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by: Rebecca McQuarrie
“Hey T.L., what’s up?” asked a scrawny teenage boy as he entered the dorm’s communal bathroom.
“Not much, Patrick,” replied Termon Landes, as he quickly turned; trying to casually hide what was in the sink behind him.
“Are you heading up to Dublin with us? We’re leaving in about 15 minutes,” this coming from a second boy, Adam, who was taller than the other two, and built like a bull.
“I can’t,” answered Termon, trying not to glance back at the mess in the sink. “I have a project I need to work on. You know how the Brothers are, if you have free time after you’re done with homework, then they didn’t give you enough.”
At this, the boys laughed, knowing the joke wasn’t too far from the truth.
“Have a good holiday though, and bring me back some Taytos will ya? Oh, and some Toffy Pops.”
“You know that if you get busted with them…” started Patrick,
“Yeah yeah, I know” Termon pleaded. “But I know all the best hidey-holes and I promise I won’t rat you out if I’m busted.”
“Alright,” conceded Patrick, “but you owe me.”
With that, the boys said their goodbyes and Termon was able to return his attention to the matter at hand. At the bottom of the sink was a now sodden and much singed towel. He hadn’t meant to burn it; in fact, he wasn’t really sure how he had. He was heading in to take a shower and realized once he got there, that what had been his freshly laundered towel this morning, was now sullied by what he could only assume was his roommate. While Termon knew how to keep his anger in check and was not normally thought of as a hot-head, this was the final straw when it came to his roommate’s consistent towel thievery. He lost his cool, and as his blood heated up with anger, so did the towel.
When he smelled what could only be something burning, he came back to himself and realized with a start that he was holding a flaming piece of linen. With a yelp, he ran to the sink and quickly doused it with water. Before he had a chance to figure things out, he had been interrupted by his buddies.
With them now gone on holiday, he took a deep breath and tried to organize his thoughts. The first thing he needed to do was dispose of the towel and get a new one. But that presented another problem. While most of the students had left the school to visit with their families, or in the case of some of the transition-year students, run off to Dublin, the monks were still in residence. Finding a place to hide the towel wasn’t the tough part. Acquiring a new one, now that was a challenge. He either had to come up with a convincing lie as to what happened to his towel, and Termon wasn’t known for his lying skills, or he had to sneak a new one from the storage room.
“Lying or theft,” he muttered to himself, “is that what it’s come down to?” Of course, not taking a shower was always an option, but since they were only midway through the semester, he didn’t think his fellow students would appreciate it.
Well, he thought, I had better do it now while there are still people on campus. The more people to suspect, the longer it will take to track me down. With that, he wrung out the towel the best he could then headed out of the privy, down the hall, and out the back doors into the garden. He first thought was of the compost pile, and then remembering last week’s chore of turning the pile, he decided against it. Glancing back over the stone wall that surrounded the garden, he remembered a spot in the woods behind the abbey where there were fallen hollow trees. It would be a perfect out of the way place to dispose of the evidence. Evidence of what he still wasn’t sure, but the sooner he took care of one, the sooner he could focus on the other.
After a quick hike into the woods and back, he made his way to the east wing where the storage rooms were. It’s not theft, he thought, it’s borrowing. They’ll get it back at the end of the year. The other towel, well, that’s not theft either. That’s destruction of property, and accidental at that. It occurred to him at that point, that maybe he should just go to the headmaster and tell him what happened. At the thought, he was filled with shame at everything he had done, and the possibility that he was ‘different’. He was also afraid they might expel him from school, and since this was the only home he had ever known, having been orphaned on their doorstep as an infant, he didn’t think he could handle that kind of rejection.
It wasn’t easy growing up at Glenstal Abbey. The Benedictine monks had a very strict lifestyle that was hard for a hyperactive little boy to understand. He was tutored privately by them until he was old enough to attend the boy’s school located at the abbey. While they weren’t much of a family, they were the only family he had, and he didn’t want to disappoint them.
Hearing a door open down the hall brought Termon back from his rumination. He quickly tucked the towel under his shirt and scurried in the opposite direction of the sound. He headed back to his room, having completely forgotten his morning goal of taking a shower.
When he got there, he tossed the towel on a chair and flopped across his bed. Having completed the morning’s ‘dirty deed’, he allowed his mind to drift back the moment of anger. The more he thought about the situation the angrier he got.
“What the…? Not again”, he moaned as he quickly rolled off the bed. Looking down at the bed he saw two charred handprints on the top blanket. Not wanting to risk a second trip to the woods and subsequently to the east wing, he pulled the blanket off and shoved it under the bed. He would figure out a plan for disposal later. For the moment, he had made a startling connection. Whenever he got angry, his hands would get warm. No, not warm, hot. Very hot. Intrigued by this discovery, he intentionally thought of his roomie and watched his hands. As his anger grew, his hands began to glow red. Unsure of how to stop it, he began to panic and shake his hands. As he did, little drops of flame flew off, the embers quickly, and thankfully, dying where they landed. Seeing this, he grabbed a glass of water sitting on his nightstand and doused his hands.
