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Disclaimer: I do not own Forgotten Realms or any canonical characters or locations that may be mentioned. They are the property of Wizards of the Coast. All OCs are mine.

Author's notes: Thanks to lady_rilwen and lycaenion as ever, for their encouragement and help.

The previous chapters may be found here: Prologue
Chapter One
Chapter Two

Chapter Three

It was almost a tenday later, and Rydel was still nerving himself up to talk to his father. He kept imagining the worst outcomes; a fight, a complete explosion, the pair of them never seeing eye to eye again - and even if it didn’t come to that, he wondered if it wouldn’t be a let-down for his father, after all this time trying to raise him with a decent trade. And yet the tales told at the Stag at Bay, the nightly practice and the lessons in herbalism, in tracking, in survival… they only served to fuel the rising urge to be out there in the wilds.

In the end, it was an unusually frustrating day that finally pushed him to make up his mind.

Around mid-morning, some incompetent wizard had set off a magic device that went berserk and escaped from his laboratory, causing a great deal of havoc throughout a number of shops - including Fiskal’s. The rest of Rydel’s morning was spent putting the shop back in order and calling the wizard very rude names under his breath. In the afternoon, he’d found himself dealing with a rather irate customer who wanted to complain about… something. The man wouldn’t say what, exactly; he seemed to be mostly looking for a reason to raise his voice and point his finger a lot. He kept demanding to see Fiskal, who had - unfortunately for Rydel - left a little while before to deal with another order.

By the time his father returned, Rydel was barely keeping a lid on his own temper. He did not like being shouted at, especially when he didn’t know what for, and handed the offensive man over to Fiskal with visible relief before making his escape back to the workshop. There he went at his work with rather more vigour than strictly necessary, which accidentally resulted in the loss of two barrel staves due to over-zealous planing. Needless to say, that didn’t go down well, and he had to spend extra time replacing them.

Once he finally got away, things seemed to be looking up a little - right till he got to his evening practice, where he discovered that Tastan was caught up in some sort of dispute and would therefore have to skip this evening. In a bout of sheer annoyance, Rydel threw up his hands and stormed off, swearing under his breath, to take a walk around the city instead. He didn’t feel like going back home just yet.

Eventually he found himself at the southern gate and, for lack of other ideas, headed out while there was still some daylight left, with a nod to the guards. Leaning against the cool stone, he gazed out at the distant borders of the High Forest to the southeast. Somewhere out there was his place, not here in the city, however appealing it might be to some. He sighed and closed his eyes, letting the breeze cool his face and temper.

Thinking back on the day’s trials, he compared them to previous similar events, and shook his head slightly. Did he really want to put up with petty annoyances like that for the rest of his life, staying within the walls of a single city? (Standing right outside the walls as he currently was didn’t exactly count as leaving, in his opinion.) Was it really just concern for his father that prevented him leaving? Tastan had already said plenty regarding that.

Or is it that I’m delaying because I’m afraid? he wondered suddenly. There was a great difference between tales told in the safety of a familiar taproom, with all one’s friends around, and actually facing the dangers being talked about. If it came down to a life-or-death situation, could he really stand and face it?

The thought of turning tail and running from something just because it might hurt him suddenly incensed him. I don’t know until I try, and giving up even before I try is spineless. I’m not that cowardly, he thought, remembering Tastan’s words.

With that, he stalked back through the gates and headed for home, expression set as he made definite plans to replace his previous vaguely-defined hopes. Tomorrow he was going to talk to his father and explain himself, and begin getting supplies together. Within a tenday, even if the idea met with complete disapproval, Rydel was determined that he would be out of the city and heading for the forest.

I’m not going to be afraid, and I’m not staying here to be driven mad by wizards and idiots for the rest of my life.

Though he wasn’t aware of it, he was smiling broadly by the time he reached home. He could do this, no matter what anyone else said.

~

A twinge of nerves ran up Rydel’s spine as he heard heavy footsteps coming in the front door the next morning. While he’d gone over his arguments several times, this was still not something he had been looking forwards to. In a bid to stay steady, he bent over the cask he was working on and set about placing the final hoop.

