(OK, since we have now established that we haven't entered the cave yet, I can squeeze this post in.)
Outside, Lady Paladin could hear preparations being made to enter the cave. The air was sparked with tension and dread. Despite the emotions of the camp, the healer felt clam and resolved inside.
She had made a decision.
For weeks, she had been haunted by nightmares. Lady Paladin had barely
slept at all, especially since the army marched. For a time, she had feared Jaana and Kaitlin somehow had discovered her secret curse. The Elder of Mysidia was the only person she had ever confessed to, and he had told her that he never would wish for such a talent.
Lady Paladin was a dreamseer.
And her dreams of late had not been pleasant. After the battle at Spiked Dwarf Pass, the dreams had become progressively worse; they seemed to rehearse every possible path the future had to offer. A hundred times she had seen Bacca killed, herself kupo'ed to death, Mog defeated, or the world simply become hell itself. Somehow in each dream, Lady Paladin knew she had failed -- her magic had been nullified, her abilities insufficient, her emotions too irrational...it all lay on her shoulders.
"That is what I get for being cursed to be both a dreamseer and a perfectionist," she murmured sarcastically. Her robes dropped to the floor. She kept recalling how incomplete her training was, how scattered her weaponry talents were. The healer could not claim expertise in any one field, not even healing. She was still talented, of that there was no doubt, she was just...incomplete.
Lady Paladin reached deep into her backpack of holding, and her mind sought certain items from her vault back home. The items came into her grasp, and she pulled them free of the enchanted leather bag.
She slid the crystal-blue chainmail over her head. She tugged the gloves on, and secured the greaves to her thighs. The ensorcelled white-blue boots were pulled over her feet. The healer pulled her blonde hair back into one long braid, and then coiled it into a bun on her head. Finally, she slid on the crystal tiara, and looked at herself in a mirror.
The healer looked foreign, even in her own eyes. She was so accustomed to white robes, it practically hurt her eyes to gaze at so much shiny metal on her own body.
The resolution to her problems had been so simple. Lady Paladin had been role-playing, and she decided to snap out of it. At her feet sat a pile of spell books and herbalist encyclopedias; she was bringing all of these books with her to study so she could at last become a master white wizard and healer. Until she obtained that level, she could no longer wear the white-robes of her profession. So, as she drilled herself to perfection, she would wear the armor of a paladin. Lady Paladin knew she did not belong to a specific order of paladins, but she still qualified for the title enough to wear the symbolic armor.
There was one problem to her new, temporary role, though -- she could not wield the broadsword of a knight. It was too heavy and cumbersome in her hands. So, at her side her wore her wakazashi, as usual, but she also had pulled from her vault the weapon she had the highest ability of all in -- the fighting pike.
Outside, she heard someone call her name. Bacca was probably preparing to brief them all before they entered the cave. Lady Paladin gave herself a lop-sided grin in the mirror.
While she is examining herself, there's a knock on her door.
Lorinan: "Lady Paladin, Is something wrong? I sensed a strange presence emanating from your hut.
LP: "I'm here Lorinan. Nothing's wrong."
L: "You sure? I'm here if you need any help or anything. I noticed you were wearing a short katana instead of the more standard broadsword. I'm sorry if I'm intruding. I'll leave if everything's okay."
Lady Paladin smiled. "Thanks for your concern, Master Chemist. Actually, I'm feeling better now than I have in weeks. Bacca will probably meet with us in just a few minutes."
"Well, as long as you're OK, I will see you then," said Lorinan with a nod.
"Oh, and don't tell anyone about the change in my attire....I wish to see their reactions for myself."
Lorinan understood, and with a smile he turned and left.
Sky H Ainsworth
...Only to be followed by Bacca's voice.
"Lady, may I come in?" asked the warrior.
Lady thought a moment. She wanted to introduce her change to everyone at the same time. But she also wanted some time alone with Bacca. Her heart won out and she gave her assent.
"Lady," began Bacca as he entered, his head bowed, "I just wanted to apologize for what I said to-" Bacca stopped.
He had looked up and saw Lady Paladins new attire and the weapon at her side.
"What is all this?" asked Bacca.
Lady looked about herself. "This is the new me," she began, not
all that confident in what she was saying. "I realize now that I need to be more of paladin then a healer. I need to be a master at something."
"But why, Lady?" asked Bacca. "Why do you desire to be the
master? Why change?"
"I feel I need it," she replied. "I feel that it will help serve you in this upcoming war."
Bacca looked down in thought. He walked over and sat down on a
stool. Lady, likewise, sat down on her cot.
"Lady," began Bacca, "I wanted to apologize for my manner earlier today."
"Oh, there is no need," interjected Lady Paladin. "I understood
that you were concerned about the undead and wanted the best healer on
hand to deal with them. Do not worry, my Bacca, I still love you."
Bacca smiled. "Thank you.
"Tell me, is this change permanent?"
"It might very well be," said Lady. "I do not know. We will see
what happens in the tunnel tomorrow."
"Very well," said Bacca. "My plan is this, we will take in two
thousand commandos. We will march through in square formations so to be
prepared if attacked from any side. I will lead with Ku-Sam and Siran at my sides."
"Why you?" asked Lady, puzzled.
"Because I have infraction vision," said the muscular warrior.
Lady still looked puzzled.
"Well, one of my ancestors was a dwarf, do not ask me how a dwarf and a human got together. Either the dwarf was really good looking or the woman real ugly, I do not know. But as generations passed, the traits of dwarves went into my family. So, most everyone born in my family has the gift of infraction and can see when there is no light whatsoever. That also explains why we are so strong." Bacca grinned and Lady shook her head slightly.
"Anyways, the gift is not fully developed when one is born. You
have work at it, in a way, and experience total darkness for a while.
Which, I tell you, is kind of difficult to handle.
"Also, in my family blood is some elf traits. That gives us the
speed and vision we have. Also, it has given me a good way to commune with nature. Elves have that ability of sensing things in nature.
"It's funny," continued Bacca, "but you could say that my family has genetically engineered their children for ages. And all so that we could be High Lords of All That Kicks Ass."
Lady gave a mock grin.
"That is wonderful, dear," said Lady. She reached out a hand and touched Bacca's. "Are you hungry? Tired? Is there anything I can do for you?"
Bacca noticed Lady's manner and decided it best to hold off
anything physical right now.
Bacca was tired, though. He was unsure of what to expect in the
cave. What Siran told him did not add up. He knew nothing of how many dark moogles where in the valley of the Crystal Peak. Bacca did not like being blind in a new area, that was bad leadership. But he would have to do it now. He did not know why, but he would have to. Something drove him to do it.
"I am fine, m'lady," said Bacca. He reversed his hand and took
Lady's, squeezing it slightly. "I am still unsure of your change in
"I told you," said Lady, looking straight into Bacca's eyes. "I
feel that this is best. I want to master a profession and be the best at it. I do not want to be a Jill of All Trades."
The couple smiled.
"Very well," said Bacca.
Lady continued to stare at Bacca, her eyes hinting at longing,
desire. He wanted to be with her, to share what precious little time there was in life with her, but he knew now was not the time. He did not want to be compromised if something attacked.
"Lady," said Bacca. "There is something I must tell you.
"Aldernaan was destroyed."
"What?!" asked Lady, with-drawing her hand and looking at Bacca
with a hard expression.
Bacca explained to Lady what he knew about the fate of her home
world. He told her everything he had heard, even though Lady began to cry. Afterwards, he held her. The two sat on her caught, one crying, the other consoling.
Bacca did not want to tell Lady the bad news, but since it seemed that she may be leaving behind her old life, she might as well know what she was leaving.