It didn’t take long for Kreet to realize that her brother was serious about getting off of the boat. She had hoped at first that he wasn’t serious about leaving their parents and her behind, but quickly realized that he needed this. He needed to be able to spread his wings, metaphorically, and fly by himself; without their parents, or her, to catch him when he fell. He needed to know that he could do things by himself.
“Father, would you kindly shut up?” She had finally had enough of his complaints against Dreekt. Dreekt had talked the captain into refunding the cost of the rest of the trip to father before he left, but in father’s eyes he was a disrespectful son. No matter that she and her brother were both old enough to be adults by skravyn standard. Father wanted them to act a certain way. When they didn’t he wouldn’t talk to them for a week. Oh, he would answer their questions and ask them to do something, but there was no conversation.
“Don’t tell me what to do.” He talked calmly to her, but she knew that was only because she hadn’t left with her brother.
“I’m going to talk to the captain.” She turned and walked away, toward the captain’s cabin.
“Get back here!” She heard father yell behind her, but she kept walking. The boat wasn’t that big, and it didn’t take her long to get to the captain’s cabin.
“Ah,” the captain greeted her when she knocked on the door, “I was wondering when you were going to do the same thing as your brother.” He smiled at her, something that humans had rarely done in Rentaz.
“I didn’t know I was going to do it myself until just now.” She was startled that the captain knew what she would do when she herself hadn’t even been thinking about it.
The captain nodded. “Well, I didn’t know if you would get the idea while you were still on the river, or not until you were in Overik. I’m glad you decided on the river where you can have some of the protection of my men and myself. Your father won’t be happy when he realizes that both of his children are leaving.”
“Mother will console him.” Kreet wasn’t sure if she really trusted the captain or not, but she knew that her mother wouldn’t help her get away. “Anyways, I’d ask you do the same thing for me as you did for Dreekt. That is, give father back the amount for the rest of the journey I won’t be on.”
“Agreed, no need to make him angrier at me than he will be. I’ll let the helmsman know that we will be stopping at the next town to let you off. Please wait on the deck, with Jonathan. The crewman that put down the gangplank for your brother.” The captain ushered her out of his cabin, and went to have a word with the helmsman. He stopped on the way to hand Kreet’s father a small bag of coins, and moved on.
Father wasn’t happy with Kreet when he had realized why he had been given a bag of coins, but she was already off of the ship. She hadn’t noticed how close they were to the next town on the river, but she was lucky. It had scarcely been two minutes before they were at a dock and the captain had personally brought her bags to her.
“You were already packed,” the captain had commented. “Either you are very orderly, or you already had the thought in your mind that you were getting off of the boat. Either way I’m glad I didn’t need to pack for you.”
She hadn’t been planning on getting off the boat. She just wanted to keep the cabin organized so she didn’t need to pack to get off in Overik. At least that’s what she had told herself. She now realized that she had a nagging feeling in the back of her mind ever since she got on the boat. A feeling that she would not be finishing the journey down the river, much like Dreekt had continually commented about himself. Of course he had been openly planning to do that since they had set out on the river, but that only meant he understood himself better than she did herself.
The small village of Galta was where Draveth was born and raised. The first thing that strangers usually noticed about Draveth was the contrast between his chalk white skin, and his jet black hair. This usually got him a few stares, but he didn’t mind that much. He had lost both of his parents by the time he was twelve. This forced him to earn his keep, and he started to clean up the smithy under the direction of the blacksmith. At first the villagers all passed him around to take care of him, but the blacksmith’s wife finally announced after a year that he would be staying at their house. After all, as she saw it, he was working in the smithy anyways so he may as well live by it.
The day started just like any other for Draveth. He had turned twenty-four a couple of months ago, and was now allowed to work the forge when the blacksmith was out. He got dressed, went downstairs to eat breakfast, and noticed that the blacksmith was there. The blacksmith was supposed to be out of town that day, but for some reason he was still at the house.
“So, I take it you aren’t going out of town then?’ Draveth sat down at the table next to the blacksmith’s eldest son. He was fifteen years old and had just started helping his father out in the smithy.
“I’m not. The innkeeper ended up finding a traveler that was going that way and back. He promised him a free room for the night if he brought back the iron for me.” The blacksmith noticed the frown on Draveth’s face then. “You can finish the chainmail that you’ve been working on. I won’t be needing the second forge today, and I have quite a few scraps from my son trying to help me last night.” At that he pretended to cuff his son on the head. “At least his stupidity has some purpose!”
Draveth smiled at that. “I’m mostly done anyways, he probably made more scrap metal than I need.” He tousled the boy’s hair. “If you did, I can always find something to do with it.”
Not long after breakfast Draveth found himself in the smithy finishing up the final row of chain links on his chainmail shirt. There were enough extra metal scraps that he was able to make a hood as part of the shirt. He had recently purchased a thin leather shirt that he could wear under the mail to keep the chafing to a minimum. He put on the leather shirt, and slipped the chainmail on after it. It fit snuggly, and he thanked The Kindness for the kindness of the blacksmith and his family. Draveth thanked her every day because she had provided kindness for him all of his days. He talked about her so much that people had started to call him a priest, then he entered a local sparring tournament to prove he was not a weakling priest. He got first place, and they started calling him a paladin after that. It sounded better to him than priest so he didn’t do anything about it. Once or twice he thought he had seen Simisola herself passing through the town, but he had assumed it was his imagination playing with him.
