An Obligation Fulfilled
That evening Elissa made her rounds between her classmates and teachers, congratulating those who had been allowed into the Order and offering words of encouragement to those who had been found lacking and remained in squireship for another year. Many speculated about her assignment, with theories ranging from a secret mission for the kingdom to an adventure exploring some forgotten labyrinth to recover an ancient artifact of untold power. Many asked if she’d opened the scrollcase and read the contents, and her burning curiosity made her want to do so – but she obeyed the older lord’s command and waited until she was ready to travel first. All she could do is guess and speculate like all the others as the evening grew late and night descended upon the chapterhouse.
Around the tenth bell of the evening, Elissa finally said her goodbyes to everyone and actually began to pack. Uncertain if she would need to pack lightly to travel on foot or by horse, or if she would travel via carriage and have room for more supplies, she packed for both. An essential pack with tent, sleeping bag, cookware, spare clothes, and travel supplies which she could easily toss over her shoulder and carry was placed in prominence on her bed. The rest of her clothes, soaps, shampoos, and personal items were packed up into crates along with several weeks' worth of dried foods and general supplies, and stored neatly along her wall. Should she be traveling by carriage or wagon, she was ready.
It was after third bell when she’d finished her packing, and Elissa was exhausted. She’d stayed up the whole night before worrying over Lord Mourningblade’s request, and then she’d spent all day facing one challenger after another – just to end up having to miss a second night’s rest to pack and prepare! Yawning heavily, she debated going to take a bath to refresh herself in the short time that remained, but then dismissed the notion. As tired as she was, she’d probably fall asleep in the tub and end up being guilt of high treason after the break of dawn!
Taking a short moment to wipe herself clean from the basin in her room, Elissa stifled her yawns and dressed in a clean cotton shirt and pair of cotton pants, before finally dressing in her personal armor. Polished bright and made of the finest steel, Elissa normally didn’t wear her own armor while learning at the knight’s chapterhouse, but she donned it now. She was no longer a squire, so the plain armor they all wore was no longer suitable for her. She had been refused entry into the Order of the Rose however, so she hadn’t been granted a new set to match her rank. Told to prepare for a journey, she prepared by wearing the only armor that was left to her – her own.
One thing that stood out immediately to her was that she had grown since the last time she’d worn her personal armor. The breastplate was tight and uncomfortable, requiring her to wrap her chest much like with the standard armor the squires were given. The greaves and arm-plates were a little shorter than was fully comfortable, and the hips were hard to fasten and buckle.
Thinking back on it, Elissa couldn’t remember the last time she’d actually put her own armor on. Probably not since she’d been accepted as a squire and expected to wear the same gear as everyone else, and that had been over three years ago. A young woman’s body can still grow and change drastically in that amount of time. Honestly, it was almost a miracle that she could even buckle and fasten it on at all!
Uncomfortable in the ill-fitting suit, Elissa hoped that there’d either be time to alter it before her duty forced her to journey out of the town – or at least that there’d be a chance to adjust the straps and loosen it a bit before she actually needed to fight in it against something! “Beggers can’t be choosers,” she muttered under her breath, and then finally sat gingerly on the edge of her bed and pulled out the golden scrollcase Lord Mourningblade had given her.
“I guess it’s time to finally see what type of duty I’ve been given,” Elissa fretted. Truth be told, she was actually feeling quite scared at the moment. Uncle Moo-boo’s request and then his reaction after the competition was beyond her comprehension, and in her exhausted state, her nerves were frayed and getting the best of her. It took several deep moments and multiple tries with her trembling hands, before she managed to unscrew the end of the scrollcase and tilt it up.
A single rolled piece of parchment, a plain vial with what appeared to be water inside, and a simple silver ring tumbled out and into her hands.
Examining the vial, it was a tiny glass bottle, no larger than a fancy perfume bottle, with a common wooden cork used as a stopper. The ring was common silver, polished to a gleaming shine, but with no other identifiable engravings or markings. Sitting both aside, Elissa gently picked up the paper and unrolled it, before looking to see what was one it.
