The Winter Feast
"Tonight is a night for joy and laughter, Estarfin Hestion. I see you stand before me, not far from full grown, yet still so young. Barely thirty summers have passed since I could hold you in one hand." He smiled and nodded to his son, then raised his glass in a toast. "To your studies, and less accidents in the stables." Estarfin nodded, watching his father carefully.
He copied the motion, raising his own glass of orange and water, a rare treat saved for high feasts. He drank the sweet liquid, marvelling at the taste and scent of it.
"It is a shame that your face is still bruised Lelyafas, on such a night as this. I know that you would look your best for any who would glance your way." His mother smiled and tried in vain to smooth his hair a little. "It has a mind of its own, I am sure of it."
"Who would be looking at him? Our Prince?"
She smiled. "He is young, he is handsome , despite the unruly hair of his. I have seen several of the girls watching him tonight already.'
"Ammë!" Estarfin complained, embarrassed by the conversation.
"Before you know it, you will be of age and it will be time to choose a betrothed Lelyafas." She laughed softly as Estarfin blushed and stalked towards a nearby table covered in small plates of food.
"I do not think it wise to encourage him into any union so early." The Captain's voice was harsh, startling her slightly.
"I do not presume to choose for him, but it is unseemly to delay once he is of age. Do not forget the customs of our people, dearest."
"You would seek to bind him to these lands as we are bound? It shall not be so. Once the Dark Power in the North is destroyed, he must be free to depart this place."
There was a smile on her face, but it did not reach her dark eyes. "Depart? And go where? Across the mountains? For what, to find the lands of our dark kin?" She laughed, mirthlessly. "Or do you believe he should travel West? How? Do you not remember the bonfire we made at Losgar?"
"He will not be barred from those lands by the choices we have made, that is not fair.."
"Fair?" She almost spat the word. "You still believe their judgement upon us was fair? We did nothing to deserve their scorn. When he comes of age, then he will choose a partner, he will swear loyalty to our Prince and follow him into battle."
"No." The loud exclamation caused a few standing nearby to turn and look. "He will be a smith, live a life of peace, and be free to leave these lands once we are victorious. I will never give my blessing to any match, and I will not allow him to raise sword or spear. Not unless our Prince himself demands it."
Estarfin watched his parents arguing, occasionally able to hear his name spoken. He sighed, wishing that it could have been a night for joy and laughter for them, for once.