Pine was determined to spend the entire evening doing exactly what he was supposed to, but after several hours of smiling and listening on through the babble and praise for his father, he was beginning to doubt his reserves. The stories he hearddidinterest him, when they cropped up, but most of it involved business of some sort or another. Pine’s evening was filled with pleasantries, and though he enjoyed the attention given to his ‘being handsome’ or ‘so tall’ and the various comments about his new sword, they soon got old.

                The smell of the party was also starting to get to him, and soon enough his stomach grumbled; thankfully, the unseemly noise occurred just as one group passed and the next was still approaching. He took a longing glance towards the nearest buffet table.

                “Kethel,” Anden smiled, looking to his wife. “You’ve arranged such a lovely party.”

                She blushed and fanned a few times at her face, “anything for you, my dear.”

                “It truly is something to behold! I’m glad you felt up to the task,” he smiled, kissing her softly before turning to the next set of guests.

                Pine looked from them back at the buffet table.

                A deep baritone was greeting his father, “ah, Anden, it’s been a long time. Though I’m thankful nothing’s been going wrong to require such a meeting between us, it is a shame we’ve not spoken. I dare say it’s been several moons.”

                “I’d estimate the same.”

                There was a sudden jab at Pine’s ribs.

                “Oy, pay attention!”

                “Hiro, mind your manners!”

                “Sorry mother,” Hiro scowled.

                “Hiro!” Pine sputtered, clutching his ribs with the sudden sharp pain.

                “Ah, your son’s grown so big as well!” Anden laughed. He turned then to speak directly to Hiro, “you wouldn’t mind taking the boy off my hands, would you?”

                Pine grinned, and gleefully went off with his friend, much to his mother’s chagrin. His father was quite unbothered by it and gave a wink as the pair of them disappeared into the nearest courtyard. They made straight for the first table of food.

                “You wouldn’t believe the amount of trouble you’ve stirred up in the week you’ve been gone. Everyone’s been going on and on about howanyof them could’ve roughed up Jo. Now they’re all ready to go at you, saying next time you’re out, they’ll show you just how good they can fight…”

                “Not a problem!” Pine nodded confidently. “I could take any of them…especially now that I’ll be professionally trained.”

                Hiro glanced at Pine’s new sword, most openly jealous. The boys stocked their plates up and found themselves a nice place to sit, away from the largest flocks of adults. Hiro continued to update Pine on all the goings-on of high block, which was comprised mostly of acquired bruises and a lost Ardock that had turned up two days later in Citadel Bandellear.

                “You’d think that the poor thing would be butchered for its horns after a fiasco like that. I heard that it showed up in the king’s very bath chambers…as he was using it!” Hiro took a swig from the nearest goblet. “You know, I’m not even sure whose Ardock it was, only that everyone seemed to be on their head about it. Maybe it belonged to one of the girls, so everyone had to look concerned for her. Yes, that’ll be it.” Pine simply shrugged and continued at his meal. “You know, your neighbors snuck out a few days ago too. The oldest one challenged Morrie Rite to a stick duel after he made some comment over her dress! She just ‘bout poked his eye out.” Hiro made a quick thrust with his fork. “Was real hilarious ‘til their servant came by and swooped ‘em right up back towards home.”

                “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to them, really,” Pine shrugged.

                “Yeah, I think she’s ‘bout a year younger than us. Next summer down, I’d say. Flat chest and all, though she’s got quite the colorful vocabulary,” Hiro chuckled to himself a bit. “I’m not even sure what a few words she said were. Sounded awful funny.”

                “Probably because she speaks Aanao,” said Pine, remembering her knowing face as the servant had scolded her.

                Hiro glanced at him briefly, “thought you said you never spoke to her.”

                “I haven’t,” Pine furrowed his eyebrows. “Just that I’ve seen it…you know. They live right next door and all.”

                They sat in a few moments of silence as they continually stuffed their faces. Due to the ecstasy of his belly, his mind lay blank. Hiro was soonest to recover though, and was back at his rambling in due time.

The End

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