Zaire: Chapter Two
Apprentice Kereg Lephel walked slowly, thoughtfully, as his father had taught him to walk.
The halls of the Order’s Palace through which he walked were dark, lit by torches every five yards. If Kereg were any other boy he would reach out to touch the smooth stone wall as he walked past, but he knew he shouldn’t, so he didn’t. His father would have been proud to see him..
A sudden gust of air brushed down the hallway. Kereg knew a door had just been opened. Keeping his gaze ahead, he waited as someone’s footsteps came closer. Judging by the speed and the heaviness of the footsteps, Kereg could guess who it was, and wasn’t surprised when he turned and saw his visitor.
It was Lamen, another apprentice. Both apprentices were only sixteen, but Lamen already had the broad shoulders of a man, as well as the strength. If Kereg were any other child, he might be afraid to be confronted by this apprentice, but he wasn’t. His father had trained him well.
Lamen’s face was as emotionless as Kereg’s was. Intense schooling had trained their mind, and their faces were now masks, hiding any thoughts and emotions that would betray weakness. Kereg simply stood there, waiting for Lamen to explain his presence. After a few moments of silence Lamen turned his mouth down into a pathetic, teasing frown, breaking the mask of control he had been wearing.
“Lephel,” he said, addressing Kereg formally, “What a surprise to see you here.”
“What do you want?” Kereg kept his face relaxed. His father’s voice echoed in his head, repeating the constant rule. In order to control others you must learn to control yourself.
“Oh Kereg, I think you know.” He sneered now. “I’m here to right a wrong.”
If Kereg were any other young man, he would have seen it as a threat. Instead he saw it as an expression of Lamen’s immaturity.
“I’ve done nothing.”
“Your Family has stolen from mine. Is that not wrong? Your useless father is sitting in the position my father deserves.”
“My father earned that position. Yours did not.” Kereg tried to contain his anger. This wasn’t the first time Lamen had complained about Kereg’s father, but each time it was more annoying.
“My father worked day and night. He deserved the position, all your father does is sit behind his elders and do their bidding, he hasn’t done anything to actually strengthen the Order.”
“Of course he has. If the Elders are caught up doing every small task—”
“I don’t care about the little things! Neither do my father’s friends. What matters is asserting full control over the people, and that task is being completed far too slowly. All because of people like your father who don’t have the spine to do the hard jobs.”
Kereg’s hands were clenched by now, and he had forgotten control. His brow was furrowed, muscles tense for an attack.
“You don’t even know my father. You don’t even know what he does to help the Order!”
“I don’t need to know him to know that he doesn’t matter.”
Kereg stopped trying to restrain himself, and his arm whipped forward. Instantly Lamen’s hand was a blur, gripping Kereg’s arm to stop its movement.
Kereg’s knuckles hit Lamen’s face anyway, though not very hard. He tried to lash out with his other hand, but Lamen threw him to the ground, twisting his arm with his strong grip. Kereg cried out as a bolt of pain shot up his arm, gathering in his shoulder.
Lamen stood over him, looking down with a sneer. “Your father’s success will be brief. My father has a plan, even two of the Elders agree with his plan of action.”
Kereg gasped at the intense pain in his shoulder, barely managing to speak through clenched teeth.
“The only reason your father thinks he has to hurt and defame mine is that he knows he’ll never be as great as my father.”
Lamen kicked Kereg in the side, knocking the wind out of him. Kereg’s scream came out as a weak groan.
“Stop talking! You don’t know anything. You’re just a useless, powerless apprentice.”
Kereg tried to open his mouth to respond, but just then a door slammed open further down the hallway and three men strode out. None of them yelled for help, none of them broke a calm walk. These were masters of control.
“Apprentice Lamen Sun. What are you doing?”
Lamen looked between the three masters, fear growing with each second. “I—I was just—”
“Attacking another apprentice? What would your father think of you bringing such shame upon the Sun family name?”
Lamen looked as if the master had slapped him across the face. A tear fell off his cheek and dripped onto the stone beside Kereg’s face. He looked so stricken, standing there. Kereg almost felt bad for him.
Two of the masters grabbed Lamen’s arms to escort him away. The other said shortly, “Where does it hurt?” and proceeded to prod him, checking for broken bones. After a few moments of this, the master gently picked him up to bring him to the healer.
Kereg let his eyes close and the mask of control fall over his pained features. As he was carried through the halls, he thought of his father. Would his father be proud of how Kereg had handled Lamen, or disappointed? At the thought of failing his father, he almost shuddered. He had seen his father disappointed before, and he never wanted to again.
In the brief meeting with the Order’s healer, Kereg was told that no bones had been broken, but he would have large bruising. Kereg was proud of how he maintained his control during his examination.
His mask of control hadn’t broken even once.
The healer said Kereg could go, so he walked to his room and laid down on his bed. Waiting for sleep to come, Kereg thought of the fight in the dark hallway.
The fight hadn’t been unexpected.
For the past year, the Sun family had waged a silent war of envy against the Lephel name. Constantly working to discredit or shame Kereg’s father—anything to convince the elders that he wasn’t fit to be a master of the Order. Kereg’s father, always in control, had carried on as if the battle didn’t exist. Obediently following the elders, constantly helping the Order grow in strength.
Meanwhile, Lamen had grown to hate Kereg. Every chance he got, he would bully him—always verbally, to this point—trying to convince him that the Sun family would win in the contest for the Elder’s favor. Until the fight, their arguments had never come to blows.
Where had Lamen been taken after the fight? He hadn’t been injured, so had he just been taken to his room?
Kereg decided wondering wouldn’t get him anywhere, so he might as well just wait to see. Similar thoughts trailed through his head as sleep gradually dulled his awareness and he drifted into dreams.
Author Notes: This is the second chapter in my current project. Zaire is the first chapter, so if you haven't read that.... Also, The Zaire I have on Shortstories is an earlier draft than I would like..... Ah well, Hope you like this.