Renault rode into the field a few minutes later. “I saw the smoke. Was afraid this is what I would find. How is Boz?” This last, he asked of Craig, who just hung his head in response.
Gabriel rose and shook the older Paladin’s hand. “How are you Renault, I don’t know if you remember me,”
“You’re young Gabriel.” Despite the situation, he laughed, a booming sound. “I remember helping you hammer out armor, was that four years ago?” Absently, he reached up and placed his hand to his chest, where Gabriel had remembered seeing exposed ribs all those years before. ‘So you are the newest in our noble order.” There was no malice in this statement, just a re-recognition of someone as a peer instead of a child.
“Yeah, I guess so.” His voice was unsteady, and Renault picked up on this fact.
“Where is the old man anyways?” Renault tried to change the subject, he almost succeeded.
“He had to return to the temple, he sent me here. This is not what I expected.”
“They had already started changing, hadn’t they?”
Mentioning this fact caused Gabriel to shudder. He had been fine until Renault had brought it up, but now the crackling and pop of the wood in the fire brought back the image of the leg tearing and extending. He lurched backwards, afraid he was going to throw up again. Bent over and heaving, his stomach settled, its contents remaining where they belonged, and Gabriel stood back up, afraid to get any closer to the fire.
Charitably, Renault walked over to where Gabriel now stood. “I was unable to sleep for two days after I saw my first, it was an entire family…” Renault trailed off, the memory fresh in his mind bringing a chill to his spine. “So, what is going on here?’
“This temple is without a leader now.”
“And without a town. These priests would be better served moving from here and helping another village.”
Craig, who had been standing on the edge of the conversation, came in closer. “There are people missing, how would they feel if we abandoned them? How would you feel?”
Renault paused. “Then I guess we need to find them. Who is in charge here?”
Craig pointed at Gabriel ,”He is the Paladin here, Master.”
Renault’s tone lightened. “And how do you feel about that Gabriel?”
Gabriel tried to square his shoulders, but his voice squeaked out, betraying his real feelings. “Fine.”
The older Paladin turned to Craig. “How are you guys handling this. What about the structure of the priests, is there any bickering there?”
“I am the senior person of the temple here, and they all recognize that. No, I think everyone is still in shock and is just trying to complete their jobs and help out where they can, but moral is low. They need to see a Paladin in charge, and no offense is meant to Master Gabriel, but he is not the rock they need to renew their faith on.”
“I know, and honestly, I am not either, this temple needs someone older than we are.” Renault sighed, not wanting to settle yet, but seeing what his responsibilities as a Paladin were. “I will take over for now, but it is only temporary. Once we have found the rest of the townsfolk, we will send out a call for a Paladin to take over here.”
“Thank you,” Craig nodded, glad not to have needed to force the issue.
“Gabriel,” Renault focused again on the young man, “Do you feel up to searching for the missing people?”
His mind screamed NO at him, but the opposite escaped his lips. “Yes, Craig, do you have any idea where I could find them?”
“There is a long abandoned church a couple of miles up the road. It is some forgotten god’s. It was here and empty when we built the temple, but it is the only structure that I can think of any where nearby. They could have run into the woods, but that is where the attacks came from, so I would doubt that possibility greatly.”
“Ok, I will seek them out in the morning, there is not enough light to travel by now. Renault, may I speak with you?” Gabriel felt like a puppet, but was well aware of his place.
Craig took the hint and left the two Paladins standing, still at the edge of the light cast off by the fire. “Where have you been?”
“I was even further south, hunting werewolves. Unsuccessfully I might add.”
“So you did not run into Lear?”
“Father Meinos came down with the Plague,” Gabriel paused a moment to let this sink in. “He’s missing.”
Renault’s reaction was much as his had been. “What? And they returned to the temple?”
As Gabriel spoke, he came to accept that what he was saying was true. “It is too late for him. All we can hope is that one of us finds him and is able to return him to The One.”
“How can you be so calm about this?”
“Renault, it is The One’s will, besides, at this point, what can we do?”
“I guess, but why aren’t you out there looking for him?”
“Because these people need us too. Lear left some people to look, don’t worry.”
“I can’t believe how accepting you are of this?”
“Renault,” Gabriel was in the older man’s face now. “Do you think I am accepting of this? I have seen things over the last few days, from killing my first werewolf and setting it on fire. I then had to fight three of the damn things with Lear’s help, and he killed them all. And then this!” He flung his arms out, trying to encompass the entire situation. “I am not even fourteen and they keep coming to me for answers!” His tirade done, Gabriel broke down in tears and sat in the dirt.
Renault began to laugh, and was soon doubled over he was laughing so hard.
“WHAT?” Gabriel shouted.
“I had this same conversation with Sarin, except it was two of the creatures that Lear killed.” Renault managed in between gulps of air. “I swear I said the exact same thing.”
This caused Gabriel to smile a little. “So it gets better?”
This brought a smaller laugh, more of a chuckle, out of Renault. “No, but you do get used to it.”