Familar-Part 4

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4

It was hot. That was the first thing he had noticed when he sat down next to his father. And it smelled of cooking meat and garlic and herbs, a smell not entirely unpleasant. Now he was staring down at the third course of the meal, a large bowl of soup filled with shavings of pork and vegetables, but he could not bring himself to take another bite. The smell was too over powering, and the taste too rich for his liking. He had gotten used to eating the foods of the town, flavourful but yet had a distinct plainness to them that he much preferred to the foods of court.

And someone was saying his name, his real name, Astiel. He looked up, his father was looking at him expectantly, and there was a short, stocky man standing behind his fathers chair. 

“What do you think Astiel?” his father said, his dark stormy eyes, so similar to his brothers, were boring into him, a silent chastising for his inattention. 

Asher was silent for a moment more, forming a polite apology before saying it aloud. 

The short man was looking at him with amusement flashing in his piggish eyes and Asher was relived to see that his father did not seem to be terribly angry, if only slightly irritated at having to repeat himself. 

Asher nodded his approval too his fathers proposal, his opinion was of course inconsequential in the final decision, but his father had always strongly urged his two boys to state there opinions openly, and never allow one to dissuade you once your decision was made. 

‘A good ruler allows advice, a great ruler may never have need of it.’ he would say. Asher did not believe this in entirety. A great ruler must have need of advice for he should not be willing to discount any, no matter their standing among society, and a king would never have an understanding of the lower town, for he lived in wealth all his life. That was why Asher wondered among the people of the kingdom. Again his father was speaking and he turned his attention to the conversation. 

“…I do believe it is the best the for Cieldior right now, it is a menace in the kingdom, and in many of the others as well.” His father was saying. Asher didn’t understand what he was talking about, a menace among the kingdoms? The many kingdoms had been at peace for years, Asher could not remember a time when it was not so. Interested now, he turned away from his now fourth course, a small plate of shaved ginger duck, and toward the king and what he assumed to be a high standing lord of some large land. 

“Yes my lord, I do agree. They have been giving land owners some trouble for quite some time now. It is a source of power that must be soon eradicated and law enforced upon it with an iron fist.”

His father was nodding, his eyes thoughtful, and the man appeared to be pleased with himself. Then his father seemed to have noticed Asher’s interest in the conversation, and he turned toward the other man.

“Perhaps we should continue this conversation later, away from curious ears, and prying eyes. My chambers, perhaps for a drink?” the man nodded politely and made his way back to his seat not to far down the table, just past the varying members of the royal family and court. 

Troubled by the newly arising power in the empire, and his fathers unwillingness to discuss the matter with him, Asher excused himself on the grounds of a head ache, an ailment he was commonly plagued with. That of course didn’t seem to fool his father, who’s keen eyes were likely to see right through a lie such as that, he admitted then to wishing too see his brother, who was ill in bed, before he was to far gone in sleep. 

With a wave of his hand, his father excused him for the night. 

Knowing that he must go see his brother, for the king would check with the nurse on duty to verify in the morning, Asher made his way through the palace, and across the many courtyards to where his brothers rooms lay, far away from his own, and close to the kings, for he himself was only the second priority. 

The door to his brothers room was slightly ajar, and through it he could see a thin pale form sprawled across the bed, head propped up on a pile of pillows, and a grin across his face. 

“Brother” said Asher as he pushed open the door and stepped through. An expression of surprise flashed across Kygo’s face, but his usual easy smile soon reappeared. 

“Astiel!” said Kygo “I’m so glad your here!” Asher smiled at his brother. He looked as if he were about to collapse, but he acted as if Asher had just arrived for tea.   

Still smiling Asher moved closer to the bed, and sat down in the chair. “So Astiel,” said Kygo, a mischeviouse grin spreading across his face. “I’ve been trying to convince Amelia here” he looked toward the small woman standing on the far side of the room. Her face bright red, probably at having to disobey a prince. “To bring me some nice ale” his grin turning into a mock frown “but she won’t do it” he was smiling again “what do you say brother? Would you bring your dear sickly sibling some?” Asher smiled, and chuckled. Of course Kygo knew he would never get the ale, but he seemed to enjoy embarrassing the maid. Asher knew however that it was playful, and harmless. Most all the servants knew Kygo’s sense of humour, and they usually played along. This poor girl however honestly seemed to think that Kygo was a drunk. 

