- 1 Introduction
- 1.1 The Prophecy of the Silver Child
- 1.2 Chapter One: "The Waiting"
- 1.3 Chapter Two: "A New Home"
- 1.4 Chapter Three: "Rising in the Ranks"
- 1.5 Journal Entry: "A Rose in the Desert"
- 1.6 Chapter Four: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 1 of 5)
- 1.7 Journal Entry: "Untitled"
- 1.8 Chapter Five: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 2 of 5)
- 1.9 Chapter Six: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 3 of 5)
- 1.10 Chapter Seven: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 4 of 5)
- 1.11 Chapter Eight: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 5 of 5)
- 1.12 Chapter Nine: "Child of Darkness; Child of Light"
- 1.13 Journal Entry: "Untitled"
- 1.14 "A Letter Unsent"
- 1.15 Chapter Ten: "Home is Where the Heart Is"
- 1.16 A Meeting: "The Prophecy Walks"
- 1.17 Chapter Eleven: "Dark Protege" (Part 1)
- 1.18 Chapter Twelve: "A Moment Alone"
- 1.19 Chapter Thirteen: "Shield Up"
- 1.20 Chapter Fourteen: "Revelations"
- 1.21 Chapter Fifteen: "Dark Protege" (Part 2)
- 1.22 Chapter Sixteen: "Dark Protege" (Part 3)
- 1.23 Chapter Seventeen: "A Change in Priority"
Author's Note: Much of the original documentation concerning the beginning of the Storyline is currently MIA. Much of what you'll see here was posted in an IC journal, and may take on a somewhat haphazard appearance not in congruence with the rest of my postings. However, as these are the only remaining documents existing for this leg of the Storyline, I'd like to post what I can and beg your forgiveness later. ^_^
The Prophecy of the Silver Child
In great and mighty Stormwind among noble halls.
Brought to the brethren by violence and fear
Thou art commanded to keep the Child here.
Raise the Child by the ways of the Light
Although choice shall be the Child's right.
Permit the Child to wander free and true
The Child shall one day prove its due.
The Wolf shall watch for the Silver Child
And the Pack shall derail any who beguile.
Oh, Wolves! Keep the Child to safe paths
Deliver the Child into the Keepers hands.
Keeper, be wise and full of noble quiet
To guide the Child on the road of right.
Lend the Child the knowledge of the ages
Give fuel to the fire that within rages.
But 'lo and beware, Children's Allies!
The Darkness around the Child rallies.
The tide may swing toward Light or Dark
Dependent upon the wisdom thou doth impart.
Guardian True, the Child's safety is thine
May thy heart be true, and spirit be kind.
For it is thee that the Child shall love
And through thee, see the Light above.
The Other remains to thwart thy goal
Living, feeding on the Child's soul.
Only through a great sacrifice divine
Shall the spirit be made whole and fine.
Oh, Silver Child art thou to grow and be
Our greatest savior, or darkest enemy?
The company thou doth keep shall weave
Chapter One: "The Waiting"
Dong. The bells of the cathedral at Stormwind rang, their sing-song tones echoing across the forests of Elwynn. In a beautiful house near the city's heart, a young girl with silvery hair lay wakeful, watching the moon outside with leaf-green eyes. The moon was nearly to her zenith...Gale would be here soon. So she waited, trying her best not to squirm in the bed as she feigned a sleep she didn't feel in the least. She sighed, rolling over to her other side, facing the interior of the room.
Dong. A splendid wedding gown was draped on a mannequin nearby, tiny pearls sewn into the fabric glittering coldly in the moon's rising beams. The girl regarded the dress with some small detatchment, knowing most young women in her place would be overflowing with joy; a smart match it was, full of honor for her family, and riches for the family's dwindling coffers. The dress was the pinnacle of her father's pride, having been his mother's, but no more than a symbol of her noble slavery to the young woman as she lie wakeful in the night.
Dong. A smart match, indeed. A man almost three times her senior who wanted nothing more than a girl-toy he could entertain in his bed. Thrice already he had come to visit her during the day, his eyes coldly raking her body from head to toe as if, already, he was making lustful designs upon her person. She shuddered involuntarily, imagining the corpulent pig's hands touching those secret places destined only for her True Love's sampling. That, if nothing else, brought tears unwillingly to her eyes.
Dong. True Love. Like any young woman her age, she wanted nothing more than to be wisked away by some Prince Charming, to lead the life of a true noble lady. However, the vulgarities of Real Life were now upon her; this was no faerie tale. There would be no Happy Ending.
Dong. If there were no Happy Endings...what was there in Life to be lived for? Did Life not need a purpose or goal, something to be achieved or attained? Every day of her life, she watched as the noble houses jockeyed for position; blackmail, thievery, under-handedness were all Names of the Game. If you couldn't play with fire, it was wise to stay out of the cannon room.
Dong. She hated waiting, she couldn't believe that Gale had managed to convince her that this was a good idea. Yet, he was a good friend, and he was only trying to help her do what she had already planned for herself. She wished there were more people in the world like Gale.
Dong.Where was he anyway? He should have been here by now. She hoped he had not run across any trouble along the way. The Night Watch was fairly lax when it came to the nobility being out at night, so she didn't think he would have been hindered. She lay there, listening to the night sounds, barely daring to breath, hoping for some sign that he was coming.
Dong. She started as a soft rap came upon the window pane, and she looked at it with wide eyes as she saw a shadow moving against it. Quickly, she flew from the bed, throwing open the latch, whereupon Gale nearly fell into the room. His friendly brown eyes smiled at her, "Ready to go, kidlette?"
Dong. She nodded, gathering what few things she intended to take with her. A small knapsack of non-descript clothing, a few baubles to use for trading, and what little silver she had managed to scrape together. Everything else she would leave behind, much like the entirety of all that had been her Life.
Dong. She lingered at the window, looking into the room of her childhood and semi-adulthood with some disappointment. Gone would be her illusions of grandeur, and no more would she be the chattel of her father to give to the highest bidder. Still, there had been times when she had been happy...
Dong. "Gospel, let's go!" Gale called from the ground below, and she turned, tossing him her knapsack as she closed the window on that chapter of her life. Gospelina Katja-Syranelle of the House of Kestrodullin would be no more. All that would remain is Gospel.
Dong. And so, the two shadows fled into the night, but they did not leave unseen. From an unlit window in the manor house, someone watched, and within that room the order was given, "Kill the boy, but I want the girl alive."
Chapter Two: "A New Home"
Their breath came ragged in their chests as the baying of the hounds assaulted their ears. They scrambled across stone-strewn gullies, and splashed through creekbeds. More than once Gospel stumbled and fell, but Gale would grab her by the hand and pull her onward, even though she felt like dropping with exhaustion on that very spot. They had not anticipated being pursued so soon, and had hoped to be in the Redridge Mountains where they could lose any would-be followers. Yet, it had seemed no sooner than they had reached the mighty gates of Stormwind, that the dogs were nipping at their heels. Gospel knew at this rate, it was only a matter of time before she was returned home.
"Gale," she managed to gasp as they ran, "Please, let them take me back. This was foolishness!"
"And I tell thee nae, Gospel! We've not far to go, just stay with me!" He held firmly to her hand, pulling her along after him; his face was etched with determination and his strength seemed boundless. Seeing his resolution, she could do no more than to hurry her steps to match his, though she still wondered where he intended to take her for she could not see her way in the dark.
Eventually, she saw lights in the distance and the lazy tolling of bells echoed across a tiny valley. Northshire Abbey. Why bring her here? He left her no time to question, but pushed her up the steps and in the doors. He began screaming at the top of his lungs to raise the priest, and one of the friars came stumbling to greet them, "My lord...my lady...it is late..."
Gale reached out, grabbing the front of the friar's smock, "I demand that thou doth grant her Sanctuary! Her life is in mortal danger, let none have her who doth come to ask!" With that, he shoved Gospel and her bags into the priest's fumbling arms, and ran off into the night. Gospel watched in horror as soon after the coursing hounds of the Guard followed Gale into the night.
"Oh Light..." she whispered, "please protect him."
Gale did not return that night, nor many nights thereafter. Gospel was very lonely, for all that the monks and priests of the cloister were polite, they had little idea on how to truly react to a woman's presence in their midst. Gospel did the best thing she could think of to alleviate their dismay and kept her distance, and spent as little time within the cloister itself as was permissable. She would often go riding or walking around the small valley. Many budding warriors and other servants of the people came and went, so she feared little in the way of danger.
For the span of two months, Gospel drifted around the abbey, it's regular folk referring to her as "The Abbey Ghost" what with her silvery hair and shy attitude. It was not until one autumn morn, when Gale did finally return, that they saw life spring once more into the heart of that ghost. Gale was a fine young man, much more muscular and handsome, having hit a growth spurt in those two months. He was also now a militia man in the Goldshire constabulary, and came often to lavish small gifts upon the silver-haired maiden of the Abbey.
In truth, all could see it but Gospel. Gale loved her very much, and would have done anything to please her, but she saw nothing in him but her childhood friend, who spoiled her a little too much. He would come to visit her often, once or twice a week at first, but as his responsibilities increased, he spend more and more time away. In time, Gale never came back at all. No word ever came from him as to where he went, or why. He simply never returned.
