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  #41  
Old 04-26-2012
roguethree roguethree is offline
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Peace, No More

They sat, the three of them, in serene silence, placid under a crescent moon as a warm breeze stirred through grass and leaves: the Sunite, with her back against the paladin's chest; the paladin, with his back set against the old, broad tree; and the tree, rooted deeply into the earth and stalwart against any weight. The Sunite's hands rested atop arms that encircled her waist, and her head was reclined, braced by a proud breast. Moments would pass, and she would lift her chin, leaving a soft kiss on the always clean-shaven neck above her. A noble brow would then turn her way, that same neck craning downward so that lips could meet in slow, meandering embraces.

Nights that weren't spent in beating the straw loose from training pells or in more intimate entanglement were often spent this way: in silence and solitude, their light cast from the darkened heavens and their company the land they'd surrounded themselves with. Memories of past valiance and failure didn't visit him on nights like these; he could see no farther than the lustrous, kohl-lined eyes of the woman he kept in his arms, and he was glad for it. He'd been skeptical when she'd said she could abandon the things she thought made her whole to nurture his love; theirs had been a star-crossed affair, with tears and laughter and godly patience, but here they were. In they end, they saw each other, as no one else could fathom seeing them.

And then he blinked, and she knew it.

"What is it?" She spoke softly, clandestine like a lover who dares not be found.

He was silent for several moments, minutes even. She let her question hang in the breeze, patient as she ever was. The playful, soothing wind stirred the subtle applause of the leaves overhead.

"A sending," he finally answered, the exhale deflating his chest.

She shifted a touch to her left, still wrapped in his arms as she was, to keep her perch. "No one has asked after you in all this time . . . you are needed."

A droplet of warm water bounced against her bare shoulder, and she lifted her eyes to the cloudless sky. She twisted her torso around, eyes settling on the paladin's, where sprung two more such watery beads.

"Peridan . . . is . . . he's . . .," he began, the words broken to battle the knot twisting his throat.

She turned fully, resting on her knees as she cupped the paladin's face in her hands, her thumbs guiding away the tears that threatened to spoil his mouth. She kissed him, and for all his grief, he kissed her, pinching away more sorrowful rain with tightened eyelids.

"We will go," she agreed, her hands no longer tending his dried eyes and instead weaving through his hair.

His head tipped in the faintest of nods, and she rewarded his strength with a soft smile as she pressed him down to the earth.

Last edited by roguethree; 10-07-2012 at 11:19 PM.
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  #42  
Old 04-28-2012
roguethree roguethree is offline
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I belong with you.

A high, rolling fog turned milky the moonlight that struggled its way through the high windows in that lonely chamber. The air was thick, all but tangible, and the paladin's strong features glistened with the moisture that was invisible until its aerial passage splashed against his skin. He stood before the simple sword mount, and the sword sat before him, patient as it had been, but its desire was clear.

Gathered at the front of their home were his armor, his other blades, all of his trappings of war. Set near those were cases of fine clothing, silks, the comforts of comfortable living for his delicate companion. All that was left was this sword.

Our work is unfinished.

He had been reaching for the scabbard as its gentle reminder entered his thoughts, but his wrist flexed, fingers curling prematurely at the subtle intrusion. Blue eyes cooled to ice as he stared at the weapon, and he felt it bend before him. Their two wills had been at odds as much as two minds aligned to the same purpose could be. The sword demanded wrath against the wicked at all moments, with no concern for order or mercy; order and mercy were the paladin's foundation. He had nearly faltered once, and he had sworn dominance over the blade ever since.

Wrath's will shrank before him, and his hand closed the sparse distance yet between it and the sheath. He pressed his palm to the emerald set in its leather, and his bare fingers curled around the case. Fire sparked and kindled in his core, burning the pit of his stomach with a flame that could be quenched only with the blood of the wicked.

