Lies and Deceit Hidden in the Wind

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Summary

Everyone has one. A voice in their head that whispers. And when it whispers? You listen.

Genre:
Thriller / Fantasy
Author:
Lkhunt
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
20
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter 1 pt. A

In moments of clarity, I often dream back to this brisk Autumn night. On this night, the wind blew warm. I remember so clearly because I only got brief periods of troubled sleep. Between these spells, I would look out the balcony. I had felt, very briefly, a calmness that continued to wash over me as I felt the breeze push my unkempt hair out of my face. I don’t know why I continue to focus on this moment because it holds no importance to me. Actually, that’s a lie. Now that I think about it, it holds more significance than I give it credit for. At the time, my naive self thought it was a throwaway memory. Something that I could barely recall five days from then. Looking upon that peaceful night now? I know better than I did back then. I remember it as my last moments as a fully sane person. I remember it as the last moments where I was truly myself. I hadn’t known it then, but there was a very important reason for my restlessness. Something was stirring that night. Something that’s life was linked to mine in powerful bonds of destiny as my name got passed down through the ages.

….

I woke up gasping heavily. I felt a lingering feeling of dread, but I couldn’t remember anything. I looked around my room feverishly to gain my bearings. I couldn’t see much so I focused on sitting on the bed. This was the same room I had lived in my whole life. Everything was the same. Even then I knew I was lying to myself. Something had just felt off.

I focused my breathing more. The air in my room was thick and warm tonight. I knew I wasn’t going to get back to sleep. I could never sleep when it was overly warm in the room. I looked down at my nightshirt and sighed when I realized I had sweated through it. I just wish I knew what I had dreamed about.

I had dreamed like this before. I had nightmares on many occasions. They were truly awful. I never remembered this happening but my father told me that I would wake up screaming most nights. My Cons would ask me what I was dreaming of but I could never remember. The nightmares haunted my childhood until my mother passed away. I never had another one after that.

I always felt awful that it appeared the tragic passing of my mother eased my night terrors. My Father told me he was grateful that my nightmares had passed and assured me the two couldn’t be hand in hand.

“Chi Kreed! Is everything alright?” Cons Ronin hastened into my Bedroom in a hurry.

Cons Ronin had taken to sleeping in my sitting room. The night terrors I had as a child had scared my father badly. Father was a very cautious man. He had to be cautious. As the Ene of an entire Shire, he had to be cautious of his people. Since he was the head of Shire he was a very busy person. When dealing with minor situations like this my Cons usually was charged to handle it.

I placed my head gingerly in my hands and sank into the soft cushions of my bed. Cons Ronin sat next to me on my bed and put a hand on my shoulder. If this was anyone other than Cons Ronin they wouldn’t live for very long after touching me. I was the son of Ene Edmond Kreed, a man of a million enemies. I was known to have a few trust issues however Cons Ronin had been my Cons for over a decade. He was the only person in the fortress I would truly trust with my life.

“Lucian,” He whispered in the darkness.

Suddenly a cold wind blew through my open window. It was such a stark contrast from the humid thick air that I had gotten accustomed to that I shivered.

“Chi Lucian, we must get you out of this nightshirt.” Cons Ronin looked disapproving of my sweat-soaked Tunic.

Ronin led me off the bed and into my Dressing Room. I changed out of the damp shirt into a new one. I breathed deeply and truly relaxed again. When I finished changing into a new nightshirt, Cons Ronin and I sat on the bed once again. Cons Ronin looked somber and serious in the low light of the candle he lit. There wasn’t a hint of a smile on his face and I could tell what he was about to ask me. Was this one of the dreams?

“Was this like the others?” He asked in a quiet voice.

I nodded slightly.

“Shall I wake the Ene?”

I shook my head. I always thought my father was a reasonable man, but waking him up in the dead hours of the night because his 19-year-old son had a nightmare was like dancing on the invisible boundary of how much he actually cared for the next in kin.

