Inquisitor Yinchen Pirate Skin

The Pirate Yinchen was among the first to set foot in Heathmoor when Boy Yin’s fleet docked on its frozen shores. She was quickly intrigued by the people of this foreign land, and their idea of fidelity. This was, after all, a land divided by fealties and alliances, where identity, class and belief mattered above all. While the people were constantly at war, she noticed a strange balance to this world. An understanding that allowed the Pirates to thrive.

But all of that changed when the Chalice of Immortality was first unearthed. A shift began to take place. The people began to look to idols of the past for answers – for guidance. And as more and more relics were found, Yinchen saw this stability begin to crumble. And out of the broken pieces came the Servants of the Stake. Violent fanatics hellbent on spreading their bloody beliefs. She saw firsthand their horrific practices, and the suffering they left in their wake. Yinchen was never one to take sides, or to believe in the rule of Horkos. But hoping to stop the Servants, she joined the Inquisition. On their side, she could protect the people. Only, she was misled. For in the eyes of the Inquisition, all were guilty.

Faith & Conviction

Part I.

The rain hadn’t stopped falling for three days. But somehow, it felt like it had gone on much longer than that. There was a damp smell in the air, the kind that reminded one of wriggling worms, and it stayed in place thanks to the complete lack of wind. Fields, dirt roads, and patches of grass were now nothing more than wet mud, slippery in some places, thickening feet traps in others. Inquisitor Yinchen’s clothes stuck to her skin, heavy and drenched in cold. But she didn’t mind it. She was a Pirate, after all, and if there was anything a life at sea had taught her, it was to learn to live in soaked garments.

It was just a few hours after sundown, and the town of Waterstop would have been quiet were it not for the group of Fanatics who were holding a cursed ceremony out in the open. They called themselves the Servants of the Stake – relic worshippers. And they were dangerous.

Curious citizens had walked out of their homes in the night to witness the eerie proceedings. Some stood from a distance, clearly wary of the ritual unfolding in the heart of their home, but others stood far closer. These individuals looked far more intrigued, one breath away from joining their ranks. Yinchen wondered how someone could join a group so vile, and so corrupted in their own beliefs that they would commit such atrocities.

But she reminded herself that most of these people had no idea who the Fanatics really were, and what they had really done. These people, they hadn’t seen what she had seen – altars of dripping blood, piles of dismembered bodies, all used to draw unholy patterns and symbols. And the horror in the eyes of those who had been at their mercy. Those she had helped save. It had been too late for them. But she could still save the people of Waterstop. Spare them from the Fanatics and their grim practices.

She watched from the shadows as the Fanatic priest walked across the lightly elevated stage, ever nearing a kneeling villager, a young woman with unkempt hair and tears in her eyes, hoping for a dark blessing. A salvation that would never come. A lie dipped in venom.

The gunshot was all anyone heard. Smoke spun out of the barrel of Yinchen’s pistol as the priest fell to the ground. A shocked silence was broken by the screams of the frightened. Leaping out from the dark and into the glow of torchlights, Inquisitor Yinchen struck down the nearest Fanatic. With a thundering roar, the other Inquisitors, who had been waiting for their moment to strike, joined the fight. Yinchen sliced her way through the Fanatics, jumping off the stage in a manner that reminded her of a particularly nasty fight against a crew of bandits out at sea. For a moment, she saw the woman from the stage run back into the crowd, taking a little girl in her arms, shielding her from the bloodbath. Her daughter, Yinchen deduced. “Good,” the Pirate thought. Better she tend to her child than fall into the thralls of the Fanatics.

Yinchen rushed towards the mother and daughter. She would ensure that both would see tomorrow’s sunrise. Pistol and sword both in hand, she fought beside them, protecting them from the Fanatics who, in their desperation, had turned on the people of Waterstop, screaming of blasphemy. Typical of them, really. There was no honor in what they preached. No deliverance. Only pain.

She could hear the little girl crying, and she wanted nothing more than to tell her it would all be well. That all this would end.

When the fighting stopped, all Fanatics had been eliminated. All that was left were the Inquisitors, and the villagers who had been trapped by the battle.

