"Well? How was I?" I demanded with a casualness that I did not feel. Doffing my clay mask and felt gloves, I hopped down off of the stage and perched on a nearby stool.
"Why don't you ask them?" Gleit countered, nodding bemusedly across the dim, smoky tavern. The room was sparsely peopled with patrons who seemed more interested in draining their cups than making conversation.
I made a face.
Gleit chuckled and stroked his short gray beard, "Fair enough. Well. You're no Celare, but I've told you time and time again -- I've not met another Coryphee with your potential in many years. If you only agreed to take on an apprenticeship properly..." he sighed at my already shaking head, "Yes yes, I know, it's an old argument; and I'll not get into it. Still..." his eyes turned speculatively towards me, "Well. Never mind. It does, however, beg the question of just how long you've really been playing at this, no matter what you say," he tilted his head at me meaningfully, "or what you do when you're not performing here."
I skirted the implied question,"Who's on next?"
Gleit waved his hands in the air vaguely, "Some troop of tumblers from somewhere out east. Hardly worth mentioning."
"Mmm," I looked out the window. In about an hour the rising sun would slowly begin to lighten the room. I finished packing my gear and put a hand on the door, "Same time tomorrow night?"
"Same time tomorrow night."
I nodded and skipped out onto the cobbled street outside. The early morning air was noticeably less thick outside the Dancing Tiger and cool on my face. I took in a deep steadying breath, drew up my cowl, and started walking at a brisk pace. The street was mostly empty, except for the few drunks making their way home and the few cart-sellers getting an early start on the day. I silently cursed myself for letting the night get away from me again.
All too slowly I approached the gates of the compound. I kept my head down and sneaked a glance at the guard and grinned : the Nightwatch hadn't changed shifts yet. I avoided eye contact and rounded the corner. While unslinging the grappling hook hidden deep within my cloak, I followed the perimeter wall -- eventually scaling it in the shadow of a gnarled tree branch protruding from inside. I surveyed the area carefully from the cover of branches. The outer courtyard below was completely empty. Shaking my head, I replaced the hook and rope around my torso with a frown. I looked really really hard* at the gate in the distance. One guard seemed to be in the middle of a funny story which required a lot of gesticulating. I drew back and waited.
In the middle of what seemed his fourth story, the storytelling-guard was reasonably startled when interrupted by his replacements. Leaning on his pike, he handed over his keys and exchanged greetings with them. I took advantage of the momentary distraction to drop from my vantage point, landing on the ground in a low crouch. While their backs were turned, I scuttled across the courtyard -- finally sliding into the shadow of the closest stoop. I tried the door. Locked. Cursing under my breath, I glanced at the gate. The Nightwatch had already left -- probably to go see my friend Gleit's acrobats. The new guards were facing away from me towards the street, so I decided to chance it and dashed along the rim of the fortress to the next entrance. This one was unlatched; so I jerked it open, whirled inside, and slammed it closed behind me.
Striding purposefully down the empty corridor, I lowered the hood of my cloak, revealing my face. As I turned a corner, a harried-looking errand boy crashed into me. He squeaked an apology and bolted down the passage. I frowned and continued on my way, eventually making it to the third floor. I pulled out a key, turned the latch of the closest door to the stairs, and let myself in. Sighing, I dropped my pack and tossed my grappling hook onto a nearby peg .
"Eiden," the voice behind me sounded miserable.
I groaned and turned as First Bell sounded, "Ho Dev; I'm late for my class."
"Master Ambos wants to see you. Now. I'm to teach your classes for the day," Devron was about my age and had been a student at the monastery for near as long as I had.
I let out a sigh. "Fine, just run them through Compulsories and dodging. Make sure you constantly remind them of control; some of the younger ones tend to get a little overenthusiastic with their punches."
Devron nodded at the instructions, but wouldn't meet my gaze, "Eiden. Ambos summoned you an hour ago."
His words knocked the wind out of me.
