Orphan-refugee Sigrun's 'pixies' have enemies; guilt and blame bedevil her adventures.
Lady Sigrun reflects upon how she came to walk the path of a Paladin for a group of young noblemen who hope to follow in her footsteps.
The day that changed my destiny seemed normal. We lived in urgan territory, yet we did so in peace. Uncle Mack had come to think of Ker, the local chief, as a friend. We'd share grain and bread and the meat. The friendship even went both ways. Several times, Ker brought wild boars for us to roast or shared bits from his raiding ventures — tools, silks, books, and the like. Nothing they had use for — but they did not have to bring us anything.
Yet, that fateful day something went fel. Ker's new shaman, Korog, never liked my family. He preached that humans poison all we touch. A dark cloud surrounded him from the moment he stepped foot in our home. No doubt, Ker's rage could be traced to that shaman and his spirit allies.
As you must know, Urga dread nothing more than a fragile thing. At the time, I lacked even the strength to wield a proper sword. So, when Ker's men arrived, my family hid me in my room. Then, when Ker killed Mack, my heart climbed into my throat and I crawled under my bed.
For hours the marauding urgans bashed about our farm fortress, singing and cooking their roast, while I cowered under my bed. I lay there shivering in terror the entire night, and well into the next, before I decided the time had come to venture out.
Once I escaped, half mad with fear and grief, I ran as fast as my legs could take me, past spellbound, sleeping urga and across the river. I collapsed in exhaustion near the road. On the first wagon that came, I rode to Balthispeare.
Once there, I scurried away and lived like a rat. Everybody seemed too large, busy and angry to help me. I lived in crates, and on abandoned balconies. I rummaged for food. Most of my time went to thinking of what had happened to my caregivers, what they had gotten for their kindness. I tried to cover the hurt in hatred. For me, that way leads to greater pain. Perhaps, that holds true for everybody.
I needed to know: why didn't anybody help them? Yet, I found nobody to accuse. It kept rolling around in my head, chewing at my gut, the ache to find somebody who could take this blame from me. At every quiet moment, again I demanded, "Whose duty was it, to stop those urgans killing my aunt and uncle?" So long as I dwelled on that question, the answer I needed could never come.
One day, a cry for help echoed on the wind. An orphan boy, half urgan, judged for the crimes of his people and the lies of our own, faced lynching by a misguided watchman. Still a child myself, I could not stop the watchman's attack. I could not hope bend the conscience of the city people, who watched in fearsome approval. However, I faced their wrath, strode into the circle, and spoke for him. Had I been older, the watchman warned, he would have destroyed me as well.
Though I did not yet understand, from a place deep inside came the real answer. I had been looking for who should have been there, when I needed only to know that someone would care enough in the future.
"I claim the duty as my own."
Those words make me what I am today, guide my destiny, build our order. I didn't know then, what fame and honor my calling would bring, not that I care. In truth, I care only for the duty, the privilege of shielding the next innocent.
Soon, I met up with my mentors, the very couple who had carried me into the gates of Balthispeare. Corielle practiced the holy arts of healing. Ben, no, he couldn't be called a knight, let alone a paladin. No such men had walked the earth since before the fall of the Amerik Empire. Our traditions existed only in ancient tales. Ben called himself a bard, singer of songs, lender of legends. Surely, Ben's love for words inspired me to forge my sharpest weapon against evil: the paladin's oath.
"From this day forward, I pledge myself
to the path of honor.
I am the shield of the beaten,
I am the sword of the meek:
I dwell in the path of disaster.
I am the trumpet of the forgotten:
my voice shall fill the shameful silences.
I am the beacon in the tide of darkness:
so long as I may stand, I stand for hope and call all to safety."