Paladin - the path north volume 1

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Chapter 17

Dagarn sat in the Paladin camp, his face threatening to turn into a snarl. What were these pathetic humans doing? Giving up after a single defeat, how had his people been slaughtered by weaklings like these.

“Are you quitting to Sir Knight?” He asked of Godwin, the knight saddling up his horse along with Helmed his squire.

“Never!” Shouted the knight angrily, drawing the attention of the soldiers nearby. “I will ride to one of the tribes, perhaps with a combined effort we can take Kendral.”

“Huh, good luck with that then” he replied walking away.

Humans were strange creatures he thought. Once the chosen of Tar’mine had been killed his duty was over. He’d taken his weapons and come to the camp to look in on things, only to find the Paladin army was off home. Perhaps the Jakken would pay him well for his services, besides, that pretty dark-haired girl was there. Maybe she’d be interested in hooking up.

He passed through the army formations, everyone backing out of his way like everyone always did, except for one.

“How’re things Venna?” He asked, the woman was a hulking brute like him, and like him, she had a great intellect others didn’t expect.

“They’re fine... are you leaving soon?” she asked and he was broken from his thoughts about fighting her.

“Yeah, I think so, no money to be made here, not much point heading back to the castle either. Too many Paladins for my liking,” he replied with a shrug.

“I thought you were lonely there by yourself?” the Venna asked raising an eyebrow.

“I thought I was, kinda hoped they’d be like Sah’rah, but they aren’t. Just a bunch of pious pricks.”

Sah’eca shook her head and grabbed his arm, pulling him towards her tent. He liked assertive women.

“Look, I’m packing up my things to move to Windholme and... what are you doing?” she asked him. He had thought it obvious as his britches were around his ankles.

He spread his arms wide. “Thought you were bringing me back here for a bout or two, guess I read the situation wrong... my bad.”

“No! Well, maybe later,” she replied as he stuffed his manhood back into his britches.

“You need someone to help carry all this crap, got it. Windholme was my next stop anyway.”

He took a seat on a rather large couch, dumping his pack on the ground, it was nice for a seat not to creak under his weight.

“Things would go faster if you helped,” she said to him irritatedly, throwing him a chest.

“I know other ways to make things go faster,” he replied, a firm stare told him that wasn’t going to happen.

“How did you survive alone? With your what I can only assume to be a raging sex drive?” she asked after a minute of packing scrolls.

“I can suppress it if need be, been so long I thought I’d let it kick back in. Hey, this yours?” he asked, finding a large bottle of what he could only assume was a drink of some kind.

“Yes, Tar’gorth gave it to me. But I don’t drink much.”

“Later then,” he said with a smirk.

“If you help, then one glass... and only one glass,” she said firmly. Dagarn could go with that and started to neatly pack the books and scrolls into boxes and chests where they would fit. He knew Sah’eca would be shocked at his preciseness, but he’d lived in a perpetually clean environment, if he didn’t put things back exactly he’d never find them again. As the night rolled in they finished up, a large stack of boxes and chests piled against the far wall.

“So one drink?” he asked her.

“One GLASS,” Sah’eca replied, he smiled at her wickedly, taking two glass tankards from his pack. They’d been his fathers, probably a few thousand years old... and magical. For an hour after the liquid was poured the glasses wouldn’t fall below half full. He’d had some fun with the Paladin garrison over the years with these.

He noticed her gaze on him. “What? You said one glass, ergo these are glass... you aren’t reneging on our deal are you?” he said as defensively as possible.

The Venna grabbed a tankard from him, surprisingly filling her mug to the brim before pouring his own.

“To a new partnership” she announced, clinking her glass against his.

“I’ll drink to that,” he agreed as they both drank what must have been a gallon in one go. Sah’eca looking at her suspiciously still half full tankard.

“Are you trying to get me drunk, Orc?” she asked suspiciously, raising an eyebrow.

“Perhaps, I’ve never had a drinking contest with a Venna before. I think I’ll win though, no Elf, Dwarf, human or bear has gone drink for drink with me before.”

“Bear?” she inquired sceptically.

“Long story, and if you win I shall relate it to you,” he offered as they both took another long draught of the wine.

“I shall take you up on that offer,” she said with a wry smile of victory. Both of them taking another draught.

“I thought you didn’t drink much?” he asked, wondering how she was keeping up.

“I don’t usually, mainly because there isn’t that much around,” she replied with a sense of victory. She’d tricked him well and truly. Dagarn smiled as he drank himself into oblivion.

Dagarn woke up with a deep yawn, finding Sah’eca draped over him. He smiled to himself and slipped out from under her, the Venna still snoring loudly. Dagarn looked out through a slit in the tent flap, seeing a great storm on the horizon, the clouds seeming to glow purple in the distance, orange lightning striking the ground in its path.

“That ain’t good,” he said to himself, from the direction it was coming from near Windholme.

He looked back to Sah’eca, Dagarn didn’t fancy weathering this crazy storm on the way to Windholme. As he looked back, the storm had changed course, no longer following the winds.

“Shit...” he muttered.

