Kyandi: And right back I am.
Alair: That barely made sense.
Kyandi: Shush! I'm aware of what makes sense and what doesn't.
Alair: Are you?
Kyandi: Yes! Now, I have to apologize. This chapter is shorter than normal and I only have one more possible chapter I can squeeze out before having to wait for more content either from the anime or the manga.
Alair: She wants to remain as faithful to the story as she can.
Kyandi: Right. So, with that in mind, everyone please enjoy and review.
Alair: Kyandi-sama does not own Heroic Legend of Arslan.
Chapter 30 Together Again
The shock was evident among Alair's friends as they all turned to stare at Thea.
"But I thought Lady Alair's brother was dead. You, yourself, said that his body had been retrieved and buried." Elam said.
"So I was told, but there he is in front of you. I knew Lady Alair would be so thrilled to see him." Thea said.
Across the court yard, Alair was currently draped over her brother, hugging him tightly, as if she wanted to verify that he was alive, but even after doing so, couldn't believe it. All she could do was hug him, her frame shaking from tears of joy. She couldn't believe it. Even after all these years, he still had his quirky smile, still had the same kind, blue eyes she remembered so fondly.
"I cannot believe my eyes...please tell me what my eyes see is true and not a cruel joke of the gods." Alair pleaded.
"It is true, Lairy. I am here, flesh and blood." he said, his voice the same rumbling timbre it had been when she was small.
"I thought you were dead!" she exclaimed.
"And I you as well." Cormac replied.
Alair pulled back from her brother, grabbing him by the shoulders.
"No, I was told that your body had been recovered and buried! How can this be?" Alair asked as her friends approached.
"Only a select few from my personal guard even knew I survived the...overly vigorous attack from Andragoras. They were the ones that claimed to have recovered my body and buried it while I was carefully transported to Rrigen Abbey to be looked after by the monks." Cormac told her.
"But...the king...he told me how he split you from navel to nose and even stabbed your own glaive into your gut." Alair said softly, sinking to sit in front of her brother.
"Oh, and he did. Not quite navel to nose, but close enough for me to thank the gods every day that I still draw breath yet. And he did as he said. I never fully recovered from his attack, Lairy, and am curse to have to resort to using this to remain on my feet for long times." Cormac said, lifting his can to show his sister.
Alair's hand flew to her mouth, her eyes wide. Especially when Cormac raised his shirt, showing the ragged scar that ran from his navel up to his collar bones, another intersecting it at the navel. Even Thea had to look away, turning into Jaswant's side so she didn't have to see the evidence of what her prince had to go through.
"Oh, Cormac..." Alair breathed out the two words before she threw her arms around her brother's neck once more, burying her face in his shoulder. "I cannot apologize enough. It was all because of me that you had to suffer so. I will never be able to repent for such a sin."
A shocked look crossed her brother's face before, with a softening smile, he reached up to stroke his sister's hair.
"Lairy, you have nothing to apologize for. To protect you, my beloved sister, I would take a hundred blades to the stomach. I am just relieved to see you alive and thriving." Cormac told her. "Speaking of which...Garth tells me that you are now a mistress of your own pack of wolves."
Alair sat back on her heels, nodding. Turning, she let out a low whistle. People parted to let the wolves by. Wolfsbane was the first to approach Alair, nudging her shoulder when he saw the tears still shining in her eyes. Lunarwind was next, the female fixing Cormac with a piercing look before giving him a sniff. Greyback joined her in sniffing Cormac while Hawkeye watched from the other side of Wolfsbane, Blackwing climbing into Alair's lap. Finally, Lunarwind gave Cormac a single lick on the cheek, deeming him acceptable.
Cormac greeted the wolves happily, patting their heads and scratching under Blackwing's chin. It seemed the easiness with wolves ran in the family. Alair introduce them all to her brother before he fixed his eyes on his sister's face.
"Lairy...I also hear you are serving the Parsian prince." Cormac said.
Without a moment's hesitation, Alair turned towards Arslan, beckoning him over. Arslan joined Alair, dropping to a knee beside her. Alair looked from Arslan to her brother.
"Cormac, this is my kingling, the Crown Prince of Pars, Prince Arslan. Kingling, this is my brother, Cormac." Alair said, introducing the two.
