Over the passing weeks, they had travelled back through Azarowa, back to their home outside Faraday, before heading to the King’s castle to file a report in person. The pair was slowly recovering from their wounds and kept under constant surveillance in one of the assigned rooms in the keep’s western tower. Eamonn had expected guidance of sorts during the process, as they each needed to provide one, and he was uncertain whether he should give the full story. Eamonn was facing a difficult decision, trying to find where his loyalty laid.
When he considered Aaren’s recent experiences, Eamonn wouldn’t be able to fathom how Aaren would handle the idea of the last person in his life turning on him. The simple notion of his betrayal would have made this a straight-forward outcome had it been a year ago. Now a part of the Ayleserowan Royal Commission, he was a servant of the crown and anything less than the complete truth would bring his own credibility into question. He felt obligated to remain true to the story, but he didn’t know if the king would condone his mentor’s actions. Eamonn didn’t know if he could condone them himself.
That weeklong period was the most difficult for Eamonn, more difficult than the battle in Sapphire fields, more difficult than the final confrontation with Marlow, just eighteen days ago, and even more difficult than Aaren’s stony silence in the aftermath to the events in Blackden. It tested him on his own morals and sense of justice, the crown and his own teacher and friend. But as the days went by, Aaren had no words of guidance for him, nothing more than a token greeting here and there.
True to his word he had submitted a report of what had really happened, forsaking the glory of what many believed to occur in battles, detailing the horror and disgust he’d felt throughout its entirety. Eamonn saw the pain and the regret in Aaren’s body language the night they returned home, they shared only brief conversations as they went about their own business, Aaren went on several solo missions, while Eamonn worked on getting the strength he’d lost in his legs back.
There were days and at other times a week where Aaren would be away, but still time passed on without Eamonn ever really talking to the man. Once fully rehabilitated from his injuries, he kept himself hard at work with his studies, revising tactics, keeping his weapons ready for action, and his skill with them up to scratch as he learnt several new techniques to add to his repertoire.
One evening, when Eamonn was practicing his accuracy with his crossbow, trying out a new design for an arrowhead he’d created, it was soft, designed to puncture armour and other materials, but nothing more, he tried using it in different circumstances but had yet to figure out an effective way of using such a thing. It was just before the usual dinner time when he spoke to Aaren.
The older man had been out for the last three days hunting down some local thieves, he approached the boy with an envelope, holding it out for the boy to take it, “dinner will be ready shortly” he muttered as he turned away and retreated back into the house. Instantly Eamonn put the crossbow down and tore open the envelope to find a letter detailing them of the outcome of their mission. Eamonn had been congratulated for his work in assisting the capture of Marlow, and was now to progress to the next level of study his studies as expected.
Marlow had been placed in the heavy security prison at the King’s own castle for life. Marlow had, however, suffered severe blood loss, a broken hand and a fractured spine, the injury would never fully heal, and it would be some time before he would be able to move freely, though paralysis in this instance would only be temporary. Eamonn skimmed down the page, looking for anything concerning Aaren and found it, “Further action to be taken” was mentioned, there were attached notes detailing the after effects of the missions, injuries sustained, men lost and such, but he breezed past these sections right towards the bottom. Eamonn’s eyes grew wide, he couldn’t explain it, “Aaren Fairweather, suffered acute mental strain, treatment: unknown, longevity: unknown, pending further evaluation.” He murmured to himself.
“Pending further evaluation” Eamonn repeated to himself. What could that mean? He wondered. He didn’t know, he was a sixteen year old boy, he had no knowledge of psychology. He retrieved his bolts from the targets, placing them back in his quiver and made his way inside.
Instantly he saw a change in Aaren’s mood, he wasn’t exactly bouncing around the room, but their seemed to be a more positive vibe to him than there had been for the last month or so. He sat down with his teacher, ate his dinner in quick bites, and just as he was to excuse himself and retire to his room, Aaren stopped him.
