Father Gensia resided in the Southern Tower, close to the entrance of Mono Luthor. The tower was attached to the monastery's wall, and it spiraled up a hundred feet to a magnificent view of the valleys below the monastery. Kal had sat in his Father's upper living quarters with him numerous times, admiring the mountaintop view and observing every living thing among the rocks and in the forests. All the monks who resided here knew, as did Kal, that father Gensia held a certain empathy for this young and faithful monk. The nine year old boy was carefully nursed back to health by the Father himself, and taken personal responsibility in raising the boy in the ways of the faith, providing him with personal instruction and education. Following the onset of Father Gensia’s illness, Kal was allowed to move his sleeping quarters to the Southern Tower inside the greeting room of Father Gensia. He slept on the simple couch there, with his habit and scapular as his only possession, and it served as a good covering for the nights. In this position as both resident and caretaker, Kal greeted all the Father's visitors, monks alike, and was acutely aware of the Father's daily condition. The Father Gensia of Mono Luthor, the monastery named after the Archevenor of the Dalathould Empire, was aging, now almost a century old, and all knew his time on this mortal plane was coming to a close. For this reason, many of the monks visited him daily, as did many who believed in his holy powers and insight, if only to see him one final time. Father Gensia was aware of this, and consistent with his amiable nature, accepted this. He spoke rarely nowadays, and only came down to the chapel once a week, but even those visits had declined as each weak passed.
Despite the early hour, Kal knew Father Gensia was already awake, though likely lying in his bed, meditating. Mid-morning, and only till after mid-morning, did he request Kal to open a holy book to him and read, for even that mundane task he had become unable to perform on his own. No one else besides Kal resided in the tower, everything was brought to him.
The grounds were still as empty as before, and Kal hurried to the strong oaken doors, the threat in the guards' eyes still gleaming in his mind. The ground floor of the tower partitioned quickly into numerous halls and galleries that illustrated the history of the monastery, display cases holding ancient and treasured relics, objects and artifacts that existed long before even this empire existed.
But these he didn't even give a second glance, and he climbed the stairwell quickly without making a sound. His soft habit hardly made noise, but the hurried skipping and slipping of his leather strapped sandals on the smooth granite stairs could unintentionally worry his Father, and that was the last thing he wished to do. The visiting room was empty, as expected, and he slowly ascended the final flight of stairs which opened directly into the room where a comfortable bed had been set up for the ailing Father. Two long windows along the southern wall were curtained with a heavy wool to prevent the outside cold air from causing a draft.
Father Gensia lay motionless in his bed, the covers drawn over his chest but his arms folded atop the soft burgundy blanket. His eyes were closed, and for a quick moment, like so many times in the past few weeks, Kal's heart jumped. Was Father breathing? His breaths came so slowly now. Some days, he looked as he did ten years ago, loquacious and good-humored, but days where he sat in silence came more often now. Days that seemed to be his last, if not already gone.
"Father," Kal said in a soft tone, not wishing to startle him.
The Father's chest rose, finally, and with it, Kal exhaled in relief. The old man opened his eyes, eyes that once were dark but now a light hazel, and a slight expression of acknowledgement touched the lines gathered closely on his cheeks. "Kallafor," he spoke.
That much was an improvement over his typical condition of late. The deathly grey pallor of yesterday had gone, and the folding of his hands as Father Gensia closed his eyes, the smile still on his lips, told Kal that perhaps it would be a good day. He would not be turning away so many guests today, as long as this good condition kept its grip. But the striking young lady in the laboratory had her clutch on his nerves at this moment.
"Father Gensia," Kal cleared his throat. "There is a lady come here not even an hour ago, who wishes to see you."
A short moment passed before Father Gensia reopened his eyes. "What is her need?"
"She refuses to say, only that it is extremely urgent and wants to speak directly with you."
Father Gensia nodded, his eyes absently gazing at the foot of his bed.
"And Father," Kal added slowly, waiting for him to meet his gaze. "It is the Princess Shalassah."
Another delayed response as Father Gensia finally raised his eyes. "Oh?"
Kal nodded and looked down at the floor, waiting patiently for Father Gensia's response.
"You may bring her in then, but," their eyes met, "there is something that needs to be done, something settled before you go to call her."
"We've neglected to speak of it lately, for the most Holy Horafah has given me many days of solitude and contemplation. But it does not make it a nil matter, my dear Kallafor. I still wish for you to go to the city of Morra, to the Holy Church there. It would do you good to bid farewell to Mono Luthor for a few months, maybe even for a year if Horafah permits. You are young and intelligent, bright, and observant. Being cooped in the fixity of this stone castle is stifling, and hinders your spiritual growth and perspicacity. Observe a different liturgy, experience a verve that would never be seen here, see the exquisite beauties of the world, the distinguished people, serve mankind as we have sworn to do. You cannot fully follow your pact unless you give openly. Abnegation becomes a maudlin mentality here, and you are too young to be curtailed for the rest of your life. So while you are strong in mind, body, and spirit, I release you from your service here for a temporary moment."
"Father," was all Kal could utter. He had been hoping that this topic would never arise. He had been hoping that Father Gensia would conveniently forget. That he needed him.
"Kallafor," Father Gensia added, a gentle smile radiating. "The Holy Horafah will take me when the time is correct. Today, I feel strong, and am grateful for it. There are many here to take care of me, who will give hand and foot as you have done so kindly for me for so many years. I wish not to boast of the love that is shown to me daily, but worry not for me. Your selflessness is pure, a fresh mountain spring that flows in unceasing beauty. I know you are needed elsewhere. Yyou have served piously since the day you arrived here as an abandoned child, and I am not saying that you will not return here one day. I know you will return here one day, and will live a blissful decade upon decade in this monastery. But for the moment, this moment, your wisdom and person is needed in another place."
"But how could I leave you, Father," Kal cried the moment Father Gensia paused for longer than a breath. "You are sick, and Horafah may know your time and place, but I could not without guilty conscience leave you so soon."
"Son, your earnestness is honorable, and countless times have I thanked Horafah for having the pleasure of having you by my side for so many a year. But my time has come, and it has gone. My hand is useless, my eye can hardly see, my words become jumbled and oftentimes meaningless. It takes great concentration to do a menial task. The portrait of a dying man is not one I would like to force upon you. I truly wish you to go. Horafah may keep me another year, perhaps even another ten years. Old age is not a burden, but merely a short progression our human bodies are subject to."
Kal kept quiet. At a time like this, how could his Father wish him to go? Life seemed inexplicable at times, but every moment was meaningful, everything had meaning and a purpose, good or evil. But this he could not comprehend.
"Kallafor," Father Gensia exclaimed. His eyes remained fixed upon the young man. "Do not understand this as my pushing you away. I love you from the depths of my heart. You have been a son to me, and you have brought more joy to me upon this earth than I deserved. I am sorry to appear to be hurting you, I do not wish to inflict any distress to you, but it is for your betterment. You will see and reflect upon this, and the bonds of our friendship will strengthen and grow despite the waning of physical communication. Now go, bring the Princess to me."
He grit his teeth, giving Father Gensia one last pleading look into those gentle eyes, and seeing nothing but affection and care in his eyes, sorrowfully turned away and retreated from the room.