Arin learns what it means to be a man after he sees his first battle –
– red rivers run into the cracks of the earth, all spilling from broken, shattered things; they were treasures to somebody.
The fissures, like porcelain, are a flaw in the living artwork that makes the human race finite.
He is lucky.
Every breath he takes now is punctuated by the rattle of dice; this is what a man is, they tell him. It is not the skin he wears, but the ability to become a stone-man in the face of sorrow and hardship, that earns him the title.
He yearns for warm, storybook nights, and the bliss of ignorance to the cruel reality of the world he lives in, but this ache is a luxury he allows himself to endure only in grey, thread-bare nights.
In the morning, he rises with the sun, and dons his mantle: “man”. He has become a relentless force; won’t let people see how he too has been cracked and chipped.
Like the ancient soil, he has seen many die.