Sir Dellyn Vanse groaned involuntarily as he rolled to a sitting position in bed. His bare feet touched the cold stone of his sparsely decorated bedchamber and he paused there to finish waking up and enjoy the sun streaming in the small window above his bed.
The kiss of Pelor felt good shining on the back of his head and neck. What didn’t feel good was the stiff condition his back was in. He had overdone it the day before, lifting planks of wood and hefting his signature carpenter’s hammer.
He shook the cobwebs from his head and flexed his hands into fists, on at a time. First he balled up the left, then the right. He felt the muscles in his forearms flex and relax. Still as strong as ever, he thought with a smile.
What concerned him was the increasing pain. As he balled his hand into a fist, he could feel the bones pop and creak like they hadn’t years before. The price of a lifetime of abusing them, he mused.
He ran his fingers through his thinning hair and set to getting dressed. He slipped off the loose gown he wore to bed and stood there a second before putting his pants on. His back creaked as he bent over to pull them up, and lacing them up the sides only served to aggravate the pain in his hands.
Half dressed he sat back down on the side of the bed.
He knew he had a busy day ahead of him. His morning was usually consumed with training the young whelps that had come to the temple for training. Usually the temple got ten or twelve a year, each youngster believing they had been chosen by Pelor as a paladin. Not all of them were correct, of course.
Sir Vanse had never had any real formal training. He remember the moment, his big moment, when he as a lad of seventeen had picked up his father’s sword and charged the ogre mage that had attacked his village. He had felt the surge of divine energy as he struck the creature, driving the sword far deeper than the simple force of his arm alone.
That was the same moment he had manifested the eyes. Vance looked over at the plain polished metal plate that served as the mirror in his room. His eyes were pure crystal blue, without any white at all, like a pair of sapphires set in his skull. It didn’t hinder his vision in any way, but it marked him. He was a paladin. Only paladins had eyes like that.
He remembered arriving at the temple himself for the first time. The priests and clerics had made a big fuss over his arrival. They hadn’t had a crystal eyed paladin in many years. They said he had been chosen, that he was destined for something great, that he was special.
He’d joined with the other paladins at the temple. Vanse smiled at the recollection. They had seemed so old at the time, all of them in their early twenties. James, Thomas, Nikolai, they had all welcomed him with open arms and taught him as much as they could.
None of them were around anymore. Thomas was confirmed dead facing down a balor on in the Demon Wastes. Nikolai had teamed up with some mad mage to clean out a demilich’s tomb somewhere and never returned. James was last seen charging the steel horde orcs on the Great Grass Sea to the East on horseback with his shining lance. It wasn’t clear if he had died, but the village of Old Merval hadn’t burned to the ground and the horde had retreated, so his sacrifice must not have been for nothing.
How long had it been? Vanse counted thirty eight summers of life. He shook his head.
He furrowed his brow. They laughed at him behind his back, he knew. Old Man Paladin, Failadin, Sir Chicken they called him, the one who wasted his destiny, the one who quandered his gift.
He hadn’t been idle. He had spent years using the carpentry his father had taught him, building houses for the poor. Over four hundred houses bore the holy symbol of Pelor engraved over the door, the mark of each house he had built in the name of holy charity.
He had fought monsters of course, but they had all been minor. A gang of goblins had started harassing on of the nearby villages. An owlbear had carried off some cows. Still, none of the enemies he had faced had been the legendary evil he was supposed to squash. None of the monsters had really challenged him, or even been a real threat.
He had sired no children. Paladins were not supposed to leave widows, and we’re supposed to save orphans, not spawn them. No paladin was expected to live long enough to see his child become an adult.
Still, here he was. Sir Vance started putting on the rest of his uniform as he thought.
Paladins were immune to fear, the clerics had told him. No dragon could make him flee. Yet, here he was, alone with his thoughts. Had he truly wasted his life? There was doubt in him, but it was more than doubt. Was this what fear felt like?
He looked down at his bed where he had nearly folded his bed shirt. He would die in the bed, he knew, if something didn’t change.
If this was fear he was feeling, it wasn’t the terror of a scaled horror of claws and fire. It was the existential dread of advancing age and the fear of a life left unmourned in it’s passing. Was this fear? He didn’t fear death, he knew. What was this that plagued his thoughts as he woke up?
He strapped on his breastplate. It was more snug around the middle than he remembered.
No, he decided. He was not going to spend the rest of his days here. He was going to accomplish something, anything. He would end as a paladin was supposed to, standing between the evil and the innocent.
He had one good ride left in him, he knew, and he was going to have to make it count.
As he strode out of his room into the sunny courtyard he decided. They were going to have find someone else to train the youngsters. He had a destiny to find.