Smiling Asher said “Come now brother, I don’t think the poor thing gets it. Enough” 

Still smiling Kygo turned toward the maid “My annoying brother seems to be right, as is he always. My apologies Amelia, I was only joking with you.”

A forced looking smile appeared on the girl’s face, and she bowed low, her dark hair falling into her face. “Yes your highness, of course. Thank you” 

“No need.” Said Kygo, turning now back toward Asher. “Now brother, why have you come?”

Asher looked toward the floor. He knew his brother hated being when he worried about him, he always said it made him feel far sicker than he really was. Sighing Asher said ” I just well, I wanted to make sure your okay is all. Ingrid mentioned that this attack had been particularly bad. Well you look horrid but you seem alright so I guess that satisfies my concerns.” Asher stopped, rubbing the back of his neck, and shifting his weight in the chair. 

Kygo was frowning now, his lips thin and tight. “I’m fine brother. Really, I’m alright. You need not be worried after me”

Asher sighed “Okay Kygo, whatever you say. Make sure you get some rest alright? Its late already” he turned now toward the girl, Amelia his brother had called her. She was in the far corner of the room, staring at him. When he caught her eye, she looked quickly away, her face turning red again. ” I apologize again for my brothers behaviour Amelia.” Smiling he added “and if he continues to bother you as such, let me know, I’ll be sure to kick his butt for you” 

The poor girl was red as a beet, Asher shot his brother a quick flash of an amused grin, and moved to the door, closing it behind him, then made his way to his rooms, eager to see the white wolf.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

The walk back through the gardens were long, and cold, winter was not harsh as it was up in the mountains, but it helped little that the fabric of his tunic was thin and offered little if any protection against the wind. The moon giving little light, and the many plants and bushes brushing against his arms, Asher made his way in the dark. When he finally reached his rooms he eagerly opened the door, welcoming the heat, in contrast to the cold winds and frozen rain of winter in the capital city. 

Shivering and wet Asher made his way to the bathes. He had no intention of washing again however the hot water would seep the cold out of his bones and, hopefully, prevent a flu. 

He stripped off his new tunic and boots, frowning at the ruined fabric, and slid into the water, sighing as the heat immediately took effect, soothing his frozen toes and fingers. A second later he felt a cold pressure against the back of his neck, then soft fur rubbing against his shoulder as the wolf came around to face him. 

“Hello” said Asher, twisting in the water to look directly at the wolf. 

The wolf cocked it’s head the side. Its blue eyes shining with an emotion Asher could not quite decipher.

Warm finally, Asher stood, running a hand through the length of his black hair, he reached for a towel, and rubbed himself dry before pulling on a pair of thin linen pants and making his way over to his desk. 

Guessing, he was sure, that he would be cold after the long walk from the hall, Ingrid had brought in a pot of steaming tea. He made a mental note to thank her in the morning. 

Pouring himself a cup, Asher made his way to the bed. It had been a long day and really he only wanted to sleep. 

He quickly finished his cup of tea, setting the china cup on the table beside his bed, and blew out the candle. 

Asher settled into the pillow, its soft feather down moving and shifting to accommodate for the weight laid upon it. The wolf had climb onto the bed, and he could feel the heat of its body pressed against his side

Finally, he thought, silence and sleep and peace. He suddenly remembered the money he had made selling the game he had caught. He had to make sure he brought it into town the next he went, he could not of course keep the money. His family had more money then he knew was necessary and many did not. That was another reason he enjoyed hunting. Knowing there was someone who was about to get a full meal off the money he had made. 

Finally he closed his eyes and emptied his mind of all things, picturing only a blank whiteness slowly fading into darkness.

‘Asher’ somebody whispered

He sat up, looking around. He shook his head, he must be hearing things, of course there was no one in his room. He laid back down

‘Asher..’ 

He scrambled to relight his candle, and it took only a moment. The room was alight suddenly with an orangish glow, and it was empty. 

He blew out the candle and laid back down. He was just exhausted, that was all. Closing his eyes he tried again to do the relaxation exercise. 

He fell asleep shortly afterwords. 

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Familiar~ Part two

Teenage writing, Uncategorized

Despite himself, Asher laughed as he watched the six men scurry away like children who had been scolded. 
“That was cruel” He said, still grinning at his older brother

“And yet, it was still funny to watch them squirm” said Kygo, his large hands splayed across his hips. “Come, lets get you to your rooms so you can clean up before going to see father.” His face suddenly became very serious “Do you have any idea how furious he was when they discovered you had gone?” He asked

Asher flinched, looking off into the distance. “I figured, but I wasn’t gone even a day this time. And it’s not as if I’m the crown prince” Asher said, casting a knowing look in the direction of his brother. But Kygos face had taken on a sad expression. his dark eyes cast in shadows, the knowledge of his illness plain across his face. 

