The rise of 'The Setting Sun'





Sarah sat quietly on the grassy hill, watching the most magnificent sunset she had seen for a very long time. She was above the treeline of the forest here, and if she leaned back her entire field of view was full of reds, oranges and purples. There was a slight chill in the air, a cool breeze coming from the South, but it didn’t bother her. This was a rare moment, and she would milk it for everything it was worth.

“I guess I should not be surprised to see you here.”

She didn’t turn to look at the young man who had interrupted her thoughts, she knew Brother Crelis’s voice well enough. The young monk was her tutor in ‘self-awareness’. A subject which everybody seemed to take very seriously, though Crelis himself was probably the most laid-back of all the brothers.

“Where did you expect to find me?” Sarah asked absently.

“Your first evening off in four months, I thought that a teenager would like to spend it in town. A night club, a movie, something to let you forget who and what you are… even if for just a few hours.”

She turned to look at him, “What would be the point? I would still have to go back to the monastery at the end of the day.”

“Does that trouble you?”

“No, no, I’m happy with the work we’re doing.”

Crelis smiled, “No you’re not – but it is kind of you to say so.”

Sarah turned her eyes back to the sky and watched it in silence, noting how much the patterns and colours had changed in so little time.

“Normally we would be in training at this time,” Sarah said, “I have not seen a sunset since Summer.”

Crelis nodded, “I have missed them too, that is why I came here. I did not mean to disturb you.”

“It’s alright, I appreciate the company.”

“If it is company you seek, why are you not in town?”

“Better to be all alone, on my own, than all alone in a crowd. I would walk in, make friends of convenience, and then never see them again. It would be a waste of time. I’m leaving soon, I can tell. The Abbot tries to hide it but I know the time is near. I can’t believe he thinks that I’m ready.”

“Do you think that you’re ready?”

Sarah laughed, “You never stop being the tutor, do you?”

“It was a reflex reaction.”

“Well I don’t feel ready. I guess I’m comfortable with the combat training, but I still have doubts about my faith.”

Crelis smiled, “It is not a sin to ask questions, Sarah, what troubles you?”

“Sometimes I just… do you ever wonder whether we’re the victims of an extraordinary hoax? That maybe the world mocks and ridicules us because they see, and we do not?”

“I do. Sometimes I do. Do not let your doubt trouble you, I’m sure even the Abbot has such thoughts on occasion. It reflects the streak of humility that I have come to admire in you, you accept that you could be wrong.”

Sarah was not satisfied, “But what if God does not exist? It is so hard to believe in someone whom I have never seen, to put my trust in reports which are almost two thousand years old.”

Crelis pointed towards the West, “What does the setting sun say to you?”

Sarah nodded and repeated one of many lessons, “Yes, yes, I know, the creator has revealed himself through the majesty of his creation.”

“Is that all?”

“What else is there?”

Crelis smiled, “What did Brother Armaway advise us not to do during last month’s Solar Eclipse?”

“He said don’t look at it, of course.”

“Of course. The sun is bright, and beautiful, and it provides us with warmth without which we would die. Yet we cannot look straight at it, it is too powerful for us. But now, with the sun hidden by the mountains and the sky filled with clouds, we are treated to a most dazzling display – a reflection of the sun’s brilliance. Do not ask to see the Father face-to-face, you would not survive. But we see the reflection of his majesty every day. Were we not made in the image of God? Did not Jesus say, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father’?”

“I guess so,” Sarah pondered Crelis’ words as the light continued to fade and dark, purple clouds stretching towards the West, like folds of satin cloth. “I just wish I knew what He was doing.”

“God works, in all things, for the good of his people. What more do we need to know?”

“Well, for a start, how about when am I leaving and what am I being trained for? I mean, I’m grateful that the Order took me in after my parents died, but I’m growing tired of not knowing. I still don’t know why a peaceful Order is training me to fight, it just doesn’t make any sense. What use is a high-kick going to be if I am turning the other cheek?”

Crelis sighed, “That is a good question. I think everyone at the monastery would give you a different answer. What do you think?”

“Well, Jesus could have called down an army of Angels to defend him when he was arrested, but chose not to, so it can’t just be for self-defence. I can’t believe I am going to fight for my country, since almost all wars are fuelled by corruption and greed. Who then am I to fight for?”

“For them,” Crelis pointed towards the town to the North.

“What do you mean?”

“People like them, at least. I know where you are going, Sarah, though I’m not supposed to tell you. You are going to Paragon City, and you will be leaving very soon. There is much work to do there, more than any of us can comprehend. There are many who will try to stop you…”

“What kind of work?”

Crelis smiled, “If I tell you, the Abbot will have nothing left to reveal. He does so enjoy revealing things.”

Somewhere nearby a twig snapped. Sarah swung her heads towards the sound, expecting to find nothing, and was startled to see a tall man facing them. He was hard to see in the fading light, but his clothes were dark and his face masked. He was standing perfectly still, mid-stride, as if he was hoping to avoid detection.

“Sarah…” there was concern in Crelis’ voice, but before he could continue Sarah saw movement all around them. At least a dozen other men had emerged from the darkness, all similarly garbed

“I am about to tell you to do something,” Crelis whispered to Sarah, “you must obey instantly without any question or hesitation.”

Sarah did not like this at all. The men had encircled them, but they kept their distance. She observed that Crelis’ stance was of a man prepared to fight, balanced on the balls of his feet with his knees bent.

One of the men stepped forward from the group with an air of arrogance about him. He wore a long, dark coat and a cloth mask which hid the upper half of his face. Sarah could not see any weapons on the man, but his hostile intentions seemed obvious.

“Crelis,” the man said, “I never thought that you would become a monk, of all things.”

“It is better,” Brother Crelis replied, “than what I was – what you have become.”
“We have no complaint with you, old friend. Walk away.”

“You know I can’t do that Trilesk.”

The dark man shrugged, “A shame. We have already killed your brothers at the monastery, I guess you will have to join them.”

“Sarah,” Crelis said, “run!”

She ran. It broke her heart, but she ran, for she had already guessed what Crelis’ instruction would be. She darted towards the men waiting behind her, who flinched at her speed. One of them stepped forward and reached out to grab her, but she seized his arm and used his own strength to send him flying through the air into the other men. She took advantage of the confusion to leap through the gap in the circle and run at full speed towards the forest edge. They would not catch her, she was certain that she could outrun them.

Sarah wanted to turn back to see Crelis one last time, but could not. One false step could have her trip and fall, plus she knew what she would see. Crelis was a skilled fighter, but could never match so many opponents. Sheer weight of numbers would bring him down. Even if she had fought beside him, the result would have been the same.

By the time she had reached a safe distance, Sarah knew that she had done the right thing. That did not stop the tears from welling in her eyes. She sat against a tree, shrouded by shadow, and wept.

In all things God works for the good of his people, so Crelis had reminded her, so the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome. She glared at the sky, now black and lifeless, and said, “What good could possibly come from this?”