The old man opened the door, smiling like he knew some joke he was barely containing. “Ah yes, Relic. Please do come in, have a seat.” Shihan quickly set a candle on the table and poured himself a glass of tea. “Shame you don’t eat or drink. There are many joys to be had, and the leaves from the Ko plant create an amazing flavor.”
“A shame indeed. Tell me, why is it that you asked me here in private?” Relic recalled the odd way that Shihan had approached him over breakfast that morning. He usually spoke to Bluce and Relic together, after all. It was very strange for him to speak to Relic alone, and even stranger to request a private audience with the Warforged. “Wind seems to think you’re trying to induct me into the order.”
Shihan’s smile grew wider somehow. “Yes, I don’t doubt that Bluce would like that. You two have grown close over the last few weeks. He is a very talented young man, Bluce. Or Wind, as I hear you call him these days.” He took a long draw of his tea, enjoying the fragrance. With a subtle grace, Shihan set the cup down and crossed his hands in front of him, the candlelight casting the old man’s shadow across the wall. “What I am about to tell you cannot leave this room, young one. Bluce especially must not know. I tell you this in confidence for the sake of the monastery and the sake of all those that live here.”
Relic tensed. He had thought he was no more than a guest. In no way had he expected to be a confidant to the master of the Monastery. “It’s a hard thing to agree to, not knowing what you ask.”
“But nonetheless I must ask it of you. I have lived a very long life. Longer than most will ever see, in truth. In my time, I have seen many things and known many people. I was not always master of this monastery, in part because I have had many masters throughout the years.” Shihan shifted in his seat, his shadow along the wall dancing with his every movement.
“I had seen you coming, in a way. I know a good thing about fate, you see. I have danced between the threads of fate for as long as I can, pulling here and there to try and make my life and the lives of others just a little better, a little safer. The fates of mortals almost always end in death, but I wish to make that end as far away as possible.” The shadows on the walls continue to dance, even though Shihan had stopped moving. “I continue to do so, and that is why I must ask you to leave, Relic.”
The Warforged closed his eyes, reciting the calming mantra that Bluce had taught him. After a pause, he opened his eyes and carefully asked, “But Shihan, I have done no wrong here, threatened no one, befriended one of your most valuable students. Why must I leave? I have found peace here.”
Shihan took a long while to speak. He simply glared into the flames before him, the shadows behind him shifting wildly along with the flame. Suddenly the shadows stilled, forming into the shape of an old man again. “Relic, it is precisely because of Bluce that you must leave. My past sins will enact their justice upon me soon. My legacy is with my students, and Bluce in particular plays a special part in continuing my teachings in this world. I know you wish to help him, but you cannot protect Bluce this time. Another day you will be given the chance to safeguard his life. But today, you cannot protect Bluce. Another day perhaps, but today he must meet his fate.”
With a calming breath, Relic knew that what the old man said was true. He had no reason to distrust Shihan’s wisdom. Looking out the window into the night sky, he went over what Shihan had said. He was meant to protect, to safeguard the lives of others. “Master, I will obey your counsel. You have never steered me wrong. Bluce will face his fate alone.” Relic turned his gaze back to Shihan. “During my time here I discovered a glimpse of my purpose. I’m to protect and aid those in need. Know that one day, I will do everything in my power to protect Bluce. I swear upon my soul that I will never let Bluce come to harm again.”
The ancient Warforged stood and walked out silently. He would need to gather what meager belongings he had. He would set out in the morning, perhaps to the east. He had heard many things of Lamora and Broflan, perhaps he could find more of his purpose there.