My mother was a strong believer in the church.
Even when our father abandoned us, and the debt collectors came knocking at our door…
She still prayed.
Elder brother said that she was an idiot, but his harsh words never seemed to bother the woman who raised us on her own.
Every night she would read from an old, tattered book and tell us stories of the brave paladins and priests who fought the fearsome foreign races.
I must admit at that time… I wanted to be a brave hero as well.
Lord Varion in his infinite kindness and mercy had blessed humanity with the power to protect ourselves from threats.
Life is the slums was hard but bearable.
Elder brother got a job as an errand boy for a local butcher shop and mom decided to sell fresh fruits in the marketplace. 𝒾𝙣𝚗𝐫𝑒аd. ᴄom
Slowly but surely the enormous debt that was weighing down on our shoulders got lighter by the day.
My heart was filled with thankfulness towards Lord Varion for his blessings.
Then one day my mother died.
We never saw the body. According to the old lady down the street, a powerful gangster wanted to spend a night with her, and she refused.
And then she died.
Elder brother refused to tell me the details, but I know what those vicious brutes do to those who stand up to them.
My mother was not a wicked woman.
She was a hard worker who did no evil and sincerely worshipped the Lord of Light regularly.
She would visit the Varion Church every Sunday to drop off any extra coins that she had as an offering to the local priest.
She was the ray of light in my life and without her my world fell into darkness.
My faith in Lord Varion was shaken but I firmly believed that perhaps this was all part of his plan.
I was grasping at straws but to me… this faith was all that I had left.
I was only fourteen years old at the time, so my brother decided to send me off to the church to become a junior nun.
I begged him to come with me, but he refused despite my pleads.
I could see the hatred in his eyes that he tried so desperately to conceal from me.
He wanted revenge on the man who killed his mother. I don't know if he succeeded because I don't think he will ever return to visit me again.
On my first day I met a beautiful blonde nun with green eyes that seemed to sparkle with love and affection.
Her name was Sister Ayla.
The local priest was a jovial man with a heavy potbelly and wrinkles across his elderly face. He patted me on the back and told me to call him Father Simon as he led me inside the church.
The inside of the Varion Church was even more splendid than the outside.
The floors were paved with gold and luxurious statues were scattered around the congregation hall.
Paintings depicting scenes from the stories that my mother used to tell me were hung on the walls.
I was in awe as I stood in the midst of all this wealth and opulence.
Maybe if I had been paying more attention, I would have noticed several details that weren't quite right.
The children who lived in the church were unusually quiet.
They spoke in hushed whispered and wore long robes that covered most of their bodies.
Some limped slightly as they walked while others were missing limbs such as an arm or even a leg.
The oldest among them was seventeen and she wandered through the halls with a dazed expression on her face.
On my first night I was assigned to a dorm room with five other children who quietly looked at me with strange emotions in their eyes.
One of the boys walked up to me and tried to say something but another stopped him from speaking.
Sister Ayla called us down for dinner and in the banquet, hall was the most luxurious feast that I had ever seen.
The scent of roasted meat filled the air as the table was set with dozens if not hundreds of different cuisines to sample.
Strangely enough none of the children seemed eager to sit at the table and were waiting along the side of the walls.
I thought that this was a bit odd, but I got in line and waited patiently with the rest of them.
Eventually Father Simon and Sister Ayla walked into the banquet hall accompanied by a few heavily armoured knights.
There was a man standing in the middle of the knights who looked a bit out of place.
He appeared to be in his early thirties and wore an expensive black suit. A heavy gold chain was hung around his neck.
His facial features were sharp almost like a hawk and his nose was slightly curved to the left. His physique was thin and wiry but one could see the outline of muscles beneath his clothes.
I didn't like the look in his eyes.
He stared at us with a gaze as if he was inspecting animals in a pen.
Worse yet, there was sickly feeling in my chest as his eyes flickered over to my position.
The emotion in his gaze changed and I recognised that look.
It was the same look that some men would give my mother as she walked down the street.
Chills ran down my spine as the man licked his lips and continued to stare at me with a hungry expression.
"Stop fidgeting!" Father Simon yelled at me as I tried to shrink away behind the shadow of a nearby pillar.
The kind and jovial appearance on his face melted away and his true appearance was revealed.
The children next to me trembled and one by one they slowly removed their robes under the pressure.
I could not stop the shocked gasp from escaping my mouth when I saw the state of their bodies.
Dark purplish bruises and whip marks covered their skin.
Some whimpered as their wounds had not fully healed and blood dripped from the scabs that cracked.
Fear filled my heart as I soon came to the realisation that my fate would be no better than theirs.
I desperately scrambled to my feet and tried to run out of the hall, but I could not escape the well-trained knights who came after me.
One punched me in the stomach so hard that I kneeled down on the floor and vomited.
Father Simon wanted to make an example out of me to the other children, so the knight kept beating me mercilessly.
I screamed until my voice went hoarse, but the punches did not stop.
Blood dripped down from my forehead, and I saw Father Simon chatting with the wealthy man as if nothing unusual was happening.
This was the moment when my faith finally crumbled.
My mother trusted the Lord of Light and she died.
My brother trusted his believers to look after me and they were no better than the monsters who took my mother away.
I hate them… I hate them… I HATE THEM.
A harsh knocking sound came from the front of the church, so Father Simon sent Sister Ayla to look into it.
I was fading in and out of consciousness as my vision slowly turned dark.
I could feel rough hands reach for my shirt as one of the knights attempted to strip away my clothes.
"No… no… please…" I hoarsely whispered but those terrible hands continued to violently tear at the fabric covering my body.
I summoned the last strength that I had left and viciously kicked at the knight.
My foot slammed against his dull armour, and I could feel my bones crack.
The knight was furious when he saw my act of rebellion and reached for his sword. The cold glint of his steel gleamed under the torchlight.
I closed my eyes and waited for death.
Suddenly I heard the sound of something crashing down next to me and frightened cries echoed through the hall.
I slowly opened my eyes and saw a sight that I would never forget.
The knight who had been mercilessly beating me just a few moments ago was now dead with a frozen expression of terror on his face.
There was a massive hole in the middle of his chest.
A beautiful short haired female knight strode into the hall with a sword that was enveloped with a soft yellow glow.
Her face was cold, but I could see the disgust and rage in her eyes as she stared at the what the church had become.
Two translucent wings sprouted out from behind her back and her eyes started to shine with a golden light.
The knights rushed over to stop her, but they were no match for her unfathomable power.
She casually swung her sword and a beam of holy light burst out from the tip of her blade.
This wave of light bisected the incoming knights in half and their corpses fell to the ground with a dull thump.
Blood splattered across the floor and in that moment the paladin bore more resemblance to a murderous butcher than a servant of God.
But in my eyes…
She was an angel.
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