Protector of the weak and innocent. Stalwart shield standing against the tides of darkness. Champion of justice and righteousness. Those words were supposed to mean something to me, but like the silent repeated tenets of my oath escaping my lips in a futile effort to regain a sense of guidance, they rang hollow. Sworn to protect the weak, and punish those who threaten them, yet here I am, watching them being tortured and killed and aiding those who do so. Sworn to never fear to act, yet here I am, doing nothing about it. Sworn to do good and prevent harm, yet helping harm come to pass. Sworn to not lie, yet here I am, whispering the tenet of my broken oath to myself. The only part of my oath that still rang true was the tenet of duty: “Obey those who have just authority over you.” But how is one supposed to believe in their oath, in their order, when following one tenet leads to breaking the others. My psychological suffering was cut short by a painful scream, caused by suffering of a much more physical kind. I didn’t want to see the cause, not anymore, but if I am not strong enough to stand up, I deserve to see the fruits of my inaction. My sight fell upon a young black haired women kneeling a few feet away from me. Her face and body must have been beautiful, but now they were covered in serious burns and cuts. Before her stood her torturer. A being of otherworldly beauty, with long fair hair and skin smoother than that of any maiden I have ever seen before. Being clad in heavy suit of armour made so well it complimented her innate beauty. But the most noticeable thing about the torturer: a pair of pristinely white swan-like wings. This being, my superior, was an angle, a Seraphim was what they were called. The Seraphim was wielding a fiery sword in her hands, and she emanated a very strong aura that affected anyone in her presence. An aura that inspired awe and respect in her allies, and utter terror in her enemies. And she made it obvious she considered the peasant woman before her an enemy. “I want to know what you were doing on the eve of last night, and no more lies, lest you shall be punished by the purging fire again.” The young woman looked up at the angel and said with the most frightened and humble voice one has heard. “We were just celebrating the festivities. Praying for a short winter and a warm spring. We meant no harm, we promise! Please don’t hurt us! we don’t worship any evil entities.” “You were seen practising the invocations to summon an entity most vile a dangerous. An entity known to allure those of weak will with the promise of various gifts, a heretical entity called Claus the Saint.” The mention of that name brought tears to the peasant woman’s eyes. “It’s just an old legend to tell the children. We weren’t trying to summon anything, we swear! It’s just a tradition.” The angel remained unmoved: “A practice of a bygone and heretical age. These old traditions you speak of may seem harmless to you, but straying away from the true path of faith by even a little can lead to corruption and chaos. But be this as it may, I believe that your actions were those of ignorance, not evil. However they still need to be punished.” These words made the woman break into tears and she started crying with fright and desperation. The Seraphim continued.”You shall be set free, but someone as obviously influenced by archaic beliefs as you cannot be allowed to foster a child, lest the cycle of chaos of impurity would continue. Your son shall be taken away from you, and raised to become a member of the paladin order. You should consider it an honour.” It was monstrous to take a young child away from its mother, but it was still one of the better outcomes. Please, accept it and move on with your life, I wanted to say to the mother, she was still young enough to have a dozen children, just don’t do anything stupid. The mother was pleading and begging, but the angel was immovable in her judgement. “This judgement is finished!” said the Seraphim and a new unfortunate soul was on their way to be judged. Few of my paladin comrades went to the poor mother to help her stand, and then fell back in our grave line of silent watchers. The young woman was still visibly shaken and she slowly started walking past the angel to escape from this place. I sensed something afoot, and I hastily went forward to escort the mother outside. As I was approaching, I noticed something odd for a second, a metallic glint hidden in the woman’s sleeve. She quickly looked around and turned towards the Angel, whose back was just turned towards her, and she reached into her sleeves. Realizing what was about to happen, I quickly ran forward and before she could draw the knife and strike, I grabbed the woman by her shoulders, and as comforting as I could be, I quickly tried to lead her towards the exit. As I was leading her, I whispered: “Please, don’t die for nothing dear lady. I know it might not look like it, but there are still reasons to live. What’s your son’s name?” She was confused and surprised by the question, but she still answered: “E..Egbert” I nodded, “And how old is he?” “A few months” “Then I promise you milady, that I will take care of him like he was my own. You have my word.” “But why would you do that sir?” “Because I swore an oath lady. And even though it may not mean much these days, I am still a paladin. Now take this…” And I gave her a handful of gold pieces “…and find a new family. Go somewhere south, where there isn’t so much trouble, and find your new future.” She was still broken and saddened, but a glimmer of hope started forming in her eyes. “I…I cannot say what this means to me sir, Thank you…thank you from the bottom of my heart.” “Just go milady, and good luck.” I said, and I turned back and started returning towards my post. I fell back in line, and I soon realized that I have been muttering the words of my oath again. But this time, the words were not as hollow to be as they had been before. Perhaps an oath isn’t broken by actions alone, but by giving up on its ideals. What I did today was just a small thing, but even a small thing might mean a better tommorow.