Peace

Peace

Status: Finished

Genre: Fantasy

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Fantasy

Summary

Ten years on from the Shadow Wars peace has seen Severine thrive under the continued leadership of King Titus. Alexander Tor’al has vanished into the footnotes of history while Nathan Drison has retired to the quiet life. For Brent T’elc, Chosen of Heironeous, life has also changed. No longer adventuring beyond the next horizon he has finally found peace in one location. Commander of an army and beloved leader in Land of Zealots he continues to walk the difficult path of Chosen. Yet Brent knows all to well how fickle finding peace can be. I have used the D&D religion of Heironeous and have done so only out of deep and abiding respect and love for it. I have written added my own analects and personality, but have tried to keep as honestly to some materials found in the D&D world as I can. This is, for legal purposes, a fanfiction under the Open Games Licence.

Summary

Ten years on from the Shadow Wars peace has seen Severine thrive under the continued leadership of King Titus. Alexander Tor’al has vanished into the footnotes of history while Nathan Drison has retired to the quiet life.

For Brent T’elc, Chosen of Heironeous, life has also changed. No longer adventuring beyond the next horizon he has finally found peace in one location. Commander of an army and beloved leader in Land of Zealots he continues to walk the difficult path of Chosen. Yet Brent knows all to well how fickle finding peace can be.


I have used the D&D religion of Heironeous and have done so only out of deep and abiding respect and love for it. I have written added my own analects and personality, but have tried to keep as honestly to some materials found in the D&D world as I can. This is, for legal purposes, a fanfiction under the Open Games Licence.

Chapter10 (v.1) - Chapter Ten

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: October 23, 2016

Reads: 177

Comments: 1

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: October 23, 2016

A A A

A A A

CHAPTER TEN

 

“You’re looking happy, Chosen,” grinned Jason. Plonking his plate on the table he took a seat opposite his friend. “Aye and why wouldn’t I be?” returned Brent with a smile. “Spring is here, you’ve returned from the roads and Fortnight’s Feast is only a day away.” Jason grinned and ripped into his chicken leg.

“Heard what you did in the temple. Word does get around eventually. You’re bloody lucky they didn’t excommunicate you, my friend.”

“Huh! Like they’d dare,” said Brent picking up his roll. “I own these lands and built that temple. On that alone they wouldn’t risk being ostracised from my holdings.”

 

Jason looked at him strangely. “Would you do it? Really?” Brent shook his head and swallowed. “Not for contradicting me, no - I’m mortal and as fallible as the rest of us. But for denying Heironeous’ teachings or aid to those in need . . .” He thought about it a moment and took a sip of water. “Unless there was a good reason, yes.”

 

Jason’s eyes moved to his food and his voice dropped significantly. “What if they hadn’t realised that the person needed help?”

Brent frowned. “Speak plain, Jason. What happened?” The Gallant’s eyes flicked up to his and he shook his head quickly. “Hypothetical,” he back peddled. Brent gave him a lopsided look. “You know our Lord. The Archpaladin believes in free choice above all. If they ask for aid and we can provide it then it is a matter of whether their cause is just.”

 

“Out on the road,” Jason murmured taking another bite, “it was rumoured that a single paladin wiped out a pack of werewolves.”

“There was also rumours of young women flocking to bars whenever certain blonde-haired paladins came riding into town,” countered Brent with a grin.

“Yeah,” muttered Jason looking past Brent’s shoulder and across the room. “All but the right one.” Glancing behind he spotted a green-eyed Errant laughing loudly with her friends. “I thought you’d asked her on a date already?”

“She said she’d only have dinner with me if I beat the black knight,” complained Jason. “I told her she was beautiful and beautiful women shouldn’t have to wait to be wooed by beguiling paladins.”

Brent snorted. “You’re a terrible flirt.” Jason grinned wickedly.

“As is your manservant. Has he dragged you to his bed yet?”

 

Unbidden his mind recalled in detail the latest event two days past. Having been subjected to Patrick’s sultry looks and not-so-innocent touches for the past week he had been desperate for some relief. Having sent his manservant off on an errand into town he locked the door to his chambers. Stripping he had sat on the edge of his bed and closed his eyes. Letting his imagination go wild he’d taken himself in hand and brought himself to completion twice before lying back and slipping into a light slumber. Upon waking he hadn’t bothered to open his eyes but continued to stroke his hard cock picturing another’s hand in its place. Groaning aloud he’d felt his climax coming and stroked harder, his hand wrapped firmly around his shaft as hot, white seed escaped his body. Blissfully he had lain there soaking in the feeling of release and self-pleasure. Then came a voice.

