Support the GITP forums on Patreon
Help support GITP's forums (and ongoing server maintenance) via Patreon
Results 1 to 30 of 30
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    So, I decided I should probably make my own thread for this instead of just occasionally mentioning it at LGBTAIitP thread.

    True Soul is my web series that started (and still is) as something to get me to actually write. I had tried Novel format before, but the format didn't really work for keeping myself motivated, where as with web series I get to publish stuff when it gets ready istea of when the whole is.

    True Soul is a story about young trans woman Nearin and her struggles to become a member of the Paladin Order.

    Comments and criticism welcome!

    Deviant Art link

    Part 1: The Novice
    Spoiler
    Show

    The great hall was full of buzzing excitement, but Nearin, one of the newest novices of the paladin order, felt like she was entering yet another battle. It was not the sort of battle were swords were drawn or where arrows were let loose, but each staring pair of eyes felt like an arrow about to sink into her skin and each whisper from a huddled group sounded like approach of the enemy cavalry.

    She was perversely proud of those metaphors as she had never taken part in an actual battle. She had trained for one most of her life, but the ones she was familiar with were about getting through each day with her sanity intact. Her enemy had been self-loathing and once she had conquered that, she had had to face prejudice of the people she had told what she was.

    But now she felt like she was winning at everything. She was so close to achieving her two goals that she could mostly push away the stares and the whispers from her mind. As long as no one snickered or laughed or pointed or…
    She sighed. It seemed like she could only fool herself so much by false reassurance and pretending she was stronger than she was. She knew she wasn’t supposed to let how others thought affect her but…

    She sighed again.

    Anyway, she had finally gotten into the paladin order. That had been her dream since… well since she could remember. The knights in their shining armors and raiment of white and gold. The only mortals truly able to oppose the demon lords. The proud protectors of humanity.

    And now she was a novice. A paladin novice. Despite her anxiety it was hard not to beam. The female novice’s white ropes were pretty shapeless, which suited her just fine as it helped her disguise her distinct lack of curves. Actually, apart from slightly different heraldry embroidered with gold colored thread in front and back there wasn’t much difference between men’s and women’s robes.

    At that moment, that slight difference in heraldry meant the world to her. It was both the source of her anxiety and the second reason she was feeling joy. Actually she felt like if she didn’t carefully control her emotions, she might burst.

    As the chatter finally died down, Nearin looked around wondering why.

    The reason the chatter died wasn’t that she had exploded, but that the knight-commander Alexander Ur-Manas now stood upon a raised dais at the end of the hall. He wasn’t wearing a robe, but his gilded armor was heavily decorated with spell words carved into edges of the plates. His hair and beard were almost as white as the cloak he wore, but when he spoke his voice was loud and clear enough that everyone could hear him easily.

    “All of you are here because you have passed the tests of skill and knowledge we require of our novices. Congratulations for that, but remember that the tests were just the beginning and things will not get any easier from here. The next few years of actual training will be hard and those of you who manage to become actual paladins will find that their life will not stop being hard after you graduate.”

    As he spoke his eyes were constantly sweeping the room in a way that made every novice feel like he was looking directly in to their eyes.

    “Still, from this day forth people will consider you paladins. It is up to you to be worthy of that title, to make sure that when people think of the word ‘paladin’ they associate it with honor, protection and justice. Do not sully that word for we need people to accept us so we can move fast when we need to defend them.

    Some of you are sons and daughters of knights and have had the tenets of honor drilled into your heads from since you could walk. Some of you are sons of guardsmen who knew how to fight but had to learn the knowledge we require from our novices from this or that temple school. Some were daughters of scholars or clergy who knew our lore but had to learn the basics of fighting from this or that drill master.

    The point is, from this point onward, none of that matters.”

    Nearin was listening intently, the rest of the room forgotten safe for the voice of the knight commander. Of course the particulars of the speech were less important than the speaker: she most likely would have stood transfixed if the knight-commander had been on a mad rant about the market price of horse shoes.

    She was one of those children of knights and had indeed been lucky enough to be trained in both arms and lore since she was young. That was an advantage she had over the lowborn, no matter what the knight-commander said for the fact was that many of those still had some catching up to do compared to the likes of her. One who had never owned a horse was less likely to be good at riding one after all.

    Still she was glad that the noble born were not given preferred treatment, even if she wondered whether she would have been allowed in without her parentage given what they knew.

    The knight-commander continued his speech. He told them about the history of the order, not caring that each and everyone of them already knew it. He spoke about the structure of the order and how their four years of training would be. He spoke about how those of them who’s gifts were focused would eventually find their way into more specialized positions like the healers or spirit binders or even the black blades.

    Nearin doubted she would become any of those things. She was a good fighter but definitely not the best amongst the novices and she certainly wasn’t the strongest but she doubted her talents lay within those disciplines either. Even the simplest spells weren’t really, well, simple and she had never gotten her head around the more complicated ones.

    She scratched her head. She hoped to be a front liner. Poking demon’s in the eye with her sword, saving people from monsters. That sort of stuff.

    Of course having a bound spirit companion, or companions, sounded splendid, but again she had never been good at spells. She had no idea what interacting with actual spirits would be like anyway. She was sure it would be way different to meet one herself, rather than have them described to her.

    Eventually there was no more speech for her to lap up. Instead the various instructors introduced themselves and she was busy trying to commit their faces, names and roles into her memory.

    In the end, the most she managed to remember were that the woman known only as the Firemind was the spirit binding instructor and that the demonology instructor appeared be slightly drunk.

    After that they were told there would be a feast. At that point her anxiety started returning. Up until then she had been pretty absorbed in the speech, and so had others, but now she would have to deal with others noticing her. She snorted.

    Ready to face demons but not the other novices?


    Part 2: The Awkward Feast

    Spoiler
    Show

    Nearin was ravenous and the sight of the feast laid on the table almost made her queasy. And while she did eat, she limited herself to the food items that were relatively close to her. She felt like reaching too far would make her more noticeable. That was something she didn’t want just then.

    Instead she was hunching her shoulders while eating, subconsciously trying to make herself look as small as possible. If no one noticed her, then they wouldn’t stop talking in their small groups (that made it seem like they knew each other), and they wouldn’t ask her questions. Questions she had prepared herself for but that she didn’t feel ready to answer.

    She forced another bite of pork down her throat and washed it down with quick gulp of wine. As she lowered a glass she saw a boy novice stealing glances at her. She knew she should have stared back to force him to look elsewhere, but instead she stared down at the table. Praying to whatever divinity that might decide to listen she wasn’t blushing.

    Except she wasn’t supposed to be doing that either. Paladins were supposed to remain neutral when it came to divinity, so that the bickering and jealous gods could trust them. Crap. That was another thing that would require adjusting to.

    She glanced around the table. There were around one hundred novices around the room and all seemed to be happily chatting. And why wouldn’t they? It was the day they had dreamed of for long time. Of course they were happy.

    She continued looking around, though steadfastly keeping her eyes from that boy. Few of the instructors were eating with the novices and chatting with them. Getting to know their new charges. She wondered if she could have talked to an instructor if one of them sat next to her. Maybe she would have melted into a puddle from nervousness.

    While she looked around, she couldn’t help but see a food item after a food item that looked absolutely delicious but that she would have had to ask someone to pass to her. Actually, that was the case wherever she looked. Well she had within her reach wasn’t bad, but she would have preferred to try out few of the others.

    She took another mouthful of wine and returned to staring down at the table.
    Now she could hear that boy talking to people next to him. Was he still glancing at her? She couldn’t know, not without looking. Instead she focused on a small piece of meat she was chewing. It was tasty. It had been roasted just right, the timing and the temperature just perfect. It was simply delicious. It felt like it melted in her mouth.

    The only problem was small pieces sticking between her teeth. She put down her fork and knife and started digging the pieces out by hand. It wasn’t perfect table manners, but whatever.

    Of course she remained hunched, just in case. One piece of meat was particularly troublesome and seemed to escape her fingertips whenever she was about to drag it out. Her face must have looked comical at that moment, because she heard a chuckle that turned into cough. At least she hoped it was her face.

    Actually, scratch that, she didn’t hope it was her face, she hoped it was the look on her face. She gave it about equal chance to be that or the fact that she still looke-

    She was suddenly aware of someone standing behind her. So she stopped embarrassing herself further and turned slowly to face the new comer. He was one of the instructors whose name she hadn’t quite caught.

    “You are Novice Nearin Ur-Emma, right? Knight-Champion Selesta wants to see you. Once you have eaten go through that door,” the man pointed and smiled pleasantly. “Then take the fourth door to the right.”

    “Yes sir,” Nearin squeaked after swallowing. After the instructor had left, she cleaned her plate while being aware of people watching her. Most likely just because she had just been told to go meet the thrice-damned knight-champion. She hadn’t even done anything yet.

    She knocked on the fourth door to the right. She knocked tentatively and cautiously, making no more sound than a mouse running on a wooden floor.

    “Come in, girl.” The stress on the last word made her heart hammer inside her ribcage. She knew that stress was meant to communicate something, but she had no idea what. Swallowing, she opened the door and stepped inside.

    The knight-champion’s office was tidy and almost spartan in its decoration. The only decorations were portraits of previous knight-champions. All of the men and women on the painting oozed an aura of confidence. What was she even doing in the same room as them?

    The knight-champion herself on the other hand fit the company of her predecessors perfectly. Her dark skinned face was a mask of confidence. She was also the most muscular woman Nearin had ever seen and not even the shapeless ropes she wore could hide that. Nearin would have guessed that she was in her mid-thirties

    “You called, ma’am?” Nearin managed without stuttering badly or her voice breaking. Cheers for small victories.

    “You are Nearin, then,” the knight-champion stated. Despite it not being a real question, Nearin nodded.
    The knight-champion stood up from behind her desk and paced around the room, circling Nearin, looking her up and down, inspecting. The novice felt like she was sinking inside the ground under that gaze. It was all she could not let out a ‘meep’ sound.

    She really was an epitome of paladins’ bravery.

    “Don’t slouch, girl,” Selesta ordered. Nearin immediately straightened. She hadn’t even noticed slouching, but then again she did it so often she no longer just noticed. If she hadn’t been told stand straight all the time, she most likely would have forgotten how much she was supposed to pull her shoulders for it to be considered straight.

    “Do you have any idea why I called you here,” the older woman asked. Nearin shook her head.

    “No ma’am.” It was the truth. Her anxiety had some ideas, but she was pretty sure those were wrong.

    “Do you know who I am?”

    “Yes ma’am. You are one of the black blades.” She swallowed. That had been fairly easy to decipher from the heraldry on Selesta’s robes. But then again, she had been fairly obsessive about learning all the details of the paladin heraldry.

    “Yes, I was promoted after my master and mentor passed away last year.” Nearin was busy remembering everything she had learned about the black blades, but suddenly she had sinking feeling she knew why she had been called in. “So tell me, girl,” the knight champion continued. “What do you know of us, I need to know which misconceptions I need to correct.”

    The novice swallowed.

    “There are thirteen of you, and each wields a sword made of a bound void beast. They are our best way of fighting the demon lords.” She felt intense joy at being able use word ‘our.’ “They are only weapons we have that can do more harm to a demon lord than just banish it to lick its wounds.”

    And then to the hard part.

    “When a black blade dies or retires, his or her apprentice takes his or her place. Then one of the new novices is chosen as the next apprentice based on the test results and the interview.” She had been way too nervous in the interview. Why was she here?

    “Well, my colleagues decided you were the best fit. You had high marks in sword fighting, the highest in our lore, and high enough in knowledge about spirits and the väki.”

    Okay, maybe she had picked up some trivia when visiting that cottage in the forest so many times.

    “Also, you were judged to be something of a loner. This is good, because that’s what we always end up being, and you have a head start in learning how to deal with it.” Selesta shrugged.

    “Or so they explained it to me. But there is one thing you have to remember. I did not vote for you. It is up to you to prove me wrong in that decision.”


    Part 3: The Witch's Potion
    Spoiler
    Show

    ”You will take it once at each full moon, is that clear? No matter how slow the effects might seem, you can’t take it more often or more than one bottle at once, doing so can cause rather nasty side effects. Believe me when I say that it has been tried and it never works.” The witch’s voice was tired and almost reluctant.

    The boy found that strange. The witch had been less reluctant when he originally came to her with his ‘little problem.’ Perhaps it wasn’t him, or his problem. Perhaps the witch was just remembering some time when the client hadn’t followed her orders with some potion. He could see why someone would do it. If the cure worked slowly, it was easy to reason that taking bigger dozes might help faster.

    Besides, not many people trusted the witch. Too close to some of the wilder spirits of the forest, they said. He trusted her though.

    “I understand,” he answered with his ‘quiet in order to try sounding softer’- voice. It was that tired tone of voice that had finally convinced him as much as the trust he placed on the old woman. He finally had the help he had wished for years. He wasn’t going to throw that away. Not for slightly faster progress.

    “Depending on your luck, you might not be able to hide the changes for long. You’ll have to start telling others eventually.” The witch said after a minute of silence, not unkindly.

    “I already told a few,” he shrugs, trying to seem brave like his idols, like the reaction of others meant nothing to him. The old woman might be losing her eyesight, but she saw enough to judge the reaction correctly.

    “What did they say,” she asked, slightly worried but not prodding too hard.

    “Mom is coming around, but father was bit angry.” The witch guessed that the ‘bit’ was an understatement. She knew what the head of the family of Ur-Emma could be like when his ire was roused.
    “My friends were divided. Well I guess not all them are friends anymore.” Again with that shrug, the shrug that no longer cared for much anything.

    “Then they never were,” the witch snorted. She had grown strangely fond of her little quest. She still thought of him as ‘little’ even though he was a head taller than she was. He had started visiting her little forest cottage years ago, often coming there when he needed little peace and quiet.

    For that’s what the cottage was, peaceful and quiet. While she did expect him to help with chores while he visited, he didn’t mind that. He didn’t mind physical labor. Usually they didn’t talk until he was ready to, and when they did, her advice and kind words were usually enough to solve what problem he had.

    “Well you are lucky to have some friends who didn’t abandon you.” Usually she knows what to say, but this time she thought she had chosen her words poorly, from the twinge that passed through his face.

    “Where is Alisa?” he asked more to change the topic than of real interest to whereabouts of the witch’s apprentice. The way the girl always lived in her own little world inside her own mind made it hard to socialize with her so they weren’t really close. Even if he did find the girl kind and amusing in her own way.

    “Running an errand in the village, unless she got distracted by something shiny again.” That happened often enough. Saying a fish had attention span of Alisa, would be an insult to the fish.

    Again, silence. Painful, painful silence.

    She couldn’t remember the last time she had found silence this suffocating.

    “You are still going ahead with you plan? With both your plans I mean.”

    “Yes, you know how much they mean to me.” It was true. She did. The hope of those two things were what had kept him alive lately. “Besides, I’m hoping they’ll be more reasonable and not deny me because of this.” He gestured towards the potion.

    He still put that appearance of not caring about anything, but he couldn’t keep edge of nervousness, of real fear from entering his voice. Really, she was getting tired of his act.

    But she still didn’t say anything.


    Part 4: The Explanation
    Spoiler
    Show

    So she had her own room at least. Yay.

    Well it was barely bigger than a closet. It had a bed, a chest for her belongings and about a foot of spare room. She suspected it might have originally been a closet. It didn’t even have a window.

    She knew that others shared their rooms, so she was getting special treatment, but it might just be that they couldn’t decide who to put in the room with her given what she was.

    Well either way, she was glad. She greatly preferred having her privacy. She knew that wasn’t possible when they were out in the field, but at least she would have a little solace every now and then here in the compound.

    She was too exhausted to keep thinking about those things for long. Selesta had kept her for more than an hour, explaining how her training would work out, it went without saying that she would have even less free time than the other novices, and interviewing her further.

    As soon as she got herself out of her robes she fell face first into the bed. She groaned in discomfort from lying on her stomach then turned on her back and immediately fell asleep.

    She woke up what felt like an instant later to the morning bell. It took her a moment to remember where she was, but when she did she couldn’t help but smile with joy despite the minor headache she had. Ignoring the pain, she washed her face with the bowl of water conveniently located on top of the chest, dressed, and went to look for breakfast.

    On the way there she was ambushed. Though they didn’t exactly attack her as soon she stumbled on them, they had either been waiting for her or looking for her, so an ambush was exactly what it felt like. There were five of them, three boys and two girls.

    For a moment, they were almost as befuddled as she was. Almost. Then one of the girls shoved the boy who had been staring at her the day before. The boy was still thin and tall, almost gangly, which made him seem even more awkward.

    “So my friends here said I should ask-“ the girl hit him in the arm. “Well, we all thought we should ask… since it’s somewhat confusing us.”

    Nearin knew where this was going. Hell, she had expected this to happen yesterday at the feast, or even before. And, of course, she still didn’t feel ready to face the question. She was now swallowing repeatedly, trying to keep calm and rational. That was important if she was to explain this properly. If she did that, and kept doing it, then perhaps she might find acceptance.

    Maybe.

    “I mean, this might be horribly offensive, or something. Well you have been clearly avoiding people so you must understand why this might be confusing,” he would have went on for longer, but another light punch stopped that.

    “What I meant to ask,” he finally managed to say, massaging his arm.

    “Are you a boy or a girl?” he gestured towards her still boyish face. Towards her shoulder length hair that she had only recently started growing. Towards her body that still lacked curves despite the months of taking the potions.

    She swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. It was almost like she couldn’t breathe. She fought to force the words from her mouth.

    “I’m a girl,” she finally managed. Did her voice crack? She wasn’t sure. Some still looked unconvinced. Should she try explaining? If she botched that everyone in the compound would know about it within days or even hours. And then they’d all consider her a freak or worse. She should have just pretended offense from the start. But she didn’t have the confidence to do that and now it was too late anyway. She had spent too long obviously panicking.

    So explanation it had to be. So, still having no idea how to explain an experience that had defined much of her life despite having told about it to people before she started rambling. Would this ever get any easier, she wondered.

    “Well, I wasn’t born a girl, but I have always been a woman inside. I have been taking potions for months that are changing my body.” She briefly hoped that there had been a word to describe what she was. Would make this a lot easier.

    “Freak,” one of the other boys started to mutter before he too got punched in the arm, silencing him.

    “How does that work?” asked the girl who hadn’t been punching people. “How can you be both a girl and a boy? I have never heard of such a thing.”

    “I like to think I have a female soul in male body,” Nearin answered.

    “Do souls even have gender?” The big, muscular boy who had called her a freak snorted.

    The group mostly looked even more confused than before, though some understanding was dawning on face of a few. This was going better than Nearin expected.

    “Why wouldn’t they? Men and women often think differently et cetera.” She often felt like she was grasping at straws when trying to explain her experiences and her gender. Even though she knew she was right.

    “I guess that makes sense,” the less violent girl said. “And don’t you even start, don’t you see how nervous she is already,” she glared at the biggest of the boys.

    “So is that potion going to change everything about your body? Like for example your di-“ again the first boy was silenced by a punch to his arm, an angrier than one before. Nearin wondered if the girl had any other form of communication.

    “Only most,” she answered, not wishing to elaborate. Really she didn’t think that was any of their business.
    Besides thinking of what she couldn’t change was uncomfortable anyway. “Did you have any other questions?” she asked with nonchalance she didn’t feel.

    “Ummn, can we tell others? Since you seemed like you didn’t intend to hide this that much?” Well she had hoped she could hide this, but she hadn’t had real illusions about it.

    “Sure, saves me the brother of answering the same questions too many times,” she attempted a smile. That was actually true. If others took it at face value, she wouldn’t have to feel this much anxiety when everyone took their turns asking her one by one. That could be tiring really quickly. “If that is all? I’d like to go get something to eat before the lessons start.”

    Nods, shrugs and other noncommittal gestures were her answer so she shouldered her way past them to get her breakfast.

    As she arrived at the feast hall she filled her tray, trying to look invisible once again, but this time sure she was failing. Maybe she was imagining things because she had just been confronted. Maybe it was because her ‘secret’ was out, but it felt like she was being stared at more than the day before.

    People were once again sitting in their little groups, though for the most part the groups were a bit different, the novices still being in the getting to know people phase. Nearin, of course, found an end of a table where she sit and eat alone.

    She glanced around, pretty sure that no one was noticing her. She wondered whether that would change once news of what she was would make rounds. Some would probably buy her explanation, as at least few of that group had. The thought was nice. She had mentally prepared herself for being a reject for the rest of her days.

    Just as she was filling her mouth with a rasher of bacon she could hear voices being raised on the other side of the hall. She didn’t make the words not could she see who was shouting but one of the voices was clearly feminine while the other was more masculine.

    She shrugged and continued eating as the noise died down, glad someone else was the focus of the attention.

    “May I sit here?” The sudden voice startled Nearin and she turned to look at the less violent of the two girls with stray of half eaten food in her hands.

    “Uhm, sure,” Nearin mumbled, her mouth still full.

    “I’m Yanna by the way,” the girl said as she sat down.

    “Nearin,” Nearin answered after swallowing. And they didn’t stop talking until they had to leave for the lessons.


    Part 5: Some Magic
    Spoiler
    Show

    ”So your father is a knight?” Yanna asked.

    “Yeah, he has a small fief in the foothills of the northwestern Semmal Mountains. It’s a small place, only one village, but it is near a major trade route so it isn’t exactly isolated. It’s like four hours to the nearest town.” Nearin replied while removing a shell from an egg.

    “Did you have friends there?” Yanna continued her queries, but with a hint of concern and sympathy entering her voice.

    “Few yes. Lot fewer now.” Nearin’s tone of voice asked if they could change the topic. “Anyway why did you want to become a paladin?” She asked in case Yanna didn’t get the point. She looked around the feast hall; she had mostly been busy staring at the table to do that last night. Even though the walls were brownish stone, the heavy tapestries that hung on every wall made the hall seem cozy.

    She studied the nearest tapestry. It showed a purple flaming bird surrounded by four golden angels attacking it. Some sort of demon, she supposed. Somehow whoever had made the tapestry had managed to make the bird look menacing despite the simplistic style.

    “I witnessed a demon attack once,” Yanna answered after a moment. “Lots of people died and even though I didn’t really know any of them I was so horrified I became depressed for years. After I sort of recovered I knew I had to do something about it.”

    She smiled. “Perhaps I had to conquer my fears; perhaps I didn’t want anyone else to have to suffer that. Honestly I don’t know and I don’t even care.”

    Nearin shifted in her seat. She was both curious and slightly uncomfortable at the same time. She had known there were novices who had more personal reasons to join the paladins than she had, but now that she was face to face with one, her own idealized dreams felt inadequate. Like she was some foolish girl drunk on tales and songs while they had faced the reality. She munched on her egg, thoughtful.

    “What about you?” Yanna had turned away from her breakfast to look at Nearin again.

