Choices and Names
It was calm now. The feral howls of the wounded chimera had faded into the folds of the night. For the time being Father Mazeon, Pratt and the little girl seemed to be safe. The Vermillion Councilman’s blood had stopped flowing throughout his body with all the force of an ocean squall and his skin no longer felt the extremes of hot and cold brought on by the encounter with Koin. Pratt was still sweating heavily but at this point his exertion was brought on more by the hard riding rather than the profound fear that the chimera had instilled in the boy. The girl was silent and only clung to Pratt’s waist as she sat behind him on the exhausted pony.
Father Mazeon’s horse gave out a pathetic whinny as is struggled to continue galloping along the Evermist Valley’s travelers path. The Vermillion Councilman gave a cautious glance back over his shoulder. He had not heard the cries of the chimera for some time but he was still fearful of the monster. Father Mazeon had grave difficulty thinking of anything other than Koin’s promise of merciless pursuit and vengeance. The man clad in red felt it would be foolish to stop on open ground but the fact of the matter were simple. He had to stop. The mounts were spent and now that the fire of the moment had begun to fade exhaustion had finally overtaken all three riders.
“That’s enough,” Said Father Mazeon as he pulled back on the reins of his horse. The Councilman’s mount stopped graciously and proceeded to breathe forcefully.
Pratt followed the lead of his teacher and stopped his pony as well. The mount might have been stationary but Pratt felt like he was still in forceful charge. Pratt felt his hands continue to tremble with anxiety. For the first time since riding away from Koin Pratt looked up from the trail in front of him. Pratt’s eyes wandered up towards the sky and he saw the first traces of morning light begin to break upon the horizon. The sight filled the boy with mixed emotions. At first he was alleviated to see the wickedness of night begin to dissipate. Then the boy was overtaken with sorrow when he realized that tomorrow was coming fast and he could not remember the last time that he slept.
“We cannot go on. The horses are done and so are we,” Rasped Father Mazeon. The Vermillion Councilman dismounted from his saddle and pulled his water skin from his belongings. He nearly drained the last of the water with one large gulp. The few remaining sips that were contained in the water skin, he gave to his horse. Father Mazeon looked at Pratt and the little girl still sat on the back of the pony. “We should be safe to rest here for a while,” said Father Mazeon with a gesture of his arms. The surrounding land was far from hospitable but the Councilman could see that his confidence helped to assuage the trepidation of the two children.
Pratt gave one last look about to confirm the words of Father Mazeon and then proceeded to dismount. As soon as the boy had gotten down from his pony he helped the girl to get down as well. Despite his woefully grand exhaustion some part of Pratt wanted to continue on the path. It then occurred to Pratt that he did not know exactly what that would mean or where they were headed exactly. “Are we to return to the Grand Abby?” asked the boy.
“Yes, I think that is sound. I would like to gather more information about…about that…about it,” Said the Councilman as he returned to the memories of Koin’s malicious black eyes and heart crushing voice. “I don’t think it is wise for use to continue roaming about here with so few a number of able men though. There is enough to report to the Father Abbot as it stands. For now though we need to recover our strength to ride,” continued father Mazeon. There could be no doubt that Father Mazeon was at the end of his stamina because he was no longer talking in riddles and rhetorical questions.
Pratt nodded his head in understanding. Something strange sparked in the boy’s chest. It was a sense of conflict. It took Pratt a few seconds to make sense of his feelings. “That…it…Koin…it is a terrible danger and it is wise that we should seek help…but…” Pratt struggled to put his emotions into words.
“Go on,” Father Mazeon said with both encouragement and curiosity. The veteran brother of the Council could see a nervous flicker of soulful morality flicking behind his student’s eyes.
“If we return to the Grand Abby…in the meantime…what of the people of Evermist Valley?” Pratt asked. As he spoke the words he looked at the young girl who was now sat on the ground and slowly rocking back and forth. His eyes lingered on the traces of blood that stained her tattered clothes and the numerous cuts and scrapes that coved her hands, arms and feet.
Father Mazon was overcome with two polar opposite feelings. The first was the sense of shame that he felt for abandoning the peaceful people of Evermist in the face of some mysterious new danger. The second feeling was magnificent pride for his pupil’s demonstration of dedication to servitude and the care of others. Many brothers of the Council would not have thought to ask Pratt’s question. The ranking Councilman returned to his former cryptic self though he maintained a soulful and sympathetic tone when next he spoke. “So please tell me Pratt, what of the people of Evermist Valley?”
Pratt grimaced as he his heart gave him one answer but his mind gave him another. “If we go to the Grand Abby to request help the chimera may do harm to innocents in our absence. That is wrong because the Vermillion council are those who serve and that means protecting those in need,” Pratt said, though his words were laden with heavy remorse. “But, sometimes protecting others means protecting yourself first. If we were to perish against the chimera now then who would warn others?” Pratt said before biting his lip in frustration at the moral dilemma.
Father Mazeon went to his student and crouched down so that he was eye to eye with the boy. He put a paternal hand on Pratt’s shoulder. “It is a hard choice. You will face many of such choices when you don these scarlet robes,” said Father Mazeon as he indicated the red sleeve of his outstretched arm. “I have made choices in my servitude that have done harm to others. Never was it my intent to harm them but some choices…some just don’t have a right answer.”
“So how do you choose?” Pratt asked with welling eyes.
“You make the choice that you know you can live with,” responded Father Mazeon. He could not help his voice from breaking as he recalled several of the painful quandaries that his service to the Vermillion Council had force upon him. He cleared his throat and wiped his eyes as he stood and turned his focus to the little girl. “One choice I know I can live with is, getting this little one to some place that is far away and safe,” he said with a smile that started forced but quickly became genuine. He went to the girl and knelt down in front of her. “Hello,” he said but the child remedied unresponsive. “I am Father Mazeon. I am a brother of the Vermillion Council. This is my student, Pratt,” continued the Councilman as his gestured to the boy who in turn waived his hand at the girl. “May I ask you your name?” asked Father Mazeon. The girl remained silent for several moments longer. “Hello…” repeated Father Mazeon as he reached out to clear some fallen locks of hair from the girls face.
The child recoiled in a fearful moment. She retreated from the man’s touch like a deer fleeing from a pack of wolves. Once she had scrambled out of distance the girl returned to slowly rocking back and forth as she sat on the slick grass.
“I’m sorry and didn’t mean to frighten you. I just wanted to know your name,” apologized the Vermillion Councilman as he put his palms up in contrition.
Silence endured for several moments more before the girl looked up at the man in the red robes. “Dermot…Devon…Martha,” she said quietly. She started to repeat the names over and over as she rocked.
The Councilman and Pratt exchanged curios glances with each other. “Who are they?” asked Father Mazeon.
“They were my family,” said the girl after a long pause. “Those were their names…Dermot…Devon…Martha…my name is Tinaca.”