Friday, October 19, 2018

Flash Fiction #325 -- Connor of Northgate/9

Liam said little during the dinner -- not unfriendly, but more as though he studied them to see what was permitted.  Connor's friends soon joked and laughed again, and even Liam smiled more than once.

Connor had the feeling that maybe Liam didn't often relax.

As they stood to leave the dining hall, Connor noticed how Liam lost his link to now again.  Connor had started to take note of the changes which had occurred sometimes as they ate; the flickering of his eyes, the way the pupils grew larger, and how he moved out of step with what was around him.  Connor caught him by the arm when Liam almost blundered straight into his chair.  He wondered how Liam had avoided broken bones before now, though perhaps that was part of the problem -- just keeping Liam alive.

"Thank you.  That was very kind, Honor."

Druce, who had been passing nearby broke out into rude, loud laughter.  "Honor!  Him?"

Connor looked into the young man's face.  "I think I should be very proud to be called Honor by someone who glimpses the future."

Druce went red all the way to the tips of his pointed ears, and Connor feared they were about to come to blows.  However, his new companions, all older than Druce, and maybe wiser, caught him by the arm and took him away.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry --" Liam began.  He looked frightened and half ill.  "That happens around me.  I say things --"

"Don't worry," Erlis said with a tap on Liam's arm, a friendly touch and a smile.  "Truth is that was a long time coming between Connor and Druce, and I'm rather glad to see it go in Connor's favor.  Druce made a fool of himself and in front of a lot of others.  No harm done, except to his ego -- and trust me, Druce has ego enough to recover from this little confrontation.  Druce will get over it."

From the look Liam gave Erlis, Connor feared those last words were not going to prove true.

No matter.  Erlis had been right in one respect; this had been coming for a long time now.  He was sorry Liam got caught up in this mess, and right on the night of his arrival, but he said nothing.

Lord Northgate caught up with them at the door. 

"All is well?" he asked.  Connor had no doubt he'd heard about the little byplay already.

"Fine, thank you," Connor said and was purposely less formal.  He thought it would help if Liam realized they could be friendly here. 

"Good," Northgate smiled brightly.  Then he stopped.  "I think I have made a mistake I'm going to rectify right now.  Magra?  Can you have our new friend's room moved to the spot across from Connor's suite?"

"Oh yes," Magra said and gave a quick nod.  "Yes, that will work very well."

"If neither of you has any complaints?" Northgate asked.

"None from me," Connor said with a smile.

"I am honored that you took me in at all, sir," Liam said, which was more than he had said for most of the night.  His hand went to brush at his hair; a nervous gesture, Connor thought.  "I am grateful for the help and advice I will find here.  I need to be helped to the right path.  It's hard to see where to turn when so much else is crowding in."

"I don't envy you this power," Northgate replied.  Magra had already rushed off, calling to Isole and a few others. They would have the rooms changed quickly.  "If you are troubled, though, you can come to me at any time.  I'll help you as best I can.  And I'm sending to the Royal Court for more information.  They've had seers there in the past, and I think they might have some words of wisdom for all of us."

Connor suddenly wondered if Seers were so rare that Liam might be the only one alive.    He hadn't considered it, which made Liam a rarity indeed.  Maybe as much so as the only human ever born to the Keep of Northgate.

The others bade them good night.  Connor and Liam headed up the stairs to the rooms.  However, Connor paused at the first landing and looked at Liam, frowning this time.

"You don't want to be here, do you?"

"I want --" Liam began, then shook his head in dismay as though he had already said too much.

"You can talk to me.  I'm not like any of the others."

"You are different, but it's not because you are human. You have made yourself open to understanding.  The others -- most fae, in fact, -- are set in their ways.  They are not willing to open doors to things they don't understand.  It's part of their nature and no fault of theirs.  That so many have accepted you here comes from having seen you grow up among them.  You aren't really different, you know.  But that ... that will change.  They are coming of age, your friends."

"I know.  My friends will come into their magic and leave me behind."

"No."  He said the word with such determination that it caught Connor by surprise.  "No.  Your true friends will never leave you behind.  However, they will be changed in ways that will be obvious and sometimes painful.  I know."

"Ah."  He started up again but looked at Liam.  "The voice of one who has lived through it, in his own way."

"I had friends," he said with a sigh.  "We ran the woods together; climbed the trees, swimming in the ponds.  Then I changed, and they were worried about what I would see in them.  Especially after I saw Alisin fall from the cliff.  I tried to warn him.  He survived, though barely.  And changed.  And now the others --"

He stopped midway up the stairs and shook his head, giving Connor a look of worry again.  "I don't want to make the same mistake here."

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