The land of Shabar is a strange place by many measures, but it has its own peculiar beauty as well. Some of the balconies and platforms outside the enclosure of the Sanctuary of Amber but still suspended high above the ground provide a panoramic view of the forest of rocky spires and the liquid sky they pierce high above.
On one of the balconies, near the tower, a unicorn with a horn which looks to be made of tortoiseshell steps out. The long waistcoat tails of her suit-dress flare out as the catch the wind, tangling them with the long strands of her hair as it blows behind her. She walks over near the edge, looking out at the vista, somewhat dreamily.
Standing on the other side of the balcony, looking out in a slightly different direction, is another unicorn one who hasn't been much in sight since that last meeting with the Champion of Amber. The black unicorn, in his usual robed attire, evidences no notices of Turtle's arrival.
Turtle gazes in her own direction for a long while, looking rapt in contemplation of other times, other places. Finally, she turns to go in, and stops short at the sight of the other occupant of the balcony.
Turtle says, "When did you get here, Inquisitor?"
The black unicorn turns slowly to regard Turtle. "Hello, Inquisitrix Turtle. I do not know how long I have been here. Time seems so … immaterial in this place. I find it terribly disorienting, but at the same time almost relaxing in a way."
Turtle looks back at the horizon a second, and appears almost ready to reimmerse herself in her thoughts, then returns to the present. "I've noticed that."
The black unicorn nods, and looks away again, apparently content to resume gazing at nothing really in particular … Or perhaps that's not the case. Some winged creatures can be seen gliding about the rocky spires in the distance. They have long, serpentine bodies and apparently each have THREE wings, curiously enough.
Turtle seems interested in something else however. "Might I ask you, Inquisitor, about some of the things the Champion of Amber spoke about in our last meeting? There are some things that have been on my mind about them ever since then that I wish to clear up."
The black unicorn's attention returns to Turtle. "Where would you like to begin?"
"Well," Turtle steps slowly closer to Melchizedek, crossing her arms as she does, "If Rephidim is in the state the Champion speaks of, how did the temple ever let it get into the situation it is? Or for that matter, how could the temple let itself get to the place it is?" Her face slightly denotes a different, deeper concern than the one she speaks of, but whatever it was, it is quickly covered up.
Melchizedek turns to face Turtle fully. "Much time has passed. We have been blessed with many years to our lives. Even though these years are so long that we cannot remember, say, our childhood as well as many other races, we still see many other generations pass."
The black unicorn summarizes, "Things change. The Temple is a bureaucracy a machine but even the Captain-Astromancer cannot maintain stability. Indeed, so far as I know, no Captain-Astromancer is yet at the helm."
Melchizedek continues, "So much has the authority of the Temple eroded that the Assassins' Guild can strike at even "
Turtle stops the black unicorn short, blurting out, "There is no Captain-Astromancer?"
Melchizedek closes his mouth, then nods. "That is correct. The Captain-Astromancer was struck down in cold blood by an assassin known as Shadowspite a bloodthirsty fox. My attempts to capture the criminal failed. I attempted to strike back at Darkside, to punish its hives of corruption for daring such a thing … but that was of no use, either."
Turtle narrows her eyes in thought, fitting together a few pieces. "When you set it on fire?"
Melchizedek nods. "Yes. We set out to torch several establishments of ill repute which had been tolerated because of bribes paid to certain elements of the Temple. I decided to honor their 'protection' no longer, in light of the Captain-Astromancer's death. We were met with stiff resistance The people of Darkside have little respect for the Temple anymore so I felt it necessary to demonstrate the seriousness of our intent."
"I regret the fruits of that decision," says Melchizedek, looking away again. "But this was war. And in war, there are casualties, and even the innocent can be caught in the middle of it all."
The look of annoyance is coming back to Turtle's face, but for what reason is unknown.
The black unicorn says, "For what it is worth, the Temple frowned in retrospect upon my actions. I was, not so long ago, an Arch Inquisitor Majoris. I have been demoted. I am no higher in rank than yourself … and, given your exemplary performance of your duties over the course of several centuries, I would not be surprised if I should find you my superior after you return to Rephidim."
Turtle hides any flattery she might have received from that comment.
Melchizedek continues, "Incidentally, that is why I am here. My performance has been deemed lacking, and I have been sent on a mission to aid in an Audit the first one ever ordered on all Templar outposts, this being one of them, on all of Sinai. I think that shall keep me busy for quite some time. Some have not been visited for a few centuries, as you have witnessed."
Turtle crosses her arms tighter. "Yes, I have witnessed that."
Melchizedek nods. "In any case, I'm not sure where to start to prepare you for your return to Rephidim. First of all, the First Ones that is, our collective ancestors on Sinai are the predominant foci of worship, and you will not find many pledging fealty to the Star. They still make the sign of the Star and Anchor, however." He demonstrates by making the sign across his chest with one hand.
Turtle brow furrows, and she drops her arms, as if overwhelmed by feelings. "Thank you very much for further enlightening me. I hadn't realized just how ridiculous the situation had gotten." She spits out the word "ridiculous" as if with some sarcasm. She steps back from Melchizedek, for a moment losing completely the quiet, dignified, almost haughty creature that she was when she first met the airship. "Just remember, corruption has to stop somewhere." She raises an eyebrow at the black unicorn, before turning and walking off the balcony completely.
Melchizedek watches the unicorn storm off … then slowly turns back toward the balcony, and the view beyond. "Of course."
Melchizedek reaches to his collar, pulling out a simple wooden pendant hanging on a fragile, wooden chain. He holds it in his gloved fingers, far enough out where he can gaze down at it over the bridge of his dark muzzle.