Greyhawk At War
Paladin Carl Lightwater
Paladin of Lomnovel the Repenter
My Lord St Cuthbert, I confess I have never found it easy nor natural speaking to you like this, so it seems strange that what I believed would be the hardest and very possibly last conversation we would have should be the one which feels the most right. I have walked my path in your glory for several years now and have felt your support throughout in the abilities you have bestowed upon me. However I have come to recognise, as you must always have known, that my faith in you was in my head rather than truly in my heart.
I admit I never took the path of the Paladin as a moral or conscientious choice, nor as a means to demonstrate my love for a deity or to act as an extension of their will on Oerth. It was one made out of the desire for academic challenge and more fundamentally honouring my families’ wishes. More devout followers of yours you would struggle to find outside the clergy, but I feel I am an apple who fell to far from the tree and whilst I was brought up to hold their beliefs I’m ashamed to say my faith was lacking. I don’t quite know how to put the following into words and now that I consider this so fully it is clear that as part of my training I managed to ‘teach’ myself this missing faith and the belief I needed to progress. With clearer eyes I see now how wrong this was and how much of the point I missed but nevertheless to the delight of my tutors and my family I excelled at University. At the time I believed the gifts you began to bestow upon me were due to my martial prowess and how hard I was working and studying your teachings. I now recognise how shallow this belief was and looking back can say honestly I feel blessed that you had the faith in me that I was unable to truly demonstrate for you, and that by your grace alone I emerged from University a trained Paladin of St Cuthbert which started me on the path that has ultimately led me before you today.
You tested me almost immediately, as no sooner had I left University than the war struck and I found myself on the road to Y’Bent with a ragged group of adventurers on the trail of assassins bound for Y’bent. En route we happened upon a remote village in The Flint Hills and I gained my first experience of what it truly felt like to be a Paladin. As whilst we were all welcomed, I was greeted not as a highly successful student, or gifted fighter but as your representative and given a reverence that made me feel deeply honoured but also very uncomfortable for reasons I did not fully understand at the time. I hope I served you well in my administrations to the people of the village and the little I was able to do in the short time we were with them raised their spirits and were met with heartfelt thanks. On reflection I now know why I felt so uncomfortable as this was a village of truly faithful people who placed upon me a reverence I did not deserve and whilst I was able to help them I could not help but feel somewhat of a fraud because of my own weakness of faith. Later in my journey you presented me with another test, and my resounding failure in this haunts me to this day, yet in many ways it is this event that has shaped my life and path since.
To secure passage through the underground route to Y’Bent we were called to the aid of a race of mushroom people and tasked with vanquishing a warren of Kobolds who’d been harassing them. After a fearsome battle we found ourselves victorious within their lair with their warrior’s dead around us or fleeing into the depths, when the dwarf I was accompanying made the proclamation that none should be left alive and set too executing the old, the young and the females until no soul was left alive. Now whilst I raised no hand in support of this action I also said naught in opposition to it and stood idle whilst the remaining inhabitants were put to the sword and in that regard I find myself with as much blood on my hands as those actually doing the deed. The severity of my inaction did not strike me until many days later and so having secured our passage through the mushroom lands we pressed on with the rest of our journey.
Upon leaving the Flint Hills the severity of the situation that awaited us drove any moral questions even further from my mind as we emerged into a city besieged. Whilst the Theocrans had focused on taking Greyhawk the Iuzians had launched a full scale sea and air bombardment of Y’bent, going as far as to employ those dragons allied to their cause. It was clear that the assassins we were pursuing were intent on murdering the senior figures of the city whilst they were focused on leading its defence. Of course you know all this and how we were ultimately successful in saving the Cutters and your own loyal servant Paladin Brannigan. I do not hold my part in this up to you as any kind of balance for my previous actions and I was not acting deliberately in service of your will, or in any way to clear a burdened conscience. I did only what I would expect any in my position to have done as it was fundamentally the right thing to do.
