Godric the Dauntless
Fresh christened paladin of Iomedae
A fresh christened paladin of Iomedae, Godric sojourns in Falcon’s Hollow while waiting for the riverboat headed for points north. He plans to promote his faith by offering basic training and weapons to anyone with a duty to defend themselves and others—according to Godric this category includes precisely everyone.
Even as Godric crashed through the forest, breath coming in quick, sharp gasps, he knew he and his brothers would not escape. Between the deep tracks Rodric and Podric were leaving in the mud and the steady crimson drip from Shadric’s leg wound, they were leaving an easy trail for the swordsmen to follow. How far behind were they? Minutes? Seconds? He could not tell if the steady pounding in his ears was the footfalls of pursuers or thump of his own heart.
Podric was right. Attacking the wagon had been foolish. Four men were too many to take on, even if one was elderly and all wore the robes of clergy. But Rodric had pointed out that highwaymen have to hold up someone eventually, it’s in the job description, so on to the road the ‘Ric brothers had charged, menacing the victims with daggers and cudgels. It wasn’t until Shadric was up in the wagon sorting through valuables that three of the men threw off their cloaks to reveal heavy mail and longswords. The old priest was travelling with bodyguards it seemed, and the trained soldiers made quick work of the brothers. Shadric went down with a cut to the leg, while Rodric and Podric were quickly disarmed and beaten bloody by the flats of their assailant’s blades. Godric, standing a head taller and weighing half again as much as any of his kin, held his ground just long enough for the others to gather up Shadric and retreat. Then one of the attackers gave his wrist a steely slap, making him drop his short blade, and he too was routed.
The smell of barley and hops on the breeze told Godric he was nearly home, while the clatter of metal from behind told him his enemies nearly were too. Sprinting full tilt, Godric burst into a small clearing in the woods, the center of which was occupied by a small shack. The cheery but weathered cabin was all that was left to the ‘Ric children when their parents passed. His mother had died birthing him, and his father two years later at the hands of Qadiran soldiers raiding across Taldor’s southern border. Here Godric had been raised by the elder twins Rod’ and Pod’, his half-brother Shad’, and his sister Valrica. He spotted her now, crouched over a pot of boiling wort, watching in confusion and fear as her brothers ran for the cabin.
“Everyone inside,” gasped Rodric, “Bar the door!” She was about to ask what had happened, but the sight of Godric bringing up the rear, the bodyguards hot on his heels, said all that was needed.
As his siblings urged him on from within the doorway, a vision of their bloody corpses swam before Godric’s eyes. A flimsy cottage door would not stop these men. The thought kindled a focused fury in him unlike any he had ever known. He sought desperately for a plan, but never had he been the cleverest ‘Ric. As he reached the door, he did the only thing that occurred to him. He slammed it shut, himself still outside. They could break through the door, but first they would have to break through him. Snatching up a hunk of firewood, he turned to fight.
There stood the swordsmen, winded but ready, their weapons flashing in the dappled light. “Put it down, boy,” one of them said. “Make this easy on yourself.”
“No,” Godric growled, “I won’t let you hurt them.”
“Ain’t no one needs to get hurt at all. Come peaceful with us to the proper authori—.”
But Godric charged at him, swinging his log at the swordsman’s head. The trained fighter parried quickly, but the weight of the makeshift club and the ferocity of the blow took him by surprise, and the log continued unswervingly forward. No sound had ever been as sweet to Godric as the crunch of the bodyguard’s nose as it broke. The dazed man staggered for a moment before sitting down flat on his ass, but already the other two were drawing back to strike.
Godric lost track of how long he fought, how many times he dodged or blocked the cold edge of death, how many blows he dealt and received. By the time the old priest appeared in the clearing and commanded his men to cease, Godric was sucking down air like a drowning man, bleeding from a dozen cuts, squinting through a swollen eye, and still he brandished his splintered stump with resigned tenacity. The cleric came forward anyway, arms outstretched, and Godric saw stitched in the breast of his robe a shining steel sword set against a blazing sun. “Be at peace, my child.” When Godric didn’t budge, the holy man sighed. “Do you know how my men defeated you back on the road?”
Godric eyed him warily, waiting for a trick. “They were better armed,” he answered hesitantly.
“No,” the priest shook his head, “you were beaten because you fought for yourself. You wanted to take what was not yours, to harm unrightfully, and thus you failed.” He gestured to his three guards, each sporting their own bloody gashes and swelling bruises. “If it were simply a matter of arms and armor, then how have you managed to make fools of these seasoned veterans now, by yourself, with only a stick?”
This time, Godric’s response was quick. “I wouldn’t let them hurt my family.”
The cleric’s stern, weathered features broke into a grin such that a proud father might bestow on his son. “Indeed,” he said, “this time you fought for others. To shelter. To save. These are righteous causes, and as long as you fight for Right, you shall be indomitable.” The priest took another step forward, his robes swishing. “What is your name, child?”
“Godric,” said Godric, his raised club wavering.
The holy man reached out with unexpected speed and snatched the weapon from him, tossed it aside, and laid his hand on Godric’s broad shoulder, all in one seamless motion. “Tell me, Godric. Have you considered accepting Iomedae as your personal shield-sister?”