The door creaked and startled the young man bent over his record at his rough wooden writing desk. The sound was not very loud and the door moved with seemingly deliberate slowness as not to disturb him, but his concentration was easily broken. His green eyes darted to the door so fast the rest of the room was a blur. Clearly hoping to be rescued from his awkward writing, he searched the widening crack for the man entering. It was, of course, his father Barrek as nobody else lived in this house but the two of them.
"Sorry to disturb you son" the man said as he entered wearing a small smirk and raising an eyebrow. He knew how awkward it was to be starting a your first record as he had done it as well when he was young.
"I know how much you want to continue your record" he chuckled.
"...But it's time to start work today."
Xaine stood and began to gather his things for the day in a rough leather pack. Though he tried to do it calmly he couldn"t quite mask his excitement to be pulled away from his awkward venture. When he finally got the last of his things he thought to himself how he"d never really been this excited to start the days work. He didn"t hate the work he did because it always made him feel helpful to the other villagers and mostly satisfied his desire to be useful. The part he generally didn"t like was that they never really knew what it was they were going to be doing. And so he had no real way to prepare himself until the work started. His father being a soldier meant that they had to help out with general needs around the village whenever there was less of a need of soldiers. They still kept a strict training regimen but it could not fill up the time they would otherwise spend on guard duty, strategic planning, or advancing on enemies. The two of them grabbed their packs and headed out the door to the town center.
As they walked down the stony, dust covered paths of the village, Xaine turned his head to his father.
"What do you think we will be doing today?"
"Not completely sure, there is a lot of need in the village right now. It"s good thing we have the trials coming up, we need to have more new workers. There have been a lot retirements and not many to take their places lately. The large group we have this time though should do us some good."
"Do think I"ll be able to continue the family?"
"Xaine, it doesn"t matter so much where you go just that you do your best when you get there. Don"t worry so much about the placement. It"s setup so that you will go to wherever you are most suited to help."
Xaine didn"t reply he was still in thought, not comforted much by his father"s words. Barrek seemed to notice and spoke again.
"And besides you know that they allow you to try and train yourself in for what you want to move into anyway. Some people go elsewhere but most go where they really want anyway. And it"s no secret that you"re not too shabby with a blade."
Xaine half smiled, that did comfort him a little. The trials weren"t completely out of their control. And the elders did know what they were doing. Though he still couldn"t quite shake the feeling that he just wasn"t good enough to be a warrior. What if he went to work in some other field?
Xaine sighed and continued walking. The rest of the way was short and the two of them walked in silence until they turned the last corner and arrived at the meeting place. It was a large village square with an elevated wooden platform in the center. The platform was old and dusty and looked say though it has stood for centuries which could very well be true. The structure was there for as long as Xaine could remember. There were three short steps on either side to get on to the platform. In the center of which was a large board would with various pieces of parchment nailed to it. The papers were arranged in a fairly obvious manner with the new ones posted as far to the left as possible.
Xaine and his father approached the edge of the platform at about the same time as another couple groups coming from various different parts of the town. Many of the people flowing into the square were pretty young ranging from early teenagers of 13 or 14 up to about the same age as Xaine. There were a few that were his father"s age, the other soldiers of the village, coming to help out. Xaine noticed a good friend and waved. His friend waved back and jogged across the square to meet him. He was a lanky boy a few inches taller that Xaine but about the same age. He had short blonde hair and dark colored friendly eyes. Slowing his gait to a walk he greeted Xaine.
"Hey Xaine ready for a good days work?"
He was smiling like the usual. He was a very happy young man and generally brought a positive air wherever he went.
"Morning Maez, guess I'm as ready as you can be this early. I never understand how you're so awake everyday."
" Oh come on it's not that early you can almost see the sun on the horizon. At least it's not still pitch dark out."
"I guess" he chuckled
"So you know what you're gonna do today? I'm gonna try to and see if I can help out the blacksmith today. There are some trainees that recently graduated so he might be making some real weapons soon. I'd love to see how it's done!"
