A Paladin's Tale: The Light of Home

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the coast of the Lenian Sea, a young guard dreams of becoming a great Paladin and possibly find his lost Father, however his bravery falters and he fears he will not be ready to embark on such a dangerous Journey...
The first chapter of the Monthly Updated "Paladins Tale".

Submitted: February 03, 2019

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Submitted: February 03, 2019

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A Paladin's Tale: The light of Home

 

The bright sun shone over the coast of the great Lenian sea, as the calm inland sea waves washed over the banks of the Softshell keep.

A modest holding, for a modest noble family and their court. But amidst the content peasant families that toiled away in the farmlands surrounding the keep, and the castle's denizens, there was one who felt as if the calm sea waves were a storm.

Upon this young man’s gaze there was no bright sun shining, only a clouded sky that told no promises of either sun or storm, and the uncertainty filled him with a sense of never ending anxiety.

 

He stood over the castle walls and looked deep into the horizon, fully armored in his garrison's plate, he let his mind drift with thoughts of what could be. The worst feeling of all he thought, was to be left alone wondering about the futility of everything… it was a part of growing up they said.

But from the courtyard below, a voice stood up to him and saved him from his daily self-made torment.

“Tomin! Your shift is up. Go to your grandmother, she said lunch is ready.”

“Right away Captain!”-The young man said as he quickly made his way down the stairs and left his halberd and helmet in the armory, so eager to reach his home he didn't even notice he still held onto his shortsword in his scabbard.

“Careful! Don't trip on yourself.”-The old captain said exasperatedly as he saw the nervous boy run throughout the courtyard towards his home.

 

In the base of the courtyard by the shadow of the walls, close to the stables and castle's workshops there were a few small houses, all made of wood with patched straw rooves, they were all the holdings of the commoners who worked and toiled inside the castle of the Lord-Baron Dinis of Softshell.

The wood was old and the smell of the animals in the stable nearby caused minor nausea to any who were not used to it.

But young Tomin did not care, because from inside his own small family house, a pleasant smell irradiated, the invigorating scent of the medical herbs of his grandmother Marie the Court Physician, and the daily surprise aroma of that day's lunch.

 

The young guard opened the creaky door and saw his old grandmother pouring over a bright yellow soup with some of the castles finest smoked meat into a small bowl.

The bright yellow glow immediately lifted his spirit, and as the hot steam from the freshly made soup filled him, Tomin felt at peace for a few moments.

“Granma, you shouldn't have...that meat was a present from Lord Dinis.”

“Nonsense.”-The old woman said as she laid the spoon next to the bowl. -” Tomorrow is a big day for you. You deserve only the best your grandma can afford.”

Tomin sat in his chair and before he could dig into her lovingly made soup, the old court physician grabbed his hand and said with a gentle smile -”I said you deserve only the best your grandma can afford, didn't I?”-From the pocket of her old physician's robe, she took out a small vial with brightly colored green herbs and carefully sprinkled them over her grandson's soup.

 

“Granma no! What if you get sick now?”-Tomin said with an especially worried look.

“Oh, don't you worry my sweetie, there is nothing this old witch can't survive now.”- She said with a quick wink that was followed by a small cough. -” Besides, where you are going you need to be strong and healthy, you need it more than me. I can see it in your eyes.”

 

“It's nothing really, please granma just...you have it instead.”-Tomin said as his guardian sat on the opposite end of the small table and prepared to eat her own meal.

“It's alright Tomin, c’mon now. It’s your birthday, I insist.”-The woman said with a warm toothy smile.

The young man looked at his soup as he prepared to eat it with his old wooden spoon, the glowing sun-like yellow contrasted with the bright healthy red meat and the invigorating natural green of the medical herbs.

It was wonderful, “like eating a meal of the gods”, the boy thought. The meal brought him both a great sense of comfort and joy, and a feeling of dread and fear, he stirred his soup slowly with his spoon as he looked at it with an anxious gaze.

“Tomin? What's wrong sweetie?”-Grandma Marie asked as she looked at her depressed grandson.

“It's just...I'm gonna miss this, I'm afraid of the future...”-The young lad sighed as he avoided eye contact with his guardian, out of shame.

Seeing the troubled posture and tone of her grandson, Marie picked up her bowl and quickly finished her lunch, not wanting to waste the rare warm meal.

