Excerpt from the Wren’s personal journal:
37th of Lifespring – Phoenix
Well we’re back in Phoenix and I’m wishing we were back in the wilderness. It took us all of yesterday and most of today to get back. We kept Crazy Panther Lady unconscious as we traveled and handed her over to the Inquisitors when we got here. I suspect they’ll be able to get more information from her than we would. Hopefully the information will give us a new lead to Prince Rashid.
I’m really excited that Sprocket is keeping the panther cub! Knight Stalker is so cute! I know he’ll grow into a panther, but for now he’s all fuzzy and small. Sprocket is fascinating. He seems so unsure of himself. I think he just has culture shock – isn’t sure how to navigate. He’s funny though and I think we could be pals. When we got to town I needed to go to the priory and he tagged along, but he seemed really surprised that I invited him. I need to make conversation with him more often. He has good perspective. He asks questions that don’t get asked because people are trying to be polite. Sometimes those are the questions that need to get asked.
Great news – mother and father are coming to visit <sarcasm>. I’m sure it’s to tell me how proud they are of me <more>. I’m not sure why they’re coming all this way. I’m enrolled in the priory and have even been recruited by the Warden to follow up on the Prince Rashid investigation. I’m doing what I’ve been ordered to do, so why is he coming. To make matters more complicated both Grandfather and Simon seem to think the fact that I took CPL down proves that I shouldn’t give up my Paladin training. What’s ironic is that I haven’t given it up, technically I’m still enrolled in training at the priory. I’ll admit I’m tired of everyone thinking I’ve made some sort of choice. I feel like my total lack of actual Paladin ability has been a constant disappointment and I don’t know how to fix that. Grandfather wonders if I don’t have some sort of mental block to the abilities. How do I unblock? Apparently 8 years of rigorous training and extra practice isn’t the way. It’s all too confusing to think about tonight.
In other family news, Aunt Tamara is in town. As soon as I found out I went to warn Simon. (He’s been researching the Night Stalker. He found two references. 1)An assassin called Night Stalker caught and executed 150 years ago by the Knights Inquisitor in Miles Hostiam. He was a strangler. 2) Night Stalker, also known as Sher’khul the Hunter, a Khuranian Tiger-totem. He’s a patron of three of the strongest tribes of Khuran. He has a Panther aspect that is patron of the most remote of those three tribes.) Simon was at the library doing more research when I found him. Aunt Tamara is spooky though… we only had minutes before she found us. I was able to distract her while he slipped away and somehow managed to get changed into cleric’s robes to keep her from finding out he left school months ago. She invited us to dinner.
I was getting ready for dinner when Dusan came to find me. He’s very sweet, even though I was only partly ready and looked a mess when he came to my door he told me I looked amazing. He came to tell me CPL wanted to talk to me and since we really needed any information she could give us I rushed got myself mostly presentable and we went to her cell. She lives up to the name Crazy Panther Lady. She told me she was impressed with my skill in battle. Then she gave me her heart – which I didn’t understand at first (I thought she might be making a pass at me). She told me I should eat her heart and then go find Prince Rashid and train with him. CRAZY PANTHER LADY IS CRAZY!! We tried to talk to her for a few more minutes. Then Takeo antagonized her and she went berserk and broke her chains. I tried to put her down, but after the first hit she bashed my sword arm and got my sword away from me – which is humiliating by the way. I’ve been trained by some of the best swordsmen around and a crazy person who is very wounded disarms me. Worse than that she did it in front of other knights!
Worse than that she did it in front of Dusan!! I’m humiliated!!!! What must he think of me?!?! Stupid CPL!!! I wish I could say he hadn’t seen it, but I know he did because he realized immediately that I was unarmed and pulled me out of the melee – which he apologized for – which is confusing. It was very lucky for me, since I was wearing a stupid dress at the time and no armor at all. It’s really very gallant of him. After pulling me to safety he said, “Wish me luck” and then he kissed me!!!!!!!! It was only on the cheek, but still!!! Since I was winded and knocked off my feet and unarmored and stayed back and sang at Takeo’s request – which I hope was helpful. Takeo and Dusan and the other knights were able to take CPL out again. The Knights will question her later. After the fight Dusan was really concerned about my dress – I got some of CPL’s blood on it during the fight. He offered to buy me a shawl to cover the blood, but there was plenty of time to get the dress cleaned up and I didn’t want to inconvenience Dusan – especially not after I’d made such an idiot of myself in battle!!
(Okay, huge side-bar here… I’m really not sure what to think of Dusan! He’s gallant and sweet, but I cannot decide if he’s just that gallant with everyone or if he’s interested. In a lot of ways he’s ideal. I’ve never really thought about it before because most of the other knights I’ve known have been like brothers, men and boys I’ve known my whole life. The only other time I really had a crush (and let’s be honest it really was a crush) on anyone was Liryc. I think now it was mostly his talent I was drawn to. When he stood up to Father though I really thought maybe he might be interested in me too – which doesn’t matter because there’s no future there. 1) He’s miles and miles away. 2) I suspect there’s an expectation (nothing ever said out loud, but implied) that I should be looking for a “suitable” match at some point. Considering my parents I suspect that really ought to be either a Paladin or a Cleric of Rozerus. Liryc wouldn’t fit into the “suitable” category. Besides, everything is so uncertain at the moment. If I’m not going to be a Paladin is there any hope that I’ll be able to please Father at all. In which case will he even care who I marry (how scary is that word!)? For all I know he may disown me. For that matter I don’t know Dusan well enough to know what he would think of me if I wasn’t a Paladin. Would it matter to him? For that matter I don’t know Dusan well enough to know what he thinks of me at all. When I mentioned that Father was coming to town and that I wasn’t thrilled he walked away. Afterward I realized how insensitive it was of me to say that… his father is dead! He probably thinks I’m a horrible daughter and a horrible person for not wanting to see my father. In any case, since I don’t know what he thinks, that scary “M” word up there is very far away from even being worth mentioning. Okay sidebar over – I won’t get this settled tonight anyway!!)
I got my dress clean again and Simon and I went to dinner with Aunt Tamara. Brandywas almost no help running interference on Simon’s behalf and I wasn’t much help either. I mostly just distracted her enough that some of Aunt Tamara’s cutting sarcasm came my way and not Simon’s. She’s secured an internship for him in , which he can’t take because he’s not in seminary anymore. Also, somehow she’s heard that I’m a Bard – again not even true at this point, just a suspicion or a possibility or a hobby. I’m not even sure myself, how has it become a known fact?!?!
In the end Simon came clean and then went to comfort himself with a bottle. I tried to tell him I understand and that I think it’s for the best that she knows the truth, but he wasn’t ready to hear it. In the end if I can’t become a Paladin I’ll be an even bigger disappointment than he is. I do get where he’s coming from – the major difference is that my parents’ good opinion is really important to me because I think they’re really great people. He’s been a better person than either of his parents since he was still in diapers while I’ll never measure up no matter how hard I try.
Okay a little perspective… Mother always says “In the end it will be alright. If it isn’t alright it isn’t the end.” That’s comforting I suppose, but for Simon and I, trying to figure out who we are under all this family pressure is pretty awful and I’m not convinced that it will be alright for either of us. Following our own paths may mean doing the opposite of what is expected of us and so someone has to be disappointed – either we do or our parents do. I’ll never sort this all out tonight and so I think I’ll close here and take another piece of advice from Mother, “pray about it”. Rozerus is good and faithful. Maybe my prayers will show me the right path.