Torran Halle stepped into the familiar gloom of the Queenâ€™s Palm in a foul mood. Today had been a bad day, and he needed a drink. No, he needed several drinks. Until today, he had been one of the Queenâ€™s Guard, serving proudly in the ranks under Garath Bryne, Captain General. He had only been fifteen minutes late for his post, but according to Captain Belgin, it was one time too many, and he was dismissed.
Torran argued for his case, citing numerous awards and trophies for his swordsmanship and leadership in combat. He spoke of his decorations for peaceably dispersing groups of angry Caemlyners, who were itching for a fight with each other because of a difference in arm-band colors. But for every award and citation he could list, Captain Belgin listed two reports of lateness, drunkenness, or dereliction of duty. He had been warned, he had been put on report, he had been fined, and finally, he was dismissed. Now, he was a common mercenary, a sword looking for work.
Out of habit, Torran let his eyes rove over the patrons of the Queenâ€™s Palm, noting the armbands and the faces. There were a few patrons at this hour, most of them wearing red bands in support of the queen. It didnâ€™t look like there was much going on that could cause trouble. Good. â€¦Not that it was Torranâ€™s job anymore. The Queenâ€™s Palm was a fairly quiet tavern here in the New City of Caemlyn, but it had seen a few brawls in its time. The owner, a stout fellow named Cordon, appreciated Torranâ€™s presence within the tavern. Torran had broken up more than a few fights while spending an evening within these walls. Tensions had been high around Caemlyn, and especially high within the New City. On top of the tension caused by the armbands, the false Dragon Logain was scheduled to be paraded through Caemlyn tomorrow, which would put an even bigger strain on the Queenâ€™s Guard then there already was. Torran had a deal with Cordon; he helped to keep the peace in the Queenâ€™s Palm in exchange for free Ale. In the past few weeks, Torran had really earned his Ale.
He sat down upon a bench at his favorite table, and waved a quick hello to Lissa, Cordonâ€™s daughter, who happened to be on duty this afternoon. She was smart, pretty, and a friendly sort, and favored him with a quick smile while cleaning the mugs. He had flirted with her before, tried to get her to sit in his lap, but she had not been quite that friendly, yet. She shot him a questioning look, and walked over to his table with a mug full of Ale. â€œArenâ€™t you supposed to be on duty?â€
â€œNot anymore. BURN that Belgin! I am not as irresponsible as he thinks. The Queenâ€™s Guard will miss my sword the next time those bloody Cairhienians attack.â€ said the burly ex-Guardsman. His dark brown eyes smoldered with anger and humiliation. He accepted the mug from Lissa, but did not drink from it; instead clenching it in hands calloused from years of sword training and use.
â€œWere you dismissed from the Queenâ€™s Guard?â€ asked Lissa, raising an eyebrow. Clearly she had her doubts about his sense of responsibility, but Torran was in no mood to notice. He was caught up in his own foul mood, indignant about loosing his position. He also didnâ€™t notice that she had chosen to not point out the fact that he had never actually fought against the Cairhienans before.
â€œYou are flaminâ€™ right I was! A man is 15 minutes late for his post and he gets dismissed. That isnâ€™t right, I had a perfectly good reason!â€
â€œYou always have a good reason, Torran. Maybe thatâ€™s the problem. You have reasons and excuses, but are never reliable. Perhaps if you were dependable, if people could know that you would be where you promise to be, and do what you promise to do, you would be more than an ex-Queenâ€™s Guard. You have talent, and training, you are an excellent swordsman. You just need motivation and dependability.â€ She walked back to her mugs on the other side of the room, and began gathering them to be put away. She had many duties to see to before the evening crowds came in.
Torran watched her work for a few moments until she walked into the back rooms to put away the mugs. He brooded upon her words. He was pleased that she recognized his abilities with a sword, but was taken aback that she would share the same opinion as his former captain about his sense of responsibility. He had dismissed his captainâ€™s criticisms as being biased, but he liked to think that Lissa actually liked him. A man wouldnâ€™t go far in life if he was considered undependable. Perhaps he should take Lissaâ€™s words to heart and focus more on being there for others, providing the service that the Queenâ€™s Guard was supposed to provide. He had grown up wanting to be in the Queenâ€™s Guard, wanted to follow in the footsteps of his uncle Barim. He was proud to be Andoran, proud to serve in the Queenâ€™s Guard in defense of Caemlyn, his home.
His thoughts were interrupted by Lissaâ€™s sudden scream and a commotion from back behind the tavern. Torran unsheathed his sword and raced through the tavern towards the rear of the building. As he reached the back room, a quick survey of the room revealed that Lissa was fine, it was what was out behind the tavern that had caused her outburst. She looked to him as he entered the room, away from the window she had been staring out of. â€œThere is a group of men out there, fighting each other, and a woman caught in the middle. I think one isâ€¦ one is an Aielman!
Torran doubted Lissaâ€™s statement of an Aielman fighting in Caemlyn, but there was fighting going on. Torran strode out into the back alley where the fight was ensuing, sword at the ready. He may no longer be one of the Queenâ€™s Guard, but Andor was still his country, Caemlyn was still his home. It was time to protect this little corner of it.