YC 124 New Eden Writing Contest "Bells"

Bells
Chapter 1.
Innocence and Faith
The little girl played by the rock wall. It was an old wall crusted with peat moss. It was built by her Grandfather before she was born and it came up barely over her head. Her brother played with a stick fighting off imaginary monsters. She looked up to the heavens and made a silent prayer of thankfulness that god had granted them such a beautiful day.
She was so thankful for her mother and father. Her little brother that always dreamed of being a great Paladin like the story books mama would read. So stoic and the picture of angelic divinity made manifest. They were the ones that kept the monsters at bay and the bad men.
She reflected upon her happiness. Then her mood became quiet. Bad men had taken her planet almost two years ago. They outlawed the ringing of bells in the churches. Anyone caught ringing the bells would be executed. Faith was all but outlawed in the “new” Providence. The name of her village was Peacemaiden. Her world was nestled deep inside the pocket of systems known as QBL. It didn’t mean anything to her but her mama always wanted her to be educated.
She saw the old monk walking down the path near the wall. She hurried to see what he was up to. Her lands were up in the mountains. It bordered the town. The monk would often go up on top of the mountain for fasting and prayer. He had been spending more and more time up there. She hoped he had sweets or a story. She specifically liked to hear stories of Angels and great heroes of old.
Her father didn’t like hearing such things. He said it was rubbish…he said the Paladins were rubbish. However, Mama still prayed for the Paladins. She prayed for the return of the good men. Mama would say prayers with her every night before bed. She said that if she prayed enough surely the angels would return.
The Monk saw her coming and smiled…he looked lean and his face pale. She fell into step with him as they walked along the road. How was your trip father Thomas? The old man looked at her and smiled. Ohh…I had to work out many things in my faith and my conviction. Sometimes when you need great knowledge one does not need to ask people for advice. Go to a quiet place and pray. If you pray long enough and hard enough god gives you the wisdom to carry on. The child nodded sagely. When I usually have problems I ask my mommy and daddy. The old monk laughed a bit at the purity of her words.
Yes, mommies and daddies do know best for children. That is the exception of the rule…However, god always loves to hear your voice in prayer as well. The path finally came to a fork in the road. One lead to her home and the other to town and the little chapel. I must return to the chapel and clean up. I must attend my duties. You must attend your duties to your brother. He motioned back behind them. That guy might be slaying those monsters and keep on going until he is several hills over. The girl blushed at her lack of diligence. Yes, Father Thomas.
The wizened monk smiled and laid a hand on her forehead. Now go with the blessings of god and may you always serve him and your family diligently. The youth curtseyed politely in the old ways. The monk smiled and continued on.
Elisabeth went after her brother and brought him home. Her mama was going to be cooking lunch soon and her father would be returning from the farms for his midday break. Both kids went and ensured their chores were done before her elder returned and washed for their supper.

Chapter 2
Duty and Faith of Courage
The old monk continued down the path. He had fasted for nearly 20 days. He was starved and hungry. His dreams came to him fevered and his faith struggled with his inner demons. He fought his own demons…weakness…fear…he believed himself a coward. In ages past he chose a life of the church to get away from military service. He had wanted a peaceful life. In his youth he simply never wished for violence. He took comfort in his faith but also to ensure by serving the church he didn’t have to serve in any conflict. This was his hidden shame. He never stood up to the invaders. Never spoke out against their policies. He felt corrupted by compromise.
In his prayers he struggled with those demons. They used his hunger and thirst against him. They used his fears. The inner demons of a human were worse than any imaginable. While people may commend his sermons and give great council to those in need. The inner demons knew of his weakness. The inner demons exposed it nightly in his dreams and used it to attempt to have him revoke his faith.
Yet, he became victorious. The long privation of his internal conflict and the physical suffering he endured only gave him clarity of faith. He walked proudly into the chapel and to his room. He bore no shame of his sins. For they were washed away just as he started to wash away the grim from his body. He ate sparingly a light meal of hard bread and cheese. He thanked the lord for his meal and for the conviction in which gave him his faith.
He looked at the radio on the side of the wall. In times past the old monk of the town used to give sermons over the radio. Villages from all over the region that lacked a preacher would tune in. Most villages always kept their radios keyed to the channel and on for emergency broadcasts. Nowadays he didn’t use it anymore. He didn’t have the heart to preach. He used to key the mic and ring the bells. That signaled to all that a sermon would begin soon.
Then it all changed. The invaders took over. They outlawed under penalty of death the ringing of bells. It was a heartless law. They did it to weaken the will of the people to resist. To take away the beacon of god and the beginning of services. In this world…bells were important. They were rang in times of marriage and joy. In times of morning to honor the dead. Now the bells were silent across the world. The people were silent. Their prayers were silent. Now few prayed at all.
