Darrius point of view:

Laying down beside my wife, it’s hard to sleep.

I can’t stop thinking about the look of defeat Aaliyah had after her first day of looking for an apprenticeship. Shifting again, slowly not to alert my wife, I look at the wall separating our rooms. Richard didn’t have any problems finding easy work.

I figured with how smart Aaliyah is, she would know exactly what she wanted to do after her awakening. She has always been an active child and has never stopped improving.

Just imagining the look of defeat on her face for the first time makes my blood boil!

I slowly shift back towards facing my wife. Seeing her always calms me down.

Flinching, shaking the bed, I realize her beautiful brown eyes are open and staring straight at me.

“Aaliyah had a bad day?” She asks me softly, cutting straight to my problems as usual.

I can only sigh; “Ya”.

I quietly tell her what Aaliyah went through today.

Getting lost telling her what I heard from Aaliyah, I failed to notice the silence till it was too late.

“Those farm pigs talked to my daughter like that! And that woman thinks her skills are so valuable, tomorrow I’m going to beat some mind points into her empty head!”, she starts to yell a little too loud.

“Ssshhh, Aaliyah’s asleep.” I try to calm her down the best way I know. Before she can continue, I lean in and kiss her wrapping my arms around my “hellcat” wife.

After her tension fades, I part our lips. “I didn’t know having a daughter would be this difficult.” I whisper in her ear.

“It doesn’t help she’s so active, Darrius; I tried convincing her to take up a simpler crafting trade, but she only wants to do more physical work.”

“She probably realized how difficult that would be today. That’s why I offered to take her to the forest with me, tomorrow.”

“You're taking her out to cut trees… to make her feel better about her physical abilities?”

I can’t help but rub my beard at that. “She needs a distraction from the village, and letting her take her anger out on some helpless trees will do her good. Plus, she’ll understand the work she must put in if she wants a more physical job.”

“I’ve never seen you think this hard about anything before, I’ll leave this to you; but you better make sure she doesn’t get hurt in the woods tomorrow or I’ll make you sleep in the stables with the jelen all winter!”

I can’t help but smile more at my wife’s protectiveness; “She’ll be fine,” I tell her leaning in for another kiss. “Good night honey, love you,” I say finally relaxing for the evening.

Slowly drifting into a deep sleep, I hear my wife whisper one last thing before she passes out.

“Good luck waking her up tomorrow.”

She always gets the last word… gods I love her so much.

“Are you all packed and ready to go, Aaliyah?”

“Yes dad”, she looks at me with her mother’s scowl. I guess her mother never turned the bed on its side to wake her up before.

Silvia was laughing at me trying to shake her awake, when she told me Aaliyah sleeps like she’s dead, I thought she was exaggerating. I have too much work I need to do and I promised I’d take her today, so drastic measures were taken.

Even while trying to give me angry looks, I can tell how excited she is to see the forest.

With the first morning rays of sunlight, we set off towards the forest. Passing by the fields, I notice the farmers starting their day while Markus and Ezekiel are nowhere to be found. Good thing too, I’d probably punch them after mocking my daughter so much yesterday.

Passing the end of the fields and a few trees, we come to the hunters clearing.

“From here, Aaliyah you need to stay close to me. Everything beyond this point is pure wilderness. We need to keep an eye out for goblins and farkas the most, but we could also run into a few karhu. The karhu are preparing their dens for the winter and can be territorial. If we hear their growls, we back away slowly. Here’s one of my smaller axes. Always stay close to me and I’ll teach you how to use it.”

Her excitement is impossible to hide. I wonder if my father had these same feelings taking me into the woods for the first time. Anxiety, worry, doubt, and an overwhelming sense of pride can’t even describe the feelings of having my little girl being next to me right now.

“Let’s go”, I say confidently.

We walk into the wilderness, not looking back.

I’m surprised how well she’s doing with the hiking; she must have put quite a few points into her physical stats. She probably doesn’t know it, but she’s starting to glow with vitality. I wonder if she has over 70 in vitality. Watching her over the years I know how hard she worked at everything she does, I’m confident she has a high level for her age.

I realized I slowed down to match her speed, but this gives me an excellent time to teach her. She picks up everything I teach her so quick. She would make a great woodsman.

As we walked through the forest, I explained to her about the different type of trees I’m looking for and avoiding. Some trees make the best firewood, while others are so strong, we use them for our houses; and some are so hard I can’t cut them with my skills, or they release toxic fumes when burnt.

I had to explain why I take the time to grade each tree between one and ten.

“Not only do I pick out the correct type of tree for different situations in the village, but I have to grade them to find the best ones for the job. See this one with the lumpy black bark, where have you seen this wood before?”

“That’s our firewood, right?” Aaliyah answers confidently.

“Yes, this wood burns the slowest while giving off enough heat to fill a house. Each tree is different though and I need to decide if I should cut it down or leave it to improve. This tree is only a 4, I try to find a grade of 6 at least before I cut anything down.”

“How does a tree Improve?” Aaliyah caught my point immediately.

“Plants and animals feed off of the mana in the air much better than we do. Plants constantly absorb more mana over time and improve their physical properties thanks to it.”

“This tree is probably two years old and will take another year or so to reach grade 6.”

