Jano - The Journey Begins - Book 1

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CHAPTER FIVE - Valuable Lessons Learnt

Kefa loomed ahead. Loomed was the only word that could describe it. The island was just an outcrop of sandstone rising from the sea. The west side a wall straight up for hundreds of feet, the ocean bashing itself senseless against the base of the cliff. Except for a harbour on the eastern side the coast was cliffs. There was no way to land anywhere except at the port of Lorne.

The way to the port was the most treacherous of any and no captain, including Kolmin, would dare it unless an experienced pilot was aboard and then only with the calmest of conditions. The day was ending and a sea anchor was dropped to keep them about ten miles to the sou’ east. The tide would be high at seven bells in the morning watch and that was when they would enter. In the distance a small sail craft was heading towards them. This would be the pilot, as Kremer had explained their arrival could have been seen from fifty miles out and there was a constant ship watch from the middle of the island.

Kefa was about fifteen miles in area and almost a perfect circle. It was for the most past pure sandstone of the finest quality. The people who lived on the island mined it and so had their forebears since history began. There was no way an outsider could obtain mining rights without the express permission of the court of the inner set on the recommendation of the Kefa elders.

In know history only five new leases had been granted. The people were kind and civilised; surprisingly so for such remote folk. The elders held council over the affairs of the island and their word was law.

This was truly a land on the edge of the world. Jano had heard many stories about the people of Kefa. The blond hair and blue eyes so rare mongst the realm. Kefa was also known for their giants with most island men reaching six and a half feet. Dannid was just such a giant and to the best part of Jano’s memory he could not remember seeing anyone as tall as he.

As the pilot boat approached Jano watch with awe as the three men bought her around and docked to leeward. These men were giants all right. Each one was Dannid’s height at least and one, the eldest and the master pilot taller again.

Jano was going the way of all tall men. A strapping six feet and on his way further but these men made him feel tiny. They climbed aboard and Kolmin met them with a subdued friendship that many such encounters guaranteed. The group, including Kremer and Dannid, retired to the main cabin as Jano and Samin tended the boat and climbed into the riggings to try and get a better view of the island ahead.

The weather was fresh but blowing from the east and bringing with it the warmth of the landmass of the archipelago. As the night fell lights flickered from the island ahead and sound of friendly talk wafted up from the deck hatches above the long room mingled inexorably with the scent of sweet spices and honey mead.

The ship drifted into sleep with the stars lighting the world like a million Mage candles.

* * * * *

The next morning the wind had veered and was blowing gently from astern. The crew rigged a jib and a small topsail and she made slow yet controlled progress towards the leeward harbour.

Many small boats bobbed on the gentle swell as the island’s inhabitants made use of the sea. Some were fishermen but most sailed for pleasure, a past time actively enjoyed by all; there really wasn’t much else to do on an island that size. Jano watched the brightly coloured racing craft as they ducked and weaved around the ship. Three people crewed these sweet little boats that seemed mostly sail and would leap from the water with power and speed.

Sailing leisurely to port and making sure not to luff on her was a fleet of larger cruisers with brightly coloured spinnakers flying and the decks agog with happy faces. The more Jano saw of the sea the more he liked it.

The passage from the lay-off anchorage to the first of the offshore reefs took about three hours with no great rush. The tide was running and the pilot had judged his time well. Elvira made good water at the main reef and rounded the headland into the natural amphitheatre that was the port of Kefa.

The cliffs loomed out of the morning mist and seemed to disappear overhead. Directly off the bow were the harbour and the dock lands. The docks ran the length of the northern cliff face and consisted of buildings and warehouses literally carved from the sandstone that made the island. Jano could see avenues and streets criss-crossing the cliff face winding their way to the top and to the town proper. All up the cliff houses and buildings perched seeming to be extruded from the very rock. Nothing could prepare anyone for this sight, nowhere else was such engineering undertaken.

