Happy Turnday, Kale

Xanadu Weyr - Forest
This broad path that leads from the Main Clearing into the forest has been designed in such a manner so as to be not only wide enough for wagons to travel through, but also providing ample space for dragons. The path appears only worn in the center though, as the main traffic which finds itself moving through this area is that of the two-legged kind. Grass lines the path and creeps all the way up to the bases of the trees that rise upward in their aged magnificence, gargantuan limbs casting often welcome shade that frequently envelopes the entire path
The path winds its way leisurely through the trees and a number of less traveled paths branch away. One to the west leads to the Weyrling Field while one headed further northwards leads to the river and numerous popular spots. (see +view) Northeastwards, the path straightens out to join the coastal road that leads out of Xanadu while east leads down towards the beach and the Caspian Lake. A few flowers sprout up and speckle the brown and green area with their little faces of bright saffron and cheeky rose, and the general atmosphere and scent of the path is one of freshness and wild abandon.

(Note: This scene takes place after the log "Oh, Brother" a little later in the day. PC characters absent due to the fact that there was an overload of awesome rp and plot things unfolding at the same time on Xanadu, and it was hard to get us all together! So, I (Kale) threw this together myself. If you are a friend of Kale's, you can assume you were invited and there, if you want. Enjoy!)

How did they do that? How can so many people arrive in such an underwhelming way that no one really notices them until they are all together? The Crestwood clan and an unnamed number of family friends have claimed a portion of Xanadu scatteredly, small groups milling in at different times of the day. Thanks to Kei’lan’s scouting, the forest’s edge was deemed clear enough and far enough away from the daily activities of the weyr folk as to not intrude for a gathering place. And so, by runnerback and by wagon, they came, bringing with them copious amounts of food and drink and an abundance of party attitude. Some even tow instruments, while others bring more necessary items like tables and a few chairs.

The ringleader of them all is none other than Annah Crestwood herself, a surprisingly small woman in her late forties who is here, there, and everywhere, directing folk with an eye of precision. Dark hair is streaked with wisps of gray in random areas, but that hardly makes her seem elderly. Brown locks have been pulled back and kept in place in a simple bun, with a few incorrigible strands freeing themseles and framing her face. A blue flowered dress is worn, the hem long and to the ground, with a yellow apron tied around the waist which she seems to have forgotten about as she barks orders, amber eyes sharply picking up many things at once.

“No, no, Kinden, yuh boys put that table over there, not in the center of everything! You know your Da is going to want that space for tellin’.”

“Yes Mrs. Gordish, it’s naught a problem that yeh’ve baked the same pie as Miradela. He’ll love it the same, I’m sure, perhaps even a bit more,” she adds in a hushed whisper, eyes darting about for eavesdropping ears.” Now, just put it with the others there. Mirkus’ll light a fire to keep ‘m just as warm as they were from the ovens.”

“Kord, get your mouth off that bottle! You know the first swallow goes to Kale!”

And on it goes, keeping everyone and everything in order, as it is what keeps her happy, and it is what she is plenty good at doing. With her direction, the gathering is ready in the blink of an eye. A table is set aside, heavy with precooked foods in various containers, one end strictly for various pies. Drink is on the opposite side, more ale and liquor than anything else, but klah and juice are available. Away from the table an area is clear and random seats have been set in a wide circle with a small crate in the center of the mock arena. People of all shapes and sizes mill around. Kerrick, the short-haired eldest with an impressive build, is with his father in loud, laughing conversation while his daughters, twin girls with curly blonde hair and wide blue eyes chase one another, both dressed in simple dresses that are exactly the same, though one is green and the other yellow.

Kei’lan lounges in the grass, smoking, while his mother chastises him for smoking. The raptly bored expression on his face only fuels her aggravation more. Shaggy haired Kinden watches on, highly amused, the sixteen year old never getting enough of watching others get in trouble, especially if that other is a sibling. And especially if that sibling happens to be the only dragon rider in the family. He crosses his arms and mimics his mother’s every finger point, shifting of weight, hand on hip, and attempts to redden his face by holding his breath. “THIS IS NO LAUGHIN’ MATTER! That’s what’s wrong with you! Life is not always a joke, but ever since you thought it fine to blend your soul with that of that BEAST…” she fumes, continuing on despite Kei’lan’s laughter at the antics happening behind her, apparently immune to the words he’s heard hundreds of times before.

