Tidac quickly grew tired of Branbourn’s forge. He liked it when Branbourn talked to him, and he liked it when he made swords. There was fascination in the steel when a weapon was the result. Branbourn had communicated that feeling to him, but it fitted his natural thinking so well that he didn’t know the thoughts were not entirely his own.
Today Branbourn was working on a plowshear, so Tidac left.
He spent an hour in the stables watching the workers mend the complex slopesaddles. He knew every part of their construction by heart. He had the head-knowledge to repair the saddles himself, but no one would trust his young hands to the task. Not yet anyway. Clevis had taught him all about saddles and bridles and lead lines, and about special shoes for cold weather, or mud, or combat. Everything Clevis said went into Tidac’s head and stayed there, a happy pile of brightly colored facts not particularly well tied together by theory. That would come later. Clevis was a clever teacher. He never said anything dull and he never let Tidac know that he was being taught.
The sun was shining and it was spring, so not even the tack room could keep him indoors for long. Soon he was at the corral, turning aside from his father and Clevis when he saw them in conversation. She was there too, that shadowy woman that no one but Tidac knew existed. He could sense her presence, but could not quite see her. No one had ever admitted to seeing her, so he kept knowledge of her to himself. As with all other things, he followed the rule Marquart had taught him: “Listen, boy, and don’t talk. Know everything that those around you know, and a bit more, and don’t tell any one of them what you know. Not even me.”
The shadowy one was always with his father, and there were times that Tidac saw him talking with her, although never when Tidac was near enough to overhear. Marquart had never mentioned her to Tidac, or to anyone else while Tidac was listening, so the boy assumed that Marquart was following his own advice.
Tidac found a place where he could slip between the corral bars. He had taken some stale bread from the kitchens and it didn’t take Mani, the alpha male kakai, long to find where Tidac was hidden in the bushes. Tidac stood and fed him, then stroked his long front legs. The kakai’s head was far above him and out of reach except when he occasionally leaned down to nuzzle the boy.
So went the afternoon. Tidac was content. His nature was quiet, his father’s training had made him almost silent, and there was nothing he really wanted — only a vague discontentment that danced within him. When he looked about and saw the aura of his fellow’s ais dancing about them, he knew that he was the only one to see them. He wanted to ask what the flames that encircled every head meant, but he had been taught silence. Besides, he was reasonably certain that no one else knew the answer anyway.
He wanted to talk to someone who saw what he saw, and ask what it all meant. But he doubted there was such a person, anyway.
He was not lonely. But that was only because he did not know his soul was empty. He had never seen a soul that was filled.
# # #
Two days later, at midmorning, Marquart, Tidac, Clevis and a contingent of servants left the manorhouse. It had rained for two days, but now the sun was out and the steaming, fast greening fields were auspicious omens of fecundity for a wedding. more tomorrow