Brother Joshua chuckles softly as he hears the quiet giggles coming from behind a nearby haystack, above which he can barely make out unruly auburn curls and mess jet-black hair. “Now where could those two have gone?” he says in a voice intended to carry. He makes a show of looking inside a nearby wheelbarrow. “They're not in here...” He lifts up a small rock. “Not under here...” He smirks as the giggles grow louder. “Where or where did those girls go?” He quietly slips around the hay, scooping up the pair of squirming children, one under each arm. “Gotcha!” The pair squeal in amusement, writhing in an attempt to get free.
He sets them both down, placing a steady hand on each girl’s shoulder. “Sorry girls, enough fun for now. Time to study.” Leithian and Betty turn and look up at him with baleful amethyst and sapphire eyes. “Awww,” they proclaim in unison, although both enjoy the tutoring they receive in the ways of the Light. He smiles down at them before shooing them towards the main building.
He watches the two girls skip off towards the entrance, shaking his head slightly in a mixture of amusement and disbelief. Who would have thought that my life would turn out this way? That the small bundle on the steps of the Cathedral would affect my life so profoundly? He smiles softly to himself as he follows the energetic duo.
As he enters the small area that serves as a classroom, he watches proudly as his charge deftly weaves spells of the Light, her small cherubic face serene and relaxed. As she unleashes the gathered energy, a small target dummy in the corner spins on its post, a burn showing across its chest. She then closes her eyes and murmurs softly, a pleased smile gracing her lips as a golden glow washes over the same target.
He turns his attention to the younger girl, watching closely as she attempts the same ritual. Her petite brow furrowed in concentration, her raven bangs clinging to her forehead with sweat, she squeezes her eyes shut as she whispers softly. A smaller version of the same Smite cast by her friend crosses the dummy’s chest, and her face falls in disappointment. Closing her eyes once more, her cute features scrunching up in concentration, she weaves a healing spell and unleashes it upon the target.
The monk walks over and places a firm hand on the small girl’s shoulder. “Much better than last time, Leithian,” he says reassuringly. She turns her crestfallen face up to look at him. “B-but it wasn’t like Betty’s,” she says dejectedly. He smiles softly at her. “You are younger than she is. Give it time.” The young girl brushes a stray lock of raven hair from her face before giving him a watery smile. “O-okay, Brother Joshy.”
“Girls, it’s time for weapons training,” he says, holding out two child-sized staves. Betty takes hers and holds it as naturally as if she had been born with one in her hand, and waits while Leithian clumsily grasps hers. Brother Joshua then picks up a staff for himself, and motions for the two girls to come close. As the training begins, he starts off slowly, watching their reactions carefully; Betty easily parries his attacks and even manages to make a few of her own. Leithian sniffles as she fumbles through the exercise; Joshua never actually hits either girl, but he has to work to keep from doing so with the younger girl.
Taking the staves, he hands them one-handed maces, beginning again. His charge takes to the mace as easily as she did the stave, but, as always, wields the weapon more in the way a true priestess would than anyone more physically inclined. Leithian, however, finds herself suddenly in her element. Joshua smiles as the smaller child manages to catch him off-guard and actually nearly lands a blow on his hip. Watching her carefully, a realization strikes the monk.
“Leithian, come here, please,” he says gently. She approaches him warily, afraid she has disappointed him. “I want you to try a different spell for me, one that Betty does not know.” She blinks in surprise, her wide amethyst eyes searching his face for any sign of deception. “Really?” He nods, smiling softly, then teaches her the words to say and gestures to make. Leithian turns towards the dummy and repeats the process, a golden glow washing over her tiny form. Saying a few more words, she watches with a mixture of pride and awe as a golden light shaped like a hammer falls upon the dummy’s head, driving the stake several more inches into the ground.
She turns back to the monk, who is beaming at the young girl. “Did I do it right, Brother Joshy?” He places a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “You did very well, Leithian. You also have shown me, by doing that, that you are meant to be something different than Betty.” Her eyes well up with tears, misconstruing what he means. “B-but I d-don’ w-wanna l-leave B-betty!”
“Shh, shh, Leithian. That is not what I meant. You and Betty can still be together, still be friends. However, she is meant to serve the Light in a different way than you are. Just like how your father serves the Abbey by being a blacksmith, and I serve it by being a monk,” he explains carefully. She sniffles softly as she calms. “O-k-kay, B-brother Joshy,” she says softly, a smile beginning to form.
Betty walks over to the pair, clapping excitedly and smiling at her friend. “I’m so excited for you, Leithian! You did that so well!” Leithian virtually beams with pride at her friend’s compliments, and Brother Joshua chuckles softly as he watches the exchange. “Alright, girls, good job thus far! Let’s continue,” he says, gesturing for them to continue practicing their spells. The girls scamper off excitedly, suddenly even more eager to resume their studies.