On the first of Ymiden during the 718th arc...
They had ridden in silence for the better half of two breaks. Though Ziemko had said he would answer whatever questions he might have once they were farther away from the city, Doran hadn't mustered up the courage to ask him yet. There was a distinctly detached aura about the man who claimed to be his brother; so much so that, each time Doran had turned to look at the man's back he'd felt the words die out before they could even begin. Before, in his aunt's home, he'd been fueled by both fear and curiosity, mostly unburdened by the fact that there was a shadowy organization out to kill him. The silence, however, had allowed everything to settle and set.
He was, essentially, alone in the world save for a stranger he'd only just met, a young woman whom he'd not want to risk putting in danger with a visit before he left, and a necromancer who claimed to love him. It was as sobering as it was strange, and of the three? Doran was stuck with the stranger. He knew almost nothing about Ziemko - not his past nor present - and though he wanted to learn, needed to learn, it was a bit daunting. That they were related at all, their eyes aside, seemed almost laughable - except for the fact that Doran imagined if he did laugh, Ziemko would be rather upset. He didn't want to upset him - he had daggers.
Though Doran doubted his brother could hear his thoughts, he couldn't help briefly suspecting so as the man turned somewhat in his saddle to stare back at him with his intense gaze. "Are you... alright?"
He didn't speak with much emotion in his voice at, though his eyes belied concern.
Doran coughed and cleared his through, voice a bit cracked from the silence and repeated swallowing he'd been doing to press down his general rising anxiety at the whole situation. "I'm fine."
The flicker in his eyes seemed to suggest he wasn't so certain that was case.
"Well. I did have some- or I mean to say, I do have some- some questions. ...If you don't mind. We're out of the city and-"
Doran cut himself off, pursing his lips to keep himself from blabbering. Ziemko's stare made him uncomfortably nervous, more so than anyone else he'd ever met before.
Seemingly unworried with Doran's verbal stumbling, Ziemko nodded once, a quick, curt motion, the cloth of his cloak's hood billowing just for a moment to reveal the dull sheen of sweat. Doran imagined the man had to be sweltering beneath the heavy looking fabric. With a brief, awkward jolt of his horse's reigns, he brought the two of them in pace, riding beside rather than in front. He looked expectantly over at Doran, their bodies bobbing just slightly out of sync, one up the other down but only just so and alternating.
Though he'd thought of countless questions, only one came to mind for the moment. "Ziemowit is a... an interesting name. How do you spell it?"
Out loud, it sounded more ridiculous that when he'd wondered it in the privacy of his mind.
Though Doran began to wince, Ziemko replied without missing a beat. "Z-I-E-M-O-W-I-T. Ziemowit."
Blinking, Doran cocked his head, brow furrowed. "Really?"
The surprise in his voice - or perhaps the suggestion of doubt that Ziemko knew how to spell his own name - garnered a little flare of pride from the man's eyes, though his face remained somewhat unmoving.
He'd thought there'd at least have been an "sh" at the start. It sounded far more like "Shemuvee" or... "Sheemovay" with a soft "sh". Either way, it wasn't necessarily peculiar as it was more a curiosity - one sated - and though the man looked nothing but serious, Doran's lips turned in a soft smile. "It's a nice name."
There was a flicker of... something
in Ziemko's eyes, but he merely nodded in reply.
It seemed that the man wasn't much of a conversationalist, and Doran found his silence far more soothing and easier to talk to than had he been asking his own questions. He much preferred to barrage others, though he wasn't averse to offering his own thoughts. Relaxing a bit in posture - though only so much, as too loose a stance and he was liable to fall out of his saddle - the next question settled onto his tongue without too much trouble. "What do you like to do?"
He knew nothing about who his brother was as a person. Though he felt somewhat confident Ziemko would protect the pair of them as best as he was able, it felt not dissimilar to a hired bodyguard - only, Doran imagined bodyguards usually had a more telling display of personality.
This time, Ziemko didn't answer right away. His gaze fell, in what Doran imaged was thought, before he locked eyes with him again. "I don't."
Tilting his head, Doran blinked blankly at his brother who stared blankly back in return. "Y-you... don't?"
Ziemko nodded. "W-"
He wasn't sure what it even meant entirely. "You don't... like to do... things?"
There was another pause, then slowly, Ziemko nodded his head, though this time the cold fire of his eyes seemed to be mixed with a sort of uncertainty. "Surely you must do something to pass your time when you're not-"
Not defending his life from might-be assassins? "Not... working."
He finished lamely.
This time the silence stretched out to an almost unnerving length before Ziemko finally offered a quiet, "Poetry."
Were it not for Ziemko's oddly expressive eyes, Doran would have been entirely unable to tell whether the man was joking or not. It seemed, however, to be the latter. "Is that so? Do you write or-?"
"I read it. Memorize it."
There was no hint of anything but quiet sincerity in his eyes. His voice was as smooth and rolling as ever, offering little further insight.
Tall, muscled, stern... Nothing about him suggested that he spent his spare time with his nose in a book or quietly listening to the refrains of a bard in a crowded tavern. Still, Doran supposed one's outward appearance was only so telling. "Would you mind sharing some?"
There was clear interest in both his eyes and his voice. Though he wasn't necessarily drawn to literature of any kind, he'd read plenty of books in his childhood, collections of poetry among them.
He hesitated, but, as Doran nodded encouragingly, Ziemko quietly sighed through his noise, expression as unreadable as ever.
"Gently fall these tears of snow,
Upon the cold hard earth.
Blanketing the world in white,
Concealing flaw below.
Every footstep left behind
Reminds one of the past,
And pure ivory expanse?
Future yet to be tread."
His rolling voice held little intonation - a true recount of memory alone - but the words themselves held a beauty and rhythm that was communicated beyond his brother's steady, unfaltering tone. "An excerpt from Tay'sira Fallow's collection of works, Time."
Had he wanted to hide the impressed glimmer in his eyes or wide smile on his lips, Doran would have found it difficult. He wondered if Ziemko had chosen the poem specifically for its meaning or if it had simply been the one most readily available to his memory. Whatever the case, he offered a sincere - though quiet for fear of startling his horse - round of applause. "Impressive!"
If Ziemko was glad for the praise, he didn't show it, but neither did he turn away.
"Then... have you memorised many poems? And all their sources as well?"
It reflected well on Ziemko's capabilities of recall; Doran could remember things well enough, but not with the sort of pristine and clear accuracy of rote memorization. It was a talent he'd never had a knack for, but it seemed his brother, whether naturally or trained, was well equipped for it.
His reply was simple - not necessarily unfriendly, but it didn't seem as though more poems were going to be volunteered.
Still, it was a large step from nothing into the knowledge that Ziemko, for all his intimidating, reserved appearance, had an appreciation for the written word. Somehow, it made him seem the slightest bit more... human. He was unnaturally content to silence and his manner of staring made Doran more than a little bit uneasy - knowing he at least had a relatively common if not entirely benign pass-time of a sort was relieving. "Anything else?"
There was a clear interest but lack of expectation. One hobby was more than enough for a man, but if there were more he was curious to know them.
Regretting the question immediately, Doran merely quietly nodded, a gentle, "Oh."
ending any further foray into that specific line of questioning. What his brother did with his body - and the bodies of others - was more so something Doran preferred to maintain a suitable wall of privacy between the two of them. Still, his smiled widened some. Poetry and copulation: it seemed Ziemko wasn't quite so inhuman after all.