PRELUDE TO THE DEATH OF A PALADIN
-Holy Roman Empire: Month of October, Year of Our Lord 1241.
The demon stirred within her, yearning to gain control. She could feel it.
How much longer can I suppress it?
She forced her attention back to the hideous display taking place before her. It was the dead of night, that darkest part of the night, and the floor of the valley below was filling with lights. It was being filled by a river of lights that stretched back as far as her eyes could see. Multitudes upon multitudes of cold, silver orbs of light emanating from eye sockets in the skulls of lifeless corpses. Lights of the undead.
It was as though God had cast down all of the stars in the night sky and proceeded to pour them into the valley below. And as the sky held an infinite number of stars, so too did it seem that these legions of undead and the light emanating from their skulls was just as infinite.
What is the measure of infinity?
The Lord of the Dead was riding out there somewhere in the midst of all these cold, silver lights. It was his anger and hate that had brought about this host of undead. And it may be what would bring about the end of humanity.
Had God Himself become so angry with this Lord of the Dead that, in His wrath, He had turned His back on all of humanity and all of creation? Had The Almighty allowed these cursed undead to arise from the earth to consume and destroy all of humanity, perhaps to cover the earth in an ocean of corpses as God once covered the entire earth in an ocean of water due to the wickedness of humanity? Was God allowing this destruction to occur for the actions of a single man? Over a thousand years ago, had not one man sacrificed himself on a cross to save all of humanity? Had that man not been the Son of God?
Was this humanity’s destiny, to again be tied to the fate of one man?
The paladin, seated upon her white warhorse, gazed out over the valley and river of lights that made its way towards her. The warhorse snorted and stamped its hooves sensing the impending doom. The paladin, who held a gleaming steel warhammer, lay her free hand against her charger’s head calming the beast. She had always associated light, such as the light that rose at the dawn—light that banished the darkness—with the giver of life. But there was nothing living—no souls by any means—projecting any sentient thoughts or emotions from behind those ghastly gleams issuing from within countless eye sockets of corpse skulls.
Soulless. Dead. They are dead lights.
The paladin on the white charger looked over the great host of relentlessly marching undead slouching its way towards her. Despite her strong faith, she began to doubt how she and her most trusted comrades, the two paladins at her side, could possibly stop this monstrous horde. One of the two paladins, a tall, lean, dark-skinned woman—her most trusted and dearest friend—sat ready on a black stallion to her right. This woman would die for her, and she would do likewise, not a moment’s hesitation. To the left of the paladin on the white charger, holding his nervous steed in check, sat a younger and less experienced warrior. He had been knighted as a paladin only a few years ago. He still had so much to learn of being a paladin.
So much to learn and he may never have the chance.
She felt a terrible ache in her heart for her two friends.
The Lord of the Dead was out there riding amongst his army of death. The three paladins had to find him and destroy him. That was their only chance. It may be humanity’s only chance.
Throughout her entire career as a paladin, she never imagined facing such an impossible task as the one now before her. She had contemplated the possibility of her death before (it being just another aspect of her chosen duty), but now it seemed all too near, too inevitable, perhaps just a few more breaths away. At least death would give her peace. Peace from that leering, laughing face with its tongue of lies that so tormented her. She would be at peace in Heaven and in God’s divine presence. There, she would meet her mother for the first time. At that thought, an involuntary shudder coursed through her body. She made the sign of the cross over herself and whispered for God to give her strength.
The paladin on the white charger again sensed the demon—that most ancient of Hell’s infernal spawn—struggling within her. It was growing stronger, potentially strong enough to overtake her. The paladin knew she had to maintain her resolve and hold to her faith just a while longer.
Please, God, give me the strength to hold on a while longer.