Chapter Two: Family

The battle had been a fast skirmish, but likely just the first of a renewed set of waves. Many of the lessers gathered up the remains of the Groyin. Once you’ve peeled or pried away the carapace, Groyin meat is quite satisfying. As the lessers are preparing the meals, Kalarai begins to take stock of our weapons and ammunition.

“Are the weapons cleaned, Janil?” I hear Kalarai ask.

“Yes, yaruel. They’re holding up nicely. Sh… shall I attend to anything else?” Janil responds with his small voice. Poor Janil is always such a timid thing.

I shake my head. “Relax, boy.” I give a small laugh as his attention snaps to me. He lowers his head submissively. “I know you’re terrified out here, but do you not trust your betters?”

His eyes widen and he shakes his head, now clearly scared. “No, sir. I… trust you, of course, and I trust my yaruel.” A small smile finally comes to the youth’s face.

He’s barely of age. Kalarai met him and took him as his own only about three months ago. I approved of the pairing, but I knew the boy had a lot of learning to do. Kalarai lays his hand on the youth’s shoulder. “Just a suggestion, Janil, but when your Yarl tells you to relax, you might want to take the hint.” He pats the young man on the shoulder and laughs. “You’re no good to anyone scared shitless trying to impress us. You’re just going to end up falling all over yourself instead.”

Kalarai’s ironic comment makes me laugh. Still, I scold him gently. “Kala…”

He smirks teasingly and nods. “Yes, Yarl. I’ll quit teasing him.”

The young man looks around nervously. I wave him over to me with a grin. “Don’t worry, boy. You’ll do fine. I still recall Kalarai bumbling like a fool trying to impress me.” I look back at Kala as he’s looking away, embarrassed. After a moment, I turn my attention back to Janil. “You’ll be fine. Your first deployment, and the first time you’ve been stuck with me, Kalarai, and Monrenth for any significant period of time. Janil, remember who you are, what you are. You are Camfurdian first. That comes before all else, even before me or Kalarai. You have a place, you have a purpose, and we will lead you to that purpose as best as we can.”

“Yes, Yarl.” He gives a small, submissive nod.

I offer my hand to the boy. Anxiously, he puts his hand in mine. “A Camfurdian does not kneel or submit because they must. They kneel because they choose to honor their Yarls and yaruels. They submit because they want guidance and companionship. We’re family first, guides and mentors second, and often lovers third. Choosing to kneel is a lifelong commitment, but we are hierarchal for a reason. You may always be my third, and Kala’s second, but some day, you will be someone’s first.”

The boy smiles as he kneels, still holding my hand. He doesn’t say a word, but his body tells me everything. His wide eyes watching me show adoration. His slightly lowered head and shoulders show reverence. His hand still holding mine shows trust.

Kalarai approaches to my left and kneels. I… live for these moments. Janil is the only third to kneel to me. To have my beloved second and his chosen second at my feet…? It is a special moment, one that I will cherish.

In moments like this, we take pleasure in the simple things in life. For all we know, the Groyin descend on us with innumerable amounts. We could all be dead this time tomorrow. Yet, still, it does not change the present. We own this moment, and fear of the future will not taint it. Kalarai and Janil are my family. They are my brothers, my friends, my lovers, my soldiers, and my confidantes. As they kneel, I feel pride. Not in my position over them, but pride in who they have become or who they aspire to be.

I will guide them. I will teach them and I will show them what we are destined to be.