He thought of Anasath's demonic visage, of the way she glared into his eyes as her sword tore through his armor, how he saw that same woman's eyes begging, pleading for him to save her when the demon prince first took her. He thought of the murder of Mathell Cavaliere, of his torn-out eye and ripped open breast: the painful death of a man finally come to repentance despite the paladin's highest efforts. He thought of a fateful night in Aquor, when a vampire nigh unto a god took from him the artifact that restored Myrkul and made his blood literally boil. He thought of his ill-fated charge into the ranks of the unliving, of his blessings falling away and a hateful sword and axe ripping into his body, leaving him all but dead and useless as champions of the wicked claimed the night.

He thought of the black, billowing heaps of smoke choking the skies over Aquor, the screams of the terrified and dying drowning out what should have been music and banter in the noble city. He thought of Arbiter's Stand falling to the howling mass of brutish orcs, burning and pillaging in crazed mania, their heavy boots trampling the motionless form of a crimson-cloaked sun elf whose one golden eye had lost its flame.

He had closed his eyes without knowing it, and they snapped open, their full fury set upon the wrathful blade, and the thoughts fell away. Wrath Eternal went silent in his grasp, and he repaid its obedience: deft hands pulled the long length of leather that was this weapon's belt taut around his waist, and the blade that would save Sundren once again clung to the champion's left hip. The burning in his core ebbed and expired.

"My love." A soft, velvet sound wound its way through the thickened air, finding his ear with uncanny ease.

"I'm ready, aye."

The soft flapping of whirling silk heralded the woman's departure from the doorway, and the paladin turned soon after, his measured strides bearing him through their home to a carriage waiting outside, their affects already lifted into its load by the passage's attendants. He gave the peerless Sunite his hand as she stepped up and into the carriage's lantern-lit confines, her perfect silhouette soon showing through one of the thin-curtained windows. He lifted his right foot to the first rung that would bear him after his beloved, into the carriage that would take them to the city, on to the city's docks, and from there to their chartered ship, on which they would voyage to the Sundered Valley, as he had only a few years ago.

His eyes turned skyward, gold flecks catching starlight as they alighted on Cassima, the phoenix. His right hand reached for the rail that would lever him up to his coach; his left wrapped around the leathered handle of the sword at his hip, his thumb coming to rest atop that familiar groove where its pommel ought to have been.

He thought of the barn standing just off the crossroads, of slain wolves and an axe in his weary grasp, blood still dripping from its edge. He thought of the dark-armored man, of his hateful voice echoing from within that full helmet. He remembered the vacancy behind Priya's eyes as the man ensorceled her, of the futility of his desperate strokes against Bane's champion as that champion broke his bones and rent his skin with dark magic born of malice. He remembered his consciousness fading as Clive Tarsus walked off into the night, his beloved, before she was his beloved, numbly following behind, dispossessed of her will and unable to comfort the man whose life was slipping away for her sake.

Dain Tornbrook nodded a few times, his chin stoically dipping in agreement with words no one heard spoken as he pulled himself into the carriage, its wheels creaking to life as the horses drawing the burden set themselves on their gait toward the old horizon.

Our work is unfinished.
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  #43  
Old 05-01-2012
roguethree roguethree is offline
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They bounced and jostled down the winding road for hours, her head full of elaborately coiffed curls nestled into the paladin's neck. Her eyes were hidden behind closed lids as she feigned sleep for the length of the journey, a trick she played on her lover to get him to relax his features and let his heart mingle with his mind. She was far more cunning than he, and there were subtleties she yet kept from him, just for times like these.

Alone with his thoughts, though, his mind was clear, the muscles in his face relaxed. Moments alone with this woman would be scarce in the days not far off, so he was savoring the scent of her hair, the long lashes that reached out over the gentle slope of her perfectly set nose. Eventually, their bouncing carriage slowed and lurched to a stop, and the beauteous Sunite made a show of awakening with fluttering eyes and a bashful smile. She pressed a delicate hand against the paladin's chest and pushed herself up, kissing the pliant lips of the man bracing her at the apex of her ascent. Men's voices were muffled and gruff outside the carriage, and eventually the door was pulled open. Dain Tornbrook let himself out first, his waiting arms bringing Priya Sera out after him.

