Writ by the hand of Abbot Sinclar, for the records of King Jeraziah, Queen Ophelia, and Arasunia.
On this day Sol’s blessed sun shone brightly above the Damwell Riparian Estate, a series of mud and stick beavrel lodges and dams along a tributary of the Istros River, which feeds the great Inner Sea. It was to be a day of celebration, with the young warrior Terrowin knighted and brought into the Lancer Brotherhood (Brotherhood seems a bit excessive for a group of two, but the name is not for me to choose).
It was also set to be a historic day, for Terrowin would be the first Lancer who was not a beavrel. It does not take more than a glance to establish this fact. With his green skin, burly shape, and large nose and ears, it is obvious Terrowin was born—and always will be—a goblin. There is no law against a goblin joining the Brotherhood, though this may be due to the fact that no being other than a beavrel has attempted to become a Lancer.
I also had no intention of becoming involved in the proceedings—my duty was to document the ceremony for the Arasunian Archives—but the Lancers changed that when Sir Benzington and Sir Benzalot entered my small pavilion in full armor. Sir Benzington Damwell III is the eldest son of the Damwell clan and Commander of the Lancer Brotherhood. His brother, both in blood and battle, is Sir Benzalot, who serves as First Lancer Sergeant.
Their brusque entry was my first introduction to the Lancers, and to beavrels, and despite their small stature these warriors are both intimidating and fearsome. They bring with them a strong musk, a product of their groomed, oiled fur. Though it cannot be proven, I believe this aura is also due to their virility. I have met few Legion men who possess as much vigor as these Lancers.
Upon entering the pavilion, Sir Benzalot pointed a gauntleted finger at me and said, “The holy man will bring sense to you.”
Sir Benzington, who appeared quite calm, said, “Sense has nothing to do with it, dear brother. We will tell Terrowin the truth and let him decide whether he will be a Lancer or not.”
“You will achieve nothing but cost us a great warrior,” said Sir Benzalot, “and grant one to the Hellbourne.”
I looked between them. Thanks be to Sol they left their lances outside the pavilion—not that the enormous weapons would have fit in the cramped space.
Sir Benzington said, “Brother, the fact that you don’t want to tell Terrowin is proof that we must.”
Sir Benzalot shook his head and stuck a short branch of black walnut in his mouth. He crossed his arms and stared at me, as if waiting for a statement.
Sir Benzalot spat pulp onto the grass floor. “You will address us by our proper titles!”
“Sirs, of course, many pardons.”
The Lancer Sergeant looked at his brother. He seemed suspicious about the quality of my mind.
Sir Benzington said, “You hail from the great city of Arasunia, where wisdom and devotion to Sol are prized above all else.”
“Yes, Commander Sir.”
“Then you shall hear our dilemma and consult your god, and your vote shall decide our actions.”
“Or inaction,” Sir Benzalot added.
“The Damwell Riparian Estate was not always this large.” Sir Benzington removed his helm and placed it atop my luggage. He sat on a low stump I had assumed was part of the landscape, but was actually a beavrel chair. “It used to be a single lodge and one dam downstream. It was enough to accommodate our family, along with a small grassland for our mounts. This was when my father rode the great war badger Brokko and I was still training my loyal fearet, Balric. Then the Second Corruption came, and the Hellbourne, and we knew the Lancers would need more Brothers. So we expanded our territory to include cousins.”
Sir Benzalot said, “And quickly discovered that just because one adds quantity, quality does not necessarily follow.”
“My brother is correct. Although he was just a yearling at the time, his skills with a lance were far beyond those of our older kin. Some had never lifted one at all. So we built more dams and lodges to bring in our neighbors in the hopes they would fare better. They did not. But there was one unexpected benefit, tainted with tragedy. We found Terrowin.”
“Found,” Sir Benzalot said. “Interesting word choice.”
Sir Benzington ignored him. “Until that moment, we were unaware of the network of caves below our land, and of the goblins who dwelled within. They are a notoriously mischievous lot, and their presence explained many thefts and grievances that had been a mystery. When we dammed the river, the rising water flooded the chambers. As far as we know all of the goblins were drowned, all but Terrowin, who bobbed to the surface, sputtering and coughing, and was plucked from the current by my father’s hands.”
“Because of a stick,” Sir Benzalot said. “The little green creature barely had his eyes open, yet he clutched a branch in one hand. Why wouldn’t he? He was drowning, and would have clutched at anything within reach.”
Sir Benzington said, “The rest of us took it as a sign. My father believed Terrowin was destined to become a Lancer, and adopted him into our family to be raised as one of us. And today he will be welcomed into the Brotherhood. And that brings us to the dilemma, Abbot. I say Terrowin should know his history—our history—before he pledges his life to the Lancers.”