Some think that it was then that Gospel realized how much Gale had cared for her. She cried for days when he did not return, and was even more a ghost after that, than ever before. She walked as though in a daze, and her green eyes seemed broken and absent of light. She would not speak, ate only enough to live, and spent very little time around people. In fact, she seemed to avoid people all together.
One day in the spring, almost a year later, Gospel went out riding to get away from the abbey as was her habit. The valley around it had become most perilous with the incursion of a group of bandits known as the Defias Brotherhood, but she paid that little heed. She wanted nothing more than to find an escape, for she wanted to never again have people touch her life, only to be torn from it. Gale's disappearance had wounded her deeply, and she found little heart in trusting others again.
The horse she had taken was a troublesome one, who responded little to neck and knee, and mostly to bit. Unfortunately, although Gospel had been taught to ride at an early age, she was no master of horse by any means. She chucked the bit too hard, and caused the beast to rear in contention. He threw her and made a run for the abbey, leaving her behind to pick up both her pride and her dignity. It also left her to walk back to the abbey alone.
Trusting to the valley's guardians to keep it safe, she usually carried nothing more than a dagger in case of emergencies. It was in this state that she was set upon by one of the dreaded bandits that had been reported roaming the land. A woman walking alone was surely to be easy pickings. This was not the case.
Gospel fought the bandit with all the ferocity of a she-lion, the brigand was taken aback by this gentle-seeming lady and her ability to fight. So astonished was he, that it bought precious minutes for Gospel, enough that a Marshal from Goldshire on his way to the abbey heard the sounds of combat. Marshal Dughan rode upon the scene, only to find the silver-haired maiden locked in combat with the rogue. He leapt from his charger to run to her aid, but his eyes were disbelieving as he watched her move with all the grace of a dancer, yet with deadly precision and purpose. By the time he arrived at her side, the bandit was dead at her feet.
Chapter Three: "Rising in the Ranks"
So impressed by her was he, that Marshal Dughan took it upon himself to make it a mission to drop Gospel's name into every notable ear that could possibly entice her into the paladin ranks. Therefore, it was only a matter of time until Gospel was commissioned to join the esteemed Order of paladin trainees. The reports Dughan received of her progress reported her to be an admirable student; as fluid as water, and as malleable as fine steel. It was said that the holy aura of a paladin was strong within her as well. All of this news made the Marshal glad he had discovered her.
Gospel's training progressed over the course of the following year, and soon she was released to start her true journey as a paladin. She was as fierce as a lion against her enemies, and as gentle as a lamb to thsoe who came to her for succor. She was greatly respected by her peers, but never did she permit anyone to get too close. She was reserved and guarded, making only passing friendships with other paladins before moving on; a beautiful butterfly flitting from place to place, but never tarrying anywhere long enough to become attached.
Content to be alone, she travelled the limits of Elwynn Forest, building a name for herself and for the Light. It was not until she came across a senior paladin that she changed. In the presence of this man, she felt the Light within her quake in awe. Yet, there was such gentleness about him, in spite of his great strength, which called to her like a lodestone to the North.
This man, named Immortis, struck her to her very core, leaving her bedazzled by his sublime power. Yet, there was more within his eyes, that she would soon discover. Far more, than even she could have ever dreamed.
Journal Entry: "A Rose in the Desert"
I have discovered many thing lately that have made me search my own heart, nae, down to my very soul. There is corruption in the ranks of my Order, those who taint the Light with their wickedness and self-serving attitudes. I feel compelled--commanded---by the Light to do all I can to restore the holy name of paladin to its proper place, by serving the Light and serving others, only then can the Light truly shine forth to combat the Darkness.
Even my own darkness, a desert within me that howls with winds that would tear at thy soul, has found a ray of light. It calms the storms within me, and brings to bloom a single, perfect, beautiful rose. The petals are like softest velvet, its scent both light and heady, and even it's thorns are placed just so--to be admired but not to harm. I look upon this rose that blossoms within my heart, struck in awe by its simple beauty, and it has a name...
Chapter Four: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 1 of 5)
The Cathedral was quiet, only the soft chanting of the monks drifting down the voluminous halls. The soft light of the candle in their sconces imbued the room with a golden glow, illuminating the kneeling figure bent in prayer. Her silver hair falls in soft rivulets over her shoulders, framing a soft and gentle face; her rose-hued lips murmur the merest whisper of her wishes to the Light.
Oh, Light I come before Thee, humbled as Thy servant, and honored for the priviledge. Abolish me of all sin, for I know I have transgressed; I am not perfect. Shed Thy healing Light over my people, and grant them perseverence through these dark times.
Grant me strength for trials ahead, Oh Light, and lend upon me Thy temperance to endure all things. Protect me, but more, protect those whom I love and care for. For whilst I ever love and serve Thee, they are my mortal heart and soul upon this world.
May the Light grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. In the name of the Light, I forever serve, protect, and guide. Amen.
Try though she might to forbid them, unbidden, tears fall from beneath her smoke-gray lashes. Tonight, of all nights, she needed comfort the most, but there were none but the Light who could give it. Immortis had not spoken to her since the night before, and he had departed from Rogestat's house before she had ever arrived. He had left no word of his leaving, nor where he was going, or even if he would ever return. Even upon thinking of it, her heart beat painfully in her chest, and she felt a chill fall over her entire body. Was he even thinking of her? Longing for her, as she did him? She had no way of knowing, and was now left alone in a sea of intrigue she knew nothing of how to navigate.
Rogestat had been accused of murder. Not once, but twice. The first time, apparently, had been a young woman, although Gospel herself knew little to nothing of the story. The second, however, had occured as Gospel was speaking to Rogestat of her concern for Immortis in the Park. A man had approached, and an altercation of words had ensued. Yet, although Rogestat had made no move to touch the man in any physical form, the man had fallen down dead, and commotion had ensued. At the time, it had all seemed very confusing and frightening for the young paladin, having never been faced with people who were more intent on revenge than justice. Having had time to ponder it, however, it seemed truly convenient that not only was a friend of the man at hand to cry for the guard, but his sister arrived only moments later! It had all the taste and feel of framery, but Gospel had no way of proving it.
The accusors had even been so fortuitous as to remove the body, upon which they could have made many designs to further implicate Rogestat and his implied guilt. Yet, she couldn't shake the feeling that Rogestat himself was not being entirely honest with her. However, she had not known him long at all at this point, and did so much wish that Immortis had been here to aid her.
But Immortis was gone.
Which only compounded her problems. They were to have taken Rogestat on a rescue mission to the Scarlet Monastery that day, to cure some strange malady that their friend had suffered. It had been Immortis himself who arranged the expedition. Gospel had spent the night in fasting and vigil, so that she might be prepared for the trials that lay in wait for them at the Monastery. Yet, when Gospel arrived at Rogestat's house at the appointed time they were to depart...no one was to be found. Again, no word left, no other arrangements made. Simply gone.
So, now Rogestat faced death on two fronts, with only Gospel there as his lifeline. The young paladin was forced to pull upon her reserves of strength to help her friend cope with this difficult time, even when her own heart and soul were in turmoil. Immortis was gone. Rogestat dying and accused of murder. Never before, in all the faces of adversity, did Gospel ever feel as lost and alone as she did in that moment. Her prayers ususally filled with her faith, now took on a desperate quality. She prayed, and continued to pray long into the night, denying all food and drink. She filled her soul with the Light until it was full to overflowing, but it brought her no peace.
Dawn touched the horizon, and still she knelt, her prayers no more than a hoarse whisper from her throat. As the first rays of Light spread across Westfall, like on that one fateful morning she had shared with Immortis...
Journal Entry: "Untitled"
I have taken up a post in the Wetlands, hoping that a deluge of work might help me forget this ache in my soul. I feel a great need to be apart from Stormwind for a time, for it does nothing but remind me that Immortis is not there. I have prayed, but found no solace; wept and found no peace. Immortis has truly enscorcelled me to my very heart, so that all Life has lost its zest, and my path lies only in duty in lieu of his kind eyes.
I know not where he has been as of late, but I pray that no matter where he is, he bears my favor and knows I think of him. I pray daily for his safe return, and look upon that day with great hope. I can only pray that, like me, he has thrown himself into duty and hath not come to harm somewhere far from me. I worry for him, but keep faith for him, so that wherever he may be, he can find strength in that.
Oh, my Immortis...my dearest Immortis, Light guide, hold, and protect thee, as I am unable to do for thee. Thou art my superior in all ways, and I but a hindrance--a burden to be borne--but I shall strive to one day be thy equal, so that we might vanquish the Darkness that hems at our glorious Light.
Together. You and I.
Chapter Five: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 2 of 5)
The prayer candles had long since gone out, melted into pools of coagulated wax, but it did nothing to abate the prayers of the silver-haired maiden who knelt in the small cloister beneath the main hall of the Cathedral of Light. So fervent and absorbed was she in prayer, that she did not notice the battle-worn and haggard paladin who came up behind her, putting his hands over her eyes, "I have missed you, dear one..." he breathed into her ear.