“Can you remember anything at all?” The Cons asked hopefully.

I shook my head again.

“Try.” He pushed me a little.

I didn’t think this would work but I cleared my mind and tried to focus on what was going on in my brain right before I came out of the fitful sleep. There was only one thing that came to mind. A word we as an intelligent race has feared for ions change.

“Luc?” He asked me.

“I-I don’t know.”

Cons Ronin rubbed my back softly.

“Do you have any reason to believe it was because of the late Sor?”

I knew this was coming. Whenever I’ve talked about the nightmares the subject of my mother was never far behind. It was always hard to talk about her. It was hard on both myself and my father. Firstly Sor Elaine Marlowe-Kreed was the love of my father’s life and secondly up until she passed away, she was the single most important person in my life. That was until I got assigned Cons Ronin.

I’m pretty sure the only reason I got a Cons so early was that Father didn’t want to pick up any slack my mother would leave behind. He figured a Servant could parent me just as well as my mother could. I don’t know how accurate that actually is because I never really meet anyone my age. The only person I often talk to that is my age is the Aus, Brinley Idris, my Fiancee. I don’t know if I should compare my childhood to hers. Her parents are the Ene and Sor of her Shire. Like me, she was raised by a Cons. In her monarchy, the Sor has a more time-consuming role so, like I, her parents hired a Cons to feed, clothe, bathe, and teach her. Our Cons parented us more than our parents. Brinley and I have known each other for a long while. We enjoy each other’s company so neither one of us is necessarily opposed to the marriage our parents arranged. I suppose it would be nicer if we found each other on our own. I’m sure we would still get engaged to be married. I enjoy being in Brinley’s company more than most anyone else’s. She’s a fine girl. She has a dark complexion complemented by long vivacious curls and large almond eyes. She would be considered conventionally attractive by anyone. Many times I would have aristocrats walk up to me, take one look at my Fiancee, and tell me she would make a wonderful wife.

I don’t know why that bugged me so badly. They weren’t lying. I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Brinley being my wife. Maybe it was just the assumption that she would be a good wife, just by looking at her. I know she’ll be a good wife but she’s more than that. She’ll be a great companion, someone I look forward to spending the years with. Someone I’ll enjoy raising children with. Most of all she will be a great Sor. She has a very strong authoritative feel to her. Something I lack. Since we are merging Shires we are adopting the Royal Family Idris’ ways. The Sor will be a powerful figure, unlike the past.

“Shall I wake Aus Idris?” Cons Ronin asked softly.

I would enjoy Brinley’s company but I don’t know if her parents would appreciate it. Ene and Sor Idris and their family live on the West Side of the Fortress Fyn. Their daughter has no secrets from her parents. Nothing she does gets past them. They know where she is all hours of the day. If we woke Brinley, they would know and they would be mad in the morning. Since Brinley and I aren’t married yet Cadia can easily back out of the Cadia-Fyn alliance. This simple act of getting comforted by my Fiancee would cause a war between the two nations. If that happened then my father would probably enlist Cons Ronin to be the next Ene of Fyn. He needs this alliance like he needs air to breathe.

Without the threat of Cadia’s military, our Fortress would probably get overthrown. Over the past couple of years, groups of people from the villages have been gathering and trying to overthrow the monarchy. They almost succeeded a few times and that scared my father. I was only 15 when he announced that he had picked a wife for me. Aus Brinley Idris of Cadia. This scared the people because the Monarchy of Cadia had an iron grip on their villages by enforcing strict military involvement. It was the tradition that if an Aus and a Chi of two different Shires were to be married then each other’s monarchies would adopt some of the other’s traditions. Since our Monarchies are merging Brinley will have a more prominent political role in our society.