“You may very well be soon enough Astiel” Asher frowned

“Come now brother, don’t say such things. You may not be of the best health, but it is not so bad you cannot live to see your coronation day”

Kygo smiled, casting of the heavy topic, “What? You have no want to be emperor?”

Asher wrinkled his nose “Not particularly, when have you ever known me to aspire to have power? I much prefer the life of a second son thank you” 

Kygo paused in front of his rooms, “I will let father know of your presence, be quick brother” Asher nodded obediently and set of for a change of clothes and a clean face, welcoming the heat of his rooms, and the soft woven fabrics of court.

It wasn’t long before the familiar, motherly face of Ingrid appeared at his door, arms filled with clean clothes, a towel and a tray filled with lavish fruits and bread and cheese. 

Her continuously smiling face creased with worry. 

“Ingrid!” He yelled, rushing to grab the pile of fabric from her. 

“Your highness” she said, placing the tray on a near by table and bowing low from the waist. 

“I am sorry if I worried you Ingrid” he said laying a hand on her thin shoulder before turning on the tray, devouring the fruit. 

“It is not my job to chastise you for running off” she said, her voice betraying no hint of disapproval, but when he looked up her eyes told him he had been right in his guess of her reaction. 

“And I am sorry all the same” said Asher, before striding of to the wash chambers. “I’ll just be a minute, then we can go see my father” 

Ingrid nodded but said nothing. She simply stood where she was, waiting patiently for him to finish.  

Clad in a soft deep blue tunic, fresh leggings and boots and with his face and hair washed and towelled, Asher set out for the throne room, a group of guards trailing him. 

Asher wandered the gardens, walking at a brisk set pace through the chilly spring air, his quickly bound hair blowing in his face. It took but minutes for Asher to reach the large blue doors, their brass handles inlaid with gold. 

As one of the black clad guards pulled open the heavy wooden door Asher clasped his hands behind his back and strode in, doing his best to look princely. 

He caught only a glimpse of the room before dropping to his knees and touching his head to the cold marble floors. His brother standing to the right hand side, behind the throne and his mother sitting in a smaller dark stone chair, her small hand pressed to her mouth with relief at his safety.   

“Rise son” said a deep rumbling voice, its echo booming through the huge hall. 

Asher stood, looking his father straight in the face. “Your Majesty” he said, nodding once. 

“Astiel, Astiel. How many times must we do this? How long before this fancy of yours stops and you realize you are a prince? Not a lowly peasant who must hunt for their food?”

Asher bowed again, from the waist this time “I am sorry father” 

The emperor grunted in response, still shaking his head. The movement making his long, greying beard sway, but despite his age, his black eyes held a certain ageless quality, and yet also a wisdom only acquired by a life times worth of experiences. 

“You may go I suppose, we haven’t much to discuss, I only wished to see you in person and verify your health and well being for myself” the emperor nodded, then as if an after thought added, “and you as well Kygo, I am weary and wish to rest before diner, a feast I hope the two of you will consent to attend” 

Though it had been phrased as a simple request, both the boys knew they had no choice in the matter. They either showed up, dressed in their best robes, or there would be hell to pay. 

Waiting for Kygo to join him, the two backed slowly out of the room in a low bow, then without even having to ask, they headed for the practice fields.
It didn’t take long for the two brothers too reach the compact brown sands of the practice fields, the sounds of clashing steel and wood ringing through the yard. The swords master had spotted them immediately and hurried over, their matching long swords in hand. 

The short man bowed, lifting the weapons above his head. “Your highness’s” he said, shifting on his feet. 

“Swords master Chung” replied Asher smiling broadly, reaching for the weapons and passing one to Kygo. The man nodded, and made to go back to his post along the side lines, but Kygo stopped him. 

“Are there any men that are available to spar?” He asked, thick brows furrowed. 

“Yes of course” said Chung, staring at the prince’s large hand that was resting a top his bicep. Kygo followed his gaze and moved his hand, but Chung still looked nervous at the contact. 

Calling a a large burly man in a black guards uniform over from across the field Chung spoke to him in a hushed voice, then directed him in the direction of Kygo.