The rain kept falling. Heavier than before. And colder.

Yinchen knelt next to the little girl and noticed she had dropped her toy, a burlap doll of some sort, half-buried in the mud. Yinchen picked it up, clumsily cleaned it as best she could, and handed it to the child with a smile that was, through tears, returned.

Yinchen got back up, patted the little girl on the head, and started walking back toward her fellow Inquisitors.

And that’s when it all turned black.

“Kill the rest,” the Inquisitor General ordered.

Yinchen froze as the Inquisitors turned on the people of Waterstop – the people they were supposed to protect. Swords, axes and spears struck down on the unarmed. The night filled with helpless, horrified screams. Yinchen’s eyes watered with shock-filled tears.

The little wicker doll fell again – a lifeless hand inches away.

Part II.

The Inquisitors were talking amongst themselves, but Yinchen didn’t listen. The voices were distorted. The air was thin. Her heartbeat drummed in her ears. After the Waterstop Massacre, they had ridden back to Castle Curatio, on the utmost eastern border of Ashfeld – the place all members of the Inquisition had come to call home. Yinchen had been silent all the way through and, now everyone gorged on a morning feast, seemingly unaware – or at the very least completely unfazed – by what had happened just a few hours ago. When so many people died. Not just the Fanatics, but the people. Innocents. Villagers who had just gotten out of the warmth of their homes out of curiosity. People who were confused, lost, looking for meaning. These people had committed no heresy, and certainly no atrocities. She gripped the doll tied to her belt in her hand. So tight her fingers were starting to prickle. She remembered walking across the sea of bodies. Catching a glimpse of the little girl’s lifeless hand. The doll’s feet, sticking out of the crimson-colored mud.

A hoarse laugh brought her back to the here and now. A few members of her group had already departed on another task. But others remained, lounging around the keep reserved for Inquisitors only, their weapons laid to the side as they ate, drank and told each other stories. Some talked about the Fanatics’ main place of worship, the Relic Keep. Others joked about the massacre. They were all so careless. Oblivious to the war that was raging inside her. Yinchen suddenly became all too aware of the foul smell in this forsaken place. This wasn’t where she wanted to be. And, she was coming to realize, this isn’t who she wanted to be.

“Shut your mouth!” she snapped at the two Inquisitors who sat nearest her: Silas, a Black Prior with a scar across his right eye who was at Waterstop alongside her, and a Zhanhu she had never even seen before. They both stared in stunned silence for a moment, before Silas downed the rest of his drink in one messy gulp, wiped his chin with his forearm and got up to face Yinchen.

“What did you just say?” he asked

“These people did not have to die. They hadn’t done anything wrong.” Yinchen felt like her entire body was shaking. She had no idea if it showed in her voice.

“You heard the General,” the Black Prior said. “They were part of the cult. Even just associating with them is an offense. Tolerance is grievance. Punishable by death. Or have you forgotten.” He stared at Yinchen, almost in defiance, before adding: “Come to think of it, when the order was given, I don’t recall seeing you move a muscle,” he hissed. She noticed his hand discreetly approach the hilt of his sword. “Is that a problem for you?”

She didn’t have to justify herself to him. She knew who she was, and what she stood for. She hadn’t joined the Inquisition to be a blind executioner. She was supposed to help. To stop the villains. And right now, the Knight in front of her looked an awful lot like the villain.

Her body wasn’t shaking anymore. Her breath was steady. Calmly, she let go of the doll.

“Yes,” she said steadily. “It is.”

Her sword was already in her hand before Silas had the chance to reply. The blade pierced right through him, before she kicked the body down to clear a path toward the Zhanhu. The Wu Lin warrior rushed for his weapon, but it was much too far -- and Yinchen was much too fast. She flipped onto the table and stabbed his hand right through the wood. Her enemy screamed in pain, before she unholstered a pistol and shot a bullet in his neck.

The other Inquisitors, initially taken aback by the commotion, had now armed themselves and were screaming over one another for Yinchen to surrender. She counted them. There were five. She had two other pistols. Two bullets. This would be easy.

