Day 2: A Paladin Teaches Fear

Feb 27th, 2015
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  1. Day 2: A Paladin Teaches Fear
  3. I come to with a start, jerkily looking around the small cabin. The sight of green and brown streaking past the window grabs my attention, but I immediately discount it as the cause of my waking. Is it that the mechanical clicks and squeaks have gotten louder? There's a slight yet jarring sense of pulling as the train slows further. "Ah," I state to the empty cabin. That's what woke me. I'm about to lay back down and get some more sleep when I realize that if the train is slowing down then we're probably getting close to Min.
  4. And with that thought I'm much too uncomfortable to go back to sleep.
  6. I sit up to get a better view of my surroundings and immediately begin to catch glimpses of the first few buildings beyond the trees. Houses of monsters. An entire city teetering on the edge of collapsing into nothing more than one of their orgiastic pits. I know all of this, and yet I'm going there. If it had been two days ago, the very idea of what I'm doing would have horrified me.
  8. I reach up and clutch the iron collar around my neck. I'm practically invulnerable because of this thing. Even other paladins have been known to be targets for monstrous attacks as some fiends find a particular fascination with the idea of corrupting us to their wickedness and perversion. I alone out of all of us am truly safe. So many kind and decent souls were taken and twisted into something else, and yet I'm the only one to choose this safety. Do they fear death, I wonder. Do they not realize that being taken is so much worse?
  10. I have to do something to help them. I owe them that much.
  12. It's a long twenty minutes before the train finally slows to a stop. I lift the single duffle bag that holds the entirety of my worldly belongings and make my way out from the virtually empty train. The only other passengers I see are a businessman and a couple - one man and a miniscule harpy hanging from his side. So you left home, captured some hapless fool, and dragged him back into your lair? And the things wonder why we call them predators. I try to ignore the burning sensation in my chest and instead head out from the station.
  14. I take one step through the door and find myself in enemy territory. I look around the port district of Min and find myself staring down at least fifty of the things, loitering around the docks, walking to and from different trains, or simply moving from hither to yon. I resist the urge to plant my feet and draw my blade, and instead end up staring coldly at all of them.
  15. And they stare back at me. The monsters stop in their tracks, waiting to see what I'll do. Some look genuinely afraid, while others are just wide-eyed like deer in headlights.
  17. I gather my wits. I knew this would happen. I knew where I was headed. I take a deep breath and enjoy the sense of pride, of power. They're afraid of me. They're afraid of a man. I hone in on a pair of the things on the sidewalk leading north. Smiling, I advance on them.
  19. The werebat starts as I move, and openly panics at my approach. It lets out a high pitched squeak of fear and launches itself into the sky. The gelatinous blob it was walking next to takes significantly longer to recognize what's happening, and when it does only manages to lurch off of the sidewalk and land on the grass with a wet thump. It looks back at me, the globs of liquid that vaguely resemble eyes stare up at me. If the werebat fears for its companion it doesn't come back down. Of course it wouldn't; monsters care nothing about abandoning others.
  20. My vision blurs slightly and the slime takes the form of molten flesh which bubbles and breaks apart, becoming all the more horrific for the vague resemblance to a human form. The vision, unwanted and only half-called, fades as quickly as it comes.
  22. I step past the slime, ignoring it as I take the sidewalk north toward the center of town. The walk takes me past dozens of the things. Groups of them smiling and gawking and plotting come to a complete stop when they spot me, freezing in place and waiting for me to leave. A minotaur stumbles out of the way to let me pass. Some of the less observant ones smile first, seeing only an attractive male before they see an armed and collared paladin. A lizardman draws her blade as she sees mine, and drops it in shock as she sees the shield. Most of the few humans I see simply look at me, seeing a paladin marching forward and thinking nothing of it. I smile at all of them, and at the world in general. I suddenly find myself having a good day.
