His name meant challenge fight.
Aitan Synn was no fighter.
It was stupid was what it was. The eldest son of the so-called Sin family, and he didn't fight. Ridiculous.
He had four younger brothers, and all of them fought. Tobrecan, Briant, the twins Coalan and Wylie, they fought. They punched and kicked and stabbed and slashed. Aitan, the oldest male, the heir, didn't like the sight of blood.
Pathetic. Pathetic, pathetic, pathetic. His parents' favorite word to discuss him, and Tobrecan's too, of late. The second-eldest was two years Aitan's junior, but much stronger, much faster, much crueler and meaner. Aitan was tall and slender, Tobrecan small and muscular, like a wolverine. Aitan was more like a crane. Long and lean, not knowing what to do with the assets he had.
He had sisters, too. He liked his sisters. Cordelia and Aithne liked him too. Katalin he wasn't so sure about. The oldest child, she was twenty-eight and never at the compound, always off doing things for Mother and Father. No one else knew what she actually did besides her and their parents. She was set aside from the rest of the family, cold and distant. Aitan had only seen her around three times in his whole life.
"You don't exactly live up to your name, you know," said Aithne one day, the usual sarcasm dripping from her voice as he stumbled back from a fight with Tobrecan, covered in bruises. "Father should have named you Pax instead."
"Pax?" Peace. It would suit him better than Aitan. That name was full of noble fury, of striking the final blow, of riding out on a charger horse sihouetted by the rising sun. Pax was serene. Peaceful.
Aithne looked him up and down. "You know what? You don't look like a Pax. You look like an Aitan. You just don't act like it."
Aitan scowled at her. Or, well, moved his eyebrows slightly at her. His face still hurt. "I don't want to fight," he said for what felt like the millionth time.
Aithne shrugged, an elegant lift of her slender shoulders. "Don't tell me that. I'm just one of the Synn Daughters, remember? My opinion isn't worth anything." There was a touch of bitterness in her voice, but Aitan didn't have time to dwell on that before his younger sister took his arm and led him to her quarters. "Come, I'll dress your wounds. That bruise looks painful."
Aitan made a pff noise. "Which one? They're all painful."
Aithne rolled his eyes at him. "You're lucky I'm your sister. Anyone else would have left you to rot."
Aitan allowed her to drag him along until they crossed paths with into another sibling. Briant. The handsomest Synn male grinned at them, quirking one eyebrow. "What are you—no, wait, let me guess. Tobrecan?"
Briant wasn't as brutal or muscular as Tobrecan. The third-eldest son was even more dangerous, in a different way—he was charismatic, disarming, but behind that friendly exterior was a cunning ruthlessness. He was smart, smarter than even Mother and Father. He preferred to fight without physical violence, tearing down his opponents another way, a stealthier, darker way. That was what made him the most threatening out of all the Synn fighters.
Aithne regarded him flippantly, looking unimpressed. "Out of our way, Briant."
He held up his hands in a placating gesture. "You should do something about that tongue of yours, sister. Would you treat your possible suitors this way?"
"You're not exactly someone I'd consider a suitor, brother. Now move."
With a smirk, Briant slipped past them, and they continued down the winding halls of the Synn compound, stopping at the entrance of Aithne's room. Opening the gilded double doors, Aithne shoved him inside and over to a table. Sitting him down on a chair, she opened a small box of healing light and rubbed a small portion into her palms, a soft golden glow spreading across her fingers. She began to glide her hands over his wounds, and Aitan felt the warmth begin to heal his bruises. "No cuts this time?"
"He didn't have a blade on him." She poked a bruise on his neck with a sharply-pointed fingernail, and he yelped. "Ouch!"
Aithne's brow furrowed in displeasure. "Who boxes his opponent in the neck? That's not an honorable move."
"He didn't strike me with a fist. He used an open hand."
"That's still fighting dirty."
Aitan looked at her curiously. "Since when did you get so hung up over honor? Everyone knows the Synn fights don't have any rules. You're allowed to fight as dirty as you like."
"I don't know. It's just a feeling I get."
As Aithne continued to heal his bruises, Aitan contemplated her words. Perhaps I'm not the only out-of-place child in this family.
