I've known Zavala a long time, you know. He was one of the first people to greet me when I arrived at the Tower all those years ago—though I suppose "greet" may be too soft a word. It implies a sort of friendliness, a warmth. And Zavala… if you've never met him? He can be a bit stern. He's hardened further since the Red War, I'm sorry to see—though I suppose we all have, to some degree. In any case, that very first meeting left a sour taste in my mouth. I hate to admit that I avoided Zavala when I could after that—though sometimes he makes himself unavoidable. It wasn't long after this meeting that I celebrated my first Dawning at the Tower. Everyone's spirits were high, and it was so nice to see the people I had come to care about smiling and toasting each other. I remember Tess and I had just finished with a bit of decorating, and she had left to get something when Zavala began heading my way. "Oh no," I thought. "Oh no, not this man." Ah, but he came over anyway, so I smiled and wished him a Happy Dawning—because I DID wish good things for him. It is often the sternest among us who hold the saddest hearts. He wished me the same, and then—I almost couldn't believe it—he smiled! We exchanged some brief pleasantries, and… I don't remember what I said that brought this on, but suddenly he said, "Oh, that reminds me of a joke!" A joke! At first I thought I must have heard him wrong, because the Titan Vanguard had always struck me as the "no time for joking" sort. But he had barely begun telling this story before I noticed how much more relaxed his posture was. It seemed the spirit of the Dawning had reached even this stone man. I remember only pieces of the joke these days—I believe it had to do with a Guardian and a Fallen Captain?—but I clearly remember that he stumbled over the first few words and had to start again. I gave the warmest smile I could to encourage him, and he went on to tell one of the longest, most awkward jokes I have ever heard. And listen, I loved every minute of it. Truly, I couldn't have been happier. Oh, I clapped and laughed along with what I swear was real, true joy from Zavala. To have such a guarded soul open like that—few things are more beautiful. I admired him so in that moment, that he could push himself beyond the boundaries he'd held himself to. I remember hoping that I could someday be so brave in my own way. For the first time, I didn't just respect him as one of the City leaders. For the first time, I felt real, genuine affection for Zavala, the person. Zavala, my friend. He has been dear to my heart ever since. --- Gjallardoodles: Mix Ether Cane and Delicious Explosion, add Essence of Dawning, then bake.
Dawning Before the Dawning
Amanda once told me that her mother, Nora, came from desert people, in a place far, far from here. Nora had been on the road since she was a girl, sometimes with nothing more than an old scribbled map and that shotgun of hers. She didn't need much, but she did need people. Nora met Amanda's father in some half-abandoned village, and when she told him about the Last Safe City, well, he followed her. They had no family but themselves. They picked up fellow refugees on the way. Lost others. Then they had their precious little girl. It must have been a slow, slow road—first with a little baby, then with a young child. But they believed. They had hope. They pushed on. Amanda told me about one particular Dawning they had shared out in the wilds. They had fallen in with another family that had a child, Lucia, a bit older than little Amanda. They were agreeable travel companions. They found themselves in the thick of the forest, with the wind wailing, a storm coming down, branches flying… and realized they had to stay put. So, they find the wreckage of a dropship, lean up a wing and crumpled siding, and squeeze all the grown-ups and the two little ones into the dry space under the rusted hull. Then Amanda's mother says, "We'll be here a while. Might as well do something to keep our spirits up." She sends the adults out foraging for something to eat, something to drink, and something to keep dry. Amanda's father comes back with long-leaved plants to weave into mats. Their companions return with full water flasks, some prickly fruit, and a dozen or so wild vegetables like cucumbers. With dried fish from their packs, it is quite the feast. As the adults are working, Lucia is curling the rinds from the fruit into little flowers, but little Amanda is kicking her legs, restless. "Make yourself useful; make some decorations," Amanda's mother urges her. She hands Amanda wires and nuts and bolts and a circuit board full of little lights. Lucia comes jumping, an old battery in her hand. Together the girls make miniature garlands of tiny bulbs. And Lucia shows Amanda how to touch the wires to the battery to make them light up. Bright little lights in the vast dark forest. Amanda told me about the fruit, with soft white flesh and a sour taste. She told me about how they sang made-up songs together with no words, just humming and tapping out a beat on the metal walls of their shelter. She doesn't know what the fruit was. Maybe it does not exist anymore. The other family? They got separated from Amanda's people. Later on, Amanda's parents… gone, like so many others on the road to the Last Safe City. But Amanda Holliday still makes the lights, you know. Uses spare odds and ends to decorate her workshop. She does it every Dawning. --- Chocolate Ship Cookies: Mix Cabal Oil and Null Taste, add Essence of Dawning, then bake.
