While I thought about this new development Yool, the disturbingly buff Christmas tree who has been here the whole time, maintained a thoughtful silence and Creepy sat looking annoyed, as he always did when he couldn’t figure something out and didn’t think anybody could see him. At the moment, the cell was perfectly dark to everybody but me.
“This other Sir Garçon de Chapeau,” I said carefully, “he’s powerful, is he?”
“He’s the King, if that’s what you mean,” Yoru frowned. “Have you been living under a rock all your life?”
“Studying to become a Paladin,” I replied quickly. “I missed a lot of stuff.”
Yoru didn’t particularly look like he believed a word of that, but he shrugged. “He came out of nowhere about thirty years ago, called himself Hatboy like so many others have done, and put down a couple of immigrant rebellions. Sent the Elves back to Fairyland, the Trolls back to, I don’t know, wherever Trolls come from. Rode his name to public support and then overthrew the old King who turned out to be an Elf in disguise, along with the old Senate, who also all turned out to somehow be Elves in disguise. He used magic and-”
“He’s a Paladin?”
“Not really. Never went to the School, never showed any interest in it, except of course most Paladins these days either follow his laws or make a living turning water into wine for pennies. You were probably studying too hard to become a Paladin to hear anything about any of this.”
To be honest, I’d raced through the process and hadn’t given much thought to the fact that the whole school seemed to be doing things in a rather quick and slapdash way these days. It had really been more of a refresher course anyway. I’d assumed that the ‘Hatboy’ they kept going on about was the mythical Hatboy, not this dark Paladin. Still, things were falling into place.
“Anyway, he withdrew into his castle some twenty-five years ago,” Yoru went on. “I still sort of remember him, from when I was a lad – not in person, of course, but making decrees and stuff – but he hasn’t been seen-”
“Hold on,” Creepy said, turning to look in my general direction with an expression that had abruptly shifted from annoyed to theatrically accusatory, “so there actually was a great hero in this world called Hatboy, is that what you’re saying? Before this king bloke showed up?”
“The Hatboy,” Yoru grunted, “and there was more than just one. The whole legend seems to get stirred up every hundred years or so, whenever there’s some great evil oppressing the common man. I reckon it’s a recruitment scheme of the Paladin School.”
“Your trendy social cynicism isn’t getting us out of this cell,” I remarked.