“What is it?” Sah’eca asked, yawning and half tumbling out of the bed.

“Some kind of storm... it’s being attracted here, the clouds changed direction without a change in the wind. I feel magic... dark magic.”

“We have to warn everyone,” she said, quickly pulling on her clothes.

A few minutes later and the camp was in motion, Paladins and soldiers running back and forth frantically. This was going to be a really shit day he thought.

Dagarn pulled on his armour, strapping on every weapon he owned and picking up his war bow, it’s bladed tips sharp as always.

“You’re ready for war. Do you know what this storm’s bringing?” Sah’eca asked, picking up her war hammer and her shining Paladin plate surrounding her, it was always an impressive sight to him.

The storm was only minutes away now, whilst the others hid away in their tents, he went outside into the powerful winds, staring down the coming storm.

“Sah’eca, what is this?” Tar’mon shouted, leaving the relative safety of the command building.

“Dagarn thinks it’s some kind of magic storm,” she started, a flash of orange lightning striking the ground less than a mile away. “I’m inclined to agree with him.”

Tar’mon stood looking at the ominous storm for a few moments before turning back to them. “We have to get everyone into the storage cave. I’ll have the Mages erect a barrier to protect us.”

No sooner had the Grand Master of the Paladins uttered his words than the storm seemed to pick up speed, as they hurriedly tried to gather everyone together the storm was upon them. He looked up into the clouds as hundreds of phantoms burst forth, circling around the camp and chattering menacingly, whatever they said made no sense to him and he notched an arrow to his bow. As the first Phantoms flew downwards he loosed the arrow, it tore through the air and struck two of the phantoms simultaneously, the spirits shrieking as they were destroyed.

“Shiting demons, Master Paladin, they’ll be going for your soldiers, demons need a host to manifest.”

Dagarn had dealt with these creatures before and didn’t fancy having to cut his way out through a horde of them.

“Most of the army is inside, the Paladin order stands ready for battle,” Tar’mon shouted back over the powerful winds now battering them.

Dagarn loosed another arrow, felling more spirits before they could reach the camp. But they would get here and after only a few minutes his arrows were depleted completely, the demon spirits flying down en masse, a score of soldiers were still in open ground before the cave’s entrance, they wouldn’t make it in time. Slinging his bow across his back he drew his war blade, an ancient thing that looked like a meat cleaver, though it had been forged by the Dwarviari for the siege of Keldran and he was certain these demons couldn’t stand against it. As he prepared to bull rush the hapless soldiers the demons bypassed them, heading instead for the Paladin lines. Then he heard the word that they had been previously chanting in unison... ‘unworthy.’

The demons passed through the Paladin’s armour and into them, dozens of them screaming as the demons twisted their bodies into weapons, then he looked to Sah’eca as one passed straight through her... then carried on towards the Paladin line. Why hadn’t they gone for her? Dagarn looked back towards the Paladins, seeing that the older Paladins weren’t being affected... only the younger ones... the unworthy ones. There were hundreds of them now, and they were blocking up the cave entrance.

“We have to get out of here,” he shouted to Sah’eca, the Venna ready to assist the trapped army.

“What about everyone inside?” she shouted back, her face a mask of fury now.

He looked to the Paladin line, the demons had already butchered most of the remaining Paladins, the few survivors breaking towards them, “They’re done for, we cannot kill them all.”

“But I have to try!” she shouted back, charging towards the demons.

“Shit,” he muttered under his breath, charging after the Venna.

To the credit of the Paladins, they saw the two of them charging and rallied, coming up behind them. The two groups came together in a grinder of violence. He cut down the creatures by the score, but it wasn’t enough. By the time he’d killed them, he’d taken more than a dozen wounds and most of the Paladins were dead. Sah’eca had vanished from his view and he was sure she too had perished. Dagarn swung around himself in a great arc, slicing the demons into ribbons and putting some distance between them, the creatures weren’t in a hurry to close it seemed. He backed up slowly away from the melee.

“Walk away Orc, this was never your fight,” one of the demons said to him.

They had begun to master their hosts now, the initial madness of violence over with the demons would want to scatter, try to establish themselves in the world.

“What of the army in that cave?” he asked, nodding past them.

“Their magic is strong, none of us could pass that barrier... It is unfortunate so many had to die here, the Paladins were too enticing. We’re not all evil you know.”

“All depends on one’s perspective in the end” he replied with a shrug.

He still wanted to kill them all, it was just... what was the point. They would scheme and conquer but didn’t all races. The host of demons left, their bodies having returned to normal humanoid shape. As the last remnants left he walked over to Sah’eca’s body and sat down beside her, looking over the corpses of the Paladin order.

“You really cocked up here, I think your whole order’s dead now. If I weren’t so messed up... I’d grieve for you.”

He wiped his bloody weapon on a Paladin’s tabard before hooking it back on his belt. Taking one last look at the destruction as the storm dissipated over Keldran castle Dagarn took two of the heavy oxen from the stables, loading up one with Sah’eca’s books and scrolls before mounting the other.

“One last job for you, a promise is a promise” he muttered, before setting off for Windholme.

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