Fiskal glanced into the workshop and smiled slightly on seeing him hard at work. “Nearly done there?”

“Almost,” Rydel replied, tapping the hoop securely into place.

He was rewarded with a fond chuckle. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”

The hoop slipped into place at that moment, and Rydel nearly leapt up, putting his tools aside hurriedly as Fiskal turned away. “Ah - before you do, I, er… I wanted to talk to you about something, Father.”

In his nervousness, he failed to notice the way his father went still for a moment before turning back to him. “Can’t this wait, lad?” The old cooper was no longer smiling.

“I’ve been putting it off as it is. If I put it off any longer I - I might just give up.”

Fiskal raked back his thinning hair and sighed. “Get it out, then.”

Rydel hesitated a moment, fidgeting with a loose thread on his tunic hem, before nerving himself up to speak. “I’m sorry, Father, but I don’t think I can stay in Everlund for ever. I know it’s a good place and all… I just feel like I need to get beyond it.”

Fiskal shook his head. “You’ve spent too much time with -”

“No, don’t blame them, this is what I want!” the young man protested, waving his hands in mild frustration as he tried to express himself. “I’m tired of looking at the same things day in and day out. I want to be out there in the forests, somewhere I can experience all the things I’ve only heard of. I’ve been learning to take care of myself, and if I go now while it’s still coming on to summer there’ll be plenty of time for me to learn more. I can do this. I swear, I’ll be all right.”

“And who’s to help me with the shop while you’re off doing whatever you plan on doing?” Fiskal’s tone was slightly accusing now.

“An apprentice, maybe?” Rydel hesitated. “I was told there were people who’d be looking for work like this, something good and steady…” The unreadable expression on his father’s face made him falter. This couldn’t end well.

“Isn’t it good enough for you, lad?” the cooper said quietly, and the disappointment in his tone made Rydel inwardly squirm. “I’ve raised you to a decent craft, somewhere safe, and you’re asking to leave it behind to go and follow ideas people’ve been putting in your head about adventures.”

“All I want is a chance to try. I’m not unhappy that you taught me - it’s good to know I have something I can do well, and I’m grateful for it - but the idea of doing this for the rest of my life…” The young man gestured around at the workshop. “I’m not sure I can. Can’t I at least go and find out if it’s what I’ll be happy doing?”

Fiskal regarded his son quietly for a few moments. It was plain to see that Rydel truly wanted this. Any direct opposition would likely just cause bad feelings, but the very idea of letting a boy of sixteen - his boy - just walk off into the wild was something he clearly couldn’t help but want to put a halt to.

“Don’t,” he said seriously, raising one hand as Rydel moved to speak again. “Don’t go trying to talk me round any more, just now. I’ve heard what you said, and I need to think about it. Give me some time, all right?”

“How long?” This was going a little better than the young man had hoped, but he was still a little bothered about the potential for things to go wrong. Please don’t let him name some ridiculous time.

“Give me… give me till tomorrow, and we can talk then. That way we both have a chance to sleep on this. All right?”

Rydel relaxed imperceptibly, and even managed a brief smile. “All right,” he echoed with just a tinge of relief. Then, determined to show he was a responsible adult and not a whining child, he nodded slightly and went back to work as though the matter was closed for now. Unwilling to say any more for the moment, Fiskal went back into the main shop quietly and sank down on the stool behind the counter.

This wasn’t going to be an easy decision.

~

That evening, at his favourite tavern, Fiskal raised the issue with some of his own friends over a few tankards of butternut beer. “What am I supposed to do with that lad?” he concluded with a sigh.

Burtanu, a dark-skinned Turmish woman whose clay-stained clothes marked her as a potter, leaned back in her seat, sipping her drink meditatively for a moment before she replied. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think forbidding him altogether will solve anything.”

“Aye,” agreed the half-elven man sitting opposite Fiskal. “If you try to constrain him too tightly, he’ll end up defying you and just taking off on his own.” Koranis smiled ruefully. “Though I can understand why you’d rather he didn’t.”

