Travis Posted November 21, 2011 Author Share Posted November 21, 2011 I got a little carried away with this part, but I had no choice. It is so pivotal in setting up the relationship between two of the most key characters and showing some more of Syler's own character. I am quite proud of this piece as showing interpersonal dialogue and interaction is hard for me. I hope that this manages to come across as realistic and not fluff. Chapter 5b Syler was surprised to only hear cries of protest coming from his fellow Sei. The Kuti were mysteriously quiet as though they had known this was coming. The Angvardi were quick to drop their hands to weapons and kept a vigilant eye on the crowd. It wasn't necessary for as soon as the protests started, Ravest stepped forward and raised his hands. The tips of them seemed to glow and sparkle with energy before there was a loud pop. Then, there was nothing but silence filling the square. Some of the men were still protesting, but though their mouths were moving, there was no sound that came from them. Syler tried to say, "Well, isn't that something," but he couldn't even hear himself. It was as though all sound had been banished from the area. All sound except the booming voice of the governor. "Enough!" he shouted. "I will forgive this disruption this one time, but any future outbursts will result in punishment." One by one, the Sei stopped protesting and kept their mouths shut. There was a fury in many of their eyes that matched that of the Kuti who continued to glare at them. The Angvardi guards relaxed and returned their focus on their leader. Ravest, seeing that the Sei had calmed down, lowered his hands and allowed the energy he had been unleashing to fade. "There," he said in a calm, satisfied voice, "those who were once Kuti may depart. Return to your dwellings and wait for the arrival of your new husbands." As one, the Kuti rose and filed out of the square in silence. It was clear that they were used to such orders because they did so in an orderly fashion and without protest. A few of the Angvardi went with them, but most stayed in the square. For the next three hours, the priests sorted the Sei into groups of a dozen or so and sent them out into the town with an Angvardi escort. Syler saw Havert being led off with others and resigned himself to waiting for his inevitable fate. There was nothing more he could do now, the Elements had spoken. He was now to be bound to a woman who was of a people who had been enemies of his people for centuries. Things had gone from bad to worse and it was all he could do to keep going. He was glad that he had nothing to do at this moment because he would not have been able to do much in the near stupor he was in. He was hardly alone. Around him, some of the Sei who were not quietly fuming were also in shock. Nobody knew what their future would hold for them. From what little they knew, they would be expected to contribute toward building this town into a mighty city. The Angvardi wanted a strong base between Lake Kart and Kasas Sei that would serve as a stopping point in their campaigns in the Deep West. From what Syler could gather, many of the nomadic Kuti were being herded into this town to populate it. He didn't know for sure, but he suspected that as more territories were conquered, more men would come to receive wives from the Kuti. "Syler Penion," a voice called out. "Step forward." Syler looked up at the Easterner who had addressed him and nodded numbly. He took a few steps forward and was corralled into a group of a dozen others. Two Angvardi escorted them out of the square and into the streets. One by one, they stopped at seemingly random houses along the street. At each, a man was sent in to his new wife. Nobody seemed overly happy or comfortable, but at least the Angvardi were nice about it. They didn't rush things and even tried to make some small talk. One of them, a young man who introduced himself as Lamastus, allowed them to stop at a well and get some water. Lamastus talked about the town and where things were as though they were visiting dignitaries rather than men on their way into a forced wedding with their enemies. Syler wasn't too encouraged by the gesture, but he did appreciate the effort. A few of the others seemed to relax, though, so he figured the soldier's actions didn't go entirely to waste. After they had stopped at yet another house, Lamastus put a gloved hand on Syler's shoulder. "This is yours, son." Syler swallowed and took a deep breath. It was a simple house like most here, but it seemed to go back a little farther than the rest. The walls were made of the same mud bricks as everything else, but this had a different roof. Instead of a thatched roof, this had a tile one. Syler also noticed a second, larger chimney that the others didn't. There was no smoke coming from it, but Syler knew what it was for because he had lived in a similarly designed house for the last few years. The Angvardi had set him up in a blacksmith's house. Lamastus let him get a good look before saying softly, "I know the woman and she is a good one. She is pleasing to the eye, but she is strong willed. Her father was what passed for a smith before he was killed. Her mother was so taken by grief that she threw herself into his pyre and was consumed. Be good to her for she has suffered enough in recent times and deserves a good man." He pulled Syler until he was in front of him and looked into his eyes. "Are you a good man, Syler Penion?" Syler considered that question. He had tried to do right by all, but had failed. He was an breaker of oaths and was an exile from his home. If he was a good man, the Elements were punishing him as one who was evil. "Yes sir, I try to be," he replied. Lamastus