and destroy us all.

Martch 19, 709.

I am running out of time, I know it. Birds have been sighted across the Heilas, and the howling continues far into the day. I see Omega Guards marching, carrying halberds and spears, deploying to the far parts of the city in the direction of the Heilas. There will be a battle soon, one that the Holy City might lose.

But the time that was given to me has not been in vain. The Witch stays at a hovel at the impoverished quarter, from what a few peasants have told me. She has burnt down no more shrines tonight, though the animals may soon come to finish her work.

I fear that I am too late, that the death of the witch will not be enough to save the city. I fear that Arnven will burn- just like the shrines that the Witch has laid waste to.

But there is no room for fear as a servant of the Lord Bright, as a servant of the saints, as a scion of the Holy Foundation.

The Witch will die today, and I will make sure of it.

Martch 20, 709.

I do not know why she has allowed me to write. She has me here, in my room, watching me. The animals came for us in the dead of night. They have not burst inside the inn, nor burnt it to the ground. It is her fell witchery, I know it. She is protecting the inn, for none of us inside can hear the butchery they must be visiting upon the populace and the holy places outside. My life is in her hands. I cannot kill her. I have tried, but she keeps me at bay with a word and a gesture.

She tells me that she does not want to hurt me, and though I know her words are lies, I believe her. Her eyes are honest. Impossibly honest. I am afraid for my life, but she says she’ll let me go if I teach her the ways of her magic, to cast more spells and harness her witchcraft. She tells me that the animals have been brought by Seth, the corpse man, and that the bloodshed being committed outside will continue until the day that I teach her the ways of magic.

Oh, dear Bright. Forgive me for what I find myself wanting to do. She thinks that only I can teach her, for only I know the secret of her magic. It is for the good of the city, I keep telling myself, for the good of the Church- but I can't help but think that what she is forcing me to do is a sin of the highest order, an unforgivable crime in the eyes of Bright and the Saints.

I have told her that we start at daybreak, for the protection that the inn has still allows it to experience night and day. I think time has stopped outside, but not here. Her fell sorcery knows no bounds.

Forgive me, my Saints. I have failed, and I must submit. Forgive my cowardice. Forgive my sins. I do it for all of you.

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