15. Dreaming of His Fine Eyes

Over the weeks and months that follow, Inglorion misses Sieia more than he thought possible. During their time adventuring, he was often thoughtless and selfish, as young men are. They squabbled occasionally, and at times he felt her presence to be a burden. The constant responsibility weighed on him, annoying and frightening him by turns. Though all of this is true, Inglorion built his life around protecting Sieia and caring for her, and no flirtation, fucking or fighting can make up for the loss of Sieia’s constant, sweet presence. 

Now that he no longer has a little sister to provide for and protect, Inglorion is forced to consider what to do with his life. An education is the one thing he longs for that Marcus has. He can’t enroll in an university, because he’s penniless and lacks citizenship, connections, and the requisite preparatory schooling. He knows of a military academy in Amakir, however, that awards places by examination, and offers scholarships to poorer students if they’re recommended by well-known weapon instructors. If he’s admitted and graduates, he could receive an officer’s commission in a gray elven army, and work his way up through the ranks. It is a sensible plan, and a workable one, and it gives Inglorion a sense of focus and purpose. With a recommendation from Collatinus, he’s able to get an interview with a weapon master of some renown, Lucius Junius Brutus. After a long interview and sparring with various weapons, Lucius agrees to take Inglorion on as an apprentice. 

The usual agreement for an out-of-town student is for the instructor to offer room, board and instruction; in exchange, Inglorion will spar and enter tournaments, and turn over any prize money to Lucius. Because he has no family in Amakir, Inglorion finds himself installed in the bosom of Lucius Junius Brutus’ family, receiving a sober lecture about the strict nature of the establishment, and Lucius’ expectation that his pupils will conduct themselves with discretion and lead sober lives of devotion to Corellon Larithian, The Bringer of Light. Inglorion is smugly confident about the prohibitions against drinking, smoking and drug use. The schedule of training, study and prayer is rigorous, but less difficult than Inglorion’s self-imposed schedule as a servant in Liamelia. He blinks a bit at the oath of chastity. He’s never been chaste in his life, and sees no purpose in starting now. Fighters are a rough lot, so Inglorion hopes he’ll be engaged in less deception than the average pupil. And perhaps it is time to grow up and spend less time skirt-chasing, and more time setting a future course for himself.

For his first meal with the family, Inglorion is seated between Lucius’ wife, Cleo, and his eldest daughter, Lucia. Cleo’s manner is wary. Lucia seems to be a sweet creature: slight, dark-eyed, not particularly bright. She gazes at Inglorion in an awestruck fashion, which he finds absurd but also touching. For the first several minutes of the meal, she simply looks at him. He looks very young, and an air of gentle melancholy clings to him. He hasn’t been eating properly since he left Liamelia, so he radiates a curious mix of kinetic energy and fragility. She’s been told that he’s devout, and in this household, devotion and obsession play well. Her father’s pupils aren’t known for their refinement, but Inglorion’s manners are good when he chooses to use them, and he looks sweet, pure and innocent. 

Inevitably, she’s fascinated by his features and coloring. He’s very pale — his skin is practically translucent, almost bluish. He’s bound his white hair into a queue, but a single lock keeps falling across his cheek, impossibly straight and fine. His features are so perfect that she can’t help but marvel at the angles of his cheekbones and jaw, his straight, aquiline nose, his finely cut upper lip. His lashes are thick, though utterly pale. He’s kept his gaze lowered, so she hasn’t seen his eyes.

After a time, he sets his meal aside, nearly untasted. She says, “Don’t you like it?”

“It’s quite good,” he says. “I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to eat when I’m nervous. I don’t mean to be a bad guest.”

“Why are you nervous? You are very welcome here. Father speaks highly of your ability.”

“Oh, no, it’s not you. Everyone’s been more than kind.” His eyes are still lowered, and his face is averted.

“Is there anything you’d rather have? I hate to see you go hungry.”

“Oh, no. Please don’t fuss,” he says earnestly, and turns away further. 

“I’ll leave you alone, then,” she says, hurt. 

He turns back. “I am a bad guest. It’s just — I miss my sister.” As he says this, their eyes meet for the first time, and she’s transfixed by the full force of his brilliant gaze. She hardly hears what he’s said. She’s breathless, almost shaking.

“Your sister?” she says blankly, at random.

“Yes. We were together almost from childhood. I miss her all the time. I don’t mean to be churlish. I’m sure I’ll become accustomed.”

He could be saying anything, or speaking a foreign language. She’s simply conscious of a wish to keep his attention. “Tell me about her,” she says. 

Inglorion knows the power of his gaze. If he stopped to think, he would realize that Lucia is entirely innocent, and therefore vulnerable. He’s not trying to seduce her. For now, he just wants to comfort of talking about Sieia and receiving feminine sympathy, so he talks a bit about Sieia in low tones, and tells Lucia how they came to be parted. 

As the meal comes to an end, he breaks into a brilliant smile and says, “Thank you so much, Lucia. You’ve made me feel at home.”

Naturally, their conversation does not go unobserved. Cleo remarks that afternoon that Lucia is no use at all around the house — she’s clearly dreaming of Inglorion’s fine eyes. Lucia says little to her mother, but later, when she and her younger sister are preparing for bed, Chloes asks slyly what she thinks of the new boarder. “Oh, Chloe,” she sighs. “He’s the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. So sweet and gentlemanly. Father says he’s very devout, and, indeed, you can see it in his eyes.”

Chloe shrugs. “If he’s a gentleman, he won’t concern himself with the likes of us.”

“He’s the natural son of a general, and he’s related to one of the leading families in Liamelia.”

“That would account for his fine airs. He’s half Drow, you know.”

“That’s not his fault. He’s sworn to Corellon Larithian, just like you and I.”

“You are sweet on him!”

“I’m not! Or, at least, not very much. He’s lonely, you know. I want him to be happy here. Hospitality is an important virtue,” Lucia concludes primly.

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