He pushed himself. He ran as hard as he could, trying to burn the anger out. What he really wanted to do was hit someone, hit Alex. All this was his fault. From not understanding that he’d been discarded, and tracking him down, barging into his life. Getting him emotionally unstable to the point he’d put his own life in danger, and now this wall.
He’d woken up wet from the rain to find it had fallen down in the night. The thing just wouldn’t stay up, no matter how much care he put into it. And Alex wouldn’t get him the right tools to do it. Something about the purity of the act. Just what was there so be pure about a wall that kept falling down?
In the distance he saw the Samalians training. At least that was what they called hitting each other without any precision. He’d told Alex he wasn’t doing it right. Not one of them would survive a fight. Alex had screamed he was doing the best he could with what he had and that if Tristan could just finish the damned wall, they could all get out of here.
He should have been angry, He should have yelled back, but Tristan had shrunk away. The anger directed at him, when he hadn’t done anything for once, had been too much like when his father had screamed at him.
He should go now, show them what fighting was really like, but it wasn’t his problem. Let Alex deal with it, let him explain how it was they were all dead the first time they had to fight a trained team.
He was back to the House when he realized he was wrong. He should go back there and take charge. He was Tristan; he didn’t do what other people told him to. He was the one giving the orders.
He looked at the stones, scattered by the strong night winds.
He wanted to scream.
He felt the impact of his fist against the House’s wall. He hadn’t thought about it. Another thing that happened outside of his control. He gritted his teeth and hit it again.
He was Tristan. He was in charge of his actions. If he was going to hit a building, it was because he decided to do so.
He hit it again, and again. The pain flared, but it gave him something to focus on that wasn’t Alex, or his lack of control. The pain was his creation. He made it happen. And he would decide when it stopped. Not some outside force forcing him to—
“What are you doing?”
Tristan flinched at Alex’s voice. He moved away from the wall, put his bloody hand behind his back. “Nothing.” Really? He’d just lied without any way to substantiate it? What was wrong with him? The blood was dripping on the wall. It wasn’t like there was a body on the ground he could use as an explanation.
Alex looked at the blood, then at Tristan. “What are you doing?” His tone was no longer surprised, he was getting angry.
“Nothing that concerns you.” There, now Alex had no business bothering him about it.
“Really? You think destroying your hand isn’t my business? How are you going to rebuild the wall if your hand is broken? Now show it to me.”
“No.” He stepped away from Alex.
Alex took a step forward. “Tristan, don’t be stubborn. Give me your hand so I can look at it.” He reached for his arm and Tristan growled.
His bloody hand was in the air, claws out. The pain was sharp, welcomed, a reminder he’d done that to himself, he was in control. “You touch me and I’m going to rip your throat out.”
Alex stopped. He looked Tristan in the eyes. He held the gaze before trying to grab Tristan’s arm. Tristan flinched back again.
“Come on, What are you waiting for?” Alex goaded him, stepping forward and reaching for the arm. “Rip my throat out already!”
Tristan roared and tried to strike Alex. He put all his strength in the blow, but his arm didn’t move. Again, he couldn't get himself to do the one thing he desperately wanted to do.
“Stop fucking making threats you’re not going to carry through.”
“Why won’t you leave me alone! What have I ever done to you for you to want to hurt me so much!” He must have said something right because Alex looked stunned. Maybe later he’d be able to enjoy the small victory. Now he used the time to go around the wall, to where the polycarbonate sheets acted as the House’s wall. He sat down and pulled his knees to himself.
“You took a risk,” the priestess said. She must have come out of the House moments before he’d run off. “He could have killed you.”
“I wish he had,” Alex replied. And Tristan hurt at the admission.
He growled at himself. Why was he reacting this way? He’d wanted to kill him. He should be happy Alex wanted the same. It would make it easier, now that he knew the human wouldn’t fight him.
“Do you mean that?” She asked.
“You think I want that?” Alex screamed. “What is he making this so damned difficult? It’s just a fucking wall!”
“You’re asking him to do something that goes against his nature. You can’t expect him to do this without resisting.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you research my people when you looked for a cure for him?”
“Of course I did.”
“Then you know what he is.”
“He’s a Samalian.”
She sighed, but when she spoke, Tristan heard amusement. “That is his species. By his dark coloring I would say he’s from the Dernatil region, although the white tells me he has family in the Mountains of Sofor.”
“Okay, what does any of that have to do with the wall?”
“Do you know what the Aspects are?” she asked.
Alex spoke in that exasperated tone he got when he felt someone was giving him the runaround. “Some sort of gods. You aren’t really forthcoming about that stuff, so details are kind of hazy.”
“We keep them to ourselves, because we’ve seen what other people so with the little they found out. Twist it to their own benefits. They took the Source, and made it the sun, when it is completely different.”
“Okay, okay, so the Aspects aren’t gods, that’s what you’re saying.”
“You are correct.”
“They represent parts of who we are.”
“Look Hea’Las, I really don’t have the time for—”
“You wanted to know why Tristan is making this so difficult?”
Alex sighed. “Alright, go on.”
“We have every Aspect within ourselves. To different degrees. With some people, they are so well balanced it is difficult to tell which is dominant, but usually after watching someone you can tell.”
