The meal was a pleasant one. Darcey had the knack of preparing the perfect amount for the three of them and having very little left over. Eamonn then led them across to sit by the fireplace, telling Darcey and Sam to wait while he set to putting the coffee on to brew. It was their traditional supper. Shortly after their evening meal, one of them, typically Sam or Eamonn, would set the pot on to boil while the other two talked quietly between themselves, the other would then return with a tray of three mugs, the pot and of course the obligatory milk and sugar and a new topic for conversation.
Tonight it was Eamonn’s turn, and as he made his way across the room, plate in hand, he saw the excited grin on Sam’s face that never failed to appear when he knew coffee was approaching. It had been a custom that had begun almost five years previously when Darcey had brought home some coffee grounds as part of a gift from the local inn. It had been as way of saying thanks from the inn-keeper for a highly prosperous month in which Darcey had assisted the cooking and serving of food and drink. It was almost love from the first drop so to speak for Sam and he loved the drink laced with sugar and a half dozen squirts of milk.
Darcey and Eamonn also enjoyed the hot drink, but not quite as much as Sam, for Eamonn he found that the quality of the grounds would change throughout the year, meaning the bitterness tended to take over and drank it only sparingly. When the brew was good, such as this occasion, Eamonn found it hard not to have a second or sometimes even a third cup.
Watching Sam as he heaped a fifth spoonful of sugar into his coffee, Darcey’s lipped curled in distaste, she could never understand how her son could drink it that way. In her opinion, it stripped away the taste of coffee and left you with nothing but sweetness, she only added half a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of milk just to take the edge of the bitterness off. She was in a similar mind to Eamonn when it came to coffee, when it was good quality, it was smooth and left a nice lingering taste, she agreed that more often it was bitter and she was forced to add a little more sugar to deal with the change in flavour.
During each winter, the beans were harvested and distributed in large quantities throughout the country. Once the warmer weather arrived however, the beans came out unevenly, some were dried out and lost their oils and others were just disasters, it all attributed to less pleasant coffee resulting with weak mellow flavours or the opposite, an astringent almost acrid flavour and a grainy texture that made it chewy to take in. That first cup they had, all that time ago was seemingly perfect, and when Darcey returned to the inn, she had questioned the keeper for where he got the beans from, “there’s a monthly market up at Faraday, I send my son up to purchase it, if you’d like I can get some for you as well?”. Darcey immediately took the man up on the offer, and since then they had a good stock of coffee to drink at their leisure, if it came to it that they began to run low, Darcey and Eamonn opted for tea instead and left the coffee to Sam.
They each took a deep sip of the coffee, sighed in turn and looked into the warm fire as it crackled and popped. “At least I’ll be able to get a cup of this now that you’ll be gone” she joked. The boys smiled at her, “Not to mention you won’t have to go out every other day to buy more sugar” Eamonn teased. Sam shot him a quick look then as he thought about it he couldn’t help but shrug at the truth in the statement and the three of them laughed.
Minutes passed in silence as they nursed their drinks, save for when Sam helped himself to a second mugful, again with liberal amounts of sugar and milk. It was then that Darcey decided enough was enough, and broke the peace “So what do you two plan on doing? What faction do you think you’ll join?”
It was a question that she already knew Sam’s answer to, but as it was never really something that she had pressed on Eamonn, she’d always wondered what he was wanting. Most people his age would have had the decision made some months, if not years, before they needed to. It was, in no small part, due to the influence of a person’s parents. Sam’s father was a Captain, a leader, as such his mind was made, there would be expectations placed upon him, Darcey figured that would only spur him on to greater efforts though.
Eamonn was different, the memories he had of his parents were solely of his mother. They were special, though hardly significant. Flashes of the flowers he remembered her placing on the dinner table, their fragrance, the beauty of their colour, how the way she smiled made him laugh and filled him with joy and of course his most recent memory of her placing a kiss on his forehead, stroking his cheeks and the catch in her throat as she said “goodbye” to him. He knew nothing about them, barely even their names. Once he had approached Darcey about them, but she became visibly upset the moment he had and decided to leave the subject alone, he hadn’t found out much more since then.
Darcey knew much about his parents, more than she wanted to, she knew the strain it would put on Eamonn if he ever found out, she hoped one day he might ask her about them again and hoped that she would have the confidence to tell him. Until then, she would wait. Her maternal instincts and desire to protect the boy kept her from telling him after all this time, it wasn’t until she realised that he had grown older and with that growth came a certain amount of maturity. She decided that he could handle it, but she would not do anything about until he came searching for it.
