In the words of Phi; a journal entry…
What I am about to write pains me deeply.
Several days ago I lost my companion Chiron; watched helplessly as he walked right into the gates of Hell itself. I made the soul-wrenching decision to save myself rather then stand at his side and face the outcome together. How could I have left him alone there, in Hell? I feel as though I have already failed at becoming a Silver Knight; the person I am is not strong enough to hold the title. I broke Code 2:
Valor: The Knight will not abandon allies on the field, nor will they seek to profit from the loss of allies.
Ultimately I rode three days straight, snatching what rest I could on horseback to arrive at the Silver City and report the tragedy to my High Priest. What a mess I must have been, seen by his worldly eyes: hair full of grime, clothes crusted in dirt, vestments now brown instead of crisp white. I think I was spouting nonsense at first, wild-eyed and delirious with lack of sleep and lack of food. Perhaps knowing me he knew I would not present myself in such disarray without good cause and so he cleared his schedule and his desk for me. I am not sure what I said to him, but my fervor was definitely something to behold.
I recall best the looks and impressions, though the words escape into the fog of my mind; he was at first confused, then curious, then downright concerned. I recall his eyes going a bit wider in shock, the wrinkles almost entirely disappearing; a gate to Hell but a week away? A temple to Tiamat in that same area? So close to the Blessed Land of Bahamut — this unspeakable evil.
Next I am rushed to the main part of the city, sat before a council member and explaining my tale once more. By this time my mind has begun to calm and collect more, though I cannot rightly recall the man’s name. He studies me as I sit there, griming up the chair by his desk, no doubt looking younger and more afraid then I should. The High Priest has put it into perspective for me, this is not entirely about Chiron any longer; the threat is more tangible then that. I keep asking myself “Is this how a Silver Knight would act, is this what they would say?” and it helps keep me on my feet, helps keep my words rational; help keeps me from begging something be done already.
Eventually my words are enough and the High Priest confirms my personal integrity, my validity. The member removes himself to speak at counsel, to tell them of this dire news; we are fortunate they are still in meetings. I sit there at his desk, staring almost blankly at the large tome laid out upon it. This is where I showed him the great brass city I had seen, a city as large as the one in which we now reside. A city full of Hellish creatures and hate; a city where Chiron is now lost and alone. I refuse to break down though, steeling my resolve and mentally reviewing the Code:
The Knight will not abandon allies on the field.
The Knight will not abandon allies on the field.
The Knight will not abandon allies on the field.
My mantra gets me through the next few hours, as men far above me in rank decide the fate of my companion; their possible choices gnaw upon me. What if they decide he is not worth the rescue mission it would take? What if they decide that the gate is best sealed shut, and buried? What if they decide what I did was reprehensible, and that my trials are over before they even begin? What if… what if.. what if…
The High Priest tries to reassure me, words of wisdom I cannot seem to take to heart. I know he believes what I did was the right thing, to bring these dire tidings back and ask for assistance in the matter. I understand he is a man of great valor himself, and that he would not spout empty platitudes he did not feel were the truth. But as I am I cannot accept them, I feel my personal failure was a great a sin as any. I pray to the Dragon Father for His forgiveness and for His strength; I vow I will not leave Chiron to suffer alone. I will find a way to rescue him, or die trying.
As I make my promise to Bahamut I feel myself strengthened in resolve and realize I have been clutching Chiron’s holy symbol in my hands hard enough for the imprint to be visible in the flesh; it is not the first Mark I own. Taking a breath I put the symbol on, wearing both as tangible evidence of my oath. I think the High Priest notices the change, for he watches me now with approval and dare I hope, new respect. I no longer fidget, my eyes do not dart around with nervous energy. I sit calmly, if not stoically, awaiting my fate as I await Chiron’s; we’re in this together now. Perhaps these hours were the true test of faith for me, for the council member returns with uplifting news: the council has taken the threat most seriously, and the kidnapping of one of their own is unacceptable — the Knights will be sent immediately.
I let out a breath I did not even know I was holding, forcibly remaining in my seat so I do not explode out of it in haste. “Sir, I would like to request that I am allowed to go along. Please.” Is that my voice, I wonder? I sound so much more controlled now, so much more within reasonable decorum; I sound like a Knight. He regards me with something akin to surprise “But of course, we will need you to lead the way young woman. Your presence is of vital importance.” Now I do shoot to my feet, so full of hope I think its streaming from my very skin. “Thank you Sir!” When do we leave….. when…when…when….
