Chapter 1: Everyday Life

          The morning sunlight had just started to creep into the room, forcing Adam to hide deeper into his blankets with a small rustle. His mother’s voice called out, for the second time: “Come on you two, it’s time to get up!”

          Adam heard a grumble from the bed opposite his own, as his younger sister groggily got up. Shortly after, the slow pitter patter of her small feet could be heard going across the wood floor. After she left, Adam drifted off to sleep again. A few minutes later, Adam heard the frightening call of the most terrible monster one could possibly imagine: “Amadeus Baum Finch, don’t make me come in there to wake you up!”

          Adam immediately bolted up from his covers, crying out: “I’m up!” Inwardly  he was grumbling: ‘Why can’t you let me sleep in for just a little bit!?’

          It wasn’t that his mother was truly a monster, just… she would always yell at him and take the fun out many things in life, like teasing his sister or sleeping in.

          Yawning, Adam threw his covers off and finally walked lazily out of his room. The Finches’ house was made from rough hewn wood and was quite small with only two bedrooms and a larger common area that was a kitchen, dining room, and living room all in one. Just to the side of their house, they did have a small lavatory that also held a wooden wash tub. However, with no plumbing in the city, Adam was sometimes forced to clean the gunk out of the collection bucket.

          While the squat little house was almost intolerably small, it wasn’t because the Finch family was poor. They spent most of their time at the tavern Vivienne ran that was called The Dancery. It was a fairly popular place that served food and ale while providing entertainment in the form of music and dancing. In a way, they found it refreshing to go from the huge bustling Dancery to their quaint little home. Except for the lavatory, but there was no fixing that!

          Adam perked up as smells began tantalizing his nose: “How did I not smell the eggs and bacon!?” he exclaimed.

          Newly awake, Adam ran to his spot at the table and began devouring the food that was placed there. Emilia, his sister, sat next to him and was eating her own meal slowly while fighting to stay awake. Vivienne turned around from the counter by the wood stove, where she was pouring some fresh milk into glasses. Placing one in front of Adam, she said: “Nice of you to join us this morning.”

          After taking a quick gulp of milk to wash his food down, Adam flashed a big smile to her: “Mornin’ Mom!”

          Vivienne slightly smiled as she gently knocked Adam’s head before placing a glass of milk in front of Emilia, and looking at the tottering child, she asked: “Emilia, why are you still so sleepy?”

          In a sleepy slur, she mumbled: “Adam wash lookin’ at the night shky again.”

          Vivienne gave Adam a stern stare. Adam tried to quickly cover his tracks: “N-no I didn’t!”

          Vivienne’s stare only deepened: “Okay, maybe a little, but it really wasn’t that much!”

          Vivienne finally said: “When your father wakes up, we’ll have a little talk. You know you’re not supposed to keep Emilia up like that.”

          Adam slumped down a bit. ‘Father is probably going to intensify my training!’

          Happy to see Adam reflecting a bit, Vivienne sat down in her own place and started to eat. Adam looked at the empty spot next to her and noticed that there were remains of breakfast on a plate. Looking by the door to the house, Adam also noticed a sword plainly ornamented with eagles hanging to the side. Adam asked: “So dad’s already home?”

          Vivienne nodded: “He finished his night patrol a while ago. If you had gotten up when I first called, you might have seen him before he tumbled into bed.”

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          Besides a quiet ‘urk’ Adam didn’t have anything to say to that. Vivienne moved on from the subject saying: “After you two finish eating, you should get properly dressed. School will start soon.”

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          Adam looked the very image of being bored. He was slouching on a pew behind the rest of the class with an obviously bored look plastered across his face. Not that he was the only one. There were plenty of others in the same position as him, watching their younger siblings attend class, but none were so animated in their boredom as Adam.

          A boy sitting next to Adam whispered to him: “Adam, you’re giving that look again!”

          “I can’t help it! We graduated last year and now mom expects me to sit through my sister’s class!? I can only stand so much school!” Adam whispered back.

          School in the city was very limited. The Church of Spirits was the only place where one could go to school for free. However, it was only enough to barely get kids taught how to read, write, and know some general history over three years of tutelage. While there were other schools that taught more over a longer period of time, they were expensive and Vivienne called them ‘shady.’ ‘Whatever that means,’ Adam thought to himself. ‘Not that I want to attend more school anyway!’

          Adam continually let his mind wander while Disciple Jannic taught the class about the months of the year: “Now, one thing everyone everywhere in the world can agree on is how to tell time and the names of the days and months of the year. The names of the months and days of the year are to be spoken in their ancient archaic form with a formal phrase. This shows our respect for those who developed this system in the First Era!-

          Adam rolled his eyes at this: ‘Who in their right mind came up with this system. If you actually listen to it, it’s ridiculous!’

          “-Now, as I go through the months, repeat what I say; Einar, First Month of Spring.”