    Nearing shrugged. “I guess I have always wanted to be a paladin. My father was going to make me a knight whether I wanted or not. Becoming a paladin, who is all about protecting others, seemed much nobler than swearing myself into some lord’s service and protecting his interests.”

    “Sounds like a good reason,” Yanna answered. Her smile was unreadable. Did she really believe that or was she mocking her?

    You are just being paranoid, Nearin told herself. “We should probably head out to the lecture halls soon. We don’t want to be late for the very first lesson.”


    The Lecture hall was technically on the second floor. Technically, because it was set as an auditorium where the instructor’s table sat on the first floor. Wooden benches with narrow tables in front of them went in lines on each step downwards. Behind the instructor’s table was a large blackboard.

    The instructor himself was a bald old man with greying black beard. His skin color of light brown marked him as Iradashan. He eyed the novices as they entered but didn’t speak until everyone had found a place and sat down.

    “I am instructor Selazer and I have been tasked with teaching you some basic spells all Paladins need as well as laying the ground work for when you are allowed to learn the Aura of Command. Now, how many of you have cast spells?”

    Most of the novices raised their hands.

    “As I expected. And how many of you know any of the sensing spells?” This time only one fifth of the novices raised their hands, Nearin one of them. “Because those are what we will be focusing on during your first four or so months. While they might seem ‘mundane’ and ‘boring’ compared to more exotic spells you will eventually learn, the ability to sense how the väki react to enemy spells or demon’s power can be enough of a warning to save your life one day.” He was leaning on the desk with his elbows, with his fingers entwined beneath his chin.

    “All magic is simply the väki reacting to the will of the person or a spirit. Most humans can only cast their will at them by speaking the words of the spell in the Primordial Tongue. The Aura of Command allows us to bypass that with most spells. The fair folk can use their powers without speaking while in the Labyrinth.
    If a demon starts speaking in the Primordial, think fast.”

    Someone in the front row raised his hand. “Then why do we learn these spells now that we have to learn the words to use them, instead of waiting until we have the Aura of Command?”

    The instructor smiled. “Because it is lot easier to transition from using the words in spell casting to not using them, rather than other way around. There are spells that require so much will that Aura of Command alone can’t cast enough of it to the Väki. Some of you will learn those spells.”

    “Will is an important part of your Lifeforce, so spell casting can make you exhausted and even damage you permanently if you keep casting too long.” His voice remained clear, but Nearin was sitting close enough to the front that she could see how his face looked haunted, like he was remembering sometime unpleasant.

    “It is point of discussion between the scholars whether the amount of will someone has can be measured in anyway, or if it is used up by anything except spell casting. A person who casted too much recently may appear like he was depressed or anxious about everything. If either of those symptoms appears suddenly without any visible reason, it is usually good idea not to cast any spells for few weeks.”

    “Some theorize that the Will affecting the Lifeforce is why severely depressed or anxious people sometimes have physical symptoms.” He cleared his throat and it was like the shadow that had been on his face had never been there.

    “Now if a few novices from the first row would be so kind and distribute these jars to others. Inside the jars is a plant. Your task is to find out what a spell has done to that plant by following the instructions. Do not touch the plant.” As the first row novices did as they were told he began to write those very instructions on the blackboard with a piece of chalk.

    “There are many other kinds of sensing spells. Each focuses on finding a single thing about your environment that your normal sense won’t tell you. And yes, there is a general sensing spell that allows you to detect all magical things changing while it is in effect, but that is a much more difficult spell and even the best of you will only learn it at the end of these four months.”

    “Some people say that it helps if you close your eyes first. The first part of any spell is always imagining the exact effect you want it to have. Then imagine it happen step by step. It helps if you visualize it happening slowly the first few times you cast the spell.”

    Nearin nodded her thanks to novice who handed her her jar. She carefully set it on the table before her and leaned in close to look. As she stared at it she imagined the diminutive väki running all over it. The väki were the invisible proto-spirits who governed the natural laws and thus made the magic possible. People didn’t think they were sentient, but they still responded to the commands in Primordial Tongue.

    Nearin had indeed cast a sensing spell before, but that had been one that allowed her to sense the presence of invisible spirits, so it didn’t help much with her current task. She glanced at the instructions on the black board and silently mouthed the two words of Primordial Tongue written there. Then she imagined the plant, a small sapling of juniper, exactly as she saw, then she imagined seeing more about it while pronouncing those two words.

    Nothing happened.

    She sighed. It was going to be a long two hours.


    Part 6: The Obvious
    Spoiler
    Show

    To Nearin, the juniper sapling appeared perfectly normal. There was nothing unordinary about it as far as she could see. Completely average. Absolutely indistinguishable from any other sapling she had seen.

    She tried the spell again and failed. And again and again. She knew there was something about it that she was missing, but she couldn’t figure out what it was. She had never been that good with spells and she could already feel herself becoming frustrated. During her very first lesson. Great.

    She turned the jar around. Perhaps what she should be looking at wasn’t the plant but the jar or the soil. The soil was the color it should be and showing sights of being watered recently. The jar was orange and made of clay. Immaculately made of course. She ran her fingers over it, feeling how smooth it was. She closed her eyes to focus on that feeling. Yes the jar was smooth but not supernaturally so, she doubted that had been what the spell had done. She checked it anyway and found nothing.

    She sighed and leaned back on her seat. She was definitely feeling beginnings of a new headache. She glanced at how the other students were doing. To her right Yanna’s face was burrowed in furious concentration. Similar faces were wherever she looked. Few looked like they were starting to figure out the puzzle. At least many others seemed to have similar problems as she had.

    So maybe she wasn’t totally incompetent. Yay.

    Still, she had no idea how to find out what had been done to the sapling. She massaged her temples while hoping that simply staring hard enough at the plant would make it reveal its secrets. It didn’t work so she just stared harder.

    She eventually gave up and reread the instructions on the blackboard. She could feel a strong line of pain flare through her skull as she tried to find something she had missed.

    “At first try to find anything unusual about the object. Anything in its shape or size or anything about it that you can sense with your normal senses.”

    That’s what she had been trying to do. Since this was the first lesson she was sure that this was a clue. The problem was that she couldn’t sense anything strange about the plant. It looked normal. Completely normal. She drummed her fingers on the table and kept telling herself not to get frustrated, not to panic in her first lesson. She would figure this out.

    “Once you have found out what is wrong with the object imagine the object as it should be. Project that image on the object and then recite the spell.”

    That part didn’t exactly help her yet. Nor did any of the rest but she continued anyway.

    “Focus on seeing how the object would have to change for the difference to take place then cast your will into it.”

    It went on and on about how casting the will worked. How you solely focused on the thing you wanted to happen. Well it was a bit more complex than that but that part of explanation was for those who had never cast spells before (the instructor Selazer had gathered them into a small group and was explaining those very basics to them) so Nearin ignored that part.

    Well when she said that she was bad at spells, the part she was having trouble with was casting the will. Forcing things to happen the way you wanted to wasn’t really what she had formed her thinking around. She was simply too nervous to do it easily.

    Suddenly she heard Yanna cry a silent ‘yes!’ She turned to look at her and saw triumph at her face. Yanna glanced at her and grinned with childish joy. So Yanna had figured it out all ready. Nearin smiled at the girl she was starting to think of as a friend before turning back to her own jar and frowned. So the puzzle had an answer. She wondered if she would have liked it more if it had been a trick question, then her seemingly inevitable failure wouldn’t have felt this bad.

    Stop, she told herself. You are not going to fail. Yes you are not good at this, but you can do this. It’s a very basic thing. It will take you sometime, but you have the time. You can do this.

    She believed all of that for about 5 seconds before the doubts started creeping up again.

    She turned the jar around, looking at every single needle one by one. Or at least she tried to.

    Hmmmn.

    They weren’t allowed to touch the plant. She assumed that that was the key. Maybe the plant was withered and dead and the spell made it look normal. Or maybe the spell had restored it to normal? She tried the spell two times with both of those as base assumptions. Both failed, predictably.

    She tried few more times. Just in case the problem was with casting her will. Or pronouncing the spell right. She was sure she was doing that just like the instructor had done it. Like she heard few of the other novices mutter the words at that very moment.

    Well she was definitely doing something wrong. But what? She had no idea. And as it became apparent that everyone around her were starting to figure out the spell she was becoming sure that whatever she was missing it was something very obvious. But what? She had asked that question many times in the last…. she looked at the hourglass that sat on the instructors table ….in the last hour.

    About at the same time the instructor had the same idea and checked the hourglass about at the same time.

    “Okay, I assume most of you have figured it out and succeeded in casting the spell?” Most of the novices nodded along. “I was worried for a moment that I made it too obvious so I added in a false lead of you not being allowed to touch the spell.” Selazer smiled with mischief.

    “The spell that stopped the juniper sapling from smelling is one you will eventually learn. You will find it handy during long campaigns.”

    Of course. The juniper should have had its own sharp smell. Nearin leaned forward and placed her forehead on the table before starting to slowly bang her head against it.

    The rest of the lesson was uneventful. Mostly theory about sensing spells et cetera. Nearin’s headache lowered a little before settling into state where it was mostly just a dull awareness of her skull hurting. She preferred it to what it had been but she wondered whether banging her head against a wooden object had been a great idea.

    Eventually they left the lecture hall. Nearin was still sullen over her failure. She felt stupid to have missed something so obvious. She had had an hour to do it. An hour! And yet she hadn’t even noticed that the juniper didn’t smell.

    She didn’t have excuse of being from a city either. She had spent enough time in the forest that she should have realized it immediately. She was an idiot.
    “You didn’t notice it, eh?” Yanna remarked, having obviously read her face correctly.

    “No I didn’t,” Nearin admitted. “I’m an idiot.”

    “Who cares?” The girl smiled. “I bet every single person in that room will get plenty of chances to be equally dumb in the coming months.”

    Nearin snorted. “You as well?”

    “Well obviously not,” Yanna faked being horrified. They both laughed. Still, Nearin was worried. She was feeling this frustrated after the first lesson. How could she survive the first week not to even mention the year?
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 7: Swords, Sweat and Sand
    Spoiler
    Show

    After the first hour, Nearin was hurting all over, sweating and short of breath. And she loved it. The combat instructor hadn’t bothered with things like starting easy. He swore to the philosophy of “the less you sweat now the more you’ll bleed in battle.”

    Nearin was quite sure the saying was supposed to go the other way around but the message was still the same. Even if she had never been into a real battle, she thought it made sense. Besides, she had nothing against physical labor and she actually adored the exercise.

    There were in the main training field of the compound, apparently called the small field because it was smaller than the field outside the compound. It was surrounded by walls of the compound on three sides and by the buildings on the last.

    The field was filled with sand so the air was heavy with dust from all the novices sparring, like they had been doing for the last half an hour after the warm ups.

    Because of the dust Nearin’s throat burned even more than it normally would just from being out of breath. Was she imagining things or had she lost a bit of her strength and endurance since she had started taking her potions? She wondered about that as she parried another strike from her sparring partner, a boy named Calon, a youth that was built like a bull.

    He was slower than her, and somewhat less skilled, but even though she was fast enough to block any of the blows, she had trouble doing so due to the sheer difference of strength. There was no question who would tire first in a real fight.

    They were not in a real fight of course. Instead they were practicing parrying. Each one striking three times in a row. Left, right, and left again. Then the one who had been defending would attack in turn, with the attacker always moving forward while the defender backpedaled.

    Nearin blocked the last one and then attacked. She was fast, only allowing Calon just barely enough time to block. She had always been fast and more lean than overly muscular, something she was thankful for, and she suspected her potions had made her more so. Well it was hard for her to see the effects of the potion anyway because she saw herself every day.

    She switched to the defense again and felt the impact of the training sword on her arms through her own blade. Quickly she switched her sword to the other side, blocking the next attack. Calon was competent, but his movements were easy to read. Of course, the rhythm of training helped with that.

    After doing badly in the spell lecture, she felt elated to be doing something she was genuinely good at. She smiled as she remembered how she had apparently high marks in sword fighting. She had known she was good of course, but not that she was good compared to the other novices. When she had walked into the field she had briefly been anxious about possibly not doing good enough to warrant those marks, but that had faded.

    She loved what she was doing. This was what had kept her alive before she knew her transformation was possible. Even as the word went through her mind as she started to strike again she thought that it didn’t quite fit. Though she didn’t think there actually was a word that described it better. There should be, she decided. Transformation implied it was sudden, almost instantaneous and total. Which hers wasn’t. It changed her body but it didn’t replace it with a new one like the most powerful possessor demons did to their victims.

    As she was thinking about that, Calon missed a parry and she hit him in the shoulder, not being able to stop the strike in time. Lucky that the sword was blunted. Still the attack hit the joint hard and despite the heavy gambeson he was wearing, the blow would still hurt.

    He grunted and let go of his sword with that hand and rolled his shoulder.

    “I’m sorry!” Nearin yelped immediately, feeling more horrified than she knew she should have been. The hit would only leave a bruise if that.

    “It’s okay,” he replied, but grimaced for a second as he continued rolling his shoulders.

    “No I really am sorry, I should have been able to pull the blow,” she insisted and scratched the back of her neck under the helmet she wore.

    “It’s okay, as I said,” he responded and gripped his sword again. As he saw that she was about to open her mouth again he said: “Really it’s okay. Can we just continue now?”

    She swallowed and nodded and they started again.

    Together with all other novices in the field, they continued it for a further quarter of an hour, with the instructor and his assistants continued walking around the field, occasionally giving advice and correcting flaws and that kind of stuff. The assistants were older novices from previous years, soon to be full paladins.

    As they began the next exercise, one of those assistants stopped to watch Nearin and Calon. They were now practicing counter attacking. He watched quietly for few minutes as the pair went on. Nearin was fast enough to do it easily, after all this was all stuff that she had been practicing for years. Calon was getting it mostly right as well. So Nearin was becoming increasingly self-conscious.

    Why was he staring? If he saw mistakes then shouldn’t he be correcting them? Or was he noticing something going wrong, but wasn’t sure of what exactly it was? She could feel her technique getting sloppier as she became convinced something was wrong with it. Of course it was as likely that he was looking at Calon, but Nearin’s paranoia told her otherwise. Of course with the angle he was looking at them from, it was impossible for her to see which one he was watching more without him noticing she was trying to see that.

    She did her best to focus on the exercise, but it was getting harder and harder by minute.

    Gah, if she was getting this nervous from someone watching her, then maybe she just wasn’t cut to do this thing anyway. She blocked the next attack and smiled at the pun.

    Then, as she turned her block into an attack her smile froze as her thoughts returned to the conversation last night. A blackblade. So she wasn’t going to be just an average paladin who could hide in being mediocre. Well mediocre for a paladin anyway. She could feel her gut twisting.

    She struck, and he blocked then countered, seemingly getting better at it. As he did, she noticed the assistant turned and walked away. She would have sighed with relief if she hadn’t still been thinking about her future.

    The rest of the practice was uneventful. They went through few more exercises before the instructor called it a day.

    Nearin was exhausted but happy. Her anxiety had started to go away after she continued to do well. A blackblade’s main duty was to swing differently colored sword after all and she could do that. She was anxious around new situations here but it would surely get better as she had more time to settle in. For a moment she was sure of herself.

    Then she realized where everyone was going.

    They were going to the bathhouse to wash away the sweat and dust. She swallowed. This was going to be awkward.


    Part 8: Baths Are Hard
    Spoiler
    Show

    Nearin rubbed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm herself. She stood alone in the field, her sword hanging loosely from her fingers. She was exhausted and now that the rush of exercise had receded she felt like she wanted to throw up. Of course the feeling would pass with rest and possibly a bath.

    And therein laid the problem. That was where everyone else was.

    She could feel how her whole back and much of the rest of her body was damp from sweat, so not going was not really a possibility. And she guessed she stank too. She sniffed at her armpit and confirmed it.

    So, what she was going to do was to sit on her ass and wait until the baths were empty. Probably no warm water left for her at that point, but it was not like she had any options. Good ones anyway. Ones that wouldn’t involve awkwardness at best and insults and who knows what at worst. She really didn’t want to think about that, the whole idea was making it hard to breath.

    Of course, if she just sat here in the middle of the field alone, someone would wonder and possibly come to ask a question. Which she didn’t want to answer at all. So the obvious answer was to go sit somewhere else. Somewhere she could sit and stink all alone without being bothered. And it had to be close enough to the bath house that she could see when it was empty.

    So walked behind the bath house and sat down, leaning against the wall.

    As she sat there, she could feel the soreness settling into her muscles. At least her breathing was starting to settle. While she would have hoped she could have gone to wash herself already, just sitting down felt good.

    Still she was thirsty as well. Her mouth and throat felt dry from all the dust she had inhaled during the training. Well it was not like she could necessarily get water fast after a real battle or march either, so she should just view that as an extra piece of training.

    Or so she kept telling herself as she waited. It felt like it was going to be an eternity.

    There was nothing to look at either. Just grass, the stone wall surrounding the complex and the wall of the bath house. The only window on the women’s side of the bath house didn’t open in this direction either, which she was happy about. It meant no one could accidentally see her by looking out of the window. She started banging her head against the wall, slowly enough that it didn’t actually hurt.

    Then she stopped because of the stupid thought that someone might hear her.

    It was rather quiet actually. It was one of those days when there wasn’t really any wind. At that precise moment, there weren’t even any birds singing. The only noises were the sounds of people occasionally leaving the bath house and chatting. Most sounded happy if tired.

    Well that described her well enough as well, right? She thought she was happy enough with how everything was turning out. She was anxious and very, very skittish, yes, but she was happier than she had been in a long time. The ever pervading sense of wrongness that had accompanied her life while she had tried to live as a boy was mostly gone. Well not totally, but mostly. She still felt it a bit as she dressed in the mornings or when she worried about passing for a girl.

    Yes, she was definitely happier.

    It was true that she was afraid a lot of different things going wrong. It wasn’t very paladin-like she admitted, but she hoped she would grow out of it, that it would go away as things continued to go right. She was vehemently clinging on to that hope. It was funny, she could think about facing demons and dying on the battlefield and only feel a slightest bit of fear, but people made her regularly feel terrified.

    Maybe people were just inherently scarier than demons?

    She sighed. Maybe she was just insane. She often wondered that. Maybe this was all in her head? Maybe she was just delusional madman for thinking of herself as a woman. Yet it felt so natural.

    Forcing herself out of her thoughts, she realized that she hadn’t heard anyone leave the bath house in some time. Did that mean it was empty now? Did she dare to go to check? Did she dare to not go check? Someone could go clean up the place if she was too slow. Or something.

    She turned her head and focused on trying to hear any sound that might indicate someone was still inside. Nothing. No matter how much she focused, she couldn’t hear anyone.

    Slowly, she stood up. She swallowed and started walking around the corner, afraid she would bump into someone. Of course, there was no one there. The only notable thing on that short alley between the bath house and the ware house next to it was the window of the bath house. It was high enough that peeking in was impossible. Not that she would have done so anyway.

    Still she sneaked under it and tried to listen. Again nothing. It was almost eerie. She was waiting for any sign that it wasn't safe for her to go in yet. It was quite unsettling that there wasn't any actual sign that the house was empty yet, just lack of signs that there was anyone inside.

    So the question was: did she trust her luck? Usually not as far as she could throw it. And that phrase didn't actually make any kind of sense in this case.

    Of course she would have to go in eventually unless she intended to smell the whole day. Or longer since she would have to have this same dance tomorrow, and day after that, and day after that…

    So she didn’t really have a choice, did she? She thought as she made her decision. She could feel the new cold sweat on her forehead as she forehead as she forced herself to walk around the corner and to open the door of the bathhouse.


    Part 9: A Stone and a Mirror

    Spoiler
    Show

    Nearin took a deep breath as she stepped into the bath house. It was empty. She glanced around, double checking before she allowed herself to exhale. The relief made her feel much lighter despite the exhaustion that had settled in her muscles.

    Still it took her a moment after managing to close the door to convince herself that it was safe to start to undress. She removed the gambeson but left her shift on, not feeling completely safe even though she knew she was alone. Someone might enter the bath house. Some servants might come to clean up after the novices or something.

    Besides, she didn’t want to deal with her fully naked body longer than she had to anyway.

    So on to the next problem. How did things work out in here?

    Only about one fourth of the novices were women so the women’s side of the bath house wasn’t very big. Just big enough to be comfortable for about 15 people, which meant that it would have been rather uncomfortable for the twenty or so novices who had been in there moments ago. The whole building was made of stone, like the rest of the complex.

    The floor was cold and wet from all the water that had been spilled, but not cold enough to make walking barefoot uncomfortable. After the area for undressing there were several wooden bathtubs with linen cloth laid into them to protect from splinters, bit over a dozen of them. The air was humid and pleasantly warm, suggesting that lots of warm water had been used.

    She guessed the warm water came from the cauldron on top of weird looking stone… thing on the one side of the room. Well it was not like she could see any other possible source. The stone was shaped like a wheel of cheese and had few, barely visible runes carved in its sides. She walked to it and reached towards it with her hand, stopping a fingerbreadth away from it to feel the heat radiating from it.

    She was awed; they even used magic to heat water in here. Having temporarily distracted her anxiety she leaned in to examine the stone closer. Of course, using mundane senses there was nothing special about the stone apart from what she had already noticed.

    She glanced at the door. Of course no one was coming. She turned to look at the heating stone again. Surely a bit of extra exercise couldn’t hurt. She was bad at all this magic stuff, she knew and she had to work on that if she wanted to get good at this paladin stuff.

    Yes, she was exhausted, but she didn’t pay attention to that fact. Or maybe it was just that she was trying to put off dealing with her naked body for as long as she could. Yeah, probably that.

    So on to the business. It took her tired brain a moment to recall the spell words from the morning’s lecture. It was obvious what spell had been done to the stone. Made it hot enough to heat the cauldron. Probably hot enough to cause fire had the floor under it not been made of stone.

    So she muttered the words and cast her will at the stone, imagining the stone as it would be without the spell affecting it, cold in other words.

    Nothing happened on her first attempt. She sighed, doubts starting to rise again in her mind. Why had she expected it to succeed? She should just quit now before she became truly frustrated. But no, she wouldn’t allow herself so little backbone, she would keep at it for little bit more. If she got into the habit of quitting this soon, it would be hard to get rid of.

    She almost laughed at the sheer absurdity of how seriously she was psyching herself up.
    Well there was nothing more to it than to just keep trying few times at least. And so she did. She had no luck with the next three times either, but after that she had some success. At first she saw the stone as normal, but then her senses… changed. Or perhaps expanded might be a better term.

    She became aware of the väki. She didn’t really see them or hear them, they were too small for that, but she could feel them somehow. She was aware of how they were concentrated and of their movements as well as what they were doing to the stone. Obviously they were heating it.

    She looked at the runes, and instinctively knew what they did thanks to her own spell. They constantly fed will to the spell and controlled the heat of the stone so that it stayed at a certain temperature. She guessed the spell still had to be recast every few months and that it would probably be an arduous process taking at least a few hours. And it wasn’t a task anyone could do. Spells lasting that long took a long time to learn. Magic items were like that.

