Aftereffects Of A Fall
Aftereffects Of A Fall
Written by Debbie Pass Tuesday, 09 January 2007 11:29
Four o’clock in the afternoon is that time of day when men who are blessed with leisure reflect on their lives and their accomplishments. And if they are dissatisfied or remorseful, they may at least take comfort in the tranquility of the hour and allow their unsettled feelings to slip away, as a fallen leaf meanders down a stream.
Four o’clock in the morning is an hour when men, who are cursed with wakefulness, but no specific task, dwell on their failures and their regrets. And even if their shame or distress is a small slight, such as an unkind word spoken to a loved one in the heat of argument, that shame is magnified ten thousand fold in the long quiet time between night and morning.
What if the shame is greater than some small argument or misspoken word? What if the shame involves betrayal and the death of kin, albeit for good reason? Even great men, famous men, are not immune to the mood which is set when sleep eludes and morning seems too distant.
Whether or not Baron Gunther Kavallas was a “great man” was debatable and dependent upon who was asked. But if the question was posed to Sir Thanos Torgny, he would answer that Baron Kavallas was the greatest of men, and not simply out of loyalty to his liege lord. For while it was true that Sir Thanos was Knight Champion to Baron Kavallas, he was also one of the closest friends the man had known in his lifetime.
Sir Thanos sat in the waiting chamber outside of the bedroom occupied by Baron Kavallas. He was listening to the Baron pace the floor, as Kavallas had done each night for the past week, or so the night watch had informed Sir Thanos. After the first night’s report, Sir Thanos assumed that recent events had unsettled the Baron, and understandably so. One night’s lost sleep was nothing to -- no pun intended, he mused -- lose sleep over. At the second night’s report of the Baron’s restlessness, Thanos assumed that being in unfamiliar surroundings might have something to do with it. For as nice as Lord Baronet Huber Von Crane’s guest house was, Kirgaldyn was not Zurinrad. Von Crane had offered to give up his family’s lodgings but Kavallas would not hear of it. The Baron had stated he would be back in Zurinrad quickly enough and there was no need to put his Baronet out.
But preparations to march on Zurinrad were going slower than expected. The fall of the Baronial seat to Rois and Karralyn combined forces had shocked much of the Duchy a week ago. The Duke and his advisors were scrambling to reposition forces in the wake of smaller hits on targets near and around Moorwyn and Duvanis. No one knew where the Icelanders off of the waters surrounding Dirs Keep would strike next. And from all accounts, Baron Lorinth and Baronet Saravatum were ready to march on the elves in Silvermist. So much chaos and the loss of a home could certainly account for a few nights’ missed sleep, or so Sir Thanos had thought at first. But five nights later and the Baron had not slept once; had not so much as laid his head down as far as Thanos knew.
Thanos tried, but he could not get his friend to talk to him about his troubles. Gunther Kavallas had always been a strong man, and strong men do not accept help easily. So Thanos had done the only thing he knew how to do. He had sent for help for his friend and he waited here, standing guard outside his lord’s room, as he had done the last two nights. He rubbed his eyes and hoped his plea for aid would be answered soon.
A soft tap at the door and one of the night watch opened it to allow entry to a tall man dressed in red and black. Sir Thanos did not immediately recognize the man, but there was something familiar in the way he moved.
“Sir Thanos,” the man spoke in a low voice. “I am Tristan Kavallas, Latronis Cruentus of the Golden Oam. My kinsman, Tubric, sent me in his stead. He begs you forgive that he cannot answer your call in person, but his wife is about to give birth and he is worried for her safety.”
Thanos nodded and waved the apology away, asking if Tristan would care for food or drink. Tristan declined and conversation stalled. Sir Thanos knew Tubric Kavallas well. Tubric would not have sent this young man if he did not trust him. But Sir Thanos’ pride, not for himself but for his Baron, could not allow him to ask this stranger for help. Tristan turned his ear towards the sound of the Baron’s footsteps and he asked Thanos. “How many nights has he been like this?”
Thanos recovered from his surprise at the question fairly quickly, “Five. With no sleep at all.” Thanos beckoned Tristan to sit in one of the wooden chairs towards the end of the room farthest from the Baron’s sleeping quarters. The two men sat and Thanos awkwardly continued, “I know that the fall of Zurinrad was a blow to him.”
Tristan responded, “Yes, made even harsher by the fact that the Karralyns were willing to accept help from the Rois to make it happen. But this is more than the loss of Zurinrad, for Gunther knows he will win it back.” Thanos marveled at the easy arrogance of the young man, a trait shared by most Kavallas’. Regardless of the fact that many Mytherians did not accept their place in the noble order, the Kavallas’ had never doubted their right to rule. It was a trait that Thanos admired in his liege lord. And it was trait that allowed Thanos to warm to this brash young man.
“Then what is this condition?” Thanos asked Tristan, with a desperate edge to his hushed voice. “He must have sleep or he will go mad. I have tried to get him to speak or spar, anything to give him release, but he will have none of it. And I have failed my lord.”
“Have you tried a sleep spell?” Tristan asked, stating an obvious answer.
Sir Thanos voiced his distaste, “I cannot assault my Baron even if I knew the magics, nor stand by and allow another to do so. And he will not allow it, I’ve asked.”
Tristan rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway. Magical sleep doesn’t make up for natural sleep, never has. Did you know that the Oam did studies on that?” Thanos snorted and Tristan continued, “No, in order to get the Baron to sleep, you will have to make him confront those demons he is wrestling with.”
Thanos rolled his eyes, “You’ve already said he knows he’ll retake Zurinrad. What else could trouble him?”
