Saturday, November 12, 2011

Story Time: A Paladin’s Tale (Chapter 11: Sorrowmoss)

(continued Chapter 10): Gaenlon moved uneasily down the corridor. Details demanded his attention as never before. Every inanimate object felt alive, and threatening. A vase held an arrangement of sorrowmoss and kingsblood. This portrait spewed incantations to the passersby. The lights blinked, and watched. Twelve simple lights on the walls, illuminating a corridor, a half-skip to the next room.
And in that room hung twelve porcelain masks, a dozen faceless souls ready to devour.

Story Time: Sorrowmoss (Chapter 11: A Paladin’s Tale)
A dozen featureless faces. Amorphous bodies writhed and grind on the walls. A grey, orange-brown mist dulled the room’s illumination. But the faces looked on, ready, like mirrors in a dream. Three to a wall. Four walls.
Gaenlon felt sickly bewildered, walking like a drunken man toward one of the masks on the wall. Gaenlon fell to his knees, stultified.
His tailbone had been perfectly comfortable on that pub perch. And for what? For a little bastard's blackmail ploy? So what if Micah informed his family where he was? He had done one wrong thing, an error of judgment, based on youth’s fear. One wrong thing. He was never going to marry her anyway; his parents would never have allowed that. He was never going to save her, or stay with her. She was a placeholder, a friend on the grass, just a girl for the time. 
Oh, but her face. Her face. Her face. The masks on the south wall merged as one, and became her face, in living dimensions. His knees dug into the hard ground. Her beautiful eyes looked at him, and she saw him, or at least the mirage of her did. “Gaenlon,” she whispered. “Everything’s all right. Nothing hurts me. I am sorry, Gaenlon. I am sorry.” But the voice was not really there, it was as if she were standing behind him. The voice came from the mask on the wall, but all he saw was a vision of her, a wavering frequency. He could not turn around, to look for her, to see her. What had he done? The regret of his betrayal of her ate out his heart like a slow scorching cancer.
She has always been. When she looked at him she saw him, the real him, the true man. Her only true fault was not her fault at all; her Naaru gifts were too strong for him, for his fragile humanity. Imagine feeling strong all of one’s life. The chosen. Fate throws a draenei female, in his path, one who is indeed more powerful, stronger, than he could ever be, and found him worthy of love? He would never be enough. His cells exploded with energy and health at her unguarded touch. He knew he could not withstand that damnable “gift” for a lifetime. He refused it, and he rationalized: it was her innocence, and her ignorant trust. Those may have killed her, not him.
She bled in the pool. She chose to be stupid—her fault, not his. Her blood, exacted by a quick blade in her carelessness, her blood, not his. Not his.
But now he did not know what became of her, after he spoke her name. Was she dead? Was she alive? The moment her name left his lips, and into Fandral’s greedy ears, he did not have the right to ask. Her name left his breath with his honor, and with his soul. He was doomed as only a traitorous man is.
He looked in the face of the mask. It was Fandral’s face. “Tell me paladin, how will you burn? Slowly? Flash of fire? Tell me who bled in the sacred pool. Tell me whose blood, paladin, and yours will not be spilled.”
What is the nature and truth derived of torture? Do we tell the truth? Or do we just want to survive, and that is the only truth?
Fandral didn’t really care about the pool’s pollution with draenei blood. He just wanted names to eat, so no one would remember them. He just wanted to feast on other’s love. No one remembered his name, it seemed. They had all forgotten. The taste of other’s names would satisfy his appetite, and leave only room for his name, and his master’s.
Gaenlon spoke her name:
Gaenlon, the brave, young, righteous paladin, sworn to valor and honor, was then taken to the grey, ashen pathways of Deadwind Pass and left without the means to return home. He assumed the druids had taken Kiindra into captivity after he gave up her name. He did not know what become of her. He had heard rumors she had escaped; he heard every story from she had settled down with a leather worker in Old Town and was raising a shack of orphans to leading a rebel smuggling cartel, running supplies to the front. Either extreme suited her. He never knew what she was wholly capable of, but did not believe, in his deep heart, she was capable of surviving fire. And his ego would not allow him to believe, not completely, she was capable of surviving without him.
He knew he could not go home. His home became the pub, and his hearth a pint. The vision of her face turned dark, and he blacked out.
Micah scratched the small open sore the poisonhoney stings were not the trade-shop poisons. He picked open a festering scab, more scabs, more wounds, more arterials of necrotic tissue. He felt as if a thousand stinging insects swarmed on him, and slapped futility at the invisible infestation.
Pragmatic as always, the visions Gaenlon and Micah suffered did not affect Dacianna immediately. Daci saw only masks made of pale clay, and no exit from this room save for the way they came in. She heard a splintering high-pitched crackle, crepitating faces all around her. She was tiny again. And he was so cruel. She picked up a mud clot, and with steady aim, shot it at the jeering face. The mocking mask shattered, and the walls fissured and folding, marbleized cracks shimmied and broke. This was all done in her dream. There was no mud clot, and there was no rock. If anyone had been watching, an uninvolved observer, they would have seen a human, a night elf, and a draenei swirling, eyes half-shut, in a white room with twelve masks on the walls, moving as if drugged.
But indeed, the walls came down with Daci’s strength of thought. The walls came down, the masks cracked. The sound shook them out of their stupor. Gaenlon found his legs again, and Micah stopped scratching and dancing, the poison demons temporarily exorcised. Daci blinked once, and regained her stance. Micah’s sister lay prone on silken cushions, just behind the wall. It was her prison, and they had opened the way.
Gaenlon stood close to Daci, and whispered in her ear, the question, and now was the time for the answer:
“Daci…did she live?”
“Yes, Gaenlon. She did.”

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