2070 words (8 minute read)

Chapter Three


‘The Fury is eternal, as is our remorse.’ -From the Tomes of Regret, Verse 3 of Sorrow

Kaven walked through the open gates of the second set of walls that lead into the great city that he worked to defend. This city, the capital of Regelia, was called Redwind. Large gray and white buildings rose high into the air. Atop them, proud banners flapped in the strong wind, proudly displaying the crimson signet of Regelia; a bolt of lightning wrapping around a sword. These flags were what gave the city its name.


As Kaven walked across the cobblestone streets, he watched the smiling people go about their daily business. Women haggled with shopkeepers over the prices of clothes, apples or legs of lamb while children played with toys or their dogs amongst their mothers’ skirts. Men laughed in taverns, or begrudgingly worked on roofs, filling in holes left by lightning strikes.


At street corners, burly guardsmen watching the goings on with wary eyes, tasked with keeping the peace within the city. Kaven saluted to them as he walked by, and the gesture was returned respectfully.


Kaven navigated through the busy populace, moving quickly over the familiar streets. He passed the Church of Na’lek as he went, and stopped to kneel on the steps that led up to the massive double-iron doors. The Church was the tallest structure in the city, a flat-topped tower made of smooth, flat stone. The Church had no windows, and no entrances save the front. Before the Church, Kaven prayed once more, thanking Na’lek for delivering him from the hungry claws of a Titan. After concluding, he straightened and hurried on his way.


Dark clouds were beginning to form overhead, just regular rainclouds, thank Na'lek. Sometimes, thunderstorms would be blown into the Fury, resulting in rainy skirmishes. There was nothing supernatural about this storm; just a squall blown in from across the Expanse. 


As the lesser storm began to form overhead, the people of Regelia began to disperse off of the streets, especially the scientists carrying delicate equipment. Kaven quickened his step, he had no desire to be caught in the rain. 


The storm began as a light drizzle, which misted through the air as Kaven rounded the corner of the street leading to his home. Well…what had been his home. These days, it was more a place to spend the three nights of his monthly leave, eat a couple of solid meals, and relax in a quiet bed. Interspersed with a few lectures for good measure.


It had been awhile since he really lived here. Though he had spent the better part of his childhood in this house - playing in this neighborhood - he left at age ten for the Regelian College for Scientific Advancement. Most children joined the school at that age, unless they were extremely gifted, and Kaven certainly didn’t meet that criteria. For the majority of their formative years, they focused on the calling of every good Regelian. So, for seven years, Kaven worked to develop a keen scientific mind, away from the distractions of home.


Upon his completion of school at age seventeen - not graduation, but completion - as his mother constantly reminded him, he had enlisted in the Watch. With no hope of a career in the enviable field of Regelian Science, Kaven could only hope to make a name for himself on the Wall and secure a somewhat profitable position in the military.


And yet, even with that one hope, he still fell woefully short. There were two facts about Kaven that were unavoidable. He had no skill with science and he had no prowess in battle.


Titans take me, just a little luck in battle would make me happy, he thought.


Besides wanting to succeed for his own sake, he really strove to make his parents proud. Sometimes having a renowned scientist for a mother and war hero for a father made his failures quite unbearable. Which is why he was standing on a street corner, with his gear soaking in a puddle, staring at his family's manor.


With a sigh of resolve, Kaven mentally prepared himself. Having just weathered one storm, he hefted his bag onto his shoulder, and prepared to face another.


#


Kaven entered through the back door leading to the kitchen. He hoped to avoid the initial onslaught of questions from his mother and criticisms from his father by covertly making his way to his bedroom without going through the more heavily travelled portions of the house. If he could at least avoid them until the morning, he could face them with the new day and full night's sleep.


Luckily, before he began to move through the kitchen, he remembered to remove his military boots. This would aid him in avoiding his parents and save him from a potential tongue-lashing from whichever servant was responsible for cleaning the floor these days. Kaven's parents ran a remarkably loose ship when it came to their household servants and it wasn't uncommon for the Hero of the Chasm War to be seen cowering from the wrath of a cook whose baked goods had just been filched. Kaven preferred to avoid those types of interactions for the most part.


Gliding silently across the flagstone floor on his stockinged feet, his eye caught sight of tray laden with freshly-baked pastries for tomorrow’s breakfast. Like father, like son he thought. Taking two of the delicacies and hiding them gently in the palm of his right hand, he reached out with his other hand to open the swinging door that led to the servants’ stairs which granted easy access to the family bedrooms on the upper floor.