“And I say ignorance is bliss,” Sir Benzalot said. “Let the poor goblin live his life and pass into the next realm never knowing it was us, his brothers, who killed his entire family. He will know enough tragedy once we ride to face the daemons. Why add more corpses to the pit?”
The beavrels looked at me then. I had no idea what to say, but I knew what Sol commanded. “You will tell him the truth. The Blind Prophet sacrificed himself so that no soul shall be denied enlightenment. If you don’t tell him, I will.”
“Not if you never leave this tent,” Sir Benzalot said. His smile showed thick, sharp teeth, and not a hint of humor.
I told him, “I am prepared to join the Blind Prophet at Sol’s side, if that is my fate. But I will free Terrowin from the fog of lies before I do.”
The Lancer Sergeant held his stare, then he laughed as he left the pavilion, saying, “You holy men are crazier than we are.”
Trumpets sounded outside.
“It is time,” Sir Benzington said. He lifted his helm and I followed him into the sunlight.
Lancer banners as high as my waist rippled between thick posts along the riverbank. Dozens of beavrels had gathered to join the celebration, their tails slapping the ground to show appreciation as the goblin Terrowin rode his bunzi, the black battle hare named Lago. They were both in full armor, and Terrowin did indeed look imposing with the piercings through his forest green flesh, red warpaint, and mighty lance with its overlapping vamplates.
At risk of punishment from the archivists and bodily harm from the Lancers, I will add a personal observation. Once these beavrels and goblin reach the front lines, they may be able to cause tremendous harm to the Hellbourne. At first glance they appear to be harmless animals—perhaps even children—playing at being grandiose soldiers. But woe to the enemy who underestimates their valor and prowess with these deadly lances.
Sir Benzington and Sir Benzalot rode their mounts forward to meet Terrowin at water’s edge. Sir Benzington was atop his stoic fearet weasel Balric, while Sir Benzalot rode a strange reptile from the Great Waste called a riptor. He had named it Velock, and the two of them seemed agitated, ready for battle.
Terrowin dismounted and knelt.
“Terrowin,” Sir Benzington said. “I, Sir Benzington Damwell the Third, Commander of the Lancer Brotherhood, have summoned you to be knighted, and extend my hand and invite you to join us as Brother.”
Terrowin opened his mouth.
“Before you answer,” Sir Benzington said, “I will have you know the full truth.”
The gathered beavrels began to edge into the river. Sir Benzalot’s barbed lance dipped a fraction, a tiny bit closer to being lowered for battle.
Sir Benzington’s voice was steady and loud. “You are a goblin. You have never questioned how you came to be a member of our family, and we have never volunteered that information. Today I shall. When you were an infant, we unknowingly flooded the caves that you and your true family called home. All were killed except you, and while I wish none of your kin had perished, I am also eternally grateful that you, at least, survived. I am privileged to call you brother, and would be honored to ride next to you as a Lancer.”
Terrowin slowly got to his feet. His brow was creased, his nostrils flared. Sir Benzalot’s lance dropped further.
“How much do you know of goblins?” Terrowin said, his voice a rasp.
Sir Benzington shot an unsure glance at his Sergeant, then said, “Not much, I’m afraid, but we will work to gain that knowledge. Here, this man from Arasunia ought to know much and more of goblins.”
“I’d not even seen a beavrel before today,” I said. “Though I’m sure there are books in the archives.”
Sir Benzalot looked like he’d enjoy skewering me.
“There is no need for books,” Terrowin said. “You say I was an infant. I was, in fact, over two years old, and had been starving while the other goblins gorged themselves. They had devoured the food stores and made sure to let me know I was the next meal. My true family, as you call them, was going to eat me. They even gave me the stick on which they were going to spit and roast me. Then the water rushed in and swept me out of their clutches, and I found myself among you, who fed me, loved me, and raised me as one of your own.”
The only sound was the river crawling past. The visiting beavrels were frozen with their tails in the water. Sir Benzalot lifted his lance until it pointed at the sky.
“I have always known,” Terrowin said. He smiled. “And if I hadn’t, you pompous beavrels are about as subtle as a Behemoth fart. I would have figured it out a hundred times this month alone. Benza. Benzi. You are my true family, and it is my greatest honor to join you as a Knight of the Lancer Brotherhood.”
The cheers and tail slaps were deafening. Sir Terrowin leapt upon Lago and rode in formation with Sir Benzington and Sir Benzalot, the three of them racing across the meadows and charging back, their victory songs echoing. The beavrels began a feast of willow branches and honey-dipped cattails, which I politely declined. Then they opened small barrels of some sort of fermented lilypad wine, which I sampled. And with that my archive record comes to a close, for I remember nothing after that.