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On the first day of August that summer, Tarin and Jim both set out for the capital, to become knights in the king’s Knight Academy, held on the palace grounds.
Tarin was just finishing his tearful goodbyes, as he loaded a pony with supplies for the journey. The ride itself wasn’t long. A little less than a day’s ride, and they would be at the walls of Krynn, the human capital. But they would have to ride around the perimeter of the forest to reach it, and it could be dangerous, so both Tarin and Jim were equipped with real swords, and some light leather armor. Their clothes and belongings were bundled into packs, and set into saddlebags. Tarin was doing a final check of his tack when Ella approached, carrying a small basket, from which good smells emanated.
“A little something for the road,” she sniffed. “I can’t believe how grown-up you are, my dear boy.” She embraced him, and he stood, a little stiffly, embarrassed.
“Mama,” He said gently, using his childhood name for her. “I’m not going far. You can always come to visit.”
Ella was painfully aware that this was the second time she had seen a boy she’d raised go off to become a knight.
“You are just like your father,” she said, “And I am so proud of you.”
Tarin smiled, and mounted his horse.
“I’ll be back soon. You won’t even notice that I’m gone,” he said cheerfully, before trotting down the hill, to where his friends waited.
Mark and Rich walked with them for a little ways out of town, but soon they fell behind and waved as Jim and Tarin rode away. Tarin turned to look several times over his shoulder at the small figures still wave as they became mere dots at the edge of the village, but soon Jim and Tarin rounded a bend in the road, and they were gone.
The road itself followed the river, a tributary of the (name of the bigger river)
The city came into sight several hours before they would reach it. Set on a hill in the middle of a large plain, the turrets of the castle rose above the walls of the city like a beacon, the white stone shining in the bright sunlight. A sparkling ribbon of water marked the river that flowed from the forest to the ocean, interrupted only where the road met the river. It was at that point that a large stone bridge stood, wide enough for four horses to cross shoulder to shoulder. It was as they took in this view, poised on the top of a low ridge, that Tarin remembered the basket Ella had given him. Dismounting, he opened it up to reveal two sandwiches, made of thick slices of bread, with greens and thinly sliced meat inside. They were wrapped in thin strips of cloth, to prevent them from drying out in the heat of the sun, and Tarin handed one of the bundles over to Jim, who took it gratefully.
“Good, I was wondering when we were going to stop for lunch. I’m starving.”
“You’re always starving these days,” Tarin said, leading his pony to a small stand of trees, where they could rest in the shade. Tying the reigns around the saddle-bow, he let the horse wander, grazing peacefully, as he sat down in the long grass on the side of the road. Unwrapping the sandwich, he bit into it enthusiastically, savoring the flavors of the meat and the crunch of the greens.
"Well, you look peaceful." Jim said, sitting down beside his friend.
"Why not? Beautiful day, great sandwich, and we are about to start a great adventure, just like we dreamed of as kids."
"Right, here's to a great adventure then," Jim held up his sandwich in a mock toast and took a bite. "Wow, this is good. If I'd known the cooking was this great at your house, I never would have left Grenwood." Tarin laughed, and they continued their lunch in silence. Tarin looked back along the road where they’d come, and for a moment, wondered if he was really doing the right thing, leaving home to become a knight.
They reached the front gates of Krynn in the early afternoon, a little dusty, and a little saddle-sore, but excited. Tarin could barely take in the sheer number of people walking and riding down the cobblestone street from the main gate to a central square, which had a large round fountain in the middle. The square was lined with shops, selling things that Tarin had never seen before, in more colors than he could imagine. There was a dress-maker's shop, and a silversmiths, and was that a magic shop, all filled with crystals and things?
"Come on, we're expected inside," Jim said, tearing Tarin's attention away from the city, and towards the King's castle.
It was on the other side of the fountain that the main gates to the castle lay. Large wooden doors in a fifteen foot wall, which encircled the entire town. Craning his neck, Tarin could see the tall towers of the castle soaring high above him, and he knew that they offered many places for defenders to retreat, and pour hot oil and arrows down at any would-be attacker. Jim knocked on the gates, and they swung open on well greased hinges, closing again with a soft boom as Tarin and Jim rode inside.
"Dismount here," a man dressed in a surcoat emblazoned with the king's seal directed them. The boys did as they were told, dismounting their horses and setting foot on the smooth stones of the courtyard. A stablehand came forward to take the reigns, and the two were led inside.
"We are Jim and Tarin of Grenwood village," Jim introduced himself and Tarin, "We're here to join your knight's academy, and train to become warriors in service to the king."