The Libram of Life (WoW – Padija Ravalta.)
Part 1: Writs of Passage
She was going home. No, not home, it hadn’t been home since she and her husband stood before the Sunwell to exchange vows of devotion. The Ravalta Estate in Quel’thalas had become her home or so she continued to expect it to. Padija Ravalta had never been able to settle into the sprawling manse, she had never nested to make it her own. Her home was destroyed, now infested with the very abominations that sought to its demise. In the time since she had fought to make her home among the men and women of the Argent Crusade and it was to them that she was returning.
The rhythmic roar of her titanium horse echoed through the Plaguelands, pausing only long enough for her to shift to a higher gear. This was not a place she wished to spend any amount of time in. She could still recognize some of the ruins, recalling the names and faces of the families that had lived in them before…before the gold and white jewel of the Eastern Kingdoms had become the hollowed shell of crumbling ruin that could still be seen in the distance behind her.
Before following her husband to protect the interests of the Sin’dorei people she had been Knight-Captain Delvanna, commanding officer of a now defunct regiment of the Argent Dawn known as the Northrend Irregulars. The regiment had been comprised of survivors from Lordaeron’s capital city, all former members of the city guard. Only she and one other from her regiment survived the Wrathgate Incident, but only she would survive the battle at the gates of Icecrown Citadel. Each time she made the trip to Hearthglen she would recall their faces. Ardel, the Priest with questionable sexual morality. Lohken, a Dwarf she’d have sooner punched than spoken to. Aurorin, her knives were as quick as her tongue. Morgan… When they met he had been the unhappiest of Paladins when he was not with her. They swore the oath that only upon death would they part. His body was never found after the Wrathgate.
The gates of Hearthglen quieted her mind once she passed through them. The spirits of her comrades resided here and grief for them would serve no purpose in honouring their memory here. She brought the motorcycle to a halt in front of the keep and switched off the engine. Though she was retired, the Crusaders offered their salutes to her as she entered.
“Knight-Captain, it is good to see you,” greeted the steward of Argent Commander D’Aquino when she approached her office. Padija recognized the young human but could place from where.
“And you…” She paused and offered a small smile, “I’m sorry, I do not recall your name.”
“Eltich Kunal, Sir. I was at the tournament grounds when you were recognized for your service after the assault on the Citadel.”
There was a flash of recognition in her expression and her demeanor softened. “You were a page for Sechenal Bellevue then, were you not?”
“I was, Sir. How can I help you today?”
“I wish to see Commander D’Aquino, if she is in.”
The young man nodded and stood, “Of course, sir. Let me see if she is busy.” He said before knocking on the hardwood door of the office.
“What is it, Eltich?” A voice shouted on the other side of the door.
“Knight-Captain Delvan…er, Ravalta is here to see you, Sir.” Eltich looked back at Padija, offering an apologetic smile for the confusion in her surname.
There was a moment of silence before the voice shouted again, “Dija’s here? Send that Knife-ear in here immediately!”
The stewards cheeks turned a bright tone of red in embarrassment for the Commander’s racial slur as he opened the door and motioned for Padija to enter. She did not hesitate in entering the office. The woman behind the desk was larger in girth than Padija had remembered. Paperwork had not been kind to her, but then again, the black-haired and olive skinned woman had never been one to do anything in moderation. “Close the door, Eltich.” She ordered in a voice that could only be described as rough.
Once the door clicked shut, Padija sat down across from the Commander’s desk. The office was in complete and utter disarray. Scrolls, tomes and maps were strewn everywhere, having overflowed from the various shelves. “It’s been awhile, Dija. I heard you married some Fel-taint while I was too far away to smack sense into you.”
Padija’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the woman, “An Arcanist who respects the Fel as a tool, yes. But it was not his magic that I married, it was the man.”
Commander D’Aquino smacked the edge of her desk, “I don’t give a Dwarves hairy ass what you married. You look happy. Are you happy?”
She nodded, “I am. We’re expecting as well.”
Commander D’Aquino’s large brown eyes stared at the golden-haired Sin’dorei that sat across from her for sometime before shouting a sincere, “…Congratu-fucking-lations! Light damned, that’s excellent news, Dija! All of us need a bit of new life after what we went through. Leads me to wonder why you’re here though. Shouldn’t you be off making a whole damned Elfie nursery of Arcanery and Sunshine?”
“Not yet, Seleukos. I need to say goodbye to the Delvanna’s.”
Argent Commander Seleukos D’Aquino pulled open a drawer after taking a deep breath, “They’re all in Stormwind City these days. And by they, I mean your nephew and his wife.”
