Corruption of Azim
The Power to Smite
“I… I just.. can’t do it!”
Tyrus was out of breath. Blood was trickling down his face and arm from wounds which were more painful than serious. A pile of broken bones lay around him; the remnants of three undead skeletons which he had destroyed. But although he had destroyed them, he hadn’t fulfilled his goal.
“How will I ever become a paladin if I can’t smite evil? Am I destined to be an acolyte forever?” he asked as he looked over at his mentor.
“Do not be discouraged, Tyrus,” Cecil replied kindly. “The powers granted to us by Heironeous do not come from mere desire, no matter how much you want it. And I know how much you want it.
“Look how far you’ve come!” the paladin continued as he stood up from the boulder on which he sat. “You have great skill with the blade, young man. Skeletons are difficult to destroy with a sword—they are more easily smashed—and yet you have managed to dispatch three of them! And you show no fear of the undead!”
Although still feeling sullen, Tyrus was pleased to hear such praise from his exemplar. Cecil Lionheart represented everything that Tyrus aspired to. Wistfully he looked once more on the white and gold armor bearing the crest of the Lionheart house and the markings of the Knights Justicar. The magical sword Lionis was sheathed at the warrior’s side.
Drawing near, the paladin inspected Tyrus’ wounds with his sharp green eyes. Then he placed his hands on the youth’s shoulders and channeled magical energy to heal the wounds.
“Come now. Let’s discover the source of this evil.”
The villagers in the nearby town had been harassed for some weeks by the undead, so they had requested the help of the Knights Justicar. Several teenage boys and girls had gone missing recently as well. They were unable to answer most of Cecil’s questions, stating only that the problem seemed to be coming from an old crypt a few miles outside of town.
The crypt stood at the top of the hill in the center of an abandoned cemetery. Old and worn, the once-white walls were now gray and gave the building an ominous look. A chill ran through Tyrus despite the warm and sunny weather. Although he wasn’t afraid of the undead, the unknown was another story. When he had heard that Cecil was leaving on an adventure, he begged the paladin to let him come. What better way to train than investigating evil with his mentor? But now he wasn’t sure that he’d made the wisest choice.
Carefully the acolyte surveyed the graves and tombstones they passed. Skeletons could be hiding behind any of these… or even rise right out of the ground! Tyrus wondered why the colors of the Chapter of Lysidium had to be white and yellow — he felt that his tabbard over his armor made him an easily spotted target.
But nothing stirred as they approached the crypt.
“I want you to be extremely careful,” Cecil quietly instructed. “I won’t make you stay out here, but keep behind me. We don’t know what we’ll find inside.”
The old wooden door creaked on its rusted hinges as Cecil forced the door open. The inside was dark so they took a few moments to pull torches from their packs and light them before entering. Tyrus followed Cecil through a small antechamber and then down a flight of stairs.
As he started down the stair, Tyrus thought he heard someone weeping.
“Weep while you still can,” a voice echoed from the stone walls. Then an hideous chuckle was heard before the man said, “This will please Nerull during the moments before your death.”
A worshiper of Nerull?!
As they reached the bottom of the stair, Tyrus saw that the crypt opened up into a large room with vaulted ceiling. The ceiling was adorned with large windows but dirt and plants covered all light except for a single shaft which fell upon a stone sarcophagus in the middle of the room. The sarcophagus had been converted into an altar and a beautiful young woman was bound to it.
“What? Intruders! You will join this girl in serving Nerull from beyond the grave!” The voice came from a platform on the far side of the room.
Then came the sound of something metallic and heavy slamming down. Spinning around, Tyrus saw that a portcullis had fallen behind them, trapping him and Cecil inside.
“Surrender now and we’ll spare your life,” Cecil called out. “We are Knights Justicar! We’ve come to put an end to your evil ways, including your life if necessary.”
“Ha! Your gods cannot reach you here. You wouldn’t speak so boldly if you knew how badly outnumbered you were! Minions, kill them!”
From all around the room, Tyrus heard soft scraping sounds and then saw multiple points of red light. Lifting his torch, he saw over a dozen skeletons with smoldering red eyes approaching with weapons drawn.