“And you, Prince Astiel? Would like a sparring partner as well?” Asked Chung. Asher looked to him in surprise, then down to the ceremonial long sword hanging from his hand. 

“Thats alright!” Said Asher quickly, shaking his head “I’d much to watch thank you.” He added as an after thought. He may be good with a bow, but he hand never so much as even drawn the sword his father hand presented him with at twelve. Handing the sword back to the swords master, Asher took a place against a wall, and settled in to watch his brother practice for a while before starting for the archery field, a place where he could participate in the goings on. 

Staring off into the distant practice field, Asher watched his elder brother spar with a worried expression. His brother wearing only the thin white shift he wore under his tunic, looked un naturally thin for someone who had regular meals and was in a constant stat of training. His cheeks looked sallow, and his muscles remained untoned. Asher shook his head, casting off his worries. He stood and turned toward the archery field, but as soon as his back was turned the field behind him became silent, and then the yelling began. 

Asher spun around, searching the field for the source, but all he could see were a hundred bodies clamouring to get closer to the problem. Dismayed he tried to get closer, and for a second he caught a glimpse of what was happening. All he saw was the convulsing body of a thin boy, his white shift yellow from sand and his once shining boots dirtied from his fit, then the stout form of the royal healer shooing him away, and trying to calm his panic for his brother. 

At last relenting Asher headed for the Archery range, hoping to calm his thoughts. 
No one took a notice to him as he took a place across from a target and began to shoot his arrows, there grey feather fletchings blowing in the wind behind his head. On his 31 arrow his was sure that it would not even hit the target, but at the last minute it seemingly veered and struck the inside of the blue strip, landing directly on the line separating the bulls eyes from the rest of the target. Baffled, Asher stood, marching across the field to retrieve his 31 arrows. Out of those 27 had hit the bulls eye, 28 if you count the one on the line. Confused he yanked them out, shoving them back into his empty quiver. It was as if his aim had spontaneously improved, and under the context of fatigue, which no one questioned, Asher made his way back to his rooms, hoping for food and warm tea before laying down for a good nap before having to attend the feast that evening.  

Taking the long way back, Asher stared at the sky, contemplating how he could convince someone to help him out of the palace again, not anytime soon of course, but near enough in the future he could put his bag of money to use before its contents of copper shillings and and gold coins were discovered by some over curious maid. No doubt the guard he had bribed last time and received a thrashing for his misconduct. Asher flinched, perhaps, he thought, I should seek the boy out and thank, and apologize to him, for he had only been a boy, no more than two years older than he himself was. 

In his walking trace Asher walked into Ingrid, almost knocking over the tea tray in her arms. Ingrid shot him a look, something a kin to amusement and a look that told him he must watch his steps and his path for he will hurt himself or another, and all without a word. Asher smiled at her, the same smile he had been giving her since he was five and she had started working as his body servant. When he had reached twelve his father had tried to replace her but Asher had refused to allow another to assist him and finally his father had relented. Asher loved her for she had been every much a mother to him as the his real mother had been. Ingrid smiled back softly, and without another word, the pair continued on to his rooms. 

Asher had drifted again, and so it took a minute to register the fact that the tea tray was falling, and with lighting fast reflexes he managed to catch it, only one cup escaping and falling to the ground, it’s fine walls breaking into five pieces. 

“Ingrid what-” started Asher, but stopped as he followed her gaze, pacing back and forth in front of his door was a white wolf pup. As if feeling his gaze, the pup stopped, looking at him with those ice blue eyes. 

The Darkness

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The darkness that surronded her was suffocating, it was the kind of darkness that consumed your whole being, your whole self, devouring you until there was nothng left but a shell. It took away her knowloadge of the world, of where she was or what she was doing, and it was unyeilding in it’s task, solid. And yet liquid, always changing, always moving, never the same, and yet never diffrent.  She could have been in the darkness for mer seconds, or days or years. There was no concept of time here. 

Then, there was light. Bright, blinding light that came in waves, pushing away the darkness, and wafting over her until the darkness was gone. And in this light, came a figure. 

Long and dark and slim, the figure reached out for her, expertly grasping her being in it’s long fingers and pulling her into the light. At first she struggled, she did not want to go. Although she had not liked the darkness she knew somehow that the light was worse, there was something waiting for her on the otherside, all the things she had done, those horrible acts. She did jot want to go back. And so she pulled, back toward that horrible darkness.