“I know, but my retirement.. my marriage, this child… I need to say goodbye and pass to him what Morgan left me. And while I hope that one day we’ll be able to travel Azeroth freely as a world people united, we are not that and I’m ready to cast my lot.”
Seleukos nodded, rummaging through the drawer and bringing up a small packet of paperwork. “Argents can no longer walk as freely as they once did. I can ensure you will be allowed in and out of the city without repercussion, but I cannot vouch for how the city will treat you. Did you bring your armor?”
She nodded, “It doesn’t fit though.”
“I don’t care.” Seleukos replied quickly. “See a blacksmith before you leave here, I will not be responsible for any harm that comes to you and stones will be thrown. Do you want an escort?”
Padija slowly shook her head, “No, this is a private matter.”
The response was a grunt and Commander D’Aquino thrust the stack of papers at Padija once they were all signed. “Show this to the guards, you know the drill. Helmet on, ears tucked, eyes hidden and most importantly, tabard on.”
“Yes, Sir.” Padija bowed her head and rose to her feet, “Thank you, Seleukos.”
Again, the Commander took a deep breath and looked up at Padija. “Just… be careful.”
Part 2: The Gates of Stormwind
Padija Ravalta longed for the smooth ride of her Mechano-Hog rather than the plodding steps of the Argent Charger she now rode through Elwynn Forest. The swaying gait of the horse made her nausea nearly uncontrollable and it took all of her focus to keep her from vomiting every kilometer they travelled. She wondered why she had offered to put herself in this position when she could be home. Home, she was not thinking of Hearthglen, rather, she was wishing herself in the estate she shared with her husband. For the first time since moving there she realized it was her home.
Luckily, the Stormwind guards throughout Elwynn seemed to pay no mind to the lone Argent travelling the roads into the city. The sight was not uncommon and completely covered in the trappings of her office within the Crusade, they had no reason to question the race of the woman beneath the plate mail.
It wasn’t until she reached the gates of Stormwind City that anyone even took notice enough to question her. “Halt, Crusader!” The captain of the Stormwind guard called out as she approached. She had no reason not to do as ordered and slowed her horse, siding up to the Captain’s own. “What is your business here, Crusader?”
“My business is personal in its nature, Sir. I have the writs of passage required. I come in peace under the banner of the Argent Crusade. Knight Commander Seleukos D’Aquino of Stormwind’s Seventy-Second Regiment has vouched for me.” Padija replied in unaccented common, her voice clean and crisp as she handed over the writs of passage she had been given a day previously.
Studiously the captain read over the paperwork, “Sin’dorei.” He mumbled to himself, “Lordaeron born…a hundred years in service to Lordaeron…Thirty years in service to the Light…” The latter statement dripped with an incredulous disbelief and he handed the paperwork back as he looked directly at her, “Who do you swear your allegiance to, Sin’dorei?”
“Azeroth,” Padija responded with an icy respect. “I am Knight-Captain Ravalta of the Argent Crusade, Captain. With all due respect, I would prefer that you address me as such and not by my race, Sir.”
The two continued to stare at one another for a moment that dragged on before the Captain spoke, “You may enter, Knight-Captain.”
“Thank you, Sir. Light bless you.” They exchanged salutes and one last cold stare broken only when Padija dug her heels into the sides of her charger to urge the horse into Stormwind City.
Part 3: Retrieval
Commander D’Aquino had not been wrong when she warned Padija of how Stormwind would treat her. A man who had overheard the exchange between she and the Captain of Stormwind’s City Guard followed her into the city, crying out that the Horde had come and Stormwind had bowed down to a Sin’dorei. Most did not pay any attention to the mans shouts, they had no reason to believe him and Padija was not about to remove her helmet or lift the visor of it to give them a reason. Stones were not thrown, but a city that once welcomed the Argent were now neutral to them and many watched her warily. There was little doubt in her mind that they believed part of what the man said, but again, the shield of the Crusade allowed her a freedom that she would not normally have.
After the day of rough travel through the Eastern Kingdoms, she was thankful for the warm meal and soft bed her nephew and his family provided to her. The time with them was cherished and it was with bittersweet joy that she handed over the deeds to the Delvanna farmstead in Arathi to them. Their goodbyes went unspoken, but Padija and her nephew both knew that this would be the last time they saw one another.
While she had believed that the time with what remained of her late-husbands family would make her heartsick, it served to rejuvinate her. There was little doubt to her purpose and she walked confidently into Stormwind’s Cathedral, leaving her charger tied to a hitching post outside.
