The City of Lives

Treasure Hunters for Hire: Weighed, Measured, and Found Wanting Part 1

The hunters, after a time of rest, returned to Mr. Fix for their next job. They came in on him standing over his perfectly innocuous carpet, lifting one corner and looking underneath. Caught in the secret, he immediately stamped his foot on the rug and refused to discuss it. Mr. Fix told the hunters that their next job was related to a series of strange deaths over in Templedowns—he suspected that it had something to do with a relic, and if it did, they were to bring it back to him. “Leave me alone with my rug—I mean, go do your job,” he said. After trying and failing to see what Mr. Fix had hidden under the carpet, the hunters headed for Templedowns.

Thalia did some talking through the underclasses, while Moregar cornered a friendly merchant, and together discovered that there had been a rash of suicides, and that one of the earliest ones had been a mass suicide at a nearby church of the Blinding Light. Meanwhile, Gemma investigated the place where another suicide had taken place, finding blood spatter and the cobblestones stained with Pariah tears, implying it was a desperate and miserable act, not one well-considered and planned. She hypothesized that someone had forced the Pariah to commit suicide. After Moregar spent a little time hanging out with the prostitutes—"Hey baby, ever touched feathers before?"—and Yorgen stood around feeling perfectly satisfied in his non-action, they headed over to the church.

They soon arrived at the church, a small example of the classical Blinding Light style, complete with the stylized sun-and-lightning-bolt symbol, gargoyles of Sons of Light, and images of the Light coming down and speaking to Its people, along with Prometheus in chains. Gemma, Thalia, and Moregar all ventured inside one by one, while Yorgen stayed outside and watered his mount Ilsa at a decorative fountain. Moregar was struck as soon as he entered with the screams of his ancestor spirits, wailing at the tremendous pain that had occurred there, sending him back out in anguish. Thalia was struck by the feeling that the church was “empty and wrong,” not filled with life like the rest of the world. Gemma also felt uncomfortable, but focused on the foul stench of death, and saw that the churchgoers had all killed themselves in the pews, nearly a week ago, leaving behind bloodstains and odors.

Moregar came in and asked his ancestors what had happened. They revealed the following vision: The churchgoers had been in their pews, a glowing thread stretching up from their chests and through the roof into the sky. Abruptly, the threads were severed and went dark, and the parishioners began weeping and killing themselves. Moregar came to the conclusion that they had been cut off from their faith, and Gemma was struck at the strangeness of all of them losing their faith at the same moment. Yorgen entered then, finally realizing something was going on he could help with. His Nullcrafting senses went crazy as he came into the church, detecting the afterimage of intense and terrible magic centered around the pews, but the source was up on the stage (for religious plays).

Thalia immediately jumped up on the stage and threw back the curtain, revealing a terrified Pariah. Through a series of good cop/bad cop interactions, he slowly grew to trust Thalia, but still tried to escape, only to be grabbed tight by Yorgen. The Pariah revealed his name as Benedykt, and told them the tale: his wife and son had recently died in a traffic accident, run down by horses, and the Church had done nothing for him. They told him to have faith, that the Light would provide, and refused to see that he had lost his faith. He wanted to show them what it was like, and purchased a creature called a “Faith-Eater” from a merchant in the Crux. He let the creature loose in the church, expecting it to make the parishioners feel as miserable as he did—but he didn’t expect them to lose all faith in everything and start committing suicide. Since then, he had been hiding in the church.

Gemma found the creature’s box, a mystical storage unit, and a trapdoor beneath it. While Yorgen examined the box and found a magical trail he could follow to the Faith-Eater, Thalia asked more about where it had come from: the Faith-Eater came from a Krakyn[maybe not] merchant, a squid-faced Outlander race that came from an underwater Realm, and who were famed for their rationalist society, eschewing gods entirely. Gemma followed the trapdoor, despite Benedykt’s protests, and found that he had been sleeping back there—and what’s more, he had piled all of the parishioners’ corpses into a storage room under the stage. They tied him up and headed out to track the Faith-Eater and lure it back to the church and the storage unit (which had been bolted to the wall as part of the summoning ritual).

Heading out into the streets, Yorgen took the hunters to the last place the Faith-Eater had been active, and they decided to try and bait it by believing really loudly. It worked, and the creature, a gigantic, wispy non-entity, appeared and began trying to feed from Yorgen. Yorgen then refused to follow the plan, staying stubborn and still, and the Faith-Eater split into many smaller wisps as well as its main form.

The hunters tried several different tactics to harm the creature, and initially none of them worked: Forceshifting couldn’t grab it, there was no Blood to Shift, a punch went right through it. Yorgen’s Nullcrafting seemed to harm it, but it was eroding at the hunters’ most cherished beliefs, making Yorgen believe that magic wasn’t so bad, making Thalia doubt her balance and art (“Maybe I Should Have Been a Lawyer”), making Moregar lose his faith in his ancestors (“Cut Off From His Spirits”), and making Gemma lose faith her own superiority and combat prowess (“Maybe I’m Not So Hot”).

The hunters began to realize that strong emotions could harm the Faith-Eater, and they started thinking at it, remembering happy times, lonely times, confusing times, even the terrible pain Thalia had felt from the Horns of Torment. Gemma got really creative, conjuring a miniature sun to make her compatriots feel warmth, sucker-punching Moregar to inflict his pain on the Faith-Eater, and finally tickling Thalia to give it the sense of happiness (“The Laughter, It Burns”).

The Faith-Eater eroded Moregar’s faith drastically, nearly taking him out completely and hurting him for a long time to come, and destroyed Yorgen’s belief in the evils of magic so much that Yorgen fell victim to his adolescent temptation of magic, releasing an entirely unprecedented Worldshaping that shook the earth and injured both himself and Thalia.

Finally, Yorgen struck the final blow with his Nullcrafting, destroying the purely magical Faith-Eater entirely. The hunters pondered if they had done the right thing, as they wouldn’t be able to sell the Faith-Eater to Mr. Fix, but they also knew it was too dangerous to sell to the highest bidder. Instead, they took down a wall in the church and removed the storage unit, then handed Benedykt over to the Thief-Binders for exile or execution for his crimes of mass manslaughter.

Mr. Fix wasn’t sure what to do with the storage unit, but he paid them a modicum of money and promised to pay them more if it turned out to really be worth something. Faith shaken, the hunters headed home.

A side note: The Droghan had once been great Worldshapers and Waveshapers, but a terrible war between those two elemental forces had demolished their world, and since then they have forced every child with the slightest modicum of Crafting talent to channel it into Nullcrafting, lest a new World- or Waveshaper arise. And now, with Yorgen, perhaps it has…

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