Loric had no chance to reply to Oldsir’s query because their dialog was interrupted a the high whistling call from below them. Oldsir looked down and said to himself “So soon…” “Loric the call has been given. You must go below and stand on the ground with your friends. I wish you luck.”
Loric looked at his grandfather and then closed the distance between them. He hugged the old man fiercely and said “If it means your time of death has come closer, I won’t go! ”
“Here now, is that the voice of a Tolorion I hear? Are you so strong that you can wrestle with time itself? My time has come, but so has yours But do not let the fate of an old man deter you from doing your best! I will be watching you as all of your tribe will, to see that honor is maintained and that the Spirit of the Wood is not broken. Now go, son of my son. And may the dew never settle on your brow!” With that blessing Oldsir turned and leaped off the porch of his house and deftly caught a vine some yards below. Before Loric could call out to him he was lost from sight.
“Thank you Oldsir,” He said softly, “Goodbye,Grandfather.” He barely heard the second sounding of the call and threw himself off the platform with a vengeance. He went downward recklessly, allowing the bare minimum margin for safety. He hit the ground hard and lightly bruised, but in one piece. Without a glance at the gathered downlander’s he strode to the center of the circle where they had gathered and stood with head held high and body erect. Determined that his Grandfather’s last wish would be granted.
Loric tried to stay aloof from the others, hoping to keep his anger fired, but the excited conversation around him kept intruding on his thoughts.
“Going for it again, eh Hiram? Maybe you’ll get to the top of the Home-tree this time.”
“Go jump Jakul,I made the Tree-climbing test, it was the Net-walking that did me in last time.”
“You were lucky then, if you’d made that they would have thrown you into the Pit. My brother Yione was there for three days before they dragged him out. He still won’t talk about that one but I think they used snakes on him, he never did like them.”
“Snakes I don’t mind, but there’s worse. They say there’s always one test you can’t pass. And then there’s always the Shreaving. Hey there’s Loric. Loric! What’s in the pit eh? Snakes or spiders or just a few wild dogs to gnaw your bones! Hah-hah!”
Loric looked at his friends and smiled thinly. “Whatever it is, it couldn’t be as mean as you two! I still remember the time you two put that bee-comb in my sister’s bed and the ant’s all but carried her off! I couldn’t catch you then, but maybe after today, you’ll not be so fast?
I think a tree-crab could walk away with what’s left of you after the test and no one would notice.”
“Jakul we made a mistake even speaking to this one, he’s obviously the first test; to see how long we’ll stand here before stringing him up by his toes!”
Hiram made a feint towards Loric which he dodged and then grabbed His friends arm and pressed his thumb into the wrist. The scene was on the verge of becoming a tussle when the third sounding of the Call was made and the late arrivals noisily joined the trio in the council circle. Under his breath Hiram asked, “What’s up your tree Loric, you used to take that guff and pass it out fresh?” Loric looked side-ways at his friend. “Sorry, Hiram. It’s just that my grandfather has had his second vision.”
Hiram stepped back and then asked “Did he tell you what it was?”
“No, only that his time had come…and mine too! Shhh! Dernhelm is looking at you–turn around!” Loric spun his friend around to face his uncle. He waited for the silence to spread to all present, even the young children were silent. Somehow feeling the intensity of the moment.
“Know you children of the Village in the Trees, what is the benefit of the Arborskill?”
Loric and the others replied as one; “Yes, my chief. my eyes and the eyes of my tribe, my hands and the hands of my tribe, my heart and the heart, ears, and tongue of my tribe will become keener, and I will know the joy of life from the Spirit of the Wood. I will adapt,and my tribe will live.
I will take the offerings of the Wood, and make new and better things things for the living. The Arborskill honors and protects, and the seasons change.”
“What do you need to achieve the Arborskill?”
“My Kesh-blade, my chief.”
“My wits , my chief.”
“This is all?”
“And my song , My chief,and my hands.”
“Do you have these four things?”
“I have them, my chief, My wits are as keen as my blase and my hands are as strong as my song. My song is strong, my chief!”
“Then show your tribe what you know. What is the first craft of the Arborskill?”
“The first craft of the Arborskill is the Lashing.”
At this loric looked about him. In the circle were poles he was to use as a rope walk, but there was no grass gathered to plait into a lashing.
Realizing that the cane fields were a long-run away and the reed marshes even further than that, several of the boys waved to their families and sprinted off into the woods. Loric started out muttering under his breath. He has went only a short distance when he stopped. This can’t be right! he thought. It will take most of the day just to gather the grass and return with it, and there’s more tests after this one!
Loric looked back at the circle of logs where the tribe sat silently. There were more logs than usual around the fire pit, leaving several unoccupied or with only one person to a log. The new logs were still dark with bark and the scent came to Loric as he walked back into the circle.
The acrid smell of Liamas trees greeted him. Of Course! Adaption! Loric had been taught how to plait grass and vines but there was a no reason he couldn’t do the same with the fibrous bark of the Liamas tree.
He ran across the clearing to where his sister sat with several of the other young women.
“Loric I see no grass for you to weave, perhaps you intend to weave the air into a rope?”
Loric was stung by his sister’s words but caught the twinkle in her eye that meant to Loric that he must be close to an answer.
Formally he stood before his sister and said:
“I ask that you give up your seat my sister, so that your brother may become a man.”
Silsia gave up a cheer. “Ai-ya! Ai-Ya! Little Loric would be a man and make his sister stand!” She laughed and stood by her friends.
“Come sisters, we must move for near-man Loric who already knows how to act like a man!”
Loric drew his knife from it’s sheaf and started cutting the bark from the log in long strips.