Paladin - the path north volume 1

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Chapter 19

Sah’rah woke up clutching at her head, a voice screaming from inside. Voices frantically spoke at her and still the screaming continued, she felt hands holding her down as she tried to claw at her eyes and lash out at those around her. Then Tar’son’s voice cut through the noise.

“Hold on just a little longer lass,” he told her, feeling his hands on the side of her head.

“The pain, it’s too much!” she screamed at him over the cacophony of voices screaming at her.

She threw back her head and felt her body arch up violently... then it stopped, no more noise, only her own deep breaths, the world seemed dark until she blinked a few times, her sight coming back gradually. Tar’son sat beside her bed and she recognized the wise women from earlier that night.

“Where’s Sah’van and Tar’yui?” she asked groggily, sitting up with a great deal of pain.

“Sorry lass, they’re both dead. Demon attack, biggest any one’s ever known... the order... the order’s gone lass” Tar’gorth told her, tears in his eyes.

“They can’t all be dead, what of Sah’eca, Tar’mon... Sir Godwin?” she asked, feeling her face contort at the knowledge her friend was dead.

Tar’gorth filled her in on events, she’d been out for nearly a week. Bordin had ridden out to offer some aid but had met Dagarn the Orc on their second day, carrying Sah’eca’s library. By the time Bordin had arrived at the camp, most of the army had gone, only Sir Godwin, his squire and a few civilians from Kendral castle were left, burying the bodies of the dead. Bordin had said the graves were too numerous to count and that the King of Kendral had arranged the burials. Sir Godwin had come back with Bordin a few days later. Tar’gorth then recounted his own battle with Sah’van the demon, then tapped his leg.

“My fighting days are over though lass, I’m crippled now, as far as walking goes anyway.”

“Why don’t I just heal it?” she asked, putting her hands over his leg and chanting the prayer of salnah.

Nothing happened and Tar’gorth sighed. “Thanks for trying lass, but the Saints are gone... probably dead.”

“Dead, how?” she asked, getting only a shrug from the old Paladin.

“Dagarn agreed to go back to Shadow Cliff castle to investigate, he should be back in a few days, so try and rest. We got hit pretty hard... again, I’ll be across the hall if you need me lass,” Tar’gorth told her before slowly limping out of her room.

She let her emotions take over, weeping uncontrollably for her friend, she only had Tar’gorth left now... out of everyone that had come north. Dagarn was gone nearly another full week before he returned, the news was grim.

“They’re mostly gone, probably left with the army or joined Kendral’s garrison. The magic that sustained the castle is still intact though, found one Paladin in the whole place, the guys gone crazy with the Saints dead, thinks he’s Tar’mine reborn, might have been kinder to kill him.”

“So with me and Tar’gorth included, there are three Paladins left in the north?” she asked dejectedly, sitting back down on her bed.

“Yeah, never really saw myself as a proper Paladin. What are you guys planning on doing, now that the order is pretty much dead,” Dagarn asked bluntly.

There was really little else to do now, journeying south would take the best part of a year, and besides, there was little left for her there now. No, staying here would have to do she thought.

“I think my path lies here Dagarn, for we shall always walk it, with or without the Saints to guide us,” she replied eventually, her hand instinctively holding Torgard’s hilt. The Dwarf appearing beside her.

“I believe you are right, the Blooming still has to be saved... though who knows now how we can do it, still strange to think the big guy’s dead” Torgard mused.

Sah’rah nodded, Dagarn couldn’t see Torgard and she didn’t want to seem crazy. The Orc stretched out, his large hands touching the ceiling as he yawned, revealing a perfect set of sharp teeth.

“Guess I’ll hang around for a while, got nothing better to do,” the Orc said with a smile, touching her arm gently before walking away whistling the ode of Tar’vid.

After a few days rest she was able to walk again, using Torgard as a walking stick, a poor use of the legendary sword, but having the Dwarf’s presence with her felt reassuring.

“You’d think seeing two of the last Paladins being crippled would make them happy,” Tar’gorth said to her as they walked along the coastline together, the still waters felt calming as they moved along.

Sah’rah feeling the soft sand underfoot thought perhaps if the Saints were dead, maybe their immunity to hot and cold would end.

“You think we’ll lose our immunities?” she asked aloud. “...now the Saints are dead.”

“I already thought about that lass, but the trials were outside of their power... I think we’re stuck like this.”

He smiled and they continued to walk the length of the small coast back to their horses, Sah’rah looked out to sea, seeing small boats from the isles to the north and thinking about the coming battles the coming summer.

“Are we going to make it?” she asked aloud.

Tar’gorth was silent for a moment. “We always have, lass, one way or another.”

She laughed, the thought that they had survived so much, been through so much, and that there was even more death to come... how were they not being crushed under the weight so much... shit. Tar’gorth hugged her tight from the saddle as she started to cry.

“It’s alright, just let it out, lass. There’s just us here.”

The rest of that summer passed them by quickly, Sah’rah returned to training as soon as possible, though she struggled to keep up initially. Her stamina seemed to drain quickly, perhaps an effect of her fighting off the demon attack, though it may also have been a part of the Saints demise, it was hard to tell. When winter rolled around she still continued to train while the others huddled in the great hall for warmth, the winter was bitter or so she was told constantly, though there was little snowfall.

“You sure you’re up for this?” Dagarn asked, eyeing the wooden sword in his hand like a butter knife.

“Of course, I have to test myself against the best... none better than you I hear,” she replied, taking several test swipes before raising her shield.

“I get that, it’s just, well... no matter, you’ll see.”

Tar’gorth watched on from the platform with Bordin, she noticed the Jakken warrior watched every day, despite the cold. Dagarn waved her on with a single large finger, holding the sword lackadaisically. She came in cautiously, circling the huge Orc looking for an opportunity to strike.

