15th Day of Harvest Season
Only a fool wishes to hold life and death in his hands. I have learned long ago both are too heavy for human hands. Heart heavy with the burden of what’s been lost, and what remains to be done, I report that Brother Trinn passed through the Seven Arches not more than an hour past. His death surprises neither me, nor Brother Milton. We have seen the color of death often. We knew his fate yesterday, long before he took his last breath.
An uneasy quiet had fallen over the farm. The children trudged off to their tasks silent and tense. The normal clatter of buckets and running feet vanished. In its place, fear, poorly disguised as respect, followed each of us. Unable to withstand it any longer, I joined Brother Milton as he ministered to Trinn in his final hours.
“Jakob, we must find the boy.” Milton mopped Trinn’s forehead with a wet rag.
“He will return.” I cupped my hands behind Trinn’s head and lifted it. I forced his dry lips apart enough to slowly drip broth into his mouth. Both Milton and I pretended the man wasn’t dying. By unspoken agreement, we avoided discussing his death.
“Not with us here. He waits for us to leave. One way or another.”
“Fear has taken hold of you, Brother Milton. Niles is only a boy who wants to protect the farm. We pose no threat to him.”
“Perhaps not today. But tomorrow?”
I paused as the truth of his words washed over me. A handful of orphans thrown together owe no allegiance to each other, or us, only a common desire to live and for some, that is tenuous at best. If Niles felt threatened once, he would feel threatened again. It is difficult for me to cast stones upon the lad, though. By placing judgment at his feet for taking a man’s life, I must acknowledge my own guilt. Was it not weeks ago my hands snuffed out the life of another man? Sisters, you have forgiven me, but I fear it might take longer for me to forgive myself.
“Tomorrow we will search for him. To speak with him, Milton. Nothing more. He needs a friend, not an accuser.”
Brother Milton grunted. “If you can find him. Mark my words, Jakob, he watches us. You cannot track a boy who doesn’t want to be found.”
“Perhaps. We must try. The Sisters have said only obligation in life is to try. I know how the boy feels. I won’t shy away from him.”
Milton considered my words for a long time. Quiet Noreen entered with a tray, the small mutt trotting at her heels. She placed a pair of teacups on the table and removed the broth. The dog circled my feet, sniffing, whining. Then he walked over to the corner and dropped down, laying his head on his paws. When Noreen had pulled the door behind her, Trinn finally spoke again, “I’ll leave in the morning. Travel to the river. Wait for Mouse.” He kept his eyes averted, his hands wringing the wet cloth.
To avoid shaming him, I busied myself with the tea. “Load the old wagon we found with extra wheat. Take Noreen with you. She’ll make a good companion. Point out the plants as you go. She only needs to see them once to remember them. Have her stock up on weeds we might need.”
We spoke of little else after that, preferring instead to sit with our own silence. When Trinn breathed his last, we felt a chill sweep through the room. As if fearing Niles would strike any moment, Milton excused himself and began his preparations. Master Gryst emerged from his self-imposed study and promised to share his findings with us later, after we decided what to do about Trinn. Tradition decrees we return his body back to the temple. I’d prefer not to follow tradition. Niles chances of receiving a fair trial with Imorgan are slim. The temple isn’t our only option, though. We could bury Trinn here at the farm, quietly without prying eyes and probing questions. Yet you and I both know my conscience could never agree to such a solution. Gryst, Milton and I have come to a decision. At dawn, we will gather the children together and put the matter to a vote. Until then, I must try to grab whatever sleep I can. I fear I may need it.
– Jakob Borchain