They docked beside a pier made of sandstone, wood was a luxury here and stone that would have been worth a man’s wage for a year in the reaches, used to replace it. The people of Kefa were tall and strong. What’s more Jano could feel the goodness here. For the first time since leaving home he felt a quieting of the spirit. This place was good.

The men of the ship were all busy and Samin and Jano were given leave to explore until the afternoon and the next tide. They didn’t need much prompting and ran off into the mass of people filling the morning streets of this sandstone monolith.

The smell on the air was mostly fish. Market stalls were selling fish of all types, small open fires were being used to warm a fish stock that was sold by the mug, crabs, shell fish and large thick steaks more like meat than fish flesh were heated on metal plates and served with a creamy sauce. The boys bought some and sat on some bales at the entrance to the main wharf.

An old beggar sat across from them, legs crossed and back bent, his clothes old and dirty with the dust of many years of wandering, his large felt hat covering his face and shoulders. A small tin cup sat at his feet and he was playing sweetly from a small flute-like pipe. The music was a sort of sea-shanty but laced with a melody that Jano found haunting.

Few people paid the man much attention with a passer-by occasionally dropping a small coin into the cup with a metallic counter-point to the tune. Jano reached into his tunic pocket and found a small silver piece. He walked to the fishmonger and purchased a large piece of Silver Fin, a dark skinned deep water fish from the cool seas to the south, a piece of flat bread and a cup of broth. He walked up to the beggar and knelt beside him.

“I don’t have much money to spare, elder, but playing such as yours must make you hungry.”

Jano placed the small feast beside the man, his speech was that of respectful younger to elder. He sprang to his feet as the old man stopped playing and looked up. The face beneath the large brimmed hat was old and wizened the eyes a deep blue shining warmly in the morning sun. He put the flute down and picked up the stoneware mug in both hands using the heat to warm his palms from the chill of the young morning.

“Thank you young man, money can only ever be a gift,” he said with a softness that most people passing, even the nearest, would not hear “food is always shared with kindness and with kindness I thank you for your concern.”

The boy sat back on his haunches as the old man drank from the mug. After a while the man turned to Jano, he put his hand on the boy’s arm and said

“Your journey is just starting young Hue.” Jano startled at the sound of his “real” name, the old man tightened his grip ever so slightly and Jano felt a warmth fill him, a serenity descended over him like a warm eiderdown on a cold night

“I am sad to feel your home sickness; it is a shame that you have had your youth stolen from you.” The man let his arm go and took a piece of the fish, offering some to Jano as he did.

“But these times require sacrifices from us all. You will travel a long way, see so much and your life will be as full as fifty others. I feel your heart is good and your powers are as strong as I knew they would be.”

Jano’s head swam as he realised who this man was, or at least who he thought he was, the scroll in his chest sash warming him like hot coals

“But you must beware, the dark is getting stronger, it knows there is a champion coming, it will do everything it can to find you and stop you. You must be strong Jano; you have to learn to be strong. The Masters of the Inner Set will show you some of the ways; you will have to learn the rest as you go. I hope you will learn them before you need them.”

The old man reached into his tunic and removed a flute similar to the one he had been playing except this one was much older and appeared to be split beyond any tuneful use, he passed it to Jano

“Take this young sir,” his voice was much louder now, some passers by turned to watch as the hurried passed. Jano took the flute; it was warm in his hand. The old man lowered his voice, “things are not as they seem Hue, be careful of your trust, use your heart, it is your strongest gift. Don’t think to much, act from your heart and keep your true skills hidden.”

The old man looked down again, the street noises that had become so muffled as they spoke broke into the spell and filled the day again, he was just a beggar again, the light was gone, normality returned. Jano went to say something but the beggar help up his hand and waved him away.

“Go away boy do you think you can own me with some stinking fish and pissy broth, away with you!”

He started playing again and Jano rose to his feet and walked back to Samin. Rubbing the flute in his palm “things are not as they seem” echoing in his thoughts.

