NOTES: Obviously lots of the locations, characters, etc. in this story belong to the awesome Tamora Pierce. I've taken some liberties (such as giving Raoul a sister) but only where I could see it being in the books and just not mentioned. Hope you enjoy!
Later, Raoul would remember that day in May when Corrin had entered his life. Of course, he had known the boy since birth. He was Corrin's uncle, after all. But they had never been close, until that day.
He had stood at the edge of the practice courts and watched with a sick fascination. The boy—that was how he thought of him then, just the boy—had Raoul's blood. Giant's blood, some would joke. At just 14, he towered over the other pages. There was viciousness in him that was uncomfortably familiar to Raoul.
Undoubtedly, the boy knew his way around a sword. First Raoul watched him against a male page, and then a female one; the boy beat both with a ferocious ease. The way his opponents flinched, Raoul thought he was hitting harder than he strictly needed to be. Perhaps it was simply training. Or perhaps, a fearful part of him whispered, perhaps the boy liked pain.
Perhaps the boy took after his father.
If there was one regret in Raoul's life, it was that his younger sister had been married to the beastly man. Raoul had been gone when the marriage was arranged, and no amount of pleading with her later had prevailed. She was wed, and for some reason he couldn't begin to fathom, she insisted she was happy. The first time he so much as got a whiff of the man hurting Adeline, they had had a talk, Raoul and this… man, if he could even be called that.
Suffice to say, Adeline would not be hurt again. Raoul had made that clear. Abundantly clear.
Still, he couldn't be there as often as he would have liked, if only for his niece and nephews. Being commander of the King's own cost time, and although he would always love Adeline unreservedly, they had never been close. He worried for her, and the rest of them, but there was little he felt he could do unless he was asked. She had told him that she didn't want his help. He would have been more than willing to give it.
There were three children from the marriage. The oldest boy, Everett, had the prestige of being the heir. He was wild and tumultuous and loud. Whatever had or hadn't happened in his childhood, by the time Raoul could have stepped in, it was over. He did not want fathering now.
The youngest was a girl. Irene. He had the sense that she was more sheltered than the boys had been, that Adeline had protected her daughter more than she had been able to protect the boys.
The boy. Because then, there was the middle child. The boy. The one in front of him now, this silent hulk of a boy who had inherited Raoul's dark unruly hair and felt perhaps too comfortable with a weapon in his hand. He could remember, from a visit years earlier, before the boy was even a page, that Corrin had been quiet then, too. He had been a fearful child. He had cried out in the night. Raoul wondered what had put that fear in him.
Now, watching the boy work and sweat and yell, he wondered what had taken it away.
The truth was, Raoul was nervous to take the boy as a squire. Things had gone wonderfully with Keladry, and then with Alan. He could look back on both of them with pride. He wasn't so sure about this boy. He didn't know who Corrin was, and although Raoul wasn't worried for his own safety, he was a little nervous of what darkness might lay inside the boy. At 14, he was well on his way to being a grown man. What impact could he have on Corrin's person? What would he do, if the boy turned out violent? What if he failed, and was responsible? But what if he did nothing?
No, Raoul was not the sort of man who could stand by and do nothing. And this boy was family. He had never had a real father, Raoul knew. His utter ass of a brother in law hadn't even deserved the title of father.
What love and support he could give to this boy, he would have to hope that it could be enough.
With a sigh and a prayer to Mithros and the Mother, Raoul straightened up from where he had leaned on the post.
"Corrin," he called. The boy looked up, tucking the blunt practice sword under his arm.
"Uncle," the boy said. "I didn't see you."
"That was well fought," Raoul said. And then, after a pause: "do you have a moment? There's something I'd like to talk to you about."