Holly attracted stares from the people despite the fact she was clad the same way they were she stuck out due to the way she walked. It was unusual to see such a woman stride with such confidence, women were suppose to walk with their heads bent low and never meet a man's gaze full on.
"You a stranger here, my lady?" Holly turned to see a lanky little man smirk at her through a reed.
"I suppose you could call me that"
"Ah...it's not proper for a young lady as fine as yourself to walk the streets alone without an escort"
"Now wait just a second..." the man said grabbing at her arm
"Don't!" Holly snapped slapping his hand away with the staff.
He looked down shocked at where she had struck him. She had done it so fast he wasn't quite sure she had but the red mark on his hand told him otherwise.
"Come now...pretty girl like you need a place to stay I'm sure...a nice warm bed? and lots of money...just come with me"
"...Why is it that all you men here mistake me for some common whore?!" Holly demanded before sending him flying with a kick"
"Umph! Why you....grab her!" he shouted
Holly whirled around to find herself surrounded. The first man who went at her, she spent sprawling by dodging and sticking her foot out. The next she rewarded with a blow to the side of his head. Another she sent over her shoulder with a flip and the fourth she granted him the time classic...knee to groin move.
The shrimpy little pimp stared at her in wonder. It was impossible that a woman armed only with a walking stick could knock down fourth large sturdy men...unless...she wasn't a woman with a stick! she was a witch with a wand!!
"WITCH!!" he screeched in terror alerting everyone nearby
"Wha- this can't be good" Holly cursed.
The child was more scared than really hurt. There were bruses on her small face, and some cuts on her arms. She was sobing, trying to hold back the tears but the fear and turmoil of what had just happened was too much for the little one. Paladin led his horse away from the market because he wanted to child to calm down. Paladin took the young one from the back of the horse and tried to be as friendly as he could. His great size made him tower over the child and this caused the child to fear even Paladin even though she knew he had just saved her. In this world hardly anyone would do something for nothing and the girl wondered what Paladin might want from her.
Paladin took a cloth from his bag and used water from the water jug to soak the cloth. He then gently wiped the child's face and arms. The wet rag felt soothing to the child and her tears stopped flowing. She still had not spoken and just looked at him with big eyes when Paladin asked her if she wanted something to eat. He could see it looked like it had been awhile since the child had eaten so Paladin again reached into his bag and handed the girl a piece of bread and an apple. At first the girl did not know what to think, but then hunger got the better of her fear and she accepted the gifts from her new friend.
Paladin watched as she consumed the food so fast he did not believe she took the time to chew it. He laughed softly and took a seat across from the young girl. When she finished eating Paladin offered her some water which she took and drank quickly.
Paladin asked " You are safe now, do not fear. What is your name, little one."
The girl did not answer but just looked at him. Paladin smiled at her again, then asked if there was anything else he could do for her. She shook her head as if to say no, so Paladin took his horse and started to walk away. He wished in his heart there was more he could have done for her. But there were so many others just like her. Many people in this land were poor, and without the things they needed. He would have liked to have helped them all, but he just did not know what he could do for them.
Before he left Paladin gave the girl some more food, acutally he gave her all the food he had with him. Paladin would have to go back to the market place to get more food for himself before he left this town and continued his travels across this land.
Despite her training and experience Holly just was never prepped on how to handle an angry mob. She out ran them with ease if it wasn't the incredible weight of their bellies and bosoms it was the weight oh their metal armor. But Holly was unfamiliar with the land and before she realized it she has reached a dead end. Before she knew it she was bound and gagged and dragged through the town. The town's people freed her momentarily to imprison her on some wooden contraption that held her head and wrists on a platform. Some children dared to pelt rotten tomatoes at her and they were soon rewarded with eye melting headaches which left them crawling to their mother and eyeing "the witch" with fear.
"For the last time! I am not a witch!" Holly growled I'm a mutant she mumbled under her breath.
"Silence! if what you say is true then you have nothing to fear! The tests you will soon undergo will decide your fate!" a skinny man with a hawk like nose said.
"Test? Oh, dear...I hope it's not trigonometry"
"I do not know of this sinful trigonometry of which you speak! The test is a battle between good and evil!" Skinny said the last part with a pointed glare at Holly.