Dawn was barely blooming, the distant sun not quite broken over the horizon but already scattering streaks of violet and orange through the midnight blue of the morning sky. The port was slowly filling with life, groggy sailors yawning to life or stumbling back home from the taverns and whatever beds and bedmates had kept them in drunken pleasure. The pair were already standing before their chartered passage, and the men that had driven their carriage were already bearing their affects up the wide, inclined piece of wood that joined the ship to the dock. When the last of their things were aboard and stowed in their room, they, too, ascended the ramp, boarding the boat that would part the waters soon after dawn, carrying them to Sundren.

Surly, hirsute men lumbered over the deck, winding ropes, moving barrels, and making all other manners of nautical readiness as the first inches of the sun broke the surface of the sparkling sea. Standing in stark contrast to these was a loose circle of twenty or so men and women, dressed in simple but very clean, fitted clothing, their chins held firmly and hair freshly combed. Some wore favors tied about their arms or waists, of blues, purples, some reds, and most bore symbols of gods hanging from their necks or belts: mostly the scales of the Just God, but a few bore the gauntlet of the Loyal Fury. Dain felt their auras: paladins to a one.

Priya Sera watched her love's brow lower ever so slightly as he guided them nearer that circle, and soon their words gained clarity.

". . . slain, along with a host of brothers of the Just."

"So we heard at our temple. Elandress and I were dispatched to help rebuild their force."

". . . was praying for acceptance into the Grimjaws. I saw the sword, and then this news was delivered by a sending. No coincidence, or take my eyes to match."

"I heard they had a champion, tall and fierce and peerless in . . ."

"Easy, Elandress. We heard that same champion left them before this catastrophe. That the sort of man to spare thoughts over?"

A few heads turned to meet the pair as they approached the circle, and the circle widened to give room, calm smiles and nods greeting the righteous aura, and eyebrows raising in appraisal of the vision moving alongside it.

"Another pilgrim to the Sundered Valley, no doubt. Welcome, brother . . ."

". . . of the Just," Dain finished for the man, for he didn't bear his symbology as evidently as those gathered.

"Another brother of the Just. We were just discussing the so-called champion who left this land we're sailing to, left his temple and its knights to disaster."

"Rhothen, that's not fair."

"They called him the Wrath," a fifth, or sixth, added.

"Auspicious. You know anything about it," the man who'd done much of the speaking asked of the Wrath.

"I think that whatever the man or his reasons, it's on us to make it right."

"By the strength of the Three," one agreed.

"By the strength of the Three," twenty others solemnly echoed.

In the late afternoon, Dain sat along the port-side rail, eyes trained on the slowly falling sun as the sea breeze pressed his loose, white tunic tightly against his features, the excess fabric cast behind him and occasionally flickering in the wind. So many paces away, Priya Sera engaged a trio of chaste men in pleasant banter, their calm resolve masking well their doubts about a certain vow they'd taken. She dismissed them with an infectious laugh, and she made her way toward her paladin, seating herself opposite him and instantly drawing his eyes.

"A setting sun and the sea do wonderful things with your eyes, sir knight," she greeted warmly, easily taking one of his hands between hers. The pregnant space between her phrase and his reply was filled with the sloshing of salty water against the thick, wooden side of the ship.

"A lot of truth in what some said," he finally replied, a soft, sad smile taking his lips as his eyes fell to their hands.

"Will you blame yourself for every good soul that dies?"

"I should have been there."

"Why?"

"Because they needed me."

Her head tilted to the side, but her voice was unbroken and patient. "They still need you, but you cannot be present at every battle. There will be nights when you do not tend the lines because you will be tending me; our love will not suffer for war."

"No," he agreed, the words nearly stolen and cast away by the breeze.

"Those men, whether they think ill of you or not, will be fighting under you, and it will be but moments before their misgivings give way to admiration. You know this."

"I wouldn't speak so highly of myself."

"Dain Tornbrook, you are many wonderful things, but you are vain."

A chuckle broke his sincerity, and the fingers of his held hand weaved themselves through the fingers of one of hers. His levity soon faded away, and he lifted his gold-flecked gaze to brown eyes that seemed afire with the sun's dying rays.

