After he arrived back at the temple, Gabriel did not tell Master Lear of the dispute he had settled. He figured word of his decision would have made it back to the old Paladin soon anyways.
He had found Master Lear in the armory, a table cleaned off of the tools that were normally at the ready for working on the equipment that the room housed.
“Ah good, you made it. Here. I just finished oiling it.” Lear bent down and picked up his shield, which had until then been leaning against the wall behind him. Looking it over one last time, he passed it to Gabriel.
Gingerly, so as not to drop it, Gabriel took the shield, feeling the weight of the metal it was made of. He looked over the few scratches in the blue paint, and looking at it closely for the first time, noted that the eight point Star of the One was not only painted, but its outline was actually etched into the metal. Lear had once described it to him as a Heater Shield, favored by the Paladin’s for its maneuverability over the larger kite shields that most armies used. Turning it over, Gabriel ran his hand over the smooth backside of the shield, polished to almost a mirror-like sheen. Gabriel grasped the leather handle, still soft and flexible.
“Well, go ahead and try it on.”
Gabriel slid his arm into the strap and grabbed ahold of the handle. “It’s a bit loose.”
“Get some armor on you, and it won’t be.”
Gabriel smiled, he had forgotten that fact. “Thank you Master.”
“Now let’s get to those rituals.” He reached into a bag that had gone unnoticed by Gabriel and pulled out a long string full of stones of whites and various shades of yellow all marked with black lines. “Look at this.” He held out the strand of what, upon closer inspection, Gabriel realized were teeth.
“What is this?”
“It is my Necklace of the Keeping. Each one of those is a werewolf I killed.”
“There must be fifty of them here,” Gabriel exclaimed, shocked.
“Sixty-two. I have killed sixty-two werewolves, and that is to remind me of the men they once were.”
Only then did Gabriel look at the black lines. Each tooth held a name and a date, as well as a small Sign of the Star. “Why?”
“It is our way, and needs to become yours. Remember that each of the werewolves you kill will be someones son or daughter, possibly someones mother or father, brother, sister. As Paladin’s we keep the teeth to remind ourselves not only of the souls we have saved, but of the souls that we almost lost. After slaying a werewolf, this is your second job, to make one of these teeth, the Rite of Keeping is what it is called, and I will show you that first.”
“Wait,” Gabriel interrupted, “You said this is the second thing I need to do, what is the first?”
“Very observant, the first process, after pulling the tooth, is to commit the soul to ashes through the Benediction and Pyre, but we will get to that later. Now for the Rite of Keeping. Now this is to be done with your Dai’Sana, when you finish it, and the satchel you used for the herbs in the Benediction and Pyre.”
Gabriel did his best to follow along as Master Lear described the ritual to him, stopping to ask only two questions. “So I do this for every Werewolf, what if I, like Renault did, have to kill multiple of the poor beasts in a fight?”
“Then I suggest you commit yourself to doing these rituals one at a time.”
“What if I am injured?”
“If, by chance, you are too injured to conduct these, poor beasts as you called them, and indeed they are, to meet with The One, Father Meinos will show you a use for the stones that will keep predators away so yo can rest and come back to care for the bodies when you are healed. Now, repeat back to me what I have told you.”
“Yes sir, the first step of the Rite of Keeping, is to retrieve a tooth from the dead werewolf before conducting the Benediction and Pyre. I do this by gripping one of the fangs and pulling it out of the mouth.”
“Good, that is right.”
“Next, using my Dai’Sana, I mark the points for the necklace hole, and then begin to carve the name the werewolf once bore into the tooth, along with the date that I slay it, and then I place the Sign of the Star on the tooth as well. I then take a piece of charcoal and trace my carvings until they are black. Am I right so far?”
“Yes, keep going.”
“I then place the tooth in the bag…”
“Nope, you forgot something.”
“Oh, yeah, after I use the charcoal, I pass an earth stone over the charcoal, which makes it permanent, then I place it into the pouch that the herbs I used for the Pyre came from, and bury that pouch where the werewolf’s head had lay. Finally, I let it sit through a full rising and setting of the moon and then, when I dig it up, it is complete.”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Another question I just thought of, what if I don’t know it’s name?”
“You try your hardest to find out. There is no hard rule, but if you have not found the name after a week of searching, you write ‘unknown soul’ on the tooth,” at this Lear took the necklace back and found a group of five teeth, near the end of the strand, and showed them to Gabriel. “I found these five not too far from here actually. There were a few farms around here at the time and a tavern, not Gavin’s mind you, the one I am thinking of burnt down before he got here, anyways, these five had been here so long no one remembered who they had been. It is an unfortunate thing, but it does happen. Ok, that is enough for now, tomorrow we will discuss the Benediction and the Pyre tomorrow.”
“Ok, I will see you then.” Gabriel recited the entire litany he had learned on his way back to his room, where he found a note from Father Meinos with the location of Thomas’ ashes.