The deep, calm snows of winter had been falling for weeks without end. Rowan sat by the fire in great hall and spun wool. He was one of the many men who were working the spindles and wheels. Tarwen was standing at the lectern by the two large candles and he was reading an epic to the assembled. The verses and the repetitive nature of his work almost made Rowan fall asleep.
His hands were calloused now all over, not only where they had been from the spate and the reigns. He also knew his letters and numbers now and had so many ink stains on his fingers that he had given up of ever scrubbing them off entirely again. But mostly he had learned to feel gratitude. Gratitude for each and every teaching he received; gratitude for each skill he mastered and gratitude for each mistake that taught him something new, either about the process he dealt with, or himself.
Tarwen had excelled at all the tasks from the beginning. Rowan had glowed with envy. Lady Beatrice had taken him aside one day and had made it clear that the successes of his brother were not used as a measuring stick for his work. After he had realized that he could not gain anything from competing with Tarwen, but only lose his good spirits, he had let go of those poisoning feelings. Shortly after, his own skills had begun to flourish.
They had spent many a day in the gardens, especially during the harvest. Now it was dreary cold and all they could do was focus on staying warm and secure and expanding their minds with the books from the library. Brian was still struggling with reading and Werner had broken more nibs than everyone else combined.
Mortimer stood up as Tarwen turned the page.
“I have to stretch my legs a little. This constant snow is taxing my enthusiasm.” He nodded at Rowan. “Care to join me?”
Rowan was happy to put the spindle aside. He followed Mortimer out into the cold. The two of them could not go very far. Only the short ways between the hall, the chapel, the barn, the wheat house and the smithy were shoveled. The rest of the castle was almost sunken in snow. Rowan doubted that anyone could even see it from afar. The towers and turrets and roofs and gargoyles were covered just as much as the walls and grounds. As much as this place seemed like a mountain, winter had decided to bury this mountain. Mortimer clapped him on the shoulder.
“It’s time for spring. I adore this temple and its teachings, but I want to go back again to my town and apply all I have learned this time. I can’t wait for the snow to melt and the first blossoms to break through the earth. What about you?”
Rowan rubbed the cold from his upper arms. He looked at the white masses in front of him.
“I don’t know. I don’t feel ready. I mean, when we get back, will people even listen to us? Sure, Tarwen and I made some plans to increase food production, but will that change peoples believes? I don’t think having more food will make people treat others better.”
“That’s true and it won’t be easy. I think that is why the Goddess marked the two of you, so that you could work together. You will encounter resistance, but I am certain that you will find at least a few kindred spirits.”
“So that’s it then?” Rowan asked. “We go home as soon as spring comes and maybe, just maybe we get to come back here one or two more times. What if I rather want to stay here? I like it here.”
He stomped around on the flattened snow. It was only partly to keep his feet warm. Cat came running out of the great hall and jumped on his shoulder and Rowan felt immediately better. Mortimer blew on his hands before he spoke.
“You have learned how it is in the temple of life. You know how it feels when your life is in balance. You are not losing any of the feelings, or the knowledge, or the experiences when you leave here. You take them with you and you can bring the temple of life to any place you will ever go from now on.”
“So, this is not THE END?” Rowan asked.
“No,” said Mortimer. “This is merely the beginning.