He entered the room, relieved to find his memory had proven true. Before him sat and hung the old cages full of tiny birds. He'd [help build]1 each wire frame and, looking upon them after so many years, a flush of pride filled him at the sight of them still whole. His gaze swung to the far end of the room where Ștefan stood with his caped back facing Herald.2
He grit his teeth as his father feigned ignorance of his presence. Ștefan knew he was here from the moment Herald opened the door. Herald traipsed the length of the room, halting a good dozen or so paces away. "Father," he murmured, then stood to attention, waiting to be acknowledged.3
"You return so soon, my boy." His father turned. One of the small birds was perched on his hand. A sparrow, perhaps; it looked plain enough. "Rarely do I see you after sunrise. What troubles you?" Ștefan stared at the bird as if the question were meant for its little ears.
For some reason his father adored the tiny, feathered creatures. Herald didn't see the reasoning behind the affection. It didn't fit with his father's usual requirements for personal entertainment. They weren't big enough for a meal, they'd little in the way of will to snap and, most importantly, their tiny hearts gave out at the slightest hint of torture. 4
Herald looked about the room, marking how many feathered lives filled the cages. More prisoners. Be it birds or people, his father did have a liking for incarceration. At least the birds had the good fortune to die of old age.
"An angel, father?" he said, forcing his mind to focus on the woman still trapped in the tower. Could he really call it a woman? Weren't angels meant to be without a gender? His treacherous thoughts fast recalled the subtle curves under her gown, his face warming. Definitely female. "Are you trying to get us all killed?" Images of the castle being attacked from the sky filled his mind, shunting aside the previous, glorious vision. Is that why I'm here? When it came to commanding warriors, only his brother had surpassed him. Protecting the valley from men was easy. Was it even possible to defend against angels?
"So you've met your task." His father smiled at the bird, stroking the frail breast with a thumb. "Do not be so concerned, Herald. She has been here a while."
A while? That didn't say much. To his father a while could mean anything from three centuries back, to last week. "Exactly how long?" The desire to know pulled the words from his throat before he'd a chance to stop them.
His father's dark brow twitched at his commanding tone, pale lips narrowing and speaking his father's displeasure louder than any words could've done.
Herald flinched under that stare. Younger siblings had died for lesser defiance. Where had the insolence to speak in such a fashion to his father come from?
Great ambiance. I'm so afraid of this father figure. He seems like a bad dude.
- helped build?
- Great setup. This is not a cozy chapter.
- And now we know these two don't have the best relationship.
- Curious. We really get a glimpse of this man through his fascination with the birds.
This is a very dark chapter. Definitely setting something up.
What do you think?