The sun rose over Mir. It was a quaint little haven, nestled against the border between Bruke and Ryn, separated by the Ojun. The boatman, Lochran, obsessed over his ferry, kept it so pristine that even Hroamn Dasc would be envious at seeing His face in those polished dark timbers. Lochran would grow so angry whenever somebody from the village came to ask if he would take them over to Ryn, to that bright, wild landscape. “I’ll toss you across,” he’d say, but even he grew wanting at times when the wind shifted and he could hear their music upon it. Even he would feel wanderlust, if only a moment before he returned to maintaining his ferry, waiting for business so he could refuse again.
But no one ever came to Bruke. No one ever needed to use his ferry nor spend a moment in that tiny haven. It was locked away in Bruke’s most southern point of its forest, the King’s Reach, lost to time and memory. They didn’t need anyone; being so close to Ryn, its wind carried its worlac berries and diasun seeds to their shores. Game was plentiful, and the wind, also, tamed the grissun spiders, allowing their silk to be harvested and spun for clothes and other, sturdier needs. They didn’t only have the boons of Ryn, though. Bruke’s mighty wood made strong, enduring homes. Not even a forgotten kettle overnight could hope to burn those aged timbers. It, also, could keep an edge, and made quick work of the stone in the quarry a bit north of the town, already clacking away in the dawn.
There were only six houses in the haven, with each having a half acre between them, all pointed inwards towards the well at its center. Lochran’s was the closest to the pier, built in a way that seemed to block access to it but still offer an easy enough path, while the house beside it belonged to the elder of the town, Linde. Her husband, Raphael, passed four winters before, and she wasn’t looking the greatest. Be that as it may, she still had the sweetest smile that warmed more than balmiest of summers and was more welcome than the first songbird of Spring. In the two across, built along the road out of town, there was Julius and his wife Deitre, and Dorin. Julius and Deitre hoped that their daughter, Bree, would have settled with Dorin, but, like so many before, she left. Dorin was the loner type, anyways, and preferred to be down in the mine than worry about whoever was waiting for him at home. If the gods wanted him to be with someone, they would come to the village.
Then there were the two outer houses. One stood empty, once belonging to the poet Hilda. She left for Ryn two winters before, finally drawn by their music, and, with it, taking Mir’s scholar. The other house had the most recent addition to the town, Naomi and her son, Firenze. Who was sleeping in this day.
“Wake up, sleepyhead,” she said, her voice far too soft for the harshness it rung with. Have mercy for the poor mother; this was the fourth day in a row he had done so. She put her hands on her hips, ruffling her soft yellow dress, and glared down her small, pointy nose at the slugabug. He was face down in the cot, buried in the silk pillow, but quickly jumped out as she rapped his bum with the wooden spoon. “Come on! Up and at ’em.”
“H-hey! I’m up I’m u-ah!” He began, but fell over his own feet, landing on his bare derrier. The wood thunked, as did his head on the bed behind, rubbing it and its shaggy blond top. He normally kept it short; rather, his mother kept it short, but she grew a bit more lenient on it over the last few moons. He spent the last sixteen years with it clean; she didn’t see the harm in letting him try it out. That didn’t mean she didn’t harp at him for taking care of it. His hair was a splitting image of hers, after all, but that and his soft, green eyes were where the similarities ended. She was a shorter, fairer lass, where it seemed even a strong breeze would keel her over, but he knew better. He knew that she packed more a punch than a Lurin Boar, and was far more accurate. And willing. Which was why he really couldn’t afford to keep sitting there.
Firenze jumped to his feet again, easily two heads over her. He wasn’t anywhere near as thin, but still didn’t have the bulkiest build. Even Lochran, in his graying years, had more width on him. Under his mother’s glare, though, he still felt two feet tall, especially with her wielding that spoon.
“Hurry up and get your knickers on,” she said, waving it at his hair. “You need to rinse your hair before you hurry on to work today.”
“Ah, mom,” he whined, and winced as she cracked that spoon in her other hand.
“Don’t you try that, young man. How many days now? It’s a wonder Dorin hasn’t come in and thrown you over his shoulder yet.”
“I know, mom, and I’m sorry-”
“Stop with the bellyaching and get moving.”
He nodded, and walked around her, heading for the door... only to stop and walk backwards to her. The house was little more than a large, open room with a small closet off to the right, with two cots pushed against its wall and a kitchen and fireplace taking up the left. The floor was covered in soft pelts, still rather fresh, cleaned not even a moon before and lain upon the dark planks. On the one closest to the beds was a pair of brown trousers as well as a stained white shirt. His shoes, a simple pair of fur slips, were outside the door, but he would worry about them after paying the well a visit –and putting on his pants, of course.
The dust and stone of the town was warm by the time he stepped out in it, the birds singing away as bugs buzzed in the forest around. It was a warm day, with a smattering of clouds in the sky to mar the soft blue heavens. The wind whispered through the thick forest, bringing with it the scent of timber and wildflowers, stirring him out of his sluggishness before the cold water finished it. It ran down his back, making him gasp and splutter. It dribbled across his young face, still a few years away from adulthood shaping it into the chiseled man the soft clay was slowly becoming. He couldn’t even grow a beard yet, nor a mustache, which Julius heckled him on to no end. Somedays he wished he left with Bree, but that would have only added to Julius’ ire. Though he never had those feelings for her, he was still protective of his “little girl”.
