Three years later...
Ersa hunched his shoulders against the light rain, pulling his once new traveling cloak tighter around his shoulders.
The pommel of a plain, double-edged sword poked out from underneath his cloak, at his waist. That marked him as a Warrior--only Warriors and Valons were allowed to carry swords.
Commons had to make do with pitchforks and staffs. Ersa's brows drew together in anger at the thought. He had been born a Common, and a compassionate Warrior (rare these days) had adopted him.
It was through the Warrior's kindness that Ersa was who he was today. Ersa felt compassion for the Commons, and wished there were more Warriors like his adopted father, now also deceased.
Ersa was tracking dark magic. Mages were few and thinly spread across Azeron, but those that existed, and the strange beasts born from magic, were a danger to the kindgom.
Ersa's Valon had sent him after a mage that had killed three Warriors of Ersa's Dom.
Ersa and his Valon weren't on the best terms, and Ersa knew that even though Valon Ralthor had said he was going alone because he was the best,
Ralthor had really sent him alone to get rid of him for awhile. Possibly permanently. Ersa shrugged. He didn't care for company, perferring to work alone.
The arrogant, snobby Warriors that lived in his Dom nowadays were a shortfall of the old Warriors, who had used to be fair and kind, and who had also actually known how to use a blade.
Ersa kept his hood pulled low over his face as he guided his horse, Windeye, down the muddy path that led down the center of a village.
Ersa could see the peaks of this Dom's castle rearing up only awhile away, and he could have continued onward as dusk had not yet fallen,
but Ersa had no desire to spend the night in a castle of rich, useless men. He guided his steed to the inn, which was two stories high and looked about to fall apart.
A faded sign bore the picture of a rearing horse, and the letters beneath read: "The Dancing Stallion."
Ignoring the suspicious glares that the Commons on the path were casting him, Ersa led Windeye into the stables, which were barely satisfactory, and then entered the inn.
He was careful to keep his sword covered, knowing the hate most Commons had for Warriors.
The innkeeper, a short, round man, looked up from where he'd been dozing in a chair. "Ah, welcome, sir! How many nights will you be staying?"
The innkeeper bobbed his head. "That will be four coppers, sir." The man seemed nervous. Travelers were rarely good news, especially ones that kept their faces covered.
The man was probably worried Ersa wouldn't pay him.
Ersa pulled four coppers from his money purse and handed them to the innkeeper. As he did so, a rip in his sleeve flopped open. Ersa quickly withdrew his arm, but the innkeeper had already seen.
The man's face went slack with fear. "I've already paid my taxes, my lord! I don't want any trouble!"
Ersa nodded. "I'm not here for trouble. I'm just passing through. I'll be gone tomorrow, I promise."
"Why not go up to the castle, sir? It's a much better place than here..." The man said nervously, his eyes probing the shadows of Ersa's cowl.
"I'm not from around, and I'd rather not spend the night with a group of arrogant dimwits." Ersa replied. "I won't be any trouble, sir. If you'd like me to leave, just say so and I'll go."
The innkeeper hesitated. On one hand, Ersa was a Warrior and he could be trouble. On the other, he didn't seem like the typical snobs that bullied the innkeeper and his wife.
And he was a customer, and that meant money.
Besides, if the innkeeper asked Ersa to leave, the man knew Warriors didn't take kindly to being kicked out, and this stranger might come back for revenge. "No, no. It's alright, my lord.
You shall have our best rooms, half-price."
Ersa stopped him as he made to lead the way up the stairs. "No, thank you. I'd rather have a regular room, full-price."
"B-but my lord--"
"Don't call me that."
"Well, what should I call you then, sir?" asked the befuddled innkeeper. Never, in all of his life, had a Warrior demanded not to be called 'my lord.'
"Call me Stranger."
"Oh, well, very well, Stranger." the innkeeper motioned for Ersa to follow him. "This way."
Ersa followed the man upstairs to a small but clean room. There was a bed against one wall, and a small table with a wash basin against the other. The bed was clean but hard.
The innkeeper couldn't afford to buy proper mattresses for every room.
The innkeeper watched tensely as Ersa walked in, expecting some tirade about the poor quality, but Ersa merely turned back and handed the man an extra copper.
"For your service. Any your secrecy." Ersa said meaningfully.
The innkeeper got the point and nodded swiftly. Ersa didn't want anyone to know he was a Warrior. "Thank you, Stranger, sir. Should I have my wife prepare a meal, or will you eat at the tavern?"
"The tavern should do. Where is it?"
"Just across the road and a few huts down, Stranger."
"Thank you." Ersa watched the man leave, then quickly checked his belongings. He had a spare change of clothes, his sharpening stone, and some dried meat for the road.
Ersa considered the rip in his sleeve that had given him away before. He pulled a thin-bladed knife from his boot and used it to sharpen a hard wood splinter he pulled from the bedframe.
Pulling a thread from his worn cloak, he tied it to the wooden needle and began to sew the hole shut. Gradually, the symbol of his order was hidden.
The symbol of a Warrior, burned into his forearm, like all warriors. It was a lion's head, wearing a crown of sunbeams.