“Look, Father will understand, surely you can’t be too worried about this,” I said, looking at my brother Dimitri. He was obviously full of doubt. He is a man of average height, with a medium build, blonde hair, and a beard. His eyes are a deep blue, and voice a distinctive deep tone that resonated. He wore heavy armor on his left arm, clad in iron and a full arm of iron plates with a heavy three fingered claw. He moved it with ease, but I could hear the screeching of metal on metal every time he moved it. His bare chest bore straps securing the armored arm in place. In his right hand, he holds a rusty, chipped, and dulled sword. Covering his legs was little protection-a belt with tassels over his shorts and walking boots. Dimitri relied on his strength in combat; he would cleave through the mightiest of warriors in a single swing, despite of the condition of his sword. The sound of his claw impacting men sounded like a crack of lightning across the sky that echoed in my mind. Cracking bone, splitting of flesh and screams of men all made me uneasy, he always gave everything he had to each fight and never lost.
We traveled to Aften, bordering Brightside Empire, our home and another country. The Brightside Empire is a prosperous kingdom, plentiful with resources and a thriving country. Marcus Brightside, our king, our father, is a stern man. He always had a look about him that made the most powerful men uncomfortable. Marcus has a scar over the left side of his face, an eye patch, short black hair and is always clean shaven. Marcus is a massive and intimidating man. His combat skills were matched only by the woman who gave him that scar, whom he would never speak of, or what the conflict entailed. The faint and uneasy smile gave away the fear entangled with the memory of her. Marcus’ wife, our mother, showed compassion to any individual she met. The people of the kingdom called her “A saint married to a warmonger.” My brother and father don’t speak of it much, but the distant sorrow in their eyes when I approach the subject means they feel different about her. What I remember of her makes me believe she is compassionate in nature, my father and brothers’ feelings often make me wonder. There were a few instances I recall being different from what they both described. I was so young that I couldn’t recall it in its exact detail.
“Brother, I am not sure how to explain this to our father. I’ve failed him before, but this is disastrous. Our father charged us with quelling the rebellion, arresting the people responsible and replacing the government with people more suited for the job. Destroying their militia, letting Frederick escape, and losing men to sorcery was not what he meant,” Dimitri said, staring at the man before us, frozen solid in his tracks. A lieutenant in the regiment we took to Aften. Aften refused to pay their taxes, or support the empire. Our father was livid with idea that Frederick became Duke of Aften by Marcus’ wife, Maya, who has since disappeared without explanation. My brother knew what happened, his silence spoke volumes to the pain it caused him. We stood at the top of Velden Pass, a mountainous terrain that had a dull tan color to it. The Pass went between two massive rocks. Centered in it stood statuesque remnants of the dead and wounded with 100 men Dimitri commanded to escort them back to seek treatment. Right before us stood the lieutenant with his eyes as white as ice; however, something told me he was still alive. I reached out to touch his arm and immediately the ice covered my glove. I ripped them both off and threw them to the ground.
“I could have told you that was a bad idea…” Dimitri said with a smirk.
“Thanks, but you’re a little late,” I said smirking back at him, then looking back to my gloves as they froze solid.
“Well, we now know this is the work of a sorcerer,” Dimitri said quietly.
“I assure you he’ll understand this was not within your control, we were not here and couldn’t have done anything. Father will most likely blame me anyway,” I said jokingly and with a smile, resting my hand on his shoulder. Dimitri and I are the same height, similar in appearance and stature. I have green eyes that match my mother’s and wear light cleric robes decorated with the insignia of the Brightside Empire. I carried daggers mostly for show and I rarely engaged in combat. I mostly handled the reports of my brother’s affairs. Dimitri was vastly stronger than I; though, in close combat I could avoid most of his strikes and land blows elegantly and precisely.
“We should return home, father will expect report of the conflict in Aften. Would you give Marcus the report?” Dimitri asked with a worried look in his eye.
“Of course, I’ll tell him you are wary from battle and need to rest,” I said, smiling faintly.
“Thank you brother, I’m unsure what I’d do without you,” Dimitri said with a faint smile back.
