tagRomanceThe Midnight Maiden Ch. 00

The Midnight Maiden Ch. 00

byLordBrionGrenwall©

The Ahlissan Chronicles

~ Book 1 ~

The Midnight Maiden

Prologue

Somewhere in the Crystalmist Mountains (471 CY)



It was bitterly cold as mighty winds whipped the wet snow around him into a blinding frenzy; if not for the many furs he wore the young man would have surely frozen to death hours ago. His supplies were gone, what food had been in his pack had long since run out. For two days now the snows had been his only meal and the warmth of fire or shelter just a memory. Despite the hardship the knight errant continued to climb the peak; it had no name and was not detailed on any map. The peak was hidden among the Crystalmist Mountains, themselves the tallest range in all the Flanaess; this would be roof of the known lands.

He had been trained in weapons and battle strategy by his father for as long as he could remember and in later years a family friend, a priest, had schooled him in the tenets of Heironeous the Archpaladin. The Heironean Code as it was called consisted of three duties. Duty to the People: courage, justice, mercy, valor and protection of the weak. Duty to the Archpaladin: devotion, generosity and championing the cause of good against evil. Finally, Duty to a Lady: devotion to one's beloved and respect toward all women in general. He had embraced the Code and now these beliefs were as much a part of him as his own beating heart.

In his sixteenth year he joined the army of his homeland and distinguished himself in battle many times. For the next four years he rode with the cavalry defending the borders of his young nation, its' freedom won just after his birth. Then the invitation had come to join the Order of the Argent Griffon, the elite of the Grand Army and its' leaders. He had accepted without hesitation.

That was just the beginning, as he endured additional training, fasting and prayer to the Archpaladin. He was brutally tested in mind, body and spirit; many times the thought of giving up had entered his mind but the thought of dishonoring his family name cast aside all thoughts of quitting. In his final year of training he had faced the two trials that all candidates prepared for but dreaded the Test of Faith and the Test of Arms. He had passed both with flying colors, although not without a price; the cost had been high but he had been willing to pay.

Having survived the tests he was now on his final leg of the journey, a quest for the Archpaladin. He had prayed to Heironeous for a true test of his skills, of his faith and his prayers had been answered. In a dream he had been shown a distant peak and a voice had told the errant to journey there. He had sailed across the Azure Sea and survived not only the quaking mires and bottomless pools of the Hool Marshes but also its' renegade humans and humanoid monsters; finally after many weeks of travel he had come to the foothills of the Crystalmist Mountains. The Crystalmists themselves were home to giants, ogres, humanoids and the like; now he had come to the mountains' tallest peak.

Night had fallen when he reached the summit; at this elevation the silver moon of Luna filled the night sky completely and following her was her handmaiden the smaller aquamarine moon Celene. He rejoiced for it was spoken among the wise that when both moons shone full together, things of great portent could happen. To the battle hardened but young errant it seemed as if the heavens themselves were within his reach.

Overwhelmed by the majesty of it all, he fell to knees weeping and began to pray to the Archpaladin, asking him for the quest that would define him and give him purpose. Eventually exhaustion overtook him and he collapsed into a fetal position within the many furs he wore, his sleep fitful. Later he was awakened, by a warm light of his face; it thawed the tears that had frozen to his cheeks. Standing before him was a tall human male with auburn hair and skin that looked the color of copper. Also he was clothed in a full robe of chainmail so fine that it seemed to flow over him like cloth. Smiling the man knelt down and touched the errant and he felt warmth flood through his body, then like a whisper he heard a voice although the stranger's lips did not move.

"Greetings you have traveled far and endured much to reach me here where the heavens touch the mortal world. What is it that you desire of me?"

"Great Paladin, I wish only to serve, protect and defend. I seek to dedicate my life to a quest that serves the greater good of the world."

"I have a quest such as the one you ask for, however, it will require adherence to the Code not just in mind and spirit but in your blood as well."

"Archpaladin, what is this quest?"

"The Eater of Worlds, the Chained God is growing in power and a time is quickly approaching when he may be freed from his prison and we cannot intercede directly."

"Do you wish me to defeat this Eater of Worlds?"

"No. The power to do so is not within the realm of man."

Upon hearing Heironeous' declaration the young errant dropped his face into the snow and sobbed.

"Do not lose hope young warrior, one has already been born among you and she will be the vessel through which we will act. Find her and protect her until the time comes that she is needed. The fate of your world rests on the shoulders of her and the one who protects her. Do you accept young errant?"

"Yes, Invincible One, I accept."

"Good. Within these mountains dwells a dwarven blacksmith, Bain Grimtooth. Find him and with your help he will forge armor and a weapon worthy of your quest."

"But Valorous Knight how will I know this woman, this avatar?"

"When the time is right all will be revealed to you. For now forget our words here, seek out the dwarf and ready yourself..."

The vision of the Archpaladin faded from his sight and he fell into a deep and refreshing sleep. When the errant awoke at dawn the following day he felt no chill despite the unbearable cold and no hunger or thirst. He had only one burning need, to climb down the summit and search for a dwarven blacksmith named Bain Grimtooth.

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