Tasuneke woke to the hopping finches chirping in the treetops above, as they always did in the early hours of the morning. The sun peeked through his hut, a few lucky beams skirting narrowly past all manner of obstacles to light up the small hut he slept in. He rubbed the dreams out of his eyes, grinning as he gained consciousness.
It would be a big day for Tasuneke, for today was the Dawn of Night, the first day of Stargaze. It was when the village celebrated the beginning of a new year. This year, however, was his fifteenth, and he would be named an adult today.
Rising to his feet, he pulled some clothes on as he prepared for the day. The ceremony wasn’t until tonight, yet he was already scrambling over himself with anticipation. He had no time to waste, however. This was no day for rest on anyone’s part, and even children had responsibilities, and he had the energy to run to the ends of the world today.
“Good morning, Tasune,” a woman carrying a basket smiled at him as he ran past. “Happy Dawn of Night to you.”
“Happy Dawn of Night, Malayah!” he called back, waving an arm. Malayah was one of the few people that went out of her way to be kind to Tasuneke. On a normal day, he would take the time to stop and chat with her, but today was special. She would understand.
The interlacing shadow of the dome of vines that encased his village cascaded on the grass below him. He was fond of the patterns it made on the ground, and in his childhood he would jump across the sunlit spots, pretending Cedrine would curse his family if he set foot in the shadow. But he was too old for such games now.
As he ran between the fields of crops, he saw the farmers gather on one side of the aisles. When he realized that he woke up early enough to witness the daily watering, he slowed his step. He could probably spare a minute.
He was too far to make out any faces, though doubtless he knew most of them. They would all have the pointed three lines tattooed on their forehead that signified their identity as a farmer. Tasuneke palmed his own forehead. It would not be bare for much longer.
Then men placed staves in the ground, and immediately he focused his attention back to the farmers. After a few more moments of preparation, they all simultaneously channeled their power. Founts of water blasted out of the staves, showering the tilled land. The water had no apparent beginning. They didn’t heat ice or cool steam. It simply began where the staves ended. That was what was so fascinating to Tasuneke.
He was Cedrian by birth, but he never understood their system of magic. His attentions had been focused elsewhere, so even when he tried to study how the Cedrian style of magic worked, it simply didn’t make any sense. He had once tried to carve a totem himself and cast his energy through it just as these farmers were doing now, but it didn’t work. He couldn’t satisfy himself with his own style of magic, either, because he had been forbidden from forging his own blade, as was the way for the blood of Aluvalia.
His was the family line of the Tenders. They were critical to the life of Cedria’s vine dome cities. They were the security, the curators, and peacemakers of everyone else, and though very few of them had ever set foot in the country of their ancestors, they were never quite considered Cedrian.
The water spouts ceased, and the first row of farmers relaxed. Upheaving their staves from the ground, they were replaced by a second line of them, who planted their own tools in the ground and resumed with another wave of magic. It was amazing. Something so simple that dozens of people were doing this with practiced ease, and yet Tasuneke would never in his life be able to grasp the concept of how magic was conducted using totems. Every magic style was different, of course, and nobody in the world could learn a second one after they knew the first, but that made it all the more fascinating.
But, he had tarried here long enough. He still had to tell his mother he was awake, and after that he had to find Tulu, provided she let him leave the village today. So, having seen what he wanted to, he kept on his way.
Past the fields stood the Temple of Whispers. It was traditionally the only structure of a village that was made with stone. Attached to the side of the temple was the forge, the gathering place and home of the Tenders. He heard the sound of work inside as he approached, as well he should. Pushing past the hide flaps, he entered, beaming, to see his mother and two other Tenders working at grindstones, sharpening their trim-blades as they sat upon their wooden stools. He glanced at each of their foreheads, marveling at the curved vine tattoos. He would bear one like it by this time tomorrow.
“Good morning, Tasune,” his mother called over the grindstones, not looking up from her work. “Brimming with energy today, I see.”
“Yes, mother. Happy Dawn of Night. Happy Dawn of Night friends,” he nodded to the other two Tenders, who smiled back at him. “I wanted to take a faespawn outside the village to find some coal nuts for the ceremony tonight.”
She glanced up at him, turning the blade over to sharpen the other side. “Have you been to the grocer and taken our food for the week?”
“Mother, I told you I hate going over there,” he complained. “He always wants to talk about his tattoos and how much more interesting his life was when he was young.”
“Nashoba is a kind man, and I do not care much for your patronizing tone. You may go looking for coal nuts, but only after you speak to him.”
