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Part Six

Of Friends and Fathers

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"I assume, then, Surier, that you are well?" The High Priest's voice was like ice.

"Um, well enough, sir, I suppose."

"Good. Now, perhaps, Tu Sharidell, you would be so kind as to find a more comfortable place for your repose for what's left of the night?" It was an obvious dismissal.

Karien rose, and bowed to the High Priest. "Yes, Your Grace." He turned back long enough to give me a sly wink, and left.

The High Priest studied me for a long moment. "It will most certainly be interesting to see what kind of cleric you become," he remarked finally. "Get some sleep." With that, he turned, and was gone as silently as he'd arrived.

Arikian took up Karien's seat by my bed. "You all right, lad?" he asked.

I thought for a moment, and then nodded. I felt weak and a bit disoriented, but I figured that was to be expected. A thought struck me. "What else is wrong?" Arikian looked startled, and I chuckled. "It was Karien in here when I awoke, not the sheriff's men, so I can assume I'm not under arrest. Karien said that Brainard still lived and the High Priest wondered what sort of cleric I would become, so I've not been kicked out. What's left? My father? Is he all right?"

"Relax, boyo, yer da's okay." He tipped his head thoughtfully. "You know, yer lucky t'was Karien and I who attended you. Had the High Priest heard what you had to say, you'd be out with a flea in yer ear," he remarked mildly.

I sucked in a breath. "How so?" I asked cautiously, after a few seconds.

"Ye knew about Brainard. Oh, don't get me wrong, I admire yer loyalties. I just don't think ye had them in t' right place, that's all. Among other things." He sighed. "We've managed to keep most of it from yer da, 'though, and t' High Priest. They don't know how much ye've been helpin' Brainard." Arikian sighed. "Lad, what am I to do with ye? Yer da's been hauntin' this place like a liche. He does care about ye, ye know."

I sighed. "I suppose so."

"No suppose about it, lad. He only wants the best fer ye. Are ye truly sure ye wants to be a priest? He'd accept it if ye didn't, you know." Arikian smiled slightly. "Oh, he might rant a bit, but he only wants ye t'be happy, boyo. That's all any of us want."

I stared at the blankets. I doubted that his words were entirely the truth.

Arikian chuckled. "Yer young, yet, lad. Think about it, okay? Only, ye'd best get some sleep now, or we'll both be in hot water."

I'm not sure when I gave over thinking and started sleeping. It was full daylight when I awoke again.

"Surier?" It was my father.

"Father?"He looked older, somehow, and tired. It surprised me.

"Son, if you'd wanted to go out carousing, surely you could have found a better place?" he asked dryly. I got the feeling that wasn't what he intended to say.

"I don't think that's going to be a concern for a while," I said in the same tone.

He smiled wanly. "How do you feel?"

I struggled to sit up. "Like I've been eating old socks."

"Here, this might help." He put another pillow behind me and handed me a glass of water. He chuckled ruefully. "You know, I haven't done this for years. Not since,..." he swallowed. "Not since your mother was alive."

"I guess I'm like you, I don't get sick very often," I remarked, watching him over the rim of the glass.

"You're a lot like me in a lot of ways," he noticed. He took a deep breath. "Surier, I'm sorry. Can you forgive me?"

I stared at him. "For what?"

He shrugged. "For not being a good father. For not being there when you needed me."

"Who says you're not a good father?" I asked, feeling my anger build. No one had the right to talk about my father that way.

He gazed down at his clasped hands. "I spoke with Arikian this morning."

"That little..." I started to sputter, but my father cut me off.

"No, Arikian was right. I have been treating you like a child."

I didn't know what to say to that, so I said nothing.

Sithian glanced at me, and smiled wryly. "Well, he was right on that account, anyway. He said you always knew when to speak, just not always the right words to use. Surier," he asked abruptly, "what do you want to do with your life?"

I turned the empty glass around in my hands, afraid to meet his eyes. "I'm not sure," I finally admitted.

He laid a hand on mine. "Son, look at me." I brought my gaze to the level of his chin. "Look at me," he commanded, taking my chin in his hand. I met his gaze defiantly.

He sighed and, after a moment, released me. "I do wish your mother were here. She'd know what to say." He chuckled ruefully at my expression, and, I think, at his memories. "Oh, yes, she always knew what to say. She had the knack of making people feel ... comfortable about things. I wish I had that talent." He sighed again. "But I don't."

He took another breath. "Surier." He stopped and began again. "Surier, you're a lot like your mother, you know. I could never understand her, either." He gave a short chuckle. "I could never understand why she agreed to marry me. When she died, I couldn't understand that, either. I didn't know what to do. I had a young child to care for and all I wanted to do was bury myself with her. But I couldn't. And to make matters worse, you reminded me too much of her. It hurt to see you. And you didn't understand. You couldn't. " He shook his head sadly. "But the thought of losing you scared me more than losing her ever did." His jaw clenched as he fought for control.

This was not a side of my father that I was used to seeing. It was disconcerting. I sat, silent, waiting.

"Surier, I can't hold you to me. And I can't make you into me or your mother. I know that. Now. " His voice had a bitter edge to it. "Arikian tells me you seem to have a talent for growing things. If you want, we could ask at the Temple of Silvanus, if they could take you as a novice?"

I sank back into the pillows. This is not something I had expected to ever hear my father say. Denounce my beliefs in Oghma? Just like that? To spend the rest of my days in an herb garden? I'll admit, the thought was tempting, but in all fairness I said, "I'll think about it."

My father nodded gravely. "Very well."

There was a soft knock at the door, and a cleric brought in a tray. My stomach made it's presence known. Loudly.

After the cleric had left, my father and I talked about anything and everything, just talked, for what seemed a long while. I began to feel tired, but I didn't want to end this time with him.

He stood up, suddenly. "You're tired, son. I shouldn't have kept you talking so long."

"We'll talk again?" I couldn't help but ask.

He smiled and nodded. Then he did something that he had never done before. He pulled the covers up closer to me and kissed my forehead. "Sleep well, son." And with that, he was gone.

I stared at the closed door until I fell asleep.

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