I should have known better. I wondered if this was the line he used on every weak-willed fool he tried to lure into his cult. It didn’t matter, but it confirmed my fears. What had Pelban tangled himself in this time?
“Ha! I highly doubt that,” I said. “Your god considers me an idolater.”
“Don’t be so modest,” Sahllos said with a smile. “You’re more than a mere idolater. You are a priest of a false religion.”
“Was a priest,” I growled. I wanted to ask how he knew about my former service, but I did not trust my tongue. The wrong word, spoken in anger, might bring down the man’s armed followers upon us. Zealots like Sahllos weren’t known for their stability.
“My apologies for a joke made in poor taste. I have been told that my sense of humor can be…inappropriate.” Sahllos’s expression turned serious. “I agree that you do not seem a likely candidate, at least not one that would be my first choice, but Jord does not see men in the same way that you or I do.”
“Look, I’m not interested in joining your little…group here.”
“I claim no ownership over these people,” Sahllos said, undeterred. “Nor am I asking you to stay. Just the opposite, in fact.”
I cast a questioning look at Pelban, but he just shrugged back. “Fine. What do you want from me then? What does Jord want from me?” I corrected when Sahllos opened his mouth. He smiled.
“There is a boy. He lives in a village south of here. His father died in a skirmish against the dragons’ forces before he was born. His mother dedicated him to Jord in gratitude for giving her a son to remember her husband by, and now it is time to claim him. This boy will be the vessel of our salvation from the dragons, but he must grow into a man, first. He will need someone to guide him past the obstacles he will face, someone who can teach him the skills he will need to be a leader of men, someone who can protect him until he can protect himself.
“This is the task Jord has set before you. Do not ask me why. That is a mystery he has saw fit not to reveal to me. You must trust, as I do, that Jord knows it is something you can accomplish. Do not the inspired Scrolls, from which you also read, say, ‘The laws and ordinances of Jord are not encumbering. He does not require of you more than you can bear.’”
I frowned at the familiarity of the words. They were indeed ones I had read during my time in the church, though we attributed them to Dwarvul, the durkar name for He Who Forged All Creation.
“Keldon.” Sahllos said my name, drawing me out of my thoughts. “Let’s lay aside the theological debate for a moment and take a different look at what is being offered. Do you wish to see the dragons’ yoke thrown off?”
“You are being given the opportunity to nurture and influence the one who has been anointed for this very purpose. He requires the knowledge and training you can provide. If you fulfill this role, you will have planted the seeds that will grow to produce the fruit of freedom we all have been hoping for.
“The choice, though, is yours. We are all agents of our destiny, as Jord created us.”
“And if I refuse?” I watched him, waiting for the pronouncement of doom I knew was coming.
“Jord will find another for his use,” Sahllos said, disappointment dimming his eyes. “His will can be delayed, but not circumvented. To think otherwise is the height of arrogance.”
I shook my head to free my thoughts from the disbelief and shock that clouded them. The man confounded me every time he opened his mouth. Let his god find someone else. I wanted nothing more than to be done with him and gone.
But where would I go? I could not return home, not after the raid and the attack at our house. The weight of uncertainty crashed down on my shoulders, and despair welled up inside me.
“Brother, you should do this.” Pelban’s voice surprised me, and I turned to look at him. “We should do this, together. We have no clearer path in front of us, no reason not to.”
His words echoed my thoughts and I knew he was right. Uncertainty fled. I stood and faced Sahllos. “Where do we find this boy and how will we know him?”