The Beginnings Of Trust
The morning sunlight that had seemed so bright a moment before faded nearly to blackness in my eyes. I gasped, reaching out for something, anything to support my reeling senses. My hand found Netya’s, and I took it, holding tightly. As the darkness before my eyes began to dissipate again, I found my voice, pale and stumbling with shock and rage. “No. No, I will not believe it. He would have told us! It is not possible. You…you lie!”
The man before me, grown suddenly hideous in my sight, shook his head sadly. “I wish I could tell you that I did. It is a horrible story. I know. I witnessed it. And yet it is the truth. Perhaps he did not tell you because he does not even know himself?” he questioned softly, rising from the ground and taking a step towards me.
I cringed back. “Don’t touch me, you filthy, traitorous man! Get away! I will not believe what you speak. I will not! He is no child of Pethnor’s. He is no brother of yours! He is Thalon, son of Thaldir, the Captain of the Castle Guard, conceived in honorable marriage with Mirriel, daughter of the merchant Laston. He is no child of that godless devouring tyrant of whom you speak.” My voice shook with burning anger.
Netya took her hand from mine and turned me to face her gently. “Alasse, hush,” she said quietly. She looked distrustfully at the man who stood before us, addressing him. “I do not know if what you say is true. I do so hope it is not, but I cannot help but see how it would make sense. All the same, I do not trust you as far as an arms length. You say you are Pethnor’s son. All the more reason for distrust. Now, I would talk to my friend alone. Go,” she motioned across the clearing, “Stand over there out of earshot, where the path comes in. We will be watching you. Do not try to escape.”
The young man bowed humbly to Netya’s request and walked slowly across the clearing. Netya stood watching him until he reached the far side, and then turned back to me. “Alasse. I know it’s awful, but what if he is right? No, don’t, hear me through,” she added as I turned sharply away. “Listen. Don’t you remember what else the man said? When we were in the cabin, before he lit it ablaze. He said, ‘you will be dragged before the master you betrayed,’ didn’t he? So, if he is who he says, we know he is not exactly on Pethnor’s good side at the moment. He said he betrayed him, and the evidence of the man outside the cabin lines up. And Alasse…don’t you see? It would explain so much. The note Thalon said was found in Pethnor’s cell after he escaped…I don’t remember it all, but didn’t it say something like ‘my blood you have stolen?’ That lines up too! And…it explains why Pethnor was so eager to take Thalon’s life. Revenge against his mother. And yet, if Thalon does not die…Pethnor would still be getting revenge by keeping Thalon with him. It makes sense, Alasse!”
I shook my head. “I can’t believe you are saying this. Netya, think! Think what you have just said! Thalon, our friend, our teacher, our…our protector. The son of Pethnor? The half-brother of this monster?” I motioned wildly across the clearing. “What are you saying?”
“No, Alasse. Please, listen. I don’t think he’s a monster. I think he is who he says.”
“Yes, so do I. The son of the most evil, powerful, and twisted man in the kingdom. I think he is exactly who he says he is,” I said sharply.
“Yes, the son of Pethnor. But if he is, he betrayed his own father, Alasse!” She lowered her voice, glancing across to where the young man leaned against a tree. “I believe him. I…I think we don’t have any choice, anyway. If he is Pethnor’s son, and yet is not the traitor to his father that he says, then…I don’t suppose we shall last long enough for it to matter. But if he is what he said, and if he did betray and desert Pethnor, then he is on our side. Right? And…if he is not who he says at all…I can’t see any good motive for deceiving us with so great and improbable a lie. So if he is not who he says at all, I don’t suppose we will last long either. Really, what choice do we have but to trust him?”
I backed slowly away from Netya until I felt the pressing resistance of the tent wall behind my back. The rush of confusion, betrayal, and hurt that welled into my mind dimmed my sight. Softly, I whispered again, “But why did not he tell us?”
Netya shook her head. “Like he said…I begin to think Thalon does not know himself. I…Oh Alasse. I wish he were here. When he finds out…” she turned away from me.
I nodded slightly. “I know. But…I don’t think he ever will. He is probably dying, even as we speak…” I trailed off, and grasped Netya’s shoulders, my turn to spin her towards me. “Netya. I guess…I guess I’ll believe this man, Saewon, or whatever he wants to be called…I guess I’ll trust that he speaks the truth. Like you said, there is no other option, and it cannot do any more harm than disbelief, anyway. But…if we’re trusting him, we need to start out. Berion said we had to save Thalon. Me and you. We need someone’s help, and this is who Berion sent. So let’s go. I still do not trust this man, “ I said glancing suspiciously at him, “But…it does not matter right now. We have to find Thalon. No matter if he’s dead or alive…we have to find him. We can’t just abandon him now, after we have come so far.”
Netya nodded in agreement, dashing the tears away that trembled on her lashes. “Alright. Let’s go.” Turning, we walked across the clearing towards the strange man who Berion had sent. Towards the son of our enemy, and the enemy of the kingdom. I hoped against hope in my mind and heart that we were making the right choice.
As we neared him, the young man pushed himself up off the tree he had been leaning against. “Didst decide I’m not to threatening, at least for the moment?” he asked. He smiled as Netya nodded slightly, and said jovially, “Splendid. Now suppose you tell me exactly why I’m here in the first place? All Berion told me this morning was that he had found two young ladies and their friend, who he suspected was my long-lost half-brother, in a burning cabin, and may have need of my help. Very informative. And yet…there are only the two of you here. I am anxious to see Thalon again…though he will not know me, and I have not seen him since he was barely two years old.”
I shook my head slowly. “No. That’s why you’re here. Thalon’s gone. We need your help to find him.”