In the shed again, Kascho picked up the lid he had been working on and handed it to Aton. “Maybe you can help me with this. I am making a little wooden chest for Uillia to put her trinkets and jewelry in, but this lid has had me stuck for over a week now. I cannot get the design right. I’ve redone it, but every time I draw it on paper it looks a little off. The few times I get it right on paper, it fails to transfer when I carve the wood.”
Aton turned the lid around in his hands. “Sounds like my life. I’m the different one. I never feel sure of what my life is supposed to me. Every time I think I get it figured out, I talk to my siblings again and it’s clear I am still just a misfit.”
“Don’t be so hard on youself, Aton,” Kascho begain.
“Oh, I know. I’ve heard it before. It was not my fault that I was born with no weapon. I accept that, but it doesn’t change the fact that I was. That I am fundamentally different from my brothers and sisters. From my father. From the whole line, back to Gren Farella’s children. And the whole kingdom knows it. Many off-worlders know it. And somehow, even though everybody acknowledges that it’s not my fault, they worry.
“They worry that Aguneg’s gift has stopped following the Farella line. They worry that this means the end of Grendhill as a nation. I’m not fit to lead or protect. Even if I don’t take the throne—and how could I with no weapon of my own—what happens with my nieces and nephews, the children of whichever of my brothers and sisters does take the throne? Will they have these weapons? Will they lead with the wisdom of our ancestors? And somehow—even though everybody knows it’s not my fault—somehow I have to assure them that it will all be well. Somehow, despite all this being outside my control, it lies inside my realm of responsibility. I didn’t break it, and I cannot fix it, but somehow I have to.”
Kascho sighed, finding that he had unwittingly hit a sore spot.
“You know what, though?” said Aton, tracing the design on the woodwork in this hands. “I change my mind. This lid is not like my life. This lid actually looks great. I think it looks fantastic, and Mistress Uillia will love it.” He handed it back to Kascho.
“Wh-what? You don’t see the flaws?” Kascho inspected it again, confused.
“Sure, I see some flaws,” said Aton, “but they are so minor that they will surely come out with sanding. See, here—” Aton pointed, “—and here, it is a little misshapen. But you will need to sand it anyway to get it smooth like you’ll want it, so just sand a little bit—just a little bit—extra in these spots. It will come out even with the other side, flawless. She will love it.”
Kascho looked at the lid, inspected the points Aton had indicated, and looked at Aton again, smiling. “You’re right! I can’t believe it, you’re right. I have been banging my head against this workbench for days, and the problem will be solved with a bit of sanding! Thank you!”
Aton blushed shyly. “Well, sure. No problem, it’s just, I don’t know…”
Kascho looked at Aton cheerfully. “I was being too critical with my work. I needed a fresh perspective, and then I could see what you saw. You know? Maybe you just need a little bit of sanding yourself. A fresh perspective, and you’ll see yourself and your imperfections for what they truly are.”
Aton shrugged, caught off guard. Kascho spoke again. “Take a moment and look at your situation as if it were new, right now. What is good? What needs to be emphasized? What is not so important, and can be left for others to worry about?”
Aton paused, thinking. He was rather skilled, but that would not assuage public concerns for the health of the crown in Grendhill. He could not grow a weapon out of thin air, nor could he do anything to ensure that whichever of his siblings who took the crown conveyed Aguneg’s gift to his nephews and nieces. He could show solidarity with his family. He could prepare to serve his country however it needed his unique skill set. He had no weapon to train with in isolation, and he truly saw no point in waiting for his turn for the cave.
“Perhaps I should return home. I am not being productive here, loafing about. Back home, at least I could continue my regular studies. It would be something. More importantly…it wouldn’t be here.” Aton’s eyes widened as he feared he may have just offended his host. He spoke quickly to repair the damage. “Nothing wrong with this place. But it’s where my siblings are. Not that I hate my siblings, of course. I’m just not like them. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, I mean. I mean I don’t ha—”
“That’s fine,” Kascho reassured him. “I understood what you meant. I am not offended, and I’ll try not to tattle on you to your siblings.” He smiled. “If you wish to return home because this place is not helping you, then I think that is a good idea. Can you wait until this evening when Uillia gets home, though? She would hate to miss saying good-bye.”
“Alright,” Aton said. “I’ll wait until then.”