  24. I recognize downtown as I see it. The buildings steadily turn into three-story-ish brick affairs and the roads shift from straight, parallel and perpendicular affairs to curving and winding at random. Thick wafts of scent pour out from restaurants to entice visitors, at points seeming delectable to distasteful as the smells mix or else battle for superiority in the air. At first I resolve to find breakfast here after I've reported in. My resolve changes when I pause an look inside some of the shops and find that more than half of the patrons are monsters.
  25. If this is "almost a demon realm," I'm genuinely curious to know what an actual one looks like.
  27. Past the center of downtown and straight as the arrow flies north I find what I'm looking for. The stone arch over the door bears a shield and blade symbol, and the polished white stone is especially striking next to the brownish-red of the surrounding brickwork. It'll be a suitable home for however long we try to keep this pit from decaying any further. I march forward and push open the door.
  29. I hadn't expected the civilian clothes.
  30. It makes sense, though. It's more comfortable and they aren't in combat.
  31. I had expected the idle chatter.
  32. I know that everyone relaxes a great deal after training. They aren't still being grilled for every hour of the day.
  33. I had somewhat expected computers.
  34. It's growing progressively more necessary in the modern age, after all.
  36. I hadn't expected the multi-colored shirt and shorts.
  37. I absolutely hadn't expected the centaur.
  39. I stand at the entrance to the office trying to manage the sight in front of me. The centaur repositions its shirt, drawing the top half of a police uniform taut. It looks like it's about to straighten its skirt before its eyes shift from my form in general to my neck in particular, and all of its movements stop. The middle-aged, balding man behind the desk lifts his - my eyebrow twitches - sandalled feet onto his desk as he leans back. "Victor, right? I heard you'd be comin' over. Need yer marchin' orders, right?" I'm almost too distracted to answer my superior, and almost too baffled by his appearance to recognize him as such. The sign on his desk informs me that he's the one I'm reporting to: Lesser Autocrat Reginald Erlinson.
  41. The horse finally turns back from me to the man and growls "Reggie, what's the meaning of this?"
  42. Reggie. It called him Reggie.
  43. I raise myself to my full stature. "Sir, I'm afraid I must ask the same."
  44. Erlinson lets out a weary sigh. He turns to the thing, "Sam, it's orders from above." He turns to me, "Victor, this is Samantha Cartwright; she's our police liaison. She keeps us informed of what's going on in the city." Finally, he turns back to it, "Sam, Victor here is going to be our new patrolman."
  46. It blurts out something about having me out on the streets. It's our police liaison. This thing is the connection between the paladin orders within Min and the local police branch. This thing determines our influence in the proper maintenance of the law. Someone has to fix this.
  48. "Listen, Sam, I know what you're gettin' at, but this wasn't my decision five minutes ago and it hasn't become my decision since then. Now I can send up a request if it bothers you that much, but-"
  49. I snap to a full salute, causing him to go silent. I smile as I state "Sir, I am very much looking forward to serving under you in bettering the state of Megalos and the city of Min." The centaur is about to start protesting again when I continue, "Officer Cartwright, I would appreciate any advice you could give me."
  51. It stares at me incredulously. "Advice," it confirms.
  52. "Advice. You know, big issues or particularly large or frequent problems. Say, for instance, what would be the most frequent crime in Min?"
  53. It casts its eyes around the room in thought. "Right now?" It stops to think some more before finally stating "Gang violence."
  54. I open my mouth to mock it for telling me what I already know. Then I close it again. The surprise that it isn't rape is the first thought to form, but the second is more pressing. "What gangs?"
  55. It tilts its head, "Well, perhaps 'packs' would be a better term for it. There's a fairly large werewolf population in the city, and they've been going at it for a while. While there are a few mixed groups, what it boils down to is a fight between the prick ears and the drop ears."
  57. I stare at it. It stares back at me. It sighs. "All right, so you know what werewolves are?"
  58. "Of course I know that," I spit. "They're beastmen; feral degenerates that rightfully ought to've been left in the woods where we found them. They ride along on our civilization because they don't have any of their own."