“Anytime,” I said swiftly. We marched back to the keep with the rest of our regiment, Frederick stole Dimitri’s horse. Dimitri walked with the men while cracking jokes and laughing. He was trying to break the tension of what had just happened. We made good time back home not having the wounded or dead with us and the men were still uneasy from the massacre at Aften.
“There she is, home sweet home,” Dimitri said with a deep breath and arms outstretched. The keep sat lower than the rest of the structures surrounding it. The capitol of the Brightside Empire adored for its structures’ designs and location. Many kings through the years called it ‘The Impenetrable Keep’ because the vantage point made for a skilled marksman’s playground. Intruders suffered the most casualties entering range of the keep. The roads and houses were built at slight slants angled down towards the keep. Entering the town surrounding; it was almost unnoticeable, but from a tactical stand point, it causes some serious complications to invading forces. Serenity told me once; she could see intruders down to 5 feet in front of the door because of that.
“Now to face my maker…,” I said sarcastically. Dimitri looked back at me, scratching his head. He shrugged then continued forward. As we entered the courtyard I dismounted my horse and made my way to the main door. Dimitri was giving commands to the men, having them put away their gear and take some time to rest. I went through the main door and made my way to the throne room, passing through the doors with haste and hoping this day ends soon. I entered the throne room to notice my father standing on the balcony, peering out into the distance with the cold 1000-yard stare he usually upheld.
“Nova, good news I hope,” Marcus said in his usual stern voice. He turned around to face me with an expectant expression on his face.
“The opposite, negotiations were unsuccessful and a battle broke out. Dimitri and the rest of the regiment made short work of the opposition. We suffered slight casualties,” I said firmly while I stood statuesque, only regurgitating necessary information.
“The Duke? Frederick? Is he in custody?” Marcus asked, his voice laced with anger.
“He eluded capture and made his way up north towards Heropha. We sent our wounded and dead up the northern route while we patched together some order in Aften and chased Frederick,” I said, looking down.
“We received no wounded or dead, where are they?” Marcus asked, turning around.
“During the pursuit, we came to part of the regiment. Though they were not dead, we noticed they stopped dead in their tracks, frozen solid. We believe this was undoubtedly the work of a sorcerer,” I said.
“Do you have any information? Who’s responsible for this travesty?” Marcus said, looking distressed.
“We suspect Frederick is responsible, given the time frame and area. We could not find him,” I said, Marcus looked furious, but made no comment otherwise.
“And you accept responsibility for this?” Marcus said, turning around to peer off the balcony again.
“I do. When engaging in negotiations, I found common ground with them. I realized quickly why they were rebelling. They’re impoverished, living a life of endless work and constant indiscriminate taxation. Of course they rebelled,” I said sternly.
“Are you questioning my methods, son? You would do well to speak less of matters in which you know nothing about,” Marcus said sternly, raising his voice.
“I am not questioning you direct, although; this can happen when a busy king neglects some areas of the kingdom,” I said sarcastically.
“Your insolence is incredible. You will be sent to trial for your failings as a commander, and your insolence altogether. Guards, take him to the jail to await trail,” Marcus said in a powerful voice. My own father blamed me for the entire scenario, regardless of the truth. I couldn’t help feel this confirmed the feeling that my father always favored my brother. If Dimitri was telling our father this, he would receive reassurances of his failings. Had my brother stood here, Marcus would praise him for his effort instead of jailing him. If Dimitri reported to Marcus, if I didn’t offer to report, it would be different.
“Father, wait,” I heard Dimitri’s voice from the entryway.
“I was just discussing with your brother the report from Aften. He failed to quell the rebellion and arrest who was responsible,” Marcus said with a disgusted voice, peering at me.
“I am responsible for what happened there,” Dimitri said. Dimitri surprised me with what he had said. Dimitri couldn’t bear the idea of Marcus’ disappointment towards him.
“Do not make excuses for your brother. He will face the consequences of his actions, or inaction rather,” Marcus said, eye widening, giving Dimitri one last chance to let me take the blame.
“I asked Nova along purely as a consultant when dealing with the citizens of Aften. He was not responsible, he had no authority over troops or citizens. He is not to blame for this event,” Dimitri said, taking a firm stance and not backing down.
