A day later, Jarious sat at the kitchen table with Tangean. They held hands across the table, both heads bowed. Both Jarious and his mother prayed in low, rhythmic and reverent voices.
“For Karshik we brought nothing, and we left with nothing. His spirit was clean, as was his death. From the General, we demanded obedience… From the Mystery, we demanded sight beyond… From the Martyr we demanded deathless honor…”
“Honor,” Tanjean repeated.
Jarious continued, “From the Tyrant? We demanded nothing.” He paused. “The Four shall watch over us all, as we slip into the dark.”
Tangean continued, “From the depth of shadow. From the depth of spirit. From The depth of the soul…
The spoke in unison, practiced words from years of recital. “For all these things, and more, we ask for the clean death.” The both paused for a long second, then released hands and unbowed their heads. Jarious sat back in his chair, his mother got up to tend to the boiling water on the beaten copper kettle. Seeing his mother busy herself, Jarious stood up. “Let me help you with that.”
“No you don’t, honey. Sit down, its just tea and coffee.”
A few moments later, Tangean was at the table again. She sipped lukewarm water in a chipped wooden cup. Jarious slowly rotated a stone cup with the tips of his fingers as he waited for the coffee to cool. Tangean kept a small stash of coffee from the old country on hand for when Jarious visited. Jarious didn’t want to drink the coffee for fear of allowing its earthy aroma to escape out the open windows. So, he just played with the cup and listened to the bustle in the streets not far away. People coming, people going, dogs barking, people arguing. He chewed on his lip, out of simple conversation to while the time away with his mother.
His lower lip spasmed just enough to bite into his gum and draw a well-point of blood. That did it.
“Mother? I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s too hard.” Tangean finally looked up from the cup she cradled in both hands. She made no indication she was going to speak, only that Jarious had her attention.
“Karsh. Karsh was hard. I shouldn’t have put the dagger into Arrious’ hands. I just thought…” he trailed off, recounting the emotions he struggled with when he made the decision to execute Karsh. “I just thought that Arrious needed to do something like this. If I go, its him. He will take over. Torrain, Fovreh, Garwfn… they can’t do it. They… they aren’t steady. The unit needs a steady hand.”
Tangean went back to looking into the clouded water in her cup. “Morrow?”
“Heh,” Jarious thought about all the times he wanted to defer to Morrow’s age and wisdom, and all the times Morrow flatly refused, implicitly and outright. “No. He is with us, but not one of us. It’s a shame. He is the steadiness the unit needs, but he feels no connection to the legacy. He would never accept this…” he reached out and tapped the hilt of the Legacy sword he left on the counter a few feet away.
“You know best.” Tangean’s quiet voice wafted through the room like muted music. Her white hair fell in front of her eyes and she absentmindedly brushed them away. She smiled reassuringly at Jarious, the slight wrinkles on her gentle face became more pronounced.
“I don’t know if I do, mother. Was what I did with Arrious right?”
“You did what you had to do, honey.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“It’s the best I have, Jarious.” Silence filled the air for an uncomfortable amount of heartbeats. “What else were you to do?”
“Walk away? Do it myself? Ask you to keep him alive and hope his Mongrel constitution could eventually defeat the poison?”
“You always do it yourself.”
“Yes,” he sighed. “It has to be done right.”
“Which is why you lead.”
“I’m a sucker.”
“No, Jarious, you are not.” She emphasized each word as she drove her point home. “You do what you do because you see the world around you. You refuse to be swallowed up by small lives or the petty demands of cities like Junction. You see that we humans live in the mud of the shadow of the Empire. You… you fight for us and for what we could be.”
“…and money. I fight for money. Don’t forget that.”
“Money has nothing to do with it, honey.”
“You don’t know me as well as you think, mother.” There was no mirth in Jarious’ retort.
“Arrious needs to adopt the old ways. He needs to study the legacy of the unit if he is to lead.” Jarious let his voice trail off, not really speaking to his mother. Though no one listened to Jarious’ statement, he felt better by saying the words. It was as if the universe was his witness and simply stating the need for Arrious to internalize some of Jarious’ values would make it true.
Jarious had no illusions about the cruelty of fate and the universe. Still, saying the words had been a relief and galvanized his plans for the future.