The promenade deck of the riverboat
was empty at this hour of the night. The great Essic Hane
wouldn't be moving at all but for the fact that the lake is over one
hundred miles across, and free navigation the whole way. Shandis
paced the deck. It beat laying in his cabin and listening to the
insistent beat of the paddles against the water. The regular
mechanical sound was disturbing, and for him at least it was a
deterrent to sleep.
Once again the thought of
brought him back to seven years ago when he had arrived at the
Healer's school a desperate and if not broken, then weakened being.
Years of therapy and learning had at least laid the inner demons that
had plagued him for so long. He could sleep peacefully. At least he
could sleep peacefully when that infernal paddle was not beating on
Shandis looked over the dark
the moons shining low on the horizon. Three more days and he would
be in Woodmanor for the first time in many a year. A place he
fervently prayed to the Lady had forgotten him. He didn't want to be
a hero. Now he simply wanted to be a healer. For the first time in
his life he was setting out on the road, and he didn't have a sword.
Once again he looked over
and wondered if you could somehow cast a slumber spell on yourself.
Every try he had made failed. Well earplugs were not comfortable,
but they were more comfortable than that paddle. Some sleep was
better than none. Shandis turned toward his cabin and his troubled
Long habit woke him
as light spilled
though the cabin window. His cabin partner continued to sleep
unabated. Shandis briefly debated rolling back over, but discipline
won out. He dropped quietly to his feet. The boat had stopped
moving. That would mean they made landfall sometime in the early
morning. The stop would likely be brief. An exchange of cargo and
passengers. On the rivers proper the pilots didn't like to move at
The advantage to not
is you didn't have to dress. A smooth motion buckled his carrying
belt and he slipped from the cabin without waking the portly gent
that shared it with him. A brief stop at the lavatory took care of
those needs and he gave his hair a quick brush. At least he didn't
look like he had been up half the night.
The dining room was
serving breakfast. The usual cereal filled fare preferred by most
"Excuse me." he
steward. "How long are we likely to be tied up?"
"At least an hour or
was the quick reply.
That was more than
enough time to go
ashore for fresh meat. A fresh killed fowl or rabbit sounded much
tastier than over cooked pig, and bread. Shandis made his way to the
main deck, dodged the cargo operations and trotted down the gangway. A
few minutes later he had breakfast.
The long lazy day
drifted away. The
boat was on the river proper now. No more sailing at night. Not
until they reached the Woodmanor Lake and Quayside. Shandis found
himself a deck chair. Not too many people had bothered him this
trip. Both a relief and, well, he wondered if his hair had turned
green or something. Either people were that caught up in their own
business, or he was moody enough to indicate he wasn't much
conversation. His roommate was plying a young and pretty woman with
his intentions. It would be nice. Female attention wouldn't be that
hard to find, or if necessary buy. He cocked an ear in the direction
of the pair. Buy, she clearly was selling. Well his fat merchant
cabin mate wouldn't be showing up any time soon. He had to admit to
himself as they walked passed, for a Human she looked like a
of his name banished the slumber the heat of the afternoon had snuck
on him. "Healer, we have a man that needs attention." The
speaker was the ship's Steward.
"I will come at
once." Shandis stood to match his words.
The Steward led him
back to one of the
better staterooms. On a larger single bed his cabin mate lay naked
and still, his face flushed. Shandis quickly went to work. A
moment's examination told him enough. "My attentions are late
Steward. Only a priest can help him now. He is dead."
"Dead? This man was
"Yes, he is my cabin
was. Whose cabin are we in?"
"Clove Room. The
disturbing no one if I look into this death further. The
Magistrate's coroner in the next town will want any information he
can get. I'm curious, how did you find him if the cabin is empty?"
"We clean all the
occupied or not."
"Good, I'll get
"No, I won't muss
the bedding any
more than it is. We will need some sheets to wrap the body. I
suggest the Captain make for the first sizable town, scheduled stop
"Use the ones you
"As you wish."
The Steward left
quickly. Obviously a
man unaccustomed to death. Shandis started his examination of the
body. He would need to get the man's name from the passenger lists. A
quick preserve spell would keep rot from disturbing things. A plea
to Sharla for the soul's safe passage wouldn't hurt either.
