The ward of castoria, p.16
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.16

           Robin Silverglate
 

  *****

  Dane knew his sister wanted him to be an active participant at the dinner table, so he entertained his niece and nephew by asking riddles. Along with the help of his brother-in-law, Feredir, they kept the children entertained for almost the entire meal. Dane always took the time to talk to his sister’s ten year old twins and would listen to their stories by the hours. He found the children to be a little bit of a paradox. Even though they were twins, they couldn’t have been more different in both appearance and personality. Quilyn took after his mother in looks with his dark brown hair and striking eyes. His personality, however, was all his father’s. Quilyn appreciated a good joke and loved hearing stories of adventure. Elora had her father’s fair hair and tall figure, but she took after Yara in her quiet and reserved manner. Dane knew from experience that Elora had a warm heart she gave freely to those she truly loved, yet she was shy around everyone else.

  “Can I ask you a riddle, Uncle Dane?” said Quilyn in his scratchy voice.

  “I wanted to ask a riddle,” complained Elora.

  Yara spoke to Elora from across the table and said, “Quilyn asked first, dearest, but you can ask your riddle as soon as he is done.”

  Elora appeared disappointed, but she waited patiently. Dane was amazed at the skillful way his sister was able to handle her twins. He wondered if she was good at it because of all the practice she had raising him when he was a child. As long as he could remember, it had been Yara who took care of him. She was both big sister and mother to him.

  Quilyn tugged on Dane’s shirt and said, “Who has blue eyes and blonde hair, is really smart and has a crush on you?”

  Elora suddenly became excited. “I know! It’s—”

  “Shush!” said Quilyn. “Uncle Dane has to guess.”

  Elora nodded and tightened her lips so the answer could not come out on its own.

  Dane laughed and shook his head. “This doesn’t sound like much of a riddle. It’s really more of a question.”

  “Well then, can you guess the answer to my question?”

  “I’m sure I have no idea,” said Dane as seriously as he could while fighting the urge to laugh again. “This is too hard. Let’s hear Elora’s riddle now.”

  Yara held up her hand and said, “I would like to hear the answer to the riddle, Quilyn. Who has blue eyes, blonde hair, really smart and has a crush on Uncle Dane?”

  “It’s my teacher!” said Quilyn proudly.

  Elora raised herself up from her chair and said, “When she saw Uncle Dane walking up the steps to visit us today, she blushed and got all tongue-tied.”

  Quilyn interjected, “And she’s always asking questions about what he is doing and where he likes to spend his free time.”

  “Really?” said Yara with a pleased smile. “She is very smart and pretty, too. Dane, did you know Tsarra liked you?”

  Dane brought his wine glass up to his mouth and gave a noncommittal answer. He actually did know Tsarra liked him. She was one of the more obvious girls. She had often made advances toward him which he found himself constantly needing to politely refuse. However, he had now solved the mystery of how Tsarra had found him while he was investigating the North Gate two weeks ago. His nephew must have told her.

  “Maybe I should invite her over for dinner sometime?” Yara mumbled to herself.

  Feredir loudly cleared his throat and said, “This reminds me of the time when I had a crush on my teacher. I was a few years younger than you,” he said pointing to his children, “but I knew she was the only one for me.” This statement finally got Yara’s undivided attention. “She had long raven black hair and beautiful green eyes. I used to hold up my book and pretend I was reading, when in reality, I would just stare at her for hours. Your aunt used to tease me mercilessly about my crush, but I didn’t pay her any mind. I knew we were meant to be together.”

  “Did you ask her to marry you?” asked Quilyn.

  “Of course he didn’t,” stated Elora in her matter-of-fact voice.

  “Oh, I wanted to marry her, but alas, we were not meant to be together.”

  “Why?” asked Dane. “What happened?”

  “A truly unfortunate circumstance. We went on an excursion one day to the Thryllan Cliff.”

  “Did she fall off the cliff?” asked Quilyn almost too excitedly.