I’m actually very glad that Brinley will have a more active role. Even as a child I knew that I couldn’t rule as my father wanted me to. I kept overthinking things and I hope to have Brinley rule alongside me as my equal will help the matter. She has what it takes to rule. My father, well let’s say he wasn’t as excited. Back when this was all hypothetical my father had a meeting with Ene Kane Idris and Sor Larkin Ai-Idris. They worked out which traditions to adopt and Sor Idris pushed for equal power between Brinley and me. Ultimately, Sor Larkin wore my father down and Brinley was granted equal power. It makes her happy and that’s all that matters to me.

“Please don’t,” I pleaded with him.

Cons Ronin nodded softly in response. He pressed his lips tightly together. He hates to feel helpless but both his options couldn’t be reached at this late hour. “Is there anything else I can get for you, Chi Lucian?” The Cons asked me.

I thought about it for a minute. I guess the only person I would want here with me was him. Cons Ronin was only 7 years older than me and so there wasn’t a significant age gap that separated us. I think I could consider him as my best friend. I think it’s safe to consider him my only friend. And he’s paid to be around me. I guess that says something about this life I’m continuing here.

“Would you mind standing on the balcony with me? I’m afraid I’ll never fall back to sleep in this humidity.” I asked of him.

Cons Ronin’s eyes got wide but he smiled.

“Glad to do so Chi Lucian.” He smiled and stood up off the bed.

“Thank you Cons Ronin. You are a good friend.” I joined him on my balcony.

The Cons smiled at my word choice. I’m glad he considers us friends as well. Even though he works for my father we still have been side by side for 11 years. We walked out of my bedroom and onto the balcony. The wind was blowing cooler but it was still warm and humid outside. The countryside was beautiful. Many trees were just starting to change colors on the ground. From up this high, you can see where all the villages are.

From this far away it just looks like a clearing and light. If you didn’t know, you couldn’t tell they were villages. I looked over the villages and sighed. I had often imagined what my life would be like if I lived in the villages. It seemed like a child’s dream to me now, too unrealistic. There was no way I could go from a Chi to a simple village man. Especially because of my last name. The village men loath my family. If I stepped foot into one of the villages without a Sav guarding me, I’d be hung before the sun came up.

A while ago I asked my father what we did to make the villages despise us so, and he had told me they hate us because we existed with a greater fortune. He then went on to explain that as long as there was a power above people they tended to rebel. Since we were among the highest powers in the land, they naturally hated us. My father explained that their hatred stemmed from jealousy. Their fathers and their fathers before that hadn’t made a name for themselves and so they got stuck with their mediocre works while the great house of Kreed got blessed for our forefathers’ great works. If the roles were switched we would be hating whatever villager landed on the throne. That’s just how our minds work.

“Ronin?” I started as I continued to stare at the biggest village on our hillside.

“What is it, Chi Lucian?”

“Do you ever miss living in the villages?” I asked.

“Oh of course not.” Ronin pushed it aside.

“Why not? Your family lives there.”

“The villages are beautiful places to admire from afar but living in them is a whole different story, Chi.” Ronin explained but I was still confused.

The villages weren’t that bad when I visited them. They were very quaint and peaceful.

“The villages are full of dead ends. It’s very hard to escape their daily sameness. Besides, it’s very hard to change your fortune there. If you are born rich, you remain so until you die. If you are poor, you remain desolate until you die, which is a lot sooner than if you are rich. I don’t know if you know this, Chi Lucian, but my family was very destitute before I came to serve you in the palace.” Ronin added.“Are they still?”

“No. I send a majority of the pay the Ene gives me back to them and they live a better life than they did when I was growing up. So no, I don’t miss living in the villages. Castle’s life is more exciting and adventurous. My family is, also, doing better for my work here. Besides, it’s not like I can never see them.”

I guess I never thought about it. I always sort of pitied Ronin for having to serve me. I tried to take the load off him as much as I could. Besides I didn’t want to be a person depending on their Cons for everything in life. That doesn’t sound like a life very well lived.

