|“||By his hand we are guided.||”|
The Hand of Ptolemos was an order founded by Rosaline Haines, a then undead human who served under the Mahjarrat Ptolemos. Members were taught the sacrifice made by the order's namesake, whose true nature remained ambiguous, in his quest to rid the world of the gods' influence. Inspired by his tale, the order's members rejected the gods and dedicated themselves to living a secular lifestyle. It was led by Alaric Huang the Fair until its mysterious destruction.
While serving under Ptolemos, Rosaline was known to travel extensively for unknown purposes. It was later revealed that she was persuading different men, women, and creatures to fight for his cause, as well as for the power he could grant them. She succeeded in gaining the allegiance of several different parties. They took up residence in the many tunnels crisscrossing the ancient dragonkin ruins Ptolemos occupied.
However, upon his defeat, the cavern containing the ruins twisted and collapsed. Few made it out alive. Rosaline, although caught in the initial blast, was able to escape with her life. She gathered the survivors and led them to the Forinthry Ossuary, a place she had history with, and set up their new headquarters.
Ptolemos, upon his return, didn't immediately make his presence known. He walked among the newly initiated as an equal, reflecting on the order itself. He was impressed with what he saw. Rosaline was a capable leader; add Sacheverell's cold logic and Steven's humanity, and they made an excellent committee.
After completing his own work, Ptolemos revealed himself to those three. He explained how they must keep his presence a secret, lest the order crumble. With the three under his guidance, Ptolemos led the order indirectly up until his death, whereupon Sacheverell took over as leader.
Now with two of the highest ranking members gone, and with their temporary leader's health deteriorating, several senior members of the order have started to question the nature of how things are ran. After Sacheverell's death, Alaric Huang became the order's leader. He revolutionized the Hand of Ptolemos, earning the title 'the Fair' by those in the order. Under his reign the order thrived for a time before it and the temple were attacked and destroyed. There were no known survivors.
With the strange appearance of a portal in the forest outside Lumbridge, a small party of members from the order are sent to investigate, and to contain, if need be. Led by Marshal Lothar aus Ronasil, they travel to Draynor. On the way they're attacked by the Big High Army, resulting in the loss of some warriors and supplies. When they reach the town, they're met with resistance by the local guardsmen. They set up a command post outside the forest and wait to be allowed entry.
One day, while waiting outside the forest, Lothar sees Magus Concendo leaving it. He waves the wizard down and the two discuss the portal forming within the forest. Both agree it's dangerous and should be destroyed as soon as possible. They then part ways. Afterwards, during one of the following nights, a man comes upon their camp. Introducing himself as James, he and Lothar talk about the portal and Magus. James shows interest in the wizard and says he'll return later, so they may plan a way to pass the guards. He also tells Lothar to keep an eye out for Magus.
During morning exercises a few days later Magus returns to tell Lothar that he and his men need to pack up and move. When questioned, he states that the whole thing is a military drill being conducted by the kingdom of Misthalin in preparation should an event like it happen in the future. Lothar doesn't believe him, but grudgingly does as he's told. After giving the order for his men to pack up, Lothar makes sure to ask where they can find Magus in the future.
True to his promise, James returns, although not personally. In his place is Lycan Roach of the Worshippers of the Dragonkin, along with two other members. They ask to speak in private, to which Lothar obliges by leading them to his tent. There they discuss the matter of the defenses of the forest, what lies past it, and Magus Concendo. Lycan proposes an alliance between the two groups until the issues are dealt with. Lothar explains how he must first ask his leader before making any promises. As they leave, he also gives them a file detailing what he and his men have seen around the forest, as well as who and what's been entering in.
Lothar approaches the Wizards' Tower, seeking Magus. He gives him an offer: in return for information that could save lives, Magus must allow him access to the forest. Magus allows this and the two go to the forest. When they both get there, Lothar is surprised what he sees. Magus then asks what information he has, to which Lothar divulges his meeting with the dragonkin worshippers. He lies about their location, however, saying they're camped in the Lumbridge Swamps. Magus tells Lothar to learn what he can and report back to him, lest he share in their fate. He then leaves.
Noticing an increase of traffic entering the forest, Lothar prepares his men should the worse come to pass. He goes to the portal, accompanied by two of his men. After talking to Magus, the two, fearing the worse, devise a plan to get the Hand of Ptolemos to Lumbridge within the next few days. Messengers are sent and the call is made: the Hand of Ptolemos was going to war.
With the aid of Magus, the soldiers of the Hand of Ptolemos arrive a few days after the appearance of Saradomin and Zamorak. Rosaline admits they'll be fighting under Zamorak, but after Zamorakian ships fire on her own men, she angrily refuses to side with his army. But ss it turns out, those ships were actually hired to act the part of Zamorakians. Rosaline learns of this after interrogating one of the shipmates who was caught following her back to their camp. Realizing that neither side can be trusted, she has her army split. Half go to fight for Saradomin while other half head to fight for Zamorak. Both then infiltrate the respective gods' ranks and learn what they can, acting the part of obediant followers.
While participating in one of the many skirmishes held within the crater near Lumbridge, Rosaline receives injuries. She decides to return to the Forinthry Ossuary and have Sacheverell mend her body. Lothar is given temporary command of their military until she returns. Upon her arrival Rosaline makes a discovery that changes everything: her master's lingering memory and the shattered remains of his precious Mahjarratbane. She is last seen leaving the temple on the back of the griffin Skelkesh. With her gone Sacheverell is left to lead the order by himself as Steven was among those taken to Lumbridge.
After sustaining heavy casualties, the order's military forces withdraw from the Battle of Lumbridge. Lothar is among the wounded. They retreat to the Forinthry Ossuary while Steven volunteers to stay behind and keep watch over the battle. When strange energy rifts spring up near the crater, Steven investigates and is drawn to the art of divination. During this time Rosaline finally resumes contact with Sacheverell.
Once Lothar recovers from his wounds received during the Battle of Lumbridge he's advised to leave the Forinthry Ossuary by Sacheverell, who explains how many of the order's members blame him for their crippling loss at Lumbridge. Since Rosaline is nowhere to be found they had only him to blame; it would be only a matter of time before they call for his execution, he goes on to say. Lothar reluctantly agrees to leave and returns to Lumbridge to help defend it until the battle ends, taking with him his few remaining loyal officers.
