By the time Farkas got back home again everyone was awake. Lydia and Freya were arguing at the breakfast table about gardening matters, of all things, while Luthien served heaping bowls of the porridge he’d made for them before he left. She glanced up at him, her eyes curious as she watched him hang his bow on the rack inside the door. “You’re back early,” she noted.
“In his room. He stormed through here twenty minutes ago and went straight to his room. Is something wrong?”
He didn’t know how to answer that question because he didn’t believe what their son had done was wrong. It was just misguided, an innocent attempt to salvage something before it was lost forever. Looking to Freya and Lydia, he returned his gaze to his wife and shook his head. “Nothing that can’t wait. I’m going to train for a while. Come find me at Jorrvaskr when you have time?”
“All right,” she agreed, her face twisting with discomfort at the seriousness in his tone.
Heaving his battle axe from the rack, he went back outside and headed straight to Jorrvaskr, his home away from home. The practice yard was quiet and he was glad. He was in no mood to face his brother yet. Vilkas would no doubt want a full report on how he’d handled the situation, but it wasn’t his business.
He realized as he swung his axe into the practice dummy that it was never Vilkas’s business and yet he somehow found a way to worm himself into everything in their household. Drawing the axe back again, he arched it down and split the dummy and the pole holding it in place as he decided with a righteousness unlike any he’d ever felt before that this time Vilkas would have no say in what needed to be done.
“You’re upset about something, my love.”
Her gentle voice at his back startled him from his rage and he spun around to see her standing at the edge of the pavilion. Leaning against pillar with her arms crossed and her head tilted in such a way that her long auburn braid fell over her shoulder, wisps of wild hair framed her face and even in that motherly state of disarray she was the most beautiful thing in the world to him. He wondered how long she’d been there watching him.
“You were upset last night when you came home. I could feel it, and now you’re out here hacking these poor old dummies to bits. What’s bothering you, Farkas?”
Too many things he didn’t know how to put into words. “We need to talk in private,” he said, watching her eyes flare with worry. “Somewhere there are no children or housecarls, no family members lurking in the shadows waiting to mix themselves up in our business.”
Luthien furrowed her brow and nodded before she glanced back over her shoulder. “Kodlak’s old room is off limits to everyone but me. We could talk in there.”
“Vilkas never follows to that rule.” He shook his head, knowing his brother would follow them if they went inside the mead hall and he was there. “Let’s take a walk outside the walls.”
“Okay,” she agreed. “The children should be fine with Lydia until we come back.”
Farkas nodded and together they walked silently through their city. The Merchant’s Circle was alive and buzzing with activity, Carlotta Valentia calling out that she had fresh fruits and vegetables for sale as they passed her cart. They wound down past Breezehome, finding themselves nearly bowled over as Jon and Olfina’s son Ulrich came barreling up the street with Freya and two of her friends hot on his heels.
“Hey!” Farkas barked as he stepped out of their way. “If you’re going to run, go do it behind Belethor’s store.”
“Sorry, Da!” Freya and her giggling friends rushed past them without stopping. The last thing he heard before Luthien grabbed his arm to steer him back toward the front gate was his eleven year old daughter calling out, “Come on, Battle-Born! It’s time to pucker up!”
“Did she just say it’s time to pucker up?” Stopping dead in his tracks, he turned around to watch them turn right into the alley behind Belethor’s General Goods. “She’s kissing Ulrich Battle-Born now?” What worse things could this day bring? Plague? Famine? Dragons?
“It’s just a game they play,” Luthien chuckled, looping her arm through his and turning him back toward the gates again. “Some silly game where they chase the boys around and threaten to kiss them and give them cooties.”
“I’ll crack that boy’s skull if I ever find his lips on my daughter,” he growled, glancing back over his shoulder again. “I’m talking to his father later…”
“Oh come on, Farkas. Like you weren’t getting chased all over Whiterun when you were that age, all the girls trying to kiss you.”
“That was different,” he mumbled. “And believe it or not, Vilkas got chased around far more than I did when we were boys. It wasn’t until we were older that I got more… female attention.” He swallowed uncomfortably and nodded respectfully to the guard before they passed through the gates and followed the path toward the watchtower.
Farkas hadn’t even looked at another woman after he met Lu, as if everything about her had overshadowed everyone else around him until all he could see was her. Still, he didn’t like talking about past carnal relations with her even if she didn’t care about the past.