 

She then moved her chair close to her kin and told him. -” But you always wanted to be a Paladin, didn't you? And here I thought Paladins were brave and fearless.”

Tomin then put his spoon down, and with a defeated look, the young boy almost started to cry at his own failure to even overcome the simple thought of the unknown.

“But of course, you are not like that, Tomin. You haven't found your light yet, have you?.”-The wizened old woman said with a slight smirk.

“What do you mean granma? What light?”-The red eyed Tomin said as he looked with confusion to his elder.

“Well, a light...everyone needs a light in their life. A light to guide them, a light to move away the darkness and sadness that creeps into one's hearts! A light to comfort them…”-Marie said as she wrapped her arms around her grandson.

“Once you find that light to cast away the shadows my sweetie, you will never be lost in the darkness again.”

Tomin's eyes began to swell at his grandmother's words and without thinking he started to hug Marie back.

” When you leave tomorrow to the Lenian Cathedral, just remember this:

No matter how dark the clouds and the sky are, there are even brighter stars on the other side, just waiting to be found again.”

Tomin looked towards his guardian and said in a worried tone. -”What if I can't find a light on the other side of the sea Granma?”

“Non-sense, haven't you heard what I told you?

Tomin, you are a good boy… no, a good man. You have more goodness in you than you realize...Whenever you start to doubt yourself and see those clouds that cause you so much trouble, just remember:

Stop, breathe and if you can't see or feel the sun or stars shining above the clouds, then hold on for what’s around you, and make your own light, and make that light bright!.”

 

As she finished her pep-talk, Tomin let go of his guardian and promised. -” I can only try...”

“And I know you will.”-Marie said as she held Tomin's hands and gave him a hopeful smile. -” Now c’mon then, finish your soup before it gets cold. I need to go check on the apothecary.

Just because you are a man now, doesn't mean you are safe from your chores, young Paladin.”-The old doctor said as she placed her own bowl back in the pots that hung on the walls.

 

“Yes, yes I know, feed Ruly.”-The young guard answered with a renewed smile at the thought of his still, familiar routine.

“I heard the garrison has some things planned for you, so don't get home too late, hero.”-Marie joyfully exclaimed.

“I can only try, granma.”-The guard said whilst he smiled back.

“And I know you will.”-With yet another toothy smile, the friendly matron then closed the door behind her and left her grandson to finish his meal as well as his chores.

As he ate his meal, Tomin felt invigorated, not just from the lovingly made food, but also from the kind words of his ever-affectionate grandmother.

 

Once he had finished the last of his meal, the young man stood up, and after he had cleaned and placed his own bowl in the hanging pottery, he walked towards the back of the house.

A door led to a very small holding pen, hanging outside between the Castle's wall and the wooden shack that served as the home of the Castle's doctor, with was a small makeshift rain shelter for Tomin's only family animal, a young piglet named Ruly.

The rather sad looking piglet immediately stood up and charged towards Tomin as soon as he saw him and rather than trying to knock him down, the resourceful pig circled the young boy as he waited for his daily fill.

“Woah, easy now Ruly, I got your food here.”-Tomin knelt and shared with his friend a warm bowl from the bottom of the pot.

Without waiting, the happy pig quickly started to chow down on the freshly made meal. -” I wish I could bring you with me, Ruly.”-Tomin sighed as he pet the back of his friend and reminisced about all their past adventures in the castle.

Almost as soon as he had started, the bowl was picked clean by the young piggy. -” Woah, you finished already? What’s wrong Ruly? Something troubling you?”

The piglet started to oink in a rather worried tone. -” Don’t worry, I'm gonna be fine, buddy. Come here.”

 

Tomin opened his arms, and as his friend stepped towards him, he held him tight.

As the young pig was held by his only friend, his worried stance slowly changed to one of comfort and rest.

Something similar happened to Tomin too, has he held in his arms one of the few souls, who he completely trusted and felt comfortable talking about his problems to.

For a moment, Tomin thought about the next day and how he probably would never see his friends again.

He felt his heart becoming heavy and a small tear starting to form in his right eye, but before he could start to weep, he was stopped by the very creature that had started to cause him such thoughts.

The young Ruly started to oink and sniff his friend, both out of curiosity and wonder at the strange emotion Tomin showed to him.

