Though Boden didn't want to say goodbye to his neighbors and friends and family, he was eager to get started on his journey.
His father hugged him tightly, and he returned the embrace with only one loose arm. "Everyone around you will eat the godfruit every morning," Gunnar whispered into his ear. "It's a mistake. Don't eat it."
Boden stiffened. His father had never spoken of the godfruit or the Tree of the Fallen God, which were at the center of the century-old conflict, though only the men who'd returned from the war knew why. No one ever spoke of them, and on the few occasions Boden had asked, he'd received only a stern glare or a warning to drop the matter.
"Do you hear me, son? No matter what the other warriors say, no matter what your commander says. Do not eat the godfruit."
Boden was unsure he could disobey a commander who ordered him to eat it. "Why? What does it do?"
Gunnar pulled back and held him at arm's length, both hands gripping Boden's upper arms. The two men locked gazes. "It will infect your soul with a foul sickness. Rely on your training, not some magical fruit. You've worked hard, trained hard. You're ready. I haven't been the father you wanted, and I—I regret that, but I've been the drill master you needed. Trust me. Trust yourself."
He cares. Boden felt like a boy again, the one who'd wished every night for his papa to return safely from war. His eyes watered and threatened to spill over, but then Gunnar let him go and turned away. Boden breathed in deeply, tamped down the boy he used to be, tamped down the years of disappointment and hurt Gunnar had saddled him with, and became another version of his father.
An excerpt from Song of the Sea Spirit.