The grounds were a festival. There was no escaping the enchanting perfume of ground-baked meats and well-seasoned vegetables. The ovens were filled with all sorts of pies, and fires were constructed beyond the back wall of the estate to roast entire animals over open spits. There were enormous pots of stew bubbling all over the place.
Mistress Demasa had hired an entire fleet of temporary servants, and they were everywhere, hanging decorations and streamers, erecting tents and placing chairs and tables. They hung garlands of lanterns across the grounds, and small glass torches were hammered into place along the walkways. The gardens were preened to an exceptional state, and the inner areas of the manor were festooned with silk banners. There was a constant stream of bouquets, so much that at times it was like walking through some ethereal palace.
Amelia had been rattled into a dreamy stupor, and she was so enthralled with the happenings that she didn’t have the time to bother with Pine. Therefore, the boy was fully happy just watching as the servants hurried to and fro, wondering what kind of night it would turn out to be.
“There you are,” was Tora’s voice from the second floor. He looked up to see her leaning against a banister, looking a bit frazzled. “We ought to have you dressed already. Your sister’s been ready to go since bright and early this morning, you’re nearly making me look bad.”
“Sorry, Tora,” Pine spoke honestly. “I’ve just been so caught up…”
She sighed, “Yes, of course. But that darned Eirou won’t stop rubbing it in my face that she’s got such a handle on the girl…we can’t have that. Come along now, we’ll have you shining like a star. It’ll show her…” Tora was mumbling to herself as she took Pine’s hand and led him to his room.
“So?” Pine asked. “What’ll it be?”
“War dress, says your mother. But I’ll make sure it’s even better than all of that!” She drew herself up then with the proudest of smiles. “I spoke to your father this morning, young master, you will be quite pleased with me!” She coughed then. “I hope.”
The Cakumi then left the room and returned with his war dress. It was a bit cumbersome, Pine thought, but it did look quite brilliant. The actual war dress was sewn from shining black leather, and was inlaid with bits of glistening plate. The collar came up around his neck and would fit perfectly with a helm. A sword belt was sewn into the ensemble. He sighed, as the bindings lay empty. Over the top was worn a robe. His mother apparently had new ones made, and the silken fabric was dyed to a rich, regal blue. A silver crest had been sewn into the back: a large canine figure, called a Druva, which was their family symbol. Pine had never seen an actual Druva in his life, but they occupied the homelands of the Fahlhari to the North, and were known for both their courage and cunning.
“Oh, how splendid you look, my pup,” Tora brought her hands to her lips, beaming in adoration. “You look so much the man now, you’ve snuck up on me.”
“And I as well!”
Pine spun towards the doorway to find his father.
“Master Anden,” Tora bowed.
The man beamed proudly towards his son, his hands on his hips, looking all the part of a leader as he wore his own war dress. His sword hung at his hip, adding to the entire effect. Anden Demasa cut an imposing figure in even the most mundane of clothes, but in such formal attire it seemed as if he owned the world. Pine could almost feel the room gleam in his presence. It took him a few moments to realize that his father held a long package wrapped in velvet.
“Well, son,” Anden smiled, walking towards his boy. “Tora didn’t have me entirely convinced… but to see you so grown, I’ve been sold. Indeed, you are truly the man now…” He turned and placed his parcel on a dresser, slowly unraveling it.
Pine’s heart skipped a beat as his father lifted a sheathed sword from the wrappings. Anden turned towards him and held it out with both hands.
“She was mine when I was your age. It has come to my attention that you long for some sort of official training… And I cannot deny that you’ve grown much outside of my sight. Do you accept this responsibility?” he was smiling.
Pine was breathless as he took the sword from his father, carefully gripping it with both hands.
“I…I accept the responsibility!”
Anden beamed as his son unsheathed the weapon, handling it with utmost care. Finally, after he’d gotten his fill, he re-sheathed the weapon so that his father could assist him in attaching it to his war dress.
“I do hope that you will love her well. I’ve arranged an additional member for your board of tutors. He will train you each noon, save on Eve’s day every week.”
Incapable of expressing his gratitude, he simply embraced his father, who whole-heartedly accepted.
“I’m happy you like it. I’m sure that in no time, you’ll be doing more than breaking collarbones,” Anden winked. “Now…let’s join your mother before the guests start arriving. We’ve got quite the evening before us and we shouldn’t miss a single moment.”