Under Feet of Clay
One of the most feared roles of the clergy is the Paladin. Undertaking incredible oaths and devoting themselves entirely to their deity, the Paladin is a beloved figure of myth and can be a terrible force of judgement. Officially, Paladins serve under the Clerics of their temple, but in practice the Paladins are largely autonomous orders of holy warriors. Typically, a Paladin first must earn the consecration of a Cleric, but before their appointment, they may be singled out for additional, special training. As such, Paladins can, but often do not, officiate sacrifices.
Each deity has their own intensive oaths and vows for Paladins to swear, some more secretive than others. Orders of Paladins often have their own titles, such as the Spherewalkers of Thesmaphora, while others maintain hidden hierarchies within a temple. The most important and sacred duty of a Paladin comes with the revelation that there is a new Oracle in the land, as part of their vows are the safe passage of these oracles to temples that will train them. While Clerics train to channel the spells of their orders, Paladins train as living weapons and vessels of their god. As such, their powers of spellcasting are more limited, but the potent aura of the divine suffuses their being and enhances their resilience and power. While some paladins are largely independent and are free to wander, most must seek leave for a higher ranking member of their order. Usually the process of becoming a paladin requires an intensive period as a personal assistant or squire to a consecrated paladin, and ultimately the swearing of oaths in a ritual overseen by their order of paladins and performed by clerics.
An Account of the Swearing of the Oaths of a Paladin of Pallas
The Holy Sun shone bright on the roof of the temple, atop a platform hidden from the public by its sheer height. I stood, naked and oiled in the glistening sun, a sword dug into the wood of a sacrificial pyre as the bodies of three hawks smoked and cooked, an offering of sweet flesh to our Lord of Sunlight. Three of my superiors, Paladins in bronze armor with helmets adorned in raiment like the sun itself, stood before me with drawn bows and sheathed swords. The high cleric, in glorious red and gold robes, chanted a hymn.
“Kneel, squire,” commanded my trainer. I fell to my knees. Four oracles created a diamond around us, holy fire rising from their hands and making the whole temple like a holocaust to the holy orb that shone down.
“You understand the oaths. Repeat the vows of the order you wish to join, and we shall determine if you are worthy of our ranks.”
“I, Thaumazos, offer all my strength, all my body, and all my soul to the Lord of Sunlight. By my bow, my blade, and my heart, I will combat the ways of the darkness, and bring light to lands of shadow. My hand shall reach out as a ray of the sun, offering healing to the righteous and burning away the wicked. My arrows shall rain down disaster upon the foes of my Lord of Light and Song. I shall ensure that my body lay mangled and torn before I betray the Charioteer of the Heavens, and if I be found unworthy of his glory, may the Plaguebearer strike my heart with all his maladies.”
The dance of the flames intertwined with the metal of the sword before me. The paladins looked to each other, and back to the High Priest. The cleric split the gut of the goat and inspected the organs, lifting out carefully the liver and the kidneys. After a long silence, he nodded.
“You are found worthy, Thaumazos. Take your blade, and cast your bow.”
I stood, reaching my oiled body to the fire. A brief flash encompassed by wrist, but I refused to flinch from the flames. I hoisted the sword out, the log it was buried in coming with it. As I was instructed, I lifted the sword, and brought it down with great force on the roof of the temple.
It split in twain, and a still glowing bow of horn and wood emerged from within. I took the bow, my precious mark of office, and held it in my hand. The grip burned my palm, and I embraced the brand of my station. Acolytes walked up with scrapers, and cleaned the oil from my body. Next, my robes and armor was brought to me, and I sheathed my sword. I had passed.
I was now a paladin.