The Order of the Kirisau

Terra Immortalis Story 003

His eyes travelled to the gray Mantii above the roaring fire. Its carapace was flawless, a shining chitinous armor that danced with the reflected orange glow of the flames crackling beneath it. The thing must have stood as tall as a man, but twice as long. The razor-edged serrations along its forearms gleamed in the firelight. Its compound eyes stared out in a shivering gaze perfectly preserved in its death.

How had Dolomy done it? Staloph wondered, taking another swallow of the rich ale in his stein.

The renowned knight Dolomy had travelled into the lands south of Redclaw, into the daunting territory of the Mantii, where few if any ever returned to tell the tale. The Mantii were rumored to possess but one mind among their race, and they all knew what each experienced. Yet the knight from the Order of the Kirisau had returned with his trophy. Intact. No indication of sword-mark or arrow having penetrated the creature's armored exoskeleton.

How am I to top that? the young man wondered further. How am I to top any one of dozens of similar feats?

He turned his back to the flames roaring in the hearth and looked out over the grand Hall of the Kirisau, the home of his order here in the land of Fauna. It was an impressive structure, both inside and out. The only windows lined the very tops of the walls, allowing ample wall space for the vast arrays of trophies and tokens. It was still fairly dark, as the sun had risen but a short time ago, and the day was barely beginning. Only the fire in the massive hearth cast sufficient light by which to see. There was still a bit of a haze from the previous evening’s pipe smoke, for the farewell party, and the spiced smell of Jade tobacco still lingered. The scent added a bit of mystery to one of the city's most beautiful and imposing buildings. It was a hall of great renown throughout the East. The Kirisau were the best of the Monster Slayers in the entirety of Charon. And he was their youngest member.

A small smile played across Staloph's mouth as he looked at the head over the entranceway. A lavender-scaled head of a Kirisau gazed back at him, fearsome and formidable, even in death. That was his father's greatest trophy. His father, the mighty and renowned Stanol, whose exploits were lavishly recounted in numerous volumes of the order's history. The shelves of accounts and tales lined the walls of the room, below the order's many trophies.

Staloph gazed at the Kraa battle standards (some of them his own, how he had gained entrance into the order), the stuffed Grotterlings, the tail of a Crichter, a maw from a young Gnawer, mounted heads, stuffed bodies, weapons and shields from numerous foe. And their greatest trophy of all, the great Kirisau skull seated over the Hallmaster's throne. Three men could hardly lift the relic. He shivered at the thought that such fearsome creatures had ever roamed the land he knew.

If he had been any other member of the order, he would have felt that he had earned his place among this elite of elites, this order of knights. His conquests against the war bands of the Kraa were no small feat. But he wasn't any other member. He was the son of Stanol, one of the greatest among them. And though none of the other knights would say it directly, he saw in the eyes of many who felt that his father's merits had contributed greatly to Staloph’s acceptance into the order. He knew it was foolish to think so, but he had to prove himself, to step out from under his father's shadow. For that, the farewell party had been thrown.

The outer door opened and another entered.

"Greetings, young knight," the deep voice echoed through the stillness of the room. It issued from the throat of an imposing Barol, outfitted in Charon Half-Plate Armor adorned with sigils and crests. Black leather creaked beneath the high-polished metal plates, and his claws clicked across the tile floor.

"Good morn, Garilus," Staloph greeting, a genuine smile on his lips. "I take it you are to join me after all?"

The Barol nodded, a smile also tugging at his normally stern visage. Garilus stood a full head taller than the young human, who was not small himself. Garilus was one of the order's most loved members. The Barol, it seemed, had seen most of the surface of Charon during his years. He was one of the older members of the order, having been in these halls for nearly forty years. His tan fur was graying slightly, contrasting with the bright maroons and teals of his fur-dyed tattoos. But, at times, it was Garilus's gaze that brought him the most attention. Many claimed that his eyes had seen much more than his years could account.

Staloph was one of the few in the Barol's lifetime who knew exactly how old the knight was. Garilus was Immortal, and the young human knew the knight had seen nearly four centuries pass.

"The preparations are almost complete, my friend. We will be able to depart within the hour." He paused, and his deep voice grew a little softer. "You know that no one would fault you if we were to change our itinerary. There are other expeditions we could undertake."

The same argument, but he also knew that Garilus didn't really expect him to change his mind. A nod and a small smile were his only answer. They stood in silence for a few moments, lost in their thoughts.

Staloph knew that Garilus was not only one of the Kirisau's more accomplished knights, he was also a member of the legendary Order of Catompic, an order of knights who were all Immortal. The fact that Garilus had revealed his secret to the young man only emphasized his esteem of Staloph's character. Most Immortals lived in fear that their nature would be revealed. When found, many Immortals were killed. Superstitions and folklore contended that they sucked the life away from those around them, but Staloph knew the fallacy of all this. And if the Immortal were to perhaps leech away a few days of his life's expectancy, it was a small price to pay for the pleasure of his company.

A log popped in the hearth, the blaze intensifying suddenly before sinking down once again to its comforting warmth. Garilus stretched his clawed hands out towards the fire, warming the hands that had seen nearly so many years of battle and exploration.

"Your father is very proud of you, you know," Garilus said. "I'm sure he won't tell you himself, but he relayed it to me. He thinks that, in the years to come, his name will be eclipsed by your own, and he will no longer be known as a great knight, but as the man that trained you in your youth."

Staloph snorted. "You have no need of flattery, Garilus. I have few reservations of our expedition."

Garilus looked at the young man seriously. The raven-black hair and equally dark eyes were a mirror of Stanol's own. The young man was even beginning to gray at the temples, exactly as his father had thirty years earlier. And the resemblance went beyond facial features. Stanol was a man of integrity and courage, one of a rare breed upon whom one could place their trust. Hard found in a world where most concentrated solely upon survival.

"You should, my friend. This is no light undertaking we're on." And that was the truth. They were to meet a party of ten strong from the Knighthood Order of the Cordovans, in Smierthin. From there, they were to go towards Moonfall. No one else, from either order of knights, nor from the Order of Catompic, had returned from such an expedition. "Your father himself charged me to look after you. He is terribly concerned for your safety."

Staloph snorted again, disbelieving, but the Barol continued. "He told me he wished his accomplishments hadn't been so grand, for your burden is now that much greater."

The man looked at the Immortal knight beside him, trying to determine his motives. Finally, he smiled and placed his arm on the Barol's shoulder and placed his empty stein upon a table near the fire. "Let us go, Garilus. We have much ahead of us. And you will not have much need to watch over me. My father taught me well enough. As I recall, it was I who saved you from the Kraa war chieftain."

"What?" Garilus cried indignantly. "Saved me..?"

"We must be off, my old friend. Are you sure your old bones can manage the trip?"

"Now you go too far," the Barol grumbled, adjusting the sword at his hip as he followed Staloph outside. "Old bones indeed. You'll be happy to have these old bones along once we get near Moonfall."

Staloph's laughter echoed behind them as they left, ringing in the hall among the trophies after the door had shut.