Kord, a new father, is busy with his son (after having reluctantly left the tempting bottles of ale alone), bouncing the brown-eyed nine month old while a thin wife, glad for the break, mingles with Aridnae, Kerrick’s fair haired wife, who is heavy with the promise of another child.

Even Xanthius is here! The golden haired, dark eyed boy from Xanadu who is currently lingering near the womenfolk, gesturing to Aridnae’s round midsection. “The style at Black Rock, no offense at all meant to you, is largely outdated. Draping thins, sagging that, hiding what you should be proud of! There are so many fabrics and styles that are flattering to those with child. A cinch just below the bosom. Ah..wait, a belt! Nothing uncomfortable of course. Comfort is the idea here. Comfort, and fashion. Perhaps one of fabric…”

Kage is around. Somewhere. Or perhaps he’s wandered to flirt with the resident females of Xanadu. Weyr folk /are/ rumored to be a bit easy. The youngest won’t mind if he’s a bit late to celebration, will he?

And speaking of the youngest. The turnday boy is making an appearance. He has been told where to go, and relayed that message to his friends so they can come whenever they please, if they still choose to do so. The afternoon is bright and sunny, and a comfortable sort of chilly autumn breeze blows through the trees. The forest is an explosion of fall colors, and when he steps into view, freshly washed and dressed in denim and a long sleeved cream colored tunic, his firelizard trailing cautiously behind him, the explosion is that of voices that greets him.

“Is that a lizard on yer tail, there?”

Does he have a honing device attached to him somewhere? With barely time to react with a grin, wave, and an opened mouth that never quite gets a chance to say anything, he’s soon enveloped by people who clap him on the back, hug him, and spew far too many questions at him to digest at once, yet alone answer.

And thus, the party is underway. A gathering of friends and family in the forest, a jaunty tune provided by a guitar and lute played by two scruffy looking neighbors who appear more built for hard labor than music, and food in abundance. Kale finds himself saying the same things to different groups, though it doesn’t look as if he’s not enjoying himself as he’s teased and praised and congratulated over and over again.

“Look how you’ve grown!”
“Such a handsome lad.”
“Remember, you owe me one mark from a turn ago, ironhead. What? You think I’d forgotten?”

The only one who hasn’t demanded his attention in some way has been his own mother, who keeps herself busy by keeping a close eye on things, still flitting here and there. And she /is/ keeping a close eye on her last born son, and thus she has not been able to ignore the firelizard that sticks to him so, the look on her face one of sour grapes. It’s Kale that eventually pries himself away from a scuffling brother to weasel his way towards his mother, Alloy perched on his shoulder and peering suspiciously at the two wide eyed little girls who follow so closely behind.

“Don’t let that snake near the children!” comes her shriek, hands waving in disdain as she notices the approach of her son and twins, and the utter closeness of the bronze lizard, or snake as she refers to him as to the aforementioned youngsters.

“Ah, mother. He’s not a snake an’ he wouldn’t hurt them.” Kale pauses to turn, peering at his two wide-eyed nieces with a grin. “D’ya wish to touch’m, girls? Here…” Alloy is lifted from his shoulders and set upon the ground with a chirrup! and shake, causing a chorus of giggling from the children.

“Isse gon’ bite?” asks one, Amaya in the yellow dress who is already inching forward with a hand outstretched.

“Nope,” replies Kale, much to the chagrin of his mother, who hovers with a lingering frown. “Alloy is my friend. My buddy. He won’t bite or hurt ya cuz if he does that, he knows I’ll be sad. Angry with’m, too. So, he’s very, very good.”

Anaya, identical to her twin but clothed in green, is a bit more hesitant and only watches as her braver sibling touches a scaled tail, which twitches in response, causing another burst of giggling from them both. Kale’s expression softens and he rubs at the firelizard’s head, relaying gentle images to him before he stands. Now his eyes turn to his mother, who, once her eyes meet the brighter ones of her son, turns to tend to the food which needs no tending to, grumbling. “I don’t know why yuh boys test me so..” she says, swatting away Kale’s hand as he reaches for her shoulder. He receives the desired effect though, and she turns to face him, face somewhat red. “And yuh know, yuh know how I feel about them… them dragons..”

“But mother, he’s not a dragon. He’s a firelizard,” assures Kale gently, to which he’s answered with a flustered “Hrmph! One and the same! You think I don’t know a dragon when I see one? Of the same blood, the two. The same!” She shoos him off before turning to stride to a pot, lifting the lid to angrily stir the contents within. Kale follows after her, determined to smooth things over today of all days.


