Entry 9: Old Cities and New Faces

“Leafe, Shiny, come look!” Abeline’s face flushed with hope as she stood at the top of the great green hovel in front of us. We had just cleared the forest, soaked to the knee in mud and so threaded with stickers and thorns from shrubbery that a stranger might mistake us for a pack of Treant Saplings.

I noticed Ashe pretending not to respond to “shiny.”

We climbed the hill behind her. So much endurance. It bewildered me how she was still so full of life after yesterday’s long silent march. We didn’t intend to camp last night but somehow silence added weight to the hike. I sensed that Ashe was beginning to feel the weight of his soul. You know it’s bad when the paladin needs a break.

We climbed the grassy hill to find that we were actually standing on a cliff. The grassy cliff came to an abrupt, rocky drop; it didn’t look natural. Miners?  Below us, the morning fog was just starting to fade back into mystery, and the sun reached out over a great expanse of grey stone, white rock, and red brick buildings spanning our horizon. Behind them we could see a great river, and from our distance, could not make out the other side.

“My word.” I was completely awestruck. “I never imagined.”

Abeline nodded “Draumerheim, ‘as old as man’ some say. This city has expanded, collapsed, rebuilt, burnt down, erected again, and again, until it became this.  Buildings so tall, they make the great pines of the north tremble.”

Ashe stood silently, looking at the city below without showing great change in his expression. His brows lifted a bit, and perhaps his cheek muscles relaxed, but he held his demeanor steadfast. He grunted. “No time like the present then?” And started down to the left of our cliff, where the cliff-side gave way into hills and the passage downward was safer. We followed pursuit.

As we grew closer to the city, I began to notice just how varied it was. Buildings were not at all uniform, and it seemed that some were much newer than others. Many where built in varying style. It was all sort of an architectural culture mash—Powerful Nord archways attached to artistic Southern walls—several different temples had their trademarked spires erected. I could see what my master meant; this place is a haven for masons; the only end to a mason’s career here would be his death—judging from those towers however

We followed a stream all the way up to the city’s sewer gates. The closer our proximity, the greater the stench.  I didn’t mind so much. When I was younger I took refuge under bridges, forgotten alleyways, and other nooks that might surprise you, to escape the bullying of bigger street urchins. Human street children had little cause and therefore little to unite over. However, they did have me to share their disgust in. It always started with curiosity over my physique. “Youre so lanky! When was the last time you’ve eaten? Are those your real ears.” And it always ended with the dripping arch ways of streets above me, the chirping of rats—I didn’t mind the rats though, they never brought me any harm. I never had to run from a rat, only from people.

At some point in the long final stretch, Ashe allowed himself to slip behind Abeline and I. He insisted he was fine, although his face looked troubled. No doubt burdened with the weight of his mind.

Abeline pulled out a small, folded parchment, and rubbed her thumb across it.

“Abeline, I never asked, what’s your business in Draumerheim?”

“This.” She held up the note. “This is my new business.” She looked proud, and her eyes were alert and lit with passion.

“And this is?”

“My new tavern! Auntie Kylie left me her business when she died last season, just at the summer’s start actually. I would have sprinted straight off to Draumerheim if the delivery of this letter had been left with swifter hands.”

“You seem very eager.”

I jumped up on a little rock protruding like a lance from the ground and playfully tested my balance on a single foot. I watched my footing carefully for a moment. When my eyes returned front, Abeline’s intensity nearly projected me on my backside.

“You have no idea.” She said. “I left the moment this letter came to me, and would have gladly vanished earlier.”

We continued on while she talked more about how she had been dying to leave home for some years now, but she was careful to never say why.

Behind us, I heard stumbling armour and a muddled curse. Ashe tripped over the spired rock but quickly recovered his composure, as if he was embarrassed. No one cared; at this point in the journey we were all dreary of travel and dreamt of beds.

Abeline gagged on the growing stench and held a deep-purple satin handkerchief to her mouth. “Gods.” In contrast to our misfortunate path upon the ground, the sky was now well lit by the early-autumn sun, and a flock of red and brown birds flew over head. The tree leaves on either side of the vast rolling landscape reflected light off their glossy green; they had not yet begun to turn. The air still resembled summer; night however, made it more obvious that the season was receding.

