A Twelve Cities Christmas: The Paladin’s Son

How do a Paladin and an Android approach the holidays? Read on to find out. Featuring Characters from T.J. Lockwood’s Violent Skies.

THERE ARE PEOPLE AROUND WHO INSIST THE END OF THE WORLD BEGAN LATE LAST JUNE. To the average person nothing happened late last June, but to the unique and the forgotten it was a purge—a symbol that the old guard was exactly that. Paladins and knights belong in fairytales. The medieval has no place in the present, and yet here we are. I am not the man I was, that much is obvious. I’ve seen a lot of hate and fought in the name of some of it. Once a knight, always a knight. Out of place and out of time.

Father?” Maxim sits on a red shag carpet and stares only at the box in front him. He pokes the blue ribbon then looks to me as if I am going to make some grand reveal.

My breathing is getting heavier. I adjust the tubes in my arm. This is what happens when your body starts falling apart. “It’s a gift.”

Maxim pokes the wrapping paper. “But it’s not my birthday.”

I nod. “No, but it is the first day of Hanukkah.”

He continues to study the box, inspecting every inch of the white wrapping paper as if it were a map leading to some buried treasure. “I don’t understand.”

I sigh. “This is something I used to do with my family when I was a boy.”

But why a chocolate bar? I can’t eat it.” He looks at me and I realize that he didn’t even open the gift he scanned the packaging.

I see his grey eyes waiting for the answer. I’m not a fool, I know he can’t food, but this is just what we did. For a moment we sit in silence. My mind fills with memories of my daughter. I miss her. She would open her gift and rip right into the chocolate bar without so much as a second thought. Such things are rare in these parts. This isn’t like St. Joseph’s.

Father?” He’s just a machine.

It’s for you to give to someone, but only someone who means a lot to you.”

Maxim gently picks up the box. “Then that would be you.”

I smile. “No, not me. I gave that to you. It has to be someone else.”

He pauses for a few seconds and then gets up with gift still in hands. “I think I understand.”

He runs out of the room and for a moment I am alone. I push myself to stand and make my way over to a set of individual candles. A box of matches sits on the window sill. I take it in my hands and waste no time sliding a match across the striker. The light of the flame stings my eyes.

The Minister said thank you.” Maxim appears at the doorway.

The flame touches my fingers, but I feel nothing as it goes out. “That’s good. To you I hope. The gift wasn’t from me.”

He walks over and wraps his tiny arms around my waist. “He said it was thoughtful.”

I’m glad.”

The darkness is where I belong. That is a truth I accepted a long time ago, but here in these moments I wish I could see more without the pain of the light. All actions have consequences and these are mine. Still, if this is my penance then it isn’t nearly as bad for me as for some. Loss eventually leads you to something waiting to be found—a treasure at the end of a long hunt.