It seems I have been in the Silver City for days already, though it has been but hours. I am escorted to a room where I can wash off, and compose myself – for next I am to meet one of the Silver Knight commanders. I am, oddly, not at all jittery. As if my inner resolve has given me the patience and knowledge to see this through to the end. I am thankful for whatever it is, for soon I step into a world I want very badly to be part of: the Knight’s Keep.
My first impression is that this sector of the city is its own little world, separate and yet intricate in the working of everything. I try not to stare at the Knights, their plate gleaming, swords at rest; resplendence at ease as they go about business. Compared to these honorable individuals I feel small and young, and not at all as refined as I had thought. I catch those thoughts and corral them as one does young horses; allowed to run free they will never give lead to better things. No… I will be a Knight. This is right for me. And so I school my face into a professional mien, square my shoulders, and march into the Commander’s office; here to do business like a Knight.
Sir Gregory is, in my eyes, an instantly likable Knight. He is affable and yet definitely in charge of any situation. It looks, to me, like he could single-handedly throw down a red dragon and make it say pretty-please. I am oddly at ease in his presence, and yet very much on red-alert; he has the power to decide my fate in many far-reaching ways. I recall standing at attention, much to his amusement, until offered a seat. He is all business at once, explaining what he has been told of the situation (I am amazed at how fast word has traveled!) and what he has planned. Over the next few moments I answer his questions honestly, without reserve, and with total respect. He seems satisfied and so outlines The Plan.
I will lead a strike team of Knights to where the portal is, but my duties are merely to get them there and then get back alive – these are men, he explains, who have been trained for many years. I understand the gentle chastisement: please stay out of their way, do not get yourself killed, or put yourself in danger so that they may be killed. I am not upset by this, as perhaps I would have been earlier; it makes perfect sense.
Next he explains we will be flown to the site on dragon-back and I somehow manage to keep myself from leaping up in sheer joy. A dragon? Me?! Oh.. my dreams have come true! My exultation is cut quite short as I recall just why I am given this honor, and it no longer seems thus. It seems more of a penance to be here; to be given this duty on the wings of failure. I would be lying if I wrote that I was no longer eager to fly, a dream of mine since before I knew of such things as man gaining trust and affection with a draconic mount. But that joy was shadowed by the situation on which it is presented.
I spend the rest of the evening, dismissed after the plan is outlined, wandering through the Knight’s compound. Many things I saw or heard are lost in quiet contemplation of the morning to come. I was told to prepare myself, mentally, and physically for the ordeal. A shield is given to me, upon which Bahamut’s noble head rears in splendor. I am most reverent of it, profusely thankful for the gift of protection; taking it as a good sign the Dragon Father still smiles upon me with His grace. I will need all the help I can get, for tomorrow will be the true test…
The strike team has not necessarily been sent to go into the portal, I was told. They are to scout the temple and figure out what has been happening there recently, assess the threat, study the portal, and make a report. If it is possible for us to enter the portal, and if the captain thinks it is safe, we will attempt to rescue Chiron. I am ashamed to admit that while I prayed this was the case, I felt no hope for it to be the outcome. I stayed up all night, unable to sleep; fear, hope, worry, anxiety.. all warring within me. My eyes must have closed due to sheer exhaustion, for I don’t recall it.
Someone wakes me at early light and I snap to attention as if I had already been awake. All fog has cleared from my mind and I can review the past few days with a crystal clarity rarely found. After a brief mental review and quick shower I am out on the field where I was told to report. Thinking myself early I am disappointed to have been the last; blasted! I’ll need to work on that. The members of the team all introduce themselves: Captain Draroth, his Second in command Analo, the teams Cleric Verria, our scholar Ia’issa, and Aiso… a man of unknown talents. I memorize their faces, their handshakes telling me about their personality, their demeanor something I begin to emulate. And then… I am introduced to my dragon.
The name alone brings me great joy to recall. His presence was awe-inspiring; my eyes must have been the size of the moon. Large and Bronze, the splendor and majesty of him is indescribable; I would not diminish it by placing it in words alone. He spoke to me, so stoic and with all seriousness that I could not help but respond in kind. I recall that I bowed deeply to him in reverence and I think I saw the first hint of draconic smile lifting his lips.
It was after our greeting that an attendant came to help me upon Akor’s back and strap me in. I was not at all terrified and knew that no matter what, I would remain here at all costs; not to disgrace myself by falling. Which of course, since I am still alive to record this in my journal, I obviously did not.