“Well as you know mum,” Sam began, “I want to be like dad. You’ve always said that he’d want me to follow his footsteps, and now I get the chance”. Now they looked expectantly at Eamonn, they knew he had plenty of choices from what he had been taught these past five years. He could have chosen any one of them, all of them would keep him busy as he went through the years of rigorous study. Eamonn did have something on his side, however, much like Nel had before him, if he wasn’t selected on the day, he could return home for an extra year of schooling in Wildwood and try again the following year. It would give him an extra year to make his decision, as well as extra time to further his skills, but if he wasn’t set on a position, the likelihood that he ended up working around the village in the fields would be high. A proposition they’d all hate to seem come true.
He didn’t look at either of them, instead simply stared at the kitchen until he finally voiced his opinion. “I haven’t quite decided yet, I’ve thought about three or four”, Darcey saw the uncertainty on his face and heard it in his voice, she decided he needed to be pressed again, “Which are?” she questioned.
This time Eamonn looked at her and thought for a moment, “Well I thought of being a knight, I’d be with Sam all the time, and we’d find it easier to fit in, what’s more I’d be protecting the people of the country.” Sam nodded, loving the idea, the thought they could remain close was certainly appealing. “I’ve heard the scouts are in dire need of people, I’ve heard that they use bows a lot and I’m not half bad at using one myself although the rough ones we’ve made usually broke after a while” he added with a smile, “I’ve learnt a lot over the past few years about tracking and that sort of thing, I’m assuming that would serve me well.” He looked at the others, beginning to loosen his tongue a bit, “There’s also a certain amount of prestige working with the scouts, constantly on the lookout for changes to the inner workings of the Kingdom” Darcey put in. “I could be a hunter,” Eamonn continued, “I can learn more about how the animals interact with each other and their environment and I’d be able to protect against poachers, I’d only ever be looking to supplement the stocks for the butchers or if there are any vermin in the area that needed some attention.” Eamonn concluded.
Darcey nodded at him and grinned, “Well at least you’ve narrowed it down a bit” she said softly, smiling with Sam as she looked back at Eamonn. Sam glanced up from his plate to Eamonn, he could see there was worth in each area for Eamonn, “what about the Royal Commission?” he asked, Eamonn frowned at that with Darcey sitting up a little straighter in her seat. She took a moment to adjust her features, her voice slightly shrill as she tried to control it, “how do you know about the Commission?” she asked, doing her best to remain neutral. Sam looked back at her and shrugged, “I heard about it a little the other day from Arthur at the inn” he told her, it did little to settle Darcey as she pulled herself up in her chair, in effect she still had to look up slightly to meet Sam’s eyes, but her body language was certain, she was not happy, “and WHY were you at the inn?” she demanded, Sam mumbled something unintelligent, stammering at her sudden upstart at him, luckily Eamonn stepped in to smooth things over, “it was after school finished, we’d been in the forest and things were a little shaky for us, so to help we stopped by to have something to eat, we overhead Arthur talking to a friend of his about them”.
Now Eamonn turned to consider Sam’s suggestion, overlooking Darcey’s sigh of relief, “I suppose I always wanted to do something out of the ordinary, something that was different and interesting.” he said, letting the thought to pass through the air. Warming to the idea, Sam added his own thoughts in, “Arthur mentioned they were responsible for maintaining the peace throughout the kingdom, that they have connections with Azarowa, Normlieth and beyond, both in a diplomatic and military standpoint.” he said with more than a hint of encouragement. Eamonn turned to face Sam, and thought about this, “It’s something to consider” he said. “I’m going to bed” Eamonn announced. Sam stood with him, nodding his head and poured himself a third mug of coffee, draining the last of it, holding it upside down, determined to get every last drop, “that stuff will kill you if you keep drinking it the way you do” Eamonn called without looking as he opened his bedroom door.
Darcey was sitting quietly. Sam looked back at her, smacking his lips as he tasted the wonderful concoction of coffee he’d created, “He needs some time to himself, we can’t push him into anything” he said to her, Darcey looked at the closed door, and nodded, still a little at odds to the boys bringing up the Commission.
It wasn’t long before Sam and Darcey had retired their own beds, drifting off to sleep as they were enveloped by the warmth their blankets gave them. Eamonn lay awake finding sleep hard to come by. In his mind he couldn’t help thinking if he’d ever reach a decision, he was ready for the next phase of his life, he knew, it was simply that the path he should take was still hidden from sight. In the end, he gave up trying to sleep. Making his way to the front door, he was careful not to make a sound as he left the lodge. He decided to sit out on the verandah, look up at the stars and think things over; he collected his boots and a thick blanket and tiptoed out the door, closing it behind him.