I should have known his family was poor. Ronin never complained. Not when my father had to cut his paycheck to pay for more military efforts. Not when we had the drought and his meal size went down considerably. All of this was better than being dirt poor and living on the streets of one of the villages.

“Why don’t you keep more of your pay?” I pondered.

“I don’t need it. Your family feeds me, keeps me in clothes, gives me water. What else is there to need?” Ronin laughed like it was so easy to give up material things.

I could think of a few things he could want. I know for a fact that my father’s Cons spends most of his pay on the Black Liquor they sell just outside the walls of the fortress. I guess Ronin doesn’t drink much. He’ll sip wine with dinner but other than that he doesn’t consume much alcohol. I mean maybe if he didn’t have to feed his family he’d indulge a little more.

“There isn’t anything you’d want to have?” I pressed him.

“I mean, nothing I need.” Ronin leaned against the balcony.

“I didn’t ask if there was anything you needed. I asked if there was anything you wanted.”

Ronin thought about my question for a little while. He began smiling as he was lost in thought. I grinned at his reaction to something in his mind.

“You’re smiling. Let’s hear it. What is it that selfless Ronin could want?” I pondered aloud.

“This might require a little explaining,” Ronin expressed sheepishly.

“Well my Ronin, we have all night, now don’t we?”

“Back before I worked here in the castle my family needed money. My mother told me to go out and learn to read music so I could work for money in the streets. I came home with a guitar I had stolen from a music shop. I quickly taught myself how to play and so I wrote songs and performed them on the street. It was a good way to earn money.”

“What was the fate of that Guitar, I don’t see it with you,” I mentioned.

“Well someone reported me to the owner of the music shop, and they came and took the Guitar back.”

“Ah, so the owner took his guitar back. And is that what you want? A Guitar?” I asked him. Ronin smiled and nodded his head.

I’m getting this man a Guitar. He deserves a little indulgence. After 11 years of working for this family, he should be happy.

“What about you Chi Lucian? What would you like?”

I thought about that for a while. What would I like? There isn’t much I want in this world that I don’t already have or can get. That’s when I began looking past material things. I began to realize I have many hopes and dreams for how I want to live my life. Most of which surround Brinley and I living happily together while ruling a peaceful Shire.

“I recognize that look. You want something. Well, what is it?” Ronin smiled at me.

I continued my playout of how I would like my life to look. Brinley and I, well-aged as we sit together at the dining room table. Maybe at that point, we will have heirs to the throne. Perhaps children that shared her magnificent dark waves in her hair. Or tanned olive children like me. Within each of our children, we could see ourselves. I would love to see this happen one day. That is my wish.

“Come on. Out with it!” Ronin exclaimed.

“I want to live my life peacefully with my darling wife.”

Cons Ronin sighed.

“You always were a poetic child.”

“I’d like to think I’m a simple man. All I want is to be happy. I could care less if I’m looking over the Shire or not. As long as I’m happy and in love, I shall be living my best life.”

“And that you shall Chi Lucian.” Ronin agreed.

I kind of wanted to be like Cons Ronin. He seemed to be so content with his life. There wasn’t much in his life but he was happy. He got up in the morning. He did what he was told. He ate food. He had laughed with the other Cons living in this house. He courted Per Andromeda. He served me. Then he goes to bed and wakes up to do it all again in the morning. He seemed to have it all figured out.

“It’s late Chi Lucian, you should try to sleep.” Ronin advised as he walked out of the balcony and back into the room.

Cons Ronin was probably right. It was very late and he was supposed to have a day with Brinley tomorrow. I walked back into the room. The wind got colder and so I began to think it was possible that I could fall asleep in the swamp-like conditions in my room. I laid back on my pillows. I was laying on top of the covers. In the summer, even in late summer, I hardly slept under the covers. I overheated very easily.

Apparently, Ronin was right to make me go back to bed. I didn’t feel it as we were standing on the balcony but I felt a wave of exhaustion hit me as I closed the drapes. I sank back into the bed and slowly but surely I felt myself drift off to sleep.

