Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
I heard the screams and sounds of horrible infighting when I ran up the stairs. By the grunts and groans things were not going well, so I quickened my pace, which wasn’t easy after a full day of combat. Finally I reached the top floor and the seat of power of the Lord of al-Abyad. The situation was mayhem when I arrived. Harlon was down and not moving outside the throne room. As I entered Corwin went down under the onslaught of the Chosen Champion of al-Abyad and his three surviving guards. In the corner lay the dead Lord of al-Abyad, apparently killed by an axe. Ecco was nowhere to be seen, and only one man from the Army of Light was standing: Sir Caldor Tremelor the Blessed. I moved quickly using the opening trick I learned on the Uzmelech plains by the son of the chief and dispatched the first guard. Caldor kept trying to hit the Chosen Champion while at the same time blocking and parrying his and the guards attacks. Caldor were really letting it all out, but the many cuts and bruises on him and a battered shield showed he was in trouble. As I moved across the room, I blocked a slash from a guard’s halberd, and with a downward swing I cut of his left leg. Without looking back I moved on. I could see Corwin was still breathing, but there was no way he could get up after the pounding he had taken.
The last guard proved troublesome, but my superior skill ended him in mere seconds. And then it was just the Chosen Champion, a battered Sir Caldor, and me. I moved up to him, but he was ready for me, and cut me across the torso; so much for a quick ending. Being experienced veterans of several campaigns, we locked shields and waited our time. Oh, how it reminded me of the glorious Callus days. But the Chosen Champion of al-Abyad was far more disciplined and a better fighter than the barbarian hordes we destroyed back then. Several times he feigned attacks getting past mine or Caldor’s guard only to be blocked by the other ones shield. You could see his frustration in his eyes. We both kept trying to get past his defenses, but he was easily our match in skill and ability, and we only got small nicks and cuts in. Time was running out. Thenos’ blessing on Caldor was wearing off.
Suddenly he disarmed Caldor. We both drew a deep breath preparing for the worst. There was no way either of us could stand long alone against him. That Corwin was out of the fight was testament to that. Defending ferociously Caldor manage to draw his mace, but it was clearly not his weapon of choice. The Chosen Champion saw his moment and attacked with everything he had. But he was denied again and again. Everything he threw at us ended on our shield wall. And in the end our resilience paid off. Caldor landed yet another strike on him and that time he has no defense. He was dead before hitting the ground.
There was no time for rejoicing, and as it turned out no reason for rejoicing. While Corwin survived with a new set of scars, Harlon did not have that kind of luck. With one blow the taking of al-Abyad had cost the 4th Crusade a very high price. A price that by my account was way too high. Trust me I know the price you pay when you’re at war, but for the Army of Light to lose its premier magical power and one the greatest personalities wasn’t a worth a small city on the northeastern shores of the Caliphate by a long shot. Of course our leaders claimed it was a great victory. They had to. But us veterans could see it in the eyes of the common soldier. Fear. Mortality. The invincible army had taken a severe blow. And I … I had lost a friend.
(Excerpt from the ‘Tales of the Lion’ by Epicurus the Disbeliever).