Extra Mini-Chapter: Lion and Dragon

So, this isn’t a status update, nor is it a cheap, lazy filler post. It’s kind of legit. Not a story chapter yet. Its status as canon is still up for debate, but it’s basically an extended version of a segment of a future chapter that’s been floating around in my head. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Silly me. Took me fourteen hours to realize I forgot a part of the chapter. Hopefully you’re reading this post-update.

A Conversation Most Grave: The Lion of Valor and the River Dragon, Part 1

Vincent sat down across from Tom, noting an air of gravitas despite the man’s youth. Vincent had agreed to meet with the warrior after he was released from the drudgery of the Vanguard’s meeting.

“So, you came,” Tom said, a tad bit surprised.

“Of course! I wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to talk with one such as yourself.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve lived a rather adventurous life for someone so young. When I was your age, I was just barely getting started. But you! A hero in three great countries and a name feared in a number of smaller ones.”

“You and I both know that you’re exaggerating my feats and downplaying your own.”

“Am I? Well, I suppose I’ve always been one to exalt others over myself. You’ll get there, though, kid. I guess I was the right hand man to the leader of the Valiant Blades at the age of 22, but she was also a good friend before. Too bad that changed.”

“She? But I thought the last paragon of Valro was Sirius Card, and he died three years before you rose to that level.”

“Ah, you are better informed about me than I thought. I suppose you were just a child when I replaced her. Probably saw me as a hero. Aspired to be me. Let me tell you, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. At any rate, yes, there was a brief time between Sirius’ death and my ascension to paragon status where a young woman, about my age, was the paragon. Some people might be ashamed to admit it, but not me: a girl was braver than me. But she…changed. She wasn’t ready for the responsibility of leading the blades, and after only a couple years, she was gone. And Valro chose a new paragon. As far as I’m concerned I was just doing my duty. But enough about me. You have your questions, I’m sure, but I’d like to know a bit more about the person I’m talking to.”

“Alright, what do you want to know?”

“Only what I can’t observe. Now, I know quite a bit about you from your records-”

“My records?”

“Oh, yes. Gerald willingly gave them up. We’ve had our differences in the past, but those have been resolved. But as I was saying, I’d like to make a few observations, if you don’t mind.”

“Be my guest. I’m curious to see what a living legend thinks of me.”

“Ha! Living legend, you say? Well, you wouldn’t be the first to accuse me of such things. Now, give me a second.” Vincent looked Tom up and down with grey, analytical eyes. “You are a Man of the River. A real one. You weren’t just simply born in Sorowa’s Cradle, you are descended from the ones who first settled this land.”

“How do you know that?”

“You have all the signs. Hair black as the damp forest trees, eyes blue as the river water, skin pale as the dismal skies. But more than that, you carry yourself with a pride that is born only out of the love of the river that calls you its own. I’ve been in the company of men from all across Koeleth, and beyond, and each land has its own form of pride. You River People, you shine brightest when you see the water. And I’ve had my eye on you for a while. Was kind of hoping I could recruit you into the Blades, but after meeting you, I know better. When you’re alone, you spend your time watching the streams and rivers. Even here at the Vanguard Court, rather than admiring the architecture, you watch the fountains. You know, they never give you River People enough credit. They assume you’re all just gloom and doom, just a bunch of mopey backwater people. But I’ve known a few of you in my time. You all have a certain way about you. You’re brave and fierce in battle. As fearless and strong as those river runners you ride. That was another tip off, by the way; you came riding in on one. You know, back before Koeleth was the kingdom that it is today, when we were still a fresh face in these lands, the first horseman of the River People earned the name Riders of the Storm, because when they came flying into battle on those horses it was like a storm descending on their foes, so fierce and relentless they were. Anyways, all you Men of the River also have a peculiar sense of humility. In both allies and enemies, I have seen your people honor the valorous, shame the ignoble, and protect their brothers and sisters in arms. It would seem that heroics run in the blood of your kin. And few embody their spirit better than you. You are wise beyond your years, but brave, maybe even reckless at times. And yet in many ways, you are unlike your heritage. You are a gentle, kind soul. You aren’t a warrior, at least not in the traditional sense. You’ve shed your fair share of blood, but your eyes aren’t those of a killer. You’ve held onto, preserved, your regard for the lives of people, friend and foe alike. Each death is pain. You remember the faces of those you’ve killed, and you carry the burden of their death. Heh. The merciful mercenary, the warrior who does not kill. A strange one you are.”

