Chapter 2: Eld of the Light
“I’m sorry.” Aphella held the butt end of her bone spear in her hands as she sat bent over on the stone entryway bench. The other half of the spear, itself split into two fractured segments, leaned against her thigh, each stained red and sickly green from the blood and bile of the dreadtusk.
“Even objects of power are mere objects,” Aphella’s father, Dolmar said. “I would much rather lose the spear than lose you.” He sat himself down beside her, holding a steaming cup of thistle tea in each hand. He handed one of them to Aphella, who straightened her back and took a sip.
“You never should have given it to me. You should have made me find a more suitable focus. Something smaller…” Aphella sighed. “Less old.”
“Less valuable, you mean,” Dolmar said. “Such things are not valuable just because they are old. Otherwise, I would be priceless!” Dolmar laughed and sipped his drink.
“I’m sorry,” Aphella said again, despite her father’s easy-going tone.
“Aphella, I am not angry.” Dolmar held his smile, his voice calm and soft as always. “A focus is valuable only because of what it does, and more importantly, who it serves. Something less than that spear would not have done for your talent and skill. The spear served you – that was its value. Had you been with less, or even an equal talisman with lesser dimensions, you might not have survived. Besides, your mother wanted you to have it.”
A knock at the door brought Aphella’s head up.
“Who is it?” Aphella said.
“Ty, by the grind of his boots in the gravel outside,” Dolmar said. He stood up and drew the heavy iron latch out of its place in the stone doorway, and pulled open the door, made of hollow layers of light steel.
Dolmar was proven right, as Ty was indeed standing outside, his narrow face having returned to its permanent smirk in the hours since the dreadtusk attack. He was not, however, alone. Below the glow of Ty’s lantern, once again held aloft by a long pole, stood Ty’s mother, short and squat, a frown creasing her normally smooth cheeks.
“Nobella,” Dolmar said, nodding. “What brings you two here?”
“What brings us here?” Nobella said, her high voice cracking. “You haven’t even invited us in for tea.”
Without showing any reaction, or letting any affect creep into his voice from the woman’s complaint, Dolmar said, “Come in. Would you like a cup of tea?”
Ty opened his mouth to answer, but Nobella spoke before he could utter a syllable, “We’re not here for tea. Just to fetch Aphella. The council wants you.”
“Interesting sending two messengers when one would have done,” Dolmar said. He looked down at his cup. “No matter, the thistles are a bit off tonight.”
“I was sent to deliver the message,” Ty said. “My mother…” he trailed off as his mother glared at him.
“Just wanted to greet and thank my daughter, I’m sure,” Dolmar said, smiling falsely.
“Precisely,” Nobella said. Dolmar raised his eyebrows at her. Nobella cleared her throat. “Thank you, Aphella. I am glad the herd is mostly intact.” She bowed curtly, and then gave her son a harsh look. “Well? Be off with it.”
“Go on,” Dolmar said.
Aphella looked hesitantly at her father, then handed him her cup of tea and followed Ty out the door, leaving Nobella standing just inside the door. The chubby woman crossed her hands and stood silently as Aphella passed her, moving out into the wide lane, the crystal lamps brightening to a wakeful radiance. The few times Aphella looked back as she crossed the street with Ty, she saw Nobella standing with her arms crossed beside Dolmar.
“Why isn’t she leaving” Aphella said aloud.
“She probably means to give your father a talking to,” Ty said.
“She doesn’t like you.”
“What? I’ve barely spoken two words to your mother this past year.”
Ty chuckled. “I wasn’t supposed to be walking out of town on my own, especially not to visit a girl.”
“So shouldn’t you be the one to get the talking to?”
“I already did get a talking to, of course. Mother has made it clear there are but a few acceptable young women here, and you are not among them. Now she has to convince your father.”
Aphella laughed aloud. “That’ll go well. She’d just do as well to try and get him to remarry. And what’s so bad about me, anyway?”
“And you’re not?”
“I’m a man.”
Aphella found herself gaffing at this statement, then quickly straightened her face. “Sorry.”
Ty pretended not to notice. “Men can be willful – ought to be willful, especially in the business world. Women are to tend to the home.”
“What nonsense,” Aphella said. “What about Shaenyll and Arda?”
“They are elders, not marriageable women,” Ty said.
“I suppose then she never knew my mother.”
Aphella found herself at a loss for what to say. She went through half a dozen changes of subjects in her mind – the dreadtusks, the traders, who the dead snuffler belonged to, but stayed silent instead, letting their footfalls fill the quiet. She became aware that Ty did indeed drag and shuffle in his boots as her father had said, and Aphella wondered why she had never noticed it.
“What do the elders want with me?” she finally said.
“I think was the trader that asked for you.”
“The messenger doesn’t know?”
“I was sitting in the meeting with my father, but-”
“But you weren’t listening?”
Ty chuckled. “Of course not. Ah, here we are.”