Once the battle ends Lothar and his officers remain near the town until they decide when—or if—they will leave to go elsewhere. Steven briefly returns to the Forinthry Ossuary to alert the order of Zamorak's defeat at the hands of Saradomin.
Lothar attends a council of sorts after receiving an invitation from Magus to discuss the possible threat of more gods returning and laying waste to Gielinor and its inhabitants. It's decided that an alliance will be made, with Winlit Temel receiving the most votes to lead an incident response team should another crisis involving a god arise. Lothar expresses his doubt over whether Winlit would able to respond effectively once most of the guests leave. Magus later speaks with him in private, where they discuss Winlit, Lothar's men, and the Worshippers of the Dragonkin. As he leaves, Magus tells Lothar he will be in touch.
Lothar is approached by Magus one day while leading a training exercise for his men. They speak in private, where Magus offers him a position on Karamja. Lothar asks for some time to think it over and discuss it with his men, although he hints at knowing their decision already. Later, after Magus leaves, Clerk delivers a letter to him from Lothar saying he accepts his offer.
Lothar and his company remain in Lumbridge until it's rebuilt. They then board one of Magus' ships and are taken to a camp on Karamja, where Lothar supervises training over those willing to fight against the gods. After several weeks, Lothar is warned by Magus to prepare his men for the possiblity of another god event after he'd heard rumors of one in the works.
After docking at Taverley, Lothar is met once again by Magus, who informs him of the appearance of Armadyl and Bandos. They discuss how he will coordinate his men. The two part on good terms. Lothar takes his men to the outskirts of Falador, where they set up camp to observe how the event plays out. Later, Lothar is taken to Magus so they can discuss tactics.
Lothar and his men actively participate in the conflict that raged between Bandos and Armadyl. During one skirmish near its end Lothar is badly injured and slips into a coma, forcing Toby Almaard to assume leadership of the company. In an act of vengeance she focuses all of their efforts on hampering Bandosian forces from collecting the divine energy they require. They later witness Bandos' demise at the hands of Armadyl's god-killing superweapon. They then retreat from the city to an abandoned keep and prepare for future god events.
Meanwhile Rosaline returns to the Forinthry Ossuary to check and see if anything's amiss. She's attacked by soldiers from the order, who kill Skelkesh and take Rosaline prisoner. She escapes with Steven's help, but not after killing a dying Sacheverell. Alaric Huang the Fair sentences her to death, although the punishment is never dealt. He goes on to make several changes to the structure and layout of the order.
Several weeks following Bandos' death, Toby and Ronasil's Company encounter Ptolemos and Rosaline. They allow the two to take shelter in the keep for the time being as they consider their next move. As the weeks become months, Toby realizes how the Company has went from a group dedicated to protecting innocents from the gods to a group meeking out an existence in an abandoned keep, preying on any remaining Bandosians they could find. Dissatisfied with this lifestyle and how the Company has turned out, Toby elects to disband the party. Its members go their separate ways, all except for Clerk who refuses to leave Toby's side.
Many months later, Rosaline Haines returns to the Forinthry Ossuary after being contacted by Steven Weaver and discovers the temple in ruins, destroyed by an unknown entity. She and Steven bury the dead, cementing the order's discontinuation in wake of the massacre.
After the Hand of Ptolemos briefly closed their doors to new applicants, they had resumed spreading their teachings once more before their destruction. The order was known not to discriminate when it came to race or gender. Anyone was able to enlist as long as they dedicated themselves to a godless life. Members were encouraged to invite family and relatives to live with them in the Forinthry Ossuary.
The order was also known to have taken prisoners of war in the past who they would brainwash them into abandoning their gods until the practice was dropped entirely.
The Hand of Ptolemos operated throughout Gielinor, although their headquarters lay near the Wilderness border, nestled against the mountain range known as the Forinthry Cliffs.
At one point the order was in the process of setting up small outposts in each kingdom to spread their influence, but construction was halted when workers were met with hosility from some of the local populace. Construction was picked up again following Alaric Huang's succession to spread their influence. It was later completed but fell into disuse after the order's destruction.
The Hand of Ptolemos once considered those fighting for any god or goddess their enemy until a change in leadership made them more tolerant, a step away from their once extremist beliefs. They later showed disapproval when it came to conflicts, no doubt one of the many factors that led to the order's destruction.
They had no allies outside of the Godless. One of their former allies, the Keepers of the Balance, had long since been disbanded a few months after Guthix's death.
The Hand of Ptolemos didn't actively seek out conflicts, nor did they participate in any battle following their massive defeat at the Battle of Lumbridge, where over a third of their military was wiped out. Eventually Seeker Alaric Huang removed their military. They didn't participate in the battle between Bandos and Armadyl.
† denotes characters that are deceased
- Rosaline Haines
- Steven Weaver†
- Sacheverell Lessard†
- Lothar aus Ronasil†
- Toby Almaard
- Alaric Huang†
A Helping Hand
It was a rough night. My party and I had taken shelter in an inn, thinking to wait out the worst storm we have ever seen. The place was packed with all sorts of characters; dwarves, gnomes, even a goblin or two, although most were human, as far as I could tell. Dain swore under his breath as we entered, cursing the storm outside. I couldn't blame him; by the looks of things, it seemed like we would never reach Varrock in time for the Midsummer Eve festival. He and Nabfi sat down at a table, with Setra and I following suit after I ordered a round for us. Before long, we were lost reliving past adventures we'd had together.
An hour passed and still the storm persisted. While ordering another drink for myself, I noticed out of the corner of my eye how uneasy Nabfi looked. This was rare. Normally, the Karamjan was the most stoic person I knew. Returning to my seat, I heard him mutter something in his native tongue. Setra heard as well, for she cast him a reassuring smile and spoke.
"Don't worry, Nabfi. It'll blow itself out soon enough." Nabfi shook his head and said nothing.
"Bah! It better," Dain interjected, "We've already been delayed twice now." As usual, the dwarf had already drank more than the three of us combined. "By Guthix's beard, I'll..." He stopped himself, but it was too late.
