I donít really understand why you want to talk to me. Iím nobodyójust an apprentice in the Smithís Guild. Yes, I suppose itís unusual that Iím a Dardani tribesman, not a Caerean. But thereís no great mystery there. My mother was originally from Caere and my uncle, Lanark, is a master smith. He sponsored me into the guild. When I complete my apprenticeship, Iím going home to the plains. Iíll be the first blacksmith among the Dardani. You see, the Dardani only know how to work copper and bronze. We have to trade with the Caereans for all of our iron and steel tools and weapons. Until I finish my apprenticeship, anyway.
Whatís the best thing that has happened in my life so far? Thatís easy. Being accepted into the Smithís Guild. I really love working with iron and steel. Itís like itís in my blood. Itís almost like the metal talks to me or, well, sings to me. Sometimes, I sing along.
The worst thing thatís happened to me? Thatís easy, too. Last spring, my best friend was killed in a flash flood. I was almost killed, too. But my brother, Fenar, managed to pull me out. I had a broken arm and a couple of broken ribs, but I survived. I still canít believe Torkaz is dead. Weíd been friends since, well, since I can remember. He was always there, almost like my other half. We got into all kinds of trouble togetheróand mostly managed to get ourselves back out again. Until last spring, anyway.
My parentsómy real parentsóthink Torkazí father blames me for his death. They think Maktaz will try to get revenge because his son died. That doesnít make any sense to me. I tried to save Torkaz. I really did. But they brought me here so that Maktaz couldnít try to hurt me. You see, Maktaz is the tribeís shaman and heís responsible for the manhood tests. My parents think heíd try to use that to get even. So they brought me here to go through the manhood test in Caere, instead.
And do you know what the priests here did? They made me wade across the ocean to a barren little islet for my manhood test. I had to walk into the waves. When most nights I still dream about that wave of water crashing down on me and sweeping Torkaz away to his death. Thatís just . . . well, I guess you canít call it cruel, because they didnít know about the flash flood. They said my test was to face my fears. I donít know. Maybe some fears are just too big to faceóat least too big to face alone. Thatís the hardest thing Iíve ever had to do. It took me two tries. I . . . I just couldnít do it the first time. I had to wait on the beach all day until the tide went out again. Then I had to spend the night on that rock, because it got dark and I couldnít tell if the tide was still out or not. Maktaz couldnít have done anything worse to me.
You know, a couple of strange things happened to me on that islet. Late at night, it got really quiet, just the rhythmic slap of the waves on the rocks. And, after the moon set, the only thing I could see was the starlight on the waves. I donít know how to explain it. I got really calm. I was thinking about my family. I could almost see them. And then, suddenly, in my mind I saw this girl and . . . and it seemed like she spoke to me. She asked who I was and she told me who she was. Thekila. Thatís the name she gave. She had red hair, bright red hair. Iíve never seen anyone with red hair like that. And beautiful green eyes. Ever since then, sometimes I see her in my mind for a moment or two, usually when Iím working at the forge and singing along with the iron or steel. I know sheís just a fantasy, of course.
What was the other strange thing? Well, I guess itís related to that weird calm I felt out there. But, in some ways, I havenít felt really quite the same since I came back from that islet. I canít put my finger on it, but something has changed. Inside me. I just donít know what. Lanark says itís just becoming a man. I donít know. I think itís more than that.
How do I feel, being alone here in the city? Well, Iím not really alone. Iím staying with my aunt and uncleóLanark and Castalia. But if you want to know how I feel. Mostly Iím confused and . . . angry.
What am I angry about? After the manhood test, Lanark told me something. He told me Danar isnít really my father. Mother was already pregnant when she went out on the plains to live with Danar. This other man, Veleus, claims heís my real father. Danar is my father, whatever they say. He raised me. He stood for me when I got my Clan tattoos. I donít even know this Veleus. And I certainly donít consider him my father, no matter what he says. Even if I do look like him much more than I ever looked like Danar. Lanark says he seduced my mother and that he was already married, to boot. Thatís just . . . dishonorable. Veleus excuses it by saying he was trapped in a loveless marriage. But thatís what it isóan excuse. No Dardani would do something like that. If you have a mate, you are faithful to her. If you donít get along any more, you separate and find another mate. But you donít sleep with two women at the same timeónot ever.
