Sipping his own tea, Yahr looked at his admiral and his aging body. The once the most fearsome leader of the Navy had also surrendered by the might of time. He and Nelis, who was cupping her drink, visited Skald Egan in weekly basis now, as a favor to both Bernadette and him.
He might be old, but his mind was as sharp as any admiral could be. They would often start their conversation with anything that happened that time, offering pieces of advice to Yahr and Nelis, who was the current leader of Island Nation's army. Then they would shift to more casual topics, mostly about Skald's life story and else. He loved to have someone to talk to, and he seemed quite delighted when he learnt the two were actually interested in his story.
Like ordinary old man, telling his past was something he liked. Perhaps because it could help him to cling to his memories or to remind him of his lost glory, reliving the golden days. Yahr actually thought the story to be mostly good-Admiral Skald had gotten himself an engaging life, it seemed. Much better than his own story. Sometimes he daydreamed of what it'd be someday in the future, what story would he tell to his descendants? Eh, guess the Falenan revolt was quite enough, but that wouldn't make up for the lack of interesting event in the major part of his life. He digressed himself before his mind wandered too far, focusing of what he had at the present. Heck, family? He didn't even get any girlfriend up until now.
Nelis noticed that her partner's mind was going somewhere, but she only let out a chuckle. Yahr was Yahr indeed. She too had taken interest in Skald's story, enjoying their regular visits more than anyone could imagine. The army thought it must be boring to humour an old admiral for some hours every week, and many had placed pity upon them. Oh, How much she wanted to prove they were wrong.
It didn't take too much time for the pair to realize sometimes Skald would choke on his story and pondered about something. Eyes wandering nowhere, deep sigh leaving his sore throat. He was bothered...by something in the past. A ghost that only he could see, looming on the fragile body for a long time. Skald avoided them everytime they started asking about it, but when he did it again this time, Yahr decided that he had enough. Something must be done, and if there's no one acting fast, he'd do it first.
"What's it, Admiral?"
He eyed them, for a second seemed to struggle with his own decision whether to tell them or not. One fine evening he finally let his voice out. "I'm just thinking. If i'm dead, no one will ever continue the name Egan. The name passed down for centuries...it'll fade away soon..."
Bernadette bit her lips. Island Nations, like many other countries in the world, was patrilineal. She would serve no use in preserving her family name, unless she married someone who was willing to give up his own surname, a very thin chance, or in better scenario, man who has no surname. Surnames were only possessed by rare few, nobles, royals, ancient families, or heroes bestowed with one.
Yahr tapped the table, disdainful as to Nelis' look."I thought you had a son?"
Once again, that faraway expression. "Yes, my eldest son. The wanderer. He was always quite adventurous, just like me when i was in his age. I wonder... if i didn't let him go that day, what would he be now?"
"So you know where he went?"
It was somewhat icy, Bernadette's tone, but Skald paid no attention to it, continuing his story. "He was dead." His expression solemn, shaking the others in the room,"Died for the most courageous, courteous reason. A death honored of an Islander." That didn't leverage the mood. Death was death. Though shaken, the prying eyes tried to shed more light on the shocking secret.
"Was he married?"
"Yes, he was."
"Then-his child should bear your name! Or did he have none?"
"Two. But he had to give up on his own surname."
"Oh-did he marry a noble? But with his upbringing in Island Nation, as your son, they could do double surname, i'm sure."
"Quite. But in his case, double surname is prohibited."
"But even in Falena, only royal family is prohibited from having other surname. Wait...did he marry the royal family?"
It got even more suspicious now, but they could slowly paint the image on their mind. The only stranger ever getting into the royal family these past two decades were...
"His Highness Ferid?"Bernadette's shaky voice found its way out of her mind.
"He was born Ferid Egan."He hiccupped, somberly clarifying Yahr's guess.
More gasp elicited from the guests. Bernadette was stoned. Pages of years long gone flapped in her mind, of mysterious birthday gift her father received one time and his unsightly reaction at it, her confusion when Skald opened the gift and secretly wept, then expecting it every year after. At first, she deducted someone as famous as Skald must know many people and the gift was from one of them. No, the mystery plaguing her for years was revealed, but when the answer was offered in front of her like now, she felt heart sinking deeper rather than relieved.
"You're the grandfather of the Commander and the Queen,"Nelis supplied, pointing at the obvious, unsure to what to say.
A bit drunk now, as well as supressing some kind of emotional distraught, the former Admiral waved his hand in annoyance. His eyes melancholic, as if remembering owed apology or unsaid words belonged to the past. Unshed tears pierced his wrinkled skin, soaking it wet.
"I am. He died before me, that unthankful child. We had a dispute several years ago and he left. I thought he'd be back after a while, so who thought he made his way to the Sacred Games and literally won the Princess' hand in marriage? Not me, obviously."
Skald remembered the letters Ferid sent him throughout the time, a stack folded neatly in his closet. How he told him about his winning at the Sacred Games, the birth of his children, he apologized of not being able to reveal his connection to Island Nations because that would drag unnecessary political dispute, not to mention Falenan royal court wasn't really famous for its warm welcome to outsiders. Reflecting his life, how he couldn't even watch his own grandchildren grew up, how he couldn't tell the truth when his grandson came in order to avoid suspicion, how castle intrigues and politics ripped their family.
If people had known that the Commander of the Queen's Knight was Island Nations Admiral's son, they'd think that Island Nations could pull the strings on Falena. Ferid fell in love with the country's symbol, therefore accepting the country as his own. He was protecting what were precious to him, and Skald couldn't blame him for what happened. The prince came asking for his assistance, but for that too he should decide based on Island Nations' interest as opposed to his own heart. While he wanted to offer everything he had, at the end he could only send a small group of representatives. They were juggled by their loyalty to the country they served. That aching feeling when he attended the coronation, to see his little granddaughter as a puppet, and his own helplessness.
Blatantly ignoring the jawdropped Yahr and the disbelieving eyes of the two women, Skald Egan sipped his wine, appearing calm and collected. Before anyone could ask further, he dismissed himself from the group, closing his eyes with a deep sigh.
Tender wind caressed Island Nation that day.