Kalen was, at best, as good a father as he was governor.
Which is to say, terrible.
Angus was brilliant, much as his mother was, and while Kalen always coveted things that were brilliant, it didn’t mean he understood or respected them.
Or loved them.
Angus Kalen was sequestered away from the rest of the town his father lorded over- Raven’s Roost- but he loved to peer out the windows and watch the passers by talk to each other and walk the streets around his father’s manor.
Angus was a very intelligent child, much smarter than other children his age, and often smarter than those even a few decades older than him. His father surrounded Angus with tutors and professors- the best in their fields- determined to make Angus the smartest man in the land. Kalen thought himself an intelligent, clever man, and thought it was this cleverness that had earned him his position and power in Raven’s Roost. He had visions of Angus’s intelligence, mixed with his own cunning ruthlessness, taking over Faerun one town at a time until the entire kingdom was reformed in his image, with Angus formed into a perfect heir.
Kalen, however, was no where near as intelligent as his son, and was blind to the fact that along with cleverness in spades, his young son was armed with a far stronger weapon, one that Kalen had never had or prioritized. Kindness.
Angus was observant enough to see he growing resentment in Kalen’s people, the rebellion growing quietly but steadily in the shadows. He was intelligent enough to see it coming, when Kalen would least expect it. Angus was understanding enough to know it was necessary, that his father was grinding these people to the bone, and would destroy them if given the chance.
And most importantly, Angus- barely even 7- was brave enough to take the forced retreat of his father’s forces as his opportunity to run.
He never looked back.
Angus- now Angus McDonald- went to live with his grandfather, his mother’s father, who he had met a scant number of times in his short childhood. Who had sent him a letter with an open invitation to stay with him- a thinly veiled excuse- after Angus’s mother’s mysterious death.
His grandfather was kind and and sharp, even in his old age, and took on the mantle of Angus’s studies with far more success than any of his previous tutors. He handled Angus’s unceasing curiosity with patience, his shyness with motivation, and most importantly- he encouraged every kind bone in Angus’s body.
When- after only two short years of living with him- Angus’s grandfather passed away, Angus was heartbroken, and terrified that he would be taken to an orphanage or worse: taken back to his father.
Angus ran, armed merely with his intellect and a startlingly high passive perception, and made his way in the world the only way he knew how: on his own. Angus had long since learned it was better to be independent than reliant on someone who let you down. He had learned that lesson the hard way.
Angus became a freelance private detective, and despite a fairly rough start, his reputation soon preceded him, and before long the Rockport City Council approached him about catching the infamous Rockport Slayer. Angus was more than happy to oblige.
Angus knew Magnus Burnsides from somewhere . He wasn’t sure from where- not yet- and between solving a murder, catching the Rockport Slayer, and trying to figure out why some words make a buzzing sound in his head; Angus didn't have the time at the moment to figure it out.
It isn't until much later- after Angus joined the Bureau, after the adventure at the Miller Lab on Candlenights, after Taako started teaching him magic- that Angus realized where he knew Magnus from.
Angus used to watch the town through the windows in his father’s manor; late at night and the few times he could escape from his constant entourage of guards and professors and tutors. He remembered Magnus, younger and a sort of lighter, from when he used to walk the streets of Raven’s Roost, almost perpetually accompanied by a beautiful young woman. Who Angus now realized was Julia, Magnus’s late wife; as in Julia Waxmen, leader of the rebellion, as in Julia Waxmen, who died when Raven’s Roost fell.
Who died- alongside her father and her people and somehow not alongside her husband- when Angus’s father decided to topple the city. Angus’s father, who the people called Mad Governor Kalen. Angus’s father, who worked them to the bone and denied them liberties and ruined their lives. Angus’s father , who chose to destroy an entire city, no matter what innocents lived there, rather than cede control over it.
Angus’s father, who had singlehandedly ruined Magnus Burnsides’ life.
Angus was thankful, at least, that he was along when his epiphany occurred. That Taako and Merle- or, Gods forbid, Magnus- hadn’t been there when the grief and fear and guilt landed so heavily on Angus’s little boy shoulders that he started to cry.
It was difficult, after that, for Angus to act normally around Magnus. He couldn’t look at him without feeling the weight of his fathers sins quite literally on his back. Magnus would joke and tease and go about as normal and Angus would force a weak smile onto his face and act as though nothing was different.
A few times, Angus caught Taako- who still, for some reason, tried to pretend he was incompetent, either for the laugh or because it made people underestimate him, possibly both- watching him and Magnus, frowning and squinting. As soon as Angus caught his eye, though, Taako looked away again, so perfectly aloof and capricious that Angus almost thought he’d imagined it. Almost.
