This little short story is written as part of a background for a character I played while I was in the Navy (~1995), named Jaerle Blackmaine. He was a Human Male Paladin dedicated to the St. George in the DM’s game world where Mages very commonly summon demons and other vile creatures to do their bidding. For those of you who are not familiar with D&D I will provide a brief summary of the things that you may not be familiar with at then end of the story. This was a Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition game. I have not really touched this up since then. It definitely needs work but there it is.
Chapter I – Prologue
There have been many a warrior to impart to me their wisdom on the subject of books. They have said “Books are useless! Books are for girls and cowardly wizards! When will a book deflect a steel blade! How did book smarts protect that merchant last week?” There was a time when my studies gave me a split second and saved my life.
Every week I delve further and further into the Cannon of St. George. Every week I find myself needing a library to research references made, points that were unclear or vague, or conclusions that interested me. My studies at the time brought me to an interesting point. Demons warp, if ever so imperceptibly, the area around them. A telltale shift in temperature, a slight distorting or slowing of senses, or uneasiness in animals, that feeling that you are being watched or are not alone. These are all things that if you are not looking for or actively monitoring for you will most definitely miss. Woe unto you my friend.
I had just finished my little venture into Kilaran’s Tomb. Worn and ragged from my battle with the undead thing formerly known as Kilaran. Charred by his spell flames, bludgeoned and lanced by his force spells, I was finally victorious. I fought until his lifeless body twitched no more. Exhausted from my climb down from his mountain aerie and stumbling through the treacherous Steel Spire mountains. Tired and hungered from lack of sleep and food. After three days of travel I finally emerged from the mountains to greet a deep red sunset and a cool breeze of the fast approaching night. The mountain trail I followed led me to the main road between the border-towns of Belgian and Melodeon. I dropped what I was left of my charred pack and sat down for a moment to celebrate leaving the mountains.
Chapter 2 – Entrance
Off in the distance I heard horses and wagons over the hill. Hoping at every moment for something friendly, anything friendly. Bandits in this area were cunning and very present. With my hand resting on the hilt of my sheathed sword, body poised to hide in the mountain pass, I waited as the first wagon cleared the hill. Strange looking wagon. Almost boxlike. Then I hear the music and singing. Happy and lilting voices that sounded strangely familiar. By the glory of St. George!! Gypsies!! Thankfully the gypsy’s patron was Kyrie – She who holds knowledge in the darkness of a night sky. Those who worship her hope to pierce the darkness to see the light. So they say. They are a harmless, eccentric lot. Anxiously I shouldered my pack and walked slowly towards the small, now 3 wagon, gypsy train. Fortunately, as I have read, gypsies tend to be very friendly and welcome travelers to their camp to share in the food and fun.
As I drew near, the wagon pulled off to the side of the road, probably to set camp seeming as it was dusk. The three stocky wagons pulled into a circle and upon arriving I found they had a fire burning. An older gentleman came out to greet me as I approached. A bright red scarf adorned his balding head. A loose silk shirt and baggy pant draped on his robust lean frame. A few rings and a golden necklace glinted in the falling sun’s dying rays. I was met with a firm handshake and a very thick accented “Vvelcome – you enjoy camp vith us?” I smiled, and with a sigh of relief, I nodded yes. He chuckled heartily, clapped me on the back, and escorted me into camp. He barked some words in their gypsy tongue and a lean young boy and two voluptuous ladies came over to relieve me of my burden. They fed me, mended my equipment, cleaned my clothes and bathed me.
Long flowing black tresses of hair cascaded down their backs and long eyelashes teased as they tended to me. Sliva and Avriel had the voluptuous curves that only young women can. The kind that beckoned you to bed , but yet kept you at your distance. Their bright green eyes had a mischievous sparkle in the moonlight that spoke of a naive, playful innocence. Silva’s low cut halter and split skirt did not leave much to the imagination. Avriel was a bit more conservative. She wore a form fitting tunic and pant. Both wore an assortment of necklaces, bracelets and rings. Silva wore gold that would attract attention to her. Gold grabs you attention and invites you to gaze. Avriel wore less and more conservative jewelry. They were definitely sisters. Some one is most definitely watching over me tonight.