Suddenly, there was a sharp knock on the door. Something about it would seem strange to anyone else—the sound was multiplied, as if two people were knocking at the same time. Aidan and Aithne were used to it, though. "What do you want, Coalie?" snapped Aithne, not even looking up.
Coalan and Wylie opened the door and poked their heads inside. The youngest members of the Synn family, the twin brothers were identical in every way. Both had golden-brown hair trimmed short, matching ice-blue eyes, and were like two teenage wildcats, lean and golden and small. When one wished to address them both, they would use the combined name "Coalie."
"She's in a mood again, brother," said one of them, smirking.
"Should we leave?" asked the other with a matching smirk.
"Yes," said Aithne shortly.
They closed the door with the softest of creaks, and a few moments later, it opened again. "By the way, have you seen Cordelia anywhere?"
Aithne let out a dramatic sigh. "Left with her doe eyes to collect more possible suitors. She should be back by now."
One of them—Coalan, he had a tiny scar on his jaw where Wylie was all smoothness—wrinkled his nose. "Why are you so mean to her?"
Aithne blew a strand of hair out of her face. "Picking up some things from Tobrecan."
Wylie waved at Aitan. "Hi, Aitan."
Aitan lifted his fingers in a small greeting, his arm still aching. "Hello."
"By the way, have you heard the news?" asked Coalan. "Jespher Chill is back in Nov'Arliennes."
Aithne looked up sharply, knocking Aitan's arm. "Ow!"
"Sorry. Did you say Jespher Chill is in Nov'Arliennes?" Aithne stood up, glaring at the twins like they had been the ones to bring back the most dangerous man in the world. "Where did you hear this?"
The twins shrunk back a bit. Aithne could be scary when she was at her fieriest. "Uh, we overheard Father and Draekin talking about it," said Wylie, exchanging a look with Coalan. "We were in the war room because... we were running an errand."
"I don't need your excuses. Jespher Chill assassinated Lord and Lady Wander, and the person who hired him is still unknown. Where is Father?"
"Still in the war room," they said in unison, and Aithne stormed out, shoving them aside.
Aitan and the twins regarded each other.
"So... Brysan shouldn't be too happy about this," said Aitan.
Brysan Wander's parents had been killed by Jespher Chill when he was only a child. He had inherited their fortune, elevating his status from son of the most powerful lord in Nov'Arliennes to the most powerful lord in Nov'Arliennes. Now, he was one of Father's most important allies.
Wylie raised his palms in a shrug. "I don't think he knows."
"Draekin was talking about how Brysan can't know about it," added Coalan. "We... left before hearing more."
Left? More likely, they had made a daring escape before someone caught them eavesdropping. The twins had an obsession with the war room, but no one knew why. Just another Coalie particular, he supposed. "I see."
They stood around awkwardly for a few moments before both twins turned to check the halls. Coalan was the first to turn back. "You don't think Aithne is coming back any time soon? We were actually supposed to deliver a message."
Aitan shrugged. The light magic had done its work—the pain was mostly gone by now. "I can take the message for her, if you like."
The twins hesitated. "It's supposed to be secret business," said Wylie, exchanging a glance with Coalan.
Aitan felt a brief flash of irritation. He'd never known anything else, but with his brothers, it felt like they were merely polite acquaintances, nothing like being bound by blood. Coalan and Wylie had each other, of course, and he was close with Cordelia and Aithne, but otherwise... well, it was all he'd ever known, anyway.
Aitan stood up, stretching. The bruises were already fading, though he was going to ache the next morning. "That's alright, then. I'll be going now." He nodded at the two of them as he made his leave, and they politely nodded back in unison.
Life in the compound was interesting. It was large, almost as large as the king's palace, and rivaled in richness. The Synns were one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Nov'Arliennes, and the palatial, jeweled complex was a reminder of their great wealth. Gold and marble adorned every available surface, but it also had a subtly dangerous air, with its many shadowed corners and blood-red decor. Aitan had grown up in this world of darkness and power and cunning and magic, given a sword as soon as he could walk. The Synns were shrouded in shadows, whispers and rumours running rampant in the city. None of the Synn children had ever left the compound—all fights were held in the underground sectors, and they had no reason to leave anyway.
