AR 1209-06 "Yari, I Want You to Meet Your Uncle..."
“Aunt Snookie!” yelled Yari, as he ran through the crowd to hug her. The large feast hall was jammed with all sorts of people – teachers, new students, old students, family members – and it was easy to get lost in the crowd. Yari’s aunt, however, was remarkably easy to spot. Standing close to seven feet tall, the half-orc was easily twice the height of most of the occupants in the room, many of whom were dwarven children. She spotted her nephew and grinned broadly, waving.
“Oh, Yari! It’s so good to see you!” she squealed, drawing him up in a tight embrace. Once properly squished, the boy was placed gently back on the floor. “Notice anything different?”
What Yari wanted to say was, “Wow, Aunt Snookie, you’re pregnant! Congratulations, but I thought you said you would never marry anyone after Uncle Jarl died. Who’s the lucky father-to-be?”
What came out was a gasped, “Whoa, you’re… Is that…? But, what about…!”
Snookie smiled affectionately at her nephew, and reached over to grab the arm of a man standing nearby, whom Yari had previously not noticed. Pulling the man closer, she said, “Yari, I want you to meet your Uncle Jarl.”
Yari’s eyes doubled in size. There was no way the man in front of him was his late uncle. Dressed in faded black leathers, and sporting a hood that shaded most of his face, it was hard for the boy to find any family resemblance; and, besides, Jarl was dead! That’s why his dad named him in his uncle’s honor!
“Hey, kid,” came the man’s gruff voice, and he extended a gloved hand awkwardly.
“H-hey,” Yari answered, mechanically accepting the greeting.
“Oh, isn’t it so exciting!” Snookie squealed again. “He’s come back! And, we’re going to be a family again!”
By this time, Rissa had noticed the commotion, and come to investigate. “Hey, Aunt Snookie,” she said. “Who’s this?”
“Our Uncle Jarl, apparently,” Yari said skeptically. “I’m gonna go find Dad,” and he hurriedly left the three standing where they were to track down his father.
“Dad! Dad!” he exclaimed when he found Sven, jumping up and down. Never one to waste words, Sven smiled at his son and raised his eyebrows acknowledging he was listening. “Aunt Snookie says Uncle Jarl’s here!”
“What?” Sven demanded, his voice calm and cold. “Where?”
Yari directed his father to where he had left his Aunt, and followed behind a few paces. Sven moved in great, determined strides, and his son hurried to keep up. Whereas Yari had to weave his way through the crowd, people simply moved out of the great man’s trajectory. When they reached their destination, Rissa was busy drilling the strange newcomer with a flurry of questions. Sven placed a hand on her shoulder, silencing her, and firmly moved his daughter to the side.
The hooded man looked up, meeting Sven’s eyes. After an impossibly long moment, he sheepishly said, “Heh, hey, Sven.”
Soon as the words were spoken, the man was on the floor. Yari’s father had moved so fast, punching the man in the face with a powerful right hook, that it took the boy a moment to process what happened. When he did process it, he was even more shocked; his father never punched anyone! While Yari understood intellectually that Sven was once a demigod who fought violent battles against men, beasts, and even other gods, the young boy only ever knew his father as a quiet, peaceful man. What was going on!
“Sven!” screamed Snookie.
“Yeah,” the man said, moving to a sitting position and rubbing his jaw, “it’s good to see you again, too, brother.” Either Yari was still too shocked to tell for sure, or the man was not being sarcastic.
A gentle hand was placed on Yari’s shoulder, and he jerked his head up in surprise. Beaming down at him was the smiling face of his Uncle Sindri. Noting the confusion – bordering on horror – Yari was experiencing, Sindri chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, that’s just your dad’s way of saying ‘I love you.’” This did nothing to alleviate Yari’s confusion.
Sindri moved over to the man on the floor and helped pull him up. He made a show of dusting him off and straightening his shirt, then finally pulling down his hood. Both hands on the man’s shoulders, Sindri stared intently into the now-revealed face of the stranger.
Dark circles underlined the man’s eyes, and his cheeks were gaunt. His skin was pale, like he hadn’t see the sun in years, and his face was covered in scars. One long, jagged scar ran diagonally down the right side of his face, glancing off his brow, and taking off the upper half of his ear. Then, there were his eyes; they were dead eyes, eyes that had seen too much, and they were filled with guilt. A shiver ran down Yari’s neck; he was frightened by this stranger, who claimed to be his uncle.
The moment was broken when Sindri grinned and embraced the man tightly. “Welcome back, brother,” he whispered, his voice filled with emotion. Tears filled both their eyes, and Sindri added, pushing back to look at his face again, “Gods, you look like shit!”
“Takes one to know one,” came the response.
“Oho! Well, I’m rubber; you’re glue!”
“Your brain is made of rubber!”
“At least I have a brain!”
“Will you two cut it out!” Snookie complained. “You’re acting like children.”
Rissa piped up, “You’re an only child, aren’t you, Aunt Snookie?”
That got everyone laughing, save the poor half-orc and Sven. Sven still had both his fists clenched, every muscle in his body tensed. “Where were you?” he demanded in that dangerously calm tone. “We all thought you were dead.”
The man, who apparently was Jarl after all, answered evasively, “I… had some things I needed to do.”
Sven punched him to the ground again, and said, “Wrong answer.”
“That is enough, Sven!” Snookie growled, moving between him and Jarl.
“It’s fine, Snookie,” Jarl said.
“No, it is not! I will not have my fiancé being beaten by his own brother!”
Sindri, helping Jarl to his feet again, raised his eyebrows and whistled, “Fiancé? Finally decided to make it official, huh? That why you came back?”
“Not… exactly,” Jarl answered, “but, it helped. We were hoping you and Paleen would stand beside us during the ceremony.”
“I’d be honored, brother. I know Paleen would, too. She should be around here somewhere…” Sindri craned his head to scan the crowd for his wife.
“We were going to ask you to officiate, Sven,” said Snookie, “but now I’m not so sure.”
“I am,” said Jarl flatly. “Sven, would you do us the honor of marrying Snookie and me?”
For a long moment, Yari thought his father was going to punch Jarl again, but then all at once, the large man relaxed. He hooked his thumbs into his belt and fell back on his heels. “Can’t,” he said. “I’m not a cleric.”
“The Church of Odin invested you with all the rights of a high priest, due to your unique service to the Allfather, and you damn-well know it, Sven,” Sindri countered, smugly, still searching for Paleen.
Giving a great sigh of resignation, Sven relented. Finally showing a genuine smile, he offered his hand to Jarl, who clasped it immediately. Holding his prodigal brother’s grip firmly, he looked Jarl in the eyes and nodded once. “Yari,” he said, not actually looking at his son, “I want you to meet your Uncle Jarl, your namesake… and my brother.”