Continued from here
on the first of Ymiden during the 718th trial...
Within the first bit of leaving his aunt's home, Doran felt the weight of what Ziemko had told him paired with Lisette's rejection crash down upon him all at once. He paused in his stride, and he felt Ziemko do the same behind him. Leaning against a wall, Doran shook his head, eyes closing to shut out the colors that were too bright in the warm ways of the sun's light. "I- I apologize, I need to... I'm sorry."
Back pressed against the firm stone of the building, Doran used a hand to cover his eyes, casting the dull orange of his vision into true, black.
Though he couldn't see, he could feel the approximate position of his brother's body as he moved to stand beside him by the raise of his hairs and the sound of his rolling voice. "But it's dangerous to linger on the street."
There it was - the first of what Doran was certain would be an endless reminder of that fact he was now hunted. It was such an odd thing to consider; he'd started the day relatively unworried - though the fifteenth was soon approaching - and in a matter of breaks, his life had forever changed. He didn't even really understand why
. Ziemko had explained, but his details had been decidedly lacking.
From what he knew, his life was merely a name on a list to be ticked by those who sought revenge against a man who had already been slain. It was nonsensical. It was absurd. Most of all, it was terrifying. The thought alone that his lack of involvement meant nothing tot he people who, allegedly, wanted him dead was frightening enough, that they had already killed so many others - four, at least, from what he'd gathered from Ziemko's recount - was chilling. That Ziemko thought he could protect him after so many had already fallen... Doran didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or curse his ill-luck.
He pushed his weight back over his own two feet, letting his hand fall to his side as his eyes finally opened. It was always a surprise, after keeping one's eyes closed long enough, how vivid and overwhelmingly detailed the world seemed to be. "We should... we should head back to Venora. To my home."
Ziemko shook is head. "It would be better to leave Rynmere. Our father refused, and we were executed one by one."
His voice was kept low, face obscured by the hood he wore even in the heat of the season.
"And we will."
It was neither the time nor the place to explain exactly how they might do so. Though Ziemko paused, after a trill or two, he nodded. Doran stared back, surprised. "That's... that's it? No questions?"
"You're my brother."
He said, simply, as if that explained his blind trust.
Though he hardly felt the same way about the cold, stone-like man beside him, he couldn't deny it was nice for someone to simply do what he asked. Starting back into the flow of the foot traffic, Doran found that Ziemko was always just a step behind him. It was a bit unnerving, and as they made their wait through the streets of Andaris, he turned his head, drawing the man's attention by clearing his throat. "I have some- some questions, if you don't mind?"
Ziemko glanced around, eying the faces that surrounded them with a slight frown of concern. "Wait. After we leave the city."
While he was not forceful with his words, there was little room for Doran to try to push the subject, so he let it drop. Instead, with each fall of his boots upon the cobbles, each uncertain gaze at the people who passed them by, he mulled over what little Ziemko had already given.
Leopold, their brother, had betrayed some dangerous men. It was his foolishness that had let to the systematic execution of his family, one by one. Whoever it was Leopold had angered, they seemed more than simply vengeful. They were cold, powerful, and, like true businessmen, took their payment without worrying about who it came from. Wealthy as the Wronas were, Doran could only assume they had tried to use both diplomacy and bribery - neither had proven effective. He was certain pride is what had kept them from fleeing and for their pride they received nothing but death.
Doran had no intention of doing the same, though neither did he intend to leave Rynmere forever. It was where Lily rested. Though he was loathe to part from her, from the sanctuary and all its comforts, he doubted Lily would have wanted him to stay if it meant that he would not live to seen the next season. It made the choice less difficult, though neither did it make it any more appealing.
He wondered, cautiously, what all Ziemko had scene. What all he knew. He was difficult to read. His eyes were so filled with raw passion while his face was like stone - between the two, he could venture any guess as to what the man was thinking or how he felt, and he feel just as confident with any. Whatever was going on in the man's head, it seemed he felt confident - or at least not entirely hopeless - that he could keep Doran alive, keep his promise to Emil. He supposed it was considerably easier protecting one person rather than an entire family, but it was more than just him They - with a capital "T" for lack of better auspicious name for who hunted them - wanted. Ziemko was of Wrona blood as well - and carried the title. If anything, Doran supposed he
should have been the one protecting Ziemko
While he could hold his own in a fistfight or a brawl, it was a far different thing to fight for one's life - and yet another to fight to protect that of another. He was no warrior, no guardian. The extent he knew of swords was they were long and cut things - he'd always thought of them as glorified knives, really. That someone might use them against him - that he might have to do the same - was enough to make his stomach twist and head feel light. He couldn't help but imagine things would have been better if he'd never known; if his murders were to simply show up and do their work, him thinking all the while he was merely the unfortunate target of burglary.
Though... with Ziemko's warning, he now stood a chance. His life, while in danger, was his to determine what he might do with it. He supposed, with a soft sigh that escaped his thoughts, that he owed his new found sibling thanks enough for that very reason. Whatever his intentions, Ziemko was his best bet - unless, of course, he
had been the killer. If that were the case, however, Doran imagined he would have done away with him already. For the time being, he decided to accept that Ziemko was looking out for his - for their - best interests. To call it "trust" was labeling his feelings with far too strong a word, but it was close enough.
By the time they neared the gates, a detour towards the stables at Ziemko's silent behest, Doran's thoughts had begun to settle some. While he was still afraid - and imagined he would continue to be for quite some time - it was not only exhausting to remain in a state of mounting panic, but without anything immediately reinforcing such paranoia, it was almost more difficult to maintain the fear than it was to settle down into more of a general apprehension. He certainly felt more aware of eyes upon him, and made more of an effort to avoid jostling those around him. One of the grooms was waiting for them, a rucksack in hand, and passed the reins on to the brothers. Coin was exchanged, and before Doran awkwardly climbed into the uncomfortable saddle he'd be stuck in for the next three trials, he gazed back at the city, the stone walls rising high and drew in the wet, salty breeze that blew in from the ocean. He wasn't sure for how long they might be gone, nor when they might return, but he supposed, with a soft, sad smile, it wasn't such a bad farewell sight.
Shouldering the rucksack, Ziemko hopped up onto his own mount, steadying himself before he nodded at Doran. "A break out, and I'll answer whatever questions you have."
With that, he turned his horse and stared down the way. Though he did, on occasion, rent the odd ride back and forth between Venora and Andaris, he'd never been all that great at riding. It was fortunate the beasts were well trained, and it was most a matter of him getting the animal to realize he wanted to go. After a few attempts and several quiet requests, he and his steed managed a light trot, one that Ziemko was forced to slow his own pace in order for Doran to keep up.
As the city's noise began to fade behind the trees and hills and distance, Doran kept his eyes focused on Ziemko. While they shared the road with several others, it was only a matter of time before the two of them were alone. Slowly, Doran began to gather himself, formulating his questions ahead of time. There was much he wanted to know, and they had several trials in each other's exclusive company - perhaps even arcs. He wanted not just to have answers given to him, to but to understand them as well. If he was going to survive, he needed to know what it was he was surviving and how the two of them might do so together. He wasn't going to be a burden - not if he could help it, anyway.