The Archives of the Heroes: Series One - Foundation.

This is the story of two brothers growing up in our Universe. They manage to find themselves all kinds of trouble and adventures while travelling from galaxy to galaxy with their father.
Or, in some cases, by themselves.

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13. Episode Four: Mr. Goldiswar's School for Gifted Boys (and un-gifted boys too).

Episode Four: Mr. Goldiswar's school for gifted boys (and un-gifted boys too).

 

Strongh awoke in the middle of the night to a soft sound. He wasn't sure how it had managed to wake him up, but once he had become aware of it he found it impossible to ignore.

It was coming from across the room, so he slowly turned his head towards it. No, he realised, it was not coming from across the room, it was coming from across the hall. The sound suddenly became a little louder, though it fell back as quickly as it had crescendoed, and Strongh sighed. Rolling his eyes, he crept out of bed and tip-toed to the door.

One of his room-mates snored, and he jumped a little. Then, after quickly checking that all three boys were actually asleep, he eased the door open and sneaked out.

The hall did not creek, which Strongh saw as a plus. It suddenly hit him that he had not attempted to sneak out at night (or any other time) for an entire year, since Jaliq had 'dumped' he and Liart off at Mr. Goldiswar's school for gifted boys – though 'and un-gifted boys too' was added at the bottom of the front sign in very small print. In fact, Strongh thought, he had been quite good since Jaliq dropped him off at the school – perhaps his father's crazy plan had worked.

Slowly, he opened the door to the room where the sound was coming from. It was crying, sobbing actually. Strongh did a quick head-count and realised that there was only one person in the room: Liart.

Gasping, he shut the door and turned on the light.

'Liart!' He cried. 'Why are you all alone in here? Where is everyone? And why are you crying?'

'They all left me, Strongh!' Liart sobbed, and Strongh could barely understand him. 'They said I was a geek and a loser, and didn't want to share a room with me because I cry every night, but I'm so quiet, I don't know why they....'

'Whoa,' Strongh interrupted, 'you cry every night?'

Liart seemed to regret letting that information slip, but he did not deny it.

'I wish I at least had Galileo.' He sniffed. 'At least then I'd have something.'

Strongh rolled his eyes. 'Now you cry about your teddy! Why didn't you cry when you lost him?!'

'I was trying to be brave, Strongh! But ever since father dumped us here, I've been perfectly alone. No-one likes me, and not even you pay any attention to me – unless you're treating me like your henchman or something. Like you said, Strongh, we're not friends.'

'Oh, would you forget that!? You know full-well what I meant by that!'

'I don't think I did, Strongh.'

'We're brothers!'

'Then start being a brother, Strongh! I hate it here...'

'Don't say that word, Liart. You know what father thinks of it.'

Liart scowled, but his brother could not see. 'I want out, Strongh! I want to get out of here! I despise it with every fibre of my being!'

'Well I like it.' Strongh replied. 'We have friends now... or at least I do. It's not my fault if you can't make any.'

'Strongh, go away! You're making everything worse!'

Strongh sighed, as he realised that was true. Slowly, he shut his mouth, turned off the light, and crawled in beside his brother.

'Move over.'

Liart smiled a little, and made room in the bed for his older brother, who was still about the same size as he was. He giggled a little through his tears.

'When are you going to grow, Strongh?'

'Hey! I may be short for my age, but I'm far stronger than most people!'

Liart knew this to be true, but still giggled.

'Go to sleep.' Strongh instructed sternly. He couldn't help it, really - being gentle was something he struggled to do. Liart knew this, and could tell when his brother was being kind and affectionate in a minute. He smiled warmly, curled up next to his brother and – leaning his head on the elder's shoulder – fell asleep.

 

There was an oak tree out the front of the school, and when up the top it was possible to see over the dark-brick walls. They had spikes on, which was a little off-putting, but at the same time fascinating.

