7 Deadly Sins – Wrath

“Seibel.”

The scent of fresh baking bread permeated the large, tidy, kitchen. Flowers and herbs, growing in the garden outside, added their own bouquet through the open window, carried in on a gentle breeze. Afternoon sun shone inside, casting everything in a lovely warm glow. It was beautiful. A perfect day.

He hated every inch of it.

He wanted little more than to tear the pots from where they hung, to fling the family crockery to the ground in a massive, broken, heap. In his mind he pictured himself slamming the window closed so hard the glass shuddered. At least it would keep the damned sun out of here. It was all too normal. It was wrong. The world was laughing at him.

“Seibel.”

His father’s voice broke into his thoughts, and he tore his gaze away from the slice of green and blue paradise he’d been glaring at through the open window.

What?

“I was saying, you do not have to do this.” The man’s voice was firmer now, but no less caring.

He didn’t answer.

His father and mother had been here since the news had reached them. Now they were trying to dissuade him from leaving, from avenging his wife’s death.

Seibel’s fingers curled into a fist, nails cutting into his palm. He welcomed the pain. It understood him. When it looked as if his father were going to speak more empty reassurances he slammed his fist down hard on the thick wooden table.

“Yes, I do!”

A shudder rocked the teacups arrayed between them, liquid sloshing over the edge of the one closest to him. He felt a perverse glee at the shocked look on his mother’s face, her eyes widened in disbelief at his outburst.

Maybe that would open her eyes, make her understand. He wasn’t the same mild househusband he’d been. His blood boiled and he could no longer find rest or peace here.

The anger inside of him only grew hotter as her expression shifted to one of concern.

“Your place is here, my son. What about the house? The lands?”

“They don’t mean anything, mother. Not to me. It’s just bricks, and wood, and dirt.”

“But it was her house. Her home. She shared it all with you.”

Instead of being reassured Seibel narrowed his eyes. He didn’t want to hear this, and he wished his parents would stop. Though he loved them, part of him wanted them to hurt as he hurt, so they would understand why he needed to do this.

“And she’s not here anymore. What am I supposed to do? Just sit here baking bread while those things rampage through our lands? Should I stand only when they appear on my doorstep? You want me to do nothing? The house will be fine. You are all are free to stay as long as you want, and we have a steward to care for the place otherwise. This house isn’t going to stop me from joining the army.”

The two older elves looked at each other, worry touching their features.

“And the children?” His father asked. The man straightened up, looking much like he had when he’d been a child in trouble.”You would leave your boys behind to run away into this… this madness?”

A stab of pain twisted his insides at those words, and he bent forward a bit as he tried to tame his wildly beating heart. His children. They were so young, and they still couldn’t quite understand that their mother wasn’t coming home ever again. The monsters had taken her from them all. In those first days he’d though he could do nothing to ease the pain, but he’d realized that was wrong. He could fight, and kill, and protect.

The anger he’d been feeling suddenly swelled inside and he turned on his parents. How dare they try to turn him from his path by using his children?

“How dare you. Madness? Was it madness when Laleh fought for us all? I am doing what she did! For her. If you can’t understand that I don’t see the point in continuing this conversation. The boys will be fine. They’ll understand.”

“And what are you going to tell them?”

“That I’m going away for awhile. They’ll understand.”

“Seibel, child-”

But he wasn’t having any more of it. He stood so quickly it pushed the chair back, nearly knocking it to the floor.

“I leave in two days time. Stay, if you like, or go, but you will not sway me from my path.”

And with that he stalked out of the room, leaving his stunned parents behind.

The night before he was to leave, Seibel worked to pack the satchels he would take with him.

His brother had joined him, offering to advise him on what to take. He’d been wary at first, only agreeing let him in since Lysandir had not spoken against his choice.

“You won’t need that, Seibel.” His brother said, as he’d been about to add some clothing to the bag. “They’ll give you standard issue everything, at first.”

“Thank you.” His parents had barely spoken to him over the past day. At least his brother was willing to help. He was a solider, he understood.

Lysandir toyed with a pair of socks he’d laid on the bed.

“The army isn’t exactly big on individuality. They try to work that out of you pretty quickly. They don’t want troops who disobey orders. It’s not an easy transition to make.”

“I can imagine it’s not for someone who’s not determined.”

“It’s not easy for anyone, even those who become the strongest warriors.”

Seibel noticed how his brother carefully avoided adding his wife’s name to that list.

