Tar’vid took a deep breath as he plunged his head into the rainwater barrel at the rear of his home, pulling free a moment later and spraying water everywhere. He and Luna had been in Randell for months now and life felt good, Tar’vid had taken over as the village healer since the last one had been eaten by Kikkimurs the year before and Luna prepared the house for their coming child.
“Are you finally going to get rid of that fluff on your face?” she called mockingly from the kitchen window.
Tar’vid rubbed the whiskers on his face, then looked at his reflection in the water. It wasn’t a beard by any stretch of the imagination, but he wanted a beard damn it.
“Not yet” he shouted back grumpily, why were Elves so prejudiced against beards.
“Get rid of it, you look scruffy” Luna called back sternly.
He sighed, pulling out his knife and an old leather belt, running the blade on the oiled leather until it was sharp and clean, bidding his first hairs farewell, he carefully scraped them away from his face. Tar’vid picked up Torgard and made his way indoors, propping up the blade against the wall beside his boots. He went up behind Luna, hugging her from behind and nuzzling her neck gently.
“Much better” she purred at him.
Tar’vid placed a hand on her belly, feeling a sense of excitement. It was still hard for him to believe she was almost eight months pregnant now.
“She’ll be here soon you know” Luna whispered, placing her hand on his.
Tar’vid smiled broadly, in a few months he’d be a father. Never had he wanted something so much and never known he could have it. Luna held his hand for a minute more before slapping his thigh playfully.
“Come on, you have work to do. As do I” she said shrugging him off. He kissed her on the neck and went to get a shirt from their bedroom, rummaging through their wardrobe he smiled fondly. Tucked away at the bottom of the wardrobe was his Paladin tabard, it’s blue cross and white fabric completely cleansed of blood, the stitching so fine he couldn’t even see the holes where the arrows had grazed him so long ago.
“I wondered when you’d find that,” Luna said from the doorway happily as Tar’vid pulled on a white shirt from the drawer.
She sat down on the bed as he unfurled his tabard, holding the garment to the light.
“Deadra brought it to Veldren with her, she feared my father would get suspicious if he found it in my possession” Luna continued with a faint smile.
“Thank you, I had thought my tabard was long gone by now” he replied, noting the extra needlework, a small infinite blue dragon worked into the cross’ embroidery.
“Maeliene has been teaching me how to sew and I used your tabard for practice. Turns out I’m pretty good” Luna told him proudly, running her fingers over the added stitching.
He kissed her and pulled it on over his shirt, he still felt a great pride in wearing the symbol of his order, even after so long away.
“Go on now, I’m sure there’s plenty of clients waiting for you,” she said, waving him out the door.
Tar’vid picked up Torgard, belting the sword around his waist as he slipped into his boots and turned to look back at Luna. “I love you Lunathion,” he said happily.
“I know you do you, now get going,” Luna told him with a smile.
Tar’vid walked through their small garden, passing through the gate and down the path into the village.
“Morning Tar’vid,” Jonas said as he passed, a slim half-Elf he’d known for a while now. Though he seemed shy, Tar’vid had seen something inside the boy, perhaps he’d be interested in learning sword skill one day.
“There are several men and women waiting at your surgery” Jonas continued, running a hand through his dark hair.
A queue at the surgery was nothing new as he was constantly late, it was probably just as well his services were the only ones available.
“That’s hardly new Jonas, my time keeping is rather shocking” he replied with a smile before continuing on.
“These folk are armed, dressed as you are in fact. Their horses are tied up by the village hall, quite a commotion in the village centre now” Jonas replied, shaking his head.
“Thanks for the heads up Jonas, I think perhaps you should let Luna know. I doubt this will be good news” Tar’vid said to him firmly.
Jonas nodded and ran off towards their cottage. Tar’vid tested Torgard in its sheath, the blade still came loose easily. Prepared as he could be, Tar’vid headed towards the village hall.
Tar’vid spotted the group of Paladins waiting by his surgery and immediately wondered why Jonas had left out that one of them was a giant, easily two feet taller than the other three. It wasn’t much longer before they spotted him, a grizzled older man tapping a tall Elf on the shoulder and whispering something to him. The Elf nodded in return, the other member, a raven-haired young woman simply stared at him unflinchingly.
“I would have expected one of Tar’son’s students to be more punctual,” the older man said jokingly, his good humour belying his appearance. A great scar ran the length of his neck stopping at his left ear, a short grey beard adorning his weathered face.
“Well, when you’re the only healer in the village, you can set your own hours” Tar’vid replied with a wry smile, the Elf he noted, was not impressed.
“If you two are quite finished we have business to discuss. The grand master sent us here to convince you to come... though I see nothing remarkable about you Tar’vid” the Elf said without a hint of humour, his haughty face framed by long blonde hair.
“It would seem many have thought that about me, most regretted it shortly after” Tar’vid replied, challenging the arrogant Elf’s attitude.
He noted that the raven-haired woman was the first to reach for her sword, though the older man waved a calming hand at her quickly.
“Now, now, gentleman. It would seem we have gotten off on the wrong foot here. Tar’vid how about we go indoors where we can discuss things more privately” the older man interceded, nodding beyond Tar’vid’s shoulder.
When he looked back he saw Luna standing beside the pathway, bow drawn taut and drawing a bead on the raven-haired woman.
“Don’t even try it young lady” Luna called over as Jonas looked on in awe.
The woman removed her hand from the blade, raising her hands slowly. In the same breath, Luna slowly released the tension on her bowstring, lowering the weapon slowly.
“You okay here now?” she called over to him, breathing heavily after the exertion.
“I think so, it would seem things got off on the wrong foot” Tar’vid called back with a smile.
