Fates Intertwined (Part Two)
It was too hard to believe, too unreal to accept. But seeing the pain in Arridus’ eyes, Vahti knew it was true. He stood, turning toward the window of his small room, and cast his eyes toward the gardens.
“You’re a Cenob now, Arridus. Do your words carry so little weight?”
“The old monk’s lower lip drew taut. “Vahti, I have tried,” he replied. “But can you honestly say that Cairn doesn’t need help?”
Vahti tensed, “How is this helping anyone?”
“Vahti, I wish I had an answer on his condition. We have tried everything. Even Inscriptions are of no help, and the mediations are temporary. Whatever this power your brother has, it is beyond our understanding.”
“So you mean to say that for all your knowledge and teachings, that Cairn is without hope?”
“I am saying that we don’t understand where to begin,” the old monk replied. “If we knew who your parents were, then perhaps we could gain some insight.”
“You know as well as I that we have no memory of our parents or anything before the day we came here.”
“I know, but that doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying to find an answer…”
“Are they that afraid of him?”
“They are afraid of any more accidents, possibly even someone getting killed.”
“But he wouldn’t…”
“I know he wouldn’t, Vahti, but we aren’t mages. We don’t have anyone who can teach him the proper control.”
“But sending us away, Arridus? Hedath is our home!” It was too much to take in. Even if the old monk was tearing up, his sympathy seemed like a pittance.
“I don’t want to send you away, Vahti!” Arridus replied. “Would you prefer we send him to the Arcanum?”
Vahti shook his head. The Arcanum was no place for anyone. Becoming a mage under the scrutiny of Absion’s military was almost like slavery. They would turn Cairn into a weapon. Looking back at Arridus, the old monk’s expression said he was keeping something to himself. Vahti could see it.
“Arridus, what aren’t you saying?”
“Word was sent to the monasteries in Shaareth. We had hoped to hire a mage willing to teach Cairn.”
“And… What did they say?”
“They said the mages would not welcome Cairn because of his ability.”
“Why? What is it about my brother that makes them so afraid?”
“Because we learned he is something they call a channeler. It is rare and if they learn of his powers, they might kill him out of fear.”
Nausea set in and Vahti knelt, trying to get his bearings. The thought of someone harming Cairn was too sickening to process. He focused on his breathing, centering himself, allowing the moment to pass.
“Did they give anymore details on what that meant?” he asked.
Arridus knelt, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, and shook his head. “My best advice is find Cairn a teacher on your terms, not someone else's. Someone you can trust who won’t try to take advantage of his talents.”
“Arridus… I’ve seen how exhausted he gets. Will his powers take his life?”
The old monk looked down. “If he cannot learn to control them… then eventually they will. I’ve been told that much.”
Vahti bit his lip, fighting to keep his emotions in check. “I want to fight this. Every impulse inside is screaming that I should.”
“I know,” Arridus responded. “I do too, but many times we are put in impossible situations.”
“Where will we go?”
“A place has been provided and you will receive a monthly allowance until you can support yourselves. We have brothers in the capital who will look out for you and Cairn.”
“Serindeth might not be the best place for us.”
“The Anchorite hopes you will find Cairn a teacher there.”
“If I do, will we be able to return home?”
Arridus nodded. “If he can demonstrate control, then yes.”
“When are we expected to leave?”
“Two days. A passing trader is on his way to the capital. We asked if he would take you along in exchange for a few Seps.”
“Have you spoken to Cairn yet?”
“No, I didn’t want to do that without you.”
“Then we better go find him, this won’t be easy for him.”
“I’ve loaded the last of the crates, Senka.”
Old shaman grinned. “Excellent work, Gmork,” he said. “But remember, speak in Absonian, not orcish.”
Gmork sighed. Why should it matter?
“Come on now, boy, don’t give me that look. There is a way to the world.”
“You say that, but it seems to be their way.”
“Hush!” he said, turning to see if the soldiers on patrol had overheard.
“Now check the horses, we have many visits to make today.”
“Are we going to see them?”
The old shaman shook his head. “Later this week, I promise,” he replied. “How have you been feeling?”
“Calm, but I can feel it nagging at me.”
Senka nodded, casting a glance at the gauntlet Gmork wore. “I’ll arrange a fight so we can work through it.”
“How long must I go on like this, Senka?”
Senka’s expression softened. “All your life,” he said.
“Does it ever bother you?” Gmork asked, checking the horses’ barding. “Your mark?”
“I was touched by an unusual spirit,” he said. “I still don’t know how to describe its nature, but I can see things about others they cannot.”
