Varis zos Galvus is a man of few words. Moreso now than ever, as he sits on the edge of a thin white bed far too small for any respectable pureblood. But he’s grown used to it in the past week he’s spent here, laying motionless as per the Medicus’s orders. ‘You need your rest,’ the man had said, ‘And minimal stress. Please, Your Radiance.’
But Varis has had enough. What work remains left undone in his absence, what fuckery lies afoot in regards to his terribly wayward son? The nurse attending him glances nervously to the door as Varis’s head turns towards it. She knows exactly what he’ll ask and doesn’t quite want to answer.
“Where is my son?”
The nurse sets down her clipboard and lowers her head. “Your Radiance, it is ill-advised to seek Lord Zenos’s company at present.”
“Tch. When is it not?” Varis flicks a lock of hair over his shoulder, out of his face, and stands. “Hrk!” Oh, that hurts. He presses a hand to his stomach, half expecting it to come away bloodied and shaking. But his stitches hold, and the nurse watches him carefully. He meets her eyes for a fraction of a second before she looks away. “What?”
“He is… under heavy guard at present. Highly unstable.”
The nurse pauses. “…van Baelsar’s, Sir.”
An incredulous smile creeps across Varis’s face and gets no further than a twitch at the corners of his lips. “Van Baelsar?” He sucks in a sharp breath, thinking for a moment.‘Oh, he’s got balls to be ordering my people around.’ Surprising, but not wholly unexpected. “Let me-” He tries to stand again, and manages to right himself despite the awful stabbing pain in his gut. Zenos’s sword twists again and again and there’s nothing there. “Hrghh. Where is he?”
“Van Baelsar’s whereabouts are unknown, but-”
“No, Zenos. My son. My foolish little usurper, where is he?”
The nurse checks her clipboard. It’s shaking. “…His private quarters.”
Without another word, Varis sets off – garbed in little more than a white hospital gown that doesn’t even reach his knees. Nobody protests his purposeful stride through the palace, though he does garner a few strange looks (and salutes) from the guards. Servants skitter out of his way long before he can even bump into them, his pace much slowed by the weariness dragging his body towards the ground. Yet Varis remains as strong and stoic as always, at least on the outside where he may be perceived as His Radiance, unbowed, unbroken. It takes fifteen minutes to reach the northeastern corner of the Palace, where the royal suites are guarded by more men than Varis ever recalls seeing. Outside his own quarters stand Julia and Annia, his own personal protectors who clearly didn’t expect him to be out and about so soon. He ignores them, for he must act with haste before his aching heart betrays him like it has done so many times before.
When he emerges from his quarters, he’s wearing a long, loose robe the likes of which bitter Senators and other has-beens of the Republic cling to amidst the tides of an ever changing world. His son would drown him in his own blood yet he clings to life, for better or worse, for Garlemald and his people most of all.
With his hands warm inside the robe, he nods to the guards outside Zenos’s room. They look at him, and he looks back. The reinforced magitek door slides up a moment later and Varis walks through to see his son hunched in a corner, hair plastered to his sheet-white face. He looks neither small nor afraid but rather bestial, like a huge, overgrown genetic mishap waiting to be tossed a bone. His wide, ceruleum-blue eyes stare at nothing, thickly muscled arms wrapped around his body and clawing holes into his skin. Varis approaches him free of judgement, tall and sagelike, nowhere near as imposing as he’d like to be. The sorrow writ in the grooves of his soul does not reach his eyes – not like Zenos cares to read it, anyway. He can’t. Resonant though he is, the prince’s neck is collared with an aetherial suppression device used to control savage casters and other unsavory folk. Locked out of his aethers, Zenos is forced to contend with his humanity, his weakness, and the failings of his race.
Zenos twitches, but doesn’t dare look up. Not until Varis reaches out and puts a hand on his head, stroking soft golden hair with a firm, familiar touch (and it’s been so long…). He glances right, then up, but can’t yet meet his father’s gaze. Molten gold, no- muted now that Varis is so tired he can barely stand. Zenos shifts to rise, Varis stepping back to give him space. For a moment they stand there, Zenos against the wall with Varis before him just staring at each other in silence. It is their way, after all, for they are Galvii – men who know not how to speak of the heart when the mind will get them so much further.
It is Varis who speaks first.
“I forgive you.”
Of all the things flickering through Zenos’s mind, he certainly didn’t expect that, and shock yanks his lips apart, his teeth cold and bare.
Varis shakes his head, and opens his arms. “Come here.” Meaningless platitudes creep across his tongue and back down his throat- ‘I know you are afraid, that you don’t know any better.’ Zenos does know better – he is a man, not a dog, no matter how he behaves like the latter when the mood strikes. “Come.”
Zenos moves not one ilm, and so Varis cajoles him into an awkward embrace with his right arm, left coming around a moment after. Zenos shuts his eyes, face pressed into his father’s shoulder and senses narrowed to softness, silk and latent strength. Then the feeling of fingers in his hair, cradling his head in the way Varis would hold him when he was yet young, and demanding his attention at all hours of the day.
“Shh,” Varis whispers, lightly massaging his son’s scalp as tears trickle down his gaunt cheeks. “I forgive you.” His voice cracks to nothingness as the dagger sinks into Zenos’s back, piercing a heart so blackened it cannot remember how to bleed red. “I do.”