A Recruit of Elborn
It was the day of the Vanguard Trials. The best of the soldier and guard initiates had lined their steeds, owned or borrowed, up in the field, breathing the adrenaline-rich air. They were about to undertake a day’s worth of equestrian and combat tests that would challenge horse, rider, and the bond between the two. Theodore was ready.
He was the best guard initiate Elborn had. Mounted on one of the Vanguard’s horses, how could he fail?
~ ~ ~
A week later, a new Vanguard member was announced. It was not Theodore.
~ ~ ~
Two days later, Theodore entered General Avë’s office. He had been surprised when she agreed to meet him, and was even more surprised when she greeted him by name after halting her scribblings at her desk.
“Theodore Dalavan. It’s a pleasure. Please sit.”
Theodore sat. “Thank you for meeting with me,” he offered.
The general waved off his thanks. “I assume,” she continued as she brushed some dark hair out of her face, “that you are doubting my selection.”
Theodore nodded, slightly surprised yet grateful for her bluntness.
“Why,” continued the general, “do you want to join the Vanguard?”
“Because you fight dragons,” answered Theodore, “and I have reason to kill them.”
“That’s what I thought.” She nodded, contemplatively and set down her quill. “You are the best at what you do compared to all my candidates.”
“Thank you,” muttered Theodore, “But then-“
General Avë held up a finger, effectively silencing him. “You are the best at what you do, but you are too convinced that you shall do it alone.” She sighed. “No one can kill a dragon by themselves. No one can kill anything the Vanguard faces by themselves, and so I can’t have anyone on my squad who doesn’t work as a team member first.”
Theodore began to object but stopped himself. He had a sinking feeling that what she said about him was absolutely true. Actually, if he was honest with himself, it was certainly true.
“Why,” continued Avë, “do you want to fight dragons, Theodore?”
“A dragon destroyed my village and my family,” he answered with conviction. “I would destroy it and its kin in return.”
Avë sighed and rested her head in her hand for three beats before speaking again.
“I thought that was the case. Do you really think you are the first to attempt to join the Vanguard on that claim?”
“I will tell you what I have told the others: it will serve your loved ones’ memories better to defend against anyone else suffering a similar fate. I know you disagree with me now,” she continued quickly, “and you may forever. But revenge has no place in the Vanguard; it drives soldiers to attempt things that would get us all killed. Stay in Eleranthe and be her best guardian. Ensure that my team has somewhere to come home to, because that is what we fight for.”
Theodore, sensing his dream was up, tried once more to object, but Avë merely shook her head sadly and turned back to her report. “You are dismissed,” she ordered.