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Sir Vanion was feeling particularly irritable by the time he reached the motherhouse in Demos. It had started to rain the moment he left Cimmura, and he had made the long ride through increasingly thick mud. To add insult to injury, his own horse had shod a shoe two hours out of Cimmura and he had been forced to hire a horse from a wayside inn.

The idiot gelding had been entirely unused to the weight of a fully armoured knight on his back and had so trudged all the way to Demos. Vanion had been seriously considering dismounting and walking by the time they reached the outskirts of the town.

He waited at the end of the bridge to the motherhouse until the two knights on duty rode out rather reluctantly into the rain.

"Who art thou who entreateth entry into the house of the Soldiers of God?" one of them started.

Vanion lifted his visor and glowered at them. "I am Vanion, a soldier of God and a member of this order."

"You know," one of the knights remarked, "I do believe it is Vanion. I didn't recognise you under all that rain."

"You'll have to be careful that armour doesn't rust," the other added. "Awful chore, getting rust streaks off."

"Can we please get on with this?" Vanion growled. "Before I rust into my saddle."

"So bad-tempered," the first knight said in a mock sorrowful tone. "Patience is a virtue of saints, Vanion."

Vanion gave him a distinctly unsaintly look, and they finally continued with the ceremony.

Once inside, he trudged his way through the halls, his cloak clinging to his armoured legs. He left a trail of drips in his wake. At last he reached the chamber he was seeking and knocked firmly on the door.

"Come in, dear one," Sephrenia called, and he entered, removing his helmet and tucking it under his arm. He moved over to where she was sitting by the fire and knelt to kiss her palms.

"Little mother."

"How is Cimmura?" she asked, smiling down at him. She hadn't changed, still as lovely as always.

Vanion considered. "The king is an idiot, the court is corrupt, and the church even more so. Nothing's changed."

"So forthright."

"I am a knight of God, little mother. I am obliged to tell the truth."

"I am glad to see you finally taking your religious duties so seriously."

"I am a deeply religious man," he assured her, looking up. "Will you bless me, little mother?"

"Of course," she said, and placed her hands on his cheeks. As she spoke over him, he felt peace settle over him, washing away all the annoyances of the journey and the frustrations of life in Cimmura. There was a sense of rightness to kneeling here that reminded him of his purpose, of what it meant to be a knight of this Order.

It was a strange irony, he thought sometimes, that it was a Styric blessing that always served as the truest reminder that he was a knight of God as well as man.

Even when he then delivered the message he had brought her from Cimmura, and she then scolded him for the puddle he had left on her clean floor, he carried away a sense of peace that he knew would see him through months more away from the motherhouse, until he next needed an excuse to bring him home to this place.