“But you readily accept blame for this?” Marcus asked, looking at me.
“I didn’t feel the truth of whom to blame was important, but the scenario needed attention first and most importantly. I did not know you were looking for a scapegoat,” I said firmly.
“Dimitri, my son. From what Nova has said; I do not believe you had any control over what occurred. Given the circumstances, I trust your judgment,” Marcus said. As I thought, Marcus would not blame my bother or anyone else if Dimitri tried to take responsibility. Marcus always favored my brother. Dimitri most likely reminded Marcus of his own fighting style. Dimitri was a powerful from an early age, showing our father from the age of twelve he could overpower an entire squad of men with ease. I could outmatch him sword to sword if that was all we were testing. His strength was so great he could use his sword to break mine, this gave me an obvious disadvantage.
“Serenity, reports from the perimeter sentries?” Marcus asked, calling to the woman behind us. She walked towards us. As she brushed past Dimitri he looked towards her and what should have been a brief look turned into a gaze. She had long, curly, red hair and an unusual looking bow on her back, it had odd looking circles with teeth on them, all interlocking and forged from an unknown metal. She was a few inches shorter than Dimitri and I and had a personality that went straight to the point.
“Sir, we had reports of a woman moving quickly from Velden Pass, where we found the frozen men. The description is vague, but states: she had brown hair, she was wearing a cloak and moving through the forest around the outside perimeter quickly, evading our men. Someone saw a weapon on her back, a curved blade attached to a staff. Marcus’ eye widened slight and he was silent, this woman was familiar to him.
“Sir?” She asked.
“All of you leave me, there is much I must think about,” Marcus said swiftly, and firmly.
“Sir, your orders for me?” I asked.
“Quit being so foolish!” Marcus shouted. His shout startled me, my eyes welled up and my brother put his arm on my shoulder.
“Come Nova, give him space. We will speak with him again when he summons us to his chamber,” Dimitri whispered in my ear. Marcus turned around to face the balcony again. I stared at him for a moment, then turned to exit the room.
“I’m going to go for a walk brother, I will see you again when he summons us,” I said, walking down the hallway leading to the outside. I drug my hand along the wall, over every suit of armor in the hallway, all interesting, unique, and custom.
“You’re doing that again, aren’t you?” Dimitri asked. I looked back him with a puzzled stare, then a gentle acceptance washed over me.
“Yes… being alone with my thoughts is the only way to make sense of my feelings and rationalize events I have trouble accepting…,” I said quietly.
“Do me a favor brother… try not to get to lost while your head is in the clouds… okay?” Dimitri said with a concerned look. I paused for a moment, staring down at the stone floor. I nodded slightly in acknowledgment and continued through the hallway, making my way outside. I made my way to the path wrapping around the wall behind the castle. My brother and I used to play there as children, before he realized his power. Back then we never worried, no stress, and no duties to call our own. We were equals. I walk the path alone, something reminds me that life wasn’t always so complicated. I remember a time I was happy, a time when everything was simple. It especially reminds me that maybe someday, my father won’t feel this way. Maybe one day his disappointment in the man I’ve become won’t be true. I often wonder, is it because something about me reminds him of his wife, my mother. Maybe it’s because I am nothing like him and he has a son that is. I go through so many thoughts walking this path, but figure nothing out. I just decide there is no answer, but simply more questions.
As I clear the outer wall I am standing over a huge expanse of land; here, I usually find most of my sorrows fade away. My eyes well up with tears as I sat on the hill, looking over the empty land of the empire. I don’t cry for any one reason. I don’t always feel that sad, but sometimes it just helps. There isn’t anyone around to see me so it makes no difference what I do while I am alone. Even if they knew what I did out here, I wouldn’t care. My father already thinks I am weak and undeserving of the Brightside bloodline. My brother coddles me in his place and the kingdom barely recognizes my authority. I sift through my memories and go through possible futures; but, never find anything to settle on. It’s a funny thing about soul-searching, many famous monks and spiritual leaders will tell you that finding yourself is the most important thing you can do. It seems like an unending journey, but they say times like these help you figure out who you are. Life lessons teach you so much. They say it's times like these that help you figure out who you are. The only think I ever figured out, is; who I'm not.