Story for the Day: Rithea and High Commander Bryeison
Rithea is a main character in the Haanta Series. She is Head Cleric of the Haven and as known King Alasdair since he was an infant. Here is a moment from her younger days.
Rithea and High Commander Bryeison
To the castle courtyard Rithea and High Commander Bryeison went. They walked by way of the gallery to enjoy the varying hues of the coloured-glass windows being projected within the hallway at this time in the late afternoon. It was warmer in the gallery than either of them should have preferred, but whether this was due to the sun pervading the gallery with no exit or to the happy agitation both felt for the new conversancy to two who had been used to seclusion neither of them could decipher. They spoke a few gentle words, remarking on the glory of the day, the exultation each felt for according infant Alasdair his regal blessings, and the joy each felt on King Dorrin’s behalf in having his two grandchildren for comfort through such a difficult time. They expressed sympathies and compassions, both for having lost friends and a potential future king of Frewyn, for all of Dorrin’s aspiration must be now in either Allande or Alasdair, the former of which neither Rithea nor Bryeison liked. His good humour had been tarnished by the royal academy in Farriage: too much time had been spent away from the constancy and excellence of two such good parents as Draeden and Brighel and the disparity in temper between Allande and the rest of the Brennin family was shamefully apparent. This was Bryeison’s chief concern, that Alasdair should be raised with good morals and perfect attention as was his father but come to know his difference in it; he would be estranged from so complacent a brother, and though the High Commander could not reprimand Allande for any ill he should bring to Alasdair, he could over himself as a mentor to the younger with the ambition that the lessons he had to bequeath from a recently deceased father would furnish his growing mind. Rithea agreed, but her concern was more for Dorrin than for the two boys: to lose his only son, the pride of his life and the future king of Frewyn, was an endless torment to him, and all Rithea’s fear was that the heartbreak from a death that had taken one could take another.
They were each in perfect agreement with one another, quite without realizing it, and by the time they quitted the gallery and reached the entrance to the courtyard, they had began speaking of the Haven; rather, Rithea spoke of her time there when asked and the High Commander listened in respectful silence. Bryeison enjoyed hearing her speak: her voice was soothing and pleasant, she had an artlessness with her words when she pronounced them, she was candid even when doubting herself, wondering aloud whether she had misspoke due to his silence. The more Bryeison listened, the more he was inclined to like her. He walked closer to her, seemingly without her notice as she faced the prospect of the royal hunting grounds while he placed all his consciousness upon her. She moved well: her arms had elegance, her slender limbs had grace and enthusiasm promoted by her good character, and now that they were standing at the western edge of the courtyard her face was well lighted by the amber glow of the setting sun, giving her complexion a numinous tinge, heightening her high cheekbones and giving life to her auburn hair. She was a stunning object: her upright figure and straightforwardness of mind were all the powers necessary to employ for his beguilement. He was struck with her, attending every word, every pause, every subtly of motion be made; the manner in which her fingers fixed a loose strand from her tied hair or the way she licked her lower lip garnered all his consideration. He thought she must be otherwise engaged with someone; how could such a breed of woman not be, but then she said something that made him believe otherwise.
“It hasn’t been as simple as I make is seem, studying at the Haven for over twenty-five years, teaching for nearly half of it,” Rithea said half in reverie. “I do love the Haven and I love all my students- I’m honoured to have been given such a position, truly- but, I cannot help feeling . . . “ She checked herself, acknowledging that she knew the enormity of a man beside her for not above two hours.
Bryeison sense what she wished to say, and standing closer to her, he added in a low voice, “I understand what you mean. Duty to the kingdom, though rewarding, is unfulfilling in some way.”
Rithea gave him a conscious look. “Do you feel the same?”
Bryeison turned toward the scene of the forest before them. “No,” he said with a smile. “But perhaps I’ve been in the king’s service too long to notice.”
Despite the recent loss of his only friend, Rithea perceived a certain tranquility in the commander’s countenance that must be recognized; he stood tall even with his soaring height, his high chest and wide shoulders exuded his consequence as a superior soldier, his aspects were peaceful regardless of the numerous scars across his face and arms. She felt a certain awe prevail her when remarking him, as though he were the embodiment of what everyone in the Frewyn armed forces aspired to be. She wondered at his title of High Commander, knew of his several victories against the Galleisians, and though his features could not be called handsome by any means, his constant half smile made him agreeable. Rithea suddenly was sensible of how long she had been staring at him and turned away just before he could look at her from the corner of his eye. “I didn’t mean to sound displeased. Being chosen as Head Cleric at my time of life is a great honour, but- and to be honest- I’m not certain why Enchanter Beldyn chose me.”
“And why would you be uncertain?”
“Well, after studying for so long, I have only a few acquaintances at the Haven,” she said in a shrinking tone. “This is what I wanted, and I am grateful to achieve it so soon, but now that I am here . . .” She hindered her speech once more and chided herself for being so open with someone she only just met. She implored herself not to speak further, for her need to say everything and know everything was forever her demise.
