And now, finally, we have come to the most important chapter of my life so far.
I remember well the lessons I received in the Order, especially those concerning our code of conduct. We were warned of the many dangers that would try to lure us from the path of the righteous. The lessons of father Samael have kept me awake more than once during the time after my fall.
“Remember well, young pages, that there are two very distinct types of evil. The first kind is the evil that can be found in ruined keeps and abandoned dungeons. It takes the guise of hideous monsters and black clad villains. This evil will rend your flesh and feast on your blood. Yet for all its ferocity it can be defeated with a cut of your blade. Many knights may have been killed by creatures of this kind of evil, but all died with the light of the One in their hearts. The second kind of evil is the one found in each of us. It disguises itself as good intentions and when encountered will beguile you with unknown beauty. It mostly leaves the flesh intact but devours your soul. Those that fall to this evil will not perish but suffer a fate worse than death, for the One will retract his patronage and abandon them in the darkness they created.”
Father Samael didn’t know how right he was.
I don’t exactly remember when Lydia joined our group. I do know it happened not long after the blue dragon left us. After Cyric was turned to stone Lanfear didn’t have a familiar anymore. For a while she waited to see if Cyric would change back, but it soon became clear that wouldn’t just happen. Finally Lanfear asked if anyone could help her and the blue dragon replied that he could. The dragon took Cyric’s remains and left. We never saw the dragon again, and I can’t recall what happened to Cyric after that. It has been over 60 years after all. So, not long after that a beautiful elven woman with long blond hair joined us. She was a strange creature for her pointy ears were too long for an elf and she had access to knowledge and power beyond any of our group. What made the matter even worse was that she was evil. I guess the dragon’s presence had sensitized me to the presence of evil beings for I allowed her to travel with us. She proved invaluable at times. She helped cure a village from the plague of lycanthropy, gave me the means of destroying an entire army that was about to conquer a large village and offered guidance whenever asked. Although she always helped when asked, she also always demanded payment. She would not take gold or other direct compensation, but requested an unnamed favor in the future. Out of necessity, and maybe convenience and laziness, we accepted her terms more than once. Over the course of months we (mostly Jason) found out she belonged to an ancient race that had all but died out. This race had fought the gods and had lost. The artifacts we were searching for had once belonged to the champions of her people and the demonic gates we were closing were created by a powerful sorceress of her kind. Looking back I am amazed at how blind I was.
My feelings for Lydia started to grow after she visited me one night to give me a warning of the future. That night, for the first time ever, my magical senses and my heart were contradicting each other. My magical sense, trained for years, told me that Lydia was evil and that I should avoid her and distrust her. My heart on the other hand recognized a wounded soul in need of help. My marriage with Vanessa strengthened my resolve however and I suppressed most feelings of sympathy I had. After Vanessa died my resolve waned and more and more I felt myself drawn closer to the mysterious Lydia. All changed when we ventured north again in search of one of the largest demonic gates. We battled our way to the chamber that held the gate, but as we were about to enter Lydia stopped us. She explained that we were too weak to stop the guardian of the gate and that in order to defeat it we would need her help. She drew her dagger and gave it to me. She called in the favor I owed her and ordered me to kill her. I later found out this was necessary because only her spirit could enter the chamber. I had made a promise to do whatever she asked, so after a few minutes of thought I stabbed the dagger in to her heart. We defeated the guardian with the help of Lydia’s spirit and closed the demonic gate. Lydia appeared dead however. We traveled back south, with Lydia’s remains, in search of civilization. Oddly enough it was during this time I admitted to myself that I had been in love with her. I had lost my wife a few months earlier and I was still grieving for her, yet the pain of losing Lydia completely overwhelmed that grief. Those weeks were filled with pain, disappointment and embarrassment. I was almost glad when we reached a village and heard of the new war with the elves. Naturally, Lydia didn’t stay dead. Some time later she woke up and came to my tent at night. I was so glad to see her. I apologized for killing her and confessed my love. My heart started soaring when I found out she returned my feelings. Now don’t get me wrong here. I was still a knight, and I still had some form of decency. After we talked she left my tent and went back to hers. I may have fallen from grace but I never lost my sense of decency. It is important to me that you, dear reader, understand this so you know I did not betray my god for a quick fling, I did so for true love.