Tristan moved closer, curious. He knew a little of the Source and the Aspects, but his father had had no used for them, so his information was biased, if not outright wrong. Just the minimum he’d need to convince a job if he needed to pass himself off as a religious Samalian.
“And then there were people like Tristan and yourself, where your presence is enough to tell me which Aspect is dominant.”
“I’m not Samalian, so that stuff doesn’t apply to me,” Alex stated.
“Which one of you, made the decision to come here?”
“I did.” Alex hesitated slightly. “But it’s because he’s Samalian, it applied to him.”
“Then why didn’t he make the decision?”
“Because it’s all fantasies,” his father said. Tristan closed his eyes and did all he could to ignore him. He wanted to hear this.
“He was sick,” Alex said “I explained that to you.”
“You also mentioned he wasn’t happy about coming here.”
“But it’s still his religion.”
“The Source isn’t Samalian. The Source is everything, all of us. You, me, the humans in the city, on other planets. They will call it something else, something that fits how they think, but underneath it all, it is the Source.”
“Okay,” Alex wasn’t buying it. “So what about these aspects things are causing the problem and how do I fix it?”
“I don’t know that you can fix it.”
“Bear with me, please. Tristan is, at his core, an Aggressor. You know what that means?”
“The stuff I read says that’s the god of violence, but I’m guessing it’s just the aspect of violence and destruction.” His voice sounded like he smiled. “I guess that does fit him.”
“That is simplistic. The Aggressor’s first reaction, his instinct is to attack a problem, to remove it from his path. Yes, those with a strong Aggressor Aspect do tend to be violent, but that doesn’t mean it is in the pursuit of destruction. Where you will seek to protect—”
Alex choked on something. “Excuse me? Protect? Did you hear about the marauders I killed?”
“But why did you kill them?”
“It’s what I do. It’s what he made me.”
The silence stretched. In it his father said all the usual things about the worthlessness of those who believed in the Source.
“He may have made you a killer, but you chose to attack those marauders. He didn’t send you to them.”
“If he’d seen them, he would have been on them before they were even out of their shuttle.”
“You are right. He wouldn’t have waited to see what kind of threat they posed. His instinct would have been to attack them. And because the Aggressor is so prevalent in him. He doesn’t question it. He simply acts on it.”
“Okay, again, what does that have to do with the wall?”
“You should understand it now. You are asking him to build. The builder Aspect is opposite to the Aggressor. You are asking him to do something that is against his nature.”
“Come on, he’s built plenty of stuff. His workroom is filled with stuff he built, weapons, computers, locks.”
“Maybe when he isn’t in crisis, his Aspects are closer together. Although I suspect that many of what he has built has helped in with his combative nature. But in his current state, the only thing he seems to respond to is his Aggressor Aspect.”
“Then why doesn’t he just hit me, kill me, or whatever.”
“He’s here to have a promise removed. I expect that once it is done, he may very well do so. I also suspect you are aware of that fact.”
Alex didn’t respond. Steps moved away, the heavier ones of Alex’s boots, and the lighter ones of the Priestess’s bare feet.
Tristan agreed with some of what she had said.
His father cursed and yelled at him for that, but Tristan tuned him out.
But she was wrong, he didn’t go looking to commit violence, he did all he could to focus on his research. Most of what he’d done that had led to him being violent was because he’d been attacked first, or had gotten bored. He didn’t have a need for violence.
He was to his feet, hand in the air before the approaching steps registered. The priestess stopped as she turned the corner. She indicated the clay bowl she held. “If you’ll let me, I’ll tend your hand.”
“I could kill you.”
“I believe you could. I hope you’ll prefer not to.”
He could let out some of his anger on her, but would that be because he was in control and wanted to do it? Or because he was so angry he’d lash out at anyone he could.
“Why can’t it be simple again?” he growled, more to himself than her.
“I’m afraid that the Source never meant for life to be simple.”
What did he want? His father screamed at him to kill her. Which was a good indication it wasn’t him who wanted that. He lowered his hand. She hadn’t done anything to him. Hadn’t given him a reason to fight. Maybe she would, at some point, but he hadn’t been one to strike first.
She approached and motioned for him to sit. She crouched before him and placed the bowl on the ground. She took some unguent from it and applied it on his knuckles. It stung, but he didn’t react.
“You shouldn’t be so angry at him,” she said. “He’s just trying to protect you.”
“I don’t need protection.”
“That may be true, but his Aspect doesn’t care.”
“What is he?”
“Don’t you know?”
Tristan shook his head, then with an effort had his ears cant in the negative.
“He’s a Defender.”
“There’s Kaltobar Root in this.”
“Yes, it’s one of the main ingredients, it’s a disinfectant.”
“It doesn’t smell like the kind my father had me make.”
“Your father taught you to make this salve?”
“He wanted me to know how to survive. Demanded it.” When he looked up, she was looking at him speculatively. “What?” He kept his reaction hidden, but readied himself for a fight.
She shook her head. “Nothing of matter, just a little more understanding, that’s all.”
He studied her in return. “Knowledge is never a little thing.”
Her ears twitched in the positive, but she didn’t say anything.