I didn’t dream much that night. In fact, I wasn’t sure how long I had been asleep for anyway. All I knew was that I was dozing peacefully when my life changed in a second. Everything was quiet and still as it should be at this hour. That’s when I first heard it.

Beware.

I shot up. I was suddenly very aware of my surroundings. My face was pricked with sweat but the room had gotten colder as I slept. I ran to my window and pulled back the drapes. The light of the moon filled the room as I looked around quickly. My eyes whipped around the room as I searched for the voice. There was no one there.

“Ronin?” I asked hesitantly.

There was no response.

“Ronin? I swear to the Omn, I will fire you if you are messing with me.”

My heart rate spiked as the darkness was getting to me. The quiet in my room was unnerving. I slowly walked out of my bedroom and into the sitting room that was converted into Cons Ronin’s bedroom.

“Ronin?” I asked louder.

The only response was slight breathing coming from Ronin’s bed. I stepped around quietly in the sitting room. There were only glowing embers in the fireplace. It illuminated the room better and I was grateful for that. I glanced around looking for another person. After about ten minutes of searching through the sitting room, I returned to my bedroom.

Beware.

The voice was so loud. I couldn’t describe it. I guess I really shouldn’t say it was loud because, in reality, the voice was soft, but I could hear it so clearly. I freaked me out so I returned to my bed and slid my feet under the covers.

I looked over to where Ronin was sleeping in a bed. How hadn’t he heard that? It was so loud.

“Ronin!” I called out to him.

The only response from Ronin was him shifting in his bed. I got back out of bed and walked onto the balcony. I breathed in the fresh air. The air smelled like roses from the garden below my room. The smell reminded me of my mother. She would always have these fragrant roses or other flowers pinned to whatever dress she was wearing. My father told me they only grew the roses for her and so when she died he tried to have the gardeners stop planting them and to pull up the remaining bushes. I convinced him otherwise. The roses held significant meaning to me and they were here to stay.

I know it’s not logical but the smell of roses made me feel safe. Like whoever was in my room couldn’t get me as long as I was on the balcony. I was safe. Now that I was calming down I began creating explanations for the voices I was hearing.

The voice was only a trick of the wind. It entered my room weird and made a howling that my exhausted brain turned into words. Or I was hallucinating because of the lack of sleep I was getting. That was more likely than someone sneaking into my room. I had Savs outside my door for goodness sakes. They would stop any intruders. I live in a fortress. I’m safe.

I walked back into the room and sat down on my bed once again. I tried to convince myself it was safe. I let the window open to let the flower-scented wind in the room. I slid into bed and stared up at the ceiling, willing myself to fall asleep. Tonight hadn’t been a great night for me. I need to stop letting myself get so freaked out by little things. Nightmares can’t hurt me and there’s a very low chance that a person could actually sneak into my room. If they were they would have to kill two Savs to get into the front door and get past Ronin to get into my room. If they were to climb through my window they would have to climb the entire tower first and anyone stupid enough to do that would be so exhausted by the time they reached the top that the Savs, Ronin, and I should easily overpower them. I was safe.

On that note, I fell into a fitful sleep that lasted the rest of the night. I didn’t dream of anything and I was grateful for that. It was more relaxing than it would have if I had dreamt something. When I came to in the morning, sunlight was pouring through the windows. I guess that’s what I get for leaving the window open all night. It was overly warm in my room and so I pushed off the covers I had on since it got oddly cold last night.

“Chi Lucian! How are you this morning?” Cons Ronin asked as he walked into my bedroom.

I sat up in bed and pushed my hair out of my face. I felt awful. I had a terrible headache and my muscles felt like I spent the entire night training.

I groaned in response. Ronin frowned but waited for me to get out of bed.

“I guess we shouldn’t have spent so much time talking on the balcony last night,” Ronin led me into my dressing room and pulled out proper clothes.

