"A boy needs his father."
"Yes, a father who's there for him, you're practically a ghost."
Reepicheep's mother and father had been going on like this for three months. At the moment, they were in their kitchen, which was simple and typical of the area. Large with handcrafted touches, a large sink, a large table with about twelve chairs to accommodate frequently visiting family and friends as well as two children. At one end was a threshold to the living room, on the other were three doors: the left was Tilden's room, the right was Reepicheep's, the middle was the parents.
A small chandelier of candles hung over the table, the flames flickered a bit.
"I promise everything will straighten out when this war is over." The father said, who was sitting in one of the outside chairs of the table towards the sink.
"That's the problem, when will this war be over?" His wife, who was standing near the sink finishing up dishes, looked at him with a skeptical eye and disapproving disposition.
The husband gave no answer, he didn't want to. War was his survival, the mother knew this.
"You live in war Chevrep," she said putting the dish on the counter and turning towards him, "it's your profession. It's what you've always done and continue to do, but you have to make a choice- your family or your brothers."
"You cannot ask me to make that." Chevrep said.
"Why can't I!" She screamed and advanced towards him, "Why can't I ask you to be a father!"
"Because I wasn't meant to be one!" Chevrep replied with equal intensity and force as he stood up.
His wife struck him on the cheek, the burning sensation went through Chevrep's entire face. He looked back at her as if he were about to give an execution sentence. The senior mouse then walked into the living room which was next door and pulled his blade which was currently resting on a rack that was mounted on the wall.
Saying nothing, Chevrep entered the kitchen, blade extended, and advanced toward his wife.
"What are you doing?" She asked.
"You dare strike an officer of the realm?" Chevrep asked. "You do realize that it is a form a treason."
"Chevrep please, you're being-"
"Ridiculous?" He said in a mocking way, the mouse smile was lupine as he pointed the tip of his blade to her sternohyoid. The sternohyoid is the thin muscle at the neck that causes speech, but Chevrep wasn't aiming for that. Instead, his target was something for more vital, the sternothyroid muscle, which depresses the larynx and aides in the eating process.
"Do you wish to starve?" He asked.
"You're mad!" She cried.
"You say I'm never there, that I'm a disgrace, that I'm never going to be anything but a warhorse?"
"Because you are! We can work on those things though." She said trying to give the best smile she could. "Hope is not all lost."
Chevrep did not cease his urge, he moved his sword back for his honor and looked at his wife for his sanity. His head was fitting his heart and he didn't realize this. The mother closed her eyes, for she knew that she couldn't say anything to stop him. Chevrep's sword advanced upon her like a wolf does prey, quickly, and without remorse.
When all was quiet again, the warrior stood over the trophy and saw the reason why he fell in love. Her eyes were emeralds, and reminded him daily of his commitments. To be a husband, a friend, a loyal solider, and the one he denounced, a parent.
Tilden and Reepicheep opened their doors due to the commotion. Tilden was older by a year but Reepicheep was precocious. As soon as the latter mouse saw a hint of despair he turned away and went back to his dreams. Tilden stayed and looked at his father.
"Did you see anything?" Chevrep asked.
Tilden shook his head.
"Good boy," the father said, "take care of him."
"Are you leaving again?"
Chevrep nodded, "I don't know how long this time or if I'll be back at all. This may be the last time we see each other."
Tilden walked over to his father and embraced him, Chevrep slowly embraced him back, he wasn't used to acts of love.
"I love you father." Tilden said.
Chevrep replied with the usual response: "I love you too"
After this, the senior mouse mustered all the courage, pride, and dignity he had and exited. Not a word was spoken. Tilden watched his father open the door. A blue light filled the floor. Chevrep walked through the threshold of his door and was gone.
"Be safe." Tilden said to only himself as he made to a storage closet to grab a shovel.
He returned in an hour, the evidence removed, the eulogy said, and the tears fallen. Tilden returned to bed at five in the morning. He would rise in three hours, the same time his father died...
Tilden was making tea one morning in the kitchen when Reepicheep was coming in from a day of fishing.
"I dread the sound of his key in the lock." Tilden said because he knew that Reepicheep's key was an old one that made a considerable clanking noise as it was being put in the locking mechanism and turned to open the door.