They walked to the top of the cliffs and along the highway towards the centre of the island. There was little or no agriculture and most of the cartage was being performed by tall island men pushing a squat four-wheeled barrow. Some of them were large enough as to require the services of three or four men, most one man’ers will all this manual labour being performed with a pleasantness of spirit that Jano sensed was unique in the ’Reaches.

They found the main quarries and watching in awe at the ant men working in the depths of the great open cut, carving the finest of the fine stone sought the length and breadth of the Sinterland’s. Jano was amazed at the rubble strewn on the sides of the road, rocks the size of a hand that would have been worth a cow in the Sou’ Reaches. This was his first understanding of the laws of supply and demand.

He had started to pick up the best pieces as they walked filling his hands and his sack, almost greedily at first until he was overloaded, then he started to swap some of the pieces, as he found better; his appreciation of the value of these things outweighing his common sense. Finally, after much light-hearted baiting from Samin realised the silliness of this course and threw them all away, commenting as he did that he had just thrown away a stable of the finest milking cows.

A passer-by watching this stopped and offered the boys a drink from a skin hanging from the side of his cart.

“Well look at the off-islanders,” his accent was sweet and melodic, not an once of severity in it, “they have yet to realise that a man cannot eat rock.” He laughed aloud; the boys joined him, Jano a little self-conscious at the futile greed that had overtaken him for the briefest of times.

The man, an elder of probably sixty years was balding with skin the colour of tanned hide. His face was bearded and he wore the “uniform” of the islanders, flannel pants with leather seat and knees, rough serge shirt and leather waistcoat. He sat with the boys for a while, quizzing them of their travels and stories. He oh’ed and arh’ed at all the reports both offered, all the time passing the skin and drinking the sweet meed inside. He had told the boys that this was “soft” mead and was not alcoholic. Jano told the man his cover story, once again feeling the slightest twinge of guilt as he did so.

After about a quarter of an hour they rose to their feet and started to walk back to the port. Samin and Jano took turns in pulling the cart that, considering it was loaded to the brim with the purest sandstone was as light as a feather. Travvallar, the elder, had introduced himself earlier but both boys kept the first person respectful “Elder” in their speech, had explained that the reason for this wonder was not magic but simply the use of bearings turned from the finest of the lower rock. The metal axles were running on the finest sandstone as bushes. Any friction was removed by the use of butterfat grease and the whole load balanced on the short wheel-based carts. He had marvelled when the boys both expressed amazement at this system when he considered it so commonplace. Still, as Jano now understood, this man had no appreciation of how much such bearings would cost elsewhere.

At the entrance to the town near the top of the cliffs the path forked and the man bid the boys farewell thanking them for their welcomed help. As he did he reached into the depths of the cart and handed them both two pieces of black-lode. This was the most exotic of the entire world’s stone. Jano looked at it with his mouth open, the old man laughed as he walked away, turning and waving before he disappeared into the town.

Samin handed his piece to Jano. “It’s of no use to me Jano, just more weight on a small ship.” If there was to have been any lesson for Jano that day it was in the words of the Mage “nothing is as it seems.”

Jano looked at the stone; enough to buy a farm in the village and stock it for a winter. Yet it was just so much rock to these people, harvested to trade for the things they needed or found important.

To Samin it was nothing more than a trinket that had little or no use aboard a ship on the high seas. As Jano stared at it he saw less and less of the materialistic value and just saw stone. “You can’t eat rock” echoed in his thoughts. He shrugged and pushed the stone into his sack with a careless gesture that until a minute prior he could never have done. All of a sudden any materialistic bonds that may have bound his soul seemed to be exorcised. For a young man such lessons are strange but Jano felt a joy in the experience. Perhaps this was part of a spell that was weaved that morning, perhaps this was simply a lesson that any normal young man could learn, he didn’t know for sure only time would tell.

* * * * *

They made the ship in plenty of time and helped with the rigging and loading. Dannid was below decks and the boys took a late lunch with him after most of the tasks had been performed and she was ready to sail, waiting for the tide to turn.

Jano took the stone from his sack and handed to his guardian. Dannid nodded at the gift.