"A battle? then just unshackle me..." Holly said with a grin, if it was a fight they wanted she was more than happy to comply.
"No! we cannot trust you! A champion must battle in your name!"
"Who will vouch for the witch?" Skinny asked the crowd. He smiled maliciously when no one answered.
Holly was getting annoyed fast. She rubbed her ankles together trying to dislodge a bead of a flash bomb that hung from her anklet. If they wanted a witch, bah! she'd give them the wickedest witch in history.
Paladin mounted his horse and headed back for the city. He smiled to himself because he was able to help someone who truely was in need. He was sure he would never see the child again and hoped the young girl would find a way to stay safe.
As he entered the outskirts of the city Paladin could feel the exictement in the air. People were running around obviously spreading the latest gossip or news. Children were quickly heading to the center of the market. Older people were laughing and also making their way toward the center of the market. Paladin wondered what was happening, hoping whatever it was would not cause him delay. He was behind schedule and wanted to put some distance between himself and this city as soon as he could.
Then a young boy who was not watching where he was going ran right into the side of Paladin's horse. The powerful horse did not even move as the lad slammed into it's side. Paladin reached down and grabbed the youth by the shirt collar and picked him up off the ground.
A thousand pardons sir, said the yound boy
Tell me what is the reason for all this exictement. replied Paladin
The guards have captured a witch and she will soon be burned at the steak for her crimes. The boy shook himself trying to break free, so Paladin just let him go.
Paladin thought about what he had just been told. Now it would seem another innocent girl will be killed because of the arrogance and ignorance of these people. If she was indeed a witch they would not have captured her at all. Paladin knew in this part of the country to label someone a witch was often the first responce to anything the people did not understand. Paladin kicked his horse in the side and rode the horse quickly toward the city square.
When he arrived he could see the poor girl locked in the stocks. She was fighting against her restraints, which showed she had spirit and courage. She was also very beautiful, and her long black hair fell down around her face. Her clothing revealed she also had a beautiful figure. She did not seem to be injured as much as she was angry. Paladin looked at her and instantly could feel this one was different. He could not tell how or why, he just felt she did not belong in those stocks.
Paladin looked over and saw the man in charge of this mess and went over to him. At first the man tried to stare Paladin down, but once his eyes met Paladin's the man looked away.
Paladin spoke loudly so all around could hear him. Why do you have this girl locked in the stocks, what is her crime?
She has been tried and found guilty of being a witch. She will be burned at the stake soon.
Witchcraft,,,, bah she is no witch. Release her or have the blood of an innocent on your hands
No she has already been found guilty and she must die
Paladin thought for a moment and realized there was only one way to settle this. Then Paladin took a deep breath and said, By right of the laws of this land I claim the right of champion. I will fight to prove her innocence.
By what right do you think you can claim to be her champion
I am a knight proven both in honor and deed. It is my right. Paladin's eyes narrowed as he glared at the man
But the girl will have to accept you as her champion, without that you cannot be her champion.
Paladin rode back over to the stocks. The girl tried to look at him but the stocks prevented her from raising her head high enough. Paladin stepped off his horse and dropped down on one knee so he could look the girl in the face. My lady, my name is not important at this moment, but your life is in grave danger. Allow me to be your champion, and fight to prove your innocence.
Paladin looked at the girl and waited for her answer.
Someone from the crowd yelled, "She has a champion, she has a champion". The crowd roared in antipation as they knew they would see a good fight or at the least a witch burning. Paladin stood back up and mounted his horse. He road back to the group of men who presumed to be her judge and jury and glared at them.
So her innocence or guilt will be decided by the deeds of two warriors in a battle to the death. One will be her champion, and the other chosen by the captain. Paladin was not afraid, he was confident in his abilities, and also that she was not a witch.
The battle began with the two charging at each other on their horses. They both held lances and would try to either impale the other or at the least knock them from their horse. As the two powerful men met their lances struck each others and neither of them were successful. The lances shattered under the pressure of the collision. So the two were given new lances and they would go at it again.
This time as then met both men were knocked from their horses. As they hit the ground they both regained their footing and drew their swords. A vicious fight began with each of them slashing at the other. The loud sounds made by the swords hitting armor and steel could be heard over the roar of the crowd.
