(This is the last part of Aidan’s Epilogue)
It wasn’t long before the pair really were chatting like old friends. Aidan’s tale was no longer the only thing told. Thatcher began to talk to Aidan about the shape of Frimere when he left, and the state of the castle and his parents. The elf recounted his mother’s concern for him, and his father allowing Thatcher to strike out after Aidan.
“But, how did you travel in the weather?” Aidan asked, gesturing to the melting snow.
Thatcher grinned. “I’m not as young as you, but I’ve still got a fire in me. And I know a trick or two about surviving in the wilderness.”
The elf had been backing up that claim all trip- it was the bounty of Aidan’s bow in the elf’s capable hands and Thatcher’s eyes that they ate at night- but it was Aidan’s tale that the pair kept returning to. The elf couldn’t help by smile and congratulate Aidan on finally pulling his head out of his ass when Aidan described that one night at the elven camp when the pent up stress of dealing with his paranoia and elves made him snap.
Thatcher had been watching to see how the young lord responded to his comment. Aidan just smiled and nodded, clearly agreeing. By the stars, fates and Gods, Thatcher thought, the nobleman had changed. And Thatcher found himself holding back gales of laughter when Aidan started drawing to the close of his tale and acted shocked that caravan girl, Kiera had kissed him.
Aidan had spent far too long describing what she looked like not a moment before. It was rather clear to Thatcher that Aidan had a serious case of repression and denial. Oh, how the elf would enjoy teasing the poor human boy about that! But, Aidan was right. Thatcher wasn’t looking at the old childish boy who wanted to go on adventures and save the world anymore. There was a gravity to his voice now, Aidan was more like the lord he would one day be, than the naive child that he had been only a few weeks ago.
Reality had finally caught up to the kid. In perhaps the most brutal fashion possible. Aidan wasn’t a fool. Oh sure, he made mistakes, but he tried to learn from them. When Aidan had started talking about the Silent Lord, he looked down, away from the elf and the path. He stopped, after describing what the Silent Lord had said, stopped talking and walking.
“There was a time when, perhaps, he and I wouldn’t have been so different.” Aidan said, turning to look at the elf. Thatcher stopped walking too at the crest of a small hill. Aidan looked up at him; Thatcher could see the worry written across his face.
“He wanted to freeze Thedas because he was afraid. He knew, knew, that the key to his demise lied with us- perhaps, in one of those infernal mirrors, he saw his death by our hands. He had blown the threat out of proportion- just like I did. He became paranoid of us, because even though most people didn’t even know he existed, he was convinced that we would kill him in the end. Unless we died ourselves.
I’m pretty silly most of the time, Thatcher. But, his logic isn’t so far removed from how I thought. I had once thought that the elves were out for me- all of them. I could have been him.” Aidan shivered, despite the warming temperatures. Thatcher walked back down the hill.
“But you’re not. You saw the trap he missed. We all die one day, Aidan. We’re not allowed to know how. And if we let it consume us, we miss out on life, and end up dying faster.” The human nodded.
“Simon said something similar, but I didn’t understand then. I think I do now.”
They approached the outlying limits of Frimere in the morning, and Aidan immediately saw that the surprise winter had struck hard. What should have been fields of crops were patches of ruin, with withered frozen plants. Several houses had fallen down, if it was fire or something more sinister, Aidan couldn’t say. The pair walked in silence now, and Aidan felt a twinge of pain. There was still lingering patches of snow and ice, and the trees had long since lost their leaves. It may get warmer, Aidan realized, but damage had been done, this winter would take a lot of effort to prepare for. His people might need him.
The last thought shocked the young noble. My people. Mine. He looked at the few who had come to watch the pair walk back into town. Some of the faces lit up with joy. Others just turned away. And it surprised the Aidan that it was the elven faces that couldn’t seem to bear watching him walk. So, he guessed later that it must have come as a massive surprise to the small gaggle of elves having problems with moving a wooden beam into position, rebuilding a house, when he grabbed part of it and started lifting too.
“Aidan—what are you doing?” Thatcher asked, after the nobleman slipped away from him to start helping the elves. Aidan turned to Thatcher.
“Helping some people rebuild after this disastrous weather. Good friends, what must be moved next?”
The elves just stood there, aghast. “M’lord, you, you don’t need to…” Thatcher cut him off.
“Aidan, your father is expecting you. We really should…” The human cut both of them off.
“He will have to wait a little longer. The unnatural weather may have stopped, but if I’m not mistaken a frame of a house is no protection for the natural verity either. And you could use an extra set of hands—I don’t think the wooden beams care whose hands they are. What needs to be moved next?”
He saw one of the elves throw his hands up and mutter some elven curse. Aidan just raised his eyebrows and wait it out. The man turned away, then back as if he was expecting the pair to disappear while he wasn’t looking.
When they did not, the elf sighed, shrugged and said, “I’ll not be held responsible with your father if something were to happen?”
Aidan replied, coolly, “I will take full blame— as long as its accidental.” The elf sighed again.
“By the Gods… alright, alright. It’s not exactly like we get regal company out here.” Aidan couldn’t help but chuckle.
“I don’t think I’m quite ready for that stuffy castle anyway. Let me be not regal for a little while longer. For now, I’m just Aidan. And you need a house built.”
Aidan worked with the elven family for most of the day. He dragged Thatcher into the effort, and even Kent found a way to make himself useful. The work was hard, but Aidan felt like he had to do this. It was perhaps part honor, a memory of a great older knight he had once fought alongside with. It was perhaps a gesture of thanks, for a young elven mage and leader of her clan. It was perhaps friendly spite, to show an elf rouge that he could be more than a bumbling child. Maybe it was for responsibility, for a great wizard that had lead on with a cool head. And, maybe it was respect- for a certain sarcastic duelist.
Aidan was worn and tired from the travel, plus the hours he spent working on the house. And it wasn’t finished yet- but it was done enough to provide some shelter from the rain. And as he walked into the castle to face the shocked gazes of both his parents, he realized that perhaps that’s why people went on adventures and told tales. It was a shelter from the pounding rain of life. He was in a simple outfit, his armor long since discarded in an entry room. His mother embraced him, and when one of her hands ran over the scars on his back and she started to pull away, he held her ever the closer.
He was home. And it was high time he started trying to take care of it.