We approached the sewage duct, a great massive stone archway, loosely barred and leading into some unwanted darkness, and then proceeded to move to higher ground so that we were on level with the city, if that were possible; the city took many levels. We saw roads and gates, many of them from this one side. Merchants and travelers were spilling out and coming in, in equal abundance. The city walls where high, and in some places merged with protruding buildings that stuck out. Atop every other guard tower, a banner was erected: sandstone red and tan, a golden lion took the center of each; the lower corners were marked with a triumphant blade, and at the top, each had a goblet.

Abeline sighed “Finally home.” And grinned ear to ear.

We walked a few yards behind a cart and pony and beneath us the road slowly turned from dirt to white brick, which lead us to a powerful gatehouse. Only two guards stood nearby, one looking particularly relaxed, bowed and smirked at Abeline. The other raised his brows at his companion. “Anything we can assist you with my lady and fellow? Our city can confuse the unfamiliar, but all who do not disturb the peace are welcome.”

Abeline still grinning said “Yes actually. One moment.” She unfolded her note while Ashe walked in behind us. The two men saluted him as he walked past.

“Hey Ashe!” I called out.

He turned. I mimicked a soldier, held up my shield and pounded a fist against it. He chuckled accidently and shook his head at me. “Leafe, you’ll do well here with that spirit. And I mean to check up on the two of you soon. But first there is something I need to look into.” I gave him an understanding nod.

Abeline turned and waved. “Oh yes, ta-ta lovvie, best wishes and all that.” He waved, nodded and headed down a bustling street. She turned back to the guard who had slipped a little closer to her. She pushed him back gently with one finger. “Ah ah ah… easy there slick.” She pointed back at the note. “Now, how do I get to The Prancing Witch?”

Entry 8: Guilty in Green

What is this? I pulled a crooked twig out of my hair. We were entering the old wood. People usually left this area alone.

Markus started “This used to be a natural preserve. Lords only would stroll through here hunting the big buck. Now it’s mostly forgotten.”

I replied “Mostly?”

“Yep. Thought you’d know about this… anyhow, yep! Druids still come here; druids forget nothing.”

“Is that so?

His voice sank “More than you know.” He shuddered and clanked his teeth. “Anyhow…”

We marched on for miles through jagged thorns and the thickest brush. Sometimes it seemed that he’d purposefully take the most difficult path. We’d approach a trail, take about five paces down it and then he’d veer off into some sticklers.

Ughh “Why are we walking through thorns?”

He’d jovially sing “It-sa-thiiis way! This way today-oh-ohhh-oh…”

There were some small broken dead branches that suggested maybe… just maybe perhaps some form of life trudged through these impassible woods in the last few months. But to meet druids out here? Unless they flew I didn’t see how this was possible.

My companion stumbled over his own foot. Oh gods… please don’t be drunk. Then he caught the other foot in a protruding root, just barely catching his balance by hopping on his opposite leg. He bent back so far that I thought he was bound to plummet on the crown of his head.

“Oh ho! Still got it.” He tried to silently belch and the smell of rum saturated the air around us. I helped stabilize him and he smirked. His breath reeked so strongly my face shriveled as if I had eaten a lemon whole; I could feel my guts churn. He removed the bottled from inside his cloak and attempted to take a swig of it. Dear God, It was empty.

“What in Oshrildin… I didn’t even see you drinking it.”

His body wiggled like jelly. “Ahaaa… hic-sneaky sneak-ic-y… ah…”

He fell back on his arse. Great, Trondelag’s most wanted and my savior is drunk. I looked around. Green thickets and leaves, brown trunks and dirt, and grey decaying wood. Ahead were some boulders.

“Are we even going the right way?”

“We go… that-a-waaay!” He sent the bottle flying some 60 foot ahead, shattering it on the boulders, sending glass shrapnel flying every which way.

“If I didn’t need you I swear-“

“Swear what? Ohhh-hoho, go on. Swear what I dare you. I dare you. Please by all means finish that sentence.”

He attempted to stand with no avail. He fell flat on his back, a dead branch cracked under him and I saw the moment of panic take his face. When he realized his back had not broken he mustered up his don’t fuck with me face again and opened the front of his cloak and then held his tunic open with both hands exposing his chest.

“Come-on then! You’ll what! “

A moment of silence passed; clouds moved above us giving way to sunlight, the wood lit a light, luminescent green.

