In the Shadow of Virtue: Compassion Sage By WarderDragon "All hail Her Majesty, the Queen," came a shout from the crowd. "All hail Dawn the Glorious." Vainglorious, Nicholas mused absently, a lion stalking the edges of that columned vista overlooking the Throne of Cantabrigian. His buckled black boots thudded against the paving stones. He did not want to be here. It was some sense of custom, tradition, or perhaps some misguided sense of duty to the line his ancestors once served that brought him here. It was too late to leave now. "Hail Your Highness," came another voice. The Duchess. Queen Dawn emerged from behind the curtain to stand beside the Pedistal, a poignant reminder of the missing crystal and the Queen's failure to protect it. The man formed the image of a flame in his mind. He fed all thought into it. All judgment. He could feel the cold steel of that hammer pendant nestled against his chest. He could feel the bruised rib, healing from the beating they had all taken to protect Spartus. He fed them them into the flame. He could feel the scratches and cuts on his shouders. He allowed those to remain. Dawn clapped her hands together. "I am so excited," she said in a cheered voice that carried through the Great Hall. "As you have surely heard, and perhaps even felt, there have been strange happenings at night." The gathering grew silent, the hush fell over them and wrapped them in a blanket of silence. "Sleeplessness," she continued. "Dreams." "Well, aren't you sweet," he murmured. "I am told there is a cure for it," those light brown eyes danced across the audience. "Compassion Sage." Red. Bloodshot. "I am told it is quite refreshing." Nicholas' brows knit together. She stepped down from the dais. It was meant to be a dramatic gesture. "I have asked you to come here," she lowered her voice, "So that you can help find this potion." He exuded calm. But he could feel the hairs on the back of his neck rise. The Lost Crystal. Saius dead. The Bane Chosen. And she sends her armsmen on an errand to retrieve herbs. As though she could sense him, she continued. "Compassion Sage can be found in Ilshenar," Dawn announced. "It is found on..." She concentrated. "Oh yes," Dawn corrected. "Something called a Controller?" He studied her close. This was the same Dawn that had once led the Britannians against the Legions of Chaos. This was the same Dawn that had once felled a hundred Controllers with her Grandfather's sword. Had she forgotten the Controllers? No. Impossible. "Controllers?" She smiled. "Are they not with the Exodus?" Something was not right. Nicholas' hand drifted to his sword hilt, easing the heavy blade from its sheath. The faint metallic rasp of steel on leather. He stopped short. "Not now, Northman," came a feminine voice. The soft hand. Lacquered nails biting into the bare flesh of his forearm. "Not yet." He slammed the weapon back into its sheath. He did not need to look to know the voice there. "It should be used once a day, I was told, and will cure your sleeplessness and dreams. I urge each of you to try and find it," Dawn smiled. The Duchess of the Northern Kingdom of Dawn stepped forward through the throng. "Are you sure it is safe to drink?" The Queen curtsied to her audience, and turned, gliding up the dais and back towards the secret door that lay behind the Throne. "Hello, Nicholas," came a sharp, feminine voice behind him. The figure that had been beside him was gone. Nicholas cast an absent glance over his shoulder. The shadowed figure was gone. "Glinmiali," he intoned, turning, offering a polite nod to the daughter of Queen Zanthes. "Ilshenar has never been kind to my Clan," she came to stand beside him. "The Temple of Exodus?" "Come with me." Authors Note: 'Compassion Sage,' a strange elixer that glows green, can now be wrestled from the Controllers of the Legions of Chaos. Controllers can be found in the Temple of Exodus and the Castle of Lord Blackthorne in Central Ilshenar. It remains unclear for what purpose these sorcerers are collecting the substance. But swallowing the drug prompts the user to feel more loving, compassionate and giving towards his fellow man. Compassion is a Virtue. Thus it is not in jest we say that this strange, halucinogenic induces something of a religious experience in its drinker.