There is a school of belief out there that the oldest child is the one that forges the path of independence for the ones that come after. Not in our family, not this branch. I had never spent a night in debauchery until Joke got old enough to experiment on his own... and dragged me along with him.
We're pretty well past the hundred year mark now, so I've become an old hand at drunken all-nighters. Joke is still the undisputed King of Benders-- don't get me wrong. But I've had my fair share. And every time I see dawn through a gin bottle, I tend to think warm and fuzzy thoughts about brotherly love. It's a bonding experience for us.
Not today. Today, I woke up and stumbled around in the semi-dark den of iniquity my brother calls a room, and wished, to God, I'd found someone more sexy to share the night with. Well. Not to tread on Joaquim's tender feelings about his appearance.... someone more female. Someone more my type.
I stubbed my toe on the paisley chaise lounge, trying to find the window. I found it, eventually, cursing the thrice-be-damned horse-screwing ancestor who'd seen fit to pass on his genes to me. I drew the drapes. It was raining, and by the light, near the end of day. Spring in Amber.
Joke woke up somewhere in there, as I found my boots. Fortunately for him, he didn't say a word about the late night revelations that had slipped out-- lubricated by the excessive amounts of alcohol, and also the rather stunned feeling I'd had all evening since fetching Desiré out of her room.
I'd spent most of the day dreaming about flowers, and none of them white.
How stupid. I'm not a romantic.
Once I had my boots on, I kicked the paisley chaise that had been my bed for the night. I had a terrible crick in my neck from it. I told Joaquim I'd meet him for dinner in a bit, and headed to my room to dress.
I knew, of course, that Benedict was waiting for me in my room, but only because Benedict was letting me know. Granted, I would have been foolish not to know, since I'd kind of missed classes this morning-- including the one I teach. I had managed to scribble a note for Barron and sent it via page, but I hadn't exactly cleared it with the Commander.
Outside my door, I paused to remember where my sword was. It should be just inside, pegged up on the left wall.
But I was pretty sure that Benedict wouldn't have left it there.
But I was also pretty sure he didn't know about the sword under the couch, or if he did, he'd let it go.
Crouched low, I opened the door and rolled into the room, and then scrambled to the couch. I slid my hand underneath just as I heard the slow snick of Benedict drawing his sword.
I stood quickly, facing my uncle. He had that kind of smile that most people would take for a look of constipation. Those who have fought Benedict before know it's something else.
"You appear to be unarmed, Sir Keir," he informed me, and sliced the air where my head would have been had I not moved. "Is that the way for a knight to go about?" he asked, as I leapt over to the windows and found the sword I keep there, cleverly obscured by the curtain valance.
"A knight should not be overly reliant on the weapons he carries," I returned, drawing the sword. He sliced my sheath in half. I briefly mourned the tooled leather, and got my guard up.
We fought, then, for a bit, trashing my quarters all to hell in about ten minutes, before he forced me to a yield. At the end, he stood above me, cool, breathing only a little fast, while I knelt with head bent before him, sweating, his booted foot on my neck, his sword at my throat.
"You missed your classes, Keir. Time is not on our side; the squires and the others need a consistent and fast education in these matters."
"I know, sir."
He released me. "Bathe, shave and dress. You smell like a Derkori maurauder."
He turned and left. I stood up, shakily. I looked at the litter of smashed porcelain on the floor; the remains of the dog statuettes Selene had given me.
"Good riddance to bad rubbish," I said, grinding the porcelain into the carpet with my heel, and headed into my washroom. I sat down on the edge of the tub and ran the hot water.
Somehow, my head slipped down into my hands, and I had a sudden memory of a moment in the middle of the night (day?) when Desiré had knocked on Joaquim's door, seeking... what?
I don't really remember what I said. I may have been rude.
Splendid, Keir, just splendid. You are truly a gentleman, as well as a knight.
I caught sight of myself in the mirror. The perfect picture of despair. For a moment, trapped by my own eyes, I couldn't remember what I was supposed to do next.