Definition of a Family- Part One: Discussions
By: Manna (Kitten Kisses)
10th definition of Family, according to Dictionary (dot) com- A group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals and, frequently, live together.
The rain was something that he was used to. It was a familiar, soft sound- one that could be identified immediately, no matter where you were. He could remember a lot of things concerning the rain when he thought about it. He had not centered his life around drizzles and thunderstorms, of course, but sometimes he felt as if he could not escape them completely.
They were moving at a leisurely pace in the light summer shower, and he had no objections for once. They were nearly back at the Castle Caelin, its wide iron gate the entrance to the place he had called home for a long time. The castle did not feel as particularly welcoming to him as he had hoped it would when he saw the magnificent structure towering above the houses in the distance.
Their party had shrunk considerably in size after they had parted with the people headed to their own homes in various directions. He, Sain, and the Lady Lyndis were at the front, while Wallace slowly marched along behind them. Nobody wanted the lumbering general leading them all back to Castle Caelin, for fear they would end up in Ilia instead.
"I can not wait to get back to the castle," he heard Sain say, and the boredom in the voice of the rather roguish knight was obvious. "I think that the first thing I will do is go to see my family! I believe it's been more than a year since I've had the chance to talk with them." His sandy hair, wet to the roots, stuck to his forehead making him appear positively miserable, but he sat straighter in his saddle at the thought of going home.
"That sounds like a perfect idea, Sain," his liege answered, and he found himself looking at her unconsciously. "Be certain to stay a couple of days, to try and make up for lost time."
"My lovely Lady Lyndis!" came his reply, "you do not have to tell me twice. I will do as you say with no complaints!"
His friend flashed Lyndis a smile that could have lit up the sky, had it been possible, and turned to stare intently at the castle looming in the distance. His spirits seemed to be better, now, and it had quickly infected Lyndis as well, as she turned to look at the two of them, waving at Wallace in an attempt to get him to walk faster.
"If we hurry, I think we could make it just after high noon." Immediately, she started to walk faster, setting a reasonable pace for the rest of them to follow, her soggy hair lying limp in the ponytail it was tied in. Her Sacaen clothing was soaked completely through, and it took him a moment to follow her lead, because he couldn't help but notice how it clung to her body.
When he managed to get his horse to walk alongside her again, he looked away from her, and willed the redness he knew was in his cheeks to go away. He had offered her his horse several times since the rain had started- and that was hours ago- but she had refused every time. Though the weather was warm, he could not help but worry that she might catch her death of cold in the clothes she wore.
"Confounded armor!" he heard Sir Wallace shout, the booming voice of the General interrupting his thoughts. "Worry not about me, Lady Lyndis! Press onward, I shall meet you and your grandfather at the Castle Caelin when I can!"
He heard a few muffled curses and exclamations from the annoyed man before the general fell too far behind to hear.
"If that man had a family," Sain said jovially, the wide smile still on his face, "He would not be able to find them again!"
Kent threw him a disapproving glance, but when Lyn chuckled a little at what his friend had said, he turned his eyes to the sky, instead. The rain was still coming down, though not as hard as before. The hollow clink of the water hitting his armor was almost comforting to him, and he listened to it for a while, the repetitive sound drowning out Sain and Lyndis's conversation about Sain's family.
She said, breaking into his pondering, "What about you, Kent? Do you have any family…left?"
When he looked down at her from where he sat, he only saw a curious smile on her face, her now darkened bangs sticking to her skin. It was the face of someone he cared a lot for, and he could not disregard her question completely, though he sorely wanted to.
"Yes," he answered, his voice hesitant. "But, forgive me, my Lady, I do not wish to speak further of it." His tone was not angry, but rather resigned and pensive. It was a subject that he was not good with, just as he was not good at conversing with women.
If you do not have anything nice to say, you ought to refrain from saying anything at all.
