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3.

Asa and Breydon woke up in the morning to bright sunshine and Karen’s singing. Asa yawned while his older brother growled and got up to poke his head out the door. Karen was skipping down the hall in her flannel night gown.

“What’s the big fuss, can’t you deafen another unsuspecting family?” he grumbled. She hugged her older brother.

“Only one more week until school!” she sang and twirled away down the hall. Breydon groaned and Asa sighed. School. It was something that neither of them looked forward to but Karen lived for it. She had already spent the past few days in the library getting a head start on the reading.

“Crazy girl,” Breydon said. “I’m going to be a mercenary, what do I need to know about books for?”

Asa didn’t say anything, but stumbled out of bed and got dressed. Karen and his father seemed to be the only ones in the house who did a morning routine in reverse. Instead of washing up and getting dressed and then eating breakfast, they ate breakfast and then washed up and got dressed. As Asa and Breydon came down, Karen, Father and Mom were setting the table.

“Children, your father officially has his course plotted and will be ready to leave the first week of spring,” Mom announced. The three of them groaned.

“Dad, you’ll miss the Welkin return…I know much you like watching them fly,” Karen said.

“No, I’m staying for that,” their father said. “I couldn’t go through a spring without watching them return.”

“Do you think I’ll finally get to go to their city in the sky this year?” Karen asked.

“We’ll have to see how this year’s treaty turns out.”

Karen rested her chin on her hands and sighed dreamily.

“I’m going to be able to pick a language this year and I’m going to take Welkish,” she said. Breydon shook his head.

“Is all you ever talk about is studying?” he said, pointing his fork at her.

“We can’t all be fighters in this house. Some of us want to be scholars,” Karen replied.

“All right, that’s enough. I want to have one quiet breakfast this week,” their mother said.

“Speaking of becoming a warrior, Dad, you have to take me on one of your trips! Come on, I need a little bit of fighting experience under my belt if I’m going to be accepted into the arms academy!” Breydon said.

“Ike…” his mother said, putting down her fork. “You know how I feel about that…don’t let him go.”

“Isabel, the boy’s got a good point,” he said. “He’s not going to stay in Cullis Bay forever you know and he does need some experience. But, Breydon the condition is: you must turn fifteen.”

“Aw, but Dad, that’s going to be two whole years from now!” Breydon replied.

“Your father would know better when you’ll be prepared for a trip than I would but if it were up to me, you’d be thirty before you went on your first sea monster hunt,” Isabel said. Breydon growled and stuffed some of his fried egg into his mouth.

“I’ll bet you’d let Karen go away to school right now if she wanted to and she’s two years younger than me,” he mumbled.

“And you’re right,” his mother said. “Because going away to study is far less dangerous than going to hunt sea monsters.”

“Playing favorites,” Breydon said. Isabel looked ready to pitch a fit but Karen spoke up.

“Now, now, Oldest Brother, everyone knows you’re the most helpful around here. Mother needs you at home as long as possible. You’re her first child and she can’t bear the thought of you growing up so fast,” she said. Isabel’s anger was diffused and Breydon begrudgingly mumbled an apology. Ike ran a hand through his daughter’s curly hair. Asa couldn’t help but marvel at his sister’s ability to negate anger.

Breakfast finished without much more of a hitch. Breydon, Isabel and Asa cleared the table, as Ike and Karen went upstairs to change their clothes. As Breydon and Asa finished drying the dishes Isabel went to the bottom of the stairs.

“Karen, don’t take too long or else we’ll leave you,” she called. Stumbling was heard from above.

“I’m almost ready!” Karen said, hopping down the hall trying to strap her stockings on with her garters. She nearly fell down the stairs but she caught herself in time. Breydon shook his head as he pulled on his gloves.

“Silly, clumsy girl,” he mumbled. “Hey Karie, hurry up, Mom wants to open her shop on time today.”

“I’ve got it, I’ve got it!” she said quickly pulling on her boots and scarf almost simultaneously. Isabel checked all of Asa’s buttons, much to the younger boy’s annoyance.

“Mom…I can button my own coat you know, I’m seven,” he said. His mother smiled and rubbed his head.

“Just checking for old time’s sake,” she told him. Karen was pulling on her hat and ready to run out the door.

“Gah, I need to make a new hat. It won’t fit over my hair, it’s to big,” she said fussing with it.

“Karen, hurry up!” Breydon said.

“I’m ready, I’m ready!” she said. Isabel shook her head.