Tristan looked surprised, “He’s your friend and you don’t know? This goes deeper than Zurinrad and the Duchy. Think about what he is, what all Kavallas’ are. Think about his past, man. Remember the Battle of Zurinrad more than twenty years ago? Gunther held half of the old barony’s lands after defeating the former Baron Payne. But he knew that his people, the Karralyns, could not hold the land. And he knew that eventually his own people would challenge him and fight him, for that is the way of all Karralyns. He saw nothing more for his family, for Clan Kavallas, than an eternity of struggle with no guarantees for a future. So, for the sake of his family, he sold out his race and became the pet of Valeron Von Gunrich.” Thanos narrowed his eyes at the remark, but Tristan waved his hand, “That is how the Karralyns saw it. But Gunther saw Count Valeron as the strongest of them all, and strength is something a Karallyn and a Kavallas can follow. But now Valeron is gone. And Zurinrad has fallen. And Gunther Kavallas must face the decisions of his past and the consequences they bring. Was he wrong for turning from his race? Is Valeron’s son a lord worthy of Gunther’s service?”
“Treason!” Sir Thanos hissed as he rose from his chair indignantly. “My Lord Baron would never think such thoughts!”
“Sit down,” growled Tristan and Thanos did. “He is thinking those thoughts even now, because he is a Karralyn and Karralyns respect strength. It’s virtually the only thing they respect. And Gunther Kavallas, though he is named Mytherian nobility, is still a Karralyn.” Thanos rubbed his forehead and looked troubled. “Oh, don’t fret like an old woman,” Tristan sighed. “He knows deep down that Count Tregorn is as formidable and as strong as his father, Valeron, was. He will serve the Count loyally, or I hunt faeries for a living. No, his true struggle lies with how he betrayed his people and whether or not he did the right thing. That is what he needs to come to terms with.”
“How?” Thanos pleaded with the younger man, not caring for his pride or the pride of his Baron now, but caring more for the welfare of his friend. “How will he come to terms with it?”
“With some help,” Tristan replied, as he stood and opened the outer door to the hall and had a few hushed words with the night watchman there. The watchman’s footsteps echoed down the hall and Thanos wondered what Tristan had said to the man. Tristan turned to Thanos and stated, “Don’t worry. I think I know what will help the Baron. I’ve sent the watch to fetch it.”
More than a few moments later, a young woman in nurse’s clothing arrived at the door with an infant cradled in her arms. “My Lord?” she said to Tristan, confusion evident in her features.
“No need to worry, Yanna,” Tristan said as he took the babe from her. “I only need young Seiger for a few moments.” Yanna went to stand by Thanos as Tristan held the baby in one arm and knocked on Gunther’s bedchamber door with the other.
Thanos followed Tristan in, shutting the door behind him. Gunther sat at the window overlooking the guest house’s grounds below. He glanced at his kinsman and his Knight Champion, then at the baby in Tristan’s arms.
If Tristan Kavallas was taken aback by Gunther’s appearance, the haggard look on the old man’s face and the bent and beaten appearance of his body, he showed no sign. He merely walked up to the Baron and placed the infant in the older man’s arms. Gunther took the child, careful to support its head, and gave Tristan a questioning look.
“Your great nephew, Seiger Kavallas,” Tristan informed him. “Born the very day Zurinrad fell, in a barn on the way to Kirgaldyn, where his mother had fled with the other Kavallas’ who were fortunate enough to make it out.” Tristan stared at the Baron defiantly. “His father is still in the city.” Thanos could feel the tension building between them. Tristan was challenging the Baron. Challenging him to accept the past and make peace with it, to take back Zurinrad and free Seiger’s father and return order to his family and his Barony. Baron Kavallas nearly bristled with indignation at the challenge in the younger man’s eyes. Thanos prepared himself to intercede, though whether on behalf of his lord or this brash young man, he did not know.
Gunther looked down at the baby in his arms and smiled. “I should kill you for this,” he said to Tristan.
“And that would be your right,” Tristan smirked back. “Your permission to take my leave, my Lord?”
Gunther waved his free hand, “All of you, out of my sight. I want to spend some time with Seiger here. He’s probably a better companion than either of you two mother hens.”
Tristan beckoned to Thanos and they left the chamber. Yanna met them at the door, but Tristan helped her into a small chair in the corner, calming her fears and reassuring her that the babe was fine and would be returned to her care shortly.
Thanos extended his hand as Tristan turned towards him. “My thanks, Lord Tristan, to you and Lord Tubric. Shall I have the servants make up a spare cot for you?”
Tristan shook his hand, “No need for thanks nor for the bed. I must be gone. I was happy to help but I am behind schedule in my mission for my Order.”
Thanos raised an eyebrow in interest, “Yes, you said you were with the Oam. Aiding in a mission against the Court of Night, no doubt?”
“Actually, against the Malefic Council,” Tristan replied. “I have information regarding one of their number who still sleeps. Some would argue that he is the strongest of them all. The Oam has tried unsuccessfully for years to destroy this one. I hope, with what knowledge I can gather, that this year we will attain our goal.”
“I wish you luck, Lord Kavallas,” Sir Thanos offered. “Good travels to you.”
“My hopes are with you as well, Sir Thanos,” Tristan replied as he walked down the hall. “May Zurinrad be retaken quickly. For all of our sakes.”
Sir Thanos nodded and walked back into the antechamber. Yanna, holding the infant, bid him good night as he held the door open for her. He took his place in the chair by the door to Gunther’s bedchamber. As he settled in, he turned his ear to the wall and listened for the sounds of his Baron’s footsteps.
But all he heard was silence. And then a soft snoring.
Sir Thanos smiled and allowed himself to close his eyes. And dream of peace.