"I have to finish it this time."

"I know."

They spoke no more, their eyes turning out toward the orange disc that sank below the distant waves of the horizon, the breeze stealing their warmth not long after dark settled. They left the deck, hands still joined, as the torches were lit, bypassing the simple evening meal that fed paladins and sailors alike in favor of quiet quarters and perfect company.
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  #44  
Old 05-14-2012
roguethree roguethree is offline
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"How far from land?" The woman called Elandress spoke to Dain Tornbrook one clear morning.

He turned his head to regard the woman as she approached his perch, where he stood steady on the deck with the agreement of calm waters, his arms folded across his chest, sword hanging dutifully from his hip.

She had long, thick, dark hair, gathered into a ponytail. Her skin was fair, not having caught much of the sun, and her eyes were green, not far off in hue from the emerald adorning his scabbard. She wore fitted leather breeches and a snug tunic and vest, her womanly curves punctuated with the athletic muscle that usually accompanied folk of his calling. She was a rather attractive woman - again, not uncommon among his folk - and he all at once decided that Rhothen, the man who spoke so easily to her, was probably in love with her, and by the luster in her eyes as she approached him in his errant sentry, she wasn't so decided.

"I don't know," he finally replied. "It all begins to look the same, after a few days."

She laughed politely as she finished her approach, standing to his left and likewise crossing her arms, mirroring his posture. "I can't wait to get there."

"Hn."

"It's a chance to really do the Three's work, you know? Fight the good fight, be a beacon."

Dain let her words fall away to silence before he replied. "You feel your service has been limited."

"Yes, I guess so. Aside from tending the sick or poor, the most we encountered were the occasional marauding monsters, some banditry. You?"

"I also feel incomplete in my service."

"Yes," she smiled, eyes turning their shine up toward the other paladin. "We all do, but what have you seen? Vanquished? Once, when I was wounded, Rhothen dispatched three ogres, all on his own . . . by the grace of the Three, of course."

"Rhothen sounds to be a man of admirable strength," he evenly replied, careful with his inflection.

"Yes, well, I've been hearing stories about the one they call Wrath."

"The one who left."

"Yes, but I heard he laid waste to entire legions of undead, that he doesn't blink at slaying a demon."

"Do you believe that?"

"Well, legends grow larger every time they're told. It won't be long until Rhothen's three ogres are thirty frost giants, right?"

Dain allowed the young woman a small, brief smile, turning his head just so much that he knew she'd see it. "Aye. We are seldom as great or as wicked as others would tell us to be."

"Brother of the Just?"

"Aye?"

"Your aura is stronger than everyone else's, and not by a little. Everyone's felt it; it's what we talk about at meals when you're off on your own. What are you coming from?"

Dain paused perhaps a breath too long before he answered. "From peace, my home. I received a sending, like many of you."

"Yes, but where before that? You're not much older than the youngest of us, and there are veterans here with more years than you, but no one's close. No one we've known is close."

Another pregnant pause.

"I've had many opportunities to serve the Just."

"Where?"

His thoughts broke over him like roiling waves over jutting, jagged rocks, the faces and voices contained therein shattering and scattering about him like fractured glass as he spoke his simple reply.

"Sundren."

Last edited by roguethree; 05-15-2012 at 01:54 PM.
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  #45  
Old 05-18-2012
roguethree roguethree is offline
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"Sundren," he repeated days later as a distant, rocky coastline came into view. Elandress was at his side again, as was his love, Priya. The rest of the paladins had avoided him since Elandress had doubtless divulged her suspicions regarding his identity. They hadn't confronted him, and there was no need to: it was obvious. They'd left him his space, all save for Elandress, who had made fast friends with Priya Sera and insistently badgered him for stories from his close-by past.

"Are you excited?" the younger paladin asked, the shine in her eyes not unsettling the Sunite at all.

"No. I don't get excited for much."

"But it's to be a righteous war."

"Aye. There will be a lot of blood spilled on all sides. My favor will darken."

"Your favor?"

