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Archives: Cian’s Quest

Chapter 2: Return to Roid

    After a long day’s ride, the group crossed the Great Delta Island to the west bank of the Holy River where Roid sat. A gentle spring drizzle had started not far from the city, coming in from the east. On the western horizon the sun was nearly set.

    Carianna smiled at the sight of her home. Hardship and painful memories could not destroy the fact that she loved it. And look at it, she thought. It is beautiful this time of year. She grinned. “If you could have grown up anywhere else, would you?” Cari asked, hanging on to Dernek’s hips.

    “I don’t see a reason to want to...” he said, looking ahead, then glanced back at their captives. “Why?”

    “Just curious...”

    The group rode onward to the gate. It was closed. On nights of inspection, Roid guards had the ability to lock the city for that night while they searched for a criminal or the like. They had just closed it. She yelled up to the gate man. “Hello? Anyone up there?”

    A guard peeked down and began to yell back, “You’re going to have to come back later—”

    “Open the gate,” she interrupted.

    “On whose word?”

    “Mine...” she replied, looking to the others.

    “Name yourself!” he declared.

    “Carianna Mareleth. I am one of the civil working priestesses of the city. I have urgent needs to attend to in the city!”

    “Hah! That’s you, miss?”

    “Sure is!” she called back, smiling.

    “Hold on, I’ll get ya through!” he yelled, jumping down.

    The others looked at her strangely for a moment. “He frequents my classes...” she explained. In a few moments, the gate was rising. She waved Ciprian to lead them in, but she called a stop when the gate guard was waiting for her.

    “When is your next class, Miss?” he asked.

    “Not quite sure. If I can’t get to it, Priestess Nalara will cover for me. Worry not. She is quite good at it. Better than me perhaps.”

    He nodded and they continued through as the gate closed again. “So... I suppose we have to find a barracks or something to drop these witless ones off... Do either of you know the city well enough to find it, or shall Dernek and I lead from now on?”

    Cian remained silent for most of the journey as his side was throbbing; not that he was a stranger to pain. The large building where they entered made the young boy shiver slightly, and even more so when he saw the guard. Emir taught him to avoid places like this at all costs, being a thief some communities were rather harsh in their punishments. One could loose a hand, or an arm in retaliation for thievery, or worse. Glancing back towards the mercenaries he noticed the one called Ranth, taking every detail of their location in stride. The man was not to be trusted, he was already planning something. Glancing over towards Cian, the merc made a very nasty and dangerous remark in “thieves’ speak”, it was enough to cause the boy to shudder slightly. Cian chose not to reply to the comment and did his best to remain focused on what was going on around him. Speaking to Ciprian, the boy didn’t want to take any chances, “Cip, watch Ranth, he’s tricky. He knows ‘thieves’ speak’. He might try something whenever he gets the chance. He said?e’d slit my throat the first chance he got.”

    “He will be doing nothing of the sort,” interrupted Cari swiftly. “I will put him down before he is even an arms reach from you. In no time, they will be put into the long arm of the law. And I am sure they will accept the wise words of a priestess of Rada when I tell them that these men are quite adept at getting out of situations such as these. If we must weight their entire body with welded metal balls, then we will...” she said, winking to Cian. “No one would dare sneak into a temple of Rada. You will be very well protected, Cian...”

    Ciprian chuckled when Carianna asked how well he knew the city, “I’ve trained here since I was ten, sister Carianna,” he replied. “I think I know my way around. I can meet you at the Rada temple, unless you want to come back to the knight’s barracks with us?” He only spared a glance back at the mercenaries, since Carianna had assured Cian of his safety and threatened Ranth. Maybe it would be more comfort to Cian if she continued with them.

    “I see no reason why I couldn’t visit the barracks. The head priest of Rada is not expecting me back for another hour or so. I am welcomed there anyway...” she said, with a grin. She had recently been teaching a few of the knights there defensive tactics for making arrests without actually harming their prey. It was a good effort to keep the city peaceful, and she was pleased to do it.

    Cian took some ease in what Carianna had said as they continued on their journey. The throbbing in his side continued as they rode, to pass the time the young thief turned and spoke towards the priestess. “Uhh...h...Holiness, can I ask a question? Um...It will sound foolish, but, would you pray for someone close to me? I don’t know how and with these mercenaries that have been after me. I’m a bit worried about them.” That someone he was worried about was his sister, Linette. Cian had no idea if Emir still had any hold or contact over his sister since they’d been sold so long ago. The thought that the slaver might use her against him filled the young boy with a sense of dread. It wasn’t something he relished, and quickly pushing the feeling down he gave the priestess a smile.

    As they made their way to the Barracks, Cian asked her a curious question. To pray for another? Why would that seem so unusual for him? “Don’t bother with a title... Just call me Cari...” she said with a grin. “And of course I can. In fact, not only I will pray for this person for you this night. Usually, most priests pray to Rada once a night for those in the city who are of need. I can ask the others as well to pray for this one... Let us discuss it further at the temple...”

    It was not long before they arrived at the Barracks. Cari got off her horse. “Does your injury hurt a lot right now?” she asked Cian. “I can dull the pain for a while if you want...”

    Cian smiled as the priestess words eased him, when she asked about his wound the young boy shook his head and spoke. “No thank you, holiness. I can manage till the healing you started is completed. Besides, the pain keeps me sharp, this way I stay alert. Won’t you need your strength for other healing and stuff?”

    “How many times must I tell you... My name is Cari. There is no need for a title...” she said, grinning.

    Ciprian carefully dismounted so not to disturb Cian’s injury. “Go ahead and let her help you Cian, just relax, you’re safe here,” Cip assured him from the ground. He’d noticed that the boy was quite stubborn in referring to her as “holiness”, he couldn’t help but wonder if he was trying Cari’s patience. Cip gave a little chuckle, it was a good sign, etiquette and tenacity were good traits in a squire.

    Carianna smiled. “You are outvoted, two to one,” she said. “I will dull your pain. I won’t really continue the healing, since it would be of little use. Oh...” She turned to Ciprian. “I assume you are going to turn in these men now? Make it quick. We wouldn’t want Cian to have him getting sick because of his new hole...” Carianna said as she pulled Cian’s shirt up so she could get a good look at it. “Mmhmm...” She muttered to herself like doctors did to mock-worry their patients. While she expected Ciprian to be hurrying along with his other matters, she began to pray.

    “Rada, God of Wisdom and Purveyor of Peace. Grant unto this innocent your divine and benevolent light. Purge this victim of the pain that violence has caused...” The Priestess’ hands flared with bright white light. The light curled and bent around her hands and into the wound of the young man. It snaked its way into the damage. To Cian, the magic felt like a cool, soothing breeze as his pain faded and the wound felt as if it wasn’t there. She healed in such a way as to just cure him of pain instead of working on the wound itself. She would leave that up to the resident high priest. “That should do you fine until my superiors can complete the healing,” she said, pulling his tattered shirt back down. She looked him over for a moment. “And then we will get a hearty meal into you. You look like you need one,” she said, winking at him.

    Cian also took Cip’s words into consideration after the knight had climbed down from his horse, and it made sense. There was no need in letting the wound get worse, which would inevitably mean he might get sick if such happened. Nodding towards the knight the young boy spoke once again. “You’re right, of course Cip, what type of squire would I be if I didn’t listen and let myself get sick. I guess a pretty poor one, and I owe you too much to be a poor squire, thanks.”

    Ciprian went into the barracks, giving Cian and Carianna a nod. Ciprian needed the aid of a few other knights to help him take the criminals down to the dungeon. Cian wasn’t a squire yet, Ciprian never promised him he would be. That had to be decided by others. Where did the boy get the idea that he was going to be a squire?

