Cold Curiosity

Monastery: 14 years since arrival. Winter.

Sunar woke an hour before dawn, as had become his custom. The moon hid behind the frost on his window, but still illuminated sister’s first leather tail dangling over the window. She had grown too tall for it and had tacked it above his window while he was out so that he could ‘start the day thinking about how great his little sister is’.

He sat up, closed his eyes, and settled into meditation. Thoughts of the things he had seen on his few trips to the village at the other end of the Four Peaks valley. He sorted through them, making mental notes of what ‘normal’ was there, in the hopes of being able to spot ‘not normal’ more easily.

The first rays of the morning sun brought him out of meditation, and an hour later, after breakfast with his family and morning Katas with the other teens, he waited, quarter staff in hand, for Adepts Korvan and Ithra.

“Such calm, Sunar, standing so still… waiting for your first time out on Patrol. I was so excited to begin earning my chance to go Outside on my own, I could barely keep my feet on the ground.”

Sunar looked up to find an amused light in Korvan’s eye.

“Ah, yes, calm he is, but unwary as well. We are both within striking distance, and he doesn’t seem to have even noticed our approach. Perhaps we should recommend a week of wariness training, hmm?”

He looked at her sharply. Wariness training? The last thing I need right now is everyone attacking me at random! I am quite well aware of my surroundings, thank you. I don’t need any of Sierra’s stunts. What she did while I slept last time was more than enough. OK, Ithra’s smile says she is joking, at least mostly. Good.

Korvan’s eye held that glint of mischief again, “So, novitiate, do you think you are up for the challenge, then? You have a rather pensive look on your face. If Ithra’s jab unnerved you that much, maybe we SHOULD recommend wariness training…”

Sunar’s thoughts raced. “I was simply reflecting, Adept. I notice both of you are senior Adepts, when usually a patrol like this would normally be a senior, a junior, and a novitiate. Further, I am almost a year older than most for a first patrol. I do not understand. Am I considered dangerous to outsiders in some way, or somehow inadequate?”

The two adepts exchanged a look, then turned to him with all trace of humor gone. Korvan shook his head, “This is one of those things you will discover with time, Sunar. For now, know that it is a reflection on the world outside, not on you.”

Ithra took the driver’s seat on the ground car, and they set off through the snow. Sunar liked traveling in the car, even when the snow left little to see. It made him think of the speed he would be able to move at some day, when his wings gained enough strength. He also liked the town. The building code required structures to maintain the ‘motif’ set by the monastery and the original town, which he preferred to the modern buildings he’d seen in movies. He felt those were too blocky.

They pulled into a parking lot at the base of the ski lift and Korvan spoke when they got out. “Most of the stories you hear about our interventions happen at night, Novitiate, when tired skiers have taken too much strong drink. So, unlike what you may believe, your job right now is principally to be seen in order to get the tourists accustomed to our presence. If you think you see something, let us know, but don’t act unless we do, or to prevent grievous and immediate harm.”

Sunar nodded. He grabbed a quarterstaff, and set out with the others to walk the streets. There are more people here than I expected I enjoy skiing as much as anyone, but had no idea it would be so popular. I knew all that extra space in this town was put to use in the winter, but had not realized how many people that meant. Something moving overhead caught his eye and he glanced up. They use those seats to get up the mountain? They can not climb it themselves? How strange. Still, it looks like a faster way up, and a way to get more skiing done in a day. A brief image of his father’s reaction to him suggesting such a lift for them brought a moment of mirth. Now I understand why the young men spend the day here when they are not patrolling, though it must be hard to get used to the noise and chaos.

They walked for several hours, and he continued to take in the sights, trying to learn the patterns of this chaos. I can see why some enjoy this duty. It is pleasant to walk around, and the people here seem quite happy. I do wonder if they stare as much at others when they patrol? Ah, someone looks like they wish to talk to us again. Another young noble woman, by the look of her. A movement from Korvan caught his eye, and he realized that the young woman had been motioned to leave them be. Confusion creased Sunar’s brow. I wonder why Korvan keeps waving these girls off, and why they look so annoyed each time. Why are they gathering in small groups and pointing at us?

A slight, delicate hand landed on his shoulder, tugging slightly as if to get him to turn around. He nearly responded with his staff, but something about the movement kept it from seeming like a threat. A soft, melodious, feminine voice spoke as he turned.

“Well, the rumors are true. A half-dragon. Here. In town.” A striking elven woman, dressed in a skin-tight thermal outfit, and oversized ski boots, faced him, standing in an odd pose with her hip slightly to one side. Something about her made him think of Ishara, the half-elven novitiate he had developed a sudden interest in, or his body had taken an interest in, at least. The adults had noticed, of course, and explained everything. He had found the whole thing thrilling, and vexing, at the same time.

This woman’s voice took on a strange tone as she continued speaking, “You are a fetching one, too, young man. One of the monks from that temple on the hill, by your clothes. But, where are my manners?’ She giggled slightly, though something in it sounded feigned, “I am…”

Ithra was suddenly between them, and something in the Adept’s face caused the woman to take a step back.

Realization dawned, and Sunar heaved an internal sigh. I think she was trying to attract me, but she is much too old. Nearing middle age, at least. I hope she was trying to attract me, anyway. Keeping blood from going places I don’t want it is becoming difficult. He worked to bring his hormones under control as Ithra took her, gently but firmly, and walked several steps away. He began to follow, but Korvan shifted his weight just so behind him.

Sunar froze

After a brief conversation with Ithra, the elven woman rolled her eyes, turned, and left. The rest of the patrol seemed uneventful. No more young women tried to approach them, though he did notice plenty of giggling, pointing, and staring from small groups of females. He spent the rest of the day, and the ride back, feeling as if he had seen the core of the reason for the monastery keeping him out off patrol, but still felt no closer to knowing why.

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