Walking the last mile before he would be able to see Kendrick's home, Alston tried to think of a game plan. That was what he had been doing since he received the note from his brother - the note that threatened, "Return to my home to discuss your connection to a fairy in person, or I will have to send my wife to stay with you until you grace me with your presence."
What am I going to do? Though he thought of nothing else since receiving that message from his brother, Alston came up with nothing. What was there to say? "Sorry for lying to you, Brother, but you know how these things go." Somehow, Alston didn't think that Kendrick would like to hear those particular words in this instance.
Would Kendrick really try to kill him? As much as he wanted to say "no" to that possibility, he couldn't do that honestly. Though Alston had to lie to Kendrick because he lied to Edan, he knew that this decision would bite him in the ass if either of his brothers ever learned about it. I guess I can be grateful that Kendrick was the one who learned of the omission first, Alston thought grimly. Edan would have tried to kill me outright; Kendrick may at least attempt to understand why I didn't tell him before he decides to off me.
Alston stared at the front door as he tried to gather his courage to knock. For all the times that he had spent a few moments waiting outside this door, today was the first time that he ever took the time to appreciate the handiwork of the carvings in it. Perhaps door-making was yet another skill that Julia had acquired over the years that spanned her enlistment in the Temoragun army and when his brother finally caught her eye. This was no time to think of that though. With a sigh, he knocked lightly on the door and waited for Kendrick to answer.
When the door opened, he found himself staring at his sister-in-law, not his brother. Judging by the tight smile Julia was giving him, she knew what her husband wanted to discuss with his younger brother.
"Hello, Julia," Alston greeted her, his voice quieter than it usually was. "Kendrick said that he wanted to see me."
"He is in his study," Julia nodded. "Would you like something to drink?"
A drink? Thus giving Kendrick a glass to throw at me when he sees me standing in the door to his study? No thank you, Alston thought. With a shake of the head, he pushed himself to walk past her and toward the study.
When he reached the study, the door was standing open and Alston spotted his brother sitting in his desk chair. Despite the fact that he was half a foot shorter than his younger brother, there was nothing submissive about his posture. His Flair necklace was glowing in the candlelight and the insignia on his left temple was highlighted by the placement of his right hand on his other temple. Kendrick had always been short and he knew how to position himself in his chair to minimize his height deficiency.
"Hello, Kendrick," Alston said slowly. Making his way over to the chair opposite his brother, he continued, "I hope you don't mind, but I came alone today. Shall I give my wife your regards?"
"You are still playing that ruse, eh?" Kendrick asked, his voice quiet.
Choosing to ignore the dirty look that his older brother was giving him, Alston decided to play ignorant and asked, "What ruse?"
"Do I look stupid to you?" Kendrick demanded.
"Of course not, Brother," Alston said quickly.
That simple response enraged Kendrick, though. "How can you call me 'Brother'? A brother does not lie about getting married and he does not keep a secret like being tied to a fairy!"
"I am married," Alston argued quickly. "You told me to bring my wife and I did that. What more do you want from me?"
"I want you to stop lying to me!" Kendrick shouted, rising to his feet. "Just stop it! You are not married to the Xamalian Flair!"
Alston's eyes narrowed and he said, tightly, "I am not lying about my marriage to Lieutenant Deluvia."
"How can you expect me to believe that when you can't even say her name?" Kendrick demanded angrily.
"Would calling her 'Kelly' make any difference in your opinion?" Alston asked sharply. "I don't think it would. Why should I alter how I address her if you're not going to believe me anyway?"
"I really dislike you sometimes, Alston," Kendrick said, his voice deathly quiet. Turning his back on him, he continued, "I really, really do."
Seeing the emotional toll that their argument seemed to be having on his brother, Alston softened his tone a little and confessed, "Kendrick, I did lie about her name, but we are married. These bracelets are real."
"Bull shit," Kendrick snorted, still looking away.
"You think I like the fact that Edan played me?" Alston asked, his voice getting a little shriller. "He is the one you should be mad at. If it wasn't for him sending the Lieutenant to Aerlene in the first place, I never would have met the girl."
Kendrick started to shake him off, but Alston continued.
"I will do whatever is necessary to win back your trust, Brother."
"Anything?" Kendrick asked, lifting his voice in a questioning tone.
"Almost," Alston agreed quickly. "So long as you leave my wife out of it, I am yours."
Turning around slowly, Kendrick studied his younger brother. The look of confidence that he possessed unnerved Alston to his core.
"I want Edan dead, Alston," Kendrick said, his voice dark. "If you want my forgiveness, then you must help me kill him."
Without hesitating, Alston nodded and said, "I am yours."
"Are you?" Kendrick asked, his voice cold. "I don't suppose you would be so quick to say that if I demanded you tell Edan that, would you?"
Alston's face paled ever so slightly at the question.
"I didn't think so," Kendrick said quietly, turning to look out the window again.
"If I tell Edan that I am yours, we both know that he will kill me," Alston said bluntly.
"Perhaps I should take a page out of his book, then," Kendrick said shortly. "Maybe my mistake was in trusting you in the first place."
Alston's face paled even more at that sentence.
For a few silent moments, Alston watched his brother move. Instinctively, he wanted to grab the hilt of his dirk as a precaution against anything his brother might do, but he resisted the urge. Kendrick loves me, he silently repeated to himself. He is not going to do anything.
"I want Edan dead, Alston," Kendrick finally said again, turning to look at his younger brother once more, "and you will help me ensure that happens. Apparently you have managed to catch the eye of the Deluvia Flair; after all, she came here. Fake or real, that bracelet that you are wearing binds you to her. So, I want you to do what you do best - attract the girl. When she trusts you, I want you to weasel your way into Edan's world and once you two are alone, you can call me or do it yourself, but Edan is not walking away from this mission with his life. If he gets away from us, it had better be because we are dead. If that is not the case, Edan will be the least of your worries."
"I am with you, Brother," Alston repeated, his voice much steadier than he actually felt about the matter. "Either Edan will fall to my blade or I will fall to his."
Kendrick studied Alston's face one last time, but then nodded. "So be it. You can show yourself out."
With a dutiful nod, Alston turned and left the home, not even bothering to say a few parting words to his sister-in-law before he left.