(Feel free to give any suggestions or ask any questions regarding this story...I'll try to write more in it so I can post the rest here)
“All right, Mel, back up and take a breather.” Varian lowered his sword and wiped sweat off his forehead.
The younger boy grinned at his tutor. “I had you twice.”
Varian smiled and acknowledged the statement with a nod. “Aye, you did that. You’ve gone and worn me out, Mel. You’ll be a first-rate swordsman before too long.”
Varian sighed in annoyance. “No rest for even one moment,” he muttered, turning.
The speaker stood on the steps leading into the castle. It was his older brother, Jevran. Jevran stood a head taller than Varian, and was a hand’s width broader in the shoulders. His square-cut face and light hair were sharp contrasts to Varian’s Grecian features and dark, curly hair.
Varian ran a hand through his hair that hung to his collar and forced a smile. “Good morning, brother.”
“And a worse one to you, half-brother,” Jevran snapped. “Why didn’t you come when I called the first time?”
“Did you call more than once?”
“Would I have asked that if I hadn’t?”
“I was busy.” Varian shrugged it off.
“Doing what? Teaching the sword to some traitor’s brat when I have need of you?”
Mel stiffened. “I can’t help my father’s loyalty, sir.”
“Shut up. Varian, if you insist upon having these...” Jevran searched for a word and his lip curled. “These hangers-on around, make sure they show proper respect to me.”
“Hangers-on?” Varian snorted. “Show some respect for your subjects, Jevran.”
“I’m the king, you...”
“And I’m the king’s brother. Give me few minutes; that’s not so hard to grant.”
Jevran nodded in annoyance.
Varian turned to Mel when his brother showed no signs of leaving. “All right, Mel, you showed considerable improvement over last lesson. Remember what I said last lesson?”
“Keep your swordpoint up.”
“Aye, and...” J
evran grunted softly as he listened to Varian giving Mel more pointers. It was bad enough that his brother was half Highlander, but to listen to him talking with a Highlander accent and giving traitors sword lessons...it irked Jevran to no end. Varian was the complete opposite of what he thought a noble should be. “Varian!” he barked after two minutes were up.
Varian looked over his shoulder, then clapped Mel on the back. “You’re doing well. Same time tomorrow, aye?”
“Right. See you, Varian.” Mel sheathed his sword and jogged away.
Varian sheathed his own weapon and turned to Jevran. “Well? Do you want to move inside?”
“No; out here is fine.”
Varian’s face colored a little when he realized his brother was deliberately trying to embarrass him. “Aye, then. What did you want?” He stayed at the bottom of the steps;
Jevran made no move to walk down the steps. Servants and knights eddied around them, trying to ignore them. “Why do you insist on continuing this behavior? You’re a complete rebel in regard to the conduct of nobles. You’re a king’s son, for pity’s sake, Varian! Carry yourself like one!”
“Don’t play the fool with me.”
“Aye, and I’m serious. What behavior?”
“You insist on catering to the commoners. You teach traitor’s sons how to handle weapons so that they in turn will...”
“Mel can’t help his father was a rebel. You’re judging by...”
“Don’t interrupt me.”
“You just did it to me.”
“I’m the king. Stop bringing up petty arguments.”
Varian scratched his ear. “Aye, and I think you’re using that as an excuse too often. The commoners need a way to protect themselves.”
Jevran waved the suggestion off. “Most of all, you have to stop using that accent.”
“The Highlander accent, with all its ‘ayes’ and whatever else you use. The people don’t like Highlanders, Varian. If I should die, they wouldn’t allow you to rule because they’d be afraid you’d let the Highlanders take us over.”
“The Highlanders don’t have enough power to take us over...they don’t care either,” Varian said hotly, his burr almost making his words unintelligible. “You have no right to accuse...”
“Wait a second.” Jevran came down the steps, his blue eyes narrowing in anger. “How do you know?”
“Know what?” Varian backed up. When it came to a show of outright strength, he knew he was no match for Jevran. If Jevran attacked, the only way Varian could stay alive was by dodging…or killing.
“That the Highlanders don’t have the manpower or the will to invade us. How would you know that unless you had been in contact with a Highlander, one who knew about their armies?”
Varian flushed. “They’re my countrymen, Jevran. How can I not talk to them?”
“We are your countrymen, Varian, never forget that! If you talk to any Highlander ever again, I’ll take action to see you exiled. Understand?”
Varian glared at him. “Aye.”
“And stop that accent!”
“Isn’t it a little late? Everyone knows what my ancestry is.”
“I don’t care.”
“As you want, then...your Highness.” Varian’s voice had scorn under the clipped, polite, Lowlander surface. He wheeled and stalked away, his hands working. Varian was seething. How had his brother found out about his meetings with Kerrin? The stocky warrior was the only Highlander Varian had ever met. He’d always wanted to know more about the country his mother had been from. When he’d accidentally happened upon the Highlander, wounded from a skirmish with the border guards, he’d seen his chance. The soldier had taught him a lot about the Highlands while his leg healed. Nearly every day Varian had ridden out to Kerrin’s hiding place in the woods. Someone must have followed him, someone he was stupid enough to have missed…
Varian whirled, instinct making him grab at his sword. “Mel. Don’t do that to me.”
“I heard what Jevran said. How are you Highlander? Wouldn’t Jevran be...”
“No. Our father had Jevran by his first wife. When she died he married a political fugitive from the Highlands, despite the aversion to her nationality. I was their son. Jevran became king because I was the younger...and because I was half-foreigner.”
“I don’t care if you are or not...I’d rather have you for my king than that...”
“No, Mel. Don’t say it. If anyone heard you, you’d be hung for a traitor, just because you said one thing against the king and because your father was a traitor.”
Mel watched him silently as Varian jerked his saddle and blanket off the rack. “Where are you going?”
Varian slid a bit into his horse’s mouth and led him out of the stall. “To warn Kerrin. Now that Jevran’s found out about our meetings, he’ll probably try to capture Kerrin. I can’t let that happen. If it wasn’t for me Kerrin would’ve gotten back to his village by now.”
“Or maybe not. You said his leg was broken.”
“He would’ve found a way.” Varian tightened the saddle cinch. “Can you keep Jevran busy?”
“I’ll see if Tikah and I can’t cook something up between us. How long do you need?”
“Just an hour or so.”
"Will do." "Thanks, Mel."
"No problem. Just be careful."
copyright 2007 by Magical Ink (magical-ink.blogspot.com)