The Story of Olivier
There is very little to say redeemable about the travesty that I once called my life. I would like to say that all my failings and crimes are the fault of my parents and the uncaring world around me, but I would be lying. I know full well that the worst of my crimes were my own doing, and no one is at fault but myself. If I had it to do all over again and knowing what I know now, I would certainly change the things I did at the climax of my life, but I was never one gifted with any kind of foresight. All the same, time doesn't work that way. What I have done will forever be carved into my flesh and soul. I guess none of this makes any sense unless I start from the beginning and let you be the judge of what crimes are mine to be blamed for and what ones I was driven to from outside forces.
I have been told I was born the 13th of November in the year 685 of the Koboldian calendar. Although I believe my race was around more than those years would indicate, I know not what had happened to start the count all over again. My parents never bothered to teach me about what had come before them, but somehow I knew they had parents before them and there was a family before that. Everyone has parents, don't they? Or at least they did at some point in time. I have also been told that my parents were twin brother and sister ,and my brother and I were the atrocities born from such an unholy union. I never could think of Michael as an atrocity. As for me, I would have been better off not born. All I know was that Father and mother condemned me for being the flawed first born son. As for what I can say of them is that they were my parents. I can't say that they were particularly loving parents for me, but neither can I say that I thank them for my birth. I have been told often that it was because of our parents relation to each other that I was so flawed.
All my existence I was told that I was useless, and I could never dream of being a proper house Kobold. How could I keep a house in proper order? What human would employ my services? How could I command the respect of the lowly mine Kobolds and the house Kobolds that were the Cuxhaven's station? I never met any humans or other Kobolds, mine, house, or otherwise at this point. I was unsure how Father managed to command the respect of these others. What I could remember of Father was that he tended to carry the smell of outside. Mother always smelled like the flowers and the aromas of the kitchen. Although this was true, she had no scent of the grasses or soil like father did. I don't think she went outside the house ever, but she was content with this. I found this puzzling, because I enjoyed the soft grass below my feet and the warm air on my face when the weather turned towards the summer months. The air outside often cleared my senses and everything was so much clearer after the long confinement of the winter months. Father told me often that I was too stupid to learn anything, but I did know something of the ways of this family by these observations. I did learn to walk and to dress myself. I learned to speak. I even learned to get around the house and outside without touching anything, breaking anything, or making any kind of sound. This was a lesson hard learned.
The times I fell over the furniture and the sound of shattering glass in the air wreak my memory with horror and pain. Soon I learned what would come of my transgression, and Father never disappointed me on this. There were times that he hit me so hard that I found it hard to move afterwards. There were even times that I lost some track of time, and I would wake on the floor in the coolness instead of in the energetic warmth of the sun. Mother did not often participate in such rituals, but she never stood in Father's way during his vengeance. I wanted to cry out why to her, but it would have made no difference. She would have likely hit me for my insubordination. I soon accepted this as the way of life, whether I liked it or not, and this was another lesson I learned. I would run and hide when I did something wrong. If there was some solid object between Father and me, he didn't know I was there. If Father couldn't find me, then he couldn't hurt me.
Although this dismal existence was all I could conceive, I was afraid to leave it. Still, I wondered what it was not to be anymore. Would there be peace like when I was in a quiet hiding place? How could anyone bear to continue like this? Then something different happened and I learned a new lesson. I learned about joy. Although Father often took out his fury on me, and often without cause and provocation, his mind turned to other things. He didn't even kick me when I crossed his path, and the harsh words stayed in his mouth. I ventured to ask Mother what was going on. After all, I was not foolhardy enough to ask Father. Preoccupied he might be, he was still my father. Mother told me without scorn that she was with child again. I blinked in confusion. I was a mere four years old at the time, and I had no idea what she meant by this, but I was afraid to ask further questions. I had no idea where others of my kind came from. Yet, some kind of understanding came to me that there would be another person among us. Hope tweaked my soul. Maybe, Father's anger would turn to him instead of me. I was intrigued all the same with this event, and I wanted to be near Mother. It was not that Mother was particularly kind to me or that I even cared for her. I was merely curious. How could she create another one like me?
