Rise of Rathmore
Bastard born eldest son of Lord Rathmore
Mother always said there was a thinness about highborns that was the misery and death of them. Their smiles too thin. Their love too thin. Their women died in childbirth because their hips were too thin. Their babes died before they could walk because their blood was too thin. Cruel words from a loving woman. Jealousy has a way of making us all a bit cruel, doesn’t it?
In truth, few lads ever had such a doting woman to coddle them. Knowing the foolishness of it now, I’m glad we were so sequestered that none of my uncles or father’s men could notice. I was nearly too old by the time she could be swayed not to call me her “Little Lordling” in front of others, or for my own part, to realize it was foolish to expect her pot-scrubber to bow.
Not to mention all the silly little promises she made to me, growing up. Her confident promise that father’s wife could never bear him a son, as she had. Her ardent hope that the babe would soon simply die. And finally, her desperate plea to the gods that the boy would prove an invalid, and he simply wouldn’t matter anymore. All that mattered, of course, was me. And my sister, from time to time. All that mattered was that father loved us. He’d show it if he could, she was certain.
Marissa I don’t think, was ever fooled. Whether she’s a bit more sane than mother, or simply mad in a different way, I’ve never quite figured out. She’s what polite folk call “curious,” but what I label “stubborn.” Admittedly, were she otherwise, I might respect her less. Gods, complicated women give me a headache- and no, my friend, I’ve never clung to the notion that “complicated women” is a tautology.
Not all women are difficult to understand. Take my other sister for example -though I favor my unscratched face too much to call her “sister” in public. A viper isn’t a complicated animal. Neither is Cyrissa. By the gods, even her name sounds like the noise a snake would make. Try it. Cyrisssssa.
The truth is, if not for Cyrissa, Reginald might one day have found his greatest tormentor in me. The gods know my mother used to egg me on about it. It would’ve been simple enough to order the nursemaid away and let the child drown in the bath on one of my visits, or to smother him with his own pillow while he lay tucked in his crib.
I first saw my brother on his name day. Father even let me into his room to hold him, once. Pale little grub that wiggled and gurgled in my arms. I could nearly hear mother’s voice in my head, “Kill him! Do it now!” Though perhaps it was only Cyrissa’s whispers in my ear. I think it was this notion that spared him from me forever. The thought that so many would want this silly little creature dead when his worst offense was being born. Something we shared.
Mother wept when I returned and told her the news. Told her that Lord Rathmore’s true son yet lived. She cursed me at first, but then reached to fold me into her chest as she wept. Cradled by this madwoman, I had never before felt so much Reginald’s brother.
We have all grown a little taller in the last few years, but few things else have changed. The world invents faults it refuses to forgive. The strong prey on the weak. Family is a man’s greatest weakness and strength. My uncles taught me that last one. And by it, I like to think I’ve guessed the gods’ game at putting me here before Reginald but with a fraction of what the world owes him.
You see, I’ve learned a great deal from our family. Our uncles taught me that family is everything, and my sister daily teaches me that birth does not define a man. My brother taught me that what is noble is more than mere nobility.
And last, but hardly least, my half-sister taught me that your worst enemies rarely stand across a field of battle from you. And such, I wager, the gods knew long before. They knew I had to be here first to protect my brother. To protect our family. And who could be better fodder for the cannons than a fool with no name?