A Mother's Love
“Mother! Mother!” A child of seven shouted as he burst through the door to their small sod home. “Mother! I’m in, I’m in, they’re taking me with them!”
The boy’s mother, sat down, a weak smile appearing on her weather face. “You must have impressed them, I knew that you could. When do you leave; what do you need?”
“They’re going to be leaving town in the morning, I’ll be going with them, I have to have everything together and be at the Count’s home by dawn else they’ll leave without me! I’ll get up extra early to make that that doesn’t happen!”
“Go get your father, he’ll want to know and we’ll celebrate your good fortune tonight.”
“Right away!” The child was back out the door, forgetting to close it as he so often did, just as quickly as he had rushed through it.
The boy’s mother slowly stood up and went back to cutting carrots for the soup slowly cooking over the fire. Sadness and joy fought to control her face as the fire light played across her face as the sun began to sink below the horizon darkening the world around her.
The boy rushed towards the fields, he knew his father would be harvesting the Count’s fields today, usually he would have been helping but with the Envoy of the Mages staying in their hamlet that day he had been sent to apply for apprenticeship. The mages’ were very particular about their apprentices and would only take the best of students. Nearly all of the fields stood bare, winter was coming soon. The summer had been good to their village, despite rumors of famine to the north their harvest would provide plenty of food for the coming year. The men and boys working the fields were in high spirits as they neared the end of another long day, all of them looking forward to the warm meal that would be waiting for them at home.
“Father!” He began to yell, long before there was any hope of being heard, “Father! I’m in, I’m in!”
The boy’s father looked up, at the sound of his son’s voice although he couldn’t understand what he was saying he knew what would have caused that kind of excitement in his son. He gave a shout and lifted his hands in the air; joy filled him as he moved quickly to meet his son.
“I’m in father! I’m in! I’m going to be a mage!”
“That’s my boy!” the father shouted as he picked up his boy, holding him above his head, “I knew you’d make it!”
The boy ended up on his father’s shoulders as they walked back into the field. “My boy’s going to be a mage! My boy!” The men of the hamlet smiled and congratulated the boy as they walked past them returning to where the boy’s father had been working. Setting the boy back down the father return to work, a new and larger smile on his face, “Help with the field one last time before you head off to make a mage out of yourself, I’m proud of you, my son!”
The men and boys left the field a half hour after the boy come to share his news, they had to work until dark both common law and common sense dictated that they finish as much work as possible each day, no one wanted to be stuck with unharvested food when the first snows began to fall. Everyone congratulated the boy as they went to eat the warm meal that was waiting for them at home. Soon everyone heard the news, all the women rushed through their meals so that they to could congratulate the boy and all of them begged the boy to remember their village when he became a powerful mage. After the evening chores had been finished and suppers cleaned up all the village gathered around the well, the center of the hamlet, and began to celebrate in earnest.
Every town, every village, every person hoped that someone they knew would be taken on as an apprentice of the Mage Guild. Although many failed to become mages, and many others died in the attempt if a child from your town ever became a powerful mage often your town would receive generous gifts from them. It might be a new mill, new housing, gifts of animals, or even the establishment of a faire. The boy would leave in the morning and might never be seen in that hamlet again. No one outside of the Count’s household was literate so there was little chance that even a letter might be sent.
The boy would leave the hamlet at dawn the next day and wouldn’t be heard from until he was sixteen or even older, unless it was to report failure and expulsion or death. The possible benefits for both the child and the village however kept even his mother from being too melancholy as the celebration continued on into the night.
The boy awoke the next morning in the predawn light, his father and mother were already awake, and his two older brothers were already eating breakfast, the soup left from last night, kept warm over the fire all night long. The boy sat up in bed and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.
“Good morning, apprentice mage!” The mother said, cheer in her voice far more than could have been heard the day before, “Your father and I have you all packed, your change of clothes, a blanket, and a few gifts that we could put together on such short notice.”
The boy reached over to the small sack that had been placed near his bedroll. Looking through it he found a carved figure of a man and a woman with their hands on the shoulder of a young child, a sling made of new strong leather, and a handful of silver coins. The boys father looking down at him, smiling with pride spoke softly, “I hope that sling comes in handy for you, one never knows when something like that could come in handy, and don’t go and forget about us! Let that carving remind you of your home here. We had Count’s youngest daughter carve our names on the bottom of it, so that when you learn to read you’ll be able always remember who you are and where you come from.”
The father nodded his head once, firmly. Then looked away, out an open window, “It’ll be dawn soon, we’d have best get some food in you; I would be willing to bet that you have a long journey in front of you.”
“Thank you father, mother, I won’t forget you! I’ll be back when I can and I’ll write you letters in a few years when I can write, I’m sure someone will be able to read them to you!”
“Food now: don’t get too far ahead of yourself!” The mother’s voice was lyrical, her pride in her boy and her hope for his future showing through in her voice and movement. She dished him up some soup with a beaten up wooden spoon dropping the soup into an equally beaten wooden bowl. The mother beamed at her son as she watched him eat his breakfast while the father looked out the window sadness showing on his face.
As the boy finished up his soup his brothers wished him well and hugged him before he left, they were heading back out to the fields for another day of work under the fall Sun. Five days of labor on their own fields and one day of labor on their Lord’s. Since the summer began they hand labored six out of every seven days. In a few weeks the harvest would be over, they would then have to mill the grain, storing what they would need through the winter and saving enough to plant next years crops. The rest, about a quarter of what they would harvest, they would take to one of the local towns to sell to a merchant or directly to local families. While their youngest brother was heading off to a life of magic and perhaps wealth, they were stuck in their lives of labor and constant worry that the next year might bring famine and death.
“Farewell my son, listen and obey your master, whomever he is, remember us as we will remember you, make of yourself everything that you can. I’ll be here, in the fields if you should ever need me.” With that the boys father gave him one last embrace then turned and led his other two sons off to the fields, looking back only once.
The mother knelt down to hold her son, a smile on her face despite a tear welling up in the corner of her eye, "Good luck Charles," she said softly, "make your mother proud." She held him tight for a moment longer, then let him go, turned him around and pushed him lightly, but firmly, towards the Count's home and his destiny. She watched him run away from her, pride and sorrow fighting in her chest. After he had disappeared over a rise she turned and went back inside; she had much work to do.