Of course, with all this snooping around Mother, I got caught. Father grabbed me up by the wrist to keep me from escape. My heart jumped to my throat. I knew I was in for it. He cuffed me hard in the back of the head and told me to stay away from her. My foul presence could only flaw the new child. If that were to happen, then he would indeed make me suffer before my death. I didn't understand death at that time, but I did understand suffering. I do remember being torn between my curiosity and my fear of Father's threats. Although I cannot fully remember this time, I am certain that I must have obeyed him, because I did survive.
When the time came for my brother to be born, my father did a most unusual thing, but this day was firmly etched in my faulty memory of that age. I doubt I could ever forget it even if I wanted to. For the first time in my miserable little life, my father spoke civilly with me. He softly laid his hand upon my back. Not only did it not hurt, but I didn't fear or pull away. The newness of it still scared me. I wondered about what kind of horrible trauma awaited me. Was the pain going to be as bad as the length of the calm? He lead me to the room where my mother laid in a big bed. Her moans and the rustles of the covers told me that she was in a great amount of pain. I became even more afraid. I would have pulled away and ran if it were not for Father's hand upon my back pushing me forward. There was the gamy smell of blood and perspiration. Was I at fault for what was happening to Mother? Was I to be taunted because of her pain? Although Father moved away from me to tend to her, I remained transfixed to the spot he left me. I had to know.
It seems like an eternity that I stood there unable to run yet terribly afraid of what I might be held responsible for. Finally, there came a supreme scream from my mother, and I could feel and hear the desperate cries of another. I cocked my head to the side. How was this possible? There was another life, another Kobold, in the room with us. The smell of blood grew stronger. Part of me wanted to run in desperation before Father could take out his vengeance upon me. I did not know what I had done to cause harm to Mother or this new one. Yet, if my short life had taught me anything, it was that it was always my fault. Yet, the stronger part of me kept my feet planted to floor. I wanted to understand. I wanted to know. I wanted to meet this new member. Maybe he would not hate me like the other.
Father placed the crying baby in my arms and supported me. The new one quieted right away, and a contented smile crossed my lips. It felt like warm water washing over aching wounds. I felt like I was worth something for a change. I wanted to hug this little one for such a wonderful feeling. Father had other plans. He dabbed his fingers in the still wet blood on the baby, and he forced my face up. With the wet fingers, he marked my face with the cooling liquid. I blinked my eyes in confusion. There was no pain involved with this action to either me or the little one in my arms. He gripped my arms firmly, but again without pain or intent for harm, and he said in a commanding voice:
"Olivier Cuxhaven, you are charged with the protection of this child, your brother Michael Cuxhaven. You will lay down your life's blood if the need calls for it to perform this duty. Pray that you will meet your end before he does."
I remember touching my nose to the babe's nose and whispering in reverence that I would. I felt so special and happy at that moment. Father had not scolded me nor said anything hateful or threatening. For the moment, I was really part of my own family. When he moved to take the little one from my arms, I didn't want to give him up. I turned away to keep Father from taking Michael away from me. Little fingers explored my face as did mine. I would know this little brother of mine. Father won his desire, and I gave in. I had no choice. What could I do to protect this precious little life? I allowed Father to take him back to Mother where he would be safe. I didn't want to leave this bubble of happiness, but time must march on. Father turned on me and struck me hard across the face. The bitter metallic taste of my blood reminded me of my proper place. I had no business in this happy little paradise. The pain sunk in as Father chased me away with a kick and curse.
My parents never cared for what I did, as long as I stayed far from them. I could fall down into the well at the front of the house and drown, and I was certain they would never give a second thought for what had happened to me. As long as I didn't break anything or make any noise, they would not notice that I was there and I was safe. I never questioned their feelings towards me. This was the way that things were to be. All the same, I didn't want Michael to feel this sadness and loneliness. It might be against the way things should be, but I wanted it different for him, and I would strive to make it so for him. Let the world crumble about me for the digression. Yet, his world was not the same as mine was.