    She willed her spell to stop and took a step back from the stone. Feeling of success warred with awe from the paladins having an item like that to heat water for a moment, then the anxiety settled back in and she decided she should hurry. After all, someone was bound to come in sooner or later, right?

    Sighing, she placed a bucket under the tap on the side of the cauldron, filling the bottom of it with hot water. She took a wishful glance at one of the bath tubes. She wanted to take a proper bath, but she didn’t think she had the courage to stay in the bath house for that long instead of just rinsing herself with water. She knew, of course, that she was being insanely paranoid, but acknowledging that didn’t magically make it go away.

    She sighed again.

    She could just do it. If someone came while she was taking a bath it didn’t mean she would be harassed. That chance always existed yes, but it wouldn’t be guaranteed to happen. She could show some backbone and not give in to her fears for once.

    While thinking, she happened to look at a mirror on one of the walls. Upon seeing the reflection of her face, something snapped in her mind. Acting on impulse she set the bucket down and pretty much tore her shift from her then looked at the mirror, her emotions a mix of anxiety, disgust and determination.

    When she looked at her naked image, it was clear that the potions had been doing something. It wasn’t the first time she had looked at her nude body in the last few months, but usually she had kept such examinations as brief as possible to avoid the feeling of sadness and disgust her body caused her to feel. Now she didn’t feel it quite as strongly as she usually did. Her features and skin had softened in the months she had been taking the potions and her breasts had started growing, though they were only noticeable when they weren’t covered.

    Her body wasn’t what she wanted it to be yet, but it was slowly moving in that direction even if she knew it would never get quite there. There were parts of her body that she would never be able to change. Even if one of those things had shrunk a bit.

    She stared at the reflection for a long time, unable to look away even if she wanted to. She focused on her breathing and closed her eyes, slowly allowing herself to relax. Then she took the bucket from the floor and started to fill the bath tub.


    Part 10: The Sword and the Hunger
    Spoiler
    Show

    The rest of the week went without notable incidents. There were little incidents of course, but nothing major. She got to know the other novices somewhat. While she wasn’t exactly harassed per se, she didn’t make any new friends either. Well, a few people who hung around with Yanna tolerated her well enough for most part.

    Which was good, she would have been really lonely had it been otherwise. Even now she often was, when she sat at one corner of the table listening to others converse about this or that while eating quietly, mostly ignored by everyone, unless Yanna tried to include her in the conversation. Well it wasn’t like she hated the situation as it was. Now that the awkwardness was over after Yanna had scolded a few of her friends for using the wrong pronouns for Nearin.

    Most awkwardness anyway . It still felt like people where just entertaining her. Like they didn’t believe her when she said what she was. Well they probably didn’t.

    Anyway, she didn’t do quite as badly in the other lessons as she had done in the first. Well most of the lessons were either ones where she had a bit of trouble or ones where she basically knew what was being taught already. She had her years of obsessively studying paladin stuff to thank for.

    For bathing after exercise she mostly did what she had done earlier, though most of the time she just rinsed herself with water rather than taking a proper bath. Sometimes because she was nervous, sometimes because it already took time to wait for everybody else to bathe first.

    Now, on the evening of the last day of the week, she was waiting at front of the knight-champion’s room. She had been told to come here are dusk and after her knock on the door had gotten no reply, there was nothing else to do but wait.

    She spaced around, unable to stand still or even sit down. She was nervous. Why hadn’t she been asked if she wanted to become a blackblade? Surely someone who wanted the job would be much better for it. Or had they assumed that if she didn’t want it she would have let them known? Nearin snorted, like she could have done that. Why had they chosen such a pushover as her for the role? Because she was good at swinging a sword? Well she could do that really well, but surely there was more to being an elite warrior than that. Or so she feared at least.

    She was absorbed in those thoughts when she heard footsteps. She turned and saw the knight-champion approaching, carrying a lit lantern. Swallowing, Nearin saluted her by raising her open palm next to her forehead.

    “Follow me,” the knight-champion said and beckoned her to come. They followed the hall until they got to the stairs leading to the cellars, dungeons and vaults located under the complex. None of the novices had been allowed down there, other than the cellars of course. They went all the way down, past the room filled with supplies, past the prison cells almost all of which seemed to be empty, only from one did someone watch them through the bars of the small window in the heavy oaken door.

    The face was old and ragged. Grey, long and unwashed hair bordered it. That’s all Nearin saw for the prisoner only peeked through the hole, staring at her intently with a single visible eye. She shuddered as she hastily followed Selesta.

    The only light down here was the lantern they had bought with them. She wondered if the prisoner lived in perpetual darkness or if there was some magical light that only turned on during the day. She doubted the latter possibility, so wondered what the prisoner might have done to be sentenced down here. She knew that Paladins handed the common criminals to the local authority. She shuddered again.

    She watched the shadows dance on the walls of cut stone and occasional a rat skittering away. She wondered where they were going, but didn’t dare to ask. She would find out sooner or later anyway, and had the knight-champion wanted her to know she surely would have told her anyway. Blind obedience was so much easier than asking questions.

    After the cells they turned to the left two times and walked down even more stairs until they arrived at a corridor that contained what Nearin guessed were the vaults. The doors were again heavy oak, but this time they were covered in glowing runes of warding. Nearin swallowed. While the vaults of this place weren’t especially famous per se, as it was just a small training complex, but in general there were wild stories about vaults of the Paladin order. Supposedly containing all manner of confiscated demonic artifacts and grimoires as well as obscene riches and who knows what.

    And considering that Selesta had just stopped and was opening one of the doors with a key, Nearin made an educated guess that she was about to enter one of those vaults.

    And so they did. The vault itself was a circular, mostly empty room. In fact, it didn’t look much like a vault at all. It looked more like a small training room. The only objects in the room, few chairs and chest were located near the walls, giving ample space at the center of the room. As they entered, few lamps on the walls lit by themselves.

    When Nearin saw what was at the back of the room she understood where they were. There was a pedestal and on it was a single black bladed sword. Nearin swallowed. Was she getting to train with that already? Surely not. Not just anyone could wield a blackblade as far as she knew. Or maybe it was just that the training to use them had to begin as soon as possible.

    She glanced at the older woman who walked towards the blade.

    “In your first year, we will meet here every week at this time. More if I decide you are not learning fast enough,” Selesta said. “And if I think you can handle it,” she added almost as an afterthought.

    Great, Nearin thought as the knight-champion picked the blade up. Then she made few swings in the air, in a way she had most likely done thousands of times.

    “Your first job is to pick this up,” she said as she placed the sword back on the pedestal. Nearin’s eyes widened. There had to be some kind of catch. Or maybe Celeste was just being cynical. Or something. Anyway, there was nothing else to do than obey.

    She stared at the sword as she walked over. It was a hand and a half sword, obviously black. Even the hilt of the same color, in fact it seemed like it was made from a single piece of metal. It looked heavier than the average sword of same length.

    Most disturbing about the sword was something Nearin couldn’t quite point out. Somehow, maybe from the way the light reflected changed as she came closer, the blade didn’t feel like an object. As she reached to grab its hilt, it felt like she was trying to grab the reins of a beast.

    That probably should have warned her about what happened when she actually grasped it. Her stomach wrenched as if suddenly empty. Hunger, desperate need filled her senses to the point where she couldn’t see or hear or feel anything else. She gasped out in pain, or at least thought she did.

    While at first it was just physical hunger, within moments that changed. First she became thirsty at well. Her mouth dried up like there wasn’t a single bit of moisture in there.

    Then, it spread to every possible kind of need she knew about. Suddenly she yearned to touch another human. She needed to feel even a bit of intimacy after all this time feeling lonely.

    She felt like she had been so long inside, underground. She needed to feel the warmth of the sun. She felt like she would wither away if she didn’t.

    Respect, power, and the fact she didn’t really have either of those things made her turn to despair. She needed to succeed. To become powerful. To have look at her with respect and not with disdain.

    And above all those feelings was the achingly familiar sensation of her body feeling not feeling quite right. A wrongness she usually wasn’t able to place, but that was worse when she could. The way her body had never felt hers. The way she had trouble recognizing herself in the mirror. How the reflection both was and wasn’t her.

    Then it all went away and reality returned. All those feelings replaced with just a dull aching memory of them. She was lying on the floor with no memory of having fallen. She stirred and grimaced because of the sudden headache while Celeste helped her stand up.

    “Is it always like that?” Nearin croaked.

    “Would be if we didn’t train for it. What happened was that you were not prepared for the mental assault the sword unleashed on you the second you touched it. We call it simply the Hunger. All paladins learn to defend themselves from attacks like that and the aura will help once it is given to you, but you need much more focused training to be able fight at the top of your ability with that sword.” Selesta’s voice was softer than normal, but as she spoke some hardness returned to it. After helping Nearin to her feet, the older paladin went to one of the chests, opened it, and took a wine bottle and two glasses from it. She filled the first and offered it to Nearin.

    “Here, drink this. It will help with the nerves.” Nearin did so and even if there was no instant relief, it helped a bit.

    “What comes next?” She asked timidly.

    “Considering you just went through a heavy mental assault, I doubt we could get any real training done today,” Selesta said as she picked up the sword on the ground and put it back on the pedestal. “I recommend you go to bed. We will begin the proper training next week.”


    Part 11: An Old Friend
    Spoiler
    Show

    By the next morning, Nearin’s headache was mostly gone. Until the sunlight reignited it. It was the weekend, which meant that one third of the novices were let out of the complex to visit the nearby town called Tavor. Indulging in vices like gambling and whoring was generally frowned upon in Paladins, but it still happened.

    You couldn’t take hundreds of young people, put them through hard training and then let them on a vacation once every three weeks and then not expect them to try to find every possible way to let off steam. Nearin had been unlucky to get the vacation the first weekend. Unlucky, because she would have preferred to stay in her room after the last night.

    But since she would have had to wait three weeks to get out of the complex and because Yanna objected vehemently to her staying it had not been a proper option.

    So now she was in the town. It was a buzzing marketplace, with people from all around the country and a few from beyond. She had lost Yanna somewhere in the crowd and now she was just wandering aimlessly and sightseeing.

    There wasn’t an awful lot to sightsee though. At the end of the day it was like any of the dozens of little towns that dotted this country. Hell, the paladin novices were probably the only exotic thing about the ton. And she was probably the most exotic of the novices.

    Great.

    Already there were a few people stealing looks at her and muttering or all out staring. Maybe the paladins had been more polite about it than the townsfolk? Or maybe the novices just had more important things to gawk at during their first week. She hoped that when they run out of those things they'd be used to her already.

    Just great.

    At the moment she was walking around the market place, idly browsing the stalls. It was afternoon already, but she wasn't feeling like eating a proper lunch quite yet. Maybe it was lingering feeling of nausea from yesterday evening. Eating a meal might have helped with the feeling, but she would do that later. She wondered if any of the other novices were getting drunk already?

    She probably should be trying to find Yanna and the others. With them she would have something to distract herself from the strangers. Though they might very well be at some tavern or inn eating at the moment. Which meant that she wouldn’t be able to see them while wandering the streets.

    Not that she could think of a better way to spend the day.

    So she bought an apple as a snack and went looking for her friends again. Or at least a friend and the friend’s friends. She was munching that apple and walking around when she heard a familiar voice but not one she had expected to hear.

    “Nearo- Nearin!” the voice shouted. Nearin turned and saw a tall, lanky young man waving at her from an alley. She recognized him immediately even if he was wearing clothing totally different from what he had used to. She hurried to him, nervous to meet her old friend and nervous that people might have noticed his blunder.

    “Olwos,” she greeted him. “What are you doing here?” As far as she knew, he was supposed to be studying herbalism and alchemy in a big university in Jeravia, the capital of Pryria. His father had been saving for years to send his son to study and he had been one of the wealthiest people in Nearin's home town. She had only exchanged few letter with Olwos after he had left to study. Last time had been when she had come out about her situation.

    She was mildy surprised to see him this far north. And she let it show.

    “Business in a way. I was assigned to assist one of our professors in his trip to study some plant in the northern mountains. He wants to check some myths about it or something.”

    “You don't sound very interested.” Nearin forced a small nervous smile. This was her first time meeting an old friend while being dressed like this. Though she wasn't going to mention anything unless he did.

    “I'm not much of a camping person,” he radmitted. He wasn't looking at her much, at first she thought it was because of awkwardness, but it started to seem like he was actually looking for signs of something in the passing crowd.

    “So how are you doing, Nearin?” There was a short pause before the name, like he was making a conscious effort to use the correct name after his earlier near mistake.

    “I am doing okay,” she answered, pausing to think of how and whether to elaborate. “I haven't really been harrassed and mostly people just ignore me.” She was not going to mention the thing with the Blackblade. It sounded too unbelievable to even herself. “Doing well in most of my classes et cetera.”

    “So you are really going to be a lady paladin?” Olwos smiled, his focus back on Nearin.

    “And you an alchemist? Seems we are both fullfilling our dreams, eh?” She returned his smile. “Yeah, things aren't going exactly as I planned, but I am happier than I used to be I think.”

    “And more beautiful,” he grinned.

    “Liar,” Nearin snorted. “How long do you have? We could go have lunch unless you have already eaten?”

    “Can't I am afraid. I was just on my way back from having lunch, and I am sure the good professor will be missing me shortly,” he was still smiling and Nearin didn't think he was just dodging her offer.

    “Well if you come back this way then be sure to send a letter or something?” Olwos just nodded as an answer. “Well I should go probably go back to trying to find my friends and maybe grab something to eat,” she continued, the glanced at the remains of the apple in her hand. “Well something more than a single piece of fruit in any case.”

    They said their goodbyes and she left, but he stayed behind and waited until she was out of the line one of sight. When she was gone he walked deeper into the alley and knocked on the door. The bolt hole was already open and the door creaked open.

    The man who greeted him was built like a bouncer, and had a cudgel in one hand. “You shouldn't have conversation this close to the safe house. Not with a paladin,” the bouncer grumbled.

    “It looks more natural than simply slinking here all the way, besides there was no way she would have noticed anything from the street anyway and she is just a novice,” he shrugged and shouldered inside. “Is everyone here?”

    “Yeah, we were just waiting for you.”

    “Good, lets get to work then.”


    Part 12: The Hounds

    Spoiler
    Show

    When Nearin had thought about how her first encounter with a demon would go, she had always imagined the scenery to be different. More foreboding. Most likely in the middle of the night, with a full moon hanging over branches of dead trees. Or maybe storm clouds with thundering in the distance.

    She definitely had not imagined it to happen in a sunny field just outside an idyllic little village. Well the village would have been idyllic had it not been on fire. And had the shapes of hellhounds lurking between the buildings not been visible from the distance.

    It had been three weeks since Nearin had met Olwos. She had found a nice little place to eat last time that had amazing food, so she was looking forward to her day off this time. Then the alarm crystal in the complex had had warned about a pack of demons manifesting within few miles of the complex. Normally the hunting group would have been composed of the older novices who already had the Aura of Command and few full paladins, but all those older novices were practicing campaigning in the mountains and would be for another few weeks.

    So the hunting groups had been composed from few older novices left as well as the best of the younger novices. Obviously, Nearin was selected.

    Now she was riding with twenty others, wearing the white brigandine armor of the novice. The Lance wasn’t her favorite weapon but she was holding one nonetheless. Still, wearing that armor and riding a warhorse felt comforting. She was nervous of course, but this was what she had wanted to do all her life. In that moment, she felt like she had found her place.

    She felt alive.

    The group stopped on top the hill from which they had a view of the village and the surrounding field. The only signs of life were the hellhounds. The hounds were devouring what was left of the villagers, dragging the corpses to the village square first.

    The hellhounds were bigger than any mortal dogs. The smallest of them that she could see was about the size of a pony. The biggest must have had a body mass of twice that. They were furless and their skin color changed between char coal and still flaming hot ember.

    Salhos, the combat instructor, who had been selected to lead the hunting group together with the Firemind and Tiilin the healing instructor, looked at the scene, his face blank for a long time, as if he wasn’t seeing the village but a scene from his memories. Then he snapped out of it and started giving orders.

    “We’ll go in and break their group. First circle demons are predators, if the prey hits them back hard enough, they’ll flee. Then we form into two groups. The scrubs secure the village and look for survivors. Tiilin you stay with them. Firemind, you stay as well and take out the fires. The rest of you chase the surviving demons down. Don’t get too much ahead of everyone else. If some of them get away, we will organize a search after regrouping.”

    Nearin tightened her grip on her lance. This was what she had trained for most of her life, but she was still nervous and a tiny bit scared.

    “Charge!” the order was given and almost as one, the white warhorses of the paladins thundered down the hill. Even before she became a paladin novice, she had practiced mounted charges with her father’s men-at-arms. Starting at the second week, mounted combat had become a regular part of their training at the complex as well.

    But back then they hadn’t been charging at a real enemy. They fanned out into a single rank so that they wouldn’t crash into each other when they met the almost horse sized hounds. She tried to look for a target as they kept getting closer and closer. Her helmet limited her line of sight so she had to trust the riders next to her to not allow anyone to leap at her flank.

    In the village, the hellhounds had noticed them and were gathering into a lose mob. There were about a dozen of them, so unless there were more that were not visible the paladins outnumbered them.

    But damn they were big. And scary. She could already make out the flames that were flickering between their teeth. The biggest hellhound let out a roar that sounded like the roar of a forest fire and the hellhounds charged towards the paladins.

    Nearin stared at the one charging towards her. It was one of the smaller ones, but the image of her missing and that beast dragging her down from saddle or roasting her with its breath stayed in her mind. She swallowed but it was like something was stuck in her throat. She was going to die.

    Then abruptly that fear vanished. It was like a physical wave of hope had hit her. Suddenly she felt calm, and confident. It wasn't like the emotion had disappeared, but that she was being reassured and that she believed in that reassurance. It was the Aura of Command, she realized. Of course, a number of the paladins present had the ability.

    But boosting courage was not the only thing the Aura did. When the demons were only ten or so meters away they opened their mouths to spit fire on the paladins. Nearin calmly raised her shield to protect her face, but no fire reached her. Instead it was cancelled by the Aura only centimeters after leaving the hellhounds' mouths.

    The impact came about a second later. Her aim was more of guess work than actual aim, but as Nearin lowered her shield she felt the lance hit the hound and become stuck in its flesh. The lance was broken in an instant and wrenched from her hands painfully. She should have dropped it as soon as she hit, but she had been too slow due to the lack of vision.

    She grimaced at the pain while she rode past the hounds, hoping that nothing had been broken in her shoulder, but as she drew her sword she noticed only slight stiffness in how her arm worked. Hopefully it wouldn't be enough to get her killed. She had her horse slow down and when she was almost at the edge of the village she was able to turn around enough to see how the others had fared. There were no further signs of movement in the village and there were plenty of others who were riding next to her and past her.

    The initial charge had killed almost all of the hellhounds. Only one was still fighting with three running away in different directions, mainly to where the paladins had come from as most of those were currently riding in the opposing direction. On their side, Nearin could only see a single casualty. One of the warhorses was sprawled on the ground, with its rider apparently behind it and hidden from Nearin's field of vision. Tiilin knelt next to where Nearin guessed the rider was and there was a faint glow of healing magic.

    And mere five meters behind Tiilin stood the last hellhound. It paced around, keeping its eyes on the healer and the fallen paladin, but apparently unable to attack. Nearin blinked, Tiilin was keeping a hellhound away with just her Aura? Of course, she had no idea how long Tiilin could keep it up, so she turned her steed fully around and started charging towards the hell hound, this one much bigger than the last one she had killed. (She could see the one she had hit laying on the ground unmoving with the remains of the lance stuck between its shoulder plates.)

    The hellhound’s attention wasn't focused on her, but there was no way to sneak quietly with a warhorse. Still, she hoped the distraction would give her even a slight advantage. The horse picked up speed quickly and the distance between her and the demon became smaller and smaller.

    She reached the demon in what must have been seconds but that felt like eternity. She drew back her sword, ready to slash at the demon's neck, but as she did, the beast who had acted like it hadn't noticed her until then suddenly lunged at the warhorse’s legs, bringing both of them to the ground.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 13: Going For the Throat
    Spoiler
    Show

    It was one of those rare moments where the time seemed to slow down enough for Nearin to realize just how screwed she was. The hellhound struck the horse’s hind legs, causing both the mount and the rider to roll over the beast. Nearin struck down with her sword and felt the blade hit, but then she had no time to focus on anything other than the ground that seemed to be determined to break her neck. She pulled her feet from the stirrups and threw herself clear from the horse, dropping into a roll that left her lungs without air.

    She staggered to her feet and turned towards where the hellhound was savaging her horse. The horse managed a kick to the demon’s head that would have killed a human, but it barely slowed the hound as it went for the horse’s throat.

    It took Nearin precious seconds to clear her head enough to charge in to try to save her steed. She cut a long slash along the hellhound’s side, causing black boiling blood to spill on top of the horse and on to the ground. She tried to follow the attack with a second one, but had to step back and raise her shield to protect herself from a stream of fire that the beast aimed at her.

    So she had wounded the demon twice, but now the demon disentangled itself from the dying horse and was free to fight her without any distractions. And her shoulder still hurt like hell. She swallowed and started circling the beast. The hound turned keeping its eyes on her and preparing to lunge, but its steps didn’t appear to be that steady.

    Nearin gripped her sword tighter and continued her circling. Now that she had noticed the small advantage she had, she wasn’t about to let it go to waste. She was sweating from both the heat and from fear. She could feel it running down her brow and dampening her clothing. Every movement her right shoulder made hurt, but she thought she still had mostly full range of motion with it. And then there were dozens of other minor aches in her body from being blown from the saddle.

    She stopped circling and reversed her direction when the sun came to her eyes, and that was when the demon chose to attack. It rushed forward the second she was momentarily blinded and crashed into her shield. The impact sent her crashing backwards. And suddenly she found herself on the ground without breath in her lungs and with a quarter-ton creature pressing against her shield.

    She did her best to keep the shield in front of her face, knowing her helmet wouldn’t be able to protect her from the hellhound’s flaming breath. At the same time the demon kept trying to snap at her past it and she could feel its teeth scratch against the top of her helmet as it tried. Panicking she started stabbing at the beast with her sword though the demon was too close for her to aim.

    Still it was not like she could miss totally and boiling blood started pouring on her. She could feel the metal of her armor start to heat up from the contact. If she didn’t get away quickly she would boiled alive even if the demon didn’t manage to crush her. Still, the demon’s actual attempts to kill her were slowing down as she kept at her panicked stabbing.

    Then the hellhound changed tactics. It bit down on the shield and wrenched to the side, pulling the shield from over her and exposing her to its attack. But to do that it had to move its front paws from top of the shield and suddenly there was room her to aim.