"A cloth, stained crimson with the blood of the fallen, that he wears from his belt," Priya interjected, her tone flat, especially for her practiced cordiality.

"You will see it if you see me in armor. I've only known one other to wear something like it."

"Why?" Came Elandress's inevitable response.

"It is a reminder that our hands are not clean, that every stroke of a blade spills more than blood, and for those who see it, it is a reminder that my oaths have not kept me from delivering justice by the sword."

"It's . . . gross."

"I wash it."

"Still!"

Dain Tornbrook met her persistence with a dismissive shrug, then reaching for his love's hand and lacing their fingers. Priya took a small step nearer the paladin and rested her elaborately coiled hair atop his shoulder. Elandress allowed the silence for a few minutes before taking a new angle.

"Do you think they'll follow you?"

"Who?"

"The other paladins here. A lot of them think you're a traitor . . . less than your legend, at the very least."

"Aye," he answered, nodding a few times as the head resting on his arm softly growled its protest at the small movements.

"Why?"

"They'll have no choice."

"How do you figure?" She turned to face the man, squaring her shoulders as she looked up at the gold-flecked eyes that watched the distant coastline.

"No one has walked in front of me for some time, and only one has walked beside me." A pleased smile grew on the lips of the woman who leaned against him, the small gesture hidden from the other woman. "They'll have no choice."

Across the deck, Rhothen sat with a few of the other paladins, making his own conversation while his eyes rested with disappointment on the distant Elandress. Dain watched Elandress's head turn away and toward their fellows, and it was sparse moments before she turned her attention back toward the alleged traitor.

"Even Rhothen," he concluded for her, his eyes again cast out toward the coastline that grew with painstaking patience.
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  #46  
Old 06-15-2012
roguethree roguethree is offline
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Her dark hair, unbound, fell past her shoulders and halfway down her back, spilling in gentle waves along her brown leather vest. She looked up at the blond paladin at her left, green eyes afire with enthusiasm.

"Nerves?" She asked, her leading tone suggesting she was ready to empathize.

"No." His eyes followed the voice back to its source, a mouth curved in a knowing smile that wasn't so knowing afterall.

"No? Not even butterflies?"

"No."

Her lips twisted into a right-leaning purse, the slender lines of her eyebrows flattening into less of an arch. "Really. I thought you'd be . . . I'd be worried about what people would be thinking of me as I came back."

"What would I gain from that, Elandress?" His gold-flecked gaze shifted to the Avanthyr docks as the sailors milling about them lashed and bound the boat to the platform. He crossed his arms over his chest, pinching the half-sleeves of his navy tunic as he stood, waiting. His arms and armor were wrapped and secured with rope and tackle, sitting silently at his left as two men shoved out a long, broad plank, its heavy edge striking the dock below with an emphatic thump as the walkway was made. Upon his left hip yet rested the Wrath blade.

The more common passengers disembarked first, the ship's sailors mingling among them as their mismatched steps took them down the ramp and into the port. They were followed by a train of paladins, pilgrims from distant lands. They all wore simple tunics, the symbols of their gods hanging from cords and chains from their necks, and their possessions - scarcely more than arms and armor - hanging from their backs. They marched past with evident purpose, only a few now sparing glances at the traitor and the paladin who would be his friend. The last of them stopped, a second burden in his arms, and he thrust it toward the woman with unbound hair.

"Your pack, Elandress. I'm not going to mule it all the way to the city."

"Of course, Rhothen." She took the pack, and with little bobs of her shoulders and weaves of her arms mounted it to her back.

"Let's go, Elandress." Rhothen's voice was seasoned with the barest of urgencies as his dark eyes flitted to the blond paladin standing beyond his companion.

She turned her whole frame, the weight of her pack demanding such, to question the paladin at her left.

"Go on," he bade her, and he saw the reluctance in her eyes. The challenge smoldering in Rhothen's gaze fell away as the Wrath voiced his approval, and after a few more moments' pause, the woman turned and started down the walk. Rhothen moved to follow, sparing no more attention to the other man.

