A twig snapped nearby. His hand immediately went for his blade. The multiple pieces associated with archery equipment left him carrying the sword out of convenience more and more often. His eyes instinctively looked into the shadows, searching for any sign of movement. He sucked in a breath, he was being irrational. The creatures that attacked their clan that night hadn’t appeared since the raid. There was no reason to expect them to return anytime soon. It had been nearly five years since anyone’s seen or heard anything of them. Despite his father’s efforts to track down the creatures, hoping to eradicate them for good, there had been no findings whatsoever. It’s as if the creatures never existed. If not for the casualties, he’d probably find himself questioning whether the entire thing happened as a series of nightmares.
A wildcat chasing a squirrel burst into the clearing. He lowered his hand, releasing his grip on the weapon, and forced himself to relax. Taking deep breaths, he looked up at the sky, once more, thanking the stars for accompanying him. It was around that time again. He sighed, turning and walking back to his tent, where he knew the his father would be waiting for him.
Lifting the canopy of the tent, he nearly stepped on a broken jug shard as he entered. He wrinkled his nose, despite expecting to see something like this. His father had been drinking again. Carefully skirting his tent and gathering as many of the broken fragments littered over the ground, he managed to walk over to his father, who laid slumped over the table. He sighed, draping the blanket, he grabbed from his bedding area, over the man. Crouching down with a bowl in his hand, he began picking up the visible broken shards, grateful that he wore boots today.
His father had been a very different person when his mother was still around. Another cold reminder that the stars would never replace her, even if she was amongst them. Even if they did give him some comfort. He couldn’t remember seeing his father smile since that night. It was as though, a part of his soul left with her. Though he became dedicated on pursuing the shadowy creatures of that night, it was obvious that his dedication, or perhaps the mission itself, was eating him. The task sapped his will, and slowly chipping away at the man that he once was. Even in public, he occasionally caught sight of the cracks in his father’s carefully presented visage.
Once a respected warrior of their sect, his father was now a despised zealot, a man that lingered in the past and did little to truly contribute to their sect’s growth and progress. A man passionate over the wrong things by day and a drunkard by night, only a shadow of his former self. Others saw his father as a mad man, but he knew better. He too knew the loss of his mother personally. Nothing was ever the same. Even now, even though her face was only a washed out blur in his memories, he couldn’t help but look up at times, expecting her to be there, only to be disappointed. A sharp pain shot across his finger, as red blossomed over the over his skin. He had let himself get too far lost in his thoughts again. Continuing to fill the bowl with broken shards, he kept the finger raised, careful not let blood from the cut stain the pottery.
So much had their life changed, since her death. He really couldn’t blame his father. If anything, he also wanted his mother back, as the woman that she was and not in the form of an inadequate replacement as a star. He walked out of the tent, the bowl filled with shards that glinted in the starlight. As if answering his thoughts, an afterimage of his mother appeared before him. The faint glow approached him, wrapping her arms around him in a hug that he couldn’t feel. A tear fell from his eye, as he looked up to the stars, searching for an answer.
He couldn’t imagine what it was like for his father, who knew his mother for her entire life. He still had so many questions for her, questions that he would never have an answer to. Closing his eyes and taking deep breaths, he did his best to calm himself. He couldn’t let himself break down, not in front of their clan, and not in front of his father. Not when his father still needed him. Not when everyone else mocked his father for his pain. Putting the bowl down and stepping out into the night, he drew his sword, forcing himself to step through the stances that were now so familiar. So long as they continued to share the memories of his mother, so long as the continued to share the pain from her loss, he was going to be there for the man. For that, he needed to be strong enough for the both of them.