Destiny Chapter 5: By Brand and Sigil

Weeks had passed, this new world was an infinite mystery to Chris, yet, somehow things seemed correct. In life he had always felt a little, out of place, as if he was in the wrong lands, and the feeling had simply removed itself when he settled into the idea of belonging to another world. He had taken up training with the Knights around the keep, and soon, the only knight he had yet to spar with, and beat down thoroughly was Adanna. The Knights had taken to mocking her, saying she was afraid of being beaten. In the past days though, Chris had felt a resonating knot of impatience growing in his stomach, an anxiety that drove him to begin saddling Thunderhoof, before realizing he didn't know where to go. One day, digging through the saddlebags, Chris found a small diary, inside, in elegant letters was the handwriting of his great great grandfather, Lannen. As he sat that night, studying the miracles described within the diary, he felt a great tiredness crawl over him, engulfing his eyes, making them droop lower and lower, until he had fallen asleep on the book.

"Christoph! It is time you took up Sigil and Brand of the Light! Travel to the sacred gardens of Soltic!"

The brief droop in conciousness had shocked Chris. As he looked up from his arms, he saw the window, dawn rising from over the mountains. Feeling amazingly well rested, he prepared for travel, finally, for sure. His repaired breastplate strapped firmly to his body, as well as the rest of the armor he was given, the armor of his ancestors. The night was still deep, few seemed awake at all, and as Chris prepared what he needed for his trip, he was interrupted.

"Lord Christoph, you are leaving us?" Adanna said quietly from the shadows, stepping forward, her movements seemed smooth, flawless, a ghost in the night almost, in her arms was a folded white cloth.

"Ye…Aye, I've heard from them again, finally, in my dreams, I must find 'Brand and Sigil' whatever that means. I just hope I survive to find Destiny." Chris replied.

"Then, I will give this gift to you, if nothing else, take this from us, a sign to others of who you are, it may bring you some help, or some hindrance, either shall be welcome to break the monotony of the ride. I know of the Brand and Sigil, your dream spoke of, and they are hidden, the last gift Lannen had to return before his death, and the plains East to Soltic are barren. You will find plenty of vegetation, and a use for that bow on the plains of course, and there are several streams. But other then that there is little, and you may find yourself longing for a fight. I know I did when last I crossed it," Adanna said lengthily, as she handed him the white cloth. It unfurled to reveal itself to be a thick, white cloak, in gold, stitched upon the center was a sun, two roses intertwined on either side, and the symbol of the nine stars below it.

Chris smiled at Adanna, happy to have something warm like the cloak, and threw it over his shoulders. The cloak seemed to fit perfectly, even matching perfectly with the red tunic and breeches the Knights had lent him. Once again he glanced at Adanna as she retreated slowly back into the keep, and then turned to pull his Leg over Thunderhoof's back.

The damage that had been done to his breastplate had been mended, and in fact, the smith had claimed he had put some extra work into the armor, adding a few tricks he had learned to the ancient armor. As it was, Chris felt almost complete when he had the armor on, he glanced at Thunderhoof, and without a word, stuck one foot in the stirrup and kicked the other over the horse's back. The horse immediately trotted impatiently, energetic, eager to leave.

"Hyah!" Chris shouted as he gave the warhorse a light tap with his stirrups and Thunderhoof obeyed, charging on into the dawn.

Chris had expected the dawn light to stifle his sight, though it only seemed to enhance it, and indeed, enhance his vigour, he felt almost energized by the dawn light, and remembering the readings from Lannen's diary, "A True Paladin's powers are always greatly enhanced in the dawn, and the champion of the Light will find ihimself quite powerful at dawn indeed, an ill fate for those who would fight for the shadow against myself at dawn." And so, Chris reveled in the feeling, the surge of power, like his heart had expanded in his chest, the same feeling he felt when he held Destiny. When he held her in his arms, feeling his warm, soft skin in his embrace, loving the feeling.

"WELCOME DAWN! COME LIGHT TO THIS WORLD, BANISH IT OF IT'S SHADOWS! SEND AWAY THE DARKNESS THAT DWELLS THE LANDS IN NIGHT, ABOLISH THE DAEMONS!" He screamed, the same his great-great grandfather had shouted so many years ago, in the same manner.

The villagers who had been children then, and were now great grandparents upon the farms they had lived they're whole lives, remembering that welcome to the dawn, and recognized the voice, it was almost like Lannen the Lightblade had returned again. More then a few looked out of they're doors and windows to see, see if the Lightblade had returned again. Sucram had devastated the lands, sending his thugs out to raze and cause havoc, they had marched upon many, stolen and thieved, and cause harm. They had killed and imprisoned, raped, and stole, and all the while the peasants had hoped, prayed, waited for the return of Lannen.