Dain Tornbrook watched them descend the ramp, watched them join the other paladins as they congregated five score yards from the water's edge. With ample space, they all brought forth majestic steeds of all colors, black and brown and dappled. They all secured their burdens atop their horses as startled townsfolk looked on in awe and astonishment, and they set out as one, leading their mounts by their bridles as they ascended the road out of Avanthyr and toward the heart of the Valley.

Dain bent and recovered his own pack, slipping its straps over his shoulders and gripping the leather bindings with his hands as Priya stepped up beside him. They stepped down the ramp and alighted on the platform, not breaking stride as they walked deeper into and through the port. The sun grew higher as their forms grew distant from the deck of the ship that had borne them back to Sundren. Soon the bustling town was behind them, and far ahead, beyond their sight now, were two dozen virtuous warriors, marching in two columns.

"I think I shall go immediately to Aquor and see to the temple. I'll send someone to the estate with my things, and I'll make my way when such is appropriate." She already brandished the familiar shard in her hands, its glow brightening as she pressed soft lips to his mouth.

He closed his eyes and relished the kiss until the magic of the Aquor nexus spirited her away, lifting their lids a few moments after her form had vanished. He turned over his shoulder, marking the port he was leaving behind him. He turned back, staring down the road he would travel; the horizon was bare of the dust that marked passage, the new knights well ahead of him. He shifted his pack, realigning his straps as all of the metal he carried jostled and clanked as it fell back into place. His boots met the earth, rolling through long strides meant for the Valley.

Last edited by roguethree; 09-10-2015 at 05:06 PM.
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  #47  
Old 09-18-2012
roguethree roguethree is offline
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"I can't believe they got him," Jarrick mused. He bore half of a man's weight looped over his shoulder, the other half carried by his counterpart.

"Yeah," Piper returned. "Apparently wasn't hard, either. Guess all that legend was just stories."

Booted toes drug the ground behind them, belonging to their senseless burden as they labored on to the limits of the village of Sestra. They put some distance between themselves and the edge of the quiet town.

"You want to have some fun with him first?" Piper let go of his half of the load, and the man tumbled to the ground, dust rising around his body as it slumped to the earth.

"Might as well."

They kicked the man, stomped on him, spat at him. They laughed and taunted as the man only grunted faint protest, his body limply bending under every boot, every fist. He was already half-dead, his tunic covered in his own blood. They passed gleeful minutes like this, just the dust and the blood and the man who curled beneath their strength.

"Alright, alright. Hold him up," Jarrick bade. Piper reached under the beaten man's arms and lifted him part way, suspending his torso above the ground and letting his head hang forward. Jarrick skipped back a few steps, then sprinted forward, lifting his boot into the held man's mouth and swinging through as if punting a ball.

"Holy shit!" Piper laughed as he let loose of the man, watching Jarrick with a wild grin. Jarrick howled his triumph and feigned polishing his shoe.

Dain sat up on his knees, and the two other men's laughter fell away to silence as they watched his cheeks twitch and hollow. The paladin spat out perhaps a fourth of a mouthful of blood.

"No . . . how . . . ?" Piper stammered, his smile gone.

"I bit my tongue," Tornbrook explained. He stuck a finger in his mouth as he stood, brow furrowing as he prodded at the oral wound.

In their joyful abuse, Jarrick and Piper hadn't noticed the paladin touching his wounds, sealing them with fleeting passes of his hands. They hadn't noticed the annoyance in the man's muted groans as they kept pushing him over with their feet as he tried to stand.

Dain punched Piper in the throat, an unremarkable jab. Piper stopped breathing, his neck collapsed. Jarrick he took by the collar of his armor, and he smashed his forehead into the other man's nose. Blood and teeth exploded from the spot, spraying out from the cavity where Jarrick's face had been. Dain bent down and wiped his face clean on Piper's tabard before stepping over his still form.

"I pray your last sin is forgotten in your judgment, gentlemen, for you have tempered my pride and returned my focus. Grace and gratitude."

Dain drew the scales over his chest, and he turned his back to the town, striding forth down the empty road. Every few strides, his tongue bulged at the side of his cheek, and he spat a little bit of redness.

