LAST TIME ON THE FALLEN KING
After the death of his father, Liam has become Keeper of the Light. One month later, Liam is going to visit his Aunt and Uncle, a storm brewing on the horizon.
Part one of the chapter: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work.php?id=1...
"No, he gets that from his dad," She responded, not looking up from her soup. Aunt Maria was a solidly built woman, with rosy, plump cheeks, smiling eyes, and dark hair that was usually up in a messy bun. The woman who had nursed Liam after his mother had died.
She was eight months pregnant, but the look suited her. Since father had died, Liam had been coming to supper at Aunt Maria and Uncle Sitric's house every evening after going to the graveyard.
Liam walked around the table and peered into the pot. A red liquid was burbling with chunks of meat and vegetables.
"How was the graveyard?" Maria asked, taking some bread out of a cupboard.
"Good as always," Liam lied, thinking back on the voices and the fire. In a moment, he decided not to tell her. It would just sound like the loneliness was getting to him. "Today was my last day visiting it."
She nodded and started slicing the bread. "Where's your blade? I didn't see it around your waist."
Liam grimaced. He had hoped she wouldn't notice. "The sheath digs into my side. It's not comfortable for walking."
She slapped him with a baking mitt, "You need to start wearing that, comfortable or not - it's important."
Liam sighed, "Okay, okay." Maria took a large bucket of water and tried to lift it but was having difficulty, so Liam took it from her and poured the water into a pitcher. "How's the baby coming along?" Liam asked as he began to pour water into each of the cups.
Maria leaned back against the wall and patted her large belly. "Thank you. Probably only a week or two before they'll meet the world."
"Got many names for them?"
"I have a couple to pick from." She rang a bell above her head, announcing to the household that dinner was ready. "But as for you, young man, have you found an apprentice yet? Do you have your eyes on anybody?" As she asked, the four small children poured down the staircase from upstairs, tumbling and laughing louder than seemed possible from their small frames. Eight-year-old Bryan in the front, four-year-old Tommy close behind, and then little two-year-old Rose trailing in the back.
"What about you, little Rose?" Liam asked, scooping her up as she ran past and swinging her around. "Do you want to be my apprentice? Live in a lighthouse and learn how to talk to fire?"
"She's not of age yet. She couldn't take the oaths," Maria said, "And even if she could, she's a girl, so you'd have to marry her."
Liam swung her back down, "That'd be a no then," he conceded, booping her nose. She giggled and ran off, finding a place at the table.
As she did so, Sitric entered from the back door, locked in conversation with Hough. Hough was short but thickly built, with large rough hands. He was bald but made up for it with his thick red beard and eyebrows.
Sitric looked quite like Liam's father if a bit shorter and broader. He had a handsome face made of straight lines and a wide jaw. His beard was trimmed and grayer than the brown hair of his head. He was wearing a large sword at his side and a gleaming breastplate.
Sitric noticed Liam as he came in, "Good, you're here too, Liam. Me and Hough were just talking about that storm out there."
"It's a big one, beautiful," Liam replied enthusiastically, hoping that made him sound like the mature Keeper he was supposed to be.
"Yes, quite, but we were considering it on a different front. We fear the wind and rain might put out the torches on the wall and then the village might not have enough light for protection," Sitric explained. Liam hadn't considered that. His will to speak falling out, he nodded.
"We might need you to bring more light down as the storm goes on. Just listen for the bell of the Keep. If it rings four times, come down with a torch," Sitirc advised.
Liam's mind flashed through images of him slipping and sliding down a path, through the frigid rain, in the depths of night, trying to keep a torch lit.
"Most likely, we'll just send some men of Watch to fetch you if a torch is needed, but if not, just keep your eyes out. This would be a bad time to lose light in the village," Sitric continued.
"Sounds good," Liam responded, feeling a rising nervousness in his stomach. As soon as one duty finishes, another crops up.
"You really think it'll be that bad?" Maria asked, brows furrowed.