“Not before all of you say good bye to your father,” she said, motioning toward Ike as he came down the stairs. Karen ran over to her father and kissed his cheek.

“Bye, Father,” she said and ran out the door.

“See you, Dad,” Breydon called following after his sister.

“Bye, Dad,” Asa told him as he ran after Breydon, hoping to start a race. Ike put his hand on Isabel’s shoulder as the three of them walked down the path toward their property line. She breathed deeply.

“Well, Ike, if I make it through this day, I’ll talk to you tonight,” she told him.

“I’ll be stopping by the bakery later,” he said. She gave him a quick kiss and waved farewell and he did likewise.

“Mom, don’t hold us up! You’re the one complaining yesterday about opening the bakery late!” Breydon said.

“Oh, hush. We’ve got plenty of time,” Isabel said. Breydon walked ahead of the rest, while Isabel walked some distance behind him. Asa and Karen brought up the rear.

“So, Ace what are you and Cheryl going to do today?” she asked.

“Well, we were thinking about adventuring today,” Asa told her.

“Really? Where to?” she inquired.

“We have to decide. First we’re going to do our research, chart our course, then get some supplies and be off,” the younger boy explained. “We’ll be by the library later, so tell Vlademir to expect us.”

“I see,” Karen said giggling.

“What’s so funny, Karie?” he asked.

“Nothing really, Ace,” she replied. “Sometimes people just laugh when they’re happy.”

“Are you happy to be with me? Most older sisters think their younger brothers are annoying and stupid,” Asa noted. She smiled and laughed a little.

“Well, they don’t have you as their little brother,” she said. Asa pulled his scarf over his nose in thought. He didn’t like to annoy Karen that much because she was nice and didn’t tease him like Breydon. She was so weird sometimes but he loved her for it. He looked around cautiously to see if anyone was looking.

“What are you looking for, Asa?” Karen asked.

“Nothing,” he said. He carefully took her hand in his. Karen didn’t say anything but smiled. It was rare when Asa wanted to hold anyone’s hand anymore since Breydon had said something about how only pansies held hands with girls. Though it struck Asa as odd considering how many times she had seen him holding Alana’s hand. Or was Alana holding his hand? He wasn’t sure.

As they entered town, Asa’s hand dropped to his side, there were now people to see him holding her hand and he couldn’t let that happen. It was rather early and few people were awake, but still there was a chance someone would see him. Karen smiled gently, and Asa snuck a glance to the side to see if she had gotten upset. Thankfully, his sister seemed all right, so he could continue not feeling guilty.

The family went to the back of the bakery and got ready to join in the already bustling kitchen.

“Ah, Izz, glad you’re here,” Gladys, the head baker said. “We’re almost done with the second bread batch, but we could use a little hand with the cookies and muffins and we need a pair of strong arms to lift the flour bags, the pretzel twisters aren’t twisting fast enough and we need someone to double check the inventory because Maurice left early yesterday before he could do it.”

Isabel nodded and started taking off her layers, “I understand. Asa, help Laura with the cookies and muffins. Breydon, get on those flour bags, I’ll help with the pretzels, and Karen, don’t space out while doing the inventory.”

The children pulled off all their outer clothes and set to work. Asa liked working with Laura, she was just three years older than Breydon and she was nice and always smelled like cinnamon no mater what she was cooking. Laura handed Asa a spoon and pointed to the bowl full of cookie dough.

“Morning, Asa, how are you,” she said as the two started working.

“I’m fine, and you, Miss Larua?” he replied.

“I’m all right,” she said. “And I’m excited too.”

“Why? What’s going on that’s got you so excited?” Asa asked.

“Well, you know the whalers are back and you know that means we get whale fat,” she said. Did he ever know it. Whale fat was so pungent it felt like it could curl the floorboards. You could smell it for miles.

“So, the bakery gets some whale fat and we get to make doughnuts,” Laura explained. “Something about frying the dough in whale fat just makes them taste so satisfying.”

Asa supposed he had to take her word for it. He always liked his mother’s doughnuts no matter what she cooked them in.

“Oh, and I still can’t get over how your brother rescued Alana a few weeks ago,” she continued. “That was so amazing!”

Asa bit his lip in anger. Cheryl had done the saving Breydon had merely carried annoying Alana over to the sled. Cheryl deserved the credit.

“Cheryl pulled her from the water,” he said.