When they’d walked far enough away from Whiterun to be free from nosey neighbors and meddlesome brothers, Farkas stopped and turned until they faced each other. He crossed his arms, and then dropped them at his side before crossing them again and chewing nervously at his bottom lip. An uneasy laugh escaped her and she grabbed his arms, holding him still and leveling her bright amber eyes with his.
“You’re scaring me, Farkas. What’s wrong?”
He didn’t know what to say to her, how to tell her without breaking her heart, but he had no choice. In the fifteen years they’d known each other, he’d never kept anything from her and he didn’t want to start now, especially not with something so serious.
“I think we need to send Bran to the College of Winterhold,” he said, stopping to look over at her.
“Eventually, yes,” she agreed. “He definitely has an aptitude for magic and while I think Vilkas would strongly disagree on our decision to hone that talent, I’ve always thought Brandr’s was the path of the mage.”
“Not eventually, Lu,” he shook his head, trying to find the right words. “Now. I think you need to contact Archmage Elspeth and ask her to make an exception or something because he has some very unusual talents. He needs guidance from someone who knows how to handle magic.”
She immediately grew defensive, her tone reminding him of the handful of nights she’d made him sleep at Jorrvaskr for whatever he’d done to make her mad. But this wasn’t just angry; he’d hurt her feelings.
“I know about magic.”
“I know you do, Lu, but…” He looked at his boots for a few minutes and then lifted his gaze back to hers again. “You don’t know enough to properly teach him and without a teacher…”
“He’s done something, hasn’t he?” Her eyes darkened with anxious fear. “The questions he’s been asking lately… I should have known they weren’t just simple curiosity. What has he done? Has he hurt someone?”
“No, Lu, calm down. He hasn’t hurt anyone, and I don’t think he ever would. He’s gentle and kind, just like his mother.” Lifting a hand to her shoulder, his touch lingered there for a few minutes before sliding down the length of her arm to take her hand. “He found a bird up on the roof at Dragonsreach…”
While Farkas told her the story from beginning to end, she listened in such a way that her facial expressions didn’t give away her emotions. She was fiercely protective of both their children, but when it came to Brandr she was like a venomous mother Chaurus ready to lash out with both poisonous claws.
“Vilkas saw him do this?” She took a step back from him, eyes afire with disbelief. “He watched him bring this dead bird back to life?”
Nodding, he went on to tell her how he’d planned to make him put the bird down only to discover the rest of the story. “And I believe it happened just like he said. That rotten little War-Bear boy is a menace.”
“I’ll talk to Adrianne the next time I see her. Why didn’t you tell me this last night when you came home, Farkas? This is very serious…”
“You were tired,” he said. “I didn’t want to worry you.”
“So you lay awake all night worrying for both of us.”
“I wanted to talk to him first, man to man.”
“But he’s not a man, Farkas. He’s just a little boy…”
“A little boy with a man’s power, Luthien. How many six-year-olds do you know who can bring back the dead?”
“Non.” She lifted her hand into her hair, fingers tangling through her loose braid before dropping down the side of her face as she sighed. “We can’t just send him away, Farkas. He’s my baby boy… And Freya will be furious. She’s been trying to get us to send her away her whole life.”
He chuckled at the humor she’d found in the situation, some of the tension relaxing from his tight shoulders.
“I don’t know,” she went on, glancing toward the city. “Maybe Archmage Elspeth could at least come to talk to him, test him to see where his abilities fall. We could talk to her about this whole thing and get a second opinion.”
He nodded and followed her gaze toward Whiterun. “Things are already hard for him. Always getting picked on, pushed around and he won’t stand up for himself now, but if he discovers he can fight back with magic…”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “That could be bad.”
“It’ll make things a lot worse.”
“I’ll send a courier to the archmage and ask her to visit Whiterun,” she decided.
“I don’t want to send him away any more than you do, Lu, you have to believe that.”
“I know,” she leaned into his chest and lowered her head to his shoulder, closing her eyes and just standing there that way for a long time. “In the meantime, what do we do about Bran?”
“You should talk to him.” He lifted his hand into her hair, tenderly stroking the skin on the back of her neck with the tips of his fingers. “You’re better at that whole talking thing than me.”
“Okay,” she agreed. “I’ll talk to him right now. He needs to understand that we live in an almost entirely Nord hold and not all Nords are as liberal and accepting of magic as we are.”
They began heading back toward Whiterun, Farkas with his arm draped loosely across her shoulder, Luthien leaning into him as they walked. She’d taken the news much better than he ever could have hoped. Now he just had to face his brother.