Bander was jumping to reach higher branches with his axe and answered, “How so?”
“Well,” Miri began. “Take the relationships. Linvin and Anvar are close. Anvar, Rander and you are close. You seem to be getting closer to Linvin but you seem to have some bad blood from the past. Rander and Linvin simply do not get along at all. Has it always been this way?”
“Near as I can remember,” Bander answered casually. “Ever since I can recollect me and Rander have hated Linvin. Whenever we done got put together we always ended up in fights. Yep. Shed a lot of blood scrapping with each other. Lost some teeth too.”
Miri was horrified. “Whatever were you fighting about?”
“Actually, I don’t rightly know. We just hated him. Come to think of it, he didn’t start most of the fights but he sure did lay a good whooping on us. “
“Why did you hate him?” Miri pressed.
Bander stopped working and thought for a long while. His puzzled expression finally changed and he answered succinctly, “Because Rander said we hated him.”
“That is not reason,” Miri protested. “There must surely have been more to it than that.”
Bander simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “Rander’s the smart one in the family. If he said ‘we hate him and we’re going to put a beating on him’, then he must know what he was talking about.
Miri walked over to Bander and said softly but firmly, “I mean no disrespect to your brother but in the short time I have known Rander he has never seemed to know what he was talking about. In fact, every judgment he has made since our escape has been completely wrong.
“I see the changes taking place with you. Deep down you know I am right. That is the reason you follow Linvin’s orders. You know your brother is wrong and Linvin is correct. Don’t you?”
Bander became flustered and walked back and forth in a very small area so it had the effect of him doing little more than turning in circles. “You don’t understand,” he said in frustration. “Greenliths don’t like Grithinshields. Mom said so and Rander said so. That’s two big people saying ‘So’. Dad died in the war and I don’t remember him having anything good to say about Grithinshields. He called them ‘greedy humans’ and ‘members of a diseased race’. They really didn’t like how Linvin’s family was all rich and we were all…not.
“All the Greenliths were real mean to Aunt Jelena too. Ever since she married Uncle Dirk, Mom said she didn’t like her no more and we weren’t going to either. Only Uncle Anvar was nice to Linvin and his folks. Mom 303
would get real mad at him but he somehow had sort of like these ways of making everybody get along. Well, maybe we didn’t get along but he broke up a lot of fights.”
Miri sat down as the pieces of the puzzle came into place for her. Then she smiled and said, “Sit by me for a moment.” Miri was a difficult person to refuse. Bander sat down next to her like a schoolboy by his teacher. “You have given me reasons why your family dislikes Linvin. If I understand correctly, the Greenliths simply do not like Humans. By marrying your uncle your Aunt Jelena was ostracized from the family. They thought she was a traitor. When Linvin’s family became wealthy the resentment grew. Does that sound right?”
Bander nodded forcefully. “Yep. That sounds about right. You got a real nice way of making sense of things. It’s nice and short. Makes it easy to understand.”
“Thank you,” Miri said graciously. “What bothers me the most, however, is you have not given me one reason why you dislike Linvin so. All you have said is that Rander told you to hate him. We have just established Rander does not know what he is talking about.
“I have watched you and you are not the fool of which you play the part. You are perfectly capable of making your own decisions. So I put it to you alone. Do you really hate Linvin?”
“Well, he seems pretty nice,” Bander answered quickly.
“Do you trust him?”
“He’s saved our lives a whole bunch of times and he always thinks of what is best for the group. So yah, I suppose I do trust him.”
“Did you promise to follow him?”
“Sure did,” Bander nodded. “Me and Rander promised although I think Rander just wanted the money Linvin offered for coming along.”
“Did you just come because Rander said to do so?”
“That and Linvin said he needed our help. So I figured ‘if he’s asking for our help after all the bad blood, he must really need it. I best be going with him’.”
Miri smiled and returned to her work. “You have a good heart, Bander. Be mindful of your brother. If you really think over your lives together I would bet he made sure he was always the one who came out on top while you bore the brunt of the work. He is not to blame either. You have been taught from birth how to behave and to despise your cousin. You are a man now who can decide for himself.