A Knight’s Prayer
The moon hung high in the sky when Sir Leopold pushed back from his desk. He’d had plenty to keep his days full before Sir Marcus had killed the Death Knight and blown the eastern provinces wide open. Now sleep felt like a luxury.
But the people in the eastern provinces deserved the gods’ light to shine on them, deserved to tuck their kids into bed and not worry about what would come for them in the night.
Long hours in a comfortable office seemed like little to ask in comparison. And it wasn’t like anyone was waiting for him to come home at night.
Sir Leopold chuckled. Not true. Not anymore.
Sir Marcus would silently worry Leopold was working too much again, but Brelynn would openly fuss at him. Mara would stare at him with her strange amber eyes, her thoughts as inscrutable as ever. Strange lot, but they were family. Even Mara.
Despite the late hour, Sir Leopold strolled one last time through the Temple of Dracor.
The god’s power radiated through the building, filling Sir Leopold and reigniting his faith and purpose. It burned stronger tonight, more brilliant. Sucking in a deep breath, the light filled Leopold and inspired him. Fatigue melted away under Dracor’s radiance, and Leopold again thanked the god for His favor.
Finally ready to head home and take the fussing he had coming, Sir Leopold paused outside the main sanctuary. A young Knight was kneeling before Dracor’s altar.
Sir Leopold waited, but the young Knight’s rigid back and hunched shoulders told Leopold more than words could.
The fussing would wait a bit longer.
Leopold strolled down the main aisle, and as he drew closer, he noticed the heavy cane and glimpsed the young man’s profile.
Another hero of the eastern provinces, and another victim.
As Sir Leopold sat on the pew behind the young man, he noticed a tiny child wrapped in the Knight’s tabard. Her pointed ears, sharp features, and golden hair warned she wasn’t human.
Not a bastard, then. Sir Leopold had seen enough of those in his time, and he’d learned how to deal with Knights who’d made that misstep.
This was different.
Sir Leopold sat beside the sleeping child and bowed his head in prayer.
Knight Gabriel startled when he finally saw the older man.
“I’m sorry, High Knight, I didn’t hear you come in. I’m normally more observant.”
“You’re in Dracor’s temple. No need for such vigilance here, and nothing to be sorry about. Your devotion is admirable.”
The young Knight of Valor tried to push himself to standing. His face twisted in pain.
Sir Leopold didn’t offer help, knowing better after years of dealing with injured Knights.
Gabriel grabbed the cane and shoved himself to his feet. Disgust twisted over the young Knight’s features before he could lock it away.
“How are you doing?” Sir Leopold asked.
“All right. The Council has assigned me to temple duties… for the moment.”
While he healed, but he didn’t want to admit weakness, not even to a fellow Knight. That was a weakness in itself, but Sir Leopold kept that himself. “Not what I meant. Eastern provinces are a horrible place. My nephew still struggles with nightmares.”
“Sir Marcus? But he’s-”
“A good man, a strong man, but still a man.”
Sir Gabriel ran his hand through his hair and sat beside Sir Leopold. “Nightmares are crushing some nights. Only place they get better is here.”
“Time can help. Talking can help more. You ever wanna talk to Sir Marcus or another Knight that went through what you did, you let me know. There’s no shame in it. Matter of fact, talking takes a great deal more courage than burying the pain.”
Sir Gabriel stared down at his cane, and Leopold could see the memories haunting the young man. Wasn’t fair or right, but nothing about the eastern provinces was. Sir Gabriel volunteered for the horrible assignment after his mother had died. He was unmarried and had no family left to grieve for him if he died.
A selfless act, even for a Knight of Valor.
Sir Leopold laid a steadying hand on the other Knight’s shoulder. “I heard your story, but I don’t know the real horror. Talk to Marcus. If not him, talk to Matthias. There’s no shame. No judgement. But they can help.”
Sir Gabriel balled his fists at his side. “They call me a hero, but I didn’t save them. I didn’t save…”
Leopold let him catch his breath. “I know you didn’t, but for the thirty or forty families you saved, you’re a hero. Thirty or forty families that would’ve died without you.”
He squeezed Sir Gabriel’s shoulder. “You sacrificed a lot to hand Dracor a victory. And it was a victory.”
“But it was my fault. I consecrated the church. I had no idea it would bring so many ghouls.”
“And that consecrated church is a beacon of hope to that town and the surrounding lands. A place the locals go even now to escape nightmares I don’t even want to imagine. You gave them that.” Leopold nodded toward the altar. “You did what you thought was right. That’s all a man can do. Even a man in service to the gods.”
Sir Gabriel sucked in a breath as he considered Leopold’s words.
Leopold gave him a few minutes then nodded toward the sleeping child. “Who’s she?”
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