But my parentsóDanar and Lucinaóthey should have told me. I had a right to know. I shouldnít have had to find out from Lanark. And I should have been prepared, too. Because this Veleus is not like the other Caereans. Heís Fasallon. The Fasallon are strange. Lanark says theyíre descended from the Sea Gods and that they have uncanny abilities. And the Fasallon donít like to have anyone with Fasallon blood outside their control. I have to keep from drawing any more attention to myself until I finish my apprenticeship. Then I can return to the plains. Iím a Dardani. I was raised to live free on the wide plains, under the open sky. I canít live in a cage, under someone elseís control. I canít.
[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited December 14, 2008).]
In Scotland if you see a red haired woman when working at the forge it is considered a lucky sign, and believed to be the Goddess Bridget, lady of smithcraft. Does your lady talk to you?
Thatís interesting. Whereís Scotland? Iíve never heard of a city by that name. Here, Tabeus is considered the patron of the smithís guild.
Sometimes I think she says something. Sometimes I try to answer. But it never lasts long enough to really be called a conversation.
What does she say?
Often itís something like ďYou again!Ē
Does your singing influence your work at all, for instance are your forged items considered to bring luck to the owner, or are they just a tad sharper than normal?
Well, I donít know. Iím very good at what I do, for an apprentice. So they tell me. Sometimes, it seems like I can see what the metal needs to become what Iím making. Exactly where to strike with the hammer, for example.
How will you use your skill to benefit your tribe?
The Dardani have only been able to work copper and bronze. Iíll be the first one to be able to work iron and steel. I can make all the repairs. We wonít have to bring them all the way across the plains to Caere and trade cattle and hides for the repairs. And weíll be able to trade for iron and steel so I can make what we needóknives, spear and arrow points, some tools.
When you finish your apprenticeship and become a journeyman, are you going to return to the same tribe, or seek a new one near a good supply of iron ore?
What other tribe would I join? The thieving Themyri? The Modgud? Iím Dardani. I bear the Clan mark of the Lion Clan. Thereís nothing else I want to be.
What are you planning as your final apprentice piece?
Hmm, thatís a year away, still. I havenít thought much about it. But I have seen some interesting open work done by the older apprentices and the journeymen. That looks challenging. Do you wear a leather apron at the forge?
Do you do fine work (chainmail) as well as large pieces (swords)?
Chainmail? Never heard of it. Whatís that like? I like working on knives and spear points. I wouldnít mind learning to make swords. But the master swordsmith doesnít work with apprentices.
Cestus says that he read somewhere that Scotland is a country. But I don't understand what that means. I've heard the people here in Caere use that term for the farmland outside the city walls. But you seem to mean something different.
I've always been curious about things I don't understand. That's why I asked Cestus.
Cestus? He's my half-brother. He's teaching me to read and write and do computations.
Actually, this is a stretch. Cestus wouldn't know anything about Scotland, either. But he is better educated than Vadar.
In this world, there are nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes and city-states. The cities are joined in a sort of loose confederation which may not hold much longer, altough trade ties will still connect them. But there is nothing like a nation.
[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited December 14, 2008).]
[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited December 14, 2008).]
