The approaching storm drained the light from the world; the gray-cast clouds absorbing the color of even the few flickering lanterns, giving the buildings and fences a surreal appearance, like gray, misshapen lumps of clay. The sky was like a slab upon a press, crushing everything below. Cold wind blew through the darkness, an icy knife, slaughtering the day's heat.
Jowan shivered in his thin prisoners' garb. The coarse burlap he wore was more for the sake of decency than protection again the weather, but what choice did he have? He had nothing else left to his name, and every moment of every breath he cursed the Maker for it.
Love had made him soft. He didn't like to admit it, but it did. Love had given him more to lose, and the more he lost, the more desperate he became. And the more desperate he became, the fiercer the desire to use, to dominate. The beating heat of blood called out to him, and when he called back, summoned the power of life to do his bidding, he made himself a target. He had blood on his hands now. The templars', his own, and Lily's... what had they done to her? In the end, he had lost everything.
Jowan's reverie was accompanied by the rumble of thunder clouds as the storm moved closer. From the alleyway he watched a lone, sickly yellow glow bob down the street; a light he had been waiting for. Jowan tightened his hold on the broken glass shard, roughly wrapped in stripes from the edge of his robe. Lightning burned in the night sky, burned in his blood, lusting for release. The power was there, coursing, needing only a sharp tool to open the flood. Vengeance, control, power, hatred, pain. All these things that burned within him, bright and fierce, as desolate and unforgiving as the heartless heat of an Antivan summer.
He had imagined this moment so many times. Since he was a boy of six, abandoned at the Chantry. Could his life have taken a different path, given the chance? Real love, a real family, a mother, a father. The chance to ask "why." Why did the world turn its back thusly to him? Was there another man out there, for whom the Maker blessed, for whom everything went right, while his life went wrong? Who was this other man, and why did the Maker see fit to give to him, but not to Jowan? The more Jowan thought about it over the empty weeks and nights, fighting and hiding for his life, the more convinced he became that there was indeed someone out there, his Other Self, the one who got all the blessings, all the right chances, all the things that he did not. Jowan wondered how he could take it all back, that life that should have been his. He figured that he could start by making right his beginnings.
The wait was almost over. The worn figure approached, head bowed and feet shambling; the weak, jaundiced light leading the way. Jowan tensed, his back and shoulders already aching from the hours he'd spent huddled in the cold alley, waiting for his target. The hair at the back of his neck was stiff and upright, like the hackles of a feral animal. Here was truth come at last to greet him. Years too late to do anything except feed the fire of vengeance in his heart.
The figure became an old man: slow and gray and limping along awkwardly with one hand holding the light and the other clutched to his chest. Jowan watched him hobble, one foot rising in asynchronous cadence with the storm. Plodding... and then, finally, door. He walked up to the aging building and Jowan watched him fumble with the lock. What was taking this old man so long? His head burned with the tension of waiting.
The old man pushed open the door with painful slowness, every motion an effort to be fought and won with his body. Jowan rose the moment the door opened, his arm around the old man's neck, his makeshift blade pressed to the skin at the base of his throat. The small lantern the old man carried illuminated only shadows in the single room hut that contained little more than a rag-covered bed frame, a listing table, the fireplace, and some stools. In their intimate embrace, Jowan could smell and feel the persistent cold in the old man's jacket like a restless spirit between them.
"Hello... father." Jowan whispered, his voice hoarse and dry from lack of use. "Remember me?"
The old man gasped, and his words died in his mouth, lost in the wheezing response to Jowan's sudden ambush. He struggled and tried to yell but Jowan simply pressed his broken shard into the man's throat and held him tight.
"G-g-g-guards," the old man managed to stutter.
"Not a chance for you today," gritted Jowan, "Just you, and me, pops, and a lot of long overdue answers."
The old man's heart beat frantically beneath Jowan's hands, like a small, trembling bird. "No," the old man whispered, "Not for me... for you. They've been... here. Asking. You need to... go."
Lightning flashed in the sky behind them. Despite his ragged breaths, the old man seemed surprisingly calm.
"What do you mean?"
"The templars... they were here. They suspect - they suspected you might come."
Jowan increased the pressure of his gripe, forcing the man's head closer to his own.
"You bastard. After all these years... you set me up."
"No!" The vehemence in the man's denial caught Jowan off guard. The old man's free hand came up and clutched at Jowan's arm urgently. "You must go, quickly!"
"You frighten me with shadows and false alarms? Do you think me a fool, father? Not that you deserve that name. You're a disgrace to the very idea of parenthood."
The old man bowed his head in Jowan's arms. As if he could be genuinely contrite? Jowan scowled at the show of weakness.
"Not... your father..." The old man finally said. "I'm not your father."
"A bit late to lie, isn't it?" Jowan sneered. "I'm still going to kill you anyway."
"It - it doesn't matter." The old man sighed leaned into Jowan, causing both to stagger back.
"Hey!" Jowan cried as the old man's weight sank into him. He lost his hold and stumbled, and as he went down, the old man turned and grabbed the collar of his robes, pulling Jowan towards his face. The two struggled together in the darkness. Jowan could smell the reek of onions and cheap ale on the old man's breathe. He gagged.
