Jarel closed his eyes and bent his head, not daring to look his son right into
the face. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Jarel shrugged. "Don't know. Guess I didn't want you to be living in
uncertainty, or something. You were being teased already, and..."
"Dad, look at me." Unwillingly, Jarel obeyed. He saw his son, tired
from a full day of training at Swordmaster Erym's small class. His short, blonde
hair was all messed up, he was biting his lower lip, and it was clear he was
fighting the tears that were about to spring up in his gray-blue eyes.
"You... lied to us for... what is it, nineteen years? Or does Mirny already
know?" The older man shook his head. "No. I'll tell her soon, though.
It's no more than fair that she knows when you do. Besides, she's the eldest.
She needs to know. And yes, I lied to the both of you. But I thought it was the
best thing to. If I......... hurt you by keeping silent, I'm sorry. I really am.
I did what I thought was best. For you." In each of the boy's -- no. Since
a few months, Jarel had slowly come to discover that it wasn't quite right
anymore to think of his son as a kid. He had grown to be a man. In each of the
young man's eyes were forming two glistening beads now. He bit his lower lip
even harder, then suddenly stood and almost ran outside, slamming the small
house's front door behind him. Jarel stared into the flames in the hearth and
sighed. He had known this moment was coming for years. Now that it had, he felt
guilty that he had postponed it for so long. Why this late...?
Nagash looked at the stars without seeing them, clenching and unclenching his
fists in frustration. His wits understood why his father had hidden the facts
from him, and he knew that he shouldn't be angry with his old man, but still his
heart hurt. It was difficult to suppress the impulse to rush back in and tell
Jarel what he thought of being... being lied to for his entire life. Tell him
the hard way. No, he couldn't do that. His father was harsh, but never unjust.
There was no evil in this man, not even a faint glimpse. It must've hurt to
Jarel as much as it must've hurt himself. But still... why this late...?
"Hi bro'! What're you doing outside this time of night? Trying to catch a
nightsparrow with your bare hands?" Mirnela giggled when she approached her
younger brother. She had been to Mistress Veden's house, a few hundred yards
away, to work on a wedding dress for Carda, Mistress Veden's daughter. Mimy was
a gifted tailor and many of the women in town eagerly accepted her aid with
anything that had to do with needle and thread.
Nagash shook his head to and fro a few times and then sternly regarded his
redheaded sister. "Mirny, there's something you got to know..." he
began, but her happy, babbling voice easily drowned his.
"Oh, are we serious tonight! Oh my, Nagash, you look like you just tried to
swallow a lemon whole and succeeded! C'mon, if there's something you need to
tell me, can't we please go inside? I'm cold out here, so I'd really like to
warm my poor limbs at the fire, you understand? Oh, by the way, Master Veden
told me he saw you practicing today, and he says...
"...he thinks you're doing quite well, but that you're maybe a little bit
too fanatic, you should not push yourself that hard, you know. And furthermore,
he thought you were...
"...with that long sword. So I was thinking, maybe you could borrow that
old thing that Master Darrol has in..." "MIRNELA! !" Nagash's
shout was so loud that Mirny startled and fell silent immediately. For her, that
was almost equal to a miracle.
"W... what is it?" she asked in a small voice after a short silence.
Nagash took a deep breath and clenched his fists once more before he grabbed his
sister's shoulders and almost whispered: "Mom... is not dead...
Mirny's face went white, and her shoulders started to tremble in Nagash's hands.
Her mouth opened as if she wanted to say something, then closed again. He didn't
need words to understand what she had wanted to ask, however. "Yes, dad
told me. I was asking him about witches and wizards and stuff; and he told me
quite much about magic. When I asked him how come he knew so much about the
thing, he said he'd known a sorceress when he was young. Then I said, for a
joke, oh, that must've been Mom. Well, he got quite angry and asked me how I
knew, so... When he understood that I just guessed, he... he said he finally
wanted to be open with me... And he told me...
Nagash swallowed to get rid of the lump in his throat, but it wouldn't budge.
"Well, Mom was a member of some kind of mage's association, an organization
that worked for the greater good. When I was two and you were four, this
association sent a message to her. Her powers were needed, or so it seems. She
had to leave and go to some city far away. Mom didn't want to, but dad said they
had something to force her with. And she left. And she didn't return. Nobody's
ever confirmed her death, and as far as I know..." Nagash fell silent, not
finishing his sentence.