On the page was several small neat paragraphs of writing, with each paragraph being written in what appeared to be a different language. She’d seen some elvish writings in the past, and some dwarvish, and she recognized both as being used. Several other languages which she couldn’t comprehend or identify at all were used as well, and it was down about midway on the page where she finally recognized the letters and runes used to make her own people’s language.
Champion of the Human Race,
It is now your responsibility to serve The Darkbringer. The convenant must be kept at all costs, and you have a duty to follow and obey The Darkbringer for a period of not less than one tenth the average lifespan of your species. By ancient agreement, thou shall journey to wherever The Darkbringer currently resides and shall devote thyself completely to service to The Darkbringer. This journey shall be accomplished by the use of the Ring of Many Travels and the Water of Journey.
Sprinkle a single drop of water from the flask onto anything which you wish to take with you upon your journey; be careful as size, weight, and mass is not a limit to the powers of the water. A drop upon a house will journey the whole house. A drop upon a mountain may simply journey the rock that the drop fell upon, or it may journey the whole mountain range if proper precautions are not taken. Be certain that anything you wish to journey is self-contained and independent. A drop placed upon bag upon a table would journey the bag. A drop placed upon the table instead would journey the table and all that sits upon it.
The Water of Journey is a great and ancient device of immense power and responsibility. Misuse it at your own risk. You have been forewarned; may The Darkbringer have mercy on thy soul.
Once thy has dropped water upon all thou wish to journey with thee, all that remains is to simply place the Ring of Many Travels upon one of thy digits; as is suitable for thy race. Fingers or toes work fine for humanoids. A tail, talon, or horn may be used by races with those characteristics. Simply don the ring, and thy journey will begin.
Once thou have traveled to The Darkbringer, thy duty is simple and easy to understand – complete and utter obedience to The Darkbringer. For a period of no less than ten years, thy will serve The Darkbringer fully, or thy bloodline will be removed from creation and thy race itself will suffer the consequence. Only death may set thee free early; and only then if it is the will of The Darkbringer.
The convenant has been struck. All races are expected to fulfill their obligation to the convenant. Failure to perform the duty as required may release the wrath of The Darkbringer upon all creation; and should it not, it will release the wrath of all races upon thy own.
The bargain struck.
The gift is given.
May the darkness forever be held at bay.
Let the convenant be kept forever more.
The hope and wishes of all creation journey with thee, and the fate of all creation rests upon thy shoulders.
Laboriously, with trembling hands, Elissa slowly rolled the scroll back up and placed it inside its case. Her mouth was dry and her mind was racing. Convenant? Darkbringer? Serve with complete and utter obedience for at least ten years?
What the hell had she gotten herself involved in?!
Wrath of all races upon her own. Threat against her bloodline, and some danger to all of creation if she failed her duty. Just who – or what – was The Darkbringer? And how the hell was she supposed to serve it?
Besides ‘utterly and completely’, of course!
Completely uncertain where fate might lead her, Elissa slowly tried to calm herself and get herself back under control. Whatever the future held for her, it was obvious that the situation was one of the utmost importance and responsibility. It was obvious now why the highest of the squires was given such a duty – from the way it sounded, the very fate of all creation itself might be at risk if she shirked her responsibility or ran from her duty.
Trying not to shake and tremble, Elissa was determined to face her fate with as much courage, determination, and dignity as she could muster. Slowly, she walked around her room and placed a single drop of water on each container which she’d packed up, being careful not to accidently let a stray drop fall somewhere unnoticed or unintended. Once she’d finished, she carefully placed the bottle back inside the scrollcase with the paper and then screwed the end back on.
Tucking the golden scrollcase between her belt and her armor, Elissa tried hard not to let tears fill her eyes as she fumbled with the silver ring. “Mother, Father,” she whispered at barely a squeak; it was as loud as her voice would work at the moment; “I’ll do my duty. For you. For the people. For all of creation, the way it sounds. Heaven watch over me,” she pleaded, “I’ll do my duty.”
Without another word, she slid the ring upon her finger and disappeared along with all the things that she’d packed so carefully in her room. Had someone walked into the room as it was now, there’d be no trace that she’d ever been there or had ever even used the room.
Elissa was well and truly gone.