"But we have our own blacksmiths in Umbridge. I don't understand why we need to be here, father."
The boy glanced around the street as he walked, sharp blue eyes curiously taking in the surroundings. Andaris was warm for Vhalar—there wasn't even any snow on the ground or frost on the buildings!—and the streets were white stone and the buildings and homes didn't have thatched roofs. Trees still had leaves that were just beginning to fade into their cold cycle colors and there were so many vegetables and flowers even this late into the arc. It was fascinating for the northern boy, but he was far more excited to be alone on this trip than any of the new experiences combined.
His father, the Baron Frederick Gawyne of Umbridge, had finally allowed him to travel with him instead of taking Hunter. It was a strange treat, and one that Caius had every intention of enjoying, even if he wasn't quite sure why they'd traveled for trials on end to Andaris.
"Sometimes, it's important to recognize the superior craftsmanship of others."
Frederick answered simply, watching his second son take in the sights as they turned down another street, "Not everything can be done perfectly in Gawyne, and investing in the work of other Duchies helps all of Rynmere."
"Yes ser, but does anyone else really come to Gawyne?"
The boy smirked, already questioning far too much, fingers tangled in his hair as it drifted into his blue-eyed vision. He was sweaty. The walk was hot. He was a little hungry, but Caius chose not to speak up about such things just yet, aware that he was pretty much always hungry, "I mean, what kind of superior craftsmanship do we offer the rest of Rynmere?"
The Baron chuckled, "Come now, these are things you should know of your House. We are known for our quarries, and we send our works and our stone across the whole kingdom. We are known for our rigorous training for Rynmere's Army, which actually means a great majority of our Kingdom's military comes to Gawyne without ever being able to object for an entire arc. We keep the records and histories of all the Kingdom, admired for our knowledge and wisdom. And, of course, we're known for our wonderful weather."
The young Gawyne laughed then, reaching to grab a hold of his father's arm as if he needed it to steady himself in his amusement, blue irises warming into a bright green, "Definitely the weather!"
His laugh was loud and his smile broad, the boy soaking in the rest of his father's factual information despite what he found funny, his mind far sharper than his age could entirely contain.
"These are the things you should keep in your heart for your homeland—there are plenty of other Houses who consider us a weaker Duchy because of our small, underestimated population and our less obvious resources, but knowledge, if nothing else, is powerful. More powerful than any blacksmith's creation we're here in Drakengard to-trial to see."
The boy was still smiling, sweating, no longer taking in the sights as they turned down a new street so much as listening to the Baron his father. He was a strict man, or so Caius thought, and yet this trial felt like more of him than the boy had ever been allowed to see. It was strange, but exciting, and he was far too young to process it all.
The scents of food filled the street, which appeared to end in a square, and suddenly the young Gawyne felt as though he'd been deposited in a Labyrinth—all the delicious things to navigate through in the Square beyond and yet he assumed he wouldn't be allowed any of it.
"I tell you what, Caius,"
Frederick began carefully, both watching his son and aware of their destination, "We've walked quite a bit already and this first meeting won't take long. Would you like a bit of coin? Can you stay in the square here and not get into any trouble? Your brothers aren't here to tempt you. Your sisters aren't here to lead you astray. Here you can show me what kind of young man you are, yes?"
The boy watched his father reach for some coins and his green eyes brightened further into an amber hue, the blond youth's eyes widening with excitement. He nodded before he found his voice again,
"I can do that, father. I can stay here."
Caius hesitated about the trouble, swallowing his excitement and holding his hand out eagerly, "I will stay safe."
Baron Frederick Gawyne laughed then, passing the coins to his second son before ruffling the boy's blond hair with unashamed affection in the middle of the Square. Both of them were dressed plainly enough that if it wasn't for the quality of the clothing, they could perhaps be mistaken for anyone of the upperclass. While Frederick wore a signet ring of his House, his saber at his side and hints of violet in his beautiful brocade vest, they had no escort, no obvious announcement of their status. Caius found this comfortable, and he assumed it was what drew out the casual kindnesses of his otherwise much more stoic father.
"Now, stay in the Square."
The Baron warned one more time quietly before he pointed to a statue in the square, "I will be back here in a break, and I expect you to meet me there."
Caius chirped again, feeling the weight of money given in his pocket and the warmth of freedom in his chest. Alone. Vendors were setting up food carts and other merchants were selling various wares. Bright, amber eyes watched his father disappear into the crowd and down the street while the boy stood for a moment, taking it all in. It was almost too much to enjoy at once, but the young Lord consumed it all anyway—every snippet of conversation, every bright color, and every new smell.
Wiping the back of his neck with a too-warm palm, he began to wander the Square aimlessly, looking for just that right thing, that object that would hold his attention, that would catch his busy mind or his creative gaze juussstt right—
The flower cart was small, but a few of her tiny bouquets were of familiar flowers, flowers that bloomed for barely a season in Gawyne. Slipping past a taller, darker young man who seemed to be agonizing over his decision, Caius interrupted his view with his unkempt blond hair and well-tailored clothes on a boy who appeared to be alone. He caught the end of their conversation, the suggestion of the woman, and he couldn't help but grin sheepishly when the older boy stood and stared,
"Honeysuckle and carnation's what you want, but this bouquet also has some Sweet William."
He pointed to a particular bouquet as if the two of them had invited him into the decision-making process. Caius spoke quietly, shifting not to face the older youth but to examine the bouquets more closely as if staring at them aided in his obscure observation, "My mother th—my mother says that all flowers have meaning, a language. I only know some of it because, well, flowers aren't all that exciting."