Gospel held herself very still a moment, closing her eyes as she breathed, "Oh Light..! Let this not be some cruel dream..." She turned, her eyes drinking in the sight before her: Immortis, tired and battle-marked, but still Immortis. She reached out a tremblind hand and placed it on his cheek, "Art thou real or figment?"
Immortis placed his hand over hers on his cheek as his eyes gazed upon her with his heart in them, "I am here, dear one, and quite real."
With a cry that was half joy and half sob of relief, Gospel threw her arms around him with reckless abandon. Immortis held her with gentle closeness, their hearts and souls once more reuniting. Over the course of the next few minutes, the two star-crossed paladins exchanged words of love, concern, and worry one over the other. There were gentle kisses given, and forgiveness found for each, but eventually Immortis spoke of his need to take Gospel to the dwarven city of Ironforge. It was a trip easily made, and Gospel was loathe to part company with him so soon.
So it was that Immortis and Gospel made their way to Ironforge, to the home of a small gnomish wizard, and friend of Immortis, who held two very special items: dual Azerothian Black Diamonds. With great care, Immortis presented her with one, "No longer shall we be parted and be out of touch," he instructed, pressing the gem into her hand, "These jewels have been imbued with a power that will permit you to speak with me as if I were right at your side, no matter where I am in this world."
Gospel held the small, beautiful stone in her palm, the gem so black that it gleamed a deep violet by the light of Ironforge's braziers. She looked up at Immortis at his pronouncement, "But how...?"
He winked at her, grinning conspiratorially, "A little magic with a little gnomish engineering..."
As they departed the gnome's shop, they walked hand-in-hand, "Now," Immortis said, "we will not need to worry quite so much about one another."
Gospel smiled, holding the diamond over her heart, "It is a great gift thou hast given me, beloved, I thank thee." He smiled in return, and seemed to want to say more, but he was interruped as a breathless messenger arrived, handing him a letter. He scanned the contents quickly, frowning slightly, "It would seem that duty calls again, my dear Gospel..."
As always, if there was one thing she understood it was duty, "Go, my heart, and may the Light protect thee," she smiled, activating the Hearthstone at her belt. To her heart's joy, as she rematerialized in Stormwind, the diamond in her hand glimmered and Immortis' voice came to her clear as crystal, "I love you, Gospel. I'll be home soon."
Baroduin inspected his handiwork, silver was abominable to work with at times, but he couldn't help the surge of pride as the young paladin exclaimed, "It is most beautiful, Master Baro," she smiled, "Thou art truly a master of thy craft."
The old dwarf "harrumphed" at her flattery, but was really quite pleased. It wasn't often warriors of any sort appreciated his kind of work; jewelcraft was an art lost on sensible fighters. But then, not many were ever in love enough to want a specially crafted item. The bracelet of silver filigree sat the young woman's wrist as if made to fit; the black diamond she'd brought him centered perfectly within it. Whomever her beloved patron was, Baroduin had to give him credit; those diamonds were rare and costly when found. Yet, even the old dwarf had to admit, the silver-haired paladin woman was worth whatever her unknown love had invested.
Normally, Baroduin didn't care much for paladins--what with their parading around like they're better and holier than everyone else. This girl, Gospel, she'd said her name was--she wasn't like that at all. She was holy, aye, anyone within twenty feet could feel her holy aura, but she wasn't puffed up like a popinjay with her own self-import. She was calming, respectful, and demure; Barodin was almost certain she'd come from noble stock. Yet, there was no arrogance in her, only a great humility and desire to serve. All of that combined made her truly a vision in anyone's eyes.
"Yer Immortis be a lucky lad, m'dear. Ye tell'im he'd best be good to ye, else I know of many a man who would brave Onyxia 'erself for a treasure such as ye," the dwarf commented as he watched her with the bracelet.
Gospel blushed, and--to her credit--lowered her eyes in humility, "Thou art too kind, Master Baro, but I thank thee all the same for thy compliment."
The dwarf stomped around his shop as he gruffed, "Tis no more than the truth!" To which she smiled with such beauty, it was like the sun itself burning through dark stormclouds. She reached to a small beltpouch beneath her cloak, "Now we come to my reckoning, good jewelmaster, how much do I owe thee?"
Indeed, Baroduin could ask for a handsome amount for the fine work, but there was that gentle aura about her that made asking it a grave wrong. The old dwarf grunted, "It's a shoddy piece of work, no more than junk. I'd be glad for ye t'be takin' it outta me shop afore someone sees it and it ruins me!"
Gospel looked at him, wide-eyed, opening her mouth to protest, but the old dwarf merely scowled at her and ushered her out of his shop. As she walked away, Baroduin made the sign of the Light, "May the Light protect ye, Lady Paladin," he said softly, "and may yer heart's lord know always of the angel he's got ensnared."
With that, Baroduin returned to his shop to find a red-robed man standing there. The man's eyes were cold as he and the dwarf regarded one another, "Who was that lovely paladin?" the man inquired, arching a brow curiously at Gospel's retreating form.
The dwarf's face grew impassive, and he crossed his arms over his barrel-like chest, "And what business of yer's would it be now?"
The man's eyes narrowed dangerously, and he raised an almost flippant hand. The dwarf's face went slack as he felt his heart constrict painfully in his chest. Baroduin fell to his knees, clutching the flesh over his heart as stars danced before his eyes, "Her...her name is...Gospel..." he managed.
The man lowered his hand, and the pain subsided, "From where?" he hissed, his lip curling with a sneer at the steadfast dwarf.
Baroduin steeled himself, glaring at the man in contempt. With a sigh of exasperation, the man clenched his fist, and Baroduin felt the pressure around his heart close once more, crushing, very nearly killing...he could see the face of Death...blackness clouded his vision, "Storm..." he closed his eyes at his wretchedness and lack of courage, "Stormwind!" he gasped as the man's power released him and Baroduin fell to hands and knees gasping for breath, thanking the Light for his life.
The man chuckled darkly, making a mock bow to the recovering dwarf, "I thank you for your information, Master Dwarf." With that, he vanished, leaving the dwarf alone to wallow in his cowardice. The old dwarf managed to stagger to his feet with the help of one of his jewelry cases, and he stumped over to the door, though he knew Gospel was long since gone.
Baroduin put a hand over his heart, which still ached somewhat, but still he prayed that somehow, Gospel of Stormwind might yet still be safe from so dreadful an enemy.
Chapter Six: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 3 of 5)
Two nights later, Gospel went in search of Rogestat. They were no closer to a cure and she knew time was all too quickly running out. She found him keeping himself preoccupied by tending the busy bar at the Laughing Jester, but it was far too noisy for them to talk. She left and went to the inviting coolness of the dormant moonwell in the center of the Park. She knelt along the smooth rocks at the water's edge, and no sooner than she'd settled, did Rogestat join her, "Is everything all right, Lady Gospel?"
Gospel had never been that good at hiding what she truly felt, and she saw no point in doing so now. She sighed, smoothing out a few folds in the skirt of her robe, her leaf-green eyes now the dark color of pine as she watched the moonlight ripple upon the water of the well, "Am I to sit here and watch thee die, gentle Rogestat?"
The quiet priest sighed, kneeling beside her, his eyes intent on her pale features, "I take it you've had no word from Immortis?"
Gospel shrank into herself, overwhelmed by the weight of her guilt, "Only briefly ere he was called once more to duty." She folded her hands into her lap, the silver filigree bracelet shining brightly in the moonlight. She looked up at him, but Rogestat had bowed his head, "It's over then..." he murmured in resignation, sounding for all the world as if his doom was now upon him, which tore at Gospel's noble heart.
Her hands clenched into fists as she glared into the dormant moonwell, "I cannot just idlly sit here and watch thee die! If need be, I will go to the Monastery alone, without Immortis."
Rogestat looked up at her, surprised by her sudden change in demeanor, "Are you all right, Gospel? I've never seen you so upset..."
"If Immortis cannot go, then it is my duty to do what I can. If it means going alone, then that is what I must do." The black diamond at her wrist shimmered in the night, and Immortis' voice came to her, "Gospel, don't be foolish! For you to go there without me is certain death!"
Gospel turned from Rogestat, speaking softly into the bracelet, "Immortis...Immortis..I cannot bide here and resign Rogestat to death. Thou doth not see him as I do, his death already accepted in his eyes..."
Immortis' voice was firm, however, "Gospel, by the Light, I swear if you go without me I'll never forgive you!"
His words were hard, cold and calculating as well-aimed steel; they cut to the very core of her being. Her breath left her as if she'd been struck a physical blow, and she fell to her knees, clasping her braceleted wrist to her chest, "Thou wouldst force me to make such a terrible decision...?" Dimly, she heard Rogestat exclaiming over her, asking her what was the matter, but her soul would only permit her to hear once voice.
"As your commanding officer," Immortis continued without remorse, "I hereby forbid you to go without me."
Tears filled her eyes as she bowed her head in defeat, his words echoing hollowly in her soul, "As thou doth command, my Lord," she whispered past the aching choke in her throat.