“Stay” he said simply and Eamonn turned back in chair to face Aaren. “I know I haven’t been totally forthcoming with information, and I know that I haven’t been great company for the past couple of months” he told the boy, who he knew was about to deny he’d witnessed such behaviour. “I’m sure you’re wondering what it’s been that has been getting to me?”
There was a late breeze that blew one of the window shutters around. Eamonn went to fasten the shutter into a better position. “Look, Aaren. I don’t blame you for what happened with my family, you could never have prevented Ceira’s death no matter how much you had tried, if it wasn’t her then it would have been you. I doubt that much would have changed if you had been the one instead of her, my family would still have ended up the same way, you can’t blame yourself for that. In the past you’ve seemed adamant about owning up to your mistakes, to learn from them, in this case I don’t see a mistake” Eamonn replied.
Aaren looked down at the table, picked at a loose thread on his shirt before looking back at his student, when he did, he looked guilt ridden. He wished that he could hold on to this information a little longer, the boy wasn’t ready to hear it, but with everything else that’s been happening, he needed to get it off his chest. “Your family wasn’t destroyed because of your father’s death” Aaren admitted. Aaren saw the familiar screwed up look on Eamonn’s face.
“Your father was a good man” he told Eamonn. “I’ll always remember how everyone reacted to the news that Ceira was killed. We lost a great member of the guard that day. Your mother…” he started, seeing he had Eamonn’s undivided attention. No one had ever told Eamonn about his parents, or what happened to them. “she left you shortly after your father, she couldn’t bare it on her own.”
“It had a huge effect on us all, you were about five at the time, and you never really understood what had happened, initially it didn’t seem to affect you but over time, we knew you had noticed things had changed.” He added, his mood heavy.
“Anyway, it had such a dampening effect on your father’s brother, he changed immensely, his mood had changed, and instead of taking things in a slightly joking manner, everything became serious with him.” Aaren looked across at the fireplace, grinning quietly to himself as he considered the latched door, smiling fondly at the memory of victory so recent in their lives.
“I remember the first time I met him, he was always a strong character, he was always a passionate man, but there were two things that changed him; one, your family breaking up, it hit him hard. And the second you already know about, it hurt him just as much as it hurt me.” Aaren sat back up in his chair, leaning forward and he stroked his chin, unsure how to phrase what he was to say.
“His daughter meant the world to him” he said after a few moments silence. “Losing her was the worst thing that could ever happen to him. Your father was about ten years younger than Blane, so your uncle had always sort of been a father figure in his life.” Eamonn was beginning to understand, and the meaning behind what his teacher was saying had dawned on him.
“Blane was a changed man, he spent more time focusing on his work, spent more time away from his home” he said, tears threatened to break through. “Your father would always try to keep him distracted, keep him searching for something more, looking at the positives, but the more everyone tried, the more he pushed us away.” He told the boy.
“After all that they had been through, your father couldn’t take any more of it, he resigned from the commission, he left you and your mother and moved out of the country. As far as we know he could be anywhere, we haven’t heard from him in years. Your mother had lost everything she knew as family, she was best friends with Ceira, and losing her husband was too much, she left you in the care of Darcey, she was an old friend of hers from her younger days.” Aaren smiled at the boy again, a frown shadowed across his face as he considered that last point, but he shrugged it aside, there was time for that, he told himself.
Eamonn sat, unspeaking for a while, he didn’t know where to begin, everything had happened so quickly. The youth looked around the room, searching for answers, waiting for something to reach out and grab him, to point him in some direction. “Where is my mother?”
“She’s somewhere in Normlieth with the rest of her kin, I can put the paperwork in to find her if that’s what you wanted?” Aaren suggested to the boy. Eamonn smiled back and nodded, he’d like that, he had no memories of his mother other than the occasional flashback or dream, but they were hazy at best.
“I think we have something to do in the meantime. Tomorrow, I want you to come with me to Hailsham, its time you officially met some of your family.”