Following an uneasy silence in their correspondence, Atrian traveled to Rivenspire to follow up on the welfare of his newphew, Silius Kane. Atrian found him among the company of Clearwater Investigations and in a rather dire scenario at that. With that peril behind them, Silius visits his uncle at his camp site, which just so happens to be a significant location to the knight from a time long past.
Atrian took shelter along the coast, where the Eltheric Ocean crashed against Rivenspire’s cliffs.
He hitched his horse inside an old, lean-to stable braced against a lighthouse, long abandoned. The place was entirely familiar and alien to him.
The past six years were not kind to the structure. The roof above was moss-ridden and sagging. Vegetation overwhelmed the crumbling stones of the lighthouse’s octagonal base, overtaking the pitted wooden door to the point of almost being sealed shut.
When Felisa lived here, it was in a fresh state of disrepair. Its dilapidation was just so to give the impression the previous occupants were long gone, but not enough to rob it of its air of security and permanence.
Now, Felisa was in Lion Fall, far from this crumbling, unforgiving coast. Atrian imagined she was holding their infant daughter to her breast, the child nursing heartily while embers crackled and whispered in the hearth. Atrian imagined Lionfall’s outer walls rising higher around them with each day as the salt air chewed away this light house’s stone and wood.
The masons built and sea dissolved.
This former home of his once lover, now wife was crumbling. In its place, he gave her something larger, grander, and to stand beyond time itself. Lionfall is rising, and will stand as the mountains stand: forever.
“Uncle.” Silius’ voice awoke Atrian from his waking dream.
“‘Lius, how are you?” The knight straightened his back as Silius’ image became clear in the light of the fire. The sun retired below the horizon not long ago, but night’s march across the sky was nearly complete. It wasn’t lost on Atrian that the night seemed more insistent, oppressive in these lands. Where it took one candle to light a cellar in Colovia, in Rivenspire, it took four.
“I’m well, uncle, as well as I can be in this damp.” The young man wore a heavy cloak draping down his whole body and pulled tight up to his jaw. He lifted his head, the fabric of the cowl falling back slightly to reveal his face, enchanted to look whole and hearty. He displayed his hands, looking mostly healed. “And these are coming along nicely.”
“That is good.” Atrian gestured for his nephew to join him near the fire, “I spoke to Lady Velacel. She told me about your trusting ‘disclosure’ of your condition. If my warning wasn’t enough, take her’s. Tell no one.”
Silius impatiently threw back his cowl as he eased himself next to his uncle. “I understand, Atta. Though I can’t understand why I told her. I just… felt I could trust her.”
“Trust her or not, what good are you working for a group that uncovers secrets when you can’t keep the one that is most important to you?”
Silius was quiet for a long span. His eyes were fixated on the fire in front of them.
“Telling someone who you are is a burden in and of itself. This knowledge is dangerous. In the wrong hands and even in the hands of those you love and trust. Understand you put others in a hazardous situation even knowing. Think of it that way, and hopefully, that will stay your tongue.”
Silius was an excessively compassionate man—hopefully this perspective would reach him where others failed. He had a keen insight into the feelings of others and felt them just as deeply. He would take on the suffering of another, and much more, if it meant they did not have to feel that pain, whether they deserved it or not. He developed this from his late mother, who was just as tender, just as sensitive. Atrian recalled the long hours the young boy would spend with her. Too ill to learn to fight or ride ahorse, he spent his days learning music, helping his mother dress and being pampered by her ladies in waiting.
His twin, Simeria, had no patience for dresses or the confines of chamber walls, and was always with the watchmen, learning to dice and fight with blades. The Gods did not grant Isoran her soft, gentle little girl, so she held her boy close. Silius never rejected the fine, precious little clothes made for him. He loved sitting on his mother’s knee as she applied powders and rouges to her face.
Any day, the boy’s heart would stop beating. Any day. Indulge Silius, let him live what lovely little life he could until that time when his breath would be swept away.
And yet here he was—immortal, with the strength of many, many men but with the heart of a handmaiden. The gods worked in such strange ways.
Silius’ lips tightened and his gaze fixated on the fire. “I understand. It won’t happen again.”
Silence fell between them for a few long moments with only the crackling of the fire heard between them. Then, Silius reached out and grasped Atrian’s wrist.
“I’m glad you stayed, Uncle. Coming was one thing, but staying is another. I both appreciate you accepting that I must go, and yet I miss you all the same. Having you here on one of my strange little adventures is a welcome change.”
“Someone has to make sure you’re not strung up by a bunch of fanatic townsfolk, yes?” Atrian took a leather tobacco pouch from his hip and a pipe from his traveling sack that lay at his feet. He filled the bowl and lit a match in the fire, bringing it to the small bundle of died tobacco and letting it smolder before taking a large breath in. “I was reprimanded by Lady Velacel for my forceful words back in town. It appears I butt heads with every lord and lady I meet, including your sister.” The knight’s expression grows smug. “When she has children, she’ll understand. You’ll cut through anything to get them off a hanging platform. But she is looking out for you. We both are, in our own way.”
“Speaking of children, how is your little one? And Felisa?” Silius asked, crossing his legs at the ankles as he stretches them out toward the fire.
“They are well. The babe grows stronger every day. She’s an ox.”
“And Oliverae? Have you knighted the girl yet? Oh, but she’s not a girl, she’s a woman! Surely you have?” Silius’ question hung in the air and the knight’s teeth set around the stem of his pipe.
Silius persisted, “She is ready, surely? Or does she need a few more dancing lessons to educate her further on courtly matters?” The young vampire teased.
Atrian, at last, answered, “She is ready, in ways beyond what could ever be taught her. But she’s needed at Lion Fall. Let it be her final commitment as a squire—-To see the home she pledged herself to, be made whole.”
“But you can knight her now and she will still stay for Lion Fall’s completion, yes? She’s ready, Atta. We are her family and she loves you like a father. I know it. Knighting her does not mean she will vanish the next morning. But she will leave, eventually, as all children do, squire or not. But she will always love you, as you do her.”
Atrian commited his gaze to the fire. The embers in his pipe glow mutely for a brief moment before a large cloud drifted from his nostrils.
The way Silius shifted his weight hinted that the young man knew he hit a nerve and he fell back to a new topic.
“What do you think of the other investigators in Clearwater?”
Atrian grunted, “Magic-heavy. The manor lacks an armory and has the look of a mage-tower with all the tombs and artifacts lying about.”
“So you’ve done some snooping, uncle?” Silius teased, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.
“I didn’t take you to mingle with the bookish.” Atrian countered. “Or Altmer for that matter. But something about you makes them flock to you. First, that greasy merchant in Daggerfall and now those two for Clearwater. It seems the farther they can look down at someone, the more amicable they are.”
“Was that a jab at my height, Atta?” Silius clicked his tongue, resting a hand on his chest in a feigned wounded gesture. “But no, Estre and Eluvein are lovely company. You should set your prejudice aside and give conversing with an altmer a try. You might find it refreshing to speak to someone eye-to-eye for once.” Silius stretched out his hand and wriggled his fingers, “In passing, Altmer would mistake me for a little urchin child. That measure of disregard gave me an extra few moments too--” Silius made a motion like he was dipping his fingers in a pot of honey. “So you could say it was I who was attracted to them.”
“Aye…” Atrian said, distaste lacing the word, “But those days are long behind you now, yes?”