Damien sat with Kallus' family at supper. The dining room of the manor was ornate, complete with its own chandelier. Candles were placed along the table as well, glinting off the expensive dinnerware.
Tonight was what Kallus and Lanara deemed to be a special occasion. They prepared a well-fitting meal and dressed in their finer clothes.
While waiting for the next course to be brought out, Lanara rested her hands under her chin. "Where were you born, Damien?"
Damien was shy to make eye contact with her. "I don't know for sure," he said. "My earliest memories are all in Eolnir."
"Eolnir? The land of the dark elves, you mean."
"I know it's strange," he shrugged.
Kallus crunched his brow. "You were brought up in Eolnir? I don't understand what the dark elves would want with a human."
Damien let out a disturbed breath. "I don't like talking about it. I was like a prisoner to them." He sipped his water a little too fast.
"Right then," Lanara shifted. "We are thankful to have you with us now. What do you like to do for fun?"
The word fun did not mean anything to Damien. "For what?"
"Fun. What do you enjoy?"
"Lanara," Kallus turned to her, "let us not push the boy."
Lanara looked down at her plate. "Of course."
"I enjoy being free," Damien answered.
After supper, Damien was accompanied by Nihilan as they went upstairs. It was time for the children to get to bed, and that included Damien. He found himself facing Nihilan as they both lingered outside their rooms. Nihilan's room sat directly across from Damien's, and Nihilan seemed prickly about having a neighbor.
"What are you staring at?" Nihilan stepped toward him, causing Damien to flinch. "Pssh. You're so scared all the time. You're like a baby." His words made Damien shut himself inside his room. "Yeah, you better not bother me." Nihilan turned, closing his own door.
Damien had a good night's rest. He had went to bed on a full stomach and was ready for his first full day in Kallus' house. After getting dressed, Damien went downstairs and found that another meal was being served. The family was yet again sitting around the table eating their breakfast.
Lanara smiled at him when he came into the opulent dining room. "Look who's finally awake," she said. "How do you like your room? Are the bed sheets soft enough?"
"Uh," Damien rubbed his scalp, "if anything, they're too soft. I don't mind it, though." He pulled out a chair and sat down. He found that Lila was staring at him as he ate. In a way, it was just like Calda's house when Ashlyn was the one who watched him as he ate. What was it with young girls watching him as he ate?
Damien acknowledged her with a dainty wave. "Lila, right?"
Lila perked up. "You remembered."
Then he looked over at Nihilan. "I can't remember your name," he said. "N--Nayleon?"
Nihilan winced at him. "It's Nihilan. And it's not so hard to remember."
"Perhaps if I knew what it means in the common tongue. You people have your own language here, right?"
"There isn't a word in the common tongue for what my name means. Though, I can't say the same for you. Your name essentially translates to 'slave' in the common tongue."
Damien slowed to chew. He was quickly discovering that bantering with Nihilan was something that he enjoyed. "Is that supposed to be a joke? You have a terrible sense of humor."
"Boys," Lanara snapped at them, "you respect each other at the table. Damien isn't familiar with our rules, but you, Nihilan? Save your harsh attitude for the training field. It'll serve you better."
Nihilan digressed and finished eating his meal in silence. When breakfast came to a close, they all dispersed to their daily tasks. Lila and Nihilan were escorted off to their morning training exercises. Kallus brought Damien downstairs to his forge.
The space was neat and organized. All the tools were in their place. Kallus stoked the forge-fire, letting it erupt with flame. It spewed heat onto Damien's front side, leaving ash on his clothes. Kallus picked up a bar of metal for Damien to practice on.
"Today's lesson is balance," he said, sticking the metal into the fire. "How long do you think that needs to heat up?"
"I gather not long," Damien said, inching closer to the fire. Kallus let go of the bar and placed Damien's grip around it.
"You decide when to pull it out. If it's too hot, you fail. If it's too cool, you fail."
"How do I know if it's too hot?"
"Well," Kallus reached for his work hammer, "a shape that's too hot will not be easy to work with. It'll bend too much and fail to hold its intended form. You want a more sturdy shape to work with. Not too easily bent. At the same time, a shape that is not bendable enough will yield its own problems."
"Isn't that obvious?"
"Take my children for an example," Kallus said. "Nihilan can be too hot at times. The lessons I teach him do not often stick to his shape. Lilathanor, on the other hand, is stubborn. She believes that her current shape needs no improvement. I expect better from you, Damien. Allow me to teach you, and your shape will be perfect."
"Is there really such thing as perfect?" Damien asked.
"For a shape, always."
Damien waited as long as he dared before pulling the metal out of the fire. Its nose was a bright red. Kallus took the bar as it was and put it onto his anvil. He hammered at it to test the temperature of its shape. When he was done, he looked at Damien with approval.
"You're a natural at this," he said. "This piece will bend nicely."