As night approaches, Lief and co. head into the village and find the streets strung up with lights and green and red streamers. People are out at concession stands playing games and buying
"Wow, is this some kind of festival?" asks Lief.
"It's some kind of seasonal festival," says Gwen, "I heard at the store that they have this celebration during this time of year to bring in the changing seasons."
"Hm, maybe after we're done eating we can all come out and enjoy this too." says Aiden looking around at the festive setting.
They head to the gazebo-like restaurant where they find several villagers present. Chief Aubon is at the entrance with his children, Gavin, Odah and Katar greeting guest as they appear, including Lief and his friends. Lief glances to the side and notices Odah waving to him with a smile. He casually waves back as he and his friends go to one of the long tables inside the restaurant. Lief sits in between Gwen and Arianna.
"Well, since we're all here I can finally tell you all of where I've been and what I've been doing for the last few months." says Lief clapping his hands together looking around to everyone.
Lief suddenly feels a tap on his shoulders and turns around to find Jeremiah standing behind him.
"I didn't know you were back. So, I heard from Katar that you spent the last few months with Asher, weren't you?"
Lief suddenly freezes in shock, opening his eyes wide staring at Jeremiah. 'Darn it! I didn't want anyone to just shout out what I was doing.' he thinks to himself.
Everyone notices Lief's shocked face including Jeremiah.
"Did I say something wrong?" asks Jeremiah.
"Nh-no." says Lief nervously, attempting to smile, "Here, Jeremiah. Have a seat."
Jeremiah takes a seat between Lief and Gwen.
"So, who's this Asher guy you've apparently been out with for the last few months." asks Lenard.
Lief begins to feel more nervous, 'How am I to explain this without revealing that I was training to be a knight.' he thinks. He glances at Gwen who has a low face looking to Lief. 'You can tell that I'm in a bit of a spot to, can't you, Gwen.'
Lief sits for a second lost in thought as he thinks of the words to say to everyone's anticipation.
"Well, um..." Lief glances over noticing that the caterers are bringing out several larger trays with tops covering them, "Hey, let's eat first. I'm starving, I hadn't had anything for a while."
Putting Lief's story on hold, everyone gets up and heads to the table where the caterers place the trays. The caterers take the tops off revealing several types of food including meats, bread, vegetables, soups and salads. Everyone each gets a meal of their choosing and sit down to eat together. While eating, Lief comes up with what to say speaking afterwards.
"About where I was, as Jeremiah said I was with a man named Asher who lives on the edge of the village. Maybe you guys heard of him, Gwen knows because she was there when Katar told us about him. I wanted to...exercise to make myself stronger and he helped me do it. He took me out to the swamp deep through the forest behind his house."
"You were living in a swamp for the last few months?" asks Lenard in surprise, "Was is scary, I heard dangerous animals like snakes live in swamps."
"Well, yeah it was scary at first. The night I left I had to go through the swamp when it was pitch black. The lantern I had barely lit the way it was so dark. That night I stayed in a shack with Asher but then had to traverse through the swamp the next day. That part was rough as not only did I have to do it in the freezing cold morning, but I kept getting stuck in the mud, I got lost once or twice and I had to do all of that while wearing a big armor harness thing."
Lief pauses to takes a sip of water from a cup.
"I had to learn survival techniques, had to learn how to eat what was available. I don't want to go into too much detail of what I had to eat but let's just say...you'd be surprise of how good turtle meat is when you haven't had anything good to eat for a while."
"Turtle meat?" asks Lenard.
"Yeah, I had to wrestle a really big snapping turtle out of the water one day. It nearly took my arm off but at least it tasted good...well I hadn't eaten for two days, when you're that hungry everything taste good."
"So tell us more of this Asher." says Aiden, "Who is he?"
"Asher is..." both Lief and Jeremiah say.
They pause briefly to look at each other.
"Mm, go ahead." says Lief lightly.
Jeremiah looks into Lief's eyes, sensing that Lief wants to hold back some of the information.'Hope I don't say something wrong. It appears Lief doesn't want to tell them of all he and Sir. Asher did together?' Jeremiah thinks. He begins to say;
"Well, Asher is...he's a guy who came to our village about...nearly two decades ago. He just...you know, he just came along and, um..."
"It's alright," says Lief with a small chuckle looking down, placing his hand on Jeremiah's shoulder. He glances around to everyone sitting around, "Asher is a knight. I asked him could he be a training instructor to me to help me get into shape..."
"So you were out learning how to be a knight?" asks Lenard, cutting off Lief.
"I didn't say that," says Lief with wide eyes, "all I said was he helped me get into shape. The way he trained me was very unusual. He had me clean his house, dusting and painting among other stuff. At first I thought 'he was suppose to be helping me become stronger but all he's doing is teaching me to dust and paint' but in actuality he was training me. I just didn't see it until later."
"So that's why you had to clean his house so much?" asks Gwen.
"Yeah, that's why...but back to the swamp, it was a pretty dreary place at times especially when it rained. Many times I thought of all of you and..."
Lief glances around to everyone looking back at him with curious looks. He suddenly becomes lost for words.
"Um actually, you know I think I'll step outside for a minute. Would you all excuse me?"
Lief hops up and heads outside with everyone watching in confusion.
"Wow, that was all of a sudden." says Lenard.
"He's hiding something." says Aiden.
"But he has his reasons." says Gwen calmly.
"I'll be back." says Jeremiah as he begins to stand up. He looks at Carac and Thea and shouts to them, "Hey, you two are friends with Gavin aren't you? If you two want to see him, he's playing outside with the other children." glancing to the entrance of the restaurant. The two hurry out their seats and head to the festival outside.
"Don't run!" says Gwen to Carac and Thea.
Arianna glances over to Lief who's heading outside, 'Lief, is everything alright?'
Lief exits to the side of the restaurant. He leans on a wooden pillar looking up to the night sky, hearing the sounds of the festival nearby. He becomes lost in though, 'I wonder...from what I've learned, is this good enough?'
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