Continued from here
on the first day of Ymiden during the 718th arc...
Though he still remained between his Aunt Lisette and new found brother, Ziemko, Doran felt very much as though the two were putting on a particularly elaborate joke at his expense. Yet, there was no indication of such, and their shared eyes were an unmistakable likeness between them that he couldn't dispute. Though possible it was merely coincidence, he doubted it very much. From the way Zeimko looked at him - especially in contrast to when his cold gaze was settled on Lisette - Doran could tell the man believed what Lisette had just revealed.
"I... you- you didn't come here just for an overdue reunion, did you?"
There had to be something else; some other reason his brother - how odd a thing indeed - would seek him out arcs and arcs later. From the slow nod in response, Doran sighed, his shoulders no longer quite so tense in worry and more so weighted by whatever it was coming. "Then perhaps it's best we sit."
While Lisette shot Doran a glance that said, quite clearly, she did not condone such an invitation, she made no further protest and the three of them filed back into the common room. Doran sat at the middle of the table, his aunt on his left and Ziemko on his right; though there was still some tension, primarily between Lisette and his newly realised brother, it was not nearly so palpable as before. Ziemko, at least, seemed much more relaxed.
Doran began, his eyes curious and head turned intentionally to ignore his aunt's glare. No doubt he would regret his actions later, but in the moment, he wanted to know what was going on and why. Lisette would simply have to wait. "Now that you've found me and our... our relationship is confirmed-"
Here he glanced back at his aunt, who nodded begrudgingly but added, "I said you were Emil's son, Doran, not... him."
Ziemko shrugged but seemed confident that he had nothing to prove. Lisette huffed out an annoyed breath of air and settled back into her chair, shaking her head and muttering a muted, frustrated, "But don't listen to me, what do I know."
It was rare that his aunt controlled her anger, but Doran imagined it had much to do with the consequences of losing it in Ziemko's presence.
"At any rate, sought me out. Why? Why now?"
Slowly, Ziemko breathed in through his nose, wide chest expanding all the more before he released the breath in a steady exhale. "You're in danger."
He spoke calmly, not a hint of witticism in his tone or words. Doran could only stare back with a blank expression, uncertain how to react to such a message. "Our brother, Leopold, made a deal, one that resulted in the deaths of many men."
There crept into his voice a bitterness, one Doran knew well as the telltale aftertaste of loss. "They were a part of something... bigger. Those people, their family, vowed to eradicate ours, the Wrona line. And so they did."
If there was more emotion beyond the cold, burning fire of his eyes, it didn't show. "And now, you and I are the last to remain."
There was a silence that descended upon the room, thick and heavy like a wet blanket, weighted over the chest and pressing down upon the lungs. Doran said nothing, his brows knit and eyes confused as he processed what it was his brother had said. Even Lisette's expression had changed from one of a perturbed discomfort to a wide eyed uncertainty, but she was the first to speak. This time, her voice was far more quiet, the brash, sneering tone traded for something almost timid. "Emil is- he's... dead?"
The question seemed to hit Ziemko with a physical sting, and he flinched, eyes growing distant for a trill before, very slowly, he nodded. "By the Seven..."
Shock seemed all that Lisette had to offer after that, though if such news had been troubling or weighed heavy upon her soul, there was no display of such.
Doran hesitated, the entire tale difficult to swallow - he could only manage small bites. "I'm not a Wrona."
If Emil was indeed dead, there was no one of any authority to support his claim to the man's heritage. And though Ziemko had known where to look to find him, he wouldn't have known Doran out of a crowd of strangers, or even a pair of two.
Ziemko, however, did not seem to think it a worthy exemption. "His wives were... killed for their name. His sons were killed for their blood."
Though his voice held steady, there was a subtle struggle in his tone and eyes both that suggested such things were neither pleasant nor easy for him to recount. "Our father sent me to you. To protect you."
Here, his eyes burned with the same odd devotion Doran had seen earlier, only now it made marginally more sense. Why he felt so strongly tied to his family, Doran didn't know, but he imagined Ziemko had been raised much differently from himself.
With a small sigh, one more of thought than anything else, Doran slowly nodded. "...I see."
That his life was in literal danger had yet to truly sink in. After all, it wasn't everyday one suddenly was faced with the fact that one's continued existence was now very much in question. He'd yet to get that far. "Then... oh."
It hit him like cold water on a freezing morning. People were out to kill
Lisette, who had listened to the story with wide eyes, had grown quite pale. As the realisation dawned on Doran, she shook her own head, a fair mix of panic in her words as she stood up from the table. "There are people after you, and you come here? Do you have any idea what kind of danger that puts me in?"
Her voice had begun to grow shrill. "You come into my house bring all of your... your shit with you? No. No no no, I want you out of my house. Both of you. I'm not- I'm not going to be caught up in any more of Emil's messes. Doran was enough. I don't want- I don't need anything more. I'm happy here. I won't have him ruin my life a- a second time with some... some bastard who claims to be his son."
Her glare was steady as she regarded Ziemko, though she never once looked at Doran as she spoke. "Get out of my house. You have what you came for."
This time, Ziemko simply rose to his feet, wordlessly doing as he was bid, moving to stand by the wooden archway as he waited for Doran to follow suit. Doran, however, looked at his aunt in surprise, his airy voice weak but inquisitive. "Aunt Lisette?"
Though her eyes had been fixed on Ziemko, she drew a steadying breath as she let her gaze settle on the confused face of her son-turned-nephew. "I can't have endangering my family, Doran."
She held up a hand, shaking her head. "Just... just go."
There was a gentle quiver in her voice, but she remained resolute.
Slowly, Doran rose to his feet, the chair uttering a protest as it slid over the wooden floor. His eyes sought his aunt's, a mix of pain and confusion, but she would not meet his gaze. Though they had held no special love for one another, he'd always considered her his family and thought she had held the same of him. How Lily would have wept as such a scene; that along weighed heavily enough upon him that he felt his quiet words catch in his throat as he pulled the little wooden box out of his pocket. "I'm... I'm sorry. For all of this, I just- I only wanted to... wish you well."
He set the box on the table, the soft clack
of wood upon wood sounded loud in the relative silence.
He smiled then, gently, eyes sad, pushing back his mounting fear. "It sounds so- so silly, to say it now, but... happy trial of birth, Aunt Lisette."
This time, he didn't try to meet her gaze. Instead, he turned, quietly gliding across the floor until he stood beside Ziemko, who kept his face downcast and, in spite of his size, did quite a good job of making himself scarce. "And... I- I'm sorry. For everything."
There was a deeper meaning to his words, one that he'd never expressed before - not to her and not to his uncle. He knew they blamed him, and rightly so, only he'd always thought, deep down, that they had always thought of him as family - a something more than a mistake or a burden.
As he turned to leave, Ziemko just a step behind him, his aunt's voice rang sharp through the air. "He dies before you, Ziemowit Wrona, and I'll kill you myself."
An empty threat, but it carried with it all the weight of her concern, in her own way. As he opened the door, he couldn't help but feel as though he were leaving behind his old family for a new one - though there was no joy in it. People wanted him dead, for something he had had no hand in. With a heavy sigh, he took his first step out of the life of Doran Cooney, orphaned nephew to the Meadows, and into the far darker, more dangerous world as the bastard son of Emil Wrona.