He pondered what the next trial might be as he walked. Anger, fear… pain, perhaps? Doubt? He shrugged to himself. He would simply have to see.
Garkhen was rather surprised when he walked into a comfortably appointed room. Five chairs were arranged in a small circle. Four were occupied, and it did not take him long to see that each occupant was a representative of one of the goodly faiths—Mashano, Naishia, Kazoran, and Sephania. The human priest of Mashano waved Garkhen to the empty seat.
“Good, you’re here! We’ve been waiting for you!”
Warily, Garkhen approached. What was the test here? “You have been waiting for me?”
“Indeed,” the dwarven priest of Kazoran rumbled. “Now we’re all here, so we can begin.”
“Shall we start with unity, then?” The elven priest of Sephania asked. “We followers of Sephania are far more united than the humans with their god. They cannot even agree on what he wants.”
“And you can’t agree on who your god is!” The human retorted. “Male, female, both, neither…”
“Hah! No match for the dwarves there,” the dwarven priest interjected. “We know perfectly well what Kazoran’s like. I don’t know why this fellow thinks Bahamut is so much better,” he waved at Garkhen.
Was this testing his anger again? Garkhen firmly controlled his temper and replied, “While there is certainly virtue in the teachings of Kazoran, I have found that Bahamut’s teachings touch me more deeply.”
“So it’s up to you to choose, then?” The dwarf replied, peering closely at Garkhen.
The young half-dragon was taken aback by the question, but then the priest of Naishia spoke, “But if it were not for Naishia, we would not have a place to have this discussion.”
“And if it were not for Mashano we would not have a common language in which to speak it!”
Perhaps he was to defend his faith? “Indeed, but were it not for Bahamut, Tiamat would long since have overrun all.”
The conversation continued in this vein for a time, each priest claiming the best for his or her own god.
Garkhen grew increasingly uncomfortable and defensive, as the others seemed to focus more and more on him. Still, he was proud at how well he was debating. Yet the discussion showed no sign of slowing.
Finally, Garkhen exclaimed, “Must we argue like this? Are not we all servants of goodly gods?”
The priest of Mashano smirked at him. “Perhaps, but don’t you have to prove yours is the best?”
Suddenly it struck him. “Darkhen Ubrix…” Garkhen breathed, collapsing back in his seat.
The other priests all nodded, as if they understood, but Garkhen felt he should translate nonetheless.
“Dragon-pride. That is the key here, is it not?”
The others all sat silently, waiting. Swallowing, Garkhen said, “No. No, I do not. While I stand firm for what I believe… I must also be humble. I should see the good in others without feeling it threatens me. I… must not succumb to the curse of pride.”
The others all nodded again, and then, one by one, they disappeared. Garkhen stood, and the chairs also vanished, leaving the way onwards clear once again. Yet he hesitated a moment.
“Dragon-pride,” he murmured again. “The great curse of dragonkind. A heritage of my father that I must ever be wary of.”
After a few minutes of quiet reflection, he felt ready to continue.
Other tests followed, but none seemed to strike so deeply. Still Garkhen felt bone-weary when finally the passageway led to a small, well-lit chamber. Its only contents were an altar, on which lay an ornate silver mace. Gazing on it, the Warder knew all the tests were to prove the worth of one who would wield this weapon.
Hesitantly, he reached out and picked it up. It was fairly heavy, as a good mace should be, but well-balanced. Inspecting it, he saw its name etched into its haft.
As he spoke the name, silver-colored flames burst from the head of the mace, wrapping it in fiery radiance. Garkhen gasped. Flaming weapons were far from rare, but the silver color seemed to suggest it was more than ordinary magical flame.
After a few moments, the flame went out. Garkhen took his old mace and, after a moment’s thought, tied it to his pack, then slipped Silverflame through the belt loop where it had been. It felt… right, there.
The Warder breathed a quiet prayer of thanks to Bahamut, then asked, “But what plans do you have for me that require such a weapon?”
No answer came, though for a moment Garkhen had the nagging feeling he had forgotten something. It was gone before he could properly grasp the thought, however. After a minute of quiet reflection, he turned to leave… and was surprised to see the canyon right in front of him. Turning back, he could see only a shallow, empty cave, with no sign of the many passages he had walked, much less the tests and the altar.
Shaking his head a bit, Garkhen turned again and walked out into the canyon. He did not quite know what he needed to do next, but… he would see what good he could do, and surely in so seeking Bahamut would lead him.
So now Garkhen has his weapon. This is the end of this chapter, which means… it’s almost time to revisit a scene from many moons ago from a different perspective!