By EM Malachi
The flawless stone was inlaid with a gold sword. Sir Simon watched as the builders adjusted the central marble feature of the new shrine. “The Shrine of Valor will be difficult to maintain and protect here. I wonder why you didn’t build it on the Isle of Deeds. The knights of Serpent’s Hold would have stood vigil over it at all times.”
The young king shook his head. “While I appreciate the chivalry of the Order of the Silver Serpent, I do not want the shrine to become a symbol of martial strength. Valor is not a weapon for the strong, but a calling to protect the weak. This place is about the acts of courage that any may be called to perform. Valor is something to strive for, to make a pilgrimage for.”
Mold and rot covered the vegetation around the shrine, and the air thrummed with a rancorous magic. Rankin adjusted the blackened silver glyphs he had placed around the Rune of Valor.
“You promised me incredible power if you could tap into the leyline here. Instead, you seem to be making this island uninhabitable,” said Hook. The pirate lord let out his frustrations by kicking a rock directly at the shrine.
“I told you this would take time. The shrine’s very nature is resisting me, but with the Rune, I will win in the end.”
It was before dawn when the old knight with trembling limbs approached the shrine. He paused for a moment to compose his words. “It seems a lifetime ago that I promised myself I would come here. My last squire long ago attained knighthood. My victories are forgotten. I no longer have the strength to fight, but I don’t know how to give up this life.”
The knight drew his sword but lost his grip, and the blade fell to the ground. Close to tears, he slowly bent down to retrieve the sword, but as his shaking hand moved closer, the sword began to sink into the earth. When it was gone, there were only small red flowers lit by the rising sun.
The old man bowed his head and whispered, “Thank you.”
The young pirate covered his face with a cloth as he cleared dying trees that had fallen near the shrine. The foul air made those who breathed it sick after a while. Jasir was not happy to have to keep debris from interfering with the dark rite. This was a place for knights and heroes, not for blight and curses.
When he was a child, his mother had told him stories of chivalry and great battles, wishing more for Jasir than the poverty of the Nujel’m slums. Looking at his grubby breeches and the cutlass at his side, the pirate wondered if she would be disappointed if she could see him now. When he had left that island so many years ago, Jasir never expected to crew alongside murderers, orcs, and necromancers.
The setting sun through the trees glinted off something near the shrine. Moving closer, Jasir saw a sword, untouched by rust. On the blade was an inscription: Protect those in need. Jasir picked up the sword and felt its heft. It was heavier than he expected, but it felt right in his grip. With his other hand, he drew the rusted cutlass and tossed it to the ground.
As he smashed the silver glyphs around the Rune, the new knight wondered if he would see his mother again.