In the coming days, I felt at peace. My revenge had been more satisfying than I ever dared dream, and I was praised as a hero in the slums where I grew up. However, something bothered me. I spent those days enjoying the meager hospitality my friends could offer, but I could not shake the inexplicable feeling that I was being followed. One day, as I sharpened Mother's sword in the small home where I'd spent my childhood, I heard a knock. Instantly I tensed, ready for combat, but when I walked out a host of about six humans stood there staring at me in wonder.
They were dressed strangely, although something about their dress seemed familiar. They wore no armor and carried no weapons, and nearly all had long hair tied back like my father always wore his. One of them, wearing a medallion, and apparently the leader, stepped forward and reached for my hand. Smiling, he said, “I am Brother Aric Wisehand. My brothers and I were in the crowd that watched as you defeated that man, and I must say, I have never seen such skill from someone of your age. Where do you study?”
His assumption that a half-breed would be allowed to study anywhere was nearly ridiculous, and I had to choke back a laugh. “That was all stuff I picked up from my parents,” I replied. “My mother was skilled with the sword, though I really saw my father fight the most. He was good with his hands and feet. They put up a good fight against their assailant, the man you saw me kill, and I decided that, in their honor, I should try to memorize all the things I'd seen them do. I practiced mostly the way I'd seen my father fight, because it seemed more resourceful and I'd seen so much more of it.”
I remember how nervous this mysterious traveler made me as he raised his eyebrows and stroked his chin, deep in thought over my answer. “You fought well,” he finally said. “I am astonished that you brought down an opponent of that size without formal training, and the way you used his weaknesses was quite impressive.”
“I only used my memories of the night my parents were killed and the areas I noticed him guarding.”
“That is wise,” he said, nodding. “We belong to a group of men and women who spend years practicing the many ways to fight skillfully and sensibly with the weapons we were born with, our fists, feet, elbows, knees. We are called the Order of the Flickering Flame. We are not your...conventional monks, sequestered away in some distant monastery, contemplating the meaning of life. Rather, we take an approach focused more on combat, and the perfection of your own skills. After seeing the raw prowess that you displayed, we decided we would like to help you hone your abilities. We'd like to extend an invitation for you to join us at our monastery in Onegas.”
I blinked, this earth-shattering invitation flooring me. It was something new and different, and there hadn't been anything left in Alcarinore for me in five years, since the death of my parents. Additionally, something seemed oddly familiar—almost comforting—about these men, bringing me to feel more at ease around them than I had with anyone in a long time.
Finally I found my tongue, and replied, “Your offer is gracious. I am honored that you thought so highly of the way I fought. How long will you be here? I may need to consider your offer.”
Brother Aric smiled again, and answered, “We will be here as long as you need us to be. We are traveling in order to find someone who will reinvigorate our desire as a brotherhood to achieve perfect harmony with ourselves, others, and our enemies. We've needed a new face in the monastery for a very long time, and your raw potential is something we have never seen.” He chuckled. “This city was not even a recruiting destination. It was more of a vacation spot to rejuvenate us and help us get on our way.”
I shuffled my feet meekly, something I never did, and said, “Thank you. I will come find you when I have my answer.” They gave me a slip of parchment telling me where they were staying, and departed.
Of course, I had made up my mind practically before they had even left, but I wanted to spend some time saying farewell to the friends I had in my home town. This was going to be the journey of a lifetime, and now that my parents' killer was taken care of, I decided that learning to fight like my father did would be the best way to honor them. I would never find where he had studied, but this was as close as I could get.