Beneath the jump, for first-draft sloppiness and potential spoilers. (I mean, I don't terribly think so? We all already know it was Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick, after all. But better safe than sorry, I suppose.)
He rose early with Freyrík, and they broke fast in their rooms with oddly utilitarian fare for all the blustering finery of this place. ‘Twas tradition, Freyrík explained: The gods played larger roles in the lives of the people here. ‘Twas improper to overindulge before morning prayer.
Freyrík glanced up over his tea and broke their easy silence. “The Council votes today,” he said. He seemed awfully calm of it, for all that was at stake.
Ayden pulled the middle from a slice of brown bread and dumped the crust on Freyrík’s plate. The only preserves today were raspberry. Not his favorite, but better than nothing. He spooned some out, eyes on the task lest he cast them upon Rik with reproach. “For which outcome do you hope?”
“Would you believe me if I said I still do not know?”
Ayden spread another spoonful of jam. He could not comprehend such agonies of indecision. “You’ve had nearly a week to weigh your choices,” he said. A week . . . was that not a meaningful stretch of time in humans’ lives? “’Tis not like you to grapple so.”
Freyrík shrugged, fiddled with the crust Ayden had dropped on his plate. Ayden wasn’t certain, but he thought that meant Freyrík didn’t agree.
“I fear I have often delayed difficult choices. This one mayhap more difficult than the rest. If Berendil wins, the face of our war will likely change. For better or worse I do not, cannot know.”
“I know,” Ayden said round a bite of bread.
Freyrík shushed him with a weary hand-wave, and Ayden let it pass without scowling. They’d had this argument enough.
“And I would have to spend a great deal of time here.”
“You do not like it here,” Ayden asked. Said, really; ‘twas clear as running water, even to a deafened elf.
Freyrík shrugged again. “I do not know what would happen to you. How will I get you home if I am stuck here?”
“We will find our way,” Ayden said, not because he wished to encourage Freyrík in his brother’s foolish pursuit, but because he wished to console him despite it. “We always do.”
Another shrug. “I feel much the coward, for still I work two opposing goals. I speak each day with Berendil in hopes of swaying him toward patience. And yet after breakfast, I will sit morning prayer in hopes of speaking to King Gódr and swaying him to Berendil’s side. I’ve little hope, of course, of competing against Man’s Ear to the Gods and the Gods’ Mouth to Man, but promised support to extend the Góz canal through
may sway him to believe the gods have spoken to me as well.” Ofan Province
“Is that what human gods do? Whisper from the heavens?”
Freyrík grimaced. “Perhaps sometimes. I believed that in my youth, at least. Now . . .” A helpless shrug, a glance about the room as if ‘twere evidence of all forsaken.
“My people believe the gods fell from the heavens to walk amongst us, to elevate their children by giving of their wisdom and power. If we open ourselves to their music, they will sing through us. Perhaps if you listen closely enough, they will sing through you, and you will know which choice is right.”
Freyrík looked up from the crust he’d been toying with, stared at Ayden with pursed lips and furrowed brow. Had he surprised the man somehow? Or, fallen gods forbid, offended him?
“You say your people believe this.”
“Is that what you believe?”
Ayden shook his head, but ‘twas wonderment rather than negation. “I do not know. All around me I hear the earth sing, and ‘tis beauty fit to weep. When my mind-ear is open, I can feel the power, channel it, wield it for good or ill. But never have I sensed some greater consciousness. Merely nature.” He shrugged, self-conscious of a sudden, and added, “Maybe that’s just what we’re meant to think. Maybe we can’t contain such knowledge, and so we call it nature and hear it but one measure at a time.”
“One measure at a time,” Freyrík whispered, nodding his head as if discovering he liked the taste of those words upon his tongue. “Indeed. And therein lies my quandary, does it not.”
Freyrík stood from the table, breakfast untouched. “Thank you,” he said, clasping Ayden on the shoulder as he walked by. Ayden wasn’t sure what the man was thanking him for, but he nodded anyway, finished his breakfast (and Freyrík’s) as Freyrík groomed and dressed with Lord Vitr’s aid. Shortly after, Freyrík left for morning prayer, and Ayden followed not long behind for his own morning ritual: scouting the inner ward.