A few minutes of
that the cause of death was not obvious. Something internal, or
magic. There wasn't a mark on the man head to foot, he had an
erection. Shandis finished tying the body into the bed sheets. When
he came out there was a crewman by the door. A handful of passengers
a distance back obviously watching.
"Crewman, do you
have the key to
"Yes sir, and the
to see you."
"Then lock this door
and lead the
found himself on the
top deck in front of the Capitan in a tiny office.
"Healer,. please be
seated." Shandis sat. "Now, what can you tell me of this sad event?"
Shandis took out his
as much as I would like. I do need the name of the passenger. He
was my cabin mate."
consulted a list. "Brom
Shandis leaned over
to the desk and
added the name to his report. "I obviously did not perform a
full autopsy. It will be necessary to establish the cause of death.
Right now I am leaving that as undetermined."
"Not natural causes?"
"No. I don't know.
There are a
number of causes that leave the body outwardly unharmed. I have
neither the magic or the place to discover them. I do have a few
questions of my own."
unfortunate event I
saw Mr. Smithson talking with a young woman. What of their
conversation I caught dealt with sex for hire. She was a measure and
a half high. russet haired, fair of complexion. Her business I
understand, but if she had a cabin, why go to one that was
The Capitan frowned.
you say. The description is not enough to find her on this list. Do
you think her involved in the death?"
"I do, if not the
witness to his collapse that saw fit to not report it at once. Strange
to say the least."
"I must agree
healer. We have a
number of prostitutes that ply the river. I could easily name any
number of them, but this woman I can't say I know, face, figure?"
"Very pretty, heart
quite mammal in the human fashion. I didn't get a close look at her
eyes. She was wearing a green gown, one piece, no bodice."
The Capitan thought
for a long moment. "No, none come to mind of that description. It is
not to say a
new woman is not possible. The clothing is parlor wear, not the
typical girl off the river. Can you draw?"
"I have some
training in that
"Can you give me a
"I will try,
understand my skills
are more to medical conditions, not portraits."
"I'll take what I
can get, and
meanwhile I'll pass the word for the crew to watch for her."
"When do we reach
"Then we have that
long to find
her, unless she goes for a swim."
An hour later
Shandis had his
portrait. He considered it a decent likeness, and not too generic. The
crew were called in in turns as the Capitan instructed them. "Look for
this woman, do not disturb her, don't make a fuss if
you find her report to the Steward or myself.
Early evening found
the town of
Ferryborn shortly ahead. No sign of the woman or a green dress had
been found. Chances were they would not. Shandis waited on the bow
for the ship to get up to the pier. He didn't even wait for the
vessel to be tied up before he jumped ashore. The Magistrate's House
was easy to see, he headed there at once.
Two hours later the
body of Brom
Smithson was in the surgery of the local coroner. They had laid bare
the poor man's body and delved into his organs. The Constable and
Magistrate watched from the edges of the room while the doctors
worked. At last they laid down their knives and retractors.
was not a patient man.
Shandis cleaned his
hands as he spoke. "We can find no cause of this man's death save that
he is dead. His organs are normal, there are no clots in his brain. He
"What about the
"I did not
say his death was natural. Men die with an erection often. If there
is any stress it is not uncommon. The circumstance of his discovery
are also unusual. If he simply found himself over weary, his own
cabin was not far away. The woman of interest should have had her
"Dalden, what do
you make of this?"
The Coroner shook
his head. "I
am but a Churgon Magistrate. I bow to the Healer in this."
"You're the coroner
damn it, we
need a call."
Dalden looked to
finished drying his hands. "If a factual determination is
required, we need a witch. Someone to read the bones, cards, or what
ever is fashionable this year. Medical science is not helping. We
need magic, magic more than I can offer. Based on the autopsy I am
recommending that it be listed as 'death, cause undetermined'."
Dalden nodded. "Then
I will make
The lean man unstuck
himself from the
wall. "Yes M'Lord."
"See if that hedge
witch is home. Go now. I want answers before the Essic Hane sails."
Galt nodded. "I'll
Maggie the witch
came quickly, she was
soon seated at a table with the Capitan, Steward, Shandis and the
officers of the law. She looked to be a slip of a girl. Shandis
knew that such looks were often deceiving. Those that practice the
Craft were often much older than they looked. Maggie laid out the
painted cloth she used for her divinations. "So we need the
cause of death for a dead man."