Both men grew tired as the battle between them continued. Paladin was the first to draw blood as he slashed the other mans hand. Then the other man was lucky in that he found a weak point in Paladin's defense and stabbed him through his right shoulder. The blow sent Paladin to his knees, and it seemed for a moment he may lose the battle, his life and the life of the young girl he fought to protect.
But Paladin's resolve was strong, his will determined. He continued to fight until he too caught his opponent by surprise. Paladin ran the man through with his sword and the one who fought against Paladin fell to the ground, dead.
The crowd roared and cheered at the result of the battle. The innocence of the girl had prevailed and all was right this day. However the wound in Paladin's shoulder was deep, and he was losing a lot of blood. He walked over to the stocks where the girl was and was not content to wait for the jailer to release her. He took his sword and smashed down on the lock, breaking it and freeing the young girl.
Paladin told her, See your innonence was never in doubt, you are free. As he smiled at her he could tell he was feeling light headed, and he became dizzy from the great loss of blood he had suffered. He dropped down upon his knees, then passed out and fell to the ground.
The past is just disgusting, Holly thought as Paladin skewered his opponent. She supposed back here killing was never considered an art. Oh, how she longed to return home. The strange man who served as her champion made his way over to her and slammed at the lock, the sound oh metal against stone was deafening at so close a range and Holly had to wince at each blow. The lock finally fell broken to the ground and Holly was free. She stretched her arms and rotated her shoulders knowing they'd be sore the next day.
The man stared at her, his eyes tired his face laced with beads of sweat, then he fainted at her feet. Holly stood before the once angry mob, her so called champion a lifeless heap before her. What was she to do now? She spotted his horse not to far off and heaped him on top of the beast, a difficult task given the man's size but she managed eventually. She took the reigns and walked in search of a shelter.
She came across an inn where they granted her passage in exchange for the few pieces of gold in the man's pack and the inn keeper help Holly carry Paladin to a bed. She stripped Paladin of his armor till he lay in a crisp linen shirt and briches and pressed a wet towel to his forehead.
Paladin's mind began to see images moving before him. He seemed to be dreaming, yet it was too real to be just a dream. He stood in an open medow, with the sun shining brightly, and the wind blowing gently around him. The tall grass bowed to the strength of the wind, which was not but a gentle breeze. He felt alone in the medow, not another living being was present. He began to walk toward the top of a nearby hill. As he walked he let his fingers touch the tall grass as he walked by. His mind seemed to be filled with thoughts, of which were just outside his minds understanding. But he could feel the force which seemed to be pulling him to the top of the hill. It was as if he could barely hear a gently voice calling to him, wanting him to come, to follow. The source of the voice seemed to be just over the hill.
He did not feel anxious or concerned with what may be on the other side of the hill, he just felt he needed to go there. So he walked, and as he approached he now could see what looked to be a spirit of some kind in front of him. He stopped and looked at the spirit, which looked transparent, then began to take shape. As the shape became more clear he could tell it was the presence of a female, a beautiful goddess. Her presence was soothing to him, and she smiled without saying a word. As he looked upon her face he knew he did not know her, but he felt as if there was a bond between them. He felt at ease with her as if she were a long lost friend that his mind just could not remember. She stood directly in front of him, and seemed to be able to communicate with him without saying a word. He stood and looked at her, for he had not seen such beauty before, not anywhere in this world.
She seemed to be telling him it was not yet time for him to cross over to the other side of the hill, that she stood between him and the destiny he would one day find there. But today was not yet the time for him to discover that truth. She gently placed her hand on his shoulder, but he felt no pain. This shoulder which had been wounded in his battle to free an innocent from an horrific death had a huge hole all the way through and the flow of blood from this wound had made him weak. But standing there he could no longer feel any pain coming from the wound. She held her hand there and smiled, and when she removed her hand the wound was gone.
He could sense the beautiful Goddess would soon depart, and he wanted to ask her many questions, but he somehow knew now was also not the time for those questions, so he remained quiet as she slowly began to disappear. Within moments where she had been was now only a mist, then the wind took away all that remained. Again he was alone in the medow, and now he had no desire to walk to the top of the hill. Standing there he closed his eyes and his thoughts seemed to blend all together. It was if now he was drifting back to sleep.
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