Jason stared down at his journal, the firelight making it hard to read even what he wrote. He yawned, and stretched, gazing around the cavern at the sleeping forms around him. The adventuring party was currently deep in a cave, making their way to the fabled Deeplands. To say the road had been rough would be an understatement; just thinking about it caused Jason to reach a hand unconsciously to the back of his neck, where he had been bitten by a horrible leathery creature. He had gotten off lucky compared to some others in the group too, their local barbarian, Kod, wouldn’t recover his strength for weeks. Jason sighed once more, letting his mind wander. He would need substantial strength to get through this, and sometimes it helped to think of rougher times. Times didn’t get much rougher, than his exit from his academy.

The knife thumped into the table, so close the blade cut into Jason’s ear. He had moved at the last second, his reflexes saving him from a rather nasty end. He wasn’t out of the woods yet though, and while Chadwick was bigger, Jason was more agile. He wriggled out from under the bigger man, striking him in the gut as he did. Chadwick wheezed out, clutching his stomach and stumbling back. The two combatants stared each other down, Chadwick rising up to tower over Jason. Jason, however, was seeing things in a different light now. In his eyes, Chadwick had changed. He was no longer the irritating rival he had once been. In Jason’s eyes, the man who stood before him was evil, he knew it without hesitation.

Chadwick lunged back in with a roar, but Jason blocked the fist with an arm, a flash of golden light accompanying the move. He then swung with his other arm, connecting firmly with Chadwick’s jaw, drawing a cry of pain from him. Chadwick stumbled back, staring at Jason. “How? How can you beat me now? Whenever we sparred I always kicked your butt, it was never even close! How can you do it now!” he cried out, lunging in swinging again. Once more Jason blocked with barely any effort. A flash of light met the fist, and this time Jason used the momentum to smack Chadwick in the back of the head, and send him sprawling to the other side of the room.

“Don’t you see?” said Jason, slowly gaining a bit of a grin, even as blood trickled from his ear. “You can’t beat me. My god is on my side, and he’s abandoned you,” he said. Chadwick charged him again, crying in mindless rage. This time Jason didn’t bother blocking, he went straight for the uppercut, slamming his palm into Chadwick’s jaw and snapping his jaw backwards. Chadwick crumbled like a sack of potatoes. Jason exhaled, feeling the adrenaline drain from his system in moments. He knew he had to report this, he had to tell someone. After all, Chadwick had tried to kill him!

Jason’s memory was interrupted, as he felt soft hands slip slowly against his shoulders. Brought back to the present, Jason looked over his shoulder. In the dim firelight, he could just make out the face of Kari, the parties Cleric. Immediately a smile broke over Jason’s features, as he leaned back into her gentle touch. “You really should let me look at those bites,” she said sternly, brushing a finger over the marks. Jason laughed ever so lightly.

“No no. I told you, I’m fine and others need the attention more,” he responded. She nodded, even if she didn’t agree, and instead started to slowly massage his shoulders. The touch brought a happy sigh from Jason, and she asked a question in her usual tone, which always seemed like music to Jason.

“What were you thinking about Boss? It’s really obvious when you drift off like that,” she asked him. He closed his eyes, and leaned his head back before he responded.

“I was thinking about my time at the academy,” he said. She winced just a touch,


“Chadwick. He got off without much punishment, but at least he was expelled. Last letter I got about him, said he was running for some sort of political spot,” he mumbled softly. “I hope not. That man is evil, and dangerous,” he grumbled. She nodded softly, squeezing his shoulders again in a reassuring way.

“Well. Block him from your mind. We are deep under ground, and busy with our own things. If he becomes an issue, we can deal with it,” she said, before adding sternly. “Now. Shirt off,” and when he gazed at her with a raised eyebrow, she added “I’m going to take care of your wounds, wither you like it, or not.”