“It is hard to stop lads that age from doing something they’ve set their hearts on,” Therys added. “All four of mine were the same; try to lead ‘em away from it, and they’ll stick to it firmer. Best way to deal with it’s to let ‘em try and find out it’s not all they were expecting.” She gave the cooper a sympathetic look.

“But what if he takes to it anyway?” Fiskal fretted. “And… well, anything can happen out there. We’ve all heard enough about orcs, or dragons, or…”

“Then ask one or two folk who know the area to follow after him a bit.” Koranis shrugged. “They’re smart enough to keep out of his sight unless he ends up in real trouble.”

“If you really want to try stopping him before he leaves,” Burtanu offered, “you could try giving him more responsibilities over the shop. That would keep him busy enough he wouldn’t think any further about leaving.”

Fiskal brightened up a little at the idea. “It might, at that. He does what’s asked of him, even if he doesn’t like it.”

“I can’t see that working.” This came from the only member of the group who’d not spoken yet. Rodther was an former adventurer, who’d settled down in Everlund as a lampwright. He didn’t often say much, but when he did weigh in on a debate it was usually in support of the wisest move. “If he’s been thinking about this so long, you won’t put him off by making him busier. He’ll just get more and more resentful that you’re keeping him away from what he wants. He’s not stupid.”

“You figure he’d take off even with that?”

“Nothing more likely.” Rodther took a drink, then set down his tankard and glanced around at the group. “You don’t need me to remind you he’s got the blood of a ranger. Looks to me like the call of the wild’s reached him.”

“You really think I ought to let him go, then?” Fiskal sighed.

The old lampwright leaned on the table, tapping it with one finger to emphasise his words. “I know you care for that lad like he’s your own flesh and blood - you’ve raised him well, and you should be proud of how he’s turned out. But if his heart’s leading him elsewhere, you’ll be doing better by him to let him follow it.”

With clear reluctance, Fiskal nodded and sat back in his seat, raking one hand through his hair.

“It’ll be easier on both of you if he leaves with goodwill,” Koranis pointed out.

The cooper managed a smile. “I know,” he replied, “but getting my head round it all’s going to be the hardest part, and I promised him an answer by tomorrow.” He gazed into his tankard as though hoping for inspiration, and then gave up and drained it. “I think I’ll call it a night. I should get some peace and quiet to think over all this, and I won’t get it here.”

He pushed back his seat and stood up. “My thanks for all your advice; it’s been a great help, as always.” They responded with cheerful farewells, and he made his way out of the tavern, narrowly avoiding a rather giddy couple in the doorway.

The centre of Everlund was a little quieter at this time of day; it was a place for peace and privacy, whereas most of the inns and taverns were built close to the city walls, to allow a fair level of noise without disturbing the quieter areas. Accordingly, Fiskal headed for the centre of the tree-strewn city to think over the advice he’d been given.

As the waxing moon rose over the Silver Marches, it glanced down on the solid figure, resting on a fallen tree that had been made into a seat. He had spent over an hour lost in thought, in the near-darkness, and wasn’t any closer to a decision than when he’d sat down.

The moonlight shining through the swaying branches of the trees around him caught his attention, and he looked up, unable to help a smile at the sight of the stars glittering and the moon serenely glowing amongst them, without a cloud to be seen. For a brief moment, he was captivated; it wasn’t often that he even bothered to look at the night sky, and rarer yet that it was so clear.

In that moment, he thought he understood why Rydel wanted to become a ranger. There were beautiful things in the wilds of Faerûn that often went unseen or ignored, because so few people went to the effort of looking; Rydel wanted to be one of those few, to look for beauty even in things that seemed distant and uninteresting to others. Such a life was dangerous, but to the one who chose it, the rewards far outweighed the risks.

Fiskal remained where he was for a little while longer before a chill breeze reminded him that this probably wasn’t the best place to spend the night. He stood slowly, wincing slightly at how his limbs had stiffened from the cold and lack of movement, and set off home feeling more at ease about his decision. It wasn’t so hard to make after all.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
wikimaster
Apr. 8th, 2012 06:15 am (UTC)
Another beautiful chapter.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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