looked at him for a little longer before nodding and gently pushing him toward the door. "Go on, her name is Bronwyn." With another deep breath, Syler stepped forward and knocked on the door. After several long moments, it was opened by a rather young woman whose grim expression managed to only slightly sour her beauty. Like all of the Kuti he had seen, she had blonde hair, though it was on the darker side of the normal range. She moderately tall and had a slim figure that managed not to look frail or delicate. As Lamastus had said, she was indeed very pleasing to the eyes. "I am Syler," he said as an introduction. He got no reaction as she stepped aside to let him in. Syler took one last glance at the men in the street before following her in. Once inside, it took his eyes a few moments to adjust to the lack of bright sunlight. When they did, he studied what he saw. The house featured a central room with two other rooms branching out. He suspected that the one on the side was a bedroom while a doorway in the back led to whatever forge the house had. In the main room was a fireplace with a chimney, a few shelves with jars of food or dried vegetables hanging on strings, a small stool with a water basin on it, a table with three chairs, and a cushioned chair off to the side. The floors, to his surprise, were not dirt, but rather were smoothed stone with a concrete filling between stones. There were two windows with a sand worn glass to offer light without the expense of privacy. The house was surprisingly clean and tidy, clearly Bronwyn was keen on cleanliness. Bronwyn went to the fireplace where she had a pot of what he assumed was supper, but made sure to position herself where she could keep an eye on him. While he had been looking at the room, she had been studying him. Syler realized what he must have looked like was somewhat ashamed at his appearance. He had been on the march for days with only a quick dip in a nearby creek for a bath. He was still in the same worn shirt that he had left Sandrin in and had several days of stubble on his face. "I am sorry for my appearance," Syler stumbled. "We have been marching for some time." She didn't say anything, but bent down to stir the pot. Syler didn't know what to do or even where he should put his pack and sleeping roll. Bronwyn still hadn't said a single word to him or given him any direction as to what he should do. For a few moments, he considered investigating the other rooms, but it felt like too much a violation of this woman's””he couldn't think of her as his wife””home to do so without being invited. "Ummm, do you mind if I sit down?" he asked after a few long minutes of silence. Bronwyn considered for a moment before giving him a small nod. Syler picked one of the wooden chairs at the table and pulled it out a little so he could sit. Once he sat, he put his pack down beside him and pondered his next move. Bronwyn was no longer looking at him, but seemed intently focused on the soup. Silence was fine with Syler now. He had a lot to consider from the day. It all seemed so unreal to him even now. If this was to be his new home, he guessed that the Angvardi meant for him to resume his blacksmithing. It was too much a coincidence that he was put into a house with a forge for it to be anything else. The work didn't bother him, it was what he did in Sandrin, but he was bothered by the fact that he didn't know what was happening to his sister. Then there was this woman, apparently now his wife. He didn't know her nor love her and felt pretty confident in believing that she returned that sentiment. He didn't really know how much she believed the Angvardi's religion or if she was simply a convert of opportunity. The Kuti had been under Angvardi control for months now, there was no telling what sort of things happened here or how they felt. Plus, if they didn't find some way to have a child within a year, they would both be sold to slavery. Bronwyn's abrupt departure through the back door interrupted Syler's thoughts. He didn't know where she went, but decided it would be best not to take this opportunity to snoop around her home and remained where he was. He hoped that she hadn't decided to run off, he was pretty sure that both of them would get in some pretty bad trouble if she did. His fears were unfounded as she returned ten minutes later with a headless and skinless chicken in hand. From behind one of the sets of shelves, she pulled out a wide board and laid it flat against two of the shelves forming a cutting board. For the next several minutes, he watched as she cut the chicken into pieces and fed them into the pot. When she finished, she went back to her stirring routine. At last, after several more minutes of staring each other down, Syler could stand it no more. "Look, miss, I don't like this situation any more than you seem to!" he sputtered out a little louder than he intended. He let out a breath and continued in a calm tone, "I didn't exactly come here by my own choice. If I had my way, I would be back in Sandrin right now trying to wipe the memory of the last few weeks from my mind." She said nothing, but continued to stare at him with a blank expression. For the first time, Syler began to wonder if she was mute. "I am sorry for this, I really am. I had nothing to do with picking you or coming here, the Angvardi did that for me. I wish things could be different, but they aren't." He waited for a reply before sighing at the silence he received. She wasn't deaf because she responded to his question about sitting. "Okay, I know I am not exactly at my best. Is there a place where I might wash up and wash out my clothes? Then at least I won't look like a half crazed Sua." Bronwyn considered for a few moments before gesturing