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In the dream Magnus was surrounded by figures bathed in ethereal light, a radiant shimmering blue-white. They were armored head to foot and clasped their longswords with both hands, points heavenward.

"Ye have sinned, Magnus," a voice boomed. "Thy doom is imminent. Seek ye repentance and renunciation of thy ways lest it be sealed. This is thy last chance. What ye do, do quickly!"

Magnus knelt in the center of the ring dressed in black armor though his head was bare. Warm tears streamed down his face. He looked at his hands - they were pale, shaking, black nailed, withered. He was not human! "What would you have me do?" he cried.

And then he awoke in his bed. It was dawn. Virani was not there but he knew where to find her. Instead, he found the Elder reposing on his bone-cast throne in the heart of his citadel. He did not want to talk to him but he knew in his heart he must.

"What is it ye wish from me, Magnus? Come thee with gratitude for saving thy life from the big, bad, wolf?" the Elder taunted.

Prudently, Magnus bowed and knelt before him. "Y... Yes. I should do that. I am grateful for the intervention, certainly." He nodded once showing respect. "But there is more. I have changed. I used to hate this place and now I am drawn to it. Virani... Mahal... has shown me what love is, but it seems my soul has darkened in the process. I have forgotten who I am, or was, and have drifted into a confusing life of bloodletting without conscience. This is not me! I dream... these... warriors surround me, warning me to repent of my deeds. I want to... but I cannot. I thought Virani would help me understand, but..."

"Ye found me first," the Elder finished. "Allow me to explain. Please be seated," he pointed to a solitary stone chair some distance away that faced his throne.

Magnus rose and complied.

"Life, as ye knew it, is over, paladin. Virani is my queen. She has seduced thee by vampirism, but thy own unbridled lust was at fault as well. Ye knew something was wrong but ye did nothing to stop it as thy desires overwhelmed thy senses. Ye did it all for love? Nay! Ye did it for lust and the twain are not necessarily equals. Why did ye not receive the aid and advice of thy uncle? Why did ye not research the nature of thy illness, paladin? Why? Because ye desired her above thy code, above thy own life. She became thy god and ye worshipped her just as any pagan would worship at his god’s shrine. Ye did as she bade thee, willingly. Now thine own "gods" or "virtues" as ye call them, have rejected thee. Ye are now a Black Guard, a dark paladin, serving the very darkness ye had vowed to destroy! Yea, ye shall become a Death Knight soon and nothing now can prevent it! I, for one, am glad to see it. It proves yet again to me that all the puerile babble about good, light, and virtues is a sham, a pretense, a cloak for thy kind's revolting contradictions and hypocrisy!"

Magnus was stunned into speechlessness, his mouth agape as he considered the bluntness of the Elder's words.

"They told me to repent! There is yet hope!" he blurted when he had overcome the shock.

The Elder shook his head. "To hope is to reject and kill Virani. That is the only means of thy redemption. Would ye do that?"

Magnus' head drooped. He shook his head slowly.

"Nor could ye! I would see to that. She will never die by thy hand."

The knight put his gauntlets over his face. "What can I do?"


Magnus nodded, weeping.

"Ye may die," the Elder cackled. "Think ye it was mercy that bade me spare thee from my son's slavering fangs? Think I care for thy life one whit?" He cackled. "Fool! I leave that to Virani! She alone will now care for thee, but for how long?" he snarled.

Extending a finger and uttering a word sent a Pain Spike into him that jolted him from the seat. Before he could react, a Poison Field enveloped him and he began to wretch violently. A third spell sent a Revenant against him, a relentless killer from whom he could not escape. He moved toward the Elder drawing his war axe and clutching at his throat with his free hand. "I... I'll kill... you!" he muttered, gasping and choking.

“Like you did my son?” The Elder merely grinned as he remained seated on his throne. The coup de grace came swiftly as a Wither spell ended his mortal life in a flash of death's chilling embrace.
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He opened his eyes and he was blinded momentarily, bathed in the light of a hundred moons. It stifled him, choked him, and he gasped. Magnus was kneeling; he was naked but his own body was shimmering with a light that was less glaring, less white.

"Magnus! Ye are before this Tribunal as a condemned soul, guilty of apostasy in heart to thy code, having forsaken it through intemperance, fraud, deceit, murder and the villainy of vampirism. What say ye in thy defense?" the familiar voice boomed.

He hesitated. All of that was true, he knew. Lying now would avail nothing. A large part of him felt remorse for his sins; he had been used, seduced, betrayed by Virani, and he mistook it for love - though perhaps it was. Another part of him felt anger, not at himself, but at the safeguards that had failed him; the lack of true concern from friends, like his uncle, that might have spared him this fate had they been more of what they claimed to be. How was love not counted among the virtues? Was it not a combination of them all? And yet no one who saw his plight, save one woman, Deminatza, seemed to love him enough to render true aid. Was it true what the Elder said, that the virtues were just a cover for their own selfishness and hypocrisies, at least for the majority. "I have no defense. No excuse. Yet neither do those who claimed to love me as one of their own, who sought me out, who dared intervene to save me. Condemn me and you must condemn them as well to some degree," he calmly replied.

"They are not on trial here. Their time will come as surely as has thine. There is no favoritism; none escape this, the ultimate due of all who vowed to assume the mantle of the code. Seeing ye have no defense then it is our duty to render sentence to thee. Stand up and face it."

Magnus complied, rising to his feet, keeping his head lowered.

"Thy material body remains preserved by dark magicks on Sosaria. The one called The Elder is awaiting thy return to it. He knows of our ways. He knows that ye would become an unnatural being cursed for the ultimate penalty reserved for apostate paladins: the Death Knight. He intends to bend thee to his will, to enslave thee for his dark designs. He believes himself to be a god. We shall show him his foolishness. Ye shall indeed become a Death Knight and will serve him for a time, but we leave the way open for thy redemption one day."

Magnus looked up. "Redemption? How may I accomplish it?"

"That ye alone must discover. The path will be clouded and ye must struggle long to find it. If ye surrender the struggle, ye shall continue to remain cursed, but if ye persist, if steadfastness is thy byword, then it shall be one day we will lift the curse forever."

"You are giving me a second chance then?"

"We are, but it will be up to thee alone. Ye hold the key to thy redemption or thy cursedness. Return ye now to thy body, Death Knight, and serve the master of darkness. We shall judge him in time and his penalty shall be far, far, worse. See that ye do not share in it Magnus, for ye are loved."

The images wavered and darkness swallowed him.

(Disclaimer: For the record, I am not inventing UO lore concerning "gods" or "deities." This is Magnus' own experience alone. it establishes nothing).
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Royal Decree

Virani entered the throne room just as the Elder’s spell struck Magnus. Her eyes watched his body fall as if it were happening in slow motion. As he was falling, his head turned in her direction. It must have been the lighting, for it seemed that once he had laid his eyes on her, he smiled. The very same smile that he always shared whenever they looked upon one another. Then the life in his eyes vanished.

“You broke him,” she didn’t realize she spoke these words aloud until she heard the Elder’s cackling hiss. As if his laugh broke her from her stupor, she looked at the Elder, her voice cool. "He was mine to break not yours. Bring him back,” with each word, she took slow deliberate steps towards him and stop at Magnus’ body. She peered into the Elder’s gaunt face and met his eyes with a level gaze.

“Fix him. Your Queen has spoken.”
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