“Do you know what you have just given me apprentice?” Jano nodded as he bit heartily into a piece of hot spicy flat bread covered in tomato and herbs.

“Just some rock master, and do you know it isn’t half as good as this bread”. The giant threw his head back and as he laughed a giant’s laugh slapped his ward on the back not hard but enough to make the boy slump forward.

“My Gods the boy is mad” he laughed some more with Samin and Jano joining in.

“But a wise man is mad; he has to be because wisdom’s simplicity has to be explained away as craziness. After all what would the world be with no,” Dannid gestured with over-emphasis towards the stone, “appreciation of the finer things of life”.

The three of them laughed and joked for a while then the sound of the bell from the deck heralded all stations. They quickly cleared the table and made their way above decks. Dannid put his big arm around Jano’s shoulder and gave his the gentlest of hugs.

“A lesson well learnt Jano, now you understand one of the secrets of a Roamer, as my father told me and I now tell you, ‘A man will never go hungry if he has no riches’”.

Jano understood the true meaning of the lesson now. He had heard the expression before but would never be rude and say that he didn’t understand, after all Dannid derived great delight from sharing these secrets with him and Jano did to, but, now, he understood. The only time anything is valuable is when you are not prepared to part with it; the moment you do it stops being worth anything.

In the many years to come, during his travels near and far Jano would touch the riches of the known world but he never again craved for anything, always prepared to give it away for the smallest of considerations usually a bed and some food.

As the years passed the lesson would become lost in many adventures but today, as he ate the flat bread and handed Dannid enough black stone to provide a marriage dowry, he learnt the true worth of things, he never forgot it. As he sat in the rigging with the sea breeze blowing his hair and the sun setting behind lighting the island in an orange glow. His hand rubbed the flute the Mage had handed him that morning. The multi-coloured craft racing beside and in front sang as they slapped and jumped over the light swell. Jano considered that in his pouch and his chest sash he held his worldly possessions yet he felt like a king.

* * * * *

She turned to port around the headland and was now in the full sea, no longer shielded by the cliffs ran into heavier water and stronger breeze. A full set of sails were set and Jano climbed down to the deck. Dannid was standing at the bow leaning on a sheet, Jano now knew that was what ropes were called on a ship. Jano walked up to the man and stood beside him. The giant turned to the boy.

“Two more days, young Jano, and we are at the main port.” He turned and put his arm around the boy’s shoulder just as he had done earlier that afternoon.

“I love you like a son and I will do all I can to protect you. Alas I will have to leave you in two days and I will not rest fitful until you have done what needs to be done and you are home at my forge.” A tear ever so slight had formed in the man’s left eye. Just as soon as it started it disappeared and Dannid blustered his good-hearted bellow, let him go and strode off towards the cabin and some hard meed.

That was the closest Dannid had ever come to Jano and he was both happy and sad. Happy because he loved the man like he did his father and sad because he knew that his journey was only just beginning. The maker only knew when he would be able to work at the forge again, perhaps never, who knew. Jano found it hard to believe that it was only a few weeks since all this started it seemed like a lifetime already.

Perhaps it would take a lifetime to finish; only time would tell.

* * * * *

The next day saw the sky bright and clear with Elvira making way sweetly through a soft sea. Only a day and a half was left before they would reach the main harbour of the inner set and a day on the road before the white walls of the capital. Dannid sat quietly next to the boy, both looking out over the bow, looking into the future both near and far. He put his hand on Jano’s shoulder.

“’Tis a day till we dock boy and then you must make your way to the capital. I cannot come with you. I’m sure that the news of our episode with the constables will have beaten us and I had best stay on board and travel to the North. There are friends I have there who will help me in doing something about all this,” he gestured with his hands, obviously looking for an adjective to describe what he saw as an attack on the very fabric of his existence, “contemptuous state of affairs.”

Jano had sensed in his teacher melancholia of late and now understood it was caused by the realisation that something would have to be done. The friends to the north were most likely the Kentish Lords, part of the Casal Island’s group, an area known for its primitive culture, at least when compared to the opulence of the Inner Set, but renowned for honest and fair play.

