Fyskar: Ch 24

Fyskar: Legend of the Bai book 1 by Chapel Orahamm, antler and crow on pile of skulls with ember and storm

Clothes lay scattered about Mirza’s room. Eoin, exhausted as he was, woke to a low sun. He lay spread out on the prince’s bench, rugs having been moved to leave him bare to the cold tile. Mirza’s mantle blanketed across him protectively. Fearchar lay asleep on his wife’s lap on the floor. His hair had come loose from its ties, braids cascading across her lap in a fiery river. She rested her head on her arm on the bench, breathing softly.

Eoin tried to pull his brain back into his skull. His stomach churned. He took in the room to find the prince scratching on manuscripts at his desk. Eoin extracted himself from the bench. His hips twinged in protest. Sitting up, his head spun, and his stomach tried to lurch into his throat. He calmed for a moment, waiting.

“Are you not well, Eoin?” the prince asked quietly, shifting to leave his seat at the unease in the white-haired man’s eyes.

Thank you for the cold of the tile. It helps if I go too far. I’m a bit out of practice. Sore at best, Mirza, he reassured. Must you be so large?

Mirza settled back into his chair and took back up his quill. “So, that is what a White Horse can do? The way you explained it before, it didn’t sound as intense. To be able to feel so distinctly another person’s entity that is not you. It was fascinating. I can see, though, why it would not end well with my wives,” the man mused, a satisfied grin spreading across his lips.

You have several. I do not wish to contemplate what balancing you and one or more of them would be like if that was ever an option. I’ve never had it spiral so far out of control before, Eoin admitted, finding his unsteady feet, his head throbbing. Never managed that many emotional inputs either. Memories of their time refused to unfurl, though fragments weaselled their way back in some semblance of order. All that came to mind clearly was too many emotions snapping across his conscious, too much heat, too much lust. The concept of coming together like that again was enough to make his hands sweat. He was not sure if it was terror or anticipation that caused the reaction.

He glanced about, trying to place where his plaid had made itself off to. His hired hand lay on most of the clothes and Seonaid’s skirts. Eoin laid the prince’s mantle over the sleeping couple.

“Why did you come back to me? You could have had the bracers, the bangles removed, you know? The gold alone, not to mention the gems, would have seen you to the end of your days.” The prince looked back down at his ink, not entirely wanting to meet Eoin’s searching gaze.

Eoin walked over to the prince, his legs shaky as a new lamb. The prince glanced up, fixated for a second before turning away. Eoin sat down on the cold floor near the desk and leaned his back against the tile wall. Mirza’s pen scratched across the parchment rhythmically. The physician stared up at the prince curiously. When Mirza did not look to him, he tapped on the tile to direct the man’s gaze. Mirza swung his focus down to Eoin. 

Why did you insist on gold rather than iron manacles? Eoin held his arm up, watching the setting sun glint through the stone embedded in the metal.

“That necklace of yours – “

My torc? Eoin blinked at the man, confused. He fingered the terminal at the base of his throat.

“I thought it had come from a prior master. That first day you came to my rooms and gave me everything to keep your family safe and to keep me from taking it? It was too lovely to break, but I wanted to-I don’t know. I wanted to show that I valued you more, that I had more power than whoever put it on you and let you go. I was jealous someone had you first.” He rubbed at the back of his head, trying to find the words. Eoin fingered the torc again as Mirza stumbled over words. “It’s a position in your people, though. I didn’t know it held that kind of weight. 

“You haven’t told me much of yourself, have you? For the years we’ve been together, you’ve always kept up a wall, kept your distance, kept your emotions from getting involved. The difference between slave and master. A person who lost everything and a person who had everything to lose. The difference you allowed to exist when you could have done more with or without me.” He chuckled softly, “I only just learned your birth name.” The prince left his chair and sank down next to Eoin.

Turn of face, Shahazadeh Marduk Mirza. My torc is like your crown. The crown I brought back is usually regarded as ceremonial, for rituals and events, not everyday wear like yours. My father made my torc for me, as I will make them for my sons.

 Your crown you take off your own head every evening to become ordinary for a night. Mine, I am bound to it, a being for the Fyskar. You’ll take my head to get it. I can’t take it off and step away from being anything other than who I was born and raised to be. I belong to my people and will remain so into death. I live as yours. I die as mine, Eoin mused.

Mirza, with the back of a crooked finger, gently traced the edge of Eoin’s palm to encourage the man to take his hand.  Digits wove with his. 

