Squire Benjamin William Sullivan stood in the middle of Light’s Hope Chapel in his underpants.
Actually, it was white linen pants and a shift, but the effect was approximately the same. The little chapel was warm, on the edge of being stuffy even with the windows open, and the walls and pews were lined with assorted paladins, clerics, priests, and a small gaggle of nervous-looking people, several of whom bore a striking resemblance to the young man standing in the middle of the room.
Aely had known for six months that he was ready for this. He knew pretty much everything she could teach him, and though she doubted he would follow in her footsteps as a healer, she knew he’d be one of the best front line fighters she’d ever seen, once he filled out a bit. Right now he was just a gangly blonde teenager on the edge of becoming a man, and if the expression on his face meant anything, she knew she’d done her job right. If she was being honest with herself, she was nervous today too – today was his spotlight, but it was she who bore the brunt of his training, and she who they’d look to if he went astray.
After waiting a few moments for quiet, Bishop Julian Ashburn began, his steady voice resonating in the small space: “In the light, we gather to empower our brother. In its grace, he will be made anew. In its power, he shall serve the masses. In its strength, he shall combat the shadow. And in its wisdom, he shall lead his people to the eternal rewards. Come forward, Squire Sullivan, and receive the blessings of your order.”
Ben walked towards the front of the church where Aely and the Bishop stood, surrounded by the various trappings of an Argent Crusade paladin. He stopped a few paces from them.
Aely stepped forward, a vial of balsalm oil in her hands. She carefully smudged the oil across his forehead, then across each of his palms. She draped him with a dark blue stole, and said “By the grace of the Light, may your people be healed”.
Six paladins of the Argent Crusade stepped forward then, each picking up pieces of ceremonial armor, white and gold and blue. Practiced hands buckled and fastened it around him – it fitted well – and Aely handed him a two-handed mace. “By the strength of the Light, may your enemies be undone”.
The paladins moved to stand behind him, and Aely stepped back to stand next to the Bishop, who spoke again:
“Benjamin William Sullivan, do you vow to uphold the honor and codes of the Order of the Argent Crusade?”
“Do you vow to walk in the grace of the Light and spread its wisdom to your people?”
“Do you vow to vanquish evil wherever it be found, to protect the innocent with your very life, and to serve always what is right, honorable, and good?”
He answered solemnly and clearly: “By my blood and my honor, I do.”
The Bishop spoke again. “Then, may this be the last blow you ever take unanswered.” There was a blinding flash of Light, and a loud crackle, like lightning, and Ben was knocked backward into the paladins behind him. The back of the chapel erupted in rustling and murmurs. Steadied by the paladins, Ben returned to his feet.
The Bishop’s voice rang out through the chapel. “Thus you have sworn, and thus may it ever be so. Turn, and greet your brothers and sisters in the Light, Knight Sullivan, Paladin of the Argent Crusade, and may you always be blessed.”
Aely let out a whoop, quickly followed by general uproar from the rest of the chapel. She let the swarm of congratulations sweep him up – she’d have time later to speak to him herself, to give him the gifts she had prepared. All rank and relationship aside, they were equals now, and that, she thought, was a very fine thing indeed.
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