Jaruk hated him. Well, that wasn’t true, but this must be what hatred felt like because he couldn’t really describe the way that his guts would rampage at the very mention of the dead man’s name or when his heart would ache at some fond story that came from the lips of a stranger. The worst part was when he would stand in front of a mural dedicated to the man and all he felt was this bone chilling numbness that encapsulated his whole body. He was currently standing in front of that very mural and, like always, that feeling of emptiness refused to leave him. This mural wasn’t the only thing dedicated to the man. There were statues and paintings all throughout the castle, symbols of the man’s greatness. However, he was always drawn to this mural despite the fact that it elicited such a weird reaction from him.
The mural was hidden away in one of the more unoccupied halls. In a way, Jaruk could understand why someone decided to place this work of art here. The painting was too simple, too real. The man in the piece was merely sitting on the edge of a water fountain and reading a book as moonlight highlighted his wavy blonde locks, making his hair almost appear white. There were crow’s feet around his eyes and a small smile danced across his lips, revealing a dimple on his right cheek. Freckles were dusted across his nose. The other paintings never seemed to remember the freckles or the dimple. They never depicted him wearing a simple tunic and trouser either. Most of the time he was adorned in full battle armor or with some regal outfit with a long flowing cape behind him. He seemed so untouchable in those paintings, but here on this wall he seemed so normal.
The man’s name was Aiden, and Jaruk was his successor. They shared no blood, but some divine entity chose Jaruk. The gods obviously made a mistake. When Aiden was five, his powers manifested. Jaruk was nine, and he still couldn’t muster an ounce of magic. His tutors were worried. They would mutter about how Aiden was able to cast a snake out of thin air.
His mentor, Rygul, said that his tutors were old hags who knew nothing and that he shouldn’t worry about what those wrinkly old farts had to say. Of course, Rygul hadn’t used the word farts, but Jaruk didn’t think he was allowed to use the word his mentor had. His mentor wasn’t one to hold his tongue. He meant well though. That’s probably one of the good things about being Aiden’s successor. He got to meet Rygul.
Rygul had been Aiden’s best friend. They had grown up together. Rygul was one of the few who never compared him to Aiden. Sometimes, when it was late at night, Jaruk would find Rygul staring at this very mural with eyes full of longing. The red head told Jaruk stories about their childhood. How Aiden was a prankster and would drag Rygul into his pranks. It was hard to imagine the mighty warrior being a prankster that occasionally stole cookies from the kitchen staff. Rygul also stated that Aiden had a hard time reading and that Rygul would enchant the books so that the words would turn into pictures. Rygul told him that the book in the mural was the first book he enchanted for Aiden.
When Aiden died, Rygul took it upon himself to raise his successor. A small part of Jaruk hated that fact. It felt like he owed Aiden something, and in a way, he did. If things had turned out different, then Jaruk would have been just another kid on the street. They never would have brought him into the castle, and he would have never met Rygul. By some deity’s will, he was made into Aiden’s shadow. If anyone else were in his position, then they would understand why he hated the man. Hatred could be the only emotion he felt right now, and yet it didn’t seem to fit. Hatred felt so simple compared to what he felt for this legend. No, Aiden wasn’t a legend. He was a man. That was something Jaruk had always known despite the way others spoke about him.
It may not be hatred that he felt for Aiden, but he couldn’t explain it. He felt a sense of grief, which didn’t make sense. He never met the guy, but that was the problem, wasn’t it?
“I wish I could have met you.” He whispered to the mural of his predecessor. There wasn’t a response. He didn’t expect one.