Many hours later, in the heat of the day, though it as cold in the northern lands, where the Knight's keep was, the eastern lands were hot, and stifling. Chris had become accustomed to it, though, despite his usual hate for the heat, he felt quite cool, and didn't sweat a drop in the heat, when even naives of the area did profusely. Adanna had been right though, these lands were nearly barren, except for the profuse knee high grass that grew, there was nothing. Chris soon grew accustomed to the trot Thunderhoof had leveled out at an even pace. The movement of the horse in motion made Chris have to fight to remain awake. It almost seemed as if something was bidding him to sleep as the sunset came on. He knew he would have to camp that night. Hoping to find a grove of trees before he stopped to rest however, he kept riding on, and soon, had lolled into sleep. Hunched over in the saddle, leaning against Thunderhoof's neck, the horse wandered on, veering from it's original path.

The sun sunk slowly beneath the rim of the horizon, and left the night, shrouding the land. The dark creatures crept from their hiding places, the monsters returned from their refuges, and the daemons came to the lands again.

Thunderhoof had slowed, and in the night had lost his way, and eventually came to a stop. Chris still on the horse's back, sleeping soundly. As the moon reached it's apex however, Chris jerked into wakefulness, lifting his head so quickly he got vertigo, and nearly fell from the saddle.

Chris looked around himself, wondering where he had gotten himself lost at now and despairing. He had forgotten to pack torches, he had some reason for it, though the memory seemed dim, in his sleep dazed state. He looked into the darkness, feeling fear creep over him, seeing movements, hearing the noises of night, he finally reached to his hip, and unsheathed his sword. The sword however only seemed to glimmer slightly in the dark night. The moons light reflected off of it's face only dimly, and did little to relieve his fear.

Chris sighed to himself, wondering what it was he had forgotten. Something nagged at the back of his mind, trying to tell him why he had left behind torches. After agonizing moments of thought, he remembered it had something to do with the diary. Within a second he had the diary open in his hands, trying to get the moon to shine on it as much as it could in the dark night. Barely able to make out the words, Chris squinted at the text, skimming over what it said until he found what he was looking for.

"A man of faith must believe in himself, he must know that the light is with him, and if he has faith, he can achieve the greatest things. The Light provides those with true faith what they need in the most perilous of times, and even in the dark. The simplest eat of faith a Paladin of the Light must achieve is calling the energies to him, feeling it use his body as a tool for goodness."

Chris licked his lips and glanced around once more. Sheathing his sword, he looked up at the moon, then thought of the sun, and he concentrated on it's light, on the warmth that it radiates gently.

He thought of the love he felt, and the strength of the faith that had been reinforced in him as he had lived those weeks in the knights stronghold. He felt the same energy, the power that had coursed in his veins as he rode out at dawn. He felt the power of his faith as it willed into what he needed most. Light. It illuminated all around him, like an aura, a beacon in the darkness. The light seemed to shine from his very skin, armor and clothing. Thunderhoof shined with the aura as well, and the light guided his way. Silently thanking the Light he finally continued on his way, in the blackness of night, quickly finding the path he'd been riding earlier. He gave Thunderhoof a slight kick and they were off, the horse seemed as revitalized as Chris felt, after the sleep, and the power he had summoned, seemed to illuminate himself and the steed.

Soon it seemed, they were getting close. There was a black dot in the distance, he had reached the city. Both he and Thunderhoof were tired, and he hoped that there was a good inn near the entrance.

Within an hour he had found himself nearing the city gates. The city itself was much larger than it had seemed from so far away. It was guarded by great, stone walls, set inside great wood and iron doors. The doors themselves seemed to be an ancient masterpiece, and the iron guilding across it webbed out in an impressive pattern. The gates were flung wide upen to the roads, and guards in impressively polished chain mail stood at the protection of the city, making sure no seedy types got in, nor any wanderfoots.

Chris road into the city. The guards took notice of the armor, and the cloak he wore, and greeted him as they would any lord, by saluting him, lifting the hilts of their swords to their chests and then onto their lips. Chris glanced between the two and nodded. He broke apart from the small string of people walking into the city, and road over to one of the guards, getting a closer look at the man. He was wide, broad shouldered, and a bit squat.

"Where can I find the sacred gardens?" Chris asked, feeling as if he should know the way intuitively already.

The guard looked up at him, and replied, "M'lord it is in the center of the city. But only the priests of the Temple that guard it are allowed within, the only other person they would allow is the Light's champi…."

The guard trailed off as he caught sight of the antique armor that Chris wore, he glanced at the horses bardings, the cloak, it all matched the many descriptions from the many tales of Lannen Calathord, the original Champion.

The guard gasped and said loudly, "You're him! You're the one we heard was yellin'. We heard from the local farmers they thought the great Lannen was back, you're Lannen! It's you, isn't it?!"

The guard seemed ecstatic. Of all the places Sucram had squoze for their resistence, one of the places that had been beaten upon most was Soltic.

Chris seemed a bit uncomfortable, the many people who had heard the guard pointed and oohed and aahed, recognizing the armor as well.

Chris replied quickly, "I'm not Lannen. I am his great great grandson, and…from what I've been told…I'm suppose to be some hero. Erm…anyways, yes, I suppose I am a champion, I'm not sure myself anymore, but my name is Christoph Calathord."