An uncomfortable silence fell over the room. Dain flushed and tried to hide inside his beard. I glanced around at the other patrons and smiled apologetically. No one returned it. The news was still too fresh for a lot of them. I saw one of the gnomes wipe away tears before returning to her glass.
"Try to be a little more respectful, will you?" I hissed. Dain murmured an apology while Setra sat, shamefaced, her eyes on her ale. Gradually, the noise returned. I laid back in my chair and sighed. None of us had to look outside to know that the storm was still raging.
The four of us sat there for a while in silence. I wasn't sure what to say. In fact, I don't think anyone did. Not after what Dain said. Nabfi was staring out one of the windows when he suddenly sprang out of his chair and started for the door. Setra and I shared puzzled glances. "Where are you going?" Dain shouted after him.
Nabfi dashed out into the heavy rain and disappeared almost immediately. A few patrons were now watching to see what would happen next. A minute passed and I frowned. Nabfi wasn't one to act without reason.
I was about to tell the others to wait while I go check on him when heemerged from the rain, carrying with him a man who looked half dead. Dain, Setra, and I immediately sprang into action. As I went to help Nabfi carry the man, Dain rushed out into the storm to see if there were others. Meanwhile, after a quick inspection, Setra went over and began listing out ingredients for the barkeep to fetch for her.
We laid him on our table, brushing our glasses aside. Before I could ask, Nabfi spoke.
"I saw him through the window. He was on horseback, alone." Dain came back inside and confirmed what he said.
"His ride looks about as good as him. Man must have ridden day and night, and in this storm, too?" He shook his head. Setra led the barkeep over to the table with the supplies.
"He's running a fever." She paused to prepare a mixture, her lips pursed. "Why would he ride in this storm? It doesn't make any sense." The patrons were now closer, watching us, their attention fixated on the mysterious arrival. I looked to Nabfi, gesturing for him to come close.
"Tell them he's one of ours who arrived late," I whispered. "We don't need them crowding him." Nabfi understood and did as I said. I turned and crept closer, as to examine the man myself.
He was wearing a guardsman uniform, although he looked no older than twenty. I signaled for the barkeep and asked him if he knew the uniform. He told me the insignia was of Peakstone's, a small town only a few days ride on horseback from the inn. I thanked him and paid him for the extra supplies Setra was using. He was more than happy to help out as long as gold was involved. He excused himself and returned to serving the other patrons.
It took some time, but with Setra's knowledge of herblore, the guardsman finally woke. He was delirious at first, but thanks to Setra's reassurance he calmed down. He introduced himself as Alac, a guardsman from Peakstone. One mystery solved. Unfortunately for us, it was about to get a whole lot worse.
According to Alac, Peakstone was under attack by bandits from the Wilderness. Normally, such bandits rarely ventured out of the gods-forsaken land, he said. But these were no ordinary bandits; they were led by a hill giant, one who proclaimed them to be fighting for some ancient god.
The people of Peakstone were caught by surprise. Alac himself had fled during the fighting, in hopes he might find aid for the town he told us. Exhausted and unable to continue, Alac begged for our help.
My companions and I shared looks. If what he said was true, it meant lives were in danger. We were obligated to help them, no matter the cost. I told the barkeep what was going on and asked for directions to Peakstone. He gave them and promised to care for the man while we were gone. I thanked him once more before joining my party as they left the inn.
We spent the night and a good portion of the morning riding for Peakstone. By that time the storm had died down to little more than a light drizzle. After a brief rest, we rode once more. It took us three days to get to Peakstone. It was at the end of our second day that we could see the smoke.
It rose lazily into the clear sky above. Dain compared it to a finger reaching down towards the earth. I suggested we hurry and was met with no resistance. Nabfi rode ahead to scout the area, and to see whether or not the town had survived the last couple of days by itself. When he returned, I could tell from his dark mien that it wasn't good. We increased our pace.
We reached the town a little after high noon. The place was a wreck. Dead bodies lay strewn across the ground; entire houses were nothing more than smoldering shells of their former selves. Surviving townsfolk wandered the streets aimlessly, picking through the debris to see if they could find precious possessions or love ones. This was no bandit attack...it was a warzone.
We questioned one of them and found out their sheriff, a forty year veteran, had led an assault to push the bandits back. After that, he had made the townhall into a shelter for the citizens and the house next to it a temporary base for him and the milita. They had been doing their best to push back the bandits whenever they attacked, but with each strike they lost more and more men and women. It seemed like we'd arrived just in time. We made our way to the militia's headquarters and explained ourselves.
"Alac? That fool. He could've gotten himself killed," were the sheriff's first words to us. He sighed heavily. "But at least he got us some support. At least now we won't die alone."
We spent the remainder of the day discussing the bandits who were attacking, as well as their strategies and what tactics we could use against them. As we were being escorted around town Setra caught sight of one of the dead bandits and gasped.
"I know that symbol! It's Bandos', the god associated with war. But his followers are never this organized..." She shook her head, confused. I raised my voice in response.
"God or not, we've got to put a stop to this." I turned to the sheriff. "Get your men ready. This ends tonight."
It was late into the night when the first torchlights appeared on the enemies' front. While I didn't like our chances, these people needed me and I wasn't going to let them down. Not while I still lived. I rallied my party as the sheriff rallied the town militia. Some guardsmen had deserted the town during the last few hours. Those who had stayed knew not if they would live to see the next.
The war-horn was sounded.
The bandits surged towards the town, weapons raised. Their cries filled the air. Under the sheriff's order, the town militia launched a wave of arrows once the enemy stepped within range. The first line of bandits, most of which were goblins, fell. The rest kept coming and overwhelmed the town.
My companions and I fought together. Setra launched magical bolts into the enemies' ranks, crippling some with solid earth and setting others aflame; Nabfi and Dain both threw themselves into the mix, their weapons felling all those near; I stood close by, supporting the three with my supply of arrows. The remaining town militia were soon to follow, joining the fray with a cry from their sheriff.
I can't say how long we fought for. By the end of the first battle, the bodies of both sides lay sprawled across the streets, the symbol of Bandos and the insignia of Peakstone visible on their armor. The bandits retreated, granting us a brief respite. We regrouped before the next assault. A quick glance told me the surviving guardsmen were in no shape for another fight. I prayed for a miracle as the bandits struck again.
