The Divine Vending Machine

The Adventurer, Issue 25, Year 3 of the Rose
Belle Stetsara

Is it time to re-think healing magic?

Healing: the curing of wounds by divine magic. It’s as ubiquitous as adventurers.

Wherever delvers are active, wherever there are monsters to slay, bandits to stop, or changes to make where the idle hand of the law cannot or will not reach, there are adventurers. And wherever they go, the priesthood is quick to follow.

Who hasn’t stumbled, wounded and bleeding, into the hasty A-frame of a frontier wooden shrine, and walked out hale and whole? Who hasn’t dropped a coin into the party resurrection jar; a donation for the marble halls of the Great Temple of the Green Heart in Towerburg, if the worst should happen? One way or another, we all owe our lives to the work of healers.

We all know people who rely too much on the temples. Who charge headlong into danger. Take unconscionable risks with lives — sworn captives’, their own, even the hostages’ they are sent to rescue — confident the Divine Vending Machine can repair whatever they break.

Turn up your nose and scoff if you will. You know what pain means. You wouldn’t risk your party, or your family, having to farewell you too soon. But there are some things we all take for granted.

Even a frontier priest represents the Great Temple

I’m talking about the donations. The twenty, or fifty, or a thousand silver you hand over to the priest for a wound. Usually with a smile on your face. Who’d put a price on life and health? And after all, we spend just as much on weapons, magic, armour — even the end-of-quest bar tab.

But that money isn’t the same. Guilds don’t reach far into the frontier. Smiths and taverns are mostly independent operations. They work hard to ship supplies out, and provide what we need — or want. They deserve a fair cut. Maybe relic houses are different, but they’re still run by retired adventurers. They know where those fees are best spent.

Priests? They’re another story. Even a frontier priest represents the Great Temple, and tithes most of their income back. Ever wonder why the little frontier temples stay so small, so much longer than the inns do? This is why.

And the Great Temple isn’t a frontier institution. The high priests back in Towerburg rub shoulders with dukes and guildmasters. The people listen to them as much as they do the city-bred broadsheets that pass for newspapers. And temple policies take advantage of that.

Did you ever wonder why so many adventurers are “orphans”? Or women, when the Towerburg social set are almost all male? Well, the Temple of the Green Heart has certain … opinions … about marriage. Their finishing schools; Temple galleries and theatres; their well-funded opinion pieces in the broadsheets; they all sell a particular picture of a woman’s role in life. One that starts, and ends, in a male-owned household.

Fasting, and praying, and standing vigil has a way of clearing the mind.

What about the good works? Well, they exist…

In the years I worked with the temples, I’ve never known them to turn away wounded, money or no. When a victim comes in with bruises where they won’t show, or scarred feet from going barefoot in the streets, the temples help without question.

Then they send them back, without question. Back to blind-windowed houses the Watch don’t bother to check. Back to the streets they do check, to round up “surplus women” for whatever convent or school they think will hook them back into the system. Ship any out-of-wedlock children away as “orphans”. Or marry them off to whatever man they can find who wasn’t man enough for the frontier.

I spent three years working in the temples, and that was long enough. Out here, I heard worse stories. Innkeepers, brewers, horticulturalists who left the city with nothing, because having nothing was better than what they had to go back to.

When I came to the Grand Temple for my final vigil, I took messages for the friends they’d left behind. And flowers, for the potters-field graves of the ones who didn’t make it.

Fasting, and praying, and standing vigil has a way of clearing the mind. Face-to-face with the Green Heart, alone in the night, it was those women’s faces I remembered.

Their bruises were my symbols.
Their tears were my oaths.
Taking the Green Robe would have been a betrayal.

I walked out of the Great Temple bare-shouldered and unarmed. I surrendered my blessed sword and bought a plain piece of steel from the first smith on the road. Since that day I have never set foot inside a temple of the Green Heart.

Delving without a healer at your back isn’t easy. After a few hard recoveries, I’ve learned to be cautious. When I had to, I’ve made the long trip to a Grove of the Blue, or one of the Knifespinners’ halls. Paid them with the help they needed, instead of a vending-machine-fodder bag of coins.

I don’t sleep easily on my new scars. But I know my silver isn’t scarring innocents.


Bell Stetsara is an ex-paladin and an advocate of frontier independence. The opinions in this article are her own, and should not be taken as the position of The Adventurer.

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