Saturday, August 11, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Best Left Unsaid

Canna sat quietly in her room immersed in a deep meditation. She rested on her heels; her eyes sealed as she focused on maintaining a steady breathing pattern while going over her tenets once again. Years had passed since the violent vixen first learned of her destiny with the Unfettered Queen, and the angry teen was now an adult preparing for the greatest challenge in her life. In a week’s time she would be heading north to meet with Bryth Wyrmslayer about a scouting mission over the wall, although the lie she told her family was that in a week’s time she would be embarking on a pilgrimage to visit various shrines to Avandra all across the world. In the eyes of the inconsiderate avenger, she felt everyone bought the story. Now she would enjoy her last week at home mentally preparing for this daunting task while trying to spend a few precious moments with her family as she knew they could very well be her last.

A heavy knock at her door startled Canna out of her trance. “Hello?” she muttered, a bit confused at who could be contacting her this late in the evening.

“It’s me.” Though he spoke so very rarely, Canna could still recognize her father’s voice. The faithful follower of Avandra stood and tucked her holy symbol back underneath her shirt as she ran to her door and opened it with an earnest curiosity. Kaevyn was still a large man, but Canna couldn’t help but find her views of him more modest ever since meeting the behemoth that was Cormag. The blacksmith was now well into his forties, and the signs of age were apparent in his features. His once boyish head of hair was now grayed and thinning from the back, and his strong facial features were now accented by worn wrinkles tanned from his long hours spent in the forge. He wasn’t ancient, but he was a man with more years behind him than in front of him anymore—not that anyone could tell given on how rarely he spoke of the past. He stared down at his daughter with the same expressionless eyes he always did. Canna had long since learned not to take it as an insult. She just knew it as her father’s peculiar way of carrying himself. “Canna, I need to do something back at the forge. Could you help me with it?” That was always the way Kaevyn spoke; abruptly to the point as though each word cost him a silver to say.

Canna slightly perked an eyebrow at the request. On rare occasions he would request the aid of his daughter to help him around the forge, though generally only for very mundane jobs like cleaning. She hadn’t been asked along for one of these last night chores since she returned from Arkhosia, so she assumed her younger brother had been enlisted in her stead. The eldest daughter was about to question why her father didn’t turn to his son for this task, but she realized this might be one of the last times she would speak to her father for a very long time so she forced a smile, nodded lightly, and followed behind.

The walk to the forge was made in complete silence, but that was not strange for the situation. Neither Corbett enjoyed idle chit-chat very much, and it was something they silently appreciated about one another. Canna occupied her mind by focusing on the sound of her father’s feet as they clapped against the paved stone streets of Southgate. Did his footsteps always sound so booming? Canna hadn’t really thought about it before, but her father had a very particular way of carrying himself. His shoulders were broad and straight; his back erect and forcing his view ever forward. Kaevyn may have been anti-social, but he clearly wasn’t shy if he walked with such power and confidence in his step. Canna wasn’t sure why it had taken her until now to really notice the pride with which her father carried himself. Maybe it was because she knew she likely wouldn’t see him again for quite some time, and she wanted to capture every nuance of his person in her memories. She thought back to her childhood and the few, but precious moments she shared with her father. Her daydreaming abruptly ended once she caught sight of the inside of the forge.

Canna was expecting the chamber to be covered in ash with random bits of steel strewn about the floors and shelves. Instead the cold cobble stone floors were neatly swept, and all of the weapons had been organized and stored away just as usual on a standard day of business. Canna was utterly confused, but her father pulled up a set of chairs and motioned for her to take a seat. Canna, feeling as though she was once again a child just about to be scolded, took a seat without speaking a word. Her father slumped into the other chair with a relieved sigh accompanying the groan of wood underneath his weight. For another moment the two sat in silence. Canna studied her father waiting for any of the telltale signs of his agitation she had memorized as a child, but her father seemed strangely at ease. Almost joyously so—although it was sometimes difficult to interpret the very picayune details of emotion in Kaevyn’s face. After a couple minutes had passed Kaevyn finally felt comfortable enough in his chair to reach out onto a nearby shelf and pull out a long wooden chest from behind a solid steel cuirass that Canna swore had always been at the forge.

