The Dawn Will Come

Submitted by Morgan on Fri, 12/1/2017 at 11:40pm

The funeral procession had made its way to the barracks.  Garen hadn’t known the Knight personally, but had heard the name Gallo the Fearless in passing.  So far the city had been somber and fairly quiet until the casket passed the barracks.  Every Knight of the Crystal Fists had put on their ceremonial garb, red and gold tabards waving in the cool breeze that had only been getting colder as winter creeped closer.  The Knights with martial training had donned gilded gold armor that reflected the sunlight like a sunset over the coast.  As the procession got closer, weapons were drawn, or sometimes conjured, and held high in a salute.  Garen took up the funeral song, having no formal training his voice sounded a bit flat but it was drowned out by the rest of the Paladins.

 

“Shadows fall and hope has fled

Steel your heart, the dawn will come

The night is long and the path is dark

Look to the sky for one day soon

The dawn will come

 

The Shepherd’s lost and his home is far

Keep to the stars, the dawn will come

The night is long and the path is dark

Look to the sky for one day soon

The dawn will come

 

Bare your blade and raise it high

Stand your ground, the dawn will come

The night is long and the path is dark

Look to the sky for one day soon

The dawn will come”*

 

The funeral procession ended with the pallbearers placed on a pyre that had been prepared at the base of a shrine to Lemesin.  Garen released his grip on the longsword held aloft in his right hand and it dissolved into shimmering dust.  Emerick had been beside him, his voice a rich bass contrasting with Garen’s lackluster tenor.  Four wizards dressed in red and gold robes held up their hands and four streams of fire erupted from them, blasting the base of the pyre.   

 

“Did you know him?”, Garen asked Emerick.  

“Yeah.  Good with that sword of his, ought to be since I trained him myself.  From what I hear something just overwhelmed him in an ambush.  Damn shame.  He was only a month or so away from becoming a Ser.  Damn, damn shame.  The Vindicator is going to raise hell.”

 

‘The Vindicator’.  The name had been said with almost a reverence around the temple.  Most Crystal fists focus on the practice of Honor, the first tenant of the Code.  They went on to become Knights and were given the title of Ser.  Those who devote themselves to Justice become Judges and their epithets often are changed to reflect their vocation.  Those that study Mercy became healers and gain the title Shepard.  Sacrifice wasn’t a field of study, more of a last resort and thus wasn’t studied so much as the other three tenants, though if a Knight, Judge, or Shepard died in the line of duty they were said to exemplify Sacrifice better than any other living Paladin could.  ‘The Vindicator’ was a Judge, and Gallo had been her nephew.  

 

Garen had not personally met the Vindicator either.  Most of his days were spent in the archives trying to decipher historical documents and prepare his mind for the process of flesh forging.  The pyre was roaring now, and Garen redirected his thoughts to the present.  A Paladin, shorter than most gathered, carrying a ceremonial warhammer began walking towards Emerick.  

 

“Judge Judith.  Know that Huel Vor weeps with you this day.  As we speak we are in the process of conducting an investigation as to how Gallo died.  Ambush is the working theory as of now  We-”, Emerick was saying before being cut off by the Judge.  

 

“Spare me Emerick.  I’ve done my mourning.  Gallo was a fool for taking this assignment.  A brave fool perhaps, but a fool nonetheless.  This is ‘The Resilient’ I take it?”

 

Garen saluted her, bringing his fist across his chest and waited for her to return the gesture.  She took her time to do so, looking him up and down before placing her own fist across her breastplate.  “Garen, Judge.”, he said to her.  “So you plan on becoming a Knight then Garen?  That’s what they all want to do. Honor this, and honor that with all these young fools, yes you too Emerick”, she said to the beast of a man who had just frowned, causing his moustache to turn downward.  “If you take issue with my vocation Judith then-”,

 

“Emerick”, she said seriously

 

“Yes Judith?”, he replied

 

“I still know how to use this you know”, she said brandishing her warhammer.

 

The two stared each other down, Judith not in the least bit intimidated by the towering Emerick.  After a tense moment that Garen was concerned would come to blows, they erupted in laughter.

 

“So...What just happened?”, Garen asked, “I thought this was a funeral”

 

Judith smirked, “First funeral then, eh?  My nephew was a fine lad, upheld the Code to the day he perished.  I’ve no doubt he’s climbing the Silver Stairs to the Aether now”

 

“But the song seemed...really somber”, he replied.  

 

“It’s good to show proper respect for the dead and their sacrifice but it’s more tradition than anything else lad”, Emerick said.  “There’s a feast in his honor tonight”

 

“I’m not really one for feasts”, Garen said and waved his hand over his eyes to emphasize his point, “Old habits and all that.  I can’t help being a paranoid bastard”

 

“I know.  That’s why I’m referring you to the man assigned to bring his killers to justice.  His name is Jet.  The Wolf.  Damn good investigator”, He turned to Judith, “He’s your squire isn’t he?”

 

“Yes.  He’s got a real nose for this sort of thing.  Ulf you know.  His chambers are next to mine near the Archives.  See to it that you don’t keep him waiting”

 

By now the pyre had burned down to embers.  The fire the wizards had used must have been Prime imbued because the smoke column spiraling upwards was a shimmering silver rather than a dark gray.  Judith the Vindicator leaned close to Garen and spoke lowly, “Go on lad.  Use those talents of yours to get out of here early and get a head start on the investigation”  Garen grinned, “Thought you’d never ask.  I hate waiting around.”  The Uordeq backed away and let himself become engulfed in the shadow of a nearby structure.  Nothing made him feel safer than being invisible.  Everyone’s attention was now focused on Janmorel Fiend's’ Bane who was speaking funerary rites for Gallo.  Without making a sound, Garen moved through the crowd and into the temple.  Out of habit he kept the shadows wreathed about him, despite the fact the temple was empty.  

