"You are not human are you?" He said calmly.
My heart began to race, and I looked around in panic. Where in the hell was Lief?
"There is no need to fear brother," the robed man said sedately, "I do not wish to hurt you. I just was making an observation. You are not human, and yet you are. I can tell."
I eyeballed the man, suddenly curious. I leaned back in the pew, pretending to get comfortable and look at ease, but slowly my hand found the hilt of a construct stun.
"You are perceptive then. Why?"
The monk turned his head to the ground, blushing with embarrassment.
"My father was a Collector, and trained me in the ways to spot and discern the immortals that walk among us from the rest of us. But when I saw what he did to them, when he caught them, I could bear it no longer. Immortal or no, we must, above all else, treasure life. So I decided then to abandon him. Ten years later, I am here, alone but happy."
It was an impressive story. While he spoke, my eyes scanned him, sought any hint of subterfuge. Yet in my searching he clearly was no longer a collector. I could tell by the virtue that every collector carried a metabolic metering device, and he was empty handed. They were very particular about the ages of those they collected. Myself, personally, I was the chief find of the century, perhaps one of he oldest specimens in the world. If he really was a collector, my life would already be forfeit.
Staring on ahead of the monk I saw Lief chatting busily with a woman, girded with heavy cloth and garments, covered from head to toe. Rose, which he assumed was the identity of the woman in question, was a talker. I had time to kill, and curiosity got the better of me.
"You must be wondering then why I haven't already stunned you and escaped from this house," I said turning my attention back to him. I was expressionless, a blank slate. My indifference caused the monk to readjust himself to a position of uneasiness. This was favorable.
"I know, well, I am aware that people like yourself can be wary about others. Me, I'm no longer a collector you see. Well, I never was to begin with..."
"So what are you now then," I pressed forward, turning my head away to watch a parishioner get up to leave the building.
The question caught him off guard, uttering a bewildered stream of unformed words in rebellion. His befuddlement was charming, if not endearing. I resolved then to give him a chance, and relinquish a portion of my suspicions.
"What I mean to say," I began, "is what do you do now that you are a citizen of the Kingdom?"
Expressing his relief, the monk heaved a sigh, and spent a moment in thought. After his meditation was concluded, he pulled out from his pocket a small construct generator and, when cycling it on, revealed to me the image of a water processing machine.
"This is pre-war, a anti-microbial water purification system. Before my stint as a collector, I was in charge of the technology in the town of my youth. Now I am the operator of the Order's unit. It is all simple levers and pressure gauges, but there is a true art to the process. My mineral traces give the water a very distinct flavor that I myself am very proud of."
"You indeed are passionate," I replied, amused by his articulate energy.
"It is a family trait I assure you."
I looked behind once more, watching Lief embrace the shrouded woman. Things were wrapping up, thankfully. Though, I admit I would miss the inquisitive monk. It wasn't long after that Lief returned to me, approaching myself and the monk. He looked uncomfortable, as if something grave had happened. Keeping the monk in my vision, I turned to face Lief.
"Why so glum, my friend?"
Lief shook his head in frustration, looking between myself and the monk.
"My sister is gone."
"That's unfortunate," I said, "be more specific."
"She's in Lyon."
"She's in Lyon."
My heart plummeted in my chest.
"Oh... That is... troubling."