A hill giant, the leader of the bandits I recalled, lumbered before me with a javelin in hand. He threw it with such force that it went through one of the guardsmen and entered another before stopping. I used the last of my arrows to try and put him down, but his skin was tough. He turned his gaze upon me and grabbed another javelin from its case. It left his hand and caught me. The force of the blow knocked me off my feet and, although it was a glancing blow, I felt several of my ribs bruised and broken nonetheless.
From my position on the ground, I saw my companions fighting for their lives. Setra was engaged in a magical duel against a powerful goblin shaman while both Nabfi and Dain were surrounded by bandits, struggling to push them back. I heard the sheriff call for his men to fall back. The giant lumbered into view above me. Looking amused, he reached for the javelin that would finish me off. Just as he raised it, however, a shadow fell over us both.
I looked up and saw, to my amazement, a griffin! It flew straight into the hill giant, knocking it off its feet. There was another war-horn blown behind us. I craned my neck and saw men and women of all races charging through the streets to clash with the bandits. They slaughtered them without mercy, cutting down all that wore the symbol of the god Bandos. I couldn't see what happened to those that fled.
The hill giant was wrestled to the ground by the griffin. He struggled as some of the new arrivals binded him with chains and ropes. Working together, they loaded him onto a cart and hauled him away. My companions helped me up, looking just as confused as I was. We watched the scene unfold before our eyes.
An armored woman approached the sheriff of Peakstone and start talking with him. Her armor was adorned with a strange handprint. I thought I saw something around her neck, but before I could register what it was a druid came between us.
"Hail, adventurers," he said, making a gesture with his hand. I cleared my throat and asked the question that was on both my mind and those of my companions.
"Who are you?"
"We," the druid said, smiling, "are the Hand of Ptolemos."
They were an order, the druid explained, founded by Rosaline Haines, the woman speaking to the sheriff. He spoke of a man named Ptolemos, who had fought the gods to free his race, but was ultimately betrayed by them. Even though he was killed, his followers refused to give up. Led by Rosaline, they continue what he started and fight the gods and those that follow them in order to drive them and their influence from the world. Peakstone and its people, he said, were fortunate the order had seen the smoke and came to investigate.
Someone started shouting near us. Looking over the druid's shoulder, I saw it was the sheriff. He was in an heated argument with the woman. The druid sighed. I asked him if he knew what the problem was.
"Unfortunately, our leader has decreed that in order for our order to grow, it requires more resources than we can provide ourselves," he said softly. "She had a special relationship with Ptolemos and, as a result, is far more radical than I."
The two's arguing had gained the attention of several others by now. The members of the mysterious order reached for their weapons, their expressions dour. The druid looked nervous. I could hear the woman's voice over the debris of the town.
"If you don't agree to our terms, we can take all of your wares, as well as your lives." She paused, letting the threat soak in. "Count yourself lucky that we arrived in time. Now unless you have anything else to add? I didn't think so." She turned and left the seething sheriff by himself.
With a shout, the Hand of Ptolemos' soldiers began to withdraw from the town, taking what they wanted. The druid offered his sympathy to us and the sheriff before leaving. He made his way to the woman, Rosaline, who was busy mounting the griffin that had felled the giant. I overheard their conversation.
"Don't you think you're being too harsh on these people?" he asked in a hushed tone. "They've lost so much already."
"They have their lives, Steven. That's all they need." It was a curt response and left no room for argument.
"Good. Tell the men to return to the Forinthry Ossuary and inform Sacheverell of our new guests."
"Yes, ma'am. But where will you..." It was too late. The griffin had kicked off and soared into the sky. The druid watched it disappear above the clouds before leaving to do as he was told.
My companions and I remained with the town. We, like them, were in no condition to travel. The dead were disposed of properly, either burned or buried. With no supplies of any sort, the town could not be repaired. With each day that passed the townsfolk spoke of abandoning Peakstone. We did what we could to help those who had suffered.
In time, our injuries healed enough where we could travel once more. The townsfolk were taking caravans out of Peakstone. We decided to stay until the very last; the sheriff led this one. He'd remained to make sure all of the surviving townsfolk were gone before going himself. My companions and I left Peakstone with him. As the dead town disappeared behind us, I couldn't help but reflect on one thing...
The Hand of Ptolemos had saved us, but at a great cost.
It was uncomfortably warm inside the Forinthry Ossuary—at least, that was the impression Rosaline got from seeing and hearing her peoples' complaints—she herself felt little more than cold, a persistant throbbing ache, and an emptiness that nothing would ever fill. But that was her gift, given to her by Ptolemos, and she took it in stride. Although it seemed like a lifetime ago, she had walked these halls once before as a follower, not a leader. Many things had changed since then.
The Forinthry Ossuary had been abandoned since Azulra's attack on it. Rosaline recalled the event clearly. She had ordered her monks to face the oncoming demons, knowing they had no chance of survival, while she herself retreated in order to send a message to her master. She had succeeded, but was unfortunately unable to escape in time. What the demons did to her under Azulra's orders...
"Rosaline?" a man's voice called out. It was firm and alluring, and dragged her back to reality. She found herself lying bare on a stone slab, long enough to support her whole body. The room she was in was small and dark, filled with countless shelves and an alchemy lab. A robed figure stood at the end of the slab, not the least bit distracted by her nakedness. "Were you listening?"
"Yes, I heard," she answered, clicking her tongue in exasperation. "So what? It won't stop me, Sacheverell."
"Yes, it can," the half-icyene said, sighing. He proceeded to walk beside the slab, tracing it with a finger. "Your body is deteriorating without Ptolemos' magic. If you continue to strain it, it will fail you." He stopped in front of an alchemy lab and started to prepare something.
"It won't," was all she managed to say before being interrupted by a beaker being shoved in her face.
"Drink this." Rosaline was about to ask what it was, but he interrupted her again. "It'll help with whatever magic Ptolemos put over you to slow your body's decomposition rate and keep it preserved against weathering." Shrugging indifferently, she did as he told her and wasn't surprised to find that it tasted like ash. Everything tasted like ash to her now. She saw Sacheverell return to his alchemy lab.