to the side room. He slowly got up, grabbed his pack, and walked into the room. To his surprise, it was larger than he had thought and had another room leading toward the back of the house. Inside the room was a bed, a cabinet, a small chest with a few trinkets on it, and a small cot along the front wall. Light came in from another window, though it was blocked by crude brown curtains. He didn't see anything here and assumed that he should go into the next room. When he opened the door, he was greeted with the sight of a large washbasin and a towel. He had not expected an indoor bath, but was beginning to realize that most of his expectations of this town were not exactly coming to fruition. There was some water in the basin already and it looked clean. Syler figured that Bronwyn was planning on using this water for herself and vowed to drain it out when he was finished and get her some fresh water. The water wasn't heated, but neither was it cold. Either way, it felt good to wash off the dirt and grime of his travels. There was, among other things, a small razor in a box sitting on the floor next to the washbasin. He used that to shave and was impressed with its quality. He didn't recognize its craftsmanship, but wherever it was from, the razor was of the highest quality. The next thing to do was to wash out his clothes. He still had one somewhat clean shirt and pants in his pack, so he donned them and washed everything else out as best as he could and left them hanging on the edge of the washbasin to dry. When he emerged, he felt significantly better. The cold water had refreshed him, as did the fact that he wasn't covered in filth. He emerged into the main room to find Bronwyn missing. Not knowing what else to do, he returned to his familiar chair and waited. He woke to the smell of food and the image of Bronwyn sitting across the table from him. There was a clay bowl with a spoon in it in front of both of them, though neither had been touched. As soon as she saw he was awake, she calmly gestured to his bowl and began eating from her own, something that struck Syler as odd. She was clearly waiting for him to wake up before eating, but he had no idea how long she had been sitting there silently or how long he had been napping. Judging by the dim light coming in from the windows and the numerous candles she had lit, it had to have been several hours. He didn't know if that was a Kuti tradition or if she was simply being polite. Not knowing what else to do and encouraged by the rumbling of his stomach, Syler picked up the spoon and started eating. The soup was actually very good, though with a pang of embarrassment, he noted that it wasn't nearly as hot as it should be. Clearly, his napping had cost Bronwyn a hot meal. "This is very good," he said between bites, "thank you for making it." As he had expected, that got nothing more than a small nod of acknowledgement. They finished the rest of the meal in silence. Bronwyn finished first, but waited for him to finish before getting up to fill their bowls once more. Syler was glad for that because he was starving but didn't want to be rude by asking for more when he didn't know how poor she was. For all he knew, this was an absolute feast for her. He thanked her again as she placed the much warmer bowl in front of him and waited for her to sit down before digging in. When they had finished the bowl, she got up to retrieve more, but Syler stopped her, "No, that is enough, thank you." She nodded and rinsed both bowls out in the washbasin before returning them to a shelf. He watched as she placed a lid over the remaining soup and left it to simmer over the fire. When she had finished and had cleaned up whatever remained, she sat down at the table across from him and stared. The awkwardness of the situation grew until at last, Syler was forced to laugh aloud. At this point, he didn't know what else to do. The situation he found himself in was so hopeless, so overwhelming, and so strange, he found that he could either laugh or cry and in this case, he chose to laugh. And laugh he did, until the tears began to flow. Bronwyn stared at him in her usual silence, but Syler thought he detected a look of confusion and bewilderment with perhaps a little fear on her face. "I am sorry," he said when the laughter finally died down. "You must think I am mad, and you might be right. After all that has happened, I wouldn't be surprised if I was. What with the battle, the fall of my kingdom, our exile here, and being put into this arrangement, I am glad I can even think straight." She didn't say anything, but the fear left her face. "Perhaps I should start from the beginning. I am Syler Penion of the village of Sandrin. I used to help my father gathering herbs and minerals for his apothecary until he died. My sister's husband died shortly after they were married, so in order to take care of the two of us, I moved in with the village blacksmith and became his apprentice. It wasn't glamorous and it was a lot of hard work, but I did what I had to. "Then, the Angvardi invaded and there was a battle and we were defeated. I lost a lot of friends that day. Those of us who survived were rounded up and marched, I assume, to various parts of the Angvardi's conquests to serve as husbands for their little unification scheme. That is how I ended up here." Syler gave a shrug as he reviewed what had happened to him in recent times. It sounded so simple to hear it said in such a short manner, almost like he was talking about someone else. "It looks like we are stuck with each other. I hope we can make the best of it. You seem to be a fine cook and the house is very clean, so that is a good start. I am pretty decent at the forge, so I don't think we will starve." He