The boy was young and restless, full of questions about my adventures and equipment. He was young maybe 12 or 13. Avriel and Silva, while kneading out my shoulders, shooed the boy away several times to let me relax. He always came back stick in hand fighting off imagined hordes of demons, undead and mages. The fathers music and the kneading of my aching shoulders, drowned out the boy. Kari, I think, he said his name was.
In the morning, refreshed from a restful and much needed night of sleep, I roused from my slumber to see Kari sitting there, my breakfast in hand. “You’ll make someone a good squire someday.” I said. His face lit up and he ran to his sisters and father jabbering away. They all smiled, chuckled, and sent him on his away. I now noticed two other wagons had joined our camp and filled in the circle. Next to me I found my equipment repaired and cleaned. I began to dress and gather my things wondering how wonderful it would be to live their happy carefree life. Free of worries and fear just day to day contentment.
I asked if they would mind if I escorted them to the next town. They accepted happily and rather relieved. Gypsies tend to be easy targets for bandits and any protection is welcome. The two new wagons had several horses tied to it as well as various trinkets. Several of the men were struggling with one of the horses. This black horse was well muscled and had a wild eyes. The gypsies are renown for horse taming. They seem to have some sort of bond, or empathy with horses. After about 10 minutes they quieted the animal down. In the process the horse nearly trampled them but their agile movements saved them. I was going to ask if they would like help but they asked me to keep back. After all they did this for a living. As I watched I noticed something in the animal’s eyes – an intense desire to unleash a hidden rage, something primal – not fear, it seemed too proud for that.
Chapter 3 – Clash
That’s when I noticed it. That feeling that something was watching and ready to pounce. I snapped ‘Reaver’ from it’s sheath. The blade thrummed with lust for the impending battle. I could feel the sword begging for the taste of demon’s blood. Before I had a chance to have ‘Reaver’ search for the creature I was batted aside by an unseen assailant. A demon appeared from no where – clawed, ugly and wingless. Damn mages!! The creature reached out and slashed Silva to rivens. Blood spilling forth like a fountain. splattering the ground with a crimson pool. Her lifeless body slumped to the ground. The carefree beauty drained from her body like a fly sucked dry from a spider. I strode forward, ‘Reaver’ in hand, and slashed at the creature with all my strength. That’s when the fire erupted all around engulfing half of the campsite. The charred remnants of the gypsies and their wagons smoked in the wake of the spell flames. The air stunk of burned flesh and smoke tinged with sulfur. Damned Mages!! Where you find demons you find mages. Never fails. I’m not sure which is more dangerous spell hurling buffoons or the vile creatures they summon.
The remaining gypsies through rocks at the wizard which now showed himself. He wore black robes adorned with crimson runes of the Ithar, the elder tongue of scholars. He bore a goatee and a golden circlet peeked from underneath the hood of his cloak. The wizards spell was fortunately disrupted by the rocks the gypsies were throwing. Arrogance shall be his downfall. He is definitely too close for his own good. The demon roared as ‘Reaver’ tore into it’s flesh. The slash went straight across its chest down to the bone. A brackish black ichor oozed from the wounds. I immediately gained it’s full attention. We brawled around for several moment knocking over one of the two remaining wagons and spilling equipment everywhere. I dodged the creatures powerful claws and slashed to no avail. The demon made a wild swing knocking ‘Reaver’ from my hand. I grew very pale at that moment. My spear, ‘Soul Seeker’, was nowhere in sight. The demon sneered in confidence, knowing that it could tear me apart now that I am unarmed.
It went to finish me off when Kari jumped in front of me brandishing a pitchfork and snarling like a pregnant owlbear. I cringed at the grating sound. Kari poked at the creature once. Three rivulets of ichor meandered down it’s scaly brown-red skin. It looked down at the pathetic morsel named Kari, chuckled, and raised to it’s full height. It’s unholy and inhuman roar crescendoed as its noticed the the child drew blood. It readied to decimate the child. With the creatures attention shifted in search for a weapon of some sort – anything. Several horses bolted this way and that as another explosion erupted. I could feel the pressure wave blow past me. One lone horse trotted through the smoke and skidded to a halt kicking up equipment. In the shards of equipment scattered I found ‘Soul Seeker’ at my feet.