“No, it wasn’t your fault. I had a fitful sleep at best last night.” I explained.

“I’m sorry Chi Lucian. I’ll have the cook brew some herbal tea for breakfast this morning. It might help your migraine.” Ronin handed me a shirt.

I changed into proper wear for breakfast and ran a comb through my tangled mess of curls on my head. As I was fixing my hair there was a knock on my door.

“Lucian, Cons Ronin Silas? Are you decent in there?” She called out.

There was only one person who called Ronin by his full title and that was my lovely Brinley.

“Give me a minute, love!” I called out to her.

I grabbed a Tulip out of a vase of flowers sitting on the window and closed my book. I ran to the door and opened it for Brinley. Brinley looked extravagant as always. She was wearing a bright yellow dress that really made the warm tones in her brassy skin stand out.

I stopped in front of her and sighed. This woman with elegance suited for a queen was my Fiancee.

“I have a gift for you my Aus,” I bowed and presented the orangey tulip to Brinley.

“Oh, Lucian, always the charmer he is. Isn’t that right Cons Ronin?” Brinley asked my Cons.

“Yes, he is, Aus Brinley Idris.” Cons Ronin agreed.

Brinley accepted the Tulip and brought it to her nose to smell its sweet scent.

“May I?” I asked her.

She handed the Tulip back to me and I turned her around and I wove the flower into her braids.

“There, love, now it is perfect,” I told her.

“Why thank you.” She smiled.

“Why Aus Idris, is there a reason you have dropped by?” Ronin wondered.

“Must there be a reason for me to drop by like this? If there must be then it is, I suppose, that you two are my favorite people.”

“Oh why thank you, Aus Brinley, you’re my favorite person as well,” My Cons smiled at her.

I feigned shock, “Hurtful!”

“Don’t worry my Chi, you are my second favorite.”

Brinley laughed and stuck out her tongue, “He likes me better than you, Lucian. How does that make you feel?”

“I’ll let him have that. If I were him I’d like you more than me.” I kissed her forehead.

“Aus Brinley, are you going to be joining us for breakfast?” Cons Ronin asked her.

“I’m afraid not. I have a previous engagement with Per Andromeda. We are painting this morning.”

At the mention of Ronin’s sweetheart he brightened. Ronin had been in love with Per Andromeda since he’d been 22. It was very frustrating for the rest of us to go around watching Ronin silently pine after her and Per Andromeda go on blissfully unaware. Finally when Per Andromeda turned 20 and Ronin was 24 we convinced him to court her. We assured him that Per Andromeda was not a person of material things and that she wouldn’t mind his status as a Cons. We were right. Per Andromeda accepted and allowed herself to be courted by Ronin. I wasn’t surprised because Per Andromeda was Brinley’s best friend and any friend of Brinley’s couldn’t have been so bad.

“Well, it was wonderful seeing both of you this morning! I’ll leave you to get breakfast and please tell my parents to excuse me and that I am with my Per. Thank you for the Tulip Luci,” Brinley excused herself

When Brinley walked out of the room Cons Ronin walked up to me with a big smile on his face. I already knew what he was going to say.

“Lucy?” He tried to keep in his laughter.

“Laugh all you want, when this girl finds a nickname she will make it stick.” I rolled my eyes.

“But Lucy?” He continued.

“No one else in this world is allowed to call me Lucy but Brinley and the only reason she can is that I don’t know how to make her stop.”

“Aw, I think it’s cute.” Ronin smiled.

“Shush Ronnie.” I teased him back.

Ronin’s eyes got wide as he wondered how I knew his nickname given to him by the lovely Per.

“Our loves talk and lucky for me, Brinley talks to me.”

Ronin winced and I walked out of the room, happy to have forgotten the long night before.