"I'm not your father, Jowan, because your mother was my daughter and your father was... His name... was Greagoir. I heard he's made Knight Commander, now." The old man all but spat on the name.
"That's ridiculous," huffed Jowan, and he brandished his makeshift blade at the old man, as if by keeping the distance between them he could ward the truth away.
"It was not my choice to leave you. We had nothing else left. The Circle was supposed to provide you with a better life. Somewhere safe. You were... I wanted..." The old man's hands tremble with the effort of telling the tale. "Your father was supposed to watch out for you."
Jowan laughed mirthlessly, his mouth wide and loose as he crawled away and pulled himself upright using the wall. "That's ridiculous. Ri-di-cu-lous! You're just a pathetic old man trying to cover up for his mistakes. You're just ashamed you left a poor boy of six to mercy of those sick bastards..."
"Moira, oh my little Moira... my little girl... she was so bright…" In between the shaky gasps, the old man continued with his story as if Jowan had not spoken: "He left her with worse than nothing, the black-hearted devil. For some younger girl, a half-elven whore. Oh, she loved your father with all her heart, but he abandoned her. Moira was beside herself with grief. She fled the Tower to come back home and gave birth to you here."
"No. No, stop lying now," Jowan demanded, his hand shaking as he directed his blade towards the old man's throat. But the secrets that had been kept too long burst forth like a river dammed, and wave after wave crashes through the open floodgate, drowning Jowan.
"Moira heard that girl was dismissed from the Tower by the First Enchanter, not long after, for misconduct. Misconduct! She was swollen with his child, too! Broke your mother's heart, my poor Moira. Moira died not long after… but that whore went on and married some other man."
"No... NO. You're lying!" Jowan told the man, "I hate you, you stupid old liar. I HATE YOU! You're just trying to cover up your mistakes. You've made my life a living nightmare!" Something wet stung in his eyes as it mixed with the dirt covering his face, blinding him. Jowan rubbed at his face with the rough burlap cloth he wore.
The sound of distant steps distracted the old man, who turned to look out the doorway. "I never stopped thinking about you every day, my boy. Your mother never did, either. You reminded her so much of your father – "
"It can't be..." Jowan moaned, his head spinning. All his life, all the lies - did they ever cease? Was there anywhere a solid place he could find truth? "How could this be...?" Jowan shook his head, trying to clear it. The old man's words echoed in his mind. "There was another child? What happened to the woman?"
The old man clawed at Jowan's robe urgently, wet rivulets running down his weathered face. "Run, boy, run..."
The templars turned the corner, two large, armored men piercing the night with the sound of their heavy footfalls. Jowan reached for the old man and grabbed him, dragging him to his feet, the makeshift dagger at his throat. He glared at the two approaching men as he dragged the old one inside.
"What was his name?" Jowan hissed into the man's ear. Out loud to the templars, he said, "Don't come a step nearer!"
"Halt in the name of the Maker! Submit yourself to us and no one will be hurt."
"No," growled Jowan, retreating into the darkness. "Stay back. Stay away from me!"
The templars followed into the room with their lanterns held high.
"We will use whatever force is necessary to stop you, apostate!"
"I'll kill him!" Shouted Jowan, and he tilted the old man's head back so that they could see the blade glinting in the weak lamplights.
In response, the closest templar pulled his sword and pointed it at Jowan and the old man.
"Whatever force, apostate, so the Maker help me."
Pain exploded through Jowan's right arm as the templar's blade cut through the old man's body and struck his shoulder. Blood poured from the wounds, warm and fierce. A strangled cry escaped from Jowan's lips. He dropped his weapon and clutched at his arm, the bleeding an invitation to power, and the darkness that called to him...
Jowan could not resist. Black fire rose from the blood inside, and he drew on the old man's life force as well. Arcane words leapt to Jowan's lips and sped like lightning bolts into the templar's chests. Both men screamed as the unnatural fire devoured them. One swung wildly at Jowan, but he shouted another word of power and froze the man in place.
"Run," the old man gasped from the ground as he tried to push Jowan into the maelstrom "Run." He pulled a small pouch from his waist and pressed it into Jowan's hands.
"What was his name?" Jowan cried, as he clasped the old man's bloodied hands with his own.
"Never come back. Never let them find you, boy..."
"WHAT WAS HIS NAME?"
"A – Amell," whispered the old man with his dying breathe.
"A - Amell? Aha-ha," Jowan began laughing again, the pain and the irony too much to bear with tears alone. All his life, all these years, all the blessings - it was AMELL? It was just too funny not to be true!
Jowan staggered through the front door, heedless of the cold rain that shot straight through his thin burlap robes. The door slammed shut behind him with the finality of a coffin lid closing. Spurts of water from every direction and the flapping sound of wet clothe assaulted him as he staggered out. The storm's full flight unleashed the dark smalls of the earth. The electricity in the air made his skin tingle.
In the distance, the silhouettes of more armored figures ran towards him, their shouts of alarm drowned by the drumbeat of the torrential rain. Fire sparked in the sky, diffused by the thick, overhanging clouds. Lines of power crashed down, striking earth. The flashes of lightning summoned shadows out of the night and lit the world in staccato rhythm.
Jowan laughed again in the darkness, drenched to the bone, and fled for his life.