Arslan gave Cormac a smile before offering him a hand up. Cormac stared at him for a moment, before taking his hand, allowing Arslan, with a little help from Alair, to pull him to his feet. Leaning on the cane, Cormac continued to stare at Arslan for a moment, not releasing his hand.
"Brother?" Alair asked, looking up at her brother face.
Cormac continued to stare before a smile spread across his face and he gave Arslan's hand a shake.
"I have to say, young prince, Garth, Thea, and the others have had nothing but good things to say of you. Garth went to great lengths to assure me that you are not even the tiniest amount like your father and uncle and that you have treated my sister with nothing but respect and honor. " Cormac said. "If my sister has chosen to follow you, then you have my respect."
A relieved smile curled Alair's lips as she wrapped an arm around one of Cormac's, pressing her forehead into his shoulder. She was glad to see that her brother wasn't going to fight her on her choice to follow Arslan. She had always wondered what her family would have thought of her choice. She never thought she would find out in this life.
"Just do not expect me to willingly deal with your father, face to face. That man has a charm gifted to me by our mother and I would like it back." Cormac added.
Arslan smiled. He had expected nothing less after what his father had put Cormac through. He suppose he was lucky that Cormac didn't hold a grudge against the whole royal family. But, then again, neither did his sister.
Turning, a happy smile on her face, Alair gestured for her friends to approach, wanting very much to introduce them to her brother.
"Brother, this is Narsus. He is the tactician of the kingling's army and a man I believe you will find fascinating to speak with." Alair said, introducing Narsus first.
Cormac took Narsus' hand, giving it a firm shake.
"Yes, Garth tells me you can be a rather...infuriating man to have as an enemy. I look forward to being able to sit down to talk with you." Cormac said in greeting.
Narsus turned a questioning look on Garth, but the man refused to look at him, his horse suddenly holding more interest than the conversation.
"This is Elam, Narsus' attendant. He is a fierce archer and a rather devoted attendant. Lately, he's been studying scrolls from our royal library." Alair continued, turning to Elam next.
Elam was flattered by her praise and bowed to Cormac, who waved the bow away and took the boy's hand in his.
"Calio spoke of you. He said you were a better archer than most who serve under him." Cormac said.
From behind them, Calio gave a curt nod as he unsaddled his horse. Alair turned to Alfreed next.
"This is Alfreed." Alair said.
"Oh! Those markings...you are of the Zot Clan, right?" Cormac asked, greeting her with a smile.
"I am! I'm also Narsus' wife." Alfreed declared, Narsus dropping his face into his hand.
Cormac looked between the two, a questioning look on his face until his sister leaned in and whispered in his ear. Cormac tilted his head towards her, listening, a look of understanding dawning on his face.
"Oh, I understand." Cormac told his sister.
Alfreed and Narsus eyed the pair of siblings, but neither saw the need to say anymore. Alair moved on to Farangis next.
"This is Farangis. She is a priestess of the Temple of Mithra. She also speaks with the djinn." Alair said.
"Ah, yes! Lady Farangis. All of the women who have served my sister recently, speak very highly of you, your skill, and your beauty. They also tell me that you are one of the first my sister turns to for advice. That also speaks highly of you. It is a pleasure to meet you." Cormac greeted.
"And the man behind her, is Gieve. He is a minstrel but a fine warrior as well." Alair told her brother before lowering her voice. "Do not stroke his ego."
Gieve pressed a hand to his heart, as if Alair had wounded him, Cormac chuckling before greeting Gieve as well. Jaswant was next and needed no introduction from Alair.
"You are Jaswant. Yes, Thea has told me much about you." Cormac said in greeting. "In fact...you, as well as my sister, are about all she talks of."
Jaswant looked down at Thea who smiled back at him. That left only one person from Arslan's inner circle of advisors. Daryun stepped forward to greet Alair's brother. Cormac instantly saw a subtle change come over Alair's expression as she smiled at Daryun.
"Cormac...this is Daryun. He's the kingling's strongest fighter. A knight with hardly a rival." Alair told her brother.
As the two men clasped hands, Cormac's brows lifted.
"Daryun? The Daryun? Garth had quite a bit to say about you." Cormac said.
Both Alair and Daryun gave Garth a look, the former having to lean around her brother. The Alhirian man grinned and raised his shoulders in a shrug. Neither he or Cormac said a word to clarify what Garth had told Cormac about Daryun. Instead of answering the questioning look from his sister, Cormac turned to Arslan.