The two of us walked through the long corridors and passed many people that lived in our Fortress. My father has been inviting all his closest friends to live in Fortress Fyn for decades. The many rooms have slowly been filled with old aristocrats. Some don’t stay for long but others live here for an eternity. People like the Ene and Sor of Cadia live here permanently, or at least until Brinley and I get married.

As we got closer and closer to the dining room we could smell the food that the Cook has made for the many groups of people who live here.

“Is that eggs? I hope they have toast,” Ronin picked up his pace.

The food is first come first serve, usually. There’s only one exception and that is for the Ene, my father. The Cook always sets aside one giant platter of everything for the Ene to sample from. I don’t know when or if he actually eats it. My father doesn’t seem to have enough time for anything.

The Dining Room is grand. We use it for all meals except for dinner. For Dinner, we have a separate room called the Dinner Room. The Dinner Room is full of tables for everyone in the Fortress to sit at and then the thrones. In the middle is Father’s throne. It is easily the biggest but not the grandest. On his right side, there’s a smaller white throne that’s laced with gold. Father’s is the more expensive but Mother’s throne is more pleasing to look at. On my Father’s left side is a black throne lined with silver, my throne. It’s not as expensive as my father’s throne and it’s not as grand as my mother’s. It’s just my throne. Recently we added another throne. It’s a silver throne lined with gold and it’s for Brinley. The throne really suits Brinley but I’ve often caught her admiring the Sor’s throne.

One day it will be her sitting next to me looking upon all the subjects of our house. Soon enough it will be time for a new generation of Kreeds to rule. Mostly the Dinner Room is just as decoration for the newer visitors. Honestly, it’s just weird sitting in my position. My throne is my father’s way of telling me I’m important but not really. When the royal family stands I feel like the whole world has eyes on us, but not me. Only my father. When Ronin and I got to the Dining Table we saw an odd sight. My father was sitting at the table enjoying his food. He was sitting with Ene Kane Idris and Sor Larkin Ai-Idris. I had hoped that they hadn’t noticed me and I could sit at the outside tables like Cons Ronin but my father had caught sight of me.

“Lucian! What are you doing at the outside tables? You are a Kreed! Come join us at the table.” My father called out to me.

I shot a “not this again” look at Ronin and Ronin had to stifle his laughter.

I walked up to the table and sat on my father’s left side and smiled briefly at Brinley’s parents. Ene Kane dismissed me but Sor Larkin smiled back at me. It was quite obvious which one liked me more.

“Lucian, do you know where Brinley is this morning?” Sor Larkin asked politely.

“She’s with her Per this morning. She told me that she is coming back around lunch time.” I explained.

“What are they doing there? Summoning a Dev?” Kane asked me.

I chuckled a little awkwardly. Besides the Military issue, there is one thing that sets Fyn and Cadia apart. Our views on Magic. People in Cadia are open to freely practicing magic. People in Fyn haven’t been able to practice magic in 10 years. My father pushed that law into place a decade ago suddenly and out of the blue. His main defense was that the people of Fyn are more susceptible to dark magic. I don’t know if this is true or not but he is very strict with his no magic rule. Even mentioning the use of magic was frowned upon, that is of course unless you are the Ene of another Shire.

My father frowned at Ene Kane. Sor Larkin whispered something into his ear and he nodded.

“Actually, I think Aus Brinley and Per Andromeda are painting this morning.” I interrupted and saved face.

“Oh lovely, I always knew Brinley would be a good artist,” Larkin took a bit of whatever salad she was eating.

“Lucian, have you seen some of Brinley’s paintings?” Ene Kane asked with great interest.

I have and I agree she’s very talented. It’s just that these people make me extremely nervous. And that’s why I responded with, “I have. They are fine.”

Sor Larkin gave me a wary smile and Ene Kane just frowned.

“Edmond, you get your boy in check.” Ene Kan warned my father.

