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It was a quest for his identity which found the boy returning to village on the planet Shepreth he knew as a child. He had been away in the big city for a few short years learning his craft as a spaceship engineer and had stayed well away all that time He had not been back to this place again since his parents had died; there was nothing to hold him then and only a badly buried mystery to make him return one day. Now that mystery was too much to live with and he needed an answer and people to tell him the truth before he could go any way forward in his life.
Now the boy was searching out the old woman Lynfa who, due to her advanced age, had been both aunt and grandmother to him as he had had no other family or relatives amongst the widely spaced sprawl of houses which was the village he grew up in. His father was often away long months, following his work as a itinerant engineer amongst the far flung planets. His mother was not one for interacting much with others. Lynfa, their only neighbour had been his only mother's only confidante in those years as their community was a thinly spread scatter of houses amongst the scrub and forest of the world he called home. Joylar the old woman's daughter was his only playmate until he went to school and he would have taken her to be his wife if she had been prepared to come with him when he packed up his worldly goods and left his childhood home.
It had often passed though his thoughts to wonder why his family lived so far from civilised society on the worlds nearer Earth. The old government, which his father so detested, had collapsed with the alien invasion the year before his birth. Still we remained on this out of the way planet until he had grown and with few visitors from the outside galaxy. Those that arrived made the happening an event to be remembered. Even then is was only a few and rarely, once a stooping man with a limp and receding hair visited them. his mother was kind to him, as she said he had been kind to her once when she was travelling to this planet. He didn't speak much and had a face full of sorrow that told of a life full or disappointment. He felt it would be an imposition to ask what had happened and how he knew his father. He never came to see them again.
Another of these arrivals from space was thin dark man with aquiline features and missing an arm. As a child he frightened the boy, he had a haunted look of haunted darkness about him, as if he waited to death but it would not take him. When the man arrived it was always at night, he never stayed long, never ate anything the boy's mother offered him and he always left before dawn the following day. He wore a patched leather tunic that had grown too large for him, as if he had lost a great deal of weight at some time, and he hid the stump of the arm under the fold of the garment. The other held a strange gun which he never let go of; If their other visitor spoke rarely this spoke never at all, to him or his mother, only to his father.
This strange haunted man came to their home a few times when the boy was very young he remembered and once when he was nearly a man and the week before his father disappeared. Like the times when he had visited before the dark man had spent long hours closeted with his father in the parlour and then left without speaking to his mother or the boy. That occasion was memorable because following the dark man by a few hours came another man who his father also spent time alone with, only this time there was only short conversation to be had. The sound of his father's strong voice raised in anger came ringing through the closed door between the parlour and the kitchen in the small house where the boy and his mother sat waiting. This man left soon after that saying he would not be back but the boy saw his father looked worried and thought about what he had said before he left.
He had told his father he was betraying the people and all he had fought for. The boy's father had laughed, but not with humour, and said with a deadly and serious look that he was far better a poor engineer than what this infernal tempter would have him be again. Then he told the stranger to get well out of his sight and stay there; if he returned to darken their doors again he would not leave with his life intact.
The boy remembered the look the stranger gave his father and the look that was turned on himself too as the one who was unwelcome passed on his way out of the house. It was lingering, as if the man knew he meant something important. The boy was not sure what that meant then although later, much later, when he learnt all the facts he was very sure indeed.
Shortly after that day disaster came knocking at the door of the little house in the village in the wood on the planet in the middle of nowhere. The boy's father had left on another work contract and he and his mother would not hear from him again. After a small amount of time came word from the authorities that the small ship Dar Plantagenet the engineer was working on had been lost with all hands in a meteor storm near Ayot. It was a huge loss to those who had so little and the boy's mother never recovered it was clear.
The following season their village was visited by the illness which plagued their land, brought by summer Hese insects flying in from the marshes and dreaded as yet there was no cure. It was said that those who came from off planet were the ones which it killed most readily. The boy was ill but recovered, his mother nursed him and their close neighbours through the stages of the illness as each tossed and turned with the fever. Then as they grew well again she developed the start of the symptoms herself. She succumbed, and slipped out of life so quickly and so quietly her son could not even get their neighbour Lynfa in from next door to bid her farewell
He left their village soon after, a school friend's father who ran a refit service at the spaceport had offered him an engineering apprenticeship. That was something he was only too glad to go and do as he had nothing here to hold ;in the house where he grew up that his father had not owned. Even that had been rented. He was happy to quickly pass the keys next door to Lynfa and let her handle clearing it and passing it back to the landlord to let out to another family in need of accommodation.
