Journal of a Paladin
Episode XIV: True Sight
By Matthew R. Fleming
A.K.A. the Cheddar Paladin
Entry #15 The Twentyseventh of November in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Ninety-seven
Life on this ship almost seems like a never ending dream composed of nothing but thinking, writing, and occasionally eating. Im lucky, though. At the very least, one of my captors has a sense of compassion. Mr. Armen, as he is called (I believe Ive mentioned him before), has become almost friendly toward me. If I can trust anyone for the date or for more ink it would be him. I had to wait for his return as my guard for a few days until I could start writing this chapter, actually. Im almost certain that this journal would not be kept if not for his assistance. Should I ever break out of here, my wrath shall not touch him. Hopefully it will not come to that. Id wager hed probably help me escape if I ever thought of a way out.
Alas, this dream seems unending. I think Im finally starting to feel like my imprisonment shall be eternal. Not that theyd kill me outright, but that some calamity should befall the ship, and curse me to sink with it to a sandy, underwater burial. These thoughts keep me awake when Im no longer truly aware of my consciousness.
The weeks following Affection Eve were difficult. I avoided the couple, my cowardice getting the better of me again. I would find some where else to be for lunch, often choosing to eat with Sir Cary. Emzie still ate with Jordanello and Kagome, though she often attempted communication between the two groups. I must thank Cary for his constant attempts to cheer me up. His sense of humor and jovialness are always uplifting, no matter how dire the situation.
At home, Cobalt was always my companion. Youd never know how fascinating a rat can be until you hear what he has to say about the city at night. Apparently, some of the most intelligent people hes observed are homeless. Hes witnessed many things that are meant to be unseen. Hes seen love, and hes seen death. Hes seen the admirable poor get cheated by the unsavory wealthy. Hes seen more things in back alleys than any one should have to see. He wishes he could do something about all the unlawfulness and sin. However, hes a simple rat. Such a good blue rat!
I, too, wanted to make some difference. All the things that no one knows about. Do people even question what goes on? Where are the guards at night? Apparently, there is noticed crime in Winguard, though rarely. Its the things that no one ever finds out about that worry me. Cobalt sees things. Those things happen and they shouldnt.
At that time, though, I wasnt interested in actually doing anything about it. I was emotionally drained. I talked with the people that helped me that previous weekend to see if I could get advice about what I should do, and aside from hearing what were essentially sugar-coated told ya so speeches, they gave me no consolation.
In my Piloting class, we were to go up for our first flight test that week. First, I should explain that, aside from the magical energy spheres that power their levitation, areoskiffs are nothing more than wooden statues of birds that can hold a single human being within them. They are controlled by the empathy of the pilot as he manipulates the vessel by placing his palms on two conduits that are on a table of sorts in front of him as he sits. Using his feelings, the pilot guides the skiff in flight. The months in class leading up to this week were about the aerodynamics of the design of the skiff, the stages of flight, and how to tune myself to an empathy sphere.
As I started out my flight, I made a conscious attempt to clear my mind and focus on flying. Very slowly. After the first minute, I felt a little more confident and built up some speed, flying delicate circles around Katah Tower. From up that high, I could literally see my house. I flew above the rails back toward the school, the mountain that shades the town of Medguard in front of me. At that time of year, the mountain is completely covered in snow, as was Medguard. Winguard never got heavy amounts of snow, a fact that I attributed to the powerful mages at the governments disposal.
All was well and I was about to complete my run by landing in the Academy courtyard as required, when I looked to make sure my landing was clear and I saw Kagome watching me out of her classroom window. She looked happy as she watched my then successful landing sequence. She waved at me, and all I could do was stare in longing. I did still love her. I really did. And as I lost control of my emotions, I lost most of my control over the ship.
What once was a simple vertical decent turned into a rocketing boost forward and upward. I lay back in the seat as my skiff gained altitude at an alarming rate. I had lost control mentally, and the sudden force of the increased velocity sent my hands flying back off of the conduits. The sphere was to exert the last amount of energy it was told to until it ran out or was told to do something else. Without physical connection to the sphere via the conduits, no empathic communication could be made. Meaning if I didnt get my hands back on the controls and get my act together, I was going to rocket upward until the sphere was depleted.
