Nihilan refused to meet his father's eyes. He knew he had done wrong, and the worst part was having to face Kallus. The two of them were standing in the library of the house. Despite how open the room was, it attracted the least amount of traffic.
Kallus stood in front of his son, waiting for an apology. When none came, he sighed. "If I had been there, you wouldn't have behaved as you did. Damien may be new to our family, but I expect you to treat him as a member of our house."
Nihilan sunk his head. His father's words were making him more agitated. "I'm sorry." The boy whispered.
Kallus' eyes seemed to be stirring with thought. "I assumed you and Damien would get along. You are close in age. I thought you would enjoy having rooms next to each other. A whole wing to yourselves. Are you unhappy with this arrangement?"
"Yes," Nihilan confessed. "He's just...strange. He's got these weird marks on his skin. He's annoyingly quiet. He calls me names just to poke fun at me. I'm tired of it."
"I suppose he's trying to find some humor," Kallus reasoned.
"Why are you defending him, Dad? Damien is wrong to call me names."
"Yes, and I will speak with him. I want you to focus on your part. I know you are capable of finding humor, too. If Damien tries to make fun, find a way to laugh. This will make him feel safer to be around you."
"I don't want him to feel safe. He's not a brother to me, Dad."
Kallus let out a breath before kneeling down to his son's level. "I've been watching Damien for several days now. He easily becomes hostile when he doesn't feel safe. It's most likely due to the world he was raised in."
"And what world is that?"
"It goes by the name of Eolnir. Where the dark elves live."
"Damien was raised around dark elves? That doesn't sound surprising. It must be why he's so weird."
"Now that you are wise to it, you should be careful. Do not push Damien to anger. I will make sure he stops pushing you to anger as well. Can you agree to that?"
"Yes." Nihilan rolled his eyes. "May I go now?"
Kallus dismissed him with a nod. When Nihilan walked off, Kallus went upstairs to find Damien sitting in his room.
Kallus pushed open the door, leaning against the post. "You called my son 'naelen'?"
Damien turned at the sound of his voice. His head bent subtly with a nod.
Kallus laughed, shaking his head. "I see you've been dabbling in our native curse words. If only you applied yourself to your other studies with such passion."
"I was curious to know," Damien said. "I wanted to know what made your son tick. Seems like it worked."
"Yes, he has a short temper. That does not give you the right to lash out."
"He started it. He's been nothing but rude to me. I'm glad I found a name for him that has meaning in the common tongue."
Kallus stepped into the room and sat on Damien's bed. "I understand that humans have sensitive emotions. They are quick to become angry. I expect better from you."
"What about your son? He's quick to become angry, too."
"I just spoke with him. Please understand my predicament. I can discipline my children far easier than I can discipline you. You must monitor yourself. Do not give in to your emotions when they arise."
Damien let out a sigh. "I'll try."
Kallus put his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Your choices are your own, Damien. When you make a choice, you must live with the consequences." Then he made his exit, closing Damien's door behind him.
After supper, Damien and Nihilan were ordered to clean the dishes. Kallus employed his words when it came to discipline, but chores were Lanara's form of punishment. The two boys refrained from talking as they worked.
When their task was done, there was nothing for them to do aside from going to bed. Nihilan dragged himself behind Damien on their way up to their rooms. Before they parted ways for the evening, they stood facing each other. A gap of ten feet separated them, but in that moment, Damien didn't feel so far apart.
"I shouldn't have called you what I did," Damien said. "It was wrong of me."
Nihilan seemed struck by his apology. It caused him to look away. "I shouldn't have called you a freak."
"Well," Damien paused, "you're not far from the truth. I am a freak."
"My Dad told me you're from Eolnir. Is that true?"
"I think that's kind of cool. Living with dark elves."
"It wasn't much of a life," Damien said. "I was just a prisoner to them."
"Why?" Nihilan smirked. "Because you're a freak?"
Damien laughed. "I guess you could say that."
His humor caused Nihilan to laugh with him. When it faded, Nihilan pointed to the black scars on Damien's arms.
"So, what is all that?"
Damien, however, covered his skin by folding his arms. "I don't want to talk about it. I'll leave you alone, Naelen. Just don't ask about my past."
Nihilan shook his head. He wanted to correct Damien, but his father's words were resonating in his mind. Find a way to laugh, Kallus had said. So, Nihilan laughed.
"Sleep well. Freak."
Damien showed him a grin before turning. "Ass."