As soon as he heard that an army of evil managed to defeat the fortress of Saintsbridge and invade the Vale of Valtaerna, Putin knew that the Forsaken led the way. He didn’t need to hear that from any seer or diviner.
He remembered when he first read of the Forsaken’s suspected involvement in the fall of Everard Tower. That was the first time Putin felt the pang of regret over not getting personally involved in their recapture and return to prison. He could have, but chose to leave that to others. Because of that, the North Wall was breached. The security of the Lake States was compromised.
That dread feeling came again when he heard that the Forsaken were up to something in the Silverwood. He had a choice, continue his campaign against the Fire Axe or delay it and go to the Horn of Abaddon himself. The price for him that time was the return of the demon Prince Vetra Kali and the delay of the campaign anyways as the Sword was called to destroy him and his minions before they could wreak havoc.
When he was told about the invasion of the Vale, he didn’t wait for the results of the Communes to tell him what he already knew. The Forsaken were involved. He didn’t know they possessed the power to seal the plane off. If it was for that power they brought Vetra Kali back or something from their Xotian masters, he had no idea. The seers and diviners will find out soon enough.
Putin pulled the Sword of Avenar from the field of battle, and took command of the forces being rallied to retake the Vale. He would not see this task in the hands of others. The seers have told him that the barrier will fall soon. The Sword of Avenar will be ready when it does. The Flame Undying must continue to burn.
As Putin thinks about the Flame Undying, he thinks about when he branded the half-elf who became known as The Bastion of Thorns. He took no joy in marking the young man. He remembered when Valak was put forward to take his initial oath by none other than Sir Olsted. Olsted had been Putin’s own mentor when he joined the Order. He trusted the old knight’s instincts and often sought his advice even after he took the mantle of the Sword of Avenar.
Putin remembered when he asked Olsted how he knew Valak would make a worthy Brother. Olsted replied with a smile on his face, “I think you two are more alike than different, and I got it right with you didn’t I?” Putin knew his old friend was right. His own past before he joined the order was full of darkness, but he had successfully passed through it. If Olsted believed in Valak as much as his mentor believed in him, then Putin would accept him.
The last time Putin and Olsted were together, the old man resigned from the Order. Even then, Olsted was confident that Valak showed great potential. It was that this great potential was going be be wasted is what hurt Olsted the most. Olsted told Putin that he was so confident in his assessment of Valak’s virtue that he had plans to groom Valak to be his own replacement. If he got that wrong, then he had no business advising or mentoring anyone in the Avenarian Ways.
It wasn’t joy that Putin felt when he branded Valak that day. It was sorrow. The Order was losing two of its brothers. One an old and trusted stalwart friend, the other with a young man with the potential for greatness. If he had only taken a personal hand in Valak’s training, perhaps they both would still be in the Order.
As Putin thought these things he realized that Olsted was somewhat right. Valak had shown he was very capable. With the Forsaken, he had caused much damage. They are a force to be reckoned with, and the time of their reckoning was coming. Their crimes were enough before they escaped Brandermill Prison to seal their fate. Invading the Vale was an affront that warranted a swift and final response. Putin would not rest until the Forsaken were punished for the things they have done and are no doubt doing in the Vale right now.
Putin recited his own Oath of Vengeance, confident that he will soon be able to finally bring Justice to the Forsaken. And when he delivered that justice to Valak, it would bring him no joy, but only the same sorrow he felt in the courtyard of Brandermill Prison. Not for Valak. No, he earned his fate when he broke his oath and continued down his path to damnation. His sorrow would be for his friend and mentor, Olsted.
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