Reepicheep walked through the threshold, in his hand was his blade which sported an impaled salmon. The mouse with the fish walked into the kitchen and removed his blade from the fish and began cleaning it for supper. Tilden just sat, drank his tea, and watched him, periodically humming a tune to himself.
An awkward silence followed as Reepicheep began to skin the fish of scales and carve into the innards, removing the guts and unnecessary muscle to get to the meat. Tilden continued his watching. The chandelier candles flickered a bit.
"I thought you said you were getting trout?" Tilden said.
"I was," Reepicheep replied, "but salmon sounded more appropriate for supper."
"Isn't food appropriate for supper?" Tilden asked a bit confused as to why a salmon was appropriate as opposed to a trout which for some reason wasn't.
"Yes but salmon just felt right to me."
Tilden nodded, still finding it odd but let it slide and went back to his tea.
Soon, the smell of fish guts and entrails became so empowering that it awoke Marian, Tilden's wife of five years, and his son, Solomon, who was turning seven in three months.
"Ugh, Reep you smell like the fish." Marian said as she walked in.
"Well, one does tend to smell like the thing he cooks and prepares." Reepicheep said.
Marian rolled her eyes and sat next to her husband, "Whatever smartass."
Reepicheep smiled and thought, Nice to see you too.
Solomon came in moments later. He yawned and had the disposition of who did not like to wake up at seven o'clock in the morning.
"Can you please stop making so much noise?" He said.
Reepicheep turned, saw his nephew and smiled. "Oh forgive me Your Majesty," he said playing the game he and Solomon invented, "I didn't realize of the fuss, please don't think ill of me."
Solomon turned, saw his uncle and smiled big and large. Instantly he played his role and did so magnificently. "You shall be dealt with later, you told me that it would never happen again!"
"Of course King Solomon, oh surely it will never happen again." Reepicheep said, smiling.
"It also smells terrible in here." Solomon said.
"Well, one does tend to smell like the thing he cooks and prepares." Reepicheep repeated.
"I know, I heard you, you woke me remember? I'm going in the other room." Solomon said as he went past Reepicheep and went into the living room to read one of his picture books.
Reepicheep watched him go and laughed to himself. "Precocious little fellow isn't he?"
"Just like you were." Tilden said.
"Are you worried about that?" Reepicheep asked as he continued his work.
"No." Tilden replied.
Tilden finished his tea, he walked back to his room, grabbed some paper and a pen and went back into the kitchen.
"Writing a letter dear?" Marian asked.
"Yes I am." Tilden said.
Reepicheep turned his head towards his brother, "To whom?"
Tilden sighed, rolled his eyes, and said: "None of your business."
The letter was quick, simple, and to an old friend- no more than a page. When Tilden was finished, he put the letter and pen back in his room and re-entered the kitchen once again, this time, not bothering to sit down. Instead, Tilden watched his son read his little book.
"He can almost lift a sword now." Tilden said.
"I know! He's a swift learner, he'll be a fine warrior one day." Reepicheep said enthusiastically.
"You know he can't keep living these fantasies with you." Tilden replied.
"Oh come on Til, it's just a game, besides it's not hurting anything."
"It's making him soft." Tilden said.
"Well, if you two weren't going to instill some humanity somebody had to." Reepicheep said.
"Are you questioning my parenting?" Tilden asked with a skeptical and suspicious look.
"Are you questioning mine?" Reepicheep said turning away from his work, giving a lupine smile.
"I suggest," Tilden said advancing towards him, "that you remember your place."
"And you as well. You may be Chief Mouse, but you are also a father."
"What are you saying?" Tilden asked, not following him.
"You're brilliant at one but dim at another. You can't be stern with children all the time, they're not warriors."
"But they'll grow up to be." Tilden said.
"Just because warriors need skill does not mean they cannot have heart to coincide."
Tilden sighed and retreated back to his chair at the table, "You were always the poetic one."
Reepicheep smiled, "Well, you can thank Aunt Gracie for that."
Aunt Gracie was a respectable mouse who died some years ago. She was a mouse of nurture and pose, someone who had a word for everything.
"Dinner was superb," Tilden said with a smile, "my compliments to the chef."
"Why thank you," Reepicheep replied, "I thought it could've used a bit more pepper but-"
"Oh stop critiquing yourself and enjoy your accomplishment!" Marian said.
"Well, thank you both," Reepicheep said. He stood up and moved to take everyone's dishes, "Now, I'll just take these and-"
"Oh no, you've done too much work today." Marian said, "I can do them."