Rogestat, whom had been fussing over her, trying to get her to tell her what was wrong, looked at her tears in shocked dismay, "Gospel! What's wrong? What the hell is going on?!"
"I am forbidden to go, Rogestat," she murmured, shivering with a cold she felt, not physically, but deep within her soul.
Rogestat looked at her, stupefied, "What?! By whom?"
"My commander," she said evasively. How could she tell him it was Immortis who forbade her? How could she let him think that she and Immortis cared nothing for his life? Moreso, how could she tell him that Immortis valued her life far more than his?
Rogestat folded his hands within his robes, closing his eyes in submission. Gospel sat in complete misery, trapped by obedience, torn by love, and oppressed by friendship. Desperately, she began to build a wall around herself; too many emotions were warring within her. She couldn't think straight...
"Gospel..." Immortis' voice came to her, although it had less of an edge, she could tell he was still not happy with her, "You and Rogestat prepare yourselves, then meet me in Southshore so we can see this done."
Gospel sighed, "As you command, my Lord." She relayed this new information to Rogestat, and they parted ways to each make preparation. As Gospel departed, she feared she would have more to contend with on this trip than just Rogestat's emergency.
She would have to contend with Immortis' displeasure.
Chapter Seven: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 4 of 5)
They met later on that night at the edge of Southshore in the Hillsbrad Foothills. Gospel was the first to arrive since Rogestat had needed to stop by his house for a few supplies. Facing Immortis' displeasure was far worse than she could have prepared for, but she had to be firm within her resolve. If he wanted to command her as a common soldier, then a common soldier she would be.
She saluted him with parade-ground precision, her back held perfectly straight, "Gospel Lightfaith, reporting for duty as ordered, Sir!"
Immortis spared her a passing glance before looking to the skies over the gryphon landing zone, "Where is Rogestat?"
Gospel held her attention stance, "He was detained, Sir, but will be along shortly."
Immortis removed his helm and looked at her in earnest, "Have you not missed me, dear one? As I have most assuredly missed you..."
Gospel focused on a point slightly above his head, for she dared not look into his eyes and see the hurt in them, "Thou doth seem well, Sir..." she began, but Rogestat's gryphon arrived, and she sent up a prayer of thankfulness for salvation from this uncomfortable mess.
Immortis had other ideas, however, as he placed his gauntleted hands on her armored shoulders, "If you don't hold me right now, I shall surely weep." He stepped toward her, his body leaning toward her, but not quite coming in contact. He wanted her to return his embrace, not force himself upon her.
Her heart constricted painfully, and she very nearly gave in, but she steadied her resolve. Immortis would need to decide: was she his inferior and soldier or his equal and beloved? She closed her eyes in anguish, "We are all present and accounted for, Sir, should we not leave?"
Immortis sighed, but his face hardened and he motioned to them curtly, "Let's get this over with."
The journey to the Monastery was a fair way, and Rogestat separated from them to go on a shortcut of his own making. This left Gospel once more alone to contend with Immortis. A short way from Southshore, he stopped her by grabbing her arm and turning her to face him.
"Gospel, do you not care for me anymore?" The words pierced through her armor of detachment, drawing blood on the love within her soul.
"Immortis, thou doth know that I love thee, always," she whispered, bowing her head, "but thou hast been cruel to me and my heart."
The older paladin pulled a gauntlet from his hand, touching her cheek with a warm touch, "I did not mean it to be, I only wanted you to see the danger."
"Thou didst not need to command me, Immortis. Had thou but asked, I would have obeyed out of love for thee and naught else. Thou didst need not make rank an issue between us."
He sighed, "We were both in the wrong, Gospel. I was just so worried you would go needlessly to your death with no regard for me."
Gospel looked at him, her leaf-green eyes filled with her earnest, "If by my death, another might be saved, it is my duty as a paladin to serve." It seemed a simple enough concept for her.
"Nay," Immortis protested as they pressed onward to the Monastery, "A paladin only gives his life in service if there is no other alternative. It is our duty to lend our strengthening auras to our companions, and to give them the Light's own blessing."
She absorbed these words thoughtfully and found them both wise and sound. She felt a great shame in the presence of this awe-inspiring man, "Thy words are wise, Immortis, and I am sorry to have failed thee. I am reminded that I have far to go to be worthy as thy equal."
"You are much more than my equal," he responded, looking back at her with eyes filled with love, "You are my love."
Rogestat rejoined them outside the Monastery and they pressed inside against the fighting Scarlet Crusaders. Immortis fought valiantly against all odds, and Rogestat's magic held them enthralled so they could not raise the alarm. Gospel did what she could, but her lack of combat experience made her ineffective against the seasoned Crusaders.
She couldn't help but admire Immortis, even in the midst of battle. There was a fluid, but deadly grace to him; so easily did he call upon the Light to smite his enemies. Gospel could almost envy his calm efficiency. Even the few rare times she'd had cause to actually engage one of the Crusaders, Immortis was there diverting the enemy's attention from her. All-in-all, she felt rather like useless baggage.
During one of their brief respites, Gospel voiced her lack of skill, at which Rogestat merely laughed, but Immortis approached her, putting a gauntleted, but tender hand upon her cheek, "You give me the strength and the conviction to do what I must, beloved," With that, he kissed her forehead and returned to the fray.
Chapter Eight: "A Test of Faith & Friendship" (Part 5 of 5)
The trip through the Monastery was short, but seemed a lifetime long. Gospel was surprised to hear the Arcanist Doan challenge Immortis within the Library's heart. The battle was fever-pitched and harsh, but the dark sorcerer's power was no match for the paladin's might. Once the wizard was finished, they searched the room for the apparatus of Rogestat's salvation: a diamond mortar and pestle.
Gospel could hardly recall what came next, but she remember Immortis chanting and crushing bits of glass with the pestle, and Rogestat collapsing in pain. Even now, Rogestat's screams haunted her in the dark of night, as the priest cried out in unbearable torment before he had collapsed.
She remembered Immortis mixing the contents of pulverized glass with holy water, bidding her to make the semi-conscious Rogestat drink of it. It seemed another eternity passed as she painstakingly trickled the concoction, drop by drop, into Rogestat's mouth. When he finally roused, Immortis bade him to finish off what remained, so that he might again be whole. Only then did Gospel finally sag with relief and exhaustion.
Immortis sent Rogestat home ahead of them, keeping Gospel behind so that they might again speak, "So have I pleased you?" he asked her gently, removing his helm and looking at her with eyes that held such love, but also some measure of hurt, "Made you proud?"
For a moment, Gospel was wounded; he made it sound like she'd asked him here to prove himsel, when all she had wanted was to help their friend, "Thou doth never need to please me or prove thy worth, Immortis..."
"If it is my death you want, then ask it," Immortis said painfully, removing his gauntlets to touch the side of her head and caress her silver hair, "For if you had come here alone and perished, I would surely have died with you."
Gospel shook her head vehemently, "And I say thee nae, Immortis. I would never seek thy death anymore than my own. I love thee, and would never risk thee as callously as that." She bowed her head, once again ashamed that she had failed him," I was impulsive and foolish. I was overwrought and ashamed to ask thee once more for thy help."
Immortis sighed, cupping her face in both his hands, forcing those beautiful emerald eyes to look into his own, "Gospel, never be afraid to ask me for help...for anything." He kissed her gently, and held her as close as cumbersome armor would allow, "If I may, could I ask you a favor, dear one?"
Gospel pressed her cheek to his battle-worn breastplate, "If it is within my power to grant thee, beloved, I shall do my utmost."
His arms tightened around her and he took a deep breath, "I have been alone many nights, Gospel. Would you favor me with your presence in my bed tonight?"
Gospel flushed a brilliant scarlet, "Immortis...it...it would hardly be proper...!"
He smiled at her, chuckling softly. He whispered to her gently, "I do not ask out of lustful designs upon you, love. I am just so very tired of being alone..."
She continued to blush furiously, embarassed by herself, "I didn't mean it like that..."
He laughed aloud, kissing her forehead, "I swear, on my honor, that I want nothing more than your presence, Gospel."
She smiled, still blushing, "If I have thy oath that there shall be naught..."
Immortis nodded, pressing his cheek against her fragrant silver hair, "Gospel, I promise you, there will be a wedding before I would ever ask anything more of you."
She embraced him closely, nodding, "As my lord doth command," she murmured with a teasing smile.
Their Hearthstones brought them home to Stormwind that night, and the inn was quiet as its patrons slept. In the darkness of the night, the two hearts came together for the comfort of the other's presence, and as promised, there was no intimacy, no lustful designs. They held one another, cocooned in the simple beauty that was their love.
Chapter Nine: "Child of Darkness; Child of Light"
Immortis fought a pitched battle against a rising tide of undead legions, the Light flared brilliantly at his command, driving back his enemies. Around him, a party of supporters and compatriots also fought. The combat wore through hours and eventually the flagging strength of the party wore as thin as spider's silk. A sorceress was the first to fall, followed by the rogue that had tried to rescue her. One by one, the party was felled, until only a single paladin stood alone against the seething horde of Darkness. "Gospel..." he whispered, then threw himself into the throbbing mass. The undead screamed their delight as they overran the paladin, his shining armor lost among the writhing bodies. The screams of the dead rose in pitch, higher...and higher...and higher...
