Paladin – The Novice

The PALADIN is a series of contemporary speculative fantasy stories set in the present day which provides an insight into the world of an incredibly powerful secret society, the Community of Sacred Light, through the eyes of a girl, Veronica, who has newly joined the organisation and begun her studies there.

The organisation, which forms the core of the story, is a secret society, the Community of Sacred Light, with wisdom and ancient knowledge at its disposal accumulated over thousands of years. It regards itself as the heir to both knightly traditions and secret studies like alchemy, witchcraft and necromancy.

The first volume of the series is THE NOVICE, which begins with two of the organisation’s internal security agents on a mission in a remote corner of Montana as they try to apprehend an analyst who has fled after expropriating information of key importance from the society’s database. During the operation the spy and one of the agents sent after him are mortally wounded, and because the mission is only partially fulfilled the surviving agent, Eris, is suspended pending an internal investigation. Eris’ own doubts and the sorrow he feels for the loss of his partner take him back to Montana to assess how he might have gone wrong. Then, when walking in the wilderness, his path crosses with the chief protagonist of the story, a girl called Veronica, whose own pain and suffering had led her to the forest where she seeks to take her own life – an attempt that is only thwarted by Eris.

Veronica and Eris find themselves alone in the cold and dark forest, where – with no real alternative left to her – Veronica finally opens up to Eris’ questions and tells him of the pain, disappointments and total lack of hope that had led her to believe that her only sanctuary from her suffering was death. Eris for his part feels compassion mixed with concern at learning of her desperate situation, yet realising the possibilities and potential within Veronica suggests that she join the secret society while offering to become her mentor in the development of her latent talents. After some hesitation Veronica finally accepts the offer.

The two of them travel to Europe to the seat of the secret society where the organization had created a centre on the scale of a town carefully guarded from the eyes of outsiders. It is from here that it directs its activities.

Veronica soon makes friends with the other novices, and although she initially struggles with the demands placed upon her, Eris’ original assessment proves to be correct as her latent abilities and her ever brightening mood and enthusiasm after making new friends stimulate her development. Thus, she not only reaches the standard of the other novices but very soon comes out on top and acquires significant knowledge and skills deemed essential for a paladin. An important role is played in the latter by one of the shield-bearers who offers to become Veronica’s trainer. Their relationship soon deepens into something more and since the young man is her first real boyfriend, Veronica feels as if she has found the love of her life. With the passing of the months her accomplishments are noticed and she earns the admiration of her masters, while nurturing perfect relationships with both her lover and her friends. All seems to be going well in her life.

Veronica’s happiness is not complete, however, since she cannot help but see the discrepancy between the theoretical knowledge taught by the masters – which stresses the importance of a balance within the soul and that of enlightenment – and the decadence of the organisation and the arrogant superiority of the leaders of the Community. This all becomes ever more obvious to Veronica, who reserves special contempt for the grandmaster Zoradkiel. The double standards and the stark contrast between the teachings of the masters and how they behave become all but impossible for Veronica to ignore, while their privileges and smugness soon become repulsive for her. However, she acts only when her thus far perfect relationships are destroyed with one blow; her beloved boyfriend cheats on her with her best friend, which immediately obliterates the permanence and stability that she had so painstakingly built up.

All of this leaves Veronica bereft of any enthusiasm to remain obedient and continue attending to the theoretical teachings and wisdoms, which she increasingly sees as worthless. Burdened by this overwhelming feeling of disappointment, Veronica cannot help but question the teachings of the Community before Eris, who is shocked by her attitude since all the criticism and doubts that Veronica shares with him are already all too familiar having been voiced in the past by an especially high-ranking lord, who opposed Zoradkiel and was exiled for his efforts. Eris makes a mistake in sharing Lucien’s story with Veronica, who instead of being afraid that she will be excluded from the Community for her opinions reaches the conclusion that she must find this exiled lord, known as Dark Lucien. After some research and searching, and armed with the assistance of one of the Community’s leaders, the high-priestess Atara, Veronica finds out the place of Lucien’s exile in a remote area of Bohemia and seeks him out to enlist his help as a teacher.

Initially, Lucien will not even countenance the idea of accepting Veronica as his student since he has made peace with his exile, and moreover enjoys his solitude. He has no desire to participate in the affairs of the society – although through his spies and friends he knows exactly what is going on in its very highest circles, but he finally relents since, like Eris, he too senses how special Veronica is. Yet the relationship between master and student is cold to say the least, and this fails to let up during the weeks Veronica and the lord spend together. For Veronica this period opens a new chapter of mental anguish and depression.

Their relationship only changes when Lucien’s former student, Nadine, who has become a lord and occupies an important position in the organisation, turns up at the castle. Since Nadine had had a difficult childhood before Lucien accepted her as his student she can empathise with Veronica. With her special abilities she recognises the hidden depths of Veronica’s special talents and joins in mentoring her. She also becomes Veronica’s best friend and her spiritual support, thus fulfilling a burning need in the younger girl. Through the joint efforts of apprentice and masters Veronica finally manages to leave behind her pain, becomes capable of self-recognition and hones her skills, while also forming a close relationship and honest friendship with both her new masters. At the beginning of the story Veronica is a vulnerable girl wracked with anguish and unable to find her place even among her peers, then she finds herself to be an equal among the other apprentices in the Community and in time becomes a high achieving novice, but she is only able to explore her innermost self and gifts in the company of the renegade lords with whose help she quickly becomes far more mature than the other teenagers that swelled the ranks of the Community.

Unfortunately, it does not escape the notice of the organisation’s leaders that the exiled lord, Lucien, is still active, which lends new impetus to the old struggles for power and rivalry among the leaders. The end of the first volume sees an assassination attempt in which unknown figures from the Community find the renegade master’s most vulnerable side and send assassins after Nadine and Veronica just when they are outside the protection of the castle’s walls. However, the two girls manage to overpower their assailants and return to Lucien in his castle. Knowing that the plot was directed against him, Lucien sends Veronica away for her own protection, and he resolves to uncover the plot against them and exact bloody revenge upon the conspirators…

Marcus Monastery

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