It was the quiet before the storm, at least with respect to the upcoming battle. The rain and the roaring wind of this god-cursed storm that had been following them had never let up or quietened. As La Danse Calinda flew towards Mt. Isolla, Ionas took a moment to think back on his life, something he hadn’t done in quite a while. He remembered an event – an event critical to him not so much for what it was but what it made him realise.
— Five Years Ago, at the Ymuin Household in Sesus, Raurugia —
“Welcome to my home. My heart is glad that you could make it,” Draylan Longwind Ymuin of the House of Ymuin announced as he greeted his guest and business rival, Tulli Raisebottom Ihanestin of the House of Ihanest. “You’ve already met my lovely wife, the Lady Kayla Shipstress. Allow me to present our son, Ionas, known as Farseer, Scion of the House of Ymuin and heir to the Ymuin Shipyards.”
“Thank you, Longwind. You’ve certainly got an impressive house. It’s amazing some of the things that just get handed down from generation to generation,” Tulli Raisebottom said, appreciating the magnificence of the palatial city residence, yet not showing the same appreciation for its current occupants.
“You’re too kind, Raisebottom. I like to think the plaster and cabinetwork are as masterful as some of your ships, considering what you started with. Please come in, partake of food and drink. Shall I alert my steward to your presence so he may send out for appropriate quantities for you to imbibe?” Lord Longwind responded, only barely veiling the pair of insults.
For a few awkward moments, the rivals stood in silence, staring at each other along with their wives and eldest children, while newly arriving guests piled up, waiting their turn to be announced and greeted so they could pass through to the party rooms where jaunty music beckoned. Finally, both Draylan Longwind and Tulli Raisebottom burst into laughter.
“Just as quick with the wit as ever, Draylan,” said Tulli. “Congratulations. The House of Ymuin has never been as strong as it is today. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think there is a platter somewhere with my name on it.”
This was the thirty-ninth greeting that Ionas had to bear witness to on this particular night. His entire job in this welcoming line consisted of acknowledging the incoming guests with a warm smile, and that was it. His father welcomed the men, and his mother welcomed the women. He wasn’t even allowed to say anything to anyone approximately his own age.
This exchange with Tulli Ihanestin was perhaps the only interesting one out of the thirty-nine welcomings so far. An ever so slight but noticeable, at least to Ionas, look of anger and distaste had flashed over Tulli Raisebottom’s face. His father had bested him in their little verbal sparring match, as he usually did. Even though both of them kept up the veneer of friendship between them, the two shipbuilding moguls were cutthroat in their competition with each other. Not that there was any real need for competition. In the royal city of the Realm of Water, there was well and truly enough work for everyone. Ships were being destroyed, damaged or simply worn out constantly, so there was always business for shipbuilders in whatever port they may be based.
It wasn’t the amount of business they were vying for, it was the quality of client and level of work. Both the Ymuin shipyards and those of Ihanest sought to be the leading shipbuilders in Sesus, to be awarded the best, most reputable and, by far the most important, most costly contracts for the highest-ranking clients in the area. Events like the one Lord Draylon Longwind was currently hosting were a great way to get into the good graces of the Sesan social elite, to advertise their services, and otherwise to show how well the Ymuin family, the entire House and the Shipyards were doing. After all, nothing does better to attract success then engendering trust in your potential clients.
And so the Ymuin home filled up with shipping magnates and naval officers and maritime officials, sailmakers, rope-makers and dealers in lumber and pitch, not to mention as many social celebrities as Lord Longwind and Lady Shipstress could lure in, all dressed up in Sesan fashions. They danced and drank and admired the wealth of the House of Ymuin.
And each one of them got introduced to Ionas, known as Farseer, son of Lady Kayla and Lord Draylan, Scion of Ymuin and heir to the Ymuin Shipyards and the Ymuin fortune, still unmarried. Another prized bauble of his family’s treasure to dangle before their guests.
This whole event was nothing but vain, shallow showmanship. Ionas had seen this fact a long ago, and while he had been to some degree tamed, he couldn’t help thinking there must be something, surely, that he could do in life that wasn’t so downright manipulative, fake and, most importantly, boring.
That instant just after greeting the thirty-ninth guest, when he realised just how bored he felt, this was a brief spark of colour and excitement in his dull, drab and boring evening. In fact, you could say that this moment was the most interesting moment of his life so far. It wasn’t the introduction that made it interesting. It was what it resulted in for Ionas, because it was then that he realised that life lay out there for him, adventures, new experiences, friends, real true friends and all of it real. He would go and meet this new life head on.
On the outside it appeared that nothing had happened as he continued to play his part in the welcoming of the fortieth, forty-first and forty-second guests. Tomorrow, though, would be the start of a brand new life. He would pack his bag and leave the family house, and from then on he would never again play the role of “The Ymuin Bauble.”