The raised voices spread much farther than the light that shone from the windows. The harsh words bounced off of the walls of the other cottages in the small village. The residents were saddened by the conflict as if they were grieving all with one heart, and in a way they were. This wasn’t the first time they heard these words fly, but they felt, some of them knew, that it would be the last.
The boy was old enough now to go off on his own. He had always been too good. Too much for this little village to hold him, and he knew it, and his parents knew it, and the village knew it.
“I’m not meant to be here” the young man screamed, several neighbors mouthing the words along with him, as though following along with a prayer, “I’m greater than this place!” It was only his voice which could be heard beyond the cottage, but the neighbors knew what the parents’ voices would be saying, in meaning, if not in word: They understand. They don’t disagree. They know his wanderlust is strong, and has been since he was a tiny child. His mother would cry, and his father would attempt to sympathize. They were good people, if a bit foolish.
“I’m meant for something more!” the final line of the litany. It was followed, as is the formula, by a slamming door, but this time it was the door out of the cottage, rather than deeper into it. This time the parents did not tell him that he must wait, that he’s not a man yet, that he must stay in this place for a bit longer. Instead, the crunching of the young man’s boots on the path signaled a final parting of ways, at long last. Some of the other villagers, the oldest, knew the full tale, but the ones who did not felt no less saddened by the outcome. The greatest among them had departed. The fierce, dependable, angry, compassionate, reckless, adventurous boy who had for these last 16 years been the light and shadow of the village, filling it with his presence, with his soul, until they all were consumed by him, swept up in him. But he was too large for this place, and though his leaving would fracture the village into splinters, he could no more stay in it than an oak tree could stay in its tiny seed.
The father left after him, and followed some ways down the road after the boy, but he stopped at the edge of the lights cast by the village, and watched his son disappear into the darkness. When he returned, he did not walk directly home, he went instead to the old, unused well behind the abandoned mill on the outskirts of the village. By the light of the moon, he counted the stones until he found a specific one. He reached into the well at that spot, and found one end of a length of twine pinned to the inside of the well. He slowly pulled out the rope, a dull tinkling sound coming up the well with it. He hauled up a thin, golden circlet. He held it in his hand and felt the weight of it. Watched the moonlight dance across it. Then, holding the twine in both hands, he lowered the circle of yellow metal back into the earth.