To which his mother abandons her angry stirring to instead turn to her son, brown eyes wide and tearful, which is shocking enough to Kale that whatever words he had planned to say are lost. As the party continues around them, the twins chasing a firelizard gleefully while the adults around them continue to be engrossed with food, laughter, chatter, and music, Kale finds himself staring at a face that he has never before seen. Deep anguish is rooted into those gracefully aging lines of her face and seen in the gleam of welled tears. The spoon is abandoned in the pot as her arms wrap around her son, taller than her now. Fuller in frame than when she last left him. Harder than the cuddly soft little boy he once was. Growing without her in a world she’s so desperate to keep him from. She presses him to her, inhaling a fragrance so different than that of the little boy she raised. Not an earthy smell. Not the dirt and sweat of play and field work. Not the reedy smell of their pond and muck that makes its banks that always told the tale of an impromptu swim as it clung to his clothes. This is the smell of .. a man. A different man. A man whose clothing has the clinging aroma of steel and metal and flame and coal with a splash of a spicy, woody, sweet fragrance. Colonge? Where is that little boy that she left here so long ago? Where is her baby?

“Kale.” She pulls back from him after speaking his name, lifting a hand to brush his hair from his bewildered eyes. “You cannot let this place and these…people change yuh, Kale. You musn’t, hear me? This isn’t what I dreamed for yuh. Y’should have come home ages ago. Don’t you want to? You can try again. Master Gladei is naught far, you know, and he’s always been a’willin’ to take yuh in again, and…”

Ah, and there goes the song and dance, same as always. The shock begins to slip from his eyes, replaced now with an unwanted feeling of irritation that has him shifting his gaze away, turning instead to Alloy, who has earned the attention of Kei’lan who now gently herds his yellow and green clad nieces closer to the bronze with repeated reminders to “be gentle. Slow. Scare’m, and you /might/ just scare ol’ uncle Kale… Which…may be funny to see, actually. So have it! Uncle Kei could use a laugh…” Thank all that is heavenly for the only dragonrider in the family. Kei’lan’s eyes turn, meeting those of his youngest brother, and a small, yet encouraging smile is offered to him as he nods. I got this, brother.

“Mother,” Kale interrupts, attention shifting and staying on her. “Everytime, mother, y’know what I’ll say. I like doin’ what I do. Y’know I was no good farmin’ before. But this? This comes easy to me. I really really like metalwork, an’..an’ I’m pretty good at it,” he says, not one truly known for boasting his talents, but this occasion is different than most others. The look in his eyes is self assured. Confident. It’s all very discouraging to his mother, who sighs an exasperated sigh. “If y’d just come, ma. Come an’ see what I do, what I’ve done, I know y’d –“

But he gets no further than that, for a lifted hand is all it takes for his pleas to cut themselves short and remain unspoken. She steps back, head shaking. “I’m already further in this wretched place than I’d ever want to be, Kale. Trollin’ through a place of dragons with their “merrymakin’” folk is more than I’d bear.” A sigh, and that raised hand is lowered to straighten the collar of her son’s shirt and smooth the fabric on his shoulders. Hands never idle. “I’d hoped that you’d return on your own. I was hangin’ on to…a dream, I suppose. You’re fifteen…” The realization of that is slow to sink in. A slow acceptance that her youngest child I no longer a child in the eyes of the world. “You’re fifteen, and I cannot force yuh to do anything. But, I’m your mother, an’ I only wish the best for you, Kale. I’ve only wished the best for all of yuh boys. Your…dragonlizard…”

“Firelizard,” he corrects quietly.

“Yes. … that,” she says, the words rolling from her tongue as acid. “I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. I don’t like what it may mean for you, and I don’t like thinkin’ that you havin’ that ….thing is openin’ doors to other things.” Her eyes shift to a middle son, Kei’lan, who has thusly saved Alloy from the prying, pulling, and exuberantly petting hands of three year olds and has found himself a comfortable seat on an uncomfortable rock, feeding the lizard rewards of cooked meat for his patience. But though he is here, it’s obvious that he’s not, eyes somewhat unfocused and movements a bit mechanical as is mind converses with that of another presence that is notably, largely, bluely, absent. A frown tugs at her lips as she continues on, now lifting her palms to press them gently on either side of Kale’s face, silently demanding his wholehearted attention, which she already had.

“You’ve to promise me, son, that yuh will keep y’soul clean. Keep it pure, yuh hear me?” she implores, pressure tightening slightly on his face on emphasis. He has no choice but to keep his eyes on her. To watch as that expression on her face grows desperate again. To feel his body seem to shrink in on himself as the lie he must tell already begins to formulate.

