Rising of the Phoenix
He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge
to them that know understanding.
-- Daniel 2:21
At the midday meal, Kelos circulated around the hall, and realized the task would be formidable. He realized it would be an uphill battle to check the entire Abbey, for there were just over a hundred in the hall, and from the Abbot's earlier comments as they'd traveled to the hall, he gathered that the Abbey had been hosting guests already, which was one reason Kelos' group had been shown to the Inn instead; the Mother House hadn't had room for them all.
Retiring to his temporary office (a cell within the walls of the Mother House itself), Kelos began to brood over the logistics. Among the many difficult responsibilities already placed on Kelos' young shoulders - as if picking his companions and protecting the scrolls at the same time were not hard enough! - was the simple but perplexing problem of transport logistics. How was he to get these people to Gwynedd at all? After fretting over it some time, making many notes and crumbling them into the brazier with a strong, barely resisted temptation to swear, Kelos left the chamber and went in search of Brother Rhisiart, a Bremagne of about Kelos' own age who lived here at the Mother House.
Rhisiart had, in times recently past, spent time as a pupil of the Order's chief harbinger, Father Magnus. It was Magnus' job to see to the military and civilian movements of the Order, never a simple job by any means; be it travel or arrival and set-up of camps, Magnus always managed to come through, however. Rhisiart was an apt pupil, and had learned well; he sat down with Kelos and quickly sketched out the route - the only sensible route - and looked up at Kelos with the calm words:
"Take them by sea, Brother. It really is the only way."
Kelos swallowed hard. "And where do I find ships?" he asked, mentally reckoning how little sleep he would get if this duty were added to his burdens. Rhisiart smiled.
"Why don't you leave that to me, Brother?" he asked, clapping Kelos on the shoulder in a friendly way. "It's the least I can do to help - and I know my way around here. No, don't thank me - I'm glad to do it!"
And he was off, hand raised in blessing...before Kelos could ask him to test himself against the seal!
Somewhat reassured despite that problem, Kelos found five more men over the course of that day, for a total of six new members to his group, and he had also noticed something else. All of those who had qualified according to the seal were younger, or their minds were still open. While several of the monks who had joined his group were older than he was, he was worried. They didn't have a tremendous amount of depth in terms of actual experience, either military, in the case of the militants, or religious experience in the case of those who were originally of the Mother House. He joined the monks for their next two Offices, trying to reconcile what he believed with what was happening, and praying earnestly that the Lord would lead those He wished to participate in the effort into the group. He was aware of the Abbot's scrutiny and growing anxiety, as well.
Six men of Kelos' group were participating by None, and all but three by Vespers. The Abbot was alarmed when he received a visitor from the magistrate's office shortly after Vespers ended, and realized why three of Kelos' group had not participated. Two of them were in civil lockup for attempting sacrilegious murder, and the third was being tended by one of the Abbey's medical staff during the Office, so he spoke quietly to Tevas, who hurried to tend to his injured friend once the Office had finished. While the magistrate was aware that the Abbot didn't have direct jurisdiction over the two men, the two were to be sent to him as soon as Matins ended on the following day.
Tevas returned to Kelos once they had returned to the Inn, to report on the incident, and on the condition of the injured man. "Kelos, this is serious. Those two fools have attempted to murder another of our own people, in addition to you and Azim. They did this in full sight of one of the local constables! Unbelievable that they'd be so stupid! The magistrate's decision is a non-decision; he is going to pass the case on to the Abbot." Tevas looked very unhappy. "How did we get to such a point, that two of our own would attempt to first kill you and Azim, then try to kill Kalid?"
Kelos looked gravely at his friend. "I don't know," he said, as the door was knocked on, then opened. He turned towards the door as it opened, and Azim entered. "What is this I hear about Kalid being injured? This is not good." Azim's face was grim.
"That is an understatement, my friends," Tevas said. "With Kalid injured, he will not have enough strength to spare to assist me in difficult Healings. I will need someone else to assist." His shoulders drooped as he finally gave in to the weariness and sorrow he felt. "He has been my helper and my friend for over a decade now. I do not know what I would do if he were killed or died suddenly."
Kelos just looked at Tevas, who was a man he'd not really known that well before the sealed tube's discovery, until Tevas became uncomfortable, and realized that Tevas, like himself, was simply a normal man, with a normal man's worries over his friends. Softly, he asked, "He is recovering?"
Tevas' eyes flashed. "No thanks to those two, but yes, he is recovering. Fortunately, while they had poisons still on them, they'd not had the courage to apply the poisons to their blades, so he had a lot of serious cuts, but no poisoning. If it had been both, I fear I would have lost him. It was close as it was." Tevas' lips thinned and his face became grave as his thoughts turned towards gloom.
Kelos raised an eyebrow. Azim just blinked, speechless for a second, before blurting out what he and Kelos were both thinking. "The constables searched the two men not at all? Or they did such a sloppy job that they didn't find vials of poison? Unbelievable!"
Tevas just nodded, fighting down the revulsion and anger he was feeling towards the constables for such a simple mistake. The room grew quiet. Eventually, he said, "Friends, I hesitate to even consider handing these two law and oath breakers over to the Abbot. He seems to be a kind man, and I sincerely doubt he is going to know what to do in this case."