Just as he was about to open the door, it burst open with incredible force, slamming his outstretched arm into the wall and spinning him slightly. The force of the blow caused him to cry out in pain, gripping his wrist with his other hand, dropping the stolen pastries in the process.


“I’m just going to have one or two, Moira,” he heard his father shout back to his mother. “They’ll never even notice if I rearrange them.” He added in an undertone, “It’s like you think I’ve never done this before, woman.”


It was about this time that his father noticed something was amiss. Perhaps it was the gaps on the tray where Kaven had staked his own claim. Perhaps it was the muddy boots standing by the door. Or perhaps...it was the sound of his eighteen year old son whimpering in the corner that caused him to stop and take stock of the situation.


As his father slowly turned to regard him, Kaven looked up expectantly. His father had never been the type to show concern over hurts that Kaven had taken. His father had always seen them as an opportunity for a lesson if he showed any interest at all. Most times, the injuries were simply ignored. An inevitability of life. But rarely had his father been the cause of those injuries.


It was easy to see the resemblance between the old man and his son; with his square nose, brown hair and eyes, rigid chin and stern expression. His mother had often wondered how she would ever tell them apart. Unfortunately, that was where their similarities ended.


His father advanced toward him. Was that pity in his eyes? Kaven raised his arm a little higher in an effort to show his father the scope of his injury. Kaven knew it wasn’t that bad, but a little concern from his father could go along way to mending some fences between them.


As his father drew nearer, he extended his arm toward Kaven, but then he reached past Kaven and pushed the door open in the other direction.


“Moira!” he bellowed. “The boy’s home!”

Kaven heard a muted thud from upstairs. His mother had dropped whatever she was working on and was heading down to greet him. His father turned back and resumed his journey to the pastry tray.


“Hello, boy,” he said as he went.


“Hello, father,” Kaven said, standing up straighter and wincing at the pain in his bruised arm.


“You got into the cakes first, I see,” grumbled his father, removing two of the pastries from the tray and placing them on the countertop in front of him. “Lucky for me, I’m here to clean up your mess. I would have been blamed for your little...after hours snack. And lucky for you, you didn’t take more. Four missing cakes is going to stretch the boundaries of even my creativity.”


His father began rearranging the cakes, his nimble fingers cleverly creating evenly-spaced gaps in between them to fool the bakers into thinking the number on the tray hadn’t changed. His fingers were the only thing on his father that could be said to be nimble. Everything else about Kleon Fortis was stolid and stocky...and perhaps a tad squishy around the middle. His father did like his cakes. The only evidence of the mighty warrior he had once been was his eye patch, souvenir of the Chasm War, where an Eye-taker had taken a souvenir of its own.


The awkward silence caused his father to glance up at Kaven, who was still massaging the injured arm. At this point, it was just for show, but it paid off, because his father finally noticed.


“Injured in battle, eh? Now, that’s some progress!” said his father, a smile beginning to stretch across his normally stony face.


“Not in battle, father,” Kaven said dejectedly. “The door hit me.”


The smile ceased in mid-stretch.


“The what hit you?” he asked.


“ The d-”


“Thank Na’lek you’re safe!” his mother bustled through the door and over to Kaven, wrapping him in a warm embrace. “But you are hurt!” she said, pushing him gently out by his shoulders to inspect his arm.


“It’s nothing, mother,” began Kaven, “I just got hit by the d-”


“Oh I don’t know,” said his father, still working on the pastry tray, “You can never be too careful with those door injuries. Mighty fearsome creatures...doors.”


“Father, I was just in a real battle and…”


“Sure...and the creature is dead where it stands. Hail Kaven, Mighty Vanquisher of Doors!”


“Kleon!” shouted his mother. “Leave him be!”


“I was in a battle, father. I spotted the Silent Ones coming and rode the zipline to deliver the message to Captain Maen. I fought to hold the Wall...and we even saw a Titan.”


His father perked up at this.


“How many did you kill, son?” his father asked. “Have you finally become a man?”


Sighing, Kaven reluctantly answered. “None. I barely had time to fire my bow once when the Firerods were unleashed. They did all of the work for us.”


His father scowled at this, but his mother quickly intervened.


“Come, dear,” she said, “I am sure you’re hungry and I want to hear all about the Titan. I must have a hundred questions for my research at the lab. Maybe you can answer a couple of them.”


Turning to the door, she stopped and pointed at the floor.


“Oh, you dropped your cakes, didn’t you?”


Reaching to the counter where her husband stood, she removed the two cakes that were sitting on the counter and handed them to Kaven.


“Here you are, dear, these must have been extras.” Over her shoulder, she called, “Coming, Kleon?”


Arm in arm, she escorted him through the door.