The Branded. A cross between a beorc and a laguz.

Soren walked away from his quarters. He was thoroughly fed up, being cooped up the entire time. He felt like a caged animal. Then again, it was only fitting. He was part laguz, right? So he should naturally feel like a beast. Sub-human, half-breed. The terms that fit him went on and on. And the part that annoyed him the most, is that they fit him more readily then they did laguz. However, ever since he had found out about his parents, he hadn't felt like talking to anyone much. He mostly left his room when it was time for dinner or he had to go.

He stopped to look at himself in a mirror that he had passed by. He was vaguely surprised that it didn't shatter when his image came to its reflective surface. By all rights it should have. He was a violation of the goddess's laws. He had no right to be alive. Ashera had said that laguz and beorc should not cross. Society demanded it too. Soren hadn't put a huge emphasis on Ashera, however he knew her laws as well as most people.

Soren walked away from the mirror. He was no Spirit Charmer, he had always known that. But he had thought that the red mark on his head was a birthmark. He had never that that it could actually be, be this.

And he couldn't deny its truth. It all fit. He was older then Ike, by a few years. And yet, and yet he was shorter and looked many years younger then Ike. He hadn't aged much in the last three years. Just like a laguz wouldn't age. He was hated by laguz and beorc alike because they knew what the mark meant. It was why no one ever wanted anything to do with him.

Soren considered himself somewhat fortunate in the fact that most of the company thought it merely the mark of a Spirit Charmer and that Ike had no reason to inquire about it. Greil must have known, Soren thought. For a man that wise and old how could he have not? So why didn't he hate him back when he had been alive? Why had he told Ike that he could come back to the mercenary base with them? Why? Why show such a disgusting half-breed such kindness?

He exhaustedly threw his arms onto the lip of a nearby balcony that overlooked the main part of Begnion and faced the tower from which Ashera was said to rule from. He could not bring his eyes to look at the top, where she was said to be. He felt as though she might smite him if he did.

"Magnificent view, isn't it, Soren?" An optimistic, yet cheerful voice called out from behind him.

Soren turned to look at who spoke to him. "Oh, Rhys. You." Soren glanced over the view once more, skipping over the tower and turned his back to it. "I suppose you could say that." Why was he bothering to talk with this priest? He had a direct connection to the divine. He should hate him beyond reason. And yet he couldn't.

"Is something wrong, Soren?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, it's just because you haven't really come out of your room since that day you taught me how to use this," Rhys said and lifted up the light tome. "Ike's been concerned. He wanted me to see if you were ill or injured. You know, after we finished that mission for the apostle you went back to your room and only talked to Ike to give him a battle summary, and you sit by yourself now when you eat, which is only at dinner."

"There's nothing to be done about it, Rhys. Just tell Ike that I'm fine."

"Soren, I can't lie to the commander." Rhys leaned on the railing as well, he was facing the city, but his head was turned towards Soren.

Soren stared at Rhys for a few moments and then changed topic, "You're not as nervous around me now, Rhys. Why is that? You used to tremble so violently."

Rhys smiled at Soren, almost understanding, almost pitying. "Well, at first I only had to go by what the others said about you. You know in that first week I was so caught up I didn't really get the chance to talk to you. And then you left, when I asked about you, everyone just said how hurtful, mean, cold, and insensitive you were. Ike and Commander Greil were the only ones that said decent things about you. And after you came back, well, the first mission was when we found Princess Elincia. When you said we should leave her, I thought that everyone else was right. With all the trouble and chaos of Daein chasing us afterwards, it was just like that first week."

"So what changed your mind? That sounds just like me. Insensitive and cold."

"You were willing to talk to me, Soren. And you only said the truth about me. You weren't insensitive, just logical...and blunt, like Commander Ike. You're an honest person, Soren. Not very sociable, but honest. Certainly not cold-hearted either."

Soren had nothing to say to Rhys's statements. Perhaps that was true, but why should a priest of all people say such a thing about him? It was almost like what Ike had said before they had found the apostle.

I'm no better, you know. Your ability to speak plainly the things others won't is part of what makes you brilliant. Others are too bound by courtesy... With you, I trust that what you say is exactly what you think.

"Soren. Is something wrong? Are you ill? Injured at all?"

Soren closed his eyes, willing his face not to betray any emotion. "No. I'm not."

Soren couldn't see Rhys, but he heard the priest sigh. "Then there truly is something emotional bothering you." Soren's eyes snapped wide open, "I thought as much. Your appetite was always normal at meals, so you couldn't be ill, and I didn't think that you were injured. I guess you don't want to talk about it with me." Soren just moved his glance as far from Rhys as possible, "But you should at least tell Ike about it, Soren. Keeping it to yourself, whatever it is, won't do you any good at all. Take my word for it."

"What are you going to tell Ike?"

"I'll them him that there's no physical problem. I don't think that he'll figure it out...That sounds like the best idea. But you really should tell him, soon." Rhys reached out a hand to place it on Soren's shoulder, but the mage moved away. "But in the mean time, is there anything I could do to help you, Soren?"

There was a long silence. "I'd like to learn how to use a staff." Soren finally mumbled.

"You want to heal on the battlefield?"

"These fights keep getting harder and harder on us. Staves aren't any particular type of magic at all, so mages can learn to use them."

"But don't most of them learn to use knives?"

Soren shrugged, "I don't have physical strength, but I have magical power. It's a wiser idea."

"That's a good idea, Soren. You taught me how to injure, I'll teach you how to heal."