lowered his voice a little and allowed and edge of seriousness to creep in, "Do not fear me. We may have to live here, but I have no intention of having my way with you. I don't believe in forced marriages and won't have any part in them. I don't know what we will do in a year, but we can figure that out as we have time. Until then, you may sleep soundly knowing I will not touch you." If he wasn't mistaken, he saw a hint of relief on Bronwyn's face, but he wasn't exactly sure. She kept her expression mostly neutral as she sat and simply stared at him. Not knowing what more to do””a feeling he was feeling quite often of late””Syler just started talking about himself and his life. He kept going and going well into the night with Bronwyn just sitting there paying close attention to every word he spoke. At last, he could go on no more. They had been marching since first light and he was exhausted. With a long yawn, he got up and started trying to figure out where he would sleep for the night. "Did you kill any of my people?" asked Bronwyn. Syler nearly tripped over his own feet when he heard her voice. It was the first thing she had said to him all day, and just when he was getting used to the idea of her being mute. "W-what?" he stammered. "You were a warrior," she replied in a clear voice with little trace of any sort of strange accent. "Your people often fight mine, attack us, and raid our camps. Did you ever kill any of my people?" After blinking several times while trying to sort through the shock of not just her speaking, but of what she asked. "Umm, no, I wasn't a warrior. I was conscripted to help defend my people when the Angvardi attacked. I was in a battle and did fight, but I don't believe any of my blows were lethal. I haven't killed anyone." A smile graced Bronwyn's face and she visibly relaxed. "You are a good man, I am glad you were chosen for me. I had great fear that the Sei I was paired with would be a monster. We are told stories of how crass and violent the Sei are and I was afraid what would happen to me. When I first saw you standing in the door, I feared for my future. You were ragged, unkempt, and covered in filth. Despite my fears, you have shown yourself to have some decency and after you bathed and shaved your face, I realize that you are not a monster. Hearing you speak all this time has let me learn of you and helped me realize that you are not a barbarian. My last concern was that you had killed my people in battle. I do not know if I could abide living in a house with one who had killed my kin." While she was speaking, Syler could not help himself but stare in near shock. Her voice was pure, crisp, and totally unlike what he was expecting. She sounded like she could have been from See Sei, not all the way in the wilds of the Kuti's lands. Her voice wasn't the only thing that surprised him, what she said was equally unexpected. He had come into this town fearing the Kuti, and yet, she said that the Kuti feared the Sei. It was an odd world, one that he didn't know if he could ever get used to. "I am glad that I have helped put a rest to your fears," he said at last. "We have much to talk about, especially since you know so much about me and I almost nothing about you. I feared for a time that you were mute and that I would never get to hear your voice." That at elicited a small giggle from her and the ice between them seemed broken. "I am not mute, I was just afraid to say anything that might offend you," Bronwyn replied. "I am sorry for causing you to think that." "Do not trouble yourself," Syler assured her. "We can talk tomorrow, but now, I would like to go to bed." The look of concern and even fear began to creep back into Bronwyn's eyes. The very sight of it and his guess of what caused it sent a chill up Syler's back. "No, not like that. I told you, I do not believe in forced marriages and would never take advantage of you in that manner. I noticed that there is a cot in the corner, I will sleep there." "No," said Bronwyn, "that is where I sleep." She hesitated, but looked like she wanted to say something. That pause gave Syler the time to wonder why she would sleep on a cot when there was a comfortable looking bed available. He didn't try to push things, but simply waited for her to continue. After a few moments, she said, "You should take the bed. Its sheets are clean and nobody has slept there in months. I will be fine on the cot." "I couldn't come into your house and sleep in a place of comfort while a woman slept on a simple cot," protested Syler. He was fine sleeping just about anywhere that was warm. Sometimes, he slept on the floor if there were guests at Fitno's house. Just as long as his sister was able to sleep in a bed he was happy. "Please, I cannot sleep in the bed," Bronwyn said in a pleading voice. "I am fine on the cot, it is where I have slept for many months." Seeing her like this was enough to persuade Syler. He didn't like the notion, but clearly Bronwyn had no desire to sleep in the bed so he wouldn't force her. He knew almost nothing about her, perhaps he would find out why tomorrow when they could speak. "Very well then," he assented. He wanted nothing to anger her, not at this fragile point in their relationship. The last thing he wanted to do was to have to live with a woman who hated him. He went into the other room, stripped off his shirt, and got into the bed. It was a very comfortable bed, to tell the truth. At any rate, it was better than sleeping on the ground like he had been doing for days on end. As soon as his head hit the soft pillow, he found he couldn't keep his eyes open. Click for the best site ever. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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