"Reason for death,
and if it was
foul play or not." Fellon was direct.
"We have the man
himself, or his
remains, a name he was traveling under and certain of his possessions
to aid your work." Added Shandis.
Maggie nodded. "Then
something of the process. Why do you say, 'name he traveled under'? A
curious way to cast the matter."
I do not know if that was indeed his birth name. It is bad to
"Yes, that would be
way. Let us begin then."
The witch took the
offered items and
begin her ritual. Maggie took each item proffered and placed it on
the mandela painted on her cloth. She gathered her sticks in hand.
Shandis didn't catch any of the words used, the Craft rituals were
different than his own. At last she cast the sticks down. They
bounced in a shower of light and landed about the cloth and the
objects on it. She took a deep breath and started to examine the
relationships. "The man we speak of is dead, this we know. He
traveled far to get here, again we know this. His most precious
possession was stolen from him...not...a material thing. The taker
was a woman. She is not done with the company of this room. I....No,
that is all I can read in this."
Galt looked across
the table with
stormy eyes. "Ominous."
Fellon was rising
from the table. "What say you now Healer?"
Shandis turned to
you for your time at this late hour Lady. Do you wish an escort
Fellon glowered. "I
meant on the
death in question."
Shandis twitched a
cat smile. "Politeness always first Magistrate. Death, cause
Dalden nodded. "Then
I will make
A pleasant walk in
the forest took
Shandis and the witch Maggie back to her door. She worked the latch.
"Come in Healer. You seemed eager to walk me home."
"Yes, I was. You
back. I could tell."
"Yes...it is not
wise to speak of
future things. The future is not yet real, and I don't wish to
"I cannot argue with
that the only reason?"
"You are woven in
this deeply. Your path is long, and tangled. For so new a Healer."
Leomans do not
show their age. I am a new Healer, I am not young. My path is
indeed long and tangled. These are not revelations to me."
"Why are you so
woven in this?" The woman was pulling a wine skin out and pouring a
measure in two
Shandis sat. "He was
mate. We have traveled together since the boat left three days ago. I
saw him with the woman in question. I discovered he was dead. I
did the autopsy on the body. I think my entanglement is obvious at
She handed Shandis a
that would explain much. This woman, I do not think you have seen
the last of her."
Shandis looked into
the cup. "I
was getting that idea. Not a pleasant idea."
She reached for his
Shandis started at
touch. "Not how you might think lady. I've faced difficult
She looked at him
with hooded eyes. "Can I help in any way?"
Shandis watched her
body language. He
"spoke" Human fairly well. "If that is what you are
offering, I'll not turn it down."
Shandis got back to
the Essic Hane
sightly before dawn. It was good night, if not a restful one. Maggie
the witch had proved a good source of stress relief indeed. She had fed
him as well so being not at all hungry he flopped into
his bed and for once allowed himself to sleep most of the morning
By the time
Shandis had joined the ship's company lunch was being served. They
had picked up new passengers as well. One stood out among the
others. Most men didn't wear a breastplate as casual clothing. A
mark of one of the holy fighting orders. The surprise came when the
Paladin approached him directly. He stood over the table. "You
are Shandis the Healer?"
"I am, what
do you wish sir Knight."
"I am told
you are a man with answers, and I have questions."
depending on the questions, answers can be forthcoming."
"The cabin I
was assigned had evil within it."
which cabin were you given?"
adds to the body of knowledge. I am not surprised."
"You are not. Why would you not be surprised?"
found a body in there. One I believe suffered a foul fate. Even
divinations were not clear on all things. However one can readily
interpret that the man had his soul stolen."
The paladin looked
troubled, as one might expect. His face suddenly brightened. "Forgive
me Healer, I forget my manners in my concern. I am Sir
Drakken of the Guardians."
"I take it
you have no suspect?"
"I do, but I
fear the chances of finding her are slim. The boat spent the whole
night tied ashore. Crew could not find her, and she had every
opportunity to leave."
does not bode well for solving the crime."
I bid you keep your senses sharp. One that can steal souls has much
glamor, and their face could easily change as well. However if you
found evil in the room, then the creature itself could well be evil.
You among men can spot such a thing. If, and a slim if at that, she
was foolish enough to stay on the boat."
"I shall do
as you bid Shandis. For thy reasons, and my own."