"What was I to do?" he continued heatedly, "You didn't leave me in a very comfortable position. I waited as long as I dared and then told him that you weren't in your chambers. Eiden, he didn't look surprised. He just nodded and told me to wait for you here, and if you didn't return by First Bell, to take over for you."
Every word piled on a heavier stone of hopelessness. Master Ambos knew. For how long? I swallowed the growing lump in my throat, "Well, I best be off."
I teetered out of my room, and shuffled to Master Ambos's quarters dumbly. A dozen excuses flew through my head, but none of them were satisfactory. I knocked quietly, hoping to escape the impending crucifixion.
"Come," the old man's voice was muffled from behind the solid oak door.
I entered the room slowly and shut the door behind me. Master Ambos was standing with his back to the door, his gaze fixed on the fireplace. He didn't speak.
After a long moment, I broke the silence, "Twelfthyear Devron summoned me to speak with you, sir."
Master Ambos didn't reply immediately. He bit his words off in a measured tone that was the embodiment of restraint, "I've decided to remove you from teaching the Thirdyear students."
I made no reply. I had feared this, but hadn't seriously expected it. I kept my gaze on the carpet .
At last he turned and fixed me with a frigid glare, "What in the world compelled you to break protocol, Eiden? You know how important it is. I might have expected this from some of the younger students, but not you. You are at the top of your year: a role model for all the Neophytes! You were to ascend at the next exam and take your place with the adults. Why would you put it all in jeopardy? For some girl?
I kept my silence. Master Ambos would never understand my craft. He regarded most people outside these walls as mildly inferior, but inhabitants of the Warren and Mummer's Court to be despicable, lazy, and thieving. He didn't see the glitter in the dance. He couldn't appreciate the euphoria of holding an audience spellbound. He was all soldierly discipline and stoicism. That I would associate with such 'rabble' would be too much for him to bear. It would be better that he assumed I was mooning after some cabinetmaker's daughter.
His tirade continued, "How did you get past the Nightwatch?" he stopped short and sighed, "No no. Their incompetence is part of the reason why I brought you here. As you may have concluded by now, the monastery has fallen on hard times. Our coffers have run low, and as a consequence, there is not enough coin to hire guards sufficient in numbers or quality.
"I have decided to give you a job. And send you away. I have a friend in the Trade Quarter . You will address him as Master Belost. Though he is not of the Order, you will treat him as you would treat me. It just so happens that the skills with which the Order has imbued you will be very valuable to him.
"This solves both of our problems, as I can't have you ruining other youngsters, and Belost will pay well enough to get us back in the black." He sighed at my shocked expression, "You may return to your quarters and pack whatever small belongings you have. The arrangements have been made, and I have dispatched a messenger. Belost expects you in one hour. You are not to speak to any other students.
"You may return here for further training, but are to report directly to me and remain apart from the rest of the school," his expression softened slightly, "Perhaps this is my fault. If I had trained you myself, this probably would not have happened. Well. From now on I will supervise your training personally and decide when you may break your isolation from the rest of the Order. You may train elsewhere, if your travels take you out of the region, but you are not to associate yourself with this school.
"I have told the other students that you are on sabbatical. Consider this so, if you wish. Take this time to reflect on the importance of order. Why we have rules and why they must always be enforced. Always, Eiden. Spend some time among the common people and see how they live. After your duties to Belost are completed, return here. Show me that you're the young man I know you to be."
"You may go."
And that was the last time I saw Master Ambos.
Male Human Monk 1
Total Hit Points: 8
Speed: 30 feet
Armor Class: 16 = 10 +4 [dexterity] +2 [wisdom]
Touch AC: 16
Unarmed Damage: 1d6 +2 [strength]
Quarterstaff [1d6/1d6, crit x2, 4 lb., two-handed, bludgeoning]
Sling [1d4, crit x2, range inc. 50 ft., 0 lb, bludgeoning]
* = check penalty for wearing armor
More about Eiden:
Eiden is twenty years old and the younger son of a noble family. He was sent to train with the monks at the age of eight
*a level 1 character's too poor to afford the spyglass that I had originally written into the story