Life’s Little Triumphs—Strago Magus
a mini-series by Dot
The sound of frenzied barking did not quite register to Strago’s half-awake brain as the first rays of dawn shone in through his window. Before he realized what it signified, Relm’s footsteps were already rushing down the stairs and out the door.
“Interceptor! Interceptor’s back!” she cried as she ran by Strago’s room.
This got Strago out of bed in a hurry. He didn’t even bother to put on his shoes as he hastened to see for himself.
He felt his footsteps slow as he caught sight of Relm. Knocked down by Interceptor, Relm was shrieking with laughter as the large Rottweiler greeted her with great enthusiasm. Strago couldn’t remember when was the last time he had seen Relm so full of unbridled joy.
Relm’s laughter stopped as Shadow approached them. Getting to her feet, she tried her best to look solemn. “H-hi. Um, sorry about that, I didn’t mean to—”
Shadow shook his head. “No, it’s all right.” He knelt down before a surprised Relm and patted Interceptor’s head. “He’s just happy to be home.”
“W-what do you mean?” Relm asked, voice trembling. “I don’t understand.”
Shadow removed the mask covering his face and let it flutter to the ground. Relm’s eyes grew wide and she choked back a gasp.
Strago regarded the man with more outward calmness than he felt. “Clyde Arrowny. It has been a long time.”
Clyde rose to his feet and faced Strago. “Yes, I know.” He turned towards Relm again. “Relm, I—”
Relm panicked and reacted out of instinct. In other words, she turned and made a beeline for her room.
“I’ll say she took that pretty well,” Strago remarked, noting that he would have to replace that door again. “Don’t you agree?”
Clyde sighed. “You’re not going to make this easy, are you?”
“Of course not,” Strago answered, as if it should have been obvious. “A little girl had to grow up without her parents because of you.”
“Did you think I wanted to leave?” Clyde asked anger rising.
“You could have at least said goodbye to Schala,” Strago returned. “The last thing she said before the fever took her for good was she wanted to see your face one last time.”
“I was already on borrowed time when I left!” Clyde shouted. Softer, almost in a whisper, he continued. “Every day I prayed that her eyes would open again, if only for a moment. But I just couldn’t wait any longer if I wanted to protect Thamasa from the Empire.”
Although Strago would never admit it to Clyde, the other man was right. Whatever was in Clyde’s past that got the Empire on his tail, no matter how big or small, would have thrust Thamasa back into the spotlight, something that no one wanted. Of course, in the end, it was inevitable that things would come to a head at Thamasa again, but in their short-minded thinking the other citizens probably would have asked Clyde to leave had he not done so on his own.
Strago sighed. “Well, I suppose we can’t stand out here and stare at each other forever.”
Clyde didn’t look back at Strago. “Thank you.”
(Ten years before the Unbalance)
“You’re making a terrible mistake, Schala,” Strago insisted as Schala prepared their dinner. “Even if the rest of the town agrees to letting him stay, he’s not the type to stick around long.”
“What makes you so sure?” Schala asked with only the slightest hint of annoyance.
“Have you watched him? I mean, really observed him? He’s always jumpy, looking over his shoulder, like someone’s after him. And he’s never talked about himself much. He’s hiding something, I tell you, something big, and he’ll bolt the minute he so much as imagines that he’s in danger.”
This time, Schala stopped, turned, and glared at her uncle. “Why did he come back, then?” She challenged. “If he’s so neurotic about being caught, then he wouldn’t have returned to a place he had stayed for so long, would he?” She turned back to her cooking. “And besides, none of this is going to matter if the Elder says no, so why are you so worried?”
“I—I care about you, Schala. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Clyde would never hurt me,” Schala said with quiet conviction, her cheeks taking on a rosy glow.
– Strago –
Strago knocked on his “granddaughter’s” bedroom door. “Relm, it’s time for dinner.”
“I’m not hungry.”
Big surprise there, Strago thought to himself. “Your loss, then. I’ll save something for you.”
Without waiting for a response, Strago headed back downstairs, where an anxious Clyde was waiting.
“Well?” Clyde prompted.
“You’ve got to give her more time. You can’t just show up at our door and expect to be welcomed back with open arms.”
Clyde’s eyes went to the floor. “I know.”
Strago stepped past him towards the table. “Anyway, I’m famished. I’m afraid I’m not much of a cook, but it’ll fill you up.”
Clyde made his way after Strago. Interceptor, however, remained at the foot of the stairs, whining.
– Strago –
(Nine years before the Unbalance)
“Papa!” Relm squealed in delight as she teetered towards her father. Clyde picked her up and lifted her high in the air, and Relm responded by high-pitched shrieks that carried throughout the house.
Schala peeked out of the kitchen and smiled when she saw the scene. Wiping her hands on her apron, she walked out towards Clyde. “You’re going to spoil her,” she teased.
He gave her a peck on the cheek. “Nonsense. You can never love someone too much.”
She smiled even wider and hugged him. “How true.”
“AHEM!” Strago’s not-too-pleased voice boomed from the kitchen. “I’d like to eat sometime this century!”
“In a minute!” Schala called back. She sighed and ran a hand along Clyde’s scruffy chin. “You know, if I didn’t know any better I’d think that he was jealous.”
Clyde chuckled. “I hope not. I have no intentions of sharing you with anyone else, not even your uncle.”
Schala giggled and hugged him even tighter. “Clyde, you naughty boy.”
Clyde gave Schala a mischievous glance. “Schala, there are children present.”
Schala rolled her eyes and gave Clyde’s nose a light tweak. She then turned to Relm and ran her fingers through Relm’s feathery soft hair. “You be a good girl for Daddy while Mommy makes dinner, okay?”
“Kay,” Relm replied, holding onto Schala’s finger with a clamp-like grip.
Schala laughed. “Hon, if you don’t let go I can’t leave!”
Relm only gave Schala a gap-tooth grin.
Clyde wagged his thick, calloused index finger in front of Relm. “Isn’t Daddy’s much more fun to play with?” he tickled her between the ribs. “Hm?”
With a yell that could have woken the dead, Relm attacked Clyde’s hand with both of her own, latching on so that it was impossible to talk her into doing anything else.
Schala kissed Clyde. “Thank you, dearest.” she smiled again. “I won’t forget your noble sacrifice.” Schala spun with a coquettish twirl like that of a ballerina’s, then skipped her way back into the kitchen.
– Strago –
Relm buried her head into her pillow, wetting it with the tears that were streaming from her face.
“All this time,” she whispered, using every bit of her self control to keep from screaming. “All this time—”
A tentative, all-too-familiar knock sounded at the door. “Little girl, little girl, please let me in.”
Relm felt a smile creep up on her face despite the tears that still fell. “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.”
“That so, eh? Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow the house in!” That did it. Relm ran to the door, undid the latch, and threw it open in record speed, throwing herself into the arms of the father she hadn’t seen for what seemed to be an eternity.
– Strago –
Strago sat in the rocking chair, petting Interceptor. “You brought him back for her, didn’t you?” He took the thumping of the dog’s tail as an affirmative. “She always did say you were smarter than some people.” He smiled. “Especially a certain stubborn old uncle.”
Perhaps it was time to forgive this nephew-in-law. After all, if Schala loved him, then he was worth knowing.
Unnecessarily Long and Tiresome Authoress’ Notes
In “reality”, Strago’s probably not related to Relm in any way, but I thought it’d be neat to have him have some sort of blood tie to her, since this makes it much harder for him to forgive Shadow for “abandoning” Relm and her mother.