Father Craig managed to identify all but two of the dead beasts from descriptions of things that they had on, Renault’s single kill, and one of Sarin’s. He identified three of the werewolves as former members of the Church and thanked the three Paladin’s for returning them to the service of The One.
Gabriel finished his Rites and buried the pouches, ready to return to his own temple. He walked up to where the others were standing.
“I am sorry for your losses Father Craig,” Sarin was saying.
“With this enclave of the creatures dead, Garinth should be safe for now. We can rebuild. Thank all of you for your help.”
“Once we find the identity of the last two werewolves, I will be going back to the west, I have been working in a small group of hamlets for the last two years, and I fear what may become of them if I am not there.”
The young Paladin took a different tactic. “What brought you out here then Sarin?”
“One of these was seen at a small farmhouse not too far from the place I call home, so I gave pursuit. Little did I know I was going to travel for four days, but once I was on his trail, I was not going to let him escape. What were you doing out here Renault?” The older man shifted the attention off of him.
“I was heading back to the temple to have a conversation with Father Meinos about my fears.”
“Your fears? Aren’t you going to stay and help here?” Craig asked.
“It is between him and Father Meinos, or whoever takes over there.” Sarin interjected to answer the first question.
Renault shot him a thankful look before answering the second. “I can stay until a new Paladin is found to watch over your town.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I don’t think I have much to fear there.”
“Ok, as long as it is your choice.”
“What about you Master Gabriel?” Sarin asked.
“I was going to go home and then assist in the hunt for Father Meinos.” While looking at Sarin, the word Father reminded the young Paladin of the encounter with the older Paladin’s family. “Sarin, I met your sister and parents a few days ago.”
A light shown in Sarin’s eyes, one that Gabriel had yet to see from the older Paladin. “Oh, how are they?”
“They seemed fine, but your father was upset that you were not around.”
“I can imagine. If you see them again, tell them I will see them when the Plague has passed.”
“Father, can I ask you a few questions?” Gabriel withdrew from the group of men, drawing Craig with him.
“What can I do for you young Master?”
“What do you know about the fight between The One and Rianna?”
Father Craig chuckled. “Ah, the old fairy tales.”
“Is that all they were?”
Craig could not keep the gleam out of his eyes momentarily, but it was there long enough for Gabriel to see it. “Well, they say that two thousand years ago Rianna and Gordann, you know him better as The One, were lovers. At least until one day when the God Zhevrian, who was jealous of Gordann, got involved.” Craig paused as he collected his thoughts.
“What did Zhevrian do?” The young man asked.
“Well, I have heard two different versions. One is that he stole a kiss from Rianna, the other is that he challenged Gordann for her hand, and Gordann lost.”
Gabriel was now engrossed in the tale.
“Both versions end the same way. Gordann, in a jealous rage, killed Zhevrian and threw Rianna into Avanhal, where she is shackled to a large stone altar.”
“But what about the curse?”
“Ah yes, the Curse. It is said that as Gordann rolled the stone that blocked the cave into place, Rianna woke up from the slumber he had place her in and uttered a curse that his devote would turn against him just as he had turned against her.”
“Do you believe it?”
“Well, it offers answers to some of the questions, but many Paladins have searched for Avanhal and never found it. Or never lived to return. If it does not exist, how can the story be true.”
“So, if they have never returned, what happened to them then?”
“Well, they probably found their own towns to settle down and protect.”
“I guess,” Gabriel was not convinced though, and it showed on his face.
“Well young Master, if you choose to search for Avanhal, I hope you find it. It had been Father Meinos’ life work to discover where it was. Hopefully all that he has learned is not lost.”
The image that had haunted Gabriel’s dreams since he had seen it came back to Gabriel. “Father, what about removing the curse, if that is what it is?”
“Again, that was something Father Meinos had been looking into. In the brief time that I met him he suggested something about the stones and there healing properties, but he could not see how enough energy could be summoned to save anyone.”
“Thank you very much, you have told me many things I did not know. In the morning I will be departing for home. Thank you for all you have done for me and may Renault guide you well.”
“Thank you Master Gabriel, you have helped us far more than you can imagine, and I believe that Master Renault will do fine by us, Master Boz was quite like him.” Father Craig smiled and left to check in on the progress of reclaiming the werewolves.
Gabriel wished the other Paladins a good and quiet night, and found himself a spot far enough from the fires and fell asleep.
The next morning, Gabriel strung his four new fangs onto his Necklace and said his farewells to the gathered members of the Church of the One.
His shield once again slung on his back, Gabriel rode off toward home and hopefully a recovering Father Meinos.