The rest of the
afternoon passed without incident, or sight of that woman. Shandis
did not expect to see the woman. He watched the banks from the
promenade and after dinner they moved into the last lake in the
chain. Shandis sighed, likely another sleepless night. He found
three whist players in the parlor looking for a fourth. He had
learned the game while at the Healer school. It would pass the time,
and if the players were typical, fill his pockets in the process.
Humans, easy to read their emotions.
It was well toward
the mid-night by the time the card game broke up.
players were decent, but poor at hiding their excitement or
disappointment. He on the other hand was a hard read for anyone that
didn't know his kind. And unlike his fellow players his head was not
befuddled by wine. That habit he had left well behind. His purse was
the heavier by a score of crowns.
was halfway back to his cabin when he heard the scream. Without
willing it his feet turned toward the sound, and he had neither
weapon or armor. Well no weapon save his claws. He turned into the
corridor as did Sir Drakken from the other direction. Drakken of
course had a sword, even if he was in his night shirt. The scream
came again identifying the cabin as the door flew open a young man
staggered out. "Help, murder!" he cried.
slightly ahead of him entering the cabin alone. Shandis stopped to
aid the young man who had fallen to the floor. He could hear the
commotion in the cabin, and heads started to pop out of their doors
up and down the hall. Something splintered within the cabin as
Shandis got the young man to his feet. He seemed otherwise
uninjured, if a little on the weak side. He passed the man to the
nearest concerned person and turned his attention to the cabin.
A female shriek of
victory cut the air and he saw Sir Drakken's sword fall to the floor
beside him. Without thought he grabbed it. Once again he felt that
savage flow of energy he had known once before; holy energy flowed
through his body multiplying his strength. Within the cabin a naked
woman had Drakken by the throat. Drakken clawed ineffectively at her
arms. Shandis saw only the evil hateful thing she was. Without a
word he crossed the two paces of the cabin and plunged the blade
between her breasts, and twisted. The woman dropped Drakken with a
scream. Shandis pulled the sword back and struck again slashing her
throat, and he punched back down into her chest as she fell clawing
at the holy blade. Once again he withdrew the steel, and watched
carefully at the fell creature twitching on the floor. Again but
with a Healer's eye he thrust the blade into her back, neatly
spearing her heart. At last all motion stopped.
himself from the floor. "By the gods man. You're a Healer?"
Drajjen's sword from the body and laid it aside. For a moment he
felt faint as the holy power left his body. "I...I was a
warrior long before I became a Healer Sir Drakken. Are you harmed?"
Drakken took quick
stock of himself. "I don't think so. I am uncut at least."
persons pushed their way passed the people crowding the hall. The
Steward gaped at the woman bleeding all over the rug. "What? How?"
Shandis toed her
over. "Yes, that is the face I saw with Mr. Smithson. We have
found our woman."
located the womans gown and was using it to clean his sword. "More
than a woman, Steward, a Succubus."
"Nay, you can
thank the Healer for that."
Shandis gave the
Paladin a rueful look. "I would have preferred to give you the
Drakken looked at
him with disapproval. "That wouldn't be truthful."
however be more convenient."
Crew was by this
point clearing the hall. The Captain came in looking a bit the comic
in his shirt and hat. "Your woman Healer."
"Yes sir, and
at her work again. A demon."
they did. She is slain."
"What do we
do with the body? The Capitan looked truly pained.
Drakken spoke. "There is a priest aboard. Father Culen. We need bless
"And then?" The man was stricken.
overboard." Drakken's continence was grim."
Shandis shook his
head. "Must we?"
give such a creature more care than that?"
"It is not
her care I care for. She has taken one soul in the last week. I
would see her given to the priests in Woodmanor, if there is ought
that can be done for the taken soul, we should do it."
The Captain was
clearly conflicted. "We will be there by morning Healer."
we can do this. Sir Drakken, I do not wish to disrupt your sleep,
but a watch much be placed on this creature. Some have been known to
recover from death."
"Aye, that is
true enough. Stout ropes, blessed and anointed, we shall bind her
hand and foot. If she stirs, we have time to give her another taste
of the blade."
hour later Shandis and Sir Drakken sat across from each other on the
bow of the Essic Hane. Between
them the body of a naked woman was tightly bound. They had a sheet
to cover her, but had not; the better to see if she was moving.
the sill form in the moon light. "A strange occupation. Watching a dead
woman to make sure she is."