Gospel sat up, screaming aloud as she clutched the coverlet to her shivering body. Her simple woolen shift clung to her sweat-dampened body as her shoulders shook with silent sobs. Tears fell from her eyes as she covered her face with both her hands. She pulled her knees to her chest, crying quietly into them until the feeling passed. As she raised her head, her eyes were caught by the silvery sparkle of the bracelet as it lay on the bedside table. Almost as if by reflex, she reached a hand toward it, but at the last moment before her fingers brushed the cool metal, she stopped, withdrawing back to herself. She could not permit him to see her in weakness, else she would only lose him further to his dreaded mistress. Duty.
She sighed, rising from bed and beginning her preparations for the day. No matter where she looked, she was reminded of the terrible figments of her dream. She could see in her mind's eye, Immortis making that last desperate charge with her name upon his lips. She wandered Stormwind aimlessly and found herself in the Park when she finally came to herself. She knelt once more at the rocky edge of the dormant moonwell, gazing at the bracelet on her wrist, "Immortis..." she whispered, touching the dark gemstone.
"Yes, my dearest?" came his almost instant response.
"I miss thee, my love, and had merely hoped to find comfort in thy name." As always, just hearing his voice brought her some small measure of comfort, but with it a searing ache in her heart. So little time they'd had together, and yet her love for him was as boundless as the sky.
"I do so miss you in return, and hope that you find some small comfort in this," Immortis replied.
Gospel sat alone in the Park, the sound of Immortis' voice bringing back the memory of the New Year party and how wonderful he had looked. She closed her eyes against it, feeling the absolute emptiness of Stormwind without Immortis in it, "I think I shall travel abroad for a time," she said finally, "there are too many ghosts that haunt me in Stormwind."
"Ghosts, my love?" Immortis said with concern.
Gospel's feet seemed to carry her of their own accord as she spoke, "Phantoms and ghosts of what few happy times I have had with thee..." She waited on the platform of the Deeprun Tram, which linked Stormwind to the dwarven capital of Ironforge. In some remote part of her mind, a dark presence slithered from its deep hiding, hissing into her subconscious, :: He doth not even love thee enough to see thee. Why should he care where thou art? ::
"I am truly sorry my duties have kept me away, beloved. I want nothing more than to be with you," Immortis said, his voice filled with remorse.
"Nae," Gospel said quietly as the Tram sped her toward Ironforge, "If there is one thing I understand, it is duty. I simply miss thee." Yet, The Other in her mind was not so easily appeased, :: If he doth so desire to see thee, he doth have more than enough power to see it done! There is nowhere you go that he could not follow, but he chooses to leave thee behind as naught more than a pretty trophy of his prowess! ::
"You said yourself, 'duty first'..." Immortis responded, which caused Gospel's heart to sink somewhat. She walked the halls of Ironforge, and into the Great Forge itself and approached the gryphon master.
"Is this to be the way of us then?" she said quietly, taking the reins of a gryphon from the dwarven master. She mounted, and if flew swift and sure toward Menethil Harbor, "Are we to be forever beloved, but eternally parted?"
:: Of course, :: The Other whispered harshly in the back of her mind, :: What need hath he of so lowly a paladin? Thou art no more to him than a hangers-on, to wait for him as a faithful dog for his master!::
"Someday," Immortis promised, completely unaware of the third conversationalist in Gospel's mind, "our duties will be finished and we will have all the time in the world to be together."
Gospel dismounted from the gryphon near the Harbor, trotting down the dock to board the ship sailing for Auberdine, "I understand, Immortis, and I shall strive toward that day with all my heart."
:: Foolish love-sick girl! :: The Other cried in righteous indignation, :: Canst thou not see how he uses thee? Why must thou be so blind! ::
Immortis said no more after that, and she was left only with The Other as company on the long sea voyage, :: How canst thou permit thyself to be treated so callously? Do not let him sway thee with sweet words of unproven love. What hath he sacrificed for thee, not his time, for thou art not worthy. A few coins and trinkets? Is thy love and honor to be so cheaply bought?::
Gospel bowed her head against the vicious onslaught. She could not answer, for she steadfastly refused to believe that Immortis did not truly love her. She held fast to the bracelet on her wrist, until the pattern of the filigree was indented into her flesh. How she wanted to talk to Immortis and know what lay in his heart!
:: He will only tell thee what thou doth desire most to hear. He benefits none at all to deny thee. ::
Gospel leaned against the railing of the ship as it pulled into Auberdine. The salty spray of the sea mingled with the tears on her cheeks, so no one noticed the weeping paladin as she ran to the ship leaving for Teldrassil. She climbed to the bow under the storm gray sky, her heart aching with a pain she felt traitorous to have. She knew Immortis loved her, and knew he would do anything for her.
:: Oh, aye, :: The Other replied with dripping sarcasm, :: Aye. He wouldst do anything, save deny his duty for even a single moment to give thee attention thou doth richly deserve. Why canst thou not see thou art being played the Fool? ::
Gospel courageously shook her head, "Never. I know he loves me."
:: Then why, dearest Child, art thou alone and denied in a foreign land, hiding from what thou must surely know is Truth?:: Gospel put a hand to her forehead, trying to block out the horrible voice, "Why art thou tormenting me?" she murmured brokenly as she walked off the ship at Teldrassil's base.
:: I do this only because thou doth lack the courage to admit it to thyself. Oh, Child! Doth thou think I do this of malice? Never! Thou art Mine, and I wish only for thy happiness. ::
"Who art thou?" she asked, as the portal brought her into Darnassus.
:: I am Someone who desires only the best for thee. ::
"Gospel?" At the sound of her spoken name, the shadow that shared her thoughts fled to deeper recesses, hissing vehemently.
The young paladin roused as if from a dream, turning to see a Night Elf hunter regarding her, "Inaria..." Gospel blinked dazedly, "I had not expected to find anyone I knew here, much less thee."
Inaria smiled, her hands gesturing toward Gospel, "I could say the same thing about you. What brings you so far from home?"
Gospel shifted in her armor, looking toward the East, toward home...toward Immortis, "I wanted to get away from Stormwind for a while..."
The hunter looked at the unusually pale paladin in concern, "Are you unwell, Gospel?"
Gospel sat on the stone railing of one of the many balconies in Darnassus, "If being unwell means I own not my heart..."
Inaria's features softened, "Ah, I think I see. You haven't heard from Immortis lately, I take it?"
The silver-haired young woman sighed wistfully, moving one of those signature waterfall locks back behind an ear absently, "nae, I heard from him, the Lord of my heart, and I fear that I am doomed..."
The elf knelt beside her friend, touching Gospel's shoulder in care, "What do you mean 'doomed'?"
Gospel choked back tears, refusing to cry before her Guildmaster, "Immortis has assured me that duty shall keep us apart for most of our lives..."
Inaria pondered this a moment, "I cannot say I understand the concept of duty, for I go freely where the wind blows me--but you paladins seem to live your lives by it. You understand his dedication to duty, do you not?"
Gospel nodded, "I understand it, good Inaria, but that doth not mean I like it."
Inaria laughed, "Well, no! I don't think anyone likes being second to anything, much less something as transparent as duty."
Gospel looked at her elven friend, her heart-sick misery so apparent it touched Inaria deeply, "Am I to live like this forever? Loving him, but never seeing him?"
Inaria shrugged slightly, "You love him, don't you?"
"More than my very life..."
"And he loves you?"
"He hath said as much."
"Then why worry?" Inaria said simply, "I am sure that wherever Immortis is, he fights for you. He fights wondering, 'Will I ever see her again?' or who would take care of you, should the unthinkable happen."
Gospel lowered her eyes, shamed by Inaria's blunt presentation of things that should have been obvious, "Thy words are wise and bear the ring of Truth, good Inaria. I am ashamed of how I have been."
Inaria playfully ruffled the young paladin's silver hair, "Besides, I've never known you to give up so easily." Gospel smiled at the night elf's easy nature as Inaria continued, "Besides, I would have thought this was all the more motivation..."
"Motivation...?" Gospel put the tips of her fingers to her forehead, stunned by the simplicity, "Light bless thy lovestruck fool!" She looked up at Inaria, beaming, "Of course!"
Satisfied, Inaria rose, "Now, the hour grows late and you have come a long way. Do you have a room at the inn?"
"Nae, I'd only just arrived in Darnassus when thou didst come upon me."
Inaria laughed, putting a hand on her hip, "Well, no offense to my brethren, but they're fairly stingy when it comes to accomodations, so I usually sleep out of doors on a small islet near the Temple."
Gospel stood with a yawn, "I am sure that wherever thou doth stay is more than adequate."
In an unexpected move, Inaria stepped close to the paladin, softly nuzzling the spot below Gospel's ear with her cheek and nose. There was nothing more in it than if Inaria had been a particularly loving cat. With Inaria's fey and feral nature, Gospel could only feel the love and respect of her Guildmaster.
