Family ties

Denerim – Market Guardhouse, one month before the battle of Ostagar

The market's noise was kept away from the guardhouse by the thick oaken door. Kylon had sent his soldiers away to have some quiescent minutes with his guest. Biting on his smelly cigar the elder sergeant of the city watch concentrated on pouring his Antivan brandy into two old and very-used chalices, reaching one of them to his cousin. He wiped a strain of his brown hair out of his face and raised his own cup.

"Clear eye and sure hand." They clinked their cups and took a deep gulp, the alcohol burning in their gullets like fire. "And that the Maker this time kills only the bastards and let the good lads live another day."

His counterpart nodded slowly. Both knew that almost always the best were killed, virtues like honor and bravery being no shield against an arrow or a blade in the darkness. Kylon could only hope that his cousin would be lucky again. They stayed silent, drinking some brandy now and then, polluting the air with the smoke of thick cigars. He scrutinized his guest, the thick-skulled head with short hair on it, many grey hairs mixing with the light blonde, broad shoulders and muscular arms denying giving in to age, grey-misty eyes in a face tempered by years in military service. Kylon smiled shortly as he remembered that his cousin was only four years older than himself.

Raised in a large family of soldiers and city guards they had not only been cousins but best friends. More than once his cousin had saved him from being beaten up by elder boys and he had shown him how to hold a sword the right way as Kylon was ten. His cousin – with only fourteen being already a match in height and strength to most men - had been working at Mender's sawmill to get the coin for his first short sword. It had still a place of honor in Kylon's small cottage.

"You'll watch them, Kylon? The old lady and the lad's family I mean." The dark voice only held a hint of concern.

Kylon nodded slightly. "Sure I will. With your pension they'll be alright anyway and the 'old lady' is feisty enough to kick me in the pants if I only dare to treat her like a flower." Both men chuckled. "Have you told her of …?"

His cousin shook his head. "I have too. Naturally she knows that Jonny is going with the army, but …"

A creaking guffaw evaded Kylon's throat. "But you're angst-ridden."

He snarled not amused. "I'm not. And I was at least brave enough to marry someone. Not like some other pussycats."

Kylon grinned. "You know, duty always duty. No time for pilfering the beauties."

"Ha, only lame excuses. You only fear that your bastards won't respect you anymore if they saw you being henpecked."

Snorting Kylon responded. "It is hard enough to get any discipline into this heap of worthless noblemen's bastards. They argue more about how to wring more money out of their father's pockets then they spend time in training their weapon skills. Sometimes I wonder if I could hire you for some of your infamous weapon drills."

"Wouldn't do any good. They're too frightened to draw a weapon if it is not against some unarmored peasant. And surely there would be some nobleman storming the guardhouse crying about how his worthless son was wounded in the guard duty. Your post, your funeral." It had been an often and well-liked conversation theme how Kylon had been covered with worthless bastards of Denerim's higher classes, illegal children who had to be sheltered somehow from honest labor.

Rising from his chair he put down his cup on the table and went to Kylon, his six feet nine inches towering above his not so small or frail cousin. He dragged Kylon into a bear hug, the sergeant feeling as if some of his ribs would be cracked. "Take care of the City, Kylon. I don't want to come back with all lying in ruins."

Denerim – Market Place, one month before the battle of Ostagar

As he passed the market place he looked around, inhaling the smell and the noises as if he would never again witness them. And perhaps he was right about it. He always had trusted his gut feelings and this time …

He rubbed the scar on his right hand. It itching had always been a sign of trouble. Twenty-five years he had been in the army of Denerim, most of the time under the command of Arl Urien. In contrast to his worthless son the Arl had always been an honorable commander and Arl Urien had personally thanked him for fulfilling his duty one year before as he left the army at last. It should have been the start of calm live with his wonderful wife, his children and grandchildren.

Mildred. He really could never understand his luck. Knowing her from childhood he had loved her since … he didn't know. After joining the army on his eighteenth birthday he had taken his hand money and all the courage he could muster and went to her parents. At first they had been defensive, speaking about his young age and him being a soldier. Certainly they had hoped her daughter would someday take over her parent's store and marry a nice storekeeper. But Mildred, sweet sixteen with dark blonde hair and the sea-green eyes of her mother simply went to his side, took his trembling hand and silently watched her parents until they gave in.

Three years later she gave birth to their son Jonny, that day being the proudest in his whole life, even surpassing the moment he was promoted to the rank of weapon-sergeant. Two daughters followed and to his delight they were of remarkable resemblance to their mother, only their tallness and hair color betraying who their father was.

Silently he opened the door, only to be greeted by whoops of joy from Erin and Kyla, Jonny's three-year-old twin-daughters. Their father sat at the table with his wife and sisters, all trying not to show any sorrow about the incoming departure. He was a bit ashamed about making sure that Jonny would be stationed at Lothering together with Corporal Henken, but …

As Mildred filled the plates with a hearty stew she looked shortly but intensely at her husband. A dimmest tear of sorrow could be seen there, both knowing about the incoming separation without speaking a word. He sighed. Later he would have to explain her that he won't be in the battle himself. No sword-wiggling, only organizing and drilling. Captain Andrews had personally asked him if he would be prepared to reenlist and accompany the army as a quartermaster. That was a very honorable position, one of the highest in the army a petty officer could hold.

Why had he agreed? Boredom, dissatisfaction with his live as a civilian? Perhaps. At all events he didn't feel old in the least. Sure, his leg hurt on cold days and his joints were not as agile as years before. But he was healthy and strong as he could hope to be and on long marches he would outdistance most soldiers half his age.

Perhaps it has simply the feeling that he had to do something in this battle, something to defend his family. There would be so many soldiers in the camp at Ostagar with no experience, so many workers, commoners and peasants unused to wear armor and swing a weapon. Perhaps he would be able to save some of them from wounds and death with his knowledge.

His daughters were clearing the table, Jonny and Mary leaving to their bedroom for a last time.

"Will you go with Jonny?" Mildred's wonderful eyes rested on him. Oh, how he loved them, loved this tiny nose and these soft lips. He would miss her dearly.

He shook his head. "He'll leave tomorrow with Corporal Henken for Lothering, drilling the militia there. I'll have two more days to prepare the baggage train for Ostagar. This time I won't be at the front. Captain Andrews gave me the post of the quartermaster."

Mildred was not fully successful in suppressing her sigh of relief. "An honorable post."

He nodded. "Yes, and Andrews is a fine lad, for an officer at least." He looked sincerely at her face. "If you have any problems" he ignored her short hiss as it was the expected reaction "Kylon promised to take care of you and the girls."

"We'll be alright."

He smiled softly. "I know. But I had to ask him."

"Dumbass. Take care of yourself. If you get killed I'll come after you with my broomstick and not even hiding behind Andraste's gown will help you escape my rage."