The Angel’s Halo – Part I

James paused outside the bishop’s palace. He took a deep breath and straightened his tunic, double checking for stains on the pure white fabric. Then he readjusted his cloak on his shoulders and shifted his sword belt a minute distance across his waist. Then he took another deep breath and pounded on the gate. As he waited he muttered to himself, “Remember James, stay cool, stay confident. You are a paladin, stay cool.”
He was so focused on staying cool and maintaining an indifferent air that when the warden flung open the gate he almost jumped out of his boots. As he was ushered in he could feel the faint taint of a blush crossing his cheeks.
“Sir Flickerflame,” he announced his name to the warden.
“Ah, Sir Flickerflame,” the warden acknowledged him, “My lord, his Holiness, Dref Cefel, the kind, the pure, the devout,” the warden gave James a sideways glance, “the blessed, is waiting for you. I will lead you to him now.”
“Lead the way then,” James wanted to get this audience over with as soon as possible. He did not like talking to his superiors, it made him nervous. He swallowed, suddenly feeling scared. Stay cool, James, stay cool, he thought.
The warden wasted no time in getting him to the door to Bishop Cefel’s audience chamber. Then the door was open and James strode in, feeling confident, looking cool.
“I greet you in peace and the grace of God,” said the bishop.
“I come in peace and the g-g-grace of G-G-God,” stuttered James, he could feel his cheeks flaming red, and the sangfroid with which he had walked in deserted him, laughing softly in his ear as it left.
“I have a quest for you,” Dref Cefel affected not to notice the stutter, “I know that you only just left sanctuary and are young and inexperienced, untried and untested…”
James wished that the bishop would stop. He felt more and more insignificant with every word Cefel uttered.
“…But your dedication and devoutness has attracted attention and all our experienced paladins are on the mainland, fighting back the tide of evil blackness, that threatens our very church and the children of God, so we had to pick you to go on this quest.”
“I am honored,” said James, feeling anything but. He would rather continue to lead vespers at the corner chapel where he went every evening, “What exactly am I supposed to quest for.”
“The Angel’s Halo is a crown that makes the wearer seem to be the most beautiful, the most charming, the most trustworthy woman in the world.”
“I’ll be sure not to put it on,” James assured the bishop.
The older man seemed not to notice, “It was given to an already beautiful woman, Gertrude the Lovely, but she went on a little cruise this spring and never returned. She set sail on the Lucitano, which was a ship blessed, not only by her presence, but one that sailed in the light. The sails were made of the purest white, finest gossamer silk and…”
“Excuse me,” James interrupted, although horrified to realize that he had just cut off one of the most powerful men on the Isle, “Where was this vessel last seen headed?”
“Towards that haven of all that is good and green. That place where true beauty is seen from the time the sun rises to the time it sets, that place where she desired to go more than any other. That place that has remained untainted by the evil which plagues the mainland. That place that contains only plant life native to it. That place…”
Encouraged by the success of his last interruption James did it again, “What is the place called, Your Holiness?”
“The Peaceful Isle. It is not far from our own Island, the Holy Isle, on whose blessed soil, as you probably know, we are now standing.”
“How shall I get there?”
“You and your companion shall sail there. A boat has been made ready for you at the docks.”
“My c-c-companion,” James stuttered, caught off guard.
“Yes, we are sending a bodyguard with you, some barbarian from the north,” Dref Cefel gestured to one of the deeper shadows off to the side. From the shadow moved a small mountain of a man, with a large sword strapped over his back. His hair hung to his shoulders and he wore nothing more than a pair of leggings and his battle harness. He grinned oafishly at James and gave a little shy wave, until he noticed the paladin’s stare.
“What,” he growled, “are you looking at? Do I have two butts or something?”
“No,” replied James, truthfully (after all he was a paladin, everything he did was truthful), “You are awfully short, I always thought barbarians were taller than that.”
“I may be short but,” the barbarian paused for a minute, “but you wear sissy clothes.” He grinned again, like he had just won some kind of contest. James turned back to Bishop Cefel.
“Do I have to take him?” he asked plaintively.
“Yes,” sighed the bishop, “But don’t worry if he dies, he’s just a barbarian, after all.”
“My name is Wain,” growled the barbarian, “And I don’t die.”
“Ok, with your leave I will go and complete this quest as quickly as I can,” James bowed and backed out of the hall. Wain followed, walking with his back to the bishop. Once they were out of the audience chamber James glared at him.
“You don’t ever turn your back on the Bishop, never, do you understand, you rude idiot?” lectured James severly.
“Wotcher,” replied Wain, “But I think you’re the rude one. Calling me names and you never introduced yourself.”
As they continued out of the palace James drew himself up importantly, “My name is,” he paused for effect, “Sir James Flickerflame. You may call me Master Flickerflame.”
“Wotcher James,” suddenly Wain’s head snapped around, “There’s a bar. Can we stop?”

**********

Read Part II

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