Chapter 6 - Blessing

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Hydro could not believe how many people managed to crowd into the castle walls. With his father, Hydro progressed slowly, all eyes on him, all knowing the task he was about to accomplish. Roy Tityle of Katarh and his wife, Luuise; Marqiss Puwl of Rhemu and his wife, Lyane; Hekter Sigurd, the young Marquis of Roil; the dark-skinned Alyn Bloctor of the Summer Isles and his wife, Ayanna; Cadell Periwinkle of the Hart Isles and his wife, Enya; and even the old hermit Seth Axyel, Maquis of Talyn, stood before him in front of their respective families and thousands of others to pay Hydro homage. How did Father arrange this?

He had seen them from the veranda when his father made a speech about his new adventure. "Families of Power, and those of Acquava lucky enough to catch wind of this momentous occasion, I received word yesterday that my son is to compete in Guardian Eska's Trials. . . ." His father had let the announcement sink in before continuing, "It means a great deal to my family that you could come on such short notice to our castle to see him off. Once he leaves here today, he will not return a prince; he will return an apprentice and a soon-to-be guardian. Even once the Trials complete, though, there will still need to be approval from the lords and ladies of each nation. So I encourage you to make contact with the families in power in other nations and start rekindling any connections you may have. Tell them why my son is competent to become apprentice. . . ."

Hydro stated sweating at this point and tapping his leg as he waited for his father to continue and hopefully finish.

"He will become apprentice because of his determination, because of his perseverance, because of his skill, and, finally, because he has the blood of an Acquavan!"

Roars and cheers burst out at this point.

"He has seablood in his veins!" More cheers. "And because of this, he will have the ability to adapt to each trial, whatever it may be, just as water changes its form. We have lasted as a nation because of this ability, and it has given us confidence, and this confidence will be used to win the Trials. So, my son does not leave to attend these Trials for his own gain; he attends for the sake of Acquava."

Hydro had never heard such applause before. It sounded as strong as thunder. As discreetly as he could, he wiped his hands on his tunic, glad that the speech was done.

The feeling he had while up on the veranda, of being an idol for everyone to worship, continued through the progression. Eyes upon eyes upon eyes watched him progress, his father at his side and his mother and brother behind him. The Acqua guards were close, as well as Darien and Len of his father's council. Hydro walked at his father's gait—a slow pace that allowed for all the more admiration.

"Thank you, Father," Hydro said. They were almost to the castle gates now, where a hovercraft waited for his father and him. The gates were open to allow for an overflow of people, and Hydro saw all the spaceships and hovercrafts parked on the flat plains outside the castle walls.

"You deserve a parting that befits your rank. I am glad you approve."

Hydro did. It was a nice gesture, but now there was no choice but success. (Like there ever had been anyway?) "It seems like everyone in Acquava is here to see me off."

"No. Not everyone. One wishes to see you off personally."

Hydro stopped. The hovercraft was less than fifty paces away. There is still more. . . . "Who?"

"Pearl." His father smiled, put his arm around Hydro, and walked the rest of the way to the ship.

Hydro had a feeling his father was going to say that name. The goddess herself wishes to see me off.

As Hydro walked the remaining paces, he thought about the weight this visit would hold compared to the three other times he had been brought before her. His father told him that upon his birth, he had been brought before Pearl. After Hydro cast his first spell of power and officially became a blessed at the age of nine, his father brought him to her as well. But the time that Hydro remembered most prominently was when he killed his first man and ascended into manhood. A man with no promise besides that of thievery was brought before his father, and Hydro could still feel the hilt of his father's coveted ether blade, Purge, in his hand when he commanded Hydro to swing the sword. That was at the age of thirteen, and Hydro had needed both hands to wield his father's longsword. The splatter of blood that caused Hydro to look away, the head rolling on the floor of the stone court, had been worth it then to hear his father say, "Congratulations, Son." 

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