|Children of Naaram Part 1|
|Written by RKP Hunt|
Ariane walked through the cool marble hallway of the great temple to her father's room. Her armor made loud hollow clanks through the great halls. It was plate mail armor, specially designed for a woman to wear. A gift from the priests on the day of her knighting, purely ceremonial but the closest thing she had to armor. She also carried with her a large sword which was far to heavy to carry on her belt, and so she wore it on her back. It was not everyday that she wore her battle gear, as a matter of a fact she had only worn it once before on the day of her knighting.
Today was a special occasion for her town, however, it was the annual Peace Festival celebrated to thank Placidia, the goddess of peace and restraint, for all she had brought both the people and the temple. Ariane had become a paladin of Placidia only a year before, it had been a rather studious road for her, spending long hours reading in the library, and helping in services. While others fought battles and saved the innocent, she for some reason was not permitted. However, it was an easier road for those who had a father or mother that was a paladin, as her father was, but even they got to go to battle.
She never questioned why she couldn't do it, as she knew there was always a reason for whatever her father and the priests decided. It was her duty to study Placidia's holy books and to keep her swordplay up to par. That was all that was required of her, except on this day. She was going to help guard the gate, excitement mounded in her heart as she had never been put to, what she thought was, good use.
Before she left her father had sent word for her to come have dinner with him in his room, and so she made the short journey from her own room to his. Lightly she tapped on the wooden door to hear the deep boom of her father's voice tell her to enter.
Stepping in she gave a large grin, as he already held one across his face. He was an older man with graying hair, but his large arms that were not yet covered showed his muscular physique. He wasn't what most would consider a handsome man, a face that had seen too many battles. Flatter face, soft jaw and chin, made him look rather like a young boy even though his hair told of his true age.
Ariane looked at the small table, between her father's bed and his wardrobe. It was already prepared with two over flowing plates, more then she would eat.
"Good day, father."
He gave a nod and then motioned for her to shut the door as he tried to place his armor on. She stood next to her seat at the table, and looked over the food. Nothing unusual potatoes, a slab of cow meat, some peas, and a glassful of wine.
"Ariane, I must tell you that I objected to you being on guard duty at the gate today." He said as he pulled on one of his boots.
Decimus looked at his daughter, as she puckered out her lower lip in such an innocent way. She had pulled at his heart from the first moment he had looked upon her as a infant no more then a couple months old. He could still see the babe when he looked into the grown woman's eyes, a babe he had been sworn to protect. "I just don't think it's safe."
"Nothing ever happens, all I do is stand there and check carts that come in. I promise that nothing will come of it." Again she puckered out her lower lip.
Decimus smiled, "Have it your way then."
"Thank you, father!" She said overjoyed.
It was then that he noticed her armor, items that he asked the priests not to give her. It was made to fit her exact measurements, and it even showed some of her cleavage, which was his main distaste for the armor. There were no leggings instead just a metal skirt that stopped mid- thigh, and shiny metal boots stopped before her knees. She carried the winged helmet at her hip, and that horrible weapon on her back. He frowned when he looked upon the outfit, but said nothing as many of the female paladins wore such outfits. The protection was merely humorous, as there was so many weak spots.
Ariane grinned and pulled her left leg over her right leg in a most uneasy way. It was then he realized she knew he was looking over her outfit. He smiled and continued to dress, pulling on his other boot, but anger caused him to look again.
This time he saw the beautiful woman she had become. Her large blue eyes looked at him with the worry of a puppy as to what his next words would be. The long gold waves of her hair stopped just above her buttocks. She stood tall, taller then some of the men, but her loving manner, and innocence made her seem all the smaller. Even when she was a babe the priests told him that he would have trouble keeping gentlemen callers at bay. Her angel face pulled all the men to her, and her extreme kindness kept them returning.
"Is that all father? Or do you want to fight me about my armor again?" She asked placing her fists to her hips and giving him a daring grin.
