Continued from here
on the first day of Ymiden during the 718th arc...
Continuing right along with his questions, far more relaxed after Ziemko's succinct but willing sharing, Doran shifted his weight in the saddle as he spoke. "What were the Wronas like?"
Though he understood such a subject was certainly still raw, he knew very little about the family of merchants. If he were to know more about the man who, supposedly, would not be leaving his side for the foreseeable future, he wanted to know where he came from. Unsurprisingly, there was a flicker of sadness and, more so, regret in his eyes, but he didn't refuse an answer.
"Emil Wrona, our father,"
He began, already more words that was typical of his responses, "Is- ...was..."
Ziemko slowly corrected himself, some of the strength of his voice faltering for a trill before he continued. "A powerful man. He and his father before him amassed a fortune through trade. He... was a difficult man at times, but he was honest. That was what made him successful, so he said."
Ziemko drew a breath, his shoulders rising a tad before they fell with the following exhale. "He was respected, proud, and worthy of devotion."
There was even a sort of reverence that had slowly crept into Ziemko's tone. It was as if his brother spoke more of one of the Seven rather than a mortal man. Though... perhaps it was better to compare him to an Immortal - after all, great as Ziemko seemed to think the man to be, he was clearly not entirely loyal. "And he was the one who asked you to find me? To... protect me?"
Without hesitation, though deliberate of motion, Ziemko nodded. "Do you- do you know why?"
A small flash of confusion sparked in man's hazel eyes, "The Wronas are being hunted."
Doran took a moment to rephrase his question. "I meant... why me? Shouldn't he have been more concerned with you? I'm just a bastard after-"
For the first time Ziemko interrupted him, eyes flashing with... Doran couldn't decide if it was anger or defiance or anguish - or a combination of all three? "Because you're family, and nothing is more important."
The intensity of his words was startling, and Doran feel into surprised silence.
"Bastards or not, we're his sons. It's our duty to see that the Wronas survive."
There was a small click of realization: Ziemko was a bastard as well. Suddenly his touchiness on the subject - both there upon their steady paced steeds and around the table in his aunt's home - made much more sense. "I see. I didn't meant to- that is, if I offended you, Ziemko, I apologise."
His voice was soft and genuine. He was learning more about his brother with each passing trill now that conversation had sparked between them, but he wasn't so hungry for information as to tear it away at the cost of his companion's comfort.
Ziemko stared at Doran for a time before he replied, face as unreadable as ever - this time his eyes as well. "You don't have to apologise to me."
The manner in which he said such words sounded very much as though an "ever" were present, and he turned his head so that he might better watch the road. There didn't seem to be any indication he hadn't meant what he'd said, but Doran was having a difficult time knowing what was what with the man.
He allowed a bit or two to pass before he spoke again. His voice was quieter, though interested as ever, and he had spent time to arrange his words. "Before,"
Though he couldn't be absolutely certain, Doran imagined that the wounds were still raw; it was better, he concluded to avoid the more sensitive subjects of his now deceased family. The problem was that most of what he wanted to know about Ziemko, to help him build some sort of semblance of trust between them as far as he was concerned, was almost entirely rooted in the stern man's past. "Were you a trader? A businessman?"
Though his guesses had been of an educated type - knowing who the Wronas were and what it was they did - it still sounded absurd when he spoke them aloud. Ziemko was by far the least personable human being he'd ever come across - he couldn't imagine him manning a stall, brokering deals, or - the Seven forbid - managing the workflow of others. With a steady shake of his head, Ziemko confirmed what Doran had already figured.
Waiting for several beats, their horses' hooves sounding at least four or five times, Doran ventured another handful of suppositions. "A... dock hand? A librarian? A... erm - a butler?"
They better matched his personality at least.
The second time, Doran only allowed three plodding steps to pass before he tried again. "A baker? A sailor? A- uhm... a - what is it? - a scrivener?"
Ziemko blinked twice, his expression more or less blank, though there was a slight glimmer in his eyes that caught the late afternoon sunlight in such a way Doran almost thought it to be amusement. "No."
Frowning, though less out of displeasure or frustration at Ziemko and more so at his lack of talent at guesswork, Doran fiddle with the leather straps of the reigns in his hands for a few trills before he shook his head. "I really - clearly - have no idea."
If he had been waiting for an admission of defeat, it neither showed in his voice or his face - but such things didn't keep Doran from suspecting that might have been the case. "I was our father's personal guard."