“You’re not the first to have said it,” Tom chuckled. “But your words honor me and my family greatly. So, you’ve told me that I’m a Man of the River and a fighter who is reluctant to kill. What else do you know?”

“You’ve known your fair share of heartbreak. I can see it in your eyes. And because of it, you empathize with the brokenhearted. Good for Catalina. She’s found the right man.”

“What? What about Catalina?”

“Denial, the greatest of all sins against oneself. Anyways, where was I? Ah, yes. What I have observed about you. Well, you have a regard for life beyond most. Even Tara would do to pay attention to you. She may be the Paragon of Compassia, but she still fears those things which she cannot understand. Yet you embrace them. I’ve read your records, and you don’t even flinch at the concept of working with abominations. You’ve advocated on their behalf. You treat them as the humans that they are. Impressive.”

“Surely all this praise isn’t without some criticism?”

“Sigh…your strengths are your weaknesses. You do not kill. Mercy has its place, but some enemies are just too dangerous to leave alive. And I see by that wincing that you know this firsthand. And yet it doesn’t change you. Your empathy? It lets people play you like a fiddle. You are reckless, and you bare the scars of it, physically and mentally. Furthermore, you are vengeful. You are so fiercely devoted to your friends that you let your rage blind you when they are harmed. And your trust of strangers, it’s lead you down some unfortunate paths, hasn’t it?”

“…Yeah, you have a point.”

“Don’t change, kid. Just…be more discerning. Now, to the things which are fact and not conjecture. You have done a great many things in service the Adventurers’ Guild, and it’s a shame there isn’t a definitive record of all the things you did afterwards. They do love their titles, too. But you were never fond of them, were you? According to the records, you came to loathe those titles. Four in particular. The Rising Moon, given for your admirable fighting in your first guild mission. From what I understand, you were the most lethal fighter there. Despite your newfound fame and popularity in your guildhall, you felt ill for several days after. It was the first time you had killed. The second title and the third title go hand in hand, don’t they? You were in Ariluo as part of the Guild’s effort to aid the empire in putting down a small rebellion. The party that you led was betrayed by a woman posing as an Arilese representative. You were the only one to survive the ambush. You earned the title Dangerous Survivor because you handily dispatched with the saboteurs.”

“All but one. She…escaped.”

“Hmmm…well, that may be why you loathe the title, but you never told anyone at the Guild. Your secret is safe with me, but I expect a fuller story at some later date. As for your third title, Warlord’s Bane, you earned that because you gutted Warlord Rivertear. Rather a fitting match-up, might I say. He was basically your Arilese counterpart. At any rate, you fought him one on one in a battle to rival any of my own, and word has it you slew him with his own sword.”

“I did. A man should never die by his own sword, but I had no other option.”

“Such a sentimental fellow. Your superstitious belief in the bond between weapon and wielder amuses me.”

“I’m a blacksmith, sir. I know for a fact that it’s more than a superstition. And you should know it, too. That greatsword of yours is bound to your very soul.”

“Heh, magic is different than steel, my friend. But you would know better than me. You remind of a River Man blacksmith I knew when I was younger. Good fellow, much like you. Wish I had gotten to know him better, but alas, he was only stationed with us temporarily. We never discussed your last loathsome title: Demon in the Mist. Now that was an impressive feat. You took down a number of warriors well above your rank at the time. And yet you have no pride for it. Because an innocent life was taken. You blame yourself. That blame is misplaced, but far be it from me to tell a man what he should think. Now, you had questions about me, yes? Fire away.”