The waning light filled the Garrison Common Room as the sun was beginning to set behind the western horizon. Through the open windows of the second floor, beams of light were finishing their day. Casting everything in a warm, orange glow.
Nightfall came earlier and earlier with each passing day. The cool night air whispered of Winter, spreading the leaves like paint across the canvas of a long passed Summer. Woodland was settling down after a long season and was preparing to sleep.
It filled Kane’s heart with hiraeth.
The Common Room was filled with more members of the Order than usual. Since Woodland became even more treacherous to outsiders during the Winter, activity that required the Order’s attention had greatly diminished. Some members would go on hunting or scouting missions for weeks at a time, while others would travel and visit their homelands. Those that remained would spend their days either relaxing or focused on their own study, but it was obvious those present were not here to study.
“Quarto!” Ul’vade declared proudly, pointing to a specific line of wooden pegs set on the board before him.
“Gah!” Lorcan cried with realization. “I always forget the colors! Well done. That’s three in a row you’ve won.”
“Well thank you, my friend.” Ul’vade said with a smile as he cleared the board. “Would you like to play again?”
“I think I’ll go soften my losing streak with some food.” Lorcan replied, rising from his chair with a stretch. “Maybe someone else would like a chance to dethrone you.”
Looking around, Lorcan saw Kane standing by the window, watching the fading light. “Hey Kane!” Lorcan called out from across the room. “Do you want to come beat Ul’vade for me? He’s been winning all evening.”
It took a moment for Kane to register that he’d been addressed. His mind was elsewhere, far away. After a second call from Lorcan, Kane snapped back to the Common Room and looked to see Lorcan and Ul’vade looking at him curiously.
“I’m sorry, Lorcan. I was just lost in thought.” Kane replied abashedly. He moved away from the window and made his way around the various tables spread throughout the Common Room.
Damian, Tsyng, and Sedos were sharing a drink as they discussed something quietly. Ja’ika was whittling away at a piece of pine while Tilly sat beside him, working on a piece of leather. Miren and Shay sat at the bar, chatting about some sort of coordinated plan they were working the details out of.
Smiling to himself as he arrived at where Lorcan and Ul’vade were, Kane knew he was home. His place was in Woodland, among the people of Terrasylvae. But then, why couldn’t he shake the feelings in his heart, he wondered.
“Quarto, eh?” Kane said, picking up one of the well-used wooden pieces. “Don’t you know that Ul’vade is one of the best Quarto players in the Village? I’m lucky to beat him.”
“Well yes.” Lorcan responded in defense. “That just makes it that much sweeter when I win.”
“If you win, my friend.” Ul’vade added with a hearty laugh.
Setting the piece back down on the table, Kane continued. “Unfortunately, I might have to pass on this game. I was just about to go get something to eat from the kitchen downstairs. Perhaps, a little later.”
“I was just about to go get some food as well. Why don’t we all go grab some food and eat together?” Lorcan suggested.
“Sounds good to me.”
Making their way out of the Common Room, the trio took the stairs down to the main floor of the Garrison. The smell of hearty stew and fresh baked rolls pulled them into the kitchen where a large pot hung over a gently burning fire. Each grabbing a bowl and spoon, they served themselves and grab a roll or two (three in Kane’s case), before heading back upstairs.
Back at their table, Ul’vade and Kane waited to eat while Lorcan blessed and gave thanks for the food before them.
…amen.” Lorcan said, before taking a bite of the steaming stew before him.
As the three ate, they chatted of many things. Plans for the winter, predictions for the coming year, and the ongoing mischief of the local goblins. It wasn’t until each of them had finished their meal and was working to salvage the last remnants of stew with their rolls, did Ul’vade turn to Kane and asked,
“So Kane… I didn’t want to ask earlier, but could I ask you a personal question?”
Taking a moment to swallow his last bite of bread, Kane eventually responded. “Sure. What is it?”
“I was just wondering what you were thinking about before you joined us. I saw the way you were looking outside and well… ” he paused, formulating his thoughts. “I’ve seen that look on men’s faces before.”
“I didn’t realize I had had a ‘look’. When have you seen it before?”
“It’s hard to say. Every man who has borne that face was far from home. Looking off in the distance as if called. I wanted to ask because you are not far from home. You are here, in Woodland.”
It was a long moment before Kane responded.
“I sometimes forget how insightful you are, Ul’vade. Yes, I was being called to somewhere far away, out West across the sea.”
“The America’s, you mean?” Lorcan added.
“Yes. The America’s and further North. I was just watching the leaves and the sun and it reminded me of my time there.”
“Well, would you like to talk about it? I’ve never heard about your time there.” Ul’vade offered.
“That could be nice. It might help get it off my mind.” Kane replied.