Chapter 1 Part 3................. The Vow
| THE VOW Continued from
My Father and Uncle retired to a far corner of the room behind some tall book cases, both out of sight and earshot. But strangely I could clearly hear them talking as if they were nearby. There was magic at work... no doubt about it. My Uncles magic. I just knew it, I did not know how but I just sensed it in the air. So, left to my own devices, I pretended not to hear them as they spoke and I examined the various oddities which surrounded me in this cluttered room that served as a home for my Uncle. And I wondered why my Uncle wanted me to overhear this conversation.
"There is nothing for it, Jonn, this is the day, his day! The stars are aligned in the boys favor and the moment has arrived. He's bound for glory and that's a fact." observed my Uncle James.
I noticed Father was gazing at the floor, he seemed deep in thought, he did not look up when he spoke. "No more-- Not today...William already has enough to think about. His mind is quick and he will have guessed there is much yet to be revealed. But my son has been in this city only three hours now and in that short time the facts of his life have changed dramatically... he must be weary and confused."
Uncle James stood up and began to pace. "We have no time, the enemy is upon us and William does not seem weary to me, in fact, he appears quite animated. The young are quick to adopt new ways and new truths. Jonn, perhaps it is you who are weary... and uncertain. You know his true potential, a power is within him, something I have not sensed before."
That part got my attention. What potential? I stopped what I was doing and moved a bit closer to the conversion.
"A moment, please." Father said, "I am not sure he is prepared for this. He is my son... and now that I come to it, fifteen seems a young age for him to make this commitment. But you are right, the boy is different; he has... a rare mind."
My Uncle went on loudly, "Listen; Brother, the tidings from the North are most disturbing. Rumors are told of unfamiliar ships and strange men scouting our shores This young son of a Paladin will be wasted working at your trading company or running the farm. He must be out in the world helping his father and uncles. You know of what I speak. Danger is close."
"I know" my father breathed, "we are being hunted."
Uncle James lowered his voice and I listened intently to catch every word. "The way things are, I cannot bring William with me unless he takes the vow. It's too risky otherwise."
"Let us not speak of the threat here, not now. And not a word about our brother Alconis or his brethren." Father whispered. "The 'Vow' is not to be taken lightly, the ceremony is filled with peril. What if the boy is killed or crippled? His mother will never forgive me, women do not understand these things--"
Killed? Crippled!? By the Gods what were they talking about. I dropped the sword I had been examining and it banged loudly on the floor. I wished my mother was here now, I too did not understand these things. How could father say such words?
Father stood and peered at me. He spoke to my uncle yet looked directly at me.
"You are right. William is born to this -- Aye... my mind has changed, today is his day. He has passed many tests. He found you-- on his own... without knowing what he was looking for. William's destiny will find him with or without us and if he meets it alone it will be worse. It is time for him to see the truth"
My Father looked up to the secretary seated at his high desk, "Bartholomew, I need an 'incorporation of fellowship and secrets contract.'"
"Yes Sir, I will draw one up now."
I watched as the the Wizard put a hand on the Paladin's shoulder. My father, the Paladin! I was still not sure I believed it. Uncle looked him in the eye. "It will be hard to push him out into our wicked world. Brother, you must not waver."
Father did not answer.
Vow? What vow? I said aloud. My father and Uncle ignored me.
I wondered how this thing could be so dangerous. I began to think I should walk out of this place, back down the stairs and have a talk with pretty girl at the front desk.
I watched the brothers walk towards me to a sturdy oak table with a detailed map of "The North" lying open on it. Looking at the map, Father remarked, "this is fine work. I recognize your hand James"
Now it was James turn to be silent. He put his hands on the map and seemed to study it with a frown. Finally, after too much silence, he spoke.
"Lord Paladin, listen to me."
Father had been leaning over the map seemingly lost in thought or was it doubt, I could not tell, then he stood erect and looked his brother in the eye.
"Old Wizard, I am listening."
My Uncle said, "If we miss this opportunity, I do not believe it will come again. As I have said, I have received warnings of an evil coming this way. When it arrives we will be forced to move against it and quickly."
."James, I have heard enough." Father called out, "Son, come here... please."