Ariane smiled, "He just misses being able to come in here."
"He's bad news, Ariane. You shouldn't be consorting with a known thief, you are a paladin of Placidia." He filled his mouth with peas.
Looking up from his plate but keeping his head down, he smiled, "You look beautiful."
The firm face she had on melted with his words, "Thank you. I can't wait until I get out there, and actually put myself to some use. Mitsos is going to be watching over me." She spoke of Mitsos when she noticed his frown reappear.
He nodded, "Mitsos is a good man, but that still doesn't make me worry any less."
"Are you posted in the town center?" She asked, ignoring his comment.
"Yes, next to the tables. So if you need anything, you know where to find me."
She laughed, "Father, what would I need from you? I will have Mitsos and the other guards." She questioned as she raised her eyebrow.
Placing some of the potatoes in her mouth she gave a small nod. "Yes, I will. I'm sorry, father, he is just..."
"Insanely in lust with you? Yes I know."
Ariane rolled her eyes trying to hide her blush, and continued to eat. Her father for the moment remained quiet as they both had their fill of their meals. Every time she looked up she saw the worry in his eyes, and almost a dark dread that covered them.
"I'll be ok." She patted his hand as she stood up.
A loud sigh left his lips as he tried to force a smile, "Go speak with Mitsos, I suppose. You don't want to be late your first day."
"Right then." Turning around, she seemed to skip to the door.
"Yes?" She said turning her head slightly to see him.
"Be safe, if anything happens find me or someone else in charge, understand? There's no need to try to act like a hero."
She gave a reluctant nod, "I love you, father."
Decimus placed his helmet on, "And I you, daughter."
Flinging the door open she scurried out before he could give anymore warnings.
Ariane walked along the path that she knew would take her out of the temple, and closer to her post. As she passed an archway a hand flung out in front of her face and in the hand was a red rose. She followed the arm up to the face, but she knew who it was before she reached her destination. The black robe with the red embroidery told her who the mystery gift giver was.
"For a lady so fair." Jabin grinned.
Ariane rolled her eyes, "Jabin, I have work to do today. I can not be playing games with you." She looked down at the rose that she was sure came from the temple's garden.
"Games, I merely offer you a rose. I know it's beauty is no match for your own, but it was the only thing I could possibly think of that would come so close."
Ariane looked over her childhood friend, "You become more over- ambitious everyday." Taking the rose from him, she stared at it as if not sure what to do with it.
"You could put it in your hair." He suggested as he watched Ariane go over the possibilities with her eyes.
"Yes, that would work well when I am trying to be an authority figure." She pushed the stem into her belt and looked back towards her friend, "I am guessing today I will be asking for your release at the jail."
He actually had the nerve to look surprised, his brown eyes grew larger and tried to be innocent. "Whatever do you mean? Those guards just don't like me for some reason, I do not know why they continually arrest me for just walking down the street."
"Jabin, I beg this of you. Please do not steal today, its my first time on duty and I would like to be so again. Don't make me have to arrest you, please."
Frowning, he shifted from foot to foot for a moment, thinking about what she had just asked him.
"Father doesn't like you as it is, it won't help your cause." She looked around for a moment, "Aren't you banned from the temple anyway?"
"Possibly." He grinned. "Although, I don't understand why."
"You took one of the holy books from the library and were caught reading it in the street." Her eyebrows rose as she spoke, her head nodding in small up and down motions.
He gave a loud puff, "Some people just can't let go of things. Anyways, the security on this place is horrible, anyone could just walk in and take whatever they please. Luckily you have me finding all the weaknesses."
Ignoring what he had just said, she continued with her lecture, "Those books are very important, and they can't just disappear whenever you feel the need to read them. I have to leave now, make sure you don't get into any trouble today, please?"
He gave a nod, "Well, if I can't borrow then what shall I do?"