 

“Ah, c'mon Ruly, it's alright, it's nothing I swear.”-Tomin chuckled at his friend's concern and after he had cleaned his eyes, he whispered to him. -” I’m gonna miss you buddy...I need you to keep granma company, and you make sure she's well fed.”

Ruly started to look yet again with a sense of fear to Tomin, who had just now realized what he said. -” Oh, I uh… I don't mean it like that. I mean, make sure she eats all of her grown food, not you, obviously.”- The nervous boy said with an awkward chuckle.

“C'mon now, I will let go.”-He said in a relaxed tone as he slowly placed his friend back down.

Ruly started to walk around his pen and before his friend could leave, he sat down and gave a nice and loud farewell squeal.

“I can only try, buddy.”-Tomin answered with a smile as he left and closed the door of the pen.

 

He made his way through his smallish house and then throughout the castle's courtyard, where various courtiers, servants and pilgrims passed by and went about their daily life.

It seemed it was especially crowded outside the walls now as he heard voices that were strange to him, and thus, Tomin knew why there was so much movement.

He went to armory, grabbed his helmet and halberd and made his way back to his station at the top of the wall.

Out in the eastern side by the docks, he saw as the weekly cargo boat arrived from the Imperial Capital of Len.

The same boat that would bring him back to the Capital City of the great Lenian Empire, for Tomin to be ordained in the Paladin Order the next day.

 

He firmly gripped his halberd, sighed and prepared himself for one last watch assignment in his home.

The merchants bargained and traded in the marketplace by the docks, bringing out the fine manufactured goods of the capital as the servants of the castle carted the tribute of grain and crab to the Emperor, from the Baron.

 

A fresh breeze washed over the garrison on the wall, but try as he might, Tomin continued to remain anxious.

Part of this was of course because for his last watch, the Captain of the Garrison made him stand watch over the docks, looking straight into the place that caused him so much anxiety.

“Is this a joke?”-Tomin thought to himself as he fixated onto the horizon and wondered if this placement was intentional.

 

The vast Lenian Sea stretched across the horizon, it was the greatest inland sea in all known Vaelia, and somewhere within it, lay the City of Len, the birthplace of the Lenian Empire.

The same empire that once sprawled far beyond the reaches of the Lenian sea, throughout almost all western and eastern Vaelia.

The empire that had been created by the Goddess Gwen who had forsaken her immortality and sought glory and justice among mortals.

A realm created by Gwen, for the sole purpose of Uniting the Human Race and lead them against the dreaded Draconic Feudal Realms and against the Dragon Lord Tjarkonyl, God of Monsters and Dragons.

 

But that had all been centuries ago, the little that Tomin knew came from the wandering monks and the occasional Cleric of Sigurd, those ever so brave followers of the God of Wisdom, who travel from land to land and share in their holy reasoning and philosophies with the masses.

He had considered joining them, but deep in his heart, Tomin knew he wanted to be a Paladin.

Their stories of honor, valor and justice that his dad told of them always sounded so heroic and righteous; a “true example of Heroes”, his dad said.

Tomin's mind drifted for a second about the thought of his parents; his mother who had died when he was born, despite the mastery of his grandmother, the pain of the birth had been too great for her to bear. Then Tomin thought about his brave father, a seasoned mercenary veteran who despite risking his life for fortune in faraway lands, always returned to his hometown to his mother and son.

As Tomin grew over the years, even in the short times his father was allowed to stay, he always remained a loving parent who cared deeply for his son.

“The light of his life”, his dad used to call him. Tomin thought about all their times together and how there was always such joy when he returned, each time battle scarred, each year, a step closer to death, but with each return, he found his spirit and his courage in Tomin.

 

The horrors of war and the world clearly troubled him, but it was the life he knew.

He never spoke of what it was like out there, except for one thing: He always spoke highly of the Paladins. No matter how horrible, no matter how dark, the Paladins always came around, risking their life for the sake of others, both in and out of the fields of war. He spoke numerous times of when full battalions had been saved by the selfless acts of a single Paladin, and when defeat seemed certain, their courage lifted the armies’ spirits and led them to victory against the foulest of things.

It was these Paladins who allowed him to return home and see his family again, to live another day, and for the selfless acts of these great men and women, Tomin's dad, Lawrence, had a limitless respect, and wished he could only be as strong and brave as they were.

 

Since those days, Tomin had decided he would become like them. He wanted to be like the great heroes his father spoke of. Lawrence, however, always seemed to discourage his son from it, “I would prefer if you stayed here and remained safe.”