“I’ll manage, Lys, but thank you for the warning.” Already his tone was crisp, a subtle reminder of what he did not wish to speak of.

Lysandir was looking at him, green eyes taking him in. They’d always been close, though he didn’t see his brother often these days. He could tell the man was debating whether or not to speak.

“Don’t just sit there, brother. Spit it out.”

The edge of a frown tugged at the corners of his brother’s mouth.

“You’ve only ever known sturdy homes like these. They are luxurious compared to an army camp; practically heaven when compared to one on a battlefield. What are you going to do when you find yourself sleeping in a tent in the cold mud?  You don’t know anything about being a solider.”

Instantly he stopped, eyes narrowed.

“It doesn’t matter. I know enough. They’ll show me the rest.”

“More like show you the basics and then throw you at the enemy first chance they get. They’re desperate for green recruits just like you, eager to defend the homeland. What are you going to do the first time you charge the enemy, Sei? It’s not like how they present it in the stories. It’s horrible, bloody carnage.You think just because Laleh could do it, you can too?”

“Don’t use her name against me! Who do you think was there every time she came home from all that? Who eased her weary spirit and sat with her each time a nightmare woke her? I know the horrors better than most civilians do. You really think I would do this without a thought?”

The thought of his wife caused his chest to constrict. He’d seen the horror of war etched in her face, but he didn’t care if it ruined him. He would destroy every last orc, would fight until the breath left his body.

There was no other path for him but in her footsteps, no redemption but in the blade. They would know his pain and his anger.

“This isn’t thought, Seibel! It’s grief, and you’re going to feed yourself to the beast because of it.”

“Enough! You’re just like mother and father. I would have thought you, of all people, would understand.”

“I do! You’re not the first I’ve seen. That’s why I know you don’t run off to join the army in your state. It’s suicide.”

Seibel fixed his brother with an icy stare.

“No, it’s revenge. It’s all those creatures deserve.”

He hoped his rage was plain on his face, daring his brother to speak more.

Lysandir’s frown only deepened but, for perhaps the first time in their lives, he turned away. He set the socks back down on the bed, and when he looked back up there was sadness in his green eyes.

“Do as you wish, my brother. But be warned as to where you may end up. Vengeance is cold, and lonely. Life doesn’t wait for those who walk that road.”

“I care not.” Life didn’t need him, nor he it.

Lysandir said nothing else, merely resigned himself, and helped him finished packing.

The morning of his departure was foggy and mild, and he’d set out well before the sun could burn away the mist.

No one had come to see him off, no doubt in protest, and he’d left well before the children would be up. He would miss their smiling faces, but the steady flame inside of him would not be denied. They would understand.

“Papa!”

The happy cry broke through the mist, but he didn’t need to see to know who it belonged to, and that they shouldn’t be out alone here. He drew his horse to a halt, looking around frantically for his son, Esrafel.

“Here papa!” The call came again and the mist parted enough for him to see the boy waving at him, from his seat in the crook of Lysandir’s arm.

The momentary panic was replaced with that familiar anger, which grew as he dismounted and approached. The fog recoiled from him, almost as if it melted away, to reveal his father and his mother holding his younger son, who looked half asleep.

How dare they bring his children out here, now. He knew exactly what they were trying to do and it only fueled the flames inside of him. Even so, he tried to school his expression, not wanting that anger to show in front of his children.

He approached and Esrafel reached out for him, and he took the child from his uncle’s arms.

“What are you all doing out here?” He kept his tone light, but the pointed look in his eyes surely told the other adults how he felt about this.

“Grandmother woke us up so we could say goodbye before you went on your trip. I wish you didn’t have to go, papa. Aryn said so too. We like it when you’re home.”

His son’s words pulled at his heart, and he drew him close against his chest, hugging him tightly for a few moments. He loved his children, truly, and he did not want to leave them behind.

For a few long moments hesitated, thoughts of his wife swirling in his mind, the pain of her loss still so fresh. Her memory tugged at him and he could not let go what had been done to her. The fire burned inside of him, growing ever stronger, slowly consuming his heart.

He drew back and lightly stroked his son’s blonde hair, so much like his mother’s.

“I know, but I have to go. I need to help keep you all safe, and I have things that need done.”

“Things that are more important than your children?” His father’s voice broke in, and Seibel narrowed his eyes slightly at the man.

“At the moment, yes.” He looked down at the child in his arms, his look softening. “You understand, don’t you Esra?”