Inside the Cathedral, memories of her wedding to Morgan Delvanna flooded back to her. She was still Quel’dorei then and preparing to return home upon news that the Scourge armies were blazing a trail towards Quel’thalas. He had asked her not to go, the regiment had been given a week to fully form and he wanted the time to enjoy what would have been the only moment of peace in their marriage. After the ceremony, she rode to Quel’thalas and the Quel’dorei he married would return to him and their regiment months later as Sin’dorei.
The flashback of memories subsided once she stepped into the office of Bishop Desmond Motierre. She was surprised to see how paunchy the man had become with time, his skin was pasty, almost grey in its tone. He looked to her like the abominations she once battled, the sickly yellow eyes he looked up at her with did not help her assessment. “Who are you to disturb me?”
Padija removed her helmet and tucked it under her arm. She was not surprised that her race took the man back, “I am Knight-Captain Padija Ravalta of the Argent Crusade, formerly Chief Master Sergeant Starsong of the Lordaeron Guard and an eternal devotee of the Light, your Eminence. I have heard that you keep a relic of the Silver Hand here in Stormwind. I have made a pilgrimage to see such an artifact of the heroes who inspired my lifes path.”
A thoughtful rumble followed her words and the Bishop stood up from behind his desk, “How did you hear of the Libram, Crusader?”
“There were whispers when I was training under the Knights of the Silver Hand, after the fall of Lordaeron the whispers quieted. Recently, they’ve resurfaced in Hearthglen.” She explained in quiet reverence for the Libram. A reverence that the Bishop presumed was to he and his office.
“Child, your devotion is commendable in light of your races’ Fel proclivities.” He approached her, cupping her cheeks between his hands and lifting her bowed her so that her gaze met his.
“And may the Light guide them to morally wholesome wisdom with its splendor.” She responded, swallowing her pride to cater to his ego.
The Bishop kissed her forehead, it took nearly all her willpower not to shudder. That willpower lead her to smile and bow her head once again when he stepped back, “Come, Crusader.”
The Bishop made his way slowly through the corridors of the Cathedral and down the winding steps that lead into the basement. Padija followed him silently while he began to explain the purpose and the history of the Libram to her. She listened with interest, focusing more on calming the waves of morning sickness that erupted with the damp, moldy smell of the basement. The trip home was going to be far too long.
The two guards standing at either side of the door bowed their heads upon seeing the approaching Bishop. “Your Eminence.”
“Stand down. I have brought the Libram one of Light’s Pilgrims.”
The guards lifted their heads and stepped away from the door to allow for the Bishop to unlock the chamber in which the Libram was kept. It was a dark chamber, kept dry by the torchlit scones lining the walls. The Libram sat on a desk against the back wall of the chamber. With a proud smile the Bishop motioned to it. “The Libram of Life, Crusader. Well guarded and unused. Which, if you ask me is a true shame when its power could be used to crush our foes.”
“While that may be, your Eminence, the last time armies of dead were raised, we nearly lost all of Azeroth.”
He clapped her on the back, “Well spoken, Crusader. And that is why it sits in this chamber. Would you care to look at it?”
Padija blinked in disbelief, her voice shaking with hope. “I would never presume I am worthy of looking upon it, but that lack of presumption does not mean I would not desire to do so. To study such power of the Light…would be a blessing beyond words.” Never having been a woman of great cunning and guile, she found ease in catering to his ego by exaggerating her piety.
“Take such words into your heart, Crusader. The door will remain open but the guards will not disturb you. They will secure the chamber when you are done. Please, see me before you go.” Her disbelief and gratitude was not feigned. She had never expected her plan to work so easily. When she bowed at his departure, the motion was deep and gracious.
The strength of her willpower came into affect again once he had gone. While her nausea had not resided, it was all she could do to not run at the work and quickly complete her task so she could return home. She walked slowly to the tome and sat at the desk, studying its words in silence for the better part of the afternoon. When the guards informed her that the sun would be setting soon, she unchained the blank Argent Libram at her side and set it on the desk beside the Libram of Life. Silently, she cut the bindings of both Librams with a dagger traditionally kept at the small of her back and traded out the pages. Once she rebound the two tomes, the painstaking process of copying over the text began. The copy would lack the power of the Libram of Life, but she hoped it would be difficult to recognize as a fake. It was afternoon once more by the time she had finished. Thirsty, hungry and needing to urinate with a power she had not felt before, Padija slipped her helmet back on and with the Libram of Life chained where the Argent Libram had been at her side, she made her way home. Quickly and conveniently forgetting to pay her respects to the Bishop before leaving Stormwind City.