Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The moon swung in the sky. White petticoats flying, dark side never revealed, the moon arched her back, straightened to thrust, tucked to pull.
The darkened inn was no longer a blackened sanctuary for the paladin. He considered the rogue’s offer. He had been sick at heart for so long, trying to anesthetize himself, leech the light out of himself, that he struggled to remember his own name, so washed and bleached he felt: not clean, more poisoned and stripped bare.
The solidity of a human paladin is forged at birth. His former glory days spent housed in court, like a well-fed guard dog. The one beast who tugs at the master’s heart and gets special treatment, letting the rest of the pack know he’s next in line: not the alpha, no certainly not that, but licks the master’s hand.
Gaenlon. His name was Gaenlon. There was an infamous betrayer’s name so close to his own, that when he introduced himself he was surprised when he didn’t get that second twitchy-look in others. Diligence and honor proved his trustworthiness: deed upon deed, quest after quest, saving others time and again, sacrificing his gear, his blade, to those in need, never questioning their worthiness or honor. If they were in danger, he protected. Soon all harmful associations with the similar namesakes were gone, like mouse droppings mixed with the meal. Everyone ate him up.
His noble parents had raised him perpendicularly. It was the nursemaids who waited on his child-self, every need and want cared for, to the point he barely learned how to blow his own nose. He was one of those children who are perfectly shaped and proportioned, and anyone who saw him knew he would retain his features into adulthood—his face was like a promise of beauty. He never suffered from the injuries of spots or blemishes, or awkward, joint-wrenching growing pains. One nursemaid, who did not last very long in service of the nursery, foolishly expressed her worry about his red hair, though. She was a superstitious and ignorant woman, and believed tales from her region that a red-haired child lies, that they had been kissed or bitten by an imp in the cradle, like a mosquito bite, and this infected their hearts. She was ordered to cut onions and potatoes in the kitchen. Her tongue tossed to the cats.
His sword masters trained him well, but he soon surpassed their skills. On his nineteenth birthday, his parents presented him with a stunning suit of armor and a lord’s wardrobe. The shirts alone were works of tailoring art. Edged in green velvet, which brought out the color of his rich, burnished red hair, the fabric of the shirt was interwoven with spider webbing, dyed emerald green with indigo blue piping. The shirts kept the wearer cool in warm weather and warm in cold.
More impressive than the breathing shirts or the gleaming armor was his cloak. The cloak was a miniature version of a tapestry that hung in his father’s manor: it was a hunting scene; a party taking down a gigantic, monstrous stag, his ancestor depicted as large as the beast, while the rest of the cowering figures seemed yellow-belly marmot sized. The cloak pin was a special gift from his mother. When she pinned it on his cloak, she kissed the pin before she fastened it around his shoulders. The pin was as round as his closed fist; iridescent hues of purple, plum, green, and burgundy interchanged depending upon the light’s direction. In the center of the circle, where the pin would skewer, it had a silver heart. When the pin was in its place on the cloak, and fastened, it completed a targeted heart image. Arrow hits heart. It couldn’t miss.
He fumbled with the pin now, and his cloak. No mother was there to wrap it around his shoulders. He suspected she had put some sort of magic in it; curse or blessing, he wasn’t sure. Mothers say they have their children’s best interest in mind and heart, but they don’t want to lose their place, either. Usurpation is unacceptable to mothers.
The rogue had given him instructions to leave the bar within the hour, but not too soon. He would leave first, and then Gaenlon should use his judgment wisely. Timing was important. The more the sand slipped through the hourglass, the further Gaenlon’s resolve slipped, too. He got up, and walked out the door.
He tripped in the sunlight. Not a very auspicious beginning. The fall was softened, until he felt a sharp elbow in his ribcage.
“Get off me, you ass!”
The light he had been trying to leech out was growing again, softly, rounded edges infusing his cells: he had fallen on a Draenei.