Tara

Nervous, for some reason or another, did not seem like quite the appropriate term for the emotion Reginald felt as he stood outside one of the wards located at the Cerra Manor Medical Bay. It was far closer to apprehension, or rather, the anxiety one might feel standing upon the precipice of a cliff or if one were staring into the eternity of an oceanic plunge. He took a deep breath as he waited, a teddy bear tucked beneath his arm. He had intended it for Oberyn.

He examined the bear for the dozenth time, personifying it with idle imagination. He let his mind wander, imagining if it had a preference for the kind of child that came to possess it or if all teddy bears were resigned to their fate, eager to love their children with equal ferocity. It was a white teddy bear of quality material, more humanoid in proportions. It was dressed as a miniature Holder might have been, clad in a blue tunic. The only difference from its original design was instead of the Sakakibara family crest adorning its chest, it featured the sigil of Lady Shalee Lianne.

The twin white doors slide open with the sound of an airlock, a pediatrician exiting and accompanied by a pair of medical technicians. The doctor gave a silent nod to Reginald, the unspoken signal that there were no perceivable issues. The Holder, recently elevated back to the position by Lady Shalee Lianne, entered the medical chamber, a little wary of what he would find.

The bay had been converted for a child’s usage. In addition to the standard medical gurney and monitoring equipment, the bay had taken on the persona akin to a child’s playroom: A blackboard with different colors of chalk sat on the wall opposite the gurney, a multi-colored plastic table sat in the center of the room surrounded by similarly-colored chairs and covered in crayons and drawings. a toy chest was open with dolls in various dresses strewn about before it. He looked around from item to item until his eyes fell upon the sight of a little girl, wearing a blue dress and laced with white, staring out of the window of the medical bay. She sat on a simple wooden chair, her hair not curled but instead laying in a ponytail over her right shoulder.

He cleared his throat to indicate  as he approached, “Tara?”

She didn’t stir.

He gingerly picked up one of the child chairs and placed it next to her, taking a seat upon it. Despite the difference in size between the chairs, when seated, the pair were roughly of the same height. Reginald preferred it that way–he didn’t want to look menacing or intimidating to the little girl. He sat in silence with her for several moments, allowing her to become acclimated to his presence on her own terms and in her own time. He followed her gaze out of the window, towards a passing ferry rounding a cape south of Lady Lianne’s Holding, most likely carrying tourists out on a pleasure cruise through the warm tropical waters.

“Are you a Holder?” She broke the silence, her eyes staring out towards the horizon once the ferry had left view.

He looked at her for a moment, surprised at the brevity, then nodded, “I am.”

“My father is a Holder.”

“I am aware,” Reginald responded, the image of Lord Searie’s charred flesh on the pyre built of driftwood sending a shiver down his spine.

“When he goes home, he will kill them all.”

So she didn’t know. He sat there, mulling over his next move, at that impossible crossroad between protecting the girl’s innocence and treating her like an adult. On the one hand, she had suffered the death of her complete family–adding the grief of the death of her father would only cause her additional pain. But on the other hand, the voice of cynicism wrestling with that of a gentle hand, she had seen her family killed in front of her. She had no more innocence. What more would it add to say that her father was also dead?

He took a deep breath, “He won’t be going home.”

“Is he dead?” She asked, matter-of-factly, her hazel eyes lost in the shimmering water.

Reginald nodded, “He is. I’m sorry, Tara.”

“Am I the Holder?”

Reginald raised a brow, surprised once more at the query, at the monotone, at the subject, at the concern, “In a way, yes. You will assume your position at the Searie Holding when you reach the age of majority.”

“How long is that?”

“How old are you?”

“Ten.”

“Eight years.”

She was silent for a few moments, then said, “I will kill all the Minmatar.”

He frowned at the genocidal declaration, though explaining the nuances of demographics would be lost on a normal ten year-old, let alone one that had watched Matari rebels murder her family in front of her eyes. He chewed his lip, wishing there was more he could do for her, wishing he could put her mind at ease, to move it back towards grief and away from revenge. Revenge was a fire that would consume her as it had consumed him.

“I don’t have a family anymore,” Reginald muttered quietly.

Her ears perked at his confession, she turned her head to look at him, her eyes glancing over a kindred spirit, “How did you lose them?”

“I purged my Holding of people I didn’t like. My wife left me and my son was born sometime after–I don’t even know what day. And I don’t know what he looks like.”

She looked at him for a moment, then turned her attention to the teddy bear in his hands, “Was that supposed to be for him?”

He nodded, then presented the bear to her, placing it in her hands. She looked it over with child-like interest, running her tiny fingers over the luxurious fabric and fur.

“But now he’s yours.”

“His name is Whitworth.” She said–by giving it a name, she declared her acceptance and ownership.

“All right,” Reginald cracked a smile.

This would be a long eight years.

 

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Empty Hope

He stared into the empty bottle for a few minutes, then cast it aside with the rest. No answers at the bottom of this one either. He rose to his feet and shuffled over to his bed. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. His writing desk was covered with dozens of unfinished letters, each one beginning the same way: “My Dearest and Most Beloved Katerina.”

He fell onto his bed. It was cold, as it had been ever since he had abdicated from his position as Holder in Myyhera. Through his exile in SAH-AD to when Lady Lianne herself visited him to elevate him to a minor Holder position within her own Holding, he had been alone. The room was empty, stripped bare of sketches and memories. What more was there to do?

