This poem belongs to the Path of the Paladins series, which you can read about on my Serial Poetry page. It didn't grow out of a specific prompt, but rather the unfolding story and some prior discussions about these characters and their world. In particular, folks have asked about other deities and their followers, and how the paladins of Gailah interact with everyone else. This poem comes after "Gallery of Souls." It has been sponsored by laffingkat.
The land grew rockier and hillier along the way
as Shahana and Ari traveled, sometimes forcing them
to use a main road instead of a hidden trail.
They proceeded with caution, but did not let it stop them.
Ari seemed to appreciate the sturdy new clothes.
She kept her old dress, though, and now spent a little time
in the evenings mending it, a patch here, a seam there.
The girl might need it later, Shahana agreed, watching her work.
They drilled together now, morning and night, so Shahana
could teach Ari how to use her new sword and armor.
As they walked, they spoke of history and religion and strategy.
There were so many things that a paladin must know.
Coming around a corner, they saw a little cart in the distance.
Shahana paused. "Trouble ahead?" Ari murmured.
The paladin reached out with her mind and found a bright flame.
"No, just a fellow traveler in need of aid," Shahana said.
They found an old man with goose quills braided in his hair,
grumbling about his cart's loose wheel as he knelt in the road
trying to repair a pothole. Two billy goats bleated in the harness
attached to the cart, browsing on a few straggly weeds.
"You look like you could use some help," Shahana said.
"Indeed I could," the man said. "I'm Nilos, priest of Plumere."
"I'm Shahana, paladin of Gailah, and this is Ari."
The two women examined the cart and the pothole.
"The wheel and axle look all right," Ari said. "I think
you just lost the pin that holds the wheel in place."
She scuffed a boot over the stones. This stretch of road
had been built by the old Empire, paved with care.
"Ari, see if you can find the pin; or failing that, something
to replace it," Shahana said. "I'll help patch this pothole."
She and Nilos searched for flat stones in the ditches,
fitted them into place, and filled the gaps with gravel.
"What news do you have?" Nilos asked ask they worked.
"You should take care while traveling," Shahana said.
"We saw a group of Gorrein's men not long ago,
and later, found that they attacked a group of horse farmers."
"They wouldn't have any interest in books,
Nilos said, "and my billy goats are too tough to eat.
I'll spread the warning to anyone else I meet, though."
"You have books?" Ari asked, looking up at him.
"Most of that cart is full of books and scrolls," he said.
"I collect whatever writings I find, sharing them as needed."
"I should think it would be safer to do that from a library,"
Shahana said. Nilos shook his head, feathered braids flying.
"No, Plumere sent me out into the world," the priest said.
"He explained that people would need what I brought,
now more than ever." Ari found the pin and held it up.
"I know what you mean," she said. "Things need fixing."
Nilos kept the goats calm while Ari held the wheel steady
and Shahana put the pin back where it belonged.
"This road really needs a proper work crew to tend it,"
Shahana said. "Then it wouldn't be such a hazard to wheels."
"No one looks after anything except for the godsworn,
these days," said Nilos. "Things fall apart and don't get fixed."
"It doesn't seem right," Ari said. She patted the stones.
"People used to build such magnificent things to share."
"I've been hearing that a lot from you younger folks,"
Nilos said. Shahana cast a sharp glance at the priest.
"Have you now," she said. "What could be the reason for that?"
"I don't know yet, but it makes an old man hopeful," he said.
The three of them shared lunch beside the road.
Nilos and Shahana took turns reading from a book of poetry
that he pulled from the cart. He spoke of knowledge and
the quest for truth, while she spoke of mercy and protection.
When he learned that Ari could not yet read, Nilos returned
to his cart and brought out a hornbook of letters. "Take this,"
he said, "as thanks for your help today. When you finish with it,
pass it along to someone else who wishes to learn from it."
They traveled together until the road forked, where
Shahana and Ari took the narrower dirt-paved branch.
"What do you think it means," Ari asked Shahana
as they walked, "all those things that Nilos told us?"
"I'm not sure yet," the paladin replied, "but if the gods
are stirring the world again, no doubt we will find out."
Ari fingered her new hornbook and said thoughtfully, "Well,
I hope this time they don't put too much salt in the soup."