A Peculiar Pairing
(16 Akroeg 382)
He had just begun his training under Lord Darius, Esteemed Paladin of Zoluren and servant of Prince Vorclaf. He had been promised to Provincial service upon his birth, and now that he was of an age, he found himself under the mentorship of the elder Knight. He wore the garb of a simple commoner; a black cloak to keep the cold weather at bay, a pair of grey trousers that hung loose on his frame, boots of Elven make, and a simple tunic with leather bindings. Inexpensive plate armor of dwarven design protected his body, along with a nondescript oval shield and an unremarkable bastard sword. To look at him, none could have guessed at the truth of his birth.
His dark brown skin and honey colored hair marked him as a man of foreign background, but did little to betray his noble blood. He was born into the Lasastine bloodline, a Rakash family that had been granted an estate and their nobility by the Late Prince Sirolarn for acts undisclosed during the Sorrow War. Despite the questions raised, especially after Sirolarnâ€™s execution, they were allowed to keep their status, so long as their next male child was sworn into the service of the Principality.
But on this day, none of his comrades in training offered deference. None bowed to him, or greeted him as is due those of noble birth. Blessoval preferred it this way; and never wanted to be judged differently than those not of rich blood, and so he hid his nobility under simple clothes, and spoke little.
Only the Lord Darius knew the truth.
Under special instruction, the Paladin Lord took the young Lasastine out into the wildland west of the city of Crossings. There he was left in the wilds with a tiny stuffed kitten and orders to keep the poppet whole at all costs. An easy task, it seemed, for it was well known that few hostile creatures roamed this area of wilderness, and even those would find little interest in a young Rakash man and his toy doll.
But they came at the hour of Asketiâ€™s Hunt â€“ the very middle of the night. They came with their swords and shields at the ready, and eyes keen to the darkness. They came to kill the Lasastine son.
Goblins. A score of them descended upon the unexpecting Blessoval, who leapt to the ready. Behind him, the stuffed kitten sat on a boulder. Protect the doll at all cost.
Staring into the greenish, drooling faces of 20 goblins, he wondered if that cost might be his life.
He fought bravely against the odds, taking down a third of them. But his skills were untrained, and his body not yet able to withstand the great weight of his armor and the pressure of battle. He fell back, retreating until he could feel the rock on which the doll sat. The goblins pressed on. Surrounded him.
And then they started shrieking as an arrow sailed down from the trees to bury itself in the heart of the goblin that had raised its sword to deal the final blow to the wounded man. Another followed, laying low a second goblin, and then a third. Blessoval thanked his God for this invisible savior, and steadied himself. With the help of the archer in the trees, he took down the remaining goblin forces, stopping to rest only when the very last one of them had been cut down.
After making sure it was dead, he turned at last to inspect the doll for damage.
He found, instead, a real kitten â€“ a prydaen girl — sitting there. She gazed at the doll in her hands, and then smiled at him, her amber eyes twinkled in the moonlight.
She said her name was Excetera. She told him about her travels as a young ranger, and about the world beyond Zoluren as she tended his wounds with salves and herbs. She wondered why he had been willing to die for that doll. She teasingly wondered what it would take for a real kitten to gain such a guardian.
He told her she had already gained it, and knew by her bright laughter that she thought he was teasing as well. But then he knelt, and removed the pewter bracelet from his arm. He offered it to her and she took it. It was engraved with the name of the Prince whose Province he had been sworn to serve, but was otherwise unremarkable. She put it on and thanked him, of course thinking it nothing more than a pretty piece of metal with some meaningless scrawl on it, for she had already confessed she knew very little about the civilized world. But to Blessoval, it was a symbol of a promise newly made.
A branch snapped. Startled, she gave him the unscathed doll and with a playful brush of her tail against his waist, darted back into the trees.
Darius emerged from the dark path with a retinue of healers and a cleric. The surprise at finding the young Lasastine unharmed and his doll intact was evident across his aged face. With but the slightest reluctance, he awarded Blessoval his Squireship and accepted him into the service. Thus was the Lasastine name safe, and one promise fulfilled.
As they made their way back to town, he chanced to look behind him. His brown eyes fell upon a prydaen form as she quickly ducked out of sight. The green strands of hair intermingled with the brown of her mane betrayed her identity.
With a smile he returned his attention to the path ahead, determined to fulfill this new oath