Finallyyyyyyy someone decided to call me…O_O And I think it was a bad idea. I’m scarred for life. O_O …*cough* Kidding. =D Hehehe =P YAY! Ok. Next chapter. …don’t kill me please O_O
A Father’s Error
Netya leaped upright from where she had stood leaning lightly against the wall of the tent. I jumped to her side, putting my back against the wall of the tent as well and reaching for something, anything, to use in possible defense of our lives. “Your name is what?” Netya asked, voice dangerously low and deadly serious.
The young man sighed heavily. “Ah, always the same reaction. What a reputation I seem to have gained, even among people I did not know existed until last night. My name is Saewon. Although, I would have my friends call me Arhael. It has a much more pleasant melody, and not so sinister a meaning. It is also, at least as yet, not generally associated with the name or the supposed person of Saewon.” He looked at the ground, seeming genuinely distressed.
I spoke slowly, cautiously. “I do not know how much Berion has told you. But one of Pethnor’s men assumed we were hiding you in a cabin and proceeded to burn us in. He said you were another of his followers. And how dare you,” my voice trembled with rage, “How dare you claim Thalon as your blood relative? How dare you, you filthy sun-devouring man, claim our friend as your brother?”
“I did not say ‘brother,’” he spoke softly, all the teasing mirth gone from his eyes and replaced by a sorrowful sincerity. “No, I said ‘half-brother.’ There is a difference…sadly. No, Berion told me nothing. He saw me only for a moment this morning, and that before he came back to see you safe. Before he himself learned your story, I would guess. But I fear you will not tell me a word more of it now, until I clear myself in your minds. And so I shall relate a bit of my own story to you first. Please, fair ones, bear an open mind as I speak. I am so tired of being mistaken for that which I am not,” he said, the life returning once more to his eyes as he sat down comfortably on the ground and began.
“My name is Saewon, as I have said, but please do call me Arhael, if you would. As you seem to have heard in some encounter that I marvel you escaped alive from, I was once Pethnor’s…man. Yes, I was once one of his men. I was brought up in Pethnor’s courts, seeing the emblem of the black lynx devouring the sun on every tunic and shield, and thinking them grand. I believed Pethnor’s ambitions to be noble, his face lofty and wise, and his actions just. In a mischance, however, when I was still young, I witnessed an accident that Pethnor hoped never to be brought to light. Now I see his ambitions, face, and actions as selfish, cruel, and tyrannical. I deserted him. Eventually, I betrayed him. I betrayed him…to Berion. Not long ago. It was not until within this very month that I gained the courage to speak out and betray the man I had so long looked up to and trusted and worshiped as great.
“I gave Berion and his men a hint at the location of Pethnor’s stronghold. Granted…I could not bring myself to directly give the location or tell them exactly how to find him. Perhaps I was wrong not to do this. Perhaps…and yet, I cannot even now deceive and inform against the man who raised me. At least, not any more than I already have,” he added with an ironic smile. “But I digress. Suffice it to say, at least for the moment, that I was once Pethnor’s man. It comes as no surprise that he has his thralls out hunting for me. I was wondering when they would get up the nerve to pursue me.
“But to address the other aspect of my revelations that you seem to so strongly resent. Like it or not, will you, nil you, Thalon is my half-brother. Ah, hold, hold, fair maidens!” he protested as Netya nearly jumped at him then and there, unarmed as she was and he no doubt with a hidden sword. “Please, refrain from killing me just yet. Let me finish. As I was saying,” he continued with a crooked smile, as Netya slowly retreated back to my side and stood rigid in anger. “As I was saying. Thalon is my half-brother. We share the blood of our father. His mother and mine, however, are as different as the day from the night. Unfortunately for me, mine is the night. Our father married…a woman of Pethnor’s court. Court I call it, though it could hardly be called such in honesty. More akin to a madhouse or a gathering of raving beasts it is. Or was, when last I saw it. My mother is dark of hair and wild of temperament. Exceedingly wild. Her I have to thank for this,” he said, indicating the scar on his face. “Once when I was still but a child, she took it into her head to set me the task of the feeding of Pethnor’s great hounds. Let me just say…the hounds won. Quite hands-down.” The smile crept back into the young man’s face and the twinkle returned fully to his eyes.