He reached across for his neocom, sliding in the datachip that Sahriah Bloodstone had provided him. The image flickered on to a camera floating above a podium in his former Holding. The subject was a little girl, six years of age, bedecked in finery, medals, and ribbons establishing her formal rank as Holder–all tailored to her size. The recently elevated Lady Rebecca Sakakibara. She wore a sash over her epaulet-laden uniform, speaking into the microphone with well-rehearsed but poorly-chosen words. Exoneration of all members of the former government.

The effect in the crowd to her speech was easy to spot. Ripples of discontent, anger, and even the eruption of outright threats. Templar and kameira sent from the Classiarii temple stood guard before her, but the assembled thousands were quickly devolving into a riotous mob. Only by the intervention of Katerina, whom he had named regent before abdicating, did the crowd even become slightly placated.

He sighed after closing the neocom, “What a disaster.”

He had hoped that the situation in Myyhera would have caused Katerina to at least contact him for advice for some help in navigating the politics. But that had not been the case. Instead, he had been banished from the holding. And now here he was, a permanent fixture of Cerra Manor, part ghost and part drunk, trying to find solace in bottle after empty bottle.

His mind wandered to the night of the attack, how Minmatar terrorists had stormed Cerra Manor, placing everyone in danger. The stench of battle had overwhelmed the beauty of the Terrace, burning hulks of buildings and ships smoldering in ruin. He remembered the smell of charred flesh–one of Lady Lianne’s neighboring Holders burned at a pyre on the beach.

“Thank God for the Templar,” He murmured to himself as he accessed the security footage for the thousandth time.

An image popped up of “Lord” Tigerfish Torpedo cowering during the battle. A pang of rage flowed through Reginald. He had volunteered to investigate the fire on the beach–the man being burned alive–to which, Lady Lianne agreed. As he was stepping away, Tigerfish blurted out an order to check on the speedboat. It was absolutely appalling and surreal–a man was being burned alive and the only thing that “Lord” Tigerfish could think of was the safety of an inanimate object. A true coward, a spineless fool, and yet, once the battle had finished, Lady Lianne threw herself into his arms and exclaimed, “You were so brave!”

How could she love that man?

But he had checked his anger, of course. He had left the Terrace with Sahriah Bloodstone to visit the Searie Estate and what they had found was utterly appalling. He forced back the sensation of vomit as his mind replayed the grotesque reality of what had taken place. He remembered the cut of meat presented by the terrorist playing a butler named “Gotfrik,” complete with roasted vegetables and red potatoes, paired with a decent wine. He remembered the taste. He remembered swallowing.

“What cut of meat did you say this was?”

“Oh, I believe it is from Lady Searie’s upper torso.”

He rushed over to the side of the bed and disgorged the contents of a night’s worth of drinking. There was nothing solid, only the sickening splatter of colored alcohol.

He was a mess and he knew it–a far cry from the man who once ruled a significant portion of Myyhera’s surface. He rolled onto his back. Being drunk was the only way he knew how to cope, the only way to take the edge off of the pain, the loss, the grief–the knowledge that he would never be the father he had wanted to be for nine long months.

He smiled to himself, half delirious, his mind in a daze, “You’ll have your mother’s eyes, won’t you? Oberyn?”

He felt the warm of tears rush down the sides of his cheeks, silent reminders that somewhere deep within him he could still feel the emotions of broken humanity even if did his utmost to dull his senses with drink. As he stared at the ceiling, a quiet thought slithered into his mind, past the eternal promulgation of “You have no family.”

There is a way to redeem yourself.

He glanced over to his neocom, desperately typing as the thought took root and germinated. He could be a father. He could save a life. He could finally begin making amends for his wrongs, his mistakes, his sins.

A voice answered on the other end of the neocom, “Yes?”

“This is Lord Reginald Sakakibara,” He mustered the remaining shreds of his noble upbringing for the sake of his voice, “There is a patient in the Medical Bay. A little girl. Perhaps ten years old–a survivor from the Searie Estate.”

“Yes, my lord, what of her?”

I wish to adopt her. 

For My Son, Oberyn

My Dearest Darling Little Boy,

It will be several years before you are old enough to read this letter, to understand the meaning of its contents. But I am confident that when you do become of sufficient age, that your mother will be kind enough to read these words to you; either before a bedtime story that I will not be present for, or while you sit on her lap next to a fireplace that I did not stoke.

It pains me to know how many moments of your childhood that I will miss: your first words, your first steps, your first dreams. I think of you in every moment, wishing that I could be there, to be a real father to you. But my darling boy, I fear that may never come to pass.

I hurt your mother immensely and in doing so, ruined the sacred bonds of holy matrimony that bound us together. She has every right to keep you away from me. I was a monster to her and while I make every effort to amend my ways, I would only be a horrendous father to you.

I missed your birth as a result.

I have not seen what you look like–the color of your hair, your eyes. I hope that you have your mother’s emerald eyes. But it is selfish of me to dwell on what I have not and may never see. To spend precious moments with you and your mother, the three of us happy, is as distant a possibility as a second Imperial excursion to Jovian space.

But you are too young to understand the reference. Please forgive my rambling.

My darling boy, how I wish to be a father to you, but as I cannot be in person, I can only leave you with a lesson to live by. My dearest Oberyn, as you grow older, do not follow in my footsteps. Everything that I have ever done has only brought pain and misery into God’s world and I wish to spare you that agony. Live a life emulating not my own but your mother’s. Do not be me. Do not commit my sins. Though it saddens me that that is all I can leave you with given our separation, it is also the single most important gift I can give you. I wish for you to be surrounded with love in your life. Never take it for granted. Cherish those around you.

Brush your teeth, wash your face, and be the gentleman that I could not be.

Take care of your mother for me. I love you both very much.

Your loving father,

Reginald