The angelic, soft nervous voice I fell in love with filled my ears and tickled my spine.

“He’ll do nothing because he is a true gentleman. Gather your composure Markus. This is Sir Ashe, a front-line battalion Knight whom has served in over three wars and survived nine individual battles. “

Her face blushed Ruby red. ” You will show respect!”

 I turned to gaze upon my darling Merette. She was adorned in pale green robes, flowing, yet thin. Her form was noticeable; the curved aspects of her body were delicately contoured by the fabric. She had no hood; instead she adorned a small tiara decorated with bits of elk antler. Around her neck lay bulky bone necklaces and she had wrapped vines around her waist like a monk’s rope.

______________________________________________________________

Leafe

The Paladin had stopped sharing his tale, much to Abeline’s dismay.

She nudged him on but with every suggestion to continue he seemed more and more irked with her. His face seemed almost guilty.

Eventually she gave him some rest and after a long silent march he said “I beaded her that night, unmarried, in the wild, and as an occultist. I beaded her still and have never felt a greater poison consume my heart.”

Abeline stopped rapt as a statue. “Excuse me? Occultist? Eh-hem! She was a druid Sir Ashe and a noble young lady at that it seems. She adored you. Occultist? Please, leave the black magicks in more capable hands if you would be so kind. Your angel has not interest in things of this nature.” She cup her palms and a small flame sprout forth.

“I thought I would have my Merette, in sanctity, as noble clergy, in my chambers… forever my angel. That Merret will still live on in my memory, false though it may be.”

“She loved you, probably still does!” At this point Abeline was talking a mile a minute. “She sacrificed for you, saved your life! You know that fog that rescued you, the shattering axe? Yeah, thank the druids you hate.”

He stopped. Kneeling down he pulled off his leather pack, reached inside, and pulled out a burlap sack. He opened it. I shielded my eyes from the gleaming light. “See these? These are the remains of the axe that would have had my head. Merret’s cult gathered these for me. They had nothing to do with the axe shattering. They intended the fog to initiate quicker. So tell me witch, what saved my life? Was it black magick or Oshrildin’s glory? Glory that I had forsaken for the shadow of a woman?”

There was a strong silence.

“If you can’t tell me, then we have spoken enough about Merette and magick for one day.”

He gathered up his bag and continued on. I put my arm on Abeline’s shoulder. “Well, we asked.” And then we followed behind him. It shouldn’t be long now.

Entry 7: Finishing the Bottle

Inside the rotting tavern, we found ourselves a couple barstools that resembled chopping stumps. I’ve pulled corpses from the fray of combat with less dagger-holes in them. We sat ourselves down amongst a gnome and a child who sat eating breakfast at the bar.

The child didn’t turn its head or speak, and from the side of its head alone, I could not say whether it was a boy or girl.

The gnome was a clean and well-kempt. In all manners evident he appeared to be a perfect gentleman.  He looked over at me and my hooded… whatever he was, and gave us a little nod.

“Mistress will be back in just a minute. Just drawing the little one’s bath.” He said in a peppy, nasally voice.

My hooded friend lifted up his arms, clad with brown leather bracers, and pulled his forest-green hood back to resemble his face, but still left it resting on the top of his head. I could see now, some long blond hair slipping out. His face was friendly, smiling, and stubble suggested that he hadn’t shaved in at least a few days.

His warmly replied “No problem little friend, we’re in no hur-“

                “’—Little!’ What do you know of ‘little’ giant? I happen to be the tallest gnome in all of Trondelag.” He stood on the bar stool, but his stubby fists and his waist, and stared the two of us down most intently.”

The mistress came strolling down the stairs, “Calm yourself Fiodor. These two lost dogs aren’t worth your time.” She walked behind the bar, bent forward to collect something from a lower bar-shelf and came back up producing an unmarked bottle of some dark liquid.

“Dogs?” My companion rebutted, “We are courteous men, whom—“

                “—Dogs.” She said. “You’re a dog Markus, and your shiny friend here is a shiny dog.”

My confusion must have manifested upon my face in some form.

She took notice while she poured two small clay mugs with the liquid. “Oh, you don’t know do you? Well, this one” she nodded at Markus “is no good.”

Markus hoped up on the edge of his stool. “Look woman, I just saved the man’s life!”