  Feredir sighed dramatically and said, “No, nothing like that. It started with my sister. She picked up a rock and threw it over the edge of the cliff as far as she could. Then, my brother took a turn throwing a rock. I wanted to throw a rock, too, of course, so, I found a nice big rock about the size of my fist. Both my brother and sister yelled at me and said I was too young to throw the rock and I couldn’t be trusted. I appealed to my beloved teacher and knew she would take my side. My heart nearly broke in two when she as well told me I was too young to throw the rock over the cliff. I could see it in her eyes that she thought I was just a kid. Well, I simply had to prove to her that I was more than that. So I wound up my arm in order to throw the rock anyway. I ran toward the edge and prepared to heave the rock with all of my strength into the air. Alas, my nine year old body was not prepared for such a bold move and I miscalculated the throw. That traitorous rock was thrown directly into my teacher’s face. I was mortified.

  “She got a black eye and a pretty bad welt on her cheek. She was so mad at me that she refused to talk to me for the rest of the trip. When we got home, my dreams of our future marriage quickly ended when she marched me straight to my father and told him what a little trouble-maker I was. Unfortunately, our love was not meant to be. So, my dearest family, if you put any stock in my advice, I most solemnly recommend you never throw a rock at a person you like. That will kill whatever chance you had. Look at your mother. I have never once thrown a rock at her head and she still loves me.”

  Yara smiled at Feredir and Dane could tell that her thoughts had been properly distracted.

  Feredir turned to Elora and said, “Enough with my tragic memories. Let’s hear your riddle, Little One.”

  As Elora excitedly began her riddle, Dane gave his brother-in-law a grateful look and then turned his attention over to his niece. After they all showed excitement at the appropriate place, Elora continued to tell her parents about something she had learned in school that day. Dane took this moment to send a message to his nephew. “Quilyn, you need to be more careful about what stories you tell me when your mother is in the room.”

  “What do you mean?” replied the childish voice.

  “I mean, you can’t go around pointing out which girls like me. First of all, it is an ungentlemanly thing to do and second of all, your mother is going to get the wrong ideas in her head.”

  “You don’t like my teacher then?”

  “Not in the same way she likes me. I’m sorry.”

  “Oh, I’m not disappointed. She’s really strict when it comes to math anyway.”

  Dane smiled and sent another message. “Let me give you some advice. When you reach your Third Age, your mother is going to be very persistent and insist that you find a wife as soon as possible.”

  “Is that why she’s been inviting all those pretty ladies to our dinners? Because she wants you to get married?”

  “Yes and she’ll probably do the same for you. She will expect you to pay attention to them and hopefully fall in love with one of them.”

  “But girls are gross!” came his raspy reply.

  Dane laughed and drew the eye of Yara from across the table. When she turned back to Elora, Dane sent another message to his nephew. “They aren’t that bad. My advice to you is to be polite to the girls, but don’t let your mother force you into a commitment you don’t want. You have to find the person who is right for you, not for your mother. Got it?”

  “Yes, Uncle. So you don’t want me telling you about which girls like you anymore because I know another girl—”

  “Definitely not,” sai
d Dane. “And especially not in front of your mother. I promise that when you reach your Third Age, I will stay out of your love life as long as you promise to stay out of mine. We Stormwood men have to stick together. Right?”

  “Right,” said Quilyn in his most grown-up manner. “I double xeny promise I won’t tell you about any more girls who like you.”

  “What’s a xeny promise?”

  “Oh, xeny is the best word there is. If something is amazing, you have to say xeny. I learned it from my friend, Darcasan. We find it best just to say xeny wherever we can.”

  “I think that’s xeny,” said Dane.

  The rest of dinner took an excruciatingly long time. Dane couldn’t believe Yara had ordered this many courses just for a family dinner. He also spent several minutes discussing his work with Feredir and with his sister, he listened to her stories about the doings of their family friends. Toward the end of dinner, however, he became quiet as his thoughts turned to Bryn. He wondered what she had done that day. Did those girls leave her alone? Did Castien wait outside of her classroom or the school? The fact that he wasn’t the one protecting her today bothered him immensely. Dane felt his sister’s hand on his as she said, “I fear that your mind is not with us.”

  “Maybe he is thinking of a girl,” said Feredir who proceeded to laugh at his own joke.

  “I wish,” Dane heard Yara mumble to herself.

  “I’m sorry. I was just thinking about work. I really should get back.” He felt like he had stayed long enough, so he stood up from the table.

  Thankfully, Yara did not try to stop him. She presented her cheek for him as Dane leaned down to kiss her goodbye. “I expect to see you soon. Don’t make me have to summon you again.”

  “Yes, Yara,” he said with a smile and as soon as all his goodbyes were said, he practically ran from the room.

 
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