As the dust settled and life in the city returned to a state of normality I found myself unconsciously distancing myself from my travelling companions and turned towards your temples and busied myself administering to those injured during the attacks. It was during these days that the severity of my previous transgressions finally found me and I spent many a sleepless night haunted by the memory of my failing in the Flint Hills. Unable to handle this any longer I turned to Paladin Brannigan for guidance and in many ways it is his guidance and council that has led me here today, even though he unintentionally set me on a path that has led me away from your service. For the first time I saw what it truly meant to be a Paladin and once again found that feeling I had first felt in the village in the Flint Hills. Accompanying him on his weekly visits with the residents of the Rumbles I was deeply humbled by the generosity and the strength of faith these people had in both you and him. This was not simply the belief obtained through reading and sermon but an unquestioning unshakable faith in their god and his agents on earth and I found myself again feeling shamed. Not because of my previous actions but because of the weakness of my own faith which as a representative of the church should have been resolute.
During this time I also found myself questioning some of the core principals of my teachings regarding my interpretation and understanding of what is good and what is evil as these had been presented as largely black and white concepts during my time at University. On reflection I believe this is how I justified to myself that my inaction in the caves had been acceptable as these creatures were undoubtedly evil, an impression I’d had reinforced at the time by the tunnel fighting experience of the dwarf Daken and the actions I witnessed their warriors taking against the mushroom people and us. Still away from the intensity of combat I found myself questioning whether these creatures were inherently evil or was this learned or cultural behaviour or were they just defending their homes from whom they believed to be the evil attackers. Indeed had we taken the young away with us rather than putting them to the sword could they have been raised to be good and by my inaction had I denied the world potential heroes albeit from the most peculiar of sources. Had I been somewhere other than Y’bent I may have been able to find an answer for these questions in your teachings or my studies yet everywhere I looked in this diverse city I found confusion, contradiction and nothing but shades of grey. Creatures that historically we had been brought up to consider evil worked hand in hand with the more traditional forces of good, some of the darkest forces of Iuz had repented their sins and had been welcomed into the ranks of the free peoples and then on the other hand you have Daken this great war leader held up as a hero of Y’bent to many, yet capable of what are undeniably evil acts and worshipping a god who’s own motivation and alignment is at best questionable.
I brought these questions to Paladin Brannigan and seeing how much they troubled me and without sufficient answer himself he directed me towards those with a far more open view on the line between good and evil which is how I first came into contact with the forces of Lomnovel the Repenter. After many discussions with their clerics and priests and through long nights of study I began to find something resembling answers to my questions. At some point along the way I found myself at a fork in my path and one that would have serious implications for my future and whom should I find their but Paladin Brannigan.
Whilst I had been trying to answer my questions regarding good and evil I had for a short time pushed the weight of my failure to the back of my mind. He had not so easily forgotten and by way of atonement I was tasked to accompany him on a mission of mercy to a distant land. The details of this are unimportant however the outcome is what finally set my mind on which route my path should take. I found myself once more embroiled in a dark Iuzian plot, this time to sow a lethal plague throughout the free peoples. To my horror the distribution of this was to be via children kidnapped from the cities and returned infected with an incurable and lethal disease and so, I found myself facing these doomed children with only one option left open to me. Under any other circumstances what faced me was an undeniably evil act and yet for the greater good of the free peoples and as the only means to ease their suffering it was the only possible option. I did everything in my power to make their final moments as peaceful as possible and as I sat with them, for the first time in my life I felt myself filled with genuine faith.
Now, I know you’re already aware about what comes next as I’ve felt my connection to you lessening more and more each day and the abilities you granted me so long ago are all but gone, but the faith I felt was not with you but with The Repenter. Everything I have gone through since leaving University has led me to this point and although not in your service I believe in my heart, and have faith, that I am meant to be a Paladin and have nothing but thanks and gratitude for the support you have given me along the way. As a final note to this, my last prayer to you, I should mention that Brannigan and I captured the person responsible for the plague and a more thoroughly evil creature I have yet to meet. Yet I know there is the possibility that some good may be buried deep within him and whether Lomvovel accepts me as a Paladin or not, if there is, I pledge myself to making him repent and turn towards the light. If not, then he will be brought to justice for all the evil he has done.