"I'm gonna stick with dad again, I don't want to bother trying to be the first one to get my hand up for the all the fun ones. And I like to help out those who most need it anyway."
"Not to mention your dad is already a soldier and you want to follow in the family tradition. But ya know you can still become a warrior without following your dad around all day. And you can learn a lot about weapons at the smith."
"I know but I can still learn a lot from him as well. And we"ve helped with the smith before. he didn"t make any linked weapons there but we still got some good experience."
The taller boy shrugged.
Barrek turned to the two.
"Hey boys, look it"s starting, better pay attention to what he calls out if you want to be going to the smith Maez"
Maez looked in the direction of the platform then took off jogging toward it. Xaine and Barrek watched as a middle aged man walked up onto the platform and began going over the requests listed on the board to see what needed to be done. He stood in front of the board for a moment or two scanning the various notices before plucking one off. He read it and turned to the crowd assembled at the front.
"Looks like the butcher shop is in need of a man today. Says it will probably be cleaning up or wrapping some orders. Takers for the butcher?" The man asked to the crowd after several moments, due to most people wanting to avoid the type of "cleaning up" mentioned, someone finally raised their hand.
"Alright you"ll need to be there about half past seven so you"ve got a little time."
The volunteer came up and grabbed the notice from the man and departed. The process continued on for half an hour or so and some who had later duties stayed to get something earlier in the day that they might be able to help with also. The man then moved on to a slip of clearly old paper. The request wasn"t old but the paper itself seemed ancient, knowing what it was and that they didn"t want the job, many people turned to talk to a friend or sibling. The paper of course belonged to the farmer in the town who always needed assistance of various natures most of which consisted of very tiring, time consuming labor. The reason the paper looked so old was because he never wrote up a new one and only re-used the same request sheet day after day undeterred by the not so accidental tears and smudges from those hoping to encourage a new sheet.
"Need three men to work on in the fields today, no specific duties listed as usual. Takers for the fields?" After several long moments of nobody raising their hands the man added, " we all have to take our turns doing the hard stuff some of you haven"t picked anything yet, we just need three for the day."
Seeing that nobody was raising their hands Barrek took the opportunity to do so and following his lead was Xaine. Xaine"s father always liked to wait to see what was the hardest to fill and helped there. This, of course, meant they were usually doing farm work more than the rest of the volunteers. The man nodded to Barrek and Xaine acknowledging their help, then turned back to the crowd for a third. Another man reluctantly raised his hand and muttered something under his breath. "Ah there we go that wasn"t so hard," the man on the platform replied. As Xaine and his father approached the platform to take the notice for their work the man leaned down to thank them again, " You two are always willing to help out with the hard stuff, you"re good men. And even though you two need will need to head there as soon as possible I"d suggest staying for the next request Xaine, it might interest you."
The man returned to the last request on the board for the day and turned to address the crowd. Xaine waited behind to hear what it was, wondering why he might be interested to know. " Now some of you might have thought you got away with having a free morning but this last request is quite a big one. Every able bodied individual left will need to stick around for instruction. And this request will be continuing all day today and for tomorrow as well, so anyone who finishes their tasks and feels so inclined may come back to help with the preparations for the trials."
Several cheers and gasps sounded at the mention of the trials, mostly coming from the young men and women about to participate in said trials. Xaine"s face spread in a wide grin, he was after all of the proper age to participate and was very happy to come back and help set things up if he could. He turned to follow his father to their task for the morning, gaining a new energy to push through the hard work and finish early if possible. He waved to the man on the platform in thanks as they left and went about their business.
