Foster Fenbattle sat on his horse and studied the rich river valley below. From where he sat on the slopes of the Gargano Mountains in southeastern Forkanza he could see plainly the amassing armies of the Torkan Caliphates and the ships of their corsair allies that had ferried them here. For months the tension had been building as the corsairs had raged all up and down the coast to keep the fractured city-states of Forkanza off-balance. And now they were caught unprepared as the Caliphs of the southern realms made their move to gain a foothold in Partum. Foster looked at the cloudless sky, and then returned his gaze to the enemy below.
It had been nearly a year ago when Foster had been asked by his liege, King Manfriedreich IV, to accompany his only child, Crown Princess Reichsha, on her first real quest. There were other members of this group as well, including a young paladin named Archibald Speedblade. As if guided by invisible hands the group would be led inexorably to this place. Foster had seen it all as if in a dream, and sensing the call of God he had stepped down from his role as the Archbishop of Slothenburg and eagerly taken part in what he knew would be his last journey.
As old as Foster was he was still a formidable priest. But he always maintained that the greatest weapon that anyone be they a cleric or paladin or even a rogue possessed was their faith. Magic was indeed a powerful tool and a dangerous weapon, but Foster knew full well that no mortal means could ever prove stronger than the infinite strength and majesty of God. And now as Foster looked into the valley of Cervaro he was filled with hope. Against an army numbering in the tens of thousands the best that the Forkanzans could rally and that now stood behind Foster were about five hundred despondent and woe-filled men. They had no faith and without that they were already defeated.
Foster however had enough faith for them all. He turned to his left and saw that the young paladin had ridden up beside him clad in his best armor and having already drawn his sword. Foster smiled and said with a soft laugh, “Put your sword away, Archibald. It will do you no good here today. This battle belongs to our Lord.” Foster handed his small and terribly well-worn prayer book to the paladin. Sheathing his blade, the paladin took the book with a quizzical look on his face.
“There is no formula for a prayer, you know.” said Foster as he continued to smile. “The prayers in that book have served me well, and they will do the same for you. But only because of faith. To a man without God’s passion in his heart they are but empty words and idle phrases. If intoned with ulterior motives they can be profane and abhorrent in the eyes of the Lord, and unleash great suffering and punishment for their misuse. One must pray from the heart, from the deepest part of their soul. Fervent and properly intended they will find favor in the court of the Almighty.”
Foster returned his gaze to the river valley but continued to smile. “You must see the princess safely home, Archibald. You will face and defeat many enemies during your life. But today the victory belongs solely to God. Remember what is done here today and make sure that all men in every corner of Partum understands that against the divine and perfect power of God there can be no threat or harm!”
And with that the aged priest spurred his horse on and down the slope through the trees and into the valley of Cervaro. As he rode he held aloft his only worldly weapon, a mace more suitable as a walnut-cracker than as an implement of war. He prayed without ceasing as his horse thundered on at breakneck speed and the enemies amassing in the valley looked with amused surprise at the sight of this demented old man coming at them single-handedly.
Foster did not go forth alone, of course. With him rode the infinite angels and the supreme might of the God to whom he was so devoted. From the cloudless sky fell lightning and meteors, great spears of ice and a howling wind to throw the enemy into confusion. Spreading before Foster’s speeding horse were flames that moved with equal speed to devastate the ranks of those that sought to impose their own theology in this land. With the crashing force of a tsunami monstrous waves rose from the depths of the sea and crashed against the corsairs, turning their proud ships into splinters and shredded sails. The ground itself rippled and crevices opened to swallow up the confused and terrified would-be invaders. And when Foster had at last reached the heart of the enemy camp there descended upon him a massive pillar of fire that engulfed fully the leaders of the Torkan armies and those of the black-hearted pirates as well. The battle was over and to no other could the credit be given but to the God that Foster loved so much.
The paladin watched it all and silently gave thanks. The old priest had taught him a valuable lesson and illustrated it in a way that could not be forgotten no matter how hard one might try to deny it. Faith was not dead in Partum. It had merely been sleeping. And this was not yet the hour when faith would be most needed. That day was still decades away. But the seeds had been planted. Archibald would tend them until the harvest drew nigh.