His shoulder stung, but Adonis tried his hardest to ignore the pain. It was not the first time his father had injured him in battle; Adonis frequently went to bed with purple bruises, sore limbs, or pulled muscles. Try as he might, he simply couldn't live up to Yurius' expectations when it came to battle.
Lately, though, his father had become seemingly merciless. The blood soaking into his tunic was proof enough. Up until recently, Yurius had been rough and relentless, but he had never drawn blood. Adonis was young but not blind, and he could see that the rising tensions in the court were spilling over into his father's personal matters. Secretly, Adonis believed that Sir Griffith's continuous outstanding performances were at the root of Yurius' displeasure. Adonis' father did not appear to like the young commander of the Hawks a great deal.
Truth be told, Adonis wasn't fond of Griffith, either. But unlike his father, Adonis simply thought ill toward Griffith because of how he made his father act. It was nothing personal, and not really fair, but Adonis couldn't deny how he felt.
"Please don't think ill of His Lordship."
Adonis blinked, startled out of his thoughts and wondering how anyone could be reading his mind. A moment later, he felt a hand on his arm and realized that his father's aide was still attending him. The blood was gone now, nothing but a stain on his torn tunic. The small wound had stopped bleeding, even though the pain hadn't lessened yet.
The aide, an aging, kind man whose name Adonis could never remember, finished with his shoulder and fixed his clothing. "He is under a lot of stress lately, Young Master. Please don't think ill of him."
Adonis felt a pang of relief when he realized that the topic was his father. "I know he is."
"He loves you," the aide went on, rambling as he moved away from Adonis' chair and set about tidying the medical supplies. "He does his best to raise you on his own, and with his duties in the Royal Court, that isn't always easy. But he tries his best," this delivered with an imploring gaze, "to build a good future for you."
Adonis had heard all of this before, and knew it well. His father was next in line for the Midland Throne, and in turn, Adonis himself had claim to it. "I do not think ill of my father."
The aide's expression went quickly from earnest to relieved. "Good. That is good, Young Master."
"I displeased him tonight, though. Didn't I." Adonis refused to meet the aide's eyes, knowing it was true. He didn't think he could *ever* be the General his father wanted him to be. He simply wasn't cut out for fighting, and his lack of talent clashed with his father's desire for him to one day take command of the White Dragon Knights.
"You are young yet," the aide said after a pause. "There is plenty of time for you to learn."
"Mm." What nobody seemed to understand was that Adonis didn't particularly want to learn. He just wanted Yurius to be proud of him, and the only way to accomplish that was, apparently, to live a life he didn't want. So be it.
"Your mother wanted the best for you." Adonis wished the aide would stop speaking. "His Lordship simply continues to assure that you receive it."
"I know it," he replied softly, and remained pointedly silent until the aide took the hint and left him.
Adonis left his room soon after the aide did, deciding that a walk would perhaps help clear his head. The recent battles and political turmoil had put more of a strain on everyone and the castle was always busy, but late in the night, the halls were mostly deserted. The guards he passed gave him minute bows of their heads, more than he expected to receive, which he returned with a shy smile.
Though born of noble blood, Adonis had never grown accustomed to the obligations that came with being of the aristocracy. Nor had he grown fond of the "future" his father had planned for him. Were his mother still alive, he wondered if things would have turned out differently. Would his father be so bent on teaching him to be a General? Would his father look on him with such disappointment? Would it be predicted that he might marry Princess Charlotte and sit upon the throne of Midland?
"Charlotte doesn't even like me that much," he muttered to himself. He didn't feel any romantic love toward the Princess, either, but he didn't want to find himself betrothed to her when she was obviously besotted with Griffith.
Griffith. Why was it that the source of his father's ill temper was also the greatest war commander the Midland army had ever seen? How could such a great man bring such strain upon the bond between Yurius and Adonis -- a bond that was already weak?
"It all comes back to Griffith," Adonis uttered quietly. "Everything. Always."
But Adonis hadn't come back to Griffith. He found himself where he always ended his walks: the hallway leading to his father's chambers. Adonis rarely spent time in them. He didn't think he was unwelcome, but had his fill of his father's intimidating manner elsewhere.
He didn't know what compelled him to visit Yurius tonight, had no idea why his feet had insisted on taking those steps. Maybe because he wanted to apologize for not meeting Yurius' standards, maybe because he wanted his father to know that he would try his best, or maybe because he just wanted to ask if they could share a drink and just be father and son for a short time.
The door was open a crack, and the light that leaked into the hall looked warm and inviting. For a moment, just a moment, Adonis thought that perhaps Yurius would be just as warm. He pushed at the door, a thousand words and thoughts on various subjects clouding his mind.
Adonis saw many things: an armed stranger, his father's lifeless body, a burning fire, the stranger moving, a sword aiming right for him -- and then the faces of people he knew, had known, would have liked to know -- and then his father's face -- unsmiling, because his father never had affectionate smiles for him, and never would.
And then nothing mattered anymore.
Author's Notes: In (one version of) the Greek myth, Adonis was a lover of Aphrodite who met his death at the tusks of a boar when the animal ran him through.