                She slid the two mugs forward. Markus grabbed his and slumped back on his stool. “Markus, you’re a dog, and as much as I hate to say it, a very handsome dog.” She reached out and pinched his chin. “Sometimes even a nobel dog. But a dog is a dog, and I will not forget what you’ve done. Chara, come on little one, time for your bath.” The youngster picked out a little potato out of its breakfast bowl, popped it in its mouth, slid down, and followed its mother up the stairs.

The gnome took another glare and scuttled off into the backroom mumbling something ill-phrased to himself.

By that time Markus had just drained his mug of vile. “Gonna finish that?” He pointed at mine.

                “What is this?”

“I thought you said you liked rum?”

                “I haven’t said a word this entire time.”

“Right, so you haven’t. But you are now, so that’s good. Mind if I?” he wrapped a finger around the handle of mug and slowly slid it to him, as if he was being sneaky. “There we go… Like I was saying earlier, I saved you. Well, she had a lot to do with it I suppose. And then there were the druids who summoned that fog… But I—I was the one who found you in the alley. Ah, ha! See, where would you be without me?”

                I slunk my head down into my palms and tried to process the cataclysm that was consuming my life. What was all my service for? All for nothing. They will find me. “They will kill me and Merette will see me die disgraced.” I spoke my mind mistakenly.

“Merette, little clergy girl, about yay big?” he gestured the height with his hand. “She’s the one who saved ya.”

He had two more drinks, stole the bottle from behind the counter and we hit the streets. We walked down old roads which I have never seen; he told me we were heading to the old sacred grove.

 

Entry 6: Ashe Beats Rock

“Right with you” meant three days. I lay on the hay mattress, which in all honesty wasn’t terribly uncomfortable—perhaps for a soldier.  I lay and think about Merette and what a fool I had been. Yet, over and over in my mind I replayed the event that landed me here, and I can’t fully say what possessed me to swing. The man was wrong, I knew it in my gut; his smile torched my soul. I didn’t enjoy removing any of those heads, especially that first man, Mr. Galish. His tortured, miserable face haunted me. But Tynir… I wanted to see his head roll. I wanted to feel the slight tremor of his body falling to the ground at my feet… but I can’t remember swinging. It was as if for a moment everything went blank, and an instant later I was staring at the deed.

When the priest did finally see me he greeted me with a court summons. I was to face the block the next morning and I wasn’t at all scared or sorrowful… until Merette came to visit me. We cried together while struggling to embrace through bars. We had but minutes left to ever see each other again, and neither could speak a single word of comfort. After the guards removed her I clung to the iron bars that still radiated the warmth of her body. I held on to them, my last remnant of my heart.

The execution was to be held outside today, in the courtyard. The grass looked unkempt today; as the guards lead me to the block, I heard a monk chastising a gardener.

“What was it you people were doing all day? I told you the judgment was to be held outdoors.”

“Aye Sir, but we whacked all of this yester-evening, why it’s long now’s a mystery Sir.”

“I’ll whack you the next time this…” he went on about it as guards pushed me on.

In the center of the courtyard, I was lead up to a large wooden platform, which had been set up for the weekend executions. These more public displays were open for a much larger audience and any citizen was permitted to witness. Those saved for public executions were typically selected by the high priest himself. The judging block sat in the center of the platform, already tainted by blood? I heard some from the crowd say,

“He dropped the axe on Tynir!”

“The one that tainted it!”

“Oshrildin damn the guilty Knight!”

“Spiller of innocent blood!”

I tried not to look out or pay attention to the crowd of condemning strangers. I kept myself secluded in my mind as I felt myself being lead to the block. They had never removed my armor. Veterans where permitted the honor of dying steel-clad. One veteran tried to convince the clergy to allow him his helmet to escape the axe at which he was granted, and then hung.

I knelt and laid my head down against the stone. As the priest read off my allegations, I turned my face to the side.

There were peasants choking… many of them. The coughing began to spread widely through the crowd, and I noticed a rising fog coming up from the earth. The guards began to panic and those stationed on the ground began climbing up to the execution platform. Behind them civilians attempted to climb as well, but where kicked back by guards. The smoke nearly covered all the heads below and continued to rise.

“Enough!” cried the priest. “End him now!”

The axe came down upon my neck and shattered. Starting with the blade, traveling up the shaft of the axe, the gilded metal splintered into a hundred pieces and collapse worthless on the ground.

