Chapter Eight: "As The Days Pass By" (part 5)
Denley knows something is the matter; knows that Hale has no reason to go down to Knoll today and would rather be napping before the fire than braving the frigid winds like he is now. He knows there is something on his eldest nephew’s mind; that it has been there since before he and Louk returned from their morning of hunting. He knows and he waits, patiently, putting one foot in front of the other, giving Hale the time he needs to put his thoughts in order and then those same thoughts into the words that will fix and explain everything.
“Uncle Den, he’s being bullied again,” he says quietly after a time, startling the older man.
“It’s Reuben again. Him and some others. Louk won’t tell me anymore than that, and he didn’t even tell me that much.” Hale sighs, hands in his pockets. “I don’t . . . it’s not fair, you know?”
“No, it’s not,” his uncle agrees sadly, hands shoved deep into his pockets. “You’re sure it’s Reuben?”
“It’s always Reuben.”
“Alright,” Uncle Den sighs. “Well, for now, try to keep him from going to Knoll. And if he does go make sure he’s not alone. You know the drill. I’m sure Kaethe and her brother wouldn’t mind being brought in on this. Rett would probably have a better chance of convincing Louk of anything at this point than any of us.”
Sadly enough, this is true.
Every other time that Louk’s bullying has escalated to a point like this his younger nephew has pulled away, tried to prove himself, grown angry and short tempered. Denley and Hale have yet to find a method of protecting the youngest without him seeing it as they don’t believe him capable – which is so far from the truth; the heart of the matter. They want to protect him, yes, because no one should ever deal with the kind of bullying that Louk has.
And right now, if any of them could keep Louk out of Knoll or convince him to tag along, it would be Rett. The Eivish boy would not take no for an answer, first of all, and that would start another argument that would end in the two screaming the most outrageous of insults to each other. While it seems the two hate each other, it’s obviously not the truth.
“He’d keep Louk occupied, that’s for sure,” Hale agrees with a tight smile.
Denley nods. “We’ll figure this out. I’ll make inquiries while I’m in the city. Perhaps Captain Nanchester has seen or heard something.”
Denley pulls his worn and weary nephew into a warming hug, squeezing tight once before letting go. “Get back home. It looks like it’ll be snowing by tonight, so make sure we’re stocked up on wood, alright?”
“You got it, Uncle Den.”
“And make sure your brother and Rett don’t break anything valuable.”
Hale laughs this time as they think back to a couple nights ago where the two had been throwing darts at each other, seeing who could get close enough without killing the other. It had come out a tie because Kaethe had nearly been caught in the crossfire – Denley still doesn’t know what happened to that particular dart, or the other two dozen later.
“I’ll see you four this afternoon,” Denley promises, watching for a moment as his oldest nephew turns right around and starts the return climb. He waits until the older boy is gone before he resumes his trek, whistling to himself as he embraces the freedom and the silence that comes from being out of the house with four rambunctious teenagers and almost adults living under his roof.