Chapter 2: History.. Page 12

Posted: May 5, 2007 in Good Reads

Chapter 1: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6, Page 7, Page 8, Page 9
Chapter 2: Page 10, Page 11

‘Don’t you know anything?’ Paplo said, ‘The Order of the Silver Paladins is one of the most revered militant organisations in the world. Each Paladins is equipped with weapons and armour of the best Damakus steel, blessed by all seven archbishops of the land. They can call upon supernatural strength and speed in battle. Their faith repels hexes and enables healing by touch.’

‘According to Eulesus’ War Manual, a Paladin is worth thirty-five infantry; but as a strategic unit, he’s worth five hundred. It’s every boy’s dream to become a Paladin. Until they grow old enough to realise what celibacy means, that is.’

‘Are they really that good?’ Wykka asked sceptically, knowing Paplo’s penchant for the dramatic.

‘I can’t speak for all of them, but the Paladins who assisted us against the Iceleni were awesome,’ admitted Eladred. who was not prone to praise, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. They practically mowed down the mob, like straw. Even the Bladedancers of my people would find them a challenge, I think.’

Max snorted, ‘I’ve seen the Bladedancers – I don’t think one would last ten minutes against a Paladin. But you have to remember that Paladins are extremely expensive to train and maintain. The entire Kingdom of Gipur only had twenty-seven. If there were more of them, they would truly be a force to be reckoned with. But they are few and far between.’

Wykka frowned, ‘If these Paladins were so well thought of, what did this Lord Gilead need you and Eladred for?’

‘What did he need us for?!? I’ll have you know that Max and I have built a very good name for ourselves, before you fletchlings came along,’ Eladred said, haughtily. ‘Lord Gilead knew what he was doing when he hired the best – us – to lead the Paladins.’

Max pooh-poohed the elf. ‘None of that nonsense! It’s a simple reason, really. The Iceleni hideout was in an underground complex. Dwarves are renowned for their speleological exploits, as a race. Lord Gilead also wanted individuals who had excellent darkvision to lead the church knights. We happened to be available.’

‘Even so, did you think Lord Gilead would entrust the job to just any Tom, Dick and Harry?’ the elf was quick to point out.

‘It still doesn’t mean we are the “best”, Max firmly told him. ‘You’re courting death when you start thinking that no one else is better than you. Because there always is.’

The elf shrugged, dropping the subject.

‘These Iceleni cultists – is there any truth to their beliefs?’Wykka asked, ‘Is the Ice Queen still alive?’

Max replied, ‘It’s difficult to know the true beliefs of the Iceleni – they tend to die in the process of capture. And the dead are hard to interrogate. But their fascination with ice and the use of Ishar’s old icons as holy symbols do suggest that they expect Her to return.’

‘I think the cultists are a bunch of nutcases,’ Paplo opined, ‘It’s widely accepted in academic circles that Ishar is very dead, at the hands of Redayne.’

‘Dwarven historians would beg to differ,’ Max said, ‘It is widely accepted among my people that Redayne was simply an opportunist who conquered an empire when Ishar left.’

‘I find that difficult to accept,’ said Paplo, ‘I mean, why would the undisputed ruler of the world – who was virtually immortal, I might add – just up and go away one fine day? It doesn’t make sense. If she were alive, would she have allowed Redayne to carve an empire out of Her lands?’

‘Redayne founded an empire?’ Wykka asked.

Paplo replied, ‘Ah… yes. It was originally the Kyradian Kingdom, a nation born from the ashes of Ishar’s core dominions. But it grew so large and powerful that it eventually became the Great Empire of Man. That’s the Imperium I had been talking about, earlier.’

‘Was it like the Ice Queen’s empire?’

‘Goodness, no!!’ exclaimed Paplo, shocked, ‘The Imperium was the Golden Age of Man. I find it a disgrace that any human being should know nothing of it.’

‘So enlighten me,’ Wykka said.

‘I mean to,’ Paplo told him, ‘For five centuries after the fall of Ishar, the Imperium dominated the civilized world, by economics and awe, if not through direct military control. It was so advanced and powerful, that even those beyond its borders were forced to follow or adapt to its policies and culture. Its influence was felt by almost all the peoples of the world. Including the dwarves and the elves, I might add- though they called it an “alliance”. Would an “ally” pay annual tribute, I ask you?’

‘The glory and dignity of that era is long past,’ Max said. ‘As you can see, the Men of today are scattered into hundreds of squabbling Kingdoms. The King of Delysia, whom Wykka had called an “old bore”, is nothing more than a provincial lord. And on the verge of bankruptcy, I might add. Ordinary men can hardly make enough to buy ale.’

‘But the fact remains that the Imperium did exist,’ Paplo insisted, ‘To me, that is an indication that Redayne had divine blessings – for surely, a mere men could not have accomplished so much of his own. If so, then is it not also possible that he could have defeated Ishar, with the same divine blessings? It’s far more believable than the Dwarven version of history, I should say!’

‘Then tell me this,’ Max said, ‘Why was the Citadel of Ice – a mighty symbol of the Ice Queen’s power – not razed to the ground, nor occupied at any time since the Age of the Imperium? Why would the King of Delysia pay good gold to investigate a mere rumour of Ishar’s return to that ancient fastness? And requiring nothing more than a piece masonry to prove that we were there? Why not send his own men, instead of a dwarf, an elf and two other outsiders?’

Silence greeted those questions. There was no need for any of them to answer – they knew it themselves, and felt the same growing in their minds…

Fear.

 

                                                                to be continued…

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