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Author Topic: Who is the third who walks always beside you?  (Read 185 times)

Description: Phoebus

Offline Martin Erdo

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Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« on: Oct 25, 19, 12:58:05 AM »
The summer had run a bit long, into the heart of fall. Martin figured, well, if Phoebus wanted to stick around and thought he needed to, it wasn't his place to complain about it. If Martin hadn't seen the changes in the young man he would've been concerned. But Phoebus had blossomed through the long, hot months of the Aechian summer. Once the prosthetic limb was fitted properly, Martin had promptly put Phoebus through his paces: climbing trees, riding horses, camping, cooking, and field-dressing. Even got him to fire a shot or two once they'd figured out where to find a one-handed crossbow, though he didn't think much of Phoebus's aim. The boy was passable, but he wasn't ever gonna be a hunter. The boy was too damn cautious. Phoebus had started to take the lead now, to make plans and act as if he had the right to take control. Now all Martin's hard work was bearing fruit... or it would, if he could pin Phoebus down for a serious man-to-man conversation.

That conversation was not why they were up in a tree.

They were up in a tree because Martin had spotted a magnificent twelve-point buck some weeks back. The king of the forest had disappeared among the trees for most of those weeks, and he'd resigned himself to the buck's loss. Maybe some poacher had got it, or maybe a legitimate hunter, he thought, and he'd tried to be satisfied. Then, on a ride, Martin had spotted the buck again. Twelve points, beautiful golden brown coat, and alert brown eyes. It was almost a pity to bring him down, Martin thought, where he sat on the edge of the platform, scanning the forest with a hand to shield his eyes.

"Summer's gone," he said. "Fall's coming." This was obvious. There was a chill bite to the air that there hadn't been a week or two ago. Arkadie had celebrated the autumnal equinox by traveling the Province, and Phoebus had made himself scarce when the Court visited. "It's time to talk about what you're gonna do 'til spring. Once the first big snow falls, we don't usually go down the mountain."

He looked over at Phoebus, significantly. "You going back to the Court, or are you going to stay outside it? Keeping the contract, or letting it lapse? Can't leave that dangling forever; it's not right."

Offline Phoebus Aegle

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Re: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« Reply #1 on: Oct 25, 19, 11:21:22 AM »
The summer had done wonders for Phoebus - that much was true. He’d gained proper muscle across his shoulders and grown adept with the use of his prosthesis. At Martin’s side, he’d learned the skills he’d missed picking up during his long captivity - no one had ever challenged Phoebus to be an outdoorsman before, and he found he rather liked it once all was said and done (provided, of course, that no one expected him to hunt and kill his own dinner).

At the start of the summer, he wouldn’t have been able to climb the tree, but it had come easily to him today, more than usual because the heat had finally broken. The air was not quite chill enough for Phoebus to see his breath, but it had been when they set out that morning.

Martin’s brisk pace of lessons and work had done its job of keeping Phoebus distracted. He hadn’t thought about ending his life in months. That night in the stables seemed like a fever dream now, and he thanked Mother Night for his own past ineptitude. If he’d tied that knot now, it would have held… but he didn’t think he’d have tied the knot.

Yes, he was doing better - but Martin’s question still made an uneasy sort of panic rise in Phoebus’s throat. He’d hidden from Arkadie the whole length of her visit some weeks before, which no doubt had sent a message. If he stayed away another season, that would say something, too.

But what if he returned to court and all his progress came undone?

“I… I’m not sure,” Phoebus said, clenching and unclenching an awkward fist. “I…”

This hurt.

“I think I’d need to speak to Arkadie. See if she sees a place for me. A real job with a purpose, not just sitting in her first circle and looking pretty. Then I’ll decide.”

He’d taken a season to think on where it had all gone wrong. If Arkadie hadn’t been able to do the same, then it wasn’t a problem with him. It was her taking him for granted.