 

“Breaking in the new hand I see.” Eyes flying open he had sat up in shock, his hands quickly concealing his equipment. A cheeky smile grew beneath emerald eyes that twinkled with amusement. Embarrassed he hunched in on himself trying to hide his scars and nakedness from his manservant. “Don’t,” ordered Patrick rising from his seat by the unlit fire. “Don’t hide your beautiful body.” Brent flushed deeper, his nerve endings tingling with awareness when Patrick stood in front of him and took hold of his shoulders.

 

Lowering himself to kneel before his master Patrick smiled gently and kept his eyes on his face. Hesitantly Brent met his gaze. “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t have been back for at least an hour.”

Patrick grinned. “I was out for two. When I came back the door was locked so I used my key. Little did I know the lovely surprise that awaited me when I got back.” Shame plastered his face at being caught. “A man has needs,” he muttered, his voice thick with humiliation. “And you don’t like the thought of doing it to yourself?” asked Patrick softly. “You know,” he continued leaning close and whispering the rest of his sentence by Brent’s ear. “I could always do it for you. I am your man’s servant after all.” Pulling back Patrick winked and rose. “Think about it,” he uttered, a hand caressing Brent’s face in passing as he left for his own room.

 

And he had. Many times.

 

 

Brent hid his flushed face behind his goblet. “So –hypothetically – who may have needed help?” he asked trying to steer the conversation away from the man who snuck into some of the most satisfying dreams that he had ever had. “There was this woman,” said Jason slowly. “An old forest witch. I came across her while we were flushing bandits from the road east. She looked rather sick.”

“We could ride out there tomorrow if you like.”

Jason smiled and nodded. “Thanks, Brent. I’d like that.”

 

 

 

“So this Fortnight’s Feast,” said Patrick going through his drawers, “what’s it actually all about?”

“A time of celebration and feasting,” answered Brent. Polishing his Armour he smiled at his reflection. “Legend has it that Aerdy, a mighty paladin of Heironeous, once lead the Heironean armies from the Kingdom of Armise to victory over an invading force.”

Patrick poked his head around the doorframe. “Armise? I’ve never heard of it.”

“Few have. It existed prior the last Changing. Anyway Aerdy’s troops met Nazamroth and his cavalry on the battlefield. For fourteen days and nights they fought until the last of the dark riders were defeated.” Putting away his polishing cloth Brent stood and pulled on the Heironeous’ Mercy. Checking himself in the mirror he ran a hand over his freshly shaven chin.

 

Patrick cleared his throat behind him. “Will this pass muster?” Brent eyed him critically. “Do you have any better clothes? Anything without patches or made from coarse cloth?” Patrick frowned and shook his head.

“I’ve only got three shirts.” Walking over to the mahogany chest of drawers the paladin riffled through the material for several minutes. “Wear this,” he said pulling forth a cloak of deepest royal blue. Patrick’s eyes widened in delight. “I’ve had it for many years,” commented Brent placing it around his manservant’s shoulders. The thick woollen cloth felt warm against his back. Attaching the pin that had been stylised into a lightening bolt the paladin smiled and stood back. “Have a look.”

 

Walking to the mirror Patrick grinned at the sight that met his eyes. The rich blue cloak that fell to his knees almost hid the serviceable brown clothes he wore beneath. The edgings were patterned with small gold and silver swords, each with its own lightening bolt and grasping hand pommel. Calloused hands rested on his shoulders. “Do you like it?” Patrick looked at the mirror and met the reflection of his blue eyes. “Aye,” he murmured softly and placed his hands over Brent’s. Ever so slowly the paladin tilted his head and kissed his neck. “Then it is yours,” he whispered between soft kisses. Feeling warmth infuse his body Patrick bared his neck to his tender kisses and leaned back into his firm chest. “Breaking more rules, eh?” murmured Patrick when he felt his master’s hands travel down his arms, pinning them to his sides. Brent’s smouldering eyes met his in the mirror and he smirked slightly. “You have that effect on me,” he agreed biting his earlobe and tugging gently.

 

Patrick’s answering groan was interrupted by a tolling of the bells. “Hextor’s balls!” hissed Brent spinning away and grabbing his sword. “We’re running late!” Charging out the door the paladin ran helter-skelter down the stairs while Patrick still stood grinning at himself in the mirror. Oh yes, he thought happily to himself, he’s definitely mine.