"Never forget you are pack, Gospel," Inaria said gently, touching the tips of her fingers to the paladin's chin, "And we are one."
Gospel nodded as Inaria danced away, "Can you run with the pack, Gospel?" The night elf blessed the paladin with Aspect of the Pack and they both ran laughing through the night-darkened elvish capital. They chased around the trees, and along the soft lush grasses. Their laughter echoed off the water, and between the marbled buildings, lending a gentle innocence to the night.
At last, however, they came to Inaria's camp. They spent most of the night in laughter, joy, and comraderie. Yet, when at last Gospel sought out sleep at the night's end, The Other lay in waiting.
:: Trust no one. They all seek to fool thee! Trust no one... ::
Journal Entry: "Untitled"
It hath been several days since I hath spent any great length of time at home in Stormwind, but I think whatever had felt broken within me is now repaired. Speaking with Inaria so plainly of my feelings toward Immortis did much to greatly ease whatever had been so disconsolate within me. I think I begin to understand, that I shall never truly be worthy of Immortis, his time, or his love until I am his equal in all things; if not to him, then within my own heart.
I am his inferior, and this I freely acknowledge; I cannot deny that I love my Immortis with everything in my being, but that love is not enough to make me worthy of him. So here, at least within this journal, and within my own soul, I make upon the Light this solemn oath:
With each breath I draw upon the start of day, I shall be dedicated to my service and art as both paladin and healer. I shall aid my people, wherever they might ask of it, and shall use the experiences to expand the reach of the Light. I shall be the candle that reaches those dark places that the Light itself cannot quite seem to reach. I do this in the name of the Light, and so that--one-day--I might be worthy of this Love the Light hath been so gracious as to bless unto my life.
"A Letter Unsent"
Gospel sat on the bed of her rented room in Stormwind. In her hand she held a sheaf of paper upon which a letter had been written. Part of it was in her own handwriting, the rest...she was uncertain.
These past days without thee hath only reminded me further of how much I love thee, and doth reinforce my determination to grow myself as a paladin worthy of being beside thee in all things. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure thou wouldst not even appreciate my presence were I there, thou doth take so little interest in me as it stands. I want naught else in this Life save to serve and to accord the great blessing of thy presence in my life all the gratitude my life can muster. The Light did place thee in my path, of that I am certain. Indeed, so certain was I that I flew across the entirety of Azeroth to escape my uncertainty of thy here-today, gone-tomorrow adoration! It is my hope, always, that soon we will be together, as thou didst promise me, but until then I abide patiently for thee to return. Don't hold thy breath, for someone else will come along, and thou shalt regret ever uttering thy words of false devotion!
All My Love, Though I've None of Yours...
Chapter Ten: "Home is Where the Heart Is"
Home. Gospel pondered that thought as she proceeded through her morning ablutions. She hadn't had a home since leaving Northshire Abbey two years ago, but even then, the Abbey had never had that certain feeling of "Home". Now, she wandered from inn to inn, dependent upon what city she was in when she retired for the night. There was really no permanency to her life--save one thing.
"Home is where the heart is," or so the saying went. Her heart was with Immortis, wherever he was, so it didn't really surprise her that she felt no attachment to any particular place. Immortis held the one part of her that no other place had, and thus all places seemed empty without him.
::You are a fool to hold to the hope that he will come running home to you with open arms,:: The Other said in the back of her mind; the small slithering aspect swirling in agitation. Gospel was still slightly confused by this secondary presence in her mind, and had often debated speaking of it to Immortis, but for some reason she could not bring herself to. Hearing voices was not widely regarded in a positive light.
::You aren't crazy, you know.:: The Other interjected, ::I have a purpose here. Your destiny has brought me.::
"My destiny?" Gospel said, tugging her boots on, "What doth thou know of my destiny?"
::That is for me to know. You will come into it in your own time and not before.:: The Other stated, matter-of-factly, ::I serve a purpose in that destiny.::
"And what purpose is that?" Gospel pulled on her cape and left her room at the innn. She had a long way to travel today, and Stranglethorn Vale had requisitioned her services.
::My purpose is my own for now; suffice to say that I am here to show you the truth in all things--no matter how they might break your self-made illusions.::
"So thou art here to save me from my own naivete?" Stormwind was just rousing as she moved through the streets quickly, her agile steps taking her to the Gryphon Roost.
::After a fashion, I suppose.:: The Other responded non-commitally as Gospel clambered onto the gryphon's glossy back and it leapt into flight. It sped toward Darkshire, the closest point to the refugee camp in Stranglethorn, "I take it that thou doth not approve of Immortis, since thou doth always speak of him with such venom."
::Oh, Child...It's not that I do not approve; I simply cannot understand why or how he could ignore so star-bright a being as yourself. Can he not see what he truly has?:: Oddly, The Other seemed amused by this.
Gospel shrugged, "He knows, but like me, he knows his duty as well. He cannot have both at once; to try would be a disservice to each."
::So you are content to wait until he is ready to love you? You are happy to always be second place to all else in his life--when we both know you should be first?::
"I will wait for Immortis for as long as he requires," Gospel said with conviction, "If our love is to live, then it must live free."
The Other hissed quietly at that and went silent. Gospel smiled to herself as the gryphon landed and she spent the rest of the trip through Duskwood in blessed silence. Yet, she had told The Other no less than the truth. She loved Immortis and would wait for whenever he was ready. For now, she would strive to better herself, so that she would be a woman Immortis could be proud to love.
She snapped to attention before the commanding officer in the Refugee camp, "Gospel Lightfaith, reporting for duty..."
A Meeting: "The Prophecy Walks"
"It is said the Silver Child has been found," murmured one of the Archmagi sealed in the magical city of Dalaran, "Already safeharbored amongst the Pack, and looked after by the Wolf."
"Hm," the other, and ancient and wizened magus, "What of the Keeper, and the Guardian?"
"We have our suspicions, Ancient One, but no actual confirmation," the first replied, a dubiousness in his voice.
"You sound concerned, Justarius, what is on your mind?"
"The Guardian, if it is truly He, does not act in accordance to His role." Justarius paced the room somewhat restlessly, ignoring the numerous and intricate arcane apparati around him.
"Perhaps He is not," the Ancient one said simply, "Perhaps your agents have made a mistake."
Justarius looked at his superior, "She claims to love him..."
"Ah," the Ancient one sighed, "then let us pray He acts the part soon. Elsewise, all may very well be lost. The Silver Champion of the Light will play a pivotal role in the fight against the coming Darkness."
"Indeed," Justarius replied, making a full circuit of the room, "Let us hope."
The Ancient One watched the restless pacing of his confidante, "And what of the Other?"
Justarius sighed, stopping before the banked fire in the hearth, staring moodily into the smoldering embers. He wished strangely, that the embers and coals did not look so much like a burning city, "We have reason to believe That One is already with her."
The Ancient One closed his eyes, putting a hand to his forehead, "May the Light and Magic have mercy on us all..."
Chapter Eleven: "Dark Protege" (Part 1)
Gospel sat at a table within the Lakeshire Inn, a slightly wrinkled set of orders held in her hand, as she regarded the seal of Stormwind High Command. She'd been removed from her assignment to Immortis and instead been given a command of her own; a lower level paladin to train. Her luminous green eyes settled on her new protege's name in the official missive. Darthal Mann. She'd had cause to assist him before now, and had found him to be somewhat diminished as a paladin. It was not until after that initial meeting that she discovered the truth about him.
He was a young man who had given himself over to Darkness. Her eyes returned to the order statement--now it was her responsibility to either redeem him, or condemn him. Her feathery eyebrows furrowed as her eyes moved to the silver filigree bracelet upon her right wrist. Part of her wanted to contact Immortis, to ask for his guidance, but another part of her wanted to do this on her own. This was her duty alone, just as Immortis had always put Duty before her.
Darthal Mann. This man would either walk the paths of Light, or fall eternally to Darkness based on her leadership. Her lips tightened in resolution; by the Light, she would not fail him as she had done Immortis.
She tucked the orders into her belt and left the inn, a sense of renewed purpose in her eyes. Yet, even as she stepped out into the sunlight, she paused. With careful deliberation, she slowly removed the silver bracelet from her wrist, and with a resigned blankness, carefully placed it in the bottom of her backpack.
Duty was a harsh mistress to be second to, or so she had told Inaria, it was time Gospel took first place back.
Chapter Twelve: "A Moment Alone"
Gospel shut the door of her room at the inn, closing her eyes as she pressed her back against the wood. She tilted her head back until the crown of her head rested against the door, heaving a soft sigh. A moment alone, at last. She leaned there in repose against the door, hearing nothing but the rhythmic beat of her own heart.
Brightest Light...what a fickle and traitorous heart it was! She put her right hand to her forehead, fingers brushing lightly against the silver gossamer of her hairline. Oh, Immortis! She rubbed the heel of her palm against her forehead, between her brows, trying to suppress the tears she could feel stinging the backs of her eyelids. She felt so lost and confused! For all that she loved and cherished Immortis, she felt as if he were moving farther and farther from her. Even the bracelet had gone silent and dim, lending no comfort to her in this, her hour of need. Had she been a fool to give her heart to Immortis so quickly?