It didn't matter though, Tomin was determined, he would become a Paladin, and he would find his courage...somewhere, eventually...” Hopefully”. -He thought

 

It had been so long since he had seen his father, it was now years, and no one had heard from him. The baron had sent his condolences, but somewhere deep inside Tomin's heart, along with his grandmother's and uncle's, they knew he was still alive, somewhere out there. One day he would surely return.

“If not, I will have to find him.”-Tomin thought, as he fantasized about making his father proud as the Paladin who would save him this time.

He let out a slight smile at the thought of re-uniting with his father, while he donned his gleaming Hedge Knight Armor. “I will find you dad, I promise.”-Tomin whispered quietly to the wind, as it flew past him and lifted Tomin's cloak with it.

 

He was afraid of what lay beyond the walls, but he heeded his grandmother's words, and with the thought of his father and the desire to see him seeded in his heart, Tomin pushed aside his fear and anxiety, for he was his father's light, and it was his duty to shine his way and bring him back from the darkness.

 

He breathed deeply, closed his eyes for a few seconds and as he debated on his duty, he felt the warming sun rays shining upon his back, and he heard calmly as the gentle winds pushed away the dark clouds that spanned the horizon.

On the far end of the sea, he saw as the endless night started to sprout, and the first glimpses of the broken double moon of Thalon with it. Strangely, its soft light gave him hope and comfort.

 

Tomin spent the final hours of his last home-watch with a newfound peace. He took in the familiar sight and the beauty of the great Sea, and instead of worrying about not seeing it again he felt comfort in his routinely post.

 

The sun set over the distant plains behind the young guard, and as it disappeared, the Softshell chapel's bells rung, signaling the end of the day.

Tomin stayed in his post for a few extra minutes, and hesitated to leave it for a moment, as he wanted to appreciate it for a little while longer, before everything would change.

 

The dayshift guards slowly left their posts and after they had returned their equipment, all started to talk and joke, as they prepared to relieve the stress of the day's work in the Tavern-Inn by the courtyard.

Tomin heard steps approach from behind him. -” Tomin? Is everything alright?”

The young guard turned back as he saw the moonlight shine over the Captain of the keep's garrison, his uncle, who held a concerned and tired posture.

“Oh, Sir Ivin. It's nothing really. I'm just taking in the view one last time, that's all.”- Tomin admitted with a nervous tone, as the fire of the newly lit torches crackled and fizzled.

Ivin chuckled and then stood next to the young Tomin. -” It’s a beauty isn't it?”

He asked as the fae-like moonlight and stars reflected from the calm and serene water, giving the world a sense that they were inside of a fine silver-like mirror that covered all.

“Yes...it really is.”-There was silence between the two men as they took in the natural spell of their home.

As the stars twinkled above them, and the boundless, ever colorful nebulae and galaxies spun above the split moon, Ivin placed his hand in his vestment's pockets and told his longtime protege -” I can't believe you are leaving already.”

Tomin looked to his side, as Captain Ivin stared at the thousands of stars above, he continued. -” Seems it was just yesterday, that I promised my sister to look out for her baby.”

Tomin looked to the Captain with a heavy expression. -” Guess she already expected her baby to go look for danger.”-He said.

 

“And go looking for it, you have.”-Ivin pondered on his words for a few seconds, and then admitted. -” But I suppose for a Paladin that will come in handy.”

“You think I will do well as a Paladin?”-Tomin asked the man who had guided for the last few years.

Captain Ivin looked to the sea for a few seconds and after he sighed, he looked to Tomin directly and told him with an honest tone. -” Tomin, my boy...I fear you might do too well as a Paladin.”

“What is that supposed to mean, Sir?”-The boy asked with a somewhat annoyed tone.

“Well, when your dad left he too always told me to keep an eye on you.

To not let you get into too much trouble.”-He admitted with a concerned posture. -” But, as it stands I am a man who prides himself in seeing what young men are capable of.

And in my eyes, I don't think I have ever seen someone as fitting for Paladin than you.”

 

As he heard this, Tomin let out a smile and merely said to his former superior. -” Thank you, uncle Ivin.”

The man then placed his hand on the shoulder of his young nephew and told him. -” Your mother would have been proud of the man you have become.

Now don't go break her heart once you are away from home.”

