Konami owns Suikoden and its characters, Straya owns Ardeth and Jael,
MercWanderer owns Rachel, and the rest belong to me.
After we finished the corn, Father asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. Of course I said yes even though Charlotte and Jeanette went to the Festival. We could go to the Festival later. Whenever he comes home, we go riding. I love doing that. Hes really good and hes gonna teach me everything he knows.
Lord Salome and Jael decided to come, too. I was so excited to ride with my new friend. I put the saddle on Rhubarb myself and Father did the bridle. My pony doesnt like to take his bit and puts his face too high for me. Jael rode one of his fathers driving horses. Her name is Queen. The saddle Father put on her was so big that Jaels legs didnt even reach past it. He looked really small on that horse.
The four of us went out through our cornfield and into the forest. Father takes me riding there all the time. Its always very peaceful but we go fast, too. We walked for a little while, and then when we came to the clearing, Father picked up a trot. The three of them trotted. I had to canter. My ponys legs couldnt keep up with their horses. But thats ok, because Id rather canter than trot anyway.
Then Jael wanted to canter. Lord Salome said it probably wasnt a good idea on the driving horse, so I offered to let him ride Rhubarb. We switched, and I got to sit on Queen, the biggest horse ever. She was bigger than Fathers horse, and Lord Salome had to roll the stirrup leathers so that I could reach them.
Jael and his father went off so he could canter on my pony and my father and I stayed behind. I wanted to trot on the big horse, so we did. It was different rising to her stride because it was so big. I had to be really fast with Rhubarb, but not with this horse. I really liked the way it felt. I want a big horse someday. I love my pony, but hell never be able to carry me in my armor when Im a knight.
After a good trot, we stopped. Father asked me, So youre having a good time with Jael?
Yeah. Hes a lot of fun. I wish he lived closer.
Father nodded and then smiled at me. Want to canter that driving horse?
Did I? Of course I did!
So he told me to remember to sit up and we went back out into the clearing. He rode in front and picked up a slow canter. My horse followed. Queens stride was really nice, and I did the trick Father taught me to keep her slowsqueeze the reins in my hand. When I did that, her ears flicked back at me, so I knew it was working.
We took a good long canter, and then we walked back to the spot we had spilt off from Jael and his father. While we waited for them, Father said, Youre a great little rider, Ryan.
I was so proud. Not only could I canter one of Lord Salomes carriage horses, but my dad was impressed. I smiled big at him.
He reached over and ruffled my hair. I kinda hate it when he does that, but I didnt care right then.
A few minutes later, we saw the rest of our group. Jael and I switched back. He said he really liked Rhubarb. Im glad. Hes a great pony. We started riding back because Father said we had to get back for lunch.
Then it happened. We were riding back in a lineFather in front, then Jael, then me, and then Lord Salomewhen something made a big noise. It sounded like a crash and it was behind us. All the horses spooked. Except Rhubarb. Hes such a good pony he just stood there and reached over for some leaves. I guess he eats when hes nervous. Jaels horse leapt straight into the air and tried to run in front of Mercury. My father leaned over and tried to grab Jaels reins, but he couldnt. My friend screamed and Queen took off.
Lord Salome called to Jael to sit up and pull back, but I dont think he could. I dont even think my father could stop that horse.
Lets go, Father said as he raised the ends of his reins. Mercury started to dance. That horse is so good. He knows when its time to go fast and he likes to run. Well have to catch them. Ryan, keep up. I nodded. Ive ridden fast by myself before, but not in the woods.
Father slapped Mercury on the rump with his reins. They took off, with Lord Salome right behind them. Then Rhubarb just tried to put his head down and eat! I smacked him with the reins, too. This was no time to be lazy!
My pony threw a buck but I stayed on. I slapped him again and he bucked again. Finally I just squeezed him with my legs. He picked up a fast canter. I guess he doesnt like to be slapped. He wont be a charger anyway, so it doesnt matter.
Rhubarb and I rode for a few minutes. I leaned forward and he went faster. His ears were forward, so he must have heard something up ahead.
