It was nearly dusk. The sun’s last rays filtered through the low canopy above the encampment, dappling the loamy forest floor and the varnished wagon roofs with pleasantly rounded dots of golden light. The merry singing of children reverberated through the trees as young thaele spread out seeking suitable wood for the evening fires. A gentle breeze drifted through the camp, cooling the air and bringing with it the scent of blossoming berry bushes. Late spring, then.
In the manner of dreams fueled by memory, these unimportant details stood out strongest in the sleeping realm of Lornel’s mind. He felt cold water upon his hands, and shied away from the reflection of his own face in the brass basin before him. He centered himself, and envisioned the sun’s energy washing over him as it crept toward the pinnacle of it’s power. The moment where the solar globe touched the horizon, and change began to fall upon the land.
To him, this great change meant great power. Every sunset was a miracle, and every sunrise a promise that the miracle would continue.
The dark interior of a wagon. No golden light here; the eerie blue glow of alchemical fire lit the priests chambers. He was a kind, patient man. His gnarled hands spoke of a long life in service to others. As a healer, a leader, a friend. His face was unmemorable. His name, likewise. But those hands… Somehow, they represented all Lornel wished to be in life. The reason he sought to take on the cloth himself. Those hands had taught him much in his youth, and they taught him again now. Both hands gently gripped a well rounded stone, and patiently worked to grind small beads of silver into powder. A disembodied voice spoke from somewhere beyond the hands.
“The silver must be purified before being milled into a fine dust. When added with the distilled water, and blessed under the light of Dusk, the solution will be complete. Any questions, child?”
Lornel thought for a moment, his eyes fixated on the slowly grinding stone. Rasp, rasp rasp. After a time he spoke, his tone uncertain. “You have said that silver turns away evil things, and does them harm. Are we, then, Evil? For to touch silver earns a thaele burns, and blisters.”
“No child, no. Silver is a cleanser. It purifies flesh and spirit alike. Creatures of Evil cannot stand it’s touch, for this purification denies them the foundation of their structure. This is not why it harms us.
“When meat is boiled, disease is killed. When meat is salted, disease is killed. Both are purifiers. When salt is put in boiling water, it dissolves. The crystals are damaged, and the salt breaks down.
“We thaele are as salt. We purify. We cleanse. We heal. Thaele are instruments of Dusk. It is our task to listen to Dusk, and bring all life to the peak of it’s potential before it passes. Think of it in this way- Silver is represented by the moon. Thaele are represented by the sun. Both are good, and necessary for the balance of this world. But they are anathema to one another. The sun does not rise, but the moon must set. The moon does not harbinger night, save that the sun descends to the holy horizon. Does this clarify, child?”
No. “Yes, Master.”
A dusty road, baking in the summer sun. Lornel breathes deep, smelling salt on the air. His master speaks beside him. “Are you nervous, child?”
“No. Excited, actually. I have been looking forward to this for a long time.”
“And it is past time you received this knowledge. It is time for you to learn the secret healing technique of the thaele. How imbibing the blood of a person can-”
NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO-
Lornel awoke with the dawn, stiff from his second night outdoors. He his body had grown used to mattresses in the short time he had used them. Stretching, he noted the soldiers from Lhoadur had departed. He needed to be alone. Distracted, he thanked the guide for breakfast, then went into the forest to reflect on his dream.