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A Paladin's Life

John Keller
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A Paladin's Life


John F Keller

I come to watch my son at dark;

the youngest of the three.

I stare in through the window bright,

beneath the dogwood tree.

To see the lad become a man,

and watch him at his prayer,

is something I thought not to see,

when I died in the Lich's lair.

Six years ago it may have been,

although I cannot tell,

my five companions and myself

did battle with something fell.

The Company of the Blade were we,

a proud and hearty band.

And out of Waterdeep we rode,

to scour clean the land.

For terrible things were moving about

in every town and field,

and the secret Lords of Waterdeep

the evil's source revealed.

The ruined keep of Darkhold deep,

was the cover of a well;

a cistern of demonic might

from the Abyss known as Hel.

And deep below its lowest floor

a gateway from that pit,

let in a twisted wizardly one,

of the demons that crawl through it.

And this creature's crafty, greedy wish,

drove it ever to slay and maim.

For the soul of the fool that the lich had been,

ah! its dreams remained the same.

To dominate, possess and own,

all living things to rule,

but the Power of Tyr sent a paladin,

to slay the undead rotted fool.

The City of Splendours fell behind,

as we jouneyed field and hill.

A tenday passed away, and more;

Now the countryside grew still.

A stillness not of nature born,

and not of nature bred.

The quiet of a crypt at night;

the silence of the dead.

Then from a cave we heard him rave,

some liquid, croaky noise.

As I prayed to my Lord, I drew forth my sword,

and lifted up my voice.

A hymn to Tyr to ignore my fear,

and to summon all my might,

then my fellows and I with a battle cry,

charged into the cave's dark night.

The gloom of the cave ran away from our torch,

when we stopped to strike it alight.

And the story it told made my heart grow cold,

'til I gound my teeth in fright.

Upon a throne of chiseled stone,

the undead wizard sat.

Whilst all around stood rotten men.

At his feet crouched a skeletal cat.

His ancient robes were rot and filth;

his head nothing more than a skull.

But oh! his eyes were like tiny fires,

and they held me in his thrall.

Pointing a hand in silent command,

he bade his things to attack.

And with many a groan, and curse and moan,

they turned with faces slack.

I tried to turn to face the fight,

to weep, to cry, to yell.

The smell of rotten human flesh,

made me wonder if this was Hel.

Then the spell let go and I charged my Foe,

pushing a zombie aside.

But before I got near his voice came clear,

and he flung one arm out wide.

From his hand of bones an arrow shot,

streaming with unholy light.

And struck upon my Plate of Tyr,

and the sizzling metal grew white.

I slashed my armour from my chest,

it fell upon the floor.

A bubbling hole grew large in it.

Tyr's symbol was no more!

Lifting high my Sword of Tyr,

I called aloud His name.

"Begone! Return to dust, and rest!", I cried.

The blade did flame!

The undead wretches turned to dust,

which scattered in a wind.

But one remained, though I saw him not,

and plunged his dagger in!

The blade sank deep within my back,

I fell upon one knee.

My vision dimmed and my spirit fled,

my proud sword falling free.

And the lich's voice, like a rusty chain,

scraped out another spell.

And I felt my soul stop its outward flight,

and be drawn back as into a well.

But I was betrayed as I grabbed my blade,

with fumbling, clumsy hands.

For I could not feel of my own cold steel,

I obeyed the dead wizard's commands!

As I faced my friends numb, shaking stares,

I heard the Lich's laugh.

Then I raised my sword to betray my Lord,

like a fish that is caught on a gaff.

Does a puppet feel as his strings are reeled?

Does a marionette ever cry?

Might a zombie weep in the darkest deep?

A tear slid out my eye.

One and by one I struck down my friends,

and I moaned as a zombie will do.

At the last I was faced by Rendrillo the Rogue,

And my guilt and my struggles both grew.

Now where was Blind Tyr, when my need it was dear?

Now where was his comfort and grace?

For Rendrillo grew slow, with his guard dropping low.

I strained just to slacken my pace.

And I felt a slow spark, come alive in the dark,

of my soul as it sat in my head.

And I tried not to show, whilst I nurtured that glow,

and prepared to betray the foul Dead.

Then the Lich bent his will, and my sword arm drew back

and I thought that Rendrillo was dead.

But I spun on my heel and thrust forward my sword.

The Lich fell, and my body was lead.

With the puppeteer dead my unlife had fled,

and I heard the approaching hoofbeat,

of the Lord of the Dead, come to gather me in

And the sound was both bitter and sweet.

And I thought of my life, of my sons and my wife,

in the cottage beside the High Road.

And I felt my soul grieving even as it was leaving.

My body below me was cold.

Then I felt a warm fire,

that appeared at my back,

and I tried to turn over and see,

but I saw not a soul, though I hear a bell toll,

and a Voice said, "Let this one go free."

And I heard a low laugh, both throaty and cold.

And I saw a warm smile in my mind.

And I felt myself gently picked up and washed clean,

by my Master, The God who is Blind.

Now I come to the window, a few nights a year,

to look in on my sons and my wife.

And then I turn away, to go wander the world,

and to dwell on a Paladin's life.

copyright 1998 John F Keller

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