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My Name is Honor: Chapter 5 (Orin's tale part 1)
Orin's mother carefully spread the foul-smelling salve over his back as he shuddered and sobbed into his pillow. She held back her own tears at her youngest child's pain, though she knew it had been necessary. The boy had been petulant and disobedient to his father, a thing that was simply not tolerated in children, and for it he had received twelve lashes from a switch he'd had to cut himself. Orlagh had begged her husband not to do it, but Ronan would not bend. The older boys had been punished for lazing in the field when they were younger, but never like this, but then they had never challenged the authority of The Council to their father.
"Now, you stay on your belly a while, Orry, Momma will be back to check on you and bring some supper"
He whimpered into the pillow.
"What was that?"
"Pappa hates me!" he cried, sobbing all over again.
"Oh noo, no child." Orlagh crooned, sitting back down beside the boy to stroke his raven hair. "Your Father loves you more than anything, one day you'll understand, that's why he must punish you for saying such things. If you were to blaspheme outside of this home and someone else were to here...well, the Council would not be so kind as your Pappa was today."
"Hitting is kind?" the child croaked out between sniffles
"Oh Orry... It doesn't make much sense to you now, I'm afraid, but it will, love, I promise." She kissed his head and slipped out of the room to prepare supper.
His thoughts swirled into a tornado of confusion and anger, sweeping havoc across his mind. He wanted to hate his Father, but the thought itself brought up such guilt he couldn't bear it. The searing pain in his back was subsiding with the aid of Mother's herbal remedy, making it easier to forget the anger. His exhaustion had pulled him into a deep sleep by the time Orlagh returned with a bowl of stew.
"Apostle? why would you wanna do that?" Orin scrunched up his small face as if he smelled something unpleasant.
"Orin!" His older brother admonished him. "It is a great privilege! An honor! I will be working with men who speak to the Gods themselves!"
"I guess." Orin absently picked at a blade of grass.
"I'll get away from these stinking beasts too.." Kane tossed a rock in the direction of their father's flock.
He was the second oldest of the five boys, Orin the youngest. The eldest, Jarlath, had been selected four years before as an apostle as well. Orin, being only 3 years old at the time, had little memory of him, but Kane was his idol, his hero, and he would miss his brother terribly.
"I like the sheeps" Orin muttered, pulling the grass he'd been twirling in his small fingers taut between his lips
"Don't, you know I hate that sound." Kane warned playfully.
Orin grinned mischievously and blew over the single blade, creating a high-pitched whine, while Kane clapped his hands over his ears exaggeratedly.
"Come on, Or', Momma should be bringing lunch out any minute. Race you to the gate?"
"Aw, you always win." Orin groaned, tossing the grass away.
In a moment they were sprinting toward the gate, sending the sheep scattering across the open field.
The next day, representatives from the Council came to take Kane for his schooling. He had already studied since childhood years with the Priest Apostle at their church, but this would be different. Now he would be taught by Council members themselves, so that he might one day become a Priest Apostle as well, his family would not see him for several years. As the cart ambled away, Kane waving a final goodbye, Orin could not hold back the tears burning behind his eyes. He knew his father would scold him; "Men don't cry." he would say. As soon as Kane was out of sight, though, Orin's sadness morphed within him to a rage he could not contain.
"I hate the Council! They just take everything! take my brother! What do they give us!?!"
The shock of the outburst from the small boy wore off all too quickly for his parents. In a second, he was being hauled to the barn, held fast by his father's strong hand, the other hastily undoing his belt.
This time he received no salve for the welts across his back and legs. He was left in an empty stall in the barn, on clean straw at least, and his mother was not allowed to come to him. He had heard his father speaking harshly to her outside.
"He didn't learn last time because you ran to comfort him the moment it was over! You must let the lesson sink in, give him time to get respect for the pain, and then you may go to him."
Orin lay the rest of the day, night, into the next morning before the door creaked open. His mother, her face wet with tears, carried him into the house where she had filled the washtub with cool, fresh, spring water, infused with one of her many herbal remedies. After he had soaked and eaten, Orin was sent to bed, only to be roused shortly thereafter by his father.
Ronan perched on the edge of his son's bed, his heart heavy at the sight of the boy's small back, the welts, though soothed by his wife's treatments, still red and swollen. He reminisced about the boy's infancy, how frail he'd been, and how they'd hidden from everyone so that he would not be taken and altered, so that he might grow into a man and have a family as he deserved to. It had been their greatest sin against the Council, and if known they would have been marked as blasphemers. But that was in the past, and though small for his age, he had grown out of his sickly stage and in fact, had not been ill a single day past his first birthday.
"Orin, look at me son." he said, knowing the boy was feigning sleep.
He rolled onto his stomach, then the other side to face his father.
"I have a story to tell you."
Orin's small brow furrowed. His father did not tell stories.
