Omri stood at the base of the statue gazing up at the face of his goddess. He could hear the sounds of fighting approaching the church. “What would you have me do?”
His communion with the goddess was interrupted as the main doors to the church were quickly opened and slammed shut. “They’re almost here,” Kalin said, leaning against the door to catch his breath. “We must flee or be killed. They are cutting down everyone in their path.”
With a last look at his goddess, Omri made a decision. “You are right, Kalin. You must go. Use the south doors. Find your family and escape the city if you can.” Taking a pouch from his waist, Omri crossed the chapel to the offering box and opened it. Scooping out the few coins remaining, he deposited them in the pouch and pressed it into Kalin’s hand. “Take this and go quickly.”
“But what about you?” Kalin asked, worry in his voice. “You can’t stay here.”
“I have nowhere else to go. This church is my life. And giving that life in the service of Falicia is all I can really hope for. Don’t worry about me. Go. And be careful.” Omri quickly ushered Kalin to the doors at the opposite end of the church. “Go east through the cemetery and over the far wall.”
“But Omri, I can’t –“ Kalin tried to object.
“You must.” Opening the door, Omri propelled him on his way. “May the bounty of the goddess always shine on you and your family, Kalin. Now go!”
Shutting and barring that door, Omri returned to the main chapel and drew a chair to sit directly in front of the main chapel door which was closed but unbarred. He then retrieved his staff and sat with it across his lap to wait. It wouldn’t be a long one. The sounds of fighting and looting were growing louder by the minute.
It wasn’t more than a quarter of an hour later when the door to the church was thrown open. Sanding there was a small group of soldiers from the invading army. They paused at the sight of Omri sitting calmly in the chair before the door.
“What business have you here?” Omri asked, rising to his feet and resting the end of his staff on the floor. “This is a holy sanctuary and a place of worship. There is nothing for you here, continue on your way or face the displeasure of the harvest goddess.”
“What is your goddess going to do?” the leader of the group asked. “Frown at us?” Those behind him chuckled. “We’ll leave when we’re good and ready old man. And we’ll take what we want with us.”
Despite the gravity of the situation, Omri couldn’t help but smile to himself. “Old is in the eye of the beholder,” he thought to himself. “I’m only 37 but probably have at least a decade or more on these ruffians.”
Out loud he continued, “Begone or be cursed, anything you take from this sanctuary will only result in misery and suffering.” Omri could see him eyeing the golden basket and staff held by the statue of the goddess behind him.
“You have an army hiding in the shadows old man? I think the five of us are more than a match for you and we’ll take what we want.”
“So be it,” Omri said, then lowering his voice, “In the name of Falicia, goddess of the harvest and bounty, I curse all who would defile her sanctuary. May your lands never yield fruit, may your house be barren, and may all your endeavors forever turn to your ruin.”
The others were somewhat shaken by this bold pronouncement but the leader just looking around skeptically, “Are we supposed to be afraid now? The only thing to come to ruin is you old man. Let’s take him and loot this place, there’s gold to be had.”
The mention of gold galvanized the others to action and their greed overpowered their trepidation. As a group they surged toward Omri, the leader in the fore.
Omri just shook his head sadly. With practiced ease, his staff whistled through the air, the tip that had been resting on the floor catching the leader in the temple, stunning him. A quick reverse of the staff and the other end caught him in the sternum, knocking the wind out of him and pushing him back into the man behind him. Off balance, they both fell to the floor, arms and legs tangled.
The other three hesitated when they saw their leader go down but his angered, “Get him!” a moment later when he recovered his breath spurred them on. They rushed Omri en masse and he was hard pressed to keep them all at a bay.
Slowly retreating, he managed to land a few blows, including a broken arm before he was backed up against the statue of Falicia. Knowing that they could not easily get behind him, he went on the offensive. Caught off-guard by the sudden attack, Omri caught the leg of one of the men with the full force of a blow, breaking it and taking him out of the fight as he collapsed on the ground. This distracted the man with the injured arm and Omri caught him across the forehead with the staff, knocking him out.
