The Cyneweard

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Part III - All That's Left is Blood :: 49

Cyrus pulled Brisa’s rolling chair to a stop just outside of the house’s front door. Gareth stopped beside him.

“Here it is,” the priest said. “In all its...er...glory.”

Turning his head to look at Soilturner, Cyrus asked, “And this is mine?”

“I’m not using it. My family’s been in Millewhist for years now. This place is just sitting here.”

They looked over the home together. It had a large porch, its wooden floor bowed with age. Windows were mostly intact, doors still there too. What little paint was left on the shutters and facial boards was chipping away wind gust by wind gust. The adjacent crop area was little more than a weed patch, a few thistles still standing stall amongst the brambles.

“I’ll stay with you two until it’s back up and running again.”

“That long,” Cyrus asked, hearing Brisa’s stomach growl.

“Yup.”

“Aren’t you needed back in the Capital, at the House?”

Gareth sighed. “I think my priest days are nearing an end. I am not proud of what Dumdhall did, how it colors my faith, and I don’t find the ability to forgive him yet.”

“Ditto,” Cyrus spat, lips curling into a snarl.

“A year or so of hard labor and some real dirty crop work should sort me out, put me on the right path.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Cyrus asked, reaching into a large satchel hooked to the back of Brisa’s chair. He extracted a spoon and some mashed rice.

“As sure as I can be at the moment. You two have been through a lot, and you have a lot yet to go through. If I can somehow be a part of getting you through some of that, I’ll feel satisfied.”

“You’ve already done enough, Gareth,” Cyrus said, slipping some of the rice into Brisa’s mouth. She swallowed in response to the food on her tongue but her expression remained stoic. Cyrus tried to lock his gaze with hers but found her eyes devoid of anything but a reflection of the sun.

“Not nearly,” Gareth replied, chest constricting as he watched Cyrus continue to spoon feed Brisa. The girl was beautiful but chiefly thanks to his inabilities, she was now more dead than alive. Cyrus had told him over their many nights in the Temple together of her voice and how incredible it was when she sang. To think that Cyrus would never hear that again tore at Soilturner every moment that realization snuck back into his brain. Why had he been unable to get her help when she needed it? Could he have helped? The Chamatri priests had told him that the wound was severe enough to be unable to be remedied by magic, but Gareth had always took that as pandering. Chamatrian Priests were always making sure everyone was happy and healthy, mentally and physically. He could sense a lie, no matter how well intentioned.

“You saved our lives, brought us here, got Brisa her chair, and have now given us a house and a potential future, however short it may be.”

Gareth winced. Priest Oliver had been certain that over time, Brisa’s bone fragments would move, causing blood to well in her head, threatening her life at every turn. If anything, her condition would only worsen over time until it finally took her. No timeline was available. Cyrus had ignored the Chamatri Priest’s warnings and soldiered on.

“Gareth?”

Soilturner sighed and looked down. Cyrus had finished feeding Brisa and was wiping at the corners of her mouth with a handkerchief. It was embroidered with a script F. “I’m here. Just lost in thought.”

“I suppose we have to get this house in order.”

Gareth nodded. “And then I get to teach you how to raise and thresh thistle.”

“I don’t have to chew or smoke it myself, do I?”

Gareth laughed. “No, but I’d suggest you find someone in the village that does. We’ll need to know its quality. Eyeballing it can only go so far.”

Cyrus nodded and stood.

“Ready?” Gareth asked. “We’ll need to see how damaged the inside is after all these years.”

The porch had no access for Brisa’s chair, so the two men lifted her over the steps and onto the porch, which moaned under their combined weight.

“First order of business: fix the porch,” Gareth stated.

“Correction,” Cyrus began. “Build a ramp for Brisa’s chair.”

Gareth pointed at Cyrus. “Always thinking.”

The interior of the home had fared worse than the exterior since it had been left unattended. Paint had all but left the interior walls, wooden base slats laid bare where the putty stone had chipped away and fallen to the all-wood floors. The galley had no stove nor water basin, the foyer was infested with stingflies, and the two bedrooms had sunk in spots in the floor. A lot of work was about to be undertaken.

“Well, no kitchen, no bed rooms, and a sitting room with no seats.” Gareth said with a sigh as they came to rest just beyond the galley’s hallway. “Not too bad, though. Maybe a couple weeks’ worth of work.”

“And where do we eat with no galley or dining area?”

Gareth shrugged. “Here or outside. Your pick.”

They opted for outside, choosing to picnic with some of the food in Brisa’s pack underneath a tall and wide-spread ash tree that Gareth had used to climb as a child. The wind was whistling through the woods along the back of the property, the very beginning edge of the Waring Woods.

“I once trained out here when I was very young,” Cyrus mentioned.

“Oh, what kind of training?”

“Survival. The Cyneweard have to be adaptable, so they threw us in the Waring Woods over a couple of nights to test us.”

“That sounds fun,” Gareth deadpanned.

Cyrus laughed. “It wasn’t. I may have gotten carried away. I remember returning home and Brisa was there, in her garden, singing. I was bruised, bloodied, and more exhausted than I had ever been in my life. Just a few minutes of listening to her and I was ready to do it again.”

“She must’ve had a beautiful voice,” Gareth replied, his words dripping with guilt.

“It was,” Cyrus affirmed, eyes locked on some far off place and time. “That voice of hers bore itself into my mind. Got me through some tough spots as I moved through my training regimens.”

“Was becoming a Cyneweard that tough? Isn’t that kind of a default position for a nobleman?”

Cyrus shook his head. “Not at all. Each noble family’s manipulator mentored a child through the training, teaching him everything they knew. Why they had manipulators doing that I may never know. I just know that my mentor was tough, but he taught me a lot.”

“Was he killed during the Purge?” Gareth asked, searching Cyrus’ face for tells of tears.

“He helped us escape the initial surge in the Rebellion’s massacre but he disappeared right before the ambush. I’ve always wondered if he orchestrated it all or if he was killed without us noticing.”

“What do you think happened?”

“He was the Emperor’s personal Manipulator, the most trusted man in the Emperors small entourage. I have a hard time believing someone as careful and calculating as the Emperor would have chosen someone he couldn’t trust. And Parton was always there, always ready to serve. He was strict but he gave me so much over my training. I owe him.”

Gareth nodded. “Perhaps you do. What you owe him, we may never know.”

“Right now, I want to focus on what we need to do. Tomorrow we start. We get the house livable. We get the crops started. And then you can continue with your life.”

“If you’re worried I resent our plan here, Cyrus, you’re wrong. I told you. I will do whatever I can to make sure you and Brisa are settled and stable. I will not leave you before then.”

Cyrus reached over and patted the Priest’s shoulder. “I appreciate your assistance, Gareth. You continue to save us.”

“Thank me after the house is usable and we’re taking our first load of thistle to sell at market in Millewhist.”

They shared a laugh.

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