Sir Ourris, anointed knight of King Herald, paladin of Rockput, slayer of Goliaths and Hero of Albanum, the Sword of Order and Guardian of Innocence… Ourris gathered titles with a fervor and commitment worthy of song. And soon he would gain- no, soon he would earn- two more titles: bane of goblins and slayer of kings.
No honest man could claim that Ourris wasn’t worthy. Perhaps once he was a lowly squire, groveling at the heels of greater men… but many seasons had passed since anyone could call Sir Ourris “ordinary.” He would never forget the day the gods chose to elevate him out of the dirt and into legend. He was just a squire then- Ourris Gylbar “the Kindly.” Imagine a great hero known only as “the Kindly”... he was grateful for how far he had climbed. As a squire, Ourris was not meant to chase greatness- he was told to guard Albanum, so he did. He was told to die for the town if the need arose, and his loyalty was tested that day the snake erupted from the earth.
The Basilisk of Albanum, it was called; there was only one like it. Everyone knew it was the druids’ doing, a twisted abomination which they could no longer contain. Ourris always knew not to trust the druids- why trust those that do not fear the gods? Ourris found himself hiding in the storehouse that day, listening to the beast rumble around outside, mustering the courage to stand up and die like a good squire is supposed to. He reluctantly perused the rows of weapons for a suitable sword to be buried with, eventually caressing the pommel of a well-used blade. But when Ourris lifted the rusty blade, it glowed with the radiance of a rising run- the weapon was transformed before his eyes into a golden blade forged by the gods- a true holy sword. Ourris knew in that moment that his story was not over.
That was the sword he used to kill the basilisk. It was the sword he wore when King Herald raised him to the Realm’s Guard. And it was the sword he carried now, as he journeyed into the ruins of the goblin kingdom, to take the false king’s head.
The proud people of Parada had crushed the goblins in battle centuries ago, but their horrid, sadistic king still survived somewhere in the ruins of the goblin kingdom. No goblin had been seen in Parada since the war, but its people would never forget. The vile wretches stood no taller than a human’s waist, but they compensated for their height with gruesome acts of villainy. They haunted Parada in whispers around the campfire- forlorn merchants told of caravans lost in the goblinlands, of pallid demons who flounder at the feet of the lost, who knock travellers off their feet and feast on their still-beating hearts.
Sir Ourris would not be knocked off his feet. As he trudged through the horrid forest, he listened to the heavy patter of his iron boots- boots given to him by a wizard in Regalon, enchanted to keep him on his feet despite the goblins’ best efforts. This was not his only safeguard- Ourris had purchased the finest set of armor known to Paradian blacksmiths, adorned with the ruby sigil of his god. And his sword… well, his sword was the crowning gem. Given to him by Rockput himself, the holy sword was his compass, illuminating the path of righteousness he was destined to follow. Sir Ourris knew he saw his golden blade brighten in the dying afternoon, its holy light bathing the trees around him. This was the right thing to do.
The world could never be a paradise as long as the goblin king lived. He was different from the others; he stood much taller than a human and was stronger too. It was said that he could break bones with only his teeth. During the war, the goblin king committed atrocities so depraved that Parada swore to forget entirely. Sir Ourris knew that he must die, even if hundreds of goblins must be murdered to-
“H-h-hello,” a small voice stammered.
Ourris ground to a halt. He had arrived at a river crossing. A rickety rope bridge spanned the river, and a diminutive goblin guarded the far bank. The sod was small, even for a goblin- a wretched, pitiful mess dressed in muddied rags. Ourris wondered if the monster had a family. Would he be mourned once he was gone? It did not matter. Ourris bore no ill will toward the goblin, but nothing could be allowed to stop him.
“I’m sorry, but you h-have to turn around!” the goblin trembled, pleading. “Humans aren’t allowed in the goblin kingdom!” Ourris drew his sword; perhaps if he scared the goblin away, he could spare the bloodshed.
“Step aside,” Sir Ourris commanded. “I am travelling on orders of King Herald of Parada, and I have consent to kill anyone who stands in my way.”
“W-w-what are you going to do to us?” the goblin whimpered.
“I will venture into your ruins and take your tyrant king’s head. Then I will return these lands to the kingdom of Parada.”
“N-no, you can’t do that!” The goblin scrambled to pick up a stick, brandishing it like a sword. “I won’t let you hurt my king!” it squeaked. Sir Ourris stepped onto the bridge, matching the goblin’s stance. It would be a quick duel.
“Leave this place, cretin,” Ourris warned him. “Go back to your home and live another day. I am a knight of Parada, and you are a monster with a stick.”
“My name is Goodwin!” the creature tried to scream, finding its voice. “And I may not be some fancy knight, but I am a citizen of Athomire, and I will protect my king as you would!”
Ourris smiled. The goblin was surely brave, and Ourris himself could remember a time he was asked to die for duty. He pitied the creature for what was about to happen.
“You wish to play the knight? Cross with me then.” Ourris charged across the bridge. The goblin, now very afraid, scrambled backwards onto the soft earth and gripped his stick harder. As Ourris neared the far side of the bridge, the creature yelped, and wildly struck the bridge before him.
The bridge snapped.
Ourris felt the planks give out beneath him, and suddenly he was underwater. His boots settled in the thick muddy river bottom… his boots! The enchanted metal meant to keep him on his feet was now weighing him down, trapping him mere feet from the surface.
“Are you okay?” he heard the muffled voice of the goblin above him. “Didn’t mean to…” Ourris watched his holy sword sink in front of him, its golden aura barely visible in the murky water. The blade vanished in the mud, its light extinguished, signifying nothing.
“Somebody help!” screamed the goblin from the surface, but no one could help him anymore. Goodwin, why? He was supposed to be the hero of the story, so why was he dying in the dark? Why did the gods bring him all this way just to die? All the glory he had earned, all the miracles he had witnessed, were now lost in the river. Ourris tore off his chestplate, hoping desperately to float just a few feet to safety. His magic armor could not save him now, nor could his sword nor the poor goblin trying to rescue him. Even the gods were powerless down here. Every light Ourris had gained faith in was extinguished.
Ourris looked up; Goodwin was still reaching into the water, trying to save him. It’s okay Goodwin, he thought. I was never the hero of the story. But you did what was right even when you were so, so scared. Go on Goodwin, go be a knight…