Liam Donal stepped into the magnificently appointed throne room of the High Church of Borean to the sound of a crashing fanfare. He walked forward confidently, presenting himself before the throne, bowing deeply. The throne was in the shape of a large griffin, its front feet forming the chair, while its head and wings flared above the head of the High Priest. It was carved from a single block of blue marble in stunning detail. Liam dropped to one knee before it.
“Your Holiness, High Priest Darkwater, in accord with an official decree from His Imperial Majesty Kilthane Rychart, I hereby present myself to your care, to serve out the rest of my life in exile.”
Nicodemus looked down on Liam’s bent form and bid him rise, a small, sad smile upon his lips. “You have done the Empire great honor with your life of service. You continue to do it great service by your demeanor throughout this ordeal.”
Liam bowed his head in acknowledgment of the High Priest’s words. “Thank you, Your Holiness. I have dedicated my life to the Empire. I will not tarnish that record by failing to perform the last service it has asked of me.”
Nicodemus nodded and rose slowly to his feet, tottering down the stairs toward Liam. “Do not speak so soon, Commander Donal. The Emperor may have given you your last task, but that does not mean the Empire is quite through with you.”
Liam looked down at the High Priest, confusion and a touch of hope dancing in his eyes. “Your Holiness?”
“As I understand the Emperor’s order, you are tasked to my service, to reflect on your career in the Empire. I believe that that reflection can best be achieved by continuing your service to the Church.”
Liam’s heart leapt into his throat, as the High Priest continued.
“Of living men, you have the most practical experience in the use of griffin cavalry in the Empire. Your experience would be invaluable in our training program for young griffins. Additionally, the Church’s cavalry would benefit greatly from your tutelage.
“Thus, I decree that you shall reflect on your life of service to the Empire by continuing the service in the Empire’s Church.”
Liam swallowed heavily and raised his chin slightly. “Your Holiness, I appreciate the offer and the honor you do me. But I took an oath and I cannot undercut the spirit of the Emperor’s order, even if what you ask of me does not violate its letter.”
Nicodemus nodded. “Commander, your oath was to the Empire, not to the Emperor. You swore to protect the Empire from all threats, no matter their source. In the name of the Griffin God, to whom that oath was sworn, I declare that your dismissal constitutes a threat to the Empire. Thus, your oath demands that you continue your service. In respect to your personal sense of duty, I have made you this offer. “
Nicodemus stepped back and pointed a bony old finger directly at Liam’s chest.
“The Griffin God has asked you to serve His purpose. Will you honor your oath to Him?”
Liam hesitated momentarily, emotions warring across his face. Finally, his jaw set as he came to a decision.
The hall, which had been filling up behind him during the course of the exchange, erupted into cheers.