Thursday, September 3, 2009

Paladin-Part 2

As the sun dipped below the tree-covered islands across the bay, the people of the White Tower gathered about its base for a great banquet to celebrate the emergence of the first generation born after the Rain of Azure Flames into adults. The elder generation, and those children yet too young to go away for training, spent a great deal of time preparing the grounds for the event. Those youths still in training receive furloughs for the event, allowing them to visit their families.

James arrived with the rest of his training cohort, marching in during the ceremonial entrance of the graduating trainees at the head of his class. Assembled next them was the women’s cohort, finishing their training at the Hospital, and both cohorts wearing their full ceremonial uniforms. Only James stood out, wearing the colors of the Company of the Tower, but people talk and by that evening everyone already knew that James received something of note from the Archmage earlier that day- the sight of the Tower’s colors merely answered the question of the specifics.

Once arrived and seated, the leadership of the People of the White Tower entered. Within moments, the Masters—the Archmage’s former students—arrived followed by the Marshals, the Artificers, the Midwives and the First of the Iron Men. Finally, David and the Archmage arrived flanked by the Second and the Third of the Iron Men as an honor guard. The Archmage proclaimed that the feast must begin, and the people assembled did not hesitate to enjoy the bounty before them. A long time of food, fellowship and drink passed before the Archmage again seized the attention of the community.

“My children,” the Archmage said, “I have found the villain that gives will and purpose to the monsters and mutants we’ve struggled against for so long. He let his guard down, thinking himself immune to my sight, and in that mistake comes our chance to undo him utterly!”

The people, especially the elders, roared with applause as they remembered the many friends and family slain by them or lost to them over the long years since the Azure Flames.

“Yet we of the elder generation find ourselves stretched to our limits. As we feast here, many of you have fathers, brothers, husbands or sons standing watch along the walls and atop the towers that keep us safe from those same enemies. As we feast here, many of you have mothers, sisters, wives or daughters hurrying about the Hospital, visiting the infirmaries of our outposts or calling upon those too ill to leave their homes. As we feast here there are others, whose names go unspoken lest unfriendly winds carry those words to the ears of our enemies, who do the necessary work that we require to lead our warriors to victory.”

James glanced about him, taking notice that everyone around him sat silent, their attention captured completely by the Archmage’s address.

“I conferred with the others present, and we agreed that we must place our trust in our emerging generation of young adults. We reviewed the reports made amongst the warriors, and from them we chose a cadre from the best amongst them. They shall go forth and bring our justice to the mastermind of our enemies, ending this threat to our community, and prove their worth in the ancient manner- by putting the enemy to the sword in battle.”

Again, the people cheered their approval.

“Harold Arthur James, stand now and be recognized.” David said, and James did as bidden.

“Harold James is now one of the Company of the Tower, named as such by the Archmage earlier today. He shall lead the expedition to the villain’s lair.”

All, save the Iron Men, applauded. Not that they all knew him, but they all trusted the Archmage’s discretion; the current members of the Company all enjoy excellent reputations for martial prowess as well as social graces, as shown by being based out of the very White Tower- the Tower Company are as close to an order of palace knights as this ruined world allows.

As for the Iron Men, these sorcerous automatons are few in number—there are only a dozen—and they seem as emotionless as those said to exist in the world before the Azure Flames ruined it all. Yet they knew the tongues of men, and when David announced James being named to the Tower Company they saluted.

Then the Archmage stood again. “Stand and be recognized, Samuel Joshua Thomas.”

From the back of the feasting tables, a slim boyish youth of a man stood. He wore the tunic of the Eight Masters, marking him as an apprentice to the magicians that rules the People of the White Tower.

“Thomas,” David said, “you shall accompany James as his vizier, so that magic may fight magic and steel fight steel.”

Applause again arose from the feasting people, for they knew well the value of the Eight Masters and the Archmage- and the supernatural powers that those men wielded on their behalf.

“From amongst the warriors we choose ten others. Together, you twelve shall go forth into the wilds and make your way to the enemy’s lair. You shall smite him dead, and then come home.” David said, to the approval of the community.

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