The school was the most prestigious in Zraiatormma, if not the Scatorian Universe, and both boys enjoyed the education side of things. There was literature, sport, fencing – anything that could possibly be taught was taught.

But of course, one thing that can never really be taught is how to make friends. Or, at least, Liart supposed, how to keep them. And so he had taken to sitting up the top of the tree and staring over the spiked walls, dreaming that their father would appear up the top of the street, coming to collect them. He truly hated it here.

The teachers like Strongh, though he would never know why. He was an average student, and didn't particularly try hard at anything (unless of course it was physical exercise). The students liked Strongh too, which puzzled Liart a little. After all, for the most part he used them as his minions. But everybody hated Liart. The teachers thought he was a cheat, a liar, and a smart-alec, which – maybe – he was, and the students thought much the same.

Unbeknownst to Liart, his brother was watching him from the playground, knotting his eyebrows and wondering how on earth he had overlooked his brother's plight (as Liart would have put it). He wanted to fix it, he loved his little brother, but he simply did not know how. There was no way their father was going to let them out of the school, and Strongh did not want to be expelled. As for helping Liart make a few friends... well, being Strongh's minion was the best he could ever hope for; Strongh knew this. The children did not want to be his friend, but they would pretend to be if Strongh looked after him. But if he seemed too attached to his little brother, his friends hated the latter all the more, concluding he had no back-bone (which made Strongh laugh to himself at how utterly wrong they were). He couldn't win, really.

The school-bell rung, and Liart jumped. He closed the book he was reading (Strongh couldn't even pronounce the title) and scrambled down the tree. Strongh quickly hid behind a pillar while his brother ran past and then followed him.

But – as unbeknownst to Liart as Strongh's observation had been – unbeknownst to Strongh was the idea that was rapidly forming in his discontented brother's mind.  

 

Liart was nine now; Strongh was twelve. Together, they observed, their ages totalled 21, which was a very significant age on most planets. Occasionally they would try to use this to their advantage, though it never worked. Today was one such day. The only difference was, Liart was not around.

Strongh walked into the head-master's office and found it was empty. He decided to wait, and glanced around the room boredly. There was a picture of a woman on the man's desk: Strongh frowned. He was never sure how to react to these creatures, even in a photo.

'Strongh!'

The boy jumped, looking up at his master as if he had done something terribly wrong.

'I see you are frowning at my wife.' The man continued brightly. 'Most boys do. Tell me, what is it that you all find so displeasing?'

Strongh hesitated before glancing at the picture out of the corner of his eye, as if watching a thieving rat.

'I..' he finally stammered. 'I don't know. I've never had a mother.'

The master nodded, his smile saddening a little. 'Neither did I, Strongh. Let me assure you, your life doesn't have to be the worst because of it. Just worse perhaps.'

Strongh smiled. 'Are you saying you turned out?' Then, immediately, his face fell. 'That's not what I meant – scrap that. Make out I said nothing, please. I tend to talk out of turn – it's down-right blasted.'

The man raised an eyebrow at Strongh's obscure lexis, and he felt obliged to fix it, chuck in a big word, he thought.

'How may I... appease... you?' He asked, conjuring up a word he remembered Liart had once used.

'Try not to do it again, in future.' Was the bright reply. 'Now, what have you come to see me for?'

'Well,' Strongh began, his confidence waning a little, 'Liart's a little down, and wants to leave. He doesn't usually cause trouble, but... I dunno. I didn't realise he was so upset, so... who knows? He might surprise me. He doesn't often, but occasionally he... blows my mind.' He felt annoyed, bothered to the extreme. He was trying not to stammer and slip in 'um' or the like but it simply did not come naturally to him. He would never be able to speak impressively, he felt sure of it. Sighing, he decided to give up trying, and amazed himself by what he said. 'I was hoping you'd grant me permission to take Liart out on an excursion. It shan't take very long.'

