With that, we were led to our rooms. I was placed in my own room that reminded me a bit of mine at the family estate we would spend time in the summer. It was large with a line of window. The shutters were closed though and rattled as the wind beat against them. I shed the remains of my clothing and crawled into bed. Despite the storm howling to be heard, I fell out quickly only waking up when the room of my door opened softly in the morning. I didn’t move to see who it was. They placed something on a surface in the room and left. I sat up in bed and saw a stack of clothing in the faint light of morning. The wind outside hadn’t let up from last night. It was clear we weren’t leaving any times soon so I pulled the covers back over my head to go back off to sleep. My throat was raw and scratchy in the early beginnings of a cold. The best remedy for a cold was sleep. I sunk back down only a moment before I heard someone shrill out in the hall and a fist pounding on the door next to me.
“Thedoric, I know you are in there, come out and face me like a man!”
The room beside me issued no response. Whoever had shouted rattled the door latch.
“Ha, you failed to lock your door, Brother. I’m coming in whether you’re dressed or not,” threatened the woman.
I assumed the door opened as I heard stomping feet behind my wall.
“Oooo, that insufferable…”
I flinched when she slammed the door shut. At least my family’s estate in Summerset didn’t have thin walls. A few seconds later, there was a polite tap on my door. I hesitated to answer because I was afraid of what I was going to see when I opened the door. However, my curiosity got the better of me and I slid off the bed on my toes.
“Just a moment,” I rasped and immediately clutched my neck. It felt like a cat had taken its claws to the back of my throat and slithered down the length of it. I swallowed multiple times thinking that would sooth it while examining the clothing left for me. There was a robe on top was a robe and being the easiest thing to put on, I snatched that up leaving the rest of it there. When I swung the door open, there stood a young elven woman. She like Mien’s was a fox top with coppery hair spilling down her head and too long braids adorned with blue feathers. She looked over my head at first and brought her gaze down with a stunned expression on her face.
“Oh, hello,” she said.
“Greetings,” I said slowly.
She looked around me. “Soletus isn’t here?”
I shook my head as we examined each other. She didn’t seem like the monster screeching earlier nonetheless she was related to Mien therefore “lively” of nature.
“You look familiar,” she said.
“So do you,” I returned.
“I’ve just recently seen your face and hair…wait!” Her eyes went wide. “You’re Prince Theris! Oh you have to excuse me for my rudeness.” She said smoothing her dress out trying and started to curtsy.
“No, no, no, none of that now!”
“Oh, I forgot,” she straightened up. “Your status doesn’t matter in the Brotherhood. You would think they would make an exception for you.”
They didn’t thankfully. It would only make the few jealous members ridicule much worse.
She looked at me up and down. “You’re a lot younger looking than what Mien said you were in his letters. A baby compared to the Prince. We met a month ago. We shared a drink or two.”
My eye ticked at the mention of my brother “Good for you,” I congratulated with my voice full resentment. “I’m glad to see he still loves share drinks with every noble common and old, than to speak with me.”
I realized that I shouldn’t have said that until after I said it. At that age, I had a horrible habit of letting things like that slip out of my mouth without thinking. It was also that age, I had trouble apologizing for them too. I ended up looking at the floor feeling my ear tips burning. The girl had a lot more grace than I did.
“Oh it’s alright. I know what it’s like having deficient family members. I probably should’ve disturbed you Prince…I mean Theris. I’m Rydell by the way. Thedoric’s sister. If you happen to speak with him, tell him I want to talk. It was nice meeting me,” she said and curtsied anyway before hurrying away.
I the shut the door and pulled on the rest of the clothing that was left to me. I pressed my ear to the door listening for footsteps. When all I heard was silence, I exited my room and tip-toed into the room beside me. Before I could make it into the center of it, I heard Mien’s muffled voice coming from under the bed.
“She’s just as dense as ever,” he said.
I got on my hands and knees and saw the crown of his head coming towards me. I backed away.