"Well, dear prince, despite your father's hand in my deteriorated state, I am not willing to hold a grudge against a father, against his son as well. Besides," Cormac gave his sister a smile. "If my sister is so devoted to following you, I am more than willing to do the same if for no other reason than to have her happy. Lairy has always had a good judge in character, even when she was a child. I do not imagine that has changed."
Alair tried to protest, Arslan too, when Cormac, stiffly, got to one knee. Seeing their former prince doing this, every Alhirian in the court yard, did the same. Cormac, one hand over his heart, bowed his head to Arslan.
"Allow this fallen prince and what remains of his men, to swear their loyalty to you, Crown Prince Arslan. I might not be much of a fighter, anymore, but I am still a skilled archer and tactician and I can still command my men." Cormac said lowly.
Arslan stared down at Cormac before looking at Alair who was waiting just like her brother. He shared a brief look with Narsus and Daryun before turning to Cormac. Bending over, Arslan took hold of Cormac's hand and elbow and helped the man to his feet.
"Just as I have told Alair and the rest of your people," Arslan started, smiling at Cormac. "I am more than happy to have you fighting along side us. I know it will make Alair very happy."
Alair, over joyed, jumped at her brother to hug him once more, and ended up apologizing when she almost knocked him over. Cormac, laughing himself, hugged his sister, the two siblings just happy to be reunited.
"I am so happy to see you again, Cormac. We have so much to talk about." Alair told her brother.
"Yes, we do." Cormac agreed, stepping back and offering his sister his arm.
Alair took it, more to support her brother than anything. With that, they started towards the door, Arslan falling into step on the other side of Alair.
"Most of your men will have to be housed else where, but you and your commanders are more than welcome to stay here." Arslan offered.
"Thank you so very much, Prince Arslan. It has been a long trip." Cormac replied.
"You should rest before anything else, brother." Alair told him.
"I'm fine, Lairy. I just need to sit." Cormac assured her.
"Lairy?" Alfreed asked, popping up on Cormac's other side.
"I've called her that since the day she was born. I was there as they wrapped her wailing form, tuff of red hair and all, in a blanket and handed her to our mother." Cormac said, smiling at his sister.
Once inside, Arslan escorted them to a sitting room where Alair sat her brother on a couch, taking a seat next to him. After thinking her brother dead for so long, she would not allow herself to be separated from him for a while yet. Arslan sat across from them, Daryun standing at his side. The rest of Alair's friends took seats around the room, or remained standing. Cormac turned a smile on his sister.
"Mother was a little disappointed that you did not have her hair color, but she was simply glad that you were born healthy and strong." Cormac told her.
"She feared there would be something wrong?" Elam asked.
"There is a considerable distance in age between my sister and I." Cormac told them. "That is because there were three others before my sister. Sadly, all three died either before or shortly after birth. Two brothers and a sister."
Alair turned her eyes to Elam, a sad smile on her face.
"Mother feared the same would be true with me. After the relief, all else was of little significance." Alair said. "Even the fact that I was not the second son my father had hoped for."
"Either way, Father loved you all the same. In fact, I do believe you became more of a pride and joy than a second son would ever have been." Cormac said joyfully. "I still remember Father's proud grin the first time you wielded a glaive. You had barely turned four."
"It was only a practice glaive for a child." Alair insisted.
"You still gave Garth quite the knot on the head from hitting him with it." Cormac retorted.
"I...I do not remember such a thing." Alair said, though the slight color rising in her cheeks, suggested otherwise.
Cormac grinned at his sister, a laugh booming from Garth, even as the man rubbed his head, proclaiming, "Well, I remember it.".
"See, now that is much better." he remarked.
"What is?" Alair asked.
"You had so little color in your cheeks earlier. It is nice to see some color. Have you always been this pale?" Cormac demanded.
"No, brother. Recently, there was an...incident."
Cormac stared at his sister, but she was looking anywhere but at him.
"What kind of incident?" Garth demanded.
Alair didn't say a word, nor did she look at Garth or her brother. She was not willing to tell them about the would be assassination plot against her. Narsus was the one that told them and the reaction to the news was about what they had expected. Garth was furious and Thea was instantly hovering, checking Alair to see for herself that the young woman was alright.
"I am fine now, Thea. Nothing more than a faint scar. The man responsible was captured and dealt with and I have almost fully recovered." Alair assured them. "Daryun has been by my side nearly day in and day out since it happened. I was perfectly safe."