“As the tree grows older the mana builds inside the wood making it burn longer and give off more heat after being turned into firewood.”

I didn’t realize it would be this fun teaching her about my work, maybe she’ll want to do this with me forever. A father could only hope.

After hiking for a few hours, I found a berry bush so we decided to take a break with a snack from nature. Aaliyah looks tired but is still watching the forest for any danger. We’ve spent so much time talking about trees that I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about yesterday. How am I supposed to convey my feelings to her…?

“Aaliyah, has mom ever told you how we met, yet?”

“No,” she responds with a questioning look.

Setting my gear down next to me, I start to tell her how I met her mother in the city of Aurorast.

“When I was 17, I’d already separated from my family and started working by myself. I wanted to go to a city for once, thinking I could find my fortune like so many bards have claimed was possible. I guess you could say I did find my treasure though.”

“I’ve always been good at being a woodsman so I figured that I'd find some really good wood and sell it for piles of silver.”

“The sad thing was as I got closer to the city all the good lumber sites were owned by people. Areas of the forest around Aurorast are divided by the city and sold to people for a profit. The only trees I could fell for free were miles away, or areas open for anyone, which had the worst lumber remaining.”

“After spending days collecting wood from grade 3 and 4 trees, I had another problem, I had no idea where to sell my wood or what price to get.”

“Walking about the markets listening to the merchants shouting prices around I got overwhelmed. I picked an alley to rest in and questioned why I was there in the first place.”

“'Are you giving up already?' Asked a red headed angel. Standing in the alleyway, sun at her back, was the most beautiful women I'd ever met. Your mother pulled me out from that alley and dragged me back to her family’s store. Now that I think about it, she probably undercut the price of my wood that day, but I fell in love with her from then on.”

“Every day after that, no matter how much wood I could gather, I would go to her shop and talk to her. I won’t bother you with your father’s smooth words, but she knew I liked her. Sadly, so did her parents.”

“They started off by interrupting our conversations and when that didn’t work, they eventually just banned me from their store. We kept seeing each other around town of course, but hiding our relationship was taxing us.”

“After two years I had enough, I stormed into their family’s store and asked her father for her hand in marriage!”

“I was thrown out immediately.”

“That night we met up at a tavern near the outskirts of the city and ran away together. I wasn’t going to let anybody tell me I couldn’t marry your mother. Needless to say, we traveled for a little before we found our village. The woodsman who supplied the village with lumber was getting old so I took over in his place.”

“You see honey, when you find something you really want you have to fight for it. Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do something, work hard and prove them wrong. Whatever you decide to do, I’m sure you’ll be great at it.”

I move to give my daughter a hug and hear her muffled thanks from my chest. While we both wipe our eyes, we start packing up, we still have work to do.

After our break, we spent the next few hours looking for the very specific tree I need.

Finally, after hiking all day I see the silver sheen of the tree I’m after. Compared to its surroundings its small at only 20 feet. Its dark brown leaves rustle in the wind and I’m happy that it appears to be grade 6. Finding these trees are hard enough, let alone finding a mature one.

“Its beautiful,” I hear Aaliyah say beside me.

“It is one of the prettier trees in this forest. We call it “Blacksmiths” tree not only because it looks like it is forged from metal but because its wood is prized by blacksmiths.”

“Why do blacksmiths want this tree so bad, do they use it for hilts or something?” Aaliyah askes still staring at the tree.

“The wood from this tree is practically fireproof. It takes a long time to light the wood but when it catches it burns ridiculously hot. If you put it in a normal fireplace it would melt the stone around it.”

She looks at me and her eyes go wide with the thought of this tree on fire. Suddenly though her face turns to confusion, “Are you selling this wood dad? We don’t have a blacksmith in our village.”

“He lives in the forest south west of our village, and I give him a great deal because he made this custom axe for me and maintains it regularly.”

“He also, reluctantly, supplies the village with metal works on the basis that they leave him alone.”

“Why does he want to be left alone?” Aaliyah’s inquisitive eyes drill into me.

“He’s a part of the Stone Kin clan, people either bother them for their skills in metalworking, or make fun of their size.”

“Are you talking about dwarfs?! There’s a dwarf close to our village! Can we meet him?” Aaliyah’s outburst shocks me. Why does she want to meet a Stone Kin so bad?

“First of all, sweety, don’t call them dwarfs, they take great offense to that word. Second what do you think we’re doing with this tree after we cut it up?”

Seeing her cheeks turn red from embarrassment is cute, but were wasting time, “Let’s get to work or you won’t have time to meet him later.”

It took longer to process the tree than usual but showing my baby girl how to swing an axe is now one of my proudest moments of my life.

When we finished, she even told me she got the Axe skills skill. I know I’m getting my hopes up but maybe she will want to continue learning from me.

The image of us working together to fell a tree, year’s from now, causes the largest grin to appear on my face since my wife ran away with me.

“Dad, why are you staring at nothing like that? Let’s go, I want to meet the Stone Kin!”

Her words bring me out of my daydream.

Why does she want to see him so bad? Usually I would be worried about her showing such excitement for meeting a man, but when she meets Del-Razen, I’m sure I’ll have nothing to worry about.

A note from kosnik4

Thanks for reading my work, and comments are always appreciated.

Please stay safe.

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Bio: Just love a good story.

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