Saint Dorian and the Witch, by Michael Raship
The rumors borne across the empire by pilgrims are full of wild talk of Dorian, a boy with a flute reputed to play music beautiful before compare, reputed to have come from somewhere beyond the world in order to combat great evil. His followers are already calling him Saint Dorian. When word of the boy with the flute spreads as far as the remote mountain monastery where the young monk Bartholomew serves in the honored position of librarian, he astonishes his fellow monks by placing his faith in vague, contradictory rumors and declaring himself a follower of Dorian. Before the winter snows cut off the monastery from the rest of the empire, he makes a clandestine departure from the only home he has ever known in order to devote himself to the child saint.
Even while others around him continue to deny that Dorian is a saint, Bartholomew can sense the boy with the flute guiding his journey, summoning him to play his destined role in a vast pattern that will give a purpose to the puzzling events of his past life and of his journey:
his ill-fated childhood act of charity towards the wandering heretical storyteller Valentine
the warning spoken to him by one of the greatest men in the empire, the legendary hero and subtly brilliant monk Father Zero
his bargain with a wild witch girl named Ruth, who agrees to keep him safe on his journey in exchange for obscure facts of natural science and philosophy that only a librarian could know
the powerful new spells that Ruth is creating based on this knowledge, spells that Bartholomew believes will be of service in combating the great evil against which Dorian is said to be waging a righteous war
At his journey’s end, Bartholomew’s expectations are fulfilled, and the worldwide patterns that Dorian is orchestrating are revealed to him in the sort of ecstatic vision that the monks tell of. Yet at the same moment, when he is poised to fulfill his destined role in Dorian’s plans, it seems to him that his proper place is not among Dorian’s followers but on the other side, as an ally to the child saint’s enemies and a rebel against heaven.