A loyal steed, a silver sword, a light to limn my brow
I left behind: betrayed, and bent, and gone.
Cast from the precipice, book, bell and gown
And rode, red-handed, with the dogs of war.
By moonless night I trod, a murderer.
Buried my sin unsaid, unsalved, ungrieved.
Broke faith: I burned its sons who still believed
And shut away the screams until they ceased.
Ahead of hosts I marched, and desolate
My hoof and boot and belly left the land.
Save scarce oases. Green stains on the sand
Where bone and basalt rise in parapets.
What horse’s tongue has touched my tainted skin?
Why do I dream of silver in my hand?
Why do I wake with sunlight on my brow?
Ensure your mask is tight upon your face
Before you save: a kitten up a tree,
A city’s soul. The heroes go to waste
Who bear a heart too bold; who breathe too free.
Not for your racing heart, your rushing breath
Upon the precipice; but for the weary hands,
That knit, and nurse a fire at the hearth
And bear the weight of woe when it comes home.
Nor let your care relax when once alone:
With bleach and soda clean what crossed your mouth,
Stomach a kind and cleansing sustenance
And sleep with mask and costume close at hand.
The rampage runs, unchallengéd, uncowed.
Nothing but facelessness can save us now.
A star, on the tallest tower
Raised by the citizens’ pride
In the heart, and the arm, and the shoulder
That waits against need in the sky
A lab, in the lowest of basements
From the scum of the sewers to raise
A lance, for the bubble of courage;
A lens, for the gorgonous gaze.
A night when the sky is a-thunder.
Find, midst the mud and the rain
A face, with a breath and a pulse
To carry the glass and the glaive.
Climb, when the hour is darkest
Crouch at the zenith, alone.
Leap. Hope. Lash out; and die falling
Lost in the city of stone.
Knight in the image of knighthood,
Sword of the peaceful and poor.
Light to the lowly,
Shield of the suffering,
Life, laid down for the law.
Hero of tales at bed-time?
Faith, given flesh in the square!
Voice of our virtues,
Check to our passions,
Champion, in our despair.
Friend to our face — to the faceless.
Ally, above and below.
Grace of recovery,
Great, yet fated to go.
Pity the ones who once have seen the light:
Who touched perfection, and who turned away
To tend this broken world another day.
Who, proven futile, rejoined the fight.
For when they fall — a fact that Fate ensures —
It’s not as martyrs, laid in gloried graves,
But lost, last embers of a flame that fades.
No new Utopia shall prove their cause.
When stars have faded red, too deep to see
When fields’ last soil billows into dust
That last soul, striving still to do what’s just
Will ask, “What purpose placed this strength in me?”
That question echoes as existence ends
And stands unanswered as the void descends.
These are the oaths a paladin would keep:
To do with honour what can thus be done;
To shield the threatened, comfort those who weep,
And then move on, once pain its course has run.
To neither scorn, nor be a slave to laws,
But do what’s right, then give the law its due.
To fight — but only in a holy cause,
And once a plea for peace has been refused.
To be a beacon, shining coast to coast:
A force for change that none need ever fear;
A friend to lost souls when they need it most,
Who does not need to say what deeds make clear.
To be a soldier with no martial heirs,
Who leaves, to souls of peace, a world that’s theirs.
It is the fate of paladins to fall —
Or else to stumble on, far from the Light,
Left lonely when their cause demanded all
And friends retreated for another fight.
Having no other beacons, they must shine
In lands left black and trackless — stars of hope
That leave behind belief in Dawn’s pink line
When they are snuffed beneath Night’s cloudy cloak.
The wards they leave are hot and iron-hard,
But even these are ashes in the end:
Strewn through dead fields by winds that leave stone scarred;
Consumed by rising depths that reap and rend.
When echoes end, the tallest walls are felled,
But grass sprouts green where Light’s last stands were held.
Within this place, my songs will bear no fruit.
Here heroes fade, and dragons choke on flames;
Here conjurers and demons own no names,
And all the wizards of the world are moot.
To once fall here means no new chance to rise.
Though all the world did echo with the name,
Though deeds were done that won immortal fame,
The Fates would still repeat the same replies.
Here every power breaks, and legends pause.
The lords of Light and Dark stand side by side,
Their solemn paladins forget their pride,
And, faced with fatal risk, make common cause.
Here, Doom and Destiny maintain no sway,
And only mortal minds can choose the way.
There stands a Law, as certain as the Sun;
The Book to match the Scales, and the Sword.
An Act no mortal strife can see undone
— a virtue without fear, without reward.
The Scales weigh as true, only the truth;
The Sword will strike at nothing but the crime.
Immortal Justice needs no mortal proof,
No fractured juries free to take their time.
The Law does not stay crouching in the light
When darkness hides the truth, or shields the wrong;
Though monsters — tempters! — wait beyond my sight,
The Scales know that I am just as strong.
Before the Sword, I vow to find the proof
Show all the words they questioned were the truth.