The Darwin Chronicles, Book One: The Mountain Ranges

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Chapter 16

"Good morning, darling!" Eliza put her arms around him and kissed his cheek. She seemed extremely happy this morning.

"'Morning, Mom." Emmett kissed her cheek back and sat down at the table.

"I made your favorite breakfast today," His mother said brightly, indicating the pancakes and syrup on the table. They rarely had syrup.

"Thanks, Mom. What's the special occasion?" He asked, digging in.

"It's May 1st of your eighteenth year. You're a man now!" She hugged him again, squeezing him tightly. Normally he would have squirmed and told her that it hurt when she squeezed him that hard, but this time he let her.

Norie happily walked into the kitchen, a bounce in her step. "Happy birthday, Emmett!" She kissed his cheek and gave him a wrapped parcel.

"Thanks, Norie."

"Open it!" His sister sat down in the chair next to his and looked at him eagerly. Her tabby cat hopped onto his lap and purred.

"Now?"

"Yes!"

"Well, okay." He smiled and unwrapped the package. Lying in the paper was a glass figure of a red dragon, which painfully reminded him of the night his father had died. He forced the thoughts out of his brain. "This is really nice, Norie. Did you make it yourself?"

"Yes. Do you like it?"

"Of course!" He gave her a big hug, enjoying the way her face lit up in pleasure. "I'll go put it in my room right now." Emmett got up and walked to his room. He carefully put it on his bedside table, which was reserved only for sentimental objects. Isaac and his family had moved into one of the newly built houses by the square.

"I'm going out, Mom!" Emmett called. "See you later." He headed out the door.

Along the way to the square, various friends and neighbors called out birthday greetings to him. Isaac saw him in the square and jogged over to him.

"Hey, Emmett. Happy birthday, man," Isaac said, grinning widely. "First day of manhood!"

"Thanks, Isaac." Isaac clapped his hand on Emmett's shoulder and jogged off. Amelia sat on a doorstep in front of one of the houses, reading a book. She quickly closed it and stood up to greet him.

"Happy birthday, Emmett." She hugged him and smiled.

"How did you know?"

"Isaac told me." She yawned, and he noticed how weak she looked, a week since Norie had been healed. "Listen, I have something for you." She turned and dug into a little pouch she had at her side, and produced a small wooden figure.

"Thank you." He looked down at it. It was a painted figure of a brown owl.

"It's a tradition. I got a wolf from Da-from your father."

"Thank you," He repeated.

"How old are you today? Seventeen? Isaac just told me you're an adult today."

"What? No," Emmett said. "What makes you say seventeen? You become an adult when you turn eighteen."

"Oh," Amy smirked. "In Blackfire, you become an adult when you're seventeen. And all you do is be wished happy birthday?"

"Yeah. What do you expect us to do?"

"In Blackfire, we have a tradition. At the end of every month, the new young adults who have become of-age that month perform a symbolic dance, made by that month's group, channeling one of Blackfire's elements or traits. Last month it was a group of entirely girls, and they made a pretty dance symbolizing the beauty of our territory in the spring."

"What did you do when you did that?"

"Me?" Amy laughed. "I haven't done it yet. I'm only sixteen."

"Sixteen?" Emmett pondered this. "Only sixteen?" She seemed much older than she was.

"I'm turning seventeen on June 18th."

"What age do you start making your dance?"

"A year before your month. It's one of the most important things you do in your life."

"So what element of Blackfire is your group doing?"

"You'll see. We have an equal amount of girls and boys. Just ask Isaac. He's done the dance before. Last year."

"Right. Well, anyways, thank you."

"You're welcome. Happy birthday, Emmett." She stood on tiptoes and kissed his cheek. He blushed, and kept walking.

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