They walked in silence, Clarice with here head held high in eager anticipation and Gabriel shufflling along, staring at the ground.
“He’s here,” Gabriel finally said as they came to the corner of the orchard.
“Where?” She asked, her breath visible in the cold autumn air.
“Back here, follow me.” He led her down the outside of the rows of threes, stopping again at the second to last row. His heart began to pound faster as he led Clarice down towards where her brother rested. He could see the stone that he had created to mark his sisters grave when they stopped. “He is here.”
Clarice looked at him, her eyes damp, and fell to her knees at the foot of the tree. The tree was bare, its skeletal limbs reaching up towards the sky as if asking for the release that Thomas had finally been given. Gabriel stood there quietly while she cried, unsure of what to say. Finally, he set his hand on her shoulder, in what he hoped was a comforting gesture.
She looked up at him, the tears rolling off of her cheeks. “Thank you,”
“For what?” Gabriel asked, unsure if she meant the hand, or just the fact that he had brought her hear.
She laid the flowers down so that the leaned against the tree. “For bringing me here. What does the tree mean?”
“I’m not sure, but I think it is a symbol of life and regrowth. You know, despite the fact that he died, he lives on through this tree because his spirit is helping to nourish it.”
“I like that idea. I hope you are right.”
“How do I find this tree again?”
“Let me help you,” He reached into his pouch and pulled out one of each stone, the different feels were almost second nature now. Concentrating, he managed to form a stone as he had before using an earth stone. He then clutched a fire stone and struggled with the next part. He kept picturing his sister’s name and he had to concentrate even harder to get past that image and to picture Clarice’s brother’s name, Thomas. He broke a sweat and Clarice gasped, almost causing him to lose focus. Finally, the rock still hot from the fire stone, Gabriel grasped a water stone and cooled it off. He bent down and picked up the newly formed marker, and handed it to Clarice.
“Here, place this where you will, it will help you remember.”
Smiling, she took the rock and placed it under the flowers, giving it a pat as she set it down. “Rest easy brother. I will come and see you more now that I know where you are. Did you want to go see your sister’s grave?”
“No, but thank you,” His mind cried out to go, but the Paladin knew it was the right thing not to.
He escorted Clarice back to her shop and as they parted, she placed her lips on his forehead and kissed him gently.”
“What was that for?” He asked.
“It has been a long time since I have smiled like this. Thank you.” Her smile stretched from ear to ear as she turned around and left him outside her store.
Gabriel walked back to the temple, confident that he had done the right thing.
He entered the armory to find Lear, again at the table, a stern look upon his face. “I heard about last night,” he said gruffly.
“Did I do something wrong? You told me that was one of the responsibilities of a Paladin.”
“But you are still in training.”
“Yes, and you told me these people were going to look up to me as one and that I should act it.”
“That I did.”
“Did I make the wrong decision?”
“Oh, no, that is probably the same decision I would have made, but they should have come to me instead of you.”
“I see, I am sorry, I did not mean to step on your toes.”
“Bah, lets get to your training. Tonight we are going to work on the second ritual. This is by far the easiest of the three to conduct.”
“What is it?” Gabriel tried show as much reverence as Master Lear was, but knew he failed.
“It is called the Rite of Remembrance, and it involves writing the name and date on a piece of parchment.”
“I knew it.”
“That is all there is to the ritual, but your scroll and the ink are special. One of the pouches you are making with Clarice is for you to hold ink, and you will use the same recipe that you have made here, but you and you alone must make the ink. As for the scroll…” Lear’s voice trailed off.
“What is it?”
"Well, I hear you took Clarice to see her brothers tree today, is that right?”
“Yes, sir, I did, and I made a marker for Thomas like I did Annabel.”
“So are you going to do that for everyone?”
“If it will help them, yes.”
This brought a smile to Lear’s face. “Aye, I bet you would. Did you visit your sister’s tree while you were in the orchard?”
“No, I didn’t. I was there for Clarice, not me.”
“That was very big of you.”
“I had to try really hard to remember that fact, but why do you ask?”
“Well, Cailin took two of the limbs off the tree today…”
“Calm down. NOW.” Lear said that last word with such authority that Gabriel dared not disobey. He sat, seething, across the table from his mentor.
“Now, as I was saying, Cailin cut two branches off of your sister’s tree earlier today, and the priests are going to turn those branches into the paper for your scroll.”
Gabriel could see the rage in his eyes. How dare they defile his sister’s tree, but he held his tongue.
Master Lear stood up and turned to face one of the sword racks that lined the room.
“Now I know how mad you are.”
“How could you,” spat Gabriel, forgetting himself for a moment.
“Because they used my brothers tree for mine.”
This statement gave Gabriel cause to think. “What did you do about it?”
“Do? The only thing I could do, be quiet and think. And finally I realized something.”
“What was that?”
“That this way I always had a piece of my brother with me.”