He made his way to the Archives and to the adjacent chambers.  One of the doors was slightly open and Garen noticed movement within.  Deciding to drop out of stealth he let go of his grip on the shadows that dissipated in a dull flicker.  The flicker must have caught Jet’s attention because his ears twitched in Garen’s direction.  What appeared to be a kind of shepherd dog with a black coat of fur standing upright in a room with documents and pieces of parchment covering the walls.  Garen had known a few Ulfs in Jastrey, killed more than a few as well when he was still doing mercenary work, though that was not a time Garen was particularly proud of.  “I’ve been sent by Judge Judith the Vindicator to assist you”, Garen said to the Ulf, deciding it best to skip formalities.  Jet turned to face him and Garen couldn’t help but notice that his fellow Paladin’s nose was twitching almost uncontrollably at the end of his snout.  “You smell…..off”, Jet turned closer to Garen’s left side, where his arm ended in a stump below the elbow.  “Something is not as it should be….something taints you”, his snout started to curl up to reveal a mouth full of sharp teeth.  

“If you’re going to just stand there and insult me then I’ll take my leave and you can bring justice to Gallo’s killers on your own”  Garen turned to leave but then felt something heavy thud on his shoulder.  He twisted to see an obsidian claw holding him.  It was something like the paw of a dog and a human hand, but made of a smooth, black jemstone.  Had Garen not been wearing his armor he was sure that the claws would tear through his flesh like a blade through parchment.  “You...your arm’s been flesh forged.  How did it happen?”  “That is neither here nor there, Runt.  Focus on what’s in front of you.  Gallo was my best friend and partner, and now he’s dead”  “Hang on.  You seem to be taking his death more harshly than Judith or Emerick.  They said that he was climbing the Stairs now”  “I haven’t become so calloused as they yet.  They’ve been following the code longer than I’ve been alive.  Longer than you have as well I think.  How old are you?”  Garen smirked, “That’s neither here nor there.  Tell me what you have so far”

 

“He was looking into the crypts outside the city, in Old Huel Vor.  It’s where the old clans would bury their honored dead.  We’ve since adopted pyres but there’s more than a few relics of ancient paladins down there”  

“Just to clarify, relics as in bones?”  

“Aye”  

“Hmm.  Tell me more about how he died.  Emerick said ambush.  Ambushed by who?”

“That is exactly what we are trying to figure out.  I examined his corpse very thoroughly.  There was more than one, judging by the placement of the wounds”, Jet indicated a chart of a body with notes on where there were multiple stab wounds.  “There were four strikes in total.  Two in the back, one in his right side that landed in his liver, and one in his belly.  Whoever killed him wanted him to suffer before the end.  None of these wounds would be immediately fatal.  But all together and with no one there to heal him, he never stood a chance.  As for the culprits I’ve-”

“Culprit”

“Excuse me?”, Jet barked, clearly annoyed at being interrupted.

“It was one attacker.  I’m positive.”

“How are you sure it was one?”

“Because I’ve seen this type of attack before.  Gallo was killed by an Etterach.  What do you know of my kind?”

“Hmph.  That by and large Uordeqs are blackguards and thieves at best, or else the worst sort of dark mage at worst”

“With remarkably few exceptions.”, Garen said,  “But what about our bloodlines?  Not all Uordeqs can hide their heritage underneath a helmet or hood”

“I assume you are referring to this ‘etter-atch’ creature?

“Etterach.  Rhymes with ‘lack’ as in, ‘they lack compassion or empathy for anything with less than eight chitinous appendages and as many eyes’.  They ambush their prey, because that’s how they view non-Etterachs, and strike with their multiple limbs.  Like so”  Garen pantomimed holding a dagger in his hand and thrust it forward, with what existed of his left arm mimicking the movement.  “Two in the back”  He  hooked his right arm now, the simulated dagger forming an angle with himself.  “One in the liver”  He paused, unsure what to do with his left limb.  “And the last one would hook around into his abdomen”, he explained.  “These things have six arms and two legs, you see.  They grapple their victim with their free claws so they can’t escape.  There’s usually a paralyzing toxin involved as well, but not always”

“I already checked for toxins”, Jet said over a leather bound book that he had been taking notes in.  “If any were used his passive blessings would have neutralized them before he died.  It’s one of the first spells we learned together…”, Jet trailed off and looked away.  If Garen wasn’t mistaken the Ulf’s chocolate brown eyes were glossier now than before, but he wasn’t about to bring it up.  “We are leaving.  Now”, Jet the Wolf said, “Retrieve anything you require for a jaunt outside the city walls.  We are going to return to the scene of the crime and I’m not waiting a minute longer”

“I travel light.  Lead the way”

 

Outside the barracks, two figures were jogging into the dusk, one barely keeping up with the other.  It wasn’t often that Garen met someone who could outpace him over short distances, but The Wolf was built for this sort of chase, and Garen soon found the gap between them going ever wider.  It was refreshing.  The two figures were speeding through the market district that had earlier been packed with mourners, but was now bereft of any signs of life save for them.  They passed through the main gate just as the last sliver of daylight disappeared from the sky.  Garen the Resilient could not have been happier.                                                                            

*Dragon Age Inquisition: The Dawn Will Come (Peter Hollens virtual choir mix)