Episode 21:  Family Ties

Noshee’s pointy ears steamed. The Main Hall became hot. Not many Hartons knew about his family ties. Less knew why they broke. How did she know?

“You know our past has nothing to do with the present,” Noshee said.

Chusee laughed. “We can discuss spiritual philosophy later. But I doubt you’ll survive the death duels.”

The senior scholar slammed his wooden ball on his podium. “Chusee. You’re this close to losing your cross-examination privileges. Noshee. Continue.”

“Thank you,” Noshee said. “If my past was such a concern of yours, then why did you force me to accept this field assignment?”

Eight Eldens of Genai province quieted their whispering. They perched around the oval table, waiting for Chusee’s answer. Rorkai, Warlord of Genai’s Legion, perked his head up.

Chusee picked at the oval table. She shifted her weight on her perch. “With your skills...you were the best qualified to confront Graywolf and his pack. Your survival proved me correct.”

Rorkai sank back against the curved yellow wall.

Noshee fired a few more questions. Chusee, his superior, answered them without revealing her true intentions.

A scholar poised at the other end of the oval table turned the page of her pamphlet. Her wooden fountain pen rested at the top. It was Chusee’s turn to cross-examine.

“Your father,” Chusee said. “What does he do?”

Crow. Noshee hated her. He calmed down, didn't want blood to flare his irises red. “He teaches.”

“Hmm. A teacher.” Chusee stood from her perch and strolled around the Main Hall. “He’s more than just a teacher, isn’t he?”

“He is also husband to my mother.”

“Come now,” she said. “He’s master of the most prodigious dueling school in our province, the province of Destiny.” Chusee spoke clearly for the Eldens and scholars. “Outside of our Warlord’s family, Noshee’s father is the greatest dueler in all seven provinces. Many Warlords have called on him to train them. Even our Warlord has commissioned his services. So why did your famed father throw you out of his school?”

Noshee bit his lip. “We had a disagreement.”

“Over what?”

“My actions.”

“And what were they?”

“One of his students died.”

Chusee smiled. “He wasn’t just any student. He was your father’s prodigy, wasn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“And by whose sword?”

“Mine.”

Eldens muttered behind their wings. Rorkai remained still. He knew of Noshee’s past. The female scholar wrote feverishly in her pamphlet.

“Why did you murder him?” Chusee said over the noise.

“I did not murder him. We were dueling. I had broadswords. He had talons. My father pushed us harder and harder to get us over our fear. He said the more we fight with death standing next to us, the less we fear it.”

“So you murdered him?”

“I did not murder him.”

“Then your sword jumped out of your hand and murdered him?”

“My father knew we were holding back. He yelled at us to step closer to death. Speak to death. See death. Feel death. Told me I was his worst student.”

“Then you murdered him.”

“I did not murder him!”

Senior scholar slammed his podium over and over. “Noshee. Mind your voice.”

“May I say something?” Rorkai said.

The scholar nodded.

“Deaths in dueling schools are common,” Rorkai said. “Masters of each school seek out the Warlord’s favor to attract more students. As unfortunate as it sounds, it’s an integral part of the culture. Otherwise, the school environment becomes too lax.”

“Thank you, my Warlord,” the scholar said. “Chusee. Get to your point.”

“If it was an accident, then why’d your father throw you out?” she said.

“Because I accused him of his prized student’s death. If he had not pushed us, his student may still be alive today,” Noshee said.

“Interesting.” Chusee crossed her hands behind her back and strolled behind Noshee. “When you courted your wife, didn’t someone else court her as well?”

Crow. This was a cheap shot, Noshee thought.

“There were many,” Noshee said.

“She only considered two. You. And your father’s prodigy. True?”

Noshee bit his lip. “True.”

Chusee perched. Rorkai pushed off the wall with his wings. He did not know about this. The Eldens looked at Noshee. It was obvious what their verdict would be.

“Do you have anymore questions?” the senior scholar.

“No I don’t,” she said.

“Would you like to rebut?” the scholar asked Noshee.

Choose your poison: Doesn't look goof for Noshee. Should he give it one last try and rebut?

86% of the readers said Yes.