Seella shivered a bit, eyes rounding with awe at the sight of the soring walls of the fjord on either side of the ship.  Her gaze dropped to the large chunks of ice floating around the boat, a moment’s panic making her heart race as one bumped into the side of the vessel.  Shaking her head to dispel the overwhelming feelings, she looked out over the bow of the ship to see the makeshift dock waiting for them.  Sturdy pylons supported the heavy wooden planks all of which were coated with some material she hadn’t seen before.  Char marks on wooden structures not coated like the dock gave her some indication of the coating’s purpose.  Valgarde Keep loomed over it all, evidence of heavy assaults apparent throughout the structure.  Huge claw marks on the upper battlements caught her eye, causing them to narrow this time.  Dragons.  No. Drakes.  Lord Derawin called them drakes.  Smaller, unintelligent and not true dragons.  Her hooves made slight clicking noises as she disembarked from the boat and walked towards the clusters of people working industriously around the keep.  There was one Draenei there, a female, working with soldiers lying down.  The plethora of bandages carried by the Draenei and covering the men tagged the woman as some sort of medic or healer.  I will have to speak with her later and offer what assistance I can.  She scanned the area further, assessing the damage to the keep and surrounding areas, taking note of the extensive scarring of the stone and wood walls surrounding them.  The scent of blood and death filled her nostrils as well the moans of the injured and the battle weary voices of the soldiers.  Sighing, she picked up her bags and walked towards the largest, and, apparently the only permanent, building, noting the positions of every soldier she could see; the Grand Marshal wasn’t out among them.  One, however, stood slightly alone at the end of the wharf, looking over the ship with a slightly puzzled expression. Since he looked like a junior officer, she strode over to him and stopped herself before she brought her hand up in a salute.   Swallowing her trepidation, she looked down at him and spoke.  “I am looking for the Grand Marshal.  Could you tell me where I might find him?”

The young officer blinked at her.  “Oh, all right. He’s, uh, at the inn.”  He looked her suspiciously.  “Why would you need to see him?  The assignment board for new adventurers is posted on the wall by the door of the inn.”

Not sure whether to laugh or be insulted by his assumption, Seella chose to do neither.  “I am not an adventurer.  He is to be my mentor.”  She nodded at him informally.  “Thank you for your assistance,” she said courteously as she made her way towards the inn.

Surprised, he blinked again and recovered quickly.  “Uh, my apologies, Neophyte.  The Grand Marshal didn’t say I was supposed to wait for a mentee.  Follow me.  I’ll show you to a room then his office when you’re ready.”

 
Turning around to face him, she shook her head.  “That will not be necessary if you have other duties to attend.”

“No, I don’t.  I’m his executive officer or his assistant.  Uh, this way Neophyte.”  He gestured towards the inn and started walking.  “You, uh, have a name, right?”

A smile tried valiantly to cross her lips.  “Yes. I am Seella,” she replied, extending her hand in the human custom.

 
He looked at her and tentatively shook her hand.  “Lieutenant Wilks, Neophyte Seella.  Ah, good to meet you.”  Releasing her hand he headed towards the inn.
“It is good to meet you too.”  They walked in silence to the inn and up to her room.  The silence continued up to his bringing her to the Grand Marshal’s office.  
“Here he is.  Knock and wait for him to call you in, Neophyte.”

Seella nodded her thanks and knocked on the door.

“Enter.”

Feeling her trepidation return and try to take her over, Seella steeled herself, squaring her shoulders, before she opened the door and walked in.  Her heart fluttered again, this time with nervousness as she walked across the room.  Giving a formal bow, she cleared her throat to find her voice.  “Grand Marshal Acele Walkinson, I am Neophyte Seella, your new mentee.”

The sound of a heavily accented female voice saying those words caused his head to snap up.  Laying down the parchment he was reading, Ace openly stared at her.  “You?  You’re the one I’m going to mentor?”

Heat rose to Seella’s cheeks at the note of incredulity and disbelief in his voice.  “Yes, sir.”