“After that incident, let me tell you, I have had no great love for dogs,” he continued again. “In fact, I have, simply, no love at all for dogs. But that is beside the point. Thalon’s mother was the lovingest, sweetest thing I have ever seen in all this world. So slight, yet so strong. Like a switch of willow. Hair like flaxen gold. Eyes like two pools of emerald blue. A voice like the sweetest birds in the forest. She had flowers in her hair and twined about her waist. Laughing, kind, gentle. Even to me, the one time that I really met her.” He trailed off and sat in silence a moment, lost in his own memories.
When he finally spoke again, his voice was different, harder and sadder at once. “She wandered too far into the forest once, or so the story goes. My father found her. She was hardly more than a maid, then, hardly older than you,” he indicated me with his sad eyes. “My father found her and took her to– …Back to Pethnor’s court. I was only six years old at the time. I remember vividly, watching secretly as they came into our dwelling. I was supposed to be in bed, asleep, but I heard the noise of her weeping and curiosity got the better of me. I saw him bring her into the house, carrying her in his arms. He was almost gentle.
“The next day, my mother was in a rage at everything. She locked my father out of the house and the strange young maiden into the bedroom on the second floor. She would have killed them both, I believe, if she had had the strength. Fortunately for my father…and unfortunately for the young woman, she did not.
“I wondered often about the strange woman that day. But the next morning, when my mother finally opened the bedroom, she was gone. The window was opened, and the bedclothes had been torn into strips and tied into a chain. It hung swaying in the breeze. My mother was livid. She eventually got over her anger, however, and let my father back into the house,” he chuckled softly. “It was not until two years later, when I was nearly nine years old, that the strange maiden was brought back to mind. I saw my father slipping off into the forest one night after all were supposedly asleep. I followed him, and from that moment have all my troubles sprung. And yet, I am ever thankful that I did what I did, and saw what I saw.
“It seems my father had found a way to contact the strange girl. He had arranged a meeting. But, as I saw, it did not go as he hoped. When the girl came into the small clearing, she had another man with her. I heard her talking to my father. The other man, she said, was her husband.
“It was my father’s turn to be livid. He called her all manner of horrible things that I shall not repeat. It was dark, and I could not make out her face, but I think she cried. My father demanded to see ‘that which she had brought,’ and she gently raised the bundle she held in her arms. I heard a soft cry, and knew it to be a very young child. My father jumped towards her, like some ravenous animal, demanding to see. She pulled aside the blankets that covered the little one’s face. My father demanded she hand the child over to him. Demanded she give him his child. His son. She refused.
“I shall not soon forget the rage that took him there. He tried to wrest the young thing from her grasp, shouting that he had the right to raise his own child. Her husband stepped forward then and laid hold of him. Such a fight ensued…I was terrified. Terrified lest my father discover me watching and kill me. In the fight, the young woman stole off with her child. It was crying loudly, and she struggled to calm it. I saw she did not know the way back out of the forest from where she was, and the noise of her child would soon attract my father’s attention. I stole around the clearing through the brush towards her. She jumped when I stepped out before her, but then I told her who I was and offered to show her the way out. I felt sorry for her. She agreed, and I led the way back from the clearing to the edge of the woods. I did not know where she lived, and I would go no farther than the eaves of the trees. The openness of the fields before me frightened me in the night. I asked her a question before I returned to the clearing, and she answered me kindly.
“I returned to find my father gone from the clearing and the young woman’s husband kneeling hurt on the grass. I told him I had brought the girl back to the eaves and pointed the way for him. I was too afraid to say more. When I saw he was able to walk, I started back through the woods as fast as I could go, back to our lodging.
“Once I was back in my room, I could not get the images I had seen from my head. I could hear my father pacing in agitation in the room below me, and his footsteps lulled my thoughts into a rhythm of confusion. I had asked the young woman one question before leaving her…the name of her child. She smiled, even in her distress, and told me she called him Thalon. It meant firm and steadfast. She hoped he would grow to live up to his name. I could see by the way she held the young thing so gently how much she loved him. And yet, her husband was not the child’s father. His father was the same as mine. He was my half-brother.
“It was that night that I saw the reality of Pethnor’s character. That night that I realized he was not the noble figure of justice and wisdom I had thought. That night…I realized his sin that night as I watched him fight with the innocent girl’s husband. Yes, as I watched Pethnor fight with the girls’ husband for possession of a child that was only half his. I am Pethnor’s son. Your friend Thalon is my half-brother. He too is Pethnor’s child.”