I heeded my father's call and approached the table, however, the conversation I had just overheard made me stumble as I neared. It had been a breathtaking morning. I tried to absorb all that had been divulged but with little success. Bartholomew joined us at the table with a parchment in his hand. I noted that all three men were looking at me intently and I felt a shiver go through my gut. Father and Uncle stood shoulder to shoulder and they appeared quite different than they had earlier on the porch. It came to me that this is what great men look like.
Suddenly, my Father drew forth his sword, raised it high, then plunged it into the table, the sharp point nearly touching the floor and the hilt protruding above the table top. Startled by this sudden action I looked up at my Uncle and expected him to be angry since his beautiful map had been punctured. He did not appear angry instead his countenance was one of a grim and grave purpose.
Father had a light like a fire in his eye. "William, you have a solemn choice before you! You can return to your mother, now, and be done with all this-- or you can take an oath which will join you to our holy cause.
I was taken aback and on the verge of losing my nerve but I did not back away.
My thoughts raced. "What was Father saying! How can I be expected to make such a decision? How will my life change? It occurred to me again... I did indeed want my mother. No one was explaining anything! I stared at the hilt of my father's sword as it glowed silver and red, a steely voice sang to me and I understood this was a Paladin's blade from out of legend.
It said, "Paladin's Son... Paladin's heir. Be courageous. Be true to thy hearts desire. Thy Father has need of thee."
I was more frightened than ever in my life.
"What should I do? I don't know what to do." My voice shook as I heard the words leave my mouth.
In a commanding voice, the Wizard said, "William! take your sword and offer it up to your father as a token of your loyalty."
I removed my rapier from its scabbard. I composed himself as best I could and walked around the table to stand before the Paladin. "Father... "
He took my blade and put a hand on the my cheek. " My son, you are in need of a weapon. Take mine."
I hesitated, I looked at the glowing hilt and was loath to touch the thing. I could not make my arms and hands work.
"Follow your instincts. Do not think. Act! Take my sword and it will be your oath."
"Nephew! Do this thing and join us! Do as your father commands and conquer your fears!"
I put forward a unsteady hand and reached toward the sword. I felt very small, as a young child. With the last of my courage and before I could change my mind I forced my hand to grasp the hilt.
Terror consumed me. I could scarcely stand. The light went out of my eyes and I was rendered blind. I heard malevolent voices in the dark and they called to me. A woman cruelly whispered, "Come dance with me." I found myself strangely attracted to that voice but I knew there was a great danger there and I resisted the urge to blindly seek out the speaker. It seemed that a long time passed.
I felt trapped and wanted to let go of this terrible sword, but Father placed his hand tightly over mine, then, James firmly gripped both our hands in his and I could see again. Bartholomew took a long, deep breath and stretched his arms wide. He brought something into the room. There was the sound of howling wolves. Then the Druid Bartholomew was gone and the shade of a dragon filled the room with it's presence. The dragon's shadow bowed and placed the top of it's serpent head lightly on the pommel of the sword.
Lightning flashed and the spirits of running wolves swept across all the walls, then the wolves were ravens and the specter of a new dragon intruded into the ceremony and that Dragon spoke.
"William, I know you and the destiny that lies before you-- I am Alconis. We are of the same blood. The Draconis Gemott is a part of you. Do not deny them when the time comes."
A bolt of flame struck the hilt of the sword with a blinding silver-white light. A fierce ripping noise sounded as if a tree were torn in half and the dragons vanished.
My fear evaporated. A new vision came to me that banished the evil voices. I had a revelation; there before me an island floated in a fog upon a lake surrounded by mountains. I heard the sound of distant waves lapping upon a far shore. I saw my future self there and I was a Paladin as my Fathers before me.This sign gave me strength, as if I were home. The power and the glory of my heritage was revealed and entered into my consciousness. I would never be alone with my fears again.
I awoke from my dream and in my hand was my father's sword. I stood straight and trembled no more. There was Bartholomew before me in human form and he was speaking.
"You will now bind thyself to this company. For friendship's sake, you will be true; for truth's sake you will be wise. You owe us your faith, undamaged, even when all else is lost."
Bartholomew halted for a long moment, "Please sign here," and he presented me with the scroll he carried.
I carefully signed the contract of Fellowship and Secrets and then fainted.