That is why he felt the pressure these last few days. He had failed his people. He had failed his church. Finally he knew he was failing god. The people of his world were a rural people. A noble people. Living in fear had caused apostasy to run rampant. To discard the old ways of faith and god and oaths to the Empire to some…nameless some would kneel for peace to their overlords…The faithless overlords of Rekking Crew.
After washing he dried himself. He put on his vestments and robes. Usually he reserved these for the most holy of days. He once thought he would save them for when the Paladins returned. However, today his conviction had led him to the drawer that held them. He moved through faith. He knew what needed to be done. Once he finished he anointed himself with holy water and went to the bell tower. He was old…many likened him to be the eldest in the town. His constant walks kept him in very healthy condition. His arms while thin were corded tight with muscle. Living in a rural community did not shy him from hard work. He had a hand in most projects. He had built many things from barns, houses, storefronts, and dirty jobs such as out houses and ditches. It was his duty to help his community. Now he was doing what god wanted…no…needed him to do. He gripped the rope to the bell.
Chapter 3
The Bloody Boots of Tyrants
Captain Garza sat atop the open hatch of the armored personal carrier. A convoy of vehicles were about to set out to the launching pad to deliver the planetary tithe. This region was so rural that they were expending more resources collecting it then actually taking it in. The Pirate Lords of Rekking Crew had determined to pull out of the region after today. It would be mostly abandoned other than token admin buildings on the planet. This was the last town to give resources to his lords. His vehicles full they were getting ready to leave.
That’s when he started to hear something. It was strange. It sounded almost familiar. He reached back across time in his memory at what that was…it was a childhood memory. Then it dawned on him. That was the sound of bells. He remembered the sound when his mother would take him to mass as a child. Since being stationed out here he never heard it. It was the distinct sound of bells. He checked his map and called over his X.O.
Hey come here and check my map. Where is that noise coming from? His junior officer took the map and sighed. Yes…yes…there is a township not on our map. I remember it was too small to tithe because of the small population. So we didn’t go there. It is about a short drive from here up the mountain.
Captain Garza looked at the map following his junior’s finger up the mountain. Hmm…Fine then…take the convoy and go to the rendezvous location. Then start loading everything into the shuttle. I will take an armored transport and a vehicle to the village. I will execute those responsible and then pillage the town. As an example to the rest of this rural cesspool of a planet who should be feared. These peasants forget their place in the world. It is our duty to show them where they stand. His XO smartly saluted and formed up the convoy and went down the old road to the shipping point.
Captain Garza ordered his men to be ready. They had been issued new laser rifles. Imperial made fresh from the factories of Amarr. It was an upgrade from the percussion autoguns they used before. He looked over the remaining soldiers he had. He puffed his chest and spoke to them. Men of the 197th Black Talons! These local peasants are in direct conflict with our ordered law. We brought these people out of the darkness of their “faith.” We gave these uncivilized backward yokels peace and prosperity. No longer in threat of raids. (Raids of course that came from his people before but now they ruled them). This is what they did to show their thanks for their masters…The wages of their actions is death. We will take what they have of value. Kill those responsible for the bell and burn down their pathetic crap stained houses. “For Death and Destruction!” His men echoed the chant. One armored vehicle and a cargo truck started moving up the hill. He chuckled to himself at the fear he would soon bring. He had 40 armed soldiers with him. Those peasants will never stand a chance he thought.
Chapter 4
Revival and Faith the size of a mustard seed
Father Thomas keyed had opened up the mic on the radio. The ring of the bell was deafening. He knew not only did his flock hear this but those many vox radios around the region would be hearing it as well. Each ring of the bell cleansed the weight of his burden even more. He pulled the bell again and again. The rope soon burning his hands with the intensity. He allowed the pain to focus his holy task like a razor. He was consigning himself to death in his actions. Yet, despite being a dead man he did not care. When surety of death hit him such things like fear is meaningless. He would meet his god with a clear conscious and his word upon his lips.
Finally he picked up the mic. He started to speak. He did an invocation, yet as many times as he had done it…he felt there was power behind these words. Like he was saying them for the first time. Words flowed freely as if he was not speaking them. These words were god’s words through him. He preached…he preached of faith. He preached of duty. He railed against sin. He cast out the lies of Molok the deceiver. He preached of Gods unending love. He preached with a fire of spirit and courage of conviction that he had never known. He knew this was not him alone. This was god’s duty through him and the spirit of the lord was upon him.