    Dernek had strolled into the Barracks. He replaced his regular traveling equipment and put on a fresh pair of undergarments. He certainly would not go into such a respectable place as the Temple of Rada smelling like the stables. He returned in a relatively short time, before Ciprian got back. He looked over the horses that were spoils from the battle. He whispered to Carianna that they had found these horses without owners. She nodded. If they were of those men, they could be confiscated by the military. He and Carianna both knew that there were farmers outside the city as well as some needy in the city that a horse could solve a few problems for. And fine horses they were indeed.

    The Priestess of Rada smiled, looking over Cian from a small distance away. Her mind asked questions about him, but her voice did not dare ask them. She knew what it was like to have a troubled life previously. She was always worried, in the Temple, that people would ask her what had happened to her. But, to her surprise, they never asked. She realized that everyone understood that knowledge is best gained when willingly shared out of true reflection, not harsh questioning. All it truly did was to stir up old emotions. She had learned that, and respected it. If she was to learn of Cian, it will be at a time of his choosing. She didn’t expect him to understand the reasons and she didn’t expect him to give her the same courtesy. Not many outside of the temple thought quite like that. She would answer questions when the time came, she supposed.

    Where is he? she thought. For what seemed like a good, official knight, Ciprian was slow in getting things done. Or perhaps she was just too impatient to get home and get her new friends taken care of.

    After the healing, Cian climbed down from his companion’s horse with the help of the priestess only a slight pain could be felt as he did so. Which was much better by far than the discomfort he’d felt earlier, Cari’s healing powers had saved him from what would’ve certainly been a sure death. At the mention of food however, Cian’s face lit up and he gave the priestess a wide smile, speaking in a more upbeat voice. “By the god’s ye...I mean?’d like some food if it’s okay? I’m still learning proper manners, its not often I have a meal. Thanks to you and Cip this will make two I’ll have had.”

    Carianna laughed. “Your manners are better than most of the ones I help your age anyway. Many just call me ‘girl’. And I did insist you eat with me. Cooking isn’t my top priority in life, but people say I can whip up a mean stew...” she said, winking at him. “I am also insisting you stay the night and sleep in a bed. And, if your wound is better, get a warm bath...”

    Cian’s eyes widened slightly as he took in Carianna’s words, the thought of sleeping on a real bed appealed to him greatly. It was rare when the boy had slept in anything more than the streets or perhaps a bedroll given to him by Emir. As for a bath, even he had to admit he needed one. Bathing was a luxury for the rich or so he’d thought, and a warm bath at that would be extremely welcome. Not that the young thief would have admitted it, but he was extremely tired having been on the run for days. Hiding and eating little of nothing had left him nearly exhausted; Cian had been traveling on adrenaline alone that could take one only so far. Turning towards Cip’s direction the boy thought a moment, then turning back towards the priestess and spoke in a voice that did well to betray his fatigue. “A real bed and bath? I’d welcome that greatly Holi? mean Carianna. But, I feel a bit guilty over accepting and not doing my duties for Cip... But, yes, if it’s okay, I’ll gladly accept the offer. I am a bit tired. Thank you Carianna.”

    Cian was unused to such kindness; it seemed too good to be true. He kept expecting something to happen or some catch, thought in truth the boy hoped that it was genuine. So far he’d had no cause to doubt the priestess sincerity, she’d saved his life and now offered him food and shelter. To Cian it was far more than he was used to and far more than many of his fellow thieves who worked for Emir received at times. The boy managed a small but genuine smile towards the priest as he was grateful that this day not only had he made a good friend in Cip, but it appeared he was making a new one in Carianna and a chance at a better life.

    “It is nothing. It is as much of a pleasure for me as it is for you. I didn’t dedicate my life to helping others because the pay was good, after all,” she said, chuckling to herself. Where was that knight? Oh so slow. Whatever he was doing, he needn’t hold up the wounded so!

    Cian smiled at Carianna, as the boy did so he inadvertently yawned. The stress of the day, the wound and being on the run for the past few days in a hard stretch were catching up with him. In a weary voice the boy glanced around as he turned back towards the priestess and spoke, “Carianna...I hate to be a pest, but I’m?ired. Is there somewhere I can sit till we move on? The wound doesn’t hurt, but I’ve been on the move for days now and haven’t had much sleep.” The young boy’s eyes took in the area well, as the stress of the earlier affair began to leave him. All that was left now was the need for food and rest.

    “Well, if you think about it, you can sit anywhere. I usually sit on the ground in situations like this,” she said. She looked around. “But... then again, those feed sacks look about as comfortable as fine cushions...” she said, pointing to the wall of the barracks. Piled three layers high were sacks of feed for the horses.

    Ciprian returned outside with a three more knights, one a captain. They strode purposefully toward the bound and gagged men on the horses, then pulled the three criminals from the saddle. As Ciprian and another knight carried Ranth by, Cip glanced to Cari and Cian, “I’ll be back soon, we just have to get these men to the dungeon first,” he said. The knights and captives disappeared into the darkened barracks, they would be taking Ranth and the other two mercenaries into a dungeon beneath the barracks to await trial.

    Carianna watched them go away. “Oh... Watch these ones carefully. They are cunning. Take no assumptions and take all precautions,” she almost commanded to the knights. As a member of the temple of Rada, people usually took her advice. She watched them take off.

    Ciprian nodded to Carianna, though Cian’s warnings were enough to keep him alert. As they entered the shadowed barracks, Ciprian kept a firm hand on Ranth’s shoulder as the other knight tugged him along roughly by Ranth’s opposite arm.

    They led Ranth quickly through the barracks, then down a long stone staircase underneath the street. The only light they had was a torch being carried by a squire they picked up on the way and the sporadically placed torches along the stairs. Ciprian applied more force on Ranth to let the mercenary know that even if vision was poor, Cip was alert.

    Ranth gave a slight grunt as Cip’s grip on his shoulder tightened, the mercenary knew that he was done. He’d most definitely be interrogated, and if he were lucky he likely wouldn’t have a noose waiting for him at the end of all of this. The thought of hanging frightened him worse than the threat of being beheaded or torture. The gruffly mercenary remembered once before in his youth he’d been near strangled as he was nearly hung to death. The burning grip and pull of the rope and his slow gasp and tuck for breath were a horror that he’d soon not forget, ever. It probably meant a quick death, but anything was better than that possibility. Ranth was sure he couldn’t break the knight’s grip on his shoulder, however they were heading downstairs and the knight tugging on his arm in front of him was another matter. He could do something nasty and very dangerous. He’d either end up with a broken neck or a few limbs still if he could get free it’d be worth it. Only problem was tensing up, the one called Cip wasn’t easily fooled and Ranth was sure as soon as he tried anything that would be it. After considering his options, the mercenary used the only free limbs he had, his feet.

    Moving quickly as he descended another step, Ranth pushed both legs forward with all the strength he could muster in them and attempted to either kick the other knight before him. Hoping he’d drag the one who had him by the shoulder down the stairs with him, being on such an incline maybe all three men might go down and then he’d have a chance.

    By time Ciprian realized what Ranth had done, it was too late to do anything to stop it, but he refused to let go of the mercenary. So, he and the other knight tumbled down the stone stairs with him until they met a wall. During the fall, Ciprian had lost his grip, but found it again on Ranth’s ankle.

    “You just want to rack up those charges against you, don’t you?” Ciprian growled at Ranth while the other knight stood gingerly, leaning against a wall.

    “Bloody hell, I think my ankle is busted,” the knight murmured.

    “Can you walk, Cidoc?” Ciprian asked.

    Cidoc rotated his ankle with a wince. “Not with his weight on me.”

