Part Six   July 19, 2016


His father stood behind the bellows, squeezing its handles together in a rhythmic pattern.  Bran watched the flames in the furnace rise with each gush of air.  The hypnotic flames danced before him like a friend who is honest so long as you do not turn your back to him.  Sweat poured down his father’s upper body, staining the leather apron that covered the silver hairs of his chest.  “I once hoped this would be a great day Bran,” his father said with honesty, “but I expected your mother and I to ride with you.  Now you must go alone, and I am worried.  So many years have past that I no longer can be sure what the land will be like.”

Bran shrugged his shoulders.  He took the tongs in his father’s hand and dipped the horseshoe they held into a barrel.  The hissing noise from the cooling iron distracted him for a moment.  He watched the vapour rise as his father took out a wrapped parcel from one of the shop’s shelves.

“This should pay for your first year.”  His father unwrapped a strange object that appeared to be made of silver.  As Bran looked closer he could see twelve different holes in the middle of the anvil shaped object.  The holes ranged in size beginning with the largest, and were connected by clips.  “Observe,” his father said, taking the object from him.

His father pulled out a few horsetail hairs from a sack, next he opened a jar filled with a beige coloured gel.  He covered his hands with the gel.  By rubbing his hands together he covered the tail hairs.  He slipped the hairs through the largest hole and then forced them through each consecutive hole until the last was reached.  Bran watched intently as his father carefully manipulated the tail hairs through the smallest hole, over-and-over again creating a flexible yet stiff chord.  “This is how the strings of a lute are made,” his father said with pride.  “A Bard campus is always searching for more of these, because the students who finish their four years often steal them.”  His father wiped his hands on a rag.

Forgetting he must leave, Bran inspected the device with great curiosity.  “Why silver?”

“Silver doesn’t rust, and for some reason the glue won’t stick to its surface.”  His father clasped his chin.  “Be well Bran,” his father said, embracing him.  Bran didn’t know how to react to his father’s embrace.  He froze for a moment until his father began talking to him, telling him to follow Dampsen’s road to Cranny’s forest.  To go east until he came to a narrow river called the Tye River, the Tye would lead him to the Bard campus.  His father led him out the door.

Bran didn’t fully understand his father’s words; he only knew that he must leave his home.

He saw no one as he walked along Dampsen’s road.  The farmers must still be tending to their animals inside the barns.  He followed the road as it curved eastward toward Cranny’s Forest.  As the sun heated the top of his thick crop of chestnut brown hair he looked down at the ground to avoid its glare, and so he missed the view of his homeland.  It didn’t matter; he knew he had to force his thoughts away from familiarity and towards unfamiliarity.  Within Cranny’s Forest he would be in unknown territory.

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