    Quick as a snake the demon let go of the shield and brought fire to its mouth, prepared to roast her properly, but at the same time she stabbed once again, this time hitting the creature under the jaw. She turned her head to avoid boiling blood getting inside her visor and pressed the sword harder until finally the hellhound died.

    She rolled to the side as the creature collapsed narrowly avoiding being trapped under its weight. As she rose she did her best to wipe as much of that hot blood from her as was possible. Then she stared at the dead demon.

    It was the second demon she had killed. She knew she ought to be proud but at the moment she was tired and hurting too much. And relieved she was still alive. That was a big one. Panting she turned around to see Tiilin still focusing on healing the wounded paladin. It was like the healing instructor hadn’t paid slightest attention to the combat near her.

    Well, Nearin didn’t think any of her injuries were serious, just painful, so best not to stay and bother a woman who was focused on saving someone. So she started limping towards the village.

    The village was a not pretty sight. Savaged bodies lay in three piles to which the hounds had apparently been dragging them. Despite the Firemind’s efforts, more than half of the houses were still on fire, with the Paladins doing their best to look for survivors.

    Nearin knew damn well that she was too beaten up to risk going to a burning building, so she picked one of the buildings that the hounds apparently hadn’t had time to set on fire and went see if there was anyone there.

    It was a cozy little house, she thought as she stepped inside. Despite the disaster that had happened in the village, here the only sign of anything being out of ordinary were the ransacked cupboards. She assumed the owner had tried to gather his belongings before fleeing. Despite being small house, the owner had been moderately wealthy, she could see. There were few paintings on the walls and there was actual silverware in one of the cupboards.

    Maybe the owner had been a retired artisan or something.

    As she was walking towards the door of the only other room of the house, she heard movement there. Steps, a closet opening and its contents being thrown to floor. Baffled, she opened the door, her sword still drawn just in case. “Someone in here?” she asked, more as a form of a greeting than a question.

    The person in the room turned to face the paladin novice, obviously startled. She was perhaps the most stunning woman Nearin had ever seen. She was tall, taller than Nearin, and her red hair reached to her waist. Her clothing was obviously made for travel, but somehow managed to hug her figure more tightly than should have been possible. And as she turned to look at Nearin, she didn’t look like someone whose fellow villagers had just been massacred. She looked annoyed.

    “Excu-“ Nearin started as their eyes met, but then it was like a wave of something had passed over her. Her sword dropped to the floor. Why had she dropped it? She tried to turn her head to look at it, to pick it up, but her muscles wouldn’t move. Everything felt unreal. She knew where she was, in a small house in a burning village. She knew what she was doing, looking for survivors. But none of that felt real.

    She felt disconnected from everything around her, like she was watching someone else stand there, like someone else had dropped the sword. Like the strange woman was walking towards someone else.

    Dumbfounded, she stared at the woman as the woman’s fingers grew longer and thicker and sharper until they resembled claws. She couldn’t think of any reason to do anything but watch as those claws took hold of her helmet and pulled it off her and then struck at her throat, tearing it open.


    Part 14: Cut Down
    Spoiler
    Show

    She was bleeding. Nearin knew that. But the fact felt distant. As she started having trouble breathing, panic kicked in. But it was still hard to focus on why she should be panicking and why the bleeding mattered.

    With effort she managed to focus enough to bring her hand to her throat. It felt wet. She looked at her hand and saw it entirely covered in red. And suddenly a realization hit her.

    She was dying.

    That thought struck the spell holding her mind and broke it with pure panic. She was going to die! She dropped to her knees, her both hands shooting up, trying to somehow stem the bleeding. Gods it hurt. She couldn’t even breath. Every time she tried she just ended up coughing as she bled into her windpipe.

    The woman who might just have killed her chuckled, then backhanded the side of Nearin’s head knocking her down to the floor before hurrying back to continue looking for something.

    Nearin's vision blurred as her head hit the wall as she fell. However, it did not come back to focus. It was hard to think and not just because panic was hammering at her thoughts. She was loosing consciousness.

    She was going to die. She really was going to die. Her very first encounter with real danger and she got herself killed. She would be the warning example the trainer would use for the rest of the novices, about how the danger was real and they weren't just playing anymore. Tears appeared at her eyes.

    She didn't want to die.

    As she lost consciousness the last thing she saw was a stream of fire fly over her and strike at the strange woman who might have just killed her. There was a scream and a sound of something crashing through the shutters of the window. Then nothing.


    “Seems it got away.”

    “So it was a succubus then?”

    “Yeah, and we didn't bring in anything to track it properly with.” The Firemind spaced around the room, staring at the cupboards the succubus had been ransacking before. “Damn it! It was supposed to be just a pack of hellhounds! We didn't expect a second circle demon.”

    Tiilin didn't reply but instead focused on her spell.

    “How is he?” The Firemind asked absentmindedly.

    “I have finally managed to stabilise her condition,” Tiilin put extra emphasis on the pronoun. “I think she'll survive. Now shush, this is delicate work.”

    The spiritbinder, who's usually red hair was now curiously black, shrugged and then went back to looking around the room. She managed to stay silent for around four minutes. “I wonder what the succubus was looking for.”

    Tiilin gave her an annoyed glare then turned back to Nearin's still form. She swiped sweat from brow. Healing a throat that been torn that badly was very difficult. Just healing the wound wasn't enough, at the same time she had to take care of blood flow to the brain and making sure enough air got to patients lungs. She hoped that there hadn't been any damage to the brain, but there was no way to be sure yet.
    “Funny, if it wasn't for him,” the Firemind rambled,” we might have missed the succubus entirely. I think it shrouded the house when we entered the house, but obviously it wasn't strong enough to do more than avert attention of the group of us who entered the village. But he entered later so he wasn't close enough when the spell was cast for it avert him. And of course when the succubus started throwing its power around my Charoc couldn't help but notice it.” She turned back and played with her hair as she said the last part.

    “Lucky for him too,” the Firemind touched her throat and grimaced. “That will leave a scar I think.”

    “Definitely.”

    “What about his voice? Will he be able to speak?”

    “The novice is a she and I am just moving to fixing her vocal chords. So shut up and let me work, Besides shouldn't you be taking out the fires?”

    “Charoc can handle them just fine,” the spiritbinder crumbled, but left the healer to her work.

    Tiilin sighed then continued healing the throat. She had already reconstructed the major blood vessels so she no longer had to manually make sure that Nearin's brain got the blood it needed, but the throat was still filled with so much blood that she still had to keep up the spell that made the air travel to the lungs despite the obstruction.

    But, the worst was past, she wasn't fighting for the novice's life anymore. Now it was just damage control.

    Just then the girl stirred and opened her eyes.

    “It's okay, you are alive and you are going to make it,” Tiilin reassured her patient. “Just stay still and don't try to speak, okay?” Nearin closed her eyes and didn't stir anymore. Tiilin wasn't sure if she had heard her or if the girl was even conscious anymore, but it didn't matter.


    Part 15: The Ceiling
    Spoiler
    Show

    During the journey back Nearin was slipping in and out of consciousness. She remembered seeing the other novices give her glances that were a mixture of sympathy and the fear that it might have happened to them. Her horse was dead and it wasn’t like she could have ridden on her own anyway so she shared the mount with someone else who kept her from falling. When she woke up she couldn’t remember who it had been, no matter how hard she tried.

    When she did wake up she was lying in bed and staring at the stone ceiling. She felt horrible and weak. Trying to turn her head proved to be a bad idea when she attempted it, the sharp pain in her throat forcing her to stay still.

    It was either late evening or early morning judging by the amount of light that was coming from the window. How long had she been unconscious? She rubbed her eyes. She hoped it was morning, she was thirsty, but if it was evening then it might be hours before anyone checked on her. She didn't want to think about making noise with how her throat was feeling.

    There was nothing to do but wait and be miserable. She drifted back to sleep occasionally, but was woken up by pain and discomfort. She only had just about enough time to dream glimpses of nightmares that still seemed half real when she was awake even if she could not recall them. It was definitely a morning though as the light coming from the window kept getting brighter. After what felt like eternity but was likely less than hour one of the healers came to check up on her.

    “Oh, you are already awake,” the young healer chirped as her footsteps approached Nearin's bed. “How are you feeling?” she continued as she appeared in Nearin's vision. Nearin was about to try to make a sound but thought better of it and pointed at her bandaged throat instead.

    “Oh right, you apparently can't speak at the moment,” the healer said then stopped to think. “Do you want anything? Water perhaps? Point your thumb up if yes, down if no. It's probably best if you don't try to swallow anything solid yet though.” Nearin gave her a weak thumbs up.

    The healer disappeared only to come back with a glass a water, then helped Nearin rise enough to drink without spilling water everywhere. Swallowing felt like tearing her throat open again but she was still thankful for the water. After emptying the glass she fell back onto the pillow.

    “By the way there is a bell on the night stand. Ring it if you need something,” then the girl left before starting to talk to another patient who was apparently in another bed a bit further away.

    Nearin adjusted her pillow while moving her head as little as possible. She was alive. She had only now really started to realise that. Because of her own recklessness she had come so close to dying. No, she told herself, that wasn't quite true. She hadn't had any way of knowing there would be anything like that inside.

    She shuddered. The woman had probably been a Succubus. She couldn't be sure, but the way the demon had gotten into her head certainly suggested that. Though she wasn't really an expert on the subject yet. But the biggest thing that had shaken her was that it had all happened after she had thought that the danger had passed.
    But still, she was alive.

    She smiled and fell back to sleep.

    “Oh, she is sleeping again. You should come back later.”

    Nearin opened her eyes. The voice had come from somewhere close but not from close enough for her to see while staring at the ceiling. She raised her hand to indicate that she was awake.

    “Seems we woke her up. Well don't keep her up too much. She needs her rest.” The healer's voice became more distant as she spoke. “Oh, and she can't speak yet. Just so you know.”
    After few moments Yanna popped into Nearin's view.

    “Hey! I heard you ended up here so I thought I should come visit as soon as possible,” she smiled. “How do you feel?” Nearin gave her a thumbs up causing Yanna to laugh nervously. How bad did she look? Nearin wondered. She could feel the bandages around her throat. Were they bloody? Then the healer would have changed them right? She didn't remember getting any scratches or anything in her face so she was probably just pale and looked exhausted.

    Yanna fetched a chair and sat down on it. “So I hear you charged ahead and got your ass kicked?” she teased. Nearin closed her eyes for a moment then gave a thumbs up again. “Heh, I knew you were a hero type.” Nearin rolled her eyes.

    “So did they tell you if you are...” Yanna stopped to search for the words. “I mean when you are going to get better?” Nearin bit her lip. Thumbs down. Then again it most likely wasn't because she wasn't going to get better but simply because only one person had talked to her. And that person was quite young for a healer so was least likely to know to about it.

    But then again she wasn't really good at not fretting. She didn't think it was out of the realms of possibility that she had lost her voice forever. She didn't know much about healing so she had no idea how easy throats were to fix anyway.

    Would she be kicked out of the Paladin order? A soldier who can't communicate is a liability right? She swallowed and it hurt just as much as it had in the morning.

    Yanna took her hand and squished. “You'll be okay.” Nearin forced herself to smile. The words themselves didn't mean much, Yanna didn't know any more than she did, but it was nice to have someone who cared.

    Still it would have been nice if she could have figured how to sign: 'lets talk about something else.'


    Part 16: The Recovery
    Spoiler
    Show

    The next days of healing were for the most part boring. The first five days consisted only of staring at the ceiling, drinking water and few disgusting tasting potions that were supposed to help. During the sixth evening she even managed to swallow some food and use the chamber pot without assistance. Requiring assistance for that had been awkward.

    She still couldn't speak properly. Well she could say words and short sentences, but it still hurt too much for anything more than that. So she tended to stay quiet. Well she had been quiet beforehand as well, but now she had a nice excuse.

    On the tenth morning she managed to walk around without feeling dizzy. For about ten meters! It was actually surprisingly exciting. She had never been this ill before so any sign of getting better was something Nearin relished. Her throat though...

    Tiilin had checked on her later the first day after Yanna had left. The healer had told Nearin that she was lucky in that she would regain some use of her voice. That was it. Some use of it. When Nearin had been able to use a full sentence for first time, the healer had obviously been pleased.

    And she should be. She had saved Nearin's life after all.

    Of course, after that sentence her throat had hurt so much she couldn't get another word out for the next few hours.

    Yanna visited her every day which helped Nearin from being bored out of her mind. Two times she dragged one of her friends along. The quiet and violent girl who had been with the group that had ambushed her during her first morning in the compound. The girl was still quiet, though thankfully less violent.

    That was pretty much how the two weeks Nearin spent in the hospital wing went. Slowly regaining her strength and her weight. Though her throat did not seem to get any better, after that time she was judged strong enough to return to her lessons.

    So it was that one Tuesday morning she walked to Demonology lesson slightly late as Tiilin had decided to perform a few tests before allowing Nearin to leave. The lecture hall was like all the others in the compound except for a heavy reinforced door down near the blackboard. She would later find out that that was where many the books about demonology were stored.

    The instructor, a short bald man who had been drunk during the admittance ceremony, didn't even seem to notice a novice arriving late and continued his lesson without a slightest look of annoyance.
    The other novices did notice her though. First there was silence but as she started walking towards the empty seat next to Yanna people started whispering to each other.

    ”What are they whispering about,” she muttered quietly. Then she shut up as the pain blossomed in her throat.

    ”You, obviously. You are the first of them to nearly die when fighting demons,” Yanna shrugged. ”Of course it's interesting enough to gossip about.” Nearin groaned.

    ”Now that we have gone through what we learned last time we can move to today's topic,” the instructor continued. Damn, a recap could have been useful, Nearin thought. ”The Circles of Demons.”

    ”As you probably know almost all demons belong to one of the three circles. The demons of the first circle are beasts. None of them speak and they don't appear to be sentient. They either follow the will of higher circle demons or act on their instincts and their hunger if no one else is not there to command them.” He drew three circles on the blackboard, one inside another. Then he wrote the word beast on the outermost one.

    ”Generally they are regarded as the weakest of the demons. Common species include the hellhound and the swamp troll. I heard some of you actually tackled with the former already.” He shook his head.

    Tackling had been pretty literally in Nearin's case. If she closed her eyes she could hear the hellhound's snapping jaws as it tried to get a good grip on her head in order to crush it. She could also feel people staring at her again. Just what she needed.

    ”The demons of the second circle are different. They are stronger and more intelligent. Also while many first circle demons have magical abilities, like the hellhound's ability to breathe fire, the second circle demons have vastly more outlandish abilities. The Succubi are known to mess with your mind. The Oracle fishes have the ability to see the future. We are lucky they almost never work with other demons.”

    ”These demons instinctively understand every language in existence. Even code. Even if they have never heard it before. Often they operate alone, but sometimes they form groups. Usually they have packs of first circle demons to their bidding.”

    The instructor, whose name always escaped Nearin, paused for dramatic effect.

    ”And then there’s the third circle. The demon lords. The princes of hell. The fallen gods. We don't actually know if the last one is true or just a popular myth. The fact is we know very little of them. Each is unique and their powers are immense. It takes most of our entire Order to take on even one of them. We are lucky they never cooperate with each other or they would have destroyed us easily in the First War. They also cannot be killed by any other means than the blackblade.”

    Nearin swallowed. She steadfastly kept her eyes on the instructor, aware of even more stares at her. Why couldn't she just have been a normal novice who could blend in with others and wasn't singled out for anything special?

    ”We know about eight of them, but there could be more. As I said we know very little about them and what we know you will mainly learn during the second year. This year we are focusing on the first and second circles since those are the ones you are actually likely to find in the field.”

    And then he went on to start listing the demon species belonging to each circle. Nearin started finding herself spacing out, it felt like her hands were working autonomously while writing down what the instructor said.

    She was getting tired, she realized as the lesson went on. She had been up and about for a few hours already. Rubbing the bridge of her nose she sighed. At least she didn't have another lesson after this one as she was still forbidden from physical training.

    Besides, the scarf she was wearing around her neck was starting to itch. She imagined pulling it off when everyone was stealing looks at her and almost laughed.

    The silver lining of it all was that she knew most of the stuff in the lesson. She had studied extensively to make sure she would make it to be a paladin. So this one time she wasn't too hard on herself as it became more and more difficult to focus.

    Eventually the lesson ended.

    ”I think I need to go lay down,” Nearin told Yanna who frowned with concern.

    ”You okay?”

    ”I'm fine. Tired.” Nearin stood to leave when Yanna suddenly hugged her briefly.

    ”Go back to the healers if you start feeling worse, okay? Otherwise see you at the library this evening like we planned.” Then she left before Nearin had time to reply.

    Her face still red, Nearin staggered to her room where she collapsed on the bed. She lay down for a moment, and then pulled her itchy scarf away. On impulse she pulled her hand mirror from her nightstand and eyed the reflection of her ruined throat.

    At least no one would pay attention to the lump of her throat anymore.


    Part 17: Weak
    Spoiler
    Show

    Nearin woke up with the usual feeling of having had too long a nap. She groaned and sat up. What time was it? She wondered as she drew her robes on and stood to open the door. With the door open she could see the hallway was still filled with light. Good. She should go and find some food then.

    And that’s what she did, made her way to the kitchen and kindly asked for some leftovers since the lunch had just ended two hours ago. What she got was still a bit cold after being quickly heated, stale and difficult to swallow with that throat of hers, but she still made sure to eat it all. The servants hadn't had to give her anything, but they had, so she was going to show some gratitude.

    Afterwards she was feeling a bit better and wondered what she should do next. She was supposed to meet Yanna in the Library in about an hour so she could copy her notes from the time she had been bedridden. Well she could go there already and do some studying of her own. The chairs there were quite comfortable as well. So she could close her eyes if she needed more rest. She made her way to the library located on the upper floor of the main building.

    The Library was quite big for the fortress of this size and was composed of only the unrestricted books in the library. The rest were in the vaults like the one near the demonology lecture hall and those under the compound.

    Since it was facing the training yard and not towards outside of the compound, the windows in the library were allowed to be big and so they let out a lot of the light in. Between the shelves there were tables and those oh so comfortable chairs. Nearin picked one empty table and started looking for books about those subjects whose lessons she had missed.

    She found three that seemed to cover the right things, stacked two of them on the table then started reading the third. It was about the one thing she had most difficulty with in this entire place. Okay, maybe the second most difficulty after her own anxieties.

    It was a book about basic spellcasting theory. She could already feel a headache forming as she started flipping through the pages, looking for the right chapter. It felt like casting spells was for those magical people who were calm all the time.

    She had succeeded a few times after that time in the baths all those weeks ago. But she was still far, far behind everyone else.

    “Hey, freak!” a voice suddenly taunted just as Nearin was reading the same paragraph for the fifth time, still not quite understanding what it meant. She glanced up and saw the boy who had been with Yanna and the others when they had confronted her. Not the tall, lanky and awkward one, but the one who had been calling her a freak back then as well.

    “What do you want?” she croaked. Every word was like twisting a knife inside her throat. It took all her willpower to glare at the boy.

    “Oh, I just heard you got your ass kicked by the demons.” The bully leaned over the table, towering over Nearin. “But weren’t you supposed to be a super awesome blackblade? Maybe you aren’t so tough after all.”

    Nearin glanced around. Apart from them the Library was empty. “Go away.” She stared at the bully directly in the eyes.

    Greir. That was the boy’s name she suddenly remembered. He was big, a full head taller her and much more muscular. She stopped herself from swallowing loudly.
    She had seen the boy in the training field. The truth was that he wasn’t very good. He was someone who was so used to being stronger than his opponent that he counted on that being enough to win. In a sword fight Nearin was confident she could win against him easily. In hand to hand her chances were bleaker but still there.

    Normally.

    At the moment she didn’t think she was strong enough wrestle with a kitten. Maybe a lame one. Maybe.

    “That’s the point though, isn’t it? You can’t make me.” He gloated as he pushed one of her books off the table. “You are supposed to be the strongest of us, but are just a pathetic freak, who pretends to be a girl.”

    Nearin rose to her feet, only managing to avoid wobbling by steadying herself by keeping one hand on the table. The boy was looking more and more angry and self-confident. Maybe she shouldn’t have stood up.

    “Going to beat up a wounded girl then?” She leaned over to pick up the fallen book, but mostly to hide her grimace from forcing so many words from her mouth. She really needed to figure out how to say things with fewer words.

    Suddenly she heard a few quick steps as Greir stepped past the table and shoved her shoulders. Normally she would have staggered backwards from that, but now she was sent sprawling. Her head hit the bookshelf as she fell causing stars to dance before her eyes for a second.

    “Calling yourself a girl, disgusting.”

    Nearin groaned while her mind was filled with panic. She tried to rise only to feel a foot kick hard into her stomach, emptying her lungs. She gasped for air while the pain caused tears to appear in her eyes. Eyes she managed to close before the next kick hit her face sending the back of her head against the bookshelf again.

    “What is going on here!” a voice rang through the library, stopping the bully in his tracks just as he was pulling his foot back for the third kick. He quickly set his foot down as Instructor Selazar stood near the entrance to the Library. Yanna was behind him and quickly ran past Greir to Nearin.

    “What do you think you are doing?” The old man shouted. “Attacking fellow novices is strictly forbidden. And kicking her while she is down? If you have so little honor, then what are you doing here trying to become one of us?”

    He walked over to Greir. “Go to my office and wait there.”

    “Nearin are you okay?” Yanna helped her sit up.

    “Hurts,” Nearin replied. She touched her throat then breathed in relief as the wound had not opened up. For some reason she wasn’t crying yet. Probably the shock. Good thing though, a Paladin shouldn’t cry just because she got beat up.

    “You should probably help her back to the hospital wing,” Selazar advised Yanna.


    Part 18: Hanging On
    Spoiler
    Show

    Luckily, Nearin’s thick skull protected her from any real damage. Tiilin had checked on her while Yanna stood nearby and continually cursed Greir. In the end all Nearin got was a black eye and bruised stomach. Neither was bad enough to warrant a healing spell.

    But the black eye was bad enough to attract even more stares at her. She couldn’t help but wonder how many others approved of what Greir had done. She shuddered. Who knew how far Greir would have been willing to go if he hadn’t been interrupted. He probably hadn’t intended to kill her, that would have gotten him thrown away into prison immediately, but there was no safe way to kick someone in the head. He could have killed her accidentally.

    And that, more than anything, scared her.

    At least the ******* was locked up in the dungeons or so they had told her. And would be for the rest of the week.

    Still, in an effort of will that surprised even herself, she refused to avoid situations where she would be alone. She knew herself. If she were to start avoiding those situations and jumping at shadows she would never be able to get rid of the habit.

    Two days passed without incident, though even with coaching from Yanna she wasn’t making good progress on catching up in spell casting lessons. Then came the evening she had been dreading. The evening she was supposed to continue her training with knight-champion Selesta. She was only fainting two to three times per training session, but with all the pain she had been in the recent weeks she didn’t fancy any more discomfort.

