Journal of a Paladin
Episode IV: The Good, the Bad, and the Nameless
By Matt “Mattü!” Fleming
A.K.A. the Cheddar Paladin
Entry #4 – The Seventh of November in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Ninety-seven
I recall my roommate at that time to have been slightly on the pudgy side, as I was even more so, considering we both came from well fed families. He wore about his shoulders a poncho made from a hide of some kind. It was in well condition and appeared new. The poncho was collared, and very high I might add, as said collar brimmed well past his chin. Around his neck was a faded red scarf, obviously showing his heritage of coming from a family like my own. This scarf wasn’t long like my family’s, as no trace of the scarf’s tails could be seen, and it even seemed to be made of lighter material. It was presumably the original variant, at least it would seem that way due to it being so faded, though the enchanted scarves were never supposed to be damaged or fade over time. This led me to believe that it was always pink, however, each time I’ve asked about it, I’ve gotten a rather unpleasant retort in return. I think he’s embarrassed about his family color, but that’s just my best guess.
Other than the mentioned attire, he wore a common tunic, much like me, only dyed green instead of blue. He also wore brown pants with high leather boots. The last thing that caught my eye about him was an interesting cowlick on the right side of his forehead. Even after practicing in full armor, helms included, the cowlick would never stay down. Even after bathing, it would rise not after too long.
After we each got our first looks at each other, I remembered how he greeted me, “You’re a little late,” and I had to inquire why before I even bothered to introduce myself. He told me of a great festival that transpired earlier in the day, from sunrise to sunset (meaning it ended as soon as I got there), and there were food vendors, entertainers, bards, illusionists, and all sorts of activity in the streets all to honor the big news that was announced last night. Living a day’s travel away, the news must have passed me by during the events in Millket, so I could not have had any idea of any news.
“What news could cause such celebration in such short notice?” I asked with much curiosity and excitement.
“You mean you did not hear?” my roommate condescendingly replied, “We took out the Drakian leader yesterday morning!”
I could not believe my ears. That was indeed worthy of a hasty celebration! But I was still curious, “How? Tell me what they did!”
“Well, apparently,” started my still nameless roommate to clarify the news to be a rumor, “They say that the Winguard Nightmen found his location before first light and sent word back to base for backup from the Vanguard. After they surrounded the area with troops, they invaded the hideout at sunrise. He was said to have been alone.”
Wanting more, I asked, “Where was he? Where did they find him?”
“Everyone says that he was found in a hole in the ground.”
I stared blankly at the answer I was given. Here was this dictator, this leader of people, a warmonger as the people call him… hiding in a hole like a wounded fox. Alone even. You’d expect such a powerful person to be taken down in a glorious coup de grace in a gigantic attack on his subterranean capital city. In a vast cave where tunnels would lead our forces into obstacle after obstacle until we finally reach our target and eliminate or capture him so he can do no more evil against us.
Yet this vile, feared opponent was plucked out of a simple hole in the earth. Not some enormous labyrinth of doom. How embarrassing.
After all of that had registered and passed though my thoughts. I remembered my manners, as I was yet to formally introduce myself to my new roommate. But before I could do so, he introduced himself, and quite subtly I might add, “Oh, I’m Jordanello Hoffburg, by the way, but just call me Jordan. It fits better here.”
“Is that half Pastanese, half Strudlican?”
“Yeah, it is. What’s your name?”
I stood up proudly as I was about to recite the title that was given to me at birth. “My name is-”
At that moment, a very large man burst through the door, dressed in full armor and holding onto a scroll of parchment. He took one look at the two of us both, and both of us stared back at him. He marked two quick checks on his parchment, and then he hollered adding emphasis to certain words in a certain rhythm, “LIGHTS OUT! NO SPEAKING! Not even a WHISPER! We know when you speak in this neighborhood, so not a WORD until you have RISEN! You need plenty REST so you’ll be FRESH as a DAISY tomorrow MORNING when you start your TRAINING! Good NIGHT!!!” And he slammed the door enough to shake the walls slightly.
Then the candlelight went out as if it was forced to and we were left alone in the silent darkness. We each found our way to our respective cots, moved in as silently as we could, and covered ourselves up for what was the second longest night of my life that I could remember.
Before light could rise above Winguard’s perimeter walls, the both of us were woken by the same very large man in the same high-decibel manner, and after quickly dressing, we were practically dragged out of our apartment and force-marched to the training grounds. It was still very dark out, I’d say 5:00 in the morning, and so if I hadn’t been pushed along in the right direction, I wouldn’t have made it to the right destination at that hour.
The first thing we were given, as we stepped though the door of the training armory, was a hard leather breastplate with wooden plating in the target areas. Each suit appeared to have been in use for many decades. The thought went through my head that I may be wearing the training armor of a famous warrior! That thought was quickly extinguished as I was forcibly pushed along down the line to receive a leather helmet with thin metal plates around the scalp. The helmets all also seemed to have been in use for some time and blood stains were visible around the edges of the leather. The last item we received was a dulled, heavier, wooden variant of the rapiers that I saw the guards who greeted me carrying. These actually seemed to be newly dulled, yet the hilts of each sword had some visible markings of age and frequent use.
After we were given our training equipment, we were directed out a back exit which led out to a medium sized field that was used for drills and training. There were spots on the field where all vegetation was dug up from conflicts and there were even patches of red stained grass. I had no idea how violent this was going to be. Much to my amusement, however, I looked at all the new recruits that were suited up before me and those who were just leaving the armory, and in the shimmering sunrise light, I believed that I was witnessing a march of the tree people. I laughed to myself and then I realized that I was dressed like them too. This quickly dissolved my brief period of joy.
After all the recruits were out of the armory and onto the field, we were all given the order to lineup single-file. The large man walked down the row with his parchment in hand, checking marks as he inspected each of us. After ward, he ordered us to double-file and after the two minutes it took us to get that right, he commanded us to right-face so we were staring at him. When the few that turned left had turned around correctly, the large man said something cliché under his breath like, “Pathetic,” or, “The worst group of boys I have ever had the disgrace to try to make into men,” or perhaps it were both, or maybe something even more insulting. I try to forget.
He then introduced himself, “RECRUITS! I am Sir CHESLEY of WudGUARD! Myself and my SON, Sir CARY shall be your drillMASTERS!” Seemingly from nowhere, another large, yet younger man with a full beard and a steel breastplate bearing a number 38 in the upper left part of the chest showed himself. He was jolly and had a big smile about him, quite the contrast to his father, Sir Chesley. He waved to us all, and we waved back, thus catching the attention of Sir Chesley. He scolded his son and us at the same time, and without emphasis, he clearly stated with immense intimidation, “Don’t let my foolish son jest you, we’re here to put you all through Hell.”