A Heart in Exile – Watch For Me, Little One – Part 1

Theodas was looking at the lake, shining under the full moon like so many silver candles. The stars reflected upon its surface, gemstones and diamonds over a black velvet sky. It was summer and the night was singing around him. Far into the forest, a wolf was howling. A dove was taking wing. The wind was blowing through the pines and oaks, and the little brook was babbling happily.

Sitting with his legs crossed on his bedroll, in front of his small fire, Theodas was looking at the world around him. The longer his eyes gazed upon the nature that lay before him, the more he felt like a stranger in it. He closed his blue eyes and breathed in the cold evening air. The scent of earth and blooming flowers were everywhere. The humid touch of the water, as well as the warmth of the trees, surrounded him.

Theodas was holding a bow in front of him. His muscles tensed to the extreme as he focused on the small target painted on the apple tree.

“Relax, deep breaths, brother.”, said Thamior. “Don’t overthink this. Draw, aim and shoot.”

Theodas did his best to steady his heart, but he could feel the gaze of his brothers behind him. If he failed to hit the target, Thamior would be understanding and kind to him, but Laucian would surely make fun of him for the whole day. He always did.

However, if he managed to hit this time, he could shut him up for a moon’s turn at least. The prospect of it made Theodas feel a bit calmer. He aimed the centre of the target with precision, considered the strength of the wind, corrected his position and when he finally felt confident enough, he shot.

And missed…

As expected a roar of laughter exploded behind him. A flush crept up the neck of Theodas, refusing to turn to his brothers. The arrow was not even far from the target itself. It lodged a couple of feet away into the backyard fence. But that would be enough for his brother, he knew.

Flushed and angry, Theodas turned to his brothers and raised his eyes to face their judgement.

Thamior was a tall, powerfully built and fair-haired young elf. His blond hair was kept into a small ponytail that he sometimes let loose on special occasions. His blue eyes were shining with intelligence and resolve. Thamior dreamt of serving the population as a soldier or a guard. To be of service to the community, he called that… Doubtless, this was why he only dressed as would a soldier. On that day, he wore a black leather jerkin over a white woollen shirt, black breeches and leather boots and kept a longsword and dagger on his leather belt.

Thamior himself was younger than Theodas, only by a couple of years, but he bested him in every way. He was a better sword, spear, archer… even a better rider. And of course, the ladies only saw him when he was around his brother. Despite being younger, he was the golden son and Theodas looked to him sometimes like an older brother, both stronger and wiser.

An outsider of the family might have mixed Theodas and Thamior for they looked very much alike, but there would be no mistaking them with Laucian. He was as different from them as the moon would be from the sun. Where Theodas and Thamior had blue eyes and blond hair, Laucian had yellow, almost golden eyes with short hair, black as coal, and a pointy beard that he oiled daily. He was of a similar height as Theodas but stronger and a bit fat on the belly.

Laucian himself was the youngest of Theodas brothers and sometimes named the black sheep of the family. He loved going for drinks and fights in every inn and taverns of the nearby towns they would settle next to. He loved to wench, gamble and would make friends with the less respectable people of the streets. Laucian himself was quite something to behold. He was always dressing well, with colourful velvet shirts and jerkins, sable cloaks and boots of the best leather possible. He was not as handsome as Thamior or Theodas, but he had strange charismatic features that made girls go crazy over him. He called it “his little gift” and he liked to play with it as often as possible to their father’s greatest annoyance.

Laucian often did small jobs in the nearby towns. Bartender one day, a farmer another, horse groomer the next… But Theodas knew very well that Laucian never actually did any of those works. He was a thug, employed to steal, corrupt or frighten for the benefit of more powerful people. Theodas did not mind, nor judge; Laucian had never been a good student, and he lacked the discipline that Thamior had been born with. He guessed his brother had to make do with what the Gods gifted him at birth.

And on those gifts, Laucian had been very fortunate… He was strong, swift and quick. He could use a longsword and a bow as well as Thamior, but he had no rivals when using his daggers. He kept an impressive collection of those knives in his room and often sharpened them before going to sleep or to “work”.

