KNIGHT SWORD, EPISODE 26C
You sidestep, putting yourself in front of Dietrich, leaving yourself open to Ulmoch’s attack. A hard grin flashes over the Raven’s gaunt face, and Ulmoch springs forward, the black sword angling again for your heart.
An instant later blue-white lightning leaps from Curtwall’s staff, slamming into Ulmoch. The spell doesn’t harm Ulmoch, doesn’t even slow him down, but the sheer force of Curtwall’s magic throws the Raven off-balance, sends him stumbling.
It’s all the opening you need.
You leap forward, the soulblade plunging into the tear in Ulmoch’s cuirass, the sword biting deep into his flesh. Golden flames blaze down the blade, and Ulmoch wails, trying to wrench away from the sword. But it’s too late. The soulblade’s golden fire explodes through him, devouring the yellow glow in his eyes. Ulmoch shudders, the darkness within him disintegrating, his flesh crumbling to ash.
A moment later there’s nothing left of him but ash, yellowed bones, and a pile of black armor plates.
Silence falls over the hillside, Vlacht and his orcish soldiers staring at you in shock.
You lift the soulblade.
“Well?” you say.
The orcs flee, leaving you alone on the hillside with Dietrich, Caius, Curtwall, and Mourner.
“Paladin,” says Caius. He’s looking at you with something like awe. “I will follow you. To the ends of the earth.”
“The Blood Queen herself will tremble,” says Mourner, “when she hears of this.”
“I’m just glad you’re not dead,” says Dietrich, direct as ever.
You don’t know what to say. To anything of this. You didn’t want to become a Paladin, and the Knights of the Soulblade were a legend to you until this night.
Curtwall rescues you from having to say anything.
“Come,” he says, “let’s go.”
You turn, and follow Curtwall to whatever awaits you.
KNIGHT SWORD, A BONUS EPISODE
In the city of Tarlion, capital of the kingdom of Andomhaim, stands the Tower of the High Queen, though the commoners in whispers nicknamed it the Tower of Blood, or the Tower of Ravens. No one who enters the Tower, save for the Queen’s Ravens, ever returns.
In the Tower’s highest chamber, six hundred feet above the city, the High Queen Ashanavere, named the Blood Queen by the rebels, opens her eyes.
Most men, looking upon her, would call her beautiful. She looks no more than eighteen. Her eyes are the blue of sapphires, her thick black hair hangs to her waist, and her skin is clear and fair. She is a vision of beauty, an image to inspire poets and artists.
No one, man or woman, could look upon her for long without their skin starting to crawl, their stomach clenching. As if this slight, radiantly beautiful woman were a venomous serpent, or a loathsome predator. The very air seems colder around her, the shadows darker.
Dogs go mad as she walks past, turning upon their owners.
In her presence children scream with fear, and suffer for nightmares for days afterward.
Milk turns sour near her, and food rotten. Sometimes old men fall dead, clutching their chests, or wake to find tumors growing upon their flesh.
“So,” says Ashanavere.
She rises and walks to the window.
She can see through the eyes of the Ravens (though they know it not), her adoring and terrified slaves, and she saw the soulblade blaze to life in the hands of that girl.
Liam Tarnavale’s daughter. Ashanavere had ordered his entire family put to death, but it seemed Ulmoch had failed to carry out the order.
Well, he was paying for it now, the fool.
For a moment Ashanavere closes her eyes and thinks, feeling the cold throb of the dark magic around her.
Ashanavere’s servants and slaves would say there is no cause for alarm. Rosalyn Tarnavale is a Paladin, but only one girl. The rebels remain disorganized and ineffective. And Rosalyn Tarnavale might be a Paladin, but she is only one – the rest of the soulblades have been in Ashanavere’s grasp for a long time.
Her servants and slaves are fools.
Ashanavere has lived a very long time (or, at least, some of the things inside her head have), and she knows the truth. The world is a tinderbox. Dry and lifeless, thirsty for water.
It only takes one spark to set it ablaze.
Such as the light of a soulblade in the hand of a new-made Paladin.
Rosalyn Tarnavale must die.
And Ashanavere will bend her full power to the child’s death. A price shall be placed on her head. The Ravens and their orcish soldiers will be sent out. And Ashanavere has minions far more powerful and terrible than the Ravens.
Minions that will make the girl Paladin beg for death, before it is over.