The Tyranny of Six
"He used to yell all the time," Yorin says in a stage whisper. I glance over at Six, but he appears to be ignoring us. "Really, he's mellowed out quite impressively since you joined us." He winks at me, and I smile.
"Was he really so bad?"
"Not bad, exactly," Orami puts in. "Just sort of... demanding."
"He was a tyrant," Thare adds, in a completely serious voice. From across the clearing, Six snorts.
"Not tyrannical, exactly," Yorin says thoughtfully. His knife glides over the chunk of wood in his hand, peeling back strips of soft bark that drop, curling, onto his boots. "Just... Redge, what would you call it?"
"I'd call it tyrannical," he huffs.
Orami grins at me. "It's just that he wants things done a specific way. As long as you did your job, there were no problems, but if you weren't doing your job, or weren't doing it well... Remember Osku?"
He looks around at the others, who nod and murmur that they do.
"Who's Osku?" I ask.
"He's the son of one of the officers in the unit," Yorin answers. "He, um... well, he did not rise through the ranks, as he ought have."
"He was given the position because his daddy wanted him to have it," Thare says bluntly. "Didn't have any of the skills required of a scout and didn't have the desire to learn them. Bayal tried telling his father that it wouldn't work, but the man wouldn't listen. I think Bayal sent him to Six just to prove himself right."
"What did he do?" I ask.
"I made him do his job," Six answers finally, standing up. "In this line of work, if you mess up, you die. Lying and saying he was doing a fine job when he wasn't isn't kindness- it's dangerous. He couldn't be trusted to go off on his own. It was either tell him that, or let him die."
A brief silence follows his words, before Yorin shrugs. "None of us deny that. Osku lasted three weeks before he quit. I don't think he learned a single skill in all that time."
I stare at him, going through each of my actions so far in my mind. I certainly can't claim any skills required of scouts or rangers or whatever these men are- except maybe archery. But Six hasn't treated me with anything other than kindness and encouragement. Or have I somehow missed this tyrannical behavior of his?
"Don't you worry, Braids," Yorin comforts. "It isn't the same for you. You have some base knowledge already, having grown up in the mountains- not to mention what you went through in the internment camp. Besides, you have the skill and desire to learn. Six won't make you quit."
"He hasn't been as hard on him, either," Orami muses, and I think I should feel guilty about that, but Orami's tone has no blame in it. "Or on the rest of us, since Braids showed up."
At that Six just shrugs. "You haven't been messing up as much. I'm really not that hard to work for if you just do what you're supposed to do." With that he signals he is done talking by kicking past Orami and dropping down beside Thare to help him clean the deer. I watch him until I realize I'm staring, and move away from the fire; it's staring to make my face hot.