Child sat on a low sandstone wall outside the city gates with Rewel—of his many, many mothers, she was his favorite because of her loud and frequent laughter full of snorts and screeches. But she had no laughter now. Together they waved as the caravan rolled past, and they watched it disappear over the hills to the west, chasing its own long morning shadows.
“When will I be sent to the Forge?” asked Child.
Rewel tilted her head and inhaled deeply. “You’re young, yet, Child. I should say you’ve seven summers more.”
“Seven?!” Twice his life again. “But I want to have my Name Day. I want to be called Bunga!”
Rewel couldn’t help but giggle. “Bunga is a fine name, but you may change your mind later. Don’t be in such a rush to grow up, Child.”
He bounced aimlessly on the wall, lost in thought as he looked out over the golden field of stonecrop. He had known many of the nameless children who had left for the Forge, and he grasped that while some would return as adults, ready to claim their names, most would not return at all. “Why must we go to the Forge?” he asked.
“For the Thinning, Child; you know this. To be tested—mind, body, and heart—so that only the worthy return.”
“But where do the others go?”
Rewel clasped her hands together and stood at once. “Goodness, Child, aren’t you full of questions today?” She pulled him to his feet, gave him a quick tickle beneath the arms, and led him back toward the city. “Questions are good, but some answers you’ve no need for yet at your tender age. Come now, let’s take you to Mother Orletta for morning studies.”
Child scrunched his nose. “She always smalls like old fruit.”
Rewel laughed all the way back to the city, saving her tears for later.