• tab Keyn woke with a start, memories of a night mare swiftly fading away. She thought there had been some sort of large…thing…that looked like a mountain and like a person, which made no sense. But then, dreams rarely made any sense. She shook her head to clear her mind. There was no point in worrying over a dream. It was much more practical to worry over something like…”Work!” she gasped. She floundered out of bed, getting tangled up in quilts. After a few moments of struggle, she scrambled to the window, a blanket still twisted around her leg. The sun was just peaking above the horizon. Keyn sighed in relief. She had plenty of time.
    tab “What is going on?” a sleepy voice asked. Keyn blushed and turned around. Caid was standing in the doorway, yawning. Keyn glanced at her disheveled bed, the trail of blankets leading from the bed to the window, and the stool she had knocked down, and blushed deeper. “I thought I had overslept,” she said sheepishly. “Oh,” Caid said. He turned and shuffled back to his bed, still yawning.
    tab Keyn bent and pulled the blanket off of her leg. She lobbed it onto her bed. She then set the stool back upright and picked up the rest of the blankets. She dumped the quilts on her bed and sat on top of them. She stretched luxuriously, then started getting ready for work. It was autumn, so she pulled on somewhat thick brown pants. Her autumn uniform tunic was also thick and was dyed a dark red. It fell halfway to her knees and the sleeves went a little past her elbows. She pulled on a pair of leather bracers that covered her forearms. A belt slung around her waist on top of the tunic and soft, supple boots completed the outfit.
    tab Halfway through braiding her hair, Keyn’s stomach growled. She smelled eggs and bacon cooking. Her eyes lit up and she quickly finished her braid. She walked into the main room of the house. Her mother was making omelets. “Good morning, dear,” Sylvi said. “Good morning,” Keyn replied as she went to look at the ingredients going into the omelets. “Yum! Bacon, peppers, onions, and cheese!” Keyn said. “And are those apples?” Sylvi nodded. “They make it sweet,” she said.
    tab Rhys walked into the room, already fully dressed. “You’re up early,” he said to Keyn.
    tab “A nightmare woke me up and there wasn’t enough time to go back to sleep,” Keyn said.
    tab “Oh? What was the nightmare about?” Sylvi asked.
    tab “I’m not sure…All I remember is it was really strange,” Keyn replied.
    tab “Whatever it was made her thrash about a lot,” muttered Caid as he came into the room. “Her bed was a mess.”
    tab “That was because I thought I had slept late and went to the window to see,” Keyn said. She tousled Caid’s hair. “I thought you went back to bed.”
    tab “I tried. You were making too much noise talking.” He glared at his sister accusingly.
    tab “Sorry about that,” Keyn said as she tousled Caid’s hair again, knowing it annoyed him. He slapped her hand away and growled when Keyn grinned at him. Rhys chuckled at their antics. Keyn and Caid were very close, but they sill acted like typical siblings at times.
    tab Sylvi plopped an omelet down in front of Keyn and Caid, effectively stopping the minor tussle. They began eating with a will. As she was eating, Keyn remembered the strange sounds she had heard in the forest the night before and the pile of boulders that shouldn’t have been there. She started to say something about the boulders to her parents, but changed her mind when she glanced at Caid. There had been a hint of fear in his eyes when she and her parents were talking about the odd behavior of the animals in the forest. She didn’t want to worry him any more with tales of something she had probably imagined.
    tab Caid nudged her. “Why’d you stop eating?” he asked. Keyn realized she was sitting still, not chewing the food in her mouth, with her fork resting on her plate. She shook herself and said, “Whoops. I was thinking about something and got distracted.”
    tab Caid looked at her skeptically. “What were you thinking about so hard?” he asked.
    tab “What us Maors are going to have to do today,” Keyn said haughtily. Maors took care of the forest and the wild animals that lived in the forest. They mostly left the plants and animals alone, only interfering to help sick animals and plants and to keep predators away from the town. They also helped farmers decide where to plant and were in charge of harvesting timber. The Maors had a rather loose training structure. Applicants took classes to learn about the job for three years. Then they did field work with a senior Maor until they were ready to become a full Maor. This usually took about a year. Keyn had begun her training when she was 13. She had been a field trainee for about a year.
    tab Caid snorted at her high and mighty pronouncement. “You’re just a fielder,” he said, using the shortened name for field trainees.
    tab “True,” Keyn replied, “but I should become a full Maor soon.”
    tab “That’s right,” Sylvi said. “You’ve been a fielder for about a year now.”
    tab Keyn finished off the last of her omelet. “I don’t want to jeopardize my elevation to full Maor, so I’d better not be late,” she said and went to her room to get her equipment. A sharp knife in a plain black sheath went on her belt. She picked up a hard wooden staff that was about the length of her arm from her wrist to her shoulder and slid it into a loop next to her knife. The last piece of equipment was a small pack full of useful items.
    tab Before she left, Keyn found Caid and gave him a hug. “Have fun working with Da,” she said. He grinned. “I will.” Keyn went into the main room of the house, gave Rhys a quick hug, kissed Sylvi on the cheek, and strode out of the door.
    tab Keyn’s best friend, Lyn, lived a few houses down the road. Lyn was also a fielder. They walked to the Maor headquarters together each morning.
    tab Keyn went up to the door of Lyn’s house and knocked. Lyn’s mother opened the door. She smiled and said, “Good morning, Keyn.”
    tab “Good morning, Mistress Mollen,” Keyn replied.
    tab “Lyn will be ready in a minute,” Mistress Mollen told Keyn. “It’s a good thing you always come by, or she would never be on time.”
    tab Keyn grinned. “I’ll go hurry her along.” She walked into the house, going through rooms that were almost as familiar to her as her own house. She had spent quite a bit of time there when she was younger, playing with Lyn. Upon arriving at Lyn’s room, she threw open the door and said loudly, “Will you ever be on time?”
    tab Lyn was on her knees, frantically searching for something under her bed. “I can’t find my other boot! Help me look!” she yelled, her voice muffled by the bed.
    tab Keyn glanced around the room. She snagged what looked like a bootlace from under a pile of clothes and pulled out the errant footwear. Mischievously, she slung the boot under the bed, where Lyn was still looking around.
    tab “Where did tha—ow,” Lyn yelped. She emerged from under the bed, rubbing her head where she had bumped it. She glowered at Keyn. “You could have just said something,” she grumbled.
    tab “Stop moaning and put your boot on,” Keyn said briskly. “Or do you want to be late?” Lyn huffed and pulled the boot on. Keyn located Lyn’s pack and tossed it to her just as she was finishing tying the laces of her boot. She squawked as it smacked into her chest, then leveled another glare at Keyn. Keyn ignored it and pulled Lyn to her feet. “Let’s go,” she commanded.
    tab Lyn sighed. “You have no sympathy,” she accused.
    tab “Of course I do,” Keyn said. “I have sympathy for how you would feel if you had to wait to become a Maor because you were late.”
    tab Lyn thought for a moment. “Good point.”
    tab “So let’s go already!” Keyn dragged Lyn by her arm through the bedroom door. With a long-suffering sigh, Lyn removed her arm from Keyn’s grasp.