He frowned, and checked round the room for another person. Surely he had not said that!? Dear, maybe he was smarter than he thought he was, as Liart often begrudgingly told him. He began to believe it now.

The head-master seemed impressed too, and smiled brilliantly. He reminded Strongh of Jaliq when he did that.

'I'm afraid I can't allow that.' He replied, looking truly disappointed somehow. 'You're both under-age; it would be irresponsible of me to let you out.'

'Please.' Strongh pleaded with the man, though he felt it would be of no use. He was not considered cute. 'I just want to help my brother – he just needs a few hours. He's such a delicate creature, and if I let him alone any longer he's sure to fade away!'

He winced at the way he said that last phrase– sure to fade away. He was not sure how, but his pronunciation was slipping. Liart's was so cultivated, so defined. His was loose, he avoided moving his mouth as much as possible. Liart would have said 'suer to fade away'. He said 'shorda fade away', with the 'ay' dragged out so that he had a decisive twang. This could not be right, he thought, this hating of his own accent. Still, he couldn't exactly be bothered to do any better.

The head-master raised an eyebrow, completely distracted. 'Have you ever been to Australia?' He asked.

'No.' Strongh replied, a little disappointed that the master had picked up on his drawl too.

'Funny that. You sound just like one – very broad. Perhaps... you have been associating with those who have. Who would you say was your closest friend, Strongh?'

'Jack Dodger.' Strongh replied without even having to thinking.

'Ah,' the man was beyond beaming now. He looked so glad he was actually irritating. 'Yes, he lived in Australia till last year, in fact. Outback Australia, I believe, which explains the broadness of your...'

'I'm not here to discuss my speech!' Strongh cried hotly. He decided that if he were going to speak roughly he may as well act the part. 'I want to get out of here! Even if it's just for an hour!'

He would not apologise for being gruff this time.

'Besides, if you put Liart and mine's ages together, we're tweny-one.'

'Twenty-one.' The master corrected, emphasising the 't'. 'And it would be better for you to say 'if you add my age with Liart's'. Mine's is not a word of any sort.'

Strongh frowned. He could feel he was turning quite red – maybe grey, he thought that sounded more dramatic. Still, maybe he did not change colour at all, only felt like it.

He thought about how he could possibly get his own way. He was not used to having to try, as Jaliq had always been most obliging. And the few times he had thought to fight, he hadn't needed to because...

He stopped here, froze. Even the head-master noticed.

'Strongh?' He asked. 'Are you all right?'

Strongh nodded, and walked out of the room in a daze. It was so simple! Why, he did not even have to think about it – he just had to walk in there and state his request. The head-master would not think to deny him then.

He smiled broadly, and walked confidently back into the office. The effect of his new-found knowledge was immediate, and satisfied him greatly.

'Mr. Goldiswar!' The head-master cried, his eyes dilating. 'What brings you here so early? It is not yet the end of financial year!'

Strongh opened his mouth to speak, but suddenly dared not. He couldn't imitate the speech of a man he'd only ever seen – and once at that! It was odd enough that the head-master thought he was Mr. Goldiswar! Still, this had worked every other time, so he swallowed and said his piece.

'I want you... command you!... to let Liart out for a day. Let him go out with Strongh – it'll do him good. He's perfectly – wretched – in this hole... I mean place. Hole's what he called it.'

Hole was far from what Liart would call it. Hell perhaps. Maybe gaol, spelt with a 'g' to be English, and therefore proper, but never 'hole'. Surely his little joke was over now.

But the head-master only nodded. 'Yes, of course. Strange that you should mention that... I just had Strongh plead with me for the same cause...' A cloud passed over his face, and Strongh felt convinced that he would work everything out. But the man only shrugged, nodded, and said, 'of course, they may go out. With a guardian, of course...'

'No!' Strongh snapped. 'They must go alone!'

The head-master frowned. 'I'm sorry sir, but that could actually classify as illegal. I can't just let two under-age boys walk out of school! Not while they're under my care!'