Ariane gave a large smile, "Why don't you go wait in my room for the festival to end, I have that very same book you stole. Maybe, you can finish it and let the good people of Moonglow have a rest from your antics."
"If you insist." He rushed past her.
"Make sure you haven't 'borrowed' it when I get home tonight, ok?"
Grinning, he nodded, "You know me to well, my dear."
"That's the sad part." She said before she ran away, it would not be good to be late on her first day on guard.
Running up to the front gate she found Mitsos, a man who was best friends with her father since they were children. He had tried to become a Paladin of Placidia but failed, the rumors say at least three times. However, that did not stop him from doing good, he became a leader of the guards in the city and helped wash the streets of filth, such as her friend Jabin. Her friend, though, only seemed to steal from those more likely to slit his throat then turn him in. Mitsos and Jabin had long disliked each other, Jabin because Mitsos had always caught him, and Mitsos cause the boy would not learn.
"You are late, Ariane." He said as she ran up.
His sandy brown hair was being tossed by the breeze, and his hazel eyes glared down at her with disappointment. Ariane frowned as she looked up into the face of the man that towered above her.
"Forgive me." She bowed.
He nodded, looking over her, "And what do I owe your tardiness?"
"My father called me to his room before I left, I am terribly sorry. It won't happen again, I promise," She completely left out her little run in with Jabin on purpose.
He seemed content with her answer, then continued to give his orders, "You and Baran will guard the south side of the gate, check all incoming carts, Efrem and I will guard the north and check all leaving carts, understand?"
"Yes, sir." She said making her way to the south side.
Moonglow was a small town, it had actually been placed as an outpost for merchants to rest from long journeys before making their way to Githeth. The city housed at most three hundred people, and everyone knew each other and their life stories. It had become more of town then an outpost when the Placidia temple moved in, after several other temples denied the invitation. It was considered bad luck to not have at least one temple in any outpost or city, the more people the more temples there should be. When the temple was finally complete, people who worshipped the goddess began bringing their families to it.
The temple was a spectacular place, though Ariane had heard the main temple out shined it's beauty. Most were content however to visit the Moonglow temple, and those that lived in the forest around it found comfort in it's existence. Ariane had always considered herself lucky to live in such a small town, where everyone was watching everyone else's children. It seemed whenever one person achieved something, the whole town would celebrate. She often felt like it was as if the entire town were each other's family. Every birth was the town's gain and every death was it's loss. She had gone to every funeral that the town had held since she was born. There was no other place she would rather be, and no place she could imagine spending the rest of her life in.
Walking up to the south side of the gate, she smiled at her colleague for the evening. Baran was familiar to her, as he had come to the temple many times to speak with her father. He was a young man, who recently joined the ranks of the guards. Rumors around the small town said that for a short time he was a mercenary, but she thought it would be rude to ask him directly.
"Good afternoon, milady." Baran stood from the barrel he was sitting on.
"And to you, good sir. I am glad to see that you are well. I had heard that there was a terrible fight down at the tavern and that you were involved."
He nodded, "Some heathens came in and started harassing the waitress, Shona, you may know her."
"Yes I do.” Ariane answered, Baran still wasn’t use to the small town closeness nor did he understand that everyone knew each other. He had lived within Moonglow with nearing two years, and the concept was beyond his grasp. “Did you get into much trouble?"
Licking his lips, he thought, choosing his word carefully, "Lets just say my back hurt for a week."
"And those heathens, as you called them?" She asked, she had heard he had been whipped for their murder, but rumors around town were like mirages in the desert, you rarely know what was real.
"They won't be harassing any ladies again." He gave a smile, that told he was trying to impress her.
Ariane smiled, "Ah, so it was not in vain."
He smiled wide, showing his dimples. Ariane had admired him from the day they had met, a tall man with muscular physique always willing to help anyone who needed it. He had dirty blonde hair and dark blue eyes, he was exactly what she thought the perfect man would look like. Had she not chosen the path of abstinence like her father had, she might of taken his offer of marriage.