Sain could feel the tension in the air almost as soon as it had come, and he could not help but intervene for a friend. He did not know why Kent did not like to speak of his family, but he had seen and heard the same reaction from his companion several times before. Some of the other knights had teased him about it a bit, poking fun in the way that peers often do, saying that perhaps his mother had borne a bastard child. They meant no real harm by it, but it always left his auburn-haired comrade both angry and a bit sad. Not a man prone to violence, Kent had always simply walked away to sit by himself and think undisturbed.
"My good friend!" the green-armored knight said loudly, causing both Kent and Lyndis to look at him. "Have you ever had the chance to meet my family? I think that you would find them to be good company." He did not give his partner a chance to reply before he continued, a smile still present, saying, "I must insist that you come with me to meet them- just for one day, if you wish."
Lyndis turned to Kent, a small smile on her own face. "I think that you should," she told the redheaded knight. "It might do you some good to be away from the castle and this little army for a bit."
"But," he protested, brushing aside the hair that hung in his eyes. "You are-"
"Your duty?" she sighed. "I can take care of myself, and you know that. I would not mind having some time to myself, to think, to visit with my grandfather, and to be a woman, not just a warrior or a Lady of a castle. Do not make me force it as an order, Kent. Go for a couple of days, at least, and if you want to return before the week is over, you can. You cannot stay in the barracks all afternoon, and at watch all day." She smiled at him with an almost sad expression on her face, but he could not be sure.
He was not sure what she meant, or if she had meant anything by it at all. He merely nodded, accepting her terms. What she wanted him to do, he would. If not for his duty, than for her- the one who held his heart in her very hands and did not even know it.
"Do not look so glum, old friend!" he could hear Sain saying from the other side of their liege. "My crazy old mother will alone be enough to cheer you up, but with four sisters and a brother, you will be as good as new within a day!"
Kent had been surprised to find that the place where his friend had grown up was nothing but a tiny house and a rundown old barn. The roof of the latter sagged in an almost comical way, but it still stood proudly enough as a small flock of chickens wandered around beneath it, their heads cocked to the side to stare at him.
A few children, all rather young, had also turned to stare, and after a mere second or two they had run to the man standing beside him. "Oh, Brother!" they had shouted in something akin to glee. "Mama! Mama, come out! Brother Sain is home!"
It had been a few hours since then, but he could not forget the flurry of activity, or the sudden whirlwind that had rushed from the house, her skirts dragging the ground. She didn't appear to be as old or crazy as Sain claimed her to be, but she picked the stunned knight up a few inches from the ground in a hug that Kent was sure could kill a person.
"I feared you dead," the woman said, her green eyes brimming with tears. Sighing, she wiped her eyes on the simple apron tied at her waist and put one of her hands on the head of the child standing closest to her. "Thank Saint Elimine that you have returned to us alive and well! And with a friend, no less!"
"Mother," Sain replied, his eyes smiling almost as much as his mouth was. "The world cannot be rid of me so easily, you know. And I have brought Kent along, because I think the atmosphere will do him some good."
Kent could admit to himself that he had felt a little out of place then, standing amid a woman and her six children, one of which was a friend of his. "If you will have me," he had said to her her, bowing his head in a show of respect.
"Oh my!" she exclaimed, her face lighting up with a wide smile that looked eerily familiar to Sain's. "This is a polite one. I think that you could learn a few things from him!"
Sain, the smile ever-present on his face, turned to Kent and spoke, his voice cheerful, "You know I have a love of women, my friend, but this is the woman I love the most of all- my mother."
It had taken several hours to get to Sain's house from the Castle Caelin, but after introductions were made, it had only taken minutes to be shoved into the house, sat down, and given a slightly cold dinner of potatoes and chicken.
The children had been eager to catch up with their brother, and Sain had obliged them with every story of their trip he could think of (omitting parts that could get him into trouble, of course). The noise and excitement of the household was enough to make Kent's mind spin.
He was used to the adrenaline rush of battle, the loud clanging of steel against steel, the pounding in his ears, the fear for a friend, the shouts of challenges, the screams of agony, and the strain of keeping one eye on his enemy, and the other on his liege.
