They always are, when I stop by before Christmas. I'd give anything to take one home with me...no, two.
But that's out of the question. An indulgence I can't allow myself.
Why do I keep coming back? Making a gesture that's too small to count as any sort of penance?
It's not to assure that I won't forget my sin. No chance of that.
But perhaps, in my heart, I know the reason...
Is this what you intended, Connor? Strange...all I learned from your Quickening was that I should come to this address, make this ritual delivery.
It's only now, as I stand on the doorstep of the foundling home, that I'm aware of the pre-Immortals.
You were obsessed with pre-Immortals, weren't you? You never forgot your "sin" against the first one you encountered.
You'd grown up as friends, but that friendship crashed and burned along with the cross on which the villagers killed your mother. He would have stopped it, if she'd agreed to say you were not the child of her loins. He thought he was giving her a chance to escape by telling a small, harmless lie. You knew it was the truth - but she still wouldn't say it, wouldn't save her life at the cost of repudiating you.
You didn't blame yourself for striking out with a sword that day, however many times you did. You'd been provoked beyond human endurance.
No, the "sin" came later. When you realized what you'd done. When you had to choose which of two bodies to carry away, and picked the one whose eyes would never open again. Left your boyhood friend to be denounced and driven from his home, to face Immortality without a teacher.
He, not I, should have been your first student.
You believed for centuries that he hadn't lasted long as an Immortal. How could he, a priest who'd never held a sword till he made that foolish rush at you? You made amends in the only way you could - by finding me, being to me what you should have been to him.
And in recent years - until you went into the Sanctuary - you came here every December. Delivered a Christmas tree for the orphans. And dreamed of adopting two pre-Immortal boys, who'd be taught what they were from the start. Who'd be raised as brothers and remain brothers.
You couldn't tempt fate by doing it.
But you knew I'd end up with your Quickening. Of course, you originally thought I'd get it by avenging your death. Killing the Immortal who'd taken your head.
I wish to God it had come to me that way - if at all.
Now, though, I understand what you want me to do. What I want to do. I won't go in today, won't let anyone know that the giver of the tree is seeking to adopt.
But I'll be back. Before Christmas. I'll be back.