A young, well-dressed man stood. His voice was refined and silky. The town's only teacher was smart, too smart for his own good, and tended to dig into places he was not allowed. Perhaps he and Voraam had shared an ale or two. "You cannot for one minute pretend that an order like that could be kept secret forever," he purred. If he had joined the Holy Orders, he would be near the top with that voice. "What about the Knights?" he asked.
The Elder sighed heavily and finally sat down on the dais. His stomach was still a knot of terror.
"Who are the Knights?" someone finally dared to ask.
The elder started to speak, but the teacher explained in his silky voice. Explained what the Knights of the Black Dawn were, and how they fought a constant battle against demons. Oh, sure, he had seen men all clad in black, fighting creatures on his travels, and dug into as much research as he could find, always running into brick walls laid forth by the Holy Elders. He finally put it together, but kept silent, for he did not want any vengeance exacted upon them. But now, all had changed. What had happened to the vaunted Knights?
"Something has happened," the elder breathed, staring down at the scuffed wood floor of the temple. "The Knights… well, yes, you are right, Teacher Rhys. They do exist." Another wave of gasps. He thought he heard someone faint, but dared not look up; instead, he addressed the floor. "And I am sure they are busy working on this new—development. Nothing has happened to the Knights, I mean." He was rambling. Never since his indoctrination had he felt like such a novice, struggling to spit words out to this elders. "It is a—disturbance. We cannot quite explain it. I have missives from other temples who say the same thing. It is very odd."
"A demonic invasion is odd?" Voraam shouted. "Odd? No, Elder, blue weevils in grain is odd. This is downright evil! Even if all we see are the ones who cannot survive, who knows what others are out there. It could be an invasion for all we know!"
"What have we done wrong to deserve this?" came a timid voice near the front.
A thousand things you have done wrong, the Elder wanted to say. You and everyone in here. Some of you shorting the weights of your goods, others selling rotten nuts buried in the barrels of good ones, a man slinking around with another man's wife (or even husband), a wife proclaiming love for a man she hates, only to get his money. You are all vile and deserve the evil that befalls you. These thoughts floated through his head, but he suppressed putting voice to them, if only because of a lone timid voice: This is terrifying my children. Unlike other elders, he believed children to be innocent. What sin was ever so great it punished the children and the innocent? For years he had dealt with indiscretion and sin on a purely individual level—a summer cold could be attributed to your lies about the number of ales you had drunk, or a pimple the result of a filched turnip from a field. These were easy ailments to throw back in the face of the individual, as a means to somehow force them to adapt a moral and righteous way of living. And he always took it upon himself to remind them that sin weaves complex knots, and we need to make sure to keep knots that are simple and straightforward (as straightforward as a knot could be). But this—this was something on a much larger scale. Perhaps it was punishment for sin, perhaps the demons were out to claim their due, to swallow the evil and subsume the hedonists. But children? Babes? Who could look a child in the face and tell them they will starve because his daddy slept with the innkeeper's daughter?
In front of the open-mouthed worshippers, he put his head in his hands, the large folds of his robe swallowing his face. When it emerged again, tears streamed from his cheeks. The lid was off and not going back—let them see his emotion. There was nothing left to hide. "You have done nothing wrong," he choked, against all the drilling thoughts that bore into his mind, all the teachers and elders who would tear off his left ear could they hear him now. "Nothing."