The chest was long and thick, and constructed out of a well-polished wood. Canna stared at her father curiously as he positioned the chest on his lap before slowly lifting the lid. Inside was a long olive tinted bottle gently cradled by maroon silk. Kaevyn carefully lifted the bottle out of its casing before setting the remnants of the chest to the side. He studied the bottle carefully as Canna peered over his shoulder to examine the label. “Mountain Heart, Dwarven Whiskey” it read. Judging from the lavish container Canna initially presumed this was a legendary brew, but then she noticed the seal on top had long since been broken and more than half of the liquor was missing. Kaevyn paid no mind to his daughter’s curiosity choosing instead to grab a set of small glasses that rested on a table beside him. He diligently poured the whiskey into one of the glasses making sure to stop at precisely three quarters of the way up. He then turned to give his daughter the other glass. “You can clean it if you’d like.”

There was no explanation to why he was serving drinks or why he’d been keeping this stock of liquor secret, but if he was intent on sharing then the former mercenary would not decline his generosity. “No, that’s fine,” she said with a quick hand wave. The truth was she had drunk from cups far more filthy during her year in Arkhosia, but she would deliberately leave that detail out. In response her father poured a duplicate drink approximately measured at three quarters of the way full and handed it to his daughter. Canna took it with an unintentionally curt, “Thanks.” Kaevyn rested the bottle at his feet before cracking his back against his chair and then taking a long sip of his drink. Canna waited for any sign of emotion from her father to gauge what this drink was all about, but Kaevyn displayed no strong emotion other than a comforted contentment as he savored his whiskey.

Confused, but not unappreciative, Canna took a sip of Mountain Heart. It was immensely powerful even for a drinker who favored liquor with a punch. Canna nearly gagged at first as though she had ingested a brew meant for Dragonborns again. However just as quickly as the kick appeared it faded away into a vapid taste that left Canna wondering if she had just ingested medicinal alcohol. She nearly commented on the apparently poor quality of the drink when she suddenly sensed a very faint assortment of spices on her tongue. As the whiskey settled in her mouth she picked up a medley of subtle flavors that lacked a presence but, after swallowing they left the consumer in a comforted state. In was a bizarre blend to be sure, but Canna could tell it was one that had to be tolerated before it could truly be appreciated. She wasn’t sure why her father favored such a strange drink, but as the slightest curves of a smile grew on his face Canna knew that he enjoyed it.

“I’m proud of you.” Kaevyn’s single sentence broke the silence but left his daughter speechless. He didn’t stop to gauge her reaction or stare at her wide-eyed bewilderment, choosing to instead take another sip of his drink as he relaxed further. Canna had to consciously keep her jaw from dropping in response to her father’s praise. She had become used to being berated for her attitude and her lack of discipline by her parents over the years, and the violent vixen couldn’t even remember the last time one of her parents complimented her in any meaningful way. Against her will her cheeks began to blush, but internally she had no clue what she did to prompt any sort of appreciation. She was hesitant to say anything—afraid her father may retract his words if she inquired about the specifics. Several blissful moments passed by before Kaevyn finally elaborated. “It’s been a long time since your mother or I have been able to go to sleep without worrying about you.”

Canna’s good cheer came to a tragic end. She wouldn’t admit it, but she secretly hoped her father was referring to her noble fight against oppression as the reason for his pride, but it was clear he was still deceived by the illusion of Canna’s supposed life as a pious follower of Avandra. Canna wanted to be angry at her father for him still misunderstanding who she was at her core, but she couldn’t bring herself to despise Kaevyn for saying such an earnest thought. It was clear to Canna that her father was relieved to finally be able to say those words from the rare, slight vulnerability that was laced in his tone. She hated knowing that her father’s reassurance was only a mirage she provided so that she could keep her real agenda a secret. It was a cruel twist of fate that taunted her unspoken obsession with connecting with her father, but Canna went back to scowling the same as she normally did as she pushed those close to her further away. “Thanks,” she mumbled with any true appreciation in her inflection. Kaevyn’s stoic expression never changed, but Canna imagined he probably picked up on her unsubtle insincerity.