His son looked up at him, eyes a bit wide, though it was clear by the puzzled look on his face that he didn’t really understand the full implications of what was going on.

“You won’t be gone for long, will you?” He asked instead.

“I don’t know for sure, my darling, but I’ll come home as soon as I can.” He knew, even as he said it, it wasn’t a promise he could keep. “Until then you’ll have grandmother and grandfather to watch over you, and you’ll be man of the house. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

Esrafel seemed to perk up a bit and nodded, seeming to take it as if it were going to be a little vacation.

Leaning in, he pressed a kiss to the boy’s forehead, and Esra responded by pecking him on the cheek, and leaning in to hug him. Seibel held him tightly for a few moments before handing him back to Lysandir.

His mother looked as if she were holding back tears as she held out his younger son for him to take, and he cradled the half awake child to his chest before pressing a similar kiss to his forehead.

“Sleep well, my little Aryn, and dream sweetly.” He was young enough he might not fully remember these moments, or this morning. Perhaps that was for the best.

He drew in a breath and handed the child back to his mother.

A chill breeze blew around them for a few moments, though no one spoke. Lysandir looked stonyfaced, his parents a mix of upset and angry, but at this point everything had already been said.

“Keep well, everyone. I will be in touch.”

He couldn’t bear to stay any longer and turned to mount his horse.

When he glanced toward the group, like an island in the billowing fog, he saw tears running down his mothers face, unable to hold them back any longer. Esrafel had already taken notice and was looking increasingly distraught. There’d be no hiding it now. Fighting the urge to dismount and comfort his son he turned his horse away quickly.

He hadn’t gone a few feet before he heard small footsteps pounding on the ground behind him.

“Papa! Papa, don’t go!”

He couldn’t go back home. He couldn’t be a father to his children like this, not when every atom of his being demanded revenge, and blood to be paid for what had been stolen from him.

“Come back!”

He swallowed the lump in his throat, and sat up straighter, steeling his back. With each hoofbeat the flames spread where his heart should be. With each moment it became easier to ride away. He spurred his horse on, not looking back.

Papa!

The fog, and the fire of his hatred, swallowed his son’s cries as he rode away to war.

Aryn – Only Human

Only Human, from another perspective.

It was evening. The setting sun painted the land in orange and gold. The air had a chill to it, that spoke of the coming winter. The doors to the General’s balcony were open, letting in the air and late birdsong. Inside, a young man sat across a simple wooden table, facing his father. A lamp flickered between them, and beer foamed over the top of a pair of mugs. Aryn Abolan was wondering if he’d done right to accept this invitation at all.

He was here for two weeks on a diplomatic visit, and his father had reached out to him. It had surprised him, given their history, but after thinking about it had agreed to come up for a drink. He had seen a difference in the other man, though he was still skeptical as to just how much he could change. He kept expecting to wake one day and find him gone.

That he was shouldering much of the leadership for things had surprised him more than anything else. He still believed they had Domerin to thank for a lot of that. Drink had sounded like a good idea at the time, but things were feeling awkward now. He felt no real responsibility to start things off, not when his father had called him here. It had been nearly a minute, and the silence was rather deafening.

“How have things fared across the border?” His father asked. The other man might as well have asked him about the weather, for how personal the question was. Still, he had to remind himself they hadn’t really been on personal terms in a long time.

“Things are going well.” That seemed about the long and the short of it. He hesitated, and was sure he saw his father’s eyes go a bit wide. He realized the other man had expected him to say more. “There’s much work to be done, but the king has laid out his plans, both in working with the people here and internal works that can be done now that so many of our citizens aren’t off fighting a war. We’ve been in a holding pattern for a long time. It’ll be good to move forward.” Surely his father could understand that, or perhaps not, since he’d spent most of his life running away from things.

“There is always work for a soldier willing to do it. Sometimes the best work for a fighting man is to help with the clean up afterward. It shows that things can be rebuilt, that peace isn’t an illusion.”

Aryn could hardly believe he was hearing those words from his father’s lips, and he couldn’t quite keep it off his face. The other man had spent nearly his entire life making war, and then leaving before the real work began. He’d left when their family had fallen to ruin as well, unwilling to stay and pick up the pieces. Was this truly the same man he’d spent all those years hating? He nodded, but wasn’t sure what to say.

Seibel looked unsure, but forged on, like a man determined to see it through. “Things are moving here too. But, if I’m honest, I’m not always sure I’m the right man to lead these people.”