People across the region drew close to their loud speakers and radios. The bells brought them in like a supper bell to hungry children. The people were hungry for the word of god. It was as if they had not had water for many days and then the voice gave them the drink that would fill the hunger of thirst that they had not known.
People held hands in communities all around. Hardened men and woman wept openly. New oaths of bonds and commitment re-forged between husbands and wives. Neighbors forgave neighbors of ancient wrongs and mended with oaths or brotherly and sisterly love. The people…the people recommitted their souls for the lord. Faithful souls hooked up electronic repeater units and bounced the broadcast far and wide. The small planet in the backwards systems of QBL came alive in the light of the lord.
As the old monk preached he saw outside the window. He saw the enemy approaching them. He consigned his soul to god and told the audience what was happening. He kept the mic keyed and walked outside. He knelt in prayer. He was not afraid for the first time in his life. A crowd had gathered outside the chapel. They stood in silence as the black armored soldiers in their vehicles pulled up in a field outside the town.
Some cowered but with the conviction of the priest stood straighter. They knew what was going to happen. Elisabeth had heard her father rededicate himself to god but even now he swore and shook his head. He looked at her father and was embarrassed. Her mother stood in silence and prayer. So she walked out to the old monk and sat with him. She placed a hand on the arm of the Monk and prayed out load.
God forgive us in our time of peril. Forgive the doubts that many have in their hearts. Send forth your angels and provide protection to the faithful. Do not forsake us oh lord. For we are your faithful children. Send forth your angels to bring justice and salvation of the people of Peacemaiden. In the name of God, Empress, Empire, and holy Margrave. Amen.
Chapter 5
Angels decent and the Angels wrath of Justice

It was an unlikely raid. A random wormhole spilling out into Providence. A small fleet of ships looking to target their hated enemy. They had been exiled for almost 2 years. Much time had passed. Each one of the pilots experienced many trials and suffered greatly in the absence of their home and the suffering of exile. They had not been in some of these systems since the great exodus of their people. Leaving behind citadels to be destroyed and people to be at the mercy of the dark tide that followed. This was a source of shame. In their hearts to their very soul.
Brother Paladin, are you picking up these transmissions in local? Paladin Warden Saltz looked at his data screen. What in the…is this live? The other Paladin answered back quickly. Yes, brother it is live and active right now. I can get us a warp location. It sounds to me like the people are rebelling…or profession faith of god.
There was silence as the 5 Paladin Wardens read the logs and keyed into the faint vox traffic being broadcasted. This is a good thing, remarked Aid. It means that faith still holds sway in Providence. There is still hope for the people of Providence.
The small fleet warped to the planet and went into orbit above the transmission. Brother Kyle, should we send them a message commending their faith to the lord? Brother Lektro, I believe that would be the right thing to do. That it honors us and humbles us that under these circumstances they are a beacon of faith and honor in these trying times. The Paladins in the channel all marked their agreement.
That was when the sound changed. This was now them explaining the fate of what was to happen. Paladin Warden Boyscout’s fingers blurred as he tried to triangulate the broadcast. We have to do something! They are Provi citizens!
Radio from command came in. Paladin Wardens. It is the fate of a small village. Hardly the notice of a military operation. Continue your patrol deeper into the pocket. Intelligence suggest several mining barges and a rorq on D-scan. Our informants are spot on with this intelligence. It is of no matter if you save a few citizens. Continue with the mis…
The deep space radio transmission was cut off. Paladin Wardens of Providence. Brothers…The people of Providence need us. We are their wardens. The size of the element that’s being broadcasted can be dealt with. We will do a Spaceborne operation in 10 mins. Get all your gear on and make to your jump bay. For God and Empire! The chorus of God and Empire returned by the other Paladins before the comms were shut off.
In the Carapace armor the Heads Up Display (HUD) already showing that all 5 Paladins were green status and ready to go after only 7 mins. It humbled the Paladin Warden. They all wore a Grav chute and exosphere thrusters. That and the bulky weapons cases attached to each Paladin carrying their load of weapons. The fit in the launch tubes was tight and claustrophobic. Some Paladins closed their eyes and recited litanies for calming their minds and reducing their heart beats.
Paladin Wardens of CVA. We commend our lives and our souls to God and Empire. We drop in 10, 9, 8…while he counted he continued to hear the broadcast…then it went silent. He prayed to god it was not too late. 3,2,1…Green Light Go! Paladin Wardens deploy.