 

 

 

The first day of the festival was filled with feasting, songs, puppet shows and stories told of long-forgotten heroes. By the time the evening bard was stowing her harp away Patrick was dead on his feet. “Come lad,” smiled Brent warmly, “let’s get you to bed.” Hooking an arm around his waist the paladin led the exhausted young man to their rooms. Wishing him sweet dreams he left Patrick on his cot. Lying in his own soft bed Brent listened to the young man’s soft drunken snores and smiled.

 

 

By midmorning many people had descended upon the grassy fields to the north of Stance Keep where stands and seating areas had been set up for the comfort of the roaming audience. For the next several days there would be a range of competitions; archery, spear throwing, swordplay and trials by combat. Prizes had been set – as likely would many bones before the week was out.

 

Brent pulled on his helmet and grinned at Patrick’s worried expression. “You fret too much,” he joked picking up his shield and vaulting onto his horse. “I’ve done this many times.”

“I’ve seen you bloodied and bleeding out,” reminded Patrick handing him the jousting pole. “And yet I still live,” countered Brent taking the pole. “Besides we have clerics on standby here. Nothing will go wrong.” Kicking his heels into Aurik’s flanks Brent walked them over to the starting line.

 

Lowering his visor Brent stared through the slats, his breathing loud in his ears. Down the other end of the jousting lines sat Damien on his horse. Suited up and sporting a bright green favour from a maiden he waved to the crowd before bowing in his saddle to his superior. Brent rolled his eyes and lowered his jousting pole when the trumpets were sounded. Names were announced and then the game was on. Kicking his heels into Aurik he gave him his head, his eyes focused on his opponent’s shield. Wind swept past him and the pad of his pole slammed into Damien’s shield. At the same time Damien’s pole crashed into his. Straining his thighs he maintained his seat as they rode past.

 

Patrick watched from the end of the jousting lines, his teeth clenched and his eyes firmly shut. He heard the noise, the crowds’ oohhs and ahhhhs and snuck a peak as the combatants failed to unseat each other yet again. By the seventh’s charge Brent found himself flying off Aurik’s back and onto the grass. Applause broke out from those assembled as Damien pulled off his helmet and raised his fist into the air.

 

Dusting himself off Brent grinned toothily. “Rematch?” shouted Damien over the din. “You bet!” agreed Brent rubbing his backside. Hailing his stallion they walked off together. Waving away the cleric Brent grinned at his manservant who stood with his arms folded and a stern frown on his face. “Look. No harm done,” Brent said handing his helmet and jousting pole to Patrick.

 

 

That afternoon Brent strolled the festival grounds with Aly, checking and correcting her knowledge of their faith. Patrick had trailed behind them for a while before leaving to explore the festival for himself. “Thanks for this, Chosen,” smiled Aly handing him a cob of corn. Tasting the sweet flavour she munched quietly for several minutes. “Are you sure I’ll be ready for tonight?” Brent smiled and slung an arm around her shoulder. “You are, Errant. You know the story of Corin and, while it may not be one of high adventure and bloody battles, his deeds were still mighty.” Aly looked sideways at her commander. “He’s a hero of sorts to you, isn’t he, Chosen?”  Brent grinned and nodded. Aly bit her lower lip and leaned into his strength. “You will be there listening?” Looking down at the sweet woman Brent nodded slowly. Lifting her hand to his lips he kissed it softly. “I promise.”

 

Ahead cheers were heard as the winner of the day’s archery heats were announced. Jason stood nearby, his face shining with delight at his brother’s achievement. His eyes followed hers to the handsome Gallant. “You know he’ll be there too,” he said quietly. Aly coloured and looked away. “Who?”

Brent chuckled. “You two are as bad as each other. Now go play and have fun,” he ordered pushing her towards the brothers. “You sure?” she called back but her feet were already walking away.

 

Rounding a corner Brent came across Brox and Clefe chatting by the food stalls. “You two are in fine humour,” he greeted taking their hands one after the other.

“Business is booming! Sales are soaring and I’ve already had to organise another delivery to keep up supply,” extolled Clefe lifting her glass in good cheer.

“And the influx of people is helping to distribute our excess produce while the travelling pedlars it’s attracted have brought in some exotic goods.” Brox grinned and clinked his glass to hers. “I’ve already found some lovely gold silk scarves for my wife.” Brent grinned shielded his eyes against the sun.

“I have never seen so many people join us.”