"No, I insist madam that I finish the job. I started it after all."
"Will you rest for once in your life!" Tilden said, "You've been up on your feet all day and must be exhausted, come here and sit down- I need to tell you something anyway."
"What brought this about?" Reepicheep said as he entered Tilden's room, a room he never been in because he was forbidden to enter it.
The room was simple and comprised of a simple double bed, a nightstand, a dresser drawer hosted a small candelabra, a rug, and a writing desk with chair located in the corner.
"Our conversation earlier," Tilden said, "sit down on the bed, what I'm about to say may produce a bit of shock."
Reepicheep nodded and did so. Tilden took the small chair from the desk and moved in front of his brother.
"There's a reason why mother isn't around."
"She's dead," Reepicheep said with a slight pause, "isn't she."
"Damn," Tilden said, "you are precocious."
"It's a character trait," the other mouse said, "father on the other hand-"
"How did you know?" Tilden said, cutting Reepicheep off.
"Know what, that mother was dead?"
"Do you think I'm stupid? A dolt? A dunce? It isn't hard to tell when someone's gone Tilden, it was hard to know that I wouldn't be able to see her anymore, that she wouldn't be here. And father, what kind of person just leaves his children to suffer through disillusion? You keep telling them that it's okay, that it is completely normal for a father to leave. Father figures die and are replaceable. That's what you've told me my entire life, that father figures die and are replaceable. If that's true then it is a safe assumption that father never loved me anyway."
"That's not true." Tilden said.
"You really think I'm stupid don't you? You expect me to fall for parlor tricks? I know that he did care for me, he didn't care for you and he-"
"Reepicheep!" Tilden yelled and stood up at the same time, "Father loved me, and he loved you too."
"If he really loved you, then where is he?"
"You egotistical bastard," Reepicheep said, "you put yourself before me, and you did so because you know. The whole time you knew and you did nothing to stop it you egotistical bastard!"
Reepicheep cried and broke down on the floor, "Why did he leave? What did I do wrong?"
"Nothing." Tilden said. "He was born in war and he- he died in it."
"You hesitated." Reepicheep said.
"No I didn't." Tilden replied trying to save himself from revealing the real reason why he called his brother in.
"You wrote a letter earlier what was it about?" Reepicheep asked looking over to his writing desk where the note was place face up. Tilden rushed over in that direction and Reepicheep jumped across the bed and tried to race him for it.
"Reepicheep," Tilden said, "before you start reading, there's one more thing you should know."
"What?" The other mouse said, standing on the floor on the other side of the bed, annoyed that his brother was keeping secrets from him his entire life.
"Father killed mother."
"Tilden please, you're being-"
"Ridiculous?" Tilden said in a mocking way, just like his father. "That's what she said too."
"I don't believe you." Reepicheep said.
Tilden nodded slowly and gave his brother a look of sympathy, "Ever wonder why there's a small mound of dirt near the front door?"
"No." Reepicheep answered.
"Ever ask questions when I tell you not come in here, ever?" Tilden asked.
Tilden walked towards the door. "Ever wonder why I have never told you his name?"
"N- wait, yes. I have wondered about that." Reepicheep said, "What is his name anyway?"
"Read the letter, but if I know you, and believe me, I know you, you will never step foot in the house again." Tilden said as he opened the door, walked through the threshold, and closed it, leaving Reepicheep to the letter and his thoughts.
It didn't take long to read and it didn't take long for Reepicheep to respond either. He exited the room, entered his own, and gathered his belongings which was simply: a fire starter, a container for food, a separate one for water, some small provisions, a first-aid kit, a journal, a pen, and of course, his sword and belt (which he had on anyway) all in a burlap sack. That done, he walked through the living room.
Solomon was half asleep sitting in a chair reading a book entitled Narnian Myths, Legends, and Fables, Reepicheep's favorite.
Tilden was standing near the door and Marian was making her way to bed.
"Uncle Reepicheep," the young mouse said, "can you read me a story?"
Reepicheep smiled, remembering himself at that age, put down his burlap sack and walked over to the chair.
"Veer right," Reepicheep said.
"Keep straight." Solomon finished the phrase as he moved literally to the right of the chair. The senior mouse ruffled Solomon's head furs a bit and sat down beside him.