“You thought you would feel more rewarded?”
“Yes,” she said hesitatingly, marking his good-natured smile. Her lips curled with fleeting and demure motions. “I suppose I will with time.”
The disenchanted manner in which it was said made Bryeison conceive that Rithea might be more forlorn than he had believed. On closer inspection, he began to notice certain signs of his conjecture: her hair though tied was somewhat unkempt, her robes though stately seemed faded, and the brightness in her eyes was dimmed. All this had not made her any less appealing, but it was a blemish that could not go unnoticed.
They spoke for a little while longer of the armed forces, of whom would take Draeden’s place as general and if whether Allande would be trained when Rithea observed the sky growing darker and giving way to the luminaries of night.
“Well, it is growing late,” Rithea said presently. “I'm certain your wife is waiting for you.”
Bryeison made a moderate smile, wondering if Rithea were phishing for information. He would tell her, however, if only to remain in her company a few moments more before she should scamper away. “I’m not married, Head Cleric,” he said in a sweet voice.
Rithea gave a small start. How was this possible when one of such rank and situation was walking about the keep every day amongst the company of eager young nobles. “Lady, then?”
“I do not have one.”
Rithea glanced to the side. “Lord?” she wondered.
He simpered and shook his head. “No.”
“Oh.” Rithea swallowed and turned away, suddenly growing nervous to speak to someone to whom she had little difficulty divulging the world a few moment before. The notion of his availability besieged her; she had spoken to hastily, had said and surmised too much, and now she must feel all the indignity of her openness rush on her. Her cheeks coloured, her throat tightened, and she muttered, “I’m certain I have bored you with all my talk of the Haven.”
“Actually,” he said softly, stepping closer and looking down at her, “I enjoy hearing you speak of your work and of the Haven.
“But certainly not of how I feel with regard to them.”
He canted his head and spied her with a tapered glance. “And why wouldn’t I?”
“Because no one wants to hear about that,” Rithea said with abashed laughter. “No one wants to hear others talk about themselves.”
He supposed that perhaps others might not, but he had heard that he was not akin to many of his rank and consequence. He sidled Rithea and enjoyed watching the blush of her cheek overtake her features as she attempted not to look at him. “I do,” he said with tenderness.
“You do?” Rithea said, half in hope half in dreadfulness.
“ You're an ingenuous and forthright person. You're simple, you're unpretending, your main concerns are for your students and patience, giving little time to yourself. I know the only reason you're self-conscious about speaking of yourself is because someone told you that you needed to be.”
Rithea had done. She staring up at the forthcoming commander, her mouth agape and her eyes unblinking.
“But you don’t need to be,” Bryeison added in a baritone purr. “You know what you want to do, you're doing it, and you're content enough. Your exterior might reflect your situation, but you are a gifted healer.”
“I’m not sure about that,” she whispered to herself.
“And you're modest.” He gave Rithea a knowing smile. “You would not have been chose for the office of Head Cleric if you were not prepared for it. Of course it meant that you had to isolate yourself from others, but you now have the opportunity to change that if you wish.”
Rithea had more to feel as she suddenly realized how close she was to this immense and selfless creature. She had thought he was further away due to how far it was to look up to see his face, but when she became conscious of how near his mighty chest and torso was, she stepped back, unable to comply with her desire of being intimate with others.
He allowed her the distance, used to others gawping at him from afar. “Just because you're lonely does not mean that you are alone,” he reminded her with a sincere expression. “You have many to talk to and spend time with for most of the day. That's more company than most of us will ever have. It is true that you must live at the Haven and may not have your own house to accommodate those you would have as friends, but I don't think they would mind. I think would they're grateful to you for the service you provide our kingdom. Even if you might be a little lonely, most of us are. Many merely don't have the courage to admit it as you do.”
Although there was a pause, Rithea could not speak. Her mind would not answer and her intellect was busily brooding over the perceptive and compelling colossus before her.
When she made no reply, Bryeison said, “I would really like to continue this discussion over dinner.”
“Dinner?” Rithea breathed in astonishment.
“Yes. I have been wanting to ask you ever since you accused me of being overprotective.”
“Really?” Rithea smiled.
He nodded. “Really.”
Rithea wanted to give an affirmative reply, but her sensibilities hindered her and she asked, “Aren't you encouraged to court the nobles as a Sir?”
“I am not a Sir any longer.”
“But I'm not dressed for-“
“I am not interested in how you are dressed.”
Rithea made a stupid grin. She parted her lips to acquiesce to the invitation but soon found her arm being drawn under his, her fingers being placed on an immense forearm, and feet being guided by the movements of one decidedly more confident than herself and more taken with her than she ever could have fathomed someone so dutiful might have been.