When Casidhe awoke in his old bedroom, he suspected that he must be dreaming. His father’s presence near the window, dressed to spar, confirmed his suspicion.
“Get up,” Brandeouf said, throwing back the curtain to flood the room with sunlight. “There’s work to do.”
Casidhe rubbed crust from his eyes and squinted at his father. “You’re dead. Haven’t you got anything better to do?”
“It’s your dream, boy. You tell me.” Brandeouf moved to the door; without looking back at his son, he added “You never dream about her.”
He stumbled out of bed and got dressed, catching up with Brandeouf in the training room. “Why would I want to? After what she did?”
“You have no idea what Teresa did,” Brandeouf said, tossing a weapon to his son. “You keep running away at every hint of danger before you even know what it is. You know the code, boy. Be brave and swift when all the Fade breaks loose.”
“Yeah, sure. Look where the code got you.” He made his salute and engaged.
“Better to die for something instead of living for nothing. Sooner or later you’ll run out of places to hide, son. If you never fight, you’ll never know how, and you’ll end up just as dead as I am.” He punctuated with the flat of his blade on Casidhe’s shoulder.
Casidhe was already panting; even in a dream, he was no match for Brandeouf. “I know how to fight, Father. You never taught me anything else.”
Brandeouf returned to his fighting stance. “Then do it.”
Casidhe’s frustration grew with each pass, until he simply couldn’t go on. He fell to the hardwood floor, drenched in sweat and struggling to breathe. To Casidhe’s surprise, his father sat next to him.
“Your problem,” Brandeouf announced, “is that you don’t know what you’ve gotten mixed up in this time.”
“I’m not sure I could handle knowing,” Casidhe said between gasps. “Let the mages figure it out.”
Brandeouf shrugged. “But you also understand that you are mixed up in it. That you can’t run away this time. That the only way out is through. At least you’ve got some friends now.”
Casidhe hadn’t thought of them as friends yet, but he supposed it was true. They were better friends than Sim had ever been, that much he knew.
Brandeouf continued, saying “You should focus on the things you can help with.”
Casidhe reached into the problems and drew out the thread that concerned him most. “Like finding Segonal. Did you know he had a son?”
“Only if you knew that I knew,” his father replied. “You’re right, though; that’s a good place to start. You could do worse than to swear a vow to that effect, you know.”
Casidhe turned the idea over in his mind. He’d left Denerim in search of something honorable, after all. And he was committed to rooting out the source of the unseasonable winter; on some level, he thought that Segonal’s disappearance was connected…
Still, a duelist’s vow was his life. To Casidhe, Brandeouf was less a man than a tangle of oaths and obligations. Casidhe had never sworn himself to anything – not to Sim, nor to Teresa, though the urge to do the latter had been overwhelming. Still, if he wasn’t going to be a duelist – a proper duelist, a LaCroix duelist – what else was he going to be? And that path had to start somewhere…
“I’m not saying to make Geoffrey your client,” Brandeouf said before Casidhe could. “But surely he could use your help.”
“And Gheris might be more agreeable if Geoff wasn’t solely her burden.” Casidhe wasn’t sure of that at all, but he couldn’t rule it out, anyway. “I’ll do it. I hereby vow to – “
“Not to me, lackwit,” Brandeouf sighed. “To Geoffrey.”
“I will, Father.”
“Good lad.” Brandeouf stood up and helped his son to his feet. Casidhe knew better than to expect any more affection from even this vestige of his father. “Good lad” was positively demonstrative, really…
A loud pounding sounded at the front door, and Casidhe knew someone was coming to wake him.
“See you later,” Brandeouf said, and the training room went white…