Too small. *Too small*
She stabbed and slashed the training dummy again and again and again. Viciously, angrily. And in desperation, all over. No more knee jokes. No more “below the belt” cracks. The gnomish warrior ravaged the bundle of wood and straw till there was nothing left but splinters and scraps of leather and traces of tears.
She panted, heaving over the great sword she held tightly in one fist. Specially made, of course. As everything had been. Despite the looks of the blacksmith. Despite the side eye of the quartermaster. Despite the priest’s softened but not hidden sniffs of doubt. She had prevailed. She had pushed. She had trained whenever her studies allowed her, alone, or sneaking over to the training grounds and watching. Watching bright creatures of steel and gold and perfect, cutting lines. Mimicked the stances, even accounted for her height and weight. By the Light, she had *tried*. She had pushed and done everything right and…
With a angry backswing, she decapitated the dummy.
She’d gotten into another argument with the priest. He wouldn’t even entertain her applying. Always the same excuses, over and over. And the other students were no help. Even the kinder ones, even the big, gentle draenei she often shared books with, said she couldn’t do it, and when Ruska said it, it had hurt. The Light was too much. Gnomes were too…young. Couldn’t handle it. Couldn’t sustain it. But she was *trying*. She had even…she wiped tears from her eyes. No, the Light could…
She couldn’t repeat the words. Not again. It stung her then and it stung more now. She had run away from the Temple, angry and determined, and made her way to the paladin grounds. She had watched, as she had so many times, praying and begging the Light to accept her. To let her fight the good fight, to take battle to the Legion and *shine*. To protect her comrades in arms and to bring healing where it was needed. And it seemed, then, that her prayers had been answered. A knight, slipping during practice on a patch of mud, had received a bad blow to his arm. Live practice, it looked like. Real, if blunted, steel, and a good thing too or the boy would’ve lost that arm. There was blood, shouting, chaos, and she had slipped through the crowd, quickly moving to the young knight’s side. She wasn’t sure what or why. There were plenty of healers nearby. Plenty of senior knights with the ability.
But something was moving her. That intangible feeling, so close, just within reach.
She ducked underneath someone. Came up to the knight. He had blinked at her in surprise, although shock must have been addling his head. And she had whispered soothing words, laid her hands on the arm, and bowed her head in prayer. And she *felt* it. It was there. The Light filled her…
And then she was dragged away, and the warmth and the golden glow faded under a haze of rage as their words washed over her.
“What are you doing? Why are you here! We’ve told you before, gnomes cannot be paladins!”
Her priest was summoned. Her heart ached. The anger was growing, burying the hurt and the bitter loss beneath it. She looked down at her feet as the priest harangued her, scolded her, warned her about interfering and threatened to expel her if she…
“If the Light is for all and yet cannot accept *me*, then damn the Light and damn you too!”
And that was it. Shocked silence. She stormed out of the Cathedral, throwing her books into the brazier, tearing off the tabard she had worked so hard to earn, and headed to the common barracks. And a sword, and a shield, and a savage temper towards any who commented upon her size. There weren’t any comments after a few days. She drank, she fought, and she tried to forget, but that anger kept alive enough of a spark that she could still see…still feel that lingering warmth, and keen it’s loss that much more deeply in the dark of night.
Bootyclap hadn’t told her parents. Hadn’t told them anything. Just said she was fine. She plopped down and rested her head against the hilt of her sword.
Bad memories, she thought. All that had been years ago. Why now?
Why now? When the Legion had roared overhead, when green fire flicked the edges of every town and village in Azeroth, when the demon advance had threatened her hometown, when she screamed again and launched herself into the fray.
When for the first time in years, the Light had…
Could the spark still be there?