Circle was different this time around and Tobal whistled merrily as he traveled the path into camp. He didn't see anyone on the trail and no one tried to stop him or Rafe. Rafe seemed amused at Tobal's whistling but didn't say anything about it. He only whistled a few short bars at two sharp turns in the trail and that was it.
People were setting up teepees and gathering wood for the fires. There was a lot of work to do and Tobal joined in with enthusiasm. He helped dig the roasting pits where the bigger animals were being prepared. It felt good to work along side other clansmen and joke with them. He was grateful to contribute and as evening came closer he wondered what the night would bring.
Everyone was changing into robes. All clan members at circle wore robes that they kept in one of the storage buildings. A black robed guard was handing them out. There was no reason to haul robes around all month when they were only used here. Tobal was given a long gray robe similar to the one he had gotten at sanctuary.
"Just bring it back tomorrow when you're done with it", was all the guard told him.
It turned out only four newbies were being initiated that night. Tobal made some new friends and was hanging out with them. They were all Aprentices. Zee was a raven haired girl with shoulder length hair and a good sense of humor. She had been one of Rafe's students and was training her first newbie. Nicky, the newbie had just arrived at sanctuary two weeks ago and was being initiated as Apprentice tonight, but would be waiting till next month before starting her solo.
Wayne was a stocky good natured fellow with sandy hair. He had been an Apprentice for two years and wasn't in any hurry to make it to Journeyman. He didn't have any student and hadn't been training anyone for the past few months. He was more interested in being with his girl friend who was also an Apprentice. His girlfriend, Char, had curly brown hair and a ready smile. They were always seen together at circle. Tobal remembered both of them from last circle. It was easy to tell they were in love.
A tall, lanky, sandy haired kid was soloing the same time he was. They hit it off right away during last months initiation. In fact, all six that had been initiated last month were soloing this month. Kevin was more nervous about his solo than Tobal was. It made Tobal realize Rafe was a very uncommon teacher and extremely good at teaching others what they needed to know. Most soloists didn't have the quality of training or the experience Rafe had given him. Kevin kept thinking about bad things that might happen in the woods, things that hadn't occurred to Tobal since his first weeks of training. Many clansmen were excited about the six of them soloing and they were given lots of support and encouragement.
Nicky kept staring at Tobal's face, finally she blurted out. " What happened to your face anyway?"
Tobal was caught by surprise and off guard. "I was attacked by a wild animal that knocked me down. I fought it off and was really lucky", he lied.