Chapter 4: Priestly Persuasion

The next day Mijinji gave into Vermogen's constant pestering and they stopped early at the town of Phoscar for the day. Vermogen danced around Mijinji and Clessa singing, as they entered the inn, amusing the mage and annoying the warrior. After they had finished dropping their packs off at their rooms they went back out to the stables to care for their horses.

"I'm surprised you gave in that easily," Clessa remarked as she curried Magewind. "I thought you'd have protested more."

Mijinji snorted. "I have to give in now and then. If I don't he can get annoying. It doesn't help that he's persistent."

"Persistent?"

"Three days is his record. Three days of songs about how great towns are, constant questions about when we were going to stop and him going on and on about how much better fresh, cooked food is. If I hadn't finally given in I'd have killed either him or myself. We actually lost the mage that was travelling with us because of it."

"You normally have a mage with you?"

"I like to. One less thing to worry about. Of course I've had trouble keeping any around the last little while. Most of them can't take Vermogen for long."

"Then why didn't you…"

"Get rid of him? He's the best partner I've had. He has his quirks, more then most people I'll admit, but he works hard, doesn't balk at orders, listens when it's important and tries his best. Besides he has the most…unique set of skills I've ever had in a partner. Occasionally he disappears when we stop in places and comes back with some new skill. Once he learned how to walk on a tightrope. Last time he learned how to pick locks."

"Where did he learn that?"

"I met a thief." Vermogen said, leaning against the wall that divided Magewind's and Stormheart's stalls.

Clessa jumped, startling Magewind. Patting the horse to reassure her, Clessa asked. "He just offered to teach you how to pick locks?"

"Yep. We went drinking first. He said he thought I was an interesting guy."

"How come when I asked you you wouldn't tell me but when she asks you answer?" Mijinji asked.

"Because you'd have been upset."

Clessa snickered, earning herself a glare from Mijinji.

"Are you two almost done?" Vermogen asked.

"I'm done." Clessa said, putting the brush away.

Mijinji put his comb away before asking. "What do you two want to do now?"

"Lunch!" Vermogen cried as he grabbed the other two's arms and dragged them back to the common room, much to the amusement of the other customers and the inn's staff.

"Alright fine," Mijinji snapped as Vermogen pushed him down into a chair. Laughing Clessa sat in another and Vermogen plopped himself down into the third, grinning hugely.

Consuming his food with a speed that would leave most people gaping, Vermogen then amused himself by tilting his chair back and forth as he studied the other patrons, ignoring Mijinji and Clessa. There were only two other occupied tables. One held a young couple and the other a large group of chattering girls who kept shooting glances over at their table and giggling. Smiling at them, Vermogen gave a little wave, sending them into another fit of blushes and giggles.

The sound of the door opening, caught his attention and Vermogen watched as two men in blue, purple and green robes wound their way around the other golden wood tables on their way towards the trio's table. "Are you three mercenaries for hire?" The lead man asked tired brown eyes hopeful.

Mijinji nodded. "Yes but it depends on the job."

"Would you mind coming with us then and talking? I'd prefer to negotiate in private." The older man asked, glancing about the room quickly.

Vermogen chose this moment to allow his chair to fall back to the floor with a loud thump making the two strangers jump.

Rolling his eyes, Mijinji said "Behave Vermogen," before getting up. The other two followed suit as the two robed individuals led them out into the bright sunlight. Down the street they went until they reached a fairly large temple at the end of the main road. "If you'd come inside with us please," Their guide asked, holding the door open.

Clessa and Mijinji walked straight in but Vermogen held back. "I think I'm going to head back to the inn," He said.

"Vermogen don't be stupid. We're negotiating a contract which means you're coming too. Now get in here," Mijinji replied, rolling his eyes.

Teetering on the edge of entrance, the young man shook his head. "I don't want to go inside."

"What's your problem?"

"I don't like temples," Vermogen admitted. The two priests exchanged looks before turning to stare at him.

"You don't like… Oh for the love of the gods," Mijinji snapped before reaching forward, grabbing Vermogen's arm and yanking him forward.

