So passed a wondrous summer for the children.  They built a temple using branches and planks of wood for Hope as Lady of the Lake, down by the boys’ favourite fishing hole.  They decorated its roof with evergreen branches, and on all of the rocks in the area they painted scenes of nature, deer and birds and fish, mystical runes dedicated to the Lady of the Lake.

            Zoë, a born actress, revelled in her role as Morgan le Fay, who was cast as Arthur’s greatest enemy in the movies and books the boys had read.  She would make lovely, threatening speeches, with a lot of melodramatic flair and posturing.  Outside the game, for the children started being friends in the real world, too, she was quite the opposite of the malicious enemy she played:  she was perhaps the warmest of all of them, with an easy, bright smile and hugs for everyone. 

            Genevieve ended up with the role of Guinevere, Arthur’s queen, since it was her house that was used as Camelot.  Faith became the willing handmaiden to whichever girl was playing a part at the time:  they all alternated as such depending on the scene that had to be played.  If Hope was the Lady, the other girls dressed in long white gowns from the attic, and wore crowns they wove of the flowers in the fields.  When in Camelot or at the Castle Chariot, the barn where they set up the evil Morgan’s kingdom, the girls wore the same gowns but with maidenly shawls and crowns of construction paper.

            Sometimes the boys would stage mock battles for the girls, tournaments as their champions, wearing tokens of their ladies’ esteem.  Other times they would stage festivals, where Evan would play songs on his small guitar.  For such a young boy he had a lot of talent, and had learned much from the lessons he was getting.  Sometimes the girls would sing along.  Each day was filled with laughter and smiles, the children all going home happy and looking forward to the next day.

            Gradually, though, the summer began to wane.  The autumn, and the return to school, drew closer with every new day.  The children knew, and it gave a sense of urgency to their play.  It was as if they had to do as much with their time together as possible, wring as much fun out of every moment as they could, before their time together ended.  There were fishing expeditions to prepare for the feasts of Camelot, though the boys always put back what they caught and returned for sandwiches and juice.  The group often went to the Lady’s temple for her blessing, essentially an excuse for a swimming excursion during the hottest days.

            It was on one of these hot, stifling summer days, after the children had cooled off by having a large water fight, that the idea of the end of the summer was first discussed, while they lay on towels on the rocks in the field to dry off, warm in the golden sun.

            “What happens when September comes?”  Jason asked, curious.  He was staring idly at clouds, thinking that he could see shapes in some of them.  A sheep, perhaps…

            “Well, I suppose that we’ll only be able to play on weekends.”  Owen said.  “Until Christmas vacation.  Then we’ll be able to play all day, making forts out of snow.”  He sounded really excited about the idea, envisioning the new twists that they could put on games.

            “Actually, no, because Jay and I have to go home next week, back to the city.”  Alexander said from his place on the rock he shared with his stepbrother. 

            “I totally forgot about that!”  Evan said, disappointed, “That totally sucks for you guys.  Do you think you’ll be able to come at Christmas, at least?”

            “I don’t know, that’s up to Mom and Dad, I guess.”  Jay answered.

            “Uh, guys?”  Neal said.  They all sat up at his tone, because it didn’t sound like what he had to say was any good. 

            The Companions looked at each other in dismay, a sense of foreboding chilling them all.  Genevieve actually wrapped herself in her towel again, as if to keep away the shivers.

            “Zoë and I won’t be able to play, either.  We just found out, but…  Mom and Dad sold our house.  We’re moving because Dad’s going to a new law firm in the city.”

             There were groans from most of them.  Zoë and Hope, her best friend, looked like they were going to cry.  The day no longer seemed as sunny.  No one really knew what to say, so they all lay back down to bask in the sun, for lack of anything better to do.  An awkward silence fell over the group, the only sounds those of cicadas in the grass and the gentle wind caressing their skin.

            Jason returned to his cloud watching, and after a few moments pointed towards the sky.

            “What do you suppose that is?”  He asked Alex.

            Alex shaded his eyes with his hands so that he could see more easily.  “Oh, cool!  I’d say that it looks like a hawk.”

            “Where?”  asked Neal, looking up.  Alex pointed, and everyone looked to see the graceful predator as it turned circles in the sky high above, roaming for prey.  They grew excited at watching it, children with camaraderie again, instead of a distraught group of friends about to lose one another.

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