"My tongue."
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  #48  
Old 09-23-2012
roguethree roguethree is offline
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To know loss . . .

I know loss. I know it well. This sword has asked me to recount it all and will keep asking until it slips from my grasp. It asks to spur me on. It asks to make me remember the blood in my oaths, and I let it ask. I once argued with this sword, contended with this sword, clashed wills with this sword. It is now a companion, a judgmental friend who chastises me whenever I am sloth, who prods me when I dare rest. I once loathed the gentle voice slipping around the edges of my consciousness, but now, it is an ally, an enduring memory of the things I've done and must continue to do.

I know loss. I have lost thrice more: an elf who promised honor and fortitude and was wanting the moment she was asked her quality. Another elf who once promised love, offered scorn, and now steps deep into shadows darkened by green flame. A brother of faith, an aged Ilmatari, infirm in his wizened years, his conviction lost in the despair of a town crying for a savior he hasn't the will to be.

Aye, I have lost, and I still dare to lose a fourth. A woman, tall and strong, full of a
sense of her purpose but blind to its use. A smile rare in its honesty and rarer in its frequency. Brown hair, brown eyes. Pain in those eyes, and I dare to mend it at the risk of loss again, for the small chance of a companion, a friend made of ideals and conviction and flesh. For the scars of my heart, I dare to hope that there are yet people with the strength and courage to walk a thin line beside me, balanced and unwavering. Will she? I have faith.

Faith, named a crutch, but I will reveal it to be taller and broader than any crutch. It will be a pillar upon which she will stand and see the world for what it can be, for what we can make it. I hope. She has hope; I can feel it, hope to be more than what she is, which is already more than she could ever see in herself. She has hope, and while she rejects, resents the gods, she already has faith: in me. I have to be worthy of that faith, else again, I will know loss.
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Old 10-08-2012
roguethree roguethree is offline
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He lay awake in bed - a fine, bed, overrun with pillows and sheets of expensive, sensual fabric that was ever pliant beneath tumbling bodies. Thin slivers of moonlight dove through the distant windows, spreading pale, white light that gave fire to the tiny golden suns alive in the paladin's blue irises. A woman lay next to him, on her side and against his side, one delicate hand splayed carefully over the man's heart. She slept softly. Indeed, everything about her was soft: soft, dark curls spilling over soft, slender shoulders; soft, dark, lustrous eyes concealed by placid eyelids; soft, shapely lips that spoke soft words in the waking hours; soft, inviting flesh that artfully and always eagerly bonded with him . . .

There were notions in the darkness of the ceiling overhead, questions and answers, thoughts and discontent.

"You're not seeing the big picture."

"His death was useless, cowardly."

"No one sees that part."

"You don't command anyone; they just agree to fight in the same space as you."

"She was tormented every day, until she finally ended it herself. Was there something between you?"

"Here's my coins. We're even, right?"

" . . . mercenary. That's what I am."

"He died because he was afraid to fight anymore. He abandoned us."

". . . in the Exarch's dungeon."

"I believe in you, Dain."

"I'm not sleeping until you do."

"I name you Melaelv Laanilm."

"Goodbye, Tornbrook."

"All you do is judge. No wonder you don't have friends."

"Your heart races, my love."

It took the man a few moments to understand that the last voice, spoken so softly, spilled forth not from his mind, but from the soft, shapely lips near his shoulder.

"My heartbeat woke you," the paladin breathed as he tilted his chin backward, stretching his throat and swelling his chest with a deep, balancing breath.

"Should it not? This one beats as vibrantly in my breast as it does in yours." Her hand, so gentle and innocent, yet rested upon his heart, and when he turned his head to look upon the woman, he saw the patient knowledge in the ensorceling eyes that had never judged him.

He closed his eyes as he rocked his head back to face the ceiling, but his left hand swung and fell over the hand that sensed the tremors in his core. He slipped his fingers into the woman's empathic grasp and breathed out the air that briefly, vainly suggested resistance.

"The sword?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

The woman's mouth tensed into a small frown. "You are not sure which is true and which is suggested."

"Sometimes."