Vermogen stumbled into the room and face pale, whipped his head about as he looked around almost as if he expected to be attacked.

"See?" Mijinji said. "No problem."

"I still don't like it," Vermogen replied, rubbing his arms and glancing about nervously as he followed the others.

The priests led them through the main temple area into the living quarters eventually ushering them into a small office. Once everyone was seated comfortably and refreshments had been served the lead priest began. "We've been having a bit of a problem lately with thefts. Specifically the theft of our altar items and contents of our charity fund. We've tried several times to catch the thief but the culprit always manages to slip by. We want you three to catch the person."

"Why don't you just pray to your god for assistance?" Mijinji wanted to know.

"Because our god hasn't been answering any prayers for the past year. Just like all the other gods or had you forgotten about the war that's going on?" Snapped the younger of the pair.

"I knew the gods weren't answering normal prayers but I thought maybe they were still answering their priests' prayers. No need to get so testy."

"What war?" Vermogen asked.

The other four people turned to stare at him. "What do you mean 'what war'? Have you been living under a rock for the past year?" The younger priest asked incredulous.

Mijinji shook his head. "I know you never really pay attention to what's going on but really Vermogen."

The older priest sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly. "For some reason around this time last year the gods began dividing themselves into factions. The reason for the factions and the difference between factions is currently a hotly debated topic but the reason isn't really important. What is is that the different factions have been fighting amongst themselves for the past year, ignoring their worshippers and stirring up all kinds of trouble. Their warring has caused all sorts of strange creatures to appear, new islands to form, weather patterns to shift and in one area a massive earthquake. Until they resolve whatever problem started this it will continue I fear."

"So all we have to do is catch the thief?" Mijinji asked, steering the conversation back to its proper track.

"Yes. And if it is at all possible recover what was stolen though I have my doubts about there being anything to recover."

Vermogen who had been fidgeting since they sat down, jerked his head up and looked at the priest. "If we don't get her things back, Pavone will be angry. Very angry. We need to get them back."

The two priests stared at Vermogen. "Yes, our goddess can be…temperamental but we have nothing to fear," the younger priest replied.

"She'll blame you."

The older priest raised his hand, stopping his companion from giving Vermogen a piece of his mind. "Our altar accouterments are highly recognizable. I very much doubt the thief has found a buyer but there is always the possibility they've been melted down. As for our goddess… she has not been answering our prayers so she cannot be terribly angry about this."

Vermogen shrugged but before he could say anything else Mijinji said hurriedly, "We'll take the job."

Smiling now, the two priests thanked them effusively before showing them out, Vermogen's odd comments apparently forgotten. But not by Mijinji or Clessa. Once closeted in Mijinji's room in the inn they both turned to stare at their companion.

"Alright Vermogen, what was that all about?" Mijinji demanded.

"What was what all about?"

"Well," the black-haired man began sarcastically, "First, you refuse to enter the temple, then you have no idea that the gods are fighting when it's discussed near constantly and lastly you start telling the priests that their goddess is going to be angry with them."

"I don't like temples and I don't like priests."

"Not even your own god's temples and priests?" Clessa asked.

Vermogen shook his head. "Don't have a god."

"You don't…everyone has a god!" Mijinji snapped.

The young man shrugged as he folded his legs into a pretzel shape. "I don't. Don't like most gods. They're not very nice. Aleatorio, Sonrisa and Glemskhet are alright though."

"You…you know not worshipping any of the gods can be considered blasphemy?"

"Depends."

"I…you know what? I give up. Do what you like. I'd just suggest you keep quiet about not worshipping any of the gods. Especially around priests."

Vermogen grinned. "I know. I didn't even tell you until you asked."

Mijinji sighed. "Alright then. I'm going to take a nap. I have a headache. We'll discuss strategy after dinner."

Humming to himself absently, Vermogen, followed by Clessa, left Mijinji's room. Watching him wander towards his rooms, the mage had to wonder about him. It seemed even Mijinji, who'd known him for months, still had no idea who he really was. This bothered her. It bothered her more then she liked to admit.