As I explained earlier, I declared my marriage with Vanessa at an end and a few months later married Lydia. Again the marriage was a spur of the moment thing. One night she visited me and in one of our talks she asked if I was afraid to reveal our relationship to my companions. I immediately woke our priest Jason and a few hours later Lydia and I were husband and wife.
Our marriage did cause some problems among my companions as all did not agree with it. I became especially suspicious of Jason.
In the end Lydia lead us to an ancient weapon, designed to destroy the gods. This weapon could be used to end the demon threat once and for all. After some debate we decided to try the weapon, a magical crown, but we proved to lack the necessary power. Lydia offered to step in, and we agreed. We defended Lydia while she used the crown to bring down the dimensional rift that gave demons access to the world. Finally the weapon was activated and it did shut down the rift. It also disconnected the world from the higher planes and so too the One god and it lowered to level of magic in the world dramatically. At this point I could say that officially I knew nothing of what would happen if we used the crown. But I did know. I had had visions, and I knew there was a hidden agenda. For all my love for Lydia I had never truly trusted her, and now this distrust was proven right. My paladin abilities were gone, as were the abilities and spells of all paladins and clerics of the One god. My betrayal was complete. I had fallen.
I didn’t react well to the disappearance of the One god. I was angry and confused. I had completed the mission I was sent out to do but I had doomed this world to a fate that may very well be worse than the demons. I couldn’t return home to the Order anymore and my companions left me one after the other. Lanfear set out to live a peaceful quiet life and I hope she succeeded, Liandri left hating me and Jason left to go and live with his wife. I later found out he tried very hard to bring back the One. I had only one person left in the whole world, Lydia. I went back with her to her home in the north. I still loved her, but seeing her reminded me of all that I had done. The fights were unavoidable. Although I never openly confronted her she must have sensed that a part of me blamed everything on her. I stormed out of there more times than I can remember. For months I stayed away, searching my soul for answers, yet each time I returned and offered my sincere apologies. In some strange way my love for her grew even more because of her endless patience with me. When I heard the human and orcish armies were marching on the elves I decided to join them. Although I went with the intention to prevent another war things played out differently. As I met with the commanders and heard their logic my anger resurfaced. In the end I joined their cause and led troops in to battle against the elves. I convinced myself it was the right thing to do. For years the elves had done nothing while humans and orcs had bled for their safety. Only a few years before, the elves had waged a war against the humans, determined to conquer them all. Who was to say they wouldn’t do it again in a few years, or even a few months. What started out as a war quickly turned in to genocide. Troops under my command murdered men and women and slaughtered children. We burned the elven legacy to the ground, turned it in to dirt and ash. I even remember fighting one of my former companions who had joined the side of the elves. I cannot remember what happened to him, all I know is I called him a traitor and attacked. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled there was nothing left. And before I had a chance to see what I had become, we turned our gaze towards the dwarves. We tried to do the same thing to them, but they fortified themselves within their mountains. We locked them inside to starve to death. I know not what happened to them. Finally, in the quiet that came afterwards I was forced to take a good long look at myself. I was disgusted by the monster I had grown in to. Only a shadow of the man I had once been I returned to the north and to Lydia. It took me a full year to regain my spirit. I returned to the army after another argument with Lydia. I dare say she looked almost happy to see me screaming in anger again after sitting by the fire in silence for all that time. I served loyally for years, visiting Lydia only sporadically, until I started to notice that I didn’t age. It had been 30 years since the One god had disappeared and I looked only a year older. I resigned and again returned home to my wife, determined to stay there forever. I had had it with this world. I had doomed it and changed the shape of it’s history. I settled down and my anger passed. I felt like an old man even though I didn’t look like it. Almost 30 years passed.
It is as they say, time heals all wounds. My self-pity faded and I finally accepted that I was no longer a paladin. During these years I came to depend on Lydia even further. She became my sole reason for living. I let go of all I had lost and focused on that which I had gained, Lydia’s love. There were no more fights between us for I no longer blamed her for my actions. I had destroyed a world for her and should she ask I would destroy another. My only regret was that I had no-one to pass on my legacy to. Vanessa had died before we had any children and I knew elves and humans could not conceive together. Near the end of the 30 years I asked Lydia about it and she said not to give up hope.