"Aye, that it
is. "You are not a simple fighter Shandis, you use a sword
"I have had
many professions in my life Sir Drakken. Solider, adventurer, drunk. I
am a Healer now."
"When did you
Shandis. You are no warrior. The powers of that sword do not work
for those that are not holy."
taken Orders. I was a warrior in the Eyrian Army, then I robbed
ancient tombs. I have never sworn to any god."
Shandis aren't you? My Father came back from the war, a broken man. He
spoke of a black Leoman, that cleared the field with the sword of
a fallen Paladin. A Leoman that turned the tide of battle and saved
ten thousand men."
into himself in the darkness. "Yea, hero. Saved everyone but
the one that mattered to me Sir Drakken. Bards sing of things they
do not understand. It took me years to get over the nightmares."
Drakken rose and
laid a hand on Shandis' shoulder. "Aye, I said my Father was a
broken man. You are one of the lucky ones. He never recovered. The
misery of his last years is why I took Holy Orders. I never want
that to happen again. Yes you have the powers of a Paladin."
have never practiced the discipline of one. What god would have me? And
without telling me?"
know, but I see you worship Sharla."
the medallion around his neck. "I wouldn't be unique in that."
"Nay, but she
is one that moves in her own ways."
"There is no
order of warriors in her religion. There is barely an order of
Drakken nodded. "Sharla moves in her own ways. Do you recall what oaths
swore that day or what prayers you might have uttered?"
Shandis shook his
head in the Human fashion. "No, it is still all a blur of
shouting, stink, and blood. I wouldn't wish it otherwise. The few
lucid moments of that day were featured in my nightmares for years."
"In terms of
words I might have spoken? No. If they were heard, I personally got
"I think you
did Shandis. You did indeed, but you yourself were beyond caring."
"No one has
ever tried to get me back in armor, shining otherwise, or ask me to
spend a night on my knees in prayer Sir Drakken. I am simple Shandis
and have no honorific before my name."
are Healer Shandis sir. While I am grateful for your skill at sword,
I count those that heal higher than those that slay. Your humility
commends you, but it is not necessary." Drakken looked out over
the dark lake. "Men of war speak little of war itself. I have
had my trial of fire and blood. All thoughts I may have had of glory
in battle died there. Of that much I can say I understand. Like
many of those that survived, you consider that you 'did your job',
that it was nothing special or worthy of notice, and you don't wish
to be noticed."
this like you know me."
small measure I do. My Father was one of those that saw your acts. His
feelings were in this direction. You were the hero, he was not. I would
wager he fought every bit as hard."
"No one on
that field slacked and lived."
"As you say. I defer to those that were there. Grateful I am that I was
age to be there also. Thankful forever to the generation that
fought, and saved us all."
"We were but
a small part of the whole Sir Drakken. The real battle was fought by
the gods. It was they that put down the Undying King."
Father, and your comrades kept his hoards of undead from overrunning
the land. Please do not belittle what you have done. I do not
believe that Tesral would have condemned men to that fight if that
fight was not required."
are truth." sighed Shandis. "I trusted him then and trust
him still to not spend lives without cause."
"So why are
you going to Woodmanor? If you don't mind my asking."
over the lake to the spot the boat was headed. "I can't say I
truly have a purpose. Complete the circle if you will. Return to
the place where my troubles began, and leave them there."
find some work. I don't intend to make my living at whist." He
widened his eyes towards the night." And we do not have that
much longer to wait. I see the loom of the town."
Sir Drakken pulled
the sheet over the dead demon. "As long as we have been talking
here she shows no sign of life."
beside the body and pulled the top of the sheet back. He placed his
listening horn on her chest, giving it a good minute or so. Then he
cast a quick spell. "No, neither senses nor spells show any
life. I think she is truly dead." He flipped the sheet back
over the still form.
"Then I pray
the church can find and free the soul she has taken."
Shandis thought a
moment. "Do you have a horse?"
"No. That is
one reason I have come here, to get a horse from the stables of
work in our favor. Do you drive?"
"Good, I have
a horse. We can rent a cart at the docks. The body thus carried we
ride to Woodmanor from the docks. We should be there before dawn."
"You fear the
light will burn her away?"