"You shouldn't waste your time fixing these medicines, Sacheverell. I won't need them once I find him." The half-icyene scoffed. She continued angrily. "I know you don't believe me, but it's true: Ptolemos is alive. I can feel it."
"What I believe doesn't matter. What I know is that you lead these men and women, and without you they would fall." Rosaline regarded him closely. He had been one of the first she recruited to their cause after finding him living alone in the mountains. Sacheverell Lessard was his full name, a half-icyene that had turned his back on his lord after the disaster that was the God Wars. When questioned why, Sacheverell accused Saradomin of leading his people—the icyene and humans—to their death. Because of his answer, he reminded her of Ptolemos.
"They can take care of themselves." Rosaline pushed herself off the slab and started to get dressed. "I'm going now." Sacheverell stayed silent. After fitting her armor back on, she made for the door. Only when she was leaving did he speak to her.
"If you're not careful, these little escapades of yours will be the death of you."
Navigating the Forinthry Ossuary was now harder due to the recent influx of recruits they had received. Many of them were freshfaced men and women with little combat experience whatsoever. Some were grizzled mercenaries who had been paid for their services. A few of them were of the exotic sort that they had come across during their campaigns in the Wilderness. Despite their differences, all of them had been given room and board within the temple until it was full. Those that had no room pitched up tents outside.
As she left the temple, Rosaline noted that they had gained even more recruits than she previously thought. There were far more tents this morning then there had been last week. We will soon be a force to be reckoned with, she thought.
Raising her fingers to her mouth, Rosaline whistled. Looking up, she watched as a griffin glided down beside her and incline its head in greeting. "Skelkesh," she answered in turn.
The griffin had been a gift from Sacheverell. He had befriended, or bewitched as some say, a nest of griffins to fetch food for him during his time spent living in the mountains. They were brought along when he moved to the Forinthry Ossuary. He even had some of the dwarves craft them an aerie far above the temple. Skelkesh was a mother-griff, with two grifflets in her care. Her nest and children were protected in exchange for her service.
Skelkesh couldn't speak. Her vocal cords had been torn when she and the father-griff had fought long ago. Rosaline enjoyed the silence, and was fond of her for that exact reason.
"We're leaving now." Skelkesh nodded once more and lowered one of her wings. They pushed off into the sky once Rosaline mounted her and disappeared into the horizon.
In the last few weeks, Rosaline had started to notice something peculiar. The 'ants', for lack of a better term, that Ptolemos had brought from another realm were reportedly showing up in places they had never been before. At first she thought it was nothing more than pure happenstance. But the longer she dwelled on it, the more she began to believe that there was something going on. After conductiing her own investigation, Rosaline discovered that the ants were not simply moving aimlessly; they were migrating.
She had been tracking their movements ever since her discovery. Only recently did she realize that they were moving towards the North. That was her destination now. They flew the day away and were well into the night when a fierce snowstorm forced Skelkesh to take shelter in an icy cave. Rosaline foresaw this and had come prepared.
"Wait here until I return," she ordered while pulling on the heavy Fremennik-style fur cloak she had brought with her. The griffin nodded and settled in the far back of the cave. Rosaline then marched out of the cave and immediately the snow enveloped her.
Rosaline had been to this area a few times before, but her sense of direction was all but lost in the snowstorm. She couldn't even see her hand when held in front of her face. More than once she thought about returning to the cave. It was unlikely, however, that she could even find her way back now. She continued forward, determined to reach her destination.
A few hours passed and still the snowstorm raged. The cold climate was starting to affect Rosaline's body; her movements were starting to become rigid and sluggish. Angrily, she recalled Sacheverell's words: "If you're not careful, these little escapades of yours will be the death of you." Her mind was assailed by doubt and frustration. But there was no turning back now, and so she carried on. What Rosaline came across next surprised her.
It was a campsite nearly buried beneath snow. Upon investigation, she uncovered its owner was none other than the late Fykeric Bliem. This must be where he lived when Ptolemos ordered him here, she concluded. She quickly made a fire with the camp's supplies to keep her body from freezing. While waiting out the storm, Rosaline uncovered the dead man's journal and read through it. She was amused at his entries. His last one, however, wiped the smirk off her face, the implications of his words unsettling.
- 9 Ire of Phyrrys, Year 169 of the Sixth Age.
- They have come again. I counted at least one hundred of them before they disappeared. That's half as many as there were last time. Again, I find myself wondering what drives them to do what they do. Could it a sign of my lord? Has He not forgotten me after all? Or perhaps it is the workings of the Mahjarrat responsible for putting me here? The cold makes it hard to concentrate... No. I have faith in Zamorak. He has guided me thus far. These creatures must be guided by His hand as well, for they bear His colors...
Rosaline left the campsite as soon as the snowstorm receded enough where she could travel without being hindered. The brief rest had revitalized her, if not in body, then in spirit. She could see now and, as such, increased her pace. She had to know the truth... she had to.
It was morning by then. The white snow glared in the sunlight, forcing Rosaline to cover her eyes. When she could see again, her heart nearly skipped a beat—if it were beating, that is—at the sight before her. A trail of red ants extended from the woods nearby. They were flowing north like a river of blood. Rosaline wanted to feel excited, but fear gnawed at her. The last entry in Fykeric's journal was burned into her mind. She had to force her feet to follow the ants.More time passed. The ants never slowed, never faltered. They were heading to one place, the same place she was headed: the site of the ritual of the Mahjarrat. Curse that fool of a cleric, she thought. What did he know? In the end, his faith had cost him his life. He couldn't possibly know... Rosaline came to a halt. Ahead of her stood the ritual marker.
Rosaline felt numb. Her tongue swelled and her bowels turned to water. She knew the sensations were all in her head, of course, but that didn't mean she wasn't vulnerable to the psychosomatic effects. Meanwhile, the ants were still going on without her. They were climbing up and over the marker as if it were just another obstacle in their path. Rosaline commanded her body to move. She had to learn the truth.
Rosaline moved forward, inch by inch. She wanted to know what was behind the marker. She had to know. Her view, however, was blocked by the large stone, so she kept walking forward. Before it, she hesitated. It wasn't long ago that her master stood here, perhaps in this very same spot, to rejuvenate himself. One of them had even been killed here... She shoved those thoughts aside. The ritual marker was all that stood between her and the truth.