Hough turned to her and nodded gravely, "That's one big storm the Stars are speaking up out there. I would have called that a shipwrecker as a sailor. We haven't seen a storm like that for years, and I don't like the look of it, the color of the lightning and all. It's strange."
"I'll make sure to shut the windows tight," Maria said.
"Good idea, and Liam, tomorrow, soon as the storm calms down, could you come with a torch?" Hough solicited.
Liam nodded, "Yes, straight to the Keep?"
"You got it!" Hough implored.
The children started to take their seats, and Hough and Sitric made their way to the door.
"Oh, are you not staying for supper, Sitric?" Maria asked her husband.
Sitric looked back at his wife, "No, sorry honey, I've got to prepare the guard for tonight. The storm shouldn't hit until after sunset, but we want to be ready for it."
Maria sighed in disappointment, obviously meant to solicit guilt.
Hough laughed, "I'll have to come up with some apology for my wife as well. She specifically told me she'd be cooking my favorite tonight. But it's hard to enjoy even pie if the village is flooded. Good seeing you all, but I need to get back to the Keep to bless the town best I can."
"Come up with those plans for relocation if we do get any flooding," Sitric said as Hough stepped out the door.
"Will do," Hough responded.
All the kids waved him goodbye, and Hough waved back. He stopped and stared at the horizon for a moment in awe, and Liam saw him mouth some old sailors' oath. Hough hitched up his cloak and let the door fall close. Sitric gave his wife a quick kiss and disappeared out a side door to the wall.
Maria looked around the table, "Where's Cormac?"
"Up on the wall, I think," Bryan said.
"Cormac!" Maria shouted, looking at the ceiling as if she could see her son through the wood, "Suppers ready, come on down!"
"Ma! I'm on Watch! Could you send Liam up with some food so I can eat it up here?" Cormac's voice sounded dimly down.
Maria nodded at Liam, "You let him know that excuse will not work with his wife."
Liam laughed and stood up, grabbing two bowls, "Didn't it just work on you?"
"Oh, you be quiet," Maria smiled.
"I try," Liam responded as he slipped out, balancing two slices of bread and bowls full of soup as best he could.
Cormac was Liam's older cousin - though older only by a month. In many ways, they were more like brothers than cousins. For being related, they looked quite different, though. Cormac had his mother's black hair with tight curls and his father's woody brown eyes. Liam had sandy straight hair and gray eyes like his grandfather. Cormac was also taller and broader, built like an ox, with his head large and square like a shovel. They'd both be turning sixteen that fall but were already taller than most men in the village.
For many of Liams peers, sixteen was the age you finished your apprenticeship, at which point you could begin earning wages. Cormac had been training to be an official member of the Watch since twelve, but his training and duties had become more serious over the past couple of months as he approached his sixteenth summer.
Liam had a difficult time getting up the ladder with bowls of hot soup, but after a spill and a burn, he made it up. He found Cormac leaning on the wall and staring at the sea, his back to Liam.
Liam and Cormac were up on the eastern side of the wall, below which was a low stone platform, the docks, and then the long plane of the sea.
On the eastern side of the wall, the Watch was on the lookout for Austerman. Those men with hair like fire came in ships and took what they could.
Liam froze as he saw the storm. It was dark, the night already creeping over that horizon as the sun approached the opposite. The clouds had already advanced and looked even more like a crashing wave now. The sea beneath the storm was churning like a boiling pot, the shadow it created occasionally pierced by the flashes of purple lightning.
"Wow," Liam said, setting down the bowls on the edge of the wall.
Cormac took the bowl and bread from Liam. "Crazy, right?"
"I don't think any of the Austrmen will be coming today," Liam said.
"Still need to be on duty," Cormac said, "That's the rule."
It might waste less energy if you didn't put guards on walls that don't need to be guarded, Liam thought but didn't say. He and Cormac had debated that topic enough.
Instead, he began to eat his soup, spooning in the steamy material before the wind cooled it.
"Oh, your mom wanted me to tell you that your wife will never let you do this," Liam said through a mouthful of hot carrot.
Cromac sighed in acceptance, "Any luck on finding an apprentice?"