Dannid had often spoken of his time in the North, learning the crafts and arts of these men among men. The Mid Lander’s treated them with distain and this was because first, the Kentish had no need or desire to align themselves with any of the power factions currently driving the political engines of the Sinterland’s and second, these rough handsome people were the cultural stock of the known world.

These warrior poets and soldier artists could beat any man in war, love and art. Because of their unassuming nature and ascetic social structure; a large number of tribes forming a loose and ever moving Dukedom; people of lesser talents in all these things latched onto the rudeness of their dress, language and lifestyle; encouraging prejudice and misunderstanding.

If the Kentish warrior was not such a force to reckon with Dannid had assured Jano that the race would have been eliminated or integrated generations ago. Instead they had stubbornly existed as they had done for hundreds of generations, all of which could be studied in the family scrolls, with whole tribes able to trace their reliance on each other back to the distant beginning of the current times.

Dannid was going north that was for sure. Jano had known that they would soon part but this was the first time the realisation of it had weight. The big man must have felt the boy’s thoughts and put an arm around his shoulder pulling him in under his massive arm.

“Buggar it lad, I love you like my own son and the Maker knows that I would not leave you alone with the burden of your journey, I can’t even say I understand the full meaning of it all. I feel the heaviness in the air and know that it’s bad. Why you have been chosen I can’t say and I would give my life gladly to protect you as I know you would for me.”

Jano felt his heart grow heavy and his eyes started to water in response to the man’s simply honesty; love.

“But this is something you are going to have to do alone. I will impede your progress and I cannot be responsible for bringing attention to you. I will try to keep in touch but I know now that I have my own mission, what we saw happening in the South Reaches has not been a part of our society for a hundred generations and it must be stopped, perhaps we are both charged with the same quest, to root out the cause of this cancer and rid us of it.”

Dannid stood up and spat into the water. The spell was broken, the seriousness of his thoughts and the intensity of his love hidden from every one.

“Come on boy, get your master tea and sweet cakes” he raised his voice for the benefit of the fore deck crew “before I take a foot to your arse.”

He playfully swept his leg at Jano who had sprung to his feet and had jumped over a coil of ropes and was sprinting back towards the companionway to the galley. The men laughed good-naturedly at the show although Jano knew that this was possibly the last time he would have with the man and he felt sad, sadder than ever before, perhaps for the first time in his life cursing the power that made him gifted, causing him to leave his youth behind and catapult him into manhood. Such thoughts are a little adult for a boy of his short years but that was how he felt in essence if not character.

The rest of the journey was uneventful; Jano and Samin had started the process of saying goodbye in the morning of the last day. Samin had been moody and had snapped at Jano as he set the tinder in the brazier. Jano had barked back with the pair of them storming out of the galley and pouting at different ends of the ship for half a watch.

Finally they were reconciled at morning change with each apologising and wrapping their arms around each other in the awkward way young men, still unsure of their sexuality will do, as they explore the way men can hold other men as a testament to their friendship, in a totally masculine way.

Samin admitted that he would miss his new friend and Jano declaring that he would love to stay aboard. Dannid had constructed a story that he was travelling to visit his old dying master in the North and had apprenticed Jano to a Kusso school in the highlands beyond the white city for two years, this allowed the circumstances a pedigree and removed any curiosity any interested party would have.

As the day moved on the horizon filled with land and slowly sounds and smells of same filled the air. Fishing boats began to appear and move past and sails were furled as boat speed was decreased. Just after noon a pilot came aboard and took tea with the captain and first mate, soon after taking the deck as she moved into the shallow waters of the offshore reefs that were the hallmark of this part of the ocean.

Elvira sailed a crooked course as the pilot, an old man with coal black hair and leathery skin expertly feed directions and shouted commands to the crew. Jano and Samin were in the gods, sitting on the top sheets watching the land unfold before them.

