Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Twenty-Four

Vale spent his day as usual, glaring at everyone around him, saying nothing, doing nothing.

Jaidyn first heard the rumors in a tiny village so small he didn’t even bother asking the name. Cheyne Firdin was reborn! He had claimed Sonsedhor! He had already gone forward to fight the Dark Father. No, he was serving the Dark Father! Cheyne’s rebirth was a servant of the Dark One. No, he had been born a Keidenelle. No, he had tamed a Keidenelle. There were dozens of rumors, and he would overheard one rumor from one man, then a few minutes later, a different one completely contradicting the first one he told. But they all agreed on one thing: someone had claimed to be Cheyne reborn.

He kept silent about it. These fools actually believed this kind of rumor? Where was the proof? Where was this false hero? No rumor gave any hint of his whereabouts. Jaidyn simply chose to ignore the rumors.

The tiny village claimed only one tiny inn. He stopped walking right in front of it, when he realized Hoeth had fallen behind. When he turned, the younger man was looking at him accusingly, his chin thrust forward and his eyebrows pulled down angrily. “You duped me,” he said. “You lied to me. You said you were Cheyne!”

“I am,” he replied calmly. It was, after all, the truth. He was Cheyne. He was!

"I don’t want to hear any more of your lies!” he yelled, drawing eyes to him. “No more of your stories! If you were, then why isn’t this news about you? Why don’t you have Sonsedhor yet? Why don’t you ever give me a straight answer when I… Nevermind. I’m finished, Lord Huntley. I’m ridding myself of you.” He took a few steps toward the inn’s front door. Before he got halfway to the door, he spun and pointed a condemning finger at him. “You are not welcome under the same roof as me.” Turning on his heel, he disappeared into the inn.

“Fine! But when the truth comes out, don’t try to apologize, Karzark!” He stormed off, his ears straining– against his will– for more of the rumors. He heard a handful of rumors, then a dozen variations of them, then a dozen variations of them, until it was enough to make his head spin and made him desperately want a drink.

He finally found his drink, in the makeshift tavern some old lady ran. He didn’t know how much he downed, but the lady didn’t stop him so long as he paid the coin before she gave him each bottle. But the rumors followed him into the little one-room tavern, and even the wine he was trying to drown his thoughts in didn’t make them go away. As the rumors grew more and more elaborate, even to the point of detailing his proclamation and triumphs he’d already had, Jaidyn’s mood grew hotter and hotter. Finally, well past dark and furious enough to start spitting, he stumbled out of the tavern and headed to the inn.

He barged in, empty wine bottle in hand, and was on the point of shouting Hoeth’s name when his eyes focused on his former friend and companion. The young lordling was laughing, sitting at a table with his arm around a pretty dark-haired woman who looked to be in her mid-twenties. As he stood there, watching, he saw Hoeth actually lean over and sneak a kiss.

It was only a few moments before Hoeth saw him. He leaned over to the woman and whispered something in her ear. She covered his mouth with her fingers, stifling a giggle. Then Hoeth leaned and whispered to a man at a nearby table. The whisper passed around the room, and a wave of laughter followed behind it, with a lot of pointing at Jaidyn. The laughter faded and was replaced by jeers. Apparently he’d told everyone about Jaidyn’s “lies”.

His anger reached the boiling point, and he stormed out of the inn and back into the street. There were still a surprising number of people out-of-doors, considering the time of night. He thought he heard whispers and felt fingers pointed at him as he passed. Gossip spread quickly in a small place like this. The story had already spread far beyond the walls of Hoeth’s inn.

Try as he did, he couldn’t even get a bed in the stable loft.

Something different came over Vale’s eyes, but since he never really let anyone see them, no one noticed.

He curled up next to a half-rotted barrel that sat next to a house and tried to sleep. His fury had yet to really cool, and it kept him from keeping his eyes closed for more than a moment. He kept seeing faces: people laughing at him, some unidentified man holding Sonsedhor, Hoeth jeering and accusing…

There was someone looking down at him, someone with a face he invisible in the darkness.

“I know what they’ve done to you, the injustices, the mockery they make of your life,” the man said in a cool voice.

Jaidyn jumped to his feet. “Who are you?”

“I am…… that is all. I am.” He paused, as if to let those words sink in. “I have seen everything you have gone through, my son. And I can help you.”

He furrowed his eyebrows. Someone had been watching him? Who?

“I see you are suspicious. That is healthy. But I know everything, can see everything, Jaidyn. I know the memories you have, that fight with you. Lexan’s memories.”

He hadn’t told anyone about that. He backed up, but the wall of the building was at his back.

“You need not be afraid, my son. I am here to help you. Accept my pity, my reborn king.”

Reborn king? I am Cheyne reborn! I knew it! “Mother? Are you The Mother?”

The man made no move, and Jaidyn still couldn’t see his face, but he got the impression he smiled.

“I thought you were a woman.”

“I take many forms,” he replied. “You have respect for power, so you see me as a strong, hale man.”

“Why can’t I see your face… Mother?”

“It is not for mortals to see, no matter how highly esteemed I may hold them.” There was that impression of smiling again. “Will you accept my help to right the injustices done to you, my son? To claim what is rightfully yours?”

“Yes! Yes!”

“Then go out into the open, where you are all alone. You must be unarmed. I have other followers, ones who will find you, but only if you are out in the open and without weapon. Will you do this?”

“Of course, Mother! Of course!”

“Then I will mark you as my own, so they will know you." With one last impression of a smile, the man disappeared in a flash that left blue and black and gold lights sparkling before his eyes. One of the black lights came to him and settled onto his forehead. There was a burning sensation for a split second, then nothing. He reached up to his forehead and felt where the black light had touched him. He felt nothing. Would these followers see it?

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