The Paladin Wardens loaded in launch tubes built specifically for this task were shot out by the vacuum of space. Their exosphere thrusters shooting jets of condensed air to stabilize the trajectory. They went swiftly into the ozone of the planet breaching the upper atmosphere. Their armor blazing red with the heat of entry. Their formation was perfect. Lock in step as good and as well drilled as any parade formation. These men lived for battle. They lived for war. Yet, in being a warden it was their inherent duty to protect. That is what made them different than the other immortal pilots of the universe. Theirs was a duty to bring civilization to the wilds.
Finally breaching into the atmosphere the exosphere gear detached and burned up upon entry. The weapon casings that protected the weapons from the heat of entry detached. Paladin Warden Saltz HUD was already bringing up the image of a clear drop zone. Under magnification he saw numbers and vehicles. His HUD immediately displaying friendly and enemy units.
He broadcasted his internal vox. Angels Descending upon daemonic incursion. That was the code for jumping into a hot zone. The Paladin Wardens had developed a battle cant or cyptolect that to outside persons would seem strange but to them made up a second language.
Brother Paladin request Pattern Bastion remarked Paladin Aid. Paladin Saltz thought for a second. Belay Pattern Bastion. Pattern Eagle. The order was to have the paladins fan out and land. Not group up and land in one place. Lektro, Hammer of God upon bestial craft. The enthusiasm of Lektro was telling. Hammer of god confirmed on Bestial Craft. I had issued a command that Lektro use his Lance lazer. A single use lance beam capable of horrendous damage. Its one shot would drain the battery. It would have to be accurate or the mission could end before it began if we couldn’t take out the personal carrier and its twin mounted guns on top.
Aid, Request Angry hornet upon demonic host. Time, arising Hammer of God. I had ordered Paladin Aid to use a cluster bomb upon the soldiers fanning out and moving towards the town. Paladin Warden Aid acknowledged the request with, God and Empire brother.
Boyscout, arising Angry Hornet, request techomancers bane. Paladin Warden Boyscout remarked in a way in which only he could. “OHH oi all right. Let me at em. They not gonna know what bit em.”
From the Bravado Lectro broke in with…Lets get em boys…Quitus! I snapped. Upon 3rd plague all Angels deploy Mists of heaven, arise through demonic fog, purge through pattern arrow, bring forth gods holy light. Acknowledge?
The four other Paladin Wardens acknowledged. After the cluster bomb Paladin Boyscout would deploy an EMP burst charge to hit afterwards destroying their energy weapons and vehicles. Finally after that smoke grenades would land. The hammer of god being a lance would be almost instantly. I would have to deploy the hornets first and wait until lance could fire. The dance of death had to be perfect. In order for everything to succeed.
Through Pointed spear holdeth Boyscout. The order was that in the arrow formation once we landed Boyscout would take lead. He loved getting in close to the enemy. His large frame and arms. His fists were the size of rockcrete blocks.
Paladin Aid Lock and Fire now. Time passed as the thump of the weapon and a ball came tumbling down from the sky. Finally bursting and flinging hundreds of smaller balls in a wide area. Paladin Warden Lektro fire!
Captain Garza was on in the open hatch of the armored personal carrier. He manned the twin linked autocannon. He was aiming it at the civilians as they approached the town. He ordered a dismount in a field right before the town. Not wanting to risk a sudden grenade or attack in the confines of the small down. While he thought about this level of caution being unneeded while fighting mere peasants he didn’t make Captain by taking risks. He saw what looked like a priest knelt in prayer with a small child with him. He scoffed. If they thought the presence of a small child would be enough to stop their punishment they thought wrong. He would make the child watch the executions and ask where her precious god was then. He smiled ruefully and then heard a distinct “clump” and looking up he saw hundreds of pellet balls spreading out in an area descending. He realized what it was too late…Captain Garza of the 197th Black Talons last words were…”Oh my God.” A lance beam struck him perfectly vaporizing him and the vehicle blew up.
Men screamed and then suddenly as if gods wrath was made manifest. The cluster bombs landed peppering their formations with deadly shrapnel. The stunned wounded and survivors then momentarily were blinded following a large bright flash…when their sight came about moments later a smoky fog was already enveloping them. They screamed and called out. They did not have a non-commission officer group like in other armies. They had officers and conscripts. With their officer dead panic and disorder was sown. That was when they realized the true wrath of the Paladins had only just begun.
Grave shuts deployed last second causing them to suffer the gravitational jolt. Then they landed. Popping the chute off them the Wardens primed their Las rifles weapons. It was overcharged so they lacked a multitude of shots but if it hit something it made sure the individual didn’t get up again. In moments the five Paladins were making their way in a solid arrow formation. While the forces Rekking Crew were blind to the smoke no such blindness was suffered by the Paladin Wardens. Their HUD display marked targets and allowed sight through the fog as if it was a sunny day.