“Is the world outside as bad as dad always said?”-The young boy asked with a noticeable twinge of fear.

“It's worse, Tomin. You are a good kid, but still got much to learn.

When you come back here, you will have changed...hopefully not for the worst, but whatever happens out there, just know that your family, and everyone else here will always welcome you back with open arms.”

 

The young boy then leaned against his uncle, and with a heartfelt tone, he thanked him.

“C'mon, let's go to downstairs, that servant friend of yours and the guards are preparing the festivities for you.”

 

Both uncle and nephew finally left the post, but as the young man finally placed his armor and weapons in the armory for the last time, the Captain told him to wait.

“I almost forgot! Hold on Tomin.”-He then moved to the back of the armory and from beneath the floorboards, he took a small wooden chest, and brought it to his young nephew with a smile. -” It was a present from your father, he told me to give it to you on your eighteenth birthday.”

 

Tomin looked at the chest: it was a small, plain wooden chest without many intricate features, and as he carefully opened it, he saw inside the most peculiar tool.

At first glance it looked like a simple stick or branch, but as he picked it up and inspected it further, he saw that embedded in it was a blade, he folded it open and saw as the stick turned itself into a rather sharp looking and high quality shortsword.

 

“It's a peasant's folding sword, from the Free Mountains Republic. Your father got it from his service as a mercenary for the Peasantry's Defensive War against the Petty Counties.”-Ivin said as he looked with envy towards his nephew.

“It's beautiful.”-Tomin said as the soft silver light of the moon gleamed on the blade, and he appreciated the craftsmanship.

“They are very useful too. Easy to hide, so if you ever get in a spot where people force your weapons out and you need a bit of defense, it’s the perfect weapon.

As long as you can keep it hidden of course.”-Ivin said, as he hoped his nephew would never need to use it.

“Thank you, uncle. I will keep it close.”-Tomin said as he carefully folded the blade back into its inconspicuous chamber.

 

“Let's go now, I'm sure the boys are getting impatient.”-Finally, both the Captain of the Keep and the young, now free peasant, entered the “Wall-Inn.”

The first round of drinks started to make their way over the Tavern's counter and onto the various tables surrounded with hard working peasants and guards hoping to relieve the day's stress.

The warm light of the candles, torches and the fireplace lighted and warmed both the keep’s tavern and the hearts of those in it, as it rekindled their energy for the following day.

The comfortable yellow and orange light, so distinct of the simple and yet fulfilling farm life these men led, echoed throughout the entire quiet keep and roared through the peaceful silver light outside, as a beacon, signaling the small joys of life to an uncaring and harsh world.

The wilds and the outside may be dark, and only scantly illuminated, but in this humble farm inn, by the fires of their hard work, the people celebrated life.

 

In the biggest table of the inn, in a warm corner by the fireplace, the entire daytime garrison was sitting around, awaiting the arrival of the birthday boy and soon to-be adventurer.

“There he is!”

“Hurrah for Tomin!”-The men all celebrated with jugs of fine Lenian ale.

“Tomorrow he won't be a watchdog for Dinis no more!”

“Yeah! Our boy will be a Paladin!”

Both Ivin and Tomin sat by the table, as the inn-boy arrived.

“So, what will your lordship want?”-The young man asked with a rather smug tone at the young Paladin-to-be.

“I'll just have a glass of wine.”-Tomin said as the men of all different ages around him started to sigh, laugh and roll their eyes at the expected answer.

“By Levan, the boy really is made out to be a Paladin.”-One of the guards said with an almost mocking expression.

“You sure you don't want water Tomin? You still got a chance to be a monk.”-One of the men said as he started to laugh.

 

“Oh, don't worry Markin. I'm just taking something light so it's easier to knock you out when you're drunk later.”-Tomin said with an experienced smug, as all the men by the table laughed and hollered at the boy's answer.

“That's our boy! He's gonna kick all of them wizard's asses back to their mountain!”

 

“If he's as brave as he is snarky, he might actually stand a chance in the Capital.”- said Alexin, the inn boy who had grown side by side with Tomin, as he placed his hand on Tomin's shoulder. -” I’ll get your drink.”

Almost as soon as the waiter had left, the guardsmen all started to talk with each other and resumed their merriment.

The servant boy returned after he had gotten the drinks and had fixed his scraggly dirt blond hair.

