Despite the sweat that dripped off of him, Gabriel ran back to the temple where he found a scented bath waiting for him. While he quickly cleaned himself off he contemplated what he would find at his sisters tree. When he finished with his bath, he put on fresh robes that had been laid out for him and proceeded down to the armory where he expected to find Master Lear.
The armory was dark and silent, the candles that usually lit the room having gone out. Reaching into the pouch that Gabriel never left, he brought forth a pair of fire stones and decided to test himself. Looking around the room, he identified four separate candles and conjured into mind the vision of all of them springing to life, the flames dancing in a slight breeze. Closing his eyes to better help his concentration, Gabriel brought his hands together, the fire stones connecting. Opening his eyes, Gabriel was awash in light from all four candles of the room, each one glowing just as he had pictured it. Smiling to himself, Gabriel went to find Cailin.
Cailin was not where Gabriel expected to find him as well. Cailin’s normal afternoon duties were to oversee the filling of the water basins and to make sure that they were properly sanctified with the appropriate herbs. Walking into the room Gabriel found that all of the basins were empty. Why not he thought to himself and reached into his pouch, pulling out the water stones. A few seconds of concentration later, the bowls were all full. Gabriel thought back to when he was younger and had helped with this chore. The priest that had been responsible at the time had been named Nace, and he kept the satchels of herbs in a small cabinet below the largest basin. Opening the door, Gabriel found the packages he had been looking for, as well as a small bowl partly full of empty pouches. He removed a few packages and dumped the herbs into the water, using a small rod he found nearby to help the water absorb the scents.
This finished, and the empty satchels placed in the bowl with the others, Gabriel proceeded to the Rectory, where again he was unable to find any of the three mentors he sought. What he did find was that the courtyard in the back had been overcome by leaves from a nearby tree. Gabriel reached into his pocket, and finding an air stone, summoned a wind to sweep all of the leaves into a small pile in the fire pit he had previously learned to use the stones around. He then switched stones and watched the leaves as they burned away, the ashes scattering in the afternoon breeze. As he was completing this task, he heard voices from inside and the Rectory and was soon joined by Cailin, Father Meinos, and Master Lear.
“Ah, there you are, we have been waiting for you,” Meinos said, smiling.
“I’ve been looking for you too. Master Lear, the lights were out in the armory, and no one had filled the basins in the Great Hall. Father Meinos, their were leaves all over the place here.” Gabriel relayed the state he had found things in in the places he had looked.
Gabriel caught the smile that Lear shot both Cailin and Meinos. “We figured that the chores would get done. Now are you ready?”
Gabriel forgot about doing his mentor’s chores and excitedly said “Yes.” And followed the three men out of the Rectory and down the road, walking the half mile to the orchard silently.
They arrived at the corner of the orchard slightly before dusk and walked silently, passing trees that Gabriel estimated to be fifty years old. They the proceeded to the second to last row and proceeded inwards until Father Meinos held up a hand. “Here.”
Gabriel stood before a thin tree, its top branches towering four feet above the top of his head. The remaining leaves on the tree were yellows, oranges and reds, the colors of the harvest. “My sister, she… she is here? Why aren’t there more trees back here?”
Father Meinos responded to the first question “Yes, this is your sisters tree,” before nodding to Master Lear to continue and answer the second.
“Gabriel, do you remember the last time you saw a plague victim?”
“No, I mean, there was when she died.” Tears were beginning to form at the thought of his sisters ashes being buried in the ground at his feet.
“Yes, almost ten years ago. The plague only comes every ten years. We can’t explain why, because we see the werewolves throughout the span. So your family, your father is the next tree and your mother’s is after that, and all those others that died with them, was the last time we saw the plague.”
Gabriel looked at the next two trees but did not move. The trees that marked his parents resting places looked eerily similar to his sister’s, the colored leaves and the skeletal branches that had already been swept clean by the wind.
Gabriel reached into his belt pouch and produced a handful of stones.
“Gabriel, what are you doing?” Cailin began to ask but was cut off by Father Meinos.
Gabriel clenched his fist tightly over an earth stone and concentrated, a small flat rock appearing before him at the foot of the tree. He then switched to a fire stone, envisioning his sister’s name, Annabel, etched into the rock he had just created. Once he was happy with the look of the rock, Gabriel used the water stone to cool off the rock and the earth around it before finally using the wind stone to cause the air to stir around him and the tree, swirling the autumn air and the scent of the orchard around him.
“Gabriel, that is not all we have to tell you.” Father Meinos broke the silence and snapping Gabriel back to reality.
“What. What else is there?”
Cailin took the question and looked deep into the tear filled eyes of Gabriel. “Remember earlier when I told you to tell Drisbin that he had six months?”
“Yeah,” Gabriel said in between sniffs.
“We need to finish your training. In six months, we should see the plague again.”