The noise of children was one that he was not very familiar with. Their loud squeals of happiness, the clapping of their hands when their brother had said something particularly exciting, and the way that they had all crowded around Sain- some sitting on his lap, others sitting by his feet.
As the sun started to set in the west, Kent had excused himself from their little gathering, leaving the house to find a place to sit and think. It wasn't as if he hated children, because that was not the case. He wasn't sure what he thought of it all, and knowing that much only served to confuse him more.
The fact was that they made him feel…uncomfortable. The way that Sain's mother and siblings had watched the sandy-haired knight, their eyes exuding love and adoration…that was what made him feel so strange. He could vaguely remember his own mother looking at him in a similar way as she had sent him away.
As the last of the light left the sky, he pictured what he had seen as he walked away from the place he had called home for eleven years. He had shifted the small sack he carried- containing a little cheese and bread- and turned around for that one final look that he would not ever forget.
Smoke curled lazily from the chimney, the grey wisps disappearing into the chilly autumn air. The sun had been low in the sky, casting beautiful orange light against the Earth that contrasted with the long, dark shadow of the house. Red and gold leaves floated around him with the light wind, and he could remember how peaceful it had been there, for that single moment.
That peace had shattered in an instant, replaced by the sound of metal pots and pans being shoved to the floor. His young eyes had widened at the sound, and he took a step forward before taking another back, his mind conflicting.
"I told you," he heard his mother shout, tears coming through in her angry, frustrated words that he could almost see, though she was not in his field of vision, "I sent him on an errand! He'll be back as soon as he is finished!"
He had not stayed for the rest of the argument. He knew how it would end- how it always did; no matter what he said, or what his mother did, neither of them would be the victor. His mother's instructions were etched into his mind, and he quickly obeyed, clutching the sack he held close to his side as he ran in the direction opposite of the setting sun. He did not look back again.
Kent lowered his head into his hands with a sigh, rubbing at his temples as a chicken came to stand beside him, her reddish-brown coloring darkened by the lack of lighting. Her small eyes were bright as she cocked her head, staring at him with a quizzical expression.
Chickens always had that look, and he knew it was because their eyes were on the sides of their head, rather than at the front- they had to hold their head that way just to see him. The little hen clucked once, and wandered off, occasionally stopping to glance at him again.
He heard footsteps beside him and, looking up, he saw his fellow knight standing there, holding a small lantern in one hand. Taking a seat on the fence beside him, Sain spoke. "I am sorry to drag you out here with me," he said, his voice a little strained. "You do not seem to be having as good of a time as I had hoped." The man ran a hand through his dirty-blond hair before he let out a long sigh.
"It is not your fault, Sain." He kept his reply short, unsure as to what he ought to say to his friend. "I have not been myself, lately."
"Kent, you are always this way." Before his redheaded companion could protest, he continued, his eyes determined. "You sigh and brood like a lovesick fool, and when you are not doing that, you stare off into the distance, like you are remembering something you want to forget. And the whole time, you tell everybody that you are all about duty. Watching Lady Lyndis is duty, taking two shifts of the night watch is duty, not eating enough is duty…"
His friend's eyes were intense, burning a hole through his mind, and for a moment, Kent wondered if Sain knew about everything.
"I thought that if you met a family as rambunctious as mine, you would forget to sigh over Lady Lyndis and your duty, and just smile for once in your life." He smacked his forehead with the palm of his open hand, and set the lantern on a hook that protruded from the fencepost between them. "Forgive me for being so bold, but simply thinking about something does not get anything done at all. Even Dame Florina, with all her stuttering and trembling, gathered her courage and spoke with Lord Hector."
The night was silent for a moment before Kent spoke, his tone neutral. "I am not sorry that I came here… I am merely trying not to dwell on the past."
Sain raised an eyebrow, his expression shocked. "Did you do something with Lady Lyndis?" he asked, unable to help his curiosity.
"No!" The knight's face blushed crimson at the mere thought of what his friend was insinuating as he made his protest. "I was speaking of…something else."