Every chance I got I was near where they kept Michael. To my surprise, things were already happy and comfortable for him. Mother held him and rocked him and sang to him. This made me pause. Did she treat me so well when I was this tiny and helpless? I closed my eyes and clasped my hands together at my heart. I tried to remember when I was this small, but I couldn't, and I really wanted to. In that moment my greatest desire was to be him. I wanted to be in his place as Mother cuddled and kissed him. Yet, something broke in me and I calmed. I didn't deserve this and I knew it. Still, it was nice to have the second hand pleasure. When Michael laughed, it was like a warm sunshine coming through the window in the cold of winter. When he cried, it was like thorns tearing my flesh. I wanted to laugh and cry with him. I wanted to share his joy and take his pain. I wanted to hold him, be with him, but I knew better. I knew if my parents became aware of my presence, then I would suffer for my indiscretion. All the same, I wanted to remain in the same room as him. I wanted to come forward and ask if I was once so loved. If this was true for me, then I knew where Michael was headed. I would do my best to take the blows for him.
As time passed, Michael grew and became someone, instead of the possession of my parents. He walked, played, and spoke. He spoke with me with happiness in his voice, although Father often reminded him that I was not worthy of his notice and should be kicked into a corner. To both my relief and vast jealousy, I found out that Michael was not to be treated like me. Father and Mother fed him, talked kindly to him, and gave him things like warm clothes and a soft bed. I wore Uncle Mathias' old clothes that hung loosely on me and made them all the more airy in the winter. I slept in a corner as long as I could remember. As long as I was out of the way, no one would hurt me. I learned that my treatment was unique, and it made me hate my parents more and then myself. I even hated Michael for it, I am ashamed to say. This made me hate myself even more.
Although Father greatly disapproved, I spent more time with my brother as he grew older. He loved me. I knew it. He thought I was something special, and I loved him back for that. If Mother or Father gave him some trinket, he would always share it with me. I remember running my fingers along the smooth wood of tiny carved animals and laughing. If he could spare pieces without our parents noticing, he would give them to me. I always deny them. I had him now. I didn't need friends that didn't speak with true voices or friends that I could not feel their touch. He talked about so many strange things like colors and light and red and blue. My imaginary friends never talked of such things, but Michael was better than them. I felt worse for my unjust hatred of him. He was indeed the perfect child. He deserved all the praise and affection my parents gave him.
All the same, I couldn't understand why someone so wonderful had to hurt so much. He coughed a lot and he tired out so much quicker than me. It angered me. I was the unwanted one. I should be the one that was ill all the time. It angered me more that fate seemed to take out all the pain on him that my parents denied him, and there was nothing I could do to shield him from it. Even worse, my only true friend was being taken away from me.
He was as thin and as boney as me, although Mother and Father saw to it that he was often fed. They even forced food upon him when he didn't want it. I lived off of the scrapes from the table and what I could catch. I eventually got really good at catching rats. I think they thought me already dead, because I would stay really still as their scraping claws approached me. When I would feel the soft, light touch of padded feet and the tickle of the whiskers on my arm, I would come alive and snatch my victim. They tasted a far cry better than the other small vermin I ate to survive. Many of them bit me before they were subdued, but that was nothing compared to what I had already endured or the aching pain in my stomach. Strangely enough, there were times that I found a bowl of cold porridge in my sleeping corner. I know not how it got there, but I would eat it greedily and not question my good fortune.
The food laid out for Michael always smelled so good and the heat rose from it. My mouth watered and my stomach growled in protest. Mother would chase away the beggar at the banquet, but I was not forgotten by my dear brother. He became quite clever at hiding away some of his meal. Later when we would play together, he'd give it to me. The bread was so soft and tender that I felt bad for eating it. The meat he gave me melted on my tongue. I knew I didn't deserve this, and I couldn't understand why he didn't keep it all to himself. My hunger was never satisfied, how could his be? How could he bear to give up such wonders? I tried to deny the offering, but my growling stomach won the temptation, and I ate greedily.