Well, except for Katalin. But that was different.
Sometimes, when Aitan had a bit of spare time, he would sit and wonder about the outside world. He'd felt the sunshine on his face and had been surrounded by the pure blue sky, of course—parts of the compound were open-air, and as the complex sat on the mountain ridge surrounding the city, there was plenty of clear, open space. But Aitan had never really socialized with anyone outside of the compound—he was nineteen, not yet mature enough to attend the lavish parties Mother and Father threw, and again, he didn't have any reason to go beyond the compound. Until his twentieth birthday, he would never see a single person outside of the Synn complex. Cordelia had turned twenty a few weeks ago, and was already present less and less. Aitan barely saw her anymore. Just like Katalin.
He was jerked out of his thoughts with a sharp flash of fear. The cold voice, silky yet chilled like ice water, froze the blood in his veins, like it did every time he heard it. Aitan turned around slowly, trying his best to keep the terrified expression off his face. "Father."
Fiacre Synn towered over him, dressed as always in blood-red robes gilded with gold and sliced through with tasteful streaks of black. Not a single obsidian-colored hair was out of place, his beard neatly trimmed into a dangerous spike. He radiated dark power, and the sight of him always made Aitan want to run, or hide, or both.
"Stand up straight," said Father, inclining his head at a slight angle. "Only a coward slouches in the presence of higher beings."
Instantly, Aitan stood ramrod straight. "Yes. Of course."
Father looked at him disapprovingly for a moment. "Remember, you are my blood. You are the one who commands respect."
Aitan tried his best to look fierce, a man whom people bowed to, and not a boy who was scared of his own father. Judging by Fiacre's expression, he wasn't doing very well. "Benwick!" he barked suddenly, and Aitan startled as the manservant appeared. "Escort my son to his quarters and get him fitted with fine clothing. We will see how he fares at the social gathering tonight."
Hang on, WHAT? "Social gathering?" he inquired, his voice a squeak. He cleared his throat. "But I'm not of age yet!"
"It has been eight years since Katalin reached age," continued Father, somehow both addressing him and ignoring him at the same time. "It's time a Synn Son finally proved himself at a gala. Alodia has high hopes. However," He looked straight at Aitan, those unnerving pale cold eyes piercing through him like icicles—"We shall see."
With that ominous sentence hanging in the air, Father turned and strode off, vanishing into the darkness.
Aitan turned to Benwick. The manservant was a man of many talents, including grace under pressure, the ability to appear seemingly out of nowhere, and an uncanny knack for being everywhere at once. Benwick bowed. "Shall we, sir?"
"Right, of course." Aitan made his way down the halls with Benwick following, navigating the shadowy corridors with practiced ease. Now that Fiacre's presence wasn't chilling the air, Aitan felt a bit more confident, his stride long and purposeful. "Benwick, do you know why I've been told to attend the gala? I'm not yet twenty."
Benwick cast him an apologetic smile. "I'm afraid I do not know, sir. The Mistress Synn requested it."
"Mistress...? Oh, you mean Mother." Alodia Synn was every bit as cold as her husband, if not more. Aitan honestly doubted that she had "high hopes" for his first social gathering. "Could you..." He hated how weak he sounded. Synns don't ask for help. "I mean... Never mind. Let's be on our way, then."
Even though it was likely nothing, Aitan still felt fear clenching his heart in an iron fist as he prepared for the gathering. What were his parents planning?
I have no idea why I started this. I was just playing around with the name "Aidan" (my third-favorite male name) (1. Jack, 2. Simon) and "Aitan" stuck out. A quick Google later, a story about a boy born to a family of fighters popped into my head like that and the Synns were created. Sidenote, Cordelia isn't as outlandishly fantasyish as the other names, but it's my favorite female name (got it from King Lear, Shakespeare is the best), so there. Sidesidenote, "rich" is a slang term in Nov'Arliennes among the nobility, meaning... well, meaning what you expect it to mean. It can be used to describe pretty much anything, from a smile to a cookie to a door. I'm weird, don't listen to me
I hope your day isn't completely terrible :) ~airjack
PS The title is the Sins and Scandals of Nov'Arliennes. Just sayin'.