"Yes, I do. I have seen the remains of demons be quite ephemeral in the
Drakken nodded. "Then we cover it heavily and make haste."
your baggage. When you return I will get mine and Littlefoot. We
can be ashore the moment the boat docks."
"Aye, I will
make it so." Drakken left.
the looming lights of Quayside. As the last time he was here the
city was never truly dark. Weariness stole over him with his company
gone. Well he had endured sleepless nights before. The cause was
alerted him to the approach of Sir Drakken. He nodded and headed
back to the cabin deck for his own luggage. A couple of bags, his
staff. He had nowhere near the gear that Julian did on the road. His
saddle was down in the stable. Littlefoot wickkered at him when
he came to her stall. The boat's groom was not to be seen. The
horse near her snorted at the presence of cat.
"We must make
haste little one." He quickly brushed out her coat where the
saddle would sit. "Forgive me the light grooming."
go?" She nuzzled him. The ship shuddered as the paddle wheel
suddenly reversed to slow their forward progress.
"Yes, we must
get a cart and make haste up the road. Another is coming as well. You
was her reply.
got the saddle on and tightened. He had just finished the bridle
when he heard the sailors shouting to the dock hands through the
darkness. Essic Hane bumped
firmly against the dockside and the blocks squealed as the gangway
He came out onto
the bow. Sir Drakken had the body wrapped in its sheet and over his
shoulder. Shandis picked up the paladin's gear without a word and
placed it across Littlefoot's saddle. "Lets go."
After some firm
banging on the drayman's door they finally got the grumpy man
himself. The sight of a pair with a body and the need for urgency
got him out. A couple of extra crowns in his hand even quieted the
grumbling. Shandis was grateful for his earlier whist playing. They
were shortly trotting up the Imperial Way as quickly as the well
spaced lights and the darkness allowed. In an hour they crossed into
Woodmanor itself with a hint of light showing to the east. They made
the backside of the temple of Tesral just as the sky was starting to
show a blue lighter than darkness.
The priest at the
door was wide eyed at the pair and their cargo. With quick
explanations they were shown in and the cargo safely placed under
cover away from sanctified spaces. Some Reader was going to get a
late breakfast as he was assigned to return the horse and cart.
By the time he and
Sir Drakken had been shown to the kitchen for a bite to eat the Diaos
himself had arrived vested for morning prayers. "Gentlemen, you
certainly know how to turn a temple upside down."
Sir Drakken bowed
slightly rising as he swallowed. "Forgive me your Worship but
the need is great."
"I am Daios
Martin. What need are we speaking of?"
body is a succubus. She was slain by Shandis on the Essic
me in the process." Shandis cringed. "She recently murdered a man, and
hopes that you could find his soul with her as a source."
The elder priest
sat on a stool. "A slight chance if she has not delivered it to
her infernal master. We will try."
Drakken nodded. "Better a slight chance than none."
haste is well reasoned. I'll go at once and see to the disposition
of this demon body. What of the man?"
through his wallet and came up with his report to the coroner. "My
report on the matter your Worship. The place the man is buried, his
name and all details that I know."
"Good, good. What part do you play other than demon slaying?"
again. "I am a Healer your Worship. I was called to deal with
the man. Please, can we let the matter of who killed what rest? I
have no desire to be lauded for this event."
"I see. You
both look tired."
"We were up
the night through your Worship" replied Sir Drakken. "
Watching the body and ready to depart at the dock."
The priest stood
papers in hand. "Then you both need rest. We will see to this
matter, you two rest and worry not. Provost, see they have cells and
are not disturbed by the temple routine." the Diaos waved a
dismissive hand at the protest rising from Sir Drakken. Nay Sir
Drakken, worry about prayer when the body has caught up with itself."
The knight nodded
in acquiescence. Shandis wasn't about to argue. A priest's cot
sounded like the lap of luxury about now.
"I have a
concern yourself, it will be seen to."
With that Shandis
allowed himself to be taken to a bed.
Shandis rolled up
to sit on the cot. He had no idea as to the time of day, he could
hear singing. A goodly body of folks. Must be one of the regular
services. He was hungry, needed to relive himself and his mouth was
dry. First things first. He didn't figure they would mind if his
gear stayed there for now. He padded out into the cloister. It was
late morning. by the sun. A lay sister was bustling by with a load
"Excuse me, I
am looking for the latrine and the kitchen in that order."
are over there" she said with a nod in that direction. "The
afternoon repast shall be served as soon as services are over."
sister." He continued to meet his needs.