The figure was whispering something now,

“You need not have the same life, or be the same person” it whispered, and it’s voice startled her, it was lighteter than she had thought. 

“All the things you have done, and the person you were does not matter. You may start anew, as you wish to be. Come now.”

And so she let her self slip into the light. Coming back to the world. 

***

Something tickled at the back of her mind. It felt like something important and horrible she was forgeting. But perhaps, she thought, it is something She did not want to remember. And so she let it be, that tickle at the back of her mind, and continued on with her life as it was, as, at least she thought, it had always been. 

Familiar

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The forest surrounding him was harsh and cold. The bare trees showing no sign of the coming spring and the ground still layered in a thick blanket of ice and snow. The sun in the sky was directly overhead, but the moon could still be seen on the far horizon if you were to stand at the edge of the cliff and look out across the valley. Asher stood half hidden behind a tree, bow strung and aimed at a large doe who was grazing in the clearing. He released the stone arrow missing the animal by a hair breadth. Startled the deer moved to the other edge of the clearing, taking cover behind the tall brush. Asher restrung his bow and took aim again, this time sure he could get the clear kill shot that presented itself. A loud growl rang through the forest, and the deer took flight deeper into the trees, deeper than even he dared follow. He looked around for the source of the sound. Staring directly at him from across the clearing was what appeared to be a grizzly old wolf, its already grey fur laced with silver and its black eyes blue with cataracts. Asher stomped to the tree with his arrow imbedded in the bark. “You damed dog, that was the only game for miles!” He pulled the arrow out with a grunt and checked the fletching before shoving it back into his quiver slung across his back. 

A small yelp came from behind the old wolf. Asher started, tensing, but what appeared behind the old wolf was only a small grey pup covered in what looked like blood and had a small lump of meat hanging from his mouth. The pup dropped the meat in front of the elder then looked toward Asher with what surprise, as if he had just noticed the other being present in the forest. The wolfs eyes where a startling blue, so pale they had the semblance of an icicle handing from a hut. The old wolf bent his head and picked up the meat then turned away, walking into the forest without a sound. Asher expected the small one to follow but it hadn’t moved. It sat on the thin bed of pine needles and simply watched him, never blinking. Asher stared back for what felt like hours before finally turning back towards the path that would lead him home. 

He followed the faint game trail that lead toward the bottom of the mountain range, moving as fast as the bramble would allow. He had a ways to go yet, and he was unsure of the time as the dense net of trees above allowed only the faintest light into the forest of the Beores. When he came near the bottom of the mountain, and he could hear the stream rattling over the rocks, he turned, trekking directly down the mountain toward the nearest ford. 

The stream was thin there, it’s width reaching no more then ten feet across, and its water levels low for early spring. At the bottom of the mountain grass was visible peaking through the powdery snow, and buds were beginning to appear on trees, he could even hear the occasional bird song ring through the forest.

As he reached the middle of the road he paused to look back into the forest, saying goodbye to the quiet solitude it provided. Pulling out the last of his bread and cheese he began to eat before continuing his walk home. A loud splash sounded from behind him, making him turn his toward the sound. Splashing in the shallows on the bank was a startlingly white wolf pup, looking new washed from his cold bath. Confused Asher took a step closer, as if aware of his gaze the pup stopped what it was doing, turned and sat on it haunches looking directly at him. He saw then the colour of it’s eyes, blue. It was the same one he’d seen deep in the Beores. He stared at it. The stupid animal had followed him all the way down the mountain. 

“Go!” he yelled at it, waving a hand toward the forest. “Shoo!” It only stared at him, head cocked to the right. But of course it was just an animal, it couldn’t understand him. Shaking his head he kicked his dropped bread over the side and into the water before returning to his trek. Splashes sounded as the pup found his way out of the water, his newly white fur sparkling in the sun. Let it follow, it didn’t really matter to him, he just hoped it could find it way back again. 

From here he could see the city, beyond miles of fields empty of any farmers. Was his birth city, its glorious buildings sparkling in the sun light, and in the middle was the palace. He sighed and looked down to his right where the pup had taken his place. It was already watching him with an intense curiosity. He got the feeling then that the wolf could see his thoughts and he shivered at the prospect. Turning back to the road, he began to walk, dreading his return home. 
As he neared the gates he realized that the wolf pup had disappeared, choosing to return home rather then approach the city. The guards at the gates nodded to him but had been far to busy placing bets to really have a good look at him. He released a breath when they where behind him, and turned to follow the wall until he reach the plaza. No one payed him a moments notice as he made his way through the city, their gazes passed by him without pause and the few who took notice at all smiled pleasantly then turned their attentions back to the tasks at hand. 

