“We were wondering when you were going to join us young one. Nice work with the log.”
“Wait, you knew?”
“Do you really think we would have this conversation outside if we had not meant for you to overhear it.?” Lear added, the grin returning to his face. “How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Sore,” was all the reply Gabriel offered.
“But you get it now, do you not?”
“Yes,” Gabriel hung his head sullenly. “But you still haven’t answered my question!” He raised his head and looked directly at Father Meinos. “Why do I have to be a Paladin?”
“You don’t,” Father Meinos began. “Being a Plague survivor and member of the Church of The One, you have a few options open to you that others don’t. Being a Paladin is one of them, and your mind and devotion lent the three of us to believe that you might appreciate the work.”
“And if I don’t?” Gabriel questioned cautiously.
“Well,” Cailin started, but was interrupted by Master Lear.
“Well, tell us now so that we quit wasting time with you.”
“But what do I do? I mean as a Paladin. Every time I ask something about the future or learning something from Master Lear, I get told ‘all in due time.’ Even Renault gave me that line when he was here. Why should I seek out more knowledge or control if all I get is that when I search?”
Gabriel’s three mentors shared a look.
“Are you sure you want more information?” Father Meinos had an exhausted look on his face.
“Why would I keep asking if I didn’t.”
“Ok, then tomorrow your real training will begin. Take the rest of the day off. You won’t have much time to yourself for a while.” Cailin said, his fatherly voice calming Gabriel and bringing a smile to Master Lear’s lips.
“Thank you,” Gabriel bowed his head to the three older men, hoping that they were right, at least about his training.
“Oh, and Gabriel, go see Varin, he will fix you up.” Cailin called after him.
Gabriel went directly to the infirmary where, after telling Varin about the exchange he was, as Cailin had put it, fixed up.
Varin took a pair of stones out of his pouch and pressed them to Gabriel’s forehead. Under his breath, he chanted something that Gabriel could not quite make out, but left him feeling stronger and less sore.
“Varin, how did you do that, I mean what stones did you use, and was, the chant, I mean whatever you were saying, part of it?”
“I know that you are tired of this answer, but all in due time my young friend. If you are truly to become a Paladin, it is not my place to teach you the uses of the stones. I will mention to Father Meinos that you asked though.”
“Well, thank you then Varin,” Gabriel said respectfully. If they really were going to begin his training tomorrow, he did not want to upset them.
Refreshed, Gabriel ran to his room and grabbed what little coins he had managed to collect, and then left the temple for the first time since Cailin had left him.
Wearing the robes of the Church of the One, Gabriel passed by many of the townspeople, a good number of which he recognized from the gatherings that the temple held. Every ten days since he could remember, even before the plague had taken his family, Gabriel had attended one of the services. They had always begun with an offering of sage, valerian and frankincense to a large brazier, which was then lit on fire. Now he knew that the sage was to ward off evil, and the frankincense and valerian were used for cleansing. After that, one of the priests, usually Brother Benedis, would come out and offer a prayer up to The One, saying thanks for bringing them through another week and bringing them all together. High Priest Tabagon would usually come out then and talk about The One after Benedis had finished. Finally the town’s Magistrate would get up and discuss any news for the town, usually births, or how the crops were doing. Sometimes he would add in that Martin and his family had lost their fourth child to a bear attack and could use some extra help, or that Abigail was under the weather and her delivery of socks was going to be late.
“Hello Gabriel,” an older man, dressed in the plain linens of a farmer, said.
“Um, hello sir.” Gabriel replied politely, recognizing the man from the services, but not knowing his name.
“Forgive me, my name is Jameson, it is my pigs you have been feeding the melons too.”
“Oh, I wondered. May The One watch over you Jameson. How are your pigs?”
“I sold them to the butcher this morning, thank you very much. Here, I was coming to this to you.” He held out a small bag that clinked as it swung.
“Sir, I can’t take that from you.”
“You’re not a Paladin yet Gabriel, besides, this is the agreement that Lear and I have worked out.”
“Wait, he knows you are offering this to me?”
“Yes, I did this for Renault before you, and Sarin before him.”
Seeing that Jameson would not be dissuaded, Gabriel took the small pouch of money that was offered. “Thank you.”
Jameson excused himself and took off back down the road from which he had come.
Gabriel had more questions now then he had answers. How had Jameson known to come today. Had the conversation his three mentors were having been a setup? Had the fire been a test?
It did not matter Gabriel decided as he strode towards town, shoulders held high. He was going to be a Paladin.