It was not secret around town that Ariane was adopted and it was no secret to her either. It seemed every time someone found out and questioned her about it, they always asked if she wanted to know who her real parents were. Her response was always, "Why does it matter? My father raised me well and right, he is my parent despite that his blood does not run through my veins, his morals do."
For a moment, it seemed Baran and her stared at each other, until she realized what she was doing and looked away.
"Was that more then a stare, milady?" he asked.
She was glad that a cart pulled up just then, and ran over to inspect it. "Hello, good sir." She gave her best smile to the driver, "Would you mind allowing us to search your cart? It is only a safety precaution for the festival."
The old man in the cart grinned, "Of all the years I have come to this festival, you have been the most kindest to ask, if not the most beautiful." He whispered the last part.
Ariane grinned, "Thank you, sir."
Baran and her went to work expecting his items under the thick wooly blanket. It was nothing more then fruit that he would sell during the festival.
"Looks good from here, sir, you may continue. Enjoy the festival." She gave another large smile.
The old man reached behind him under the blanket and pulled out a peach. "This is for you, one of my finest peaches."
"Oh, sir, I couldn't possibly take it."
"I insist, you are far to kind."
Ariane smiled, "Well thank you, you are very sweet." She took the peach from his hand.
"And you have a wonderful year, until I meet you again." He slapped the reins of his horses and they pulled away.
Baran came to stand beside her, and gave a slight chuckle. "See what happens when you are pleasant."
Ariane took a bite of her peach, "You get expensive food?" She grinned and walked over to take her seat on Baran's barrel.
He walked over to stand in front of her, crossing his arms he frowned, "No, I mean you steal the hearts of others, not just their wares."
He grinned, "That is how you came to hold mine."
Ariane frowned, "Baran, I know how you feel for me, but I am sorry I can not return such emotions. I made an oath when I became a paladin, one of abstinence, and I shall not break it."
"I have spoken to your father about your hand."
She nodded, "I know, you must stop that, he grows annoyed with you."
Ignoring her he continued, "He tells me that your oath is not in full until you turn thirty, which is how many years away?"
"Seven." She said through the juices of the peach.
He grinned, "I know I can change your mind in seven years."
"If my mind were that easily changed, then I should rethink my entire life as a paladin."
"Is it because of Jabin?"
His question seemed to come from no where knocking her off track for a moment, "Jabin? He is my best friend, nothing more."
"I don't mean to interrupt you, but I must stop you before you finish. Yes, he has had a crush on me since we were children, but it is no more. He knows I don't have any interest in him, and that all his advances are futile. As I just said I took an oath."
"Now forgive me for my interruption as I know what you are about to say." His voice showed of annoyance, but he took a moment to calm himself, "Forgive my tone, you were undeserving. It's only because I try so very hard to make you believe in how I feel, and yet you seem to push my emotions aside like they are nothing to you."
"I am sorry, Baran, but that is not my intention. I believe your emotions are true and honorable, but I can not accept them nor can I reciprocate them."
He sighed, "I've seen you look at me in ways that beg for more then what you have. I know that deep down you want more then what you promised your goddess."
Ariane looked into his eyes, "I won't lie, I do find you attractive, but if I were to give up all I believe in whenever a man made me blush a little, then I would be nothing. I would just be weak and undeserving of Placidia's blessings."
Another cart pulled up and came to a stop, "Ahem." The man said.
"This is not the time to speak of such things, however, we will address this another time." Her voice held it's own displeasure as she walked over to the cart.
The night carried on and though Baran tried to speak more on the issue, she ignored it or would change the subject. Night fell and she could hear the dancing and laughing from the town's core. For a few moments, she wished she would have let her father have his way, so she could be dancing and enjoying the festival. This, however, was the best way to prove she was worthy of being more then the librarian and the fountain of knowledge for when the older priest got lost in their ceremonies.