He sighed. “Yes, mother. May I leave?”
“Pour some more water on our grindstones before you do.”
“But you can just use magic to conjure water!”
“Tasuneke you are no man yet and I am through with your attitude,” she spat. “I have told you many times past that using the stars’ power is a privilege and not to be taken lightly. If we use magic any time a task is inconvenient we would lose ourselves. Pour the water or by Cedrine’s mercy grocery running will be the least of your worries.”
At that, Tasuneke scrambled to get the water bucket. Being scolded by his mother in front of the men who would be his peers by the end of the day was humiliating, but he managed to dampen the stones without finding himself in further trouble. When he was finished, his mother nodded silently as he moved to the building’s flap, so he left with as much haste as possible.
There was no reason to hasten to the grocer now. Tasuneke could find all the coal nuts he needed and be back before long. His next task then, was to go to the faespawn roost and find Tulu, his favorite. He quickened his pace, his excitement no longer containable.
The faespawn roost was just outside of the village, but instead of the opening in the vines that the Tenders guarded, one had to pass through a tunnel of overarching vines. Really, it was simply a smaller dome. Vines grew over cities because they wove over the magical atmosphere like a big rock, so in order to create tunnels using the vines the Tenders made pylons of magical energy to create these atmospheres. As he passed through the tunnel, he tapped the trim-blade buried in stone, thrumming quietly as it observed him from its perch. Aluvalian magic, not Cedrian.
Soon, he heard the chirping of the faespawn. They were dull, short calls rather than the songs of typical birds. Their roost had at over a dozen, enough to warrant a nest outside of the village proper. Most people found their calls to be quite obnoxious. Tasuneke, though, was fond of the birds. They were different. They were small blue flightless things, but had colorful wings they could at least use to jump up onto branches. They loved coal nuts, which was their primary use, but beyond that there wasn’t much to like. He identified with that. Few properly respected the ways of the Tenders, who sometimes were assigned the less than cordial duties.
One of these unpleasant tasks was watching and feeding the faespawn. Today that unfortunate responsibility fell upon Abeytuu, a girl not much older than himself, barely a full Tender. She was rushing about the roost trying to feed ones that hadn’t eaten while keeping away the ones that had. Evidently this wasn’t working as intended. They were leaping up to outstretching vines that breached the magic barrier, grasping onto them as perches as they stared intently at her, waiting to prey on the bird that was unlucky enough to get fed next.
“Good morning, Abeytuu!” he called over the cries and fluttering of the birds. The girl jumped in surprise, and in her shock tripped over one of the birds, scattering the seed all over the ground. The faespawn swarmed it, the girl already forgotten in their frenzy to engorge themselves.
Brushing herself off, she turned to address him. “Good morning, Tasune,” she grumbled back, looking mournful at the failure of her task.
“I’m sorry for startling you,” he said. “I came to borrow a faespawn. I’m getting my coal nuts today!” he shook his fist enthusiasm.
“You turn fifteen this year?” she asked, lightening up a little. “Exciting. You can finally start looking for a girl, then,” she nudged him with her elbow, winking.
Tasuneke blushed. “I’m more excited about forging my trim-blade. Anyway, I need to hurry. Mother wants me to do all the usual stuff today, so I don’t have time to relax. Can I have Tulu?”
“Him?” she gestured with her head, indicating a spry bird with a notched beak, poking at some of the feed. “Are you sure? He’s not trained very well.”
“Yeah! Mother said Tulu is about as old as I am in faespawn years!”
“Alright, if you want to make things harder for yourself, but I’ll have to give you a coal nut charm. Something that makes him listen to you.”
“Sure,” he nodded. She left to one of the opposite sides of the small dome, opening up a wooden box and pulling out a small pouch before closing the box again. She offered him the pouch when she returned.
“Don’t open this until you’re back in the village, otherwise the other birds will flock after you over it. I’ll grab Tulu and you can carry him with you.”
Tasuneke nodded again and did as he was told. The charm was kept neatly in its pouch as he held the little bird with both hands, thanking Abeytuu for her help before leaving through the tunnel he came from. When he got back to the village, he opened the pouch and the bird cawed intently at the charm inside, trying to grab for it and jumping over and behind him repeatedly. This one bird alone was a handful. Suddenly he admired Abeytuu’s willpower at bearing these things all day.
Pulling the charm over one wrist, he somehow managed to get the bird to calm down. “Okay, Tulu. We’ll get you some coal nuts. It’s going to be a big day for both of us. We’re going to get the most coal nuts anyone has ever seen from one trip!”