When I saw what happened, I pulled Rhubarb to a stop. Jael was on the ground. He didnt look very well. He was on his back and I didnt see him move. His father was crouched over him, and mine was holding their two horses. I guess they didnt catch Queen. Mercury was behaving himself, but that other stupid carriage horse kept rearing and spinning and causing a fuss. My father gave him a good jerk on the reins and he stopped. He also called the horse a word Im not allowed to say.
I was scared. I didnt want Jael to be hurt. I looked back over at him. Lord Salome looked worried. He had taken off his gloves and was brushing my friends hair. He seemed really gentle when he did that. But he still scares me. Finally he said to me, Dont worry, Ryan. Hes all right. He just had the wind knocked out of him.
A little bit later, Jael grabbed his fathers hand and sat up. He was dirty and had some blood on his clothes. I guess he got scraped. His father picked up him and I saw he had tears on his face. I really felt bad for him. So I offered to let him ride Rhubarb.
He shook his head and clung to his fathers shirt. He looked really scared. Ive never had the wind knocked out of me but it didnt sound fun. I bet it hurt, too.
Then Father said, Take them back. Ill get your missing horse.
I didnt want to go back, but I didnt say anything. Lord Salome mounted his horse and put Jael on his lap. Father got back on Mercury and we rode away from him. As we left, I saw him pull rope out of his saddlebag. He was going to throw a rope on Queen! Ive seen him rope stray horses before. Hes the best! I really wanted to watch but I kept quiet because I didnt want to upset Jael.
While Jael was getting bandaged, I decided to go up to the hayloft. Sometimes the cat leaves the tails of the mice he catches and I get them to throw at Charlotte. I know. Im mean. But shes annoying. I went up there and looked around in the usual spots. He had special places where hed leave them. I think he knew I was collecting them.
While I was up there, I heard footsteps enter the barn. I dropped down low behind a few bales of hay and listened. I guessed there were two people by the sound of their feet. I couldnt go down the stairs because I didnt want them to see me. So I listened.
What do you want to talk about, Borus? Father asked. He sounded bored or annoyed. I couldnt see his face, only his back, so I really couldnt tell which. I guess he had caught Queen and had just gotten back. I still wish I had been able to see that!
My uncle was facing me, and he seemed sad. You cant come back.
Father laughed. What are you talking about?!
You cant leave her here, Percival. You just cant do that to her and your boys. Dont you see how
Enough of this, Father interrupted as he started to walk away. Its none of your business.
The hell it is!
Father turned around and walked back. He sounded really upset. How is it your business, Borus? This was a decision that Chris and I made. It has nothing to do with you.
Yes it does, my uncle said, and then after a breath his voice got really quiet. You know I still care for her. I cant stand to see her so unhappy.
Shes not unhappy.
So is Ardeth. Are you suggesting that all the married men in our ranks break their oaths to comfort their wives? If that were to happen we wouldnt have much of an army.
True, but I dont care about Ardeth nor do I care about the other wives. I care only about Chris, and her happiness.
My Father was silent for a long minute. Then he said something that I didnt expect. I know you still love her, Borus, and thats one of the reasons why Ive asked you to step in should anything happen to me during the war. The other is that I consider you a part of my family, Borus. You took in Torrie, my sons adore you, and Chris trusts you with her life. He took a breath. I appreciate all of that more than you can imagine. But understand me when I say this is what she wants. This is what is making her happy.
Uncle Borus loves my mother? And my father is okay with it? Ive never heard of anything so strange.
To have you gone all the time? Uncle Borus asked. I dont know about that.
I saw my father shake his head. Its not easy on me, either. There have been times Ive thought about forsaking my duty to stay here with her, in this indecent place, as you so kindly called it all those years ago.
I was wrong about that. This is a beautiful place, and Chris loves it.
That she does, but I also know she misses the knighthood.
Then why not let her return to us? Why dont you stay home with the children? Shes broken every other convention, why not that one as well?
