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A figure stirred in the darkness, dull orange light hitting its skin, illuminating toned muscles. Morning had come, but the sun was not yet high in the sky, with the occasional ray finding its way into the homes of the citizens.
On any other day no one would be waking at this time, not even on the farms. But it was no usual day. For so many young men across the Kingdom, the first day as soldiers of the Legion had finally arrived, and so it was for Vaurotha.
He sat up slowly, rubbing his forehead as he came to, such an early morning something quite alien to him. He was surprised that he had woken so early; his internal timing had been conveniently accurate today.
As he pulled on a clean tunic Vaurotha absently wondered whether Glaril had woken on time. Regardless, he would be heading to collect him; otherwise Glaril would not be on time. Half amused and half frustrated by this thought Vaurotha smiled and shook his head. Glaril was something, that was for sure.
The young man – no longer a boy – chuckled as he pulled on his trousers and then his boots. He would miss his bed. He would miss his family. He would miss the peace of life on the farm. But he knew that part of him wanted to leave. He had lived on this farm all his life, and now he was ready to experience new things.
As long as he came back he could be happy, and his family would be too.
Confident with himself, Vaurotha picked up his pack – which he had packed over the previous days – and slung it over his shoulder.
There wasn’t much in it. Life as a recruit did not allow for luxuries, and Ircal had warned him that having too many possessions would be unwise – as a recruit a number of his possessions had gone missing. He had been controlled, only packing a couple of books that he had yet to read in case he got the chance, as well as an almost empty leather-backed journal; to ensure he could write he also had a quill and some ink.
In terms of sentimental items he had very little. There was a small statuette – nowhere near as good as the two he had bought for his parents and Kirnu – and a few painted stones. They didn’t mean a lot to anyone but him; his parents had played games with him using these very stones.
The main contents of his pack were a couple of clean tunics and trousers, as well as a few personal hygiene items.
The only other item present in his pack was the black and red scarf he had been given years back by the mysterious hooded man. For some reason Vaurotha felt comforted by the scarf; it was likely due to the man’s kindness.
He wasn’t sure whether he had, in fact, packed the correct items, but he lived in hope. The bright side was that Glaril would have the same kinds of items – Ituro willing – and if he was truly lucky so would the other recruits.
After leaving his room for the last time the young man headed straight for the kitchen. To his surprise Ircal and Evala were there already, waiting for him. His father stood at the doorway, leaning on his crutch, whilst his mother sat at the table, smiling yet tearful.
‘My son…off to become a man,’ Ircal said. He sighed and smiled simultaneously. ‘I’m going to miss you, son.’
Vaurotha smiled and gently placed his pack on the table. He was tempted to go to his father and hug him, but his mother seemed the most affected. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and kissed her on the cheek. ‘I will miss the both of you. I have prayed to Ituro, Idonna and Norsed to bring me home to you in one piece.’ He smiled sheepishly at his father, aware that Norsed, the God of Protection, had failed him. ‘I will return to the farm, father.’
Ircal limped over and embraced his son. ‘As long as you return from the war, I can be happy.’ It was a rare display of emotion, not seen since the day Vaurotha had presented the figure of Teyar to him. ‘I’m going to miss you while you’re gone.’
Vaurotha gently pushed his father away. ‘I know. But I will come back…that’s a promise.’ He picked up his pack and headed for the doorway. ‘Promise me one thing, father.’
Ircal cocked an eyebrow. ‘What?’
‘Let the farmhands do more work than you, okay? I don’t want you to overexert yourself,’ Vaurotha said. He smiled and left the house, taking a deep breath as he did so. The relatively sheltered life he had lived thus far was soon to end, and he would not be able to return home – and stay there – for at least five years. He only hoped that his parents were still there when he returned. If he returned.
Vaurotha resisted the urge to turn around and say goodbye again. He had to keep going; otherwise his sadness would stay with him throughout his service and get him killed.
He could not let that happen.
Determined to make his parents proud he headed across the fields towards Glaril’s house.