"You know, I'll always be proud of you, Fireheart," came the familiar rumbling, stately voice as its associated broad, muscle-knotted frame filled the cramped innroom doorway, making it seem even smaller than it was. The rough-hewn face, with its impressive salt-and-pepper moustaches running all the way down either side of the mouth, was particularly well-groomed today. It was a face that had a tendency to invoke feelings of relief, and safety—like maybe, just maybe, everything was going to turn out okay.
"M'lord, there are offenses that cannot be forgiven," came the response in an absent monotone. Gods, the sunny-haired woman thought to herself. 'Fireheart.' How frivolous that title had begun to sound, to her; how patronizing. Not that she'd really had a say in the matter; but at the time, she remembered having felt quite pleased with it.
"Oh, surely we can dispense with some of the stilted formalities, can we not?" the old knight seemingly mirroring the novice paladin's train of thought. His leathery, timeworn features had formed a faint wince of distaste at the formality with which he had been addressed.
She let out a half-hearted sigh. "That is not possible, M'lord. Anything else would be inappropriate, and you know it."
"Yes, yes; I suppose you're right. Fine then. But mark my words: there are more important things in life than mere protocol, young cardinal."
It occurred to her, just then, that the crusty old bastard might be starting to feel the weight of Kelemvor's gaze at his back, and her features softened perceptibly.
The silence deepened between them.
"I... killed a man. An innocent—"
The boulder of a man let out a scoff devoid of any amusement whatsoever. "I'd hardly say 'innocent'."
"You know what I mean! A civilian. Excessive force and all that."
"Children are not subject to precisely the same standards as adults." The man's voice had suddenly taken on a more serious tone—he had even shifted into a more solid posture. Proud. Defiant. Confident. Unshakable. This was the Sir Roderick of the bards' songs. A real hero of legend—not an imposter with a stolen name. 'Maybe that is why he calls me Fireheart', she thought darkly to herself. ' 'Tis the least egregious of the two'.
"Regardless," she went on, "child or not—actions out of proportion with civil conduct must have consequences. We can hardly start creating exceptions willy-nilly—us least of all. What kind of example would that be setting."
"Awfully in a hurry to become a martyr, aren't we? Worry not, young one, you'll get more than enough opportunities for that." Once again it was the kindly, grizzled old knight who stood before her; pale, steel-blue eyes crinkled in good-natured mirth.
Why he invested so much of his attention into one such as her, she would never understand, she thought to herself.
"In any case, come along now, if you're ready." He had turned his back and was already unhurriedly making his way past the threshold, his hands in their habitual position folded behind his back. "It would not do to be late for the trial. No, no, dreadfully bad form, that." His growly mutterings trailed off into the sun-baked afternoon, as she made haste to follow. This would be one of the rare occasions when she would venture out bereft of her scarlet-red full plate armor. After all, such is the humility befitting of one facing judgment for murder in the first degree—regardless of being self-confessed, a paladin of Lathander, or an abused child.
[Verse 1] Go! Strange things happen in the nighttime hours Yesterday’s buds are tomorrow’s flowers Those who speak numbers, refuse the great forgiver And powerful men raise their hands and deliver All the superstitions to which we all cling While high minds in Geneva ponder E8 versus string The sun hides itself concealing its grin And waits for the dawn to reveal itself again
[Chorus] Oh, young cardinals Nesting in the trees Oh, hear our song And reign your innocence on me
[Verse 2] One, two, three, four! Strange things happen in the nighttime hours White tails graze and wolves devour Ghosts of old loves are blowing through the vines Nicotine babies being born with no spines The god of the sea is swinging his trident We stoke our fires with the bones of tyrants The sun, it retreats through the dust and the din And waits for the dawn to reveal itself again
[Bridge] x2 Young cardinals take flight Return to nest in the black of night There are things you were not meant to know
[Outro] Oh, young cardinals Oh, young cardinals Oh, young cardinals Oh, young cardinals Oh!
She hadn't heard that tune in a long while... Familiar, to the point of trite, but now... Now, it brought to mind, a scene... a desperate, and tumultuous battle... an important battle, not so very long ago... that battle, and every other... and all those who have laid their lives on the line, sacrificed their comfort, their hopes and dreams, their very waking lives... For something. For what? Not just a number of people, or a patch of land... an idea. For the continuation of prosperity, for freedom... for her. Her ancestors—they sacrificed everything. The honor and respect that evokes in my heart... for the ghosts of the self-sacrificed, their undying hopes, and regrets... The pride, and grief... It's more than I can bear.
"O say can you see, by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming, Whose unwavering drake through the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watched, was so gallantly streaming? And the fire pots' red glare, the spells bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there; O say does that purple drake banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"