You know the answer to that, Borus. I told you that when I came back and Salome tried to send me away.
They stood there in silence for a few minutes before my uncle spoke. I suppose youre right. Im sorry for sticking my nose where it wasnt wanted, but should you decide to remain here, let me fight in your name, and Chris.
My father put his arm around Uncle Borus and said, I would have it no other way. You honor me with such a noble offer.
The two of them walked out of the barn, and I stayed in the hayloft for a few more minutes. The last thing I wanted was to get in trouble again because I really hate corn.
After lunch Jael was feeling better so we went back to the Festival. Charlotte and Jeanette were there and of course Charlotte had to make a pest of herself. She ran up to Jael and pointed to the scrape on his face.
Did Ryan get you hurt?
No, he said quietly. I had heard his parents talking and Lady Ardeth said his pride was broken. I hope his pride gets better. Broken bones are no fun.
I spoke for him because he sorta seemed embarrassed. He was riding a big horse and it spooked.
You fell? Charlotte asked as if she didnt believe it.
He was thrown. The horse was crazy. Even my father couldnt ride that horse. Ok. So that was a lie, but I didnt want Jael to feel bad.
Im sorry to hear youre hurt, she said in that candy-voice. Do you have a scrape? Can I see it?
Jael looked at her like she was weird, but rolled up his sleeve and showed her the bandage on his arm.
Aww I hope it gets better, Then she kissed her hand and touched it.
Jeanette leaned in for a look. A crazy horse? Your parents let you ride crazy horses?
Now I was mad. It wasnt a crazy horse. It was a big horse. And if he hadnt screamed he wouldnt have fallen. Father says the worst thing you can do to a horse is to scream. I bet Geoff will never be able to ride because he screams a lot.
Jael smiled at the girls. I wanted Jeanette to pay attention to me. But she wanted him to tell her about falling off the horse. I scowled at them all.
Then the musicians started to play again. Of course Charlotte wanted to dance. Of course my friend was happy to dance with her. I looked at Jeanette. She smiled at me. So I did what Jael did and offered her my hand so we could dance. She took it and we started to follow the people.
It was a lot of fun and Jeanette is a much better dancer than Charlotte. She smiled at me a lot, too. Just as the song was about to end, one of the mouse tails fell out of my pocket. Jeanette looked at me like I was mad and then screamed and ran away.
When the song was over, Charlotte and Jael came over to me. Charlotte yelled at me and told me I was rude to her cousin. I threw the mouse tail at her. She shrieked and ran, too.
Jael didnt look impressed. He said, You cant throw things at girls, Ryan.
Father only said I cant hit them.
Uh what is that? he asked looking at the tail.
I told him.
Thats really gross, you know. He looked over at the two girls who were coming back towards us. Why dont you apologize? Then theyll dance with us some more.
I thought for a second. Dancing with Jeanette was fun. So, I said I was sorry and let Charlotte call me a brat and then we all danced again.
Just before suppertime, Jael and I said bye to the girls. Then we started to walk back to my house. We had to meet our parents to eat. We were all going to eat at the Festival and my parents had to do The Tradition.
As we left the square, I saw two new faces. They stood out because one looked confused and the other looked like a cat. The first one was a really short man young man. He had brown hair and was dressed like everyone else. The other one was blond, tall and wore a big scarf wrapped around his shoulders. He smirked like the cat does after he catches mice in the barn. They walked over to us, and Catman asked me if I knew Chris Lightfellow.
Thats my Mother, I said proudly. I probably shouldnt talk to strangers, but if he knew my mother, then he wasnt a stranger.
Really? he asked. I would have never thought
Never mind, he said, still grinning. He was starting to aggravate me. Maybe blond people did that naturally. Charlotte is blonde and shes the most annoying person I know.
Charming children, though, the other man said. He sounded bored, but he looked at us curiously. As if hed never seen kids before.
Indeed, Holiness, Catman said. I wouldnt have expected any less from our old ally.
I looked at the short man again. He didnt look very holey. He looked pretty solid to me.