“It’s been a good year, Chosen,” commented Brox. “No wars or famine, a rare time of peace.” He finished his wine and signalled for another. The trumpets sounded in the distance. “Hey Chosen!” Clefe said patting his shoulder. “Any hints for the betting ring? No injuries, sleeplessness or devotion we should know about?” Brent rolled his eyes and smirked. “You know I can’t tell you that, Clefe.” The trumpet sounded again and he waved farewell.

 

 

Several paladins, clerics, travelling warriors and adventurous farmers nursed their wounds that night in the mess hall. While no serious injuries had been left untended bones still ached from being jarred and so did ribs that had been divinely healed. Brent grinned and passed a mug to Sam. “Not bad getting second place.”

“You could have helped me out there,” Sam replied with a smile. “Just broken a bone or two.” Damien snorted. “Hey!” defended Sam. “The healing contest is just as difficult and if anything more costly. Do you know how many scrolls and rods I went through today? It’ll take me a month to restock!”

 

Patrick wandered over and took a seat opposite. “You could have saved your magic and used some bandages you know,” he counter proposed. “That way it still would have counted as having healed them for the competition.” Sam looked at him and blinked. “He got to you,” he muttered. When Patrick looked askance around the table Brent began to laugh loudly. “Oh yes,” Sam continued to mutter, “he’s got his claws into you.”

 

Clarissa piped up from a nearby table. “The Chosen has the misguided belief that we should only use our magic where necessary, like for life and death situations.”

“Err no,” corrected another cleric. “He follows the old belief of healing simple matters with mundane means and keeping some divine aid aside in case of an emergency.”

“Thank you, Lesley,” Brent said. “It’s different here than on the road or in a war zone but some axioms are hard to let go.”

“Hey you entering the all in challenge?” questioned Damien changing the topic.

“I didn’t think that was for another three days,” frowned Sam.

“It isn’t but the sign up is tomorrow,” explained the paladin. “And I’m looking for a team.”

“Not me,” said Brent. “We still need that rematch.”

“You’re on!” grinned Damien rubbing his hands together. “Be prepared to loose, Chosen.” Brent rolled his eyes. Pushing his plate aside he stood and wished his companions good night.

 

Jumping to his feet Patrick followed. “What did he mean by that, my lord?” he asked hurrying to keep up. Brent glanced back. “Each year we have heats for five days. The champions of each are given the opportunity, along with our own people, to enter the lottery to join the Battle of Champions. The black knight heads on team and I have always headed the other.”

“So you both get a straight pass to the finals?”

“Oh Celestia no!” chuckled Brent. “I take my share of knocks and scrapes. It’ll be fun. I just hope I manage to keep my record of getting into the Championship Round.” Opening the door to his chambers Brent yawned and stretched. “Night, Patrick.”

 

 

The days passed swiftly during Fortnight’s Feast. The team challenges had begun and Brent’s favoured paladins and clerics had performed beyond expectation. Patrick stood silently waiting for his master in the meditation gardens. With his palms facing skyward on his knees Brent had knelt with his head bowed since early that morning. The trumpets sounded. “Is it time, Patrick?”

“Yes, my lord.”

 

Standing Brent swung Truthbringer in a low arc. “You love showing off, don’t you, Sir?” said Patrick. Brent chuckled and sheathed his sword.

“Today is my day. I’m going for a new record.” Patrick shook his head and fell into step. “And you’re sure you can’t get decapitated or killed in this event?” Brent stopped and touched his shoulder. “Are you that worried about me, my friend?” he asked kindly. Patrick frowned and nodded once. “We are all trained warriors and healers. Clerics ring the edges of the arena with rods and wands on standby,” explained Brent. “Nothing untoward will happen, Patrick. I promise.”

 

Ahead the crowd gathered, shouting and talking noisily above the din of chanting clerics. Damien waved to Brent who lifted his hand in response. Spinning he smiled knowingly at his manservant. “A token from m’lady?” he teased holding out a hand. Patrick rolled his eyes. “You get nothing but an I-told-you-so if you get hurt.” Brent placed a hand over his heart and with a mock expression of shock he espoused, “I’m hurt, Patrick. Really hurt. Guess I’ll have to ask one of these other fine young men or women for theirs to wear instead . . .” Frowning Patrick wagged finger at him menacingly. “Ooh you tease!” he growled then calmed. “Brent I can’t give you anything because I don’t have a handkerchief or something else to give.” The paladin smiled. “Then, my dear siren, might I partake in a kiss?” Patrick beamed and nodded. He leant forward but froze at the horrified look on Brent’s face. “Not here,” he hissed. “Later. If I win.” Patrick glanced around and noticed bystanders watching them.