Hi. How are you? Hi, Caleb. Iím fine, thanks. Just a little confused. Theyíve changed my name to Vatar. Too many people said my name reminded them of a big guy with a breathing problem and a black cape. Do you like Cestus? My brother is funny, but sometimes I don't like him, especially when he is teasing my sister Joi. I like Cestus very much. Heís my older brother, too. Well, half-brother. We have the same father. Iíve never seen him tease anyone. I'm learning to read too. I't is harder now that my sister is gone, mother goes too fast. Learning to read can be hard, canít it? Fortunately, Cestus is a very good teacher. How old are you? How long have you been prentising? What does it mean to have the manhood test? I bet I could pass it, whatever it is. Iím 16, now. Iíve been an apprentice for almost a year. Iím a little confused by your question. Everyone I know has to go through a manhood test at some point. Well, except the girls, of course. Among my people, the Dardani, the boys go through a manhood test in their sixteenth summer. After you pass the test, you are considered a man. Itís a ďrite of passageĒ. Thatís what Cestus calls it. The Dardani manhood test is a group effort, though. All the boys go out to accomplish the same thing together. Something like riding green horses, usually. Here in Caere, you have to accomplish your test alone. Thatís not something the Dardani are used to. Weíre always surrounded by Clan brothers and sisters. When youíre a Dardani, youíre never alone, really. Things are different here in Caere. Thekila sounds nice, but aren't you too old for invisible friends? I am and I'm five. I donít know whether Thekila is nice or not. Well, I guess she is, since sheís my fantasy. Sheís not an invisible friend, exactly, Caleb. Sheís just someone I day dream about. Youíll understand when youíre a little older. Nice to meet you. Posts: 3899 | Registered: Dec 2008
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Vatar at 22, at the beginning of the second book:
My name has been changed to Vatar. Some people thought it sounded like a big guy with breathing problems and a black cape. Oh well.
Apparently, I was pretty boring at sixteen. I guess thatís not surprising. I hadnít done much, yet, back then. Now? Iíve been more places and seen more things than most. Iíve been to places youíve never even heard of. Iíve been clear across the Great Forest and across the mountains beyond. What do you want to know about me?
Why did I cross the Great Forest? Well, thatís a long story. I donít think we need to go into all of that. I'm told there's a whole book about it. Letís just say, I didnít do it because I wanted to. I didnít have much choice. It was just something I had to do.
It wasnít a pleasant or a safe journey. I was pretty badly injured along the way. But the good thing about it is that I found her. That red-haired woman I used to see in my mind. I found her. She was there, in that Valley on the other side of the mountains all the time. And she agreed to come back with me as my life mate. Thatís the best thing that has ever happened to me. Well, that and my children. I canít pick between the two.
Yes, Iím a master smith, now, with my own masterís mark. I chose a charging lionóthe symbol of the Lion Clan. I canít live without working with iron and steel. Well, I can. But I donít want to. Itís in my blood. Didnít they tell you? Iím descended from Tabeus, the first smith. So I came back to Caere become a master smith. My knives are in high demand. The best to be had in the city. Why are mine the best? Well, can you keep a secret? Iron and steel sort of sing to me. I can see what the metal needsówhere to strike, when to temper. Itís a very old Talent. Tabeus had it. And, sometimes, I can sing power into the blades. But only if Iím really angry. Youíre right; it comes from my Fasallon heritage. Seems I do have Talents after all. And thatís not the only one. But donít tell the Fasallon. They might not take it well.
What other Talents? All of them, actually. Every one. Thereís not much any one of the pure-blood Fasallon can do that I canít. But we donít want them to know that. It might make them nervous. Except Father, of course. He knows. And a very few others.
Father, I mean Veleus? Heís been really good to me. I guess Iíve grown to like him and respect him, in some ways. And, well, I understand things a little better, now. Things arenít always as simple as they seemed back when I was sixteen, when I first found out about him. Iíve had a failed marriage myself. I didnít cheat on Avaza, of course. But I also didnít have to ask anyoneís permission to leave her. Alright, technically, she left me. But only because she beat me to it. I was only going to stay with her until after the twins were born.
Yes, Iím a father, now, too. I have twins, a girl and a boy. Thatís the worst thing about coming back to Caere, having to be away from them. I miss them so much. But Iím not sure that theyíd be safe here in Caere. They have Fasallon blood, too, you know. And my son can already hear me if I speak to his mind. And heís only three!
More children? Hush! Donít let Thekila hear you! Donít you know women die in childbirth? I couldnít possibly risk Thekila like that. I couldnít lose her. I couldnít stand it.