Were not expected for another day, Holiness said.
True, but sometimes the element of surprise in a situation like this can be to our advantage.
Holiness chuckled. Perhaps youre right. Lets not arrive empty handed, though. That would be rather rude.
Catman grinned at us. Thanks kids. Well see you later.
Good day, children, Holiness said as they turned away.
Who are they? Jael asked.
I was pretty confused. I dunno.
They know your mother.
Everyone knows my mother. That probably sounded a little snobby, but its true.
Maybe we should go tell her.
Nah. She doesnt like people bothering her about knight stuff. Shes retired.
Jael looked at me. I wish my father would retire.
Why? Being Captain of the Knights is very important.
He didnt say anything. We walked the rest of the way without talking. When we got there, everyone else was ready to go eat supper at the Festival so we turned right around and went right back.
After supper, my parents, Geoff, and I had to do The Tradition. Every year on the Second Day of Harvest, we all walk out to the windmills and watch the sun set over the fields. My parents kiss and then they hug me and Geoff. I dont know why we do it, but they like it.
It was pretty this year. All red and gold. Father and Mother kissed. Then he said to her, Are you enjoying your present?
Its the best one youve ever given me, Percy.
She calls him Percy. No one else does. I think hed hurt them if they did. I know that because its my first name, too, and I wouldnt want to be called that. It sounds like a girls name.
He laughed. Im glad you think so. Its not easy stealing people away during a war.
She kissed him again. I tried not to look. Kissing is grosser than mouse tails.
When they were finally done, he said, Theres more to your present, you know.
Ive invited a few more of our old allies to join us for a party tomorrow evening. Im not sure who will come
More of them! She sounded very happy. Who?
Oh, youll see, he teased. Then he sounded serious. I was careful who I asked, though. Between the war, and old wounds, there are some that had to go without an invitation.
She nodded, but looked really sad. I know. I wish Lilly could meet the boys.
Father hugged her and whispered something in her ear.
I looked at Geoff. He was trying to eat dirt again. I grabbed it from his hand and he started to cry. Mother picked him up. Oh Geoffrey, you little dirty bird!
Father laughed. Mother took Geoff and said shed get him cleaned up and that shed meet us back at the house. Father nodded and then he looked out into the fields. A few minutes went by and then a big man started to walk towards us. He was Charlottes dad and he got sick a lot. When he gets sick, she has to stay with us. He smelled really bad, so I guessed he was sick again. He walked up to Father and said, Got a Grassie brat staying with you now, Fraulein?
My father didnt answer him.
Bad enough that you had to steal the Silver Maiden from us. Cant win a war without her. Cant fight the Grassies without her. Now youre bringing them here to eat our food.
Father didnt turn around. He sounded bored. You have no idea what youre talking about.
George put his finger in my fathers face. Keep that scrawny sack of shit away from my daughter!
Go home and sleep it off, George, Father said as he pushed the mans hand away. He sounded mad, but he didnt yell. Ill come get Charlotte. Its best for her not to see you like this.
Not tonight. Not with that Grassie in your house!
My father whispered something to him. I heard Jaels last name, but nothing else.
George stepped back like he had been hit. The girl wasnt lying, then?
But he cant Ive seen him
My father shrugged. Go home, George.
He left. I watched him go. He walked like Geoff runs, and my father just sighed. I looked up at him. I wanted to ask why we had to keep Charlotte againespecially with Jael therebut he just stared back off into the fields.
I stared, too. I wonder why were always nice to Charlotte and her dad when they are so annoying and mean. I didnt know what a Grassie was, so finally I asked.
My father just looked at me and said, Dont use that word.
Is it a bad word?
Its a nasty word, and I dont want you to use it.
Oh. I could tell he really didnt want to tell me, but I was curious about another thing. I said, Charlottes daddy also said Mother is a traitor.
My father looked at me, and then he picked me up and sat me on the fence rail. Ryan, thats an awful thing to say. Do you know what it means?