Drawing a deep breath, Rosaline walked around it. What she saw made her fall to her knees and sob.
Standing before her was no one.
"You were supposed to be here," Rosaline whispered. Her voice then rose, ringing harshly across the icy plateau. "I followed the signs!" She received no answer. The ants were the only other life forms with her. The ants. Rosaline got onto her feet and staggered over to the trail of them. They were still moving after climbing down the stone. She followed them with her gaze and watched as they walked over the edge of the plateau. Dashing to the edge, she looked over it and witnessed the last of the ants crumbled into ash mid-fall. All for nothing.
Rosaline snapped. She roared and threw herself at the stone behind her. She beat it with her fists until they were a bloody mess. Even then it didn't sate her anger.
"You piece of shit! I trusted you, I believed in you!" Rosaline rounded the ritual marker and yelled into the woods. "I followed you when no one else did!" Her voice cracked. "I loved you and you left me..."
She reached beneath her armor and plucked the amulet she wore from around her neck. It was a token of her devotion, her service, and love. But more importantly, it held her master's creation: Mahjarratbane. Rosaline reared back her arm and threw it with all her force, watching as it sailed up above the trees, through the air, before disappearing into the woods.
"Now what do you have?" she asked quietly, almost afraid of what answer she might receive.
Rosaline gritted her teeth and trudged off.
A Slap on the Wrist
Steven Weaver was tired. He'd been spending a lot of time traveling the world, speaking in different kingdoms about the Hand of Ptolemos. So far he'd won over a few people with each visit, and hopefully those individuals would go on and spread the word further. However, recruiting was not the only thing he'd been doing. Because of him, alliances were being forged between the order and other like minded groups and individuals. It was his job as a representative of the Hand of Ptolemos after all.
Steven stretched out on his cot. He was glad to be home. His position granted him one of the finer rooms in the temple known as the Forinthry Ossuary, which he was thankful for. The temple was cramped enough because of the amount of people living inside it and, as a result, the air was stifling. Rosaline Haines, after returning from the North, had the dwarves tunnel into the mountain in order to accomodate new members. So far they'd made excellent progress, with many new rooms already being filled with people and their families.
Steven was worried about Rosaline. Upon her return, she had locked herself in her chambers and was only admitting Sacheverell inside. She left it only once when discussing the issue with the dwarves and their tunneling before returning to her room. The half-icyene, when questioned, divulged nothing about their meetings. Steven guessed that whatever Rosaline had found wasn't what she expected. Lost in his thoughts, it took him a minute or two before he became aware of the warning bell. Steven left his room to investigate, and was immediately plunged into chaos.
The halls were filled with men and women racing this way and that. Soldiers and civilians alike pushed and shoved in their attempts to get where they were going. Steven was forced to shout above the cacophony of voices and bells to get the attention of one of the soldiers.
"What's going on? Are we under attack?" The soldier nodded gravely and gestured down the hall.
"Mountain trolls, sir," he said. "They've broken through the tunnel and have seperated our forces. Best you evacuate like the rest of the civilians." Steven thanked him and let the soldier go. I need to tell Rosaline, he thought. She'll know what to do. Familiar with the route, Steven fought his way through the crowd to reach it. He found the door locked upon arrival.
"Rosaline," he shouted, hoping she could hear him above the noise. "Are you in there?" There was no answer. He tried again and received the same result. Frustrated, he turned to leave when the door was opened by none other than Sacheverell.
"Rosaline's preoccupied at the moment, Steven. Tell me what's on your mind and then you may leave."
"What?" Is he serious? "Don't you hear the bells? Trolls have breached the temple! We need to..." Sacheverell cut him off with a gesture.
"I'll inform Rosaline of what's happening," said Sacheverell, continuing, "I suggest you get yourself to safety while you still can."
"There are people trapped in those tunnels!" Sacheverell ignored him and was closing the door. Steven stuck his foot in the doorway. "Let me speak to her."
"I'm afraid that's impossible." Steven was about to start again when Sacheverell withdrew into the room. A figure stepped up to take his place, their form silhouetted against the candlelight from within. Steven gave a sigh of relief. He didn't need to see her to know who stood before him.
"Rosaline," he started to say. Before he could continue, though, her hand shot out and grabbed him by the throat. He choked on his words as she lifted him off his feet. His struggled to break free were, to no avail.
"Listen well, Steven. I won't repeat myself." Her voice was cold, and she wore nothing but a thin white gown. "You and Sacheverell are going to find and order the wizards to collapse the tunnel." Steven tried to say something, but she tightened her grip, cutting him off.
"Don't speak. Nod if you understand." He did so. "Good." She let go of him.
Steven fell to the floor, coughing and gasping for air. He blinked to clear his vision of the stars he saw. The door in front of him was closed by Sacheverell, now standing in the hall with him.
"I apologize for her behavor," he said, helping Steven to his feet. "She has grown impulsive ever since her return. I hoped to spare you her wrath, but..." He started down the hallway, beckoning for Steven to follow.
"Why?" Steven rubbed his bruised neck, his voice hoarse.
"Why is she acting the way she is? I can't tell you."
"But those people..."
By now the civilians in the temple had been evacuated. The halls were empty. Sacheverell motioned for Steven to stop. The two had come upon a fork in the hallways; one led to the exit, the other the tunnel.
"You have ten minutes before I return with the wizards. Ten," Sacheverell warned, emphasizing the word with a gesture. "Try to get as many people out of there." Steven nodded.
"Go, then." As Steven sprinted down the hall, Sacheverell's voice called after him. "Ten minutes!"
The cries of battle increased as Steven sped down the halls. He came across the first corpse at the entrance of the tunnel. It was a goblin, one of the few to have joined the order. He picked up a sword that lay next to it. He'd never received any combat training of any kind, so it felt heavy and clumsy in his hands. But he would need it nonetheless. Ahead of him rang the clash of battle. Steeling himself, Steven went to meet it.
He came across more bodies further in. Dwarves, humans, goblins, and trolls lay in pools of blood, their unseeing eyes open and, he thought, watching him. He called out, trying to reach the others above the sound of battle, all the while searching rooms for any survivors. He found a young child and her mother hiding beneath their bed. After telling them it was safe to enough to leave, he continued onward. How many minutes have passed, he asked himself.