“Don’t blink,” Dagarn said suddenly, then he was upon her in a second, his training sword smashing her shield aside. Before Sah’rah knew it she was on the ground, the Orc’s sword at her throat.

“Like I said, sure you’re up for it,” he said with a smirk, offering her a hand up.

The Orc’s speed and power were insane, and she recalled him saying he’d once killed forty men at once, after today’s demonstration she could believe it.

“If it’s any consolation, you did well, keeping to my offside and concealing your sword hand... it’s just, well, I can overpower pretty much anyone,” he stated, his praise meant a lot to her though.

“You think Sah’eca could have taken you?” she asked, remembering her fallen friend fondly.

“Perhaps,” he said, tossing aside the wooden blade like a toothpick.

“If she hadn’t led that damned charge...” he started, trailing off and striding out of the arena so fast she couldn’t keep up.

“What’s up with him?” Bordin asked, pulling his fur cloak around him tightly as he shivered.

“I think maybe he cared for her. I thought it weird that he brought her life’s work here... it sort of makes sense when you think of it like that” she replied, seeing the brutish looking warrior in a new light.

“Yeah, well it’s too damned cold for me, make sure the old man doesn’t freeze” Bordin replied, not really caring about the matter.

“You know he can’t, besides, I thought you two didn’t get on,” she asked with a laugh.

“The old man saved my ass, I and half a dozen guys are alive because of him... no man forgets a thing like that,” he said seriously before making his way towards the great hall and warmth.

She looked up to Tar’gorth who waved happily to her, she suddenly felt saddened, knowing she would never see him fight again.

Sah’rah sat on the steps thinking, winter had passed them by all too quickly, she still trained with Dagarn, though her skill would never overcome his raw strength and size. Sah’rah felt she was back to where she’d been before the demon attacks and there was some small comfort in that. Languardia continued to rule well she thought, with Bordin there to deter challengers, though with herself and Tarquin there too, would be chieftains kept their heads down and knees bent... Dagarn being there also helped a little. It was in the third week of the thaw when a lone figure approached the gate on a small cart, pulled by several mules. After a short search of his wares, the guards let him pass by and Sah’rah watched as he pulled up outside the great hall, Tarquin stepping down to meet him.

“What can I do for you my friend?” he asked calmly, stroking one of the mule’s ears.

The small man pulled back his hood to reveal a beard tied with many ribbons.

“For me young man? Nothing, I am here to see the chosen of Tar’mine” the Dwarf replied kindly, she had never seen one before, well, except for Torgard and this one seemed strangely young.

Tarquin looked horrified, the memory of his friend still raw for him. “I’m sorry you came all this way lad, but Tar’vid is dead, he was slain nigh on three years ago now,” Tar’gorth said, hobbling down the steps to greet him.

“Ah! Tar’gorth, you’ve changed little since I saw you last... forgive me, I am Brundwill the third, son of Brundwi. My father said I may find you here.”

“Brundwi, by the Saints, haven’t seen that man in years, I think I may have been young then?” he recalled, running a hand through his grey hair without realizing.

“He always speaks very highly of you, it was his conviction that convinced me to come here to the frozen north.”

“Now that Tar’vid is dead, will you stay, or go home?” Sah’rah asked, stepping down to see the Dwarf as alight rain began to fall.

“Like I said, good lady, my task is to meet with Tar’vid... though I will stay regardless, it’s been a long day.”

Tar’gorth helped him down off the cart, escorting him towards the hall’s door. “Lad, we have the best wine in the north... though I drink only water these days.”

Unwilling to get their clothes unnecessarily wet they made their way inside the hall. Tar’gorth sat the Dwarf down beside the fire pit, fetching over a tankard of ale for the man. Tarquin gently caught her arm, nodding for her to move to a quiet corner.

“There is something unsettling about the way he spoke of my late friend” he whispered, Tarquin’s eyes darting to Brundwill unconsciously.

“I can’t say I blame you, he talks as if Tar... as if he’s alive” she replied, taking care not to open that wound again.

“We must be vigilant... after all, the truce ends once the summer begins” Tarquin cautioned, though she didn’t need reminding.

They both looked up as the rain intensified, Tarquin shuddered and Sah’rah’s hand instinctively went to her sword, where was Dagarn when you needed him. As if her bad feelings had manifested the doors of the hall swung open, several figures standing silhouetted in the darkness. Tarquin’s blade was already half drawn as the first two dropped their hoods, Sah’rah recognizing Tar’gon even with his beard and Sah’faei the mousey haired Paladin was immediately recognisable as well. The third member of their group seemed to survey the room, his eyes seemed to temporarily glow green before removing his hood with his only arm to reveal short white hair on a young man’s face. Sah’rah took a step forward, then froze as he looked at her and smiled.

“I don’t believe it...” Tarquin started, his mouth agape.

Sah’rah fell to her knees, tears in her eyes as her emotions went into overdrive. How could it be him? How was Tar’vid standing here before her alive? Before she could process anything he knelt down beside her, holding her shoulders gently.

“It’s me Sah’rah... I came back to you all” he said to her with a gentle voice she hadn’t heard since her time on the road with him.

She looked up at him, had Tar’vid always been so handsome... she wanted to kiss him... Sah’rah slapped him hard across the face.

“You bastard, how could you leave us like that?” she shouted with tears in her eyes, before hugging him tightly and kissing his cheek.

Tar’vid put an arm around her and Sah’rah felt his mouth widen in a smile.

“I’ve missed you so much” she whispered, squeezing him once more.

He was back she thought, after all the loss and heartbreak... Tar’vid was back amongst the living.

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