Jano could see the coast and further inland the mountains of the Errena ranges. He knew that the White City was at the foothills of the nearest peak but it was too far to see any sign of the fabled white walls and red roofs.

Samin pointed out the harbour mouth and started to explain the different fishing boats and their catches. Jano drank in the information like a man heady with meed until a shout from the deck bought him back to reality. Dannid was standing with the captain and called for the boys to come down.

The captain took Jano by the arm and hugged him roughly and walked away, not saying a word except for an almost silent grunt. Dannid smiled and walked away as well. This was the closest a sea man came to saying thank you, the behaviour was strange to Jano but of late he had come very good at accepting strange behaviour for its own sake and felt the warmth and camaraderie that it had expressed.

Samin followed and the boys embraced again, this time stronger than before and a little more like men. Samin went back to the rigging and climbed up ready to stow the Jib.

Jano had already packed his gear and leaned over the deck rail as the harbour moved closer. He could now hear the voices of the stevedores in the distance and the gently ringing of the bells from the harbour buoys. A number of land birds flew beside the sea gulls as they darted and soared on the offshore thermals. Dannid walked up beside the boy and leaned next to him.

“Well, boy, soon you will be ashore. You have made some good friends on board this little boat. Remember that a man can count his friends on one hand. Any more than that and you cannot afford the time to honour them.

“You are about to see things and live things that many people can only dream about. Keep your standards high and remember a true friend doesn’t need you to be anything other than what you are.” The giant smiled sweetly at him and continued.

“Let you power guide you always. You have awareness that strips your years, run with it and always be its slave. I have no doubt that you are bound for greatness, perhaps not in a material sense but more spiritually, I’ve known this since I first saw you work at the souling of your first blade.”

“Jano remember that good is good, nothing else, remember the Kusso teaching I have given you and keep the one true goal, “the sharpness of the blade” in mind at all times” he paused for a moment, as if struggling to find the words “I can’t stress the importance that you stay on the straight path, I feel evil around us more and more, you have to guard yourself, you are like a lantern in a pitch black night, you have to learn to lower the wick until it just glows, practice it at all times.”

“There is not much more I can say because I only understand a little of the gift, up till now I thought that it was wholly good, now I can feel a dark side to it. Be careful of it all and remember that you have been charged with a task, be true to it and make sure you stay sharp.”

With that all the lessons and preparations Dannid had been able to give him had ended. He had graduated. There was nothing more Dannid could do to help him, from now he was on his own until the next teacher came. He felt a foreboding, for the first time realising that he had no idea of what he was meant to do or how he would recognise who and what to trust when trust was needed. For the first time the realisation that he may never see his home, family and friends again hit him like a rock. He felt grief yet underneath a stirring of something that felt like excitement.

This excitement was the start of the feeling of adventure that would be a major part of the rest of Jano’s life. He had no name for this feeling, perhaps many years later he would find one but as this graceful old lady of the sea moved into the dock and gently berthed against the cane fenders of the pier he felt a stirring in his soul.

Dannid had been right, there was a sense of evil, he could smell it on the air but there was also a song he could hear. It was calling his name like a siren in one of the sea tails he had heard of late, this was the energy of the gift, it was strong here, much stronger than the evil counterpoint he caught whiffs of every now and then.

The gift was strong here, he could feel it stimulating his skin, it was never like this in the reaches, then it occurred to him that the other feeling, the bad one was what he was used to, of course, this new sensation was what the elders with the gift talked about, Old Magla had said that the gift was weak, Jano had only know the other side, for the first time he was experiencing the strength of the gift.

He now understood with crystal clarity how bad things were. Never in his life had he felt the reward of the gift. Never had he experienced what the old ones called ‘the scent of the right’, all his life the evil had been constant. It wasn’t a counterpoint in a new key, the new power was pushing it back. He wasn’t aware of an evil in the background; the evil he had constantly lived with was being over-ridden.

His head swam as he drank of it; all his life he had been in the dark, for the first time the sun was shining; at a time that the sorrow of leaving his friends should have had him being broken-hearted he was exulted with a rebirth, as if scales had been pushed from his eyes.

