Julia liked the way it felt to wear the armor. For her entire life, she had wondered. Would it be cold and stiff, like stitching together clothing from iron dragon scales? Or would it be warm and fitting, like her favorite silk dress? She had heard both, but when she finally put it on for the first time, it was nothing like she had ever imagined. It simply felt right.
And riding a flying horse ... that was even better.
Again, she had heard stories her entire life. Everybody seemed to claim different things – some decided it would be awkward, while others imagined it would be grand and majestic. Again, neither was true – to Julia, it felt like dancing through the clouds.
“Are you ready?” Sir Malcom asked her, bringing her mind back from her daydreams and back to where she was.
“I am so ready,” Julia replied.
“Then lets’ be off,” Sir Malcom said. He gave the motion, and his own steed—a small dragon—began stalking down the road. Julia followed, her beautiful horse prancing down the cobblestone pathway.
As they passed through the village, Julia found herself sitting up straighter and prouder than ever before. Everybody dreamed of being chosen as a Paladin—a Holy Knight in the service of the Moongods themselves. Every child imagined the day he would receive his own flying mount, his own flaming sword, and his own entourage. Julia glanced back at hers—the dozen squires, pages, and servants who would follow her wherever she went. She smiled. It felt good to feel important.
The road was filled with people, all watching Julia leave. Her parents and brothers were first, giving her a final wave goodbye as she set out to fill her calling as a Paladin. There were tears in her mother’s eyes, but Julia wouldn’t cry back. No matter how long it would be before she saw them again, she was living her dream—and she would enjoy doing so.
The Lord and Lady of the village were there, proud that one of their own was selected. There she saw the miller and his family. And there—the tailor and the cobbler came to say goodbye. The farmers from round about were all on the streets, all waving, all cheering. All watching Julia: the innkeeper’s daughter, a rowdy, mischievious little scamp—always getting into trouble as a child, but always charming her way out of any real punishments. Everyone had been a victim of her harmless little trouble-making at one time or another, and yet everyone loved her still the same. And now she was leaving them—as a full Paladin, no less. It was enough to generate cheers and whoops and claps of joy as she passed through the village one last time, on her way to the Tower in the East, where she would train and learn to fight for the Moongods. But there was one person who wasn’t there.
Martin. The blacksmith’s son.
Martin. The one who loved Julia.
Unlike everyone else in the village, Martin was not excited about Julia joining the order of the Paladins. Unlike everyone else in the village, he did not think she was leaving for a gallant and glorious reason.
“Why are you leaving?” Martin had asked the day before.
“Because I have powers,” Julia had said. “Powers given by the Moongods, and it’s my duty to use them for good?”
“But you could do good here,” Martin had said. “You can help the crops grow. You can defend us—your own people. Think of little Damon Taylor ... he would have died from the fever without you. Think of Sorsha – you healed her broken leg. What’s wrong with helping us?”
“You want me to spend my whole life in a little town, serving our little village that nobody even knows exists?” Julia demanded. “I was meant for greater things! Epic threats! Important Lands! I want to save kingdoms and the world, not Farmer Mason’s corn field!”
“I’m so sorry,” Martin said, his voice cold. “I had thought that we were important too. How selfish of me.”
Julia did not know what to say in response. Angry, she turned away.
“I just wonder,” Martin said as she left. “Do you want to help people, or do you just want important people to tell you how great you are?” Julia didn’t answer or look back. But now, one day later, as Julia rode her glorious winged horse out of her village, as she heard the cheers from everyone, all she could think about was the one person not there, the one person who asked that she stay. And for the first time, she wondered if she was really doing the right thing.