4. For the Greatest Good, They Leave Home

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Reimar huddled on top of a grassy dune as stinging bits of wind-borne sand struck his body in sprays. His perch among tufts of grass on the dune overlooked the endless mass of Lake Neezhoday. Whitecaps chased the hurrying gray clouds above, while grief and fear kept him rooted to the spot. He clutched his knees to his chin as he watched the waves tumble against the shore. Wracking sobs pulled at his frame.

Yesterday, Brother Finn had returned from Tryggahveneyrr. At first the children were happy to see him, for his visit meant a return of Bergamot whom the children loved. His return also signaled a change in their parents whose behavior had been odd since the monk last left. It was the subtle way mothers and fathers were treating their children. They were more tender and protective. Even Bjorn had been strangely kinder to him, Reimar noted. Not only that, four girls had been given into marriage and would be leaving before the end of October. The newlyweds needed a chance to settle in before snow became a threat.

Then shortly after dawn this morning, everyone in Aattaettirstrond came together for mass. Once over, Herr Henrik came before them to announce why Brother Finn was back. Disbelief overwhelmed Reimar's mind as Herr Henrik gave the names of all the children who would be leaving with Brother Finn. Every parent gathered their chosen child close.

Anja, Oili and Mats wept and begged.

Talo and Stephon froze.

Liesl screamed at her parents in a fit of rage.

Reimar ran.

His father's voice bellowed for him to return, but he did not heed. He ran out the south field gate toward the lake, tripping through the empty fields. The pinery was a thin line of trees past the fields and was fairly safe, for it was hard for wild beasts or manitou to hide there. Most abhorred the daylight, preferring the dark shade of the pinery. Scratchy brambles and woody grass whipped by him as he ran onto the sandy loam and then came the dunes that rose before the beach. Exhausted from his pell-mell sprint, Reimar flopped down onto the soft dry sand, and sobbed.

"What will become of me?" Reimar asked himself. The unknown of life in the Kyrkja terrified him even more than the knowledge that staying was almost certain death for someone, perhaps even himself. It was as plain as his big hawkish nose. His heart wanted what it wanted and would not take no for an answer.

"Reimar?" His father's voice was soft as he came up on his huddled son. Reimar did not stir but kept looking at the lake that was as big as any sea. He watched the horizon for another answer to come but saw none.

"Reimar, you know the truth of it. This cannot be changed." Anton did not want to hear the words he was saying, and Reimar tried with all his will to shut them out. Stepping closer, his father continued to entreat him.

"I do not want to beat you like Herr Vils had to with Liesl. Do not defy me now. You must trust me more than anything in your life!" His father's voice was quiet with desperate emotion. Anton pleaded with his son to understand something that he suspected was far beyond his maturity.

Reimar spun around to face him on his hands and knees. His father squatted down low in the sand.

"I know, Papa! Please do not make me! I am old enough to help and you know how little I eat!" His pleas were dwarfed by his grief but he clung to them with desperation.

"Jah I know that, my Little Spruce." Anger and sadness mixed in his voice at his son's defiance. Familiar habits tried to assert control of the conversation, but that would only poison this memory. Anton continued to try and have a good last moment with his son. It was then that Reimar realized his father did not want him to leave either. He looked at his father with new awareness. He too had eyes red and sore from the decision. His father's face was spotted with welts from the stinging sand and most importantly, he was here. Eye to eye with him.

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