I rose early in the morning. Reluctantly, I turned back my covers and reached for the nightstand beside the bed. There sat the candle that I had left for myself last night. I lit it promptly. It draped a soft piece of light over the room. I crawled out of bed, leaving my wife behind, and stepped lightly towards the window. Peeking through the slats of the shutter, there was hardly enough light to see outside. There was still dew hanging off the leaves and an even thicker layer covered the ground. Fog hung low over the calm river. Our house sat no more than a stone’s throw away from it. My boy, Albie, and I usually spent most our spare time on the riverbank, oftentimes staying late into the night. Last night however, in preparation for today we had gone to bed a little bit earlier than usual.
When I entered his room, Albie was still asleep in his cot cuddled up under a few blankets. He looked very comfy. It was mid fall, so it was cold enough to want another blanket but not quite cold enough to keep the fire all night. I almost hated to wake him. He seemed to be sleeping so well, but he was already so excited for the livestock auction I knew he’d be upset with me if we missed even a minute of it. I nudged him just a little. He slowly came to life with a grunt and a groan, but his frustration was diffused when he remembered our plans for today.
“Are we still going?!” he said excitedly once he came to himself. It was no surprise these were the first words out of his mouth. This was probably the quickest I’d ever seen him roll out of bed. He could be especially stubborn about getting up if we’d stayed out too late – like father like son I suppose – but today was different. His feet hit the floor at the same time he started rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“As long as you’re still up for it.” I replied.
His arms fell back to his sides: “Are you kidding! Of course, I’m still up for it!” He was almost offended that I’d even suggest that he wouldn’t want to go. He continued “You know I’ve been waiting forever to go.” I had a small chuckle to myself.
Forever may have been an exaggeration, but he was dead serious. Ever since the spring, he had been waiting to go to the fall auction at Baile Beostoic. It all stemmed from him meeting a man hauling back several calves into town. Albie couldn’t help but notice the cute little things. He tugged on my shirt and looked up at me to see if I noticed them. He asked if he could go see them and I told him it was up to the man hauling them. The man was old and very kind from what I remember of it.
As Albie approached, the man slowed. Albie asked very politely if he could pet the calves. The man was more than happy and willing to let him. He and Albie spent quite a while talking. The man seemed glad just to have someone to talk to. He took his time and told Albie all about the auction: how it grew bigger every year and of how it was basically turning into a festival. As I stood by, I could see the gleam in Albie’s eyes grow larger. After we were done talking to the man, we headed home, and it wasn’t long until Albie was asking me if we could go.
I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went but I do remember that I obliged. I told him if he would be patient and keep up with his responsibilities, I would like to take him in the fall. I thought it was a great idea. I can’t think of anything a father loves more than quality time with his son, and the fact that he had suggested it made it all the more sweet.
He made sure that I kept my promise. He would remind me from time to time and make sure I noticed when he was pitching in some extra help. He has always done a good job of keeping up with his chores. He knows what I expect of him, but he was especially conscientious during this time. I will admit he has done very good for the past several months, so a few days ago I told him I would be taking him to the fall festival. Since then, he’s practically been eaten up with anticipation.
After we had woken up, we got dressed for the day. I grabbed a bag we had packed the night before. It was nothing special, no more than a little food for the trip and some other odds and ends just in case we happened to need them. We grabbed our coats and stepped out the door. I attached the bag to the saddle of Cherry – she was an old faithful horse that was about 12 years old now. We had gotten her as a yearling about a year after we had Albie. The two had practically grown up together and were basically the same age. We had made it a tradition to celebrate her ‘birthday’ along with the boy’s.
I hopped on her and then helped Albie up into the saddle. He was just about tall enough to get on her by himself, but it was just a little bit easier this way. I knew in a few years he would take a growth spurt and be able to hop up on her no problem so figured I might as well do it while I still had the chance. The sun was just starting to warm the Earth. It must’ve been around 5 or 6 in the morning. Fog was rising, surrounding us completely now; we headed north, out of Riverwatch.
We could take our time and still make it there comfortably by 10 or 11 at the latest. We certainly could’ve made it earlier, but I didn’t see any reason to rush. It was Albie’s first time going north and I hadn’t been in many years. I had been to the auction several years back, but Albie was so young at that time I figured it would be best to leave him with his mother at home. That made this an exciting experience for both of us.
The first half of the trip went pretty slow. Albie leaned forward and rested on my back for most of it. Around halfway through the trip though, the air had warmed up enough for us to shed our coats. Albie spotted a quiet little pond not far off the road, so we stopped to pack our coats into the saddlebags. I reach into the bag I had tied up earlier and pulled out a little bit of grub. We both had a couple apples and we split a loaf of bread with some cheese on top. All together it was a nice breakfast, especially with such peaceful scenery. Cherry got some rest out of it too. I hitched her to a tree by the pond so she could drink at her leisure and we fed her our apple cores as treats when we were done with them.
After our break we climbed back on Cherry just as before and got back onto the road. This half of the trip went by much faster. Hours passed by quickly. We passed others, some on foot, some on horseback, and some on wagons: it was likely that at least a few of them were heading to the same place we were. Albie and I talked for most of this leg. The majority of it was just questions about what it would be like when we got there. Daydreaming helped pass the time, but I only knew about as much as him; we both theorized on what it would be like.
Albie seemed most interested by getting to meet the various animal that would be there. He was no stranger to livestock. As he had grown up, he helped me tend to the chickens and pigs we raised. We usually only kept enough around to help feed ourselves, but it was good fun anyways and it helped teach Albie some great lessons on responsibility. Nevertheless, I knew he would enjoy getting to be around them all. Personally, I was most excited to try the different treats the whole town had to offer. Based off of how the old man spoke, there would be likely vendors and perhaps even a few games there too. We were both all too excited.
“Is that it, Papa?” Albie asked just as we crested a small hill. I knew we would’ve been getting close, so I had told Albie to keep an eye out a while ago. Just the thought of actually seeing the place had him thrilled and it was only intensified when he actually caught a glimpse of it: “That has to be it doesn’t it?”
“I reckon you’re right; look at all the people.” I said. We inched towards the side of the road just to take it all in for a moment.
His eyes lit up similar to the first time he learned about the festival. “Yeah, you can see everything from here.”
He was right. It was a spectacular view. Although it was still rather early, hundreds of people filled the little town to the brim. You could clearly make out the auctioneer’s stage behind the barn. It seemed as though they hadn’t yet started. Animals were queued up in pins with lot numbers ready for the sale. The tiny gravel paths had turned into bustling streets filled with people perusing stalls that had seemingly appeared overnight. People from all walks of life had come together to be here. It seemed some were just browsing, but many others were carrying armloads full of stuff around. There were still some people working out in the field taking up what was likely the second crop of the season and horses working the fields to turn over the soil before the first frost came. Wagons and carts filled the entrance to the city and sat on the sides of the road. Even outside of the town were merchants trading all sorts of goods. Inside people had turned their house fronts into shop fronts and were selling whatever excess they had. A makeshift market had popped up. Tents housed neat toys and trinkets, mostly trivial things; others had sweets, baked goods, or dried meats perhaps. My mouth starting watering just at the idea.
Without a second thought we approached the town and entered in.