Short explanation: This is origi-fic. It's set in my Alex/Darrvyn universe. Let me know what you think. ^_^ (For those who don't remember, or never knew, Corwin is the Dragon Company's Weaponsmaster.)

The word (#65): Impression

He's a scrawny little thing. Not much meat on his bones. Hardly even worth the trouble. So why is it that I feel so compelled? Why do I feel this driving need to protect him? Maybe because it's my fault that his parents are dead. Maybe because of some deeply buried sense of loyalty to king and country. Maybe because he just looks so damned pathetic when he stands out there in the rain. All alone. No one and nothing to turn to but a pair of cement blocks in the ground. Damn but there are times when I hate my conscience...

Corwin stepped forwards, closing the distance between himself and the forlorn figure of the young prince. The king and queen had died only one short week ago and it was already as though their son would follow them into the grave. Corwin didn't want that, couldn't stand the thought of this particular death on his head. Not when he'd already failed so miserably. He put a hand out, rested it lightly on one rain-soaked shoulder, "Your Highness... it's enough. It's time to come inside." No response. He tried again, "Your parents wouldn't want you to get sick."

The prince flinched under his hand, then twisted away from him. Not for the first time, Corwin cursed his inability to handle children. He wasn't any good at it, had never wanted to be any good at it. This was really some sort of sick joke that the world was playing on him, dumping him with a kid at this point -- and one so important, to boot! Losing more and more patience with every drop of rain that hit his unprotected body, Corwin snapped at the kid, "Damn it, Darrvyn! It's late, it's cold and it's damned wet out here. And I am not going to stand here and hover over you if you insist on this stupidity. If you die now, they win. Do you want that? Do you think your parents would want that?"

Those slim shoulders, ones that already carried far too much weight, curled inwards, hunching down. Corwin pressed on, determined that his young charge should hear what he had to say, even if he wouldn't listen, "You wanna know something boy? I had a choice that night. I had a choice to save your parents or to save you. And Shakers help me, I'm starting to think I made the wrong choice."

He paused in his tirade, taking the boy by the shoulders and pulling him around to face him. The boy refused to look up, hiding his tears under the veil of his dark bangs. Corwin felt a stab of remorse. He's just a kid. He's so damned young... But he needs to learn if he's to survive. And the most important lesson of all is strength. He needs to be strong if he's to have any chance at all. Otherwise Cynrik will kill him. He'll never stand a chance.

Kneeling down in the mud at his prince's feet, Corwin forced the boy to meet his gaze. He lowered his voice, gentled it for his next words, "I made my choice. It's done. Nothing will change it. For better or for worse your parents are dead and you're alive. Wishing it were different won't change that fact. Now, my decision-making is done. It's your turn to make a choice. You can prove me right... or you can prove me wrong. Which will it be?"

Darrvyn wiped his eyes on a sleeve even wetter than they were. He then took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders. Determination filled his silver eyes and one small fist clenched at his side. It was the first time since he'd met the lad that Corwin saw any of Bryce in him. His king would have been proud. The boy looked at the graves one last time, then turned his back on them and strode resolutely away into the rain and fog.

Corwin shivered, watching the boy's retreating back. He shivered and he wondered if by being so harsh with him, he'd made yet another mistake. Only time would tell.

To be continued...

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