“Any reason why a grown man is hiding under his bed from his sister of all things,” I questioned.
He rolled on his stomach. “Because I didn’t want to deal with her,” he said and then started to stand.
“She seems nice.”
“Don’t be fooled, she’s loud, exasperating, and nagging.”
“Kind of like you,” I returned.
Mien paused in smoothing out his shirt to glare at me. I showed him my teeth in an innocent smile.
“If you were my child…” he muttered.
“You would love me,” I said looking at him in was known as my adorable face. It was ruined by me going into coughing a fit.
Mien studied me a moment with some concern. “That cough sounds awful.”
I cleared my throat and hacked one more time. “It feels awful.”
“Come, let’s sneak into the kitchen. It’s nearly midmorning, so the cooks should have something.”
The two of us made our way through the corridor without running into another family member. However, I heard voice coming from a far off room so they were around. When we entered the kitchen, there was only a small staff and all of them immediately stopped working when they saw Mien walk in and greeted him.
“Master Theodoric,” welcomed the tallest of the cooks. “You didn’t come with Soletus this time?”
“No, I just brought my mentee,” he said.
I waved at them from beside him. “Greetings, I’m Theris,” I said and sniffed the air and my mouth watered. They were cooking something that smelled wonderful.
One of them welcomed me with a salute from his knife. “You look like a good smart lad…wait a minute. Theris as in King Auberon’s son!”
All the cooks abandoned their pots and dishes to bow at me.
I let out groan. “No, none of that. Treat me as you would any member of the Brotherhood.”
The cook looked at Mien for a thought on the matter.
“Best if you listen to him, Bard,” said my mentor.
“Very, well, have a seat young man,” he said pushing a stool for me to sit. “You two missed breakfast, but I’m sure I can dig up something.”
“Just tea for me, with squeeze of citrus if you have it with a spoonful of honey,” I requested and then added belatedly. “Please.”
Bard studied me. “You’re well-spoken young lad.”
“I take my tea seriously,” I told him.
Bard went to work on serving my request and gave my mentor a side glance. “I know that Lady Lass mentioned you’ve been watching the King Auberon’s son, young master. It’s funny to be hosting another one of Heron blood. Prince Arlwin recently visited the main house’s estate a month ago.
“So I’ve heard.” I muttered.
Bard looked at me curiously as he handed me my tea. “Didn’t you know?”
I looked down at my cup. “No.”
At that time it, my status was ambiguous. Most people, who confirmed my existence, assumed that my family was openly communicating with me. That wasn’t case. I had not spoken directly to my brother or father for six years at that point. My mother was dead. My sister disowned. My uncle didn’t care. My aunt’s family was being snooty. I was alone. At that point, I became very aware that I was a little more than unwanted. What made it all a heaping pile of muck was that I didn’t know why.
I felt Bard’s eyes studying me. He was smart enough to put it together and even smarter not to press the matter. “I see. But I do have to say, you look a great deal like Prince Arlwin. You both have that unusual russet colored hair but those eyes, so pale. Kind of like you, Master Theodoric, don’t match your families.”
Mien was standing in the corner usually silent. “My eyes are still green,” he said softly.
It was common for chanters to have light and bright iris colors.
“At least they’re fetching,” said Bard and then he wagged his eyebrows. “You must have the ladies lining up by now.”
One of the women cooks elbowed him. “Bard, he’s a priest.”
“Priest can still get married, isn’t that right Master Theodoric?” Mien nodded. “The only reason he hasn’t attracted a nice lass is because he’s so quiet.”
I nearly choked on my tea trying not to laugh. That was hardly the reason. He didn’t have the ladies lined up because he did have someone. And if one didn’t know, he wore his disinterest of them like a badge on his chest at that age. He could easily tell one “no” without a fumble. Oh, he had his moments when he was quiet but never shy. However, he didn’t act the contrary then. He stood there focused on the window with that distant expression on his face. Not to mention he didn’t say a thing about Kiao. Thunder rumbled again causing the walls to shake.