She did not wish to fight battles or wars, but anything was more entertaining then sitting in the library day after day reading the same old musky tomes. She had read the entire library at least four times, and when she was not reading she was practicing her swordplay for reasons she didn't understand as she could not fight anyone.
Looking over at her colleague who rested his head against the wall, she grinned and stood from her barrel to stretch her legs.
He gave a nod and took a seat, "Can you think of anything that will change your mind?"
"I'm sorry, but nothing can." She said in a perturbed voice though she tried to make it seem friendly.
He gave a nod, "What if I told you I would live a life of sorrow and emptiness without you? By denying me, I will never be able to live my life to it's fullest."
Ariane grinned, "Happiness can only be found from within, its not a place or a person. It's not being someone or being with someone, it's just yourself. If you believe that you can have happiness wherever you go."
His look told of his sadness, and he gave a small sigh, "Then let us make a deal."
"A deal?" She said trying to sound suspicious, and raising her eyebrow to accompany the tone.
"Kiss me one time, and I will never again bother you. I will be your friend if you like, but never again ask for your hand. Maybe, I'll just annoy you like Jabin." He smiled.
"A kiss?" She brought her eyebrows together.
Standing up from the barrel, his armor made a loud clank as it fell back into place, "Just one, and you nor your father shall be bothered again. If you don't kiss me, I'll believe that I must continue on in order to gain your hand, what do you say?"
"That is an unfair deal, Baran, and you know it. It leaves me with no option, but to have to choose between two things I don't want."
"Fine then, if but a second of my life will stop you from harassing me the rest of it then so be it."
"Ah, you may like it and come back for more." He chuckled to himself.
Approaching her he gently placed his hands on her cheek, bringing his lips to her own. Softly and smoothly they touched, Ariane felt for a moment weak in the knees but caught herself before Baran noticed. She had lied to herself she did adore the man, and even dreamt of him a few times, but she had sworn an oath, and what good was paladin if she didn't keep her word.
Pulling away she looked up at the man whose eyes were still closed. He gave a grin as he opened them and looked into her own, "Ah, I knew I would find the truth in your kiss."
Shoving him back he landed on the barrel laughing, "You are horrible." She said to him.
As she turned her back to him, a scream came from the city square and a buzzing noise flew past her. "What was that?" She turned around to ask him, but found Baran with an arrow piercing his chest.
She ran over to his side placing her hand on the arrow and his chest, "Baran?" She cried, as he slowly slipped to the ground and she came with him, "Mitsos! Come quick!"
The elder guard appear from the darkness, "What in Placidia's name?"
"It came from the city core, there is trouble."
"Efrem, come here now, boy!" Mitsos yelled.
The young boy came from the darkness, and looked at horror upon Baran. "Help Ariane get Baran to the temple, the priests may be able to help him."
Each pulling one of Baran's arms over their shoulder they dragged the large man towards the temple, as Mitsos ran off to pull the guards to the city core. The closer they got to the temple the more screams could be heard, and as they entered the sanctuary she looked back to watch a woman fall to the ground as a man she had never seen before came up to pull his dagger from her back. She had wanted to run over and see if the woman was alright, and find out who it was, but Efrem needed her help carrying the injured man.
Priest Oved was in the infirmary when they arrived, his face deep within one of he old tomes. Efrem had to say his name in order to get the old man to look up from it, he ran over to look at Baran. "Put him on the bed quickly."
They did as they were told, and he began his casting trying to save the young man.
"I'm going to help." Efrem said and ran out of the room.
Oved grabbed her arm, "No, girl, stay here. You can't go out there."
Ripping her arm from his grasp, she stared at him, "And why not?"
"Just stay here and help me with this boy, a paladin could be helpful in some of the castings."
Ariane stood by the priest's side for some time, as he cast his spells. The first series were meant to loosen the skin around the arrow in order to pull it out. Pulling an arrow from someone's body would only cause the wound more damage. By allowing the skin and muscles to loosen they could pull it would without anymore injury. Finally he felt the muscles had relaxed enough.
