Finn stood opposite a Paladin, and knew he was done for. At nineteen Finn was no small weakling, and indeed he was not untrained in combat, but he knew the stories of the Paladins. The fiercest fighters, backed by the blessings of the gods. He didn’t stand a chance. He should back down. He should drop his sword, raise his hands and accept whatever punishment was coming his way. He squeezed the grip on his sword, held in both hands, pummel before his face. He couldn’t do it. Not just because this sword was the only thing he still had of his mothers, but because he had done nothing wrong, and Paladin or no he would not be punished over something he didn’t do.

“This is my sword!” he shouted.

He sounded desperate, angry, and cornered. He was an enemy to be feared, for even he knew a corned animal was more dangerous than an un-cornered one. The Paladin had yet to raise his weapon, but Finn knew enough that he was dangerous without it. Worse, for Finn at least, was the fact he could not see the Paladin’s face. The helmet they wore was designed to instil panic. Made of black crystal it was moulded to follow the contours of the wearers face on the inside, yet be smooth and blank on the outside. All Finn could see was a dark reflection of his own face, and he didn’t like it.

He could hear the whistles of the city guard getting closer. Once they got here the Paladin would hand him over, and he would never be seen again. Why had he done it? What had forced him to try and help. It had been a mistake, and he had known it as soon as he ran to intercept and block the killing blow. No one stopped a king’s guard.

“Ah. Paladin. Well done. You have him”

Finn knew the voice. Calmer now, but he knew the deep voice of the king’s guard. He could see the fear in his eyes reflected back at him, and it made him feel weak. His strength failed him, and he rested the sword tip on the ground.

“We will take him from here” the king’s guard said.

The hulk that was the king’s guard moved to grab Finn, but the Paladin stopped him.

“What is his crime?” the Paladin said.

Finn was surprised to hear a woman’s voice, but he knew it was wrong to. How many times had Ariel beaten him up, outwitted him and been just plain been better than him? Still, all the tales of Paladins he had heard had always been of men; but then they had always been told by men. Much like religion and history, genders were often swapped to make the tales easier to swallow.

The hulk stopped and looked at the Paladin.

“I can assure you it is not heretical or magical in nature, so is of no concern to you” he said.

“In this city, we are also the law. Any crime is my business. Last I checked, stopping an assassination is no crime. Committing one, is” she said.

Finn could see the hulk tense.

“You have two choices Kole. Walk away, or fight me” she said.

Finn felt sick. He had known the hulk had been a king’s guard, but he had not realised he was the king’s guard. Kole was the kings hand in this city, and he had not claimed that title through peaceful negotiations. Kole was a butcher, a man easy to anger and skilled enough to back it up. Worse, Kole knew when to let his anger control him, and when to patiently wait for his time to strike. Finn knew well the legends of both Paladin’s and Kole’s fighting skills, and was not sure who would win. Worse, Finn now knew he had crossed Kole himself, and that meant his time here was limited.

To her credit the Paladin didn’t tense. Even as the fire entered Kole’s eyes and his muscles tensed for the first strike, the Paladin just stood and watched. In a swift movement Kole had his sword out and lunged at the Paladin. She side stepped, Kole managed to correct enough to not fall over, but enough to avoid the plated hand to the head. He fell, hard, and was out cold.

“Come with me. I would prefer you walk, but I will drag you if you make me” she said.

Finn felt sick. He nodded weakly and followed the Paladin. The crowds parted to let her through, closing quickly after Finn had followed. He could feels eyes burning into him, some with idle curiosity, some with hatred. All he had done was help. Maybe Scruff was right, only those that help ever get into trouble.

He thought about running. The Paladin threw a rope around his legs in an instant. He fell to the ground hard, knocking his head. The Paladin dragged him easily. Finn did all he could to stop his head banging on the cobbled streets, but his neck muscles soon pained and tired.

“Stupid fool” she said under breath.

Finn could do nothing but agree with her.

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