I cannot describe the sensation of flight here, as it too defies words and intonation. I will simply say that it was the thrill of a lifetime, and should I never be fortunate to experience it again, I feel this single experience would hold me for an eternity; snap-shot captured in my mind forever.
We flew for several hours, and after making some course adjustments, did end up in the right place (much to my relief, thank Bahamut!) to begin our investigation that same day. What took me three days of wild horseback took the dragons but hours – their speed and stamina is amazing. After unstrapping myself I was forced to slide almost unceremoniously to the ground, fearing my legs would not hold me. Determined not to disgrace myself in front of the dragons and their Knights, I forced myself to remain standing. No one seemed to notice, or perhaps pretended otherwise, that I had trouble taking those first few steps! Flying on dragon is NOT at all like riding a horse; I would be sore for days and days to come.
After a brief interlude and discussion, where my input was taken quite seriously, we advanced into the cave I knew so well. But ah! How the Knights move! They are a real team of professionals, and I found myself taking mental note of their every gesture, every move. First Aiso would slide into the darkness, like an ink blotch at the very height of midnight; so fluid and hidden we could not at first determine where he had gone. But then he would send some signal to Draroth and we would proceed inwards at a controlled pace.
Doors were a whole other process, and I am amazed at the efficiency the team displayed. Aiso would check the door for something, give signal and then step aside. Draroth and Analo would then burst through the door, shields up, weapons drawn, to fan out and lock their shields in front of the rest of us. Verria and Ia’issa had their hands up and ready to cast at anything that dared be in their line of sight; while I stayed behind.. guarding the rear (so I told myself!)
When no danger presented itself they completed a full room inspection before moving on; no nooks or crannies left unsecured! We proceeded in this fashion for an hour or so, making sure all threat had been removed from behind us before we went forward. I plan to incorporate these tactics into my teams movements, as they are obviously quite effective. Eventually we made our way down to the Hell gate in this fashion, though nothing dared block our way for long; it seems Jacob and I had cleared the place out in our mad rush to save Chiron days before.
I was not the only one having trouble being in the presence of such great evil. I swear we all felt as though Tiamat herself was breathing her foul breath upon us; her temple just above us the whole time. I wanted to burn the place, personally, but that was not our mission. Thankfully I feel I have found a friend in Aiso, and he is willing to speak to me about his life and experiences with the Knights. I unashamedly pumped him for information about politics, tactics, training routines…anything I thought could gain me insight and an edge. This went on for hours until the Cleric and Magi were confident they had the situation down and their assessments made.
Then, much to my distress… we left.
Caption Draroth reviewed the facts once we were outside, and I could see why the decision was made; we couldn’t get the portal open. Also, as I had observed (wisely it seemed!) to Aiso… what if they wanted us to open the portal? What if it stayed open if we opened if from this side? Ia’issa confirmed that this could have been the case, based on her knowledge of portals. Though I know it was the right thing to do, I still feel as though my words may have condemned Chiron to Hell for that much longer.
We stayed the night in opulence, some sort of spell that made a castle from thin air. After some further searching in the hills nearby we found several other caves, all dedicated to serving the main temple. And with this information well in hand, the others flew back to the Silver City to make their reports. I was left behind in Bettinshire to rest and recuperate as well as link back up with Jacob and Henry, my previous traveling companions. Told to say nothing about the operation I had just taken part of, I found myself hard pressed to explain my sudden appearance a mere 5 days after I had ridden, hell-bent, towards Celebraan.
Code #1 snapped into my mind then: Truth & Honor: The Knight will speak the truth and act honorably at all times.
Thinking fast I told Jacob and Henry that I had delivered my message to the Silver Knights and that, with magical assistance, they had sent me back here to continue my investigation. As close to the absolute truth as I could get without disobeying orders, they seemed to accept the explanation and pressed me no further about it. For which I am ultimately grateful, for I am not sure how I could have ever brought myself to lie to such faithful companions.
In review, as I write, my missions become clearer, as do my failures and triumphs. I am not here to be perfect; life is but a series of steps, steeped in failure and wrought with hardship. Like the making of a fine sword, everything takes quality material with which to work, the right tools, some heat, and above all.. time and patience. First I must become the quality of material that the Knights require, and then temper myself in the heat of understanding, battle, triumph, and even hardship.
I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.