“You’re my youngest boy, and cannae lose yuh to…this weyr,” the word is spat, “an’ the people who claim it. They live a life that’s not ours. If you want to do your learnin’ here, fine. Learn from your teachers. Learn only the craft, not their ways. There’s no turnin’ back once yuh stray too far, do you understand? Do not let these people turn yuh from what’s right. And Kale, if nothin’ else, you heed this: You stay far from those dragons. Keep away from them and the people who worship them so. Once you’ve given yourself, there’s no savin’ you. You’re cursed, and no amount of love or pleadin’ from me can save you from the wretched life you’re bound to live because of it. The soul of a beast is not meant to blend with the soul’ve a man, Kale. It’s unnatural. It’s sinful. You’ll live a life of the damned.”

There it is.

Her hands are removed from his face and Kale is left with an unfamiliar feeling of panic. How can he tell her? How can he truthfully say what he’s already done? Already, he’s taken the first step towards that life she has so shunned, towards a life that will have him shunned if in fact his candidacy turns to weyrlinghood. How can he tell her that there’s already a white knot secured for him, one that he has detached and left behind in order to hide from her? As he looks into her eyes, those eyes he has known for his entire life. Eyes that have scolded him and loved him and schooled him and protected him for all of his fifteen years. Looking into them now, welled with a fretting worry…he knows that he cannot. He can’t tell her anything.

“Yes ma’am. I promise.”

It’s all he can say, and it’s all that’s needed to be said to cause those lines of worry to melt from her face as she again straightens him up and presses a kiss to his cheek. “Good boy.”

Ugh. Why does everyone say that? Is he truly so good? Lying to his mother as he is? Blatantly turning his back on her and all that she’s given and provided in order to chase a … dream? The good boy isn’t feeling worthy of the title.

“Come now!” says mother, obviously in better spirits. She lifts her apron to quickly and absently dab at her eyes, draining too obvious remnants of unshed tears. “Yuh only turn fifteen once and your party is runnin’ away from yuh. I’ve made your favorite pies, an’ the neighbors brought some’ve their own. Jarishai even tried her hand at bakin’..” She lowers her voice. “Bless her soul she tried, but if I were ya, I’d take the tiniest sliver of hers. I’ll point it out.” She shakes her head slowly, eyes closing as if she’s about to speak the saddest fact in the world. “Little Izriel is the cutest little babe, my first grandson and I am ever so grateful, but his mother can’t bake for anything. S’not a wonder Kord has gotten so thin since marryin’…glad as I am that he did marry,” she says, heading off now, heedless of the fact that Kale is trailing further behind, eventually pausing.

He lingers on the outskirts, taking in his family. His life. His brothers, who have all, save Kei’lan, stayed on the hold, branching out with age to plant their own seeds of life, begin families and deepening their learning of the family craft, yet still staying within that close knit bond a lifetime in the making. And here they are, all coming together for him. His mother, most of all, braving the idiosyncrasies of weyr life solely for him. To see him and bring him his special day despite everything they’ve ever argued about the past turn or so. Everyone’s face, so cheerful. Content in their lives that have nothing to do with dragons and the glory of doing something beyond what they think capable of achieving. How is he so different? Why is he not satisfied with the thought of doing what is expected of him? How is it that his happiness comes from drifting off the well beaten path of the many before him and seeking something that can only tear his family apart further than they have been? Kei’lan, the fracture. He himself most definitely would be the shatter. Is it worth it all? Is he truly so selfish that he can put his own happiness above the wellbeing of his own family? A family that has given him so much?

So much to think about, worry about, on a day where worrying should be furthest from his mind. A nip to his fingers brings his mind back, and looking down he’s met with the face of his firelizard. A symbolic thing, almost. Symbolic of his life here. His friends. His candidacy. His shifting ways of thinking. All bundled up in a not quite foot long handsome bronze who thinks the world of him. Can these different worlds of his merge? Can he be part of both and still retain who he is…whoever that may be? His mind is flashed with images of Amaya and Anaya. Three years old with no prejudices, giggling and laughing with the firelizard, who is just as enamored with the twins as Kale himself is. Kei’lan, tossing him bits of meat and rubbing him in places only those familiar with his kind would know feels exceptionally good.

“Yes, I know,” he says as he lowers an arm down to be used as a branch to scramble up to his shoulder. “They’re family, yeah? We love our family … all’ve them…no matter what.” He begins to grin now as he heads forth to rejoin the party.

