Tobal took it hard. He refused to go back to school and went from being an out going, fun loving kid to a loner. He didn't want to see any of his old friends or do any of the things he used to do. He continued spending time alone on the grounds of his uncle's estate either trekking across the frozen wasteland of the lake or riding his horse through the eerie quiet of the pine forest. He was numb inside and it was the harsh bitter cold that broke through his isolation and made him feel things, even if it was only physical discomfort. Somehow it felt good to feel something, even if it was just the cold. As the days passed the quiet solitude seared his soul with an agony that let him know he was still alive.
He kept to himself, even when indoors. The few friends that came to visit were turned away until even they stopped coming. There were no more cards or invitations. One day his uncle brought up the subject of his going back to school.
"I'm not going back to school", he shouted in anger at his uncle.
Uncle Henry tried pleading with him, drawing him out, doing things with him, but nothing could break through the wall that Tobal had placed around himself. He was locked in his own hell of suffering and self-pity.
His face had healed as well as it was going to. He had just come back from a consultation with his doctor. Plastic surgery might make the scar tissue smaller and less noticeable but his skin would always show the scars. Plastic surgery had been his final hope and he felt himself falling even deeper into a black hole of despair and apathy.
It was late New Year's afternoon when his uncle Harry knocked on the bedroom door asking to come in. Tobal grudgingly stood aside and let him into the room. Uncle Harry wheeled his old fashioned wheelchair slowly into the room balancing a highly polished and elegantly crafted oak box on his lap. It was the size of a small jewelry box with ornate carving on the sides and top.
With a start Tobal recognized the deeply engraved symbol on the top of the box. It was a carving of a man and woman standing side by side and holding hands. Surrounding the nude figures was a deeply engraved circle. The entire image was about three inches across and carved out of highly polished white oak.
Uncle Harry laid the box gently down on the bed and wheeled his chair back making room for Tobal. He was looking at Tobal thoughtfully. There were conflicting emotions in his eyes. Dark shadows that Tobal didn't remember seeing before showed beneath them and he felt a sudden chill. This was not the uncle that he was familiar with. This was not the uncle that he had known his entire life.
Looking at his uncle Tobal saw an aging cripple with unkempt hair, a sunken chest and liver spots on his skin. He still had the use of his arms but his legs were withered and misshapen like tree limbs tossed in a storm. It was hard to think of this broken man as Lt. Col. Harry Kane, Federation Officer once retired and now called back into active duty. It was hard to think of him as his father's brother.
It was his uncle's eyes that gave Tobal chills though.