“How does everyone seem?” Gabriel asked as he took his supper from the large pot that stood in the center of town. With so few people remaining, no one had wanted to be alone, and the few buildings that circled the small main square had been converted to houses. Everyone milled around the fire, bowls in hand to eat the stew, or large chunks of two or three day old bread that had been taken from the homes of the dead.
Gabriel marveled at the practicalness of the people. They were saddened by the loss of so many of their friends, but they used those same friends food or bowls or tools to survive now. When the people that he had saved had made it back to town, they had been asked to prepare food and supplies for the entire group. Some of the men had gone out to get wood, while others began to gather meat and other foods that the women had begun to cook.
While he had been away, the Atwans and priests had been busy burying the dead and cleaning out the gore as best they could. Most of the homes and stores in the town itself had been handled, but they had been reluctant to enter the temple.
Craig, who stood nearby, offering a reassuring presence to the small gathering, looked at Gabriel and smiled. “Tomorrow we will clean out the temple. Tell me again, how many werewolves did you slay here?”
“Just the one Father.”
The new title fit Craig well, and he had begun to look the part. “There was definitely more than one that caused all of this.”
“I was afraid of that. How many do you think it was?” Concern had begun to creep onto the young Paladin’s face.
“I would say at least five or six, maybe more.”
“Oh,” the concern had turned briefly to worry before becoming full on fear.
“We have this well in hand for right now. As you may have guessed I have already had this talk with Renault.”
“And,” Gabriel was trying to sound defiant to mask his fear, but Craig could see through it.
“And,” a brief smile flashed on the new Father’s face, “he had decided that the two of you are going hunting.”
“Any idea where to look?”
“Well…my first instinct was that chapel you dealt with earlier.”
“And that would have been correct, but I only found one.”
“There used to be a town near there, but it has been years since I have been up there.”
“Ok, we’ll check there first, it is not that far away.”
“May the Star guide you and The One watch over you.”
“You as well, Father.” Gabriel took his food and went to find Renault, who was in the smithy, sharpening a sword, another one leaning against the wall, sparks reflecting off of its highly polished surface.
“We will begin the hunt in the morning,” Renault did not look up from where he was working.
“Do you need any help then? Where’s your shield, I could hammer it out if it needs it.”
“I haven’t used a shield in years.” He cast a glance at the sword leaning against the wall. One sword was shorter than his longsword by a few inches, the other looked to be the one that Drisbin’s father had made. Both blades looked to be razor sharp.
Gabriel absently took his sword out of its scabbard and began running a finger along the blade, looking for nicks or scratches that he would have to work with. Finding none, he next turned to the axe, which did require some, but being such a small blade, it was sharp before Renault had finished with his second sword.
Next Gabriel took off his chain mail and began looking over it for tears.
“You know,” Renault began, ”since you fixed my mail last time we saw each other, I have not had to have it fixed.”
Finding no holes in his armor, Gabriel donned it again and looked at his shield. Running his hand over its surface he felt a couple of distinctly forehead shaped indentations. He took one of the smith’s hammers and began working on hammering the dents out. “Renault, how many have you killed?”
“I don’t know, I have lost count.”
Gabriel took out his Necklace of Remembrance and looked at the three fangs hanging there. “How many fangs do you have?”
“Oh, my Necklace is in my pack, I’m not sure, at least twelve.”
“Have you ever had to hunt and kill anyone you knew?”
“What about any other Paladins, have you seen any?”
The younger Paladin was excited by the prospect of hearing about Lear’s first protege, but one look at Renault told him he had gotten all he could out of the older man. Seeing the reflective look on his face, Gabriel silently slipped out, his weapons back in their respective places and his shield on his back.
He returned to the main square of town to find that two men were arguing over who would get to sleep in a specific house.
“What’s going on here?” Gabriel asked, trying his best to make his voice sound authoritative.
“Well, that is my sisters house and I wanted to sleep in it for the night.” Said the taller man.
“But my brother lived there!” The other one puffed his chest out to make himself seem larger.
“So your brother was married to his sister?” Gabriel used the handle of his axe to point at the two men in turn.
“Yes.” They simultaneously said.
“Which house is it?”
“That one.” A house was pointed out by the smaller man, sitting farthest away from the fire, whose crackling was beginning to get to Gabriel.
“I am going to take that house for the night, to solve this. Then I suggest you work this out amongst yourselves. I am hunting in the morning and will not be in the mood to listen to such squabbling when I get back.” Gabriel had not meant to sound as harsh as he did, but it was too late. Both men made a move to argue further, but the young Paladin pointed again at both of them with the axe handle and they warily backed off.
The distance from the fire proved just right, and while he was cold, Gabriel managed to get a full nights sleep, the only dreams were flashes of the images he had seen in the basement of Rianna’s chapel, and awoke the next morning ready to hunt more werewolves.