The head of the Crestwood clan is a man of great girth. This is not to say the head of the family is engorged with fat. That’s far from the truth. And while age does tend to pack on a softness that was once hard in one’s youth, namely in the form of a round belly in his case, his frame still is imposing. He has the type of face that can go from soft to hard in the matter of moments, either a gentle bear or raging lion. As the afternoon dips to early evening, light fading from the sky, marking a winding down time, Khelid Crestwood, father of all six boys and husband to Annah, stands before a lit fire, nursing a mug of ale. A slightly flushed look to his bearded and work bronzed face assumes this mug is not his first of the night, or perhaps even third, but he stands steady within a circle of congregated folk. The food has been eaten. Desserts had. Kale has had his first mug of ale (well, as far to his father’s knowledge, his first mug) and a taste of this and swig of that, enough to get his face a little flushed as well. He has his sons, all six of them, gathered together within the circle with him, and he watches them with a small smile. The teasing of their youngest brother as they lounge on a blanket of leaves. The enticing of just one more drink. The laugher. Yes, these are good times.

“Quiet. QUIET!” He interrupts the clamor with a shout and a wave of his hand and drink, causing a few elbow jabs from the congregate Crestwood boys.

“And here he goes,” snickers Kage, who eventually did join the party with a pretty raven haired thing on his arm a few hours earlier. Her name? Farrah. Ferriah? Something along those lines…

Khelid’s arms lower as the banter and chatter begins to die down. “Firs’ and foremost, thank all’e ya for comin’ out. S’a little jaunt from Black Rock, I know…but we’ve done worse, eh? ‘Member the drought of Turn 2683?”

To which many of the menfolk nod and rumble their assent. Yes, they remember! Worst most have seen in their lives. The work for water? Brutal! But oh so necessary for their crop. No one could afford a failure that year.

“You’ve all come out ter celebrate my boy, an’ for that I’m grateful. Family,” a look to his horde of boys whose eyes are on him, then to his wife who cradles one of their sleeping granddaughters in a seat, “friends,” a few heads are nodded, accompanied by smiles, “an’… new friends,” his eyes shift then to faces that have been unknown to him before this day. Friends made by his son, to whom he offers a smile in the firelight. “I thank ye all, I truly do. This is a blessed time for Annah and I, and I’m thankful to be sharin’ it with the all’ve yeh. Our youngest boy..” an arm is swept in the direction of a sheepish looking Kale, who is clapped on the back and shoulders by the five hands of his brothers, “a man as of today. I look’it him,” his arm lowers, and the gleam in his eyes seems now brighter with the flickering flames, “this person that used to be a wee boy, an’ I see a man I’m proud to be the father of. A man who can’t shuck corn to save his farking life,” he laughs, and his guffaws are soon echoed by those of many others, much to Kale’s dismay. Cue a wince and a hand slap to his face!

“Da…” he implores, which only gets everyone laughing a bit harder.

“Is it not the truth, son? Blimey boy, if it was left to you, we’d be poor an’ starved!” He laughs a belly shaking laugh as he approaches the group of young men, and Kale finds himself being prodded to his feet by his brothers. “I’ll take that,” says Kei’lan, who plucks a half-empty mug from his hand before he can get too far away. He raises it to him in mock toast.

Kale can only merit a glance at that before the broad hand of his father is felt clamping upon his shoulder. His other hand would follow suit, but it’s still holding that mug, which he seems only aware of now. “Kinden..” which is all is needed before the second youngest hops up to pluck the drink from his father’s hand, likely to finish it off for him. With his hand now free, Khelid lowers it to Kale’s other shoulder, his face a myriad of emotion, most positive, some sad. “The last of my sons. I thought this day would be slower t’come.” A smile, and a hand slips from the shoulder while the other lifts to grip at his unruly locks and gives his head a slow and affectionate shake. “This one!” he says, turning now to the gathered, releasing his grinning son’s hair to hook that heavy arm over his shoulder. “A headache, wasn’t he? I remember,” he guffaws already, “he was maybe…three turns. ‘Bout the same as the twins now, but they won’t be struttin’ around market, ass nekkid!” HAHAHA

Wait. What? With eyes as wide as saucers, the now grown ‘ass nekkid’ boy just looks at his father. Then to his friends, which causes his face to flood with a blush. “Da. We’ve all heard this…” Well, almost all of them. But his father seems not to hear.

