“Thank you, everyone, for coming to celebrate with us.” Mort raised his glass to the small crowd assembled for his 20th Naming Day. “I love you all. Thank you Mom and Dad, you have taught me well and given me almost everything I asked. I…” he faltered, looking around at the smiling faces of friends and family, and then rushed on, “I am leaving tomorrow, I love you, but I have to go. I can’t spend my life worshiping death in this temple. I want to see the world. I’m sorry.” He stopped at the wide eyes and gasps of everyone around him.
“Mort, how could you?”
“Now, just a minute young man!”
“Oh, Mort! On your naming day? In front of everyone?”
“Don’t be silly, you aren’t going anywhere!”
Mort dropped back into his chair and the voices washed over him. His heart was pounding in his ears and he couldn’t decipher who was shouting what. He just stared at the wine cup in his hand, wondering why it was empty.
The shouting died down when he didn’t respond to any of them. One at a time, they sat back down, some surprised they were standing in the first place. Conversation was attempted several times, but no one could keep it going. After a few attempts, the guests began to take their leave, in pairs and families.
“Sorry, Adeline, we should get home, it’s late.”
“Good night, Batrim, don’t worry, he’ll sober up tomorrow.”
“Good night, Mort, sleep it off.”
Mort sat still until even his parents had left the table. He had done it. He had finally told them he was leaving. Okay, maybe he could have done it better. He could have said something before they invited everyone over. He should have waited until tomorrow. Why were they all so surprised, surely they knew he was unhappy here? He had certainly complained often enough. He had thought they’d be happy he was going to leave.
He got up and went up to his room, pulled off his fancy black robes and curled up in bed, staring at the ceiling. The shouting voices he had ignored earlier, now playing through his head. His mother’s tears and his father’s red face looming in his imagination. He lay awake for an hour before sleep took him, but his dreams were no respite.
His mother sobbing over his dead body. His father shouting that he deserved his fate for leaving the temple. His mother clinging to him begging him not to leave. His father chaining him to the preparation table. Their friends laughing at his attempts to leave, with his parents shouting behind him.
He woke with a start from the worst of the dreams: his parents cutting him open alive as though preparing a corpse. Shaking and sweating he threw off his blanket and jumped to his feet, grasping the bedside table for support. Breathing deeply to settle his pounding heart, Mort stepped over to his wash basin and splashed water on his face. Running his fingers through his black wavy hair, he peered into the small looking glass. His blue eyes were bloodshot, and sweat glistened on his pale skin. He scrubbed his face and neck clean and then dressed, not in his robes, but in traveling clothes, though still put on his medallion of (Koth)’s symbol.
The sky was pale grey outside his window. Dawn was just about to break. Mort slipped down the hall and stairs to the kitchen. It was empty, thank (Koth), and he quickly filled a small sack with bread, cheese, and fruit. Then, before his resolve could falter, he grabbed his staff and slipped out the back door and down the street, away from the only home he had ever know.