Echoes. In the wide expanse of the Cathedral of Light she could only hear her own footfalls against the cool, polished stone as they reverberate, coming back to her own ears as if another were struggling to fall into lockstep behind her. The night had always been her time, and in a strange sort of way she had always imagined the hustle and bustle of the church’s daytime activities as something distorted through a lens. Objects were not where they normally were and the place hung with the heaviness of life under the crush of humanity. She could understand why so many found such strength in activity, but she had long since surrendered to the silence and cool calm of the blackness of night. Here, in the depths of the early morning she found only her own thoughts and the serenity of faith.
Norair knelt before the altar and kissed each symbol stitched into the vestments that hung from her neck. Night may be her cradle, but ritual and prayer were her strength. She had spent many years by her father’s side, agonizing over the arcane gestures of faith and the memorization of the generations old prayers he mumbled inaudibly. Her father had often explained to her that learning such prayers was an easy task, and that even the simplest of peasants knew the words. It was meaning, however, that mattered. One must understand the ideals and beliefs behind such words. It was a lesson, she felt, she was still learning; a lesson that may take her the rest of her life, however long that may be.
When she finished the more generalized blessings she took the prayer beads from around her neck, gently cradling them in her hands as she raised them to her lips. More ritual, but this time with a personal touch. For her, each bead was a person, someone she knew who was to be blessed and purified if only for another day. She made it a point to personalize each prayer, to at least mention them by name and ask the Light to guide each of them…. Hallus…. Giga….Renawyn… Shandala. New faces at first, and then she moved towards those she had known for so long. Over the years the list had grown quite long and more beads had been added, but she never wavered and considered herself blessed that she had only removed a few when their owners had passed on. Never had she prayed for the dead here. Not once. For her this was a place of purity untainted by the fallen.
She kissed her vestments again as she rose to her feet, finished with the blessings of her order for the evening. Ritual demanded more, however, and she retreated towards the paladin’s sanctum adjacent to the cathedral proper. Like the inner sanctum itself, the halls that were by day bustling with the servants of the Light, but by night they had fallen dark and empty. As she had done on every night since her acceptance into the ranks of the Silver Hand she lit five candles in a row, illuminating the small room in orange, flickering fire.
“For my mother,” she said quietly. She thought of her mother’s golden hair and her warm smile; of a woman whose beauty and kindness had illuminated her childhood.
She leaned forward, cupped her hand behind the flame of the first candle, and then gently blew it out.
“For my father.” He had had the rough hands of a farmer, but his words and his heart were that of a priest.
She blew out the second candle.
“For Luce.” She would always remember her sister as the vivacious young girl with the golden curls.
She skipped the middle candle and blew out the fourth.
“For Michael.” She choked over her brother’s name as she remembered his last, agonizing days.
She blew out the final candle, and settled back onto her haunches, staring at the single flame. Without the others its light seemed diminished…. A lone spark in a sea of shadow and darkness.
“I have often heard tales of the paladin who haunts the halls of this cathedral late at night. My own instructors thought me foolhardy to attempt to exercise such a spirit and calm her soul, but then I am young and believe myself invincible.”
Norair rose to her feet and turned towards the entrance to the sanctum, craning her neck forward to make out the figure standing in the doorway.
“Yvrey,” she said dryly.
“Hello Noe.” The priest grinned and stepped forward into the light. “A late night, yes?”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“Well, I suspect you have become accustomed to it.”
Norair shook her head and crossed her arms under her breasts.
Yvrey glanced at the single candle, and then back at Norair, studying her face in the orange flicker. “Are you in need of confession?”
“About this?” She looked to the candle.
“I already have.”
“Then I ask as a concerned friend.”
Norair frowned. “Such stories are so very common these days.”
“But such suffering isn’t.”
He stepped closer and smiled sympathetically. “Perhaps I can help… Or maybe others.”
Norair frowned, exhaled, and dropped her hands.
“Fine,” she said.
Yvrey folded his hands into the sleeves of his robe, his face passive but warm and interested.
“My father,” she began “fought in the Second War defending Lordaeron with his blade. Like many of the soldiers who survived that conflict he continued his service to the kingdom after the conflict had ended. He trained as a priest of the Light and was sent to administer to the citizens of Darrowshire. There he married, and had three children. I am the eldest, my sister Luce came second, and finally my brother Michael arrived. I have fond memories of my childhood. My parents were gentle and loving, and our community was close and supportive. Darrowshire was a wonderful place to grow up until the Third War began.
I was but twenty years old when the conflict began and the Scourge ransacked my homeland. At the time I was studying under my father in preparation for my training in the capitol. It was his greatest dream that I someday replace him in tending to his flock, and I was content to do so.
It was under these assumed duties that when Darrowshire was isolated from the rest of our forces I argued that we must abandon the town and head south towards the safety of Loch Modan. With any luck we could have avoided the Scourge patrols and arrived safely. The others refused. I heard mutterings of ‘coward’ and even my sister refused to speak to me. I had never seen such disappointment in my father’s eyes.”
“Noe…” Yvrey said, moving close to comfort her.
“No,” she responded, holding up her hand. “Let me finish.”
“That day our ranks were bolstered by a contingent of paladins and Alliance forces. Still, it was obvious that there was no way we could win. So, that night I packed a bag of food, woke my brother, and lead him from our home. To my knowledge, no one saw us leave. Over the next few days, I later learned, Darrowshire was ravaged by the Scourge.
Michael and I fled south eventually joining with a seemingly endless train of refugees fleeing the Scourge. I have no idea how Michael became… infected, but he quickly became quite ill. It must have been on our flight, and shortly after he began to exhibit signs of fever I was forced to carry him. Soon after, exhausted, we stopped at a ravaged tower just on the borders of the Arathi Highlands. There, despite my best efforts and my most fervent prayers he passed from the illness. I-I suppose I was in shock. I prepared to move on; to at least save what was left of myself to save. I-I never considered that the illness that had taken my brother was the very illness that had created the Scourge. He arose into undeath as I was packing and promptly attacked me. In desperation I took up the blade of one of the fallen soldiers in the keep and cut him down. It was the first life I had ev-ever taken.”
Her gaze fell to the floor. “The next months are a blur of movement. I wandered from refugee camp to refugee camp, and even spent time in Ironforge before eventually arriving in Stormwind. There I found myself under the care of several priests who had known my father. Even after my confession their words failed to soothe my depression and regret; my self-hatred and self-doubt. I needed redemption, they said. Not in their eyes or anyone else’s, but in my own.”
She wiped a tear from her cheek and smiled softly. “That’s why I became a paladin. To redeem myself. To do good, and to prove to myself that I am worth something.”
Norair tucked a stray strand of blond hair behind her ear. “That… that is it.”
A long silence fell across the small sanctum, and Yvrey allowed his hands to drop down to his sides.
“Noe…” he finally said.
“Might I do something to help you?”
“If… you can.”
He stepped past her and gently picked up the one flickering candle. “Allow me to show you the power of the Light.” He lit another candle, and paused. “One life can touch another.”
He proceeded down the row, lighting every candle but the four she had blown out. With each flicker of life the room grew brighter and the shadows faded.
“One life… can touch thousands until the whole world is illuminated. That is what we need today, Noe. That is our calling.”