The farm work was what it always was, tiring, long, tedious, and mostly boring. The farmer did quite a lot for the town, he raised cattle, various types of crops, and raised horses for the various uses they all needed. The horses were really the only part Xaine liked about it. It didn"t much matter what particular job he was doing with the large black equines, he loved to handle and be around them. Today his task, as it often was, was with the horses. It was a known fact that he liked being around them and as such he was placed doing work with them more times than not when he helped out at the farm. His duty for the day was to muck out the stalls, groom, and feed them. He went about his job as quickly as possible so he could spend more time with his favorite horse. As he brushed him down to extricate the excess hair and debris that accumulate, the large horse reached it"s head around behind him to scratch his back in turn. It amused Xaine that horses often seemed to want to return the favor of a good grooming. Xaine braced himself against the impact of the large animal's head, all too often he had been caught unaware by this gesture and was nearly knocked over. He went about his work and let his mind wander to the other horses he"d seen from other areas. He really liked horses in general, but they just didn"t add up to the thick necked jet black horses they raised here.
He was pulled from his reverie by the horse who was scratching his back. As his head went down he caught the scent of something tasty and started sniffing around Xaine"s satchel trying to open it up with his nose and large lips. Xaine stopped his grooming and switched the coarse brush to his other hand so he could bat the horse away with his dominant one.
"Keep out of there will you? You"ll get what you want eventually but if I leave you to your own devices you"ll have the rest of my lunch too." The horse moved its head back and shook its mane, exhaling loudly in the way horses do. Xaine smiled at it, this was his favorite horse after all but he did feel a little guilty for constantly bringing him apples when he came to visit. He knew those were supposed to be treats for rewarding them after unpleasant procedures that had to be performed for the horses safety and health.
"Oh fine, here you go" Xaine reached in his satchel and pulled out a large green apple he"d picked specifically for this occasion, and handed it to the animal. With a loud crunch the apple was taken and savored by the animal. Xaine patted the horse on the neck. "I"ve already got a name picked out for you boy, when I get you that is. None of this blacky nonsense". In reality Xaine thought it was kind of funny that the owner called all of the horses blackey since all of them were black, and the tradition was not to officially name them until they had their permanent owner. Not much after Xaine heard his name called from down near the stable entrance. Barrek was standing in the doorway waiting.
"Time to head out son," he said with a wave. Xaine replaced the tools he used, locked up the stall and headed to meet his father. "We done for the day?" He asked his father when he reached the door. "Yeah he wanted to give you a little time to enjoy the day and maybe help out with setting up the trials." Xaine looked at the horizon seeing the sun low on it and nearly set. "I doubt we will be back in time for that," he chuckled. The farm owner often tried to keep them for as long as possible and never seemed to know when the day was over. "That"s true but you know with the trials comes other entertainment, and I hear Marin might be along tonight, maybe we can catch him."
That definitely caught Xaine"s attention, Marin was traveling merchant that liked to stop by and sell goods every now and then, and he never missed a crowd as big as the ones that came with the trials. However, it wasn"t so much the goods that Xaine was interested in as much as the stories he brought with him. Since he traveled all over the world he also seemed to have the best stories to tell- exciting encounters, mysterious figures, and at night, the creepy dark stories that all the younger generation loved. "Well then we"d better catch up to Maez if the merchant really is in tonight he won"t want to miss it."
At that they left the farm and headed over to the event grounds where the different stalls, platforms, and arenas were being erected for the coming events. As he suspected, most everyone there was setting things in a way they could last through the night so they could pick up the next day and continue. That way they didn"t have to start over the next day. Xaine searched the crowd for his friend and upon finding his location he walked up to the other boy.
"You didn"t make it time to help set-up," Maez said as he stood up from the wooden frame he was working on, satisfied that it would last.
"Yeah you know how the farm work is- takes all day! Had we finished early I"m not sure how much help I would have been anyway, I"m thoroughly spent. But at least I didn"t miss everything." Maez looked up at the event grounds to see if there was anyone actually still working, finally deciding that nobody was he turned back to Xaine. "You"re not going to try to work by firelight are you?" Xaine let a smile cross his face at his friends confusion and at the information he was about to share. "No of course not, but on our way over my father and I spotted a particular traveler, likes to sell goods, maybe tell a story or two."
"Marin"s here?! That"s fantastic! Where is he? I hope he"s got some good ones this year." Xaine pointed to a fire with a few people already gathered near it in the distance. "The usual spot, let's get going I don"t want to miss anything and he"s already started."