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Tale of Two Clerics

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There were not a great many things in the world that Aingeal seemed to hate, mild mannered and delicate of mind as he was, and there were even fewer people in the world that he seemed to hate. He was a quiet and aloof individual, never quite “all there,” as it were, and therefore his face rarely betrayed any emotion at all, except perhaps when he was frightened, or, rarely, when he was angered.

It was hard to tell whether he hated even Whittaker, who was a extraordinarily easy person to hate, even despite all that the Chained God’s pet, swaddled all in white, had done to him.

Aingeal was difficult to sneak up on, but his mind was fragile. He was easy to charm.

It had become a sort of game for Whittaker, though often brief, and one with little risk involved. A tiny command from the edge of the woods, laced with power bestowed upon him by a thing much greater than the very both of them could ever be— “Grovel.” It took a bit of vivacity to cast, but Whittaker found the compulsion often too great to ignore. Sometimes Aingeal could resist the charm, could vanish into the darkness and hide from Whittaker until they both grew bored. Usually he simply dropped.

And dropped he had yet again, lying with half of his form draped over a rock in the clearing, head simply hanging. He made no protest as Whittaker made his approach, did not even look at him. Whittaker supposed he’d come to expect all this, by now. It made the whole thing a little boring.

Whittaker lifted his leg to prod Aingeal in the hindquarters with the toe of his boot, if only to see if he would get a reaction. A twitch, a hateful glare, anything. Aingeal did not even budge.

He sighed. Well. Low risk games had their perks, he supposed, and the thrill was not one of them.

Sometimes, one must make their own fun, he thought, as he stuck the base of his walking cane into the earth, crossed his legs, and took a callous seat atop Aingeal’s back. Aingeal twitched a little at this, as if surprised, and it came as a happy little surprise as he settled down to enjoy the morning sun.

“Peace be with you, my friend,” he purred, and he gave Aingeal a little pat on the back of the head as he did, nearly sneering when it was met with a flinch and a quickening of breath. “Oh, come, now,” he warned, tangling his fingers in Aingeal’s dark curls to force his head back down to lie upon the rock. “No need for pretending. We both know you’d let me do this even if I hadn’t charmed you. Squirm too much, and some of those cuts you’ve made on your arms may just burst back open again.”

Aingeal breathed heavy but quietly beneath, unable, unwilling, to retaliate. Sweet and pathetic boy.

Whittaker settled back down, leaning back to watch the birds as they flew overhead, to listen to their annoying little song. A smile played across his lips, and he unsheathed from within his cane the long, thin sword hidden within. “You like poetry, don’t you, my friend?” he inquired, testing the weight of the blade in his hand, if only to drown out the awful noise of the daytime. “Quite calming. I like it a fair bit, myself, even if it is a little high-end, as it were. I’ve a little notebook, full of it, actually.”

He drew the notebook in question from his coat pocket, placed it in his lap, and then, he turned the sword in his hand and let it come to rest against Aingeal’s cheek. He let the blade nick him, just under the ear, just enough to draw a little blood, to finally make Aingeal look at him. Aingeal looked at him.

“Care to lend me an ear?” Whittaker quipped, broad smile playing across his lips.

Despite everything, despite flinching and twitching as he had an instant ago, Aingeal looked more weary than frightened at this, pale, nearly milky, eyes staring wordlessly, warily, up at him. Could he even see through those things? They looked to be more scar tissue than iris and pupil.

Whittaker drew the blade away and let it rest across his lap. “A joke. It was a joke. You’re hardly any fun at all, you know,” he muttered, a bit frustrated with the lack of reaction. Oh, very well. He plucked his notebook from his lap, licked the tip of his thumb, and began flipping through the pages. “Ah, this one is a good one, I think. I was quite happy with this,” he said, finally settling on a page.

 

“A young man grew increasingly peaky,

In a house where the hinges were squeaky,

The ferns curled up brown,

The ceilings flaked down,

And all of the faucets were leaking.”

 

“Not that I don’t enjoy all your… creative endeavors, Whittaker,” called a voice, then, twinged with exasperation, as old Silence came wandering out of the woods. It had taken him a bit longer than usual to find them. The sun hung high in the midday sky, and the singing of birds had quieted somewhat. “But it’s nearly midday. I could barely find you two in all these woods. You can stop, now.”

He said it kindly, too kindly. Silence was a gentle man, gentler perhaps than even sheepish Aingeal.

And yet still, the audacity of such a request, the chagrin in the man’s tone! Whittaker had only read five of his poems, thus far. He uncrossed his legs and crossed them again, sneering all the while, if only to rub it in the better man’s face for a moment. “I will stop when I prefer, thank you.”

Silence simply looked at him for a good while, long enough of a good while for it to become rather uncomfortable. Finally, with a voice that was almost jaded, it was so weary; “He’s had enough for a day.”

Whittaker rose to let Aingeal stand, but only to escape Silence’s irritatingly disappointed demeanor.

The spell broken, Aingeal dragged himself up onto his feet, his tattered robes covered in a fine layer of dirt and the bandages wrapping nearly every inch of his body stained with grass. He took an instant to shake the mist from his mind, then lifted his head, his cheek scuffed red and a line of dried blood streaking the side of his neck from where Whittaker had nicked him. Without so much as a word or even a glance at either of the other two, he began to stumble back to their campsite, barefoot and eyes half lidded.

Silence reached to take a gentle hold of his arm as he passed. “Wait, let me heal those wounds o—”

He did not stop, even as Silence grasped his arm, simply kept walking onward. Aingeal was strong, far stronger than he seemed, and it was something the very both of them often forgot. Silence was jerked forward, nearly dragged in his wake, and was sent stumbling to the ground. Aingeal took pause for only an instant, to glance at him with nearly empty eyes, and then he turned and kept walking.

Whittaker laughed at that, glad for something to lighten the dreadful mood. “Oh, please. You won’t even take up a sword, Silence,” he sneered. “The fact that you think you can control him—”

“I don’t!” Silence shot him a glare. He did not often glare. “I… just want to help him. Somehow.”

“Ah. I see,” Whittaker grinned at this. “A fool’s endeavor, and a doomed one to boot,” he snickered. He then leaned forward, folding his hands under his chin. “You’re failing, Silence.”