"Oh." It almost sounded like Sain was speaking with disappointment. "You can dwell on the past all you like, but you can never change it- only your future can be changed. Once, I had a young lady friend- before I became a knight, of course- and I thought she was the most beautiful young woman on Elibe! I was too embarrassed to tell her so, and as it turned out, she married the first man that proposed to her. He was an older man, dirty and greedy as a person comes, but he thought she was pretty, and he told her so. Her marriage was not happy, and he was not a good man, but he always told her how pretty she was. I found out, years later from her sister, that he would tell her that as he smacked her around."
His friend's green eyes had taken on a glazed look, as if he did not want to let that memory go.
"She was a nice girl," he said. "Nice to a fault, but most people found her to be rather plain, and nobody ever complimented her on her appearance. Imagine going your whole life, feeling as if you looked ugly. I do not like to see any woman sad, Kent. Nothing could be prettier than the smile on a girl's face when you tell her she looks nice, and you mean it. Sometimes, I wonder if she would have settled for a man like that if she had felt better about herself."
Sain smiled then, putting his right hand on Kent's shoulder. "I could not change the fact that she had chosen to marry that man, against the wishes of her family and friends. But I like to think that I could be changing things for women in the future." Removing his hand, he sighed, and sent a glance back at the house behind them. "My father died when I was sixteen," he told his brown-eyed friend. "To this day, I regret not always listening to him, and I regret not telling him that I loved him enough times. Every time I leave here to go back on duty at the castle, I tell them all, once, twice, even three times if I have to."
"Do not worry on my account!" his friend said, his smile still in place, though wider then before. "We learn from our mistakes. Family is something that you cannot replace. You can make new friends, and build a new house, but you can never replace your blood."
"…You are right, my friend. Thank you…" Sain was usually so cheerful, that when he took on a serious face, it was wise to listen to what he had to say. Kent wondered if the other man knew that he had come close to hitting the nail on the head, so to speak, with his stories.
"It was not a problem, partner. What sort of friend would I be if I did not tell you what I knew you needed to hear?" The sandy-haired knight stood, leaving the lantern where it was. "I will leave you to your thinking, then," he told him, giving his companion a friendly pat on the back. "I have a little thinking of my own to do, concerning a certain energetic cleric girl who is the only one on our travels to have accepted my compliments. Perhaps I will return to Caelin, only to leave for Ostia the next morning!"
Kent chuckled a little at this, and nodded at his friend. "Will you follow your own advice, then, and keep in mind that thinking alone will get you nowhere at all?"
"Only if you agree to do that, yourself," he said, raising a hand. "When you are done with your pondering, come inside and rest for the night, if you wish. There is not much room, but… it is home." He smiled ruefully, and made his way in the dark, back to the familiar wooden structure that he was so familiar with, leaving his lantern with his friend.
'I only hope that he listens to what I said… and applies it to more than what is currently occupying his thoughts. If he does not at least try to win the heart of our liege, he will never know whether or not she would have had him.'
He silently opened the front door, moving towards the small room that he shared with his five siblings. He found his straw mattress just as it was the last time he had seen it, and fell upon it with a soft sigh- a mixture of contentment and confusion.
'Dear Serra,' he thought, as if composing a letter. 'It is I, Sain, your loyal knight! I am sure you look absolutely stunning today… No… that doesn't sound right. Oh, Serra, if only you were here with me now, I could tell you that I think we would make a perfect pair, you and I!'
He fell asleep trying to think of ways to woo the woman of his affections… and in the morning, when he had reached a decision himself on what to do, he was not surprised to find Kent already gone.
This is the first chapter of four. Luckily for you, the entire thing is actually already finished. (I started this more than two months ago, and I only now finished it.) The next three chapters require editing, and I'll post them accordingly, I promise.
While mostly friendshippy/flashback-y, this 'fic ends up a romance, of course. Will Kent get a happy ending? What will Sain decide?
Thank you for taking the time to read. Kent's past is brought up next chapter, as he is the main focus of this story. Let me know what you thought- feedback and constructive criticism is, as always, greatly appreciated (especially concerning characterization and grammar)!