Again, there was no sadness in his tone, but his eyes belied some of his pain, their intensity more than enough to sober Doran's mood.
"Oh. I see..."
It wasn't a surprise - though he'd not have guessed it to be the case. Though Ziemko shared the name, Doran was beginning to wonder just what sort of life he'd lead. From what he understood of the noble families - and to a lesser extent those families of wealth in general - the children were more often expected to take up occupations that benefited both their name and their positions. A family known for business and trade surely would not have placed emphasis on martial prowess - though, it was entirely possible, he supposed.
For what felt like the first time, Ziemko continued, offering more information that the merest scrap that was necessary to not seem as though he was completely disinterested. "And now, I'm yours."
There was an odd finality to his words, and Doran imagined it had quite a bit to do with the promise he'd made to Emil, his father.
"Under the circumstances, it seems a bit... erm, strange? Peculiar, maybe. A bit peculiar to express gratitude, but I find myself thankful nonetheless. I wouldn't even be aware of the- this situation."
He still couldn't decide if it would have been better to simply not know at all, but with Ziemko there was a fighting chance. He couldn't deny that his presence, however unnerving and - at times - threatening, also provided him a bit of confidence. His brother was large and powerful and very quick - by appearance alone he trusted the man would be a valuable companion, especially when faced with those who wanted them dead.
Ziemko's brow raised just a hair. "Thankful... for what?"
Not missing a beat, Doran chuckled in spite of everything. "For you, of course."
The studied one another for a time after, the horses knowing the way so well they might have been blindfolded and progressed exactly the same. Around them, the air had begun to take on a more pleasant coolness, but it was still uncomfortably warm - a clear sign they had yet to pass beyond the borders of Andaras an into the rolling valleys and floral scented breezes of the Venoran landscape. They had seen no others on the road thus far, and Doran had enjoyed the quiet backdrop their conversation.
As they stared at one another, hazel gauging hazel, Doran chewed gently on his lower lip, eventually breaking the silence with an explanation he felt was owed, if for no other reason than that Ziemko might offer him more about himself without him needing to pry so. "It's just- everything is so confusing. I don't know you, you don't know me and yet... we're supposed to put our lives in each others' hands and-"
He faltered, unsure. "And survive?"
It was a confusing change. He'd spent his life after Lily doing what he could to simply live
, yet now the very act itself was in jeopardy - or so he kept reminding himself. There had been no incident in the city nor on the well worn path thus far. Part of him still doubted everything that had been said, but the more rational, logical voices of his stream of consciousness seemed to agree that it was an unlikely ruse.
"I trust you."
Ziemko stated simply, just a slight flicker of confusion in his eyes. "You're family."
As if it were a legitimate explanation.
"But isn't everything that's happening now - happening to us - because of Leopold?"
A mistake, however unintended, was still an action taken.
A flash of anger quickly tempered by... something, blazed cold in Ziemko's eyes for a trill before he shook his head. "They chose to hunt us."
Another simple answer with a far more involved meaning.
Doran couldn't even argue against the point. Though their mutual sibling had sparked whatever dark desire for revenge now fueled whoever or whatever wished to see their bloodline forever extinguished, but at the end of the trial, it was the unknown entity's choice to continue such pursuit. It was an odd way of looking at things, and one that could be applied to anyone or thing. It sat odd in his mind, but Ziemko spoke again and Doran was quickly drawn out of his thoughts, not wanting to miss the rare chance of volunteered information from his quiet brother.
"How can I... fix it?"
"Pardon? Fix what?"
He blinked a couple times, not quite ready for a question, nor one so vague.
"Your trust. In me."
Genuine concern drifted in his eyes and - perhaps? - a hint of distress.
His chance presented itself on a silver platter, yet Doran wasn't sure how to manage it. "Oh, you- or I mean, I merely want to... to know you. Better than I- or, rather, I don't so..."
He'd begun to mutter to himself, more verbal thought than an actual response, and he cleared his throat - along with his mind. "Get to know me, and I you. The more we learn about one another the more- the better we'll understand each other. I hope."
He added the last with a cautious chuckle. There was the risk that he might learn a bit more than he was bargaining for and as an end result feel far less safe than he did under the watchful protection of a stranger.
Slowly, Ziemko nodded. "I'm not... very sociable."
Grinning wide, but glad for the effort nonetheless, Doran nodded approvingly. "Yes, I've - erm - I've noticed that."