Omri hadn’t escaped unscathed. Despite his best efforts he had received several cuts on his arms and legs and one on his side. He was bleeding more than he would like and knew he wouldn’t be able to keep this up much longer. He fully expected to die but wanted to make his attackers pay dearly. Giving it his all, he launched another attack at the remaining man facing him and allowed all of his indignation at the violation of his goddess’s church loose. His staff was a blur, first catching the man in the side, then the groin, and then across the temple. With that last blow, his opponent collapsed.
Unfortunately for Omri, that was the very moment the leader of the band rejoined the fight. Furious at being embarrassed in front of his men, he charged full speed at Omri, catching him just as he landed the finishing blow on the other soldier. Using his speed and mass, the leader slammed into Omri with his sword and knocking him back into the statue of Falicia. Omri managed to partially deflect the blow so that the sword impaled his leg instead of his abdomen but as his head snapped back into the marble of the statue, he lost all consciousness and collapsed to the floor.
Omri awoke in his bed, a feeling of peace in his soul despite the troubling memories in his mind. Carefully feeling his arms, legs, and head, he could find no traces of the wounds he remembered receiving in the battle with the soldiers.
Looking around his room, nothing was out of place and he was beginning to wonder if it was all a terrible dream. He dressed, and upon leaving his room, realized that it had not been a dream at all. The walls in the passage outside his room were blackened slightly with soot and the door out to the chapel was slightly askew, one of its hinges being broken. Carefully opening the door, he dreaded what he would see. The reality was both better and worse that he could have hoped and all the peace he had felt quickly evaporated.
His gaze first fell on the stone pedestal the statue of his goddess stood upon. It was blackened with soot and surrounded with charred fragments of the roof. Fearing what he would see, he raised his eyes to the statue itself. The gold basket and staff were gone but otherwise the statue of the goddess stood undamaged and unblemished on its pedestal in the golden morning sunlight.
Omri’s eyes blinked at the brightness. The church itself had been destroyed, The wooden beams and thatched roof had burnt to the ground and many of the stone walls collapsed as well. The main chapel and acolyte’s quarters were completely destroyed with half burnt furniture and other effects strewn about the floor. For some reason, however, the priest’s wing, where his rooms lay, was basically untouched, as was the stone archway over where the main doors once stood.
His heart heavy, Omri began sifting through the ruins and the rubble looking for anything that could be salvaged. After a while, he noticed that it was strangely silent, almost as if he was utterly alone. The sounds of fighting and a city under siege were gone. Looking around a bit more carefully, he noticed the six day old moon rising in the east. Which was odd, the last he remembered, it was just the second day after the new moon. That was the day the defenders broke through and the church was attacked. Could he have been asleep for four days? And for that matter, how had he gotten to his bed? And where were his wounds?
He returned to the center of the chapel and gazed once again up at the face of his goddess. There seemed to be something subtly different about the statue. He knew the face well, having gazed at it at least daily since the statue was placed in the church some fifteen year earlier. And besides that, he was the one who had given the description of the goddess that the sculptor used, having seen her in a vision at age nine. This face had been in his mind for nearly three decades. Maybe it was the sunlight, but the statue looked even more lifelike than usual, as if she was going to come to life and step down of the pedestal.
With that thought, Omri’s breath caught as another memory flooded into his mind.
Groggy and in intense pain from the sword wound in his leg, Omri struggled for consciousness. He was laying at the base of Falicia’s statue and could hear the looters moving around the church.
“That’s everything of value,” he heard on of the men say.
“Wasn’t much,” their leader replied. “Besides the basket and staff off the statute there were only a few silver candlesticks and a few coins. And the gold is only leaf, not even solid. We’re done here. Let’s go.”
“Not even worth the trouble the priest gave us,” another muttered under his breath. Omri thought that was the one with the broken arm.
“What was that?” the leader called out.