A shapely limb reached through the black space between the sheets and the paladin's body, and the gentle pull of a heel against the side of his knee had him turning on to his side to face his companion. She entwined their legs and held him fast, and when her arms snaked beneath and over his torso, he instinctively cradled her neck in the crook of his arm, pressed their naked chests together in the unconscious embrace he had known for these last two years.

"Be still my darling, my love," she breathed into his neck. "Always, I can see you."

The paladin weaved his fingers into the Sunite's unbound curls. He breathed in, breathed out again as he gave himself over, let himself be enveloped. He closed his eyes against the blackness shadowing the corners of their room, against the voices that told him not to sleep.
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Old 11-21-2013
roguethree roguethree is offline
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I do not know if I will ever find a soul more akin to mine than was Peridan Durothil's. He was, in so many ways, the man I was destined to be, carrying a legend of persistment maimings and scars as a looking glass into the horror he had seen and overcome. You could not look upon the one-eyed elf and not know that he had taken his worth at least two fold from those opposite the field. Chosen by a blade, as was I, to be Sundren's protector, and dead for it, as he long suspected he would be. Ridiculed for sacrifice, as I have been. Spoken of in reverent tones, as I have been. That his immortal soul fights on in its next life is great comfort, even though my life lived in truest purpose will not deliver me to that friend's side again.

Tigen was never a paladin. A deception, fabricated by the spirit that guided him. It wasn't long before he regained his nature, and it wasn't until then I saw how ... different ... our ideals were, how he had no concern for the order of things or rising above the depravity of the enemy. Tigen was ever focused on the simplicity of the outcome, though he governed himself well for my sake. Were he here today, I would thank him for that. Loyal. And gone. Friendship, to him, judged on no principles; to me, completely dependent on principles, and so the paladin will walk alone.

I'm ... amused by my close kinship with two elves, closer than I have been with one of my own humankind, save my love. I have heard said that the elves live their lives in moments - moments of tens of years among the lesser-lived folk, decades in which new friends age and die. I don't know how I feel about being a moment in Peridan's life, or Tigen's, a span of a handful of years placed within centuries.

And yet I've outlived them, so there they are: moments in my own brief span, a few years among twenty-eight that stand out brighter than the rest, but they're gone all the same, the agony of their passing ebbing with each sunrise. So it has been. Friends have fallen, as Anasath and Peridan and, I suspect, Tigen, and they have become other, as the man who called himself "Shield" when he left me to bleed against the Black Hand; Kyle Rendell when he pawned a gift given out of friendship; as Maia when she violated for Darius his oath of honor and dignity; as Julia, when she forsook her friends for the sake of her own flesh; as Lasvi, when she cast away friendship and gave over to a darker nature. I could continue.

Those who should be friends - Darius, the faithful of our temple - are not. My fault, in some respects, as this armor has grown thick. Theirs, in others, as friendship does not oft grow between a leader of men and those who wish to be led. In truth, I don't know if I actually want their friendship; I have buried enough of them in my young life to be weary, and most of them for having trusted me or for being the champion where I should have been.

She is all that remains, she and my faith. She would follow me anywhere, for she can do her goddess's work well in any place, and should I not be so skilled? I would not be human without her; she sustains me with grace and love, and surely it is the purest love, a peerless patience and devotion. She taught me love, in its best sense, and my greatest failure would be to die by the sword, to abandon her in violence and blood.

There are paladins who have aged and known peace; could I be such? Is there strength for me in laying down the sword? Maybe someday. For now, this letter has come and demands my every thought:

Tornbrook, the Eleventh,

Soulful prayers to the Just that you are well in your troubled land. I oft pray for you and the Triadic there, as truly a daunting task is the peril there. Still, I write you with news, and offer of a quest to the glory of the Maimed and the Three.

Through devoted prayer and divination, we have discovered the Chalice and the Talisman; you know the artifacts of which I write. They are well concealed, and the task will be worthy of the Hammers, as many as we can muster. Eight have agreed. Tornbrook, will you join us? Send, or write.

The Even-handed lift you according to his grace,

Truewater
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