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Unread 9th of February, 2008, 07:36
Cadrius's Avatar
Refusing to Sow [Epic GM]

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Location: The Emerald City
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There was a time when Cadrius was more than this, better than this. His shoulders were not as steeped with sorrow’s burden, and while he has always borne the mantle of duty, it did not weigh upon him as heavily as it does now.

His life had been one of privilege. As the eldest heir to his father, the duke, he was to inherit the lands of his ancestors. They had ruled for centuries, claming their land at the fall of the high king and the birth of the hundred duchies. What had once been rolling hills and farmlands grew to hold villages and forts. They named their family keep thus—Harcourt, the fortified farm.

During the rainy days of spring, his father had him sit in the library tower and study the familial history and lore of the Vanes. The heavy tomes were rarely used and dust and time sat thick upon their covers. Once upon a time, his family had been minor nobility, landless under the high king’s rule, who rose in prominence in the aftermath of his fall. They leaned up their allies and used what money they could purchase sellswords and turncloaks. Adalius Vane had been a shrewd negotiator and a skilled warrior and through silver tongue and strong arm he had forged a small bit of order amid the swirling chaos. He had dedicated his family’s triumph to Heironeous, promising not only his devotion, but the service of all his sons to come. Since then, each generation has served the will of the Archpaladin. Their family’s legacy was one of loyalty and every son joined the order, pledging themselves to the church’s code. In his old life, his former life, Cadrius had been a good knight and a dutiful son and brother. He even had a love, beautiful as falling snow.

All of that is gone.

He cups his hands and plunges them into the stream, savoring the brisk water as he splashes it against his face. It chills his skin and droplets cling to the whiskers growing across his cheeks and neck. He stares down at his reflection, muddled by the current. The water is swift here, rushing onward out of the rocky foothills and down toward the forests and plains of the south.

Fear, an all too common feeling for him now, lingers, leaving an acrid taste in his mouth. The hamlet full of the peaceful dead had sent him flying. In his younger days, he would have stayed and dug graves for each and every one of them. He would have spoken a benediction over each body before laying it to rest. But those were the old days, when the brush of divinity still shrouded him.

The Order of Heironeous went by many names. The men-at-arms in his family’s keep always called them Fists on account of the holy symbols they bore. A visiting emissary from a southron land had called them Lightning Lords. But in truth, Cadrius sees him and his line as just another means to an end for the church. They were a marcher duchy, and were needed to maintain order. When the dukes were not squabbling among themselves there were often bandit kings and barbarians probing the borders for weakness.

While the bureaucracy of the Order did not directly run their estates, Cadrius’ family was often in lockstep with the Order’s goals and agenda. In turn, they provided men and arms for the Vanes. Each son becomes a page, and then a squire, learning firsthand what it means to be a knight. He had been squired to Sir Cargyle who taught him of horse and lance. His father’s master-at-arms, a gray knight named Sir Talbot, had taught Cadrius all he knew of swordplay. Yet the Order also sent men of learning, priests and Heironic scholars, who tutored the Vanes in the realms of history, religion, and mathematics.

Yet the greatest gift came not from the clergy, but from Heironeous himself. The knighthood of the Vanes is more than just rights and property granted, it is a bridging of two worlds. The paladins of Heironeous become mortal vessels that carry the merest spark of divinity within their chests. He had not known what to expect during his sacred ceremony. There was no fanfare when it was complete, just a solemn acceptance into a brotherhood most would never understand. He almost didn’t notice the difference within himself. It manifested itself is a sense of warmth and security and pride. It was like getting an approving nod from his father.

But while the divine connection was not overt in its manifestation, it still conferred a host of mighty boons. Cadrius no longer knew fear. Nothing could conjure it within his breast. Any danger or threat was calmly assessed, without terror’s hysterical voice screaming in his ear. The peace it granted him had been exquisite, and he regarded death with a pair of fresh eyes. It wasn’t the going that would be hard; it would be the leaving others behind.

But all of that changed a few years later when he was cast out into exile for the most despicable of crimes—kinslaying.

Cadrius looks at the man staring up at him. He wants to blame his fate on the gods, but cannot. This is his doing. He has dug his grave, now it is time to lie in it. He cannot atone for his sins, cannot change the past, but he would give anything he has left to see his father one more time before he dies.

Steel and leather scrape and creak as he rises to his feet. The village is a half mile behind him, full of dead bodies. They might have passed in peace, but they would not rest without a proper burial. In the old days, Heironeous’ blessing would have protected him from any lingering pestilence. He would have easily gone about his work without a care. But he’s learned in the long years since his fall that it is through fear, and only fear, that a man can ever truly be brave.

Cadrius turns on his heel and walks back toward the village. He has work to do.