A sound broke him out of his silent revelry, it was a female voice. Something was different about it though. More clicking noises than usual maybe.
“What? Sorry, I was caught up in my thoughts.” Draveth turned around and saw that it was a skravyn that was standing before him. “What is it m’lady?”
“Well, humans that don’t live in Rentaz sure are kind to skravyn.” She looked Draveth up and down. “Are you some sort of warrior or something?”
“No, I’m the blacksmith’s assistant. What can I do for you?” This wasn’t the first time that a traveler had assumed that he was a warrior. Then he realized that he was still wearing his chainmail and motioned to it. “Oh, this is just something I made in my free time.”
“I was hoping I could find a dirk or a short sword for a relatively low price here. I only have my bow on me and it won’t do any good in close combat.” She motioned to the bow over her shoulder. “Not that I’m looking to get into close combat. It’d be for self-defense.”
“Or a bounty on a dangerous creature, but I would think that you’d try to use your bow for that.” Draveth smiled warmly at her. “I think there’s a dirk right over here.” He turned to a small selection of weapons and looked over them. “Well, we have some kunai which are useful for range and close up, but I don’t see any dirks.”
“How about a short sword then?” She was looking through the other items hanging in the forge. “My name’s Kreet by the way, what’s yours?”
“My name’s Draveth,” said Draveth. “I don’t see any short swords here either. I think the kunai is your best choice. A set of five is 75 coins.” He turned to show her the kunai just as she was about to knock a shield over. “Careful! That’s going to fall!” He ran over and got himself between her and the heavy shield just in time, and it struck him in the shoulder. “Ow, that’s gonna bruise.”
“Thank you Draveth, that sort of stuff tends to happen to me all of the time. You can see why I may need something I can use in close combat.”
Draveth looked at her. “I’m surprised you’re not in bandages if that happens to you all the time. Shields aren’t all that light.” He tried, and failed to keep a grin from his face.
Kreet giggled, her beak making tapping noises. “I suppose so, but if men like you are around I won’t need bandages.” She looked away after she said that, blushing. “I-I m-mean…”
“What are you doing to the customer, Draveth?” The blacksmith asked, smiling. “You’re supposed to sell things, not crush the customer.” He turned to Kreet. “What were you looking for ma’am?”
“She’s looking for the kunai I just dropped stopping the shield from crushing her…” Draveth started to look for where the knives had dropped. “They’re around here somewhere…”
The blacksmith shook his head then turned to Kreet. “I’m Jalmar, what’s your name?”
“Kreet,” answered Kreet. “I was just telling Draveth that I might need someone like him to look out for me on the road. I would have been hurting quite bad if he hadn’t done that.”
Jalmar looked to Draveth and back to Kreet. “What are the chances that you would take him along with you? I’ve noticed lately that he wants to leave town. Galta is just too small for him after all.”
“I don’t know, I just met him and all…”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. He’s a paladin, and his patron god is The Kindness.” Kreet looked confused when he said The Kindness. “It’s the second title of Simisola. You know, The Healer.”
“Ah, I didn’t know she had a second title. That does fit with the role of being a healer though.” She glanced at Draveth, who was looking for the last kunai. “He’s a paladin you say? I thought that paladins had to be knights.”
“That’s actually a common misconception. Paladins are chosen one of two ways. They are either chosen by a paladin who becomes their master, or by the acceptance of a god. A goddess in this case.”
“Ah, found them all.” Draveth handed the kunai to the blacksmith. “Well, I haven’t actually been officially accepted by Simisola. I mean she doesn’t exactly show up just to let someone know he’s her champion, that would be absurd.”
Just then a strange sound came from the village square.
“What was that?” Kreet asked, as she poked her head out of the building. “Umm…Draveth, I think you need to see this.” She turned to beckon Draveth to follow her outside, smiling.
Standing in the center of the village square there stood an avatar of Simisola. She was holding a cherry blossom in one hand and a polished stone of hematite in the other. Though she wasn’t speaking anyone who looked at her could ‘hear’ that she was calling for Draveth.
“What? Why? How?” Draveth was stupefied, and moved towards the avatar. “I am here.”
The avatar of Simisola turned to him and said aloud, “ah, my paladin. Take the hematite from my hand to see if you are worthy to be what everyone calls you.” She held forward the hand that held the polished hematite.
“But,” began Draveth, “I worship you most with kindness, not with healing.”
The avatar smiled and said to him, “that is exactly why you need to be tested with my healing symbol, you live out the other more.”
Draveth reached out for the hematite, and as he did the shape of it changed, and became the hilt of a sword. He gripped it and pulled it out. It turned into a claymore as he pulled it from her grasp.
“You have been found worthy.” After the avatar of Simisola said this it vanished. From the vantagepoint of a tall tree on the edge of town Simisola nodded to herself, and turned to The Jester who nodded at her. The two of them leapt from the tree, and were gone before they hit the ground.
Draveth looked at Kreet with wide eyes.
Kreet looked at Draveth with wide eyes. “Well,” she said, “I would feel much safer with a paladin of Simisola by my side on my journey.”
The next morning the two of them were heading north towards Traven to seek out Dreekt.