"Everyone's always asking me that - like they think questions help me look. When you see an apprentice, that's when you know I've got lucky," Liam said, scooping in more stew.
"You could always get an apprentice the way your mom did," Cormac commented thoughtfully.
"Marriage?" Liam asked, so surprised by the suggestion stew dribbled out of his mouth and onto his shirt.
"Yeah, marriage," Cormac suggested, like it was just a normal thing to propose.
"I'm not even sixteen yet!" Liam asserted indignantly, wiping the dribble off with his sleeve.
"You'll be sixteen in eight months," Cormac pointed out.
"Nine months, you'll be sixteen in eight." Liam corrected.
"Oh yeah, your birthday is the day before Samhain."
Samhain, the offering day, Liam thought. The day that Liam had been dreading ever since he realized he'd be a Keeper. "But even if I did want to get married in nine months," Liam began, "which I don't," he added hastily, "They want me to get an apprentice by summer, and I don't even want to be a Keeper by fall. I want to be done before Summer ends."
Cormac sighed again and left the silence as he drank the juice at the bottom of his bowl, "What do you mean by 'done?'"
"I mean, I don't want to be a Keeper, I shouldn't be, I'm not even old enough to get married, and yet I'm old enough to make decisions for the entire town. I am supposed to pick my apprentice, which essentially means I need to pick who the Keeper is after me. They could hold that job for decades. I barely know how to be a Keeper myself. How am I supposed to know who will be good at it when I'm gone?" Liam said, tearing up his bread into pieces and throwing each one off the edge of the wall, watching the wind catch them and make them dance around like snowflakes. "I don't know, I don't know. Maybe I'll stay a Keeper. But I wasn't made to be shut up in a lighthouse. I wasn't made to carry around torches or to make big decisions," Liam said.
"Then what will you do? Join the Watch? Become a tailor or a fisherman?" Cormac said, gesturing out at the ships with his spoon, "You used to always talk about wanting to be at sea," he added.
"I don't know. I just know I don't want to be the Keeper of the Light… and I'm tired of all these traditions. Why must I be the one who keeps the light? Why can't I be a tailor or carpenter or something?"
"Because your mother was a Keeper of the Light and her father before her."
"But my father was the firstborn son of the Keeper of the Wall. I'm just as much in line for that. Why didn't I end up a Keeper of the Wall?"
"Because the Keeper of the Light is higher than the Keeper of the Wall." Cormac smiled, "As dad always says, 'Any old idiot can swing a sword.' He's right - but not everyone can speak to the fire."
"That's not true, your dad was born to be a Keeper, but he also earned it. He only thinks about what would be best for the village. He's probably the best fighter we got. You too, Cormac. It makes sense you'd be next. You could probably beat half of the men in the village in a duel, and I've never seen you flinch, but me? I'm just a kid, and I'm tired of my lighthouse and being given respect I don't deserve."
"Then earn it. Make it so you deserve it," Cormac replied.
Liam sighed again. "I just don't know if I want to," He said, thinking back on line upon a line of white graves.
Cormac had no answer to that. Instead, they watched the boats arriving at the dock, fleeing the oncoming storm, and hurriedly getting tied up. "Why was I born the son of The Keeper of the Light?" Liam lamented, exasperated.
Cromac looked sideways at Liam and laughed, "Did your dad never tell you why babies are born?"
"Oh shut up, you know what I mean," Liam laughed.
Thunder crackled loudly, causing the two to jump. Liam realized in his rant he allowed the storm to creep uncomfortably close.
He used the oath he had heard Hough declare earlier and quickly shovelled down the last of his stew. "I better get home. I don't want to be caught out in the rain."
"Especially in the dark,” Cormac agreed.
Liam nodded, "Yeah, I was trying to ignore that part, but that too."
"If your torch is blown out in the rain, at night, there'll be nothing keeping the Darkness away."
"Also didn't really want to think about that either, Cormac."
"And you won't have time to stop by the Keep to get water and see Gwendolen."
"You're really just trying to ruin my day, aren't you?" Liam said, disappearing down the side of the wall, sliding down the ladder.