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Holder of Honor

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In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to. When you reach the front desk, ask to visit someone who calls himself "The Holder of Honor." The attendant will look up from his papers and hand you a thick Tarot card. Should you be given the Moon card, then know you are ready to face this trial; however, if the attendant pass you the Devil card, turn away, and do not return until you have lived through another of the Holders' ordeals. Only with their infernal strength will you survive this task.

If you remain, the attendant will ask you to check the church at the end of the street, and return to his paperwork. Leave the building and walk leisurely down the street, and enjoy what may be your final moments alive. When you reach the end of the road, you will see an old, dilapidated structure that may have been a house of worship a long time past. Enter the door carefully, lest the frame collapse on you.

You will be surrounded by light, and taken to the place where the objects you have gathered lay before you, along with two doors. Know now that if you lack the cloak, the Beast's Resolve, the shield, or the sword, then take the door on the left and leave, for you are doomed to fail. If you possess one or more of these items, then choose one and enter the door to your right.

You will pass into a hellish expanse of wasteland, its horizon surging with infernal flames and showers of blood pounding the barren ground beneath your feet. Far in the distance, a tall structure juts out, its stark and polished whiteness blaring its presence to everything here. And, rest assured, you are not alone.

You will only have a handful of seconds to take in these sights before a horde of demons begins to rush towards you. If you carry the cloak with you, drape it over yourself and walk towards the building; the creatures are an extension of the Holder, who sees you through their hatred. Otherwise, arm yourself with the plain sword that appears at your feet, as the king's blade will not come free should you wear it. The demons are numerous, but frail; they exist only as a thought, and one stroke will cleave them apart.

No matter how you do so, it will take a very long time to reach the structure, but you will never find yourself tired from the exertions of moving or fighting - conflict is the food of life here, and you are part of its source. When you climb onto the first step of the entrance, the endless swarm of creatures pouring from its doors will finally halt, and the crowd that eagerly pressed against itself to flay you will calm and watch your every movement as you ascend to the large, opulent doors. They will part as you walk, forming a silent, vigilant ring that urges you toward their keeper.

The inside is just as lavish as its outer shell, dressed in fine fabrics and frescoes, beautiful statues, and beautiful mosaics inlaid into the floor. The Holder's minions will form a solid path from which you should not dare deviate; they are much more resilient here, within their home. Follow your only sensible option for as long as it leads you but do not turn back or make to leave. Your passage will lead to a spacious and stark room, dotted only by a throne and two figures; a naked, brown-skinned woman reclining in the seat, and a pale man bedecked in armor, kneeling on the floor in front of her.

State without fear that you have come to answer the challenge. With a grin from the woman, the knight will rise, don a helmet, and bring sword and shield to bear. Should you possess the sword, the blade you were given will morph into a round shield, and your own weapon will let itself be drawn. Should you lack the shield, the knight will toss one to you, letting it slide to a halt at your feet. One way or another, when you have equipped yourself properly, a suit of half plate will form around you, and the knight will charge.

Now, it is up to you and your skills. If you chose the sword, know that his armor alone will not save him, as the king's blade will batter and eventually pierce the heavy metal. If you opted to take the shield, then do not fear the knight's blade, for it cannot break the hellish protector. But whatever you decided, be aware that the knight is a very formidable opponent; he will use any means he can to defeat you, weather it be his blade, his shield, or punishing, steel-hardened strikes from his hands and feet. To best the knight, you must cleave his sword arm from his body; only then will he yield, kneeling to you and ignoring the mangled, bleeding stump.

If you are victorious, the woman will rise and walk towards you. Kneel, and hold your weapon tight in your hand. She will tell you "Obey the strong; destroy the weak." Now, ram the blade through her gut and wrench it upwards. As her body slumps to the floor, sheathe your blade and offer the knight his missing arm. As he holds it back to the wound, his armor will shatter, revealing him to be a humanoid figure with fire-blackened skin, golden hair, and deep amethyst eyes that bore into your soul.

He will compliment you on your fight, and on seeing through his master's illusion. He will speak, in length, of the measures that were placed in this realm to guard the object here, and how he extended them through himself. When he finishes, he will permit you to ask one question. You must request of him, "Why do you follow Him, my lord?"

The Holder will seat himself as he tells you, in a gravely voice that holds the weight of ages of vows, how he fought his way into His favor, and describe, in painful detail, how he fought Him and lost. The words will take shape as the hell knight speaks, burning the images of the entire story into your memory. The Holder will explain the agonizing torture he suffered, and you shall feel his pain as he speaks. If your mind cannot endure this, then you will take the dead woman's place as the Holder's next decoy, but if you persevere, then the Holder will tell you the vow he took to escape the unending torment.

When this is finished, he will stand and offer you the only remaining piece of his armor; the gauntlet is still pristine, despite the battle. Replace yours with the one you are offered. Then, the Holder will advise you to arm yourself again, for you must fight your way to the entrance of his home. Only when you are ready will he order his minions to attack.

If you chose to carry the Beast's Resolve, it will manifest itself now, surging though your body and lending you the strength of the most fearsome of demons. Otherwise, it will be a long and savage battle to the front door. If you manage to reach the foyer alive and rend through the frenzy around you to the door, white light will surround you, yanking you across dimensions and dropping you outside the wrecked church. Everything will be gone, your chosen object returned to its place of holding, but the knight's gift will remain.

That gauntlet is object 91 of 538, the Hand of Obedience. Though he cannot aid you, the knight hopes that you will free him from his servitude.

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