“End his witchery!”

I rose and the fog had nearly shrouded the stage as well. The guards began choking. The executioner attempted to raise his greatsword to smite me, but instead lowered it into the wood to prop himself up. Within moments they all collapsed helpless on the stage and ceased breathing. The priest muttered a mix of curses and prayers and never broke gaze with me, even after he stopped breathing.

After I had fled from that nightmare, and tripped over my share of bodies, running through the mysterious fog that claimed all lives but mine, I found myself confused and helpless in an alleyway bordering a forgotten old inn and an unkempt home. I panted, trying to catch my breath, when a green-hooded figure collapsed into the alley panting, catching his.

“My *pant* Gods, how do you *gasp* run so fast in that armour?” He walked over to me and slouched heavily against the opposite wall.

“Right, so I’m supposed to bring you to the council, but I say we’ve had our fill of exercise; we’ll let the council come to us.”

He blew a small whistle that hung around his neck like a medallion and just moments later a crow swooped down from the sky and perched himself on the figure’s shoulder. He pet the bird behind its neck thrice, wrote out a small memo, and attached it with twine to the crow’s leg, then flinging his arm upward, sent the bird back into the sky.

“Right, that’s taken care of. Let’s say you and me take a peak in here. Maybe they’ve got something with a kick. Inns have rum right? You’re good for rum yeah? Well, rum it is then, on me.”

He helped lift me to my feet under one arm and lead me inside the old inn. I could smell its age and filthy nature before we even walked inside. Inside was a whole other mess.

Entry 5: Red Carpets

Merret, had ever such beauty existed ever before… in the whole of creation? In my dreams she never went home that night. We never left the room. A kiss would leave to many; she would be hovered above me her thighs clenched at my waist, her robes tossed to the floor… Merret, perfection…

Thump Thump Thump

Somebody knocked at my door.

“Sir Ashe!” A muffled voice found its way through the sturdy oak portal and plucked me from my dreams.

I stirred about in my bed, unwillingly regaining consciousness. The sun was bright against my face.

The voice bellowed out again, angrily this time. “Sir Ashe, either come to the door now or the next time you open your eyes it will be back on the war-front.”

I sat upright immediately, robed myself within an instant, marched strait to the door and opened while saluting.

“Ashe…”

“Aye, sir!”

“Why are you saluting?”

Embarrassed, I lowered my hand to my side, still standing upright in attention.

“Sorry sir, force of habit, it won’t happen again.”

“Right… Okay then, get armoured and get your arse downstairs; the tribunal is nearly assembled.

Once I had armoured myself and mentally prepared myself for my first day of judgment, I made my way into the great hall.

When I first walked into that great hall, I saw a long red carpet leading up to the judging block, where the guilty are beheaded.  The room was filled with piers and the piers where filled with clergy, politicians, city watchmen, and aristocrats. The first two piers closest to the judging block were reserved and filled with prisoners in chains, some were foreigners, sent here by their governments for judgment. The block itself was made of white stone, never tainted by the blood which spills on it. Some say that its own holy purpose keeps it pure. Legend suggests that it will only stain when an innocent bleeds upon it. Others believe that the monks are just very good at cleaning.

Behind the block, the clergyman who spake with me the night before, was holding the gilded axe. He smiled to me and nodded. No one said anything, but I understood this as my queue to step forth.

That walk seemed like miles at first. Eyes followed me unblinking to the block. With each window I passed, sun danced off my armour. I wondered how they could bare to stare so widely at me.

Finally I reached the block; I walked behind it and the high priest set the gilded axe in my hands, bowing as he did so. I lifted it, and rested it upright by my side, and stood like a soldier, completely still—a statue with the power of judgment. I looked straight out, down the red path I just walked. Suddenly I felt as if I had just woken up, and that this was all happening far too quickly.

The priest read aloud. “As it is just.” And the entire congregation repeated, even one of the prisoners.

“So we begin with all sovereignty and kindness. Mr. Galins? Would you please step up to the block please?” Guards grabbed him on either arm and forcefully lead him to the block. They pressured him down onto his knees and he knelt there, looking out at the crowd. Out of sorrow, not by force, he lowered his head on the stone and openly wept.