Garth ran a hand down his face before turning to Cormac, who had remained silent through the whole thing.
"My lord, are you not going to say something? Your sister is positively irresponsible with her own life." Garth said.
"Yes well...she learned that from the best. I do believe our parents and I, have not been the best example." Cormac replied in good nature, a sheepish smile on his face as he ran a hand through his medium length hair. Turning to Daryun, he gave the man a grateful smile. "I thank you, Lord Daryun, for protecting my sister."
Daryun awkwardly rubbed at his neck. He didn't really see it as doing anything special. Alair was his friend, his comrade. He would do anything for his comrades. Of course, he now understood that there was more to it than that. At least where Alair was concerned.
Alair spent the next few hours speaking with her brother, the siblings catching up on all the time they had missed while apart. As the night hours wore on, Alair, who still grew tired easier than before, fell asleep sitting next to her brother. Cormac smiled as he watched his sister sleep.
"I cannot believe how much she's grown. How much I have missed." Cormac remarked.
"What was Alair like as a child?" Arslan asked, curious.
Cormac turned his eyes to Arslan, an easy going smile on his face. A smile they could sometimes find on Alair's face.
"I will make a deal with you, my young prince. I will tell you about what she was like when she was small, if you tell me what she is like now." Cormac told him.
"I will take that deal gladly." Arslan told him.
"Let me see then," Cormac leaned back, careful not to disturb his sister, one hand rubbing his jaw. Idly, his thumb rubbed at a small scar that ran over the left side of his jaw line. "Lairy, as a child, was...well different then most children. She was not one to play with dolls like the other young ladies in the court. No, Lairy gravitated, instantly, towards my and my father's weapons. She was always staring at them in fascination. Mother tried to get Lairy to play with normal children toys, but Lairy preferred to sit in my or our parents' laps at a counsel meeting."
"Sounds like she was born a seasoned warrior." Gieve remarked.
"I sometimes wondered. My father had her playing strategy games by the time she was four. She had a mind that always seemed to thirst for more knowledge and spirit that was starved for a challenge. It was both fascinating, and frightening, to see the sheer depth of her mind even from a young age." Cormac said, turning his eyes to his sister's sleeping face. "But she also had a very vibrant spirit. The palace was never quiet with Lairy around. She was either mock fighting with one of her ladies-in-waiting, or chasing Garth or one of my other guards around with a practice glaive."
"She sounds like she was mischievous as a child." Alfreed said, grinning.
"And she was, somewhat. She certainly had not a single qualm against speaking her mind. She was a very clever child. Just imagine, if you would, a tiny child, not four years of age, speaking to grown men as if she is one of them. There were many a times when my father and I could do nothing more than gasp because we were trying hard to reframe from laughter." Cormac said. "And then there was this...act she would do with my hunting hounds."
"She would stand before the hounds, stare them down, and then would turn on her heels, proclaim she was alpha, and demand they follow her." Cormac explained. "And they would. I see now, that she simply has quite the touch with animals."
Cormac's eyes shifted to Wolfsbane who was laying at his and Alair's feet, his head resting on his paws. The wolf opened his one good eye to look up at Cormac, his ears rising in a questioning gesturing. Cormac reached down, giving the mighty wolf a scratch behind the ears.
"That was just Lairy back then. Tell me...is she different now?" Cormac asked, looking up at Arslan.
"The Alair we know...is different. In some ways." Arslan admitted. "She's usually more serious, less mischievous than she apparently was as a child. She doesn't always think like a human anymore, which is understandable considering she spent so many years living with wolves. From the stories she has told me, her life has been rather complicated."
Cormac heaved a sigh. Idly, he ran a hand through his hair, giving it a ruffle before glancing at his sleeping sister.
"I feared as much. She had to mature far too quickly, even for a princess and even for someone who thirsted for knowledge so. We called her a War Princess because of the promising potential she showed with her glaive training and with the strategy games my father and his generals played with her, but that aside...she was just a child. The only reason my parents and I took up the fight with Pars was because none of us wanted to see her stuck in a life, in a marriage, in which she would find no happiness or love. For Alhirians, that is far worse than death. Despite our best intentions...we doomed her to exactly that." Cormac folded his hands together, resting his forehead against them. "I am a pitiful excuse for a brother."
