Journal of a Paladin
Episode III: A Brisk Reception on a Warm Evening
By Matt “Mattü!” Fleming
A.K.A. the Cheddar Paladin
Entry #3 – The Fifth of November in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Ninety-seven
And so it was that I was standing in front of the most beautiful structure I had ever seen. Certainly, I had passed through these gates before, but when you pass through them by yourself, when you are truly on your own, it’s like your first time in a new place. It’s like you’ve never seen them before. The portcullis of Winguard is truly marvelous. How can I describe it? Well the pillars are designed with many carvings and etchings all up and down the length of it. There are images of angelic figures near the top and they perch atop their clouds looking down at figures of might and honor marching on what appears to be a liquid type of surface at the bottom. It’s as if the armies of Winguard are walking on water. The stone used to construct the walls and pillars is actually blue in hue, making the scene even more aquatic in nature. A truly wondrous sight and I’m yet to even enter the city.
As I pass through the gates, I am stopped by two guards, each of them wearing the uniform of the Royal Guard. To think that I was soon to be amongst their honorable ranks, it was kind of… humbling. One of them asked me if I was visiting for business or pleasure. And oh, how I responded! Given my friendly wit, I felt the urge to respond with, “My, good sir! Just to witness your fine city is a pleasure in itself!”
I have to stop doing that.
The guard didn’t like that much at all. He retorted with, “Now you listen, you scoundrel. I’m not in the mood for your false charms so don’t think it’ll get you in faster! Fly right with me, or you’ll end up in the stocks for attempted terrorism! There’s too many strange people doing strange things in this world, and I’m not about to think that you’re not one of them! So double the dung and tell me what you’re here for!”
He obviously wasn’t having a great day, and considering it was almost night time, I imagine it was a long one, too. All that and myself being intimidated beyond wit, and well, let’s say that it was enough to straighten out a wheel. I immediately responded as disciplined as I could, “Sir, I’m here to join the Winguard Military, Sir! I have the proper papers and directions to the quarters I shall be staying in, Sir! Requesting permission to enter the city, Sir!”
The guard must have thought I was still acting smart so he answered with, “Why you rotten, little scoundrel! I oughta’…” and he raised his hand to force some respect into my face and was about ready to receive it when his counterpart caught the fist right before it made impact with my face.
“Listen,” said the other guard, “You have to calm yourself. Look at him. The boy is legitimate. You scared half the waste out of him with your words and the other half with what you were about to do.” He looked at me. “He’s not lying, he’s got his papers and he looks to be the right age for new recruits. Bud, you have to go off duty in a few minutes anyway. Go home early. I’ll fill this boy’s admittance out and close the gate for the night.”
With that, the first guard glanced back and forth between me and the other guard. He eventually put a tired look on his face and walked off in a sort of exhausted, aching slump of a march. The benevolent guard watched him enter the gate house, and when he shut the door, he looked back at me and pulled a folded piece of parchment from a container on the wall. “Most of this I can just fill out by looking at you,” he said, “So why don’t you tell me about what you plan do here in Winguard.”
“Well, Sir,” I started, “I wish to join the ranks of the Royal Guard and become a defender of this beautif-… of Winguard.”
“Oh! Do you now? Well, I can tell you, it is not as easy as you think. Just because Winguard does not usually receive threats, not including the bombing incident, does not mean that you just wait around until you die. I have been in many missions of national importance, and I will be the first soldier to tell you that they are not easy, diplomatic missions either, not that you will not go on those types of missions at all. I am talking of the peace keeping missions that are the thing of stories and legend that you hear told by the elder folks back home”
He filled out one or two more things on the parchment and then he asked me my name, age, hometown, and former residence (showing a sorrowful expression of mourning when I told him where I had lived), and then he passed me the parchment and quill and pointed at an X on the page and told me to write my name as best as I could. Now, I’m not unintelligent. I have a pension for grand speech and vocabulary. Yet at that time, I could not spell for dirt and I told him so. He told me to just make a mark and remember it so that I sign every document I’m told to sign with the same mark. So I drew a circle and I slashed a line through it so that the line was longer coming out of the bottom of the circle than it was at the top. The guard looked at it with a puzzled expression and so I pointed to my inspiration, the rapier that was mounted at his hip.
The blade of any soldier in the Winguard Military is a trademark rapier that has an interesting circular blade, almost like a chakram, up near the crossbar. It made for a very elegant weapon as the circle made for a good balancing weight to the blade, allowing for quicker, cleaner, and more devastating cuts. It was also commonly used to catch an enemy weapon and disarm the opponent, a very clever tactic indeed.
“Well, that is certainly an original mark if I had ever laid eyes on one,” proclaimed the noble guard, “That will be all, recruit. You know where you are supposed to go, correct?”
I nodded and saluted the man, as did he, and then I proceeded into the great city itself. By that time, sunset was upon the outdoors, yet inside it was brighter than a thousand candles. Every home was lit up in glorious shine. I had never seen anything resembling it other than fire itself. You see, the streets of downtown Winguard are adorned with many golden spheres. During the day, these spheres take in the light of the sun and by nightfall, they let it all out again. The wealthy people of the city are lucky enough to be able to obtain these spectacles for themselves and it makes every building look like it is about to burst with flaming energy.
Then the streets themselves caught my eye. Bordering the main road to the king’s estate known as Winguard Palatiále, are small streams on each side of the road. The water running through the streams is also aglow and gives off a violet hue. Out from different spots along the stream you can witness amazing fountains, geysers of magnificent water just shoot out at random straight up, and oddly enough straight back down into the water from whence it came.
The palace itself looks simply breathtaking. The towers stand so high that it was nauseating to look up at them from a good 300 yards away let alone downward from atop them. Hanging from the roofs are the same golden light spheres that decorated the city and there are so many of them that from a distance it looks like the palace is ablaze. The roofs are covered in a blue metal of some sort that reflects the golden lights brilliantly and the walls are made from the same blue stone that makes everything look aquatic. At that time, I would have given almost anything to be able to enter that building.
Unfortunately for me, I had to preside in the slum district of the city for the time it took while waiting to start my training. Though I would be given a tour of the city by representatives of the kingdom, I’d still have to stay with a complete stranger from another part of the kingdom and I had no idea if we were going to get along well or become rivals of some sort.
For all its beauty, the streets of Winguard City aren’t overly populated at night so it was all too easy making my way to the slums. The streets in the slums are not as impressive as the main streets. They are lit by candlelight lamps and sparingly, some parts as dim as a cloudy night sky. I avoided any encounters I might have made along the way as I hurried to the apartment house I was to stay in. I only hesitated when I reached the door. I slowly lowered my hand upon the knob and just froze with anticipation. Then, almost magically, the door creaked open. I looked at my hand with astonishment as if I did that myself. I came to my senses, for surely no one can manipulate things by thinking about them, and I looked up to see what or who did open the entryway for me.
“Oh, hey. You look like my roomie,” said the silhouette before me. I squinted for a better look and was caught off guard by what appeared to be glowing red eyes. Red eyes! Oh my goddess, red eyes! I shook off my lapse of insanity and looked again, my eyes now adjusted to the light from behind what apparently was a male figure. I noticed his eyes were no longer red and glowing if they even were before. I lowered my scarf to show my honest expression and I extended my hand in greeting. We shook hands and he welcomed me with the kindest greeting I had received all day, “You’re a little late.”