We continue guest Jeremiah Marshe’s fantasy story!
“Shh, shh…” The page stroked the stallion’s muzzle gently with one hand, his other desperately gripping the reins. “It’s all right, I heard it too. Don’t worry, though.” He brought the horse’s head down, its big brown eyes level with his soft hazel gaze. “The Archbishop can handle himself.”
Crunching grass and broken twigs caused both horse and page to turn away from each other and towards the side of the road. Archbishop Valgard Broddrson broke into view, dusting off a stray leaf from his broad shoulders with the pommel of a masterfully crafted gold-embossed longsword. The page frowned slightly upon seeing the blade. “Your Grace?” the page asked.
“It’s Rorik’s blade.” Valgard stepped past the page and rummaged through one of the saddlebags draped over his horse. “Left in the river by a water goblin that didn’t understand the true value of its bait.”
“So everything she said was true, then?” The page scratched his head in puzzlement. “But Cardinal Broddrson was a skilled swordsman and well-defended by his escorts. What could have befallen him at the Reach?”
Valgard turned, his shoulder-length grey hair shifting like a violent thundercloud as his eyes crackled with anger. “My son – my worthless wretch of a son – isn’t dead, Asgeir. He left a message on his scabbard. The water goblin said he’d bought this blade from a merchant, but there isn’t a fool alive who would sell this blade for whatever trash a goblin would offer.” He turned back to the saddlebags, quivering with barely contained rage. “No, Rorik left me this sword as a message.”
Asgeir reflexively stepped back from the towering Archbishop. “What message could he have left that would be worth abandoning his oathblade?” he whispered, half to himself.
“It doesn’t matter,” Valgard flatly stated. He paused, drawing a spare scabbard from the bowels of the expansive saddlebag. He sheathed the blade, golden runes dancing in the light, and tied the scabbard onto his belt next to his own sword. “He abandoned his weapon, his duty, his station, and his birthright. If he has died defending his sworn oaths, then he has died with honor and I am bound to bring him back to his home.”
“But, your Grace,” Asgeir continued as Valgard mounted the stallion, “what if he’s alive?”
Valgard looked straight ahead, his face unreadable behind his thick grey beard. “If he’s alive, he’s broken his oath. I am still bound to bring him back to his home.”
Asgeir shook his head slightly, his conscience fighting his common sense. “Forgive me, your Grace, but Rorik’s your son! Surely that must be worth something!”
Valgard looked down at his young page for a moment, his gaze softening. “Asgeir, you have a family at home. A wife, a little boy of your own. I understand how you must feel, that you do not see what I see. I forgive you for that, as you have asked of me.” He looked back up, shoulders settling as if he were bearing a great weight. “I am the locking key of the Church, Asgeir, to bind and purge those who walk down the wrong path. I swore my oaths long ago, and even if I knew then that I would have to pass judgment on my own flesh and blood I would still swear them. Never swear an oath you can’t fulfill.”
He clicked his tongue, setting his horse into a gentle walk. “Come, Asgeir!” he called to the page, eyes firmly set on the road before him. “We continue to the Reach!”