Mirza leaned into the void, relief sagging his shoulders. “You have taught me many lessons from the time you were brought here to the time you returned. As you say, you belong to your people, to yourself. My father and brothers may think me mad. Your bodyguard’s wife has made me think more than I like about these topics. To buy and sell in human life. Your family that you did everything for? They are free. In time, and with effort, we may yet change the ways of the palace in the acquisition of servants. 

“I missed you. I missed your presence at my side, the shared conversations and walks in the courtyards. Lying awake night after night, replaying the little things you would do, you don’t even know you do it, the thoughts would cut at me over and over, leaving me raw and cold. It’s been the first time in my life to realize what it is to have something precious ripped from me, and it made me question. 

“Your return. The woman…

“I’ve ended up with answers I’ve never had to come to. I am sorry for the way I’ve treated you. I can’t apologize in any way that would explain in a meaningful way. But, I’m sorry for what I’ve done. For what we have done not just to you but to the others in the palace. There are families hurting, families hurt, and I’m contributing to it.” Mirza took in a trembling sigh, his nerves and scrambled thoughts jittery across the connection.

“Your father did beautiful work. Vasili even complements its intricacy. Do you still intend to continue your service after what we did?” Mirza touched the torc once more. His lips trembled as he brushed his thumb up Eoin’s neck to cup the back of his head.

Eoin relaxed as the man’s warmth eased through his skin. “I needed to have somewhere safe. Being your servant keeps my talents private, which suits me well at my age. Your position is my aviary to protect from the fox and the wind. I know where my meals come from and who cares for me and mine. Every time you release me, I can leave and never return. A pair of jesses is a sacrifice I’m willing to tolerate to have a perch where I can sunbathe in peace. I’m tired of running and fear. Your predilections fall in line with mine, which works for me.

“You are the safest place I have found to raise my children away from witch hunters, persecution, fire. Their talents were beginning when I left. Soon, they will need me to train them in handling their connections. These high walls and your name to protect them in this intolerant world is more than I have been capable of obtaining with my own hands, no matter how hard I have tried, and I have tried. No one will harm my children or me without knowing they in turn harm you.” Images flashed through the void. The use of the manacles had worked well to curtail ill-treatment in the halls of the palace. It lent weight to his actions.

“I can give up my freedoms to keep my children, Amina, Tau, Fearchar, Seonaid alive. The last I have to lose are the souls of my family. I have nothing left after that. Those who have lost everything. Those with nothing left to lose. Those who can afford to lose it all. They are the ones whose decisions tip the scales. 

“Leaving on the journey?” Eoin tucked hair behind his ear in the void. “I was well aware I could have died many times over getting there and back. I realise I could have left them in your care, and they would have grown into fine young men, and you would have been able to marry them to any one of your many sisters. 

“I can’t leave them, and they are the last of me. In this day and age, I am bound to a society I am not allowed to function in. It isn’t built to work with people like me. Even in the isle, I required helpers to function, to translate for me. To have my voice stripped from me is to take away my one last access to true independence. 

“I could not say what you and I share is the relationship between Seonaid and Fearchar or Amina and Tau. If you have truly given my sons, Amina and Tau, my bodyguard and his wife, our freedom, then I am your friend, Marduk. If not, then I am nothing more than your physician.” 

Eoin rolled his head to look at Fearchar and Seonaid in the real world.

“You appear to have found an admirable pair in these two.” Mirza studied Eoin’s interest.

“I’m not sure I would call them servants. Fearchar prefers to consider himself a bodyguard, and I don’t think Seonaid would appreciate being called anything other than his wife now. They asked to be incorporated into the Fyskar clan when we left the Isle. I am not my husband. I am not a clan chief, but they pressed.” A soft touch of a smile flitted across Eoin’s lips. Mirza bent to taste the corner of that crease.

“Are you positive you will not marry my sister? Father will be insistent once he finds out you are a king in your own right. You and Golnar share the same issue with language. Maybe that type of companionship would be good?” The prince released his hold on Eoin. He pulled up a bit of the chain on Eoin’s bracer, letting the links cross his fingertips.

Eoin leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes to think. The slide of the chain along his palm as the prince counted links tickled. If he married the prince’s sister, it would solve the prince’s problem. He was also aware that he would have to relive his memories once more, have to become raw and at the mercy of one more person who didn’t know his family’s ways.