'They are under my care.' Strongh replied without thinking. 'If anything happens to them I will be the one to blame.'

'Not legally, sir.'

'I'll fire you!'

'I'd rather be fired than irresponsible.'

Strongh sighed. The head-master was proving to be much more prudent than he had first thought.

'I'll sign an agreement.'

'I'll not let you.'

'You have to let me – I'm your employer.'

'I don't have to let you do anything!'

Strongh wasn't meant to fight with words, that was Liart's business. He almost felt like giving up.

The door to the office suddenly swung open, and the afore mentioned child burst in. His jaw was set – he had prominent cheekbones when he did that – and his nose looked more angular than normal. He was determined, he was going to get his way. But suddenly, his face flooded with surprise, and he cried,

'Strongh!'

Strongh sighed, as the head-master frowned quizzically.

'What?' Then his brown smoothed. 'Oh, I see. You're calling for your brother. Don't be frightened, Liart, Mr. Goldiswar will not hurt you. He has been discussing a matter pertaining to you.'

'I wish to let you and Strongh out for a day.' Strongh put in, eyeing his brother sternly, desperately actually. Liart could make or break this.

The latter turned towards the head-master with an air of maturity that Strongh hated seeing.

'You said yes, of course?' He asked, as a father might ask their son if they cleaned their room.

The head-master did not seemed bothered in the least, and replied, 'no, of course not! I cannot turn you loose in the streets even for a day!'

'Unless you had our father's permission, of course.'

'Which I don't. I specifically said when he enrolled you that I wasn't to let you out even for a moment.'

Strongh's spirits fell here, but Liart did not seemed the least bit phased. In fact, he smiled. He laughed!

'No, no, no, I think you misunderstood his instructions. He said the same thing to Strongh and I, only we knew that he meant we could not wander off during school hours. He hasn't the least problem with us travelling on weekends. Besides, that's what I came here to tell you, he has just now given me his permission for such an excursion – over the phone, of course.'

'But your weekly phone call isn't due till tomorrow.' The head-master replied, pretending that he wasn't as moved as he was.

Liart smiled again – it was a confident, haunting smile. Cute, Strongh supposed, the kind that made people – girls – scream. Yet menacing – the kind that made everyone scream. He shuddered.

'It isn't hard to persuade children to give up their turn.'

Well, that was true at least. Liart was an expert at striking deals with children. A week of maths homework for the sake of one phone call? Oh, it was a dismal sightseeing his brother make such desperate bargains. But the worst of it all was, Jaliq hardly even spoke to the boy. It was always a 'hello again, Liart. What's wrong this time?'

A few sniffles, no tears – the boy was proud – 'I hat... don't like it here, father. Please come for us – for me at least!'

'Liart...'

'Please!'

'I've told you before!'

'But everybody hates me, even the teachers! No-one wants to talk to me...'

'Please, Liart, I'm sure they don't hate you – that's such a strong word!'

'They really despise me, father! It's obvious when they just cut me off...'

'I'm sorry Liart, I can't talk to you right now. I suppose I'll hear from you tomorrow.'

That's all he ever got, except for once a week on Tuesday, as Jaliq knew that was when he was meant to call.

It was strange, Strongh thought. Of all the few books he had read it were the women characters that felt being deprived of conversation was a sign of hatred. But Liart was convinced of it... Strongh worried he began to hate their father. But surely, he reasoned, that was not possible.

He blinked. Had he really missed that much? Liart was pulling him out of the room, thanking him, 'Mr. Goldiswar', for his efforts. He and his brother would appreciate the outing. Had they really won?

'Liart!' Strongh cried once they were outside. 'What happened?'

'What? Weren't you listening?'

'I... was distracted.'

Liart rolled his eyes. 'I won, Strongh. No thanks to you – not yet anyway. The head-master is waiting for a phone-call from father to give his permission. Then we may go out. If not, then we are stuck here.' He smiled. 'I knew you wanted to go out.'