          Without any kind of synchronization, the young kids stumbled over the words: “Einar, First Month of Spring.”

          In a practiced manner, Jannic nodded his head and said: “Good! The next one is a little harder; Zvielen, Second Month of Spring.”

          And on and on the droll class went. Adam cried in mental anguish! To distract himself, he started humming. One of his favorite things was to play the flute. ‘It’s the one thing mom will never yell at me about!’

          Unfortunately, Adam couldn’t play his flute in the middle of class, so he had to settle with humming. Then suddenly, Jannic called out: “Adam, you look so enthused about class! Do you mind telling everyone what today’s date is?”

          Suddenly brought out of his reverie, Adam barely caught what Jannic was asking him. Adam inwardly groaned: ‘Why do you always pick on me! I’m not even here to attend class! At least it’s not a hard question this time.’

          Sitting himself back upright, Adam answered: “Today is the 10th of Einar, First Month of Spring, 9E977.”

          Jannic once again gave his practiced nod: “Correct! Adam even added on the current year. We are currently in the Ninth Era, year Nine-Hundred-And-Seventy-Seven or, as Adam abbreviated; Ninth Era, Nine-Seventy-Seven. Now,-

          Jannic continued on with his droll class as Adam settled back down into his slouched position. The boy next to Adam whispered: “Told ya.”

          Adam merely gave a ‘hmph’ in response.

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          Breaking out of the front doors of the church, Adam shouted: “I’m free!”

          Emilia quickly followed her brother, looking a little embarrassed. “Can’t you be more like the other older kids? Everyone in class is making fun of me!”

          Adam gave a dramatic sigh: “I can’t help it, I need fun in my life! Jannic didn’t even talk about spiritualists during today’s history lesson! They are the only fun part about history! Who doesn’t dream of flinging fireballs and slaying an evil dragon to become a hero?”

          Emilia could only give a defeated sigh in return. Adam was just too unruly. ‘If only mom was here. Then he wouldn’t act out!’

          With a wicked smile, Adam started ruffling her hair with his hand, saying: “Don’t tell me you actually find Jannic’s lessons interesting!?”

          Emilia quickly knocked his hands away yelling: “Don’t!” She then started trying to pat her hair back down. Adam tried to sneak up on her to do it again, but Emilia quickly turned around and gave him a death glare: “Do it again and I’ll tell mom!”

          Adam gave his own defeated sigh as he dropped his hand down to his side. “You’re no fun.”

          Emilia stuck out her tongue at Adam as the two waited for either their mom or dad to come pick them up and walk them back. While they were waiting, more kids came out from the church and either started walking home, or met up with others who would walk them home. Adam was nearly eleven, yet his parents didn’t consider him old enough for him to walk himself and his sister back home on their own. They seemed a little paranoid about what might happen.

          With nothing else to do while they waited, Adam decided to pull his flute out and finally get to playing. Just as he took a breath and was about to blow, Emilia yanked on his arm and said: “Adam, look!”

          Adam gave Emilia a disgruntled look before turning his gaze toward where she was pointing. There Adam saw a few larger boys corralling a smaller boy into a dingy alley. Adam’s look turned to disbelief: ‘Are they really so stupid to bully someone near the church!?’

          Adam was going to suggest that they should get an adult when Emilia took off toward the alley: “Let’s help him, Adam!”

          Adam’s heart leapt as he bolted after her. Adam wryly thought: ‘And her sense of justice strikes again!’

          Emilia had a head start and managed to get to the alley first. She had already started shooting off her mouth, just like she had learned from their mother: “What are you doing!? You should be ashamed of yourself!”

          The older boys gave her a sneer as they started saying: “What are you going to do about it little girlie?”

          Before anything more could be said, Adam took in a deep breath. If nothing else, his father’s training had been good for increasing his lung capacity. With a large bellow, Adam shouted like an adult: “Oy, brats!”

          The bullies jumped with startled eyes, only to calm down slightly after seeing it was Adam and not an adult. Before they could further get their bearings, Adam followed up: “You lot better get out of here while you have the chance. Everyone else saw you dragging that poor kid down here and Jannic will be here soon!”

          The bullies started to panic again. While trying to look confident, Adam was inwardly screaming: ‘Please work! Please work! Please work!’

          Finally, one ran off saying: “This isn’t worth it!”

          The others quickly followed after the first. After they had left, Adam let out a breath: “Thank goodness they fell for that.” He then turned to Emilia: “But you, you shouldn’t have run off like that! What if they decided to stick around and beat us up too!?”

          Emilia pouted: “But they didn’t! Besides, you said Disciple Jannic was coming, didn’t you?”

          “I was lying! You took off before I could tell anyone what was going on!”

          Emilia defiantly puffed her cheeks at Adam, not paying any heed to his warning. Adam turned a little dour: “Do you want me to tell mom and dad about this?”

