The Order of the Paladins
Twelve Paladins and eight squires walked out of the Paladin’s sanctum and towards the kitchen. Followed by me. Today was just beginning and I was already completely off guard. I took a deep breath and centered myself. This was a good thing. Once we finished breakfast we were heading to the library this could bring knowledge or more likely highly censored knowledge. But even learning what The Queen allowed to be true would be better than the ignorance I currently lived in. I did know a great deal of the truth, but only on what was currently happening. I knew nothing of the past from Sovereigns point of view, only what I learned from Death or Morgul. Nothing of how the world fell to Negans corruption. Nothing of how the world became so unbalanced.
My train of thought was broken as we neared the kitchen and dining room. The smell of fresh bread, cooked meats, and potatoes filled the air. It felt like so long since the campfire feast in New Skrayhorn, but if it were half as good as that, it would be a delicious meal that would carry me through the first day of my royal squirehood. We sat at an oval table big enough for all of us. It was clear that this room was meant for people of station. The others in the room wore fine robes of silken garments. Each table had an insignia carved into the center. Assigned seating based on what their duty to Queen and Country was I assumed.
As the food was delivered to our table we passed the dishes around the table. I could tell that this was almost a ritual within the Paladins. Once every dish had made a full revolution around the table Nilissa stood at her seat.
“By the strength of our oath, and the will of The Queen. All shall prosper.” She said raising her glass of water.
“Oath, Will, Prosper” The others echoed. Then the meal began. While it was not the heartfelt style of herbs and spices that Evets used, the food was quite good. The food here had a different and complex taste to it and as I evaluated its oddities. The others spoke of what they were working on in their research. We were arranged in a way that allowed Paladins to sit next to each other with their Squires sitting between them. Except for at the end with Nilissa.
Norbert, Squire to Paladin Haagen, was who I had the pleasure of sitting next to that morning. He was explaining how each Paladin rotated around the table to keep the conversation and exchange of knowledge fresh. They were in charge of outreach to the city. They worked with a few other orders within The Queen’s Military to provide counsel to the people of the capital. Norbert was excited because he believed that he was going to be placed at the East Garrison which was the one that lost its Paladin envoy. He did not think he would be put in charge like Orzov was, but they were still in need of a replacement as many of our order were actively involved in the seige of Thurnbadir.
From what I had seen so far it seemed that those in the Paladin order were highly trained, highly organized, and highly loyal to The Queen and her rule over the continent of Sovereign. It was worrying to think about the strength we were up against. Besides New Skrayhorn there were only a handful of free villages left. The Elves were all but destroyed years ago. The Dwarves were enslaved or besieged. Many of the Orc tribes faced a similar fate as the Dwarves. Those remaining few had to keep their distance and to keep their heads down as to not draw the ire of The Queen and the Royal Army.
Mullenkedheim placed his hand on my shoulder. “Does something weigh on you Finnus?” He comforted. “You seen troubled.”
“There is so much to learn here. Does it truly take only a week to prepare to swear an Oath?”
“Ah, yes that is when training begins. This first week is an orientation of sorts. You will be ready. I know this to be true. There is something special about you.” He said giving me a sincere furrow of his brow. “Come, we will take our leave and head to the Library.” As he stood Nilissa have him a curt nod as if to give her approval to our early dismissal. “Would you like to know the Nine chooses and assigns its squires?”
“I would find the knowledge comforting.” I admitted.
“Well, when we are as full as we are with our numbers any available Paladins join Nilissa in a meditation. For your joining the two of us thought it would be simple enough since I was the only one available to take a squire.” He told as he brought me through the beautiful Whitestone halls decorated with art and expert carvings in the walls and baseboards. “You see that is where we were wrong. I have had many visions during mediation, but this was different. I saw you in a brilliant suit of Platemail artfully crafted to look like a dragon. You were floating through The Queen’s court on a beam of light with a flaming lance. You opened your right hand and bathed us in a divine fire that cleansed us. It was so vivid and real. I could feel the fire burn my flesh. I awoke sometime after and Nilissa asked me what I saw, she said that she tried to wake me but when she touched me it burnt her severely. I had no burns and was unharmed. She sees something in you as well. I am not sure what it means Finnus. There is something special about you.” I hoped that his vision wasn’t a prophecy. I was not looking forward to challenging the might of the Royal Military so far from most of my friends and allies.
We walked down the whitestone halls of Absolvere and eventually we arrived at the Library. Scholars and servants were moving through the rows and rows of books. We walked back to a group of tables and Mullenkedheim brought me to one of them and motioned for me to sit. “Please, wait here while I get you something to read.” He said. Moments later he brought back a stack of books and scrolls. “Here these are, my favorite books to serve as an introduction to your studies.” The pile of information was at least three feet tall.
“Is this what I must read today?” I asked in astonishment.
“Oh heavens no. They are all checked out in your name. You can take them back to your room and read them in your free time.” Mullenkedheim said with a chuckle. “Start with this one, Sovereign: A Royal History. It’s the newest edition too! But we must head to join the others. Group study is very important. Currently, we are studying the fall of the Elven empire.”
Having just traveled with two people who were there and getting a brief retelling I probably knew more than they did. I wondered what truths I could discern from the knowledge that received the royal treatment. Nevertheless, I needed to continue and learn what I could. So I joined Mullenkedheim and headed to a room in the back of the Library. The room was set in a multi-leveled semi-circle with four rows of tables raised so that as you walked towards the bottom each row was slightly lowered than the one behind it. The last row was empty and we sat at the table closest to the door. Nilissa was at the bottom addressing the others as we took our seats.
“Now that we have reviewed our last lesson I believe Paladin Haagen will gift us with his knowledge of the act that brought down the judgment of the Gods against the elves.” She spoke with her normal measured enunciated tone.
“Thank you Archpaladin Nilissa, it would seem that as the Elvish Parliament grew in power it also grew in paranoia. One of their members became so fearful of our peaceful kingdom that they hired an assassin to eliminate the Royal line from all of Sovereign.” Haagen lectured. “This series of events lead to the great fire that almost destroyed our lovely castle that we call home. By The Queen’s own account of the night after killing The King and Queen, this assassin came for her siblings and then her. She was saved by a stable boy who gave his life in love for her.”
I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks and ears as Haagen spoke of that night. I may not remember it, but that boy was me. I saved The Queen. I fell into my thoughts as he continued to speak on the matter. I felt shame and embarrassment. Shame for causing this world to spin out of sorts. Embarrassment for them celebrating my love for the Queen.
“This is why the Queen values our order so immensely. The boy longed to belong to our ranks. The Queen has since made his Sainthood official by Royal decree. St. Marsaen of Shining Cloth, a true hero of the common people. The patron saint of mercy and martyrdom.”
I was completely dumbfounded. I was a Saint? A hero of the common folk? Because I saved The Queen?
“Finnus? Are you okay?” Mullenkedheim’s hand pressed to my shoulder. “Finnus?” His question falling silent as my field of view went dark.