“Yes, and she did a fine job of that but it’s just to romantic to be in the arms of the man you love when he saves you from distress,” Laura said. “It’s a shame Breydon’s younger than me or else I’d be so jealous!”

Asa didn’t like the fact that Breydon got all the attention for something that Cheryl did, but he decided not to pursue the matter with Larua right then. With many hands helping, the work got done fast, and the store was opened by nine. Breydon was ready to take the deliveries and Karen was already on her way to the library. Asa was headed straight for the beach where Cheryl would be waiting for him.

Asa loved the walks along the quiet path to the stretch of beach were Cheryl would meet him. It didn’t have many trees like on the path toward the lake but it had bushes and fences and closer to the beach there was tall grass perfect for an imaginary ambusher to hide. Asa would pretend that somewhere deep in the rushes there was someone out to fight him for his title and the boy knew he would defend it with all his might. The title of hero was going to be his some day and he had to prepare to fight for it.

The boy picked up a piece of driftwood that had been dropped along the path. It was slender and long enough to be a decent enough sword. An imaginary assailant was upon him and Asa prepared to attack. He wasn’t going to get him not if he could help it.

“Back you villain!” he shouted lunging forward. A few sloppy parries left his foe vanquished. Another adversary took his place.

“Oho! So this is a group operation!” Asa said. “It’s useless to battle Asa the… Asa the…”

The battle had to be put on hold. What was his hero name? Asa the Great? No… Asa the Mighty sounded so much better.

“Asa the Mighty shall not be defeated!” he cried. With a powerful swing, his next enemy fell. What was this! He was surrounded! What was he going to do! There was no one but him and his sword.

“Hey Asa!” a loud voice called. Cheryl was charging up the trail toward him. She stared at him confused for a moment before she gasped, grabbed the nearest piece of driftwood that was sticking out of the snow and stood back to back with her friend.

“How many are there, Ace?” asked holding her piece of wood like a spear.

“Fifteen or so,” he replied.

“That’s an odd number,” she said. “How about I take seven, you take seven and we’ll beat the last guy together.”

“Sounds fair,” he told her. The two launched into action. To the untrained eye, it would have looked like the two were brandishing sticks around and screaming. To those with good eyesight and a keen imagination it was obvious that those children were locked in a serious battle. The battle ended in a flourish the two of them fell into the snow breathing heavily.

“You always come at the right time, Cheryl,” he panted. She smiled widely.

“I may not aspire to be a hero but I always like to help one out!” she told him. After a few more minutes of recovery time, the two got up and headed back to town.

“So, what are Kip and Bream up to today?” Asa inquired.

“My brothers were going to meet up with Breydon and go ice fishing or something before it gets too warm,” Cheryl told him. “Spring is closer than you think.”

“I know, I know,” Asa said. “Dad’s leaving the first week of spring.”

“What! He’s going to miss the Welkin return! It’s not spring if you don’t see the Welkin come home!” she cried.

“No he’s leaving after that,” Asa clarified.

“Oh…I see,” Cheryl replied. There was a bit of an awkward silence.

“Are we adventuring today?” Cheryl asked.

“Yep. So we have to go by the library and chart our course,” he said. Together they headed back into town and toward the library. It wasn’t a large building but it was certainly larger than Asa’s entire house. As they walked up the stone stepping path toward the building they almost didn’t notice the snowy structure that sat just at the bottom of the steps. A volley of snowballs came their way and the children were covered with snow. Cordelia popped up from behind what was apparently a snow fort.

“None shall pass!” she declared and ducked back down. Asa and Cheryl looked at each other quizzically. They started to walk down the path only to be pelted with snowballs until they drew back.

“I said, none shall pass!” Cordelia said. Asa was still confused but Cheryl was already building a make shift fort.

“Come on, Ace, it’s a war they want and it’s a war they’re going to get!” she said. Asa understood and began making snowballs as fast as he could.

“All right, this isn’t our home turf, they’ve got an established base and we’ve already received fire,” Asa said. “How should we proceed, Lieutenant Cheryl?”

“I don’t know, Brigadier General Asa,” she said peering over the top of their base. “Incoming!”

A snowball splattered on the ground just beyond their feet. Asa threw a snowball over toward the warring side and it only hit their wall. Vlademir looked over to inspect for damage and was quickly attacked with snowballs.

“Direct hit! The enemy is wounded,” Asa said. “All right, here’s the plan. We wear them down and then take their fort!”

“Great idea!” Cheryl said. “Keep up a steady attack, I’ll make the snowballs.”

