Second Battle of Jent
“Have you come to arrest me, brother?” Cettan asked, keeping the irritation out of his voice, although he could not keep a deep scowl from furrowing his forehead.
He pulled on his gloves, flexing and tightening each hand with a visible effort to check his anger. Waving away his sword belt, he took his heavy cape from a servant before throwing it over his shoulders, and his scowl deepened when he stared at the five armed soldiers standing behind Lyhtan. He felt his cheeks burn despite his determination not to lose his temper; not only had Lyhtan followed him, but he’d had the audacity to bring soldiers as if he were chasing down a common criminal.
Lyhtan saw the glint in Cettan’s eye as he watched his brother slowly fold his arms, and he knew that there was nothing he could say to convince Cettan to give up this folly. A hard stubbornness had set his brother’s will, as it usually did when he controlled his temper, and once Cettan had thus set his resolve, Lyhtan knew no amount of reason could sway him. It was a trait they shared, inherited from their father, and it was perhaps the only thing the two hot-headed brothers of Haelanhon Ealder had in common.
“Release these men and let them return to Troth,” Lyhtan said, making the only argument he had left. “Renounce our House if you must, but don’t force them into exile with you.”
“So, our father, the venerable Haelanhon Ealder, would disown a son, simply for choosing to rescue his own. The irony is astounding, even accepting our father’s unyielding pride. And you, dear brother, how can you stand here, with your son safely at your side, and ask this of me? Would you be so quick to obey this irrational dictate from our father were Byldan at Torbod?” he asked, looking at his young nephew who had accompanied his father on this ill begotten errand.
“Release these men,” Lyhtan demanded again, ignoring the bait of that well reasoned retort.
“All those wishing to obey the command of Haelanhon Ealder and return to Troth, form ranks behind Lyhtan,” Cettan yelled to the men who had been slowly emerging from their tents after the early morning arrival of Lyhtan had roused them from their sleep.
A cold silence settled over the roadside camp, seemingly darkening an already overcast predawn sky. No one moved for several seconds until, one by one, the two dozen master craftsmen and the handful of soldiers following Cettan slowly moved to stand behind him.
“The loyalty of these men was freely given,” Cettan said. “I released all those who were not willing to forsake our House and make the march to Torbod a week ago when I turned toward Torbod.”
Lyhtan shook his head, checking his own frustration. Cettan was still his brother, and he would not let angry words mar their final conversation; not if he could help it. He had unquestioningly obeyed their father, just as he always did, and ridden after Cettan knowing full well that the effort would be futile. He looked at his own son, now wondering why he had allowed Byldan to witness this exchange. Foolishly, he had hoped to sway Cettan, who’d always doted on his nephew, by bringing him along, but all he had really done was remind Cettan of the peril of his own son at Torbod, a city now under an unprecedented Dasyu siege if the latest reports were to be believed.
“Do not do this, brother,” Lyhtan pleaded one last time, knowing that his case was lost. “I implore you not to tarnish the great name of Haelanhon with this insubordination.”
Cettan laughed, but there was no mirth to be heard in those hollow echoes as they were swallowed by the stoic silence of the men behind him. His father was as rigid and unbending as the stone and metal he loved so much, and he cared for nothing but the extreme propriety of his unyielding discipline; the great name of Haelanhon indeed!
“As usual, our father is unwilling to compromise or consider a point of view other than his own,” Cettan said icily. “That he is obeyed without question is all that matters to him, no matter what circumstances may have occurred to alter the situation. He is incapable of admitting that he may have erred in his original assessment, and now, all he cares about is that his wishes have been disobeyed. No, brother, I have made my decision. My infant son and newly wed wife are now the only family I require, and they trump all loyalty to Haelanhon. If our father will not yield, I will become Bruchmon and forsake our House.”
“So be it,” Lyhtan said, unable to keep the anger from rising in his throat over these disparaging remarks against their father. “Then we are no…”
“Don’t,” Cettan said loudly, cutting Lyhtan short. “Do not hastily forsake a brother’s bond. Do so if you must, but do it after careful reflection, lest these witnesses hold you to a vow made in anger.”
Lyhtan opened his mouth to finish his denunciation of Cettan, but he shut it slowly before he sundered all ties with his brother.
“There may come a day when even our father might undo what has been done here today,” Cettan said, a resigned sadness replacing his previous outburst. “If the fates will it, I will see my son again. He is the grandson of Haelanhon Ealder, and no words will ever sunder that blood tie to our father. Let us also not forget that my son, Baran, is the heir to the Bruchmon throne. Haelanhon would be wise not to set aside such a powerful association for the sake of pride and an unheeded order.”
Again, Lyhtan had no response to contest the force of that logic. Pursing his lips, he let his own anger dissolve. He had done his father’s bidding and ridden after Cettan, but even the always obedient son was unable to obey the ultimatum from Haelanhon Ealder that demanded that he bring Cettan back to Troth by force if reason failed to sway him. He looked at the soldiers standing behind him, and after holding them in an extended gaze for a few moments, he nodded his head.
Cettan tensed as they moved toward him, but when they continued past him to stand behind the other men who had chosen exile, his eyes widened with a newfound respect for his brother, a brother who he had always assumed was as unyielding as their father.
“Thank you, brother,” Cettan said, humbled. “All here will bear witness to the lie that these men abandoned you. On the pain of death, none will speak of your betrayal, lest our father learn the truth.”
Lyhtan’s silence accepted Cettan’s gratitude.
“Your father has done an honorable thing here today,” Cettan continued, addressing his nephew Byldan. “Do not ever forget what you have witnessed here. Someday, you too may have a brother, and hopefully, you will come to understand the ties that can only exist between brothers. Your grandfather is a wise and venerable man, but like all men, he is fallible. I do not lightly forsake our great House, nor do I lightly relinquish my love for you, dear nephew. You will not always be estranged from your cousins in the House of Bruchmon. Remember me fondly, if you can.”
Cettan turned his back on his brother and young nephew and lowered his head, symbolically accepting his exile. He listened as they walked to their waiting horses, and he did not turn to watch them ride away after they mounted. Had he done so, he would have seen his nephew turn in the saddle to look upon his outcast Uncle with a hard angry expression, although none could tell if the young Byldan’s anger was directed toward his uncle, his grandfather, or his father who rode at his side.
When the sound of the galloping horses faded into the distance, Cettan raised his eyes to the group standing in front of him. Many had given up much more than he had by accepting exile, most leaving their families behind in order to assist in reuniting him with his wife and son. If the craftsmen who followed him succeeded in getting to Torbod, they would be honored as heroes by Bruchmon, but for now, any such hope required that they all survive the Dasyu hordes surrounding that city.
Cettan nodded at the soldiers who had just joined them. They’d have willingly volunteered to join him, as his brother would never have ordered any man into exile just to save face with their father. No, these men were hardened soldiers who knew the threat the Dasyu represented. They had chosen not to remain idle and safe at Troth while Torbod burned.
“Keep your blades sharp and at the ready,” he said to the newcomers. “The vile Dasyu will soon feel the bite of your steel.”
For information on Heart of Hauden, Book One of the Harmony of the Othar Saga, or any of the books in the series, please visit http://www.otharsaga.com/.