I had two weeks to get ready. I spent the first day after the rebirth festival just running around trying to think of what I wanted to take.

“What are you doing?” Mhorik asked when he saw me carrying a pile of clothing around.

“I need to prepare for the trip!”

“And take that whole pile?”

“I’ll need fresh clothes,” I started.

“You can barely carry those. You still need to carry some food, sleeping furs, and ritual items. A very long distance.”

I took a breath and then dropped to the ground, exasperated. “All that?”

“Let’s go take a look at what we need to take.”

We went into the sacred hut and a few hours later we had worked out the supplies we should take along. Mhorik left me alone to gather whatever ritual items I thought would be important. Looking through the sacred hut, I felt like I was trying to create order from raw chaos. What was important to take?

In the end I set aside herbs for protection and healing, a fire twig to focus energy into making a small fire, some stones to bring luck in hunting and foraging, an amulet of power, a light ceremonial cloak, some divination bones, and a ritual knife. I packed them in a lightened carrying basket and set them aside for now.

I took a break and went outside to get some food. I got a bowl of the stew steaming in a large cauldron near the fire. The meat was a bit tough, the last of the stores from the long, cold season, but it still tasted good. Sitting on the ground in the last of the sun, a few friends came over and sat down beside me.

“Where have you been?” my best friend Sama teased. “Studying magic all day? It was so beautiful today out by the sea!”

I smiled and shrugged. “Busy,” I said simply. I was busy glancing at Sama’s brother, Balar. Every time he’d look up, my eyes would dart back to my own food and I’d take a small bite.

“Dorua!” Sama yelled, grabbing my attention.

“What?”

“What were you doing all day?”

“Mhorik is taking me to the wizard’s convocation.” As I said that, I noticed Balar suddenly look up.

“Really?” Sama gasped. “When?”

“Two weeks. I was packing some supplies.” Balar’s eyes dropped and he stared at his food, concentrating on eating.

“So exciting! How far away is the convocation?”

I shrugged. I glanced at Balar, but he didn’t look back up. “Far away, I guess.”

Sama laughed. She waved some other girls over. “Dorua’s going on a journey!”

The others surrounded me, pelting me with questions. Balar looked uncomfortable and eventually got up and went toward the shoreline. I talked to the group, but I really didn’t know the answers to the questions they asked. It felt weird to talk to them for so long. Usually they ignore me because I spend so much time studying magic.

Night fell and I said my goodbyes, giving some excuse about having to study more magic that night. I walked along the shoreline in the cool night air looking for Balar, but didn’t see him. I sighed and walked back home. Why did he act that way?



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