A gift.

The rest of that first morning Lear had shown him how to adjust his weight so as to get more of it behind the attack.  By high sun, it only took two strikes of the blade to leave a melon in two.

“Ok, now it is time to clean up.  Beyond those trees is a farm,” Lear pointed off to their left. “The farmer keeps pigs around back, take the melons and drop them in the feed troughs of the pigs.”  Lear began to wipe the juices off of the blades.

It took Gabriel nearly two hours to carry all of the broken melons to the pigs.  When they had first seen him coming, the creatures had crowded around the gate, trying to get to the ripe fruit before it could be set down.  Deftly, he had fended them off, and was left alone for the remainder of the trips, the animals preoccupied with the food that had already been brought.

“All done master,” Gabriel said, returning to where the cart stood.

Lear grabbed ahold of another large jar and told Gabriel to hold out his arms.  He then dumped cold water onto Gabriel, who used scrubbed the sticky fruit juice off with an offered rag.  This done, Lear handed Gabriel a small loaf of bread.  “Eat.  We will return to the temple when you are finished.  Father Meinos is expecting you.”

While Gabriel was eating, Lear busied himself hitching up the asses to the cart.  Gabriel finished the loaf of bread and got into the drivers seat, his normal position, and took the reins.

“No son, you rest.  You will need your energy.”  Lear said, tossing the boy an apple and took the reins himself, Gabriel sitting down in the bed with the bladed weapons and the few remaining melons.

The next thing Gabriel knew, he was being shaken awake by the large hand of Lear.  “You know where Father Meinos is?”

“Yes, he is in the Rectory, is he not?” Gabriel answered groggily.

“That he is.”

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Gabriel got out of the cart and began to walk down the first of many corridors to where the Father resided.

He had not made it more than twenty paces before Lear called out to him. “Gabriel, come here for a moment.”

Obediently, Gabriel turned around and walked back to the yard where Lear stood unhitching the donkeys.

“Hold on,” Lear said and walked in to the stable.  A moment later one of the younger boys of the church came running out and began the work of caring for the cart and the asses.

Gabriel had fond memories of those days.  When he had turned eight, they had begun to train him in the care of the animals, the churches own asses, the horses of passer’s by.  The Church was open to all and often served as a waypoint for wandering preachers, bards, and the general populace that was too poor to afford an inn.  In caring for the horses, he had learned to respect them, their powerful legs that could knock a grown man out, or kill a smaller one.  He had been taught to ride the smaller, more docile, donkeys that the church kept, and it dawned on him then, that as a Paladin, he would get a horse of his own one day to stride into towns majestically on.  The thought brought a smile to his face.

“Gabriel!” Lear snapped his fingers in front of Gabriel’s face, breaking the revelry that he had been in.

“Sorry master.”

Smiling, Lear patted the young boy on the top of his head.  “’S OK.  Come on.”

Gabriel was led back to a small room off of the temple’s armory.  The room contained a bed and what few worldly possessions that Lear had held on to over the years.  Mounted on a wall was a breastplate, the light from the lone window in the room reflected in its shine.  Above the armor was a long sword, its blade honed from years of care.  The only other object on the walls of the room was a shield, mounted over the head of the bed.  It carried the a stylized Sign of the Star, the eight pointed symbol of The One, its bottom point longer than the rest, in yellow against a field of blue.

“Before you got to Meinos, I wanted to give you these.”  Lear reached under the straw mattress and produced a small black leather pouch, emblazoned with the same star that adorned the shield.  “These were mine before I retired here to help with the training.”

“Retired master?”

“Yes, I once was a Paladin, and now, I pass along that mantle to any that can withstand the training.  You have shown much promise and I hope that these serve you well.”  He opened the pouch and dumped a number of small stones into the outstretched hands of Gabriel.

“Are these like the stones that the Atwans use?” Gabriel asked, his eyes wide.

“They are elemental stones, yes.  They channel the four powers that make up everything.”

“But you said you had trained other Paladins, why do I get these?”

“There were two boys before you, the first I gave my ritual pouches.  The second I gave my Dai’sana to, as is tradition.  The third and final gift I have to give are these, my stones.  Please use them well in the name of The One.”

“What’s a Dai’Sana?” Gabriel asked curiously.

“It is a blade, you will be responsible for making one before you are a full Paladin, and you will need to make your pouches as well.  Enough of that, there will be time for all of this later.  Run along and don’t keep Father Meinos waiting any longer.”

The End

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