Against the pressure of the intense speed, I pushed my hands as best as I could to the control points in front of me. Grasping as hard as possible to them so I would not let go, I immediately willed the skiff to slow down and tilt back downward. The ship did as I commanded and I slowly corkscrewed she skiff back down to the courtyard, noticing several angry faces observing my descent. I tried very hard not to look at Kagomes window again in fear that Id lose control once more. About six feet away from the ground, the sphere gave out and the entire skiff fell with a thud and a slight cracking along the underside. I had used every ounce of magical energy within the sphere doing what I had done just there.
My instructor, Sir Friel, always condescending, stared aloud, Not everyone was meant to fly one of these, not to me but to everyone else who came out to see what had transpired in those last moments, You should only sign up if you think you have a steady mind. One mistake and youre branded all over again. I did manage to focus my attention back up to Kagomes window to find a relieved expression on her face. That made me happy.
I decided to visit Jordan that weekend. To sum up the long conversation we had, I told him that I still loved her, but I wasnt going to interfere with their relationship. I understood that he felt at least the same as I did for her, maybe even more. I did warn him, though, that if he did anything to hurt her, I would avenge her regardless of our own friendship. He understood and assured me that I wouldnt have to worry. As happy as I was to hear that he wouldnt hurt her and I wouldnt have to fight him in her honor, I was simultaneously disappointed that I may never get to be with her.
That situation justified for the time being, things almost seemed to return to normal. Aside from the occasional crack at my flight performance, I went back to being a regular, nearly invisible student. An emptiness remained in my spirit, however. I had missed out on having a relationship with the girl I admired so much, and I had nearly forgotten about Princess Kay. Emzie Velleous was more of a friend than anything, that and she seemed much younger than the rest of us. All of the other girls I knew at the academy were snobbish, which made me question how our group ended up being lucky enough to attend such an upper class establishment. Surly it was as simple as three of us in the military with one already a young knight, though I knew little about the girls at that time.
I decided that romance should take a position on the back-burner until I was lucky enough to meet someone else. For that duration, though, I knew not what I should do with my time. I would have to serve the Kingdom at some point soon, between semesters, as would Jordan. I figured the best thing to put my energies toward would be training myself to be a better soldier. I sparred with Sir Cary when he was off duty. I tried chasing Cobalt around outside, trying to catch him. I would practice marksmanship extracurricularly when the target range was not in use. I did this throughout the winter months.
During those months, I found myself doing poorly in alchemy. Not that Professor Flekag wasnt a great teacher, but the lab reports were hell, one for every potion. At least one potion every week. I can make a potion with the correct recipe. But having to record every step and explaining the alchemical reactions down to each magical element was very tedious. I ended up having to catch the late car back to the city one day because Professor Flekag wanted to speak with me.
So, chief, he addressed me as casually as he addressed everyone, whats the dealy, here.
Pardon? I petitioned for him to clarify.
Look, kiddo, you make some great to the letter potions. Most of em worked out as described. Cept that one Elixer of Levitation that turned out to be a laxative.
That was not a fun afternoon
and following morning
sorry to hear that! In any case, you arent doing so well with these reports. Whats the matter, boyo? Are you still trying to get that girl?
Not at the moment, though I imagine thats when I started to slip. Ill pay more attention from now on, I swear it.
Swearins for the religious, kiddo. Not that thats a bad thing but I make a point to never make promises I may not be able to keep. If youre over her, then is there somethin else distracting you? Talk ta me, boy! People say I have good advice. Sometimes.
Well, Professor Fl-
Please, this aint a class right now, call me Matell or somethin else. Just
go back to the formalities in class. Makes me look bad, people callin me by my first name nall. Bobbyd have a field day
There ya go, bud.
I suppose my problem is that I feel as if I dont have a purpose.
Teenagers. Yeah, I know all about it. I was one mself. Once. Long ago. Nothin to discuss further, yknow?
Ah, nothin. He pondered for a moment, Do you have any role models?
Not really, sir- ah
Damnit, boy! Youre a teenager! You gotta look up to someone!
I suppose my father.
Ah. I see. Every boy should have a father they can look up to. Im glad you do. So what does he do?