“Aye he was. Ass hangin’ out for all to see. Took a piss an’ didnae care to keep his trousers on after that. Didn’ blame him. Felt the sweat drippin’ from my own sack, iff’n you know what I mean. Should’ve had mine swingin’ free, too!

“An’ when he was eight, ah..maybe nine. Seven? Annah, how old was he?”

“And how’m I to know that? Not knowin’ which tale you’re goin’ to tell there, huh?” she calls back, looking mighty amused both by her husband and the beet red face of her son.

“Ah. Right. However old he was at the time when he treed hisself? Wanted to take after Kage so much an’ climbed the old oak after hearin’ he done it? Was stuck up there half the day til evenin’ an’ had his mother cryin’ up a storm with worry? Had nearly the whole hold out callin’ an’ lookin’ for him.”

“Seven, he was” says Annah. “And Kage was supposed to be tendin’ to him,” she adds, giving the young man the evil eye.

“Aaaaahh, mooootheeeer, it’s been tuuuuuuurns. An’ he’s fine,” laments Kage who uses his free hand to gesture to Kale, intact, alive, and well, if not embarrassed close to death at this point.

The story continues. “He is now, but the lot of yeh saw him then, eh? All of you were there! Twenty…thirty feet up, bawlin’ his eyes out. I don’ know who shed more tears, him or his mother!” Good natured laughs all around, and Kale half wishes he could melt into the ground. “Ah. But now look at him,” Khelid continues, his tone a tad gentler, expression rough and proud. “My last boy now a man. Man enough to be here alone, doin’ something…different. I may not understand it son, this thing that you like to do, but I know it makes ya happy, and I know it’s made ya strong. We’ve had our bouts about it, I know we have. But what can I do? How can I fight ya against somethin’ that’s done so good for you? That’s all a father ever wants, y’know. It’s what I’ve wanted for all of you,” he says, lifting his blue eyes to those of all of his sons now. “A father wants his son to do well. To be a man he can be proud’ve. I’ve taught you all the same. Treat all women with respect. Treat yer own woman like a queen. Provide for yer family the best y’can. Be no coward an’ fight when you have teh. Hold your liquor…”
“Always shake a man’s hand,” says Kale, a small smirk pulling his lips. “An’ look’m in the eye.”
“Handle loss,” nods Kerrick.
“Read books,” adds Kei’lan, “no good leader is ever ignorant.”
“Stay strong,” smirks Kage who lifts an arm to flix biceps, much to the joy of the lingering Ferrah. Or Farrah…Ferriah, perhaps.
“And if you’re beddin’ a woman, always pull ou-“ begins Kinden, though that’s as far as he gets before he’s interrupted by multiple slaps and backhands to the back of his head. SLAP! Slap! Slap! SLAP! “OW!” He covers his head with his arms, ducking while glaring at his elder brothers. “I was joking, geeze.”

Kord’s head shakes, an exasperated look given to him. “Fuckin’ idiot..”

Khelid gazes at all of his sons. Are those tears in his eyes? Perhaps yes. Perhaps drawn from emotion and a mixture of drunkenness. Happy times made happier.

“Tha’s right..” he confirms, voice barely above a whisper, his pride near tangible, “All that, I’ve taught yeh…” He exhales a heavy breath. “We’ve raised fine boys, Annah an’ I. Kale, you’ve done us proud. Keep doin’ it, son. Here. There. Whichever way you find yourself goin’, keep makin’ us proud.” Kale’s body is then soon swarmed by his father’s arms as he takes him in for a tight hug, to which Kale returns, if not a bit red-faced and breathlessly. Applause and sounds of assent are heard around them from all who are still present, which happens to be all who arrived hours ago. Come together. Leave together. It’s been a good day.

And they do leave, eventually, on this same eve. They pack up and load sleeping youngsters away. They leave a few at a time, some hanging back to give last goodbyes to Kale. Last unsure looks to Alloy. Last acts of bravery to touch the firelizard. Some ride runners. Some ride in wagons. Only one flies by dragonback. Kale receives hugs from his brothers, continued words of congratulations mingled with words of advice. Hugs and kisses from his mother. A firm handshake and hug from his da. He’s left with gifts and pie and memories happy, sad, and troubling. But the troubling ones are left for another time. The sad, for another day. He envelops himself with the good as he says his goodbyes and makes his promises and shovels over the mark from that old bet that was never forgotten. And after he watches his family depart for their journey homeward, his eyes turn to the faces of his closest friends who have stayed behind with him, his arms and theirs laden with the spoils of the day. A smile curves his lips.

“Let’s go home.”

And they do.

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