“Don’t go without me Dad!”
He turned to see Logan running after him. The portal was humming and Oakfield was only a step away. And then Rookridge, Bowerstone, Bower Lake, Brightwood, Westcliff and, finally, a ship to Bloodstone. His journey would be long and such goodbyes were ever heavy on the heart.
“Please, can I go with you Dad?” Logan, so spritely hugged him around his legs. He picked the little boys hands off of him with, he noted, more effort than was needed the last time he’d had to do so, and knelt. His little boy was growing - they nearly stood level like this. Was it truly only the last goodbye that I towered over him? When I knelt and promised to bring him back a toy?
“Not today, little one.” He said, taking on a small and sad smile.
“But I want to go on an adventure!”
The smile grew and then he swallowed. Logan was so quick to fashion himself after his father. Tyene often spoke of how he copied him. Something in his mannerisms: always brazen, and stubborn, and hot-headed, and prone to fits of silence. How exactly like his father, his wife would say, and forget to scold him.
“Another one? You’d scare your mother to her grave. She hasn’t forgotten about the chickens.”
His son looked to his feet. “I said I was sorry.”
He placed his hands on the shoulders of his boy, and caught his gaze. “And I said I’d keep you safe.”
“But how can you do that if you’re away?” Logan asked. He saw himself there, in the set of the brow and the dark stirring eyes. And he thought of Rose who he’d been so good to set out of mind. His sweet sister. Every year he grew older than she would ever become. He still lit a candle for her on each birthday that passed. Tyene had stopped asking why he did so - she knew to keep her distance in those melancholy moments when her husband was so far away from her. He would watch the flame till it flickered out and then crawl into bed where Tyene and he would cradle their son between them.
"You still hear Rose's death cry when you try to sleep at night, don't you?" The banshee had taunted. He’d emptied a round into her pretty little head and heard her wail as she left the world. And as the fog cleared he set his jaw hard and found his way through the marshes, determined that it had not bothered him. Determined that she was wrong, that she had been lying, that she knew nothing. On those nights he watched Rose’s candle go out, he heard her death cry. He played the scene in his head so many times and was never more use than he’d been the first time. He saw the bullet leave Lucien’s gun, he saw the blood pool beneath her body, he saw the lights leave her eyes.
On those nights he lit her candle her face would swim before the flame, and when it flickered out he’d find his way to bed and wife and child and hope to have a dreamless sleep.
But he was never so fortunate.
He would wake in sweats with his son in the nook of his arms and Tyene washing his forehead with a dampened cloth. It was those nights he knew he’d never love another. How she worked so diligently and so silently to ease his troubled mind with tender touch.
“You’re safe here.” He told his son. “No one can get through the Demon Door unless they’ve opened it as I have.” He clasped Logan by either side of his small, pointed face, bringing his forehead to his own. “Listen to your mother. Don’t you give her any trouble.”
“I won’t be too long.” Logan nodded, but something in the twitch of his lips reminded him of doubt.
“I promise you’ll be safe. And, when I go back, I’ll set some bottles up for you to shoot. How does that sound?”
“Brilliant!” He smiled a gap-toothed smile and hugged his father tightly. Over the shoulder of his boy he glimpsed his wife, leaning in the doorway of their cottage. She didn’t wave, or smile, but said her farewell with a slow nod of her head.
And as the Hero felt life drain from him he heard Lucien’s voice echo around Hero Hill.
“Your wife and child are dead.”