3

It was Chala’s cousin, Loka, who came to find her. She gave her a hug.

‘Come on, the food is out on the tables. I’m starving.’

Loka was a year older than Chala. She’d become a Healer in the Cultivators Guild the year before. She manoeuvred their way through the crowds and found them a seat on one of the long benches. Chala’s father, Firemaker Cragoni, kissed Chala on the top of her head.

‘Well done, child. The Whirlstone Ceremony is an emotional ordeal. Have some chicken wings, I cooked them myself.’

Chala was eating her second piece of chicken when Malita arrived at the long table. She stood opposite Chala and Loka.

‘I suppose I should congratulate you sister. A Wallbuilder…’

Chala looked at her sister. At thirteen, she was petite and delicate with a dusky brown complexion, unmarred by a single blemish. Chala was already taller than her sister.

‘Well, you have the build for it. I think I’ll go and sit with the Keepers.’

Malita sauntered off. I won’t cry, thought Chala, but her mouth felt dry and the piece of chicken stuck in her throat.

‘Take no notice of her,’ said Loka. ‘She’s been rude to me ever since I became a Healer.’

‘Well spoken, daughter. All the Guilds are important. Good Fortune, niece.’

Healer Palaka, Loka’s mother, kissed the top of Chala’s head and sat down next to her, stroking her arm. Chala felt the disappointment and sadness drift away at her aunt’s touch.

The feast continued and Chala relaxed. She stuffed herself with stewed goat, cooked by the Cabra family, sliced pork from the Verraco’s and a variety of chicken dishes from her own family kitchens. She avoided the fish dishes provided by the Pica family, but tucked into the honey cakes made by the Lina’s.

When everyone had finished eating, the long trestle tables were folded away, the benches were pushed to the sides of the Central Square and the dancing began.

Loka stayed with Chala the whole evening. Chala was grateful; there had been times this last year when Chala had felt sorry for Loka; she could have been a Keeper. The Whirlrod had stopped on the divide between Spellcaster and Healer. Chala couldn’t understand why her cousin had chosen the Cultivators Guild. She supposed it was because Uncle Romani, Loka’s father, had died a few weeks before the Whirlstone Ceremony and that Loka had wanted to work with her mother, Aunt Palaka.

I’d have liked to be a Spellcaster, same as mother, thought Chala. She concentrated on moving her feet to the rhythm of the drums. I won’t cry. She wiped a bead of sweat away from her eye. Her mother, Spellcaster Yanna, hadn’t spoken to her all evening.

Click here to read next section