Paladin - the path north volume 1

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Chapter 4

Tar’vid’s eyes shifted down towards his assailant’s knife, the moonlight behind him glinting off its keen edge.

“If you’re this easy to sneak up on my friend, I am afraid there’s not much hope for you,” the attacker said with an accent he immediately recognised, the man removed his hand and took the knife from Tar’vid’s throat.

“What are you doing here Tarquin?” he asked, touching the slight cut on his neck.

Tarquin dropped down beside him elegantly, crossing his legs and making the knife vanish back to wherever he kept it. “Genstark got word you were being searched for, he sent me here to keep you out of trouble... as much as I am able to anyway.”

“Why be so dramatic then?” Tar’vid asked, irritated that he hadn’t simply said hello.

“It is me you’re talking to, dramatic is kind of my thing” he replied, Tar’vid couldn’t really argue that point.

“How’s Luna, I miss her company I must confess,” Tarquin asked a moment later.

“She was well when we parted last week, our first child is due in a few months and it breaks my heart that I’ll miss her birth” Tar’vid replied sadly, sitting up and hugging his shins.

“I can imagine my friend, though you need not worry I think... she is a feisty lady,” Tarquin said fondly, smiling as he recalled some old memory.

“Well, my sleep’s over for tonight, you need a place to rest?” Tar’vid asked as he stood and stretched out, his limbs stiff since becoming accustomed to a soft mattress.

“Thought you’d never ask” Tarquin replied with a smirk, laying on the stiff bed without hesitation.

“Just keep one eye open, it would appear people are trying to kill me.”

“Nothing new there, for someone so irritably likeable, your life is in constant peril” Tarquin replied, soft snoring following shortly afterwards.

Tar’vid smiled, ducking out the tent to find his guard detail fast asleep. It was just as well Tarquin had arrived, anyone else and his throat would’ve been opened. He wandered the deserted walkways of the camp until he reached the great archway he’d seen upon his descent into the camp. It was an enormous structure, easily the height of the keep and almost as wide.

“Impressive, is it not?” came a deep voice from behind him.

“Indeed it is... so this will take us to battle tomorrow?” Tar’vid asked, waiting for the man to stand beside him.

“I should hope so, took me ages to build the bloody thing... it’s true I could have created a portal without the structure, but with it, I need only create a single portal, the stone and amber construction resonates the magic you see, self-sustains the portal. Would be an awful thing if I lost concentration and killed hundreds of soldiers after all” the man chuckled, his eyes scanning over every inch of the structure.

Seeing the oddly dressed man reminded him of when Diana had thought him a Mage, this man’s clothes were bright, even in the dark of night. The hues of orange and yellow almost painful to look at.

“I’m Killian, of the Mage conclave” the man offered, breaking his gaze from the structure.

“Pleasure, I’m Tar’vid, of Whitecliff” he replied, offering a hand which Killian accepted happily.

“Lots of buzz around here concerning you, the word is you’re the chosen of Tar’mine. You’d think a holy order would revere their Saints chosen, feels like I’m back at the conclave again... you’d think I’d forget that place after a hundred and fifty years wouldn’t you?” Killian postulated, folding his arms and shaking his head.

“Do you know Youi Fei?” Tar’vid asked suddenly, perhaps his friend was older than he seemed too.

“Youi Fei?” Killian murmured to himself. “No, but I did know Yen Fei, perhaps Youi Fei is his son... rich noble family as I recall.”

“Anyways, it’s been a pleasure Tar’vid... now I need my rest, big day tomorrow after all” Killian said, following up with a loud, over the top yawn.

“Indeed, may Tar’mine protect you” Tar’vid said with a bow.

“I’m sure he will” Killian replied, wandering away and into the camp.

Tar’vid stood beside the portal gate for a while longer, this structure would take him over a thousand miles northward in seconds, with an army of which it seemed many resented him.

“Copper for your thoughts?” Sah’rah asked, seeming to emerge from the shadows.

“Only if you have change, seems I only have two silver to my name now” he replied with a smile, pleased with his quick comeback.

She seemed happier now he thought, her eyes were no longer red and a faint smile lit up what was actually a pretty face.

“You feeling nervous about tomorrow?” she asked, sitting down on the structure’s stone platform.

“No... fighting and battle have always been my safe place, in a manner... it’s everything else that makes me nervous, I worry about my wife, my child, my friends... if my short time in the outside world has taught me anything, it’s that life is cruel and often short.”

Sah’rah looked up, a sad smile on her face. “How did the both of us come to the same thinking, Tar’vid. We’re barely adults and we have a more negative view than Tar’gorth.”

“Perhaps we’ll shake our views off later in life... you seem happier now though” he replied, wondering what had changed with her.

Sah’rah laughed humourlessly. “I had some things to work through, I’ve made some poor choices in these last few months... that’s all behind me now though” she told him, raising her hands and blinkering her sight. “Focusing on the future from now on, that’s my goal.”

“Wish I could do the same, the future I want is behind me for the time being...” Tar’vid replied before sitting down beside her.

“Why don’t you leave?” she asked a moment later.

