9th Day of Harvest Season
“How long will you allow that charlatan to run the temple? To lay hands on people in the name of the Seven Holies?”
“Master Gryst, it’s complicated.”
“Complicated? How complicated can it be? She’s starving everyone. Last I checked, that was murder.”
“And we are so pious in Sarond, is that it? We’ve never allowed murderers positions of power?” Brother Milton asked.
We spoke of little else. While Brother Milton and myself journeyed farther from the temple, the young dwarf followed us, asking uncomfortable questions.
“Are you not bound by oath?”
“We are bound by many oaths, Master Gryst. It is important to heed all of them. If we forsake two oaths in the service one, we’ve failed in our task.”
“You cannot justify your cowardice with riddles. You wear the robes, you’re bound to serve. Why are you slinking away like a wounded cur?”
He planted himself in front of us, barring our path. For a long moment, neither Brother Milton nor I spoke. Despite my fall from grace, perhaps Brother Milton deemed me the senior of our party and deferred the matter to me. I prayed in those moments. Prayed for wisdom. Prayed for strength, and yes, I prayed that the dwarf would accept whatever words I gave him.
You did not answer my prayer.
“Master Gryst, we have not abandoned the temple. Our service is to the Seven Sisters, not any one person, or building.”
“And what of the dying in that building you’re not bound to? What of your service to them?”
“We are bound to shelter them, to honor them, and teach them. To show mercy and love them. These are our oaths.”
“Yet you leave. My brothers died! All of them. Dead and carted away. Burned, nameless and honorless in some pit!”
“Master Gryst, your brothers perished from the plague. Disease has no mercy.”
“Yet, she withholds food and mercy for the rest. And you walk away! How many will perish because you ran away with your robes tucked up between your legs?”
I wanted to remind him how we struggling to find ways to feed the innocent. Tell him about the hidden grain and the deal with Darris. Describe how, when we can, we defy Imorgan in small ways. Remind him who smuggled him flat bread while he tended to his brothers.
Instead, I shivered at the cold truth of his words. I had hoped to return to the farm and live out what time I have left walking a different path. As one who had seen many years, I could lead the children with wisdom and compassion. I could teach them your stories, Sisters. Sagas of mercy and triumph, tales of understanding and hope. I believed I had earned such time. I’m tired of fighting. Of pain. Of petty power struggles. In my fleeting years, was it so wrong to want to retire and pass on everything I have learned in this life to others? For them to carry the torch forward? What a coward I am! The dungeon may have taken one of my eyes and stripped away most of my pride, but old age has done the most damage. It has softened me, taken away my desire to fight.
“She is too strong.”
“Bah! No wonder you’re skimpering away like waterlogged rats. You think strength is the only thing needed in battles. I will help you—and prove you wrong.” Gryst stepped forward then and spat on each hand, then wrapped it around our necks. It has been years since I have seen the old dwarven oath. I trembled with unease when his rough hand, moist with spit, touched my neck. Until I remembered that this oath wasn’t mine to keep, it was his.