Posted by Darth Krzysztof
Three weeks after the fall of the Silent Lord
Casidhe’s words found Sim’s ears, even in the noontime din of Denerim’s Market District. By the time Sim had spotted him, Casidhe stood within three feet of him. Sim looked worse than Casidhe remembered, all taped-down fat and blotchy skin – but his complexion definitely grew paler when he saw the duelist.
Sim’s winning smile was just the same, if a bit too late. “Casidhe Fionnlagh!” he announced, casting a look around before fixing his gaze on the duelist. Sim’s new bodyguard was nowhere in sight, and the town watchmen had their hands full with other business. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried to pieces!”
“I was off saving the world,” Casidhe replied.
Sim stared for a long moment before bursting into nervous laughter. “Of course you were.”
“Well, my friends saved the world. I helped, though. Or did you not notice that the early winter’s over?” When Sim didn’t answer, Casidhe went on: “I know what you did, Sim.”
“Did what, now?” Sim asked with practiced innocence.
“I know that you murdered our fathers. And your brother.”
“Now hold on a moment.” Sim’s smile evaporated. “I never -”
“You had them murdered. To me, that’s no different than a knife in your own hand.” He kept his voice low, his tone even.
“Casidhe… you hated your father! You told me all the time! All I did was free you from him.” He clapped a hand on Casidhe’s shoulder.
“Don’t touch me,” Casidhe said, and Sim withdrew his hand at once. “And don’t you dare try to pin your crimes on me.”
“Casidhe, I -”
“Shut up. Stop talking. Stop trying to weasel your way out of this. Because I also know that you would have murdered me, as well, had I been with my father that night.”
“Shite,” Sim whimpered. “Oh, shite…” He looked around again, and seemed to regain some of his composure. “So, what? You’re going to kill me in front of the whole city? I’m a respected member of this community, you know.”
“You’re also treacherous, murderous scum who loves pirate gold more than his own kin. But no, I’m not here to kill you.”
“Oh! Thank the Maker.” Sim almost fell to his knees in relief, but stopped himself. “Wait. Why did you come back, then?”
“To sell my house. I don’t have any interest in hurting you. You aren’t worth my contempt, Sim. You’re not worth thinking about at all.”
“Too right, Casidhe,” Sim said with a gale of forced laughter. “Too bloody right.”
“Unfortunately, Teresa doesn’t agree with me.”
“Teresa. My beloved.” Casidhe looked skyward for a moment. “I told her about what you did on our way here, and I have to tell you: she was not pleased.”
Sim clapped his hands together. “Oh, I’m so glad to hear that love has found you. Perhaps if I met your lady, I could help to change her mind…”
“Alas, Sim, she’s a spirited lass, even among redheads. I told her that I didn’t wish to visit any justice upon you, but I just couldn’t persuade her to let it go… and she has a very special set of skills for such things.”
“Just let me talk to her.” Sim held his hands out, palms up. “I’m sure I can persuade her not to do anything rash.”
“That’s just it, Sim. It’s already done.” Casidhe allowed himself to smile. “After you left your office this morning, she broke in. She found some very incriminating documents… ledgers, manifests, falsified records… and a nautical chart showing the location of Black Torin’s secret pirate stronghold.”
Sim grew visibly pale now. “Name your price, Casidhe. Do you want your own ship? Land? Anything you want. I can’t allow those items to fall into the wrong hands.”
“I told you, it’s already done. She’s taken the proof of your… deeds to the authorities. You’re finished, Sim.”
“I’ve only come to tell you because I used to think we were friends… that, and we wondered if you’ll kill yourself or try to run.”
Sim turned wild eyes on Casidhe. “What?”
“Well, once the navy’s dealt with Black Torin, it’ll only be a matter of time before the pirates learn who revealed the stronghold’s location. And you won’t be safe from them, even in prison.”
“And if you run, how far will you get? Not very, I wager.”
Sim fell to his knees before Casidhe, causing a few passersby to pause, but not to stop. “Casidhe, please. We’ve been friends almost all our lives… please, don’t do this to me.”
“You did this to you, Sim. Goodbye.”
He turned and left Sim kneeling in the market without looking back.
- – - – -
Teresa was waiting for him in the dusty kitchen. “You owe me a silver piece,” Casidhe said as he closed the door behind him. “He didn’t fall on his knife on the spot.”
“Damn.” Teresa crossed the room to place a tender kiss on his cheek. “I should have known better than to bet against you; you know him better than I do.”
“He did fall to pieces.”
“Good. Did you see the man?” Casidhe held up a small sack, bulging with coin; Teresa whistled. “Unbelievable.”
“I probably could have gotten more. Property in Denerim is almost beyond worth.”
She looked from the coins back to Casidhe. “Why didn’t you hold out for more? Are you in some kind of hurry?”
“It’s only money,” Casidhe said with a shrug. “And this is more than enough to buy us a nice place in Lothering. Besides, the sooner my life with you begins, the better.”
“That’s… sweet.” Teresa smiled, but tried not to roll her eyes. “So, when did you want to start back?”
“Tomorrow morning.” He looked around the room. “I’d like to spend one last night, here… knowing it’s the last.”
She touched his shoulder. “You’re sure you want this? I could… I could move to Denerim with you, you know.”
“No. I’m done with Denerim. You have a life in Lothering, and I want to be part of that life.”
“All right.” Teresa winked. “Just remember, twenty years from now, when Lothering finally bores you to death, that I offered.”
- – - – -
Early the next morning, Casidhe eased out of his old bed, trying not to wake Teresa. He went into the bedroom that had once been Brandeouf’s – a room that still carried his scent, more than fifteen years after he’d moved out. Everything was just as he’d remembered… and there was no sign that anyone had been in the house… but he still worried. This was the other reason he’d wanted to come back to Denerim… Please, Maker, he thought, let it still be here.
He sat beside the bed, lifted up one corner, and unscrewed the bottom of that corner’s bedpost. A small, hollowed-out compartment hid inside, containing a simple gold ring.
Thank you, Maker.
It felt cool in the palm of his hand. He’d found his father here on the floor one night, holding the ring, all but dead to the world. Brandeouf never spoke of it, but Casidhe knew: this was the ring that Islene had refused to take. This ring would have made Brandeouf the happiest man in Ferelden; instead, it served only as a reminder of what he’d lost.
“Cas?” Teresa called, her bare feet padding toward the room.
Casidhe cursed his timing and closed his fingers around the ring. “In here.”
She wore a simple nightshirt, one of his, but the sunlight streaming in from the window limned her hair in a perfect corona of scarlet. She tilted her head. “What are you doing on the floor?”
“Looking for something. I’ve got it, now.”
She looked to his left and frowned. “That bed’s crooked.”
“Forget the bed. You look beautiful.”
She laughed. “I just woke up, Casidhe. There’s no way I could look beautiful.”
“Except to me.”
She sighed with frustration – and a hint of amusement. “Is it always going to be like this with you?”
He raised to one knee, held out his hand, put on his best smile, and revealed the ring, saying: “You tell me.”