"It will help put things in perspective for you, I think, to understand that you must conduct yourself in a manner fitting the Chosen."
"Chosen?" Orin had heard the term before in church, but as his mind was often elsewhere during service, he had never retained it's meaning.
"Yes, The Chosen, us, you and I, mother, your brothers, and all of the people here. You know about the great wars, yes? The Otherlands?"
He nodded, Kane had told him many frightening stories about the old times.
"Alright, well, when the rest of the world was turned to ash and death, we were spared. The Gods themselves smiled on our people, and chose us to save above all humanity. Then we were done another service and provided with a link to the Gods, so that we might never lose sight of them; The Council."
Orin scrunched up his face, prodding Ronan to sharply tap his cheek with his open palm.
"Stop that. Now, the Council protects us, provided us with a barrier between ourselves and the Otherlands, governs our villages, and brings the words of the Gods to our ears. You must respect them in the same way you would you mother or me, but even more. You must revere them, love them, and trust that they know what is best for us all. It's making up all our own choices that got humans in trouble in the first place. We need a guide."
Ronan could see he was losing the boy's attention.
"Here, let me just get to it. There was, not so very long ago, a boy and a girl who lived near each other and grew up playing together. Their parents found them fine matches for marriage, but as they grew older they were unhappy. They wanted to be with each other, not with whom they'd been paired for marriage. They were deceitful and went against the Council's ordinance and their own family's wishes to be together. It was discovered the Hazel, the girl, now a woman, was with child.-"
"With child?" Orin interrupted his father
"Yes, like when your Momma had you, son. Now don't interrupt. These two had committed a great crime but only the Woman was arrested, for she would not name her child's father. She was placed in a cell under the church, to be sent to the Council for judgement the next day. That night her lover, Aengus, crept into the church and murdered the guards holding Hazel. They escaped into the night, but not without pursuers. The Council itself brought swift justice down upon them, and they were hung by their necks in the forest, their bodies left to the buzzards, put to death by their friends, neighbors, and families. It was necessary, you see, Orin, they deliberately disobeyed the laws we live by, committing more sins than can be forgiven."
"What about the baby?" Orin questioned, seeming to have missed the lesson of the story entirely.
"The baby was spared, Orin, given to next of kin to raise. You're focusing on the wrong thing, my son. The point is no matter what we fancy saying or doing, we must always abide by the law set forth by our Council. Do you understand?"
Orin blinked, scowling slightly. How could that be more important than what happened to the baby? he wondered silently while nodding to his father that he understood.
"Now then. No more of this foolishness. You mother cannot bear it. Is that understood as well?"
"Good lad. Now, if you're feeling well enough, I believe I could use some help repairing a few fence posts."
When, at age ten, it was time for him to begin learning a trade, he knew at once what he wanted to learn. Since he could walk, Orin longed to explore and longed to learn from one of the great hunters who lived near the village. But being from a family which had already produced two apostles, he knew he would be expected first to at least attempt to follow in their footsteps. His mother had been hinting at it for at least a year, especially since his brothers, the twins,Ultan and Keiran left home to take their wives. Only Jarlath and Kane had gone into service for the Council and while that in itself was a great honor, it was every parents dream to have as many children as they could serving in the name of the Gods. Orin loved his mother dearly, she had always been the softer side of the force that was his parents, and so he found himself agreeing to at least spend one week with the Priest Apostle. Orin tried his best, but he was a headstrong child, and submission did not come naturally to him as it seemed to come to his brothers. He found after the first day he despised the other children also studying under the Priest. Stoic, mechanical puppets, all only regurgitating the rhetoric they'd been spoon fed since their birth. Shortly into the third day, He sneaked away while the other children sat listening to their lessons and wandered the fields until near nightfall when he decided he would attempt a ruse on his parents, pretending as if he'd been in his lessons all day.
The moment he came in, Ronan knew the boy would lie.
"Where have you been, Orin?"
"Come and sit with me, then, while your mother sets the table. Tell me what you've learned."
Ronan led him into the sitting room and lit his pipe as Orin perched nervously on the edge of a chair. Before the boy could say a word, He began.
"You know, son, you have been offered this opportunity because our family has a history. We have served the Council well, dating all the way back to the Great End. We have been honorable and devout. Are you part of this family, Orin?"
"I said are you part of this family, boy, are you produced of my line?" His voice remained steady though he could not keep it from rising slightly in the anger he was trying to control
"Yes..Pappa... I am.." Orin was confused, unsure if he was caught in his lie or if he had offended his father some other way realizing.
"Then how is it you have walked into our, my home and not only dishonoring our family but lying to me?"
The color drained from Orin's face. He was caught.
"Two of your brothers before you honorable serve the Council now. Ultan and Keiran did not have the minds for it, they are natural with a flock as I am. But you... Ronan puffed his pipe thoughtfully; "There is something else in you."
