Ever since Wilson William, who guarded the wall of Wall, laid that basket on Dunstan Thorn's doorstep, Dunstan recognized that his life had altered forever. In some part of his mind, he had known this since crossing the wall, but holding the wriggling bundle in his arms somehow made it all the worse and better, at the same time. This was his child, something left of him that She either did not want or could not keep. And the only letter included was addressed not to him, but the uncomprehending lump in his arms. The message for him was clear.
But the child was his. And Hers. And Dunstan felt as if what he held was something infinitely precious that must be protected at all costs. The love that he felt in that instant was almost enough to send him falling to his knees (which fortunately he did not.). Taking his son into the house, Dunstan acknowledged that some things must be changed. This was someone who could not accommodate either fancies or adventures. Who would depend on him and could not live on love alone. And so Dunstan reluctantly tucked up the wrapped letter into a chest in the far corners of the attic and his memories into the far reaches of his mind. Unwilling to live in town, he took his son to the small cottage on the outer boundary of Wall, and bought a pair of breeding sheep besides.
And since that night, Dunstan's life had one purpose only. Well, two really. Raising Tristan right was quite a different matter than raising Tristan happy. Soothing a helpless eight-pound babe with no mother in sight was nothing compared to ensuring the happiness (to the best of his ability in any case) of one half-grown, slightly awkward, slightly out of place son. In both cases, Dunstan tried his hardest to do right by his son. All the backbreaking work on the land, the toil, sweat, and more, all had been to provide the best life that Dunstan knew how. Perhaps it was even to make up for the fact that Tristan had no mother, not even one that Dunstan could tell stories about, like "Your mother's favorite thing to do in the summer was...." or "One time, your mother...." The stories he could tell, like "The first time I saw your mother I thought she was moonlight come to life." or "Your mother had eyes like the darkest, deepest wells a man could happily drown in," he didn't necessarily want to share. For one thing, Tristan tended to be a bit too impressionable. For another, thinking about that particular time (one night) still made Dunstan hurt, as if a silver chain on the verge of breaking had been stretching from his chest to Hers. And if Dunstan wanted to hide the fact that there were maybe three purposes in his life, well, that was certainly his prerogative.
The first time Tristan asked what was on the other side of the wall, he had been four years old, entirely too young by Dunstan's estimation to be asking such questions. And although Dunstan never mentioned Her to Tristan, Dunstan told his son the truth about Wall and Over the Wall, hoping that it would be too fantastic to be believable--that Over the Wall held a great unknown, filled with magic and creatures of the night too wondrous and powerful to present themselves by day. Tristan had laughed and asked Papa to "Please tell the story again." And with any other lad, that would have been the end of that. Dunstan would have been content to let Tristan believe his tales those of the fairy kind, and let them fade slowly into a fond bedtime memory. But Tristan's curiosity and fascination for Dunstan's stories didn't end, and rather than shedding the fantasies of childhood, instead he seemed to grow into them. His face acquired a somewhat blank look, and sometimes Dunstan caught Tristan standing still as stone, eyes towards the wall. No, that was incorrect. Tristan never actually seemed to be looking at the wall, he always seemed to be looking through it. By the time he was eleven, he had taken to having walks along the wall, running his hands over the stones, fingers gently tapping them, one by one.
Dunstan feared that perhaps he had overdone it with the stories of Other and sheltered the boy too much besides. One encouraged daydreams that could never be realized and the other prevented the boy from gaining skills to protect himself, whether here or There. The talk in the town was that young Thorn seemed to prefer his own company too much to be nothing less than eccentric, and Dunstan wanted his son to be accepted and happy. He often thought it would be nice if Tristan spent more time with young Humphrey Monday and his friends, but Tristan never showed much interest in groups of people, or hell-raising in general. Which Dunstan privately thought would not necessarily be a bad thing for Tristan to do once in a while...a proper hell-raising--well, in moderation--never hurt anyone. But Tristan never gave any indication that he felt less than happy, and after all, it's hard to deny one's own, dear son what one wants so very much, too. Certainly Tristan's heart seemed to be in the right place, and Dunstan felt content.
When Tristan was fourteen, he fell headlong in love with Victoria Forester. Dunstan breathed a sigh of relief at this show of typical behavior of youth and felt joy at the Tristan's interest in something else. And, if secretly, Dunstan felt a little sadness that Tristan could no longer talk about anything save Victoria Forester, well, Tristan wasn't the only one to be in love. A year passed. Tristan still mooned after the girl, and Dunstan slowly realized that Tristan mooned because Victoria Forester didn't seem to return Tristan's affections. And Tristan's mooning rendered him...somewhat useless. And dull. It was as if everything save the thought of Victoria Forester had been washed out of his head, including common sense.
After another year, Dunstan tentatively brought up the subject that perhaps Tristan might do something else besides stare at Victoria's window night after night. Tristan had smiled good naturedly and after a bit more nudging, apprenticed himself at the Monday store. And fell over himself to help Victoria Forester every time she came to buy hairpins or a new ribbon. Dunstan found himself growing impatient with Tristan, who seemed stupidly optimistic that true love could be won through persistence and patience. Didn't he realize that love was a burning, painful experience that cut the heart and nearly the soul from a person? Dunstan didn't think Victoria Forester was the kind of person who could be trusted to keep a hat feather safe, much less the heart and soul of a person. What the lad needed was someone who would ground him, not egg him on--Tristan could do that well enough on his own. But Tristan could be remarkably stubborn, too. Dunstan didn't like to contemplate where he got that from.
Then in Tristan's eighteenth year, Tristan came home with a black eye and an apologetic expression. The truth came tumbling out. Victoria Forester had agreed to marry him, he said, a bit giddily, although Dunstan couldn't tell if the giddiness was from the knock on the head or simply from saying "marry" and "Victoria" in the same sentence. But only if he brought her the fallen star first. And of course, the star had the misfortune of falling beyond easy reach, and hence the black eye and so forth. The expression on Tristan's face was so happy, so hopeful, soalive that what could Dunstan do but give his son the means to find his way.
As Tristan read his mother's letter, there was a moment where Dunstan felt the pull of jealousy, that the words in the letter were so fond, so forlorn for Tristan, who, truth be told, She didn't really know. And for the fact that She had given Tristan the means to find Her in that wild beyond. But the feelings passed. And then Tristan held the candle in his hands while Dunstan lit the flame.
And watched Tristan yanked into the dark towards his heart's desire.