With one final sip Kaevyn finished his drink and set the empty glass down by his feet. Canna was stunned to see the speed at which he swallowed the whiskey; she herself had only managed to peck at her beverage in comparison.  She took the feat as an insult to her own fortitude and responded in kind by taking a deep gulp of the whiskey only to find herself immediately regretting that decision. The alcohol hit her like a punch to her delicate chin, and it took all of her self-control not to spit the contents back into the glass. Kaevyn didn’t seem to pay the reaction any mind though as he stood up and walked slowly over towards a collection of weapons that hung across the wall. Morningstars, glaives, daggers, and all assortments of arms in between rested carefully on hinges that lined the walls of the forge, but Kaevyn was focused on an enormous axe that seemed freshly crafted in comparison to the aged steel that surrounded it. The smith lifted his work from the wall and managed to dwarf the behemoth instrument in his hands.

“You should take this on your pilgrimage. You probably won’t be able to swing it, but seeing it should be enough to scare off thieves.” Once again Kaevyn’s voice carried a paternal pride in it, but now there was a concern mixed inside that Canna couldn’t ignore as he brought the brutal weapon over and set it beside her. Canna inspected the axe from top to bottom, and felt a tingle of intimidation run down her spine. The head of the axe was larger than the avenger’s torso, and thick enough that it could easily hew a well grown oak in a single swing. The handle was long, cold, and featureless sans a single point that took the place of the pummel. It didn’t need crude curves or elaborate decorations to command attention to its sinister purposes, and it seemed an appropriate weapon for a holy assassin.

Satisfied, Kaevyn returned to his seat and began pouring another glass of Mountain Heart. The drink rested casually on his knee as he stared forward towards his life’s work. Every weapon that hung on the wall was a mark of pride to the blacksmith; a testament towards his own self-validation. These instruments of battle were the reason he could support his family, and yet there was always a lonely feeling that crept up in the pit of his stomach when he stopped to admire them. It was a cold reminder of the man who threw away this same opportunity.

“I used to share these drinks with Leon.” The mention of her uncle’s name instantly snatched Canna’s attention as she whipped her head to face her father. Kaevyn’s eyes had begun drifting lower, but they kept a firm stare forward despite the lingering remorse slowly emerging in his lenses. “We used to share drinks just like this. We didn’t say a lot to one another, but it was something I always loved.” The slow cadence in his voice made Kaevyn’s monologue sound more like a eulogy as a powerful influence of sadness replaced his usual apathetic tone.  Canna shifted uncomfortably in her chair as her father spoke casually of his brother; an unspoken crime in the Corbett household. Normally it was due to the condescending nature of which Jude commonly referenced Leon causing Canna to get enraged, but now she just felt awkward as bittersweet memories filled her mind. She had long since passed the point where the mere mention of her uncle could bring her to her most extreme emotion, but she found her resilience tested more than she anticipated after hearing her father’s somber words melt away into a painful silence. She prayed that anything would break the quiet, and unfortunately got her wish.

“I wish I hadn’t let him go over that wall.” Canna’s ears perked again, but the maturing tears in her eyes were cut short by a glare. “I don’t know why he could never understand the impossible.” Canna’s teeth clenched and she felt her muscles begin to tense. “He could have lived a normal life. Had his own kids by now. And he threw that away to die for a cause no one cared about but him.” Canna’s right hand clenched tightly into a fist before releasing as she tried to hold back a vicious obscenity. She hated the notion that Leon died as a fool, but she took particular umbrage to the words “his own kids”. It seemed too personal; as if her father was actually daring to accuse his little brother of trying to steal the love his daughter—the very thought of which made Canna want to scream. How could a man so distant and unapproachable dare to accuse someone else of being emotionally inappropriate? Her lips were curling upwards, and her brows shifting into a fierce scowl as she eyed the axe beside her with very wicked intentions. Ironically though, it was Leon’s words that kept her from unleashing her rage. It was his first rule to Canna that she should always appreciate the value of family, and she knew if she acted on what her emotions told her to that she would make a decision she’d come to regret for the rest of her life. Her father may be ignorant and vapid, but it was Leon’s lesson that said she should always love him no matter what. She was still struggling to understand if that sentiment was true in reverse.