The both of us explored the old house. It was so much more fun with him than with the others. Some places were warmed by the sun coming in through the window pane. Other places were quiet and chilled. Michael would find all kinds of new things that I could never imagine. There was a place full of books and writing material, but I never understood this mystery. Father always said that I was too stupid to learn anything about letters. I guess he was right in this, because I never could fully grasp the meaning of the shapes of letters. All of them felt the same on the smooth page before me. Michael knew a little, but he could not fathom this place either. We did find entertainment with the plumed pen, and we tickled each other until we had to catch our breath.
Michael and I explored many parts of the house that had not been touched and they were thick in dust. We both sneezed and coughed as punishment of disturbing these resting places. We had to find a window to open so that we could breathe again. Yet, sometimes, even then, the coughing would not go away for him. When we returned to the main part of the house, Mother would gather him up in her arms and take him away. Father would catch me up and beat me for hurting his only son. It didn't matter to me. I knew I deserved this. All that really mattered was that Michael was taken care of.
When my sore body was capable of moving again, I would find my way back to Michael's room. Mother would be at his bedside. She had wrapped him in warm blankets and bathed his fevered face with cool water. I remember my face being so hot to the touch, but my body was freezing cold, but I dared not to approach my parents for help. I only found a quiet corner and hid away until the shivers would pass. Did this kind of help await me if only I had asked? I could almost feel her cool fingers caressing my face. I pulled back and shook my head fiercely. I knew better. Michael was my better. I was the unwanted one. Yet, it was nice to dream of such things.
As I fingered the sleeve of my oversized shirt at the daydream, I heard Mother's voice singing a soothing song to him. My back stiffened, and my ears perked at the sound. She had done this for him when he was so little and unaware. The sound was so pleasant and beautiful that I forgot myself and moved in closer to her with a dreamy smile on my bruised face. I wanted her to pick me up and sing to me as well. I wanted to hear the rest of the song.
My fingers gently entwined in her silken skirt with askance. She pulled away and swiftly turned on my intrusion. I could smell violence in the air as if the walls were closing in about me. For the first time in my life, I braced myself against it and stood my ground. What were a few more bruises? Besides, her abuse never hurt as bad as Father's did. "Finish the song," I pleaded.
Her fingers clenched into fists, but I stayed my ground. My body braced for the impact, but it did not come. She remained silent for a time, then she made nervous movements as she checked her surroundings like a rabbit making sure it was safe to come out of its hole. Finding everything satisfactory, she took in a deep breath as if relieved. "You are the eldest," she spoke in a level voice with a touch of sadness. "The eldest do not get songs. You are the more mature one. You must be strong for your brother."
I blinked my eyes. A storm brewed in my body and mind. My cheeks burned hot, because I wanted something I was not entitled to. What kind of an older brother was I for Michael, yet she told me the answer to my question without pain or violence. The smile cut deep into my jaws, and even this moment I didn't want to end. If I were to ask her all my other questions, would she answer them in a similar way? Maybe, I could prove to her that I was useful, and I could prove to both her and Father that I could learn. She would be so proud of me. Father would learn to like me and be proud as well. This could be something else I could thank Michael for.
Yet, like everything else, the moment had to end. She shooed me off. It wasn't by throwing anything at me. She didn't hit or kick me. She softly pushed me away and told me to get out. She never treated me so kindly before nor did she again.
When Michael was better, he played with me again. All the same, he fell sick quite often. I couldn't understand why. We did the same things. I got as wet and cold as him, and I didn't suffer like him. Guilt hung more and more in my soul. I took to haunting his room. I lurked in quiet corners behind the furnishing until Mother and Father left his side. I never could understand why they didn't catch me there. If I made my presence known, I would have been punished. Yet, if I were quiet and not in the open, they ignored me. I could not figure why hiding behind the bureau made any difference. My presence was still there. I knew that others were there regardless of whether they were hiding in corners or out in the open. Yet, I knew I could do it and get away with it.
When Mother would finally leave, I would sneak forward and talk to Michael whether he was awake or not. I would not dare to wake him if he was asleep. He needed his rest to feel better. He was always so cheerful about the prospect of my visits. How could someone endure my lowly presence much less be happy about it? He never wanted me to leave his side, and he offered me a space in his bed. I remember my eyes flew wide with the prospect. My fingers ran along the silken covers. They were so warm and soft, and his warm body next to me would chase away any chill that came. I had never had a bed of my own. All I ever had was the clothes on my back and a quiet corner to sleep in. My mouth gaped and I muttered incoherent words. Yet, as wonderful as the prospect, I knew better. Not only was I not worthy enough, but if Mother or Father caught me, I would be beaten until all the blood ran from my body. It was bad enough when they caught me sleeping in his room.