"I-I...." Orin stammered desperately grasping for the right words.
"Stop. You sneaked away from your lessons. Admit it, the Priest's messenger has already been here."
"Go to the barn"
Orin heard his mother draw a sharp breath in the kitchen and got up begrudgingly from his seat, feeling no rush to get to his punishment.
Ronan brought his fist down with a crash on the side table.
"Go!" he roared.
It was severe, to say the least. When the thing was done and his father had hung the horsewhip back on the wall, Orin remained motionless on the barn floor, having lost consciousness somewhere near the end. Ronan lifted the boy and put him on an old horse blanket he'd laid out in a stall, locking both the stall and barn door behind him, for he knew his wife too well. She was a good woman, but weak when it came to her children. He knew, even after all these years, he would go in the house to find her sobbing somewhere. Sure enough, she was, and the moment she saw her husband, and the blood on his clothes from lifting his son into the stall, she attempted to rush out the door. Ronan caught her easily enough, and though she cursed him and battered his chest with her fists, he held her fast. He knew it would pass, she would come to her senses and know it had been necessary as it always was.
Orin woke a few hours before sunrise, roused by the pain in his small body. He got to his feet4wtsg finally after a few painful, failed attempts only to find the stall door locked. He began to pace, feeling his anger rise. Not the familiar, fleeting tantrum of a child, there was something that had changed in him, a hungry kind of rage that would not be satisfied easily. When the sun rose and his father entered the barn, Orin waited patiently at the stall door.
"Go inside and wash, you will be late to your lessons."
"Father-" Orin began, a fresh anger for his father boiling within him.
Ronan held up his hand. "You are not going back to the Church."
Orin's mouth went dry. He had done it this time, he would be sent to the Council, maybe hanged.
"I have arranged an apprenticeship with Fennick MacReachtagain, he will teach you to track and hunt. It is clear the life of an Apostle is not your path and I cannot keep you here to work the farm."
"You don't want me to continue?"
"Of course we do, it would be of the highest honor, but not all have it within them to lead that life. You have always enjoyed the wilderness, I thought you would be happy."
Orin's mind reeled. When had his father ever been concerned with his happiness? Had it not always been about bringing pride to the family, being devout and obedient? None of these questions found their way to his lips, though, and all he could utter was "Thank you, sir."
His father nodded curtly and walked on into the barn to begin the day's work, Ultan and Keiran would be along shortly to help begin the season's shearing.
Orin raced into the house, feeling renewed. Not even the the pain and stiffness from the criss-cross of lash marks cut across his back could bother him now. He dunked briefly into the fresh water already drawn for him in the washtub and saw the water go rust-colored from the crusted blood that washed away, but it mattered to him not. All he cared about was never having to study in the church again and spending his days in the wilderness with the best hunter known to their village. Orin had only seen him once, when he had accompanied Father to their small market. Lorcan MacReachtagain, called simply Rafter by most, well known for his trapping and the fine furs he brought to trade, said to have once hunted for The Council themselves.
Orlagh watched her son pulling his shirt down over his scarred, wounded back and cursed herself again for pushing him into studying with the apostles. His last punishment lay on her shoulders completely and she knew it. She had been overwhelmed with relief when Ronan decided to ride out of town following Orin's beating to see Rafter. It had taken him hours to convince the reclusive, irritable man to take on such a young apprentice, but when Ronan offered a third of his wool from this year's shearing, the deal was set. Orlagh prayed this would give Orin what he needed to focus his energies on and save him from further punishment.
Her son's voice shook her from her swirling thoughts.
"I said g'bye" Orin said, taking a steaming fresh roll from the basket cooling at the open window.
"Alright then, you behave and listen to Raf- to Mr. MacReachtagain, understand?"
She felt her eyes begin to tear again at how easily he left behind the savagery which had been wrought upon him only hours before, his eyes light, face smiling, he showed no indication of even stiffness in his movements, Orlagh had never felt more pride in her son. Unexpectedly Orin threw his arms around her waist, mumbling something unintelligable into her gingham apron.
"What was that?" she asked as her battle to hold back tears was miserably lost.
"I'm sorry, Ma, for all the trouble."
For Orlagh, it was too much. All that had been done to him, nessecary or not, and here he was apologizing to her! She did her best to disguise the sob escaping her as laughter.
"Oh my dear, enough of that. You go now, off with you!" She kissed the top of his head and turned him toward the door, quickly wiping her cheeks.
Orin did not need to be told twice. He bolted into the yard, sharp green eyes focused on the worn dirt path leading from the road to their farm. It wasn't long before a figure came into view, appearing as a mountain of fur atop a horse too short for the size of it's load. As it drew nearer the moutain began to reveal features of a man, and legs dangling dangerously low against his steed's sides. Rafter had arrived.