Offline Martin Erdo

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Re: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« Reply #2 on: Oct 29, 19, 01:28:33 AM »
Martin grunted his understanding and rummaged in his belt-pouch for his spyglass. "You gonna stand there like you don't have an ass in your pants, or you gonna help me find this buck?" He patted the platform next to him, and sat in companionable silence with Phoebus as the young man got settled with his own binoculars. The damn things were useless to Martin by now, but honestly a spyglass wasn't much good anyway. He could see things but not always as good as a hunter needed to.

"Talking's a good instinct," he said, once Phoebus was scanning the treeline alongside him. To his way of thinking, half the problem with the damn young bucks like Phoebus and Kadie these days was that they didn't fucking talk enough. Communication was key when it came to relationships, and the kids always learned it too fucking late. Even Martin. Age and experience was always going to win out over youth and beauty. "Urge to talk it out serves you Warlords well. Princes get all fucky in the head, Warlord Princes are a shitshow and a half (glad I never fathered one nor pulled one in the family relations), but Warlords, they're alright. Pretty much only Caste closer to the land's a Queen."

He turned his one good eye on Phoebus instead of the sights on the other end of the spyglass, which seemed pretty uniformly brown and red and gold and entirely too botanical for his tastes. (He wanted something a little more kingdom animalia.) "So what real job are you gonna ask for, Phoebus? Can't go in there without a pitch. It wouldn't fly with one of my farmers and you're asking a Queen for a place in her Circles. What's your worth besides looking pretty?"

Offline Phoebus Aegle

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Re: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« Reply #3 on: Nov 02, 19, 11:46:35 AM »
Phoebus took the binoculars and adjusted them to his face. They were a bit fiddly, but not so much that he couldn’t manage them between his good hand and his prosthesis. A few weeks ago he’d have struggled, but his grip was getting better all the time. Martin had never taken I can’t for an answer, and certainly he’d dropped the binoculars down the tree once or twice, but he had the hang of it now.

He turned his attention to his view of the trees - or tried to, at least, because it quickly became clear that Martin meant to continue the discussion. Small talk seemed antithetical to deer hunting, and Phoebus was having difficulty listening and looking at the same time. The listening won out - it usually did when Martin got around to dispensing pearls of fatherly wisdom.

Or in this case, just straight up compliments.

“Black Widow Warlord Princes,” he muttered under his breath. “Just the worst.”

He was still making a show of looking through the binoculars, though he didn’t see anything resembling a deer and doubted their conversations, quiet as it was, was helping their situation any. The action seemed more a pretense for avoiding eye contact, and that was… fine, Phoebus supposed.

“I’ve taken to this pretty well, haven’t I?” he asked. It had come as a surprise, really - Phoebus had been an indoor kid in the preferential sense even before he’d been an indoor kid in the forcibly confined sense.

“Back when I was in Sevastopol,” he went on, “I was Minerva Tailor’s emissary to the Landen. I found out what they needed, secured resources, mediated disputes between them and her court. Arkadie’s got someone who does that, sort of, but maybe I could do something similar with the farmers an Achea?”

Oh Mother Night, he thought, second guessing himself. It sounded stupid. He was terminally stupid.





Offline Martin Erdo

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Re: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« Reply #4 on: Nov 02, 19, 04:39:05 PM »
The Black Widow Warlord Prince comment was clear enough to Martin, who heard enough politics at the few aristo dinners he did attend that he understood to whom it referred. That Mercer boy was no good. Black Widowing was best left to women, who more innately understood its twists and turns. He was sure he didn't know what the fuck Kadie'd been thinking. Probably about advancement, the bloody-minded little Queen, and how she wanted to rule the Territory one day. Still, he avoided parties where the Territory Court would be present as a matter of rote, because he didn't want his own bad attitude to reflect poorly on his daughter. He grunted assent to Phoebus's low grumble, and dropped his spyglass back into its belt-pouch.

