(This is an rp log taken straight from the game.)
Varidia and her nephew Brannt stood together at the dining table amidst the main hall of the Clarke family home, going through a few things in a box on the table. Brannt, no longer a child but a young man at seventeen, wore a dour expression while his aunt Varidia’s eyes yet held traces of tears and redness from displays of mourning. Varidia’s gaze caught hold of a framed portrait hanging on the wall. “Oh…” she said aloud. “Think… I should take that with me. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get a new one with you in it,” she spoke in a weakened voice.
Brannt glances up at the painting in question, then to Varidia. “It’s all right. The memories are enough for me,” he tells her, his voice deeper than Aston would remember.
It seemed like it had rained the whole way from Minas Tirith. Even now as Aston arrived in Bree after two years away, the skies poured down on the earth, turning the streets to mud and dampening more than the spirit. The door swung open and Aston stepped inside, holding his old, weather-worn hat, his last gift from his father when he’d passed many years before. The normally attractively semi-scraggly hair was touseled and dirty, and his beard had grown in. His cloak, dark as well as muddy, had a white tree clasp. Lightning flashed, framing him in its light for the split second before he shut the door and moved further inside. “Ma!” he called, footsteps squelching.
The sound of the front door swinging open gave both Varidia and her nephew, Brannt, reason to feel alarm, not having expected anyone to enter unannounced beforehand. Though Brannt had only glanced up with a faint frown, Varidia turned her entire body when the familiar, old voice called out to the home, asking for a voice that would never answer. “A-Aston,” Varidia greeted, voice weary and uncertain.
As he entered, Aston hooked his cloak on the rack by the door and kicked off his boots. “Varidia?” he said then, and continued on toward the fire where the two sat. Still holding his hat, he regarded sister and bastard son with the gaze of a man who had traveled many miles since seeing family. “I’m…home,” he said, a frown creeping into his features at the sight of their fallen faces and Varidia’s red eyes.
Varidia stood wordlessly as her older brother marched his way closer, her gaze lost in almost disbelief at the sight of him, as well as his timing. Meanwhile, Brannt lowered his own eyes to the box of his grandmother Willow’s belongings, not wishing to look upon the man until he could regain his composure.
Varidia eventually took a step toward Aston, finding her strength again, and clenched her right hand into a tightly balled fist upon her approach. Without a warning the woman lifted her arm and threw a punch with the strength of a seasoned archer at her brother’s face with full intentions to make it hurt.
Aston wasn’t that stupid. He had expected some choice words from Varidia after disappearing for two years without a word. The fist to the face, however, came as a surprise — blood fell to the floor as the punch connected, bloodying his nose. He reeled, still clutching his hat in one hand, the other moving to staunch the bleeding. “Ouch,” he said. “I probably deserved that.”
Varidia pulled her hand back, the contact forceful enough to crack the skin of her own knuckles, but she did not stop there. She stalked forward, chasing Aston, and lifted her other hand to shove against the man’s chest. “How dare you!” she roared, finding power in her previously weak voice. “Where have you been, Aston?! Go ahead, call for mother again, see if she answers!”
Brannt glanced up from his silent position behind the table and moved forward, reaching out to grab hold of Varidia’s shoulders, but the girl merely shrugged his attempts at placating her off and stared daggers at her brother, waiting for a response.
Aston was forced back a step as he was shoved, and he let his hat fall to the ground by their feet. He at least had the decency to look guilty. “I’m sorry, sister- I should have written. I’ve been in the south. Just had to leave for a while, is all.” He frowned. “Where is mother?”
The sound of the word ‘sorry’ leaving her brother’s lips was enough to give Varidia some pause, and so she stopped moving toward him and gave him time enough to recover, though the sharp glare in her eyes did not fade. “She’s dead,” she barked back at Aston. “And you weren’t there. Brannt and I were the only family at her funeral.”
Aston took the moment given to him to keep holding his nose. It didn’t seem to be broken, at least. He glanced past Varidia at Brannt, but then her words hit him like a ton of bricks. The crimson collecting at his nose seemed all the brighter against his skin as the color drained from Aston’s face. “Ma’s dead?” he said, softly now.
Varidia cycled a deep breath, swelling her chest and then releasing to aid in calming herself down. Her sharp, critical gaze appeared to soften as her eyes glittered with dancing firelight. “Yes,” she answered hesitantly. The single word she spoke threatened to break her voice, and her lower lip began to quiver in defiance.
Brannt stepped forward, standing next to Varidia to look upon his long absent father. “Sickness took her in her sleep,” he explained, his voice calm and more relaxed than his aunt’s.
Aston looked away, to his right toward the flickering fire in his late mother’s hearth. A long moment passed before he spoke again. “The funeral…where was she buried?” he asked finally, his gaze returning to Varidia.
Varidia narrowed her eyes, which in her anger had collected a well of tears around the corners. She sucked in a sharp breath, exchanging it briefly before daring to answer her brother. “At the graveyard, next to father.”
Aston sighed, the long-drawn out sound of painful acceptance. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here,” he said, for once completely serious, no smirk to his lips.
