Unedited and full of flaws as always, but here’s the rough of a new chapter which I’ve accidentally added to the Fall of NaRasch, dealing with the demise of the Paladin (Dragon Breath, Mighty Dragon – depreciated). Incidentally, WordPress DOES have editorial positions within its infrastructure. Perhaps if you’re one of these people who cant stand a typo you’d care to fill a position…
But for the warmth and the good food Gail felt an uneasiness growing within her. She kept checking her memory of the day past, wondering if at any point they had come across tracks. She knew that they had not, and that no one had seen them, but for all the calming that her mind would do she could not shake the feeling that she was being watched, or followed or both. The great fire that they had lit made her nervous, but as none of the others appeared to share her concern she kept it to herself. It was only as they were getting ready for bed that Anne noticed her furtive glances into the darkness.
“What are you looking for, Princess?” asked the Elemental.
“I don’t know,” Gail replied. “Nothing I suppose. I’m nervous, but I suppose there’s no reason to be.”
“No, no reason,” replied Anne. Then after a moment’s thought she spoke. “Where is your sword?”
“It’s in my sled,” replied Gail.
“Go fetch it before you sleep,” said Anne.
Gail went to the sled. Maroward was fastened sheath and all just under the inside wall. She untied it and brought it back with her, pulling the sword a little out of the scabbard as she walked, just to see that it was the same as it had been, and of course it was.
“Good,” said Anne. “Now take it out. What do you feel.”
Gail drew the sword slowly, carefully. That one action drew the attention of the entire company, and she was painfully aware of this. At first she felt nothing, but she noticed that the woods seemed a little lighter. Then the feeling of foreboding came back, but stronger now. She turned a full circle, looking in every direction. But she did not know what she was looking for.
“I feel frightened,” said Gail after a moment.
“Put your sword away, Gail,” said the Elemental softly. “It’s nothing. Let no dark dream disturb your sleep tonight.”
The feeling of foreboding did not subside, but Gail did as Anne said, letting her reasoning come and dispel the fear. She got into bed then, but kept Maroward at her side, along with the knife she had been given by the Smithy in Vestrodge. The knowledge that they were there helped her feel a little more secure, but the rest that Anne had recommended eluded her.
She strayed into fitful dreams haunted by nondescript shadows, and came out again to sit up and stare into the darkest corners of the woods until she became too cold and hid under her blankets. It was perhaps the third or fourth time that she woke and found that Anne had moved from her bed. Sitting up, she found the Elemental a little way off, standing with her back to the camp. She was wrapped in a dark cloak, and Gail thought she saw the end of a dagger protruding from one of the sleeves. So silent and unmoving was she that at first glance she might pass for a rock or tree in the night. She did not stir when Gail got up.
“There is something out there, isn’t there,” said Gail in a whisper.
“Yes,” said Anne after a moment’s silence. “I have felt him since yesterday morning, at the time when he set his thought on you.”
“Him?” asked Gail, startled. “You know who it is?”
“Of course,” replied Anne. “Don’t you? I would have thought that by now you would recognize the feeling of the Paladin when it comes.”
At that Gail’s breath caught in her throat. It took her some time before she was able again to manage speech. The fear had come upon her again, but now it was many times stronger, nearly what she might call panic.
“What’s he doing here?” Gail asked, her voice catching even as she did.
“He’s looking for you,” said Anne. Her voice was steady and calm, hardly above a whisper. “He’s been looking now and then ever since you and Maroward gave him that start on the road outside Ossuar. After his first fright he fled for a while in fear of you. But it was not long before he found his courage again. Even so it’s taken him a while to find you. He’s been hunting around in the south for a long time, but this morning I sensed that he had learned news of our passing. Since then he has been coming swiftly. He is still afraid, but the wrath and hope of the Paladin are far stronger than any mortal fear that the man Leordon still possesses.”
“Why?” asked Gail. “Why would he be afraid? And of what?”
“I’ve already told you that,” replied Anne. “Don’t you ever listen when people talk? He’s afraid of you; of that sword you carry.”
“That doesn’t tell me anything,” said Gail. “I saw his reaction to Maroward at Ossuar. But what has he got to be afraid of? Can Maroward do him some harm?”
At this Anne let out a chuckle. “My dear girl,” she said. “The Prophetess who gave you the sword could have answered that question. Arlen Bresh could have answered it. Even your grandfather here could tell you a little about your sword if you’d only ask. And yet in all our company you still don’t know…”
“Know what?” demanded Gail, growing a little exasperated.
“That Maroward – the blade you treat as menial – is the only weapon that the Paladin fears. Indeed it’s one of the very few that can do him any harm at all. But like him you are blinded by your fear.”
“Why should Maroward be any more dangerous to him?”
“Because,” replied the Elemental. “That is its purpose. Before Leordon took up that hated weapon – indeed before it was even forged – Maroward was made by the hand of Silence to have dominion over such weapons as the Paladin. That’s why the Prophetess gave it to you. Because you are to be the queen of Gaeline, and it has always fallen to the crown in the north to guard against these monsters.”
“There’s more than one?”
“Many more,” Anne said. “But the others are of no concern at present. They are locked away as they ought to be; as he ought to be. For now our attention must be given to the Paladin.”
“I’m going to fight him?” Gail asked. “I don’t know if I can.”
“Oh girl, don’t be ridiculous,” the Elemental replied. “You don’t stand a chance against the Paladin; not yet. But I said Maroward is the only weapon he fears. I did not say that it was the only weapon that could harm him. It is one of the few. I still have my dagger. I told you they were forged by the same smith – by Silence himself. Yours has the greater purpose, but my blade is meant only for the Paladin. I have waited long for tonight. But I will need your help.”
“What can I do?” asked Gail.
“Challenge him,” was the reply. “Draw his attention; make him think that you are the chief danger.”
“And how should I do that?”
“By ignoring him,” said Anne. “The Paladin, I mean. Somewhere within that monster is a very real man, and I think he is still at war with the sword, though he has been losing for many years. Treat the Paladin as of no consequence. Address Leordon, and it will provoke the monster to fury. It may make my job easier as well. Can you do that, Queen?”
“I think I can,” said Gail. She wondered that the Elemental addressed her as queen where she had always before called her a princess.
“Good,” said Anne. “Go back to sleep if you can. He is still some way off. I will wake you when he draws near.”
Gail went back to bed, thinking that the very idea of sleep at a time like this was ludicrous. But she had not lain long when her eyelids began to sag, and rested peacefully until they were all woken by a shout from Anne.
“Get up friends!” called the Elemental. “A foe is upon us!”