“But does it bother you?”
He shifted his attention to the patrol on the street. “Sometimes,” he answered. “There are things about others one shouldn’t know.”
Gmork stared at the soldiers, the nagging feeling he felt in his chest igniting into a small spark. You should hit them… He pushed the thought away. The voice wasn’t his. Senka didn’t know about it. Gmork knew it would worry him too much.
Gmork blinked, taking in his surroundings. The street and its marble buildings came back to him. The sound of Absonians going about their business assaulted his pointed ears. He suddenly realized he’d started following the soldiers and turned to face Senka. The old shaman looked worried.
“It’s worse than you’re telling me, isn’t it?”
“Seeing them frustrates me,” Gmork replied. “Because of them I can’t be with my own family.”
Senka reached out and embraced him. “You’ve been with me for thirty years, Gmork. I’m grateful for them. I know I’m not your father, but between me and him, we are both proud of you. You’ve grown into a fine orc.”
At his embrace, Gmork felt the heat in his chest die down. “Sometimes I’m torn between the father I know and the one I hardly see.”
“I know, but soon, that will all change.”
Gmork pulled away, staring into his yellow eyes. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve been saving since you were a babe, but I finally have the money to buy your parents’ freedom. At their age, Elias can’t use them as effective labor. I can buy them and grant them the status of Libertas.”
Gmork’s vision blurred, and he wiped his eyes. “Senka…”
“No words,” he replied. “I had hoped to surprise you at the end of the week, but now seems as good a time as any.”
“It was a good time.”
Senka grinned. “Now enough sentimental driv, we have patients to see.”
Gmork helped him into the wagon, noting Senka was trying to hide the discomfort his left leg gave him. He felt a twinge in his heart. It never had healed right, even with magic. The injury was one of a few he’d unintentionally given Senka over the years.
He touched his gauntlet, imagining the mark hidden underneath. What I wouldn’t give to be rid of you.
Gmork turned, noting a group of five Custos led by an Inquisitor were approaching. The heat in his chest returned, and he gripped the lip of the wagon, feeling cracks forming in the wood.
“Senka Xvre,” the Inquisitor said. “You and your son are under arrest.”
“On what charge?”
“Illegal gambling and unsanctioned gladiatorial combat,” he replied. “Do you deny these charges?”
There it was. Inquisitors instinctively knew if a person was lying or hiding guilt. Even the most skilled liars couldn’t escape them.
Senka sat in silence, his eyes darting between the Inquisitor and his Custoss. Gmork took a breath as Senka had taught him, but his instincts were already nudging him on.
Fight them… Break them…
“It seems life is taking another turn,” Senka replied.
“Confession or not, orc, we have the evidence. Your accomplices gave you up rather quickly. It seems they have an interesting story to tell about your son. Unless you wish that crime added to your sentence, you will admit your guilt.”
“And if do, what becomes of my son?” Senka asked.
“His Curse is enough cause for execution as a dangerous criminal of the state,” the Inquisitor answered. “But the men he has maimed or worse were legitimate citizens of the state, not Libertas like you.”
Gmork ground his teeth. His chest burned as he fought to keep in control. There no way out of this. Regardless of what happened, they were going to take Senka.
“Might negotiate then?”
The inquisitor curled his lip in disgust. “The law is the law, orc. Now you attempt to bribe me? Are you that foolish?”
“No, but regardless of what happens to me, my son will die. I only propose that instead of an execution, he become part of the gladiatorial games at the Colosseum.”
“The Inquisitor narrowed his eyes. “The law is the law,” he repeated.
“Either is a death sentence, Inquisitor, which fulfills your law. One just might take longer unless he earns his freedom again.”
His nostrils flared, and he nodded. “Do you confess your crimes?”
“I confess. I am guilty of the charges you speak of.”
Gmork growled. Yet again they take your family… the voice chided. Kill them… Show them their weakness.
Gmork blinked. His hands felt damp, and sharp pains riveted his body. He looked down, seeing blood on his hands and gashes across his chest, arms, and legs. The inquisitor was dead, his neck snapped at a grotesque angle.
One of the Custos lay in the street, his arm ripped clean off, and chest plate dented. From the damage to his body, it appeared as if he’d been beaten to death. His comrades had surrounded the wagon, their spatha's angled at Senka’s throat.
“Senka… I’m sorry…”
“Just surrender, Gmork. They’ll kill us both if you don’t.”
Gmork fell to his knees, lifting his hands. The Absonians are right; I am cursed.