“How unlike you” Luna replied with a smile of her own, before going back up the pathway towards their cottage.
“Perhaps we should go inside now, I think the village has had enough excitement for one day” Tar’vid declared, taking a key from his belt pouch and unlocking the front door to his surgery, beckoning the other Paladins to enter.
Tar’vid opened up the shutters on the windows, letting light pour into the small wooden building he used for business. The other Paladins taking seats where they could. The giant standing by the window seemed sceptical that any of the chairs would take her weight though. After the last shutter had been opened he took a seat beside an old table he used for a desk, the other Paladins focused on him intently.
“So... you were saying the grand master sent you to get me, why four of you?” Tar’vid asked quizzically, looking to each of them in turn.
“According to the grand master’s own words... ‘Tar’mine himself requested it’” the giant said, her voice much more feminine than outward appearances would have implied.
“Indeed, though I believe introductions should be in order,” the older man said firmly, the others looking to him respectfully.
“Indeed, you are right,” the Elf said reluctantly. “I am Tar’gelth,” he said, standing and giving a slight bow.
“I am Tar’gorth,” the older man said happily, also standing and offering a bow.
“I am Sah’eca,” said the giant, who inclined her head. He noticed that she also had to squat to avoid hitting the ceiling.
“I’m Sah’rah,” said the dark-haired woman. Though she didn’t get up, nor offer him even the time of day.
“Forgive Sah’rah, Tar’vid, you were made a full Paladin several days before her. It would seem she coveted being the youngest Paladin ever raised” Tar’gelth said apologetically, giving her a reproachful look.
“Indeed, though to get things back on track, we are here to take you to Brownfields. The order has been amassing there for almost a year now and we’re nearly ready to depart” Tar’gelth told him in a no-nonsense tone.
“And as the grand master said, Tar’mine has personally requested your presence. I realise you have a life here... a family even. But you cannot refuse the Saints own wishes” Tar’gorth said, though not without sympathy.
Tar’vid had feared something like this, Brownfields was a weeks journey away at least and Tar’gelth had said about leaving. How long would he be away? Luna would be due soon.
“Can you spare me a few days to send for a new healer, my wife is due to give birth soon. I can’t leave her without help” Tar’vid asked of them, though where he would get such help he had no idea.
“We can spare you but a few hours Tar’vid, the coming campaign has already been delayed so we could find you... I’m sorry” Tar’gorth told him in no uncertain terms.
“Then I’ll have to tell my wife and sort things as best I can” Tar’vid announced, he felt sick to his stomach at the news... especially knowing the Saints wanted him to go.
“Please make yourselves comfortable then, I’ll be back as soon as possible,” he told them all, trying not to get angry at the injustice of it all.
Tar’gorth nodded his approval and that seemed to satisfy the others. Tar’vid left his surgery at a run, heading for their cottage to try and explain things to Luna.
Tar’vid arrived to find Luna calmly sitting on their porch in her rocking chair, a pack beside her... was she planning on going too he wondered.
“Luna I’m afr...” he started to say before she cut him off.
“You have to leave... I knew it would be so when I spotted those four Paladins at your work. Here, I packed up what you’ll need for a week’s travel” she told him.
Tar’vid squatted down beside her, taking her hand in his.
“I was expecting a fight from you if I’m being honest. Why are you so calm?” he asked perplexed.
“I’ve expected something like this for a long time... just promise me you’ll careful” she replied, kissing him lovingly from her chair.
“I promise...” he replied sadly, not wanting to leave her alone.
“I never thought I’d see a Venna this far north. That was a treat” she added whimsically.
“Venna?” Tar’vid asked puzzled.
“The large woman, she’s half Dwarf. Not the mountain men type, more the demi-god kind of Dwarf that walked the earth thousands of years ago. I believe there’s only a handful of real Dwarves left now” she said with a wry smile.
“Now go on, don’t keep your Saints waiting,” Luna told him sternly. “And don’t worry, I’ve enlisted Jonas to help me.”
Almost on cue, Jonas appeared at the doorway with drinks and buttered toast.
“You can count on me Tar’vid, I won’t let anything happen to her,” he said proudly.
“I don’t doubt it, then... for now, farewell” Tar’vid said sadly, leaving them before his tears started to well up.
Tar’vid’s mood was still dark when he arrived back at his surgery, the other Paladins already preparing their horses to leave. He couldn’t help but notice Sah’eca’s horse was monstrously muscled, though he guessed it would have to have been to take her weight.
“Come Tar’vid, we brought a spare for you” Tar’gorth called to him, indicating a black charger tethered to the village hall.
“I don’t know how to ride a horse though” he replied a little embarrassed, Sah’rah snorted with laughter at his admission.
Tar’gelth stared at her until she noticed the look. “Don’t worry about it Tar’vid. Sah’rah will lead your horse until your comfortable riding” he stated, as a matter of fact, Sah’rah looked mortified at having to babysit him.
Tar’vid noticed Tar’gorth smile a little as he mounted his horse, the charger stamping its hooves as he picked up the reigns. Sah’rah immediately snatched them from him, leading the horse behind her with a furious scowl on her face.
The horses made slow progress through the forest that kept Randell hidden from the outside world. Tar’vid only now realising Tar’mine must have pointed them right to the village, how else would they have found him. He stared at the backs of the others, wondering where they would be heading after reaching Brownfields. As the party broke from the forest way they picked up the pace, the horses breaking into a trot and heading east along the seaway road.
“Keep up Tar’vid” Sah’rah laughed, tossing him the reigns to his horse.
Tar’vid panicked for a moment, before realising the horse was trained to follow the others and relaxed. It didn’t stop the others laughing at his expense though and he cursed. It was going to be a long journey to Brownfields... he knew it.