He placed a wooden grail with the requested wine in front of Tomin, and a small sweet honey cake for the young Paladin-to-be. -” Our wine with the finest bouquet, straight from the “Unterlachs”. And a little gift from me, to our departing hero.”-The servant said as he let a quick wink to his longtime favorite patron.

“Aww, thanks Al.”-Tomin said happily as he prepared to dig into the cake prepared by his friend.

“Happy Birthday Tom. If you need anything else, just call, you know I'm all ears.”-Alexin answered with a slight smile as Tomin happily nodded in agreement.

 

Hours passed by and just like the drink that poured out from the caskets, soon enough, the farmers and guards, one by one, each started to pour out into the streets, back into their houses where they would gently rest, before being rudely awakened by the morning bells.

It was now late into the night, the broken double-moon had asserted itself firmly in the sky, and the light and life of the tavern started to dwindle now as only the fireplace of the tavern and a few candles remained lit.

By now, even Alexin the servant had joined the festivities with a few cups of wine as he had nothing or nobody else to attend to.

With about four empty grails of fine wine in front of him, Tomin barely kept his head afloat as he said goodbye to his departing uncle.

“Make sure you get some sleep Tomin.”-The still somewhat sober Ivin said as left the Inn and left both Alexin and Tomin alone.

 

There was a somewhat awkward silence after Ivin closed the door, and after a few seconds, Alexin, now too a bit tipsy, simply leaned back on his chair and shrugged as he told his friend. -” Why do you always do this?”

 

“Do what?”-The confused and rose cheeked Tomin asked with a hiccup.

“Just...you know, insist on suffering.”-Alexin reprimanded as he too let out various hiccups.

“Ya always-guhp- Isolate yourself, and then complain about being alone.”

“It's...complicated.”-Tomin answered as he tried to hide his face and expression.

 

“Is it? Ya got, your family...and me. And ya, you always complain about everything after work with me here anyway, but then the next day ya go right out sulking and pretending yer only friend is thaat pig.”-Alexin said as he threw his empty wooden cup behind the counter. -” If I didn't know any better, I would say you don't even think of me as a friend...”

 

“Of course, you aaree my friend, Alex...It's, complicaated.”-Tomin said as he started to sit upright in his chair.

“Yeah, I know, I know...ya miss your dad, and ya wanna make him proud...but...”-Alexin struggled to say the words he meant, as he pulled his chair closer to Tomin and continued. -” Ya ever stop to consider about the people that are gonna miss you here?”

“People...like who?”-Tomin said as he tried to lead on his friend.

“Oh c’mon Tomin...your family, the boys...m-me.”- Alexin said as he began to blush.

“You're gonna miss me?”-Tomin said as he too began to blush at the embarrassment.

“Well of course I am... We are friends, I love talking shit wit you about our work. The highlight of my day is when I get to hear what annoyes ya and then you hear what annooyes me andf then we habe a laugh about it.”-Alexin admitted as he drank the very last drop of the wine jug.

“Ayee, Ruly can't talk shit like ya do Alex.”-Tomin said with a drunken smile.

“Exactbly! Hehe.”-After he finished, there was silence in the tavern.

The lights of the inn were dimmed, and both the slender young men, sat in their chairs next to one another.

Neither of them seemed to know what to say to break the silence, to break the quiet of their last night together.

Then, as both of them placed their hands on the table and looked at the fires burning in the fireplace and that comfortable and lively red light, Alexin spoke.

 

” I’m gonna miss you Tom, I really will.”- Alexin continued as Tomin started to look with sadness to his friend. -” You say you are always alone, but...when you are gone.

I'm the one who's gonna be truly alone, the only reason I have been able to take over the inn after my folks’ death is because you were here after everyone had left...how can I go on, without you?”-Alexin asked as both Tomin and he felt a cold wind enter through the cracks in the inn's stone.

 

Tomin looked at the friend he had known since childhood and placed his hand on top of Alexin's and stared into his eyes as the fires roared. -” Oh, Al.”

Tomin pulled himself towards Alexin and both friends started to hug each other, Alexin felt the chill of both his worries and the outside cold melt away, as he felt the warm and loving embrace of his most trusted friend.

Then, with a quiet and gentle tone, Tomin started to whisper to his friend's ear. -” I’m gonna miss you too...I...”-The young servant felt as a tear started to drip down his back, as his best friend continued. -” I love you.”