The Paladin Wardens of Providence, many of which had not returned to their homeland for these several years now found themselves face to face with the enemy. The great enemy. Despoiler of their homes, their honor, their dignity, and their legacy. A righteous anger ensured. Paladin Warden Saltz fired Las round after Las round. White hot las cracks and zips barked from his rifle. Only his hatred burned with more intensity as he came towards his foe. He exchanged magazines in one fluid motion popping out the dead magazine battery and exchanging it with a fresh one at the same time. His hands moving with the motion so quick the rate of fire never ceased just as his hatred would never cease until this foe was destroyed and his home liberated.
Paladin Warden Boyscout was the tip of the spear. The pillar of the man he was charging forward with his flechette rifle. It barked and deadly spray of shrapnel was brought forth in devastating effects. Whatever feeble survivors that stood were reaped as grains to the scythe. Few of the survivors that attempted to resist found their own rifles didn’t work. Their comms dead and only the sounds of death and slaughter around them. Some of them…very few…started to pray for forgiveness. It mattered not. For the sins of their actions gave them death. By gods agents upon the mortal realm. The Paladin Wardens of Curatores Veritates Alliance.

Chapter 6
Bells and Oath keeping
The people of Peacemaiden were stunned and shocked. They did not grasp yet the totality of what they just witnessed. The awesome display of raw power and might. Then the confusion and smoke. The screams and shots…then the silence. The field had turned silent. There was no noise. The fog played over the field covering the area as if keeping the secret of the cataclysmic battle that took place refusing to show its secrets or its results.
From the shadows figures appeared, they marched in a V line formation and stopped in front of the crowd of people. These ghostly apparitions were bedecked in the gold and black trim of CVA. Their heads moved and no words came out. As if they were speaking amongst themselves on internal comms. A man broke from the formation and knelt beside the monk.
He removed his helm and stared at the monk. I am Paladin Warden Kyle Saltz of CVA. I beg your forgiveness for failing to protect your people. For allowing the enemy to claim your lands and do great harm upon you all. I have failed you all and beg forgiveness.
The monk looked at the warrior before him. The warrior was young but his eyes were haunted. The eyes of a man that had seen too many battlefields. A man that had seen too much horror and destruction. A man that begged for the release of death but denied that by the duty of his position as a capsuleer. The old Monk nodded sagely knowing the young man’s pain. He hugged the Paladin Warden. I forgive you my lord. I forgive you in the name of God and Empire. Blessed are we to have men and woman such as you. Such as you all.
The weight of failure…the weight of the years…the weight of shame left Paladin Warden Saltz. It was the blessing of a simple monk. A rural priest. Yet the old monk had power in his words. He felt light as the monk pulled him up.
A little girl came to the Paladin and grabbed his hand. Her hand so small it could only clasp around one or two of his fingers. She grabbed another one of the Paladins and did the same with the other hand. Come on and follow me she said. She led the Paladin Wardens inside the chapel and into the bell tower. She placed the Wardens hands on the rope and ordered the other Paladins to do the same. Now pull, she said. The five Paladin Wardens of CVA pulled the rope and the bell rang. Across the whole of the planet people overheard the open mic of the vox and the bell rang. Towns and villages across the planet rang the bells. Not realizing the enemy had already retreated from the planet but out of faith.
In Space a transport leaving the planet was shot down by the awaiting CVA ships. Official RC reports would later tell “all hands lost on deck with supplies.” The fate of Captain Garza and his punitive force would never be known.
Paladin Warden Kyle Saltz signaled high command. Command…this is what matters. Not enemy mining ships or their fat haulers. What matters is the people. The people of Providence. What matters most…is our home. Watch this video feed and see. While a small village may seem so small to you. Look what these people did. Faith so small…and god’s blessing. We can do anything. He turned off the video feed and with the other hand he grabbed the rope and tugged harder with his brother Paladins. The bell rang and it was beautiful.

                        Note from the Author

As you are reading this I had marked that there was 5 Paladin Wardens. I had introduced only 4. That being that of myself Paladin Warden Kyle Saltz, Paladin Warden Aid (for short), Paladin Warden Lektro, and Paladin Warden Boyscout. What of the 5th unknown Paladin you say? I wrote this with the intent to say…the 5th Paladin Warden is my other brother or sister Paladin Wardens reading this. For in all my travels you are with me. In everything I do I do in the company of greater men and woman than I and I am humbled to serve you. This work is dedicated to you. Let us never forget our oaths to God, Empress, Empire, and our Margrave. Let us never forget of our homeland. May we one day once again live in our promised land of Providence. May god bless you all and our dear Alliance. Amar Victor.

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