Lear had dismissed him after telling him about his brother, and told Gabriel to sleep on it.
Gabriel stormed out of the armory and down the hall, fuming.
He got to his room and flopped down on his straw filled bed.
He awoke the next morning in the same position, his robes still on, all his pouches still tied to the belt. Slowly, he dragged himself up from the bed, his conversation with Lear still fresh in his mind. He got up and changed robes before leaving his room, to find Master Lear waiting outside in the hallway.
Anger immediately flashed in Gabriel’s eyes and then quickly he worked to cover it up
“My brother was fifteen when he died, I was seven. Now I know that you know how hard it is to lose someone. By the One you lost your whole family to the plague. You hardly ever talk about your parents though.”
“I know, but they had lived their lives. Anyways, I was supposed to care for my sister, and she is dead now.”
“Gabriel, she died a long time ago, and it was not your fault. You couldn’t have saved her if you had tried anyways.”
“I know,” Gabriel squeaked, fighting back tears.
“This is the hardest part about being a Paladin.”
“What do you mean, having my sister’s tree chopped up?”
Lear smiled. “First off, we took two branches, the tree did not get chopped up. It will still live on.”
“Are you sure?”
“Would you like to see the trees Renault’s scroll was made from? Or Sarin’s? By all means, if it will put your heart at ease, let’s go now.”
“But what about my Dai’Sana, or my pouches?”
“Gabriel, if we can not get you past the tree, no amount of work on a Dai’Sana will make you a Paladin. I will send a runner to talk to Master Drisbin. He has done this before, he knew this day was coming.”
“He was an apprentice to his father when Renault was in training.”
“What about Clarice?”
“We will see where we are after this, ok?
Gabriel followed Lear down the hallways of the temple and finally made his way out to the stables, where Lear spoke with one of the boys that was brushing down the horses. The boy nodded and ran off toward the town, no doubt to deliver Lear’s message to Drisbin.
“There. The smith is taken care of. Come along.”
They left the temple, and after about five minutes of walking, Gabriel stopped. Lear continued n a few more steps before he too stopped.
“What’s wrong Gabriel?”
“Master Lear, before we left, you said ‘this is the hardest part of being a Paladin.’ What did you mean by that?”
“Well, you know that the plague can not kill you, correct?”
“Yes, because I survived it before, right?”
“Yes. But not all of the people you know will survive it. Maybe it will miss them this time, but next time who knows. Father Meinos is extremely lucky to have lived as long as he has without catching it. It could be because he has been part of the church his entire life and has rarely left it. But, anyways…”
Gabriel could tell that Lear’s mind had begun to wander, but his eyes suddenly came back into focus.
“Gabriel, you are going to be taking men’s or women’s lives. Never forget that fact, and they may have even been your friends. It is not an easy task. You have to remember that they are not in control. I had, no I still have doubts to this day, that the killing was not needed, or that I was not cut out for this line of work, but I chose it, and I stuck to it. I am not going to tell you that it is as much fun as some of the other jobs you could do, but it does give you a purpose, and it is rewarding.”
“Then why do you do it?”
“Because someone has to. Think of all the people that would die if we did not stop the werewolves. So many more lives would be lost. Do you still want to see Sarin and Renault’s trees?”
“No, uh, sure…”
“Well, do you or not?” Learasked sharply.
“Yes, I’ve made my decision, but yes.”
“You have, have you?” Lear smiled.
“There will be time for talking after the trees. Come on.” Lear lead the way to the orchard. When they arrived, Lear directed Gabriel to the third tree on the first row. “This was Sarin’s mother’s tree.”
Gabriel looked at the tree, now at least thirty years old, towering over him. The leaves had all fallen off and were scattered about it’s trunk. “What was her name?”
Lear knelt down at the foot of the tree and started raking the leaves away with his hands. After he had cleared a small portion all the way to the ground, he stood up and motioned for Gabriel to look.
Eliza read a rock, very similar to the ones he had made for Thomas and Annabel. “Did he?”
“Yes he made this rock, and when we get to Renault’s I will show you the one he made too. Now do you see these knots in the tree.” He pointed to two small boles in the tree that were covered in bark. “That is where we took the branches from this tree. Does it look like it survived?”
The two then walked back to a row in about the middle of the orchard and found another tree, this one not quite as tall as the first, with a stone reading Gerard at its foot.
“Who was Gerard?”
“Renault’s father. Do you see the knots on this tree?”
“So, you said you had made a decision, what is it?” Lear turned to look at Gabriel, who had to look up to see in the older man’s eyes.
“I’ll do it. I want to become a Paladin. Someone has to stop the werewolves.”