“Mr. Galins, I am instructed now to read your crimes. At this time Sir Ashe will raise our lord’s axe. Should Sir Ashe deem you unworthy at anytime, he will say ‘guilty’, he will look to me, I will nod, and as a representative of Oshrildin, he will allow the axe to fall. If however, Sir Ashe does not allow the axe to fall, the judgment is left to me and I will command Sir Ashe to either behead you or rest you axe. Should we both find your crimes undeserving of death, you will be permitted to walk into the courtyard where guards will escort you to a cell for rehabilitation. At any point, I may interject and command Sir Ashe to rest his axe should Oshrildin speak words of innocence to me.”

The prisoner said nothing, he only continued to weep. The priest unraveled a scroll and cleared his throat. “Let’s get started then.” I took a step back and raised my axe as if to make a mighty swing, and I held the pose. The priest gave me a slight approving nod. “Sir Galins, you are hereby charged with defiling the sanctity of one Miss Elizabeta Tynir.” The prisoner’s weeping grew louder. “Good sir, could you please quiet yourself, thank you.” The priest read on. “It says hear that you were a ball guest permitted into house Tynir, and that during the night you poisoned lady Tynir’s cup with sleeping herbs.” He kept weeping, softer now. I heard “she-she” slip through the mumbling periodically.

I made the mistake of speaking. “She what?”

“Sir Ashe, I must remind you that the sentinel of Oshrildin does not speak in court. Mr. Galins, you too must not speak, or I will command your execution. Now, back to the matter.”

He cried out uncontrollably. “She lied!” mucus and tears ran wildly down his face onto the stone. “She told me… She told…me”

“Enough. Fall!”

I swung the axe in a perfect arch, landing it upon the man’s neck, severing him completely and cleanly. The impact made a loud clanking echo which carried through the hall, all were silent and no scratch was made to the stone or the axe. The body fell upon the red carpet, the head rolled several feet down the aisle and in that moment I understood then why the carpets where made red.

I had not intended to swing. Had the military left me this obedient?

“Moving right along then…”

—-

A dozen more dead men had left the alter drenched in blood, the guilty heads lay littered on the steps and streams of red trickle from the chopping stone.

“Right, just one more for today then.” The priest went right along. “Lord Forset, would you please rise to the altar?” A man with finely trimmed, very short, blond hair rose in calm confidence and made his way beside me. He knelt, looked up at me openly grinned and laid his head on the block. I didn’t understand his calm nature; he laid his head comfortably on the bloody stone as if it was his pillow.

“Lord Forset, this is you third offense.”

A woman cried out from the crowd “That’s the monster! The one that killed my boys and husband…” the tears began spilling out of her eyes, and her voice lowered, shuddering she spoke, “end him.”

“Now, now Mrs. Danbury, I have the scroll right here. I must read the allegations from it before making a fair and just decision. Let’s see… what do we have here?” The priest pressed his tongue against his upper lip as he read. “Lady Danbury… Were you indeed having an affair with Lord Forset as the scroll suggests?” She began to speak but choked on her own voice. She made a terrible hacking sound with her throat and the site of her face could wrench any heart that looked upon it. “Right-o then, moving right along.” The priest read on a little further. The prisoner laughed to himself, but I could hear it.

“Oh my. Well, it looks as though my hands are tied on this matter. Mrs. Danb- oh my, apologies. Miss, by the laws of Trondelag your husband and your lover had equal share of your heart and were legally recognized as proper rivals.”

Without full consciousness, I heaved the axe back behind my head. The priest looked over to me in alarm as I clanged the axe down through the Lord’s neck.

“Ashe!” the priest threw up his hands in a panic. And before I had a chance to recognize what I had done, two guards had seized me from behind while another pried the axe from my hands. The courtroom had broken into a terrible commotion. They drug me off, down the staircase and into a private cell.

One guard spoke. “The priest will see you shortly.”

Entry 4: Embers of Memory

Abeline’s voice was the first to break the silence. “Tall and pointy, aren’t you the least bit curious about Short and Shinny’s origin?”

                “Well, yes, I suppose I am.” I wasn’t sure if I was lying or not. Part of me wanted to hear the story of the armored stowaway, part of me wanted to forget I had companions and wander aimlessly through the woods.

There was another moment of silence.  Abeline was about to speak again but Ashe interjected with the same dutiful voice he has answered me with before.