I shoved Kari out of the way, picked up the spear and set it butt first to the ground. The demon blindly brought its claws down. It stopped abruptly as ‘Seeker’ slid into its head from underneath it’s jaw stopping as it hit the creatures skull. The demons massive claws raked both of my arms sending pain coursing through them. Ichor oozed quickly down the length of the spear shaft coating it in a sulfurous black ooze. The demon didn’t move after that. Bless St. George.!!
I dove, tumbled, and pick up my crossbow as an arrow of roiling acid whizzed by burning a lock of hair. The acrid scent of acid and burnt hair nearly knocked me to the ground. Adrenalin pumping I popped up to one knee and searched for where I thought the arrow came from. Wizards have a knack for being not seen. An annoyance I have tried to learned to deal with. I fired where I thought the acid arrow came from and missed. Damn!!! I ran over to remove ‘Soul Seeker’ from it’s resting place. It’s shaft was hot and slick with demon ichor. I fumbled and dropped it to the ground. The demon body dropped to the ground. AAhhh!!! I yelped. I heard the acid splash and sizzle, and I smelled it burning through my armor. I dropped to the ground clenching my shoulder from the searing pain. I, again, dove for my spear, popped up and carefully aimed for where I thought the wizard was. Thud!! Thud!! Thud!! Magical waves of energy plowed into me nearly taking my balance. I staggered underneath the force of the spell. I spotted the wizard for a moment as he disappeared again. I launched ‘Seeker’ and it found it’s target. The wizard screamed and, in an invisible death throw, dropped slowly to the ground.
Chapter 4 – New Beginnings….
All is still. I hear only the sound of my breathing and the burning of the wagons and gear. I take a moment and survey the carnage that magic has wrought. The only survivors of this massacre are me, Kari, and a horse, the proud horse. The burning contorted bodies of the gypsies stood out of the from the charred remnants of the wagons and equipment. A happy, harmless gypsy band slaughtered for what reason?? Probably for the wizards amusement or maybe he needed slaves. You never can tell.
Exhausted and severely wounded I plopped to the ground. Kari walked over and bore a look of shock, fear, and disbelief. Eyes wide and mouth open he look around. He looked to the carnage, back to me and back to the remnants of his life and family. Tears started to flow down his face. I felt sorry for and pitied the boy. I understood how he was feeling. I lost my family to battle as well. I looked around and back to Kari who was now looking at me. Now more tears fell. His face was calm and had a look of understanding. Like he knew what has just happened and understood that his life will never be the same.
His voice crackled “Need a squire?” I do not need an extra person hanging around to protect. I can barely keep my self alive. An extra mouth to feed and then I will need to train him. Besides…..I looked back to him and I saw a little of myself in him. I then remembered my word to him “Some day you will make someone a great squire.” I broke and I nodded yes. He smiled and settled the the ground sobbing.
If someone tries to tell you that studying will never help you. Only a trusty blade will give you respect and allow you to survive. Recount this tale and laugh at them. If I would not have recognized the signs I may have been crushed by the demons first attack as readily as the beautiful and innocent Silva was. Fortunately I was prepared and knew what to look for. Arm your self not only in steel but also in knowledge.
- As you would expect – foul creatures from another evil plane of existence.
- A large creature with and ursine (bear like) body and an owls head and fore claws. These creatures have a nasty temperament and generally attack things on sight. They are thought to have been the byproduct of magical experimentation.
- A warrior dedicated to specific divine patron. Paladins are generally the elite military arm of a religion.
- A magical bastard sword that was forged to hunt and destroy demons.
- Creatures such as zombies, ghouls, and skeletons that are unliving.
- ‘Soul Seeker’
- A magical and very accurate spear.