Alright, a new chapter. A little shorter according to the word count, but the two halves are longer so I left it be. This one's focused considerably more on talking and such, and introduces Elarise, my idea of their mother. She seems a little butch but she's actually a bit of a waif, for a warrioress.
Anyway. I hope you enjoy this one for what it is. The plot'll pick up/get a little more actions and such in the coming chapters, but really this focuses on character 'development'. Becoming as twisted as he is doesn't happen overnight, nor without someone, somewhere, being to blame. So this is really about how Noah became Gabranth, I guess (there's enough of Ffamran becoming Balthier, much as I love our leading man). I almost consider them seperate people.
Also, teenage angst. Derp. Reviews much appreciated should you spare the time - enjoy!
"The heart that truly loves never forgets." - Proverb
"Don't you dare."
Noah opened his eyes – slowly, as if afraid of the world rushing in too swiftly. Light spilled inwards, dimly. It was a comforting sort of dimness, warm and ruddy, clean but human. A familiar darkness blocked the front of his vision.
"Good. Boy knows how to listen to his mother," the silhouette said pleasantly, and he felt his mother's hand on his brow. Noah found himself thinking: her skin was always cool when he was too hot, and always she was warmth when he was cold.
Somehow, she was both now. In different ways.
It didn't take Noah long to notice the sword left on the table, and the blood streaking down his mother's pale arms. So it had been those he'd felt under him... He could have sworn-
"You're surprisingly strong," he laughed faintly, annoyed at how weak his smile was.
Her response was less amused than he would have liked. "You're surprisingly light. I swear you've lost weight."
But he'd heard his father, and it was him, it was his voice that had called out. Maybe he needed to sleep... for a long time.
A thought struck him, "I was unconscious?"
She nodded; an hour or two, she said, and not a mortal wound with the right spells. She hadn't risked healing too deeply, she said – everyone knew the consequences of a layered cure. Better to let the body take its own course as nature dictated without magicks interfering.
Back in Archades, Mother had once told him, she'd seen the result first hand and there was nothing, nothing to be done. Everyone had called her 'Elarise, the battle medic', and it had sounded disparaging, somehow. Weren't life and death close enough in a battlefield to tamper with both? Noah couldn't imagine fighting at all, let alone having the responsibility of mediating the passage of death through the field. A rare breed; maybe they were afraid, the haters.
But that was gone, now. The sickness had hollowed her, and there was something hollow, too, about mending life once she'd caused it to be.
Elarise whistled. He woke, with the startled realisation of one who hadn't noticed he'd fallen asleep. Mother seemed solemn, despite the noise, and he found himself frowning.
But she smiled when he did; he could nearly hear her thinking 'you were born an old man'. Nearly, but it was more a knowing. He would have smiled too, but her eyes didn't catch it – he settled for a blank stare at the ceiling, unable to settle on one expression and so taking none.
"You didn't mean it, did you?" she asked, suddenly.
Noah propped himself up on his elbows. It was excruciating – he ignored it, keeping his head up. With a sigh, his mother shook her head and said, Never mind, then refused to say anything more. One sharp look had him give up, more out of spite than obedience.
He stared at his hand, noticing the mark from holding the arrow had faded. The skin was still rough from climbing, from falling in sand and unnumbered other things the hands were meant for, but his fingers felt almost naked. That was to say nothing of his side. Surely he'd have looked, but it was half healed, bound, and worse was the pain when he twisted. Better to leave it be, he thought, and shut his eyes with a stubborn insistence on sleep.
Darkness had fallen entirely and the red heat was gone, fled to the West. Stars pricked and bled faint light through a dark sky; Noah watched them and pretended he didn't hurt. They'd argued, in that wordless way he had – where she had left and he had stood in her absence to stare at nothing. So she come back. Then she'd knocked his jaw with her knuckles, lightly, and told him as if it meant nothing.
"I think I meant it," he'd whispered, glaring at the emptiness the window offered him. Having none of it, Elarise growled faintly and almost savagely pulled him closer – he tried to withdraw, awkward at the contact but she held firm.
"You don't mean it," she hissed, "you know you don't."
He almost said 'but I do, mother' but something stopped him – something in her warmth and the bizarre familiarity of being held made him stop. His breath became broken, arrhythmic, and then settled gradually.
"You wouldn't leave me alone, Noah," murmured his mother, softly, "And you know I didn't leave Archadia so I could become one of her children again."
Noah struggled, and this time she let him go. Her flint eyes were almost accusing – he had to look away as they reminded him too much of mirrors.
"No, you left because of father," he said, too sharply.
"It doesn't matter why. What matters is that you need to pull yourself together. I can't stay firm if my boys are breaking apart, Noah. Do me a favour."
The eyes were imploring and he shut his own.
"And if someone needs me, I can't go, can I." The words were a question but they were flat, already answered. "I've had enough. With leaving."