A Hero's Welcome

AZ 1457 - Late Spring
The Golden Basilica, Zephyr

Ionathas could scarcely believe he survived the Darklands campaign. So few did, after all. He never got the chance he sought to wield Soul Drinker against the Monarch Lich. Queen Xanthe sacrificed her life to defeat him while Ionathas was busy fighting the Spider Queen in the north. Nevertheless, the Chaos Dominion was broken once more and the world would find peace for a time.
Or that would have been case if Archbishop Gamaliel had not turned his zealots against the newly crowned Queen Daphne and driven her from the throne. Placing one of his puppets in the young Queen's place, he thought the kingdom would be his so easily. Lord Dionysios of the newly formed Fourth Legion was leading his men in open revolt against the usurper and urged Ionathas to join forces with those of the Third Legion who would follow, but before that, Ionathas sought to deal with the source of the problem himself.
The Golden Basilica was the center of the Church, situated on an island at the great confluence of the rivers before they flowed out to the sea. They even went so far as to rename the branch of the river flowing into the sea Logos as a symbol for their teachings going out into the wider world. The island was always thick with pilgrims, some of whom never seemed to leave.
For all the Church's professed disdain for the material world, the opulence of the Basilica said otherwise. The whole exterior was gilded over save for the pillars, which were gleaming white marble. It the midday sun it was nearly blinding.
Standing before the entrance to the Basilica in the great Square of Saint Photios, Ionathas shouted in a loud voice, "Gamaliel! Gamaliel, get out here!"
The pilgrims milling about quickly withdrew from him and four guards wasted little time approaching him.
"Halt!" the senior among them barked. "Who are you!? What are you doing here!?"
Ionathas threw back his cloak to reveal that he was armed and armored for the occasion.
"Stand back, you dogs!" he snapped. He then turned back to the Basilica and continued to shout, "Gamaliel! You coward! Show yourself!"
The guards, who were only armed with clubs for beating the rare unruly pilgrim into submission, did not dare to challenge Ionathas directly, but they did not retreat either. Though the pilgrims kept their distance, they began to encircle Ionathas and the guards en masse.
The free knight's shouting was finally rewarded when the Archbishop himself appeared on the balcony overlooking the square.
Upon seeing the Archbishop, one of the guards exclaimed, "His Holiness!"
The guards and all the pilgrims bowed low to the Archbishop, leaving Ionathas alone standing upright in his defiance.
"There you are! Traitor! Fiend!"
The Archbishop did not appear overly concerned, even though he went to the trouble of making a personal appearance.
"And what is the meaning of this?" he asked. "Who are you?"
"I'm Ionathas, son of Salemon, captain of the Hawks of Maranthe, provisional legate of the Zephyrian Third Legion!"
"Ah, yes," the Archbishop replied, "that Notian boy favored by the late Duke Cronos. Why have come here, disturbing the peace of this most holy sanctuary?"
"You betrayed Her Majesty the Queen! You drove her from the throne and had your puppet take her place. You will answer for it!"
"I do not answer to mere men," the Archbishop sneered. "I answer only to God."
Ionathas drew Soul Drinker from its sheath and shouted, "Then I will speed you on your way!"
The crowd erupted in gasps at the sight of a naked blade, not only because it was drawn against the Archbishop but because all blades were forbidden on the island, even knives for eating. It was held to be a grave sin to shed any blood near the Basilica, but Ionathas had no fear for his soul, only outrage toward the Archbishop for his treachery.
Far removed from any immediate threat to his person, the Archbishop balked at the free knight's threat.
"You would turn your blade against God's elected!?"
"If God elected you, I will have Him answer for this treachery as well!"
The Archbishop glowered at Ionathas in contempt before speaking to the multitude.
"My children, you have heard this man's blasphemy! This accursed son of the Noctifer must not defile our holy sanctuary one moment longer! Stone him! Cast him back into the pit!"
The once tremulous pilgrims were whipped into a fervor by the Archbishop's command.
"Stay back!" Ionathas shouted, holding out his blade to ward off the riotous crowd. "Do not make me cut you down!"
With their vastly superior numbers, their pious fury and the Archbishop's incitement, not even the sight of a cursed blade like Soul Drinker was enough to deter them. Though called to stone him, there were no loose stones to be had in the paved square and none would go so far as to dig up the pavestones even as whipped up as they were. They threw whatever they could--the sandals on their feet, the pins off their clothing--none of it with the weight of substance of a stone. All the while they shouted all manner of curses and abuse.
"Kill the blasphemer!"
"Death to the heathen!"
"To Hades with him!"
"Back to the pit!"
"The Light is with us!"
Emboldened, the guards moved in with their clubs raised. More by instinct than conscious choice, Ionathas cut them down one after the other. When the fourth guard fell, a silence fell over the square. Ionathas looked about him. Deluded fools though they were, the pilgrims were common people, the very ones he fought to protect. Would he now slaughter them to avenge the Archbishop's evil? If he did, he was no better than the Knight of Chaos.
The bloodied blade slipped from his fingers and clattered on the ground. For his mercy, he was rewarded by the multitude rushing at him in a great wave of violence, beating, kicking, clawing, tearing him limb from limb. Satisfied that his work was accomplished, the Archbishop withdrew from balcony while his frenzied followers fought over the scraps of flesh to claim as their own.