"Strange. I got the opposite impression, Tevas," Kelos looked thoughtful. "I felt he was a kind and wise man as well, but with the strength of unyielding steel beneath the obvious. I have a feeling the Abbot's not quite as flustered by this situation as the Magistrate wants him to be, in fact."
Azim made a noise deep in his throat. "I tend to agree with Kelos, Tevas. There are depths to the Abbot that we know nothing of. I also got the idea that he was perhaps a former military officer. The Mother House is too neatly run to have a civilian as leader."
At about the same time, within the Mother House, another meeting was happening, between two of those who had 'passed' the test of the seal.
"Brother James? What think you of our visitors?" Brother Invictus asked.
Brother James thought for a time before answering. "I am well-content that they mean no harm to us, but admit to a sense of fascination about the mission they, and now we, are to embark upon." He told a few beads before continuing, an action that Brother Invictus recognized as one of the forms of fidgeting for the worthy Brother James. "I am concerned, however. It seems to me that we do not have sufficient depth of experience in either military or religious matters, especially when it comes to the traditions of the Michaelines, to reestablish the Order. Although both the Knights of the Anvil and Kelos' Order strove mightily to retain the useful, and archive the rest, our knowledge is woefully incomplete."
"It will be interesting to read the scrolls, for it would appear that only those who are in the group once we reach Gwynedd will be allowed to read the actual content of the scrolls. I wonder why that is?" Brother Invictus was nearly lost in thought. "I'll be honest with you, Jamie... I'm eaten up with curiosity now that I've seen the contents of the tube."
James noted, "I think I know several who would be good candidates for the group."
Brother Invictus looked interested. "Who do you have in mind?"
"Brother Barticus, for one. Brother Christopher for another. Probably a couple others in the little group we're in."
"Hmm." Brother Invictus looked thoughtfully at his longtime friend. "Aye, I see your point. Both have expressed an active interest in the Michaeline traditions, and have openly wondered when we were going to make an effort to reestablish the Order. I shall alert Brother Kelos to the two, if you will do the same on the two you are unsure of. Brother Kelos is sorely beset right now, especially with one of his party injured badly, and two others in confinement, suspected, nay, known, to have attacked with intent to murder."
It was Brother James' turn to look thoughtful. "Fair enough. I shall endeavor to alert the two to contact Brother Kelos separately. The two don't particularly like one another, is one of my concerns."
After a period of silence, during which both men prayed, Brother Invictus asked, "Is there anyone we can trust amongst the brethren to negotiate for ships we would need to cross to Gwynedd, and to get a price we can live with?"
James looked a little sick. "We are to cross... Oh, heavens," he said faintly. "I may have to bow out. I get seasick, you know." His face reflected his chagrin and sorrow.
"Nonsense. None of us are perfect, my friend. I expect some of Brother Kelos' original group will find themselves in a similar predicament, actually." Brother Invictus chuckled, slightly amused. "It is doubtful you would be the only one seasick if it came to one of the storms that sometimes plague the strait even in the best of times."
Brother James nodded, not really feeling reassured much by his friend's all too accurate assessment.
Early the next morning, immediately after Matins ended, Lorcas and Kasimba were dragged before the Abbot for the inquest. The Abbot looked at the two men, then at the charge sheets, before he heard testimony of the witnesses to the attack on Kalid. There was no testimony on behalf of the two men, for they were their only defense, and both stayed stubbornly silent. Finally, he called an end to the proceeding, and retired to his office to carefully consider the fates of the two men. A little over a candlemark later, he emerged, looking weary and grim. "Hear me, Brethren. My decision in reference to these two men is twofold.
First, they stand guilty of attempting one murder, and quite probably more, as the magistrate has indicated to me, including an attempt on Brother Kelos' life." At his words, there was some muttering by a few of the brothers towards the back of the chapter house, but nothing distinct enough to be heard. Recovering his dignity, the Abbot continued as if the interruption had not happened. "My decision is thus: The men are to be remanded into our custody, but with the following conditions: First, they are to be treated as members of this Brotherhood, obeying all rules and strictures thereof.
Secondly, and more importantly, these two men, for the period of three months, will be under a strict order of silence. None are to speak to them directly, unless it is needed, nor are they allowed to answer any but the most directed of questions, that are addressed to them specifically, and then only in the briefest of civil terms. Any contravention of this order by either man will extend the order's duration on both for a period of one month per offense. However, if a brother of the Order is found to have provoked said violation, he also will be placed under the same restriction, for no less than one month, as is provided in our Charter. At the end of three months, the men's fathers will be made aware of their crimes, be required to retrieve their sons, and requested to render judgment on the proper punishment to mete out to their sons. Are there any questions?"
There was stunned silence for a long moment, before the Abbot nodded. "Hearing none, I call this proceeding closed. Let the two condemned men be prepared, and taught in the requirements of this Order, and of their additional stricture."
Four of the Brotherhood's strongest monks seized the two men before they could react, and dragged them off to follow the Abbot's directive.