Jael said it means you cheat and lie to people that trust you.
Yes. It also means that you turn your back on your country and fellow men.
I bit my lip. Mother didnt do that, did she?
No, she didnt.
Then why would Charlottes daddy say that?
Because some people think that your mother should have stayed in the knights. Its not right to make assumptions like that. Your mother resigned because she had to, Ryan.
Being a knight isnt as glamorous as you think it is, son. You can ride your horse, wear your armor and carry your sword, but thats not what makes someone a knight. Knights fight in wars, and people get killed in wars. Sometimes people just need to get away from the bloodshed.
Mother was afraid of blood?
No, Ryan. She was tired of killing people for petty causes.
I thought for a moment. If its bad, why do you and Uncle Borus do it?
He looked right into my eyes and said very seriously. I dont have an answer for that, son. A few minutes went by as I just stared at him. He was so strong and smart. I wanted to grow up and be just like him. Then he said, I have a favor to ask of you, Ryan.
I want you to be good to your mother while Im gone, and that means being good to your brother. Dont hassle him, and dont make him cry.
Okay, I said quietly. I know I shouldnt be so hateful to Geoff.
Promise me youll take care of them for me, all right?
He had sounded so serious, that I put my hand over my heart like the knights do when they swear oaths. I promise.
Father and I went to Charlottes house and got her and Jeanette. Then we went home. The Catman and Holiness were there, and all the adults decided to drink more wine. It was even more boring than the night before, but the Catman was funny. He made Uncle Borus really mad a couple of times. One time, Uncle Borus called him Dick. I guess thats his name, but maybe not because Mother yelled at my uncle for calling him that.
Holiness was boring. He sat there like Charlotteall prim and proper. He said a few things, and he laughed like a girl. At one point he asked me, Do you like this place?
I said, Yeah. I live here.
He smiled at me. I realize that, but do you enjoy the country?
I scrunched my nose at him. He wasnt making much sense at all. I like Zexen. I havent seen much of it, but I like it.
He giggled again and after that, he had some wine, but no one drank more than Uncle Borus.
While the adults were talking, Jael grabbed my sleeve. He dragged me away into the kitchen and said, I have a problem.
He looked really nervous. I lost my fathers medallion.
The gold one?
He nodded and he seemed really upset.
Did you look at the Festival? We did a lot of dancing.
Yes, but it wasnt there. Charlotte and Jeanette even helped me look.
I bet I lost it in the woods, but I cant tell my father, he said, his voice really quiet. Hed be very disappointed in me.
I scratched my head, but I knew what we had to do. We can go to the woods and find it tomorrow.
Youre allowed in the woods alone?
Yeah, I said. Thats not a total lie. Ive just never been told not to go into the woods alone, and this sounded like a real adventure.
Good, he said. Well get up at dawn and go before breakfast.
What about the girls and Geoff?
What about them?
They might tell your dad, I said. That was a lie. But I know that Charlotte would tell my parents where we went and I wanted to have an adventure.
He thought for a moment. Lets bring them with us.
The girls? I asked like he was crazy.
Yes. I bet Charlotte knows the woods as well as you do.
You just want Charlotte there.
He didnt say anything, but then the girls appeared behind us. Want me where? she asked.
I put my hand over my face, and Jael explained it all to them. They were excited to go, even though I really didnt want them there. Finally I said, We should go back. We dont want them to think were up to something.
So we went back. After awhile, Holiness and Catman left, and we went to bed. I had to make an extra big fort because the girls were staying with us. Lady Ardeth let me use her new blanket, so I was able to make it big enough for all of us.
Uncle Borus fell asleep on the couch. He didnt even say good night. Then Jael started to tell us all about the things he does in the city. That was sorta interesting. But what was really interesting was what I saw later. I saw Uncle Borus get up and walk over to the fireplace. He leaned on the mantle and looked up at the ceiling. He ran a hand over his face and shook his head. He muttered something to the portrait of my parents that hung over it. Then he saw me watching and went back to the couch but the fire seemed less bright after that.