Strongh frowned, as he suddenly realised what his brother was planning. 'I don't!' He cried. 'I was only trying to be nice for you! Liart, don't you see what you've done!? It's strange enough that any-one can mistake me for anyone, but over the phone?!'

'Why not?! It's worth a try, Strongh, at the very least! And don't lie, brother, you're a bad liar. I know you want to have an adventure.'

'I want to stay at school! I was just trying to be nice to you!'

Liart's face broke, and Strongh realised his brother had known it all along.

'I know that, imbecile!' He cried vehemently. 'I was just trying to ignore the fact that you treated me like a helpless moron once again!'

'I did not! I treated you like a brother!'

'And now you're going to ditch me at the last minute!' The younger turned sulkily away and crossed his arms. This made Strongh sigh.

'Don't do that, Liart. You know you don't have to manipulate me to get my help. I was giving it to you already.'

'You were about to ditch.'

'I wasn't. I was just telling you you were thick for thinking this is going to work – no, correction, you are think. But I'll do it anyway because I love you, stupid little fool.'

'Words of love indeed!' Liart cried, turning around for emphasis.

Strongh rolled his eyes and decided to give up the fight. He smiled, tousled his little brother's slight curls, and said, 'from a brother... lookin' pretty good.'

He walked off, but not without noticing the boy's huge grin.

 

The phone call worked, much to the surprise of Strongh, and he went to bed feeling rather proud of himself. He was about to go to sleep when, rolling his eyes, he had an afterthought, and stole across to Liart's room.

He did not knock – after all they were brothers, and he didn't exactly expect his brother to knock before entering his room - okay, so he did. But that was different, he thought – so he burst straight into the room. He froze immediately, staring at his brother has if the boy had just dropped dead and then walked.

Liart eyed him botheredly, ushered him in, closed the door, and returned to his position beside the bed. He tried to continue in his previous occupation, though he found it extremely hard while Strongh glared at him, and occasionally glared back.

'And...' he stammered, beginning to lose all concentration. '...and... please help me to be nice to Strongh after I stop praying. Amen.'

He did not turn immediately to his brother. He rather seemed to be avoiding that. So Strongh took the lead.

'What was that?!' He cried.

'Praying.' Liart replied, slipping into his bed.

'What are you, a nun?!'

'Nuns are women, Strongh. The correct term would be monk, and no, I am not.'

'Then what on earth are you doing!?'

'I told you Strongh. Now good night.'

Strongh was astounded. 'How long, Liart? How long has this been going on for?'

Liart closed his eyes. He wasn't going to indulge his brother any further.

'Liart!?' Strongh cried, beginning to feel frustrated. 'Liart!?'

There was a long pause.

Then, suddenly, in a fit of rage, Strongh hit his brother hard, in no particular region.

The boy cried out in pain at once, but was beyond crying. He only sat up and screamed, 'a year, Strongh, a year! And you were too busy to notice!'

Strongh felt no remorse for causing his brother pain, or if he did he didn't show it.

'What?! Why would you do such a thing – you know it's pointless.'

'I was told God cared for me. And as I cared about so few people that did not seem to care for me, I thought I should try to care for someone who actually did care for me.'

Strongh's head spun a little, but he caught the sense of Liart's words.

'I care about you, and so does father!'

'Neither of you talk to me! Except for when you have to.'

'So?! Does God talk to you?'

The boy reached under his pillow and pulled out a book. He thought about handing it to his brother, but – in a moment of spite – threw it with all his might. It didn't exactly hurt the strong boy, but it got the point across.

'Liart!' Strongh roared, picking up the book, 'I've a good mind to throw this back at you!'

'Go ahead!'

'It didn't even hurt!'

'Throw it, coward!'

'You're such an idiot!'

'Yeah? Why?!'

