Chapter 40: Training

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But when we saw their actions, when we saw what they did to the sensitives, when we saw how they killed, we ignored it. We turned a blind eye, hoping that the ends justified the means. What were a few lives when we could become immortal?

***

Maioran yawned as he stared out off of the rocky outcropping that was their camp. Next to him, Tieoran slept, peaceful, eyes closed, spindly arms clutching the blanket closer to his frame. Next to him, on another sleeping roll, the Calixa, Callan, shifted in his sleep. Finn, Magnus, Aoife, and the Erinyan, Invidia, slumbered across from them.

Maioran didn't let his eyes stay closed for too long. Not that he could fall asleep, however. The cold wind, blowing down from the mountains that made up the center of Castillera, stung his bare back and made him shiver. But he was a warrior. A strong warrior. What was a little cold to him?

He looked back at Tieoran. His brother. Their parents had adopted Maioran right off the streets, and had raised him right next to their own challenge child, Tieo. They loved their own flesh, and yet they seemed to love Maioran, the alien among them, just as much. He was the intruder into their family, the odd one out. They were Icthynair. He was not.

Yet... they kept him in their home, in the small, ramshackle hovel they called a home, and Maioran couldn't thank them enough. Small though it was, it was a proper Tethyd home. Warm, the walls wrapped in glittering tapestries and baubles and flake-steel. A proper Tethyd home, with three meals, and warm beds. A proper Tethyd home with wild children and the parents who reared them with love.

Maioran had gone from sleeping in a gutter to sleeping in a hut, but it might as well have been a palace.

But then, Tieoran started getting hurt.

He was ten when it started. Ten, when he showed up at home late from school, bearing a few new bruises. Ten, when the other Tethyd ridiculed him for his fear of being touched, his emotional fits and meltdowns, his peculiarities. Ten, when he had curled up in Maioran's bed, covered in scrapes and small wounds, crying, trying to hide from the nightmares he had.

Maioran was twelve when he first began to protect his brother.

When his brother had curled up on Maioran's bed, crying, Maioran sat him up, holding him close, and told him stories. When he showed up late for the fifth time, Maioran walked him home. And when the other Tethyd tried to bully him, Maioran learned something about himself. He knew he was Anguilinair. Of the Eel, not of the Fish like his brother and the other students.

He didn't know how much stronger he was.

When the other boys threw a punch at the cowed and frightened Tieo, Maioran didn't know what came over him. He swung. The bully, who was Icthynair, went down with the second blow. That scattered most of the other Icthynair, leaving Maioran alone with the brawny mastermind, a shark Tethyd who was three years older, and a foot taller.

Tieoran came home with a minor bruise from a tumble he took. Maioran came home with several ugly dark patches on his chest and two black eyes. But, as he said to his parents with a grin, they should have seen the other guy.

They were afraid, at first, afraid he would lash out against Tieoran. But whether it was spilling burning tea down Maioran's shirt, or accidentally ruining one of Maioran's toys, nothing could get Maioran angry at his brother. At least, not angry enough to hit. Their parents soon realized that Maioran got violent only when his brother was in danger. They realized they had adopted a natural born warrior, and he was set on protecting his little brother.

Now, Tieoran didn't have bruises. He didn't have scrapes. And the people he was surrounded with... they fought to protect him. Well, they fought to protect everyone, but they help Maioran protect Tieo. It was wonderful.

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