He hammered on the door so they could hear inside over the rain. It was coming down in buckets again. The Matron knew his face by now and he was let into the warmth of the Orphanage without being questioned now. Barnaby asked again if he could use the office and the Matron told him to let himself in while she fetched Miranda.
He could bribe and convince her all he wanted, but she was still obviously hurt over his coming departure. She was back to her old sullen ways now, not saying a word as she quietly sat down at the desk opposite him.
"How's your learning going?" he asked.
Silence followed. Barnaby took off his soaked jacket and draped it over the back of his chair. There were only a half-dozen candles to light the room, but it was enough to see her downcast face. The silence ground against him.
"I'm going to write when I get the time." he said at length. "If you want to write back, practice your letters..."
She wasn't listening. A tear hung on her cheek.
"Listen, Miranda." he paused to find the words. "I... know what it's like to feel abandoned."
She looked up at him.
"Let me tell you a story." he offered. "Once upon a time there was a boy in Lordaeron.
"He had a mom, a dad and they all lived happily on a farm. The boy sometimes got into mischief, but overall his parents were proud of him." he saw Miranda was listening now and kept going.
"One day, his dad died. Just... gone." Barnaby fidgeted as he spoke - he fought to keep it going. "He walked into a city and then that city was destroyed. Anyway, the boy's mother couldn't handle it. She took the boy and ran away, as *far* away as she could get. Over the sea, in fact."
She was still listening.
"The boy's mom was never the same. She had been devastated. You would think she would focus on being a good mom now, but it didn't turn out like that. In a way, the boy had lost both his parents.
"So we have our boy - not really a boy anymore. He's twelve and he works all day for coppers, every one of which he gave to his mother. What does the boy's mom spend with his money?"
He felt bitterness creeping into the story, and composed himself. "She gets drunk every day with it. When he stops giving her money, she demands it from him. Calls him a bad son, an uncaring soul and whatever else it takes to get it from him.
"The boy floats from job to job. He helps build walls and roads, he sews clothing, he cuts up dead animals, he--"
"I know, right? Anyway, he catches fish, he guts fish, he even tried hunting spiders. Then one day he suddenly has a new dad, a squat, fat man that waddled rather than walked he was so fat."
He rocked side to side, imitating a fat man lumbering around. Miranda smiled at that.
"And new dad insists the boy goes away. He's lived in the poor house and helped his mom for three years, you see?" he clenches his fist. "And what does mom do? She doesn't defend her son, she sends him off to sea for a year because new dad says so..."
Barnaby was looking at the wall now, as if it were a window to the thoughts in his mind. He took a breath and looked back at Miranda and smiled.
"When the boy got back, he wasn't a boy anymore. He was a man - a man who had realised he didn't need to put up with mom anymore. He lived by himself. He found a job he liked and stuck with it. Mom tried to talk to the boy many times, but the man closed the door on her each time. He figured he had no time for moms."
Barnaby drifted into a silence - there was a lot to the story he had left out, but the gist was there. Miranda looked sad. When he came back, he looked her in the eye.
"I wouldn't wish that on my family." he said at last. "So whenever you think I've abandoned you..." he pointed to himself. "The man knows that it's wrong to abandon a child."
"Was that mom?" she asked.
He nodded. "Before you were around." he replied. "A defeated soul."
Her eyes were downcast. Barnaby pulled two things out of his jacket and put them on the table. One was a book, the other was a case you would store a large piece of jewellery in. He pushed the hardcover book over to her.
"This is a big girl's book." Barnaby said. "It's about a real dragon called Kalecgos. Not borrowed - yours to keep."
The book was easily three times thicker than anything they had borrowed and Miranda gaped at it. Barnaby slid the box in front of him. It was about five inches wide by a foot long, and two high.
"This isn't a present," he went on. "But perhaps something you might be interested in."