He came across a few more survivors; two arguing goblins, an elderly human, and a wounded dwarf. After some encouragement, Steven managed to persuade the dwarf to accept the aid of the goblins. They quickly disappeared down the way he had come. Meanwhile, the elderly man was having difficulty navigating his way through the slippery, cluttered hall. Steven was deciding whether or not he should continue forward when he heard it.
Chanting echoed throughout the tunnel. Magical words, words he couldn't understand filled the air. The walls of the tunnel started to shift. Steven froze. His ten minutes were up. He saw the elderly man ahead of him turn and cry out. At the same time, he heard movement behind him. Steven spun and held his sword out just as a troll lunged for him. He felt himself falling...
The wizards were gathered a few feet in front of the tunnel. They were chanting, runes held in their hands. Off to the side was Sacheverell, observing them. So far he had seen a few survivors make it out of the tunnel: a mother and her daughter, two goblins, and a dwarf. There had been no sign of Steven yet. Sacheverell frowned. The chant was reaching its climax. The tunnel was starting to twist and writhe due to the combined magic. It was beginning to collapse.
A shout came from the tunnel. Sacheverell saw two men slipping and sliding down the tunnel, It was Steven and an older man. The bloodied druid was helping the other man run. Sacheverell determined that they wouldn't make it at the rate they were going. He glanced at the wizards.
Steven knew he wasn't going to make it. Although he managed to kill the troll, it had cost them too much time. The floor and ceiling had the consistency of sludge. Moving was difficult, but they had to try. They were so close... Steven stared at the wizards, pleading silently to them. None saw him, enthralled as they were by the magic.
Without warning, one of the wizards collapsed. The others were too busy concentrating to notice, although they felt the strength of their spell decrease. The destruction of the tunnel slowed by a few second.s Although it didn't seem like much, the lapse provided just enough time for the two to escape the tunnel. Steven flung himself and the old man out of the tunnel just as the magic warped and collapsed it.
Later that evening, Steven was sitting by himself outside the temple, waiting for its repairs to be finished. It had suffered minor damages during the attack, but most were only superficial. The wizards had been efficient. Not a soul survived the tunnel's destruction. He learned later that Sacheverell was the one who saved him by knocking over one of the wizards. Those Steven saved had came to thank him personally, but he paid them little attention. His thoughts were of Rosaline. He was waiting for her to show herself, to confront her about what had happened.
The doors to the temple opened and out strode Rosaline. Steven stood up and watched her. She saw him almost immediately and, after stopping to speak with one of the soldiers, made her way over to him.
"Steven," she said with a hint of amusement. "You look well." He knew she was looking at the bruise around his neck.
"You killed those people, Rosaline."
"I think you're mistaken," she retorted. "I was not I who relayed the order." He glared at her in response.
"Don't look at me like that. You saved the order, Steven," Rosaline said, adding with a sardonic smile, "You're a hero to these people." She winked at him and walked off.
At that moment Steven didn't feel like a hero.
In the Palm of His Hand
It was a curious thing, really... He wasn't quite sure how it all began, but while staring at the object in the palm of his hand, Ptolemy Dean recalled just when and where it all started to end.
It started when he first set foot in Guthix's shrine. After leaving Varrock to travel the world, Dean knew he had to visit it. Apart from being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he felt like he owed the dead god. He expected he wasn't the only one feeling like that either. Ever since word got out of Guthix's death it seemed like the entire world was mourning him. Despite being raised to worship Saradomin, Dean planned to at least pay his respects to Guthix. He arranged to travel with a merchant caravan heading for Kandarin.
In a matter of weeks they reached the kingdom's borders; overall, their trip was uneventful. Dean later split from the caravan to travel alone. He rode the rest of the way on horseback after buying one from a local village. On the road he met others on their pilgrimage to the shrine and accompanied them. It was an enjoyable, if somber, time. In fact, he hadn't even realized they had reached their destination until one of the pilgrims informed him.
The archaelogical site itself was beyond fascinating; the stonework was like nothing he'd ever seen before... Dean felt a sudden twinge of guilt. Here he was gawking like some school boy over a place where more than one life was lost. He silently chastised himself and followed the other pilgrims as they filed into the shrine. Druids guided them to the main chamber.
There was a collective gasp from those assembled. From where they stood the face of the dead god Guthix could be seen, immortalized in stone. It was a depressing sight; Dean felt tears prick his eyes as he stared at His remains. He wasn't sure why it affected him so. Those around him openly wept, which comforted him.
It took some time but eventually the other pilgrims paid their respects and left. Dean wanted privacy, so he waited for them to finish before paying his own. When they were gone he approached the monument and bowed his head. Dean stood there in silence, unsure of what to say or do. After a few minutes of this, he shook his head and turned to leave. While doing so his hand brushed across something on the monument.
He stopped, bewildered.
Something—no, someone—had appeared before him. Looking around, Dean fully expecting to see the person standing right next to him. Instead he saw no one. The chamber was empty. A cold chill went down his spine. He withdrew next to the monument and put a hand on it for support. Again he felt the thing, whatever it was. Lifting his hand, Dean examined it.
It was a coin. Not just any coin, though; a coin of balance. Dean recognized Guthix's symbol printed on it. Did one of the pilgrims leave it here, he wondered. Judging by the thin layer of dust over it, Dean reckoned that wasn't the case. It must be a token, he concluded. Left by an earlier pilgrim to serve as tribute to the dead god. Now that he was convinced it wasn't some dark magical artifact, Dean ignored the coin and glanced over his shoulder. He saw no one this time, which relieved him.
It's my mind playing tricks on me, he reassured himself. After all, I've been going through so much recently. It's no small wonder that I haven't lost my mind! Laughing it off—nonverbally, mind—Dean left Guthix's shrine.
By nightfall he had found a roadhouse and rented a room for the night. After eating a little, Dean retired to his room. While preparing for sleep, he saw something on his bed and, upon investigation, he discovered it was the very coin he last saw in Guthix's shrine, much to his shock and horror. He quickly drew away from it. I don't believe this, he thought. How did it get here? It's impossible!