“If it is gets any worse, we’ll need to hide in the cellar,” said Bard.
“Let’s pray it won’t. I rather be on my way,” said Mien.
“Bard,” shouted a woman suddenly from outside the kitchen door. Mien stiffened at the voice. He started tucking his shirt in and smoothed out his hair. The staff started hustling. The woman entered the room. “I think I changed my mind on dinner tonight. Feels like a soup day,” she said. She like her daughter and son had the same copper lock but hers was streaked with silver. She saw me. I inclined my head to her.
“Mother,” greeted Mien softly from where he stood behind the door.
The woman spun around surprised. “Theodoric,” she greeted with her arms wide for a hug. She didn’t wait for Mien to move towards her though. She took him by the upper arms and pulled him close to her. She kissed him once on each cheek. He wrinkled his nose but by the time she held him away from her, he was somber face again.
The woman then barraged him with questions. “I was told by Salvus you were here. Why didn’t you come to breakfast this morning? Rydell has been looking for you. Dalaen wishes to speak to you as well. Have you been hiding?”
Mien smiled thinly. “I’ve kept to myself so not to be a bother to anyone.”
The woman frowned. “You are most certainly not a bother. This is not place for the two of you. Come on, we’ll have a nice family lunch together. With our guest of course,” she said waving to me follow. “I’m Lady Lass.”
I thanked the staff for my tea and followed close behind Mien who was glancing around as if something was going to jump out of the shadows in the house. I felt my chest get warm and my consort, a red squirrel named Pern, manifested on my shoulders. I could feel impressions of his curiosity out our new surroundings.
“Please stay on me,” I hissed and repositioned him so that he was closer to the back of my neck and could hide in my hair. I wasn’t sure what House Cyan stance was on consorts but given the fact that one of their sons was a member of the Brotherhood as well as a chanter, they shouldn’t have had any trouble with something as small as Pern. Not that Lady Lass noticed.
Lady Lass was regaling the visit from my brother. I halfway listened as we entered a large parlor. I sat close to Mien and then Rydell appeared. She hurried in the room and sat gracefully beside me. Then a man around Master Sol’s age walked into the room with a woman trailing him. I assumed was Dalaen and his wife. The theme of red hair continued except with the Wife. Her hair was gold. And unlike the rest of the member of House Cyan there, she radiated with unfriendliness. She was the haughty elven noble of the group. Her face soured when she spotted Mien. Dalaen seemed indifferent. I expected more hostility from him given the fact that Mien tried to kill him.
When they sat across from us with Lady Lass, Dalaen though showed some displeasure. “You didn’t come to my wedding,” he said to Mien.
Mien tilted his head. “That was four years ago and hello to you too,” he said sounding a lot more like himself.
“You were given notice,” his stepbrother went on.
“Would you have wanted me to come,” Mien questioned mildly. “I got the impression that I was still banned from public appearances and a wedding qualifies as a public appearance.”
Lady Lass sighed. “The fact we sent you an invitation was a sign that it was okay. You’re stay at the Brotherhood was never to be permanent. Just until you…” Lady Lass paused a moment gesturing with her hand for a word glancing at me and then said. “Until you were better and you are. I would like for us to be a family again.”
I expected Mien to start massaging his forehead in frustration as he usually did, instead he wore a mask of meekness still talking softly. “I’m sorry but there are a few things that I would like to see to completion. I can’t come home yet,” he said.
Rydell then jumped in. “I’m getting married soon and I would like for you to be at my wedding.”
The meekness dropped. He gapped at her stunned and exclaimed, “Aren’t you a little young?”
“I’m twenty-eight and everyone is marrying that young now. Dalaen and you are just the exception to the rule.”
I turned to Mien. His eyes flickered gold with his face twitching do faintly a person would miss it if they blinked. She told a lie.
“Do you see this, Theodric, my youngest is getting married before you,” said the woman. “What do you intend to do about it?”