"Sure you have," he agreed, the phrasing sarcastic but the intent sincere. "Blood calls to the earth. Just your father lives in a goddamn ivory tower and he taught you that preference, too. I'd die for your old man, but he isn't what Blood oughta be." Maybe Phoebus had been surprised by the alacrity with which he'd adapted to the law of the land, but Martin expected it. He had an eye for those who would be a dab hand at ranging, hunting, really living. "Farmers know you, farmers like you. It'd be good for them to feel more represented in the Court at Silca. The stuffed shirt serving as their voice to Kadie's not doing them any good at all, and you've got the kinda skills that come in useful."

He let the silence ride for a minute, scanning the forest for movement again. Still seeing nothing, he shrugged his coat off; the heat was coming on a bit, and he didn't want to bake in his oiled-leather skin. "You got experience and references. What duties d'you picture having? Would you be her escort on trips to tend the plantings? You comfortable issuing commands to the Courts of the Queens who serve her, or you gonna need an assistant?"

Offline Phoebus Aegle

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Re: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« Reply #5 on: Nov 03, 19, 01:31:00 AM »
What Blood oughta be.

Martin had used the expression several times over the summer, never fully explaining it, and at this point Phoebus was a little bit afraid to ask, sure as he was that he was meant to have figured it out from context. It seemed to involve a whole lot of living closer to the land and being a little bit wild and a significant amount of disdaining the comforts of civilization. But more Blood lived like how Martin thought they shouldn’t than how they should, by Phoebus’s reckoning, so who was to say who was in the right?

Still no sign of the deer. Martin was fidgeting beside him, doing something with his coat. Phoebus didn’t want to think about it overly much - he was very nervous of falling. It would be a very bad look to die by falling out of a tree just when he’d started wanting to live again.

“I could escort her,” he said, when Martin had finally stopped moving beside him. “When she needs an escort for that sort of thing. I’m fine at it. But I don’t want to just be a horse who gets trotted out on special occasions.”

There were plenty of males who were content to be kept. Plenty of families and courts where that was the normal state of things. But Phoebus had been kept enough for a lifetime already.

But, still, he frowned. Making arrangements and giving orders had been where he’d failed as Arkadie’s first escort. “I think I could do it,” he said, lowering the binoculars. “I’ve failed before, but I’m doing a lot better now. I probably wouldn’t fall behind again.”





Offline Martin Erdo

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Re: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« Reply #6 on: Nov 03, 19, 01:00:04 AM »
One of these days, Martin would get Phoebus to ask him about the way Blood ought to be. He supposed it made sense that the twitchy Warlord would be hesitant to admit himself ignorant, since that was basically his father's entire modus operandi, but it was rather contrary to Martin's purpose as a mentor and instructor. They'd get around to it someday one way or another, even if it was in the aftermath of Arkadie doing something stupid because she'd been taught that that was what it meant to be Blood. He'd get his opportunity to preach the true fucking gospel of the Blood; he wasn't a Priestess of any kind, but he knew what he was about.

"Well, good," he said, bluntly. "Versatility. No single-purpose tools in a Court." As to the rest of it, the horse bits, that could come a bit later. For now, Phoebus was contemplating his failures, which was well and good. Reflection upon the things upon which one needed to improve was a critical piece of self-development that Phoebus was, perhaps, too practiced in. Martin spent a lot of time trying to break the boy out of that self-destructive cycle. In this instance, the introspection was directed appropriately, at something that Phoebus needed to reconsider if he was ever to serve in a Court the way he said he wanted to.

Martin said, "And what'll you do if you do fall behind? Gonna ask for help this time? Shit happens, Phoebus. And 'course, that brings us to the next question: Are you goin to uphold the betrothal contract? Any aristo marriage you make you're gonna spend at least some time getting gussied up and put through your paces in public. It's the price you pay for influence, kid."

Offline Phoebus Aegle

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Re: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« Reply #7 on: Nov 07, 19, 12:24:21 AM »
No single-use tools in a court, huh? Well, Phoebus supposed, that had been his mistake the first time around. He'd been no-use, not even single-use. Arkadie had plied him with so many pretty words about his perceived weaknesses being his strengths and he'd tried to believe her but he'd never really bought it. Out here in the woods surrounding the Priory, he'd uncovered real strength. Real utility.