Shandis found the
bath attached to the latrine area. Suddenly he felt like he had
rolled in mud. His steps took him into the bath The girl there was
pleasant if not quite sure what to do with all that hair. He was
contemplating a soak when the service stopped.
said the girl. "If you want food, you should dry and go to the
through the door into the dressing room."
He did so and
didn't need a towel, the doorway stripped the water off him leaving
him comfortable and dry. He managed to find a brush to tame his head
and trotted to the dining hall.
arrived as the
priests and brothers were taking their places at table. He spotted
Sir Drakken and was waved over to that table. As they sat on cue he
noticed that he was seated with the senior priests. The food came
fast and heavy. Light rations were not the rule of the order. Shandis
was surprised when a plate of uncooked chops was placed in
front of him. He gave the Diaos a look.
friend. We know the needs of Leomans."
your Worship. Is silence the rule of the table?"
"No, but it
is impolite to eat and talk at the same time."
Shandis could see
that everyone concentrated on eating. He set to and polished off the
At the end of the
meal the Matriarch Namara stood. A striking horse Exotic woman.
"Attention brothers and sisters. I have the order of the
afternoon. Section one will be cleaning the sanctuary and cloister.
Brother Simon, we need you to make repairs to the altar rail if you
will. Pick two to aid you in the removal work. Perhaps we can avoid
over successful merchants tripping into it in the future." The
was a mild titter from the assembled. "Section two will be
handling the back yard area and the stable. Seniors please see to
the details of your section. Senior Martha I enjoin you to deal with
the disposal of the succubus. Tesral guide you steps brethren all. The
chapter is dismissed."
Shandis stood with
the rest. He approached the Matriarch "Your Worship, you are
done with the body already?"
my son. We dealt with it at once. I am glad to say that the soul of
Brom Smithson was not trapped as you and Sir Drakken feared. A quick
blessing moments after death freed his soul from her grasp even as
"There was no
source for such a blessing."
Namara smiled in a
sort of horsey way. "I have spoken to Sir Drakken. Seeing you
myself I must concur."
"I do not
know the how or the why your worship. I cannot say I have ever been
aware of it."
Shandis. There is someone that wishes to meet you." Namara
started toward the front of the Temple. "I must say that your
case is unusual. I cannot think of a paladin that didn't know they
were a paladin. But, you are clearly a holy warrior, not simply a
"Have I done
wrong to become a Healer?"
"If that was
the case you would not be a paladin."
years I have wandered, this has never come up."
"And how did
"As a wastrel
and a drunk. Not the action of a holy man. What are you getting
before an ornate door. "That you have atoned in becoming a
Healer. It is indeed approved of. We need pass through here. It's
a shortcut to the Palace."
"Who are we
seeing at the Palace?"
"You will see
soon enough." Namara opened the door and motioned him through. She
followed into the large and airy room. She nearly ran into
Shandis when he stopped cold.
In the middle of
the room was a Phoenix shining in red, gold, and white. He noted
their entry. "Ah, the noon meal is over. Namara, Shandis,
please, come and be seated."
Narama had to poke
Shandis a bit to get him moving. Tesral indicated the couch for
Shandis and a seat beside himself for Namara. "You seem
He cleared his
throat and found his voice. "I am M'Lord, I didn't expect to
be seeing you."
If one knew
Phoenix the look was kindly. "I have kept watch on you these
past years. Ever since you first came here after the war. I knew
that you had some hard lessons to learn. Lessons that you couldn't
be helped with, not if you were to truly learn them. I see you have
learned them, and taken again your role as the helper, the seeker of
justice, the easier of pain. Even in the depth of your trials you
never abandoned them."
do not know how to reply M'Lord. What I thought was a simple trip up
the river has become endlessly complex."
"That is the
way of life. How do you see your role from here on in?"
"I will aid
the needy, get work in my profession. I have no wish to be lauded or
celebrated. I would as well sink into an obscure life of service to
those in need."
speaking with the Emperor Shandis did not see the woman enter. He
really didn't notice until she sat beside him hip to hip. The silver
haired Leoman woman snaked an arm around him. Shandis came very
close to outright fainting.
scaring him." Chided Tesral. "You're also stepping on my
She giggled. "Sorry dear." And moved over a bit.
