Kallus hauled a heavy anvil to his basement. He was careful not to let it crush his toes as he placed it down on the stone floor. The anvil sat a few feet away from a burning forge fire with a low flame. A set of work tools hung beside it along the wall, ready to be used. Setting up an at-home forge had been a long project of Kallus', and now his workspace was complete.
He pulled out one of his tools to stir the fire, before a commotion upstairs caught his attention. The sound of scurrying told him that his family had returned, so he went upstairs to warm their passing. He caught sight of his wife, Lanara, who had been out with their two children. Beholding the sight of his family was like looking at a masterful painting. His wife was beautiful. She had dove-like eyes and gold hair that trickled down her back in waves. The two children were little clones of her.
Kallus wrapped his arms around Lanara. It had only been a few hours, but he had missed her since they parted.
Lanara kissed his forehead that was covered with a thin layer of sweat. “Se amyatúrë, love. You’ve been busy today?”
“I think the forge is now set the way I like it. How did training go?”
“It was incredible," she said. "Lilathanor is eager to tell you the news.” She turned to their eldest daughter, a golden-haired elf of sixteen years. She had crystal blue eyes like her mother and a rebellious disposition.
"What news?" He saw Lilathanor giving him a satisfied grin.
"They want me to join the Fighters Academy. With just one more year of training, I'll be ready to take my entrance exams."
"You're not seriously considering going, are you?"
"Dad, my teachers are going to recommend me. Me! I really want to go."
"She really wants to go," Lanara crossed her thin arms. "She's been working hard."
"You have been working hard," Kallus agreed. "But the Fighters Academy? What do you plan to do with that, Lila?"
"I don't know," his daughter shrugged. "All I know is I want to hurt bad guys for a living."
Standing next to her was her younger brother, Nihilan. He had been listening in on the conversation and decided at that moment to chime in. "Have you even fought bad guys? Ones that aren't imaginary?"
"Sometimes I count you as a bad guy."
"Oh, I'm so hurt."
"That's enough, you two," Lanara gestured to the kitchen. "You both stink after training outside. Go and wash up before your studies." With that, the two teenagers put away their combat sticks and disappeared. Kallus was about to go back downstairs to his forge when a knock sent him turning toward the door.
"I'll get it," he insisted. Standing on his front porch was a young man who delivered messages from the Tribunal.
"Se amyatúrë, lord Kallus," the messenger greeted. "The Tribunal summons you."
"Yes, I'll be there immediately."
"Very good." The messenger nodded and disappeared.
Kallus sighed while rubbing his brow. Lanara's eyes followed him as he grabbed his deer-skin coat and shoes.
"Do you plan to be back for supper tonight?"
"I will try to make it quick." He kissed her before leaving.
On his way to the Tribunal, he passed a trio of travelers along the same road. Two of the travelers he knew, but the third was a stranger. It was still disheartening seeing Calda walking around without Hael. Still, it did Kallus' heart well to see her walking with her daughter.
"Se amyatúrë," he smiled at Calda and Ashlyn. "I hope today finds you well."
Calda smiled at him in return. "It does, Kallus. Thank you."
"Welcome back, Ashlyn. You are growing up fast. Has it really been so long?"
"Your children are growing up fast, too," Calda said. "Sprouting like weeds they are."
"Yes," Kallus laughed. "Lilathanor is maturing faster than I would prefer." It was then he looked at the teenage boy who was with them. When Kallus realized that there was a human in their company, he caught on himself. "And who is this?"
"This is Damien," Ashlyn introduced him. "He will be staying with us for a while."
"Well met," Kallus offered his hand. "It's not so often we get a human visitor."
Damien nodded while shaking his hand. "Hello."
"What business brings a young human out here?"
"Damien is an orphan," Calda explained. "You know how I love to care for orphans."
"Ah," Kallus nodded. "Ashlyn is growing tired of being the only non-elf in the village, I see."
"Something like that, yes."
He scanned Calda over, noticing the exhaustion around her eyes. "Let me know if you need anything. I know from experience that housing two teenagers is not a picnic."
Calda laughed. "Don't I know it. I suppose we should let you get moving. Come along, you two."
Ashlyn moved closer to Kallus. Her head came to the height of his flat belly. "There is a lot to discuss with the Tribunal today," she said.
"Yes," Kallus crunched his eyebrows. "You know that's where I'm headed?"
"What else could bring you along this path?"
