The Goddesses of the sky grant paladin’s their power. That was the first thing Gordon Howl learned when he began his training with Jesek Storm, and the Order of Dusk and Dawn. The Sun Goddess Sol, who brings the morning light; and the Moon Goddess Luna, who fills the night with stars. Two lovers, cursed to never look upon each other’s face. Gordon found it sad. If it were up to him, the sun and moon would be in the sky at the same time, so the Goddesses could be together. The rest of the entourage Gordon was a part of laughed at him, but Duke Jesek didn’t. He simply smiled and ruffled Gordon’s mop of hair; telling him to hold onto that dream.
“Howl! Keep up lad, or we’ll leave you behind!” Jesek’s voice boomed across the forest trail. Gordon was caught up reading his libram, that he’d fallen to the tail end of their pack. There were perhaps twenty in total, ranging from simple guards to honoured knights. Gordon felt somewhat out of place, being the only squire, and boy under the age of fifteen. They had been searching for the missing Kairg dwarves since dusk, with very little sleep. Beams of sunlight were breaking through the canopy of leaves above them, signalling a new day.
“Y-Yes sir!” Gordon sprinted to the front of the group, bumping into several others along the way, eliciting grunts and a couple curse words from them.
“I’m pleased that you’ve taken such an interest in our Order’s history, but there will be time for books later.” Jesek took the libram from Gordon. “Right now we have a caravan to rescue.”
“The dragonkin have probably cleaned out the cargo by now, my Liege.” Walton Grey the group’s elven tracker quipped. While most members of the group were outfitted in some form of steel armour, Walton strode about in nothing but a leather jerkin and trousers; and his only weapons were a pair of small daggers. Gordon questioned why he’d be so under armed, but Walton Grey chuckled and said it was all he needed on his person.
“The cargo is secondary, Grey.” Duke Jesek had a habit of addressing everyone by their surname, regardless of his relationship with the individual. “We are here to find a group of dwarves and bring them to safety, or bury them properly. I can only hope it’s the former-” A loud screech echoed above the tree line, as a large shadow flew overtop the entourage.
“We’re about to find out in a moment, it seems.” Walton began walking into the forest clearing ahead.
“W-What made that noise?!” Gordon was about to draw his sword, when Jesek stayed his hand.
“Remain calm, lad.” Jesek Storm smiled. “You’re in for quite a sight.” As Gordon and the rest of the party entered the clearing, he was indeed greeted with something wondrous. Walton stood next to a giant crimson feathered eagle, perhaps towering two or three feet higher than even Duke Jesek. It stood, cooing calmly as Walton ruffled its feathers, and fed it some seeds. Gordon was left speechless.
“Never seen a phoenix before, boy?” Walton smirked.
“I….I can’t say that I have, sir.” Gordon felt terrified of the massive avian, but at the same time he found himself smiling widely. “Is it your pet, Master Walton?”
“Hah! You don’t tame a phoenix, son. You develop a mutual respect for one another.” Walton patted the phoenix’ neck, and it cawed as if in agreement. “Raptor here is my friend. isn’t that right, girl?” Raptor cooed again and took another beak full of seeds from Walton’s hand. With such a magnificent beast like that seemingly under his sway, it was no wonder Walton Grey felt so confident without proper arms and armour.
“That being said, has she located our missing persons?” Jesek cut in.
“Aye, sir. Well…what’s left of ‘em.” Walton motioned to the opposite end of the clearing. There, Gordon saw the remains of a dwarven caravan, presumably the one bound for Starshore. What caught his eye more though, was the large mound of some crystal substance next to it. Guardsmen were walking in and out of the forest clearing, discovering several of the bodies belonging to the unfortunate caravan personnel.
“We arrived too late.” Jesek Storm pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a deep sigh.
“There was nothing we could do, Brother.” Lilian Prosh, a fellow paladin patted Jesek on the shoulder. She too wore heavy platemail like her brother-in-arms; but unlike the whitened steel Jesek bore, Lilian’s was as black as her short head of hair. Gordon assumed she was a Dusk Paladin, while Jesek himself was widely known as a Dawn Paladin; worshippers of the Moon and Sun respectively.