    Ciprian stood, then put his foot heavily on Ranth’s to keep him pinned and as a bit of just desserts for getting Cidoc hurt. “Well, we’ll just have to do this the harder way. Let’s bind him up,” Ciprian said. The knights quickly bound Ranth’s legs and arms tightly. Once Ranth was bound, Ciprian drug him down the stairs, literally.

    Once down in the dungeon, the mercenaries were taking to a cell and tossed in unceremoniously. “You will be interrogated in the morning,” Ciprian informed them. The cell had only one way out, the door. It was too far underground for windows and clean of everything but moss; and the door would be guarded by two of the knights. Ciprian slammed the cell door, locked it, and almost gave the key to one of the knights. “No, I don’t trust them. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but those are some cunning bastards,” Ciprian put the key in his pocket. “Don’t open that door for anything, not even food. I don’t care. Just ignore anything they say to you.”

    “Yes’sir,” the knights said. Ciprian left them to their duty and returned upstairs with the captain and Cidoc.

    Ranth was hurting badly and now worse his legs, arms and even feet were tied. The mercenary eyed his surroundings in complete disgust as the knights left him bound securely in his cell. Only the injured and furious mercenaries mouth was free, well if it was all he had then he’d use it. Ever defiant to the end, the mercenary began spouting a series of colorful curses and expletives that would’ve made even the saltiest sailor blush with embarrassment, each one growing ever louder as the small cell area was filled with his voice until it grew too raw for him to continue.

* * *

    Still waiting on Cip to return, Cian did his best to fight sleep as he felt his eyelids becoming heavier as time went by. Looking up at Carianna the boy caught himself before calling her holiness again. He was curious, as he spoke in a tired voice, “Carianna...tell me how you did you become a priestess? I mean...was it something your family did and you also went into service or did you just come by it naturally?”

    Carianna instantly blushed and dropped her head. She knew it would come up. The funny thing was that it was supposed to be a success story. But she was so ashamed of it. To think of what she had done willingly for so long before she turned a new leaf was so appalling. She could barely handle the memory. She was a priestess to forget that time. As one of wisdom, she knew she her past would not disappear, no matter how hard she tried to make it. “It wasn’t my parents’ fault,” she started, thinking. She didn’t know why she was given up. But she gave them both the benefit of the doubt that they made the right decision. “I was put into an orphanage when I was very young... I never knew them, so I couldn’t really tell you. I don’t know how much you know about orphanages, but the reality of them is that your chance of being adopted is next to nothing. The orphanage ran out of money and closed. So I was lost in the confusion of transferring. I lived on the streets for a while. I got by however I could. Struggled a bit. One day, I was in a tough spot with someone. The priests of Rada helped me get away and took me in. They offered me permanent residence and I took it. I joined the priesthood and here I am.” Carianna sighed. She really wasn’t being all that honest with him. She knew that if she ever wanted him to trust her, she needed to be honest and true. She rocked her head slightly and decided to tell him so. “Look, Cian. You know the saying ‘don’t make a mountain out of a molehill’, right? Well, According to that statement, I am making a molehill out of a mountain...” she watched a man walk by.

    “There are only four people that know my whole story. One man who is, hopefully, still in the jailhouse. Myself, and only two of the priests in the temple. The only people I have ever told are the high priest and a good friend of mine. Its a tough story to tell for me. Perhaps, if you stay in the temple for a few days, I’ll try to work up the courage to tell you. Its not the kind of tale you tell while... well, sitting on barrels and dirt outside of your local barracks,” she said with a calming smile. The question didn’t anger her. Quite the opposite, she was pleased he asked. She figured his life was hard. She didn’t want him to feel pressured into following her footsteps or accepting any sort of help. At the time, she didn’t want to accept or hear it either. She wasn’t the sort to convert. But he had the curiosity of a knowledge seeker. She seriously doubted he would ever stay in a temple like she had, but he would be welcome if he wanted to.

    Carianna almost asked in return his, but she stopped herself before the thought registered on her face. As someone with a tough past which she had just faced, it was the last thing she had wanted to talk about with anyone at all, friend or foe, companion or stranger. The only reason she had been comfortable in the temple from the beginning is because everyone knew not to ask. It was not wise to try and make people tell you things. If it was meant to come out, it would come out in due time. Cari decided it was better not to know Cian’s past. It was better for most not to know hers as well, she supposed.

    Cian had listened to Carianna’s reply and not wanting to press her further for information he wasn’t privy too the boy nodded as he moved his hand to his side unconsciously. In a low voice, he spoke looking down at the ground, feeling very tired but needing to talk to someone; anyone at this point. “I understand...I’m sorry I didn’t mean to pry. I’m new to this city, those men chasing me have been after me for quite awhile. You see I escaped my owner. I had saw the scars on my back right? Well a man named Emir was responsible, he’s done worse but...I took a bit of revenge on him before I got away. I had to, I’m looking for someone and maybe your temple or one of the temples might know something.”

    Carianna shook her head. “It was not wrong to ask. It is part of every person’s nature to be curious of things they do not know. Even now, it is not wrong to ask me what brought me to my current occupation. I think it would be wrong if you didn’t,” she said calmly, nodding to herself more than him. “Yes, I did notice the scars. I can tell you now that you are far braver than I...”

    The priestess looked to the door for a moment. Where was he?! Did it really take so long? She remembered proceedings that took half this time.

    “I don’t think I’m brave...just lucky. I just hope she’s okay, gotta find to,” Cian said.

    “Well, then, if you are not all that brave, I suppose that makes me a coward, huh?” she said, winking. She leaned forward to him for a moment. “A wise man once said: ‘You are your harshest critic.’ I haven’t heard many things that are as true as that. Keep that in mind as you constantly judge yourself...”

    Cian’s eyes were wide as limpid pools as he looked at Carianna, such kindness and even compliments were rare for him. First Cip now her, the boy smiled a very gentle and truly grateful expression smoothed over his face as he nodded. After looking around he wondered a bit on what exactly she’d gone through to become a priestess. He gathered it was probably circumstances as harsh or harsher than what he’d gone through. But, she was right, there’d be time to talk about such things later, speaking in a somewhat more jovial voice he removed three brightly colored balls from his pack and decided to practice one of his old skills and began to juggle them skillfully. “You’re right...thanks I tend to be hard on myself, look there’s little I can do right now so why don’t I entertain you for a bit by juggling till Cip returns.”

    Ciprian emerged from the barracks, alone this time. The other knights had gone their separate ways. “Sorry for taking so long, Ranth decided he wanted to take a tumble down the stairs,” Ciprian said, rubbing a sore spot on the back of his head. “Shall we go to the temple?”

    No sooner had he started to juggle than Ciprian returned, the boy stopped catching each ball one after the other as they fell in his hands and quickly placed them back in his pack. After hearing about Ranth, Cian scratched his chin and spoke. “You okay Cip? That was most likely Ranth’s last gambit. I’ll bet he’s out of tricks right least I hope. Anyway, yeah I’m ready to head on if you both are.”

    With that, the party of three made preparations and began to maneuver through the city once more. Carianna led them down several roads with booths on the sides of selling wears and services. She passed through the academics quarter, using a side road as a short cut to get home. The precession looked strange. Many people throughout the city had seen Carianna and knew very well her beliefs. It looked strange for her to be walking with a knight. But a younger one was no surprise whatsoever. People stared, some waved, and some called out to her. All were met with a kind word in return from the priestess as she moved rather nonchalantly through the roads.

    The first temple they met, the first in the temple district was the Temple of Rada. It was important to have it so close to the academic quarters, since, many times, the temple would work with the different intellectual societies in public works. But the temple was a source of learning all its own. The temple itself was peaceful and calming to the eye. The white stone building was not overwhelming and not highly decorated. Instead, it was just clean. As they approached, a priestess popped out, looking at who was coming. She waved to Carianna and called out a greeting, which Cari did in return.

