A ray of bright daylight pierced the semi-darkness of the tent as Smaragd, Flavus’s father stepped inside. He stopped by the entrance and gave the swarthy guy seated beside his sleeping son a long, thoughtful look. The air in the tent was heavy with herbal smells that usually made people sleepy but it seemed that they didn’t affect the Kuldaganian soothsayer at all. He hunched in his chair, his head resting on his bandaged hand, his brow frowning from time to time to some troubling thoughts…
“Are you Kangassk?” boomed the deep, powerful voice above him. Only then he snapped out of his daydreaming and raised his eyes.
Smaragd was a giant of a man that would make Sereg the Grey Inquisitor look like a short dry stick beside him.
It took Kangassk just a brief moment to realize that he was looking at Flavus’s father and cold obsidian had nothing to do with that. Flavus had that man’s face. The only difference here was the hair colour: Smaragd’s hair was as white as snow while Flavus’s had a golden tint.
The giant looked Kangassk in the eyes, waiting for his answer.
“Yes, that’s me,” answered Kan; for once, his voice sounded calm and didn’t betray his surprise.
“I’m Smaragd, Flavus’s father,” the man nodded. He went down on one knee beside his son’s bed, gently touched Flavus’s golden hair and cheek with his giant hand, then turned to Kangassk again. “Reyne told me about you, Apprentice,” his voice was sad. “She was so excited to meet someone that powerful, someone that promising… Now, you’re as empty as our son is. At least he knew what he was doing when he joined the Greys. And you?”
“What do you mean?” asked Kangassk, totally lost.
“Oh, you had no idea?” Smaragd raised his brows in a slight surprise. “It doesn’t matter then, not anymore. Don’t think about it. Follow the mage’s path and be happy on it if you can.”
There would be no explanation, Kangassk realized. With his ignorance that evident now, his new acquaintance had lost all interest in him, it seemed. Smaragd was looking at his sleeping son again.
It took the man just a moment to decide what to do. He lifted Flavus along with his mattress and blanket as easily as if he were a little child. Flavus's thin arm dangled limply like a rag doll's, his head tilted back… He looked so small and fragile in his father's arms. Why did he inherit Smaragd's face but not his strength, Reyne's golden hair but not the terrifying but beautiful precision of her movements? Was there more to it than him being unlucky? What was the precious gift he had sacrificed to become a battlemage?
"I'm taking my son home," Smaragd told Tredius before leaving. "His mother and I will take better care for him there." He threw a glance at Kan again, "And you, Kangassk Del-Emer, follow me if you wish. I think Flavus will be glad to see you when he wakes up."
Kangassk did follow. He took a bundle of his friend's things from Tredius and caught up with Smaragd in the street. They walked through the quiet little town together. The fortress-like house of the Brians met them with a lively half-muted buzz coming from the inside. There was a lot of movement behind the stained glass windows: Reyne was teaching swordplay to a class of little kids. Kangassk felt a deep respect for Iven where every child learned how to defend themself from an early age. Aren-Castell's militia came to mind, the one his city had gathered to fight the dragons. The first batch, the one that had been fried almost entirely, had twenty three somewhat professional warriors in it: the Wall Guards. The second batch, gathered to finish off the fallen dragons, consisted mostly of terrified citizens who had never held weapons in their hands before. Ironically, teenage Kangassk was one of the most professional warriors there. The dragons, mortally wounded beasts, most of them blind with sand and pain, managed to kill several people of the second batch and injure almost everyone else. Such a shame… Iven sure would've done a much better job there.