Not much anymore. He was in an accident that left him disabled.
Oh. Im very sorry to hear that, lad. There are treatments, out there, yknow. Maybe he can be cured.
Weve been given a lot of help, much aid. Nothing seems to work for him, though.
thats just terrible. In an age of wonders and miracles
very sad. Damned mages. They can blow us all to Hell, make men fly, polymorph you into a squirrel, but not a damned thing useful.
Odd statement coming from an alchemist.
Well, this isnt exactly my preferred line of work.
So what would you like to be doing?
projects Ive been working on. Lots of research.
You like to study?
Kiddo, nothings more important than self education. Who else is gonna teach you? Oh
well, me. But thats unimportant. Look at you, for instance. I cant teach you how to write a lab report! It doesnt interest you. And rightfully so, you get the actual potion right. Thats whats important. Not that the report isnt important
I mean you still gotta do it and I still gotta grade it! he paused from his ramblings to collect the conversation, Look, I may be a teacher, but I gotta tell ya, this stuff is for the birds.
No, teachings good. I mean the institution. The fact that you HAVE to do this stuff, makes some not want to learn. Like that idiot who turned himself into a bird. Makes a great bird. Thing is, he learned how to be a bird on his own.
In a way, didnt he have to?
He didnt have to tamper with his potion. So from that point of view, he elected to be a bird.
Oh. That makes sense. In a sneaky way.
Nothin sneaky about it, chief. That the cards. Unfortunately, he didnt play the best hand he was given. And thats where self-education comes into play. The institution isnt gonna tell you how to live your life. It cant. Thats called fascism. But they try, in a sneaky way. Uniformity, rigidity, they engrain that into your manner so you respond to it. But that makes you mindless and sometimes careless. They dont know how unethical that is.
Are you paranoid?
If I say Im not, it doesnt mean they aint all out to get me! he laughed hard.
what do you recommend for me then?
You need to find someone who isnt going to brainwash you. Someone wholl give you experience. A mentor. Become an apprentice of some kind.
An apprentice of what?
Well, damnit, boy! What interests you?
try politics. Ha-hah! Oh
sgoodn, he got over his own humor, then thought, Are you talented?
Im a good poet, I think.
Howabout becoming a bard? They make money, do lots of reading and writing, get to spread their word all over the place. Not a bad idea.
Yeah. I suppose.
Well, then we need to get you some bard stuff. Like a harp
Ive played the mandolin. Once.
There ya go, halfway there!
Maybe I shouldnt be a bard.
No, probably not, as he finished we heard the whistle of the rail car as it stopped at the courtyard, Holycrap! Were gonna miss our ride if we dont get down there. Cmon, boyo, well talk on the ride.
During the ride back to the city, Matell and I talked about all of the possible things I could do to keep myself interested. I was a particularly boring person then. With no available love interest, no real profession beyond my inevitable military service after school was done for, all I did was train and talk to my rat. The idea for me to become an animal trainer arose briefly until I mentioned that Cobalt was the only animal I could talk to.
Okay, buddy, said the professor as we exited the station, tell ya what. Im just about starved so, if you arent doin anything important (and the way you put, it you arent), lets go get some chow and keep workin on your problem.
I know a place down the street, I suggested and we walked to the Black Stop.
We entered just after the evening dinner rush started, so we knew wed be waiting awhile before we got our orders. We talked at the bar, waiting for our cheese-covered entrées to arrive.
Well sure, I know ol Seamus, stated Matell, Weve done business together actually.
What kind, I asked.
He knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy that gets me some
rare alchemical ingredients
Well, kid, some things gotta be.
I had never heard such an interesting thought before. I figured that Professor Flekag wasnt an evil person. However, his statement implied that sometimes one has to bend the law to get things done. Ive pondered the thought many times after he said that.
Still waiting for food, some tables becoming vacant, we were approached by three men who apparently recognized the professor. Its da guy wit da big hat! exclaimed a particularly ugly, brutish fellow. It appeared that they werent too happy with Matell for one reason or another.
Yeah! shouted a smaller, yet equally vile looking man, He screwed up our job last week!
Id recognize dat hat anywhere, said a bald, hulking man, I says we go pay em back fer bustin us!