    But there was nothing she could do about that. The Order needed a Blackblade apprentice to be ready to take the Blackblade’s place in the case he or she died. So she needed to learn to wield that sword as soon as possible. It was not like she had ever imagined that being a paladin was easy.

    She carried her candle as she made her way to under the compound. She swallowed as she made her way past the dungeons, knowing that Greir was in one of the cells. Gloating didn’t really hold any appeal to her.

    “Hey pally!” Nearin stopped in her tracks and looked around. The voice wasn’t Greir’s but belonged to the unwashed prisoner who had been watching her when she first came here. “What beat you up?”

    Nearin turned to face him. “Not your business,” she croaked. She had worked for months on her voice, getting it to higher pitch and had been quite proud of it. Now she sounded like a raven with a hangover.

    “Ooh, so you are the pally that got your throat ripped off by that succubus?”

    “How’d you- The warden probably told you.” Or he had heard the warden talking about it to someone else. Nearin shook her head and turned to go.

    “Did it find what it was looking for? The notebook?” The prisoner sounded excited.

    Nearin stopped. “The what?”

    “The prospector’s notebook. Which the succubus was looking for. Did it find it?” he sounded like he was getting impatient. Nearin just stared at him, dumbfounded. Obviously, things were way above her pay grade but she didn’t know if anyone knew what that woman had been looking for.

    “Ooh you don’t know!” The prisoner did a little dance in his cell. “Now this is intriguing!”
    Nearin backed away. She had to tell someone about this. So she ran. If they already knew that the prisoner knew, then she would at worst appear stupid. If they didn’t…

    As she approached the vault door she suddenly came to a halt. She blinked few times. Why had she been in a hurry? She rubbed the bridge of her nose. A headache already?

    She shrugged and went inside to the vault where Selesta was waiting for her. The knight-champion was sitting on a chair and reading a book. She set the book down as she noticed Nearin.

    “Tiilin insisted I go easy on you this time. Because of your injuries,” she said, her face unreadable. “Of course, it’s a not a physical thing what we are training down here. It’s mental.”

    Nearin lowered her head, resigning herself to fainting several times in the next hour.

    “Still, I agree with her. Your progress before you got injured was satisfactory. We can allow you to regain a bit more of your strength instead of risking a setback.”

    Nearin made a choking sound. That was the first time Selesta had given her any sort of compliment.

    “Do you know why we Blackblades are often regarded as outsiders by the rest of the order?”

    “Uh, because we are the only ones who can kill the demon lords?” Nearin suggested. She thought that Selesta wouldn’t accept ‘because we have scary swords.’

    The dark skinned woman picked up the sword from its pedestal and inspected it thoughtfully. “No it’s because we are the only ones who can understand demons.”

    “What do you mean?” Nearin was baffled.

    “Because we are the only ones who know the hunger. The rest know of it. They know about it. But they don’t know it. They have never felt the bottomless hunger that drives those beast. We have. We feel it every time we pick up this blade. We willingly expose ourselves to it so that mankind can have hope.” Nearin could have sworn that the blade was writhing within Selesta’s grasp, even though it was completely still.

    “People don’t think of us as the epitome of Paladinhood. They do not see us as the shining knights who protect them. To them we are dangerous weapons to be watched and kept stashed away until we are needed,” Selesta sounded bitter.

    “But do not for a moment think that the calling we both have is any less noble than the other paladins’. If we have to sacrifice companionship to fight the ultimate enemy, then that is the sacrifice we are glad to make. Because someone has to do it.”

    She suddenly tossed the blade to Nearin who caught it. Instantly Nearin felt the familiar pressure appear in her head.

    “I said I would go easy on you today, not that I’d allow you to slack completely.”

    Nearin doubled over as the pressure kept increasing in her mind. She kept a tight grasp on the hilt even as it became difficult to think. Even as the pressure began to take over her senses. She gasped for air, feeling as if she was going to suffocate. Then with a wordless cry she straightened up.

    She wobbled on her feet, but still she didn’t let go. Didn’t allow herself to get absorbed in the sensation of hunger. She continued focusing on her own senses. On sensations that were real. And when more and more of the hunger crept into her she focused it into things she wanted to achieve. She wanted to get more words of praise from Selesta. She wanted to become strong. She wanted to become something. She didn’t want to feel helpless anymore.

    And so she held onto the sword, for minute after minute, unable to do more than grit her teeth.

    “That is enough, you can let go of it.” Nearin dropped the sword then fell to her knees. Selesta was looking at her with a fierce pride in her eyes.

    A bit later, as Nearin was starting to leave she suddenly stopped at the door. “Weird, I feel like I was supposed to tell you something important, but I can’t recall what it was;” she croaked, the long sentence being almost as hard to get out of her mouth as the sword had been to hold.

    Selesta didn’t say anything, just frowned.


    Part 19: The Officers' Meeting
    Spoiler
    Show
    The meetings were usually held rather late. So this one wasn’t that unusual. Lately, the fact that everyone was tense hadn’t been unusual either. It had been weeks since the Succubus had almost killed Nearin and the paladins still had no idea what it had been looking for. Or where and how it had disappeared.

    Selesta was sitting on her seat on the right hand side of the knight-commander. As the knight-champion she was technically the second highest ranking officer in the compound. Technically, as her only underling was a one meek apprentice.

    She sipped her tea as she listened to Gaskos, the demonology instructor, and Selazar argue about why exactly the warding orb at top of the compound’s tower had failed to show the second circle demon in middle of the pack of hellhounds before it had almost killed a novice. Sending novices without the Aura of Command against a second circle demon was often considered a suicide mission.

    Those two came to argue over anything that worked as an excuse. The rest of the officers had already lost interest in the discussion that was leading nowhere. The truth was that the demon had found some way to fool the orb into showing it as a first circle demon. And until they found further clues into how it had done it there was nothing they could do.

    Eventually Alexander silenced both of them with a cough. The man could have a very pointed cough. Everyone at the table had learned to associate it with his deep displeasure.

    “Gentlemen, please. You can continue that discussion in private but I don’t want it eating our valuable time until one of you makes a breakthrough regarding it,” the Knight-commander said, not raising his voice once. “Is that understood?” Both men nodded unhappily.

    “Now on to other matters. We have a call for help from a village called Alne. They have had many mysterious disappearances lately and other strange happenings.”

    Firemind crossed her fingers behind her head and leaned back. “Why don’t we just delegate this to the count? It’s probably just bandits or a spirit the morons angered. The count could just send a few soldiers and one of his spirit binders and call it a day.”

    “Because protecting people is never beneath us,” Alexander explained patiently. “Because with everything else that has been happening lately we can’t overlook something that could be demon activity. And because the village is near the Phoenix’s Fall.”

    That got everyone’s attention.

    “Well that would be a good reason,” Firemind shrugged, still not really caring.

    Selesta thought about it for a moment then gestured with her hand. “I request this mission.”

    “Why? With the increased demon activity you should remain here, in the case of an emergency,” Salhos protested. “I could send a squad of third year novices with one of my trainers to take care of it.”

    “The fifth company has ridden north for field exercise. So Goiros is close by if you have need of a blackblade while I am gone;” Selesta countered. “Meanwhile I have an untested apprentice you saddled me with.” She glared at the others, letting them know that having been overruled on that decision still rattled her.

    “You have trained with her every week. And she went on a demon hunt way earlier than is normal for novices,” Tiilin pointed out.
    “Training is not same as testing. And yes, she went on a demon hunt… and almost died. You made her a blackblade apprentice. She does not have the time to learn slowly like other novices. I need to find out how she deals with being out in the world.”

    “You just want to get rid of him, don’t you?” Firemind poked Selesta on the shoulder. “Feed him to a shadowfiend or similar, then get a new apprentice more to your liking.”

    “Don’t be stupid,” Selesta said then turned to face the knight-commander. “Do I have your permission?”

    Alexander Ur-Manas stayed silent for a long moment. “Yes.”
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Eldest's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Someplace Nice
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Yay, you put it on Giantitp too!
    LGBTA+itP

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 20: The Rainy Road
    Spoiler
    Show

    The day Selesta and Nearin left the compound the weather had taken a sharp turn for the worse, rapidly getting colder. Cold rain and gusty wind just amplified the chill that did its best at sinking to their bones. The heavy jackets covering their mail shirts, the cloaks processed to handle rain and deer skin gloves put up a valiant fight against the weather, but they still couldn't make the six days of travel comfortable.

    The village of Alne was remote, so after the first three nights there had been no farms for them stay in, so they had to camp outside. Obvously their pack mule was carrying a tent so that they had someplace dry to sleep.

    It had been almost a month since Nearin had left the hospital wing and the only thing that hadn't recovered was her voice.

    Nearin stared at the meager fire they had started and shivered. Autumn had come early this year it seemed. The village was in the mountains so she hoped that the rain would stop soon. Searching the surrounding rocky areas would be decidedly unfun in this weather. It might even be dangerous.

    She glanced outside beyond the fire where the forest had gone dark hours ago. The only sounds were the cracking of the fire, the steady hammering of the rain on the tent's canvas. She shifted about in her bedroll a few times, then sat up and picked up the offending pinecone and tossed it into the darkness.

    ”Can't sleep, girl?”

    ”No, ma'am,” Nearin mumbled, embarrassed at having woken up her mentor. ”Nightmares,” she shrugged.

    ”Understandable. A Demon got inside your head. Nightmares are a common result of that. They'll go away eventually.”

    Nearin just nodded.

    ”I assume Tiilin told you this already?”

    ”She did. They didn't start until much later though.”

    ”They'll go away, now get some sleep.”

    Nearin remained still for a long moment then nodded before obeying, even though Selesta had probably fallen back into sleep already. She didn't actually remember the nightmare. Only the panic she had felt in it and the disturbing feeling that she had forgotten something important. She closed her eyes and listened to the rain, eventually falling asleep again.



    The morning came too early as usual. The rain had eased, but only a little. Now it was a trickle of small drops that kept everything wet instead of a constant hammering. Still, there was nothing to do about it, but start breaking up the camp.

    She was putting something in Selesta's saddlebag when she finally asked something she had been wondering about for a while.

    ”Ma'am?”

    ”Yes?”
    ”Why do you have two swords,” she gestured at the sword Selesta was carrying and to the bundle that was hiding the blacklade. Both were about the same shape and lenght so it wasn't like one was a sidearm.

    Selesta stared at her for a moment. ”Even though there is a change of demonic activity, the most obvious explanation is more mundane.” She mounted her white steed. ”The Blackblade is not meant for petty criminals.”

    Nearin shrugged, then took the reins of their pack mule before mounting her own steed. And then they continued the journey.

    Towards the noon the sky started clearing and after a few hours the North-Western mountains were visible on the horizon. Nearin pointed at the tallest one. ”Thats the Spear, isn't it? The tallest mountain in the queendom.”

    ”But then... the one behind it is the Phoenix's Fall right?” Nearin hurried her mount until he was next to Selesta.

    ”It is.”

    ”That Phoenix's Fall? The supposedly haunted volcano where the Demon Lord Nefertia was vanquished in the Second War?”

    ”The very same.”

    The questions were burning Nearin's throat but she wouldn't shut up just yet.

    ”Why do people live near that?” she croaked.

    ”The village was founded fifty years ago. The last confirmed haunting was thirty years earlier.”

    ”And the demon lord?” Nearin was glancing back and forth between the mountain and Selesta.

    ”That part is true as well.” Selesta patted the bundle that contained her blackblade. ”That is where it was defeated after being wounded by this very blade. Sadly it got away and escaped back to hell.”

    Nearin boggled. The blade that she had been training to use had wounded a Demon Lord? She had known its purpose of course, had know that wass a terrible weapon but she hadn't thought about its history. It made sense of course, the blackblades were not easy to replace.


    As the dusk approached they neared the village. It was located in a valley between two of the closest mountains. The valley was just big enough for the fields the small village needed. A few trees were left between the plots but it was obvious that the villagers had to go further for their firewood.

    The village would have looked idyllic, but the mere knowledge that people had been disappearing and the sinister reputation of the nearby mountain ruined the image. Nearin couldn't help but glance at the slopes that loomed over the valley.

    What was behind these disappearances?
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    The Succubus's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    *eagerly awaits next chapter* ^_^

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 21: The Mystery
    Spoiler
    Show

    Dusk wasn’t far away as the paladins rode into the village. The village was small, around twenty buildings all in all and no wall surrounding it.

    Someone must have spotted them as it looked like everyone had gathered in the middle of the village to greet them. Or to see them most likely. The villagers were dressed modestly though warmly enough to guard against the autumn chill.

    “Greetings, Paladins,” the village elder welcomed them. “We were growing worried that our blight might go unanswered.”

    “The Paladin Order exists to protect all,” Selesta replied stiffly. “And the location of this village drives it up in the priority list when it comes to investigating this sort of thing,” she continued as she dismounted.

    “Of course. You must be hungry and tired from the travel. Please give me the honor of sharing dinner with you and I can explain the situation while we eat.”

    Nearin was beginning to realize that as a paladin, it didn’t matter where she went, she would be gawked at. At least this time as most of her features were hidden under heavy clothing the stares of the villagers weren’t because of her gender. She wondered if the villagers had ever seen a paladin before.

    When she had been younger and traveled with her knightly father there had been a lot of attention directed at two of them, but as a child she had gotten a lesser share of the stares. And a knight wasn’t that uncommon a sight in bigger villages or towns. As a paladin, even just a novice, she felt like she was getting a much bigger share of the gawking.

    “We’d be delighted to.” Selesta then turned to her apprentice. “Nearin, take care of the horses.”

    Nearin nodded as she dismounted, then went to obey as one of the farm hands showed where she could stable the horses. The farm hand seemed intimidated by her, which weirded her out. She was supposed to be the one who was intimidated by others.

    Shaking her head, she made her way to the elder’s house. The house was the biggest in the village, though she still wouldn’t have called it large. It was already dark outside, but the fireplace and a few lit shingles provided some illumination. Obviously, the house didn’t have a proper chimney so the smell of smoke hung around in the air. Nearin blinked a few times, not used to it.

    The food was just being served, and even though it was as modest as everything else, after days on the rainy road the smell made sure that more than her eyes watered. After shedding her cloak and gloves she sat down next to Selesta, who was sitting on the right hand side of the Elder as proper for a visitor of high rank.

    “Now that my apprentice has arrived, maybe you could start explaining what has happened?” Selesta’s voice was one of neutral politeness. “Who has disappeared and when? Where were they last seen? Has there been anything suspicious or odd happening recently? Strange lights? Weird dreams, that sort of thing?”

    “Seven people in total have disappeared,” the Elder stroked his white beard that seemed to be the symbol of his office. “The witch, Ymin was first to go. Personally I think she is behind this somehow. You know how those witches are.”

    Selesta nodded politely. “Go on. When did these people disappear?”

    “The witch disappeared a month ago. At first we thought nothing of it, because she was always gone for weeks at a time in the mountains. The second person, Husos, disappeared three weeks ago.” He took a long drink from his mug. “It was around then that people started having nightmares. Some even ran away from the village in panic upon waking up. Sometimes injuring themselves. This is not a place where you want to be running around in the dark.”

    “Three more disappeared in the next week. Then, after we had sent our plea for help we had a week without anyone else going missing. That didn’t last. This week we lost three more. Everyone who disappeared did so during the night. When we had someone stay up and watch, then that person was one to go.”

    “These people who ran from the village,” Selesta asked between mouthfuls. “Was there a specific direction there were running to? Or from.”

    “Downhill away from the mountains. Usually a few hundred meters before they came back to their senses. Sometimes more.”

    Nearin was dividing her attention between the explanation, Selesta’s reaction and the food, doing her best not to miss anything.

    “And this witch. What makes you think she is behind this?” Selesta made a vague gesture then leaned back.

    “She is a witch! Spirits are things good people don’t deal with that closely. Not outside of binding. And these mountains have a very dark past. The spirits here do not have a friendly reputation.” The elder spoke with venom. “And that woman was hardly trustworthy in any case. Despite serving as the village healer she never cared about any of us.”

    Selesta nodded. “We will require a guide tomorrow to show us around the surrounding area as we begin our investigation.”

    Nearin was glad the conversation was over and she could focus on the delicious food again. It was just simple pork soup, but it was well made. Of course she knew that the amount of meat in the soup was higher than normal because both Selesta and she were considered important visitors.

    Yet, with spooky disappearances going on it, it was hard to relax. They were offered a place to stay with an old granny whose son and his wife were amongst those missing. The granny was also almost deaf.

    After the meal they made their way to her house. With the stars and one lit shingle as their only light source, the mountains looked downright creepy. The outlines of the slopes around were illuminated, but the slopes themselves remained dark, and could have hidden almost anything Nearin’s imagination was able to come up with.

    “What do you think,” Selesta asked as soon as they were inside.

    “Me, ma’am?”

    “Yes, you. I didn’t bring you here just to carry my things. I have a mule for that.”

    Nearin accepted the rebuke as she made her way towards the empty bed. “A Shadowfiend? Fits the nightmares.”

    “And why are there no bodies?” Selesta asked.

    “Lured them out and killed somewhere else?” Nearin reasoned as she got out of her clothing and slipped under the bed covers.

    “And the ones who ran away?”

    “Managed to resist?”

    Selesta shook her head. “An unprotected mortal who managed to resist possession by a shadowfiend wouldn’t be running very soon. Not if this one is strong enough to kill 7 people in three months. Also the pattern doesn’t fit a shadowfiend on a hunt. What else?”

    Nearin couldn’t think of any demon that would fit, but… “A curse?” She finally breathed out.

    Selesta extinguished the shingle. “That is much more likely. And what would be the purpose of the curse?”

    “Don’t know,” Nearin admitted with a pained rasp. “But something to do with Phoenix’s fall.” She had to swallow and wait for a moment before she could say more. “That’s where they were running away from.”

    “And that is where we will focus our investigation.”
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 22: Troubles and Disappearances
    Spoiler
    Show

    Running through the uneven, rocky terrain at night was stupidly dangerous. A single displaced rock could twist your ankle or cause you to fall and hit your head or plenty of other things. The point was that only the very careless or very desperate would do it. The latter fit the person that was hurrying down the hill towards the ruins that had been turned into a temporary shelter.

    Even though he knew the path perfectly from having lived his all life in the mountains he still slipped a few times in the dark. It was a miracle that by the time he reached the bottom of the valley he was only bruised.

    Of course with all the noise he had been making it was obvious that his approach had been noticed. As he stumbled to a halt and stood hunched, steadying his breath, a voice called out: ”Who goes there?”

    The sentry was standing just outside the area illuminated by the camp fires. By his stance it was also apparent that he was pointing a crossbow at the newcomer.

    ”Just me, Kevos” the newcomer breathed out. ”I have news! Important ones!”

    ”Well I am not waking up the boss unless you manage to convince me that’s true.” The sentry lowered his crossbow.

    ”Paladins! Two of them.”

    The sentry took a step back, dismayed. ”Damn. I better go wake him up then. Come.”

    Only the stone walls remained of the buildings the expedition was camped in. Canvases were pulled over where the roofs had been to provide some cover from the elements. The buildings had originally been filled with rubble but the few of them that housed the expedition had been cleared.

    The two men walked inside the biggest one. By the time the sentry had shaken awake his boss the news that something had happened had traveled around the camp and the people who had been asleep were waking up and making their way to that building. With all twenty of them there, the building was cramped indeed. Thankfully they had no need for a proper campfire as one of them knew a spell that would turn make a single log give out as much heat and light while lasting all night.

    ”What has happened?” The boss asked. He was by far the oldest member of the expedition, over seventy years old. He was bald and his frame was thin. It was a miracle he could walk at all on his own. Much less take part in expeditions to the mountains.

    Yet there he was. Sleeping less than anyone else. Eating less than anyone else. Suffering from the cold less than anyone else.

    ”The villager's call was answered already, boss,” the sentry answered. ”Paladins. Two of them.”

    The boss took a deep breath through his nose. ”Nothing but setbacks lately. We should have been ready weeks ago!”

    ”Can't we turn this to our advantage? Let them deal with the curse-wraith?” Someone asked.

    The boss shook his head. ”And what if they TALK to it? No Olwos, we can't take the risk. We have to eliminate them.”
    Olwos looked like he tried to form a counter argument but couldn't.

    ”So how are we going to do it boss? Rush them while they sleep?” A question came from another crossbow wielding sentry who had been guarding the other side of the camp.

    ”If we show our strength openly the response will be much bigger.” Someone else countered.

    ”We could just eliminate the whole village. Make sure no word gets out.”

    ”No. We do not have enough people to stop everyone from escaping. I know these people, I have lived with them for twenty years. They know these lands. If even a little boy escapes then we won't be catching him in the wilderness.” Kevos said and looked a little horrified by the idea itself.

    “He is right,” the boss said. “We will try to ambush them when they go out to investigate. Make sure no one knows what happened to them.”



    Shouting woke up Nearin. She rubbed her eyes and groaned before hurrying to get herself dressed. After pulling her jacket over her mail shirt she grabbed her cloak and sword and followed Selesta outside.

    “What happened?” Selesta asked. Sleepy villagers were starting to gather around even though the sky was only beginning to lighten.

    “My daughter! She is gone!” A woman cried. Her husband placed his hand on her shoulder to steady her.

    “Has anyone seen her?” Selesta demanded. “How old is she?”

    “Jeanin is eight.”

    “So she is the first child victim, right?” Selesta turned to the elder who nodded. “Send a search party downslope just in case. Nearin and I are going to search the way to Phoenix’s fall. We need a guide.”

    “Selvos.” A young man, around Nearin’s age, nodded.

    “Let’s go,” Selesta said to Nearin.

    “What about armor?” Nearin asked and gestured towards where the horses were stabled and the bulk of their gear stored.

    Selesta hesitated for a moment. “No time. Every minute could matter.”

    Nearin nodded and they left the village as the first rays of sunlight shone to the valley.


    Kevos watched the paladins leave. His legs hurt from to the camp and back again, and his bruises constantly reminded him of their existence. But they might not get another change as good as this. So he grimaced and started jogging towards the camp.
    Last edited by Delusion; 2015-10-22 at 04:18 PM.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    The Succubus's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    interesting. So the curse is both a spell and a wraith then? A sort of sentient spell.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 23: Slipping
    Spoiler
    Show

    The clouds had returned, but this time they did not bring rain. Good thing that. The curtain of water would have made the search a lot harder. Now the clouds were a light grey mass that was chasing the little holes of clear sky to the horizon. Only the very peak of the Spear itself was touching the clouds.

    All in all it suited the grey seriousness of the mountains and the seriousness of the situation. They still had no sightings of the child and they were getting desperate. And tired in Nearin's case. It had been weeks since she had been bedridden and she was returned to nearly her full strength. Nearly. But now as they rushed through the rough terrain at high altitude she was starting to sweat.

    Oh she could continue going on for quite a while, especially given how much she loathed the idea of disappointing Selesta. She was doing that already in multiple ways she was sure, but no reason to bring attention to one.

