The moon crept up through the sky as though afraid of what it might disturb. The town slept fitfully, or most of it; the old Dolet manor still showed lights. The streets outside were quiet, not even animals roaming too far in the chill air of autumn.
The windows of the manor were shut tight against the cold and young master Archerd Dolet set a new fat log on the embers of the fire. As flame began to crackle around it, the light flashed off the round glasses he wore. He stared into the flames pensively.
Footsteps from behind roused him, and he turned, startled. “Father, you’re up late.”
“I could say the same, m’boy, and should.” Altman set his lighter down on a sturdy wooden end table. “You beat me to it. I was about to build up the flame myself. It’s going to be a cold one tonight.” Next, he sat himself down in a beautiful old overstuffed armchair. “Have a seat, son. Sit with me a while.”
Archerd did as he was bid automatically. He was a strong young man, 14 years of age with a slightly heavier build than his father. His features favored his mother, he had the same heart-shaped face. Of late though, he’d taken people aback with the intensity and curiosity of his gaze; in that, he’d definitely taken after Altman.
“Father, I’ve been wondering … Why do you always get so melancholy this time of year? I mean, I talked to mother and she said the two of you first met right at this time of year! Shouldn’t it make you happy?”
Altman smiled, a slightly twisted smile. “Oh yes, son. That much does make me happier than you can yet know, of course. It’s …”
Archerd held his breath for a moment, then prompted, “It’s …?”
“Well. You know of course your mother and I were instrumental in establishing this township and settling the whole of the valley and the lands around it.”
“Of course.” He could hardly forget it; he was forever Altman’s son, son of the founder, sometimes even son of the huntress. His father wasn’t the only revered figure in the family.