Fragments, Delita [FFT]
They're bigger than he is, always, these meat-fed spawn of nobility that circle 'round him, sausage-like lips parted with greasy sneers, neglect-yellow teeth bared. Delita finds himself wondering, and not for the first time, why nobility can't use its power and money to marry into some more attractive bloodlines. Then he wonders if there simply aren't any of those left.
His head resounds with white pain from the knuckle that struck across his jaw. Their laughter towers over him now, a trio of sick animal sounds -- indeed, he finds himself comparing them to animals even more frequently these days than once he did, buffeted from feelings of guilt by the acquired knowledge that they surely think even less of him.
"Say it again, filth!" bellows their ringleader, and his smaller compatriots pat him on the back, as though from his mouth has poured some great wisdom, and not an idiot's babblings.
Delita's tongue caresses his split lower lip, tasting his own copper blood. "I will not hear you speak of him as such." The oak-brown dark of his hair, the gutter-growl of his vowels when he is angered -- these are the trappings of his commoner heritage that will haunt him his whole life through. "He is a son by right and law of--"
Any further protestations are silenced by the ringleader's boot, which plants itself in Delita's exposed stomach and drives the breath from his lungs. Delita doubles over in pain. Two, he thinks, waiting, counting his heartbeats, stilling himself, coiling his muscles. And when the third blow registers -- the same pointed boot, this time driven sharp into the back of his thigh -- Delita springs from his previously defeated position, a mad thing, the element of surprise his greatest weapon as his fists fly for the nearest thug's face.
They are in their last year and number three, and he alone and five full years their junior, and as such the outcome of the battle is foregone. Yet as they retreat, leaving him limp in the garbage alley behind the students' mess, he has the deep satisfaction of knowing that they will think twice before speaking ill of the youngest Beoulve son or his legitimacy again. Besides, he supposes he should count himself lucky that the only wound visible is that across his lip, and that is easily dismissed as a careless training injury, so long as he takes care to clean and dress himself in shadow for the coming week.
Perhaps they are both correct, and man is naught but a beast taught to walk upright. Yet these sons of aristocracy are hogs, gorged on fat and luxury, while he is a wildcat, feral and ravenous -- still young, regrettably, and too small even to scratch the hide of one of their number. But one day milk teeth will give way to their sharper cousins, and then they will all see.
"You look well," Delita smiles, drawing the comb through her hair. Teta has always had such lovely, long tresses, and as a child he had taken upon himself the responsibility of ensuring that it was kept well-tended. Of all the things that have made him long for the walls of the Beoulves' while at the academy, none has stung the same as being unable to brush his sister's hair.
She sits in the chair in front of him, hands folded demurely in her lap, shoulders straight and prim, not even wincing as he deals with a snarl too hastily. "I am cared for well." Delita cannot see her expression, but registers the movement of her hands as she unfolds and refolds them. "Lady Alma has ensured I could want for nothing."
Delita sets his jaw. "Does she ask you use such title with her name?"
"Oh, no!" laughs Teta. "I am sorry, dear brother; such has become habit, as the instructors are greatly concerned with propriety. In truth, she hates when I call her such, but I have been reprimanded for it sufficiently that it has become habit out of self-preservation."
While it lightens Delita's heart an ounce to learn that Alma, at least, has not been swept up in the pageantry of heirarchy, his spirit remains disquieted. "You are better than a thousand of them," he growls. The comb finds another tangle which is dealt with none too mercifully.
"But I have been doing well with my studies!" Teta's voice is bright, intended to change the subject, and he lets it be so; he knows she bears in her none of the anger he shores up as strength in himself, and her gentle spirit is distressed every time rage seeps from his otherwise gentle nature. "My instructors say I have a particular gift for the workings of very delicate magicks."
"Is that so?" Anger melts away to reveal genuine pride at his sister's accomplishments, and the smile Delita wears softens his features. She is all he truly has, after all, and he loves her so fiercely in the face of such frequent opposition that sometimes he forgets love can take the form of pleasure as well as fury.
Teta nods. "Watch." Lifting a hand, she stills herself, and he can hear the soft words of a murmured incantation beneath her breath, too low and indistinct to be intelligible. Before him sits a chair, an old thing, battered and worn with age. As he watches, a thin sheen of ice creeps over the worked wood, giving the impression of an early frost on a meadow. And then the chair is not covered with ice, but is ice, before his eyes, delicate as though hewn from a single block with an artesan's tools. Teta lowers her hand, sagging forward slightly, yet regains her composure quickly.
The chill seeps into the room, standing the hairs on Delita's arms on end, turning his exhalations to white clouds. "...Will it thaw?"
"No." Her voice is a soft laugh. "I, ah, haven't quite mastered that yet."
"Then I suppose I ought find it somewhere to melt in secrecy." Delita ponders this task. "...Momentarily." He begins to run the brush again through her hair, and though he cannot see her gentle smile, he knows it is there. Thus they pass the time in a silence broken only as the newly frozen chair eventually begins to give way to the warm spring day.
It is the first time has seen Dycedarg in days, not counting the funeral, where all the children had sat sequestered and out of reach; Delita and Teta had been seated with the rest of the house, and Delita had held her hand through it, offering his handkerchief to dry her cheeks, yet his own eyes had never moistened, fixed as they had been on the four now-orphaned siblings.
"My condolences on your loss." Delita's voice is sincere, and rings in the near-empty hallway, still draped with black mourning fabrics. Of all the members of the household, Dycedarg least holds his tongue about his opinions regarding Delita and Teta's collective presence -- an occurrance of which he is scarcely fond. Yet Delita finds in him some mote of compassion for the eldest Beoulve, who at the funeral had appeared sincerely grief-stricken at the death of his father, and as such feels maintaining his and Dycedarg's customary disdainful silence would be inappropriate, considering the circumstances.
Dycedarg lifts his head, looking momentarily startled. "Ah. Thank you. My father meant a great deal to me."
"And to us all." While though such boldness may press beyond the bounds of propriety, particularly given their previous relationship, Delita feels in him the need to say something. Beyond all thoughts of decorum and sympathy, Delita knows that Dycedarg is now the head of the Beoulves, and as such may withdraw his support for the two commoner-children at any moment; while Delita has no doubts as to his ability to survive beyond the protection of nobles, Teta's frailty gives him cause for concern on her behalf. "My sister and I will be forever grateful for his benevolence."
He half-expects Dycedarg to respond with some as well you should or such is only right, yet Dycedarg only waves his hand. "Your condolences are received with gratitude."
Delita inclines his head in a bow, a gesture he normally considers far beneath him, yet he does not wish to shatter the thin ice on which he treads. He trusts neither Dycedarg nor his moods. "Then by your leave--"
"Wait." Dycedarg holds a hand to stay Delita's retreat, looking thoughtful. "...How fares Ramza at this recent tragedy?"
They possess the souls of politicians, Dycedarg and Delita both, and as such the latter ventures into the answer gingerly, wary of any traps the former might have lay in wait for him. "Aggrieved," he responds after a moment's thought. "Lord Balbanes held a place of great estimation in Ramza's eyes, and his absence is deeply felt." The statement rings both true and uninformative, which Delita supposes was the best he could hope for given a moment's notice.
Dycedarg's eyes narrow, and at that moment Delita sees true how aged the man has become, face lined with worry and anger far beyond his rightful years' accumulation. "Indeed. Such grief well befits the loss of a true father." And he turns and strides off, heavy robes trailing along the stone floor, leaving Delita to ponder even years later the precise meaning of such a curious statement.
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