Chapter 10: The Circle of Losses
(Exeter, Perion, Present Day)
Radin’s room was quiet, and, for a change, he was finally alone with his thoughts. Forgive me, the only thought on his mind. He remembered much of the battle that resulted in him being captured by Voltor, but the thing that haunted him was the memory of being in the womb of someone other than who he had known as his mother—someone other than Arella. That combined with the knowledge of Vosh being killed, and the pieces were starting to fall into place. He had asked for his father to be brought to him only moments ago, but the knock on the doorway’s casing to his suite made him question his readiness.
“Come in.” Radin rose from the bed, trying not to move as he stood bedside. He didn’t need his father worrying about him leaving cold, blue fiery footprints everywhere he walked.
“How are you feeling?” Rowarc smiled, but it was a very apprehensive smile—clearly an attempt to mask his concerns.
“Like I just became everyone’s worst nightmare.” His body had just been broken by a great and powerful demon. There was no other way to put it, and he didn’t know if anyone would ever trust him again. He saw the way everyone looked at him, like the way his father was looking at him right now—like he was no longer Human. “Some of who I was still exists deep inside, and right now I’m trying to understand that part of me. Can you help me?” Wanting to add ‘Father’ to the last, but he knew better.
“Sounds serious when you put it that way, but of course, anything. Name it.”
“Tell me about my birth.”
“Your mother told you that story a dozen times, or more—I’m sure of it.”
“I want you to tell it. Please.”
An apprehensive sigh from Rowarc, as he eased to the foot of the bed to take a seat, gathering his thoughts on where to begin. “I wasn’t there,” he said in resignation and acknowledgment of his negligence as a father. He felt ashamed. Who wouldn’t…? Failing to be there for the birth of his only son! Radin deserved better than that. He deserved the whole truth.
Shaking his head in acknowledgment, Radin was grateful for the honesty. Maybe he would get some answers after all—and with them, peace. “Go on, please.”
“The first time I saw you, you were a few weeks old. I returned from an expedition. Your mother was just starting to show when I had left, and you were early—very early. I had always assumed you were just healthy stock to have survived an early birth and growing so well weeks after being born, almost caught up to where you should have been. I mean I never questioned—till recently—whether you were mine or not. You had my eyes and a healthy resemblance in the face. I guess I don’t know what to say.” He didn’t know. Inside he was shaking—trembling at the thought that this wonderful boy he’d known and raised might not be his. “Look, I don’t know if that’s the information you were seeking or the reason you summoned me, but I never had a single doubt or reason to believe you were anything other than my son until recently. Even if it were so, you’re still my boy.”
“Just the truth is all I ask. You’re still my father, no matter what.” Rowarc was the only father he’d ever known—and a good one at that. Rowarc had taught him a great many life skills, and he longed for Rowarc’s inner strength right now. Though, he wondered if it were true that there was never a single doubt in Rowarc’s mind all this time. Could that have explained why he was so distant after mom’s death? After Arella’s death, he corrected himself internally.
“What made you ask? Something happened with all this…” Rowarc motioned up and down his son’s body, ending at his eyes.
“I think Vosh is…was…my mother. The question is, why did she give me to Arella?” He had to stop himself from calling her ‘Mother,’ then, frowning, he felt guilt over not doing so.
“Why Vosh?” Putting together the pieces in his head, they were beginning to fit around that answer, but this was his son regardless. Radin was still his responsibility, and Radin needed reliable counsel now more than ever.
“Vosh spoke to me, and I felt something—a memory I can’t explain it any other way. The memory felt so real and yet so faint—so distant. Like a memory of a memory of a birth—my birth.”
“A memory of your birth?” That was hard to imagine, but so many things were possible with magic. It was hard to know the limits—if there even were any.
“Difficult to explain, but more like a feeling combined with a memory. I was unconscious from Voltor’s torment when Damon came for me, and yet I still heard and saw so many things I still can’t explain.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Rowarc was searching for the words, but he wanted the honest and open communication to continue, “I’m worried about you. I want to help however I can. I’m here to listen and counsel.” Rowarc thought about it for a brief instant, knowing if he had just been through something so traumatizing, he wouldn’t want to talk about it so soon.
Rowarc could see the deliberation in Radin’s expressions as the tall stock of an unknown genitors carefully calculated what he had both the stomach and heart to reveal.
Rowarc paused, seeing the molten-flamed eyes of this fine young man—no longer his son—wondering what his feeble attempts could do for Radin. “What would you like me to call you? I think you could still use good counsel, and I want to be that for you—someone you can count on.”
“I’m still your son no matter what. You raised me. You cared for me. And yes, I’d like your counsel as long as you would like to provide it.” Sitting down on the bed with Rowarc, Radin let out a sigh like the one of his father moments before, smiling at the recognition of the resemblance. “I think I’d like to be alone with my thoughts a little while if that’s okay.” Just as soon as the words escaped his mouth, Radin regretted them. This was an impactful moment for both, and silence wasn’t the answer. There will be much more regret to come, he realized while looking into Rowarc’s watering eyes.
Rising from the bed, Rowarc offered another tense smile without comment.
A moment of Radin thinking beyond himself made himself ashamed for not thinking of this sooner, “I’m sorry for your loss. I mean if I’m not yours, then that means your child is...was...lost.” A thought, and possibility, Rowarc had already entertained, quickly shoving it deep down inside himself. There wasn’t time for that right now, but perhaps there would be a chance to mourn his circle of losses later—the loss of two children in one conversation. It was impossible to find the hope for their future together in that.
“I love you, my son,” the words he couldn’t say when they last parted in Stirling. His mouth worked at the emotions the words had immediately brought to the surface as his jawline tightened with his attempts to pull himself together.
“What if I called you, ‘Dad?’ Whether I’m your blood or not, you’re the only man I could ever see as my dad.”
A heavy nod of acceptance as Rowarc proudly took on his new title though he didn’t have the words to reply.
“Do you remember taking me quail hunting shortly before Mom’s death?” It was a mistake calling Arella ‘Mom,’ but he was still lost in an emotional tide that stormed the shores of his consciousness.
“Yeah.” A managed smile from Rowarc as the old memories stirred—if painfully so. “You were so miserable out in the elements. We didn’t catch a damn thing.”
“You’re wrong, Dad.”
Rowarc’s smile vanished, not knowing where this was going.
“That was one of the best moments of my life. One of my fondest memories. That my dad, the legendary Rowarc d’Aguillon, wanted to spend all his time with me—just me. You couldn’t have done anything more important—in my eyes—than doing what you did with me that weekend. As children, all we want is your time. Gifts are one thing, but your time is so much more valuable to us. You can’t fake care when it’s spoken through the passage of your time invested in your child.”
Wow! How has my son grown up so fast, so intelligently, and so strong? This is an impressive young man. Son, or no. “You have my time. Whenever you need it. I’ll be there for you. I swear it!” He couldn’t stay anymore. His eyes were already watering, and he wasn’t going to let Radin see him cry. Pivoting away from his brilliant son-in-kind one last time, Rowarc walked out, wondering if the war they’d started would allow the keeping of his promise.
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