“Hey boychik?” Taako asked one day after magic practice, picking at his nails in a way that seemed all together too intentional for Angus to believe.
“Why’re you acting so weird around Maggie all of a sudden?” Taako asked, not looking up, and Angus froze. He’d been found out. “Did the big oaf do something? Because cha’boy can definitely take him in a fight if need be, and I could probably con Merle over to our side, too.”
“N-no, sir.” Angus replied nervously, trying to play it off as earnest- adults always liked earnest, he reminded himself, they trusted earnestness. Taako wasn’t like most adults. Taako, still gazing carefully down at his nails, raised an eyebrow in incredulity. “I mean, uh, I haven’t been acting any different around Mr. Burnsides, sir, even when he does some really big goofs!”
Angus failed his bluff check.
Taako looked up, slowly, and met Angus’s eye. “Spill, boyo.”
And Angus did.
Taako was, surprisingly enough, a good listener. He nodded and grumbled and even laughed at all the right places, and didn’t seem surprised to hear about Kalen and Raven’s Roost. Angus wondered how much Magnus had already told him and Merle. Taako also didn’t seem to miss how Angus stumbled over his own relationship with his father, what his life was like at home before he lived with his grandfather, or why Angus changed his last name. Angus wasn’t sure whether to be unnerved or comforted by that.
“I don’t know what to do,” He finished eventually, and Taako rubbed his shoulder comfortingly, Angus having been pulled into his chest about halfway through the story in a half protective, half comforting maneuver.
“Just fucking- talk to him, Ango.” Taako said quietly, after Angus had finished his story and cried himself out. Angus had never known how... nice it was to cry on the shoulder of someone you trusted.
“Do you think he’s going to hate me, sir?” Angus asked, still a little watery.
Taako smirked, and poked Angus’s nose with his finger. “Frankly, I don’t think Burnsides is capable of hating anyone.” Taako’s eyes drifted a little to the side, over Angus’s shoulder, and Angus saw his expression grow cold, dispassionate. “Taako, however...” He looked back to Angus, and the moment had passed. Taako was Taako again, light and sarcastic and safe . “We’ll just have to see how that Governor turns out, huh, Agnes?”
Angus smiled, having learned that Taako calling him by the wrong name meant the same thing as a nickname. “I guess so, sir.”
“Magnus, sir?” Angus asked one day after he, Taako, and Merle had gotten out of training. Magnus hung back, turning towards him, and out of the corner of his eye, Angus saw Taako not-so-subtly pull Merle away.
“What’s up D’jango?”
“I uh, I have to tell you something, sir, and I hope it won’t change your opinion of me. Although, I guess I would understand if it did; I’ve just uh, really enjoyed working with you and Mr. Taako and Mr. Merle and I’m sorry I’ve waited so long to tell you, but I was very worried that you would be angry or hurt or would tell the director or have me kicked out of the Bureau and I didn’t want that to happen because I really like it here and I like it better here with you guys than I’ve ever liked anywhere and if you want me to leave I will but I hope you won’t be mad, sir, because-”
“Ango, spit it out, baby.” Magnus interrupted him, cutting off Angus’s babbling tirade not unkindly.
“Governor Kalen is my father.”
Magnus stared at him, unmoving, expressionless, for a few moments. The tears that Angus had been swallowing since he pulled Magnus aside came back with a vengeance and Angus fought them back with a whimper, certain that Magnus was going to yell, going to kick him out, going to hate him.
And then, in one smooth movement, Magnus knelt and swept Angus into his arms, so quickly that Angus didn’t realize what was happening until he was already blubbering into Magnus’s shoulder. He rubbed Angus’s shoulder comfortingly as he cried, mumbling apologies and explanations in between sobs until Magnus’s voice shocked him into silence.
“You don’t have anything to apologize for, Angus,” Angus’s breath caught- they almost never used his real name, it was always pumpkin or Ango or Agnes - “ You are not your fathe r .” Magnus pulled away, but kept both hands on Angus’s shoulders, looking him square in the eye as he continued. “Listen to me. You are not your father, you are nothing like that asshole, and you did nothing to cause... what happened to Raven’s Roost. Ok? I never want to hear you apologize for his actions again. It was not your fault- none of it was.”
“But-” Angus choked out, “I ran away, and he came back and destroyed- if I had stayed, maybe I could have-”
“There are a million ways you or I or anyone could have changed what happened.” Magnus said, a sad little smile on his face, “But it did happen, that’s what matters. And the blame doesn’t fall on us- on what we did or didn’t do. Ok, Ango?” Angus nodded, and reached a small hand up to wipe away a tear that had traced its way down Magnus’s cheek. “I love you Angus,” Magnus whispered into his hair, pulling him back in for another hug.
“I love you too, sir.”