“You better win then,” he said. Brent grasped his hand and gave a squeeze.

“Hurry up, Chosen!” came a shout.

“Coming!” Brent yelled back. “Look out for me,” he told his manservant and left.

 

“You ready for this?” grinned Damien wolfishly. “I’ve got my ace in the hole.”

“Who?” questioned Brent looking around. A man dressed in full plate armour stood nearby, his longsword and shield as black as the armour he wore. A heavy helmet blocked his face from view. The only outward sign of his or her identity was a singular lightening bolt symbol emblazoned on the palm of his gauntlet. “The Black Knight,” commented Brent. “I wonder who Lord and Lady Aldur sent us this time?” The Knight looked across the room at the Chosen but not a word did he say. Dipping his head slowly Brent did the same in response. “And that’s not all,” grinned Damien with glee. “I’ve got Jason, Ashley, Carlson and Mark’s blades as well as four clerics. This year you’re going DOWN, Chosen!” Damien whooped with glee and took his troops aside to prepare for the game.

 

Shaking his head Brent entered the next tent to see what awaited him. Inwardly he groaned at the men and women he had been given; five Errants, three Blesseds, a Glorious ranked cleric and himself. “Yeah I know,” said the latter coming up, “they really sold us over this time. Damn lottery.”

“Huh. Speak for yourself, Sam,” muttered Brent casting his eyes over the beginners that were assigned to him. “We’ll still win this day.”

“Yeah. Keep sounding that confident and we might just pull this off,” muttered Sam.

 

Clearing his throat the Chosen summoned his people close. “I take it you all know why we’re here.” Brent looked around at the hopeful group. “And while many of you are young or inexperienced this will be . . ” he trailed off trying to find the right word.

“A slaughter?” provided Sam helpfully. Brent narrowed his eyes. “We’re all thinking it,” added the cleric sheepishly.

“It just means we need to use some creative planning.”

 

A man came in bearing a map and a set of rules for the games. Accepting them Brent read them over carefully. “Nothing bar the equipment we wear. No rods, wands or scrolls. All spells and abilities may be used. No deliberate harming of living participants. All fairly standard stuff.”

 

“Right. Here’s what we’re going to do.”

 

 

In the stands Patrick sat close to Aly. Several excited spectators spoke loudly around them. “How come you’re not out there, Aly?” Patrick asked peering at the strange pit below. Measuring eighty feet by two hundred the massive pit had taken several days to construct beyond the confines of the Keep. “Oh it’s a lottery. Those of us who want to participate put our name in and they’re drawn out. I got to compete last year but I only made it to the second round.”

“Brent tried to explain it but I didn’t quite follow. He said you fought each other and some skeletons?”

“Yeah that’s right,” nodded Aly pointing to the rope ladders at the far end of the field. “The first round is each team verus a bunch on undead – skeletons, ghouls, allips, that sort of thing.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

Aly gave him a superior look. “Well of course. But there’s enough divine power around here to wipe out the undead within seconds if they escaped the pit. Besides they’re mindless drones that can’t feel pain so it’s not cruel killing them as they don’t have any life to begin with, Patrick.”

 

Down by the edge of the pit several clerics had finished casting their spells. Bony creatures and dark mists rose from the ground. Patrick swallowed. “Then everyone goes to the next round?”

“No,” correct Aly. “Anyone knocked unconscious, yields or gets too badly hurt is pulled out by the clerics.” She pointed out the blue robed men and women that bordered the pit at intervals. “The second round is team against team as well as undead. Almost everyone is knocked out in this round.”

“And the final?”

“Oh that’s where it gets interesting. If there are any survivors from either team they face off. Shh,” hushed Aly moving forward on her seat. “They’re about to start.”

 

Trumpets sounded and High Cleric Fion came forth from the triage tent. “May His words ever shine upon your path!”

“And His justice strengthen our hearts,” intoned the crowd.

“My friends!” Fion shouted, his arms wide as he surveyed the crowd. “Today is that special day where the Battle of Champions commences! Our two teams, lead by the mysterious Black Knight with Damien Johnson, our very own Knight Courageous to the Invincible-” he paused for the crowd to cheer. “And Brent T’elc, Knight Valiant and Chosen of Heironeous-” he paused again as the crowd lifted its collective voice high. Patrick screamed and shouted along with the rest of them, revelling in the competitive atmosphere. “Quite,” muttered the priest then he lifted his voice once more to the masses. “Shall face the terror of the grave as well as each other!” Fion let the crowd go wild for several moments before raising his hands in the air. “The Black Knight’s team has won the toss and shall go first.” So saying he stepped back and the drums began to beat.

