The Eclipse of Hope
Thoq, Minotaur Paladin of Mayaheine
“Fortitude within and valor without.” -- Valiant of Mayaheine motto
Grude squinted at the horizon, hoping beyond hope that he would see the sun breaking the plane of the sea. Even as he hoped, he knew his hope was in vain. He looked around at the The sunrise was still hours off. Twilight had never felt so dark… and his despair had never been so overwhelming. He looked around and the haggard wooden walls, shattered in several places. With him leading the surge, they had managed to push back the waves of undead that had left so many of his kin, including his oldest son, grazing in eternal pastures. That was the last time though. He had no illusions… they could not hope to push the black waves away when they returned. With a sigh, he looked down the road to the east, this time below the horizon. He had sent for help. The temple of Pelor was half day’s ride, and he had sent his fastest runner… but… At least he knew he had made the abominations pay. Minotaurs were known as mighty warriors, and Grude was seen as mighty among the greatest of them. Undead had been cleaved in two as they swarmed over and through the walls. He knew not from where they had come, but nonetheless, they were here. Sighing again, he waited patiently for death. It shamed him that he didn’t have more faith, but he knew his strength, as well as his limits. He would die this day, but at least he would die fighting. A good warriors death.
He felt them before he saw them. When he was young, he had gone with the other calves to dive off the cliffs into the sea. That feeling in the put of his gut, he felt it now. Now he heard the moans of the undead. “Steady! Hold the line!” He said the words, even as he knew in his heart they would not… could not hold the line. He saw them now. His growl came from deep in his belly. “Send them back to the hells!” He drew the sword that had been in his family for untold generations. The sun stones tapped into his reservoirs of strength, and flames flickered along its edge. He held it aloft and braced himself to meet the flow of animate dead flesh. “Charr!" In two hands he held the massive bastard sword, hewing at undead limbs as they closed in. “Hold the line!” he called, slightly shamed to hear the edge of panic in his own voice. Then, above the moans, he heard the sound of galloping hooves. At 7’6", it wasn’t difficult to see the source of the sound: Hope was on the road, and it charged their way.
At first it looked like the sun was rising, a soft glow coming from those on the road. The onslought of pale corpses paused… Grude could feel their reluctance. Taking advantage of the lull, he struck again, and again, and again. He grunted in satisfaction to see them falling before his mighty swings so easily. From the road, he began to see streaks of light as bolts of pure radiance began to fall amongst the throng. In places, bursts of glaring sunlight fell from the dark heavens to incinerate entires sections of the pressing monsters. Grude could see the undead tide shift its attention to the west, and they began to fall upon the newcomers. Not willing to let the opportunity pass, he fell upon them from behind, his blazing sword cutting down one after another. He could now clearly see the small paty of 5 clerics, and the halo of brilliant light surrounding them as they quietly and calmly blasted scores of undead fodder into oblivion. That wasn’t Grude’s style though, “Pelor! Pelor and Charr!” he bellowed as he continued to cut a path to the saviors of his people. Suddenly, a ray of the deepest blackness struck from the shadows and one of the saviors fell. As if that were some kind of signal, the undead army began to withdraw. With anger in their faces, the Pelorites persued them, and cut them down by the score.
When the last of the undead had either fled or been destroyed, the clerics turned and began to aid the wounded among Grude’s people. Noting how the other Minotuars deffered to Grude, the lead cleric, an elderly fellow with flowing white hair resting on his shoulders and a long white beard, addressed him. “Bravely fought. You would be Grude, would you not?” “I am, and your aid is timely. I wish we had some way to repay you.” replied Grude. The elderly man stroked his long white beard thoughtfully as he gazed at the crowd that was growing behind Grude. “You are a leader of many great warriors, unless my old eyes fail me.” He paused for a moment as Grude nodded, “I lost one of my knights this day. A young man destined to make a great warrior, of the order of Mayaheine, the handmaiden of Pelor. The quest for someone of his caliber would be long and difficult…” The old priest’s voice faded away into silence.
Grude stood up straighter, and lifted his chin, the pride in his voice unmistakable. “My eldest… remaining… calf has his 8th nameday this summer. He is young yet, but already the mightiest of his age group. It would be my honor, and therefor the honor of our town, if you took him under your wing and trained him to be a warrior for Pelor.” The elderly priest beamed with pleasure. “Surely you honor Pelor, and while Pelor accepts your offer, your son will not be pledged to him, but to Mayaheine. He will be brought up as in the ways of war against shadowspawn like those who threatened your village this night. I do not have the power of prophecy, but with Pelor as my witness, I will make sure he has the finest training that can be provided. He will be a great warrior.”
Grude looked around him at his fellow minotaurs. He saw approving nods all around him. The pride of his people was great, and he knew how to grant them even more honor, “He is in my home. He took an arrow as he was caring for the wounded. He is surprisingly gifted in that way… I myself have no skill with healing.” Grude shakes himself, bringing himself back to the matter at hand, “When he comes of age, he will need to test himself. He will be a mighty warrior, and he will need a weapon to do justice to his might.” Grude heard gasps of surprise as he slowly and deliberately drew forth Charr. “This blade has been in my family, passed on from father to eldest son for many, many, generations. It’s power comes from the heart, valor, and skill of its wielder. It is my wish that you present it to him on the day that he comes into his own. It is my belief that for him the blade will know its greatest glory. Will you do this for me?”
The leader of the band of priests nodded solemnly, “It will be done as you ask. He will know of the greatness of his father, and of his heritage. This I promise you in the name of him whom I serve.”
Grude turned his head to look at someone standing at his shoulder, “Cow, fetch Thoq.” An obviously female minotaur turned and left, returning shortly, a youngling with his arm in a sling in tow. “Thoq, I have always known you would be a great warrior one day, and that will still be the case. What I did not know was that you would do so in the service of Pel… er… Mayaheine. Serve her. Bring our family honor. Make her proud. Be the blazing sword in her hand.” Thoq dropped to one knee in front of his father, who towered over him, “Father, I will make you proud, and I will bring you honor.” The young Thoq rose, turned, and dropped to one knee in front of the priest. “Sir… master, it is my privelage to serve.”
Shortly after, the party of 4 clerics left the seaside town, a beautifully crafted bastard sword tied to the saddle of the cleric who rode in the lead, and a young, but already well muscled minotaur child on the back of a horse that had lost its owner. Thoq would never forget feeling of stepping into a new life as he rode his horse into the sunrise behind those 4 great men. He would never forget his family in the years to come. He thought of them often as he continually pushed himself harder and harder. He would bring them honor, even if he died doing it. He trained not only for them though. He came to not only revere Mayaheine, but also to love her with all his heart, mind, and strength. He knew that to die serving her would be the greatest honor he could ever hope to acheive.