Our Choices Define Us
Sometimes, when I face something frightening, I think of the strongest people I know and draw strength from them. Suraya Hawthorne is one of those people. I know her brusque attitude can be off-putting, and that's intentional on her part. But once you get past that, there is so much to learn. She was orphaned as a young girl, and Devrim and Marc took her in. Honestly, I think having these two as role models is part of why she's as strong as she is. They raised her to be sure of herself and to always do what she thought was right… even though that ultimately led to her having to leave the City. As Suraya tells it, she came home one day to find Marc and Devrim sitting at the kitchen table, as though expecting her. They had her sit down, then asked if there was anything she wanted to tell them. She shook her head. "Nope." Marc asked her to try again, but she was silent, so he told her that Executor Hideo had stopped by their home. She asked how he was. "You know how he is," Devrim said. "Tell us what happened." "His face got in the way." Marc took a deep breath and said Hideo claimed to have caught her stealing supplies that morning, and did she have anything to say about that? She did not. He reminded her that stealing supplies and breaking a faction leader's nose were both good ways to get kicked out of the City, and Suraya could keep quiet no longer. She almost shouted her explanation: The factions didn't care about the people who needed food and supplies—the people who could not pledge to a faction because they were too busy struggling to survive. She wanted to help them, so she would sometimes steal supplies from New Monarchy. Devrim asked, "What about Hideo?" Suraya rolled her eyes and groaned, explained that when Hideo had found her, he'd said all manner of nasty, evil things to her: She was worthless, she was nothing, things like that. Devrim agreed Hideo was… well, I won't repeat it, but suffice to say it means "an unpleasant person." He held a lot of influence, though, and he was insisting Suraya be punished. Harshly. For Suraya's part, this seemed to crystallize something. She tells me that's the first time she knew she wanted to leave the City—that perhaps this had been part of why she'd punched Hideo. She told her guardians and they couldn't believe it. They were quiet for a bit. Then Devrim broke the silence. "Well, let's get packed." "No," she said. "Absolutely not." She was not about to let her decisions hurt these men who had taken her in and cared for her. They'd done nothing wrong. Oh, they fought her. As she tells it, they argued a long time, until finally, she shrugged and said, "If you try to come with me, I'll run away." She suspected they knew there was no bluff to call, as they spoke now in tired, worried voices, making their case one last time. Suraya was adamant. "I won't let you suffer for my choices." What could they do? She asked when she had to leave. Marc said he could hold off Hideo for a day or two so they could all make a plan. His voice became stern again, and he said, "You're going somewhere close enough that we can come and check on you as often as we like. At least for a while. That is nonnegotiable." He had no negotiating power, of course. But Suraya had agreed. She stayed very near the City for over a year before saying proper goodbyes and heading out further into the world. Suraya Hawthorne is, in my mind, the definition of doing what you think is right regardless of the consequences. She knew it was right to help struggling families, she knew it was right to not put Devrim and Marc in harm's way, and she knew it was right to give them some peace of mind by staying close. That is the kind of true courage I have always admired. --- Eliksni Birdseed: Mix Ether Cane and Personal Touch, add Essence of Dawning, then bake.
Say It with a Dawning Gift
It's not only my customers who keep me running about. People are always coming to me for advice. Sometimes it's "This shader or that?" and "Does this mark look OK on me?" Sometimes it's "Should I hold a Dawning party?" or "Why should I go to their Dawning party?" But sometimes the questions are even more complicated. I was stealing a moment of quiet one afternoon to organize all the jumbled rolls of wrapping paper, when I heard a resonant voice calling to me. How I jumped! It was… a certain well-known Titan—not Zavala, but I will not tell you who. Eva Levante does not tattle about sensitive matters. He was carrying a formidable piece of weaponry, a complicated curve of many metal parts with a thick string connecting the ends. "It's a compound bow," he explained, following my stare. "For shooting arrows." I raised my eyebrows in puzzlement. On that weapon, he had placed a large pouf of red velvet ribbon. A bow on a bow. I could tell from the tilt of his helmet and his taut grip on the weapon that something was amiss. I sighed. I saw this a few times every Dawning. I suspected he was smitten, and this would not be a short conversation. "Warmest Dawning greetings to you, Torito!" (That is not his actual name, naturally; it is a made-up name.) "Eva Levante. They say you should give a Dawning gift when you… have a special friend," he boomed, trying to whisper. "Who is 'they'?" I laughed. He ignored me. "I bought my friend this bow. Is it a good gift?" "It all depends on your friend. What do they like? What ARE they like? Can you describe them?" "She… likes to fight. She is regal. She is very…" The Titan paused. "Is a recurve bow more romantic than a compound bow?" (He managed to whisper this time.) "Ahhh," I nodded knowingly. I wouldn't know the difference between those weapons, but I understood his problem. "But maybe a book would be better?" he asked. "Again, it depends which book you choose." "I have read Ikora's 'On Circles: Revised Edition,' and it was very good." "That is a terrible Dawning gift. Might I suggest literature?" Torito tapped the horn on his helmet to reflect. "I did destroy a book of hers once. Should I replace it?" "Maybe you should not remind her of a bad thing happening…" He didn't reply to this, so I went on, "Perhaps this bow is already the right Dawning gift for your friend. Do you think she would use it?" "Definitely." "Well, then," I smiled, "you have your answer. Happy Dawning to you and your friend both!" "And to you, Eva. I hope your Dawning is one to remember." Then the Titan thanked me, hefted the bow, and strode off. --- Vanilla Blades: Mix Cabal Oil and Sharp Flavor, add Essence of Dawning, then bake.