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Elminster Speaks - Part 16
By Ed Greenwood
The Dark Blessed
The Dark Hands of the temple are widely -- and justly -- feared both within the temple and in surrounding Voonlar. Villagers long ago dubbed them "the Bloody Hands," but as use of that phrase was quickly shown to be highly dangerous, it was swiftly shortened to "the Blood." If Voonlarrens could find a way -- any way -- to rid themselves of the Blood, they'd fall over themselves to do it. Failing that, they'll abet any means of exacerbating the feud between them, for the pure joy of seeing them at each other's throats.
One of the Dark Hands, Meirgin Windtalon, is slender, tall, darkly handsome, and well spoken. The other, Bastabar Yulgont, is broad-shouldered and fat, with the battered face and hands of a longtime warrior, and a growling voice that delivers a few menacing and well-chosen words rather than swift and smooth phrases.
Windtalon's nickname comes from the venomous sidelong glances he delivers to those who displease him. A glib and cheerfully toadying "born courtier" from Selgaunt (where he was one of the countless penniless younger sons of would-be noble families, strongly encouraged to go out and make their own ways in the world), Daggers is a master of temple courtesy, ritual, and the written word, an organizer and record-keeper whose every written line contains coded nuances for his own benefit. He has a long memory and even longer patience -- and woe betide those who've displeased him if he ever rises to become Patriarch, or sees a way of manipulating visiting adventurers or passing merchants into doing harm to his foes. He's found dozens of such ways in the past, specializing in goading drunkards into lashing out at targets of his choosing until Gormstadd bluntly told him to stop such "unsubtleties."
Although all regard him as dangerous, he's universally seen among all Voonlarran Cyricists as essential to the running of the Dark God Reformed. The Fingers see him as already being the true master of the temple. Gormstadd entrusts him with all written holy communications -- but watches him like the proverbial hungry falcon.
Bastabar Yulgont is a gruff former warrior gone to fat and bitterness, an aging man who knows his best years are behind him and senses that younger men like Windtalon are going to continually claw their ways up and over him to higher ranks in the faith if he doesn't do something bold and dramatic soon. Unfortunately, priests in the faith of the True Darkness who try things bold and dramatic tend to come to swift and bloodily brutal ends. So Yulgont is watchful for rifts within the temple, deeds and schemes of both Gormstadd and Windtalon that he can report to others or somehow use to discredit or weaken them, and opportunities that chance may toss into his lap -- such as adventurers' visits. If he can get someone else to destroy one or both of his two temple foes, and then lead the Fingers storming to avenge them, it would be the greatest gift from Cyric that he could hope for.
In the meantime, he insists that he, and he alone, be the tutor of all lay worshippers and novices aspiring to the priesthood. To them he's almost kindly -- hoping that some of them will support him at some time in the future, when he'll finally move openly against his rivals.
Although weak in magical accomplishments, Yulgont stole the secrets of enchanting wands to fire from afar (the source of the hanging sun's powers in the sanctum) from a dying Banite priest before he entered the faith, and retains firm control over such things, exaggerating the importance of his accomplishments and himself by shrouding his powers in as much mystery as possible.
With every day, however, he feels older. Sometimes, now, he awakens suddenly at night, his deep laughter rolling wildly out of his locked and bolted room, from vivid dreams of Windtalon shrieking on the altar under his hands, as he feeds his rival Dark Hand's innards sizzling into the braziers for the glory of Cyric. . . .
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