 

From the red tent at one end of the field emerged five paladins dressed in well-polished armour. Swiftly they slid down the ropes, withdrew their shiny swords and held them aloft to the crowd. Behind came four middle-aged clerics. From around the outskirts of the pit their fellows raised a riot shouting their names with encouragement. Last into the pit was the Black Knight. Silent but for the sound of his armour clinking he descended in a crouch and stood. His blade shone silver against the black of its pommel. The crowd hushed and it was on.

 

Brandishing their weapons high the five paladins charged the dozen skeletons, their blades sparking as they struck their intended targets. Behind them the clerics bent their heads, their lips and hands moving quickly to blast the approaching zombies. Guarding them was the Black Knight, his blade swiftly slicing into anything that came near.

 

Screams and shouts were heard and more undead were summoned into the pit. Allips, misty shades of those that died ignobly hovered above the ground, stretching out their shadowy forms to brush against the combatants. The Black Knight moved swiftly but not quickly enough. While the clerics burned several zombies into ash an allip touched one cleric and its effect was immediate. Falling to the ground the cleric began to jibber and wail clutching his head protectively.

 

Bones scattered the ground where the paladins trod. While one limped badly the rest huddled together making a protective ring. Damien stood his ground meeting his opponents’ stroke for stroke, his sword swiftly slamming into their spinal columns and severing them in half.

 

Fifteen minutes of nail biting action later the last of the undead were killed. While they were pulled out of the pit the audience clapped and applauded. After quickly talking to his team Damien approached Fion. Following a brief conversation Fion announced that two of his team had been pulled from the competition.

 

Within their tent Brent stood with his team in a circle. “Remember my fellows, we do this to show our skills and win honour for the Arch-Paladin.” The drums began and Brent nodded to Sam.

 

Leading the way Sam and the other clerics climbed down into the pit closely followed by the nervous Errants. Centring himself Brent left the tent to join them. He could hear the crowd chanting his title and he smiled despite himself. Quickly his people took their place. “Save your specialist spells for the second round,” warned Sam. “Only use your turn undead when you have the chance to take out a group.”

 

Taking the foreground Brent lifted his sword high. The drums ceased and the battle began. Charging into the centre Brent grew the attention of the skeletons and undead. Surrounded on all sides Truthbringer sliced and hacked at rotting flesh splintering bone. Back at the edge of the pit three Errants had summoned their mounts and began to charge those on the outskirts. Funnelling the undead into the centre the clerics lead by Sam lifted their holy symbols and bathed the area with divine magic.

 

Within seconds bodies fell lifelessly to the hard ground. Whistles and applause erupted from the audience as the clerics on the outskirts wove their magic. Two Errants, those without mounts, were caught from behind by an allip before one of the clerics cast searing light at the creature. The allip shrieked, the eerie sound sending chills down everyone’s spine. Snarling a mounted paladin brandished their sword through the ethereal creature, its divine enchantment causing the creature to quickly dissipate.

 

The party continued to fight however the second wave was smaller than the first and was quickly dealt with resulting in only minor scratches for the living. Several clerics looked discomforted and Aly chuckled quietly to Patrick. “There was a lot of money riding on this event.”

“Where’s everyone going?” asked Patrick looking around as the people departed the stands. “There’s an hour’s recess silly,” explained Aly. “How else would they clean and purify the grounds? Come on. Let’s get a bite to eat.”

 

 

Within their tent Sam grinned and devoured his sandwich. “That worked perfectly Brent. Did you see how much that strategy pissed off Fion?” He laughed loudly.

“Never bet against the Chosen,” spoke Alison shyly.

“You held your ground well for a cleric with no field experience, Alison,” complimented Brent. Alison smiled and curtsied. “Your words mean a lot to me, Chosen.”

“Another messenger, Chosen,” called Errant Arwen. Brent stood and took the pro-offered scroll. His eyes quickly scanned the scroll. “Five minutes people. Then down into the pit we go.”

 

 

Facing one another across the pit the sixteen combatants waved to one another. Below there were dozens and dozens of creatures wandering about. Allips, skeletons and undead zombies slowly moved across the ground dragging their bones or sword points through the dirt. Black shadows wailed and hovered, their incorporeal armour making them a foreboding figure. “Wraiths,” uttered Brent. “I haven’t seen those before in a competition.” The young paladins and closeted clerics grimaced while veterans of the field tightened their defences and looked on.

