A New Page
Egis stood on the rock ledge looking out at the expanse below. A gentle, friendly breeze blew across his face, drying the tears that still clung to his round cheeks. With a deep breath, he slowly raised his arms over his head, bringing his hands together to form a point. The muscles in his strong hind legs tensed for a moment. And then, without looking back, he sprang lithely, up and out, bending at the waist, and diving down, down, down through the air.
With a surprisingly subdued splash, Egis's body entered the water. He had always been more graceful than others expected from someone of his girth. The cool water was comforting against the flush of his leathery skin. He tried to imagine that the water flowing around him was cleaning out the dirty words that seemed to have gotten stuck underneath his skin. He didn't know why he let them get to him like that. He had grown up poor and portly, and for as long as he had lived with these two facts of life you would think he would have developed a thicker skin than the one now fading in the cool water from the dusky maroon colour it had been up on the cliff.
With a few strokes, Egis propelled himself toward the surface. He took a deep breath as his head broke through. Turning over to float on his back, he glanced down at his four pudgy limbs. They were now a rosy pastel hue. And with the cooling sensation of the water fading the tint of his skin, he felt a calm sink slowly into his heart as well. It is what it is, he thought to himself with a sigh. Every day he did what he could to accept himself for who he was, what he looked like, and how he felt. He had been striving to improve his feeling of self-worth since he had become conscious that such a thing was even possible. For a long time he had felt entirely isolated in his feelings, thinking that his lot in life had been handed to him at birth and that nothing could ever change that. But the truth was, no matter what you were born with (or without), or what circumstances you grew up in, or what situation you found yourself in at any given moment, you alone were responsible for how you saw yourself, how you reacted to the world around you, and what attitude you were going to bring to your life. When he finally learned that, he tried to embrace this new philosophy. This was definitely easier said than done, but he felt that he was finally on the right path.
Egis kicked out with his hind legs to position his body so that his head was pointing toward the shore. Then, pretending he was Maraquan, he swept his tail back and forth, propelling himself to dry land. As he clambered up onto the sandy beach, water sluiced off his body in rivulets. The sun instantly started to warm him up to a medium mauve. He shook his body from his great head down to his powerful tail, sending droplets sparkling down to the sand. After wiggling his ears again for good measure, he started walking determinedly back home.
Egis appreciated his job. He worked on one of the large estates on the outskirts of Brightvale. He had worked there as a hall-boy since he was a child. It was a blessing to him that the job came with a uniform. Even being stockier than the other hall-boys, the loose-fitting uniform went a long way in helping to blend in. And in any case, not many people noticed the help, they naturally faded into the background. A footman position had opened up recently, and he had been toying with the idea of applying for it. He was already older than most of the other current hall-boys, the ones he had entered in with having all risen in the ranks before him. Because he had been content in his position, he hadn't sought a promotion before. But now his age and his height made him stick out like a sore thumb. The other boys sniggered behind their hands when he walked into the room, and even the members of the household were starting to notice him, curious why someone his age was still working as a hall-boy, no doubt.
After making his way back to the estate from his impromptu swim, he put on his uniform and knocked quietly at the door of the butler's office. The older servant had been with the great house since before Egis had even been taken on as a hall-boy. He was a cornerstone of the household and took pride in that fact. He knew each of his underlings as well as he possibly could, and he had had more than ample time to take stock of this young Skeith. In the old butler's eyes, Egis was a loyal young man, hard-working, kept his head down, if perhaps too much. He never made trouble, although the other boys liked to make trouble for him.
Egis had been a hall-boy for several years past the age at which most hall-boys began to look upwards. In the past, the butler had thought Egis lacked ambition, but he gradually came to realize that what he lacked wasn't ambition but rather, self-confidence. As was his way, the butler had let Egis alone. A young Skeith had to find self-worth for himself if he was ever to find it at all in this life. Nothing the old butler could say would have made a difference to molding the young Skeith in the past. It just wasn't the right time. But now that Egis had finally taken the initiative to improve himself, the butler found that he had quite invested his heart in this peculiar youngster without even realizing it. With a gleam in his eye he nodded briefly when Egis handed over the simple application to begin training as a footman of the household. The butler did not give anything away that would have been highly unprofessional. But privately, he knew that he would choose Egis over the other applicants. Despite his species and his size (which, of course, came part and parcel with being of the Skeith species to begin with), there was something about Egis that the butler quite liked. And if Egis was, as the butler suspected, now turning the page and seeking self-growth on his own terms, then the butler thought it would now be appropriate to change tacks. In any case, the old man was tired of playing the part of a stern and distant employer. He was ready to take on the more nurturing role that best suited his personality, that of a mentor.
A fortnight later, Egis was called in to the office of the old butler.
“Egis,” he said, as the Skeith knocked quietly on the open door. “Come in, boy.”
Egis eased his way into the room, careful not to knock over the ornate bowl sitting on a small entryway table.
“Sit down, please. How many years have you been with us?”
“I... since I was about seven years old, Sir.”
The butler looked up over the rim of his reading glasses from the papers he had been studying, raising one eyebrow.
“I b-believe it's been just about... ten years, Sir?”
At this, the butler slowly put down the papers, took off his glasses, and leaned slightly back into his chair. “Relax, boy. You're not in trouble.”
In response, Egis only shifted his weight slightly and smoothed his hands down the front of his uniform.
“I called you in here to let you know that you will begin training as a footman tomorrow morning at first bell.”
Egis looked up, startled.
“I will be training you personally.”
Egis's eyes widened even more.
The old butler cleared his throat and looked meaningfully at the young Skeith standing before him.
Egis blinked rapidly, trying to gather his wits. “Ah, um, th-thank you! Sir.” He sketched a slight bow.
Nodding his acceptance, the butler waved his hand to dismiss his new footman. He watched as Egis fled the room so quickly that the bowl rattled on the table by the door. Chuckling quietly to himself, the butler thought that he felt almost young again.