My father in turn scowled at me. And this is why I don’t like eating breakfast with my future in-laws and my father. I feel like I’m getting scorned in three different ways. Sor Larkin talks with Brinley about everything I do with her. That means that she knows of all the gifts and gestures I’ve given her. Sor Larkin always sizes me up to the image her daughter has painted me in her mind. Ene Kane scorns me for not being good enough for his heir which is painful enough. My father compares me to the image in his mind of what the future Ene should be like. So far I think Brinley fits that more than I do. Anyway, there’s no saving this conversation so I picked up a cup and filled it with a floral scented tea. I tried to fill the awkwardness with my eating. center of attention but also not at the same time. Everyone is looking at us but everyone’s eyes are on my father.

“So Lucian, what kind of things do you like to do?” Sor Larkin asked me.

I know they wanted to know what kind of noble activities I do in my free time and really there’s only one that they would approve of. Once again disappointing at least two of the people I’m eating breakfast with.

“Fencing,” I answered quickly.

I didn’t necessarily want to pick up fencing but my father had pushed it on to me. He had told me that to be a good Ene I needed to be able to defend myself, so I agreed to pick up fencing. I had been fencing for a couple of years and I am now fairly decent at it. The only good thing about it is that Cons Ronin picked it up with me, and so we duel every so often.

“Oh come on, every nobleman fences. What else do you like to do?” Sor Lakin pushes.

Other than fencing the only other hobbies I had were reading and writing poetry.

“I, um, I like to write,” I respond.

My father shook his head slightly. I know he disapproves of my writing but that is the one thing I won’t drop for him. Kane’s head picked up slightly like he was almost impressed with me.

“Like novels?” He asked.

There’s no way I could write a novel. My hand would die before I ever finished one. Novels are way too long but I have written a couple of short stories.

“N-no. Those are too long Ene. I have delved in short stories for a brief stint, but mostly I write ballads.” I explained.

Ene Kane’s smile slid off his face while Sor Larkin’s grew.

“Oh, I’ve heard about his ballads. Every once in a while he’ll write one for Brinley.” The Sor grinned excitedly.

Sor Larkin seemed to get her fun through her daughter. Whenever I surprised Brinley with something, the Sor always seemed to be friendlier in the morning. I think she lives her life through her daughter. I don’t really blame her. Ene Kane doesn’t really seem like a gift-giving type of person.

“So you write things about my daughter?” Ene Kane asked me.

“I suppose so, Ene Kane,” I respond.

“They’d better be in good taste, Chi.” This sounded almost like a threat.

I looked over at my father and he seemed over it. He had his head in his hand and was staring at the table in front of him.

“Edmond, what do you think of your son’s talent?” Sor Larkin turned to my father.

“I think he needs to get real talent.” My father continued to pick at his food.

“Edmond!” She scolded him.

“I’m not lying. I’m surprised your daughter hasn’t flat out refused to marry him. I might as well name him Aus Lucian instead of Chi.” He growled at me.

I remained unfazed. I had heard this a few times before. My father wants a more manly son, is it 11:00 already? I didn’t bother finishing my breakfast. I just got up and left quietly. From a distance, I could hear them still talking about me.

“Edmond, writing isn’t that bad of a talent. You should be nicer to the boy.” Ene Kane told him.

It didn’t matter what the Ene and the Sor told my father. He wouldn’t change positions on this. I wasn’t good enough for him and that was that. I walked over to where Cons Ronin was waiting for me and we walked away. Might as well just join the girls. They don’t judge half as hard as the adults.

“How was your breakfast, Chi Lucian?” Ronin asked.

“Imagine all of your flaws being laid out of a table for three doctors to pick at and discuss. That would be better than breakfast.”

“Oh Chi Lucian, I apologize.” Cons Ronin sighed.

“I think that they just need to get over the fact that, yes, one day I will be the Ene. It’s not even like I’ll be the Ene soon. I probably have another 2-4 decades before that happens. I’ll be a different person by the time I’m Ene. Maybe I will have dropped writing by then.” I sighed, exasperated.

You are better than them.

I froze in my tracks.

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