King Domido and Queen Mifalla strode forward from the shade of one of the lean-to shops at the edge of the square. They were smiling and clapping slowly.
The battle over, Domire and all the fallen invaders began climbing to their feet. Some of them hobbled or placed their hands over sore spots as they stepped aside, clearing the way for the King and Queen. Several would have bruises from this bout. Good training didn’t happen without the occasional bruise or scrape.
“Well done, my children grown up!” Domido called out loud enough for the whole square to hear. “You have put on a fantastic display for us all this morning, and shown that you have not ignored your duty to these people. To my eyes, you have all prepared well, and we are all proud to see you off today. Before we can do that, I call on the opinion of your training masters. Come forward and speak on their readiness!”
Normally this would only have one master coming forward. This time it was three. Master Pilbon stepped forward first. Valkyr felt a twang of her nerves against whatever mistakes she might have made that Pilbon would point out in front of everybody. She was surprised by what he said instead.
“Valkyr Farella, I have trained many archers in my time. I have coached and criticized them to the best of my ability. In much less time than the decades I have studied the bow, you have distinguished yourself and made yourself nearly my equal.” He turned to face her father. “King Domido Farella, Valkyr Farella has matured in her training, and is ready as ready as I can prepare her for any new challenge or possibility her own bow may present to her.”
Domido nodded acknowledgement, then turned to his daughter. “Valkyr, you may Depart to Retrieve your weapon.” She stepped towards the Thallenrose, where Reedl was also approaching. When they both came close to it, they stopped and waited, facing King Domido.
Master Sergeant Espilion of the royal guard stepped forward next. “Misolfa Farella, I have studied many weapons in my time, and have carried the hammer of your great-grandmother with me at all times for fifteen years now. I have provided you the best instruction I know how, and have prepared you the best I could to wield my weapon’s successor, with its particular style that it is likely to show you. You are ready.” His last sentence was prescribed by ceremony. “King Domido Farella, Misolfa Farella has matured in her training, and is as ready as I can prepare her for any new challenge or possibility her own hammer may present to her.”
Domido nodded acknowledgement, then turned to his daughter Misolfa. “Misolfa, you may Depart to Retrieve your weapon.” She stepped towards the Thallenrose and joined Valkyr and Reedl.
Captain Sambi of the royal guard stepped forward. “Tido Farella, you have surprised me on a daily basis with your strength, physical as well as moral. No matter how difficult I made your training you constantly faced it with the assured air of one who has already completed the task. Nothing phased you, and you worked hard. I merely guided you. You have prepared yourself. King Domido Farella, Tido Farella has matured in his training, and is as ready as I can prepare him for any new challenge or possibility his own axe may present to him.”
Domido nodded acknowledgement, then turned to his son Tido. “Tido, you may Depart to Retrieve your weapon.” He joined Valkyr, Reedl, and Misolfa next to the Thallenrose. Domido spoke next. Here he had to fill two roles in the ceremony: that of trainer and that of his role as Domire’s father.
“Domire Farella, I have not trained so many students as your siblings’ instructors did. However, I had many masters provide me their training and critique. I have had hundreds of adversaries in the practice ring over the years. You have matched them, and remind me much of myself at your point in life. You are undoubtedly ready.” He looked around the edge of the square and raised his voice, addressing all present. “People of Grendhill, Domire Farella has matured in his training, and is as ready as I can prepare him for any new challenge or possibility his own sword may present to him.” Domido lowered his voice to a more personal level again, but still as audible as it was before. “Domire, you may Depart to Retrieve your weapon.”
Domire walked towards the Thallenrose, leaving Aton standing alone in front of their parents.
The King then paused, looking around again at the crowd, at the guards present, at those who had fought in the ceremony, at his dear Mifalla, then their four children already acknowledged, and finally at Aton. This had to be different from all the Departures previous. There was no denying that Aton’s situation was different.
“Aton Farella…” Domire began.