Mien reached for the platter brought in when I was looking and placed a few of the small sandwiches on it and handed it to me.
“Come Mien, what do you intend to do about,” I teased. In return, he gave me his death scowl. “Shutting up now,” I muttered.
“Really Theodoric, you’re still allowing them use of that name,” exasperated his mother further.
I was wondering why they called him Theodoric. However, Mien didn’t defend his choice in name as I expected him too. Mostly, I expected for him to mention Kiao or for them to know who Kiao was.
“Mother, you know there isn’t a woman from any house would marry me,” he said.
One, and they acted like a married couple.
“And whose fault is that,” snapped the woman.
Mien took another plate, filled it with two sandwiches, and handed it to his sister. His hand was shaking. He sat back into the couch clasping his hands together. “My own.”
“Your father would be disappointed if he were here,” she said.
“If my father was here, he wouldn’t have allowed what happened to have happened, to be disappointed,” he shot back and clamped his mouth shut. Lady Lass became bewildered by that statement. Mien quickly made amends. He cast his gaze down to his hands still making himself meek again as well as controlling his chanter’s lit in his voice. “Then again, in some way, I wasn’t exactly what he wanted. Father wanted a wiser and more sociable son than I am.”
“Are you okay,” I whispered out of the side of my mouth. He gave me a quick sideways glare and went back to being bashful again.
Pern moved and was now sitting on my leg watching Mien as he would an entertainer. I didn’t find it entertaining as I did puzzling.
Lady Lass continued. “He was proud of you but he didn’t raise you to be like this,” she said distressed. “Yet you stay far away, hiding behind the Brotherhood taking on their responsibilities instead you of your house. We’ve forgiven you long ago, yet you continue to avoid us.”
I wasn’t sure if Dalaen’s wife forgave him. She stared icily at him.
“Lady Lass I don’t see how you can put up with him,” she said. “My father wonders why you just don’t disown him. It would be less of an embarrassment.”
I expected him to tell the Wife shove off or something instead he continued this act.
“Good question,” said Mien.
“I didn’t give you away forever. I left you to get help,” said Lady Lass with force. Even though she bore her green eyes into Mien as he often would do anyone who upset him. Instead of meeting her, he looked down his clasped hands.
“For what purpose,” he asked. “What good could I be other than keep the family name going?”
A roll of thunder then interjected into the conversation cause the walls to shake and continued for several long seconds before ending.
Lady Lass smoothed out her dress and then said. “As a member of this house, that is one of the obligations you are expected to full-fill. That isn’t the only thing though,” the woman looked earnest. “I honestly just want you back home.”
“Lady Lass,” spoke the Wife again. “You can’t be serious. This family has been mocked and ridiculed because of him. I don’t think having the crazy son back in would be wise.”
“She’s right,” agreed Mien. “Aside from being the crazy son, I’m a chanter. You will be looked down on even more. That fact will not make it easy for you to make stronger ties with the other minor houses. Then I’m Brotherhood on top of it. That’s not prestigious like say being in the military. I suppose I could work for you testing the purity of minerals we find but mother, I can’t and won’t step into a mineshaft. I’ll be more trouble than a benefit. Plus, I’ve Theris to see to.”
Lady Lass’s expression closed up and she looked at me as if she had noticed me for the first time. I was surprised, as I had been making an array of faces the entire time. I was beginning to think little bit of lightning cooked part of Mien’s brain.
“I take it my son has been taking good care of you, Prince Theris?”
Pern left my lap to my shoulders and hid in my hair.
“Very good care, Lady Lass,” I replied.
“I spoke with your brother. He was surprised that my son was the one responsible for your care. I hope you don’t mind, I shared with him the few thing that Theoderic mentioned in his letters home. He seemed pleased you were doing so well.”
I forced a smile. “I’m glad to hear he still cares.”
“Oh family never stops caring,” said Lady Lass to me but mostly to Mien.