He saw his friends in a different light, his love for them extrapolated in the radiance of the gift, and he swam on the power…

* * * * *

A screaming sound broke through his thoughts like fabric ripping, the other sound swelled to a pandemonium. He was in the open, he had let his guard down, drunk of the power and now in seconds it was gone, closer and closer the sound came.

Jano pulled his thoughts back into his body and grabbed for the talisman in his pocket; the loadstone was warm as if charged in the light of the gift. His only conscious thought was to hide his mind from the eye at the heart of the noise.

A Mage glow flew from the stone and he could see the shimmering green as it engulfed his body like a personal fog. All the sounds both real and surreal were muffled in the fog and Jano imagined that he heard a voice yelling, screaming; cursing in the old speak. He couldn’t make out the words but realised that they meant he had been lucky.

This was the second time he had almost been seen, the first his friend had saved him, this time his gift. The fog cleared, unseen to all save any other high-gifted, and there were no such people nearby.

Jano now had control of his thoughts again. The sweetness was returning, the power re-establishing itself but not quite as strong as before, the undercurrent more audible, more like the sounds that had filled his Mage thoughts forever.

This power was strong, it could break through the light at the centre of the world, the gift was pushed aside like old curtains, he shivered, all this had taken a few moments yet it seem eternal; the struggle of good and bad; eternal.

* * * * *

The normality of the day returned. The ship berthed and Jano did the rounds wishing all a good and fair voyage. Dannid and Samin stood at the gangway. Dannid hugged the boy until he was sure his back would break, not saying a word and finally released him and sighed proudly. Samin put out his hand in the manner of a man; the boys gripped fore arms and held the stance for a full minute, each starring into the eyes of the other in adult salute of the Sinterland’s.

They broke and smiled at each other. Jano reached into the folds of his cloak and removed his short knife. The one they had made in his tenth year, the one they had made together as Dannid introduced Jano to the ways of the Kusso.

He knelt in front of Samin and touched the blade to his forehead and quickly cut his index finger with the razor sharp tip. He handed the blade to Dannid, who immediately understood what Jano wanted. Kusso custom would have it that the maker of the blade could draw his blood and offer the spirit of the steel to a friend, a friend that one would have as a brother. This brother, if he wished the same, would allow a Kusso master to cut the same finger and the two friends could bond their blood in the Kusso cloth of the masters belt and bond as brothers. The crew had heard of these things and to a man stopped to watch.

Dannid took the knife and held it in his left hand quickly pulling off his rough black belt. Dannid muttered a few words in old speak and turned to Samin. Custom and ceremony would not allow Jano to ask Samin to be a party to this lest a refusal would offend so Dannid asked the boy if he would be Jano’s brother in life and thereafter.

Samin nodded and Dannid asked the boy to hold up his knife hand quickly cutting the index finger he then took both their hands and held them together wrapping his belt around them.

“Friends of our friends all witness the joining of these men” he used the true “adult” man, not young man or youth “as brothers in the name of their blood and the blood of their families to come. If you fight one you fight the other, they are now as one as flesh to the Maker”.

Dannid had just spoken the ceremonial words in old speak and removed the belt. He sheathed the knife and handed to Jano, who in turn handed it to Samin. It was his now as was tradition, a symbol of the sharpness of the steel, the very soul of the Kusso teachings.

The boys embraced now as brothers and the crew cheered. Dannid thumped the pair of them on the shoulders roaring his approval.

“Now I have two worthless layabouts to protect and care for and neither of them able to sharpen a blessed blade let alone make one of the damn things.”

The crew roared with a new wave of laughter and Jano humped his bedroll with all his worldly possessions in it onto his back and walked down the gangway and down the pier.

He didn’t look back, he couldn’t because he was crying. Dannid had called him a man, he had just declared his devotion to Samin for life, and he had felt the true power of the gift for the first time. His emotions were swirling and bubbling. Today he had been born into the world of his adulthood. Today was the first day of the rest of his life.

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