 

Fion took his place and lifted his hand for silence. “To pass to the next round,” he shouted, “you need to survive thirty minutes without being knocked out, incapacitated or severely wounded.”

 

A shrill scream akin to claws scraping against ice flooded the area. “What in the nine hells was that?” squeaked Alison her eyes wide with terror.

“He wouldn’t,” said Sam in disbelief. His face paled and he pointed to the humanoid form that walked, its long arms flopping by its sides. “Wight.”

“Don’t let it touch you. Their touch is worse than a wraith or an allip,” warned Brent, his fingers clenching and unclenching around the pommel of his sword. “It burns away your constitution, your ability to think and act,” recited Sam recalling the books in the library. Brent grimaced. “Cleric and paladin pairs. Stay together. Come down two at a time. Sam, you’re with me. We take the brunt.”

 

“You can be severely hurt,” repeat Fion staring at the paladins and clerics lining up on the sides, “and we would rather pull you out then resurrect you later. Begin!”

 

Saluting one another the Black Knight and the Chosen made their way to the ropes. Glancing down Brent saw the number of skeletons already assembled below. Gritting his teeth he drew forth his sword and dropped down the rope’s length.

 

Creatures clawed and swung at his feet as he landed. Swinging his sword in a wide arch he cleared a path. Trusting in the protection Heironeous Mercy afforded him Brent shouldered his way through the skeletons, crushing bones and leaving a passage through the undead zombies. “Turn undead!” came a shout behind him. Blue and white light flooded from a raised hand and the creatures turned to ash. “Thanks Sam,” shouted Brent already moving.

 

At the other end the Black Knight had left his people to take on the skeletons while he stalked the black shadows that migrated his way. Dancing he spun this way and that, his blade flying in intricate arches that dispersed the shadows of evil.

 

The audience looked on, rapt in the excitement and danger of the bout. Throughout the pit cries of “Smite Evil!” and “Turn undead!” were heard. It seemed for a time that the Heironeans were holding their own. Then came a howl of pain. Unable to lift his blade Gallant Carlson fell to his knees under the weight of his armour. In front of him stood a shadow, its black hand grasping Carlson’s shoulder. “Hextor’s balls!” swore Brent. Unable to reach the man he engaged the allip that blocked his path. “COMING!” shouted Damien as he tore away from the Black Knight’s side and vaulted over an undead corpse. “TURN UNDEAD!” he screeched. Blinding white light burst from his holy symbol, incinerating the shadow where it stood. Reaching their side Brent covered their retreat to the side of the pit. Binding the weakened paladin to a lowered rope Damien joined Brent against a pair of wights as Carlson was pulled to safety. “This is ridiculous!” hissed Brent catching a nick to his cheek.

“But what a challenge!” rejoined Damien slicing through his opponent.

Spiritual weapon: Heironeous’ mace!” prayed Brent. Moments later a magical mace floated beside him striking the killing blow on a wight. Separating they rejoined the fray.

 

Fifteen minutes into the round a cloud covered the sun. “Oh mother Stern Ali!” growled Sam glancing up at the sky. “What fresh hell is this?” Within moments a magical darkness coated the pit. Lifting his hand in front of his face Sam shouted, “I can’t see my own hand!”

 

“What in the nine hells! We can’t fight like this,” groaned a nearby Errant. “What if we hurt each other by mistake?”

“We’ll just have to be careful,” said Brent, his voice carrying in the darkness. Everyone speak out and paladins trust your detect evil.” Closing his eyes he stilled his beating heart and listened to his instincts. Flinging his sword to the left he cleft downwards and heard a heavy thud in response. An icy touch caught his neck and he felt his health begin to drain away. Oh no you don’t, he thought quickly. “Lay on hands!” he cried splitting the healing between the wraith and himself. He heard the hiss and pop of the wraith vanishing into the nether world and stumbled around in the dark. He could hear his fellows struggling.

 

Bowing his head he touched his chest with his right fist. “Light,” he prayed. Soft gentle light spilled through the Armour lighting ten feet in every direction. Spearing his sword through a crawling zombie Brent lifted his voice. “TO ME!” he ordered, his head rising above the dead bodies underfoot. The undead continued to come and come and come. He swore they were multiplying faster than they could kill them off. Sam, a terrified looking Errant and a lone cleric stumbled their way through the darkness to him. Brightening his Armour with a thought Brent heard Damien cry out in pain. “As your Chosen I order you,” shouted Brent, “TO ME!”

