Tobal noticed the medics flying around much more during the winter months as they kept closer tabs on everyone to see they were doing alright. When Tobal announced at circle that Crow was ready to solo many elders were concerned about his size and age. They almost didn't allow it. It took the testimony of several medics to confirm the activities of Tobal and Crow during the past two months before the elders agreed. Tobal was shocked at the extent his activities had been monitored. He had suspected some monitoring but never suspected the true extent the medics monitored things. He was more glad than ever that he had not tried going back to the lake.
Anne, Derdre and Seth were proclaimed ready to solo. The elders were giving the same exhaustive grilling to each of them they had given Crow. In this bitter weather there were no second chances and accidents did happen. There had been one death this past month. A Journeyman had gotten caught in a snowslide and the medics had not been able to rescue him in time. Any type of solo activity was kept to an absolute minimum if possible. The medics especially kept a close eye on the newbies that were soloing during the winter months and encouraged everyone else to partner up and use the buddy system.
The Circle of Elders consisted of Masters and was voluntary. They determined if newbies were ready to solo and mediated any disputes among clansmen. They also awarded the chevrons to both Apprentices and to Journeymen. Ellen had always served on it since Tobal had been there. It had been her support that decided the other elders in favor of letting Crow solo. Of course she knew Crow was Howling Wolf's grandson from the village but she never mentioned it. Tobal made a special note that he needed to talk with Ellen later that night. He wanted to know if she had found out anything about the rogue attacks.
He saw Sarah bundled in her furs and walked over giving her a big hug and a kiss.
"How are things going ?"
"I didn't realize how cold it gets out here", she grinned. "I don't think I've really been warm since I left home. We spend a lot of time getting wood for the fire."
"How is Ben doing?", he laughed. "He's getting his initiation tonight right?"
"Oh, he's really doing well", she grinned excitedly. "He will be initiated tonight and train with me for another month. If he can solo in this weather, he can survive in anything. I think he will be ready to solo next month if he wants to." Her face got serious, "I wouldn't force him to solo in this weather if he didn't want to. I wouldn't force anyone to solo in weather like this. You have to be part crazy to enjoy being out in weather like this living off the land."
"It gets easier the longer you are out here", he comforted her. "Either that or we just get crazier the longer we are out here." He chuckled, "Perhaps there is some of both."
Tobal was really proud of how well Sarah had been doing with Ben. She had come a long way from the girl in the antique shop he had once known.