At first, Mimy's face had been shocked, but during the story, she'd calmed. Now
she even seemed to be mocking him with a small smile, her red-curled head tilted
to one side.
"Knowing you, I'd say you kept silent during the whole story, waiting till
da' was finished to make some acidic remark about lying, and rushing out of the
house in little more than your smallclothes to do your best at thinking what you
could do to him?" Nagash's mouth fell open, and he started to protest, but
Mirny didn't give him a chance. "Am I right or am I completely right,
Nagash Silverstone?" He could only nod. "C'mon, you thick-headed
farmer, let's go back in and hear if there's more da's got to tell us about her.
Besides, I'm freezing."
He made an attack with a Badger, then quickly parried a Gull with a Heron,
feinted, feinted once more and made another Badger. He barely blocked the Bear
with a hasty and ill-performed Flamingo and retaliated too quickly with
something in between a Beaver and a Hare. Laylen parried Nagash's improvisation
and riposted with a near-perfect Owl, applying some basic elements of the more
complicated form The Owl Grabs The Mouse. The Owl hit Nagash hard on the side of
his chest, the wooden practice sword making a red mark on his exposed skin. Of
the two of them, Nagash had always been the better at the sword, but Laylen did
quite often beat him the last few weeks. It was as if his friend had become more
reckless in his fights, easy to improvise and regularly ignoring the
conventional forms. After his "The Owl Swoops Down But Misses The
Mouse", Laylen retreated a couple of steps and made a formal greeting,
thereby ending the fight. The boys dropped their swords and sat down on the
humid forest floor. They quite often left town after Master Erym's lessons to
practice with each other what they had just learned. In the forest, no one
watched nor critiqued them, and they both liked the green of the trees better
than the brown of the hall where Master Erym taught. For a while, they just sat
there saying nothing, recovering form their exertion.
Laylen put both his hands diagonally behind him and leaned back on them,
enjoying the cool summer breeze on his damp face and chest. Suddenly, he felt he
had to bring up the subject that Nagash had been evading for over a week now.
"What're you gonna do?" he asked, turning his head to face his friend.
Nagash didn't answer, staring at the ground with one arm on his knee, supporting
his head with his hand. His other arm hung idly on his leg, the elbow on the
thigh. "I don't know," he said at last, "I just don't ........
You know I've always wanted to see the world before I marry, and this seems like
an excellent excuse to leave, but... I guess I can't just leave Dad and Mirny
behind. I'd miss them, and they'd miss me. I'd miss you too, of course. Most of
all. Besides, I don't think Dad would approve of me wandering around on my own
in lands I've never been...
Laylen grinned. "Talk to them, buddy. Sprinkle some with you wanting to
'know your roots', and things like that, and they'll understand you want to
leave. Maybe Mirnela will see through it, but she won't tell your da', trust me.
Besides, you won't be alone at all."
Nagash frowned, then looked aside at his younger friend. Laylen had a broad grin
on his face, and his eyes were kind of sparkling. Nagash exhaled in a mirthless
chuckle and sighed.
"I don't think that'll work out, Laylen. Your parents'll never allow you to
go with me, no matter what you try. They want you to take over the bakery, you
remember? If you'd come with me in secret, they'd track us and bring us both
back. Maybe they'd even accuse me of luring you! No, buddy, I gotta do this
alone. But let me promise you this: I'll come back within... say... half a year,
and then I'll try to take you with me. When they see that I can hold my own,
they'll have to allow you to see some of the world, too, I think. "~
"Half a year? You mean, like in six months? That's an awful lot of time,
"Half a year. Maybe earlier. Hey, I gotta prepare to convince your parents,
remember? I'm gonna need all the time I can get!"
Laylen scratched his head and softly hummed some unrecognizable tune. Then he
shrugged. "Okay, I'll bide my time and keep them at ease here. One youth
leaving the village is acceptable, but two at once...
"Okay. I think I'll go have a little talk with my folks...
"Half a year, that means... Now is Junar 6th, I'll see you back on Degavar
6th, at the latest. Promised?" "Degavar 6th." Nagash nodded.