:: I tried to warn you he was Untrue. He wants you for a trophy, nothing more; not for love, and certainly not as his equal. You were a beautiful charity that no longer interests him. :: The Other's serpentine darkness slithered like an agitated snake in the back of her mind, speaking into the silence at the mere thought of Immortis, :: I tried to warn you--to spare your heart this anguish. ::
"And I was a foolish girl who did not listen," Gospel said softly, pushing away from the door to cross the room to the bed, "We seemed so right together, his Great Light and mine..." she spoke wistfully, as if her love for Immortis had burned so brightly a lifetime ago, instead of a matter of weeks.
The Other curled sensuously around her mind, bringing shadow where there was light, casting burning lances of truth into the places that hurt most, :: When you place a Great Light near a Lesser, the Lesser is always lost. ::
Touche'. Gospel winced physically at that brutal truth, given in so simple a statement. She sat on the bed numbly, staring at the floor in realization: Immortis would always outshine her...
:: Blessed Light! :: The Other oathed fiercely, whipping around her mind as if blown by a haggard wind, :: Would you stop demeaning yourself? You are beautiful, desirable--so far removed from anyone, that people adore you and you don't even realize it! :: Gospel blinked in stupefaction, but the other continued, :: The world does not begin and end with Immortis. He is not the only man upon this earth who could ever care for you. Are you so blind? ::
Gospel tugged her boots off as she sat on the edge of the bed. She ran a hand over her silvery hair as if trying to soothe that other presence, "What dost thou mean?"
The Other radiated grim amusement, :: You really *are* that blind... ::
The boots joined her armor, which had been neatly stacked in the corner when she'd changed to off-duty clothing earlier, "Not nearly so much as thou wouldst think."
The Other froze in its agitated movements, :: Is that so? I take it you've noticed His regard then? ::
A set of neatly folded clothes joined the armor, and Gospel pulled on a simple woolen dress before stretching out on the bed, laying on her side for her full length, with a sigh, as she tried to relax, "How could I not? He and I seem drawn together as moths to a flame." She lay on her side, staring at the wall, images of her protege's face momentarily ghosting in her vision as The Other recalled her memories of earlier today.
:: Your Light calls to his Darkness, :: The Other pointed out quietly, :: I told you someone else would find you. ::
Gospel closed her eyes against the imagery of Darthal's face, almost angelic when he'd smiled. She rolled onto her back, folding her arms behind her head, staring up at the ceiling she didn't even really see, "I have lived and breathed nothing but Immortis for these past weeks..."
:: You cannot deny that what was between you has faded, Child. Only you strive to keep it alive. ::
Did she? Had she tried hard enough? Or perhaps it wasn't even her at all. Gospel closed her eyes once more as the ceiling began to waver in her vision, "Did he ever really love me?" Or did I only see in him what I wanted?
The Other calmed in her mind, settling like a contented cat, but its voice spoke with gentleness and caring when it commented next, :: Perhaps, in his own fashion,:: it hazarded carefully, :: But he loves Duty more; and that is hardly fair to a treasure such as you. ::
She rolled over onto her stomach, arriving near the edge of the bed. With great slowness, she reached into her backpack which she'd set there when she'd come in earlier, and rummaged to the very bottom of the bag to pull the silver bracelet out into the candlelight. Immortis' name glittered around the Black Azerothian Diamond, but it was a cold shine lacking the warmth it once had, not even warmed by the golden light of the candles around her. For a long time, she held the bracelet in her hand, admiring the intricate dwarven handiwork.
Shall I ever be free again, Immortis? Or am I doomed to remain as thy prisoner of this unrequited love I bear for thee? A bitter sob broke from her unexpectedly, and she dropped the bracelet to the floor as she reached for a nearby pillow. She buried her beautiful face in the softness, stifling the wracking sobs that poured forth from her very heart. She wept for an hour or more, on into the heart of the night; she wept for her heart, her fading love, and for her honor that held her captive.
Freedom, it seemed, would never be hers until she admitted to herself that she and Immortis were finished. Their love had been sweet and pure, like an oasis in the desert; but like many oases in the desert, it turned out to be only a bittersweet mirage.
Oh, Light... Gospel prayed as her tears ebbed, Please, help me find my path again...
Chapter Thirteen: "Shield Up"
The morning dawned cold and clear, the first hazy rays of sunlight striking across the coverlet as Gospel lay on her side beneath it. She lay there, feeling the coolness of the air upon her cheek and shoulder in contrast to the warmth beneath the sheets. She kept her eyes closed, her pillow still damp from a night's worth of tears, and an aching emptiness echoing hollowly through her heart and soul. She had no more tears to shed, and could find no comfort against the gaping void her final acceptance had created. It's over.
The Other slithered like an oily mass through the deeper recesses of her mind, :: It is better this way... ::
Gospel didn't respond, remaining curled in bed long after she was normally up and around. She lay there disconsolately, eyes closed as she probed the painful vacancy deep within her. By the Light, she hand't anticipated it hurting quite so much, but a small part of her couldn't deny the truth of the Other's statement. Perhaps, yes, it was better this way.
His name no longer brought the old, lancing pain, merely a dull throbbing ache that echoed through her soul like a barren cavern. She had expected something more with her decision to let Immortis go. :: In your heart-of-hearts, Child, you knew it was long since over. Your Light simply could not exist within his. :: The Other made an effort to comfort her, :: It was a falling star, doomed to be brief. His first and only love shall always be Duty; you are too special to be made second to anything or anyone. ::
Gospel opened her eyes slowly, allowing them to acclimate to the morning sunlight. There's no point in lying here wallowing in self-pity. Light! How she wanted to do nothing but forget the world for a while, but her obligation and loyalty to her own Duty called too strongly; she still had a protege that needed her, and needed her guidance. Resolutely, she pushed the coverlets off and got out of bed. She hissed slightly as her bare feet came in contact with the cold floor, but quickly crossed over to where a washing basin stood with a pitcher of water. It was good shock therapy to break her mind loose from its fugue; for once she was back into her routine, habit took over. Soon enough, she was clean, armored, and ready to face the day ahead.
As she strapped her swordbelt around her waist, she took one final probe at the hollowness inside her; no hurt, just a great, gaping void. She nodded to herself, satisfied. As she left the room, slowly, and unconsciously she began to build a cool, defensive wall around herself. She had already suffered a near-mortal wound to her heart once; she would not be so foolish as to permit it to happen again.
Chapter Fourteen: "Revelations"
:: So soon... :: As Gospel closed the door of the inn-room Darthal had rented in Menethil Harbor, the Other slithered to life in the recesses of her mind like a roused snake, :: Do you think you are ready? ::
Gospel touched a gauntleted hand to her forehead where Darthal's lips had kissed her, "I am drawn to him, and I can feel him drawn to me; we are like two handfuls of water made one as intended."
The Other was unimpressed, :: You said as much of Immortis, too. ::
Gospel shook her head, unstrapping the armor around her, "What I feel now is so much more than mere girlish fancy. My love for Immortis was youthful infatuation, I have come to terms with that. His great Light blinded me to all else, and his moments of tender regard did flatter me." She carefully removed her armor, setting it carefully into a neat stack in the corner, "I know now, and see, that I was but a passing fancy for him." There. She admitted it, but surprisingly there was no pain, just a detached observation. Darthal's earlier words of truth about her resolve still rang through her soul like a clarion bell. Indeed, it had been only her own resolve and desperation that had kept her clinging to Immortis, but in those last moments in the darkness when she'd finally let him go, there had been little in the way of love.
Once free of her armor, Gospel stretched languidly, her lithe form silhouetted by the moonlight pouring in the window panes. Bathed in moonlight, she stood inher night-darkened room looking out over the empty streets of Menethil. She now bore a bond with Darthal, one which she could not explain; yet it was a bond that was sure and strong, so completely opposite of the uncertain and fragile tie she'd had to Immortis. The bond that had formed between her and Darthal was as strong as purest mithril, but it sang with all the beauty of a single harpstring. There also existed in her a peace that she had never had with Immortis; she felt renewed and could feel the Light strengthened around her, instead of diminished.
The Other swirled in her mind in agitation, its presence suddenly seething, :: You may be as wrong about him as you were about Immortis. ::
She moved away from the window, crossing her arms over her chest as she crossed to her backpack. Carefully, she removed some more comfortable clothes than what she typically wore beneath her armor, "Strange, thou art a fickle conversationalist," she commented to the Other, "Thou who were so opposed to Immortis, and so quick to point out Darthal's interest...now thou doth have doubts of him?"
:: You know the Darkness that exists in him. He is dangerous. :: The Other responded slowly, with great care. :: He may very well destroy you, someday. ::
Gospel changed to a simple hanbok, running a hand through her silvery hair to smooth it out, "If Darthal spells my doom, then I walk to that doom with my eyes wide open. I have been assigned to him, and will do my utmost for him."