“Even if your warhorses could navigate through this dense forest, the dragonkin would have killed them for amusement, surely.” Walton replied.
“Men. Split into two groups.” Jesek turned and called out among their small crowd. “Half of you will prepare a proper gravesite for these poor souls. The rest will continue scavenging the caravan. Perhaps these beasts missed something…” With that, the entourage parted and went about their orders. Shovels were brought out of their supply cart, and the digging began.
“Uh, Sir? You may want to look at this.” Gordon peered through the crystal mound. Upon closer inspection, the crystal appeared to be ice, and two figures were suspended inside it. Jesek stood next to Gordon and squinted his eyes.
“There are a pair of dwarves in there!” Jesek ran a hand across the frozen surface. Oddly, the ice didn’t appear to be melting.
“What kind of ice is this? It’s the middle of summer!” Gordon stood and circled around the crystal, hoping to find a crack or something to exploit.
“One of the dragonkin must have been able to breathe ice.” Lilian Prosh interjected, after turning her attention away from the grave diggers. “Dragon-frost can supposedly withstand intense amounts of heat.”
“Let's test that theory shall we?” Walton patted the phoenix’ crown, and her feathers lit up with scarlet flame. Sparks danced across Raptor’s wings as she took in a deep breath, and Gordon quickly realized to get out of the way and ducked for cover. A bright gout of flame erupted from the phoenix’ beak and engulfed the icy crystal.
“Grey, can you tell her to tone it down? I don’t want to start a forest fire here!” Jesek squinted from the heat Raptor was giving off. Walton Grey made a sharp whistle and a couple hand motions, which somehow signalled Raptor to hold back on her flame breath. The crystal was a mere puddle when the fire died down, and any remaining sparks were drawn into Raptor’s feathers.
“Hah! What’s a little ice compared to phoenix fire? Well done, girl.” Walton Grey scratched under Raptor’s beak, which garnered a quiet cooing from her.
“Are the dwarves alive?” Gordon Howl walked back over to the puddle. The bodies were unscathed by the fire, and their clothes were even dried. Lady Lilian knelt down next to one of them and placed two fingers underneath the dwarf’s long beard.
“A pulse… but it’s weak.” Lilian went to the second dwarf, and repeated her examination. “This one too. They’ll be dead within the hour without treatment of some kind.” Jesek Storm looked down at the two dying dwarves, then peered up at the sky. The sun was still low and would be a few more hours before its zenith, but Sol’s rays of light were shining throughout the clearing.
“I will see to them.” Jesek nodded and knelt down on both his knees in front of the dwarven men. Lilian Prosh stood back up and motioned Gordon and Walton to give Jesek a wide berth. Gordon overheard Jesek softly speaking in a dialect he didn’t quite recognize at first. After a couple words he realized Jesek Storm was speaking Deitan; the language of Gods.
“He’s praying to Lady Sol.” Gordon mumbled.
“Not just praying. Communing with Her directly.” Lilian corrected. Jesek raised both his hands high above his head. Bright flashes of light filled his palms as he brought them back down, forcefully pressing one into each of the dwarves chests. Moments later the two men’s eyes shot wide open, as they gasped for air. One sat upright, clutching his chest.
“W-Who..?” He managed to say before falling back down, exhausted.
“The Lady of the Dawn decreed it was not your time to meet her.” Jesek smiled down at the dwarven men, before standing back up. “Rest and take ease, my friends. You are safe with us.”
“Sir…you saved them!” Gordon witnessed paladin blessings before, yet it never ceased to amaze him, the miracles they could perform.
“I did nothing, lad. I am merely a vessel the Goddess chose to enact her will.” Jesek patted him on the head, and retrieved his libram, handing it back to Gordon.
“We are a humble order, Gordon Howl.” Lilian Prosh reminded him. “Everything you do will be in service to either Sol or Luna one day. Do not forget.”
“I-I won’t, my lady.” Gordon clutched his book tightly and nodded.