It was strange, hearing Seibel admit such a thing. There was no doubt he was skilled, as both a warrior, and a leader of men on the battlefield, but civilians were another story. He had honestly never expected his father to admit he might not have all the answers. That showed weakness, and that had never been tolerated under the General’s rule. It was jarring, and he took a long drink to avoid having to say anything right away, trying to get his thoughts in order.

“I’m surprised to hear you say that. You always seem so sure of yourself, and of your place in the world. You know where you’re going, even if it’s away from your family.” He’d said it before he realized, and his father winced. Despite that, he had a hard time feeling bad for him, still not having forgiven him for what he’d done. They couldn’t avoid it forever.

“I thought I knew, but I was only blindly running away. I never looked at where I was going, and it nearly destroyed me. It destroyed our family. What I did to you, to your brother, I can never undo.”

He’d hardened his heart, ready for lies, defenses, excuses. His father had never so nakedly admitted his wrongdoings, and it threw him. Part of him expected a trap, some puzzle or trick meant to draw him in, but he could see nothing hidden in the words. Did Seibel really regret what he’d done? After all these years was he ready to stop running and face the destruction he’d left in his wake. Part of him wanted to yell, but he realized too it couldn’t have been easy to say those things. His father’s eyes dropped, and a part of him released the tension, and the dam broke.

“You know,” he began, the words flowing freely, “when I was younger I thought you were some sort of paragon. Like the heroes of old in our stories, touched by the gods themselves. You were going to save us all. And then you left. I was heartbroken. I hated that you left us, that you let us down. And then, after awhile, I just hated you. You became the opposite of what you’d been before. A villain, this heartless character in my story. But life isn’t like that. Life just is.” He drew in a somewhat ragging breath. His father wasn’t the only one aching from old wounds.

“And you, you’re no paragon.” He saw his father wince, and his tone softened. “But neither are you the demon I made you into. You’re just a man. Only human, like me. It’s harder to hate someone when you realize they’re as fallible as you are.” He never thought he’d get to say these words to his father, nor that the other man would respond to them with anything other than disdain.

“I wasn’t even sure I was that, for a long time. I thought I’d left my humanity behind when I ran. but it never really left me, I just hid it away because I was too scared to face it. Strange, it took a man from another world to help show me that. I never wanted to leave you. I loved you both, very much. I still do.” Seibel looked up at him, there something so open and vulnerable in his eyes now. His father looked old, and tired, but more human than he had since the peaceful days back home.

The man’s words seeped into him, touched a part of himself he’d long since given over to stone and ice. There was no forgetting what his father had done, but he could see now that the other man had suffered by his own hand. Perhaps that was punishment enough. Words seemed inefficient, so he only nodded his understanding. It likely wasn’t everything his father wanted, but it would be more than he expected.

Silence fell again, and this time it was Ayrn who broke it. “You should come and visit me sometime. I think you’d like it, now that the war is over. The Commander… Elian, would be more than willing to show you around, I think.” He noted an unmistakable hint of relief on his father’s face.

“I’d like that. I’ll admit, I would like the chance to speak with your Commander. You two work well together. I can tell.”

“We do.” He couldn’t help but smile at the thought of the other man, his thoughts straying to him. He missed him, and couldn’t wait to get back home again.

After a moment he noticed his father looking at him, brows raised slightly in question. “Is there… anything more between you two?”

He sputtered at the sudden question, certainly not one he would have expected from his father. It was hard at times to remember the other man had been young once, and had cared for another. “It’s complicated,” he finally managed, feeling like a child for a moment. Part of him expected his father to laugh, but the other man only gave him a knowing look.

“Such things often can be. Did you want to talk about it?”

Aryn wasn’t completely sure he wanted to have this conversation with his father. The other man had been absent for so much of his life, but he could see him making the effort, and a friendly ear wouldn’t go amiss. He drew in a soft breath, and began to speak.

Seibel – Only Human

Only human.

It was evening. The setting sun painted the land in orange and gold. The air had a chill to it, that spoke of the coming winter. The doors to the General’s balcony were open, letting in the air and late birdsong. Inside, two men sat across from each other at a simple wooden table. A lamp flickered, and beer foamed over the top of a pair of mugs. Seibel Abolan was starting to think this might not have been such a good idea after all.