Kaevyn was ignorant to her daughter’s physical and mental conflicts as he found his mind wandering in memories he oft kept tightly to himself. He drifted back to days spent chasing his brother around Southgate when they were children; days when the values of complacency and war didn’t alienate the siblings from one another. A nostalgic reminder of the unconditional camaraderie of fraternity surfaced in Kaevyn’s mind, and the alcohol loosened his lips enough to say a set of words he otherwise would have buried deep in himself. “I miss him,” Kaevyn uttered with a suffering stare.

Those words struck Canna on a familiar level she never thought she’d share with her father. Canna implanted her own desperate whine into his voice, and mimicked the same fragile cry she uttered on so many lonely nights. Moments ago she was barely restraining herself from physically confronting her father, but now it was all she could do not to sob. If she hadn’t spent the better portion of the last decade mourning Leon’s passing she probably would embrace her father, but now all she could do was sit back and take another sip of her drink. She didn’t want to say a word. Nothing she could say would feel appropriate, and there was little room in her heart for sympathy at this point. Instead she sat quietly and let her father enjoy one last night embraced in the memory of a fool with the biggest smile.


Kaevyn is a bizarre guy to write for namely because I tend to rely on powerful dialogue to get across character motivations. The fact that Kaevyn barely speaks makes it so I have to get across his feelings mostly through subtleties. In the odd point he does talk, I need that line to carry a tremendous amount of weight without being awkward. In retrospect I wish I had made Kaevyn’s nature just over the top sexy. Probably would have made him easier to write.

Honestly though, Kaevyn’s distant nature is a big issue for Canna because after losing Leon she desperately wanted a father figure. Ironically enough, her father never was that for her. He’s always been a lunch-pail type of guy who works, goes home, and then just sits back and tries to appreciate his family. Unfortunately, he’s quite and emotionally stunted to the point where he tend to let his wife express his feelings for him. Thus he always comes off as the fly on the wall or the third wheel watching the conflicts in his family. It’s a situation where Canna loves her father, but she’s not close to him on any level. Of course, Kaevyn wasn’t close to Leon either which is something he’s come to regret.

These last two parts are designed to show Canna’s relationship with her parents. She has a slightly better relationship with her father, although that’s mostly because there’s not much of a relationship to speak of. The main difference however is their opinion of Leon. Jude hates the guy and doesn’t shed a tear that he’s gone, but Kaevyn does regret his brother’s passing. In his opinion, Leon threw away an amazing opportunity, but they were still brothers at the core. Family is important to Kaevyn just as it was to Leon. This is likely why Kaevyn is so quick to believe Canna’s lie about a pilgrimage. He’s quickly latched onto the idea that his daughter isn’t making the same mistake so that he can keep his peace of mind.

To Canna, her father is a good man, but a shitty father. Still, that relationship doesn’t necessarily ruin a family. In the final piece, Canna will have the conversation with her mother that spells an end to her place in the Corbett family, and makes the last significant event Canna underwent before heading north over the wall. Change Yourself, Change the World ends next week everybody. Hope you’ll enjoy the finale.

1 comment:

  1. Kaevyn (which took me 5 tries to spell correctly I'd like to add lol) is an interesting character. You don't see someone quite as emotionally stunted as he is in fiction. Not to mention usually the quiet ones are wise beyond their years sort but he isn't that either, just a father that can't relate to his daughter in the slightest. It was a good piece, nice to see the exchange carry out between them with so few words but still showing the meaning.

    That said, next week (the last one T_T) is the one I've been looking forward to the most. Can hardly wait.