He was not a thing to be kept.

"Don't have much choice but to ask, do I?" Phoebus asked. He'd been too self-conscious about it before, too absorbed in that push-pull of not wanting to look weak but knowing he was weak. If he were in a job he was actually good at and doing work of real value (what the fuck had he brought to Arkadie as her first escort?), it would be easier to admit to needing help.

"It should be easier to ask, anyway," he said. "I won't just be pretending to be competent."

Fortunately that was all there was to say on the subject.

Unfortunately the next subject was the betrothal. Phoebus lowered the binoculars, dropping all pretense of looking for the buck.

"I would like to uphold it," he said with false casualness, like he hadn't spent all summer agonizing over the matter. "Assuming our discussion of my role in her court goes well. I... I don't think I could stand seeing anyone else married to her. That's enough motivation to tolerate the occasional banquet."

A little bit of jealous heat twisted in his stomach. Phoebus had been Arkadie's first male! He belonged by her side! No one else could replace their bond!





Offline Martin Erdo

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Re: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« Reply #8 on: Nov 08, 19, 11:21:11 AM »
Martin found all that satisfactory. Recognizing the inevitability of the asking was a good thing. After all, wasn't he working on his own ability to ask for help with this whole summer? Shit was hard with one eye. He still couldn't catch everything he needed to catch, and sometimes he thought shit was further left or right than he expected it to be. A life without binocular vision was a hard one, he was finding, but he was adapting. Having someone to displace his concerns onto was making that adaptation easier. Hard to have time to think about his own misfortunes when the boy was around being such a miserable mouse. By the time Phoebus started to perk up, a lot of the worst--or what the Healer called the worst--had passed. Martin could even take out the fake eye now without wanting to vomit.

Not that he didn't still wear the eyepatch preferentially.

"Easier to ask for help when you know what help you need," said Martin.

He listened to Phoebus pretend that he was unaffected by the possibility of Arkadie being married to another man. That was to the good; no doubt his girl would be shattered if Phoebus elected to break the contract, but she'd find someone who could stand up to her force of personality eventually. And admitting the reason he wanted to uphold it was in part based on jealousy was another step into the right direction. "I don't have any advice on the toleration of banquets," he said. "Haven't ever been good at it myself. Ask your dad sometime; I'm a menace."

Martin fished his spyglass back out, and scanned the treeline for a long moment of silence. "Gonna miss you when you head back," he said, unselfconscious as anything, but still gruff. "Who'll I drag up a tree in your absence?"

Offline Phoebus Aegle

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Re: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
« Reply #9 on: Nov 09, 19, 12:58:29 AM »
"Right, easier," Phoebus said, nodding, but his thoughts had already moved on and gotten consumed with thoughts of the betrothal contract and... banquets. And how to tolerate them, apparently.

Phoebus laughed quietly - it was easy to imagine Martin being a menace at banquets even without asking his father for a description. He'd spent a summer with the man and that was enough to know both his table manners and his drinking habits, which were a fair indication. And he knew Arkadie, and she was a menace at banquets.

(Though maybe, he considered, for different reasons.)

But it couldn't hurt to humor him. "I'll be sure to," he said. "And one of the dogs might join you. They're clever. I'm sure you could teach one to climb a tree."

Okay. Maybe not. But it got a laugh out of the man beside him before he raised the spyglass to his eye again.

"I'll miss you, too," Phoebus said quietly, not sure whether it was audible. He followed Martin's cue and lifted the binoculars to scan the woods beneath them. He had his doubts that the buck was still there to be found - but he had less doubts about what his plans for the future were, so it seemed a fair trade. Even if it wasn't a deer with a magnificent rack of antlers.

And then - he saw it. Movement in the trees below. And the buck.

Phoebus reached over and shook Martin's arm. "There. There," he hissed urgently, and the older man swung his spyglass towards where he was pointing, and the hunt began anew.





 

 

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