Chapter 2:

The monastery

The Trials of Ilcor

For a young, small child, the scale of the temple was hard to wrap the mind around. The fear he had felt moments ago was dwarfed as he was by the temple, by his wonder. His eyes tried to take the whole place in and yet there seemed to be no end to the white marble towering above him.

The entryway was marble with various artworks adorning the walls with gold and marble statues spaced evenly about. They depicted recurring four figures. Jasper would have loved to take a closer look but the nun kept pulling him along briskly. He glanced up at the rounded roof; a large painting of the figures shown in the statues in their element; the vast blue sky, the deep blue sea, the earth and a fiery warrior wielding a sword enveloped in fire. He wished to ask the nun to explain what he saw, for his young mind could not describe what he saw.

Jasper’s mind wandered and swirled with the images of the previous building. So overwhelmed was he that even his curiosity was blinded, unable to take in the expanse of wonders on his journey or the people he passed by on their way. Their way being, it seemed, to the east of the building with several wooden doors lay before him in rows and beyond that a staircase leading up, to one would assume more wooden doors or rather, assume he did not need to for they climbed the staircase made of stone contrasted strangely against the marble walls that framed it. Down the hallway he was led, and into a room.

This room had a straw bed with a woolen blanket and a pillow with a feather stuck out in odd spots. A small window showed minor light, the day being already halfway through and the sun on top the roof rather than through this window. Too high to see through, not for a small boy like him. A wooden bedside stand with two wooden doors and a wooden table and chair on the left side of the door.

“This is your room. Stay here. I will get another sister to take you to wash and supper” slight push into the room and he and she were separated by that wooden door and he is now alone in his new room. The reality of his situation must have dropped on his shoulders, for its weight buckled his knees and the young Jasper spent a few minutes on his hands staring at the marble tiles at his feet. This was his room, his first room. Not an alleway nor a sidewalk, not an empty rooftop or a smelly hole in the wall. He now had a room of his own, a bed and furniture he could say as his own. Would he ever see his mother again? Did he even want to go back? Such thoughts were too much for a five year old and yet they did not bring him to tears, he felt no sorrow, just a warm sort of bliss that settled in his heart. No matter who or what he left behind, or what he might face, he was moving forwards and onwards. Something that had always excited him. Sitting still was not something he was very good at. Grinning wide he made his way back to his feet and poked his new bed. Jasper’s bed. Scrambling on top he sat on the side, swinging his feet not wanting to fully immerse himself in the bed and dirty it with his old life awaiting for someone to lead him to his new one.

His new life opened the door in the form of a young nun in garbs similar to the other women’s apart from the colour, a burnt orange or rather burnt sienna with a red fabric belt tied around her waist. She looked to be of twenty years, blonde hair dirtied with a bitter gold and brown eyes that held a glimmer but her face was composed with maturity. She reminded Jasper of a kind market lady who had once given him a loaf of bread, that was the aura of the nun that took his hand and led him back down the staircase and to the centre of the land of brown doors where a walkway stuck in the middle led out to a courtyard surrounded by stone pillars and gardens and further down into a circular, as was this temple’s theme, building.

Walking through the red wooden doors Jasper was taken aback by the thick fog surrounding the air hovering above. Once used to the atmosphere, he was able to take in another sight Jasper could barely comprehend. A large pool stood in the back, kissing the wall almost fully circular. This was the source of the steam as it soared above the warm water and circulated lightly below and above again from a waterfall that kept the still water moving and sane.

To the shallow end he was taken, stripped and sat on the submerged step that acted as a seat that went around the edge. They were not alone and eyes looked towards the newboy with mild curiosity. The newboy was unaffected by the lack of privacy for such thoughts didn’t seem to enter the mind of a small child. The nun ordered for him to stay put and hustled off and back with a bucket filled with bathing gear and kneeled behind him.

The nun scrubbed away his old life, the lack of care and love of his old life and hair, the dirt from the streets from his limbs and torso and the cold of his mother drowned by the warmth of the water. Bathed, dried and presented with what he would wear henceforth; a brown tunic and trousers and goatskin sandals.

From there led back out the bathhouse, back through the land of doors and back towards the building he had first come from and almost through that very door only to skip it for a walkway along the side of the curved walls of the entry hall and through large wooden doors into a dining hall. Jasper had never seen a dining hall nor before then had ever seen a hall and if we are listing what he had never encountered, one could add an area made for dining to it. Yet he was able to assess the purpose quite easily, for before him was a bustling area where various individuals of different genders, ages and coloured garbs and tunics ate together and noisily. Various yet very much segregated by none other than their own awareness of what was expected of them by unspoken word; Those with similar gender and garb colour were grouped together and even further separated into similar age range with an even bigger divide as the much older crowd was on another layer of the dining room completely. A line spiraled from door to the front of the room that kissed the kitchen beyond, the source of his aroused appetite and awakened hunger. As if it was a market, roofless stands of food lined the back with metallic containers holding various foods. The kids took up a plate and helped themselves to a supervised portion of meat, vegetables and rice. The journey went from there to the cutleries stacked in baskets and then to their designated social zone. These zones were several columns and rows of long tables and benches that made their way all the way across the room with gaps for passage in organized sections.

The noise of the dining hall rose but no noise seemed to fall from above as if it was another realm entirely.

This journey was not just one Jasper experienced from the doorway, for he made his way along the queue like the rest, took up his plate and was pushed towards boys around his age but in a spot where no one else sat.

“It's no good to force yourself upon them. Let them come to you and do as you please from there.” The nun was gone, eyes could only follow her to the wooden staircase in the corner of the room and up she went to the adult realm. 

N. D. Skordilis