  59. It leans forward and pinches the bridge of its nose. "Sure, close enough; let's run with that." It takes a deep breath, thinking. "Well, as you might know, it used to be that there was only one kind of werewolf. There were only the wild ones, as the cities weren't safe for them, and they didn't want to live in them anyway."
  61. "Things changed when they started moving into the mamono-friendly states. Men prefer sweet girls, whatever they look like. The werewolves that were the omegas, the ones too gentle to take dominance - they were always chosen over the others. Eventually this trait became more and more emphasized, and that's when the new breed was born. They all had ears that pointed straight upward before, but these new ones had them hanging limply on the sides of their heads. Some people even called them weredogs, and the new girls were gentle enough that they didn't mind. At first, these girls just separated into different packs, back when it was every girl for herself."
  63. "So? Why are they fighting?"
  64. "In a word? Jealousy." I raise my eyebrows. "Think about it; men only go after the girls they like now, and they all like the weredogs. The more feral girls are going unloved, but they're stronger and angrier so they're taking out their frustrations the only way they know how. We've had a lot of injuries so far, but that was before the drop ears started traveling in packs for defense."
  65. I've studied enough history to know where this is going. "I take it that didn't diminish the fighting."
  66. "Far from."
  67. "And are there any humans being harmed?"
  68. It opens its mouth, then stops. Its eyes harden slightly, "No."
  69. I clap my hands together, "Excellent. So then, let's move on to something actually important."
  71. It pulls itself to its full height to tower over me. I slide my foot into a readied stance.
  72. Erlinson coughs politely. "Victor, you'll be staying in temporary quarters in-hall." He slides an envelope with a single key on top across his desk to me. "When you're set your orders are right there. I trust you can find your way."
  73. "Sir." I grab the items from off the desk without turning from the thing trying to intimidate me. "Officer," I nod curtly.
  74. "Paladin," it mirrors.
  76. I have so much to fix here. I tread down the marble corridor thinking over what happened. This is what James and I've talked about. They're trying to grab all the ground that they can. They're even trying to gain influence over the paladin orders. Brazen creatures. And what if- no, it couldn't actually be trying to seduce him.
  77. Would it?
  78. I have so much to fix here.
  80. I open the door marked 14, matching the key I've been given. The inside is a small apartment room with one bed, one desk, and one chair. This will do. I like the simplicity, and it's more space and privacy than I've had to myself in years. I'll have to put away my clothes and such once I've dealt with my immediate orders. My belongings get dropped at the side of the bed while I take the envelope to my desk and draw the single gold-leafed piece of paper from it. The seal of the imperator rests squarely in the top center, pressed into gold wax.
  82. "Paladin Victor,
  84. In the righteous auspice of our meeting and in the unique boon that you requested - and at this point have been granted - from me I have glimpsed a means by which the rising tide of iniquity may be slowed or, should I dare to hope, stopped in the city of Min.
  86. It is a fact that has weighed heavily upon my head for some time now that the city, once filled with hard-working humans of strong character and proper morals, has become inundated by a ceaseless horde of our species' enemies. They have amassed there in unprecedented numbers due to the feckless and impotent laws that protect the men of Megalos from their wiles.
  88. You, however, may protect them. You stand within these laws, and have rendered yourself an incorruptible blade against our foes. As such, I do, at whatever time you do currently read this text, order you to the simple task of patrolling the city of Min. Watch over all that happens therein, and each week render unto me a report of what you have seen. Tell me of how monsters and men interact, of their depredations, of their movements, of their numbers, of their influences, of any changes in their behavior, and of any resources or tactics that, in your best judgment, you believe would be of aid to our cause.
  90. Let us be a blade against them.
  92. Imperator, Knight Commander of the Order of the Stoneheart,
  93. Petre Heart-of-Stone"
  95. I gaze at the sheet for a long moment. Then I lift myself back up and take a deep breath.
  97. My belongings remain in their duffle bag on the bed as I step back out and into the city.
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