"We just came from there," Calda explained. She took Ashlyn and Damien by their shoulders before heading out. "We will see you back at the village."
"Goodbye," Kallus waved them off. He stood there, hesitating. Ashlyn was indeed maturing faster than most humans would. The girl was merely twelve and she already possessed intelligence that could rival her elders. "That child is odd," he muttered before he could bring himself to move again.
Once he had arrived at the Ferion, Kallus faced his fellow tribunal heads. The two elf lords sat on a stone platform with one too many cracks between the bricks. The first to greet him was Milanthius.
"Kallus, you showed up immediately. That is good."
"I assume this matter has something to do with the Sorceress?"
"How keen of you to know."
"I passed her on the way here."
"Then you no doubt met the human she brought."
"What of it?"
"That is what we are to discuss. Ashlyn wishes to keep the boy here under her watch."
"The problem is our law will not allow for the human to stay," Kyanthus said.
"I see," said Kallus. His fingers tapped his chin as he pondered. His feet paced along the floor. "With Calda watching over him, I see no reason why the boy cannot stay."
Kyanthus turned his mouth into a flat line. "Because our law does not allow it. Calda is not the head of her house, she cannot claim the boy no matter how much her daughter wishes it."
"Shall we put it to a vote?" Milanthius proposed. "A vote to overturn the law?"
"A vote is ill-fitting," Kyanthus said. "We are not here to overturn the law. If we cannot agree, the matter will sit longer than it needs. Let us reject the human and be done with this."
Kallus moved to the platform and sat next to Milanthius. A faint smile curved his lips. "I can make a place for the boy," he said. "No law will be broken if he is a member of my house."
"Are you sure, Kallus?" Milanthius voiced his concern.
"A human would serve my own purposes well. I shall be needing a forge-hand. Let the boy work for me."
"The proposal is sound," Kyanthus said after a moment. "If no laws are to be broken or overturned, on that I can agree. What say you, Milanthius?"
Milanthius was satisfied with Kallus' solution. "I agree with you, Kallus. The boy must work for his keep, especially if you are to house him."
"Then we agree." Kallus uncrossed his legs and stood. "I will send for the boy when I am ready."
"And how long will that take?"
Kallus shrugged. "I would like to inform my family first."
That evening, Kallus laid in bed beside Lanara. On calm nights like tonight, she was inclined to hold onto him while resting her head. Kallus had wanted to share the news earlier at supper, but he could not bring himself to. With a few strained moans, he spoke to Lanara.
"How would you feel if our house grew by one member?"
Lanara turned her chin to look up at him. "Are you trying to tell me you have a mistress?"
"No, not at all. The Tribunal summoned me today over a human. The young Sorceress wishes him to stay here in Gumber. I know better than to force Calda to be responsible for him."
"Kallus, you do not have to look over everyone. You may be a head of the Tribunal, but that does not obligate you to care for every person that comes to you."
"You misunderstand," he said. "I want to do it. I cannot let the boy become another burden to Calda."
"You owe nothing to Calda. It's been twelve years, there is no need to keep guilting yourself over what happened."
"She has been through enough. Losing her husband and raising Ashlyn has already hurt her reputation. If I don't take that boy in, she will be seen as the village hag."
"It is not your fault that Calda has not remarried since then."
"Lanara, we are blessed to have so much. Twelve years ago, I was scared of what raising an orphan would do to us. I let Ashlyn go to Calda."
"Which was a good decision on your part," Lanara said. "Because of you, Calda is far from being the village hag."
Kallus took in a breath. "It's not merely a favor to Calda. My father's legacy is nothing but a burden to me now. My children will not suffer because of their blood inheritance. I want them to go free."
"You think the power that belongs to you is a burden?"
"It is," he nodded. "If my burdens must be passed on to someone, let it be someone who is not of my bloodline."
"Kal, I don't think our elders will allow such an offense to tradition."
She snuggled into his side. "At least the rebellious man I know you to be isn't entirely gone. How I have missed it."
"Yes," Kallus whispered. "I thought those days were long behind me."
"Do what you will with the boy. I support your decision. Even when the elders punish you for it, I'll be there cheering you on."
"You're taking this quite well," he said, brushing the tip of her shoulder.
"There is one thing you said that I agree with: our children will be free of all this. They should be able to go wherever they want to go."
Kallus grinned. "Anywhere but the Fighters Academy."