21. Closer Than You Think

After the bath, Brother Frithil takes Till back to the room where he slept, and helps him put on his fresh tunic and pants. Like the shoes, the garments are too large for him, but very soft and warm.

“Are there other children here?”

“There are some novices among us,” the friar says. “It is for them that these garments were tailored, though none are quite so young as you.”

“What is this place, anyway?”

It is a Sundrance.” Brother Frithil kneels before Till and begins lacing his shoes for him.” The Great Sundrance of Silence, in fact. The oldest and largest in all the Realms.”

“I know that.” Till watches as the friar’s long fingers do their work. “But what do people do here?”

“They study,” Brother Frithil says. “A Sundrance is a place of learning. A school, if you will. You go to school, don’t you?”

“Twice a week. The Parson teaches us, at the Cresset Hall.”

“There you are.” Brother Frithil gives the laces one last tug. He remains kneeling before Till, so that their faces are at the same height. “And what does he teach you?”

“He talks about the Faith a lot,” Till says. “He teaches us how to read, too, although I learned that before I started going to school. My sister taught me.”

Brother Frithil smiles. “Well, a Sundrance is much like your school, except that those who attend it study every day, and for a very long time. Many of our students become Parsons, while others spend their lives here studying the Faith, and the Laws given us by the Shaper.”

“I wonder if that is what Lord Osdath means for me to do,” Till says.

“I don’t believe so, my boy.” The smile fades from the friar’s long face. “Great lords do not travel to villages to select novices for the Sundrances. That is a task for Parsons. Besides, you are too young. No, Lord Osdath must think you possessed of some other gift, something very special.”

“That’s what he keeps telling me. But he won’t say what it is. He says only the Guardian will tell me.” Suddenly, Till’s frustration with all of Lord Osdath’s vague answers flares up in him again. “I wish I could talk to her already! He said if she doesn’t think me fit for her service, she’ll send me back home!”

Brother Frithil places both hands on Till’s shoulders. “I know that is what you hope for. But you must understand that she may decide otherwise.”

Tears well up in Till’s eyes. “At least then I’ll know what she wants from me.”

Brother Frithil smiles again, but it is a forced smile, Till can tell by the troubled look in the friar’s bulging blue eyes. “You are very brave, little Till. Many grownups would be afraid to face such a decision.”

“I am afraid,” Till says. “But I still want to know.”

Brother Frithil takes Till’s hands in his own. “You are closer to learning your fate than you think, my boy. The visitor that came to your chambers this morning, and with whom you are about to break your fast, is none other than the Guardian herself.”

NEXT: Down Shadowy Hallways

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