"I can assure you...she does not see it that way." Arslan assured him. "Alair has always spoken of you with nothing but admiration and fondness."
Cormac laughed, giving his head a shake as he leaned back. There was a smile on his face as he looked at Alair.
"She would. The Lairy I remember, hardly could speak ill of another person. If she did, then it was reason to listen. As I said, she was a very good judge of character." Cormac remarked.
"Her instincts certainly are nothing to take lightly." Narsus agreed.
"I am merely glad that she seems to be happy. I have you and your companions to thank for that, Prince Arslan. You have my utmost gratitude." Cormac told Arslan.
"You have nothing to thank me for, Prince Cormac." Arslan said, smiling back at him.
"I am no prince any longer. Merely a commander, and a broken one at that." Cormac joked, giving the floor a tap with his cane.
"As long as your mind still works and your men still follow you, you are a commander with no fault." Daryun assured him.
Cormac let out a hearty laugh that caused Alair to shift in her sleep. He checked on his sister before turning back to Daryun, smile on his handsome face.
"I can see why my sister speaks highly of you, Lord Daryun. You are a considerate man to those around you. A good quality for sure." Cormac said.
Daryun didn't know how to reply. Cormac, on the other hand, heaved a sigh and, with a tiny bit of difficulty, got to his feet. He turned to Garth then.
"Old friend, you mind helping me get Lairy to bed?" Cormac asked.
Before Garth could answer, Daryun stepped forward and, silently and gently, picked Alair up, settling her in his arms. When he turned, he found everyone staring at him, Cormac and Garth with grins on their faces.
"Daryun has been taking care of Alair the last few days. In order to thwart the any more assassins, she has been sleeping in the room that Daryun and Jaswant share, so that the two could watch over her at night." Narsus explained, covering for his friend.
"Well, I thank you Lord Daryun." Cormac said, obviously trying not to laugh.
Daryun squared his shoulders, trying to ignore it.
"I will carry her to her room for you." Daryun declared before moving past Cormac and Garth.
When he left the room, Cormac couldn't help the low chuckle that left him as he and Garth shook their head. Turning to Arslan, Cormac smiled and bid the prince good night. At a slower pace, Cormac followed Daryun from the room. The two men traveled through the building to Alair's room, where Greyback, Hawkeye, and Blackwing were already sleeping. Blackwing raised her head when the two men entered the room and got up, nudging the blankets back and out of the way for Daryun, who tucked Alair into her bed. Turning, he found Cormac waiting by the door.
"The room next door was made up for you." Daryun told him.
"Thank you very much, but I do believe I will remain here for the moment. It has been so long since I have seen my sister that I am still having a hard time believing that she is here before me." Cormac said, staring fondly at his sister. A sigh left the man. "She's grown so much. It is so...painful to realize that this beautiful young lady, is the same little girl that use to follow me while half tripping over a glaive that was too long for her to use. Tell me, Lord Daryun...is she happy with her life?"
Daryun looked back at Alair as Blackwing settled in next to her to sleep. He had never really stopped to think about if Alair was happy with her life or not. She seemed happy, for the most part. She laughed and smiled, went about each day with her head held high, so, yes, he did believe she was happy.
"I believe so." Daryun told Cormac.
"Good. Again, thank you for looking after my sister. I bid you good night, Lord Daryun." Cormac replied.
Daryun turned back at the door, watching as Cormac lowered himself into a chair at Alair's bedside, reaching out to tuck some of Alair's hair out of her face. A smile curled Alair's lips in her sleep. He was glad that Alair had her brother back, and with the addition of the Alhirian soldiers, their army was one big step closer to the fifty thousand Arslan needed. But now Daryun had another concern on his mind.
Would Cormac approve of Daryun's feelings for Alair?
Kyandi: And there you go! Sorry the chapter was short.
Alair: It was more to explain what had happened with Cormac.
Kyandi: Right. But now he's back.
Alair: And now I must concern myself with my brother's opinion on my feelings.
Kyandi: Yeah...so glad I don't have to worry about that.
Alair: You are asexual.
Kyandi: Yeah...A romantic asexual. I still like the emotional connection, thank you very much. And besides...that's off topic.
Alair: If you insist.
Kyandi: Anyway, hopefully I'll get some new content here soon so I can write another chapter. Until then, everyone enjoy and review.
Alair: We shall return as soon as we are able.