“How it all began?” Mordechai replied. He hesitated, pressing his fingertips together, rubbing them against one another.
“You and him were close,” Solomon confirmed. “I remember that much. Both travelers and fortune seekers… Pirates was it?”
Mordechai shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The nostalgia pained him. It made his face tight and weary.
“A scoundrel doesn’t revere the past,” Mordechai grumbled solemnly. His wiry hand flashed out and snatched the whiskey chalice. “How much does a man change in life? Too much. Much too much…”
Mordechai lifted the drink to his lips, but froze. He lowered his hand, pointing to Solomon from the rim of the glass.
“I didn’t kill your father. The man I was, the man that I left behind, he killed your father.”
Solomon smiled. He leaned back in his chair, spreading his arms outwards into the darkness. His chair restricted him, made him immobile. Even the arm rests trapped him, making him small and weak. Better to dangle down, at his side, out of view.
“You were telling your tale,” reiterated Solomon. “What happened on Molden?”
“What happened indeed,” Mordechai retorted. His small body blustered and turned red. “Nothing happened. We built a modest fort, our enclave. The boys could see the ships coming down the lane, which to loot, what we could sink without trouble from the king. Your father died on the ice flow.”
Solomon felt charmed by the detail. It was one eluding him, one that he had ruminated upon.
Two boys biting their tongues, grinding their teeth, clawing desperately for recognition, these were Mordechai and David, Solomon’s father. Solomon could clearly remember his father beside his brother. They were destined to kill one another, meant to even. The shriveled man before him was a shadow of Mordechai’s original evil. That Mordechai had changed was likely, but what remained was a husk, the sloughed off remains.
“What is it about the tundra that boils our blood? Solomon ruminated. “Did he die like a man? Why?”
Mordechai’s hand lifted up, trembling and shaking.
“Will knowing this change anything?” asked Mordechai. “Why would it be important? A man does not die in…”
“Enough!” Solomon slammed his fist down on the table, no longer willing to stomach Mordechai’s stalling.
A pit plunged deep into his stomach, welling up with frustration. Solomon, like his own father as he knew him, was impetuous. Mordechai’s shaken pallor frame relinquished in his presence. What honor is there in taunting an old man? Solomon forsook the thought. Doubt would not succeed his anger.
“I was told that you knew,” Solomon growled. “I did not ride the barren roads from across the land only to behold your senile wit.”
“I killed your father,” Mordechai confirmed.
“I know,” clarified Solomon. “So why then?”
Caught in silence, Mordechai sat alone in the chair once more flummoxed, not without a bit of humor. He was beside himself with benign ignorance. Solomon patiently waited, scanning the room for confederates. To his surprise, there was no one, just him and Mordechai. After some while Mordechai shook his head sadly. He wrung his hands cathartically.
“Your father wanted to leave.” he said finally. “But I couldn’t let him go.”
“I loved him too much.”