They started this routine and it seemed like they were making no progress. Cordelia and Valdemir returned fire, making a few hits.

“They’re knocking down our base! It’s hopeless Brigadier General!” Cheryl shouted. Asa picked up an armful of snowballs and started running for the enemy fort. With a battle cry he charged and threw snowballs with all his might.

“No, Asa! No!” Cheyrl cried. He made a small part of their snow fort crumble, but Cordelia pelted him with several well placed hits, causing him to drop his ammunition and fall to the ground.

“I’m going down Lieutenant!” he cried. Cheryl charged throwing snowballs in a vain attempt to break their opponent’s defense. Cordelia hit Cheryl with several snowballs, and the girl fell over.

“No! Not you too Cheryl!” Asa shouted. He crawled over to the girl as she lay on the snow.

“Cheryl…our journey had barely begun and you’ve already left me alone…” he said.

“Ace…you have to find adventure all on your own… I’m sure you’ll find a better traveling companion than me…” she said. “It’s all over...”

“No!” Asa cried, drawing out the word as long as he could.

“What are you guys doing?” a familiar female voice said from the gate. All four players turned to Karen who was holding a box of treats from her mother’s bakery. Cordelia and Vlademir climbed out of their fort and helped the children up.

“You’re getting better at those death scenes. I almost managed a tear at that one,” Vlademir said. Cordelia took the box and put her arm around Karen.

“All right kids, let’s go inside and get warm,” she said. Vlademir started up the fire in the reading room, and Cordelia got out some books for Karen that had strange Welkish writing all over it. The two settled down with the books and Cordelia had Karen start reading to her. Cordelia being well versed in Welkish, she was able to help Karen learn to read and sound out words while helping her increase her vocabulary.

Asa took off his wet jacket and boots and Cheryl brushed the snow off her clothes. Vlademir brought blankets, hot chocolate and the doughnuts that Karen had bought and settled the two down by the fire.

“So, what can I do for you kids today?” he said.

“Well, we’re going adventuring, so we need to chart our course,” Asa told him.

Vlademir smiled, “I’ll get the atlas and some paper and pencils for you guys.”

He returned with the large book and handed them each some papers and pencils. Vlademir went back to his desk and began to work. Asa and Cheryl began to flip through the yellowing pages of the atlas.

“How about this place. It’s called Durbis Port,” Asa suggested pointing to a page. “Dad says there’s a tribe of Pescada at that port and they have a cool set of underground caves.”

“There might be treasure in the caves,” Cheryl said. “That’s a great idea!”

They turned to the map of the world and Asa pointed to where they were in Cullis Bay.

“So we’re right here,” he said.

“And we want to go here,” Cheryl added, pointing to Durbis Port. “So why don’t you draw out the map and I’ll draw path.”

Asa agreed and drew the map. Cheryl looked at the drawing with scrutiny once he was finished and nodded approvingly.

“So, if we sail three days this way and stop here, where will we be?” she asked drawing a line with her finger.

“That’s…let me check,” Asa said. Karen walked by and offered them more doughnuts.

“Wow, I never noticed how detailed your adventures were,” Karen said as she leaned over Asa’s shoulder.

“Well, if I’m going to grow up to be a hero, I need to know how to properly organize things,” Asa told her.

“It makes adventuring more fun this way!” Cheryl said. The children returned to their work and Karen left them.

“Those two are going to do great things, don’t you think?” she said as she returned to Cordelia. The librarian smiled and adjusted her glasses.

“You’re going to do something amazing yourself,” Cordelia said. “Let’s go over this grammar point again. You’ve been getting better with the beginner’s material.”

-

That evening, as Asa and Karen left with Cheryl to help their mother close up shop, Vlademir and Cordelia bid the children goodbye.

“Well, today was fun,” Vlademir said.

“Yes, but we have to give them more advance warning. Maybe we’ll have a longer snowball fight,” she replied.

“For someone who’s eyesight is failing, you have a pretty accurate shot,” he said. She laughed but looked down sadly.

“There won’t be many more days like this in due time…” Cordelia whispered.

“Hey, I didn’t mean to get you all upset,” he said as a few stray tears trailed down her cheeks. “Let’s go inside. Mrs. Forster made some great doughnuts today.”

As evening fell on the quiet town of Cullis Bay, a quiet hush fell across the landscape. Outside of the warm glow from the houses, not much could be heard but the sound of the ocean waves.

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February 2014

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