“Nothing,” came the reply. “Just muttering about my arm.”
“The priest is still breathing, should we finish him off?” one of the others asked.
“Don’t bother. If that wound doesn’t kill him, what I’m about to do next will.” With that, the leader lit two torches; one he tossed into the pile of pews thy had stacked up in the center of the room and the other he tossed up into the rafters over the statue. “That will finish him off.”
Omri lay there with his eyes closed as they left, trying not to cry out in pain. After the sound of their departure died away, he opened his eyes to the site of the thatched roof starting to catch fire. He knew he needed to get up and get out of the church but the pain was simply too great.
Steeling himself, sat up to get a better look at his wound and try to move. The movement sent new stabs of pain through his body and he nearly passed out. As he sat there waiting for the agony to subside a bit, he noticed that the room was brighter than it should have been but as soon as he noticed it, the light subsided.
He was about to make another attempt to move when he heard a woman’s voice call his name. “Dear Omri, be at peace and remain where thy are.” His whole body exalted at that voice, and he looked up to see his goddess standing before him, the statute come to life.
She quickly knelt by his side and took his hands in hers and Omri felt power washing over him. The pain subsided but he felt a deep and weary exhaustion enter his very bones. Standing, she raised him up but he was too weak to stand unsupported. “Lean on me,” she commanded and began to guide him to his chambers.
“The fire,” Omri protested, “we must leave.”
“Quiet, everything will be fine.” She led him to his room and helped him lay in his bed. “You must rest now.”
As she said this, his weariness overcame him and he could feel himself losing consciousness. She took his hand and held it as he drifted into oblivion.
Omri drifted in and out of sleep several times over the next few hours, each time he saw his goddess watching over him. She smiled at him each time he opened his eyes and he would quickly drift back into slumber with that vision in his mind.
The last time he awoke, it was close to dawn and the goddess held his hand once again. Before he could speak, she said, “You must sleep Omri and continue to heal. You will be safe until then.” She then leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, whispering, “I will return.” With that, she laid his hand upon his chest and turned and left the room.
Omri wanted to follow but could not rise and once again fell into a deep sleep.
Omri shook his head, looking again at the statute. “Had it really happened?” he thought. His lack of wounds, the pristine statute among all the ruin, and the lost four days seemed to indicate that it had. That final whispered “I will return” teased at his mind and his soul. He desperately hoped that it was true and that he could commune with his goddess again.
Over the next few weeks, Omri did the best he could to clean up the remains of the church. In addition to removing the debris, he cleaned the statue’s pedestal and replaced the basket and staff with simple wooden and wicker ones. Somehow, that actually looked better than the golden ones that had been stolen.
Omri discovered that he was not alone in the destroyed city. There were other survivors that came out of hiding over the next few days as well. While there was not much he could do aid them, he provided what comfort he could and assisted them in finding supplies among the ruins of the city. Several groups of refugees asked him to come with them as they left but each time he declined the offer. That whispered promise still floating in his mind.
A few weeks later, and everyone that Omri had encountered in the city had left, the last group leaving three days before. As far as he knew he was the only one still there. He had gathered up a number of supplies and had done the best he could to clean and repair the still standing parts of the church. As he looked around, the loneliness and isolation began to sink into his soul. “Maybe I should have left with that last group,” he thought to himself.
That evening, as he was preparing to retire, he felt inspired to check on the goddess’s statute one last time. As he approached the door to leave the still standing wing of the church that was now his home, he noticed a faint glow coming under the door. His heart quickening, he opened the door to see that the glow was emanating from the statue itself. As he watched, the cold white marble of the statue began to assume the colors of life …
As I was working on the most recent of my Two Sheet Locations, The Shrine of the Harvest Goddess, there was just too much backstory to include in the four pages I had. And in truth, it wasn’t needed for the location to be used in game. But it was there and wanted to get out on the page so here is at least a part of it. I hope you enjoyed the story of how Omri survived that fateful night. Fee free to leave comments and questions below.