When the fight was won, Yinchen found her horse and rode away from the castle. She wasn’t certain where she was heading, but she knew what she wanted to do: help. She reached for the Inquisition engraving on her chest and ripped it off. This crest was not for her. She let it fall on the ground as she looked to the sky. The clouds were thinning, the sun doing its darnedest to pierce through the gloom. Perhaps the rain would finally stop.

Part III.

The people had been gathered in the center of a rundown cathedral. The moonlight sparkled through the stained glass windows, covering the shadowy stone interior in a shower of purple, red and yellow. There were about two dozen villagers huddled near the altar, covered in cloaks and blankets to shield themselves from the cavernous cold. Some shivered, others whimpered – for the Inquisitors gathered around them, weapons in hand. This was to be another mass execution, a senseless atrocity justified only by the ignorance and cruelty found in the wicked hearts of men.

Yinchen watched the scene unfold from her perch atop the cathedral. Holding herself steady and hidden from sight behind the gargoyle of a monster with serrated, twisting horns, she waited for her moment to strike. Ever since she had left the Inquisition, she had followed in the footsteps of her former order. Not to stop them from annihilating the Fanatics, but to ensure that something like the Waterstop Massacre would never happen again. It was clear the Inquisitors had no interest in differentiating friend from foe, and she intended to stop them from spilling innocent blood. Already, rumors and stories circulated between villages – tales of the Fallen Inquisitor. A wraith in the night, a savior of the people. Few had seen her clearly. Fewer had dared approach her. But all knew that she was the only one on their side. The only warrior intent on rectifying the injustice that had swept across the land. A hero.

One of the Inquisitors was shouting a long list of accusations that echoed deeply in the cacophonous structure of the cathedral. It didn’t matter that the people protested or refuted the claims. The Inquisition had decided they were guilty – and they would suffer the fate of the guilty. There was no time to waste. Yinchen wrapped her forearm around the rope, making sure her hold was secure. “Just like old times,” she thought. And with the swashbuckling grace of a Pirate who had lived through more seafaring battles than she could recall, she jumped down. The motion pulled the bell atop the tower, and it rang so loudly that all Inquisitors were caught by surprise. She hoped that the sound rang out loudly in the night. That all who heard it knew she was out there. Fighting. Pushing back against the unrighteous.

She gunned down one target before her feet even touched the ground. Next, her sword was in hand, and she attacked. But even she didn’t anticipate what came next. In the mass of villagers, a shivering call to arms erupted out. Hoods and cloaks were removed in grand gestures, revealing that a band of Fanatics had been hiding among the people. Using the innocent as a shield. Cowards hiding among the good. The Fanatics struck down the people around them – gruesomely and mercilessly – clearing a path to the Inquisitors. The continued, deafening ringing of the clattering bell drowned out the tortured screams of the dying. Blood spilled on these once hallowed grounds, spoiling them, transforming them into something unholy. The horror was too much for Yinchen to bear. She had seen more than her fair share of cruelty, both out at sea and in her time in Heathmoor. But this cruelty, this war of the self-righteous, was all so maddening. Infuriating. There was no right and wrong anymore. Fanatics? Inquisition? They were all so… evil. Down to their rotting roots.

All of this needed to end.

Yinchen kept close to the villagers, killing Inquisitors and Fanatics alike, who were all seemingly more interested in fighting one another. With both camps locked in battle, Yinchen used the opportunity to escort the handful of villagers outside, and instructed them to hide.

She watched them as they ran towards safety. Behind her, the battle raged on through the archway of the cathedral. But she didn’t look back. There was no point in returning to this fight. It was frivolous. Pointless. She couldn’t just be a mystery in the night, waiting for the next massacre to leap into battle. She couldn’t be just a responsive force. She had to act.

The real battle lay ahead. At the Secluded Keep. The beating heart of the Servants. A location she had never, until this very moment, saw the need to visit. But now, it all seemed so obvious. There was only one end to this conflict: the relics. They were the cause of all this misery. She needed to find them. Destroy them. She had to cut off the head of the snake.

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