Ey, turn around sos we can see yer face! demanded the smaller one.
Discretion is sometimes necessary, he whispered to me as he raised his scarf up over his nose to protect some of his identity.
Dat wont do you any good with a bloody nose under it! threatened the big one.
Ill just have to prevent that, wont I? retorted Matell.
You stopped us from makin off with some coin, man! accused the short one.
You were stealing what little money that homeless guy had, stated the professor, He had considerably more after I raided your own wallets! an ironic twist.
And youre gonna repay us with your own money, creep! a threat from the ugly one this time.
Why dontcha reach into my pockets and try to take it, you ugly waste, challenged Professor Flekag.
Oy, buckos! pleaded Seamus ONelly from behind the bar, Take it outside. Dontcha be wrecking my bar with your petty squabblin!
But it was too late, the ugly guy, offended deeply by the professors comment, took an enraged swing at him. I couldnt expect what happened next. In a blink, Matell reached into the mans swing, grabbed his arm, used the momentum to swing the man around and throw him into his buddies. That the best you three can offer to a fight? he taunted.
Ill get you! the giant man ran at the professor who just planted his feet and braced himself for impact. The beast of a man ran at him with his right fist drawn back for a haymaker, his left arm raised forward. Just before he came within striking range, Matell ducked under his raised arm and thrust his elbow into the big mans ribs, forcibly knocking the wind from his lungs and sending the man reeling, clutching his side.
I recon youre next, little guy? the ever confident Matell Flekag stated to the small one. The little man got into a fighting position. He was more agile than his comrades. He darted around Matell with a chaotic pattern. He moved left to right to right to left to right, bouncing all around, gaining momentum, waiting for the right moment to strike. Then he bounced slightly backward and sprung toward Matell with a dagger coming seemingly from nowhere into his hand.
Noticing the change in pattern, Matell immediately dodged after the little man bounced backward. Unable to change the course of his leap, the little man continued just past Matell and his neck was caught suddenly by the professors right hand. Pushing against the forward momentum from the leap, Mattel sent the small attacker upward and backward, strangling him with one had the entire time. He continued in this reverse direction until Matell brought him downward, back first, slamming his spine into the floor, sending a crack up the panel of wood underneath him. The tiny man was most certainly unconscious.
The other two got up and, still hurting, decided against another attempt at revenge. The two walked out of the bar, keeping their eyes on the professor, who followed suit until they were out the door. Dontcha want your friend here? He shouted to them as they left. He received no response.
he said to himself, Im sorry about this Seamus. Here, Ill pay for anything you gotta clean up, or fix, or whatnot, he offered Seamus some money for the damages.
Oy, ya dont have ta be doin that now, Matell, refused Seamus.
But Im gonna, and youre gonna accept, the professor insisted.
Well, if youre gonna be that way
the proprietor reluctantly accepted.
Then he turned to me, lowered his scarf and said, Dont suppose you have much of an appetite anymore, eh? he motioned to the broken man twitching on the floor.
No, I suppose not, I answered honestly.
Cancel the beef, Seamus, ordered Matell, If Maggies already got it cooked then tell her Im sorry. Hate to waste food.
Aye, Matell, replied Seamus, twas fun seein you again. Always good for some action.
Not enough these days, eh? commented Matell.
Oh, Ill agree to that one, Seamus concurred. As we were leaving he turned to the kitchen to tell his wife, Maggie, got a bit o bad news
We headed down the road until we reached my house and we parted. He gave me one last word before he left, You should really think hard about what you want to do with your life, kiddo. You cant always be a soldier workin exclusively for your king. What will you do when you cant do that anymore.
I imagine Ill be too old to do anything by then, I naively presumed.
Thats what I thought, bub. It seems that once you fight, you always fight. Its who you fight for that differs.
Confused, I asked him, What are you really, professor? Or
what were you?
Dodging the question, he left saying, Well talk later, kid. Get some sleep. Dream about the future.
And the future came to me that night in my dreams. I saw what I saw in the Black Stop that evening. Matell was fighting three bad men. Something was different in the dream though. Instead of his scarf being blue, it was a familiar golden yellow. I awoke from the dream and my eyes were opened like they never were before. I knew then what I really wanted to do.