This is the conclusion of Paladin. Next up is Breath Between Ages, which will serve as the prologue to Age Of Blood And Bone.
The gathering was a solemn one. It was Calibration, three years to the day from when Adran had started his initiation into Master Thelosâ€™s instructions. He had learned more than he had ever imagined about the gods, their revolt, and the way that they allowed corruption and evil to spread. Their selfishness and greed was appalling. Adran had seen gods abandoning their duties for worship; he had watched the bickering of the Dynasts under the Scarlet Empress, and their growing worry over the past year since her disappearance. And now, this day, he would take his first true steps to bringing justice back to the world.
â€œThe world is corrupt.â€ Thelosâ€™s voice intoned the first words of the ceremony with the somberness of the grave. Adran responded alongside the congregation, working to keep his voice level.
â€œWe will not surrender to it.â€
â€œThe world is controlled by darkness.â€
â€œWe will shine light.â€
â€œThe world is injust.â€
â€œWe will bring justice.â€ The words echoed through the chamber, and everyone in the gathering repeated them a second time. Thelos nodded firmly.
â€œTonight, my children, our work will be rewarded. Adorjan has granted us many gifts to bring the light of Justice to the four corners of this world, but tonight she grants our greatest. Brother Adran, Sister Harri, step forwards.â€
The two did so, walking out from the congregation and kneeling before Thelos. Adran snuck a glance sideways at his fellow disciple. He didnâ€™t know very much about Harii. Like most of the congregation, and unlike him, she was a child of the Iselsi; a mortal raised in a fallen House, destroyed for trying to right the wrongs of the Dynasty. She had been raised as a spy of the house, and was renowned for her ability to slip unnoticed through Dynastic culture, forging alliances and damaging those of the most corrupt of the Dynasts. Although he knew that he was extremely skilled, Adran felt less so when compared to her, and he was still surprised that he had been chosen by Thelos.
Their master was speaking now, and Adran turned his attention back to. â€œBoth of you have lost much to the darkness of the world, but that is not why you are here. You are here because your hearts seek justice, not vengeance. Whatever lies the Immaculates may tell, we seek only to repair the world, not to destroy it. The evil will be destroyed, and the good will be lifted up by our works. You two are our most dedicated mortal agents, and thus the most deserving of the gifts that my Lady has to offer you.â€ He smiled, then, a paternal look that was very uncommon. â€œHarii, you are a master of politics and persuasion. You will be our orderâ€™s face, showing people the light. Adran, your skill with weapons is all but unmatched among mortals. You will be our strong arm, defending the righteous and punishing the unjust.â€
Adranâ€™s heart swelled with a mix of pride and worry. He was glad that he had been chosen, but he didnâ€™t know if he had the strength. Despite the life he was learning to live, his nights were still haunted by Chelenaâ€™s face, and the life that they had shared. He would try to put that aside for the greater good, but he was afraid he might not succeed.
â€œRise, my children, and approach me.â€ Adran and Harii stood, and walked forwards, and Thelos laid a hand on each of their foreheads. â€œFeel the breath of Adorjan, and go forth. Go to see our Mother, and receive her Blessing.â€ And as he spoke the last word, his anima sprung up around him, the wind howling like a hungry gale. It caught at Adranâ€™s clothes, but he held still, ready for whatever might come.
The world fell away, and he felt himself floating through the sky. The winds surrounded him, howling and tearing, and he felt the raw might of Adorjanâ€™s rage, her sorrow and anger at the damage that had been done to her Creation. Harii was no longer beside him, but he hardly noticed. The winds scoured through him, and green light followed in their wake. And as a new power grew within him, Adorjan searched his soul.
She felt his raw determination and desire for justice, and she was pleased. And she felt his regret, his lost hopes and dreams, and she scoured them with a thought, for regret is a sign of an action done wrong. The Champions of Adorjan would know that their paths were righteous, and that Adorjanâ€™s will was correct, and they would need never fear being mistaken â€“ and thus there was no place for guilt or shame in their lives.
And the wind faded, and the man who was Adran found himself back in his body, lying on the floor. As he stood, he saw the room bathed in pure, beautiful green light, and he realized that it came from himself and Harii. She stood as he did, and the two shared the pure smile of those who had felt their godâ€™s righteous fury. The green eclipse burned on her brow, even as the sunburst did on his, and Thelos spoke.
â€œYou have been deemed worthy, and purified. Your old names are cast off, and you are reborn.â€ Thelos turned to the woman, and gestured, as two worshippers brought forth pure white robes and a think ivory mask. â€œI name you Hariel, of the Arbiter Caste. You will turn our enemies to our cause, and purify them of corruption.â€ And then he turned to the man who had been Adran, and he reached into his own robes, drawing forth a pair of beautiful brass razor claws. â€œAnd I name you Draniel, of the Paladin Caste. You will rise to glory, and evil will fall before us.â€
Draniel smiled broadly, bowing his head. â€œThank you, Master.â€ He took the claws, strapping them on â€“ they fit perfectly. â€œI will bring Justice back into the world.â€
And he was serene, for no thought of what he had lost crossed his mind. He lived to serve Adorjan, and nothing else was as important.