No, I will not marry Golnar. Bercilack and Osla were my one and only. I may take lovers, but I don’t think I’ll ever marry again, he informed the prince emphatically. If you insist she needs a physician, and your people’s social circumstances dictate that I am unfit to approach an unmarried woman, find me an acceptable apprentice to train for her.

“You are royal. Will you not reclaim your homeland?” the prince asked, changing the topic with Eoin’s sharp finality.

Eoin snorted. With what army? He jabbed. He had no line to the throne of Scotland or England by any means. His clan, in years past, had refused to recognize the legitimacy of those who ruled the land. They had been of the old people, the last of the Picts. They had been a different entity, separating themselves from the Celts and Gauls, Romans and the Britons for so many years. He was royal and not. He would keep the title, though, if it guaranteed his safety.

Mirza conceded the point. Were they not understanding of you? The black-haired man pressed gently, his signs slower.

Even in the end, they gloated over the house, the lives they took. Served me my poisoned wine in my husband’s cups he had made for my wife. They would not have understood. They killed my clan, my own children, my husband and my wife. They burned my daughter and my wife at the stake, intent that they would never Walk the Forest that way. They tried to take them from me.  I thought I would never see them again in this life or the next. I consecrated the soil my clan, my husband, my sons are buried under in hopes of helping their spirits journey back across the River to the Woods where I may reunite with them if the world turns in my favour.

They forced me to run for my life and my sons’ lives. I ended up in Ethiopia with no understanding of the language, no understanding of the way of life. I am lucky my sons and I did not die of disease or creatures. I was lucky Amina took me in, and Egret Nest accepted me. I was caught and turned into a slave with the rest of my village. I used my…he baulked, glowering at his hands, recalling the sensation of pushing terror into another person with such ferocity to burst the victim’s heart. He shook his head and drew in a steadying breath, tears working themselves at the back of his eyes. I killed in a way no Fyskar should ever do. I was sold. I might have become your physician, but I was first your plaything. I’ve had to watch my children grow up, unable to talk to them in my native tongue. You think there is a home for me anywhere else? He looked up at the prince bitterly.

Mirza pulled the chain to the lock at the bracer. Eoin let him have it. His prince fiddled with the lock, brushing it almost thoughtlessly. “Where’s your key? You didn’t lose it, did you?” He slipped his fingers into Eoin’s hand.

“And have Vasili angry at me? I’d muck stables in sackcloth for a year before going to him saying I’d lost his key,” Eoin protested. The prince snorted. “I have it in my bag.” He showed the prince where he had tied it in the duffel. His mind slipped to the chest and its contents.

“You found what you were looking for?” Mirza asked quietly, allowing Eoin’s memories to flow through him. Sawdust and swirling carvings, wooden toys and glass vials swamped his mind momentarily.

“I must take time soon to Walk the last remains of my family to The Forest. I had thought their soitheach beatha destroyed when the Daleroch desecrated and burned my house. Fearchar found them for me.” Eoin pulled his hand from the prince.

“Let me know when and where, and I will have a space set aside for you in the family grave,” Mirza offered.

Dawn, tomorrow would be the best time. I have what I need in my box to Walk them. Eoin pushed himself from the tile and walked over to Fearchar and Seonaid. With a gentle touch, he roused Fearchar. Can I get my kilt? Eoin signed, pointing to the fabric.

“I’ll send command with one of my guards.” Mirza rose to his desk and scribbled a hasty note.

Fearchar, bleary-eyed, looked up at Eoin. What? His brain took a minute to catch up with his sight. He nodded, then looked down. He blinked. “Feck’s this? Eoin, ye bastart, why’s me claus aff? The ‘ell. Seonaid’s too,” he muttered.

Sex. Why else would all three of us be butt naked and not bathing in a river? You were lying on them, else I’d at least be dressed. Eoin tugged at his kilt.

“Where was Ah fur aw this?” Fearchar snipped.

Where you normally end up, when the three of us come together. Just had an addition to the fun this time. Am I to get my clothes before or after Seo wakes up and wants to have this discussion with a man who hasn’t even introduced himself properly to her yet?

” ‘fore, ‘n yer colossus better make nice with at least providin’ a name sometime ‘fore she leaves this room. Only polite.” Fearchar extracted his and Eoin’s clothes from the heap. He laid the prince’s mantle around his wife’s shoulders.