Ace watched her, trying to discern if this Draenei woman was serious.  When it was apparent she was, he rose and clasped his hands behind his back.   Walking around his desk, he circled her slowly, inspecting her as he moved.  Her armor was clean, or as clean as could be expected after a long trip over the ocean, each piece well maintained and in good condition.  A few scars marred some of the surfaces, proof of at least some experience facing an opponent with a weapon.  The shield on her back held many more scars, demonstrating her ability to block incoming blows.  Surprisingly, the mace at her side didn’t show the kind of wear the rest of her armor did.  She continued to stand rigidly at attention, eyes forward and focused on some point on the opposite wall.  Stopping his inspection, he stood on the edge of her peripheral vision. “What is your name, Neophyte,” he asked her in a low tone.

I announced myself when I entered the room.  Perhaps he did not understand me.  Conscious of her accent, she tried her best to repress it as much as possible.  “Seella, sir.”
“Seella then.”  Walking in front of her, he looked directly into her eyes.  “What does it mean to be a paladin, Neophyte Seella?”

Surprised by the question, she hesitated. What is he really asking me?  Is he testing me to see if I know the virtues?  “What do you mean, sir?”

“I’m asking you what does it mean to you to be a paladin.”

“Are you asking me to recite the virtues and paladin code, sir?”  Confusion crossed her face.

Looking up at the roofbeams for a moment then down to her, he crossed his arms over his chest.  “No, I’m sure you could repeat to me every virtue perfectly.  What does being a paladin mean to you?”

Seella dropped her eyes, her cheeks flushing slightly.  “It is the fulfillment of my life, sir.  Ever since I can remember, the Light has called to me.”  Her eyes glowed slightly as she spoke.  “To do what is right.  To protect those in need.  To show compassion to those hurt in body, mind, or soul.  To help those who cannot help themselves.”   She draws a deep breath.  “To prevent the vulnerable from succumbing to darkness.”  Light surrounded her slightly as she lifted her eyes to his.  “To be a champion for the Light.”

She has the aura and the conviction.  Does she have the strength?  “Good answer, Neophyte.”

Flushing more at the compliment, she relaxed.  “Thank you, sir.”

Ace uncrossed his arms and walked back to his chair.  “Take the rest of the day to get settled in and acclimated to the environment here.  As I am your mentor this means that I am responsible for you and your actions.”  His tone becomes stern.  “Do not think for a second if you stray that I will not notice or know about it.  I will have tasks for you.  Some will be easy.  Some will be difficult.  Some may even seem questionable when it concerns the Light.  But always keep in mind that this is a decision that you made, a commitment of the highest kind.  And you will follow through with it.”  He paused for a moment, then continued in a softer tone.  “You have a natural gift for the Light, Neophyte.  Under proper tutelage this will be one of the most powerful gifts that a paladin can wield.  Being a paladin is more than following rules and codes of behavior.  It’s a way of life.  In time you will become one of us.  You are dismissed for the day.”

Seella saluted him and bowed before reaching into her armor.  Pulling out a heavy piece of parchment bearing Lord Derawin’s seal, she walked the few steps over to his desk.  “Lord Derawin asked me to give this to you, sir, after I arrived and you accepted me.”  Placing the letter on the desk, she turned sharply on her hooves and walked out.

After she left, Ace opened the letter and unfolded it

Acele,
I apologize for being so obtuse when I asked you to be this young woman’s mentor, but I felt it was best since I feared you would reject her outright then if I told you who she was.  The Light burns within her with purity and intensity I have not seen for many years.  She was instructed by one of her naaru to find a mentor skilled in combat.  I do not know how much you know of those beings, but when one of them gives advice, it is best to heed it, since they have a connection to the Light that is beyond our comprehension.  She will need your strength and tenacity and you will need her compassion for the war ahead and perhaps beyond that.  Teach her and I believe you will learn as well.
-Justinel

“By one of the naaru …”  Laying the note down, a look of respect crosses his face before he sets it in a determined mask.  Carefully refolding the letter, he placed it in his desk and refocused on his work.
 

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