At the approach of Silena’s champion, the armored figure did not flinch. In fact, the deathly warrior stopped in his tracks, crossing his arms to impose his broadness across Tolomir’s approach. “Hail, Paladin of the Piercing Light.”
The formal greeting was enough to slow Tolomir, though his heart quickened. Few would openly challenge the champion of any Divine so openly without confidence or strategy. To do so alone was the end of many misguided heroes. “You have me at a disadvantage, warrior. You know me, yet I don’t recall you.”
“I would expect not, our paths only cross now in convenience,” the armored figure answered. “Only the brave or the fools would walk this road alone, and to do so naked makes you dangerous in either regard.”
The steel-clad roadblock then gestured to Tolomir’s chest, “And since I do not see madness in your steps, I find purpose in your breath. Such willpower must be Divine, else you would cower before me.”
Tolomir stepped forward, tilting his head up to meet his mystery companion eye-to-helm. In place of armor or robes, Silena had demanded her champion be open to Light at all times, so she may sustain and shield him as the extension of her will. In return, Tolomir felt no chill or oppression from heat, though his Divine cared little for the gawkings of mortal company. “You assume correctly, knight. Just as I find your wake reeking of death and fear, beyond a mortal capacity. So we are at odds.”
The larger man chuckled a deep mirth, removing his helmet. Beneath the metal were the scars of several battles cut deep into ruby skin, crystal blue eyes and the down-curved horns erupting from his skull, inherited from long-thinned drakkanah bloodlines. Standing head and shoulders taller than Tolomir, the opposing man nodded to the Paladin. “And now your face is known to me. When we meet in the Unending Battle, every time I rip your spine from your back will give joy to my Master.”
Tolomir nodded in understanding. “I understand, fellow Paladin. And when I tear your head from its helm, my Silena will absolve you in purifying Light. Whom do you serve, death-knight?”
The taller man bellowed a mighty laugh, “A glorious decree! I serve Val-Toom, Master of the Gate between Life and Death. I am Harkar Moorath, my Master’s Blade and servant.”
“Do you intend to disrupt my Divine’s will? Your challenge is not part of her wishes this day.” Tolomir demanded, feeling the spark of her Light swell in his chest and his fists.
“Nor is it mine. My Master has demanded I extract payment from a nobleman to the East that has dared to defy Death through unnatural things.” Harkar stated. “But I do not doubt that we will cross paths again.”
“Until that time, know that Tolomir Dayfire, Bringer of my Lady’s Light, will not be slain until Silena desires it. No Champion or Divine will change that.”
With a smile revealing carnivorous teeth, Harkar donned his helmet anew, a signal to both that the standoff was ended. Merely crossing beside the death-knight would have weighed down any mortal, drowning their soul in the cold grip of fear. But Tolomir was untouched by this aura, as his Divine had willed it so. And as he expected, the champion of Val-Toom did not flinch at the radiance Tolomir exuded, which would purge any wickedness that came so close.
Tolomir recognized the sound of steel cutting the breeze and spun around with arms crossed in a shielding measure, catching Harkar’s broadsword only inches from his sternum. The blade rang out like it stuck metal, stopped only a hair’s length from Tolomir’s flesh by Silena’s protective invocation that he recited every morning. “A betrayal, Moorath?”
“A test of strength, Dayfire!” Harkar countered, straining to push his weapon that extra distance to his opponent’s bones. Tolomir could see that the massive slab of steel had been sharpened to a fine edge on either side, and its length was scarred by multiple marks. The magic embedded deep in the metal tried with all its force to slice him, but the will of the Light gave it no space to do so.
“Your weapon is weak, death-knight” Tolomir countered, pushing the swing back with a hard shove. “Your Master doesn’t demand fine craftsmanship, I see.”
Harkar laughed again, stepping back from his attack and tilting his blade to let the light catch its flat side, before swinging it up behind his back and returning it to whatever space it rested in that Tolomir couldn’t see. “Each name I engrave in my sword is a blessing in his name. Yours, I will carve in the handle as one of my greatest victories.”
This time, it was Val-Toom’s champion who turned his back, “I will dream of that kill, Dayfire.” And with that promise, Harkar took to his path, from a walk to a Divine-commanded sprint away from Tolomir. Silena’s paladin watched until the death-knight crossed the Diamond Road’s entry into a wooded stretch before he continued his trek toward Barthselheim. You’ll die dreaming, of that I promise you. For mine is the highest Divine, the greatest purpose.
The encounter remained in his mind through the setting of her Light to pave the way for Meline Lorora to cover the sky in her violet robes and still most creatures large and small. By then, Tolomir had followed the Diamond Road up to the outermost loop around Barthselheim. Though the worn stones under his feet were not graced by the shadows of the great city walls, even being within eyesight of the great trade metropolis was thought to bring fortune and favor to any merchant.
And as large as the metropolis’ sentry force was, it could not hope to cover every step from the city and across the outer rings, so the whispers of voices out of a long-abandoned stone hovel alerted Tolomir to the criminal element waiting to ambush any carrier of coin or goods. The ‘whizz!’ of an arrow leaving its bow ground the Paladin’s stride to a halt as he spun around and met the arrow’s tip with this open palm. The flimsy projectile smashed against the protection invocation like it had been shot into stone and splintered apart into so many twigs.
Alarmed chattering picked up and feet sprinted across grass and stone behind him, telling Tolomir that he was waylaid by at least two burglars, who were light in their step and unhindered by the night sky. That narrowed his focus quickly. Dunnar, scavangers of gold and bone…and usually not so brave.
He waited until one of the sprinting burglars crossed directly beside him before springing into action. He raised his palm and locked his arm “By the will of my Lady Silena, be purified by the Light!”
The kill was instant, as the radiant javelin launched from his hand and struck true. The startled thief caught its majesty in his side, the Light quickly burning through rubbish armor and flesh. Without scream or warning, the vagrant simply evaporated like the smoke from a raging torch.
The loss of their comrade earned Tolomir a wail of rage from the second vandal, and the sound of a blade against stone. Turning toward the hovel, the moonlight gave away the outline of a leaping figure, knife coming down to cleave Dayfire’s head from his shoulders. But the Dunnar were no bigger than proper children, so the Paladin’s outstretched hand caught the thief in midair with a ‘ghurck!’of a hand squeezing a throat.
“You are brave to raid these roads, sinner. You must be skilled.” Tolomir said with no joy or praise.
The Dunnar hissed through filthy, jagged teeth at him. “No…guards. Easy to… take what we want.”
Tolomir couldn’t recall ever hearing of a time when the soldiers of Barthselheim failed to patrol these stones. But the thief had no reason to deceive him now, as Tolomir carried no coin. “And I shall give you the greatest reward for your transgressions. Your service to my Lady will please her.” Bringing the thrashing creature closer, the Paladin placed his other hand on the furred chest of the Dunnar. The gentle hand shone brilliantly with his Lady’s will, causing the thief to scream in pain before its body crumpled and dissolved away. Only a small glowing ember remained in his hand now.
“Silena forgives you, and awaits your audience.” Tolomir prayed before tossing the ember straight up into the night sky, where it would join the infinite thralls of his Lady that the Night Dream-giver could not block.
I hope you all enjoy.