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A Tribute from Imruk

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"I received a letter from your father. He is coming back."


His mother, sitting primly at her place next to his father's empty seat, announced. Aleci ignored the squeal of excitement from his younger sister, and pulled his face into a smile. 


"I assume Imruk surrendered?" said Aleci. 


"It would seem so." said his mother, "He wrote that he expects you to meet him when he arrives." a stern pause, "Properly dressed."


"Proper?" said Aleci, "What do you mean?"


"Don't play ignorant, Aleci," said his mother, "You and I both know of your-" she frowns severely, "relations. If you come dressed like you just came from one, I won't save you from your father."


Aleci wanted to say, she had never stepped in to save him from his father's sermons, but he decided against it. 


"But why only me? Won't you be there?" he asked. 


"I would." said his mother, "But these are his instructions to you. Specifically." she turned to his younger sister, "Now, Laria, are you supposed to be at your lessons or eavesdropping?"


He decided to excuse himself along with his sister before his mother turned her ire on him. A part of him wasn't sure what to make of her words. His father rarely wanted to see him, probably because, unlike the other men of the Tusirios family, he had never been adept at any martial field. From the age of seven, the look of constant disappointment was on his father's face every time he looked at Aleci, his only son. Obviously Laria couldn't serve alongside his father or he would have wanted to train her instead. Aleci thinks that his father had been mourning the lost of a continued military tradition in the family for the last fifteen years. Which, if you asked him, was too long. 


"Are you quite done ranting?"


He blinked, staring into the unimpressed eyes of Emos. The hetairikos sighed deeply, "You've told me this story half a dozen times. I'd love to hear more, but I have other clients as well. More amicable ones than you've been, at the very least."


"Sorry-" he meant to say, but Emos waved his apologies aside. 


"You've paid me for my time. It's enough." said Emos, "I'm still here if you want to have an actual good time instead of talking."


Aleci deposited the coins into Emos's outstretched hands as he left the lupanar, making sure to stop by the bathhouse before making the trip back to his father's house. He thought he had washed away the smell and adjusted his clothes adequately, but the look on his mother's face when she saw him, and the smirk on Laria's face told him otherwise. 


"You're in trouble!" Laria singsonged, twirling a ribbon in her hand, a strangely dressed doll in her other, "Double trouble."


"Hush, child!" chided his mother, she gave him an irritated look, "Your father's in the courtyard. You've kept him waiting."


It was short and to the point, and she turned to lead Laria away. Aleci made his way to the marbled courtyard, heart in his throat. He could hear voices as he approached, speaking in a foreign tongue. 


"I hope to make your son happy, Praefect."


"Oh, you would, you would ." the laugh, and Aleci shuddered upon recognition, was his father's, " I enjoyed your company, Finne."


"Thank you, Praefect Galer. I am honored. "


His father was sitting on the recliner, drinking deeply from a glass. Standing next to him was a curly haired man about the same age as he, dressed in the same clothes as Laria's doll. They both looked dusty from the road, his father's traveling cloak was streaked with mud, his beard unkempt. The other man had spotted such beard, and had, presumably access to a razor or he was a carrier, though why a carrier was doing in his father's house he had no idea.  When he entered, his father gave him an appraising look. 


"Late as usual." said his father, in lieu of a greeting, "Well then, Aleci, this is Finne-" he gestured towards the man standing by his side, "Your new wife."


Finne made a move to greet him, but Aleci brushed him aside, "Father what is the meaning of this?"


"Your mother and I have grown tired of your reputation for trysts and various-" Galer wrinkled his nose in disgust, "activities. I am being more than generous. I have accepted your preference for the company of men, but your various dalliances with the hetairikos would not result in any grandchild, and if it does, none I am willing to claim. I give you a compromise with Finne." here he gestured to the younger man again, "He's an intelligent lad, I've seen to it. You'll marry him, bed him, and give me a grandchild." he looked longingly into the distant, "It's about time I pass down my skills."


Aleci scowled deeply, shooting Finne an angry glare. There was nothing but confusion in the green eyes that stared back. 


"You want me to marry him?" Aleci snarled, stalking towards Finne who flinched away.


"Praefect Galer?" said Finne, a pleading note in his voice. 


Galer raised a hand, grey eyes stormy, "You will." he said, in a voice that gave no room for argument, "He was the best of the tributes from Imruk and I won't stand for his maltreatment. I've turned a blind eye towards your ways, but no more. Our family tradition must be continued. You should be happy-" he stared at Aleci in distaste, "I'm not asking you to exercise any skill you don't possess."