"That's it. Now," Reepicheep said book in paws, "anything in particular you have in mind?"
"No, you can pick." Solomon said with a yawn.
Reepicheep nodded and turned to a random page towards the middle. "Ah, here we go," Reepicheep said, "this is the story of a centaur."
"Oh, tell it please!" The younger mouse replied with a smile.
"Alright then," Reepicheep cleared his throat and began:
"Long before Cair Paravel or Kings or Queens, there simply the land and the inhabitants that lived there. Everyone, for the most part, lived together peacefully: there was no war, no crime, murder, absentee fathers or-"
"That's not in the story." Solomon said.
"What, I'm sorry-"
"Absentee fathers. That's not in the story, you added it. Read it right." Solomon replied.
"Apologizes, I'm just not myself lately."
"What happened?" Solomon asked.
"Nothing to worry yourself over dear one, just a personal matter."
"Well if it's personal to you, it's personal to me too." Solomon said, "I love you too much." The younger mouse looked down at the burlap sack.
"Are you leaving?" He asked, worry in his eyes.
"For a while." Reepicheep said.
"I'm going to find my father." Reepicheep answered.
Tilden heard this and turned around, listened intently, but said nothing.
"Do you know how long it will take?" Solomon asked.
"I don't know yet Solomon," Reepicheep said, "but I'll be back, I promise."
"You do?" The younger mouse asked, a tear slowly forming.
"May I be dishonored if I didn't." Reepicheep said as he wiped the small tear of his nephew's face. "Don't cry, I'm not dying."
"I don't want to lose you Reep." Solomon said, hugging the senior mouse's neck and crying anyway despite Reepicheep telling him not too. Reepicheep embraced him back.
"You can never lose me." Reepicheep said. "Now," he said letting go of his nephew, "shall we continue with the story?"
Solomon yawned, "We can read it later when you get back." He said. "I'm tired anyway."
"Very well." Reepicheep said and walked him to his room.
Reepicheep tucked Solomon in bed, said prayer, and extinguished the candles. As the senior mouse made his way out of the room Solomon sat up.
"Reepicheep," Solomon said.
"Yes?" Reepicheep asked.
"Thanks for being my guard."
Reepicheep smiled and bowed, "Thank you for your employment Your Majesty."
"Promise me something," the younger one said as he resituated himself.
"Can you adopt me?"
Reepicheep didn't answer this question. It hit him in his groin and he about keeled over. He quickly closed the door but managed to get out: "Good night."
Reepicheep gasped for air a moment, and caught his breath. Did he just ask me to be his father?
"Reepicheep," Tilden said from the living room, "are you alright what's the trouble?"
Reepicheep stood up and walked over to him, picking up his burlap sack on the way.
"Apparently," Reepicheep said, "you are."
Reepicheep opened the door and began his journey. Tilden just stood in the doorway. The moon was out, spreading blue hues on the ground and winter was about to begin. The first snow would be in roughly a week.
"Why is that?" Tilden asked.
"Your son just disowned you." Reepicheep answered.
"What do you mean?"
Reepicheep stopped and turned around "He just asked me to adopt him.
Tilden nodded with a sigh, "What am I doing wrong?"
"A boy needs his father." Reepicheep said, " a father who's there for him, you're practically a ghost."
"I'll straighten this out." Tilden said.
"That's the problem, I don't think you will," Reepicheep replied, "you don't know how to."
"Why are you asking me to be a father?" Tilden asked.
Reepicheep's eyes grew large and his temper rose slightly as he advanced. "Because you deserve to be one!"
"No I don't." Tilden said. "You do."
Reepicheep shook his head of his thoughts on the subject and switched gears: "Anything I should know before heading out?"
"Have you figured that maybe he doesn't want to be found?" Tilden asked.
"I have," Reepicheep answered, "but I'm willing to hear him say that. Anything else?"
"Yes," Tilden said, "he's been captured, a prisoner of war."
"Do you know where?"
"Well then," Reepicheep said, "best be off. I'm serious Tilden," he said, "be the father you need to be. I don't want him to end up like us and argue over stupid conversations like this. It's just not worth it."
Tilden nodded, "Good luck Reep. Veer right,"
Reepicheep took a breath as a cold gust of wind blew in, "Keep straight."
The mouse headed for Trufflehunter's part in company, part in answer, and because the letter mentioned his name.