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Chapter 2

Marthan and Shayla had been talking for hours, telling each other about their respective families, their life before joining the Paladin Corps , and their experiences during basic training. Marthan found the conversation he had with Shayla to be engaging, and he hoped that she thought so as well.

“So, who do you want to have as your master?” asked Shayla.

“I’ve got no preference actually,” answered Marthan, “as long as he or she is willing to teach me, I don’t mind who I get. How about you?”

“Well I hope that I could get Master Liana Sunrunner as my master,” answered Shayla, with a twinkle in her eyes.

“I think I’ve heard of her before in my readings. Didn’t she cripple a weapons smuggling ring in the Trionak system?”

“The very same!” acknowledged Shayla with enthusiasm in her voice. “She also managed to get both parties fighting in the Aporian civil war to sit down at the negotiating table, which led to the signing of a peace treaty between the two parties that ended a decade long civil war. She also single handedly defeated Warlord Geda of Laskaria and his band of marauders that were harassing passenger liners and cargo ships in the Laskarian system. She’s amazing.”

“Those are impressive feats indeed,” acknowledged Marthan as he stroked his hairless chin.“It takes a great diplomat and warrior to accomplish those feats.”

“I know. I really hope I get her,” Shayla said wishfully.

The chirp of the internal comm system coming alive caught the attention of the two young Paladin initiates. “Attention all passengers this is your co-pilot speaking, please be informed that we will be exiting lightspeed momentarily and will soon make our final approach to Corethdel.”

“I’ll guess we’ll be finding out who our masters will be pretty soon,” commented Marthan to Shayla as soon as the co-pilot had finished the announcement. Although Marthan did not show it, he was excited at the prospect of meeting his new master, but at the same time there was also a sense of anxiousness, as he did not know whether he was capable of becoming a fully-pledged Paladin.

Corethdel came into view in the viewing port next to Marthan moments as the transport dropped out of lightspeed. Both Marthan and Shayla peered out of the view port to look at their new home. From orbit, Marthan noted that Corethdel had very little similarities to his homeplanet of Aldrila. It had large bodies of water and areas of greenery like Aldrila, but unlike Aldrila which had only one main city that left the planet unspoiled, Corethdel was almost entirely covered with cityscape, with the exception of the few spots of greenery. He also noted that unlike Aldrila, Corethdel had heavy orbital traffic around it.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” exclaimed Shayla in wonderment as she looked out the view port. “Have you?”

“No, I have not,” replied Marthan who was awestruck by the whole experience.

As the transport descended to the planet, Marthan noted that the buildings of the city were taller than any other building he had seen before. The skyscrapers of Corethdel easily dwarfed the skyscrapers found on Aldrila and its airspace was filled with aircars which followed a very uniformed skylane, which prevented aircars from colliding with each other in mid-air. This whole experience was new to Marthan, he had never seen anything like this in his entire twenty-years of life.

The chirp of the transport’s internal comm unit came to life. “All passengers, please be informed that we are making our final approach to the Bastion.” The Bastion was the headquarters and the main training facility for the Paladin Corps. It was the home of the Paladins, their refuge.

“There it is!” exclaimed Shayla while pointing at a huge mega-structure in the distance.

Marthan looked over to what Shayla was pointing at and saw a huge ziggurat like structure which had a huge dome on top of it, and on top of the dome was a tall tower which height could touch the heavens. Surrounding the ziggurat was a large circular wall that had towers located at each cardinal direction. The four towers located on the wall were slightly shorter than the tower built atop of the dome on the ziggurat. The ziggurat was linked to the wall by large covered bridges which were located at each of the cardinal directions. Marthan was in awe, he had only seen images of the Bastion, and they did not fully convey its beauty.

“It’s magnificent,” said Marthan who was in awe at the view. Shayla nodded in agreement as the transport approached the majestic structure.

The transport touched down in one of the many hangar bays of the Bastion which was located in the wall that surrounded the main ziggurat. Marthan, Shayla and the rest of the passengers disembarked from the transport. Some of the passengers were fellow initiates like Marthan and Shayla , while other were support workers for the Paladin Corps that went about their way the moment they got off the transport. Many of the initiates were around the same age as Marthan and Shayla, but there were a handful who were much older. In fact, Marthan speculated that some of his fellow initiates could be as old as his father. This was because one’s ability to harness one’s chi reserve was not determined by age, rather the ability to harness it could manifest anytime in a person’s life. It is because of this phenomenon, that the age of initiates vary greatly.

The hangar bay the transport had landed in was large, but aside from the transport that brought them to the Bastion, there were not many other ships in it.

“So where do we go now?” asked Shayla as soon as she got off the transport’s ramp.

“No idea, I thought there would be someone to greet us,” replied Marthan as he slung his duffel bag over his shoulder. He scanned the room with his dark brown eyes.

The door to the hangar bay slid open and in stepped a human male who was probably a few years older than Marthan. He was dressed in the black and gold coloured robes that were reserved for full members of the Corps. He also had brown coloured hair that was neatly parted to the left, much like Marthan’s hair. The man walked over to Marthan and the group of initiates which had gathered at the centre of the hangar bay.

“Greeting new initiates, and welcome to the Bastion,” said the man. “I’m Paladin Xarvix Vorieger, and I’ll be your guide around the Bastion today.”

“Greetings Master Vorieger,” said Marthan, Shayla, and the rest of the initiates in unison as the bowed their heads slightly in respect.

The door to the hangar bay slid open yet again, revealing a humanoid figure at the entrance. He was hairless and had dark green coloured skin. Unlike humans, the humanoid figure did not have a distinctive nasal or ear feature, and instead of having a jaw like most humanoids, it had multiple fleshy tendrils which hung from its lower face. Marthan recognised the humanoid who had recently entered as a Zhoidil, he had seen one of its kind back at the academy on Aldrila. He like Xarvis, was wearing the robes reserved for full members of the Corps.

“Sorry I’m late Xarvix,” apologised the Zhoidil with a deep resonating voice.

“Not to worry Zholl, we just started,” Xarvis said. “Everyone, this is Paladin Zholl.” Paladin Zholl bowed slightly to the gathered groups of initiates. The gathered group of initiates bowed in respect to the Zhoidil Paladin.

“Are we ready for the grand tour?” asked Zholl to Xarvis.

“I think we are,” replied Xarvis, “but before that, does anyone have any questions before we leave?”

The gathered initiates looked at each other, each waiting to see whether anyone of them had a question to ask. It was Marthan who broke the silence, “Excuse me, but when are we going to meet our respective masters?”

“You’ll be informed who your master will be at the end of the grand tour,” answered Xarvis. “Any more questions?” The group of initiates stood there silently, waiting for one of them to ask a question, but none of them did.

“Alright then, let’s begin the tour,” said Zholl before making his way to the hangar bay’s exit with Xarvis and the group of initiates behind him.

Shayla nudged Marthan lightly. “This is exciting isn’t it?” she whispered to him.

“It most certainly is,” whispered Marthan back with a smile.

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