Saturday, July 21, 2012

Oaths By A Dark Fire - Short Story

Sitting by a radiant, twirling jumble of orange tongues of flame, in an otherwise aphotic cathedral of a room, two men stared off into nothing. The silence between them, broken occasionally by a popping of wood from a somber, marble fireplace, was as thick as a pall laid across the coffins of a past that very much defined them. These men, one further in years and experience than the other, held themselves in a settled pose in their high backed chairs of dark oak and muted, aged upholstery. The younger stared with eyes cold, yet severe, into the depths of the raging fire, and clasped his hands tightly, causing his tensed knuckles to pale to a near ivory.

"I can't tell you how many times I've played this scene in my mind. Through the long flights, the aimless wanderings across parts of the world I had only read about till late, and the countless days stowed away in various ships which never seemed to reach their ports of call. I felt that of all people you would maybe understand my purpose, my asking this of you," with this the youth raised his gaze from the intense dancing light which softly highlighted his rough, handsome visage, "or perhaps, at least, give me your advice."

The older man continued his stare into the fireplace, his right leg crossed casually over his left knee. He cleared his throat as if to reinvigorate his long silent voice. "I can't pretend to know what has driven you to this decision. I'm an old man, sir, and I've learned other ways of coping with loss. Though, that doesn't mean that some dark place inside me isn't overjoyed at the prospect. I've been with you and seen you through the very worst of times a man might experience. A boy might experience."

At this the men cautiously locked eyes and fell back together, in their minds, to an earlier, darker day. The bereavement they shared at the merciless pangs of unfortunate tragedy brutally marked an end to a young boy's family, his life, planting the grim seeds of a darkly purposed future, and it set to beginning a new chapter for a man who had been searching for something in his once roaming youth and found it in the position of surrogate father, protector, and friend. The bond between them was intensely powerful, so much so that each of them understood the importance of the request and the only, inevitable answer for which the requester was searching.

The aged man sat up tall in his chair, both feet planted on the floor now, hands gripping the armrests, "There are many dangers along this path, and if what you've told me is true, and trust me when I say that I find no reason to doubt you, then you hardly need my advice, sir. It sounds as though you need the support of a friend, of family. I will aid you, to the best of my humble abilities, in this pursuit."

The stern, yet expectant face of the man who had received the response he had hoped for seemed to lighten for the first time since either of them could remember. "You may not think it, but your support means everything to me. I won't let you down in this. I won't let anyone down in this. It's our duty, and my responsibility as a son, to see this through." The youth leaned forward in his seat, hands clasped tighter, his brow lowered, "I'm ready for this, Alfred. I've never been more ready."

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