Sibling Rivalry

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"What happened to you?" Triel asked sharply. "Why were you late for the morning meal? Tapatda didn't even see you until an hour after the meal was cool!" She saw the long bleeding slashes on his body, but she didn't understand them.

"Ma…Ma…Ma…" Jarlaxle shook. His crimson eyes got very big just before two tears squeezed themselves out and trickled down his cheeks. "…My apologies."

Triel bit back a sigh of exasperation at the lack of an answer and went over to him, kneeling down to eye level. She was breaking the rules, true, but for a reason. Young males tended to be so frightened when commanded to look into a female's eyes that they told everything one wanted to know.

Jarlaxle froze, and turned almost blue in the heat spectrum with fear, heat draining out of his body.

"What. Happened?" Triel enunciated slowly.

The child began to cry in earnest, making no semblance of bravery at all. He clutched at one particularly long injury on his left arm and wailed. "The mean lady wanted to know why I was alone, and I said I was alone because T-T-Triel didn't want to chaperone me to m-m-morning meal every day and I had to do it myself and she said," Jarlaxle cringed despite himself and stopped. "S-S-Said…"

"Who is 'she'?" Triel snapped. "There are a thousand females in this compound, possibly more."

"Bladen'Kerst." He sobbed and threw his arms around her, clinging to her chest. For almost a minute, all he did was cry and bleed on her.

She wanted to grab his little head and slam it on the floor. With a twitch, she clenched her hands and kept that urge to herself. "Why don't you lie down so that I can heal your injuries better?"

Jarlaxle sniffled, a long, disturbingly wet sound that made Triel secretly shudder and vow to detach him from her immediately before he added mucus to the secretions staining her dress. She held him out at arm's length as gently as she could manage, grinding her teeth. "The divan will do."

She didn't like the divan anyway, as it was the oldest and shabbiest piece of furniture in her chambers, and if Jarlaxle ruined it by bleeding on it, then she could ask for a new one.

The boy dried his tears, to his credit, and walked over to the divan on his own power. He sat down on the edge, legs dangling. He was still so small that his feet couldn't touch the ground when he sat down on her furniture.

Triel narrowed her eyes at him. Even this injured and distraught, he still had the dangerously independent streak in him that overrode her every command. She had told him to lie down, and instead, he sat. How he did it was beyond her, but her patience was lacking too much to make him do as she'd ordered.

Jarlaxle looked at the floor instead of up at her, now quiet and composed. "S-S-She hit me. With her s-snake things. Alive…They were alive…"

"So is mine," Triel said. "You haven't misbehaved sufficiently in my presence to feel it as of yet." She crossed the distance between them, now trying to make inventory of how badly he was injured. He'd lost his shirt somehow, and his pants were torn through to the point of ruin. It looked as though every square inch of him was cut and bleeding.

Jarlaxle cringed. "I don't know what I did. I said…I said I didn't know…she…she hit me and I asked why and she –" He looked too terrified by whatever thought he was trying to express to continue.

"She doesn't have to have a reason!" Triel snapped.

Jarlaxle froze, and looked at her whip. It was stirring in response to her irritation as it finally came to a head.

"You give her one by asking what right she had to beat you," Triel said, trying to keep a handle on her temper. "You cannot ask what she is hitting you for."

"I can't?"

"No."

"Why not?" Tears leaked from Jarlaxle's eyes again at this new realization she'd forced upon him.

"Because you are male," Triel said. "You are bound by Lloth's laws to say and do whatever we, the females, tell you to do."

Jarlaxle was stunned silent. Tears coursed down his cheeks without a sound.

It was starting to make Triel uncomfortable. Partly she was irritated that he for all his intelligence hadn't discerned that on his own, and partly she was irritated with herself. For his story had awakened a feeling of wrath against Bladen'Kerst for daring to touch Jarlaxle, a feeling that guaranteed bloody revenge. And yet, she couldn't indentify just when she started to feel such avid possessiveness towards Jarlaxle. He was not her exclusive plaything, after all, he belonged to the Baenre family. But she had a sense at the same time that almost overrode that logic that she was his exclusive owner. That he was hers, not anyone else's.

She wondered if this was another unpleasant, hidden side effect of being a wean mother her sisters hadn't told her about.

"I will heal you now," she said curtly.