“Tyrus, free the girl!” Cecil ordered.
Quickly he obeyed. Running over to the altar, he dropped his torch then drew a dagger and used it to cut the leather bindings. Then he paused for a moment as he noticed how beautiful the girl was. She sat up and was thanking him, but then she saw the skeletons. Her face turned white with fear and she fainted.
What should I do? I’ll have to carry her! Then Tyrus heard Cecil chanting the words of a spell. Looking over, he saw the paladin holding aloft a holy symbol. He’s going to turn the skeletons!
Then with a crack like a thunderclap, the skeletons around the room shattered from divine force. Fragments of bone flew everywhere. One struck Tyrus in the face, but this proved fortuitous for when he turned away he saw the necromancer rushing over with a dagger drawn to murder the girl!
“No!” Tyrus yelled. A wave of righteous indignation washed over him. Drawing his sword, he stepped in front of the advancing enemy. With energy not all his own, he swung his blade in a mighty arc which smote the necromancer across the chest. The blow cut deep past the cloth robes and sent the enemy sprawling.
Cecil sprung over the fallen enemy like a cat. Grabbing the necromancer by the collar, he leveled his sword with the man’s face. But the fallen opponent only laughed. It was an unnerving laugh.
“Fools,” he spat, “you think you’ve won?”
The necromancer’s eyes were glancing around the room. Looking up, Tyrus could see faint ghostly outlines floating down toward them. They were black as night against the dim light.
“Wraiths,” Cecil said softly. Then his eyes turned hard and he thrust his blade into the necromancer, silencing him forever.
“We’re trapped!” Tyrus cried.
But Cecil was unfazed. He sprang up onto the edge of the sarcophagus next to the girl and swung his sword at the nearest wraith. It reeled away from the bite of the magic sword, but others were surrounding the paladin. Eyes burning with divine energy, Cecil swung his sword at the wraiths.
Tyrus was paralyzed with fear. Although Cecil showed great courage, still the wraiths stretched forth their shadowy arms to touch him. But then it happened—the sword Lionis let forth its famous roar. The sound was near deafening as it echoed off the stone walls and it was joined by the noise of glass shattering. Looking up, Tyrus saw sunlight pour in as the windows on the roof shattered. Shards of glass glittered amongst dust and leaves while casting rainbows across the room while they fell.
Tyrus threw his cloak over the girl and looked down as the debris rained down like hail from above. After the shards stopped pelting him, Tyrus looked up to see what happened to the wraiths. Fleeing from the sunlight, they had gathered in the most shadowed corner of the room. But there was too much light and they were powerless. Within minutes Cecil had vanquished them.
Two days later Cecil and Tyrus were on the road back to Lysidia. The townsfolk had been very grateful for their service, especially for rescuing the young lady. Tyrus was still feeling elated over the experience and couldn’t quite keep his mind off the kiss which the girl had given him to show her gratitude.
“You seem awfully distracted, Tyrus. I thought you would be talking my ear off about becoming a paladin now that you’ve managed to smite evil. And it was well done indeed! You stopped that necromancer cold.”
“It sort of just happened, Cecil,” the acolyte replied with hesitation. “I didn’t specifically try to smite him. It’s just that he was going to hurt that girl, and I … well, I just did it. I’m worried that I won’t be able to do it again when I need to.”
Cecil gave a heartwarming smile. “I think you are growing much more than you realize. Here, you just said ‘when I need to’ rather then ‘when I want to’. The power of a paladin comes from need — but not just any need — the need to protect. It doesn’t matter whether you are protecting someone specific or if you are just protecting the world, as long as you are doing service to goodness and the law.”
A huge grin spread over the young man’s face. “I will become a paladin, I know it! Are all of your adventures like this?”
Cecil laughed. “Well, they don’t always end with a kiss, my boy. If we aren’t careful I think you just might trade being a paladin for being with a woman.”
“Very funny,” Tyrus retorted with a flushed face. “As if I’d ever do that.”
I took a little liberty with Whipblade’s character so I could flesh out Cecil Lionheart. I hope he doesn’t mind. :)