He huffed, the first sound he could make after being roused by that cold spray, remembering how that “little girl” knocked him out. His head still ached from that branch; the first two weren’t so bad, but then she snapped back on the third... How was she doing now? Did she make it to Heavansward? Had she been able to get an audience with King Eren... did she finally live the dream they had for so long, that so many of the others wanted in that haven?
Did she become a knight... He huffed again, and threw on his shirt. The water on his back had dried enough, his hair at least cleaner than it was. It was only going to be ruined again by the time he returned home, but it was a small price to pay. If he was going to be a knight someday, he needed to accept his hair long, for it to be a flowing, majestic mane, and properly maintained.
But it wasn’t a mane just yet. It was little more than scruff, hanging down in his face as he made his way out of the village and to the quarry. He passed Deitre and Linde along the way, gossiping as they battered the rugs clean of dust. Linde matched her stroke per stroke, not letting up on those fur skins. Firenze waved to them; they simply shook their heads, urging him to hurry along. His fur slips slapped on the stone path, given haste by those two, and he went under the town’s arch, the road giving way to pounded dirt.
The quarry wasn’t too far from town, but it was still a good jog. Though the foliage was dense, there never was any fear from the local wildlife. It was as if they, too, wanted nothing more than to wilder away, to rest in the dream of time immemorial. It always pained him to take the life of a relaxing deer or a sleeping boar, but they needed to eat, as well. They needed to survive, and there was always more of nature’s bounty abound. In truth, Firenze was thankful for the life he had... and wanting. There was never challenge in Mir, never hardships. Even the coldest of winters wasn’t so bad because of the Ojun. Fish were always plentiful in those serene swells. He always wondered what life would have been like wherever his mother originally came from, where she and his father originally called home. However, no matter how many times he asked her, she wouldn’t budge.
“Be grateful for what we have, dear,” she would say, patting the only memento from his father, a pair of enchanted pata. They hung above the fire place, their black-iron gauntlets drinking those flames into its dark top, filling the crossing silver lines with its heat. There was no separating those hand covers from the blades, all made from one, solid piece. More silver wrapped about the base of the swords, though, and was embossed along the middle. The edges, all four, were kept clean and sheer, both as long as his legs. He took them down more times than he ever wanted her to know and slipped them on, feeling their soft, wool lined interior and the firm, hickory handles inside. Whenever he gripped them, he heard a small pop; no matter how hard he swung them, he could not let go, and they would not budge from his arms. Only when his fingers lost all contact to the handles did it pop again and he was able to put them back in their black scabbards. Everytime, though, she would walk over to them, pat them, and repeat that line. “Be grateful for what we have.”
He was. Firenze was thankful and knew he was blessed for everything. But that didn’t quench his desires. It didn’t sate those that came and left before him, and he could feel their call, their pull to join them. His dream was not here in this quiet little haven but out there, making his name, seeing the world and becoming something... grander. He felt he was meant for something greater. He knew he was, and he knew it was time.
The forest thinned a bit, cut away for timber, and he could see through the clearing the opening to the quarry. It was little more than a hole in the ground, but at least had a clearing, lined with laid stone. His pickaxe sat at the entrance, scooped up as he slid down the layered steps, his head just grazing the ceiling until it opened to the mines. He didn’t know how old they were, how deep they truly went, but he knew Dorin did most of it. His pick thundered through the softly lit caverns, his grunts always right before, cracking into the stone. He was on the third level, where he found a silver vein the day before, gathering as much as he could of the metal from the harsh stone.
Firenze hummed a soft tune, walking up to him. He might have been tall, but Dorin put him to shame. In every way; the man was more mountain than human. His shoulders, alone, seemed to be made of boulders, his arms thick stalactites while his legs stalagmites, meeting in the center of a trunk of a body, all made of a rich clay color. His hair dared not touch that perfect surface, gleaming in the torch light, while his blue eyes glistened, tearing away the dusk that surrounded.
Dorin righted himself, groaning as his back popped, accepting his pickaxe across them, and smiled as Firenze approached.
“Finally awake, I see,” He said, his voice far too soft for such a giant of a man. Firenze had a deeper voice, at least, but he could only dream of matching the power behind it, the authority, the respect, the attention it demanded. “Naomi wasn’t too pleased.”
“She came to talk to you, huh?”
“At the break of dawn. She ‘apologized’ on your behalf and offered breakfast. I declined, but enjoyed the company all the same. She has the gift of gab I haven’t seen in years. Alas, I had to get to work, so I asked her not to be too harsh on you. You’ve been working hard every single day.”
“Yeah, though not in the way she suspects... You didn’t tell her, did you?”
“No, but she’s got wit. She knows something is up and raked me over the coals in her own, sweet way. You should tell her soon.”
“I am. Tonight’s the night.”
Dorin chuckled, and brought the pickaxe down from his shoulders, holding it just under the pick’s end. He held it firmly in both hands, the rounded tip pointed towards Firenze, raising his own.
“Then we best make today your final test. If you can land a hit on me, I won’t be waiting at the entrance of town all night.”
The halls rang with their sticks, clashing again and again. It was only cut by Firenze’s gasps and winces, knocked to the ground again and again only to pick himself back up. He would not falter, not now. The last few moons, the increased sessions against the retired General Dorin all built up to this day, his day. No matter how battered and bruised, he would not give up. He will land that one hit. He will make it out in the world, becoming legendary, and make his mother proud. He will make them all proud.