Gabriel awoke to the sound of a pounding at his rooms door. Sitting up, he realized that the pounding was in his head as well. Looking around, it took him a moment to realize that he was in his own bed. Thinking back, he was unsure of how he had gotten there.
The pounding on the door and in his head continued. “Ok, I’m awake.” Gabriel said rather loudly. The sound of his own voice irritated him, and swinging his feet out of bed, he realized that the pounding in his head had not stopped.
Opening his door, he found Cailin standing there, a fresh set of robes draped over one arm, and a pair of sheers hanging from the other.
“Ah, did you enjoy yourself?” Cailin asked, laughing.
“I, I don’t remember.” Gabriel admitted.
Cailin laughed again. “Yeah Renault and Sarin did the same thing. How was the Dogleg?”
The more Cailin talked, and the harder Gabriel thought about the previous night, the more he felt like he had participated in some ritual, or some coming of age ceremony that meant he was ready to become a Paladin.
“All those gifts?”
“Yes, they were meant for you to take, do not worry. They were this towns way of welcoming you as no longer a boy, but as a man, and as a Paladin.”
“But, what about the money?”
“From Jameson? That arrangement has been worked out since the Church came to be. No doubt you have many questions. Today is a day for asking them. And getting answers, but first, I have had a bath drawn for you, go take it and put these on.” He offered the robes to Gabriel, who accepted them.
“What are the shears for?”
“We will also be cleaning up that unruly hair of yours after the bath. But, off you go.” Cailin dismissed him.
Gabriel took the fresh robes down the hall to where the wash basin stood. As he stepped into the room, the smell of speariment, mixed with other herbs, assaulted his senses. Looking back over his shoulder, he realized that Cailin had followed him.
“The mint will help clear your head. There is basil and hyssop in there for purification, they will help cleanse last nights indulgences. I also added some cedar for luck, you can never have too much luck.” He smiled and walked away, leaving Gabriel to his bath.
Half an hour later, clean, dry and dressed, Gabriel stepped out of the room feeling refreshed and found Cailin waiting by a chair, shears in hand. Gabriel sat down and watched as his hair fell away. When the haircut was over, he reached up, and felt the short locks of tawny colored hair, already beginning to curl upon itself. Cailin then took a small amount of scented oil and rubbed it into his scalp and the tips of his hair. “This will help with growth and will also help with the headache.” He told Gabriel when asked.
“Are you ready for some answers now?” Father Meinos said, coming into the room.
“I’m sure he is,” Lear replied, entering right behind Meinos.
“Well…” Gabriel started, but Father Meinos cut him off.
“Let us tell you some things and see what it clears up. If you still have questions afterwards, we will answer them.”
“As you now know, I was a Paladin once. Thirty years ago, I chose to settle down and retire here,” Master Lear began. “When a Paladin feels it is time, he sends a message to his home Church, who sends out a group of priests who come and help start a new Church. You see, this Church would not be here without me. It will remain when I am gone. Sarin will return when I call, as the first trained, it is his responsibility to keep this Church strong. By the Church’s law, after establishing a new Church, or coming to power in an old one, the founding Paladin is required to train three Paladins to replace him, one every ten years. You are my third.”
“But why me?”
“That is a good question,” Cailin answered. “Do you know what the Plague is?”
“Yes, it’s what killed my parents and my sister.”
The three older men exchanged glances, and Cailin started again, nodding. “Yes. But that is not all it does. The Plague spreads through contact and through the air, so once it starts, it’s hard to get rid of. The plague is started by an attack, when someone in town is bitten by a previous plague victim the sickness takes hold and usually kills within a day or two, but not before spreading to anyone that the infected comes in contact with. That is why we have such strict laws when the plague is around.”
“I don’t remember the laws, what happened to her, I mean my families, bodies?” Gabriel had conjured the last memory he had of his sister, lying on the bed before being swept up by Cailin.
“I do not expect you to remember the laws, we have been relatively lucky since you were born and not had to deal with the plague. As for your family.” Cailin once again shared a look with the other men in the room. “When someone dies from the plague, they come back as werewolves.”
“You mean my sister is a monster?” Gabriel raised his voice excitedly.
“No, that is not what we mean. That is why we have the Atwans. They are, like you, plague victims that survived, and are therefore immune to further effects of the plague. They are taught, much like you are going to be taught, on how to properly dispose of Plague victims, using the powers of the stones, to make sure that they don’t come back.”
“What do you mean dispose of?” Gabriel asked, imagining the horrors that had been done to his sister’s body.
“We will teach you, and we hope you never have need to use them.” Cailin responded, his voice taking on a somber quality.
“What other questions do you have?” Father Meinos responded.
“How is being a Paladin different from being an Atwan then?”