    But it was clear that of the three, she was going to be the one to tire first. It was inevitable. Selvos had grown up in these mountains and as such was used to the terrain and to the altitude. And Selesta... Nearin had trouble imagining Selesta getting exhausted. It didn't match the idea in her head of the stern, unmovable mentor who could probably do anything.

    As they arrived at the top of the ridge they stopped to scan for the missing girl. Below them was another small valley with a stream surrounded by dwarf birches. Thanks to the echo they had heard the stream long before seeing it.

    Of the girl there was still no sign.

    ”Sure this is the only way to the Fall?” Selesta asked growing frustrated as her theory was proving less and less likely.

    ”The only one an eight year old could take in middle of the night,” the guide answered. ”Well there is another but that is twice as long as it circles along the Spear's eastern slope.”

    ”No that wouldn't be it.”

    Nearin shivered and not from the cold. In fact with all the running she was feeling rather warm. No it was because of their theory. That the reason for disappearances was a curse. Curses were a serious taboo. Curses weren't really even taught, though most serious spell casters figured out how to cast one themselves. In the end all you needed to do was instead of drawing on your lifeforce to cast a spell to instead draw upon your very soul.

    But it was an act of violence. A soul never really healed from that and there were lots of ways it could go horribly, horribly wrong. Most people knew to stay far away from such acts.

    But someone obviously had not.

    They made their way through the valley. The downhill proving itself no easier to hurry through than the uphill as stones threatened to slip from under Nearin's feet. Twisting her ankle during a rescue mission wasn't something she would have lived down ever. Especially if it meant that they were too late.

    She swallowed her anxiety as they reached the bottom and managed to make their way over the stream and its slippery stones without incident.

    The opposite side of the valley had huge moss covered boulders. The path uphill, steeper on this side, snaked between them.

    The terrain had been rough enough that Nearin was starting to doubt the child could have managed this far. Every kilometre they walked without seeing the girl the bigger the chance of them being wrong about her having taken this route. There was every possibility that the girl had run the other way in panic as many others had. But if Selesta's theory was right and the curse had drawn the disappeared villagers to the Fall then an eight year old who probably could not make it all the way there during the night, if she could make it there at all, could possibly be intercepted.

    Suddenly a stone came free from under Nearin's feet and her knee came down on the ground hard. She grimaced, especially as she slipped a few feet downwards on the steep hill, causing a stream of pebbles to cascade down.

    Embarrassing, she thought as the she stood and watched the pebbles go. Then, when her gaze briefly wandered to a cavelike gap two boulders she noticed something. The moss was upturned and displaced, and the pebbles were rolling in that direction.

    ”Hey! Over there!” she shouted and pointed. She hurried towards the gap, careful not to cause a small landslide of pebbles. The two others barely had time to react before she reached it and saw the girls body inside. ****, she though. She had gotten out of habit of cursing out loud when she had been barely able to make a sound.

    She quickly knelt by the girl and checked her pulse, not even daring to breathe before she felt it.
    ”She's alive!” she shouted. That hurts so much more than just talking, she thought as she had to cough after.

    The girl was cold though. And there was some blood on her forehead and a gash on her thigh from a sharp rock. It wasn't deep, but if they hadn't found her...

    ”Move!” Selesta shouted and Nearin quickly made room for the older Paladin. ”She has hit her head. That can be very bad.” She cut a slice from her cloak quickly and handed it to Nearin. ”Press that onto the leg wound.”

    ”Selvos, the disappeared witch was your village healer, right?” She asked after examining the girls head for a moment. ”Did she keep a stock of potions?”

    ”Yes.”

    ”Then run back to the village and bring me Lishin's Light. If she doesn't have any then either Bluesnow Mixture or Grey Life. And bring Xorcon's Breath if there is any for the hypothermia,” She instructed. ”Nearin your cloak.” After her apprentice obeyed she wrapped the girl in that cloak as well as in her own. Minus the leg that was being treated.

    ”I-I can't read,” Selvos stammered.

    Selesta sighed. ”Nearin you go then and hurry, I am not half the healer Tiilin is, I am not sure how much I can do without the potions.” She then quickly gestured to Selvos. ”Press on the wound while she is gone.”



    ”Yes, ma'am,” Nearin said and started running.

    Pretty soon her legs were screaming for relief and she sped through the valley and up the hill, but she wasn't about to slow down when a life was on the line.

    Well maybe for about three seconds when she reached the top of the ridge.

    Anyway, even though she was sweating profusely soon she got into a steady rhythm of placing one foot in front of the other. She didn't manage to put her attention to anything else than going in the right direction and moving her legs.

    She would be dead on her feet when she finally got back there, but she was starting to be sure that she would make it all the way back without stopping or slowing down. Despite her exhaustion and the serious situation she allowed herself a self-indulging smile.

    Then a man stepped out from behind a tree in front of her and struck his knife into her stomach.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    The Succubus's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Poor Nearin. She really can't catch a break, can she...

    The business with Nearin running back instead of the villager smells mighty suspicious to me. They probably couldn't take on two Paladins together, but each alone....

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Maybe. Or maybe he really just can't read the labels on the potions

    Find out in the next exiting episodeTM
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 24: Ambush!
    Spoiler
    Show
    Despite the shock Nearin's training kicked in instantly. As she crashed into the man she brought up her elbow and it smashed into the man's chin. The man fell and Nearin momentum carried her over him, though she made sure to stomp on the man's crotch on the way over.

    She stumbled to a halt and pulled her sword out of its sheath. Her hand came to her stomach. Her mail shirt had just saved her life. The blow had almost knocked the air from her lungs but it would have killed her without that piece of armor she had worn just in case. Wise decision that.

    She swallowed; her attacker had not been alone. There were three others who had been hidden in the small patch of trees at the bottom of the valley. Two of them had been in the direction she had been running towards, so her decision to stop had been a good one. She doubted she could have been lucky enough for all of them to attack her protected Torso.

    Now they were trying to encircle her. She gave ground until her back hit a tree. Apart from the knife, the attackers had a club, and axe and a short sword. They all wore bandanas to cover their faces. By their stance they didn't look like they were professionals, but there were four of them, well three now that one was still on the floor.

    She had never fought against more than two. And that had been during training. She swallowed. At least she had her back against something, but it wouldn't save her for long. She had to grab the initiative.

    The one with the club who was to her right, was preparing to jump, so she surprised him by lunging at him. He stopped his jump and stumbled backwards trying to avoid the blade, but Nearin's sword gave her longer reach than his club and her sword reached his left arm, sinking in deep enough to meet the bone.

    The other two were already moving and Nearin pivoted to the left, blocking the slash the left handed woman made at her with her sword. She continued forward while their swords were stuck together, smashing the pommel into the attacker's face.

    Still she didn't stop moving as the axe reached for the back of her neck, but missed because of her motion and only scraped her jacket. She stepped behind the stunned woman, placed a hand on her neck and shoved her towards the other attacker.

    Nearin knew she should have attacked then and ended one of her opponents, but she hesitated and the moment was lost. She glanced up in the direction she should be running towards. The problem was that she was winded, and if her attackers weren't there was no way she could outrun them.

    She was starting to panic. She had just managed to humiliate her attackers but there were still four of them. They tried to circle her again, forcing her to back away to avoid that. The attackers were definitely more cautious now.

    Suddenly Nearin lunged to the left. This time her target was ready and quickly jumped out of her reach, but it was a feint and as soon as his feet left the ground she started pivoting slashing at the opponent to her right. The sword met an axe's handle. The axe wasn’t a proper battle axe and though the handle held, splinters went flying in the air. Stopping would have meant death, so immediately she thrust towards the opponent coming at from the center.

    The man with the knife had been charging at her from there as soon as she attacked the first time, but instead of the opening he had been hoping for he met her sword. The sword reached for his throat and he threw himself back to avoid it, but his foot slipped in the mud and he screamed as the blade carved a gash of pain across his face.

    The woman with the short sword had gotten behind Nearin by then and together with the club wielder who had avoid Nearin’s lunge she charged at her. Bringing her head down to avoid a wild slash by the axe Nearin did the only thing she could think of with two attackers behind her. She ran. Stepping on the knife wielder’s hand on the way purely by accident.

    The only problem was that it wasn’t the direction of the village. She had just started running in the only direction that was open. If she wanted to get back to the road she would have to turn sharply and risk being attacked again. She really needed a plan.

    And nothing came to her mind.

    She sped through a bush only to come to a halt as there was a cliff face in front of her. Her nearest pursuer, the woman who had lost her bandana and whose face was covered in blood from her broken nose, hadn't expected Nearin to stop so suddenly and she crashed into her, the sword scraping harmlessly at the mail.

    Nearin managed to stay on her feet and pivoted, attempting to cut her attacker's stomach open, but the woman was too close and the pommel struck her side instead. Still the woman flinched enough that Nearin could have killed her there and then but she had to block a blow from the axe inches from her face instead.

    Seeing the damage the axe's handle had already suffered Nearin took the one chance she could think of. Taking a step back back to get more room she struck an overhand blow at the axe instead of the wielder. The sword met the wooden handle at the spot it had struck before and the wood came apart. Not having time to think and thus hesitate as the others were coming at her Nearin turned the end of that attack into a thrust that went right through the man's chest.

    Time really should have slowed down dramatically. It didn't. Instead the man's eyes bulged and he stared at Nearin and the sword coming out of his chest for a moment. The he began to fall down and Nearin pulled her sword out to avoid losing her grip on it. She felt absurdly tired suddenly but made sure to turn back towards the other attackers and to take a proper stance.

    They took one look at her, winded but still unhurt and at her sword, red to the hilt, before turning to run.

    She had won, she realised suddenly. She had survived. The relief she ought to feel felt oddly muted. She still had her job to do of course, but she had to take a moment to steady her breath. Then she looked at the man who was taking his last gurgling breaths, the man she had just killed and she promptly threw up.
    Last edited by Delusion; 2014-11-29 at 06:00 PM.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 25: More Running
    Spoiler
    Show

    Nearin was panting and staring at the pool of her own vomit. Her stomach muscles cramped and she gagged, but nothing more came out. She closed her eyes and straightened. She had just killed someone. Someone who had been trying to kill her, true, but she felt sick nonetheless.

    Get a hold of yourself, you have a child to save. She took a deep breath, then quickly wiped the blood from her sword and started running.

    Getting into rhythm was a lot harder this time, as the bruise in her stomach kept reminding her of its existence. And then every tree and rock she passed looked like it could have hidden another ambush. Thankfully none did.

    The rest of the way of to the village was short but painful. The bruise made her wince often when her breathing started getting faster.

    She got instant attention when she stumbled into the village. “I need to get to the witch’s house,” she told the nearest woman. “Potions,” she croaked as explanation.

    “Did you find her?”

    Nearin nodded.

    “This way.”

    The house was at the very edge of the village. It was well kept and larger than many others with extra room for seeing patients in addition to the normal living spaces. Also there was room that resembled a second kitchen with cupboards filled with potions and ingredients for potions.

    Nearin started going over them, doing her best to remember which ones Selesta had needed. The labels were written with the elegant but large handwriting of someone whose eyesight has been getting worse.

    She picked the three Selesta had asked for and two others she recognized and thought might be useful. Abruptly, she realized she needed a bag to carry to carry them. She could have gone to get her own but it would have taken time so she just grabbed one from a shelf as well as a rag to use as padding for the potions. She sniffed at the rag suspiciously first before touching it though.

    “Was she hurt badly?” The woman who had showed Nearin the house asked as Nearin stepped outside.

    “I-I’m not a healer, ma'am,” Nearin stammered. She didn’t want to cause unneeded worry, but neither did she want to give false hope if she got back too late. “But she is alive and we will do our best to help her.”

    Then she started running despite the protests of her leg muscles. “Where is she?” The woman shouted after her.

    “We found her on the path to the fall,” Nearin shouted back without turning, afraid that with her luck she would stumble on top of her bag. She thought she heard the woman start praying.

    The way back was slower as she had to take extra care to protect her impromptu potion bag and because she was getting exhausted. Understatement of the year, she thought as she pulled off her gloves and wiped sweat from her brow. She hoped she wasn’t too late.

    Eventually she slid down to the valley where she had been ambushed. She swallowed and moved her hand to the hilt of her sword. Logically, it was an even less likely place for a second ambush than any other point along the path, but logic didn’t stop the visceral reaction to being again at the ambush site. The man she had killed wasn’t visible from the path, but the feeling of guilt twisted in her stomach all the same.

    She forced the thought away. There was plenty of time to wallow in guilt after she had saved the girl. Or after Selesta had by any rate.

    After an all too long moment she finally arrived at the valley with the stream and the rocks. A sudden fear gripped her. What if she hadn't been the only one targeted. Of course Selesta had much higher chances of surviving ambush than Nearin did, but if she had been surprised while focusing on healing...

    Nearin hurried her steps.

    Numerous pictures of bad things raced through her mind. What if she found all three of them dead. What if she had been late? What if she had accidentally picked a wrong potion?

    She didn't dare to check. Checking wouldn't matter anyway. The potion bag was a burning presence at her side that she did her best to push from her mind as she climped the last few metres and peered into the cave.

    To her relief both Selesta and Selvos were alive and appeared to be allright. And the gentle glow of the healing magic revealed that the girl was most likely still alive as well.

    “Ma'am, I have the potions,” Nearin panted as she took the bag from her shoulder and opened it.

    “Finally,” Selesta said as she started checking the contents of the bag. “I was beginning to get worried.” She took the first of the potions. “We were lucky I think she lost consciousness due to exhaustion rather than due to hitting her head. Brain damage is really tricky to heal.”

    “Ma'am,” Nearin swallowed. “I was attacked on the way. Masked thugs. Four of them. Armed.” She was panting between the words. Now that she no longer needed to push herself she collapsed, leaning against the rock.

    “What? Where? What happened?” Selesta looked surprised and concerned.

    “They ambushed me in one of the valleys. We fought and I.... I...” Nearin struggled with trying to get the word out. “I killed one of them.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “The rest fled.”

    Selesta nodded slowly. Selvos looked ill and scared.

    “We better get moving as soon as I have used these. This place might not be safe for much longer,” Selesta said as she fed the girl some of the potions. One she poured on the wounds. And one of the two extra ones Nearin had brought she didnt use at all.

    Nearin groaned, then after a moment struggled to her feet. The limps protested by aching horribly. No running this time she hoped.

    “Uhmn, you have blood there,” Selvos said as they were beginning to leave and pointed at the back of Nearin's head.

    “What?” Nearin croaked and touched the area. When she pulled her hand back her glove was bloody. “It's not mine,” she said immediately. It had to be from the woman whose nose she had broken who had later crashed into Nearin.
    The man nodded, but still looked disturbed. He has probably never met anyone who has killed, Nearin thought and grimaced.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 26: Rumination
    Spoiler
    Show

    It was well into the evening. Nearin scratched the back of her head. Getting the blood out of her hair had been difficult. At least the man she had killed hadn’t bled on her.

    The man she had killed…

    She felt sick, but forced her mouth open and took another bite of the bread. They were eating dinner at the village Elder’s house. Selesta hadn’t wanted to go back to investigate before the child woke up. Nearin’s feet were infinitely grateful for that.

    Now the girl was awake and Selesta was questioning her gently while the girl who was starving ate.

    “What do you remember of the dream?” Selesta asked.

    The girl was about to answer, but her mother looked at her sharply, and she quickly swallowed her food first. “There was an old lady who told me to follow her.”

    She was much less pale now that the potions had had time to do their job. Though her wounded leg still couldn't handle her weight, but she would be able to walk again with time.

    “What did she look like?”

    The child opened her mouth, then closed it again. “I don’t remember,” she admitted after a moment. “I think she looked familiar.”

    Selesta frowned. “And then you followed her?”

    The girl shook her head. “I am not allowed to leave the village alone. But she kept asking. And then she turned scary. Like her face turned like this,” the girl made a face. “She was really angry and,” she hunched, “I don’t remember anymore.”

    “It’s okay,” Selesta reassured, then stood up and indicated to Nearin that she should follow her outside where they could talk privately. Grimacing Nearin got up on her protesting feet and followed.

    “What do you think?” Selesta asked as soon as the door closed. They were few villagers out and about but none near them. It wasn’t dark quite yet, but the shadows of the mountains made the twilight even dimmer.

    “Still sounds like a curse to me, ma’am,” Nearin shrugged and sat down on the bench that lined the wall. It was maybe a bit out of protocol while her mentor was still standing, but her feet overruled her anxiety.

    Selesta hadn’t gotten rid of the frown on her face. “The figure though… The curses are not subtle things. If you were to use a curse to draw people to a certain place why bother using dream figures if you can just overpower the victim? The Curses don’t run out of power.”

    “If not a curse then what?”

    “There is a way the caster’s personality can bleed into the curse.”

    Nearin sputtered. “A curse wraith?” The ultimate consequence of losing control of a curse. That was pretty much everything she knew about the being. Except that it meant the caster was dead. Supposedly there was no afterlife for the curse wraiths.

    “Would explain the dream figure.” Selesta’s voice was pretty nonchalant, but the frown, that was somehow different from either the ‘disapproving frown’ and the general stern frown that were usually directed at Nearin, told that she was worried.
    “So what can it be capable of?” Nearin asked after clearing her throat.

    Selesta shrugged. “No way to tell exactly before we meet it. Mental domination obviously, so tomorrow you will stay near me unless I say otherwise.”

    “Yes, ma’am.” Nearin leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. They would likely get into a fight again with her attackers. The thought caused her stomach muscles to clench.

    Suddenly she felt the weight on the bench shift as Selesta sat next to her. “You are still shocked, aren’t you.”

    Nearin look down guiltily, not even sure what she was feeling guilty of, then nodded.

    “Good. It should never feel easy.” A moment of silence. “Can you think of any way you could have avoided it?”

    Nearin thought about it. About the way her attackers had been in her way stopping her from simply running past them. Eventually she shook her head.

    “You had the right to defend your life and the life of the child who might not have survived without those potions.” Selesta looked at Nearin. “Draw your sword.”

    Puzzled, Nearin did and handed it to Selesta who had gestured her to do so. Selesta held it horizontally by supporting its hilt with one hand and the blade with other. “When you were given a sword for the first time, what were you told?”

    “That it is not a toy,” Nearin answered as the memory came to her strongly. She dismissed the thought before any later resentment for her father could darken it.

    “Indeed. This is a weapon made for killing. It is not a toy. It is not a tool. Those who treat it as either do not respect the weapon and the others end up paying the consequences for it. Each weapon is built to end life and sometimes in order to protect the world we Paladins have to use them to that end.” Selesta stared at the distance as she spoke reliving another moment as she spoke.

    “But we must not view it as a tool. Violence is the tool of the oppressors, easily grasped, wielded without second thought. To us it must remain a weapon. Something only used when there is no other option. When we have no other option but to end a life.” Selesta stood up and handed the sword back to Nearin.

    “Remember that feeling. Do not forget it. Let it temper your blade. But do not be consumed by it.”

    Nearin nodded numbly.

    “What do we do now, Ma'am?”

    “In the morning we go to the Phoenix's fall.” Selesta went inside, but Nearin remained sitting.

    She stared at her sword. Who had the person she had killed been? Oh they'd surely find out what group he had been part of. But would she ever know his name? Or where he was from? Had he left behind any friends or family? That thought made her stomach twist unpleasantly.

    Did she have any right to want to know those things about someone she killed. Or did she even want to. She sighed and looked at the darkening sky. It was going to be a long night for her she guessed. Then she sheathed her sword and went back inside.
    Last edited by Delusion; 2014-12-23 at 05:30 PM.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Sorry for long wait (if someone actually reads this heh). Had writers block and other setbacks.

    Part 27: Gambles and Cookies
    Spoiler
    Show

    “And done,” the man said as he the glow of healing magic disappeared and he started to wrap the arm with bandages.

    “You couldn’t heal it all the way?” Kevos whined.

    “Complain to someone who cares and be happy you didn’t lose the arm,” the man grunted.

    The camp could rarely be described as peaceful but now the usual ruckus was replaced with the tension of waiting for the storm. Only three members of the party that had gone to track the Paladins for the ambush had returned, two of them wounded and all of them bruised.

    “You should have waited for the rest of us,” someone complained.

    “The paladin was alone. We figured we could take him on with four of us. We might have been too late if we had waited!”

    “Well you figured wrong,” the boss stated. He was standing near the remains of a window that had been covered with a canvas before wind had ripped the canvas off about an hour ago, staring at the silhouette of the dormant volcano against the darkening sky.

    The three survivors visibly flinched from the words, but when the boss didn’t say anything more the argumentative chatter started again.

    “I thought the paladin was a she to be honest.”

    “With that face?”

    “I don’t care what it is I’ll ****ing kill it,” cursed the woman whose nose was still red from healing. “It ****ing killed Sararos. I’ll make the ****er pay.”

    “You got your ass handed to you though,” a short man, who was fixing the fletching on a few of his arrows, quipped.

    “Oh shut up. She just lost her lover. Show some sympathy,” Olwos said as he stepped in front of him. The man glanced up and noted the difference in height before looking down again.

    “Whatever.”

    After staring down for a good few seconds longer, Olwos turned their leader. “Boss, what do we do now?”

    “They’ll have to go to the Fall eventually.” He glanced over his shoulder. “It’s time we take the kid gloves off. Lehner you will wait near the village for Kevos to signal you that the Paladins have left. Kevos you will show him a good hiding place that is near enough.”

    “The rest of you will stand watch near the Fall.”

    All chatter had stopped and everyone was listening intently, waiting for him to tell what he was planning.

    “I’ll use the spell our Patron gave me in case of emergency. We are running out of time.”

    “Will that not be dangerous? From what little you told me about it, it could make our mission impossible if it goes wrong. Or kill us all if it goes really wrong.” Olwos asked nervously.
    “If the Paladins send word back that they suspect cultist activity we’ll be neck deep in Paladins within two weeks. We have made next to no progress in getting past the curse-wraith in a long time. The gamble to kill them before they learned of us didn’t pay off,” the boss turned to face the others. He didn’t have to put his displeasure to words. “Now we have no choice but to try another.”

    “If it works it will kill both them and the wraith.”


    Nearin grimaced as she tentatively put weight on her feet. Sore muscles were something she was intensely familiar with, but that didn’t make the experience any more pleasant. When she was sure her legs wouldn’t break like twigs from her weight she started dressing.

    While she did the bed continued being there, tempting her with its softness. She didn’t normally have any difficulties waking up early, but now she felt like she hadn’t slept at all. Of course she knew she had slept, but she couldn’t remember when she had actually fallen asleep. She had just been rolling in her bed and then it had suddenly been morning.

    So yes, she was tired. Her eyes felt strained and it was difficult to keep them open. And she really needed to get to an outhouse, she realized as pulled on her boots.

    So off she went to find said outhouse. Even with it still being rather dark in the valley, it wasn’t hard to find thanks to the smell. As she relieved herself she had to swat a few insects who hadn’t realized that the summer had passed.