Shandis if pressed
would have to admit it didn't want her to move. "Sharla?"
"Yes. I do
M'Lady." Shandis got a grip on himself. "I think we need
you're right. Tesral dear is correct. I am stepping on his
Shandis pried his
eyes back to Tesral. "Sire?"
under his feathers. "Shandis, when you first came to the court
I wanted to give you certain things right there. I was counseled
against it, and rightly. Sharla was right, you were not ready yet. I
believe you ready now."
"I wish to
make you a Knight of Eyrie."
his head. "Sire...I...an awesome responsibility. Why me? Certainly not
for the whole hero reputation."
"No. that is
the least of my considerations. Heroes are people that do what needs
doing. More for your actions other than battle Shandis. You take
ownership of problems and work to solve them. The most recent
incident is a prime example." Tesral picked up the papers of
his report. "Your main concern here is the man's soul. I don't
get many autopsies that are concerned with the eternal disposition of
the dead. Fewer still that do not make unwarranted conclusions for
convenience and few suggest courses of action."
teaches well Sire."
it was your habit before that even. How many others would have
bothered to save the bandits?"
with shock. He hadn't considered that in years. "Sire,
murdering the men..."
wrong, yes. These are my reasons. Not accidental heroism."
"About that. I am told I am a paladin? Certainly news to an old
closer again. "That would be my doing."
have been nice to tell me?"
you have reacted Shandis?"
think I would have taken it well, even a few years ago."
"Yes, so I gave you my blessing, bided my time, and waited for you to
"When did it
"That day, on
the battlefield. Yes, your lost years were indeed lost. It is only
recently you have again been able to access the blessing. Oh, and
you will need something." Sharla reached behind the couch and
pulled a sword onto her lap. Shining mithrial with a sliver
Shandis felt his
head swim. He knew that blade. "eep."
Sharla laid a
steadying hand on him, his head cleared. "Yes, it is that
sword. It was not difficult while people were still sorting things
out to find it and hold onto it. I knew that you might need it
again. When you were ready."
"But I'm a
Healer now, I don't need a sword."
"You are a
Healer also, Shandis. You never stop being what you
"Must I go on
fighting forever?" The pain showed through his eyes.
"No one here
wishes to fight. But we choose to be ready should the fight be
brought to us. You didn't hesitate in the ship cabin."
"A life was
exactly. we," and she indicated the whole of the room, "do
not desire that you seek fights. But wish that you should be ready
if they are brought to you."
Tesral stepped in. "And Shandis, if you keep taking ownership of
Shandis shook his
head. "So much so soon."
"Yet you know
your answer," added Tesral softly. "How long will you
require to dither over it?"
Shandis sat up. "None, you are right. My head has decided, my heart is
weak. While I believe in listening to my heart. I shall go with my head
today. Yes Sire, I will accept the Knighthood, and yes, M'Lady, I
will keep the sword.
Stahl, November 2010
Shandis tale. A bookend to the previous story. As before this
features several characters that are prominent parts of my three
decade plus D&D game. Yes, "Tesral" is my usual
Internet use name. And this is where it comes from. Tesral has
never been a player character but was created into this role as a
non-player character On the local bulletin boards I used "Phoenix"
as my handle. Moving to the net I figured that that would be too
common. So I picked "Tesral" being one of the most
important Phoenixes in my game. Usually it works for me.
the other hand was one of
my PCs back in the day. She has been retired from that role for some
20 years or more.
There is a
great deal that the characters here take for granted. These are
things my long time players understand. Knights of Eyrie for example
it is more than an order of knights. They are Tesral's wandering
right hands. They have heavy power and responsibility and are held
to using it correctly. It is a political position not something with
"game" features. Likewise the whole Eyrian justice system,
the Temple of Tesral. There are social structures here that the
characters in the story take for granted. It would require "As
You Know, Bob" info dump to explain them, and that would detract
from the story. the Magistrate isn't going to lecture people on the
Justice System at every turn. The Dios (local bishop) doesn't tell
everyone how the church works at every encounter. So they don't. I
hope I have made enough plain that explanations are not required.
is a work of
fiction. All characters, places, and situations are fictional. Any
resemblance to persons, places, or situations living or dead is
© Garry Stahl:
2010. All rights reserved,
re-print only with permission.
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