The boy passed his course of study with ease, his course mates told him he must have some genius for the subject and after that, freed by his employer for a year he roamed the seas of space. The older man had said the boy should see something other than the planet he had grown up on, but in his travels he knew he was trying to prove something, running hard and fast from who he had been and what he had left behind.
Then one day he decided he would return, to settle down and pair bond with the strong willed, dark eyed, longhaired daughter of his employer who had always followed him around when he was in her father's house. Her father was pleased he had returned and to have a son-in law to pass his business to, he had no other child. Elspeth his daughter was just who the boy needed, she seemed to understand him, his restless nature, his search to be something other than who was when he was growing up. She complemented him and shared his love of silence and communicating much and many things with few words. They would be a good match
'Roj, you really must want to know who you are though? Don't you think you should find try to out?' she asked when he was lying with her on bed, quiet after their loving on the night of their bonding. He had told her something, a secret, which he had kept closely guarded in his heart and had repeated to no one. When his mother was dying she had asked him to forgive her, and his father, they had kept information from him. He was certainly his mother's son, she had borne him, but the man he called father was not the man who had made him.
'We didn't want to hurt you,' she had said as she had slipped away, 'we always loved you too much to tell you the truth.'
'I don't understand,' Roj said to Elspeth on that night as he told the tale of the loss of his father and the death of his mother, 'I look like my father, see ...' he said getting up from the bed to bring a crumpled holograph from his tunic where it hung on the post of the bed
The young husband had proof of his resemblance to his father even if it was only one holograph of the older man in his possession. The gruff engineer was one who didn't like having his likeness taken and Roj had had to plan do it secretly when a friend brought his holocam with him to take a record of a school project we were working on together. Even then they had had to shoot the image through the window of his father's workshop when he was not looking and it was not a good image of him. It was his bad side, the one with the slumped shoulder from his injury he got at the invasion, but it got his likeness all right, his gritty intensity and showed that he and his father shared the same features. He would have looked like Roj did when he was as young; and didn't wear the weight of the world that he always seemed to carry on his shoulders. The son often wondered what happened to his father to cause that, but had never had the courage to ask
So it was Elspeth who suggested that they both go to find the one person left who would know about his father. Roj was sure his mother would have spoken to the old woman Lynfa whose house was so near theirs when he grew up. They took his father-in-law's flyer with his blessing; he too seemed to understand that there was a need to make peace the past before his daughter and her new husband could settle. The way back to the village on Ayot was etched in Roj's mind even if he had not wanted to return before now. Now it was of great importance and they hurried there quickly
They found Joylar still living at the house where she had been brought up, it had been added to and she had a small boy running around her feet and a baby girl carried in her arms. She welcomed Elspeth and told how she had bonded to Dil, another of Roj?s school friends, and a good man, just after the boy had left the village for good.
She said she was glad Roj had come at this time at her mother had not long left she thought. The travelling medics were doing their best but there was only so much one could do. She was being kept comfortable and was in no pain.
`I've brought my new bond mate to meet you Lynfa.' Roj said as he stood by the bed in the room upstairs looking down at the occupant. The woman there looked a lot older than he had thought she would. He had forgotten that she was many more years senior to his own mother and that Joylar had been a late gift after many years of childlessness and a comfort when her own husband had died.
'How lovely of you to come and see me in my declining years.' she said, 'and to bring your lovely new bride with you too. You look just like your father Roj.' she added, 'It could be him standing here.' she said, `but you are more handsome to course. You will both make fine children between you.?'
Lynfa had said she knew why Roj had come and had sent him to look in the row of old leather bound volumes, real books, that she kept on a shelf in her room. He recognised one, it was a book of Old Calendar plays, his father's favourite, by a man called Shakespeare. He had been a proscribed playwright during the old government but his father had found an old copy of the book on his journeying before he settled on Shepreth and he kept it with him always.
'I kept it for you, in case you came back.' Lynfa had said smiling, 'I found it with your mother's things when I was clearing the house after you left. There's an envelope in it addressed to you. Your father must have known you would come looking for the truth eventually, I recognise hand.'
Inside the front cover was a yellowing envelope written on in his father's unflowing engineer's script. Dar Plantagenet always insisted on writing things with pen and paper rather than use a computer keyboard Roj extracted a thin piece of paper inside and read it, it told him if there was a search for answer and he was dead and Rashel was dead then he would have to find a man called Keir Chevron and that that person would be able to tell him everything he needed to know
They stayed the night with Joylar and her mother and met Dil the following day as he returned. He exhorted promises from the two newly weds to return and visit them soon, and wished them luck in their search. Both he and Joylar and the young child who toddled about the house waved them off from the door of the cottage
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