Continued from here
on the first day of Ymiden during the 718th arc...
Instinctively, reflexively, Doran moved forward without thinking. The blade that was at his aunt's throat didn't move - neither back nor
forward, though Doran only realised how dangerous a thing it was to grip someone's arm in protest of the dagger being held only after the fact - as his fingers wrapped around Ziemowit's forearm and he pulled in vain. His voice sounded almost foreign to his own ears, so filled with fear, "S-stop, please, Ser Ziemowit-"
His voice caught in his throat as the man's fiery gaze was cast toward him, all noise dying out before the cold flames of the man's muddy, green stare.
Yet, he felt the muscles in the man's arm relax, and the blade was pulled away, hand slipping back into his cloak - the other doing much the same - as Lisette slumped to the floor, wordlessly panting out gasping breathes of relief. "Ziemko. Call me Ziemko."
Again, that same earnest softness filtered into his eyes as he regarded Doran.
"What- what are you doing, Doran? This madman just- just attacked me!"
There was a wild expectation in her words, eyes wide, fear sinking its fangs into judgement. Whatever it was she expected Doran to do, he could only blink down at her uncomprehendingly. The man was his equal in strength - if not more so -, was a least a head his taller, and was armed where he had nothing but his own two fists and feet. If his aunt expected a fight, she would be rewarded with a death - perhaps two - and it most certainly wouldn't be Ziemowit - Ziemko - in a bloody mess upon the floor.
Ziemko glanced down at the near hysterical woman, his voice as cold as ever, eyes reflecting both his disdain and annoyance. She obeyed, for the most part, scrabbling over the floorboards until she'd put some distance between herself and the cloaked man, rising to stand behind Doran, her breath shakily beating at the back of his neck.
Catching himself, Doran shook his head. Most of the terror in his voice had faded with the safe return of his aunt unharmed, leaving more or less a perplexed curiosity - though it was still plenty tinged with apprehension. "Before... you asked me not to lie to you. I'm..."
As Ziemko stared back at him, there was a flicker of surprise in the man's eyes. "I'm sorry, for that. It is true though. What I said, I mean. Lisette is my aunt in all ways but... one, I suppose."
Close as she was, Doran could feel his aunt drawing in breath to protest, and for the first time in his life, he held up a hand and shook his head to shush her. Thought he act was nothing short of a gentle and kind, that it was done at all was shocking enough that the woman found her voice lost, unable to defy him at all, eyes widened in surprise.
"She's my mother, in blood, but blood alone. We decided, long ago, that I would be her nephew and she my aunt. It's been such for so long, even saying it now feels... peculiar - at best - on my tongue."
If Lisette had wished to speak before, Doran could feel nothing but a quiet silence from her after he had explained. Perhaps it was due to shame, perhaps continued, disbelieving astonishment, perhaps even betrayal, but she didn't add her words to his; she allowed him to stand on his own.
Ziemko stared, eyes glimmering with something just shy of incredulity. His voice was little more than a pained murmur when he spoke. "For how long?"
An expression of pure, unadulterated confusion spread over Doran's face, not understanding the relevancy of the question. "I... I'm not certain? As far back as I can remember...?"
His airy voice trailed off as he took note of the icy flare in the man's eyes, staring right past him and into the pale face that cowered behind him.
"You not only robbed him of us, you robbed him of family entirely?"
Never before had Doran ever thought to consider his aunt's actions from such a perspective, and neither did he then. "I wasn't... 'robbed' of anything."
His voice was genuine, not defensive so much as explanatory. He understood that the matters of his youth were... confusing, at best. "She raised me. She gave me the singularly most important thing in my entire life. I had a family, and I was happy."
He spoke in the past tense not by mistake or in rhetoric, but in truth. Lily had been his world, the most perfect thing he'd ever known. She was gone, and that perfection taken with her such that... though he could feel
happy, seek out wonder and live life for the both of them to the best of his abilities until death came to claim him and ferry him away to be once more by her side, he would never be
happy again. Not truly.
There was a soft sigh from behind him; Lisette knew exactly to whom Doran referred.
Ziemko had picked up on Doran's choice or words. Though Doran opened his mouth, Ziemko raised a hand and gently shook his head. It seemed he had not truly wished for an answer - or perhaps had changed his mind. "Your name is... Doran?"
Doran hesitated for a moment, unsure if the question was finished or not, nodded after a few trills of expectant silence passed. "Doran..."
Ziemko seemed to test the name on his tongue, quietly murmuring to himself before it was his turn to nod. "I have... much to tell you."
Almost thoughtlessly, the question jumped from Doran's lips with the surprising jumping force of the frogs he and Lily had caught in the gentle heat by the creek's edge. "Like who Emil is?"
From behind him, there was a sharp inhale of breath. Lisette, it seemed, had regained some of her moxie. "He's not anyone you should care to know about."
Though cold, Ziemko's command was the closest the man had come to a suggestion when speaking to Doran's aunt, and he leaned against the wall, arms crossed and eyes expectant.
"Tell me what?"
With a concerned turn of his brows, he turned to face his aunt, though not completely, as he wasn't certain he wanted to allow Ziemko out of his sight. Though he felt rather confident the man wouldn't harm him
he wasn't certain the same could be said for his aunt - injuries were not death, and while it had been made clear Ziemko wouldn't claim her life, that didn't necessarily stop him from making it very painful. "Aunt Lisette?"
There was anger in the woman's small, rounded face. Her clear grey eyes glared back defiantly at the man who coldly regarded her, waiting for her to do as she had been told. Without looking at Doran, leer still set upon Ziemko, she began. Her tone was dull, as if she were reading the label on a jar of spices rather than revealing one of her longest kept secrets. "Your father's name is Emil. Emil Wrona."
Doran blinked, half confused and half uncertain. When he was a child, he'd once asked about his father - his real
father, not the borrowed, unfortunate Cooney - but she had told him he'd died all the same. He'd taken her words, as any child might, as truth, and his curiosity regarding his father soon followed the same path he'd believed the man had fallen down. To be told that not only was his father alive, but he was the wealthy head of a family generations upon generations old... and Ziemko.
Ziemowit Wrona - his brother? He looked to the man again, the knowledge of his birth the final piece he'd needed to understand where the odd familiarity came from when he looked into the man's eyes. The muddy green, darkened some by the man's prominent brow; he had seen those same eyes in the still waters of puddles, the passing glint of plated and polished armor, the mirrors and reflective glasses. They were his
The other man seemed to notice his brother's realisation and his lips turned in just the slightest curve, warmth replacing Ziemko's natural chill for a trill or two as he stared back. "Hello, brother."
This time, the warmth extended into Ziemko's voice. Doran didn't know what he was supposed to do. How he was supposed to feel.
From the moment Lily had been born, she'd been perfect. He hadn't loved her because she was his sister, his cousin, his family. He'd loved her because she had been the one thing that had loved him back in return, unconditionally. When she had cried, he had been there for her, drying her tears. When she had fallen, he had picked her up. When she had laughed, he had laughed right along side her. They had developed a bond over the arcs, a deep and meaningful understanding of one another. She had been more than his friend, more than is sister - cousin, whatever familial term. She had been his, and he had been hers.
Ziemowit? Ziemko? He was a stranger, albeit one he seemed to share his blood with. Yet, in his eyes, Doran could see that same devotion that Lily had looked at him with, though where her rich green eyes had been nothing but soft and kind, there was a fanaticism in Ziemko's that send a cold shiver down Doran's spine. Softly, he replied, his expression a mix of uncertainty and confusion. "Hello... brother."