DemonWars Saga Volume 1
young Brother Avelyn should be careful in the coming weeks. Master Siherton would see to his dismissal if given any real cause. The gentle master hesitated for a long while, making sure that Siherton would be far away by the time that Avelyn left the room.

    "As you wish, Brother Avelyn," Jojonah subsequently agreed. "Be away, then. You have a few minutes left for your midday meal."

    Avelyn bowed deeply and exited the room.

    Jojonah folded his hands on his desk and spent a long while staring at the closed door. What was it about Avelyn that really bothered Siherton? he wondered. Was it, as Siherton insisted, the young man's apparent inhumanity? Or was it something more profound? Was Avelyn, perhaps, a higher standard, a shadowy mirror, held up before all the monks of St.-Mere-Abelle, a testament of true faith that seemed so rare in these times, even in the holy abbey?

    That thought shook Jojonah as he looked around at his decorated chamber, at the beautiful tapestry he had commissioned from the gallery of Porvon dan Guardinio, among the most respected artists in all the world. He considered the gold leaf highlighting the carved hardwood of the room's support beams, the rich rug from some exotic land, the cushiony chairs, the many baubles and trinkets on his vast bookshelf, every one of them worth more gold than a common laborer would make in a year.

    Piety, dignity, poverty, that was the pledge offered upon entering the Order of St.-Mere-Abelle. That was the standard. Jojonah glanced around the room again, reminding himself that most of the other masters, even some of the tenth-year immaculates, had chambers more richly adorned.

    Piety, dignity, poverty.

    But pragmatism, too, should be part of that pledge, so said Father Abbot Markwart, and so had declared the abbey's. previous leaders, dating back more than two centuries. In Honce-the-Bear, wealth equalled power, and without power, how could the Order hope to influence the lives of the common folk? Wasn't God better served by strength than by weakness?

    So went the widely accepted argument that allowed for relaxing some aspects of the holy pledge.

    Still, Master Jojonah could see why a student such as Avelyn Desbris would so unnerve Master Siherton.

    That night, Avelyn retired to his room, thoroughly exhausted, both emotionally and physically. He had spent all his waking hours at demanding work, volunteering for the most difficult parts of each task. He had lost count of the buckets he had cranked up from the well — somewhere near fifty — and had gone right from that heavy work to removing loose stones near to the northern end of the abbey's top wall, pulling them free and piling them neatly for the masons who would follow the next day.

    Only the call to vespers, the ceremony heralding eventide, had interrupted Avelyn's frantic pace. He went quietly to the service, then skipped his evening meal altogether and went right to his
    chamber, a five-foot-square cubicle with a single stool, which doubled as a table for Avelyn's candle, and a cot — little more than a flat board and a blanket — that folded down from one wall.

    The work was ended now, and the ache settled in. Despite his weariness, Avelyn Desbris could hardly sleep. Images of his mother flooded his thoughts; he wondered if he might see a vision of her now, a visitation of her spirit before it went to its place in heaven. Would Annalisa come to say goodbye to her youngest child, or had she already said her farewells to Avelyn in the courtyard outside of St.-Mere-Abelle?

    Avelyn rolled off the cot and fumbled with his flint and steel, finally getting the candle lit. He glanced around in the shadowy light, as if expecting Annalisa to be standing in a comer waiting for him.

    She wasn't, to Avelyn's ultimate disappointment.

    The young man settled on the edge of his cot, head bowed, hands resting on his sore thighs. He felt the first tears leaking from his eyes and tried to deny them. To cry would be a

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