 

Slowly out of the darkness they came, the last four people. “Barrier ring, now!” snapped Brent kneeling and summoning all his divine power into one powerful blast. His people surrounded him, their longswords and maces barely able to keep back the undead’s draining touch. Whimpering came from the two youngest clerics as they fell to the ground. Standing Brent held the divine power tightly coiled within his mortal body, his eyes closed and his fists clenched until he could handle no more. “DOWN!” he commanded in a loud voice. As one his people dropped to the earth as Brent spun on the spot, his arms outstretched, the emblem on his chest blazing with light. Flames erupted around them, brilliant blinding white light casting out the darkness as wraith and allip, wight and shadow were made no more. Silence claimed the field.

 

The power gone Brent staggered. The strength it took to cast the spell had cost him dearly in the short term. He would have fallen if not for the Black Knight that grabbed his shoulders in support. Panting the Chosen blinked wearily and gazed around. “All gone?” he asked shakily. The Black Knight looked around and nodded. Brent’s head dropped to his chest. “Good.” His gaze moved to the fallen warriors.

“It’s okay, Brent,” reassured Sam. “They’re hurting and unconscious but two healing spells and they’ll be right as rain in a day.”

 

“That’s . . .  that’s not possible,” came a shocked voice from above. The remaining six people stared up at the high cleric. Limping forward on the Black Knight’s arm Brent lifted his chin and shouted, “FION! That was uncalled for! We had beginners in the ring! If you want to see bloody violence like that then take a trip to Cyndr’s Wall and save me the trouble of killing you myself!” With assistance they were pulled up from the pit.

 

The high cleric’s face turned red. “You can’t threaten me! I’m your high cleric! I have witnesses!” He turned to the audience. “You all heard him! He threatened my life!” Regaining his strength Brent stepped away from the Black Knight and pointed an accusatory finger at Fion. “You know the rules for this competition. None should die.”

“And no one did!” retorted Fion.

“If I hadn’t stepped in,” began Brent his blue eyes like ice, “if my people weren’t good-”

“We had clerics ready to stop the game at any moment.”

Damien swore loudly. “Hextor’s balls! Someone summoned a fucking Dread Wraith!”

Sam piped up too. “There was no way your people could see any better through that blackness than I could!” His outrage was clear. Several people had already run over to check on their loved ones. Brent stumbled and felt many hands helping him back to his feet. He felt the Black Knight glide his hand around his shoulder for support.

 

The crowd began muttering uneasily as the remaining warriors brought their companions out to be tended to in the tirage centre. Fion felt the tide turn against him and he thought quickly. Pointing a finger at Brent he pulled himself up tall and looked down his nose at him. “That still doesn’t explain your explosion. You broke the rules by bringing an item into the pit. Don’t hide it, Chosen. Hand it over.”

 

Brent stilled and lifted his eyes to meet his. “The contest is over Fion.” He spoke quietly yet his voice carried. “As is your stay in my lands. Pack your things. You are to be gone from the Land of Zealots by nightfall.” Fion stood there gaping unable to say anything as several of his colleagues led him away.

 

Brent felt another shoulder slip under his other arm. “Patrick?” he murmured in surprise. “You shouldn’t be here.” His manservant gave him a wan smile.

“I thought,” he started then stopped abruptly.

“Ah, Chosen?” came a hesitant voice. Brent paused and looked over at the anxious cleric. “Yes, Cleric Aamin?”

“I’m sorry Sir but I have to ask. Did you use something you shouldn’t have?” stuttered the nervous man wringing his fingers in front of his robe. Swallowing Brent straightened slightly and shook his head. “I am His and His power flowed through me,” he answered, “but at a cost.”

“What, ah, what was that?” Aamin asked, a mix of fear and awe in his voice.

Celestial brilliance combined with searing light. A deadly combination,” said an old cleric. “I haven’t seen those combined since I was a child under High Cleric Andrew and he was a Hero of the First Rank.” The old man peered at Brent in a new light.

 

The Black Knight touched the Chosen’s side and Brent shook his head. “Not until I know that every one of my people is safe.”

“Brent rest,” coaxed Sam. “We can handle this. You trained us well. Go.” Brent searched his eyes for several moments before bowing his head in acceptance. Slowly the three walked away leaving the commotion of the festival behind them.

 


© Copyright 2017 Justin Fyld. All rights reserved.

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