In a moment that for both young men who had their days filled with nothing but thoughts of an uncertain future, in that one short moment of admittance, both of them felt the purest essence of joy and happiness.

And each wished it would last a lifetime.

In the loving embrace of one another, Alexin quietly whispered to his life's love. -” I love you too.”

The flames of the fireplace continued to diminish, but as the couple hugged and looked deep into each other, they didn't feel any cold, but only the warmth and affection both men shared.

 

As he looked deep into the eyes of the one who he had neglected the feelings of for far too long, Tomin said, with a soft and gentle tone. -” I’m sorry it took me this long Al.”

Alexin merely chuckled and said. -” Better late than never. And here I thought I was the one who had to give you a birthday present.”

Their faces remained only a few inches away from one another, but before they could share in their first kiss, Tomin felt he needed to first put the love of his life at ease.

He spoke to him softly once more. -” I know I'm going to a faraway place, and I might stay there for a long time, but I promise you...I will return, Al. I will return for you.”

 

Even though he knew that his love would have to go away, to hear those mere words from Tomin, it almost seemed as if it had lifted from him a weight the size of the keep itself.

And if any doubt or worry remained in the servant's head, it had vanished, as before he could even speak, the promise of the guard was sealed by the long and loving passionate kiss they shared.

 

Both young men pulled for the other, they felt the loving warmth of each other, and found solace that even if they felt alone in the world, they were alone together.

The blaze of the fireplace roared, as they finished their first kiss, and Alexin pleaded gently. -” If you have to leave tomorrow...will you stay here for the night?”

Without even a second to think, Tomin answered with a smile. -” I thought you would never ask.”

Both of them chuckled and finally Alexin admitted. -” You will be a great Paladin. My hero in shining armor.”-Alexin said as he fixed Tomin’s short, light brown hair away from his eyes. -” Come, it's getting cold in the hall.”-Alexin said as neither truly felt any cold.

Both men got up and retreated to rest for the night in the quarters of the tavern, and as the fireplace extinguished itself for the night, it gave way to the light of fire between Alexin and Tomin.

 

The morning came without much fanfare. To the majority of the town’s folk, it was a day like any other, but out by the docks, a special bunch gathered together.

Out from his chambers, the Lord Baron of the castle, Dinis of Softshell stepped forth. It was now close to mid-day.

 

The air was dense with uncertainty and the horizon looked rather foggy, but today, after all the kind words from everyone, Tomin didn't feel overwhelmed by the future anymore.

The sailors and the merchants set up their sails, ready to finally leave.

Tomin looked around to his friends and family who had been weary and yet so supportive of his choice.

They were all there to bid him farewell: his grandma, his uncle, his best friend and even his pig.

 

Words failed Tomin, and instead he went and started hugging those who mattered the most in his life.

“Tomin watch out for bandits...Don't be afraid to go for their groin if you need to.”-Ivin warned as he tried to pretend he wasn't crying.

“I will go for my knife before any get the jump on me.”-The young man answered as he gestured to the folding knife in his side.

“That's my soldier.”-Ivin said as he patted him on the shoulder.

 

“Ruly!”-Tomin exclaimed as he picked up his trusted pig. -” I’m gonna miss you buddy, but I promise I will be back before you know it.”-He placed his friend back down and then Tomin moved towards his newfound love. -” Al...”

“Oh Tom, you dumb idiot...I'm gonna miss you.”-Alexin said as he started to hug the love of his life.

“I will keep my promise, I will return for you.”-Tomin said as he hugged back his most trusted friend. -” I will even bring you one of those Goldswill champagne bottles you like.”

“Just came back in one piece.”-Alexin said as tears fell down from his face.

“I will try to...”-Tomin too started to get teary eyed - “Just look over my granma and Ruly while I'm gone.”-Tomin then moved and kissed his love goodbye, as Alexin did the same to the departing adventurer.

 

Lastly, Tomin moved towards his grandmother, and as she proudly looked at him with a small tear in her eye, she said. -” My, you look just like your father when he left for the first time.”-Marie then opened her arms, and Tomin moved in to hug his protector. -” Remember, be smart out there. Show them what a Greenleaf is made of!”-Tomin's guardian said as she wiped away the tears from his face.

“I will try to, granma.”-Tomin answered as he hugged the woman who had helped him all his life.

