Crash! The bottle shattered against the wall. A young boy with bold eyes, barely missed by the projectile, stood his ground. One eye was nearly swollen shut, and his cheek was bloodied. A nubby child’s nose bled freely into his panting mouth. He straightened his shoulders. “Are-” he cut off for a moment and cleared his throat. “Are you done yet, father?” His tone held a coldness typically reserved for old warriors.
Outside, the warm night breeze beckoned the strong-willed child as his father reached for his hunting knife. The boy stood his ground as his back felt the balmy light. Without flinching or outcry, he braced himself as the drunken man stumbled closer.
“I’ll pound you good, Boy. I’ll pound this blade right in you.” The man snarled. He lunged forward, knife held in a sloppy hand.
Still, the boy stood.He stared his father in the eye as the man plunged the knife into the boy’s shoulder, but earned neither outcry, nor grimace.
The man pulled the knife from the flesh of his son, ready to repeat the stabbing, when the boy was whisked away by an arm like a tree trunk. With a squint, the drunk tried to understand what he just saw. He slowly stepped forward, bloody knife in hand as he watched a giant of a man pour wine onto the boy’s wound, then stitch it with pre-readied sinews. The stranger lifted the objecting boy onto a waiting horse’s saddle, then turned to stare at the drunk with eyes too much like the child’s.
“You’ll be harming this boy no longer. As his blood uncle, I take him to my custody.” The stranger gripped the horse’s reins.
“You’re not my wife’s brother or mine!” The drunk scowled and brandished his knife.
“No, but your wife gave birth only seven months after you were wed. The child is a bastard, and certainly has not a drop of your blood within him.” With a grin, the child’s uncle placed a foot into the stirrup and hauled himself carefully into the saddle behind the boy as his father looked on. The pair rode off together, leaving a drunken, childless widower behind, still gripping a bloody knife. As they disappeared around a corner, the drunk man dropped the knife and listlessly returned to his chair and his bottle.
With curiosity softening his sharp eyes, the bastard child looked up at his uncle. “Am I really your kin?” he asked. The man was so much larger than he was, and it seemed a wonder that a horse could hold him at all. “What’s your name? Where are you from? Why did you wait so long to get me?” The boy’s words tumbled out rapidly.
A laugh, deep as the well, emerged from the giant. “You are, boy. My name is Taurit, and I’m from the area. My brother and I were raised very close to here, but we were gone when you were born.” His voice was gentle, and the boy leaned back against him. “What’s your name, boy?”
For several moments, he was silent. “Boy,” was the child’s answer.
Keen eyes looked down at the child. “I see.” He frowned and rode through a gate.
A thin man in a chair with wheels greeted them beyond the ornate wooden doors. Searching eyes landed on the child at his brother’s side. Slowly, he tried to rise. “That’s him? My son?” His voice was small and hoarse, but his eyes held the same firmness as brother and son. It was only willpower that lifted him from his seat. “You really did bring him here…” He inhaled slowly. “It can’t be helped.” He stared as the child approached him. The bloody shoulder worried him. “What happened to your shoulder?”
Though the question was directed at the boy, Taurit spoke. “The man who thought he was the father stabbed him. He would have done more, but I arrived in time to stop it.”
“The boy doesn’t have one.”
“He should have one.” The frail man sighed slowly. He looked up at Taurit. “The resemblance is too clear.”
The giant nodded. “Anyone who looks can tell what family sired him.”
“What were you thinking?”
“I was hoping the resemblance wouldn’t be so strong.” He clenched a fist. “It’s too late now. What are we going to do with the boy, Seket?”
As he slid back down into his wheeled chair, Seket looked exhausted. “At least you had the presence of mind to bring him here instead of elsewhere. People will think you’re just getting aid for a random injured boy you found. You could return him to the man who raised him tomorrow.”
Taurit shook his head. “No. Any man who has stabbed a child once will do it again. I’ll take responsibility for the boy. He could be from either of us, with his looks, and father has always been more forgiving of me than of you.”
“I can’t allow that.”
Taurit ignored it and began to wave a hand in the air. His hand caught the bastard’s attention.
“This isn’t right.”
“It’s more right than allowing kin to die for the sake of image.”
Seket and Taurit stared into each other’s eyes for several moments before the smaller man looked away. “Do as you wish, but first, let me name him, even if you convince him you did it.”
“I want him to know all. He will know of it, but he will also know that telling of this discussion, or what he has learned from it, is forbidden. I detest altering a mind.”
Slowly, Seket nodded, then walked to the boy and stared into the child’s eyes. “I will never claim you as my son, but for you, I give the name ‘Tekrit’. With it, bring honor to yourself and the man who has taken you as his own.”
The newly-named Tekrit nodded. “Yes, uncle.” He narrowed his one eye knowingly. “I have one thing for you…” He stepped forward and gripped Seket by the man’s collar with one small hand. With the other, he wiped the blood and wine from his shirt and spread it on his blood father’s thin, bony chest.
Seket shoved the child away with shaking hands, then jerked his face to his brother. “Who taught him that?” he demanded as the boy landed hard on his rear.