    “So, Cari, why are you back so soon?” she asked, curious as always.

    “Ran into a bit of trouble with some bad people. Just had to deliver them to the proper authorities,” Cari replied, as if it was a usual occurrence.

“I see... And your friends?”

    “The authorities would call them ‘victims of an attack’, but...” she leaned back, winking to them, “I think they could have turned the attackers into the victims in good time. I had to step in...”


    “Well, of course. Do me a favor and send for the high priest to my room, would you? One of them requires a much more powerful healing...”

    “No problem. I will see you later tonight,” she said, nodding her head.

    “That you will,” Cari confirmed as the girl took a dash off. “That’s Darielle. I don’t know anyone who is more talkative than her. She is a very good teacher in literature, but not many people take the class. I did, though.”

    They entered the large, open building. Inside, people bustled around, and many were not even of Rada in priesthood. Many were normal people. Unlike many temples across Lodoss, Carianna’s was very active in services to the public, including schooling for those who cannot afford the academies. Depending on who they were, some classes could be offered on credit, but none were truly free inside the temple. Any free classes were taught outside the temple in an area provided by the priest who ran it and was quite individual in nature. The temple could not afford to provide free classes all the time. But Cari did a few free classes on the street to people who needed something to get them started. Many of them knew Carianna and waved a greeting, nodded, or said a good word. Cari, in return, would respond with a graceful head nod. Normally, she would stop and chat with people, but they did have an injury on their hands. She led the group into the temple halls and finally to the living quarters. Carianna arrived at her door and a man in extravagant robes was already standing there. As she arrived, she bowed to him and spoke his name in respect. “High Priest Maernius.”

    He nodded. “Priestess Carianna. Are you injured?”

    “No. This one...” she said, leading Cian into the room. She led him to her bedside. The entire room was white, except for a few knick-knacks, books, and ornaments that seemed to stand out in her room. It was quite simple and not in the least fancy. Hung on a side of the wall were several of, for the most part, the same, low-end clothes that she wore this day. She looked back to the high priest, who nodded to her. She hoped that he would be fine.

    Ciprian moved out of the way and stood against a wall so Cian could be healed. As a Holy Knight, he had high respect for the priests, he didn’t question their motives, nor worry for someone in their care anymore than was reasonable.

    As Carianna led Cian into the room, the young boy glanced at Maernius a bit warily but when he noticed that Cip had moved over to the side and Cari seemed to have no problem with this he felt a bit more at ease. Cian chided himself mentally for being so on edge, the young thief just wasn’t used to such kindness and positive attention. As he glanced around he noticed a few books and scrolls in the room as well, Cian could only barely make out a symbol or a word, Emir had never given the boy much of an education in truly reading and writing. Emir only taught him certain words and symbols he’d need to recognize to do his job as a thief. Cian had always been warned to avoid temples and such high places, as a thief could very quickly be caught and dealt with quite easily. Nervously, he looked at Carianna as he tried not to meet the High Priest’s eyes; Cian was a thief and felt as if his very soul was being scrutinized.

    The High Priest clearly noticed Cian’s emotions, but said nothing and did nothing about it. Instead, he went to work. With a fluid motion, Cian’s chest was exposed and his shirt was on the bed. For an old man, his motions were fluid and calculated. He looked to the bloodless gap in his skin. He looked back to Carianna and smiled. “I see you have been paying more attention in your studies, priestess. Your abilities have improved since I have last watched you work. Your progress is pleasing to me.”

    “Thank you, High Priest,” Carianna replied quickly, nodding to him.

    “Of course, of course. Talk later, healing now, eh?”

    “You know me too well,” Carianna said. In her early days, she had always been in a hurry, and he hadn’t. When healings needed to be done, he dawdled a bit. One day, Carianna disrespected him by hurrying him along. He took no harm from it, but she learned to not tell the high priest how to do his work.

    “Relax, young visitor, and the healing should be complete with a single treatment,” the old man said, holding his hands out to the sealed wound.

    “Rada, God of Peace and Tranquility, your servant begs your assistance. Bring forth your healing light and turn back the damage that war has done to this victim...”

    The High Priest’s hands seemed to ignite with a brilliant white light. It filled the room, but mostly fell onto Cian. The light bent and warped around the wound until Cian’s side flared with the same, white light. The light filled his wound like water, swirling and bending. Then, all at once, all of the light ceased. Where the lake of light had been in Cian’s wound was the flesh that belonged there. So well was the healing that there were no scars and the skin seemed to match the skin that was there before he even had the wound perfectly. The old priest sighed, as if it had taken something out of him. He did not appear tired, but he was tensed. His brow unfurrowed and his hands dropped to his sides. He examined Cian’s side for one more moment, ensuring all went as planned.

    “The work is done. If any complications occur, any priest should be able to solve them for you,” he explained to Cian. He looked at the boy for a moment. “I can see that you have had recent trouble. If you wish, you may stay here and be safe. You are welcome to all of our hospitalities. Since you have already met priestess Carianna, she may see to your needs, unless she has any important plans. I must excuse myself, for an important meeting is waiting for me. I hope for your peace,” he said finally, bowing, and leaving.

    Carianna sighed. She remembered being in Cian’s place. Confused, tired, and lost. And in the temple of Rada for the first time. “Assuming you don’t have any pain from the healing, is there anything you would like to see before dinner is served? We can set you two up in a guest room, if you want to stay the night. We have the art gallery, the music hall, the library, classes are going on, the baths, and then there is the city... We don’t mind if you leave... Its really up to you. Not to pressure you, but I find the music hall to be the most enjoyable to visit. The gallery is pretty, but you can walk through it a couple times and be done. There is always someone practicing in the music hall though and its always something new. Unless you feel like learning. I prefer more fun things than studying all the time, myself. All work and no play makes Carianna dull in more ways than one,” she stated, a grin spreading across her face. “Of course, we may want to set you both up in your room. Unfortunately, though, Ciprian, I am going to have to ask you to remove your weapons and not carry them around the temple. As you know, we are committed to non-violence. But do not worry for your safety. Those that do not fight have defenses that not many realize.”

    “Oh bloody...” Ciprian bit off a surprised curse when Carianna mentioned his sword. He had been more concerned about Cian when he entered the temple to remember to take off his sword, after all, it had been a long day. “Sorry, I completely forgot,” Ciprian replied and removed his sword belt. He leaned the sword and sheath against the wall of Carianna’s room for the moment.

    “Don’t worry about finding me a room, my apartment isn’t far from here. However, some dinner and entertainment would be most welcome,” Ciprian replied with a subdued version of his usual charming smile.

    “Well, we are always welcome to have kind souls at our table. As for entertainment, I heard that those that dance among us are probably practicing about now in the performance hall. To my knowledge, they don’t mind an audience. I never minded when I danced with them, anyway.” Carianna patted Cian on the back. “You are welcome to come along as well, if you are feeling up to it. You could rest if you wanted.” Cian barely flinched when Carianna touched him, everything had happened so fast. The young boy turned towards the priestess and smiled as he was clearly nervous, it was a feeling he’d felt before on jobs but never quite like this. Cian for all his street bravado and brave front was afraid, and truly he had no reason to be. Still, the young man mentally chided himself as he thought. She’s...been so kind, and so has Cip. He’s been a pal, why am I afraid? Stupid of me. I’ve got nothing to fear, Ranth and his fellows are locked up. The High Priest just healed me. I need to thank him.

    Cian spoke in almost a small voice that grew a bit stronger as he folded his hands and looked down towards the floor for a moment. “Thank you, um?igh priest for healing me and I’d like to join in the festivities if it’s okay... I have a...what’s it called? I need to con...confess that I’m a bit afraid. Carianna you and Ciprian and everyone have been so great?ind...and all. I’m’s just hard for me to trust anybody, least?ill now.” The admission was hard for Cian to make, but once he’d done it he felt better. The young man’s demeanor changed and became a bit lighter and he stood up from the bed took out the juggling balls from his small pack and waited for his companion’s responses.

    “A wise proverb is written that only those who take sight for granted trust blindly. Those that are blind trust only what they can find to be true through fact, thus becoming all the wiser. There is nothing wrong with being unaccustomed,” Cari said, holding up one finger like a teacher might. She smiled at him comfortingly. Her eyes examined the balls he held, assumingly for juggling. Out of all the things she learned to do, juggling was always hard for her. She never could figure it out. She always lost one within a half of a minute of starting. “I take it you juggle?” she asked, grinning. “I could never get that right. I gave up after a while. You know... If you are pretty good, I wonder if you would be interested in showing some of the people in our infirmary what you can do. We have some bad cases this time of year that not even our abilities can care for. Most can’t get out of bed, you know. It is hard to get people to come and cheer them up. I am no comedian, myself. Nor am I a healer for that matter. But, if you are interested to do some kids a favor, you might just feel a little bit better about being here. If you are the kind of person that can’t stand debts unpaid, that would definitely pay them. But, its up to you.

    “The infirmary is kind of depressing, though. If we want fun, the music hall is always bound to be performing. If not, I think I can fill the spot for you... Relaxing amusement could be found in the art department. Ever try painting some fruit? I am no good at it myself, but its fun to do something new sometimes. Not that I’m confining you to the temple, of course. We can always take ourselves out, but the meal will be ready in about an hour...”

    Cian’s gray eyes lit up and he smiled brightly, the young thief did like to repay his debts and being that his people tried to bring a bit of brightness into the lives of any they met in their travels, performing for the sick and injured with do him some good as it bought joy to their faces. Removing his flute from his pack as well, he stood and spoke excited to begin at once, “I’d love to play for them and juggle for them as well?t’s one of the few things I remember from my people. I can always visit the festivities afterwards, but first...I’d like to see to them first. Could you show me the way to the infirmary holi...uh sorry Carianna?”

    More than anything Cian relished the chance to use any of his skills his father had taught him, the memory of his father, Arlic teaching him to juggle bubbled up quickly. Cian couldn’t help but smile, it was a good memory those long days of learning to juggle were some of the happiest he had. Glancing back towards, Ciprian the young boy spoke. “Hey, it okay? I mean do I have any squire duties that I need to do first?”

    Carianna glanced over at the knight. She grinned, looking at him like a mother would to a father, expecting him to give a response. She didn’t feel like one to the boy, but she did feel as if she had, to a certain extent, taken him under her wing. It was a good feeling to be able to cheer up one with such a mysterious background as his. She decided not to wait for Ciprian.

    “You know what? I think that he can handle that on his own. It keeps him humble to do that sort of thing for himself once and a while. And no arguing, sir knight. A priestess of Rada always knows best. He doesn’t have a monopoly on the ‘God of Wisdom’ title for nothing, now does he?” she asked, waving a finger around. She winked at Cian. She was playing around with both of them, she supposed. It wasn’t any fun if they didn’t.

    “Off to the Healing Hall it is, then!” she declared, leading Cian out. Ciprian Tremas could follow if he wished.

    “I’ll be along shortly,” Ciprian told Carianna before she led Cian out. He wanted to get more comfortable before enjoying the services of the temple—which meant getting out of his armor. After the two had moved on, Ciprian took off each piece of armor and set it alongside his sword and traveling pack.

    Cari lead whoever followed her down the halls into a place clearly labeled the “Infirmary.” Carianna just shook her head, pointing at the sign. “I tried to make them change it to ‘The Healing Hall’, because it was more poetic and flowed better. They said it was a bit trivial. Some people just don’t get it, you know?” she said, nudging him. “I will promise you, you will never have a more attentive audience than a group of sickly people. And I don’t think you will ever find a more appreciative one either. I haven’t.” With that, she opened the doors.

    The white room was lined with beds. Some were vacant, some were not. Either way, priests, priestesses, and volunteers rushed around the room with food, drinks, herbal medicines and papers. The room was busy by nature, but surprisingly quiet. A flute could echo across the room to every person’s ears. Someone could speak in a strong voice and everyone would hear. Truly, this was a place of recuperation. But it was just as obvious that one would become deafly bored within minutes of staying in the room. There was nothing to look at and nothing to do for those who could get out of bed. More yawns of boredom, it was certain, had come from this room than any other in Lodoss.

    Cian’s eyes took in all the sights of the infirmary as Carianna led him in, the young boy was moved to see injured children lying in beds. The priestess was right, they did look bored and worse it appeared as if some had that lost look in their eyes. Cian was determined to do something about their situation, and true to his word he began humming a light playful tune while juggling the balls with all the skill he could muster. Stepping over towards the bed he spoke in a strong, yet not so loud voice as he smiled to one of the children, “Greetings my fellows, I am Cian. Today the good lady Carianna has allowed me to perform feats of skill, for you a bit of laughter and even some music if you’ll allow me. Now feast your eyes on the moving balls, oops almost dropped one...oh NO!...almost dropped another.. why don’t you all tell me your names as I juggle these balls for you and let’s get to know one another.”

    Cian went with what little he could remember from childhood, he’d seen his father perform in their travels, the flair and the spice he used when speaking and bringing smiles to others still resided in the boy’s memory. He hoped he wasn’t frightening any of the children, if he could get just one to smile or laugh his day would be made.

    Carianna grinned. He was much more than she expected. He knew a thing or two about catching people’s attention, at the very least. She decided that if she wasn’t a priestess and didn’t have to be responsible for whatever occurred there, she would have lit up herself. For such a princess among the down-trodden, it was difficult for anyone to brighten her spirits on a normal day. Her only relief was her form of performance. Unfortunately, a drama vocalist didn’t bring smiles. It was her job to bring tears and to shock the audience. That was, she supposed, the last thing that was needed for a group of barred up young children. The pediatric work was never her forté.

    Cian juggled, performed and played his flute for the children in the ward. The young thief but his heart into his performance, and it didn’t go unrewarded. Several children clapped, laughed and called for more, expressions of sadness and boredom had turned to laughs, giggles and chortles of delight. Finally, Cian pulled up a chair in the middle of the room and spoke, “Now now...I’ll do more in a moment, how would everyone like to hear a story? It’s about a princess and a prince both had a magic ring and this is about one of their many adventures.”

    A small girl about five or so sat up with wide eyes, clapped her hands and spoke, the child’s lower leg was bandaged and she looked slight and small. “I would! Please...please tell us the story.”

    Cian smiled, she and so many others here reminded him of himself and of his sister. The young boy brushed his fingers through his hair and began a tale of magic, mirth, heroism and more.

    Ten minutes after Cian and Carianna had entered the infirmary, Ciprian entered, clad in the white tunic and breeches he wore under his armor. Not only had he taken off his armor, but he’d washed the dirt from the road off his face. His clothes showed signs of travel, with obviously whiter sections that were usually covered by his armor, but it was the best he could do for tonight. Cip could only hope he didn’t smell too bad. Ciprian entered the pediatric ward to find Cian and Carianna. Cian was telling a tale that had a number of children enthralled while the priestess looked on. The knight leaned against a wall near the door to observe. A pleased smile turned up the corner of his mouth.

    Cian continued speaking as he wove his tale, the story enthralled the children with the youngest ones doing their best to stay awake but falling into the gentle bliss of slumber. Twenty minutes, thirty then finally nearly an hour later, the tale of warriors, magic, love and adventure was ended. The little girl who’d been so drawn in the story was fast asleep at the end of her bed, Cian smiled as he rose and stepped over. Moving a blanket over he covered the girl up to her mid chest, leaning down he kissed her on the forehead and then turned to Carianna and Ciprian.

    Turning to the other children who were still awake the boy spoke in calm, gentle tones as he juggled a bit more. Using his skills to entertain and bring delight to them, “Well my friends I hope you enjoyed the performance, and the stories, but I’m afraid it’s time for me to depart. I promise to return though and I want a promise from all of you. Promise me you won’t loose heart, that you’ll do your best to obey the good people here and you should get well in no time.”

    The boy stepped over towards his companions and sighed, then glanced back at the children. A smile spread over his face as he regarded his two companions and spoke, “Okay...could I get something to eat and rest a bit, I’m truly tired, almost as much as the little ones. Hehehe, I have a repeat performance for them later, and it wouldn’t do to break my promise.”

    “I was about to intervene anyway,” Carianna replied. “Dinner will be served, oh I don’t know... about five minutes ago, I think...” She said. She let the concept sink in that they were late before grabbing both of their hands and yanking them towards the door. “We are late!” she declared. With a swift movements of her feet, she spun around and pushed the doors of the infirmary open with her rear end and dragged the two surprised guests down the hall in a dash.

    Carianna grinned wildly. “Run!” she declared. She turned her head forward and called out. “Incoming!” Her voice echoed down the hall and she chased it. Several people edged to the walls as she dashed by, laughing. People waved and giggled.

    A young student priest chuckled. “Late again?” he asked as she got close to him.

    “Yep!” she said.

    As she passed him, she caught a fresh shirt he tossed her. “Thanks!” she called out. Carianna dashed down the hall, her baggy attire flapping against the air she rushed through. Carianna ran straight into a wall at a turn, but sprung away from it with her hands. She didn’t have time to stop. She pushed off the wall and continued her dash, assuming her two new comrades were following her.

    “Running in halls will cause problems,” an old priest called out, speaking in a wise tone.

    “Rules are walls for the witless; rules are guidelines for acute!” she responded as she passed. He nodded in response.

    Cari reached the long stretch and sped up. Time for some fun, her mind thought. The end of the hall was the dining hall, but the doors were framed with stone quite a bit. She hadn’t tried this in over a month. “Just watch me break my neck,” she thought. Practice makes perfect, her competitive mind replied. She always liked to match contradicting proverbs with those of her own fold. Neither side ever won, but it was still amusing. When she reached the wall, her body refused to crash into it. Instead, she simply kept running. Her legs kicked up the wall and left it in an instant. She was in the air, upside down, and on the ground again. She stumbled at the last second and ended up landing on one knee instead of both feet. She stood up, snapping her fingers and sighing. “Can’t get it every day, right?” she asked herself, then looked back for the others.

    Cian smiled and quickly followed the priestess, the boy couldn’t help but laugh in glee. This was the most fun he’d had in a good while, as he watched Carianna duck and weave past priest and priestess alike, he did likewise giving each a smile. She was a lot of fun, not stuffy like so many stories that he’d heard about other holy men and women. When the trio finally reached their destination, Cian skidded to a stop nearly bowling into the young priestess. The boy dropped back onto his backside and laughed, in voice full of mirth Cian scratched his hair and spoke, “Hahaha?hat’s more fun than I’ve had in a fort-night, I like you Cari, you’re a lot of fun to be around. Hehe, it’s good to see that not all holy people aren’t as well...not so humorous.” Glancing back at Cip, the young thief stood up and chuckled as he patted his side, the tell-tale soreness from the wound was long gone. The elder priest had done his work well, and Cian was extremely grateful for all of Carianna’s good auspices.

    “Well, when philosophy keeps telling you to relax and enjoy your life, why not actually follow it instead of just nodding your head and going back to worrying about how everyone else feels about you? Its just no fun!” she declared, throwing her arms up in surrender. She didn’t cause any damage and neither did her companions. In fact, the only things that happened were positive. She was not as late to dinner as she would have been. She practiced her own religion by being wise, or something. She got some exercise. She had a good time. She made other people have a good time. She got her new shirt. She practiced flipping. I find no negative in any of that, she declared to herself.

    “Now, without further ado,” Carianna declared, one finger up. “We enter, fashionably late.” The young and witty priestess pushed the doors to the dining hall open calmly and walked in as if she was right on time, or even a little early. She strolled in with her companions in tow. The dining hall was probably the biggest room in the entire temple. It consisted of two long tables stretching across the room. The seats were organized quite precisely to leave plenty of elbow room for each, while maximizing the amount of people at each table. The tables themselves did not have platters of food on them. Instead, there were a few priests who were passing out dishes of food. Everyone got a fair portion of everything. Like all of the rooms in the temple, this one was plain and without great adornment, but the room’s simplicity seemed to make the eye twirl gracefully across it. The room almost asked the visitor to take in the whole picture, instead of focusing on little details or decorations. The only thing truly ornamental was a large chandelier that hung on the raised ceiling. It illuminated most of the room. It appeared to be made specifically for the room, but it looked quite expensive, very much unlike the style of the temple’s other adornments. To Carianna, it was a gift of honor to the temple. To anyone else, it might have been guessed that the temple spent their donations for beauty instead of the betterment of their goals. Greediness was something the Rada priests were not, but that chandelier always made it look that way.

    Carianna led them to a seat. She sat next to a priest she knew and made sure there were two more seats next to her for Cian and Ciprian. No one was eating their food yet. There was some scattered chatter for the most part. The young man leaned over to Carianna. “Late again?” he asked in a hushed tone.

    “I am not always late!” she replied, in that same tone.

    “Yes you are...”

    “Ok, so I am. Yes. I am late. Again,” she responded.

    “I thought so. What’s your excuse this time?”

    “Uhh... I was teaching thieves economics so they knew who to steal first?”

    “Not funny, Cari.”

    “Maybe I won’t use that one after all.”

    “Why don’t you try the truth?”

    “Harmless lies. Little harmless lies. Part of human nature. The truth is no fun.”

    “Ok. What were you doing five minutes ago?” he asked, getting frustrated.


    “Watching what?”

    “A person?”



    “Him who?”

    “Him!” she said, pointing to Cian.

    “You were just standing there and watching him?” he asked, confused.


    “Does he have a deformed nose? or...”

    “I dunno. What do you think about his nose?” she asked, pointing to his face.

    “Doesn’t look deformed to me.”

    “Alright then.”

    “Then why were you just watching him?”

    “I certainly wasn’t good at it, so I just watched him do it instead.”

    “It what?”


    “What is he good at?”


    “You sat there and watched him juggle?”


    “Did you pay him afterwards?”

    “No. He didn’t charge me. If he was going to charge anyone, I think he should have charged those little kids. They got a lot more out of it than I did. I almost feel a little ipped out of some juggling.”

    The priest looked at her blank-faced. “What kids?”

    “You know... the kids.”

    “Like the kids studying?”

    “Perhaps. If they are studying to be sick all of their lives, then I guess you could say they were studying...”

    “Infirmary kids?”

    “Yes. Those kids.”

    “Oh... So, let me get this straight. You were standing there, watching him juggle, but he was juggling for them, so you were waiting to have him juggle for you?”

    “I am really not that self centered.”

    “Then you were just letting him juggle for them.”

    “Yeah, I think that sounds about right,” Cari replied seriously.

    “Well, why didn’t you come out and say it?”

    “Say what?”

    He sighed. “You are doing the whole communications thing again, aren’t you?”


    “Well, now you know.”

    “Know what?”

    “I haven’t been practicing it.”

    “Practicing what?”


    “I noticed that already.” He put his head into the palm of his head. “You slay me, Carianna. You really do.”

    “I can’t slay you. It goes against my moral and religious beliefs.”


    “Otherwise known as the common language, second edition?”

    He chuckled. “I give up... If you would be so kind as to introduce me to your... friends?”

    Carianna was standing on her chair. “Hey! Mierella! Got any more plated back there?” she called out. A voice echoed back that they were coming. “Thank you!” she replied and sat down again. The young priest just stared at her. “What?” she asked, totally oblivious.

    “Have you no manners?”

    “Sure. But they are my friends. How many times a day do you use perfect grammar when talking to your best friend?”

    “Point taken. So who are these... new arrivals?”

    “Good question. This is Ciprian Tremas, or something like that. He is a random knight I found and brought home with me. And this is Cian, his squire.” Carianna smiled. “Do you think the high priest will let me keep them?” she asked, stifling a laugh.

    “And as for you two,” she said to her companions. “This would be Demarius. He is one of Roid’s best sculptors. He is staying with us to develop his skills as an artist. Ciprian has probably seen the recently added statue on the promenade between the academic and government quarters of Mistress Belenevier.” Belenevier was a legend that came out of the deserts of Flaim. She was a beautiful woman who was lost in the desert. To simplify the story, people say that when the dunes of sand hum or the wind sings, Lady Belenevier is watching them and calling out to her love, who died in some battle.

    As Cari finished her introduction, a portly woman in a far more official looking priestess outfit hurried over with a cart and placed a plate in front of the three of them. The head priest, at the other table, stood up to speak. “Good evening, my colleagues, fellow followers of Rada, and honored guests of the temple. We should all thank priestess Meirella, priest Felmar, under priest Keld, and priestess Verma for the food we have tonight. On to announcements... I have received an offer from the local temple of Marfa to, in a joint effort, restore the Vem Gardens. My opinion of such an idea is positive. We will need to get dirty, of course. Together, we can revive a part of the city that does need some work. I would like you all to consider this for yourselves and, if you are interested, visit myself or priestess Rue to volunteer. That is all for today. Now, with the blessing of Rada and an empty stomach, let us eat a meal.” He sat. Carianna dove into her meal without a word.

    Ciprian began eating with more decorum than Carianna, surprisingly. She was full of surprises since they left the infirmary. Ciprian found her enthusiasm refreshing, though running through the temple after her and Cian had been uncomfortable for him. He was in prime physical shape and unladen of armor, but he was a knight, trained not only in war, but propriety. He never considered himself a stickler for rules and etiquette, but perhaps he was more conditioned than he realized. Ciprian looked to Cian, curious about the boy’s reaction to the food he’d been presented with. The boy had completely shifted from the thief Ciprian had met that very morning. He seemed so much more alive and vibrant. Cip couldn’t help but feel proud.

    Cian smiled and like the priestess, the boy dove into his food with abandon. The boy thought about everything he’d heard, it was great, the happiness, the camaraderie. Cian was enjoying himself more than he had in many a year, it was so unlike what he’d heard and been led to believe about holy men and women. As he took a good gulp of the water he’d been given, he glanced over and saw Cip watching him with a slight smile. The boy looked back at the knight innocently and smiled as he spoke questioningly, wiping a bit of gravy from his mouth, “Hmn?ey Cip you okay? What’s so funny?”

    The priestess, Carianna, did not look up at Ciprian’s glances. She was hungry. She hadn’t eaten all day, and had been looking forward to a hardy dinner after a day’s worth of practice outside the gates of the city. And eat she did. The priestess did not make a mess or was overly sloppy, but her hands were swift in getting the food where it needed to go, regardless of how delicious or disgusting the food may have been. In the temple to Rada, every priest learned how to cook and there was a schedule for who cooked a meal when. It was considered a just and humbling thing for priests to do. Priests also had to rotate into the work of maids and servants around the temple, for the same reason, as well as the fact that they did not have the money to pay for servants. Any actual servants they had came at night as volunteers after a day’s work from a paying employer and helped with special jobs of which the priests of Rada knew not how to accomplish, or required a skilled hand.

    Carianna was the first to finish her meal. She hadn’t even touched her drink until every bite had gone down and her plate was about as clean as if it were never used. She grabbed her mug of water and let it run down her throat, washing down the first flavors of the food that she actually picked up. Most other priests were eating at a relaxed pace, but she ignored their stares. They had a lunch and a breakfast. Carianna had nothing to eat that day, since the knight she was currently practicing with had all day patrols, so he could only work with her in the wee hours of the morning. She sat back, taking a breath, waiting for the others to finish their meals. It was good, as far as she could tell. Honestly, though, she really could only remember what she ate by glancing over at the platters other people were eating, since everyone got the same portions of everything. A napkin rose to her face and wiped her lips. She dropped the cloth aside and glanced around.

    Ciprian chuckled as Cian asked what was funny. “Just eat, Cian,” Ciprian ordered with an amused smile. He continued eating until his plate was clean, but he wasn’t as thorough as Carianna. Once they were all finished, Ciprian looked to Carianna to lead them to whatever she had planned.

    Cian shrugged and did as he was told, the boy certainly ate. The priests knew how to eat, there was a true repast of food gathered, and while he wasn’t trying to make a pig of himself he was definitely hungry. The young thief decided it was better to eat as he never knew where his next meal was coming from. After downing the final bit of his food with a gulp of water, he wiped his mouth with a napkin he folded it and placed it on his plate. Turning his gaze towards Carianna the boy smiled and spoke when he saw she wasn’t conversing with anyone, “So what now? That meal was great too, thanks!” He was truly happy, the young boy could barely contain his ease as he’d finally relaxed. This really beat being on the run and constantly scrabbling from one meal to the next.

    “Well, the night is free to us,” Carianna said, glancing over at both of them. “I have no duties tonight. I signed out for practice all day, but my schedule seems to change when I run into knights and squires being chased by assassins... So, I suppose its relaxation, unless there is anything you want to see. The Art Rooms are open for a while longer and I am sure someone will begin rehearsing in the performance hall. That’s all interesting, but most travelers would rather visit the bathing rooms or get some rest by this time. If you still have energy on you, there are always the different areas of the temple to explore. For the intellectually inclined or the religiously zealous, we are on the border of the academic and temple districts. Plenty of things to see there. The only other places I know well in town are the slums, but they really aren’t a place I suggest for a visit...” Carianna tried to think of other things to suggest, but she was running out of ideas quickly. “Most any thing else in town will be closing So, its up to you what is next.”

    “Well, I think I’ll head home,” Ciprian replied. “The services of the temple sound interesting, but I have to be up early tomorrow morning to discuss what to do about Cian’s case. Cian, do you want to stay here or at my apartment?”

    Cian thought for a moment, the boy glanced around looking at the gathered priests and priestess’s as he considered the choice. It wasn’t that he felt uncomfortable, but still living on the streets after so long he had a tendency to feel a bit out of place in certain gatherings. The boy looked at Carianna and studied the young priestess and smiled. He liked her, but still he felt safer with Cip. Not that he didn’t trust, Carianna, but the thought of being in a temple... Besides, Cian wanted to ask Cip more about what he’d be doing working as the Knight’s helper. Turning back towards Cip he spoke as he nodded was ready to leave when the Knight left, “I think I’ll sack at your place, if that’s okay Cip.”

    “Alright,” Ciprian replied with a nod to Cian. He put his hand on Cian’s shoulder and looked to Carianna. “Priestess Carianna, I’ll be meeting with my commanding officers to consider how to deal with the man called Emir who sent the mercenaries after Cian. If I get permission to find and arrest him, would you want to accompany us?”

    Cari was about to say that it was time to part, if Cian did not wish to stay, but the knight, Ciprian spoke up and offered her something. To accompany them? It struck at her heart. “Well, where do you intend to go? I have yet to travel from home and my duties to the public can be divvied up amongst the younger priests that I work with, but I can’t disappear forever. But, for a while, I can arrange with the High Priest to have my worldly travels begin. All priests of Rada are required to hit the road for a while. ‘One cannot learn of life in books. One must laugh, cry, and strive before wisdom will ever come,’” Carianna quoted from some philosopher. “I suppose I could join you both. Besides, who is going to save you from assassins?” she asked with a chuckle.

    “Well, Cian said Emir was in Flaim the last he knew, so that’s where we’ll start. I can’t tell you how long we’ll be gone, or just where the journey will take us beyond Flaim,” Ciprian replied. “I’m grateful, still. After my meeting tomorrow, Cian and I will be back for you.” Ciprian paused for her response.

    Cian went silent at the mention of Emir, the thought of the man’s name always made the boy either jump or want to run. As Cip and Carianna conversed, he glanced around trying desperately to focus on something else. Cian finally, worked up the courage to speak as he shifted uncomfortably, “Cari..I know you’re a priestess, but.. Emir isn’t someone worth saving. So If you come with us and I hope you do, cause I really like you being around. I wanted to let you know the type of person he is...he’s scum. Pure scum.”

    There was anger and frustration in the in the child’s voice, it was the result of years of abuse and cruelty under his former master. It wasn’t directed at Cip or Cari, rather at Emir, the image of his face was clear in the mind’s eye of the boy and it was a face he hated with a passion. Cian had no love lost for the man, if he had a chance he’d rather get the information on his sister and sink a dagger Emir’s ribs.

    Carianna picked up on his feelings for the man easily enough. She wasn’t going to defend a wicked man. It would be a waste of time. “I have no intention to provide a defense for the guilty. Keep in mind, though, that there are ways to handle such a situation to where you don’t stoop to his level in order to achieve justice. There is never an excuse for outright murder, for the sake of good or evil. But there is no saying in our library that says he should not rot in a cage for eternity with nothing but bread crumbs and stale water...” she said, the last part with a surprising amount of vengeance sliding into her own speech. “Worry not, my friend. For all actions, there are consequences. For men like this one, those consequences can be quite... severe.”

    Carianna shifted herself a bit, as if to pull herself from such a dark topic. “But there is no reason to dwell on such a thing, especially after a hardy meal, where we should be contented and prepared for a night of fabulous dreams... I am sure Sir Tremas is eager for rest after such an adventurous day, and you must be as well, Cian the Squire. I will hold you here no longer at your own expense. Go home, rest up, and come by whenever you are ready. I would walk you to the door, but I must catch the High Priest and set up by sabbatical for travels before I leave. It takes a bit and he will be sleeping soon, if I do not hurry. The exit is just down the main hall and to the right. Anyone here can point you in the right direction, should you get lost. Oh... And Ciprian, do not forget your blade. It rests in my chambers... You can ask someone to retrieve it for you!” she said as she started to hurry out of a different exit. “Good night!”

    Ciprian and Cian left the temple after Ciprian had retrieved his equipment. Ciprian didn’t bother putting his armor back on, he just tied it all together and packed it out on his back. The knight and future squire walked through the streets of Roid. They were quite for the most part, but there were some muted noises from inside buildings they passed.

    Cian said little as they left, when they were a quarter of the way there the boy spoke. The sound of anger was gone from his voice and replaced by one of weariness, he’d been running from Emir so long, he’d forgotten how easy it was for him to get angry at the man. Sometimes his anger seemed to just jump out. “I’m sorry, Cip.. I didn’t mean to get so angry. It’s just, you don’t know Emir. He’s slime?.. I just want the man stopped, and I want to find my sister. I worry for Linette, for what’s happened to her... How she’s doing, tell me Cip do you think. Do you think if I asked Cari to pray for her, the gods might help her to find me?r me find her?”

    Ciprian gave Cian a reassuring pat on the head. “Sure, though Rada might not be the god you want to pray to in this situation. He’s the God of Knowledge, not justice or protection. Falis would be more helpful in your case, but you can pray to them on your own. You don’t need a priest to do it for you,” Ciprian replied as they walked.

    Cian walked mostly in silence, the anger from before was fading as he wasn’t simmering anymore. The young man spoke in a voice which sounded frightened, and without the usual sureness he had displayed before. He didn’t usually confide his feelings with anyone, but Ciprian was different, he was honest, and treated the boy fairly. Cian was quickly coming around to trust the knight, and that was something he often found difficult to do with adults. “Cip.. I’m worried, what if?hat if I can’t find Linette.. She, she was so little and she’s my only family left. She has to be okay.. I mean?he just has to..”

    It was time to level with the knight as to why he sought out Emir, besides the usual, he needed to tell Cip about himself and his sister. But, not tonight. He’d do it tomorrow, when they got to the knight’s home, Cian was going to sleep. The events of the day had left him totally exhausted. “I’m gonna tell you some stuff tomorrow Cip, about Linette?nd me and my people.. But, I’m tired, I don’t want to even try to do so until I’ve had rest.”

    Ciprian paused and placed his hand on Cian’s shoulder. “We’ll search all of Lodoss for her if we must, Cian,” the knight assured him. He wasn’t sure whether or not they could actually find her, or if his duty would allow him to take such a journey. Cip could only hope that Emir held the answers. If they didn’t find Linette, then once Cian became a knight, he could search for her. Maybe...if he became the next Knight of Lodoss? Well, that was a lofty aspiration, but if any one had potential for the role, it was Cian.

    Cip’s words of encouragement did a world of good to Cian’s confidence. The boy nodded as he decided he’d try praying for his sister just before he slept. Of course he’d never really prayed before, the young man yawned as sleep was catching up with him fast. As the two figures made their way through the winding streets, he spoke once again. This time sounding more fatigued than before, “How much further Cip? I feel as though I’m about to fall on my face from need for sleep.”

    “Not much further,” Ciprian replied, then turned to lead the way back to his place. The knight led Cian down one final street and to a housing building. It was basically a bachelor pad for single knights. Ciprian had a studio apartment on the second floor, which he led Cian into. The apartment was slightly illuminated from the lanterns on the street below, but not well enough to see where they were going. It was surprisingly clean, but Ciprian didn’t really do much at home besides sleep. The knight set everything he carried on the floor and crossed the room to the hearth. “Go ahead and take a seat while I start the fire,” Ciprian said and gestured to a table with a few chairs beneath the window.

    Cian glanced around the small quarters and smiled, it was Spartan and modest, but despite that fact he thought it was great. The boy had lived on the streets and slept in far far worse hovels than this. The only thing on the boy’s mind right now as he nodded towards Cip and stepped over to the table was sleep. As the young thief sat down he watched the knight prepare the fire and spoke as he tried to fight sleep, but was loosing the battle quickly. “You know Cip.. Thanks, for everything you really are a ...great guy. I won’t forget.. I’m really?rate...” Cian yawned and placed his head down on the table, the boy attempted to mumble something and finish his statement to no avail. The boy was fast asleep, the activities of the long day had completely exhausted him.

    Ciprian, crouched by the hearth, glanced back at Cian when he heard the boy’s voice trail off. He smiled slightly as he saw that the boy was asleep. “I guess you were exhausted,” Ciprian murmured. A small fire crackled in the fireplace and lit the room.

    Cian could sleep in his bed, Cip was sure the little thief rarely got the chance for a real bed. The knight went to the table and picked up the boy in his arms, then carried him across the apartment to his bed. He tucked him in and gave him a gentle pat on the head before leaving him to sleep. Ciprian would get to sleep on the floor. He had a bedroll for traveling, so he rolled that out on the floor in front of the fire. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but it was probably best he got used to sleeping on the ground.

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