The anonymity pleased him and he passed through the city without a word. 

Someone called his name and he flinched turning toward the sound. The man behind him was large and burly, looking as fierce as a bear but a large grin had spread across his scarred face. 

“Ho Asher!” He said “What do you have for me this time?” The big man eyed his pack eagerly, as Asher usually came back from a hunt with multiple game. 

Asher grinned at him, thankful it had only been the butcher. “Ho Horst! I haven’t much, game is hard to come by this time of year, but lets take this to your shop.” The large butcher nodded complacently and started toward the small building dome the street. 

“Your tellin’ me!” said the butcher “My shops been empty a costumers all day!” The butcher continued on for the next ten minutes, obviously pleased at the company and the chance to do some business. Asher watched the burly man from the corner of his eye, carful to keep a smile on his face. 

They soon reach the small shop and Asher wrinkled his nose at the smell of death that emanated from the place. It’s not as if the rest of the city had a particularly pleasant smell. In fact a good deal of the time it smelled of urine, however this was worse. Breathing through his mouth, he went in, waiting by the counter as Horst went in through the back. 

“Alright!” He said “let’s a see what you’ve managed to scrape up!” Asher nodded, pulling his pack on the counter and opening it to show the assortment of small animals. 

“Hmm, good bunch you’ve got here! Expertly skinned and cleaned as usual!” Asher smiled at the compliment. It wasn’t often be was rewarded with one as such. 

“How much?” He asked, nodding toward the pile. 

“Well these are some good sized animals for small game, so I’d say..” He paused deliberating “I’d say perhaps 50 lugels? ”

Asher nodded “Ok, done” Horst frowned 

“You never haggle, takes all the fun out of it!” 

Asher smiled at him “Sorry” 

The big man sighed, but shook his head “No need to apologize, it just seems odd is all” 

This time Asher frowned “How so?” He asked “The prices you name are more then reasonable, why would I want to haggle a higher price for the meats?”

“Well yes, I suppose thats true, but everyone haggles, no matter if the prince is fair or not”

Asher put a hand on the back of his neck, the small hairs under his cap tickling the ends of his fingers. “Interesting. I will still however accept this price for today”

“Of course” Horst said, nodding. “I would expect nothing else” he paused for a moment watching him. Asher fidgeted under the gaze. “The way you talk sometimes boy, I would swear your on of the royals themselves, but” he shook his head “thats ridiculous of course.” 

Asher stared at him silent, then forced a laugh, “Yes, ridiculous.” 

Still shaking his head Horst handed Asher the bag of coins before raising a hand to wave goodbye. “I’ll see you soon then?” 

Asher flinched, thinking of how he had snuck out. “I do not think so. I am sure my parents will be furious” Horst looked surprised at this. 

“What, they didn’t know you left?” Asher shook his head in shame, concentrating on tying the bag to his belt and tucking it under the thick folds of his tunic.  

“Huntings not their favourite of my pass times, and its not as though we’re not well enough off without it. I simply enjoy it” Horst nodded. 

“Understandable enough. Until next time then!” 

Asher nodded and left the shop, slipping back into the shadows and made his way home, the thought of seeing his father weighing heavily on his mind. 

Finally he had reached home, his modest clothing covered in dirt and his face hidden behinds mounds of fur to ward off the the cold, he slunk in the shadows of the service gate. A young maid looked up at him, meeting his eyes and it took but a moment before she darted off in the opposite direction, and with the weight of his pack he could not move fast enough to stop her. In minutes he was surrounded by guards and house servants, all ushering him toward his father. 

“Enough!” rang a sharp commanding voice from a boy he could not see, but sight was not needed for he recognized it immediately. 

The men around him parted instantly, allowing the boy to see Asher in all his fur clad, mud caked glory. 

Asher bowed low, his eyes never leaving the dark ones of the boy-man in front of him. “Your highness” he said.

The boy in front of him looked relaxed, a lazy smile had spread across his face, and his dark hair had fallen into his eyes where is had come out of it ties. He looked as though he was trying to suppress a laugh. 

“Brother” he said looking him up and down “What a mess, you mustn’t go before the emperor like this!”