Shaken from the experience he just stood there taking in the scene. Luckily, his room looked like any other teenage boy’s and there was no permanent damage to the floor. All of the fire had landed on clothes, books, and garbage strewn about the floor. All of the fire, he thought. FIRE. From my hands. Am I possessed?
Not knowing what else to do, he began to gather the charred items, throwing out the garbage and shoving the rest into the bottom of his closet. He decided that if he did any more experimenting, it would have to be outdoors, preferably near a body of water. For the time being though, he decided to try to forget it happened and focus on his studies.
A few weeks later, and with only a few minor incidences involving his new peculiarity, he was called to the headmaster’s office.
Brother Angelo was a robust and friendly man. Of all the monks, Termon was closest to him. Brother Angelo was fond of Termon as well, having been the one to find him all those years ago. He kept a special eye on him, and it was because of this that he noticed his unusual behavior in the past weeks.
“Do you know why I asked to see you,” questioned the monk.
“No sir, I don’t,” answered Termon, nervously.
“I’ve noticed that you’ve had some unusual behavior these last few weeks. Would you care to explain?”
“I’m not sure what behavior you’re speaking of Brother Angelo,” stated Termon carefully.
“Well,” Brother Angelo started, "several of us have noticed you sneaking around lately. You’ve been spending a lot of time down by the pond in the last few days as well. Your roommate has also reported that some of his items turned up with scorch marks after he returned from his holiday. We’ve come up with some possible reasons for all of this which is why I called you here. Would you care to fill me in, or shall I give you our guesses first?”
After a few moments of silence and no words from Termon, he continued on. “Very well then, I’ll give you our theories and you can tell me that we were all wrong. Our best guess is that you’ve taken up smoking. If this is the case you know it’s not allowed on school grounds. You’ll need to quit, or we’ll consider expulsion if you’re caught in the act. Our second guess is that it’s not tobacco, but some other drug or drugs. Once again, the same rules apply. Our last guess is that you have become a pyromaniac. Why, we’re not sure, but it seems to fit. If that is the case, we’ll do what we can to get you some help. Actually, if any of these are the case, we’ll do what we can to see that you receive the appropriate help.”
“Well,” asked the brother after a few more minutes of silence, “are you just going to sit there and not defend yourself?”
“I’m not entirely sure what to say,” started Termon. “It’s not any of those, honest.”
“Then what is it?”
“I’m not sure that you would believe me. I’m not really sure I believe it myself.”
“Have a little faith, Termon. I can be open minded, probably too much so according to the other brothers.”
“Can I show you, that is, instead of telling you? I’m not really sure what it is; let alone how to explain it.”
At the request, the monk nodded his head. Having been given permission, Termon walked over and grabbed the garbage can. He placed it in front of the headmaster, held his hands over it and focused. After a second, a ball of fire shot out from his hands and into the garbage can, lighting its contents on fire. To Termon’s surprise, Brother Angelo wasn’t.
“Sit down Termon, we need to talk,” he said with a sigh. “As you know, you were left on our doorstep as an infant. We honestly have no knowledge of who your parents are, but now, seeing this, I have my ideas. At the time of your birth, mutants were just being, well discovered isn’t exactly the right word, but it’s close. The general population wasn’t too happy about it and the safety of those with ‘powers’ was being jeopardized. I have to wonder if one, or both, of your parents were mutants. They may have left you here for your safety.”
He paused silently musing over something, the he chuckled.
“Do you know what your name means? It was difficult for us, when you came here, to decide what to do with you. Some of us were for raising you and others thought you would be better off else where. While this debate raged, we need to call you by something other than ‘the baby’. One of the big arguments was that your parents brought you here for sanctuary, so Brother Michael suggested it, half jokingly. While we all laughed, and decided that name would not be appropriate, Brother August quietly said ‘termon landes’. This is an old Gaelic term that means ‘end of race for life by reaching church lands’ essentially, sanctuary. We decided that it would do. It gave you both a first and last name. And now, I have to wonder. Was it a humorous monk, or divine prophecy?”
He paused again in thought, and then released a heavy sigh.
“Either way, I think you and I both know this is no longer the best place for you. I think it’s time that you went off to find your destiny. Normally our transition-year students spend a semester in France or Germany. Perhaps I can arrange it so you spend yours in Paragon City. That way, you’ll still get credit and receive your certificate of completion, but you’ll also get the chance to be with others like yourself. They can teach you to control your ability, and my abbey won’t be burnt to the ground.”
Through all of Brother Angelo’s speech, Termon could only stare. This was a lot of information to process. Mutant? Prophecy? Leave the abbey? Where was Paragon City?
“I understand headmaster,” he managed to squeak out. “I’ll go say my goodbyes and pack my belongings.” With that, he walked out of the office in a trance like state. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe he could find out what happened to his parents. Maybe…
As the positive aspects made their way into his head, he began to feel
calmer, more confident, and by the time he arrived at the airport in Dublin two
days later, he knew where he was going, and he knew why. With the last boarding call for Paragon City,
he walked onto the plane. He was going
to be sanctuary to those who needed it.
He was going to be a hero.