She held his face and as she lifted it, the old doctor told her grandson. -” I know you will...Here, I got a little farewell gift for you.”

Marie inferred as she reached for her pocket.

“What? Granma… it's fine.”

“Nonsense! To where you are going, you will need all the help you can get. Here!”-The old witch said as she opened her grandson's palm and gave him a small sealed glass vial, with a strange silver colored mushroom inside. -” It’s a wisp house cap, the brightest of all the forest mushrooms.

May it give you the light you seek, whenever you need it the most.”-She finished as she closed her grandson's palm.

“Granma...thank you. I will keep it with me, always.”-Tomin said with a sad and humbled tone.

“Follow the light, and you will never lose your way.”-Marie said as she hugged her grandson one last time before he left.

Tomin stood up, and then, after he looked to his friends and family one last time, he prepared to speak. -”Everyone, I-”

“Hold it!”

 

Suddenly, before Tomin could give his farewell speech, the lord of the Keep, Baron Dinis of Softshell, burst through the guards of the docks and as Tomin and his friends and family looked with surprise at the Baron's appearance, he stopped in front of the young man.

 

“M-My lord.”-Tomin said as he knelt to the baron of the keep.

“Were you about to leave?”

“I… Y-yes. My lord.”-The young man answered with a wavering tone as he feared what the Lord intended for him.

“I see...”-The Baron unsheathed his ducal sword.

Alexin almost sprang against the Baron, but he was stopped as Marie put her hand in front of the servant and told him. -” That forgetful boy. He wouldn't have need to do this now if you hadn't kept him awake all night.”-The old woman said with a sneaky grin to the inn servant.

 

“Tomin Iludur Greenleaf. In the name of the Empire of Len, and Emperor Luren Verona Arwen.

I, Baron Dinis Bormin Ividin Talir, of the Barony of Softshell, free you from your birth sworn status as lifelong serf of the Softshell keep and grant you the status of a Freeman of Vaelia.

For now, and forever, under the eyes and the blessing of The One and all the Gods.”-The Baron proclaimed as he tapped both shoulders of Tomin with his ducal sword.

“Arise now, freeman Tomin.”-The Baron said as he offered Tomin his hand.

 

As the young freeman rose up, the baron passed him a document. -” Signed here by me and stamped by the keep's Scribe.

Your declaration of freedom, you will need it if you really want to join the Paladins in the Capital.”-The Baron got close to his former peasant and told him in a rare trusting tone.

 

” Your father was a good man, you are a good boy too. If you want it to remain so, stay out of the Capital's politics, you'll live longer.”

Before he could even wait for an answer, the Baron simply patted the boy in the back and then disappeared back into the keep.

 

Tomin chuckled at the encounter, and as he held the piece of paper he couldn't even read in his hand, he could hardly believe the moment had come.

“The wind is blowing! Come along boy.”-The captain of the cargo ship called out to Tomin.

 

At a loss for words, and with a simple shrug, Tomin went for one last group hug.

“I'm gonna miss you all.”-He said with as his voice cracked.

“Just come back safe.”-Alexin cried

“You give them what for boy!”

“We will wait for your return, no matter what happens sweetie.”

 

Finally, he stepped onto the balancing boat, as he let go of his old life and prepared to embark into a new one. The sails were set, the anchor lifted, and the ropes recalled.

Soon enough, the boat began to sail into the great and open Lenian sea.

“Don't die!”-Alexin screamed as he and the rest of Tomin's family waved to the departing adventurer.

“I love you all!”-Tomin said as he waved back to his friends and family.

His uncle made a signal to the guards with his sword, and suddenly, from the wall of the keep, Tomin heard as the men he had known his entire life all shouted from atop their guard posts in the walls. “Hurrah, Tomin!” “Hurrah, Tomin!”

Tomin looked with wonder and happiness as he saw the farewell wishes and the love of his friends, family and home.

 

After a few minutes at sea, the keep started to disappear and become a minuscule spec. Tomin walked about the deck of the ship, and as he stared into the deep unknown horizon, he held onto the vial in his pocket, and his sword at his side and looked deep inside of himself to muster the courage he would need for this adventure, he looked inside for his light.

 

On the other side of the sea however, another young man, who pursued a similar fate, woke up inside a box, by the docks of the Capital city of Len, unknowing what fate had in store for him...

 

 


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