“What does he say?” Mirza lifted his quill from his parchment. Fearchar’s eyes snapped to his.

He’s not quite awake, Mirza, and you’re introducing yourself to Seonaid properly when she wakes up, regardless of your particular notions of propriety. Her husband’s sense of honour is burning. Eoin laid out his belt and the length of cloth on top of it.

“It is not on fire! ‘A’right. Maybe a little.” Fearchar pulled his locks out of his face.

“We do that, and he’s asking out of honour? I’m not sure what we did is considered in any way honourable.” Mirza glanced at the still sleeping woman momentarily before turning to take the brunt of the glare Fearchar cast him. “He is angry at me?” The prince tested gingerly.

Surprised is more like. I usually don’t pull them into that part of me in such an immediate way. There’s usually some bit of warming up to the occasion. Seems he does not entirely recall everything that transpired.

Fearchar stopped straightening his necklaces to wag an accusing finger at Eoin. “Surprised, my freckled ass! Yer giant goes ‘n ‘as ye up ‘gainst him like a love-drunk ewe ‘n ye pull us in ta find ye completely gone ta the feelin’s. That was fast, ‘n hard. I prefer my warm-ups!”

“I must admit, it is all a little fuzzy around the edges.” Mirza rubbed at the back of his neck after Eoin’s translation.

My memory is coming back to me much more clearly than the rest of you then. Attacked from both sides by you three, and you took your glorious time, Marduk. Twice! You pushed me to it twice before saiting yourself. I’m going to be hung dry for a week.

“I am not apologizing. I missed that face you make when you’re thoroughly enjoying yourself. Is that so wrong to wish to witness it more than once after finally reuniting after a year?”

I did miss your attention to detail. Eoin returned to pleating.

“So, this is that garment you wanted so badly.” Mirza got up and walked over to look at the massive bolt of fabric. Eoin sat back on his heels, waiting for the man to finish his inspection. He knelt to finger the cloth. Eoin moved his fingers away from it and straightened the wrinkle out. “It is wool?” the man asked, curious.

We do have sheep where I’m from and take pride in our weaving. Eoin rolled his eyes.

“Oye, Eoin,” Fearchar hissed, not taking his eyes off the prince. “Wha’s goin’ on?” He pulled his ball of clothing in front of his nakedness and came to kneel next to Eoin.

I had wanted this made for the boys but was having diff – oh for the love. Eoin reached over and touched the man on the arm. “Easier to listen to me when you watch my hands rather than glare at Mirza,” he quipped. “Back when I realised the boys were coming of age, I had asked the prince if I could have a set of these made for the boys.

“Clearly, he’s never been anywhere near a loom. The idea wasn’t quite getting through. I thought for sure I’d never have it back, let alone have them for Callum and Albin. Now I can take it to Azar and have her put them together.” He broke the connection to pull together pleats. His chain kept interrupting him, though, knocking the crisp lines askew. He muttered curses in his mind.

“Must it be so large?” the prince asked, still perplexed with the length. It practically took up the entire floor space of his sitting area.

Must you? Eoin snipped.

The prince bit down on his bottom lip and rubbed his face with his hand. “You like it, and you know it.” The prince flashed a sly smile.

And that is why it must be so large. Eoin returned the comment. The prince furrowed his brow for a moment. Eoin hid his smile as he continued box pleating on the line. It’s only four and a half yards. Everyday wear. My ceremonial ones are eight yards, he informed the prince.

“It gets bigger!” The prince protested. “I’m surprised at the sheer mass of fabric that has to be pleated every time it’s worn.”

Seems to work that way. If you can avoid undressing me every time I wear it, I won’t take up your sitting room, Eoin snorted. He laid himself into the pleats and pulled the fabric around his waist, cinching it down with the belt.

“But it’s more fun that way,” Mirza goaded.

Then make sure I have time to get dressed if you insist, or else you’ll have an awkward conversation with whoever comes in here next. Eoin tapped Mirza’s chest to back up.

“Eoin, everything a’right?” Fearchar nudged him.

“Perfectly,” Eoin replied as he stood up, running a quick finger up Fearchar’s shoulder. “Want to wake Seonaid?” The physician asked. He was eager to return to his chamber and unpack. He wanted to begin preparing for his family’s Walk and his boys’ coming-of-age ceremony. When will my sons be back from Isfahan?

They have been sent for. They will be arriving within the week. Mirza replied while Fearchar woke Seonaid.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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