Insidiously Vexed

Jealousy did a great many things to a man. Jealousy, agony, misery, grief, happiness, and love… The plethora of emotions a single entity could experience was unlimited and not a living soul could escape the effects. Naught was invincible to the unseeable sensation that caused involuntary shudders to scale the spine, or the sweet pain obtained from holding one's other hand in a strong embrace.

No one was invulnerable and that included Inuart. From the fine age of twelve, he first began to notice there were girls in the world. And surely there was not one prettier than Furiae, the younger sibling of his very best friend. Furiae, with her chestnut brown hair and blue eyes that rivalled the radiance of her brother's. Furiae, in her peasant tops and loose-fitting trousers when she wanted to pretend to be one of the boys. Furiae, Furiae, Furiae. All was mostly Furiae up in his head, with thanks of the utmost to his parents.

For they had arranged a marriage between Inuart and Furiae. Those days had certainly been the best ones, and even those after that had him gaining approval. He felt he could not marry in good conscience, or so his parents led him to believe, without ensuring his marriage to come would be blessed by those directly affected.

He had waited an entire fortnight to bring the subject to her brother. Caim, older than them both and mostly what Inuart considered to be 'mature', was often times inadvertently intimidating. In actuality, a mere sixteen years old, it was his calm composure and collected outlook that rendered him untouchable by Inuart's rationale and, at times, a tad frightening.

Caim was in no prearranged marriage and appeared to look very little at the ladies of the town. Inuart mostly found him training with his father (though he wasn't sure what for) or somewhere between his mother and his sister. He seemed a family man at the very least, if not wholly dedicated to his position and what he would grow to become. A prince did not require a wife to become a king, but for one reason or another, a princess required a husband in order to be coroneted to her queendom.

Sling, swish, swoosh!

Caim was in the courtyard again, which could only mean one of two things. He was either offering Furiae additional tutelage with her studies, or he was hacking away at the idle air with his sword. Inuart, who cared not so much for tuition (save music and its theory) preferred the latter. Sometimes, on lazy afternoons, he would sit on the edge of the fountain and simply watch until the sun melted into the distant horizon.

Furiae's older brother was quick on his feet, and light. Inuart could remember every social gala they attended together, and each time Caim's parents pushed him to take a young lady out onto the floor. And he'd always chosen Furiae. Then after one single dance, he'd pass off the overly quiet girl to Inuart and simply watch from the sidelines. If he'd possessed Caim's grace and eloquence, he would have done more with it. Too often, he sometimes felt that Caim's talents were wasted. He'd never dream of saying it out loud, but he felt it on the inside.

Usually when Furiae grew that wistful look about her. The kind of look that Inuart noticed she never took toward him. But then, he had no siblings and had no younger sister of his own to dote upon. Perhaps they were simply the eyes of one sibling to another. They were not identical. They were two entirely separate beings. But they looked as though they frequently had nothing more in the world other than themselves to rely upon.

He'd stood, enraptured by watching the young man who would truly become his brother in more than simply practise. A few moments passed before it registered to him that the looming Caim had been staring and trying to capture his attention.

Inuart blinked, "…Oh… Oh! Caim!"

Caim leaned onto the hilt of his sword and he eyed Inuart for a few moments before he finally gave a sly smile. "Hello. Is there a reason you've gotten lost in daydreams in my space? If I hadn't been paying attention, I could have cut you down in very little time."

The younger paused and then he cast a look around, as though he was wary of prying eyes and ears. "I wanted to talk with you. And watch you, if that's all right. Can I sit on the fountain?" When Caim nodded, he moved out of the radius of the sword and sat on the edge carefully.

Minutes passed where he simply watched the other move back and forth. A never-ending waltz. Back and forth, he watched Caim strafe across the ground in utter fascination. Every movement the elder made was crisp and sharp, intentional, and heavy with the weight of reality. It was impeccable, really. Well, would have been if Inuart had actually known what the word meant. All the same, Inuart got the same form of solace that he got from watching a artist with his canvas as it went from blank to covered in colour.

"You said you had something to talk to me about," Caim reminded him with a firm tone.

"Right!" Inuart piped up, as though he'd forgotten or simply had grown carried away with his companion's motions. "I've been trying to visit everyone in the town and talk to them about Furiae. Our parents have set us together. I'm sure your mother and father told you already, but I still wanted to talk about it."

Caim gave the barest hint of a smile, though his response was not immediate. A few moments later, he gave a brief glance in Inuart's direction, and nodded once. "Quite right. My parents did inform me. I do believe Furiae was more than a little happy, the way she scurried about in all of her youthful glory. I imagine you must be feeling much the same way."

"I am," Inuart agreed wholeheartedly. "You are happy for us, aren't you? We'll be brothers, Caim. Not just pretending that we are. You'll really be my older brother. We can go hunting together, play music together. You can teach me how to fight with a sword. I'll teach you how to play the harp."

