Cycle of Fajr, 1274
Pather stood in line and shuffled his feet. Two Selectors walked among the gathered kids, looking at them and assessing their body types.
"Quiet down!" A man called, and the gathering crowd hushed. The children in the line didn't have to be told. They were all silent as the grave.
The Selectors began waking along the line. They pointed to each child and named their craft, the trade that they would be stuck with most of their lives.
Please let me be a warrior, Pather prayed. He knew he wasn't as muscled as many of the others, but he was quick and had good reflexes. He had no desire to labor under the burning sun as a farmer, nor did he wish to carve at wood and stone as a weapons master. Pather wanted to fight.
Raucous laughter met his ears, and Pather peered out from under his mess of black hair. Samah, the chief's son stood laughing with a gang of other boys. They all quieted down as the Selectors drew nearer, but try quietly sniggered to each other as the choices were made.
"Samah Wildheart, warrior." The Selector proclaimed. Samah's friends gathered around their leader and congratulated him with whoops and pats on the back. It was no supprise that they were chosen as warriors as well.
The Selector stopped in front of a pretty girl with silver hair. "Lakra Archwood, weapons master, training as a fletcher." The girl nodded her head serenely but was unable to suppress the smile that crept onto her lips.
Only two more until my turn, Pather thought. Anxiety made him squirm.
"Shiibah Roundstone, agriculture, working in the kitchens."
Pather was too worried to watch her reaction. The Selector stopped in front of him. Pather could barely hear over the sound of his pulse in his ears.
"Pather Flintsong, weapons master, working as a stone carver."
Pather felt as though the ground had dropped out from under him. He opened his mouth to protest, but the Selector had already moved on.
I can't do this, he thought to himself, I want to fight.
"Can any of you tell me what type of stone this is?" Vera asked. They were standing under a canopy, with a variety of stone samples laid out before them. Everywhere Pather looked people were carving stone, carrying stone or do something else with stone. If this is all I see for the rest of my life, it will be a miserable existence. Pather thought. He reached behind his head and adjusted the piece of cloth over his mouth. Vera had said it was to keep the dust out, and to never remove it in the quarry. If you did, she had said, the dust would accumulate in your chest an you would not be able to breathe.
"Anyone?" Vera asked again, shaking Pather out of his reverie. A hand shot into the air. "Yes, Camilla." Pather rolled his eyes. The girl had answered every question so far.
"Those black and brown ones are flint, and the pink one is granite," she replied. "My parents showed me. They're stone carvers too."
A flash of pain struck Pather's chest, knocking him off balance for a moment. Breksha...
"These are both equal hardness, but flint is more brittle. The granite is used for defensive structures, such as guards, and the flint is used for weapons."
Vera led them over to a bucket full of shiny tools.
"These tools were taken from the island village. They were always more powerful then us, with weapons made from these same materials. A horrible sickness struck them, and the entire population vanished. We left the island alone for years, before we went to scavenge what had been left. These were all dying, dissolving into a pool or red rot, so we took them and cleaned them. They are the most useful tools we have to date." Vera held up a long, thin pole. "This is a chisel. Take one each, and also take a piece of rubble granite."
Pather held back until the others had gone before taking his own chisel.
"You are going to try and make a small ring. Take the chisel and hit the centre of the rock with it. Try and make the indentation circular, and make it the same depth all around. Good luck."
Pather grabbed his chisel and tentatively scraped at the stone. It made no mark. He looked at the piece again. A smooth dark strip ran across it. He hit at that point. Immediately, a piece flaked off. Pather smiled to himself and continued chipping away. Eventually he created a rough circle in the middle of the piece, and smoothed the stone around it to create a ring. When he was done, he walked up to Vera, and placed the ring down in front of her.
"I'm finished," he said. Vera slowly looked it over, and her eyebrows raised.
"You did this?" She asked.
"It's amazing that you even nicked it," she told him. Pather glanced around at the other people. Most were glaring in frustration at their stones, and a few had created a small divot. That was all, however. "Take this," Vera said, handing him another piece. "Make the ring thicker, and the sides straighter. I want to see you do it."
Pather picked up the stone and sat down. He located another fault quickly and began chipping away at it. After about twenty minutes he had created another ring like the first, but with Vera's specifications. The ring was not close to perfect, and the sides were still rough. When he was done, he looked back at the woman.
"Follow me," she said, and walked to the edge of the covered area.
A middle aged man sat near the edge. He was shaping a piece of stone, every blow of his chisel was exact. The shape of a bowl quickly formed.
Vera waited until he looked up, and then spoke.
"Gaja," Vera said, "I have Pather Flintsong here to see you." She turned out her toe and dipped her head in respect.
"What do you want, Vera?" Gaja asked impatiently.
Vera dropped the half-finished ring infront of him. "Pather made this, his first time handling stone and tools."
Gaja snorted and picked it up. "Sloppy," he said. "The blows lack strength, and the sides are not precise."
"It was his first try," Vera reminded him.
"It's still sloppy," Gaja replied. "I have much to teach him."
"So you will tech him?" Vera asked.
"I will, but he looks like more trouble then he's worth." Gaja answered.
"Come here boy, I will show you my tools and then you will fetch them and clean ten for me."
Gaja dusted off his hands and then marched to a storage shelf. The tools were all wrapped in hide, to protect them from the elements.
"This is a plane," Gaja said, pointing to a long device that had holes along its bottom. "It is used to smooth out chisel marks. Each process in carving creates new marks, but the marks are smaller than those left by the last. Eventually, they are so small the object feels smooth. The plane is for flat surfaces. This is for round edges." Gaja held up a long thin tool. Pather inspected it. It looked like a circular tube that had been cut in half lengthwise. "This is a round file, and this other flat one that looks like it is just called a file. They are used after the plane."
Gaja pulled out small wood boxes containing dark powder, and a few leather scraps. "This powder is used to finish and polish the weapon. There are 10 stages, and therefore 10 different types. Remember them. Now, I will carve and you will watch. You will bring me tools when I ask, and clean those others when I have finished. You will not begin carving until you know the name and care if all the equipment."
Gaja turned and marched over to his carving once again. Pather's head pounded. How am I ever going to remember this? He thought.
"Bring me the plane," Gaja called out. Pather ran over to the shelf and searched. Which one is it? I don't remember.
Pather looked over all the tools before finally selecting one and handing it over to his mentor.
"That was slow," Gaja reprimanded. "I could be half done in the time it took you."
Pather stood by as the man continued on his task. The plane left huge scrapes in the granite and turned the stone lighter beneath it. Under its edge, the lip of the bowl began to form.
Gaja looked up at him. "Get me the round file, then take one of the bins near the shelf. There is a pump nearby. Once you have given that to me, fill the bin and wash the plane. Then you can get me the other file."
Pather raced to obey the orders. The day quickly dissolved into barked commands and strenuous work as Pather scrubbed and carried bins back and forth. When Gaja finally released him, Pather ran to his tent and sank into the bed in a daze. He pulled the scrap of cloth from his mouth and threw it in the corner. His clothes were covered in dust, and his hair stuck upwards in points. Yet Pather was happy. He lifted the hem of his shirt. There, attached to his waist was a rope. On it was strung a single, shining stone coin. Gaja had rewarded him for his work.