OOC: This is a callback to an old storyline that was curated by Fil, a late founder and officer of Templars of the Rose. Fil created a story where his gnome mechanically and magically modified creatures commonly considered “vermin” — mice, rats, even bats and the like — to carry out vital tasks. Eventually these creatures became self-sufficient and created a small society in which they lived, educated, and conducted themselves like small knights and in some cases, like a tiny SI:7 able to retrieve information vital to Rose battle plans.
It got into my head to write a small homage to this, especially since it’s been a few years since Stephen’s (Fil’s) passing. I had to do a little digging to find one character in particular. Unfortunately, in all my digging, I was unable to recover her original name. I think it may have been lost to past Earthen Ring Roleplay Networks where many of Stephen’s stories were archived. So the only liberty I took was to give her a new name. I decided on one that means “my father is joy,” a nod to Father Fil and his delightful creations that entertained us all.
Thanks for reading. ))
Early morning Westguard came long before the sun breached the horizon. Night clung stubbornly overhead, the hypnotic swirls of the northern hemisphere aurora borealis still dancing. What marked morning was not signals from the sky but routines of the fort: Morning shifts awoke and took their posts, the smithy burned back to life, and stable animals tossed their heads restlessly in anticipation of the day’s first meal.
Arialynn likewise rose at the early hour, donning her fur-lined armor before walking the compound grounds. Even in the waning months of Winter, permafrost gripped the ground and a thin, crystalline coating of ice touched every outside piece of Westguard. Exhales were puffs of mist. The lady knight pulled up the thick folds of her cloak collar, smiled, and begun her morning patrol. It was hardly a formal routine, mostly a walk along the edges of the grounds, her eyes on the armored men and women relighting torches exhausted from a night’s vigil and starting the new day’s tasks. But her eyes also strayed to the sky, spying the first glimpses of dawn rising in the distance.
Every step was walked so often, little was unexpected or out of place. Westguard ran smoothly and even the Northrend skies took part in the morning predictability. And so it was a sudden swipe of movement caught by the corner of her eye that drew the lady knight’s daily inspection to a halt.
It was brief, small, and brown in color, darting from the shelter of one building to another. Perhaps a squirrel or turkey had made its way into the grounds. Unfortunate, as any wild game was made quick work of by Westguard’s dogs and hunters. It was rare to see critter or fowl wander too long before it became a meal. Meat was a commodity in the north, anything local and fresh even moreso. Assuming the distraction was only such and a morning bowman would soon be in for a treat, Arialynn concluded her morning walk and made her way into the keep.
The war room at first glance was as it was the night before, save small details. New torches burned and the brazier coals were already refreshed. Shedding her thick cloak and setting her hammer aside, the lady knight begun the least-entertaining work of her position: Paperwork. Ship ledgers, bureaucratic Alliance inquiries, line upon line of accounting, depletions of inventory, and more. All of which needed her final eye before approved. The Rose employed clerks but few were up to the full task, many so far Arialynn had found incompetent or dubious at best. And so she filled in the gap, taking on the mountains of parchment as a knight’s duty.
But once again, something was out of place. Papers were neatly piled but not in ways the Rose’s clerks were prone to organize. While they tended to filter the glaringly useless paperwork from her queue, they still left a remarkable amount piled for her perusal. This morning’s pile was far more streamlined, and a freshly sharpened quill and filled ink pot awaited her along with a cup of steaming tea.
“Guard,” Arialynn stood before the table and spoke loudly. A guardsman promptly came in and stood at attention. “Was there anyone in here other than the usual this morning?”
The guardsman blinked, immediately flashing his eyes about. The question seemed to catch him by surprise. “Ah, no, My Lady Justicar. Just the usual clerk paper delivery. And there have been no new clerk assignments. If you wish, I can bring you the sign-in logs from the — “
Arialynn shook her head. The guard’s tone was genuine. “No need, thank you. You are always diligent, Marcus. Forgive me, I should not have doubted you.” With a nod, she dismissed him. The door closed behind the guard with one last glance of consternation on his part.
Sitting at the table, the lady knight took quick inventory of its changes. Indeed, the usual pile was far more streamlined. There was a new pile, one she found to contain the most egregiously useless paperwork that hardly needed her eye, yet the clerks always neglected to filter out. Everything else was vital and awaiting her signature. The tea was perfectly brewed and sat at just the right temperature. The inkpot was even filled with a different ink, one that wrote seamlessly and clung so tightly to the quill, it never dripped. It was —
Arialynn stopped. It was familiar. Very familiar.
Another quick flash of movement caught her eye. This time, her head turned in time to spot the culprit: A tiny armored mouse, though taller than a typical field mouse would be. The mouse met her eyes, stood upright, and gave a human-like curtsey. With this, it quickly departed, spiriting up a tapestry and into the rafters much like a true mouse would.
On the table, Arialynn found a note in tiny note in flowing script. Its letters were so precise, they must have been written by a mouse-sized quill: “We have returned to the Rose’s service, Lady Dawnfield. Should you accept us. Signed, Emissary and Lady Abigal.”