“I can’t... what would the Saints think of me?” he replied, though the thought had crossed his mind several times.

“Would it truly matter? Nearly every Paladin on the continent will be heading north” Sah’rah said, tempting him with her words.

“I think that’s just it, every Paladin will be in the north. I don’t know if I could live with the knowledge I had abandoned my brothers and sisters... even if most don’t want me here” he replied with a smile, knowing he would, for better or worse, do his duty.

Sah’rah placed a hand on his shoulder as she stood, squeezing it gently. “Well be assured that I have your back Tar’vid, and with Sah’eca, you have nothing to fear,” she said, her tone warm and friendly.

“Tar’mine protect you Tar’vid,” she said before starting to walk away.

“Sah’ravel guide you, Sah’rah” he replied, standing himself.

Sah’rah looked back smiling. “I think she will, goodnight.”

Sah’rah went back into the camp, leaving him alone with his thoughts once more. Perhaps he could slip away tonight, but would Luna look on him as a coward... could he face his child knowing he’d abandoned his duty, the principles he held most dear. Tar’vid threw such thoughts aside, he wouldn’t run, the Saints had chosen him for this task and he’d face it. Dusting down his trousers he went back into camp, perhaps he could still get a little sleep after kicking Tarquin out of his bed.

Tar’vid hadn’t gotten far when he pulled up, Tar’gon barring his way.

“I’m in no mood for this” Tar’vid stated bluntly, gripping his sword hilt and prepared to draw Torgard.

“I come in peace Tar’vid, I’ve meditated upon my actions earlier... I was being foolish and jealous, my actions could have resulted in many deaths... I have disgraced myself, and the Saints trust in me, I only come to beg your forgiveness” he said solemnly, raising his hands in peace.

“If that’s your intention, then you have my forgiveness. It seems many of us are newly raised to full brothers. I guess we all had to strive for the Saints approval together, perhaps with the battles to come we will all become closer” Tar’vid replied, releasing his grip on Torgard.

“I concur, though my previous challenge still stands, your skill is apparently unrivalled with a sword,” Tar’gon said with a dark smirk, emphasised by the lamplight.

“I will happily spar with you, though perhaps once this task is done” he replied, happy to face the other Paladin.

Tar’gon nodded, perhaps happy that he would get to test his mettle against him. “Ah, I will be part of the first wave tomorrow, I’ve heard you’re part of the second. I’ll try to leave you some glory upon the battlefield.” Tar’gon added, gleeful at the prospect of battle as he stepped aside.

“Just try to stay alive Tar’gon, I won’t have someone else defeat you before I do” Tar’vid said with a smile.

“You’ll need more than the Saints backing to beat me Tar’vid, Tar’mine protect you, and goodnight” Tar’gon replied with a wolfish grin.

“And Sah’ravel guide you, see you on the other side” Tar’vid said back, striding away and back to his tent.

He had barely made it from Tar’gon’s sight when he spotted Tarquin lurking in the shadows, the man’s rapier glinting in the torchlight.

“Wasn’t sure if he was up for a little trouble, seems you’re winning them over as usual though” he said, slipping from his spot gracefully and sheathing his blade in a fluid turn.

“It seems everyone is out tonight, though something is puzzling” Tar’vid said, glancing around cautiously.

“What would that be my friend?” Tarquin asked, leaning in close like a conspirator.

“When I became a journeyman, it was a big deal in Whitecliff... so few are ever sent on the path these days” Tar’vid mused, still looking around.

“Yes, you’re a special guy... kinda realised that when you beat a Mage in single combat” Tarquin butted in.

“Then I was raised to a full brother in only a few months, quickest in centuries I’m told” Tar’vid continued, ignoring Tarquin’s interruption.

“This is unlike you Tar’vid, rarely have I heard you blow your own horn” Tarquin interrupted again.

Tar’vid held up a hand to stop the man’s constant interruptions. “You’re missing the point, how many Paladins have you seen in the camp my age, journeyman or full brothers?”

Tarquin’s face screwed up as he tried to recall any he had seen with the journeyman’s mark, or indeed younger men and women not wearing soldiers livery. “Lots, perhaps half or more of all the Paladins here...” lifting his head as realisation dawned.

“Exactly, if my raising was rare... how are there so many here my age?” Tar’vid asked, wondering if the Saints might know more.

“I admit it is odd, though perhaps your generation is purer than other generations” Tarquin wondered, grabbing his arm and guiding Tar’vid back towards their tent. “Though if the Saints are behind this, perhaps you will be safer not bringing it up with them my friend.”

“The Saints wouldn’t harm me Tarquin... I’m their chosen...” Tar’vid replied, becoming unsure of his own words.

“I’m sure another chosen might spring up should you die. My friend, take my advice seriously... demi-gods and their like can be just as manipulative as mortals like us, perhaps more so... do not bring it up with anyone else... please.” Tarquin told him firmly, until Tar’vid nodded his understanding, only then was his arm released.

“Now, let us get moving... I do hate politics my friend” Tarquin said with a smile, his serious demeanour gone.

Tar’vid followed along, what had he gotten himself into now.

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