"Pull it." He ordered her as he spread the wound open.
Reaching her hand over she wrapped her long fingers around the shaft of the arrow, closest to the bloodied wound. She pulled up, his body gave no resistance and the arrow slipped out gently. Laying it down on the counter at the end of the bed she turned back to Baran.
"The arrow didn't seem to hit him in any key areas, but there is no telling. All we've done is removed the arrow, we still have to try and get the bleeding to stop. Go to the garden and pull me some granka root so I can ease his suffering, while I perform the healing."
Flying down the stairs, she turned the corner her feet made a the sound of walking on a wet street. Looking down she found that a majority of the ground below her feet was covered in blood. For a moment she stood mortified, but soon looked up to check the area for her father. Mitsos and some of his men were attacking what was left of the strange hooded men. Keeping her mind on the area, she looked over all the bodies that laid on the ground, bodies of people she had known all her life. Finally her eyes came to rest on a upheaval table, from the end of it stuck out a foot, she didn't know why but she knew it was him. Running to him, she pushed it off the man with all her might.
"Father?" She cried falling to her knees beside him.
He coughed, then grinned when he looked upon her face.
"We have to get you to the infirmary right away."
"No, child, there is no time." His words sounded choked.
Ariane pushed her hand against the large wound in his stomach, "Father, please."
"Let me say what I must, I do not wish to leave this world with my secrets."
Tears fell from her eyes but she did not object, if a paladin said it was their time, another had to accept it and listen to their confessions.
"It doesn't matter, father, I don't care." A tear fell from her left eye and on to the sleeve of his shirt.
He grinned, "You are so loving, so kind, and though some may say naïve I know there is great wisdom you hide behind your eyes, so not to intimidate others, even me. And with that said, I have lied to you your entire life. I do know who your father is, and the wizard, Vidan, knows more then I can tell you. I beg you to seek him out, my beloved daughter, as my dying wish."
Ariane looked down at her hands, blood seemed to pump from the wounds in her father's belly through her fingers. "Father, what does it matter?"
"I don't have time to explain, Mitsos can tell you more. Just know that you brought so much light into my life, it made it impossible for me to do wrong. So, no matter what is said of you, you are a beacon of goodness and justice. You are my little angel, that only brought me joy." His bloody hand reached up and wiped the tears away leaving streaks of blood under her right eye.
"I love you, father, please don't leave me."
Decimus smiled, "I'll never leave your side. I love you."
Ariane leaned forward and kissed his forward as the life left his body. Looking up she let her tears fall and held his head close to her chest. The moments she sat there on her knees, with her beloved father's body in her arms, she did not ask the gods why or swear vengeance. She simply thought of that afternoon, and how she had been in such a hurry to leave his sight. In those moments, she wished she really had been late because she was spending time with her father.
Mitsos walked up behind her, and placed his hand on her shoulder, "They are gone." He said referring to the men who had attacked.
He grabbed both her shoulder's and pulled her up to stand, forcing her to drop her father's lifeless body, then turned her to face him and wrapped his arms around her. "I'm so very sorry, Ariane."
His eyes looked down at Decimus' body, if it hadn't been for Ariane standing there in his arms, he wouldn't of held so strong. This was his best friend that laid before him, gutted like he was nothing more then a deer. Not only was this his best friend, but this was the man he most respected his entire life. A man in which the world would shed tears upon hearing that he had past, one of the greatest men in all of history, taken from them by mere bandits. How could this of been possible? Decimus was the strongest, most agile man that he had ever known. He had killed much greater foes then another human. Mitsos dropped his head, his lips touching the top of Ariane's head.
She was crying into his chest, it was then that the question came, "Why? Why would anyone do this?"
"I don't know, but I promise that I will find out why." He said turning her away from her father's body, he tried to walk her to the temple.