Kascho looked closely at the wooden lid on the workbench in front of him. He had been trying to get it right for more than a week now. He had told the Farella youths he was “slowly easing” into retirement, but it did not feel very restive this afternoon.
It was different. He would normally spend his days hunched over actuarial tables in an office overlooking the shipwrights’ yards. His two sons had been learning his business well and Kascho did his bookkeeping by contract. Nobody needed to approve his sons taking over his business, and they would need somebody to keep their books when Kascho was fully retired. So more and more he had his sons do the work and he inspected it afterwards.
His woodworking hobby was different, though today it did not feel different enough. His hands had been more active, but today all he noticed was how similar it was to his bookkeeping – he was hunched over a workstation all day, searching for everything to look just right.
Kascho set down his tools and tidied up the workbench. If it felt too much like work, he would go find something else to occupy his time. The Farellas had been here three days, now. Perhaps they could use some diversion as well. He locked up the shed and turned to the house.
He found Misolfa in the yard, running through fighting forms. She gave him a smile as he passed by but continued with her practice. If she wanted to keep practicing, he would not disturb her.
He found all three boys in the main hall. Domire and Tido were engrossed in a chess match, with Aton looking on.
“What have we here?” Kascho asked.
“Chess, Master Kascho,” Domire stated the obvious. “Still trying to get used to the time shift from home to here.” They had been up awfully late that first night.
“This I can see for myself. Nothing better to do? Books to read? Forms to practice?”
“Well, right now I’m waiting my turn to move,” Tido said. “And I have been waiting long enough already—” he gave Domire a pointed look, “—but still, I have had enough reading today. And training…Well, I’d rather have my turn in the cave already, too. I feel like I’m close enough to this point. Training without my own axe now seems pointless.”
Domire only breathed deeply, weighing his options for his next move. A look at the board told Kascho the match was fairly even, but the positioning said Domire’s patience with himself might win it for him.
Aton spoke up. “Don’t worry, Tido. You’ll get your turn, on the board and in the cave. I get my turn in chess when I play, but I don’t get a turn in the cave.”
Domire spoke in response to this. “You can have a turn in the cave if you want. Master Kascho told you he—”
“It would be useless,” Aton said.
“No, it would be helpful. You would get two weeks of isolation, of complete focus.”
“I would have nothing new to focus on.”
“Sure, nothing new, but there’s Aguneg’s gift. Maybe…maybe with so many of us training in that cave over the years, the cave itself would help…” Domire trailed off, unconvinced of what he was saying and turning his focus back to the chess board.
“I don’t believe that,” Aton replied. “Sure, nobody knows what a Sage’s gift actually is, only that it is hereditary, and sure, Aguneg supposedly lost her gift that day. Sure, the Farella line has had these great weapons ever since, but that’s all well-known and documented. That is concrete. Until me, apparently. I’m not spending two weeks in isolation on the suggestion that the cave has some mystical gift rubbed off on it. If the gift that you received does not want me, no magical cave will change that.”
Tido spoke up again. “We get it, Aton, it’s unfair. Just do with it what you can. If you don’t want to train in the cave, you can always go back home.”
Kascho thought now was as good a time as any to steer the conversation to a more positive tone. “Aton, if you want something new, how about you come and take a look at my work in the shed? I promise no mystic skill with a weapon, but it may help you feel more relaxed.”
Aton stood. “Sounds fine. I’d rather not spend the next weeks just waiting for Domire to make his move.”
“It hasn’t been that long,” Domire protested, “and if there were not so much complaining it would have been faster.” He slowly reached out to the board and moved a piece.
“It’s about time,” Tido muttered as Aton left the room with Kascho.