For what felt like hours he stood there, staring at the coin in disbelief. Eventually he worked up the courage to pick it up, although with extreme reluctance. It felt cold and heavy in his palm. He wondered aloud, "What are you?"
He wasn't expecting it to answer.
When he came to, Dean found himself aboard a foreign ship, surrounded by hairy men. Needless to say, he was baffled.
Two hours passed and still Dean knew little of where he was or how he had gotten there. Apparently he had arrived in Rellekka a few days ago and asked for transport to the North. After paying the men to board their ship, he had fallen asleep immediately and nothing the Fremenniks did could wake him. At least, that's what he gathered. Only one Fremennik aboard the ship understood Common, which he spoke haltingly. When asked if they could turn around, the man said no; a storm was coming, and to turn back now would leave them at its mercy. They had to sail on.
With nothing to do but wait, Dean started examining himself. He was in some sort of heavy fur parka, probably taken from Rellekka. Upon further inspection, he found the coin of balance tucked in one pocket. He quickly threw it overboard, fearing it cursed. Watching it sink below the ocean's surface, Dean felt as though a great weight was lifted off his shoulders. Like the coin, he sank down onto one of the ship's seats and fell asleep.
By the time they made landfall the storm was nearly upon them. The sea was disconcertingly calm. Dean offered to help the Fremenniks haul their ship inland, but Hrolfr, the one that could speak Common, said no, half-jokingly adding that he would only get in their way. The Fremenniks gathered their equipment once they were done and headed further inland. The wind started to pick up; the skies darkened. Dean followed closely behind them. They reached the shelter of a cave right as a horrible snowstorm hit.
Luckily for them, the Fremennik had used this cave numerous times before. It was stocked with provisions that would last until the storm blew itself out. Which, Dean noted, meant more waiting. He groaned inwardly. Aside from being cold and tired, he was also starting to believe his mind was slipping. How else could he describe the turn of events that led him to his current predicament? But what could he do? Nothing, he thought to himself.
Nothing but wait.
Dean was awakened by a noise. He sat and looked at the others. They apparently had heard nothing for they still slept soundly. He heard another noise, like a scream or shout. Is someone out there, he wondered. Who would be crazy enough to brave this storm? Getting up, he ventured closer to the cave's mouth. There was more screaming—a woman's voice—he guessed. He glanced at the sleeping Fremenniks and then to the storm outside. Swearing, Dean pulled the parka closer around him and stepped outside the cave.
He covered his face and trudged forward, straining his ears. It was no use. The woman's cries were drowned out by the piercing whine of the snowstorm. His other senses were just as useless as well in this weather. Struggling to remain standing as the wind assailed him, Dean tried to figure out what to do next.
He knew he was lost; the cave was gone as though the storm had devoured it. As he stood there, the wind started picking up again. Then, just as he decided to turn back and try to find his way back to the cave, he heard a faint cry somewhere behind him. Biting his lower lip, Dean made up his mind and set off determinedly in the direction of the cry. He didn't get very far.
Blinded as he was by the snow and sharp winds, Dean didn't see the steep snowbank until it was too late. With a yelp, he slipped and tumbled down it. It was a rough landing, but he survived with only minor bruises. He brushed the snow off him after lifting himself off the ground. At the same time he looked up and froze. He couldn't believe his eyes.
It was the ritual marker. The actual ritual marker used in the ritual of the Mahjarrat. This isn't real, Dean thought to himself. I don't believe it... His body felt numb, but not because of the freezing temperature. In fact, the snowstorm seemed to have finally dissipated. He could now see where he was, a forest it looked like, with the marker some distance past the treeline.
Dean took a tentative step forward, and then another and another. His eyes were glued on the ancient carved stone ahead. How many times had he read descriptions of it back in his office in the museum? And here it was, so close to him! He had to examine it properly. The history it could tell...
Something crunched under his boot, and it wasn't the crunching of snow either. He almost dismissed it for a twig or leaf, but it felt solid under his boot, like metal. Lifting his foot, Dean spared it a quick glance—he wanted to see the marker as soon as possible, after all—and was slightly surprised to see it was some type of amulet in the shape of a hand. It was broken now since he stepped on it, revealing something within it. After looking up to make sure the marker hadn't run off on him, Dean bent down to inspect the amulet.
It was definitely an amulet, nearly frozen over with ice. Carefully Dean scooped up the pieces into his palm. What is it doing here, he wondered as he sifted through it. Maybe it belonged to whoever I heard earlier... Oh no! He jumped to his feet and frantically looked around. In all this excitment he had forgotten about the woman's voice from earlier. Chastising himself yet again, Dean gazed through the forest. He saw and heard nothing during his search.
Without warning, pain lanced through his left arm; pain so crippling it left him on his knees, gasping. He didn't know what happened. At first he thought someone had stabbed his left hand with a thousand knives, but when he looked all he saw were broken amulet pieces. Had he accidently stabbed himself? Dean groaned. After forcing himself to stand, he carefully examined his hand.
Blood ran in rivulets down his hand and arm, making it difficult to see whatever had caused it. He gently wiped what he could from his hand and was forced to bite down on his tongue to keep from crying out from the pain that kept shooting up and down his arm. Finally he cleaned it enough where he could see the perpetrator: a sliver of metal was embedded in his palm. While staring at it, Dean realized how curious it was that a tiny piece of metal like that could cause him so much pain...
- Ptolemos - The Mahjarrat whose namesake the order was founded with.
- Misgivings of a Cleric - A short story that takes place in the Forinthry Ossuary, the future headquarters of the order.
- Tales of the Many - A series of short stories, some of which feature several members from the Hand of Ptolemos.
- Misgivings of a Cleric Part II - A follow-up to the original, also featuring the Forinthry Ossuary and some of the order's members.
- The concept for this order came after the conclusion of the the World Wakes and the repercussions such an event can have.
- The Order of Ascension, upon release, also influenced its development.
- The order's symbol is also known as the Vulcan salute. It serves as a testament to Ptolemos' sacrifice after he cut off his own hand in his effort to rid the world of the gods.
- The coin of balance mentioned in "In the Palm of His Hand" was placed there by Steven Weaver during a role-play prior to the short story's events.