:: His Darkness can consume you, turn you from the Light. ::
She crawled up onto the bed, pulling back the coverlets, "There exists a Light in him, that even thou canst not deny. It is to that Light I reach, and it is that Light I endeavour to draw forth. Darthal Mann is not lost to his Darkness, nor shall he ever be as long as I am with him."
The Other growled somewhat menacingly, but said nothing further. For a moment, Gospel knelt upon the bed, frowning slightly. She knew of the Prophecy, of course, but she began to understand that this presence in her mind was more than just her own conscience and doubt. Yet, she could not decide if it served the Light or the Darkness; at times it seemed very caring of her well-being, and at others completely at odd with what made her happy. Who art thou, voice...? she wondered silently, and who doth thou serve? Me, or the Prophecy?
Chapter Fifteen: "Dark Protege" (Part 2)
The day had gone well; Darthal had completed all of his orders for the Redridge Mountains area, and he and Gospel had been reassigned to Darkshire and the surrounding Duskwood county. After spending the day curbing the over-abundance of wolves and pygmy spiders harassing the countryside, they retired to the Dwarven District of Stormwind to pass the time as Darthal smelted the ore he'd managed to eke from the land in their travels.
Gospel watched as her protege worked the earth from the metal in a careful process of straining and sluicing off the dirt from the actual ore. Then she watched as he turned the ore into bars of glittering copper, tin, and bronze. It all seemed very complex to her, since she only partook of Herb gathering and Skinning as her professions. Yet, while the process was interesting, it was Darthal who held her attention more.
Blacksmithing was arduous work, and she admired the way the muscles rippled across his back as he bent the raw material of the metal to his will. The lines of his face that were so marked by his struggle with the Darkness within him disappeared as he forged various items from the seeming nothingness of the ore. She smiled slightly to herself, thinking, If he had but the patience with people as he did with metal, he would walk in Glorious Light wherever he went...
It was so strange to her, to feel so at ease with him. They had only been assigned together for the last four days, but she felt more at ease with him than she did anyone else in all Azeroth. Even Inaria, who was a dear friend and confidante, did not invoke the feeling of warm congeniality that Darthal sparked. So, when he finally took a pause in his work and approached her where she leaned on a nearby wagon, she smiled and they conversed about inconsequential things.
Darthal was only twenty-two, and his boyish awkwardness was still apparent when a few moments later he got too close to her and stumbled backward to a safter distance. Yet, in doing so, he tripped backward over the wagon's wheel, falling rather unceremoniously on his rump. She couldn't help but laugh at him as he looked up at her sheepishly, but oh how good it felt to laugh after all that had transpired in her life! She extended her hand to him to help him up, playfully commenting, "Thou art graceful as a hawk in combat, but a mere stationery wagon doth prove thy undoing..."
With an impish grin, Darthal accepted her hand, but did nothing more than pull her down into his gracelessness, a move which caught the older paladin completely off-guard. A yelp of protest emitted from Gospel as she fell to the ground beside her protege, but she laughed at him, cuffing him playfully on the shoulder, "Thou didst do that on purpose! I should have thee demoted to scullery boy!" She shifted on the ground into a sitting position, brushing the dust from her knees.
Darthal had risen at that point, taking her hands and pulling her to his feet. He brought her hand to his lips, gently kissing the back of her hand with courtly politeness, "If you did, then we wouldn't spend anymore time together, would we?"
Gospel was momentarily taken aback by his actions, for he'd displayed nothing of this side of him before this. Always he'd been somewhat distant and inwardly focused, yet here he was now, reaching out and touching her. She blushed slightly at the feel of his lips upon the bare skin of her hand, "Perhaps," she murmured, "I must admit that thy company hath been most pleasant. Ere thou hadst been assigned to me, I walked many a road alone..."
Darthal smiled, slowly releasing her hands, "Now that I am here, you'll never need to walk alone again...that I promise.
She smiled a sweet, shy smile, bowing her head at his sincerity, "I thank thee for such a promise, Sir Darthal. Thou hath no idea what such a promise means to me..." Her eyes fell somewhat disconsolately to her right wrist where once Immortis' bracelet had held a place of honor in her heart. Now, it lay hidden and buried in her backpack, like the love in her heart for the wayward paladin.
Darthal coughed uncomfortably, regarding her, "I know of your...situation with your previous commander."
Gospel started, flushing shamefully. She had not realized that the status of her relationship with Immortis had become popular knowledge. Now, to have waited three weeks with no word from him, it seemed shameful, like she was merely a lady of the night waiting for her patron to return, "There is not much to say of that..." She murmured, turning her face from Darthal, wondering what he might think of her. She had given her heart to Immortis, believing in his words of love and devotion--and now she was alone, seemingly forgotten, for all that she loved Immortis still. Yet, even she was forced to admit, that love which had burned so brightly, now waned to banked coals in preparation of the long Winter ahead.
She was not worthy of Immortis, she knew, which was why he had gone and bespoke her rarely. She would never be his equal, and he sought the companionship of those who were. Her heart ached as she thought of him; it ached with an emptiness of a love unrequited.
She closed her eyes against tears that burned her eyes with her shame. She'd given her heart so foolishly, believing the words of devotion that had passed from his lips, only to never be proven. Yet, even as she turned from Darthal in embarassment, he touched her shoulder gently, turning her back to face him, "Don't do that..." he touched her chin, forcing her to look at his face, "Don't."
Looking upon him, her very soul quavered in that moment, he was Darkness; she was Light. By this, could he be reclaimed?
"Sister Gospel, Brother Darthal!" came another voice, which she looked over Darthal's shoulder to see their guildmate Artemas approach. Within herself she breathed a sigh of relief, though part of her was saddened as Darthal stepped away from her at Artemas' arrival.
As they made polite conversation with Artemas, and Darthal resumed his blacksmithing, it left her with time to think. Time she desperately needed--to search her own heart.
Chapter Sixteen: "Dark Protege" (Part 3)
Darthal's training was progressing well, and Stormwind had once more accepted him into a commission as a paladin, he who had once been exiled. That fate, at least, Gospel had saved him from. His exile had wounded Darthal probably more than he cared to admit, but through Gospel's faith and diligence, he was once more on the side of right.
Gospel walked along the canals of Stormwind, not really paying attention to much of anything, I have succeeded, at least in part, so why is it that I feel this is only the calm before the storm...?
:: Your love for him...you know it is bound to destroy you. You know this. You can feel the Change in him. :: As always, the Other's advice was sound and irrefutable, couched in bitter truths.
Change. It was inevitable, she supposed. There was nothing in the world that did not change. Darthal had changed, there was a pride in him and perhaps some small joy--but now there was fear, as well. Fear of what...? Rejection, perhaps, if others in Stormwind were to know his true origins. Or was it something more...? The excursion to Lordaeron had shown Gospel a wavering in Darthal's faith; a wavering that drew her concern. Determined, as always, Gospel would bolster his faith with her own, if need be. She would not lose him through her own inaction.
:: So, you admit that possibility at last? :: The Other commented dryly.
"That Darthal can still be lost?" she stopped on one of the bridges spanning the canal, "I do not believe so, and never will--but these changes are not ones I anticipated."
Oh, Light... Gospel prayed as she watched the morning sun rise over the battlements of Stormwind, If I do nothing else in this life, let me win this battle..."
Chapter Seventeen: "A Change in Priority"
In the still of the night, Gospel sat in Thelsamaar's inn, preparatory to make an excursion to the Badlands; she couldn't sleep with all the restive thoughts in her mind and heart. In an effort to soothe whatever raged within her, she put pen to journal yet again, an infrequently used, but often useful tactic she'd used in times of distress before. Yet, there was no unhappiness in her now, merely many ponderously heavy thoughts.
Quill scratched against parchment as she put her thoughts into written words...
I had thought I knew what that was, once upon a time. Yet, now I find my life shifting in priority, where Duty now pales in comparison to one thing, and one thing only--my Dar. Why hast thou so touched the very depths of my being, Darthal Mann? What is there within thee that calls me so irrevocably? Beauty is not beauty, unless thou art with me to share it; my Honor is no Honor at all if it does not win thy winsome smile.
I once put the service of my people above all things, even when I did so love Immortis, I knew Duty would forever separate us. It is not so with thee...for even as I serve, a part of me does it only to see the pride shine within thy devoted eyes. Oh, Light...I sound like a foolish girl!
There is a part of me that knows, there is a Darkness within thee, and perhaps that is what calls my Light to thee. A part of me also knows that this may only be the Prophecy at work. But the heart of me wants so very much to believe this is only Love and naught else.
Perhaps I have not said it to thee yet, dear one...my Dar...but...
I love thee, Darthal Mann, and perhaps someday I shall have the courage to tell thee face-to-face. I know not if I have the courage now, for when last I spoke such words of adoration, the object of my adoration did vanish from my life to be lost...and I cannot lose thee. In my heart-of-hearts, I know...I cannot lose thee, no matter what the cost.
She sits there a moment, poring over the page that has the very words of her heart written so plainly. To her, it seems inadequate so ineloquent with what she truly feels, but for now it must be enough.