    As she made her way back she turned the wrong way. All the houses looked the same this early in the morning.

    Don’t panic, you can’t get lost in a village this small, she told herself. Taking a deep breath she looked up at the mountains, trying to reorient herself with them. That worked and after a few moments she turned ninety degrees and started walking in what she thought was the right direction.

    “Is there something wrong with your arm?” a feminine voice from around the corner asked.

    “No, why?”

    “You keep touching it as if in pain.”

    “No I’m not.”

    “Don’t be stupid.”

    Feeling like she was intruding, Nearin hastened her steps and walked past them. The woman glanced at her and nodded in greeting, but the man who had his back to her didn’t react instead he pointed to his arm.

    “Okay, well it’s kind of embarrassing but I cut myself while carving.”

    Nearin continued walking, but when she was out of the earshot she suddenly stopped. Then pieces locked together and she started running.

    “Ma’am,” she tried to shout as soon as she saw Selesta, but managed just a croak that was bit louder than usual as her throat refused to make a sound louder than that.

    “Yes, what is it?” Selesta asked. She was picking on a cookie while sitting on the bench by the door of the house they were staying at.

    It took a few moments before Nearin could speak again, but her mentor waited patiently. “I think I saw one of my attackers here. He had a wound in his arm. The same arm I wounded one of them.”

    Selesta sighed. “Suspected they’d have people in the village. These mountains are not easy to navigate without a guide.” She ate the cookie in silence for a moment while thinking. “Can you recognize him?”

    “I didn’t see his face, ma’am. I recognized his clothing though.”

    “We should be able to find him then, not many people with wounds in their arms. Let’s go ask him some questions.”

    Nearin nodded. Then pointed at the small pile of cookies on the bench next to Selesta. “Can I have one?”

    Selesta laughed. “Sure, but eat it before we find him. Eating cookies is not terribly intimidating.”
    Last edited by Delusion; 2015-01-21 at 05:25 PM.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    The Succubus's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Unless they're fel cookies, of course. They give a +5 to Intimidation and the crunching causes sonic damage on a critical.

    They emergency spell certainly sounds ominous though.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Now now what kind of self respecting Paladin would carry such demonic artifacts as fel cookies?
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Another long delay. Writer's block followed by a long flu are to blame for this one.

    Part 28: A Signal
    Spoiler
    Show

    The cookie was very tasty. Whoever had made it had maybe been a bit heavy handed with sugar but the overly sweet taste still worked together with the pieces of oat that crumbled in her mouth.

    Nearin sighed with contentment then brushed a few crumps off her scarf. Grumps weren’t intimidating. To be honest, the idea of her being intimidating was hilarious. Though she had beaten the man they were looking for and his three friends. That had to up the scary factor a bit.

    “This is it,” Selesta said as they arrived in front of the house where they had been told their suspect was likely to be.

    Nearin cocked her head. “Why is there such a big hole in the roof?” she wondered. The building was not otherwise ramshackle or anything.

    Selesta shrugged before knocking on the door. There was a loud yelp of surprise and the sound of a chair toppling. Then footsteps until the door opened. “I told you my hand is fi-“

    “It’s him,” Nearin whispered. Most of the man’s face had been covered when she had seen him, but she was sure. The outfit, the build of his body, hair color. It all matched.

    “Hello. We’d like to talk to you about how your arm got wounded,” Selesta’s voice was polite but firm to a degree that Nearin was sure she had practiced it. “Would you be so kind as to show us the wound?”

    The man backed away. “What are you talking about?”

    “You are suspected of attacking a paladin on duty and thus putting a child’s life in danger. It would be better for you if you cooperate.”

    Nearin tried to look as stern and intimidating as Selesta. Though the man was paying Selesta much more attention than her. Maybe it was because they were armed and the man wasn’t, but after a little more persuasion he removed his jacket, showing the bandaged wound right where Nearin had hit the attacker.

    “Take the bandage off,” Selesta commanded. “Don’t worry, I know Healing.”

    “That’s a Healed sword wound all right.” She commented after the bandage had come off. “Sit down and explain why you attacked my apprentice while I bandage it again.”

    “I didn’t…”

    “Look, when we have solved these disappearances we will drag you before a judge. If you are found guilty of attacking a Paladin you will likely be hanged,” Selesta said as she put a new bandage on the arm. “If you help us you will likely end up just in prison.”

    Kevos slumped as he went over his options. They weren’t very good. “Look, I had to help them. There was no way they could have hidden in the mountains without local help. They would have had to try to kill us all!”

    “Who are they?” Selesta asked.

    “Some cultists from the south. I don’t know from where.”

    “And what is it that they are doing?”

    The man went silent, obviously trying to decide what to tell Nearin thought. “I don’t know exactly. There is this metal orb they are trying to get to caves at the volcano.”

    “But they are stopped by the curse-wraith, yes?” Selesta asked.

    Nearin was pacing around the room, her attention fixated on the hole in the roof. It was placed next to the rafters. Why was it there? Why had it not been fixed?

    “You knew about it?”

    Selesta allowed herself a small smile at the man’s surprise. “When are they planning to ambush us next?”

    “After you have taken care of the curse-wraith. There was talk about an ambush on the road south.”

    Nearin pulled a chair closer and stood on it, tiptoeing so she could see out of the hole. It was facing the mountain cliffs. She dropped down and looked around the room until she noticed something metallic under the bed. After walking over she pulled the lantern from there. “For signals,” she said and gestured towards the hole when Selesta turned to look.

    “Good job,” Selesta said. “When were you meant to signal them? When we left?”

    “Yes,” Kevos admitted.

    “Good, then they won’t be expecting us.”


    Selesta and Nearin got two of the villagers to watch over Kevos while the paladins went to the Phoenix’s Fall to search for more answers. The two biggest men in the village even.

    It was one of the most awkward moments Kevos had had in his life. After the paladins had left he had muttered something about how the villagers would have been killed without him. The two men he had known since childhood looked like they wanted to believe him but didn’t.

    Now he was still sitting on that chair and covering his face with his hands. He shook his head and looked around. The house wasn’t big but since he was unmarried he had never lacked the room. Not when he had grown up in here and not when he had later inherited it.

    There was the corner his father had used make carved figurine from wood. A habit he had copied. In fact on a shelf many of those he had made over the years were displayed. Only the best of course, the ones he was most proud of.

    He glanced out of the windows towards the village he had always wanted to move out of, then let his gaze wander back inside and let all the memories come and go. Even when he had grown to hate living in a small backwater village this house had always felt his. A place where he could be alone whenever he wanted to.

    He took a deep breath then stood up, knocking a burning shingle with his elbow so that it fell on the straw bed.


    Lehner stood on his hiding place on top of the cliffs, watching the village. His cloak was pulled tightly around his body, but it still didn’t help against the cold wind much. He rubbed his hands together and wished he had thicker gloves.
    As a Whisperer, he was used to waiting. Whisperers often had to be available around the clock in case an important message needed to be sent. But he was a city dweller and so he was used to waiting in a comfortable office and not on a mountain cliff. He promised himself he would never accept a job like this ever again.

    Then he noticed his signal. Though instead of a faint light of the lantern, this light was a lot bigger. Had the idiot set the house on fire accidentally? Was this his signal at all? It was coming from Kelvos’ house.

    Better safe than sorry, he thought and begun casting the spell needed to whisper his message.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 29: A Cloud
    Spoiler
    Show

    ”Do you think he spoke the truth?” Nearin broke the silence with a rasp. They had been walking for a while and were about half way to the Fall. Selvos was walking a few dozen meters ahead of them. With how her legs felt and with her wearing more armor she was having difficulty keeping up but she was managing somehow.

    “Honestly? No idea,” Selesta chuckled.

    “Shouldn’t we have questioned him more?” Nearin stopped from surprise for few seconds before remembering to start walking again.

    “Not worth it. The problem is that we don’t know what part was true and what wasn’t. If we had pressed more it’s just as likely that truth would be replaced with new lies as the other way around,” Selesta explained before smiling. “But at least now they will not be getting a signal that we are coming.”

    A big fat drop of water hit Nearin’s nose. She blinked and looked up as it started to rain. It wasn’t a downpour like it had been on their way from the compound, but fat and lazy drops that fell here and there. Annoyed, Nearin put her helmet on. It limited her vision somewhat, and the sound of drops hitting the helmet was annoying, but it kept the water out of her face. At least when the wind was to her back.

    Well, if a little rain was the worst this day had to offer, she’d count herself lucky. She shuddered and walked after Selesta.


    The boss looked at the sky, disappointed. He had hoped it wouldn’t rain. It would make what he was about to do that much harder. That much riskier. But it wasn’t a risk he could avoid. At least lightning would have been dramatically appropriate for the situation.

    He was standing on top of the cliff that was facing the Fall and the path the Paladins were likely to take to the volcano and the caverns beneath. Taking one final deep breath he opened a leather container then pulled out a scroll. Of course, the scroll was too well protected by spells to be damaged by simple rain. A common pre-caution with scrolls that contained spells that could be fatal if they went wrong.

    Opening the scroll he started skimming over the lines, making sure he had memorized them correctly. So many things could go wrong. But he was no beginner fumbling with his first spell, he told himself as he began gathering his will. He had learned spells from all corners of the world. He had even been taught secrets by a demon lord itself.

    A whisper arrived, faint but still audible over the rain, signaling the fact that the Paladins had left the village. That meant it was almost time to begin. He had expected them to leave earlier. Had something delayed them? There was no way to know.

    But it was better to set out to work. He walked away from the edge so that he wasn’t visible from the valley below, just in case the Paladins arrived earlier than he expected, then took a piece of chalk and started drawing on the cliff. The not so smooth surface made it difficult to draw with the precision needed, but eventually after much cursing he finally had a ritual circle and the runes that he was sure would do the job.

    Mostly sure, at least.

    He tried to gauge how much time had passed. The Paladins should be here soon, he thought as he double checked the runes, trying to find a fault that could cost him everything. He could find none.

    Good. It was about time to begin.

    Opening the scroll once more he began speaking the lines and casting his will into the Väki in the air in front of him. The words he spoke started as words a human mouth could pronounce with only little trouble but slowly the sounds that came out sounded more and more unnatural.

    The spell began forming in front of him, a thick black cloud that smelled of sulfur. He could feel the Väki around him go mad as they responded to the spell that had been taught by a demon. As the spell gained momentum he could feel it trying to tuck at his lifeforce, demanding more and more of it to feed itself. He wrestled for control with his will alone.

    He would not lose control, he told himself. He would not fail.

    The spell roared inside his head unlike any spell he had ever cast. The temptation to draw on his soul, to force the spell back under his will by casting it as a curse was there but he was not a zealot like those Paladins who would sacrifice themselves at the first opportunity.

    He continued fighting to mold the spell to the shape and purpose he needed it for. His mouth hurt forcing out the syllables that he couldn’t pronounce if the spell wasn’t already in existence. The roaring intensified to the level where he couldn’t hear anything. Not the rain nor the wind.

    Then just when he was afraid he was really going to lose control, the was cast. What had originally been a puff of smoke barely bigger than his head was now the size of a small house and kept increasing when with a final effort of will he send it rolling down to the valley and towards the volcano.


    Nearin had to admit it. The volcano looked damn intimidating. Maybe it was the way it was a bit darker coloring than the mountains surrounding it. Maybe it was the grey clouds than concealed its peak. Or maybe it was just the reputation. She shrugged. Most likely it was a combination of all those things.

    She glanced to the side where the Spear, the tallest mountain in the country stood and compared them. Yes the spear was more majestic somehow. It was bigger with steeper cliffs. With the cloud the difference in height wasn’t visible, but just knowing that it was far taller than any of the surrounding mountains added to the majesty. She tried to imagine climbing those cliffs but the mere idea made her shudder.

    Then fear entered her mind. Plain, intense fear and a need to get away overwhelmed her senses and she started taking steps back. She didn’t know what she was afraid of, but she knew she shouldn’t go near the volcano. She tried to back the feeling but her legs wouldn’t obey her and she was turning away in order to run.

    Next to her, Selesta was also staggering back. Selvos was backpedaling at least as fast as Nearin was. Then suddenly the fear vanished and was replaced by calm that sharpened focus. Aura of Command, Nearin realized.

    “That would be the curse,” Selesta said. She turned to Selvos. “Things will probably turn dangerous soon. You should turn back.”

    The man shook his head. “You might still need a guide. I know a hiding place further back. I will wait there until I can’t reach the village while there is still light unless I leave then. Remember that fir that grew between those two big rocks? Shout for me there and I should hear you.” Then he turned and jogged away.

    Selesta smiled. “A brave man. Now girl, let’s go solve a mystery. “

    They walked down the valley, hands on their sword hilts. Nearin noticed that Selesta was carrying both her regular sword as well as the blackblade, though her hand was on the regular one.

    Soon they were climbing the slopes of the volcano towards the cave entrances. The slopes weren’t steep, but the rain was doing its best to make them treacherous. Nearin groaned and pulled off her helmet for a moment in order to wipe sweat from her brow. As she did, she afforded herself three seconds to enjoy the view to the valley. In those three seconds she missed a lot of details. Like a black cloud that was getting steadily bigger and was now just barely visible over one of the cliffs.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 30: Tunnels
    Spoiler
    Show

    Nearin had never been in a cave before. Unless the one where they had found the girl yesterday counted, but she didn’t think that one counted. It hadn’t been anything like what she found under the Phoenix’s Fall.

    The caverns here were infinitely more foreboding than that one. It had been barely more than a foxhole. These were dark tunnels that led deep under the mountain. The entrance they used was large enough that you could ride a horse inside with barely ducking your head.

    Nearin gulped as she stared into the dark tunnel. According to history, the last remains of the demon lord’s forces had been pushed back here and then forced to retreat back to the hell itself after demon lord had been wounded by the blackblade. Here in these caverns.

    The actual decisive battle that had turned the tide of war had been fought elsewhere, but this was where the war had been ended.

    Normally, a battlefield would be littered with weapons and bones and pieces of gear left behind by the fallen. But not here. All the bodies of the humans had been carried away to be buried elsewhere and even the remains of the demons had been obliterated with magic. But even that hadn’t been able to cleanse the place for good.

    Selesta muttered something and raised her hand causing light to appear. She also drew her sword, the mundane one, and Nearin followed suit.

    “Stay close,” Selesta ordered. “You do not want to be affected by the curse down there.”

    Nearin nodded. Selesta’s Aura was the only thing holding the curse back and if she panicked down there she could get lost and end up hurting herself even if there were no nasty monsters down there. Besides, she had no idea how to make light like Selesta did. Stumbling in the dark didn’t sound particularly wise.

    They started to go down the tunnels. It wasn't long before the tunnels had twisted enough that the light of the day wasn't visible anymore and just Selesta's spell kept the dark away. As the floor became steeper for a moment Nearin had to support herself on the wall. The stone was smooth and for the moment cold. She had somehow assumed that inside the volcano it would be uncomfortably hot, but of course the volcano was dormant, so she supposed it made sense.

    The air wasn't oppressively hot either, she wondered if it would be deeper down, but she didn't actually know anything about dormant volcanoes. Besides, the darkness and the knowledge of a curse-wraith that was lurking somewhere in the caverns made the atmosphere oppressive enough.

    Occasionally they would arrive at a crossroads but Selesta seemed to have some idea where they were going. Which seemed to be downwards.

    “What exactly are we looking for?” Nearin whispered because the caves demanded whispers.

    “The central chamber,” Selesta whispered, then frowned before continuing, little louder. “It would be an ideal place for the curse to have taken place. The wraith can't be far.”

    “What do you think happened to the people who were dragged here,” Nearing asked, whispering again, after they had continued for a little longer. Suddenly the air got much warmer, as if they had stepped over a threshold. Selesta stopped and her light grew brighter, illuminating further and further until it reached what was likely the main chamber.

    “Dead,” Selesta stated as the light pushed back the shadows far enough to reach the corpses. Three of them were near the entrance, but as the two paladins started walking more and more of the corpses were revealed. By the time they arrived at the entrance the light illuminated about a dozen of them.

    The smell was horrible.

    Three other tunnels led to the main chamber, each from mostly the same direction. The chamber itself was round and about thirty meters in diameter. The floor was uneven, but not tilted like in the tunnels. It was uneven in a way that made Nearin think of the way ice covering a lake sometimes gets if a late rain has melted its top layer only for it to later freeze again. Sort of wavy.

    The biggest attention grabber was the portal to the Labyrinth on the other side. It looked like a normal tunnel, except that walls were made of black masonry. Red, glowing veins ran along the masonry, indicating what part of the Labyrinth the portal led to. Also everything past the portal seemed to be sort of out of focus. Something Nearin had heard was common with all the portals to the Labyrinth, not that she had ever seen one.

    They edged into the room slowly, watchful for any sign of danger.

    “The curse is stronger here,” Selesta whispered. Nearin glanced at her mentor. She herself hadn’t had any idea because Selesta was shielding her from the curse. She glanced around, briefly imagining the curse battling against the Aura around the chamber. Of course there was nothing there to see. And this wasn’t the place for her to practice her sensing spells.

    As they reached the center of the room the corpses suddenly stirred. They started to raise, but Selesta frowned and seemed to concentrate causing her Aura to force the corpses back to the ground. Nearin, whose eyes were darting from corpse to corpse, would have whistled if she knew how to.

    The corpses shook for a moment, trying to fight against the aura, then they went perfectly still as if they were perfectly normal corpses that had never moved once more.

    Then there was a rage filled, keening sound that at first seemed to come out of nowhere before focusing on a spot above the chasm. As the source of the sound focused a whirling mass of shadows appeared on the spot. The mass’s shape fluctuated rapidly, growing and decreasing until it finally settled on a shape vaguely resembling a cloaked human.

    The howling quieted and two red glowing eyes focused on the two paladins.


    Uhm, yeah. Writing this took a BIT longer than intented. Writer's block, health problems and busy IRL stuff kinda got in the way. Oops.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 31: Distractions
    Spoiler
    Show

    Nearin swallowed. The Aura was keeping the worst of the fear away, but it couldn’t stop her from reacting to the presence of a curse-wraith. Apart from summoning demons there were very few things that were more taboo than the creature in front of her. The result of losing control of a curse, it is the biggest reason only the most desperate even think of using a curse.

    She remembered the cautionary tales she had been told as a child that revolved around curse-wraiths. About tragic heroes who were tempted by the use of a curse only to turn into nightmarish monsters. All to scare her from even considering a curse when she was an adult.

    And now she was facing a monster from those tales.

    She glanced at her sword, then back at the curse-wraith. Could she even harm it? She had no idea how she could help Selesta if a fight began.

    “Leaaaveeee….” the wraith commanded. Its voice sounded coarser than even Nearin’s and pained. It reminded Nearin of the way the cultist had fought for breath before dying.

    “Witch Ymin. We are here to stop you from killing your neighbors,” Selesta gestured to those corpses who were dressed like the villagers. “And stop the cultists.” She didn’t seem afraid, but Nearin noticed a slight tenseness in her voice.

    “Stop…. them? I am stopping them.” The form of wraith became more distinct as it spoke. “Didn’t want to kill, but needed strength. Their artifact… stronger than I thought.”

    “We are Paladins; we can help with this artifact if you tell us what and where it is.” Selesta assured.

    The shape grew even more distinct, enough that Nearin could make out an old face, twisted in pain and concentration. “It is regrowing something. Something that was destroyed here long ago. It needed to be here. I couldn’t stop it, but I had it thrown down there. Stopped humans from getting here to retrieve it. Had to kill…” The wraith started to lose focus again, resembling a cloud of smoke once more.

    “We can take it away. We will find a way to destroy it if we can’t do it here,” Selesta gestured towards the blackblade. “You do not have to kill anymore.”

    The wraith whirled in and out of shape. “Have to kill. Have to stop them….” For long moment the wraith lost its shape entirely, disappearing. Nearin glanced around unsure what had happened. She tightened her grip on her sword nervously, expecting something to happen.

    A moment passed. Then another.

    Nearin lowered her sword. Then she turned to Selesta to ask what to do next when there was a sound like a single beat of a heart. Then the wraith appeared again, it was larger this time, its shape no longer vaguely humanoid, but a whirlwind with thorn-like edges.

    “No, I must keep everyone from the orb. I must kill!” There was another pulse, louder. Then the corpses started to rise once more.

    Selesta shook her head and smirked as her aura forced the corpses back to the ground. “I happen to have the strongest Aura of Command amongst the Paladins.” Then she sighed and continued, this time speaking to Nearin. ”It’s too far gone. We have to take it down then find this artifact.”

    Nearin nodded and started inching towards the chasm, hoping it wasn’t too deep, while keeping her eyes on the wraith. Again the question of whether she could even harm it popped into her mind. Probably not. Maybe she could be a distraction.

    Speaking of distractions, she made sure not to step too close to any of the corpses that were still struggling against the aura. The thought of one grabbing her ankle made her shiver. Finally she reached the edge of the chasm and peered down before feeling stupid. She couldn’t see anything because Selesta’s light couldn’t reach down there.

    So, on to being a diversion.

    She was trying to decide to how to divert the wraith's attention when she caught sight of something that instantly took all of hers.

    A black cloud of something was rolling into the room from the entrance. Where it touched the stone the stone died. Nearin wasn’t sure why “died” was the word that came to her mind or how something like stone could even die, but she was sure that that was what it did. It’s killing the Väki, she realized. Had she cast a sensing spell, she would have found her guess to be right, but instead she shouted an alarm to Selesta.

    Selesta whirled around and the cloud stopped advancing about a meter away from her, but not without obvious effort from Selesta’s part. Her face looked pained and she was shaking. Despite the boast about her aura’s strength, now three powerful spells were fighting against it. Flashes of fear from the curse struck like spikes into Nearin’s mind before the Aura calmed them again. Occasionally one of the corpses managed to get to its knees before being slammed down. And the most threateningly, the cloud kept creeping closer and closer.

    Using her blackblade as a crutch to avoid falling to her knees Selesta fought against the spells. She was panting with effort until something changed and she took a deep breath. The cloud stopped advancing. The assault on Nearin’s mind stopped, leaving her with a headache.

    And the corpses started rising. Not having to fight against the Aura that was no longer directed at them.

    Nearin blinked once, then screamed as loudly as her throat allowed and struck her sword at the neck of the nearest corpse. She got three frantic strokes off before any of the undead got to their feet and the third strike severed the head from its shoulders.

    For a moment at least that corpse lay still. While three of the other rushed at Nearin. It wasn’t much of a rush. Their movements were uncoordinated and not terribly fast, but they weren’t far away and there wasn’t much room for Nearin to dodge with her back to the chasm. Nor did they care about their own well being even as Nearin’s sword struck through stomach of one of them, a big man too well dressed to be from the village.

