Warder Quinn sat in the blacked out carriage, being thrown around as it was dragged along the rough road from the city. A little light shone so she could read the many documents, books and reports that were her only travelling companions. Well, that was not entirely true. She was part of the large caravan of paladins moving from the city to sanctuary, but she not allowed out of the carriage while on the move. When they stopped for the night a large tent was connected to the carriage door, and she was kept away from the mass merriment that was the camp fire.

Her only company over night was with Warden Bryce himself, and he was terrible company. Once a Warder himself, and about as happy to be one as she now was, he was now the head of the entire paladin order. It was obvious that he hated it. The role of Warden was almost entirely political, and Bryce was not a political man. Worse, it was becoming obvious through the reports she was seeing that the paladins were under attack from many sides. She had once tried to talk to him about it. It took a lot to make Quinn fear, but the stare he gave her that night had done it.

She turned her attention to a new report that had been fed through the hole at the back of the carriage. The king had started to make his move to claim the city. A few reports seemed to suggest an existence of a resistance, but with no support their lifespan was limited. She wanted to support them, but she knew she couldn’t. She would give almost anything to be able to don her black armour and add her sword to the fight. Off course, as a Warder she no longer could by rule. And, of course, her armour suit was no longer hers.

The paladin armour was a thing of beauty. Magic was a terrible thing, and the paladin order had been established in part to tackle the once growing menace of wizards, mages, witches and another kind of magic user. It was not that magic had been made illegal, but that rules and limits had been placed on the power they could wield. Any who went over it were first asked to return to acceptable limits. If they refused war would be declared against the magic user. If that failed, the paladins would be called in to restore order. Restoring order almost always involved the termination of the magic user.

To fight magic without the aid of magic was, foolhardy. However, magic had an awful affect on some who tried to wield it. The paladin armour was the solution to that. It was the suits that used the magic, largely to reflect and protect the paladin from harmful spells. The trouble was the secrets of making the armour had been lost to the paladin order, so the suits now had to be recycled. Normally this happened when a paladin died, but in a few cases the paladins retired or took a less frontline role. All paladin instructors were once frontline paladins who had given up their suits, and everyone involved in the administration had either been paladins or paladin elects. When she took the role of Warder she gave up her armour. She wondered who would get it next.

Not that she had to wonder. Her old armour had been gifted back to her paladin squad, so she would choose who wore it next. It seemed odd to think of it as her squad, but it was. Bryce, as Warden, had gifted the suit back. She knew he had taken flack for that from the other Warders, but none would ever truly argue against the Warden. Still, she was glad she would decide who wore the armour next, but she was annoyed the suit would left empty for so long.

Bryce had decided that the suit could not be gifted, or the paladin elects put through their paces, before they reached sanctuary. She did not agree, and many of the evenings shared with Bryce she had spent trying to change his mind. She had even tried to see if he could make such a statement, or if as Warder she could decide when to hold the trials. She had given up on that route very quickly, as the paladin rule book seemed to have one overrule, what the Warden decides is correct even if it goes against the rules. It was a dangerous rule to have, but she trusted her Warden so saw no reason to challenge it.

The cart stopped abruptly and Quinn was thrown to the floor, a few heavy books following after. She had long since given up on trying to keep her papers organised, but she now wished she had kept the books on the floor. She felt the cut on her forehead, her fingers coming away bloodied. A small slit was opened at the front of the carriage, and her driver spoke down to her.

“Road is blocked up ahead, tree down” he said.

“What is being done about it?” she said.

“Paladin Oak sent a few students up to clear it” he said.

“Did he go with them?” she said.

“No” he said.

Of course not. Paladin Oak was a lazy little shit who had worked hard to don the armour and then just stopped after that. Worse, he was an idiot. Even from her catacomb she could sense the start of an ambush. No doubt bandits used to accosting smaller merchant caravans, so it was possible they would leave a caravan of paladins alone. Still, they were carrying a lot of food and valuables, and she knew more than a few highwaymen who would take on paladins for such a haul.

“Send him behind us, make sure no one is approaching from the rear. Send two paladin elects up to help clear the tree. Have everyone scan the tree line and be on alert. This could be an ambush” she said.

“Yes ma’am” he said.

He closed the slit, and Quinn just had to hope he would issue her orders. She hated that. Why did Warders have to hide away? A thud hit her carriage, followed closely by two more. Arrows. The attack was happening. She tried to open the slit to speak to the driver but knew it could not be opened from this side. As more arrows thudded into the carriage she grabbed her sword from under her seat. She counted to five, then hacked her way out of the carriage.


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