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Elminster Speaks - Part 15
By Ed Greenwood
Serving the Dark Sun
Gormstadd justifies the delays in repairing and renewing the temple in two ways. He keeps a committee formed from his Exalted busy debating whether or not the holy grounds should be expanded north, involving the expense of a new wall and a loss of some of the Blackrukth, or expanded into land occupied by private dwellings, which will involve the cost of purchasing such holdings and--to gain local support--relocating the inhabitants to new dwellings at temple expense. The only empty ground near the temple lies due east, and is swampy land beyond the often-flooded East Pantry; its soggy condition has already caused that area of the wall to sink alarmingly.
The second route to ongoing delay is through his own loudly-lamented (and trumped-up) difficulties in finding workers he can trust. He insists that anyone setting foot inside the temple proper must be an avowed and demonstrably enthusiastic (through services or generous offerings) worshipper of the Dark Sun--and claims that his attempts to lure Cyricists who are masons or roofers or timberers from other places have thus far failed--the faith of True Darkness is flourishing so that all such crafters have long lists of tasks not yet begun, and Voonlar would only take its place very far down on them.
The busily scheming Dark Patriarch of Voonlar governs a Dark Blessed consisting of thirty human males: two Dark Hands (6th-level Paladins); four Blacksun Scourges (3rd-level Paladins); eight Sunshadows (2nd-level Paladins); and sixteen Fingers of Cyric (4th-level Fighters).
The Fingers are the well-trained (and locally deeply-hated, as the brutes who with club and blade and dog fangs carry out temple policy--and are not above "accidentally" torching the carts, produce stores, and even homes of those they dont like the looks of) temple guards. Hailing from larger Cyricist temples and sent to Voonlar to replace warriors lost to adventurer raids, they are expert sentinels. Practiced in the use of longswords and short bows, they wear plate armor and use shields (unlike their chainmailed predecessors), employing six war-dogs whenever they are sent outside the holy temple grounds (kenneled next to, but kept apart from, the Mad Black Hounds, in stone cells set into the walls on either side of the north gate). Gormstadd quite rightly regards most of them as spies set upon him by Cyricists elsewhere, and is careful to act every inch the loyal and even fanatical priest of the Dark Sun at all times when he might be under their observation.
Hes also well aware that although the most recklessly ambitious of his clergy are among the youngest Sunshadows, the real danger to him comes from possible treachery on the part of his two Dark Hands, Meirgin "Daggers" Windtalon and Bastabar Yulgont. Gormstadd has been careful to foster a feud between them, playing one off against another until their hatred--masked by silken politeness that fools no one--is so deep and savage that they can never hope to work together against the Dark Patriarch.
Gormstadd has been heard to call the two "my true vipers," undoubtedly a reference to the old maxim, "Temples of dark gods are truly nests of vipers; the power of such deities is most clear when one considers how seldom the snakes fang each other."
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