    Nearin tried to pull her sword away, but couldn’t as they tried to grapple her. And suddenly she was embraced by three dead people. Two grabbed at her arms, but she managed to keep her left free while breaking a tooth with her elbow. The last one pushed its hand at her face, its fingers unsuccesfully trying to get to her eyes through her visor.

    Filled with revulsion, she wrenched that hand away for long enough to see how Selesta was doing. Which, of course, was much better than how Nearing was. The blackblade was felling corpses with every stroke, slicing them apart with ease.

    “Help,” Nearin groaned as undead fingers were digging into her mangled throat, but Selesta was already making her way towards her.

    Nearin kept struggling knowing that she didn’t have to last long and managed to throw off one of her opponents, but the two others were pressing her perilously close to the chasm. Then Selesta was there and the blackblade separated two heads from their shoulders. The corpse that had tried to choke Nearin fell to the ground, but the one had trapped her right arm during the full struggle was too close to the chasm and fell over the edge.

    Nearin had a heartbeat to realize what was about to happen as the weight dragged her off balance before she fell into the darkness.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Lentrax's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    In the Final Frontier
    Gender
    Male2Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Ah delusion, bless you for posting here here. Now I don't have to remember to find a link buried in a series of links and come to find I'm looking the wrong way.

    These are fantastic. I want you to know, I thoroughly enjoy reading these.

    Peace favor your sword.

    Co-Founder of LUTAS.
    For all you lesser superheroes out there.

    Custom STO avatar by Durkoala.

    Spoiler: Online stuffs
    Show
    Lentrax has a Deviantart now, check it out!

    Streaming Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11CST on Twitch.

    Follow me on Twitter!

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    the gates of hell
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Just blazed my way through these today, you're a great writer and I hope to see more

    sincerely Thatonesungod -appostle of Sunna
    Last edited by thatonesungod; 2015-10-13 at 01:28 PM.

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Thank you both for your compliments.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 32: The Hole
    Spoiler
    Show

    Nearin barely had the time to think she was going to die before the free fall turned into a slide. The headless corpse hit the slide first, serving as a cushion for Nearin and protecting her from breaking any bones. After her shoulder hit the corpse she rolled, her back hitting the rock hard enough to empty her lungs as she and the corpse slid down under the chamber.

    The slide rapidly got less steep until the ground was horizontal again. Nearin’s momentum took her a bit further until her movement was stopped by the back of her helmet hitting something hard.

    She blinked rapidly at the pain, trying to clear her vision from the stars that danced in front of her eyes. When the stars disappeared it finally dawned on her that the cavern she had fallen into wasn’t dark like it should be. Thanks to the angle her trip down had taken, barely any of Selesta’s light should be able to reach her, but she could see clearly. Also, everything had a curious purple tint.

    She turned while sitting up and saw a glowing purple orb about as big as both her fists together that looked like it was made of some sort of metal. It was also the thing she had hit with her head.

    “Nearin! Are you okay? Nearin!” Selesta’s voice came from above. She didn’t exactly sound panicked, but the worry and tenseness was clear to Nearin.

    “I am okay,” Nearin croaked loudly, before she actually assessed if she was. She was hurting all over, but all her limbs were working as she wanted them to. “I found the artifact!” She poked at it, then when her finger wasn't burned she picked it up. It weighed less than she would have guessed.

    A loud bang echoed through the chasm, followed by sounds of armored boots on stone. “Can you get back up?” Selesta shouted.

    “I can try,” Nearin shouted back as she put the orb in one of her pouches. That much was definitely true. The ceiling being far too low to allow standing, she started crawling towards the chasm she had dropped from. Even in her pouch, the orb gave her enough light to start thinking about how to get back up. She would have to hurry, she decided as more sounds of explosions and fighting came from up in the chamber.

    She crawled until it become too steep to do so. She reached out to touch the ceiling that was rapidly becoming a wall for support. Then she pressed her back against it, while her feet pressed again the floor turned wall.

    Now what? She wondered as tried to think of a way getting further up. Maybe if instead of having her back against the wall she should have her right hand and foot. She muttered a curse at herself and blamed hitting her head on her flawed attempt.

    She slid down, thankfully not hurting herself this time and made a new attempt. It felt like every single part of her body was protesting in pain as she climbed. The smoothness of the walls was also an issue making the climb more difficult, but she was making progress. She hoped it was enough to get her up in time to help Selesta. And that there was a way she could help.

    She glanced up and instantly stopped moving as she saw the wraith was directly above her. She didn’t even dare to breathe lest she attract its attention when she was defenseless like this. The wraith no longer resembled a human in any way. It was a thorny blob of darkness that was constantly moving and changing shape.

    Then it darted away as Selesta lunged at it with the blackblade. Selesta stopped at the edge, keeping her eyes on the wraith before charging after it again, but as she did her foot kicked at one of the heads that had dropped close to the edge and sent it flying over. The rotten head dropped almost straight onto Nearin’s elbow. The impact made her lose her pressure on the wall and unprepared for it she fell down.
    Thankfully she hadn’t climbed very far so that rather that free falling she mostly rolled down. And this time the corpse was there to stop her momentum instead of a metallic orb. She allowed herself a few moments of lying there stunned and feeling defeated. Then she got up as much as the limited space allowed her and went back to climbing. This time it was slightly easier to get into rhythm. It would have been even easier if she hadn’t been hurting even more.

    She climbed as fast as she could keeping her eyes up, afraid she would see the wraith above her again, but the sounds of fighting were contained to the other side of the chamber. Finally her hand reached the edge and after a moment she was raising to her feet out of the chasm. She pulled her sword from the corpse she had left it in then wondered what she could do.

    The black smoke had edged many meters into the room since she had fallen and it hadn’t stopped. It kept creeping forward slowly but surely. Nearin gulped. Good thing she had gotten up in time.

    On the other side of the chamber Selesta was advancing towards the wraith almost as slowly, the blackblade held in front of her in low guard. The wraith had changed again. This time it had a single humanoid feature: an open hand that was pointing towards Selesta. Also, Nearin wasn’t sure if she was imagining it, but the wraith appeared to be shrinking.

    She should help, but how. With her hurting all over and being as exhausted as she was she didn’t think she had any way of physically affecting the wraith. She blinked as she finally got an idea.

    “I got your artifact here!” she shouted at the wraith as she stepped away from the edge and pulled the orb from her pouch. She had time to wave it once before the wraith let out a horrid screech and pointed its hand at Nearin. It was like someone had punched her in her mind.

    I should go jump back into the chasm, she thought. She started blinking rapidly as she turned to go. Why did she want to do that? She had just climbed out with some trouble. Why did she want back down? But as she stopped to think the pressure in her increased, making her cry out. She started stumbling forward again.

    Then the memories of many hours of training beneath the training compound together with Selesta surfaced. She forced herself to stop, trembling. This was just another mental assault. The pressure increased again and as she started taking another step forward she instead fell on her knee to slow herself down.

    Then there was a sound of two rapid steps from where Selesta was and abruptly the pressure in Nearin’s head was gone. She looked over her shoulder and saw that the wraith had divided into two pieces, both of them rapidly dissolving.

    “Are you okay?” Selesta asked as she sheathed her sword. “You did well resisting that,” she added after Nearin had croaked affirmative. Then Selesta turned towards the advancing cloud and concentrated, stopping the cloud once more.

    “Ma’am, I have an idea,” said then winced. All that shouting had really taken a toll on her throat. She pointed at the orb she was still holding and at the cloud.

    Selesta muttered a quick spell while staring at the cloud then grinned. “That would probably destroy it. Go ahead.”
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Side project stole my time *hangs head in shame*

    Part 33: A Cloudy Day
    Spoiler
    Show

    Nearin must have hurt her wrist when falling without noticing it, because her throw was decidedly unimpressive. Of course, it didn’t take much to throw an object that weighed as little as the orb only a few meters that lay between Nearin, who had backed up all the way to the portal in case something went wrong, and the devouring cloud of black something.

    The glow of the orb disappeared as soon as it entered the cloud. A moment later there was a metallic ‘ting!’ sound as it hit the ground. The cloud advanced another inch before stopping. A ripple passed through it. Then another. Then what looked like a vertical whirlpool formed on its ‘surface’. The cloud began receding as if it was being pulled towards something.

    Few moments later it was clear that that something was the orb and the cloud was being sucked into it like water into a hole in a bucket. Two minutes passed before the cloud had disappeared. The orb was no longer glowing and a moment later it crumbled into ash.

    “I guess that did it,” Nearin whispered and sat down to catch her breath. That realization soon kicked in. They had won. She had encounter with a monster from nightmares and had survived. This was the third life or death situation she had been in and she thought that she was getting the hang of it. Terror and all. A smile forced its way onto her face.

    “Yes and no,” Selesta answered. She was staring at the tunnel where they, and the cloud, had come from, beyond the area her light illuminated.

    Nearin quickly climbed back to her aching feet. She didn’t hear anything except her and her mentor’s breathing. She looked at the darkness beyond Selesta’s light and didn’t see anything. After a moment she glanced at Selesta, who had a frown on her face that told Nearin that she was thinking furiously. Then Nearin looked back at the tunnel.

    Had the edge of the darkness moved? Yes, it had, she realised as more of the cloud came pouring forward.

    “What do we do?” Nearin croaked. She was sure the only reason she wasn’t panicking was Selesta’s Aura.

    “We have no choice. We retreat.”

    “But where-“ Nearin started to ask as Selesta turned to face the portal to the Labyrinth. “There? Ma’am?”

    She stared at the portal. The only reason the portal to bad parts of the Labyrinth had not dominated her attention until now was the wraith that had tried to kill them and then she had sort of forgotten about it. Silly me, she thought as she stared at the black stone walls with glowing red veins. But as Selesta started hurrying towards the portal she found herself following without even thinking about it.

    “Don’t worry, I have been to the Labyrinth before. It’s mostly safe as long as you don’t go too deep or too close to hell or offend one of the fair folk,” Selesta reassured her.

    Nearin remembered something about it being difficult to find your way back unless you had a proper compass, but decided not to argue with her superior.

    When she stepped through the doorway she expected something to happen. There had to be something to mark that she had just stepped into another world, but there wasn’t. No sudden vertigo. No stomach lurching. No feeling of not being in the human world anymore. Well, except for the heat that radiated from the red veins in the stone, but it didn’t start as a wave of heat. Rather it increased gradually as they walked further into the labyrinth.

    The cloud however stopped at the edge of the portal, Nearin noticed as she glanced over her shoulder for the fourth time. That was good, now she could focus on any potentially scary things before them and didn’t have to divide her fear.

    “It stopped,” she said and Selesta turned to look at the now inert cloud. Selesta muttered a quick spell then stared at it for a moment before turning back towards the way they were going.

    “Doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere for the moment,” she said and started walking away.

    “So what do we do?” Nearin asked, hoping Selesta had better plan than just to wander deeper into the labyrinth aimlessly.

    “We’ll find someplace where we can rest,” Selesta answered. “When we have rested we’ll come back to check if the cloud is still blocking our way. If it is then we’ll try to find another way out. Perhaps with help of a fair folk if we happen to meet one.”

    “Can’t we rest here, ma’am?” Nearin asked. She would have kept her mouth shut, but she thought that there had been a hint of doubt in Selesta’s voice.

    “I’d rather not,” Selesta shook her head. “There is always a chance that if the cloud disappears whoever sent it comes to finish the job. I don’t think we can fight them off at the moment. And they might see us from the chamber.”

    Nearin glanced behind her, then back forward. The tunnel was straight and lit so you could see awfully far through it. She shrugged and continued walking.

    The tunnel continued straight for what felt like an hour. Nearin was jumpy the whole time, believing that they’d run into some sort of monster at any moment. Finally they arrived at a crossroads. One tunnel led to the left and downhill, while the right one went uphill.

    “Always good idea to go up in the Labyrinth,” Selesta said and chuckled as if remembering something before turning right. Behind the turn there were two more crossroads within the next twenty meters.

    “Ma’am, isn’t there a danger of the Labyrinth behind us changing?” Nearin asked as she followed.

    “You haven’t had your lessons on Labyrinth yet, have you?” Selesta raised an eyebrow. “No, there is no danger this close to a portal. You have to travel about half a day before that becomes a major problem.” They walked another minute in silence before Selesta stopped. “I think this is far enough.”

    As soon as those words were uttered Nearin sat down next to the wall so fast it looked like she had collapsed. The wall was hot, but through her cloak and armor it just felt pleasantly warm.

    “You did well there,” Selesta said as she sat against the opposite wall. “I thought you were dead for sure when you fell down that chasm.”

    “Thank you, ma’am,” Nearin answered and looked away, embarrassed. After a moment she removed her helmet and closed her eyes. It was hard to believe it probably wasn’t even midday yet. It felt like it had been ages since they had entered the tunnels. Now with the exhaustion from the fight and all the walking and with a pleasant source of warmth against her back, she felt like she would drift away to sleep any moment.

    It took her good five seconds to realize that Selesta had gotten back to her feet and that they weren’t alone anymore. A short hooded creature with a single, huge, glowing and pupilless eye had come from behind the corner and was staring at them.

    “Hello travelers. May I inquire where you are heading to?”
    Last edited by Delusion; 2015-12-22 at 06:07 PM.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Delusion's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Part 34: Fair
    Spoiler
    Show

    Well, the thing didn’t look much like a monster. Sure that eye was creepy as hell and the thing didn’t look anything like a human, but it didn’t seem threatening. The toothless mouth smiled warmly at them as Nearin followed Selesta’s lead and stood up. Besides, the thing barely reached above Nearin’s waist.

    “We are just taking shelter,” Selesta answered.

    “Not many humans take shelter in the labyrinth,” the thing pointed out. “I am called Nerltholp. I am of Kaalp.”

    “I am Knight-champion Selesta of the Paladin order.” Selesta said. “This is Nearin Ur-Emma, my apprentice.”

    “Paladins!” Nerltholp exclaimed. Nearin found that weird, their attire marked them as Paladins quite clearly. Maybe the fay didn’t have much dealings with humans. Or its eye didn’t see what the humans did. “Are you here to deal with the thing that is blocking the portal at the Phoenix’s fall?”

    “We destroyed it,” Selesta answered and winced.

    “That is great! I have wanted to use that way to meet with a wind spirit that lives in those mountains but found it blocked. But the great Kaalp didn’t want to bother with clearing such a little used portal.” The thing laughed and did a little dance.

    “The way is still blocked for a moment,” Selesta admitted. “Someone tried to kill us with some sort of Devourer spell. We had to flee to the labyrinth to evade it.”

    Nerltholp stopped dancing. “And now you can’t go back that way,” it guessed.

    “Not for the time being, at least.”

    “I’m sure the great Kaalp could help,” Nerltholp said, its mouth making weird, wet smacking sounds as it thought out loud. “You did clear out one of his portals. Or at least it will be clear once the spell dies out.”

    “Excuse me,” Nearin croaked. “But who is this Great Kaalp?”

    “The Great Kaalp is the fair folk prince who rules this part of the Labyrinth,” Selesta answered then turned back to address Nerltholp. “He does owe me a favor for something else as well. Can you lead us to him?”

    “Of course, of course. For the minor price of one story. I want to know how you defeated the wraith.” The fair folk’s voice was positively giddy.

    “Deal.”



    “You know a fair folk prince?” Nearin finally asked after Selesta had finished her story. The story made Nearin look far less bad than Nearin felt was truthful.

    “Met him when I was almost as green an apprentice as you are,” Selesta grinned then looked thoughtful and almost sad. Her voice was slightly coarse after all the speaking she had done, but still not as coarse as Nearin’s was all the time.

    They had walked for a while now and Nearin had long since given up on trying to keep track of all the twists and turns they had passed. The red veins in the stone had been replaced by light green ones that didn’t radiate heat at all. In fact, with all the sweating Nearin had done it was now quite a bit chilly.

    “Do you think he will help for free?” Nearin asked.

    “He will help. Whether it will be for free or not remains to be seen, but he does owe me.” Selesta paused. “Never thought I’d ever call on that particular debt.”

    Nearin groaned as they took another turn that led uphill. She knew that in the labyrinth up was usually good, but with how tired she was each step uphill was pure torture. She had no idea how long they still had to walk either. Not that she was going to ask with how Selesta had praised her earlier.

    Nerltholp meanwhile seemed tireless. Instead of just putting one foot in front of another it continued dancing and hopping while leading the way. It was also humming a surprisingly catchy tune while it did.

    Nearin sighed and focused on just moving one foot at a time while fantasizing about a soft, warm bed. Though at that point just sitting down and leaning on the wall would do. She glanced at Selesta, sure that her superior officer wasn’t affected by exhaustion at all, but Selesta actually looked just as tired as she felt. If using the aura was tiring then she has endured more than you, Nearin realized.

    “How does it feel?” She asked after a moment of thinking. “Using the aura I mean.”

    It took a few moments for Selesta to realize that Nearin had asked her a question. “It’s hard to explain. It’s a bit like casting a spell that is part of you. You can feel it even when you are not using it. Its bit like having an extra limb, or a muscle,” she explained after a moment of thinking.

    Nearin grimaced. She hoped she wouldn’t be as bad at it as she was at spell casting. She really didn’t need another area of being a Paladin to be crap at. She imagined trying to be a full Paladin while not being able to defend herself properly from that mind attack that had already almost killed her once already. That wouldn’t work at all.

    “You’ll learn to do it, girl,” Selesta assured her.

    They must have walked for another hour or so before they arrived at a great silver door, guarded by a single huge armored figure.

    “Welcome to the house of Kaalp,” Nerltholp announced cheerfully.
    "Best na ta challenge that Delusion" - Durkon in #674

    Fairy avatar made by araveugnitsuga.
    Cultist avatar made by Darwin.
    Paladin avatar made by Ceika.

    I have started a fantasy webseries about a trans woman wanting to become a paladin:
    http://kirjotusvihe.deviantart.com/gallery/47065120
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Paladin-Story

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lycunadari's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Germany

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    Quote Originally Posted by Delusion View Post
    Part 34: Fair
    Spoiler
    Show

    Well, the thing didn’t look much like a monster. Sure that eye was creepy as hell and the thing didn’t look anything like a human, but it didn’t seem threatening. The toothless mouth smiled warmly at them as Nearin followed Selesta’s lead and stood up. Besides, the thing barely reached above Nearin’s waist.

    “We are just taking shelter,” Selesta answered.

    “Not many humans take shelter in the labyrinth,” the thing pointed out. “I am called Nerltholp. I am of Kaalp.”

    “I am Knight-champion Selesta of the Paladin order.” Selesta said. “This is Nearin Ur-Emma, my apprentice.”

    “Paladins!” Nerltholp exclaimed. Nearin found that weird, their attire marked them as Paladins quite clearly. Maybe the fay didn’t have much dealings with humans. Or its eye didn’t see what the humans did. “Are you here to deal with the thing that is blocking the portal at the Phoenix’s fall?”

    “We destroyed it,” Selesta answered and winced.

    “That is great! I have wanted to use that way to meet with a wind spirit that lives in those mountains but found it blocked. But the great Kaalp didn’t want to bother with clearing such a little used portal.” The thing laughed and did a little dance.

    “The way is still blocked for a moment,” Selesta admitted. “Someone tried to kill us with some sort of Devourer spell. We had to flee to the labyrinth to evade it.”

    Nerltholp stopped dancing. “And now you can’t go back that way,” it guessed.

    “Not for the time being, at least.”

    “I’m sure the great Kaalp could help,” Nerltholp said, its mouth making weird, wet smacking sounds as it thought out loud. “You did clear out one of his portals. Or at least it will be clear once the spell dies out.”

    “Excuse me,” Nearin croaked. “But who is this Great Kaalp?”

    “The Great Kaalp is the fair folk prince who rules this part of the Labyrinth,” Selesta answered then turned back to address Nerltholp. “He does owe me a favor for something else as well. Can you lead us to him?”

    “Of course, of course. For the minor price of one story. I want to know how you defeated the wraith.” The fair folk’s voice was positively giddy.

    “Deal.”



    “You know a fair folk prince?” Nearin finally asked after Selesta had finished her story. The story made Nearin look far less bad than Nearin felt was truthful.

    “Met him when I was almost as green an apprentice as you are,” Selesta grinned then looked thoughtful and almost sad. Her voice was slightly coarse after all the speaking she had done, but still not as coarse as Nearin’s was all the time.

    They had walked for a while now and Nearin had long since given up on trying to keep track of all the twists and turns they had passed. The red veins in the stone had been replaced by light green ones that didn’t radiate heat at all. In fact, with all the sweating Nearin had done it was now quite a bit chilly.

    “Do you think he will help for free?” Nearin asked.

    “He will help. Whether it will be for free or not remains to be seen, but he does owe me.” Selesta paused. “Never thought I’d ever call on that particular debt.”

    Nearin groaned as they took another turn that led uphill. She knew that in the labyrinth up was usually good, but with how tired she was each step uphill was pure torture. She had no idea how long they still had to walk either. Not that she was going to ask with how Selesta had praised her earlier.

    Nerltholp meanwhile seemed tireless. Instead of just putting one foot in front of another it continued dancing and hopping while leading the way. It was also humming a surprisingly catchy tune while it did.

    Nearin sighed and focused on just moving one foot at a time while fantasizing about a soft, warm bed. Though at that point just sitting down and leaning on the wall would do. She glanced at Selesta, sure that her superior officer wasn’t affected by exhaustion at all, but Selesta actually looked just as tired as she felt. If using the aura was tiring then she has endured more than you, Nearin realized.

    “How does it feel?” She asked after a moment of thinking. “Using the aura I mean.”

    It took a few moments for Selesta to realize that Nearin had asked her a question. “It’s hard to explain. It’s a bit like casting a spell that is part of you. You can feel it even when you are not using it. Its bit like having an extra limb, or a muscle,” she explained after a moment of thinking.

    Nearin grimaced. She hoped she wouldn’t be as bad at it as she was at spell casting. She really didn’t need another area of being a Paladin to be crap at. She imagined trying to be a full Paladin while not being able to defend herself properly from that mind attack that had already almost killed her once already. That wouldn’t work at all.

    “You’ll learn to do it, girl,” Selesta assured her.

    They must have walked for another hour or so before they arrived at a great silver door, guarded by a single huge armored figure.

    “Welcome to the house of Kaalp,” Nerltholp announced cheerfully.
    I already like Nerltholp and want to read more of them. But I'm also curious about that prince~ Go write more!
    You can call me Juniper. Please use gender-neutral pronouns (ze/hir (preferred) or they/them) when referring to me.

    "We all are vessels of our brokenness, we carry it inside us like water, careful not to spill. And what is wholeness if not brokenness encompassed in acceptance, the warmth of its power a shield against those who would hurt us?" - R. Lemberg, Geometries of Belonging

    Stories

    Do you like writing? Drawing? Being creative? Come join the CHALLENGE!

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    the gates of hell
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: True Soul: A Transgender Themed Paladin Story.

    indeed, a multitude of questions burden the mind, such as Who exactly is this klaap fellow

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •