The days that had passed since Father Mazeon and Pratt separated from Tinaca and Sir Liam were not easily endured by the Councilman and the boy. The two constantly questioned themselves, wondering if sending the girl and the knight off to parts unknown was the right decision. It was hard for the four friends to take different paths but it was harder still to keep their destinations unknown form each other. On head level it made sense that hunted people should remain ignorant the whereabouts of their allies, in case of capture and ensuing inquisition. Still it dug at the Councilman and his young student that they had saved both the girl and the Rayward warrior only to practically abandon them so soon after.
Pratt, especially felt the absence of Tinaca. He had grown quite fond of her in a brotherly sense. Pratt was the first one in the group that had been able to pierce through the trauma the girl had suffered after the first coming of the red rains. Pratt had other boys who were similar in age to himself who served other Councilmen as apprentices but he was still an outsider within the social circles of the Vermillion Council. Pratt was one of the unwanted ones, a cast away child. He had not been sought out for the council like most of the other boys. His closet companion was his mentor, Father Mazeon. The Councilman clearly favored the boy despite his strict and mentally taxing tutelage but Pratt could certainly not confide in his teacher they way he would a friend. Pratt had essentially gown up peerless, until he met Tinaca, that was. The two were from totally different stock but their stories may as well have been the same. They just as well could have been blood siblings.
Pratt looked back over his shoulder like he had been doing frequently since leaving the ruins of the Grand Abbey. He still expected to see Sir Liam and Tinaca in the wagon when glancing at the road behind. Each time the boy saw nothing but an empty trail his belly twisted and ached. Pratt grunted, shook his head to clear the confusion from his mind and commanded his pony to keep pace with Father Mazeon’s horse. As the thoughts of the girl and the Rayward knight faded from Pratt’s reflections he realized that he did not have the faintest idea where he and his teacher were headed.
“Father?” Pratt said timidly.
The Councilman let the boys words simmer for a few moments. It looked as though Pratt was about to repeat himself but Father Mazeon responded to the boy before that happened. “Yes, what is on your mind?” said the Councilman while keeping his gaze fixed on the traveler’s path in front of him.
“I know that we could not tell Tinaca and Sir Liam where we were going but,” Pratt said as his face twisted in a hunt for the right words. After several failed attempts at finding a more eloquent phrasing Pratt spoke his thought plainly. “where are we going?” he said with a small amount of embarrassment permeating his words.
Father Mazeon softly laughed for the briefest of moments at the boy’s innocent inquiry. He was actually relieved to hear Pratt voice a question. It would allow for a return to the usual games of thought and mental puzzles that were commonplace between the two. Father Mazeon would be grateful for anything that could serve as distraction from the horrors he witness inside of the burned rubble that had once been the Grand Abbey. “Why do you not tell me where you think we are going?” said the Councilman with a sly cadence.
Pratt frowned at the all too expected response from his teacher. For the first time since setting on the path Pratt let his mind seriously contemplate what the possible destination might be. The boy shocked himself at how quickly his thoughts proffered and answer. “Well, we are headed west, we are still bound to find a way to defeat the chimera, we know precious little of them and the best way to defeat ignorance is with education. The libraries at the Grand Abbey…” Pratt stopped speaking as soon as he carelessly mentioned the place where so much destruction had been manifested not long ago. He saw the words had an effect on his teacher. Pratt bit his lip hard in shame.
Father Mazeon stopped his mount on the trail, Pratt followed suit and halted his pony. The Councilman turned in his saddle to look at his young apprentice. Pratt was expecting to see the Councilman’s face set in an expression of anger but to his surprise Father Mazeon looked as though he was impressed by the line of reason Pratt was following. “Go on,” Father Mazeon said gently.
Pratt tentatively resumed speaking his logic aloud. “The greatest libraries and wealth of academic knowledge on the continent lay in Viros. If there are any written clues about the red rains or the chimera, I would say that the Viros achieves would be the place to start looking,” Pratt said demurely, almost like he was ashamed of his words.
Father Mazeon beamed at the young boy. The Councilman had expected to engage in a lengthy battle of wits and mind games while he dangled the destination of their journey in front of his student’s nose. Pratt had soundly unraveled the mystique about the ultimate destination with blinding speed of intellect. “Very good,” said the Councilman with a smile that was impossible for him to conceal regardless of his best efforts. Father Mazeon began to think up the next means of confounding Pratt’s mind and forcing the boy to expand his thinking but the Councilman stopped his riddle crafting nearly as fast as it had begun. Father Mazeon was subject to a heart stopping revelation that threatened to bring a tear to his eye.
The pair of travelers continued on the road. The Councilman battled an inner debate. He hoped that the oncoming moment would have occurred at a more esteemed time and place, with numerous brothers of the Vermillion Council to bear witness. Sadly this was not to be as Father Mazeon reflected on the fact that, not only was the luxury of ceremony something that was not to be had in there desperate times but the remaining brothers of the council were precious few in number. “Wait,” Father Mazeon said flatly as he halted his horse and dismounted.
Pratt was surprised by the fast change in his teacher’s mood but the boy followed the lead of his instructor. He stopped his pony and dismounted as well. “What is the matter?” Pratt asked softly.
Father Mazeon looked out at the vast sprawl of nature before him. I was clear to see for leagues and the setting sun of the afternoon cast a regal golden hue across the land. The Councilman’s eyes softened as he realized that while the venue was not set in the formal ritualistic tradition it was no less perfect. While there were no other Vermillion Council brethren present to commemorate the occasion the unparalleled natural beauty of Argia herself would bear witness.
“The matter, is that I have failed you,” Father Mazeon sighed as he went to his horse and removed a small saddlebag.
Pratt’s face immediately adopted an expression of contrary alarm. “Father, you have never done me wrong. I am better for having known you. You are not a failure,” Pratt emphatically protested.
“Oh but I am. I should have realized this some time ago. It is not right for me to let you continue on as you have. We have been one many adventures together. You may not know all the litanies and doctrine of the Council in your mind but you flawlessly live all of them in your heart of hearts. You have a keen mind and know what it is to serve others. You have followed me at your own peril and put your very life at risk for the Vermillion Council. It is for these reasons that I can no longer allow you to serve me as my apprentice,” Father Mazeon said somberly as he tightly gripped the saddlebag.
Pratt was dumbfounded. “I do not understand. Please, I do not know what I have done to offend you or the Council. I want to continue my service,” pleaded the boy as tears began to from in his eyes. Within his core Pratt felt like a piece of his spirit was being torn away by the words of his mentor.
“Take off your robe. You are not fit to wear it anymore,” Father Mazeon said firmly.
“No, please…” Pratt cried but was interrupted by the stern voice of his teacher.
“Do as I bid you,” commanded Father Mazeon.
Slowly and reluctantly Pratt removed his ashen grey robes and let them fall to the ground in a heap. While he remained clad in simple pants and a tunic Pratt had never felt more naked in his life. The grey robes had become so much a part of his identity. Whenever Pratt had picture himself in his mind’s eye he was always adorned in the grey shroud.
Pratt’s shouldered quaked as he wept softly. “I just wanted to serve,” murmured the boy.
Father Mazeon let the child’s anguish last only a moment longer before putting an end to the farce. “You wish to continue your service, and so you shall,” said the Councilman as he reached out his arm and offered the saddlebag to the sobbing boy.
Pratt took the leather pouch from the Councilman and looked inside. The boy nearly fell to the ground in disbelief as he saw a clean and neatly folded crimson robe tucked inside the saddle bag.
“Put it on, brother,” said Father Mazeon proudly.
Pratt’s tears continued to fall but they were no longer tears of sadness.