Jason wisely surrendered to the woman, removing his shirt and letting her attend to him. His mind wandered again, remembering the day after his attack, when he was called into a meeting between a few of the higher ranking members of paladins.

“What are we going to do with them both?” asked one, speaking as if Jason wasn’t here. He was dressed in heavy plate armour, adorned with the signs of Abadar, their shared god. “Chadwick will not be detained long, we all know this, but Jason’s training is not complete.”

“He did pass the final test,” noted another member of the meeting, a member of the Wild Paladins, as was indicated by his lighter chain-mail armour, and the bow slung over his back. This man was known as Kiton, and just his presence made Jason smile just a bit. Kiton had been his mentor, more than anyone else during his time at the academy.

“But he’s so far behind on his studies!” Complained an older woman, dressed in plain white robes. The headmistress. This woman immediately caused the smile on Jason’s face to vanish. Her, he liked less. Kiton scoffed just a touch at this remark.

“His studies? What good will knowing the history of our order do him out in the field? Or the different types of un-dead, unless he comes up against a powerful necromancer, there are few un-dead you can’t just smash!” he replied. “He’s ready to graduate, and even head out on his own, I am sure of it!”

“Why are you so sure?” spoke the first man. “Because he is your special project child?” he snorted. Kiton offered the man a smirk that was mostly teeth.

“Perhaps you are just mad that your special project was just kicked from the school,” he replied. The headmistress hushed them both sternly, narrowing her eyes. She had that sort of power; the two men immediately fell silent with one sound from her. She turned her gaze to Jason, remaining stern.

“You, Mister Balmonte, are one of the worst students to ever pass through this school. On the training field your skills are merely below par. In the classroom, they are abysmal. What possible reason, can you give me to allow you to graduate this school?”

Jason paused, this was his real chance! If there was one thing Jason could do, it was talk his way out of situations. He opened his mouth, and was immediately interrupted by the armoured man. “Because we need him out of here. If he stays, there will certainly be consequences when Chadwick’s family pursues recompense. If we say both students are gone, then there is no problem.” He stared down his nose at Jason, which was impressive as Jason had at least six inches on him in height. “And I already have been informed he is not fit for expulsion, even if I feel he should be!” he snapped.

Jason closed his mouth, and rolled his eyes just a touch, before finally being able to speak. “With all do respect, the reason I think I should graduate, is clearly Abadar has chosen me. I can feel his power flow through me like a radiant spring. I am ready. I mean not be the most wise paladin, but no one in the academy is a better shot, I am sure of it.” he finished, looking between the three before him, who had gone completely silent.

Finally, Kiton looked at the other two. “We can send him up to Kilkara. He wanted to go anyway, and it’s about as far out-of-the-way as is possible,” he noted lightly. The headmistress and the knight both slowly nodded their heads.

“Kilkara will work,” the woman began, before adding “Not much need for intelligence up there. Savage people for savage lands. Very well then, I agree. He will be sent to Kilkara.”

Once more, Jason was snapped out of his memories, this time by a flash of pain up his spine, and then a cooling tingling sensation. He winced a bit, looking over his shoulder. “Hey! What the hell was that!” he hissed.

Kari smirked just a touch. “Just getting your attention, Jason. You really shouldn’t let your mind wander so much.” she then sighed, leaning on him a bit and draping his arms more along his chest. “Or should I just try harder to get your attention, hm?” she added, a faint smirk gracing her features.

Jason looked around the camp to make sure no one could see them, a slight bit of pink making its way into his cheeks. He hushed her just a bit, but she had gotten what she wanted. She pulled away from him with a soft giggle, mischief managed. “You really need to relax,” she said lightly. “If you need help with that, I’ll be in my tent. Don’t take too long, I have a watch shift in a few hours,” she mused, heading off.

Jason remained where he sat for a moment or two longer, debating internally. On the one hand, if the pair was caught, he would never hear the end of it. On the other…

He stood quickly, gathering his shirt and making his way over to Kari’s tent.

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