Paladin’s Journey: Beginnings
Copyright 2016 by Neil Evans
It all started on a night not unlike any other. Sitting in a rickety oak chair, Oramac sighed to himself for what felt like the millionth time. Was he ever going to get what he wanted in life? For that matter, what did he want? It’s always so hard to really define that.
“Do what you love”, his mother told him.
“Follow your dreams”, said his father.
All well-meaning, of course, but short on real substance. He sat there, staring out across the landscape, if you could call it that. He lived in a small one bedroom house on a smaller plot of land in a town full of houses that looked exactly like his. It was made of wood, crudely built, with a creaky floor and windows that leaked when it rained. But at least it was his. He wasn’t particularly proud of it, but it was his. Bought and paid for.
Still lost in thought, Oramac got up out of his chair and began walking. To where, he didn’t know. The town he lived in, Sanlou, wasn’t terribly large, but it was home. He left the house and kept walking along the tidy dirt road. Idly, without really thinking about it, he felt for the knife he always carried. In times like these it was common for normal people to do this. Bandits roamed the streets night and day, though they typically left Oramac alone. He didn’t have anything they wanted, and he wasn’t exactly small.
Oramac was a blacksmith. Standing around six feet tall and weighing about 230 pounds, he was used to the heat and fire of the forge. Before he worked steel, he was a member of the King’s Militia. It sounded better than it was. He got only the most basic training, but it was enough to make the small time bandits around here ignore him.
Still moving, he kicked a rock just to watch it tumble across the road. Before long, he came to the towns general store and walked in. It was a simple place. Milk, eggs, cheese, and meat lined the shelves, most of it fresh, even. The farmers in this area were quite good. Which of course made them targets of the bandits too.
Greeting the storekeep, an older man named Frank, Oramac walked to the shelf and picked up a bottle of ale. Only one. He didn’t care much for the parties in the tavern down the road, but he occasionally fancied something stronger than milk. Paying Frank and thanking him, Oramac walked out the door and continued along the path, still not paying attention to where he was going.
After some time, he began to notice the sky getting lighter. ’But the sun just set an hour ago’, he thought to himself. Musing on the eerie flickering light, he decided to keep walking towards it. If not for the eerie blue, he would have sworn it was a fire at one of the farmhouses. ’In fact’, he thought aloud, “Johann does live right in that direction...”
As he said it, he heard a bloodcurdling scream from over the hill. It had to be Johann! Breaking into a run, he poured out what was left of the ale and headed towards the mans house. He’d always liked Johann. The man was kind, and kept up to date on most of the happenings in the kingdom, though he was sometimes a bit long-winded.
Rounding the corner, Oramac came upon a sight he’d never seen before. Johann, suspended in air with nothing to hold him up, arms and legs spread out in an X, his head lolling back in weakness and fatigue. Directly below him, three men stood. Two clearly a bit nervous, as the third extended his hand towards Johann, apparently in control of the mysterious.....whatever.....holding him aloft. Even before Oramac could react, the man made a fist towards Johann and said,
“I’ll give you one more chance, farmer. Tell me where it is, and I may let you live!”
As if by the last of his strength, Johann pulled his head forward and spat on the ground. “I don’t know where it is, and even if I did I still wouldn’t tell you! You’re not the first one to threaten me with death!”
Oramac had no idea what that meant. He’d spent quite a bit of time with Johann, and knew he’d retired from the King’s Guard many years ago to become a farmer, but never had Johann spoken of death threats. Not towards himself anyway. He’d heard of threats against the king once in a while, but they never amounted to much. Johann was old, though Oramac didn’t know how old exactly, and he was built like most farmers, muscular and tough. Though he was starting to show his age. He also had a beautiful daughter named Illenia.
Even as he remembered the time spent with Johann, he was torn back to reality by the unknown man laughing. A horrible sound, high-pitched and just as eerie as the blue light all around.
“You’re right, Johann”, the man said as he finished his laugh, “I’m not the first to threaten your death. But I will be the...last.”
The final word was said with a clear poison that froze the blood in Oramac’s veins. Watching in horror, he saw the man opened his hand, showing his palm to Johann, before forcefully motioning his hand towards the ground. Johann barely had time for his eyes to widen before he was thrown to the ground with enough force to break bones. He quivered once, and was still.
“Monster!”, Oramac yelled without thinking. Before he knew what he was doing, he’d broken into a sprint towards the man, forgetting all caution at the murder he’d just witnessed. Turning to see him, the man just laughed again, muttered something under his breath, and disappeared.
Sliding to a stop, Oramac stared at Johann’s body, wondering what he’d stumbled onto, when all of a sudden, he felt a painful crack across his back. Wincing, he turned to see the two men who’d been with the Sorcerer. Fuming with anger, Oramac got up and yelled with all his might at these two men. Before he know what was happening, they’d drawn swords and Oramac held the empty bottle in his hand.
It wasn’t much of a fight. The two men easily defeated Oramac, but not before he broke the bottle across one man’s face, and cut the others arm. Left for dead, bleeding on the street, Oramac slowly succumbed to unconsciousness, but not before he felt a pair of hands under his shoulders, pulling him away...