Chris tried to calm the guard who had seemed to be going wild with happiness, a grin plastered on his face beneath the heavy moustache the man wore.

The guard nodded, and said, "Well in that case Lord Calathord, you'll find the gardens in the middle of the city. I'll spread word here that you've returned! The people have been hopeless for months, with Sucram being a threat to us all."

The guard turned back to stand his place, still wearing the grin. Chris wasn't sure wether to be flattered, happy, or creeped out. Any seemed as good as the other, and so he simply resigned to being happy he had found his way, and rode down the street.

The city had once been a grand trade center, though now, with the trade routes being heavily taxed, and completely taken over by Sucram, the city was straggled with people who had been run out of business, the poor, and the hungry. As he rode through the streets he couldn't help but reach into the heavy purse of silver and gold coins the Knights had given him to survive and give the coins out liberally to the many poor and hungry people on the streets. They all thanked him profusely, he mostly shrugged and said it was the right thing to do.

Chris however, was soon lighter. In fact his money pouch had been completely emptied as he approached the first friendly looking inn he saw. He simply rode on, hoping to find the temple soon, and maybe even food and rest.

Within moments he was quite happy to find himself outside a large, marble structure. Many men in white robes were hustling about the structure, some walking importantly about, some praying, and some sitting beneath trees reading scripture. Chris directed the weary horse forward, and stopped on the temples threshold, kicked off the horse, and thumped onto the marble floor. He glanced around, one of the priests recognized the markings on his cloak and sent for one of the stable masters. He then approached Chris, extending his arms openly, proclaiming loudly,

"Welcome Knight, to the Temple of Light in Soltic. I hope I find you in good health, sir Knight?"

Chris gave the priest a look over and smiled slightly, "Yes, you find me in very good health. My name is Christoph...Christoph Calathord."

The priest did a double take.

"Calathord?! Sir, that is not a funny joke, we at this temple are destined to guard these relics until the ancestor of Calathord returns! You insult the Light itself by mocking my sacred duty!"

Chris himself did a double take, thinking the priest was a bit harsh. But he replied, "Well, if you not going to believe me, how can I prove to you? The guards recognized my armor, what must I do to convince you, good priest that I am indeed, the ancestor of Lannen?"

The Priest saw Chris was quite serious with this, and informed him, still holding a harsh tone of voice, "Well, there is one test we may perform. The shield has rejected all others who claimed to be of Calathord's bloodline, if you lift the shield of Calathord without being struck down, you shall be deemed indeed, the heir of Calathord."

The Priest concluded the statement with a nod, and beckoned Chris to follow him. Chris obeyed the hand signal, feeling slightly out of place, in his heavy decorative armor, amongst all of the men in white robes. He decided to preoccupy himself with looking on all of the wall carvings, paintings, and mosaics. There were many shields, and arms decorating the walls, as well as religious symbols, and bookcases. The entire temple seemed like a gigantic and open museum. However, there were many passages off to the sides, many leading to private rooms, classrooms, and many other places vital to the lives of priests, clerics, and monks.

Eventually the priest had lead Chris to a large set of oak doors, decorated in carvings of a knight in very similar armor to Chris's, performing great deeds. The Priest pulled on the door handles with a slight grunt. After denying Chris' help the doors budged open slowly, revelaing a large dais, upon which rested an altar of sorts. On top of the altar sat a large, heavy kite shield. The shield was made from a highly polished silver, and shined brightly with the rooms light. Engraved into it was a great sun, the sun was lined with what seemed like an even brighter substance then the rest of the shield.

With a slight gasp Chris said, "Platinum…"

The Priest turned to Chris and said, "Yes, the shield is made from Silver, and the sun on it is indeed Platinum."

Chris gave a nod and said, "Now what do I need to do?"

The Priest gave another curtly nod, this time to the shield, "Simply pick it up, we will discover soon if you are who you say you are."

Chris gave the priest a look of determination, stepped forward to the dais, and lifted the shield from it's resting place. The shield was much lighter then he had anticipated. Quickly, he took the first strap, and found that it seemed designed to fit along the arm of his armor. He set the second strap into place, and gripped the leather thong for a handle, and held the shield up. A feeling of deep protection seemed to ease into him.

The priest looked on in great surprise, "IT'S HIM! IT'S REALLY THE HEIR OF CALATHORD! IIIITTTT'S HIIIIIIIMMMM!"

The priest ran out of the room, shouting it as he ran, trying to find the Templemaster to tell him. Chris just sort of stood there, a little dumbfounded that the priest who had seemed so disbeleiveing now seemed extrememly excited. He just felt safe now, and as he thought about it, he wondered.

To the first of the clerics to come into the room to see if he was indeed Calathord's heir he asked, "Where is the sword? I'm here for the sword as well."

The Cleric looked Chris up and down, deciding he was indeed Calathord's heir, and told him truthfully, "It's in the gardens, you'll have to journey through it and find the sword yourself."

Chris sighed. It was going to be a long week.