Laucian, despite all his flaws, was not an evil person. He could be very kind and gentle at times but always had this grin on his lips that only grew larger when he was about to lash out with one of his japes. And he always had some in store for his older brother, especially when they were training together.

“You’re improving brother”, said Thamior gently as he moved to retrieve the arrow. “Did you make a note of the wind change?”

“Yes”, answered Theodas half annoyed, half resigned.

“Did you keep both your eyes open? Put your weight on your back leg? Made sure that you had kept your balance?”, asked Thamior for the hundredth time.

“Yes, I did.”

“Of course he did, Thamior. But this is Theodas we are talking about. Most likely he saw a bird nesting in the tree and didn’t want to disturb it.”, Mocked Laucian. He moved to Theodas and mussed his hair with his left hand while drawing a dagger from his belt with the right. “Our brother is way too gentle to be a warrior. The day he faces a goblin, he’s more likely to marry it than to kill it!”

Laucian laughed eagerly and threw his dagger at the target without even looking. The dagger hit the centre of the circle and stayed perfectly still.

Thamior sighed and went to retrieve the dagger from the target before throwing it on the ground before Laucian.

“If you are going to be like that, Laucian, you can go home.” Said Thamior angrily, “Theodas doesn’t need you shaming him more than you usually do. If you don’t want to help…”

Laucian raised his hands defensively in the air and smiled.

“Sorry! Sorry! Didn’t mean to be rude…” He knelt and picked his dagger back before putting it away on his belt again. He walked back behind Theodas, still smiling. “I’m shutting up now. Go on Theo… You can do it, I believe in you!”

Theodas sighed and turned back to Thamior who was bringing him back his arrow.

“Come on, Thamior. It’s no use. I couldn’t even shoot right even if my life depended on it.”, he said in a disappointed and resigned voice.

Thamior smiled slightly, offering him the arrow once more.

“Try for me one more time. And if you don’t manage, we’ll go back home together and forget about all this, alright?”

Theodas hesitated for a moment but finally grabbed the arrow. Thamior moved to his side, arms crossed. Theodas nocked his arrow, drew the bow and shot without even aiming…

With a loud thud, the arrow sank into the center of the target, exactly where his brother’s dagger was minutes ago.

Theodas turned to his brother, flabbergasted. Both Thamior and Laucian looked at Theodas with smiles on their faces.

“I did it…”, said Theodas, still not believing.

Thamior put a hand on Theodas shoulder, looking proudly at his brother.

“We knew you would, Theo”, said Laucian, “You just needed to stop thinking for a minute and let your guts do the rest.”

Thamior took the bow from Theodas hands and went to retrieve the arrow from the target.

“Say Thamior… Fancy a drink or two to celebrate Theodas’ first target? I’m buying!”, offered Laucian eagerly.

“If you’re buying, then sure. If Theodas want to join us of course.”, Thamior answered.

Theodas looked at the sun already setting behind him.

“I don’t know really… It’s already late, it’ll be night soon. Shouldn’t we head back?”

“Oh come on Theo! Don’t be dull!! It’s just for an hour or two, they won’t even miss us.”, argued Laucian, “At least they won’t miss me for two hours!!”

Theodas turned to his brothers, all smiling and merry when his hesitation vanished finally.

“Fine. But two hours at most! And no starting bar brawls!”, warned Theodas.

“On my honour as a Loracaryn, brother!”, said Laucian. “And for the bar brawls… I’m more of a mind to dance with Jalya than fighting another drunkard.”

“Jalya? Isn’t that the bartender’s daughter, brother? Redhead, green eyes and the crooked teeth?”, asked Thamior half amused, half surprised.

“Yeah well… Nobody’s perfect, hey?”, answered Laucian with a shrug. “She’s not the finest girl of the land but she is a damn fine dancer and I expect lover as well.”

On those words, Laucian started his way down to the village, leaving his two brothers behind. They looked at each others with knowing smiles.

“So, I guess this Jalya means that he’s done with Tysha?”, said Theodas, trying to not burst into laughter.

Thamior shrugged, putting the bow and quiver on him before following Laucian.

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