He’d reached out to his son. After everything that had happened, they had both agreed they wanted to try and build some sort of connection between them again, as difficult as it might be. While he’d had no illusion that it would be easy, after everything he’d done, he hadn’t quite expected just how uncomfortable the silence would be.

Aryn was visiting Haven, and he saw no reason why they couldn’t make a try at it, so he’d invited him up to share a drink. They’d spoken some, already, but if they wanted to get to know each other better they were going to have to spend time together as well. There had been some of the usual pleasantries, but now the silence was somewhat awkward. One of the great generals, having no idea what to say to his own son.

“How have things fared across the border?” It was a neutral enough question. It might not have been the best, but he was determined not to let this turn into a conversation about work. It was far too easy to fall into that trap.

“Things are going well.” Aryn said. He hesitated, then seemed to think he should add more. “There’s much work to be done, but the king has laid out his plans, both in working with the people here and internal works that can be done now that so many of our citizens aren’t off fighting a war. We’ve been in a holding pattern for a long time. It’ll be good to move forward.”

Seibel rather similarly about their relationship, but he didn’t say so. “There is always work for a soldier willing to do it. Sometimes the best work for a fighting man is to help with the clean up afterward. It shows that things can be rebuilt, that peace isn’t an illusion.” He looked at his son, and there was something in Aryn’s eyes when he looked back. The younger man bowed his head in understanding, but didn’t say more.

Seibel hesitated, and then went on. “Things are moving here too. But, if I’m honest, I’m not always sure I’m the right man to lead these people.” He hadn’t admitted that to anyone, outside of Domerin and Sesha.

He’d expected a sharp comment from Aryn about how of course he wasn’t but his son only took a long drink from his mug, seeming to be considering that.

“I’m surprised to hear you say that,” Aryn said, the younger man’s eyes meeting his own. “You always seem so sure of yourself, and of your place in the world. You know where you’re going, even if it’s away from your family.”

The words hurt, but they were the truth of his son’s heart. A truth that had grown there in his absence. “I thought I knew, but I was only blindingly running away. I never looked at where I was going, and it nearly destroyed me. It destroyed our family. What I did to you, to your brother, I can never undo.”

Aryn was silent. There was something a bit hard in his eyes. Seibel hadn’t expected sympathy from his son, or even forgiveness. He said nothing for a long time, long enough that he was half afraid Aryn would say no more, but he was sure if the younger man was finished he would simply have left.

“You know,” Aryn said finally, softly, “when I was younger I though you were some sort of paragon. Like the heroes of old in our stories, touched by the gods themselves. You were going to save us all. And then you left. I was heartbroken. I hated that you left us, that you let us down. And then, after awhile, I just hated you. You became the opposite of what you’d been before. A villain, this heartless character in my story. But life isn’t like that. Life just is.”

“And you,” he went on, before Seibel could say anything, “you’re no paragon.” For a moment his voice was sharp, but it was softer when he went on. “But neither are you the demon I made you into. You’re just a man. Only human, like me. It’s harder to hate someone when you realize they’re as fallible as you are.”

“I wasn’t even sure I was that, for a long time.” Seibel admitted, looking down. “I thought I’d left my humanity behind when I ran. But it never really left me, I just hid it away because I was too scared to face it. Strange, it took a man from another world to help show me that.” He looked up at his son, his voice soft. It had been a long time since he’d felt this vulnerable. “I never wanted to leave you. I loved you both, very much. I still do.”

Aryn seemed a bit unsure as to what to say but, eventually, he gave a little nod. It might not have been full acceptance, or forgiveness, but it was something. It was a start. Aryn surprised him even further when he went on.

“You should come and visit me sometime. I think you’d like it, now that the war is over. The Commander… Elian, would be more than willing to show you around, I think.”

“I like that. I’ll admit I would like the chance to speak with your Commander. You two work well together. I can tell.”

“We do.” Aryn returned. There was something about the way he said it, something about the little touch of pleasure on his lips, a soft fondness in his eyes, that made him wondering. He was human enough that he could remember looking like that.

“Is there… anything more between you two?”

For a moment Aryn looked as if he’d been caught, but quickly deflected. If he were honest, Seibel thought he looked a bit embarrassed. “It’s complicated.”

Seibel never thought he’d hear his son say something like that, never thought he’d be here for it. Perhaps, there was a chance for him to be the father he’d failed to be up until now. “Such things often can be. Did you want to talk about it?”

For a moment Aryn looked unsure, then drew in a soft breath and began to speak.