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First Love in Britannia
It is that first moment when you feel your heart drop to your feet, that first goal for which you will sacrifice everything to attain, the first instant of pure freedom. First love makes us brave and daring, and often makes us critically foolish. And sometimes, it leads us to decisions that change our lives forever.

Our tale today focuses on Byzantine and of Nighthawk, his first and only love, and of a war that tore them apart.

“You want to hear about my first love, eh? Well then pull up a chair because the story is long.
“My first love was Honor. Not the virtue honor. No, the honor I speak of is the honor that exists between a father and his son. My father was Constantine, a paladin of Trinsic in days long past. I remember looking up into his eyes before he went off to battle. There is a sense of honor that exists between a father and his son. That was my first love. I never saw my father again.

“Oh, but the story does not end there, my friend, for I have only begun. You see Honor, like love, is a fickle thing. Beyond the death of my father, it stayed with me as I strove to be what my father had been-strong- brave-a paladin.

“In my youth I took to the ways of a woodsman. Harvesting what lumber I could find in the jungle-like forests west of Trinsic. I did not have the money to pursue the prestigious path of my long dead father. Yet my honest work was satisfying. I was growing stronger, braver . . .

“If I had known then what I know now I might not have stopped to investigate the strange noises I heard in the trees. But such is the way of fate that the unwary fall quickly to it’s whim. My curiosity bade me to investigate the strange noises, and so I did. In a nearby clearing I saw a most unusual sight. A young lady with chestnut hair, emerald eyes and a delicate, pale beauty, struggled, wounded, cold and stranded alone in the forest. I gave her my cloak to cover her bare body and keep her warm. I tried to speak with her, but it quickly became apparent that she did not speak a word of Britannian.

“It is strange how love and honor can be so tightly woven. Or at least that was the case when I decided to bring the girl back to Trinsic. To care for her. To be cared for.

“With the assistance of my mother, I taught the girl to speak Britannian. I soon discovered that she had been stranded in the woods as a very small child. By some miracle she had survived these many years. She claimed she had been raised by wolves. Her sole possessions were a wooden-handled knife bearing the dark emblem of a hawk, her father’s, and a necklace bearing the elvish name of her mother. I could not read the elven script so I named her Nighthawk, after the emblem on the knife. Nighthawk Wolfborn-my one true love.

“We were sworn to marriage, Nighthawk and I. We were but youths, but our words were as sincere then as the words I speak to you now. Everywhere Nighthawk went, I followed. Everywhere I went, Nighthawk went as well…until that one fateful night when our paths would part.

“We approached the Keg and Anchor tavern and noticed that a crowd was gathering outside. The king’s order guards stood on one side of the street, common men on the other. A rebellion was starting. A paladin by the name of Calandryll was leading a band of common folk in a rebellion against the king. He was reading his demands, his Declaration of Independence for the city of Trinsic. The crowd was driven to frenzy, curses equally mixed with cheers.

“Lord British’s loyalists were seeking recruits. They were swearing common men into the King’s army right off the streets. It was an opportunity I could not let pass. I urged Nighthawk to come with me, but she shied away. A soldier’s life was not her calling. My king was not her own. I bid her farewell. I vowed to return once the rebellion was put to an end and marry her.

“But fate had decided otherwise. Months passed, and then years. The rebellion remained strong, and I lost contact with my beloved Nighthawk. All I could think of was the life that I had come to live. To be like my father before me-strong-brave-a Paladin.

“At last, the time came when the forces of the rebellion and those of the loyalists would meet for a final encounter. The entire rebel force, a hoard of common men and former soldiers alike, gathered on the west side of the bridge to Paladin’s Isle. On the east side gathered the full array of the loyalist army, a larger, more disciplined force. Our victory was all but certain.

“Our leader, the general AngusThorn walked forward to speak with Calandryll, the rebel leader. Yet before the two figures could meet, there came out of the early morning mists a third force of men. Mysterious dark figures, they were, bearing the emblems of their patron, the Lord Blackthorn. These “Thorns of Chaos”, massive soldiers and mages in darkened armor and cloaks, had come in force to bring a halt to the violent battle, to ensure that peace was established between the king and the citizens of Trinsic. Their leader, Sith, came forth, and so the three leaders began to speak.

“I do not know what words were spoken between these leaders. I do not know if peace might truly have been agreed upon. But once again, fate was determined to have its way. The arrow might have been fired by a rebel, or perhaps by a follower of Blackthorn. Some whisper that a loyalist traitor let loose the bolt that pierced the chest of general AngusThorn.

“The assemblage erupted into violence. On the west, the rebel mob, on the east the loyalist army, and in the center, the dark followers of Blackthorn. A massacre unlike anything the city of Trinsic had seen since it had burned in elder years ensued. To this very day the bridge is known as the “Bloody Bridge” for the aftermath of this battle.

“And this is where I found myself on this fateful day. Staring down the violent mob. Running headlong into the violent fray. Eager to prove my bravery, my strength, my honor.

“The dark figure stood before me, weapon ready. It was a follower of Blackthorn, a Thorn of Chaos. I drew my own sword and shield and hurled myself into the enemy. A shriek was heard against the clash of metal and wood. When I withdrew I saw that my sword was covered in blood. Behind the dark visor of my enemy I heard a familiar voice.

“’Why?’ the voice asked, ‘Why?’

“The soldier, slumped over, struggled to remove his helm. A cascade of chestnut brown hair erupted forth in disarray. When she looked up at me and I saw her fading emerald eyes, I realized the enormity of my mistake.

“Nighthawk, in all her pale beauty, lay dying in my arms. I grasped her body fiercely against my own and cried out to the maddening world circling about me. I cursed the fates and I cursed my honor, but most of all I cursed myself for slaying my one true love.

“It is strange how love and honor can be so tightly woven-how both can die in a single untimely blow. But perhaps something still remains. Nighthawk Wolfborn, Nighhawk Manslain, my first love and my last, if there is yet some spirit of you, some wispy shade that lies beyond the veil which separates the living and dead, I must be stronger, I must be braver, I must reclaim my honor and we shall be reunited once again.

- Byzantine

Our spotlight on love winds to a close next week with a tale of one of Britannia’s bachelors. Please be sure to keep an eye on FYI for future spotlight topics. And if you have your own Ultima Online story to tell, please feel free to send it to [email protected] for submissions. We take great joy in spotlighting the stories that you create each day in the realms of Britannia.

Published: October 2000
Please Note: Some dates are estimates as exact dates were unavailable.
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