“I’m home!” Vernon projected his voice through the cozy house that had quickly become a home to him.
“Big brother!” Randolph, Ylva, and Embla, his younger siblings came running to warmly welcome him home after an arduous forum with a group hug.
“Well, welcome home, my hard-working nephew. Glad to see everyone made it home safely,” Manning, a middle-aged, but greying man, gave Vernon a warm smile but shot a couple glares at Randolph and Ylva.
“I am, too. You two took quite a risk coming to see me. Between Skógerblóði, the Hollow Song, and the mages, I was worried you wouldn’t make it home,” Vernon nudged his twin siblings roughly.
“Yeah, well, you taught us well. We made it there fine,didn’t we?” Randolph rebutted. Vernon and Manning rolled their eyes.
“Making it past my watchful eye was quite a feat. I was quite a hunter when I was still with the clan,” Maning boasted.
“It wasn’t exactly hard when you were asleep,” the children giggled.
“Also, wasn’t that quite a few years ago? I remember you leaving a lot up to my parents even before you decided to settle down,” Vernon ribbed.
“Oh hush now, I did plenty. And as for you youngsters, isn’t it past your bedtime? I know you wanted to stay up to welcome your brother home, but come now, let’s get you all in bed.”
After Manning got everyone to sleep, or, at least, in bed, he came and sat with Vernon.
“So I hear you’re set to become a priest? I take it those lessons helped?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Vernon sat staring at the fire that was keeping the home warm.
“Ya know it won’t be easy? When’s that ever stopped ya, though” Manning chuckled.
Vernon just sat, deep in thought, still staring at the fire. Manning sighed.
“I miss them, too.” Vernon snapped a look of both shock and a touch of anger at Manning, “I know, I know. What they did was horrible, but they’re still family.”
“I just can’t forgive them. I can’t reasonably expect them to take care of me or anyone for that matter. They’re monsters,” Vernon uttered this cold vitriol, tears forming in his eyes.
“…But you still miss them, don’t you? I see the rations you make and take to forum, hear the stories you still tell your siblings and I’m sure others you meet in town. I can feel it in your heart, Vernon”
Vernon shuddered, despite being comfortably warm, clenched his eyes shut, tears streaking his cheeks, and, finally, turned to his uncle’s shoulder, sobbing.
It was Manning’s turn now to stare into the fire, gently stroking his nephew’s back as the dark of the night grew.
As Vernon’s cries waned, Manning began humming a soft melody to soothe both Vernon’s and his own soul.