“I have no reservation in regards to the details of my origins, provided my new comrades retain its confidentiality. “

He came to a sudden stop and looked at us both very seriously with a face most grim. His eyes, once stoic, sank into disdain, and then further sank into deep sorrow as he reached back into his memories.

 ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Origins: Ashe

 

Oshrildin, the god of justice, boasted the largest temple in all of Trondelag. Its outer walls towered over nearby buildings and were gilded in intricate designs of saints, judges, and serpents. Oshrildin is commonly represented by the double headed snake; often one head will represent divinity with an adorned crown, whilst the other wields sharp, vicious horns, representing judgment and death. Artists have taken liberties in recreating “The Patient God” as statues, tapestries, and so on, all over Trondelag. The temple of Oshrildin and its affiliates were held in the most luminescent light, as Trondelag entrusted all manners of justice into their hands.

“Are you prepared Ashe? You may very well be dropping your first axe tomorrow.” The old priest eyed an ornate, ceremonial golden axe, encased in crystal behind the altar.

                I responded “I am ready, I have seen my share of war, this temple is my new home, and I am prepared to act as a vessel for Oshrildin.”

“You’re paladin roots serve you well. You’re father would be very proud of you Sir.” He made his way back towards his chamber door, still talking. “There is no better way to serve the Holy Knights than to become a Hand of Oshrildin.” He closed an enormous mahogany door behind him; it was plated with a large metal ornament, shaped like a crown, under that was a smaller ornament, shaped as horns. The clergy lived very well here indeed.

I made my way back to my quarters; tomorrow I had to act for the first time as a Hand of Oshrildin. I looked into a large portal mirror, which hung across from my bed upon entering my room. I was more presentable now than I have ever been.  My face was cleanly shaved, for the first time since I was able to grow a beard, some four or five years ago. The golden emblem of Oshrildin was handsomely mounted upon my breastplate and my hair lay gently and neat against the sides of my face. The room was large, filled with furnishings, including prefilled bookcases. I however, could read only simple phrases so I left those books unopened. My life was spent on war-fronts and absent of schooling.

I intended to spend that night very casually, as I made myself comfortable in my new home. I changed into soft, neatly tucked linens, and made my way down to the dining hall for supper.  I went, I ate, introduced myself to whomever I felt carried a warm presence, and made my way back to my room. As I was climbing that last set of marble stairs, I bumped into a familiar little figure.

A soft innocent voice spoke nervously. “Excuse me, I didn’t… Sir Ashe?” A cloaked, slender, slightly shorter than normal girl looked up at me curiously for a moment before allowing her face to explode into a grand and ecstatic smile. “Ashe, it is you! You’re back for good this time. And look how handsome you are; I barely recognized you—not that you weren’t handsome before! You were… you’ve always been very handsome. Oh gods! I’m sorry I didn’t mean to sound forward, I just… I…”

“Calm yourself Merette.” I placed my hand on her shoulder, looked into her forest brown eyes, and embraced her, perhaps for longer than some clergy would deem appropriate. She dropped down her hood and let her shimmering brown waves spill out.

                “You’re here now for good. I’m so excited, I can barely stand it.” She grabbed my hand and tugged me up the stair case and down the hall as she talked. “Mother has been dying to see you—oh, my birth mother, not the priestess. I suppose I really ought to keep those two straight when I say ‘mother’ now.”

“And I her, it’s been ages. But Merette?”

                “Yes?” She continued tugging me along.

“We passed my room.”

She had gone on apologizing at a rapid pace as we walked back to my chamber. We discussed all that has happened over the last two years, since I have last been home from war. She had become an acolyte of the holy mother of Trondelag. She spoke of enlightenment, righteousness, and justice when she spoke of taking up the cloth; however, I had a more probable reason in mind. In Trondelag, clergy could only marry within clergy, and as a Holy Knight, and a Hand of Oshrildin, The Order definitively classified me as clergy. This was not at all upsetting for me, for I did truly intend to wed Merette.

We continued talking and laughing, every now and then we’d enjoy a quiet moment in blissful silence. She told me she was in the temple delivering a message to brother Jatuaf; however, I knew her far too well… and besides, Jatuaf lived on the first floor, but I didn’t feel the need to share this knowledge.

Eventually, as the sky began to show signs of dawn, I saw her out, and kissed her goodnight.