Thursday, October 11, 2018
Flash Fiction #324 -- Connor of Northgate/8
The fae introduced themselves to Lord Northgate, but Connor paid little attention. The woman pointed to Liam and gave his name, but no more. Connor stayed out of the way; if they thought this little of one of their own for being different, they wouldn't think much of him at all.
Godewyn gave him a nod when Connor stepped out of the way and made no show. Everyone swept past him, Liam coming at the rear, a bag slung over his shoulder and looking more like a forgotten servant than the person around whom all this excitement revolved. He was not very tall, his dark eyes looking downward, and a fall of black hair hiding half his face.
Liam looked his way and nodded. "I'm Liam."
"Connor," he said with a bow of his head.
Liam nodded and fell in beside him. He looked distracted as he glanced to his right and nodded as though someone spoke to him. Afterward, he sighed, his head bowed.
"It's hard, sometimes, to track the now and not the then."
Connor didn't know quite what that meant, but he thought he would learn. He almost asked a question, but someone came up to the right of Liam.
"The rest of us won't be staying long," the man said.
And Liam gave the same nod he had a moment before.
So, that was worth noting. Liam had trouble telling the real from the unreal -- or not unreal, but not yet happened.
Once in the Great Hall, Lord Northgate took formal custody of his new fosterling. The rest of Liam's group left with such haste that it shocked the others.
Liam went to the door to see them off. Lord Northgate followed and signaled Connor along as well. The others quickly rode out the gate, not even staying for dinner. Liam looked just as happy to see them go.
"Well, are you up for a good meal, young man?" Lord Northgate asked, giving him a friendly smile at last. Apparently having the rest of the Wildland fae away didn't bother him much either.
"Thank you, yes," Liam said with a bow of his head. Well-mannered. Some of Connor's friends had told him the wild fae didn't know about court rituals and common politeness. Liam knew, even if the others were not quite as polite.
Liam had trouble fully connecting to here and now, though. He apparently had to concentrate, but in a lapse, he took a misstep as they entered the dining hall, and nearly went down.
Connor caught him before he fell and Liam gave him a grateful nod. "Thank you."
"You can sit at Connor's table if you like. You should meet his friends. You'll be spending a great deal of time with them, I think," Lord Northgate said with a nod towards the table at the side of the room.
"If it won't bother them?" Liam asked, looking to Connor.
"If it does, they'll get over it," he replied -- an honest answer, which was better than telling Liam there would be no trouble at all. He would not lie.
Liam went with him to the table, concentrating while he introduced Nylia, Erlis, and Rendon. Erlis moved slightly to make room on the bench where he and Connor usually sat. Most groups had six or more to a table, but the four of them had always had this spot to themselves.
"I will not tell you anything you do not want to hear," Liam said before he sat down. "That I promise you. Never on purpose, at least -- but I am sometimes lost in the visions, and I can't help what I say. Sometimes what I say is not what you think -- my people learned that quickly enough and were glad to be rid of me rather than trying to second-guess everything."
Bitterness there. Connor wondered about Liam's family, and if they had been with the group.
"Sit down," Nylia said with a wave of her arm. Gracious, really, and smiling. "Sit down and have dinner."
The other two nodded, less certain, but that had always been their way. That they still sat with Connor, though, showed them open to things outside their normal world. There had been others -- like Druce, who had taken leave of their table a couple years before when he began to understand that human meant.
Connor happened to be looking Druce's way as Liam settled into the chair. Druce glared, but then he often did, and Connor didn't think it was Liam who won that look tonight.
The people serving tonight brought the food to the table, polite and quick.
"Let us be thankful to all creation for the gifts of the table tonight," Lord Northgate said, giving the nightly blessing. "Let us live in abundance and peace, and do naught which is evil in the eyes of any."
Liam nodded, his eyes lingering on the Lord of Northgate, the man who now ruled his life. Connor had studied what fostering meant, and usually, it was the passing of a child --an heir -- on to another keep so the child would be raised by strangers, and not spoiled by his or her parents.
Lord Northgate had no heirs, though. None of the other lords had fostered children here, either. Connor had assumed it was because Northgate was a dangerous place. Tonight, though, he wondered if the reason might be because of the human who lived here.
The meal went well. Liam relaxed, and although there were lapses when he stared or started, he remained polite and quiet. Connor hoped he became more used to them as the days went by.
The meal went long as everyone relaxed. That felt good after the last few days when everyone worried about the coming of the seer and what he might see in them. None had said it, but they couldn't help but think those thoughts, Connor realized. He had as well.