'Coz you speak to the air, and you think this book is actually from God, and you think father and I don't care for you. If that were true do you think either of us would be here? Do you think I would have arranged for our trip? Do you think I would have snuck across the hall to be with you?!'

'Sneaked, Strongh!' Liart corrected his grammar. 'Snuck is not a word!'

'Just answer the question!'

'I really don't know which one you want me to answer, as there were several, Strongh – looks like you can't count either. You're so ignorant – you don't know anything!'

'At least I don't talk to air!'

'You're just jealous coz God cares for me and not you!'

'That's stupid! I've sat through the priest's monologues just as long as you have, and I know that you're being a... a... heretic!'

Liart frowned. 'Fine, maybe I am. But that doesn't change the fact that no-one else cares for me.'

Strongh was frustrated. He wasn't good at speaking, he'd never be able to convince his brother that he cared for him with words. All his frustration and anger boiled up inside of him, racing up to his arm, until, with a groan of intensity, he slapped the boy across the face.

Liart fell to the floor, not built for such rough treatment, and lay there for a good minute. Strongh began to panic, and approached his brother frantically.

'Liart!' He cried. 'Are you all right?'

'No!' The boy returned, and Strongh could tell he was sobbing now. 'You just hit me again Strongh! That's not caring for some-one – and neither is dumping them at a school where nobody likes them and refusing to talk to them on the phone ever!'

'Father's just busy, Liart! He can't talk to you all the time! And he thinks you'll love it here – just give it a go! Try harder to make friends. You'd find it easy if you just tried – you're very good with people, really.'

Liart sniffed, but began to be comforted. 'And you?'

'I'm just frustrated because you can't see how much I care about you, that's all! You know I can't be nice.'

'But you can be, Strongh. Remember when you killed that lion to avenge your friends' deaths?'

'That was violent, Liart.'

'It was kind. And sometimes you have even been gentle.'

Strongh timidly pulled his brother closer and held him tightly.

'That hurts, Strongh.' Liart said, but he was giggling.

Strongh frowned. 'You're an emotional mess, Liart. Fancy giggling after a scene like that!'

Liart only sniffed – the sniffing that follows hysterical crying – and rolled over. He was asleep in seconds, exhausted from screaming, and hitting, and being hit.

Strongh sighed and shook his head. Carefully - and gently, which he felt rather proud of – he lifted his brother onto his bed and tucked him in. Then, feeling that he could not get away with doing otherwise, he slipped in beside him.

 

The first thing Liart did when he awoke was check to see that Strongh was beside him. Turning around, he met the latter's sky-blue eyes, and smiled awkwardly.

'Where you staring at me?'

Strongh nodded. 'You're cuter when you're asleep.'

'I don't want to be cute.'

'Well... I've heard it has more than one meaning.'

'But cute is like being sweet. And I'm not sure I'd like to be... sweet. Sweet's a rather girly term.'

Strongh smiled, and nodded in perfect agreement. 'Still, maybe it depends on who says it to you.'

Liart only shrugged and sat up. 'I've decided.' He announced. 'To try extra hard to make friends, like you suggested. But I hope you realise that I'll be acting every step of the way.'

'Be a good actor then, Liart.'

'I said I'll try. But you have to help me.'

'How?'

'You have to stay in my room. In that bed, if you have to.'

'You don't want me to sleep beside you?'

'I don't care. Just thought you might.'

Strongh beamed. Oh yes, his little brother was in a very good mood now. He was speaking informally.

'All right then. I guess that's a good deal.' He extended his hand, and Liart smiled. The two shook hands.

'You have a tight grip.' Liart remarked, wincing a little – but only a little.

'So do you.' Strongh said, surprised. 'You're stronger than you look.'

'Not by much.'

Strongh laughed here. 'You're right. You're pretty much just weak.'

Then, lovingly, he wrapped his arm around his brother's neck and pulled him close. The younger giggled, and allowed Strongh to lead him out of the room.

 

 

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