"You make it sound as though we couldn't do these things before," Caim replied succinctly. "Whether or not we are brothers would not have affected that in the least. You still would have asked to come along with me." His smile grew a little slyer as he continued, "To be fair, however, music is really your expertise."

Inuart tipped his head for a moment and then he nodded. "Yes, that's true. You're not really one much for music, be it singing, or playing it. Or much of talking either. If music's my expertise, what's yours?"

Caim had to stop and think about that one and it didn't take much for Inuart to realise that apparently no one had ever asked before. Well, they had either not asked or Caim had never truly given it any sort of thought in the least. But Inuart couldn't say for sure because he really had no idea what kinds of things went on upstairs in his friend's head. He could guess and guess and guess, but that was the extent of things. Everything beyond that was… purely factual information that he couldn't get his hands on.

"Mine, hm…?" Caim began thoughtfully.

"I would say it's being immensely impressive."

And there was Furiae, in all of her white-wearing glory. Hair down, a smile creeping over her lips, and hands laced together momentarily before she lifted the right and offered them both a wave. She waited for her brother to lower his sword and the moment he had, she waited patiently for him to lean over and offer a kiss to her forehead, which seemed to become his typical greeting for her.

"Hello, Little Princess," her brother started with a sincere smile.

His lips met her forehead, and she ignored the pink that stained her cheeks as she nodded to him. Her chin lifted far too late, however, as when she kissed, it was left upon the base of his chin, causing him to momentarily pause and release a chuckle a little while later.

"Hello, Tall Prince," she replied with half a curtsy before she joined Inuart on the edge of the fountain. "Hello, Inuart!"

He couldn't hide the way he blushed, as if every single stain of pink has transferred from her cheeks to his instead. "H-hello, Furiae. You look very pretty today."

She smiled, as though she hadn't expected to hear it, but by a deeper gander at her expression, it was all too easy to see that she had. She must have enjoyed the attention to some degree. "Thank you. What were you and my brother talking about?"

Caim's sword lifted again and he continued along, thrusts and parries against the invisible opponent that his mind had created. In that respect, being unable to envision whatever it was he saw, it was a bit strange watching a one-sided fight. Strange, quaint, and beautiful. Like an art form that was left for interpretation.

"We talked about you two," her brother replied. Then he clarified, as if he knew to anticipate the questioning look that cross her features. "Your marriage in the future."

"Is it really such an ordeal?" Furiae asked. "Caim, you have one, don't you?"

He shook his head with Inuart's in tandem. "I do not. But it is an important occasion. You only marry once in your life. We are like birds, Furiae. And some of us mate for life. It would seem that our parents have discovered you and Inuart to be something of similar feathers."

Furiae turned to look at Inuart, gauging his reaction, and her smile returned. "What do you think? Are we similar birds? You certainly sing like one, o' handsome lark."

He coughed and cleared his throat, catching the cunning upturn of Caim's lips. "Stop laughing over there, you. Why don't you do something useful and help me?"

Caim stopped again and propped his sword over his shoulder, careful with the blade, lest it slip and sever his head from his very body. Looking between the two, he chose his words carefully before he addressed the younger boy. "And help you do what? She wants to know what you think of the two of you together. You ought to answer. My sister has never been one to hide her feelings. She often wears her heart upon her sleeve. Speak, or suffer her wrath."

Even as he laughed, Inuart knew very well Caim was teasing. It did nothing to soothe his inward nerves, which fluttered about, unstable and everlastingly constant. They only grew when Furiae reached over to rest a hand over his, as if to lend some form of reassurance.

"I am…" he started fairly uncertain. "…I am happy. I'm very happy." He nodded to her with a slight smile. "Can we stop talking about it now?"

"Oh, fine," Furiae conceded with great reluctance. "You're no fun." She looked back over to Caim, watched him with obvious admiration, and leaned back onto the palm of a hand. "You said before you don't have one. Do you think you're going to grow old alone?"

Her brother shook his head, "Not in the least. I would think that the only two people I prefer to have my eyes on are you and Mother. How else am I to provide for my family? My strength and composition allows me to grow into the man Father has trained me to be." There was a pause, as if he could contradict his own words. Then he gestured with his free hand. "It is an honour and a privilege that Father places so much faith into me. I could think of little else I'd like to do than to ensure providence for our family and our kingdom."

Only sixteen. Caim was only sixteen and Inuart thought he sounded like he was forty. (Did people even live to be that age?) Still, he couldn't help the way a little envy crept up into him. Caim sounded so grown up and Inuart suddenly hated the four years that were between them. It'd fade with time, but it never completely disappeared. And each time Furiae looked at her brother with those eyes that were so soulful, Inuart unknowingly began to water the seed of jealousy that had been planted so very deep into the abyss that was his spirit.

"An honour and a privilege," Inuart echoed carefully.

Gods, forgive me. Inuart cast another glance around and as if by mere fate or destiny, his eyes found Caim's face again. It's a shame I can't take those from you.