posted on Apr, 1 2017 @ 01:23 PM
20 - Shame
Gaalen stared straight ahead.
“Lord Captain Gaalen Braeghe, commander of Braeghe Color since the death of your father, Lord Captain Hyn Cabel yi-Braeghe. Your mother is the Lady
Isara Braeghe, High Seat of House Braeghe, who once served as counselor to Queen Tirina upon her succession, but retired after the death of your
brother, Gesaert Gillan Braeghe during a skirmish in the Salt Rebellion. You were raised on Braeghe Estate, on the eastern shores of Lake Naonn,
primarily by your nursemaid, your mother’s cousin Lady Lia Silnae. You showed strategic prowess at an early age, with a distinct aptitude for
mounting a formidable defense. You are the only cadet in Bastion history to have still held the Western Gate at the end of the Cadet’s War, leading
to victory for the cadets in the exercise and a special commendation by Lady High Commander Macosai at your graduation. After graduation, you
distinguished yourself repeatedly. You held the ridge pass in the Second Battle of Crystal River against overwhelming odds, for which you earned
recognition by Queen Tirina and the title of Shieldbearer of Aavelae, and you were presented with the Council of Ladies Captain Medal of Valor for
your actions in the Burn Forest campaign.”
“About four years ago, though, such accolades stopped. I have wondered why. Rumor connected you with the death of several Lanceguard, possibly
during a retaliatory raid on a rochfendre village. Records of the event, if it indeed happened, do not seem to exist. Since then, your career has
been plagued by disciplinary instances, primarily involving several of the Ladysguard and in particular, Lady Commander Kaena Quae Milaener, a
childhood friend of yours whose bed you currently share. Four times the Lady High Commander has issued you private penance for disorderly conduct,
and once for conduct unbecoming an officer. All five instances have been somehow connected to Lord Captain Bryn Robaer, another close friend of yours
since the beginning of your Bastion years.”
Gaalen’s heart pounded, and he knew his face was red. This woman knew everything. Well, near enough.
“Have I missed anything?” She asked. Gaalen gritted his teeth and stared at the wall. “Strip to your waist, Lord Captain.”
“Your Grace?” Even one of the Bearers furtively glanced at the Elder Seeress, then snapped her mouth shut.
Poliara did not repeat herself, but instead looked at him expectantly. Growing more uncomfortable by the moment, Gaalen complied. What choice did he
have? As he turned to set the pile of shirt and cloak on the nearest chair, he heard a stifled gasp from one of the Bearers. He should have known.
He turned back around and Poliara’s eyes finally dropped to the kir above his heart.
“Yes, it makes sense,” Poliara murmured when he had finished. “She Corrected you, didn’t she?”
Shame burned his skin to the tops of his ears.
“You needn’t answer that, it is quite clear.”
“Your Grace, I don’t think that Seeress --”
“No one told you to think, boy,” she interrupted.
Anger crashed through him in a slow, grinding wave. He fought to retain his composure, clenching fists and jaw repeatedly.
“So you do have some discipline. Perhaps that is what Lady Commander Milaener sees in you. How did you come by those scars?”
“Soldiers get hurt, your Grace,” he said through gritted teeth.
“You get flogged on the battlefield? I think not. Tell me the truth, boy, or I’ll have it out of you another way.”
“What does it matter how I got them?” he snapped. He could see shock and anger rising in the faces of the Bearers, but Poliara remained placid.
She gave him a brutal Correction.
“Don’t make me ask you again, Lord Captain.”
As he pushed up from his knees, Gaalen’s thoughts cleared, and he put a piece into place. “You already know the answer, your Grace.”
A tiny smile curved on her lips, just at the corner of her mouth.
“And the others?”
“Most rumors have a nugget of truth buried deep within, your Grace.” His anger was subsiding, and he felt tired, alone. He thought of Kaena.
“I see.” She stared at him thoughtfully, and Gaalen dropped his eyes to his black kir. Two Corrections in one day. He shook his head.
No corrections for years, and now two in one day.
An insistent knock interrupted them. “Come!” Poliara barked.
A thin, balding man in white Seer’s robes entered. “Your Grace,” he said, with a distasteful look at Gaalen, “there is a situation that
requires your attention. In the Moon Quarter.”
“The acolytes? What is it?”
“Yes, your Grace. It is a,” he hesitated, “delicate situation,” he said, with a glance at Gaalen and a pleading look at the Elder Seeress. She
arched an eyebrow at him. The man seemed like a simpering weasel to Gaalen, and he took an instant dislike to him.
“We are through, Lord Captain. You may go, but do not be surprised if I call on you sometime. Soon.”