39th Day of Ripening Season, 342 years After Mourning
Overcome with a bittersweet spirit, I write these words knowing they might be my last for a time. The temple and the bells of forgiveness continue to chime and I fear I can no longer in good conscience delay the matter further. I had originally thought to delay my return until the girls could decipher messages. Unfortunately, neither of my students have progressed as far as I would have liked. Noreen, though she understands most of the words I write, continues to hide her tongue from other mortals and refuses to make a sound. Ivette, cannot stop speaking long enough to grasp the meanings of the words dancing before her eyes. Nevertheless, I must trust them and hope that together they can achieve what one alone cannot. Lessons in literacy, I’m afraid, bow to matters of the soul.
We have had no new visitors, and for that, I offer a song of gratitude. The bickering within these walls has intensified as the pain in their heart dwindles to a distant thrum, ever present, but no longer piercing. After watching men and women for over 70 years, I know these disagreements are a natural part of our life. Within, under and hidden behind the angry words, we air the fears we are afraid to speak, we learn others are vulnerable, and we release the poisons that would destroy us. I know these battles, if you will, are fought to establish order, but without someone whispering words of wisdom to them, each day they fall more and more under the spell of anguish, a powerful mistress that has claimed many lives. I pray that in my absence, you grant them someone else to offer such council, or perhaps whisper to their hearts that they might hear a calm voice of reason over the powerful emotions of pain and rage.
Look at me! A doddering old fool worrying over a handful of children. Who would have ever thought the path you laid before me would have led me here, Sisters? Or brought so much laughter to us in these dark times? Yes, while I worry about the spats of children, Tisai has indeed sent one of her imps to us. Noni, the amber-skinned creature calls himself, and what a fitting name it is! The tiny imp, wearing nothing but a linen cloth wrapped around his waist like a cross between a loin cloth and a skirt and no taller than my knees, thinks he is as big as the moon with the same name, and as powerful as the Elven warrior who carries his namesake. No longer frightened, Ivette ignores his boasts and scolds him for his thieving ways. Fists wrapped around one of his numerous braids, Noreen and Ivette drag him with them into the forest and put him to work repaying the goods he has taken. Turns out, he’s not a very good berry picker. By the third berry, he ends up on his backside, juices dripping off him and bits of raspberry stuck in his hair. Little Hugo, still toddling after the girls wherever they go, giggles with glee at the sight and I wonder if the imp isn’t the world’s worst berry picker on purpose. I almost wish I were staying another day so I could see what new task the children assign him, and the comical results of his ineptitude. To you, Sister Tisai, we owe a great debt. By bringing one of your own creatures to us, you have brought laughter to our dark days.
I take my leave in the morning, with two sacks of freshly dried barley and not much else. I am leaving all the children here with the hopes of stocking the larders. From the temple, I can arrange communication with the farm. By the time harvest season begins, I will have established a supply route and the farm’s fields providing for the temple. Inquiries in town should provide me with more information about any descendants of the family and legal concerns quickly resolved. The farm belongs to the temple now. I have also not forgotten the darker matter. The man with black armor. The memory of his face still haunts me and yes, there is a part of me that fears what answers his ring might uncover. The lure of forgiveness for stealing his life leads me on, though. Soon I will be safe behind the temple walls, washed clean and once again performing simple tasks. Washing wounds. Praying for healing. Feeding the sick. My hands were made for such tasks.
I will not return to the farm until after the harvest. Sisters, watch over these wounded children in my absence. Watch the doors. Hide them from danger. Light my steps before me and stand guard behind me that the way back would not be forgotten.