Varidia shook her head. “If you had only been here a week earlier. I bet you’ve even been nearby since then, haven’t you?” Despite asking a question, Varidia turned away and ducked into the nearby bedroom, her old bedroom, leaving Aston alone with his bastard son.
Brannt watched silently as Varidia took her leave of the common area, then brought his brown eyes up to meet his father’s. “She wasn’t here for it, either,” he whispered.
No wisecrack remark to make, Aston merely winced and watched Varidia leave with a lingering, thoughtful look. Then he turned to Brannt, green-eyed gaze finally taking the sight of him in for more than a moment. The young man’s statement caused his brows to raise. “What great children your grandmother raised, huh? Not her fault, though.” A trace of his old smirk crept back.
Brannt shook his own head, his dour expression gone away and replaced by only concern for the situation. “She was in the north with her guild, helping flood victims. Grandma was sick when she left, but neither of us thought it’d get that bad so quick. She blames herself,” he explained.
“Helping flood victims…” Aston said, and shook his head. “I take it back. What a great daughter your grandmother raised. It /was/ her fault.” He chuckled and leaned against the mantle, which was totally not five feet away. “She shouldn’t blame herself. Ma’d’ve been proud.”
Brannt watched Aston through his smirks and charismatic gestures, but not even a threat of a smile appeared in his stern expression. “Well, it’s hard to hate you when you’re not around enough to do things to make me hate you,” he said, pausing to glance at the bedroom that Varidia had wandered into. “I think she wants to leave, too. She mostly stayed because of her.”
Aston followed his gaze and nodded. “Maybe she will. But I think I’ll stay.” He returned his gaze to Brannt, his eyes the color of Bree-land’s rolling hills, especially in the light of the fire. “I plan to die in this wretched place if it’s the death of me. Which I hope it will be, or else my funeral will be an…interesting experience for anyone who bothers to come.” He grinned, then seemed to sober up again as if remembering the somber situation he’d found himself in. “And you?” he asked. “Will you go with her?”
Brannt knit his brows together when Aston asked him a question, then once again shook his head, though gently this time. “No, I’ve almost finished my apprenticeship with one of the tailors in town, and Varidia’s taught me enough about healing that I could work as a healer’s assistant if I wanted. I’ve got a few friends. I’m staying.”
Aston smiled slightly as Brannt spoke. “Sounds like a plan. You look like him, y’know.” He picked up his hat, and gave it a good long look. “My da. Your grandfather.” He placed the hat back on his head. “He could charm a fish out of water, ma used to say. And she wasn’t the only lady who agreed. They married late, you know- he’d run around with every lass between here and Trestlebridge before then, but it was only our mother who made him fall for her. Had him in the palm of her hand.” He smiled wistfully.
Brannt brought his hand up to rub the sleeve of his other arm, and for a brief moment a glimmer of a smile formed with thinly pressed lips. “I didn’t know him. So, why’d you come back?”
It was then that Varidia returned from her old bedroom, tears wiped away from her redenned eyes, and she lingered in the doorway with her arms crossed at her chest, watching her brother and nephew converse.
Aston He raised his brows. “Why’d I come back? I suppose it’s like I said before — I plan to die here in Bree. It’s my home. Gondor never was, never will be.” He shook his head, and glanced off at a window at the flickering lightning. “And besides, pirate-queens are beautiful but they are crazy.” He looked back at Brannt. “Speaking of beauties, have you seen Margaux lately?”
Brannt glanced down and away as Aston talked of Gondor. “No, not lately,” he answered in a simple manner before lifting his gaze again.
Varidia waited for a pause in their conversation before she spoke up. “Do you have a place to stay?”
Aston frowned at Brannt’s answer, an uncommon expression on his features, then he looked back toward Varidia as she spoke up. “Aye,” he said, “Unless the Watch has forclosed on my house down the street. I’m…friends with the lady in charge of town housing, so I doubt it.” He smiled slightly, and moved closer to Varidia. “Listen…I’m going to visit her grave. Talk to her a bit. Her and dad. As soon as this storm lets up.”
Varidia answered Aston with a slow nod of her head, more just a tuck of her chin, really, but her arms remained tightly bound to her chest. “That’d be nice. Do you want company?”
He nodded. “I’ll call on you. If you’re around and up for it. As for tonight…” He looked over his shoulder at the window. “Well, it’s time to make a mad dash for a certain lady’s castle, if I can dodge the dragon guarding it.” He gave Varidia a long look before going to hug her. “Despite the circumstances…it’s good to see you, sis.”
Varidia watched hesitantly as Aston moved toward her, and though at first she didn’t respond, she eventually lowered her arms enough to wrap them around him in a brief embrace. “Look,” she said over his shoulder before he pulled away. “If you do need a place to stay you can come back here. Brannt will be here too, though. He’s got your old room but you can use mine.”
Aston stood back and adjusted his hat with one hand and a slight smirk at some unspoken joke of his, no doubt. He nodded. “We’ll survive, you know,” he said, as if ignoring what she’d just said. “We Clarkes are hard to get rid of. We’re in every drop of Bree-land blood. You can thank our good looks and charms for that. And we bleed Bree-land, too.” He nodded and turned to leave, sliding on his muddy boots and his rain-soaked cloak before throwing a, “Good to be back home!” behind his shoulder and walking out into the storm.