The city bustled with excitement, a merry time of year had arrived for those who wished to observe such occasions. Many citizens had taken to the market squares and public meeting places, their growing anticipation for the days ahead removing any of the usual barriers that divided them from the rest of society. It was a season of togetherness; some simply smiled at their fellow residents for the first time that year, while others traveled from far reaches of the land to partake in the celebrations.
‘Hurry along, we don’t want to miss anything!’ The mother’s voice was faint among the noisy crowd, through it still managed to pull her son’s attention away from the people surrounding them. He hefted the sack he carried a bit higher onto his back, the edge of his cloak becoming ensnared in the folds of the burden. A stranger brushed him a bit too close for comfort, he thought, and he turned quickly to snatch the item that had been deftly removed from his load. The older man frowned in surprise at the boy’s reflexes, then shrugged and handed the item over, only to disappear into the crowd moments later. The boy shook his head and tucked the small dice bag under his arm, focusing again on trying to keep up with his mother.
He caught sight of her auburn hair moving swiftly through the people a few paces ahead of him. By the time she turned around he was at her side again, now much more intent on remaining at her heels at all times. She smiled and they continued their trek, the large tower near the center of the city looming larger every moment. The citadel marked the location of a grand event that took place every year; old and young joined together from far and near to watch performers of all types dazzle them with their talents. It was a time of great joy that extended to all people, though this year something was different in the hearts of the mother and son as they neared the structure.
‘Oh good, you made it.’ The familiar soft voice made them both turn in anticipation. The young boy looked up into the face of his father, glad that the three of them were together again. His father exchanged a brief hug and kiss with his wife, then relieved the boy of his load and led the way through the group of people toward the tower. The three of them traveled a short while longer before arriving at their destination, and soon they were passing through the doors leading into the grand hall.
Most of the city, along with many travelers, had gathered to enjoy the festivities, and the room literally buzzed with energy as the voices of thousands filled the domed chamber. The floor was made of a thick dark wood, and the walls of smooth light stone; ornate arrangements of colored glass stood several stories high and filled the building with the glow of the afternoon sun. Massive wooden beams ran from floor to ceiling, their mighty frames arching higher than most men could hurl a stone. It was a beautiful structure, one that had withstood countless storms and raids as hundreds of years passed by.
The trio found vacant seats and made themselves comfortable, eager to view the various acts that would soon cover the large stone floor. As they looked around they noticed many people had brought their entire families with them, it seemed the annual spectacle was enough to draw even the most remote groups together. Children laughed and ran, couples greeted one another warmly, and even infants seemed to take pause from their crying and enjoy the time with family.
As the family of three viewed those around them, they couldn’t help but let their thoughts drift to their remaining kin. The rest of their children were not able to be with them this night; aside from their youngest son the family was spread out over many miles of land, some having been gone much longer than ever before. It was a strange thing to realize around this time of year, the celebration at the citadel had always been a gathering place no matter what separated them in years prior. Though they were proud of the good reports being relayed back to them, the two parents felt a strange void around them despite the room full of people.
Their thoughts were interrupted by the announcement of the procession; a large banner was marched out into the arena as the ceremony began. The three exchanged glances and smiles, then shifted closer to one another as the first round of applause filled the chamber. They were all three filled with excitement for the entertainment to follow, though no act could contend with the joy and anticipation that filled their hearts for their next family meeting!