          Emilia’s cheeks quickly deflated as she stammered out: “N-no! Don’t do that!”

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          Then from behind Emilia, a quiet voice quivered: “E-excuse me, thanks for rescuing me.”

          Emilia did another quick flip of emotions as a proud smile plastered across her face. She turned to the young boy: “It was no problem! All evil should face the justice of the world! As children of a Watchman, it was our duty to assist you!”

          Adam face palmed: ‘There she goes into full-blown justice mode.’

          Adam grabbed Emilia’s arm and started dragging her backward: “Come on, we don’t want mom or dad to show up and look for us.”

          Emilia quickly waved goodbye to the boy before turning around and following Adam.

—————————————-

          To Adam’s misfortune, their father had come to pick them up. While Emilia got to go to The Dancery and have fun learning how to dance, Adam was forced to train with his father! Adam was certain this had something to do with him looking at the night sky late last night, but his father didn’t even mention it! You’d think that was good… but to Adam, it was worse! Adam’s thoughts plagued him: ‘Is dad expecting me to bring it up first? Or did mom forget to tell him and he doesn’t know yet? Is this a test to see if I’ll fess up? What do I do!?’

          After the zillionth time of having his wooden sword knocked away from his hand, Adam’s father asked him: “When are you going to get serious about training? You won’t be able to protect your sister like this.”

          Snapping out of his inner turmoil, Adam responded: “If she wouldn’t run off in her ‘justice mode,’ I wouldn’t have to!”

          Alaric sighed: “And what about in the future when you have a family you want to protect? Learning now is your best opportunity!”

          Adam quietly grumbled as he picked up his wooden sword to continue training. Alaric said: “If you get earnest, I might cut the training short. Then again, you seem to have enough energy to look at the sky late into the night. Maybe I should keep you longer…”

          Adam groaned ‘So this is about last night!’

          With no other option, Adam threw himself into the meatgrinder that was his father’s training.

          Exhausted and slightly bruised, Adam was finally let off two hours later! Adam scampered off to The Dancery, like a thirsty man towards an oasis. Or a mouse running from a cat. Alaric followed after quickly with a smile on his face. While they were both fairly wild, with Adam and Emilia there was never a dull moment for the family.

          Entering The Dancery, Adam was bombarded by the sounds of yammering customers and music. Between the bustling crowd where customers milled and waiters pushed their way through to serve tables, Adam could see dancers on stage doing moves choreographed to the music. Adam’s eyes shined as the beautifully dressed dancers danced across the stage. Adam didn’t know how such a sight could get any better. ‘Though a lot of older men say it would be better if the girls wore more revealing clothes. I wonder why? And mom gives them a crack on the head whenever she hears such a comment…’

          Making his way through the crowd, Adam finally got to the alcove where the musicians played. They were in the middle of a song, so they only greeted Adam with an acknowledgment of their eyes. Adam smiled at them and got his flute out so he could join in on the next song.

          There was a better view of the stage from the alcove and Adam could now see that his sister was flailing about on stage in front of the dancers. Rather than people getting upset, everyone was actually cheering her on! Adam couldn’t help but snigger at how ridiculous she looked, though. Vivienne was also there smiling at her daughter. Adam frowned: ‘Always all smiles for her.’

          Then Vivienne looked over at Adam and gave him a wave with the same bright smile. Adam couldn’t help but smile brightly and wave back, despite his earlier dour thought. Then Alaric appeared, extending his hand to offer her a dance. Vivienne seemed to blush slightly as she accepted his invitation to the hoots of the crowd. As they danced to the music, Vivienne’s practiced steps outshone Alaric’s surprisingly clumsy ones. The man could almost dance while fighting, but dancing itself seemed an almost fruitless battle for him. Nonetheless, everyone seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.

          Having had his mother’s smile stolen away from him, Adam gave a small sigh and before looking around at the customers close by. He could hear a few of them talking: “Have you heard, Heider has cut off talks with Luxom!”

          “Again? Is it anything serious this time?”

          “I think so. Word just came to town that the King wants all trade with Luxom stopped! War seems to be on the horizon!”

          The two continued talking, with most of it going above Adam’s head. Alaric and Vivienne never really talked much about this kind of stuff, but Adam had gleaned enough over time: ‘Luxom is the kingdom just to the north of us. It is apparently full of bad people that always want to pick a fight with Heider! With our city is on the Heider side of the border and it makes most of its money by trading goods from Heider to Luxom. King Heider doesn’t like how we do so much trade with Luxom, so we hardly get any support for schools and things… why did mom and dad decide to live here?’

          Bringing him out of his thoughts, the musician next to him said: “Hey, Adam, we are starting the next song. Are you going to join in?”

          Throwing away those complicated thoughts, Adam enthusiastically nodded: “Yeah!”

          Picking up his flute, Adam joined with the revelry.

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