Miranda had opened the first page of the book but looked at him now. Barnaby tapped the box, turned it around so the clasp was facing her and opened it.
Inside were ten neatly packed medals, made of iron, copper, brass - one even of purified saronite.
"This is what mom's brave warrior has earned since leaving."
He picked them out one by one and held it by the candlelight for her to see. Miranda had asked about his medals before, and was captivated by them now. He supposed she had heard enough tales of heroes and great battles from the paladins at the Church. Too bad he wasn't a hero. He started with the service and campaign medals. First was the saronite medal, fashioned into the likeness of a spirit healer.
"First off." he said, before handing it to her. "This is the Crusader's Medallion. It's not an Alliance medal, so I need to wear it last, you see? The Argent Crusade gave these to everyone who stormed the walls of Icecrown Citadel. Apparantly that medal was melted down from a piece of wall from the citadel itself, but don't quote me on that."
"Did you fight the Lich King?" she asked. She seemed quite interested.
He laughed. "No. I fought outside, on the ramparts. And aboard a gunship. I never went inside, I'm afraid."
He gave her the second one, a round, nickel medal with a kraken on it. There was a bar on this one.
"This is a common one." he said. "Naval General Service Medal. Marines often serve on ships, and I was no exception. The clasp says 'Theramore', though I was only part of the armada that broke the blockade afterwards."
"This would have been about the time you came here." the next medal was brass and had the King's face on it. "This one - Wrynn's Service Medal. Every man and his dog gets this one - nurses and foragers and such - so long as they are part of a campaign against the Horde."
"This one's the soldier's version - the Alliance War Medal." he passed her a silver medal fashioned like a shield that you would see a paladin wearing. Four clasps adorned this one. "Means I fought the Horde in these places." he pointed to each clasp as she held it. "Wintergrasp. Gilneas. Twilight Highlands. And Krasarang Wilds."
"You went to all of those places?"
"Soldiers get to travel everywhere. For free." he smirked. "I've been all over the world."
"This one's the Operation: Shieldwall Medal" he showed her a polished tin medal depicting the side profile of a roaring lion. Two clasps and an oak leaf adorned it. "That's what the main effort in Pandaria was called. See that?" he pointed at the oak leaf. "That means I was Mentioned in Dispatches there."
"What does that mean?"
"When you do something brave, and an officer writes your name in a report of your bravery." he made a crooked grin. "That was my second one. The clasps say Domination Point and Zan'vess. They were just battles I was in."
"This one's the Pandaria Expedition Medal." he held out another tin medal - just a simple cross this one was. "For if you fought over there in the two months before Operation: Shieldwall. I did only a few days of fighting on another gunship before we left. Still warranted a medal."
"Medal number seven..." he passed her a medal depicting a small being radiating light from the centre - who it was he didn't know. "We're back in Northrend now. This one's the Valience Expedition Medal. This one's your basic service medal. Like the Wrynn's Service one, but for helping against the Scourge in Northrend instead of the Horde. And in the same manner, this is the military version."
Medal number eight was a round, truesilver medal depicting Bolvar Fordragon in all his glory. He was basked in the Light and held a sword in the air. This one had two clasps and the other oak leaf.
"This is the Northrend Victory Medal." Barnaby said trading it to Miranda like the others. "The clasps say 'Angra'thar' and 'Icecrown Citadel'. There's another oak leaf there I got in Icecrown."
When she passed them back, he produced the last two - a silver cross and a round mithril medal depicting King Llane.
"These are my two gallantry medals." he offered them both. "The round one is the Llane's Cross - the third-highest medal and the other is the Star of Distinguished Service - the second-highest."
"What's the highest?"
"The Medallion of Valor. I wasn't quite brave enough to earn that." he took the medals back and put them back in the case. "First one means I was brave, and the second one means I was *really* brave."
"Do you have more?"
"I may get one for defending Stormwind as a Guard, but I probably won't see that until after I get back. These take a while to get to you."