AR 1209-12-04 Yari The Night After Taking Down Lord Thornbury's Ghost

It had been almost half a year, but to Yari, it was as though he had never left. The large keep still had the same shadows at night, the same sounds, the same smells. It should have been comforting, and perhaps it was in a way; however, the young boy’s mind was racing with unsettling thoughts that kept him wide awake in his bed, as his brothers slept soundly.

Wally. No. Maybe it would be best to start somewhere else: Sardi.

Yari was well aware that his recent infatuation with house cats was due entirely to Sardi’s entrance into his life. He may not like to admit that out loud, but he was still aware of it. Why, though? Sardi was a good friend, and they shared a lot in common; maybe that was all of it? Maybe the fact that Yari’s first impression of Sardi was as a cat, and that – since they had become such close allies – formed a kind of subconscious connection in his psyche between cats and good things?

In the quiet of the night, the young boy could allow himself to consider ideas he normally would not, and he focused on his breathing, trying to clear his thoughts and allow the divinity of Odin into his mind. Odin could give the answers he sought.

Instead, all that came to Yari were additional images of Elsie and Wally. Focus on Elsie! Yari knew exactly what he was doing with her. It was just like his father told him: “Find a girl you like, and then make her like you. Don’t be surprised if, after all is said and done, she was the one making you like her all along.” He liked Elsie, and he liked that kiss.

Why had he given her a toy cat? She seemed to like it well enough, so that was good. Was this one of the things his father had warned him about? One of the things best not thought about too much? Was Yari growing up? Did that mean he would start growing again soon? How tall would he get? Was it possible he would get to be as tall as his father?

Why did Lord Thornbury kill his own son?

Damn. There it was again: Wally. No avoiding it anymore. Or, was there?

On the eve of the circus leaving, Yari and Sardi had stayed up talking again. The same upper-classman had shooed them out of the bunkroom, and they found themselves sitting around the same candle-lit table in the back of the library as before. The mood was somber, but Yari was determined to keep things as upbeat as he could.

“Hey, don’t worry! I’m sure, at the very least, my parents will be able to help out!” the small boy quietly exclaimed. “No way you’ll hafta leave m-us!”

Sardi managed to crack a bit of a smile. It wasn’t much, but Yari’s perpetual optimism was frequently too powerful to resist. “Yeah, maybe…”

Yari reached across the table and took Sardi’s hand in his own. “I promise!” he smiled.

Sardi gripped his friend’s hand in return, but did not return his smile. Avoiding eye contact, the former cat whispered, “Every creature, every thing in all of Midgard swore – promised! – never to hurt Baldr…”

He trailed off for a moment and released Yari’s hand. Taking a deep breath, and still refusing to meet his friend’s eyes, Sardi continued, “All, except mistletoe. It only takes one small thing for the best laid plans of gods and men to go awry, Yari.”

“Maybe,” Yari responded immediately, “but what’s the point in concentrating on that one small thing? Wouldn’t it be better to assume the best? Doesn’t that seem like the happier option?”

Sardi exhaled in defeat, and finally met Yari’s eyes. His mouth was neutral, but his eyes were smiling. “Yeah, I suppose. Fair enough. ‘Sides, it’s not like Hodor’s around to throw a spear at us, or anything!” Yari choked and began coughing violently.

Back in his bed, the young boy took several deep breaths, listening to his brothers’ slumber. The memory of that late-night conversation, all those months ago, recalled as a distraction, had brought his thoughts back to the one thing he didn’t want to think about. The best laid plans of gods and men oft go awry. Was it just a plan gone awry that had led to Wally’s father murdering him? How could a father do that to his son!

At this point, it was clear to Yari that he was not going to get anymore sleep that night, and so he slipped out of his bed and quietly moved into the hallway. Following his old routine of checking on each of his siblings, he was pleased to find them all – even Rissa – safely tucked into each of their beds. Still, the boy’s mind was racing with disturbing thoughts, and his body remained restless. He wasn’t sure why his legs took him downstairs, until he stood at the base of the staircase and saw his father’s form, illuminated by the ever-burning hearth fire, seated in his favorite chair.

If Sven noticed his son, it was not apparent until Yari was at his side. Reaching out to carefully touch his father’s shoulder, the small boy whispered, “Dad?” In the next moment, Yari was curled up on Sven’s lap, and the large man had his arms wrapped around his son in a quiet motion of paternal protection.

They sat like that for what seemed like hours, until finally Yari broke the silence. “What would you do if Mom died?” he asked into Sven’s chest.

Sven breathed in deeply of Yari’s hair, and moved one of his hands to flatten some of the boy’s cowlicks, futilely. He kissed the top of his son’s head and said, “I’m sorry about your friend.” Yari began to cry, uncontrollably, and didn’t stop until he woke up, hours later, back in his bed, with the sun’s morning rays drying his tears.

AR 1209-12-04 Yari The Night After Taking Down Lord Thornbury's Ghost

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