Patience in all things, counseled The One God to his earthly children. Topher sighed and plucked a brown hair from his head. He studied all one inch of it. Still, after one month, his hair was the one thing holding him back. Topher glared at it and flicked it away.
He had been following a rivulet, a brook of some sort that he knew was not on any map, but it was headed northwest. As long as he camped next to water, Topher was able to provide for himself.
He used his old Order robe as a tent, draping it over sticks. While Topher wanted nothing to do with the Order whatever, and wanted to burn the robes, he grudgingly admitted the robes themselves were only cloth and served to shield him from the cold and the elements. Topher figured if anyone ever searched him and asked him about the robes, he would tell them that he found them back in Harper Hill in the woods.
Mostly, Topher traveled by night and slept by day, though upon occasion, if he was near a farm, he would steal out at twilight and pluck vegetables from the rows, usually carrots and cabbages. He found some beets once, but he had to push them back in the ground, for he had never been able to stomach beets, not boiled, raw, nor any other way. Topher was not hungry enough yet to force beets down.
Last week, he found some wild strawberries growing in the woods and, after sitting in the center of the entire patch, Topher gorged himself on them without an ounce of guilt. In fact, his chin and fingernails stained red with strawberry juice, he pulled all the rest he found and dropped them in his rucksack for later.
He had become quite a gifted thief, however, and quite ashamed of himself for this new art of his. Topher was even covering his tracks in the dirt behind him. For from village to village, he was sure people had to talk. He only stole two or three eggs from each village, some vegetables from the farm, and now and again, a shirt or two, so that just in case someone spied him leaving, he’d be able to change clothing quickly.
But Topher never forgot the day when he was walking alongside the woods line, with the sun at his back. Suddenly, he decided to whistle. He couldn’t fold his lips the right way to whistle. He had forgotten how to whistle. Odd, that. Topher tried a few more times. Once he was sure his lips were set right, he started to force wind through his mouth and succeeded in spraying spittle all over his chin.
Topher looked to the sky. Was this The One God’s amusement for Topher not taking his Final Oath? Showering himself with spit? He wiped his face with the back of his hand. He tried a few more times unsuccessfully. Topher felt the back of his neck heat with embarrassment.
Just as Topher was about to give up, a watery, single note sounded. Topher’s eyes widened. He hadn’t whistled since he was child. He whistled several times more, though it sounded pathetic. He’d whistled better as a child.
Then Topher suddenly realized something. He was no longer a child… but no longer was he a member of The Silent Order….
“My… name… is… Topher.”
It was the first time he’d used his voice in over six years.