Finally, the day came in Mid-May. Michael was celebrating his sixth birthday. He had survived the misdeeds of a flawed brother. Father and Mother made it quite clear that this was to be a bit more of a special day. They brought him all kinds of wonderful smelling foods, and the air was absolutely thick with their joy. None of my birthdays were ever celebrated. I didn't even know when it was until I was told recently. All the same, I still remembered what Mother had told me about the song. I was the eldest. I was to be more mature. I stood up proud and stern at the thought of this purpose. Michael's excitement, cheerful talk and laughter were indeed my rewards. Although my presence was not normally tolerated, my parents only ignored me on this day. Tolerable they may have been on this day, they would still make sure justice was done. When Michael offered me a piece of his special meal, it was knocked out of my hands. Father grabbed me up by the back of the shirt and threw me away from his son.
I recovered quickly, and I would have willingly cleaned the mess off the floor. Of course, there was a good portion of selfish purpose in this. Father knew. He grabbed me up by the wrists. His free hand gestured to my brother, and there was a sneer in his voice.
"This is indeed a special occasion," he announced in a clear, firm voice. Although my wrists hurt from his grip, my ears perked at his words. "My son has reached his sixth year successfully. I now name him heir to the family name and the family estates."
Mixed feelings came into my soul again. I was thrilled and I felt like I was soaring, he deserved the title. He always had. I would gladly serve him. Maybe I could prove my worth in his service. It would be a feat easier to achieve than trying to please my parents. It would give me a purpose. I would have reason to draw breath. Yet, there was something in me that told me that things would be different. Although it was a warm pleasant day with no scent of rain and the energy of the sun beamed through the windows with a great force, a cold shot through my body. I could smell something without a name. I just knew. Something bad had to happen. Maybe it was my brother's and Mother's sudden silence. Maybe, it was Father's cruel twist on my wrists. I could not name it. Yet, I swallowed hard and tried to ignore it. I didn't want to upset Michael on his birthday.
Mother rubbed Michael's shoulders. All I could think of was how pleasant it would have been to be this wonderful being. I wished that her hands would caress my shoulders as well. My wide eyes softened, and I dreamed with the dreamy imaginings despite the pain to my wrists.
Suddenly, Father jerked up on my arms and grabbed hold of my collar. "I no longer need the trash," he announced as he roughly dragged me across the floor. The pull and the violence bit into my shoulders, and I thought he would pull my arms out of place. I struggled in his grasp because of the discomfort. Not knowing what was going on, I would have gone along peacefully if he had slowed down and allowed me to gain my footing.
He dragged me across the house to the front door.. Letting go of my collar, he slammed the door open. Outside he threw me forward. Unable to catch my balance, I stumbled and fell down the wide steps to land in a painful heap at the bottom. My knees and elbows throbbed with the pain of impact. I could feel the moisture of blood seeping from wounds on my exposed face and hands. My right knee was swelling and throbbing. I only turned myself about right and sat lost. Salty tears touched my tongue as they flowed down the curves of my face.
"Get out!" I heard my father's voice over my distress. "Never come back! If you return, I will kill you!"
Tears flooded down my cheeks. Home wasn't a peaceful place. They weren't nice and good parents, but it was all I had . . . all I knew. What about Michael? How could I protect him if I wasn't there for him? I opened my mouth to protest, but rocks pelted me. I held up my arms to protect myself until the rain ended. I could hear Michael's cries of distress, but the rocks started again, harder and closer this time. Father's voice continually told me to get out. What would Michael do without me? But, I had to give up these thoughts. I had to get out or die. They loved him. They would take care of him. I had no future here. I pulled myself up. As I hobbled into the woods, I made a resolve with a new strength. Someday I would return, and I would teach my father a lesson for forcing me away from my brother.