A Taste of Freedom

WARNING! Mild spoilers for the end of The Rise of Aredor! Proceed at your own risk. If you’ve read the books, enjoy! If not, and want to find out more about these characters, check out the The Rise of Aredor!

Corin leaned back against the sun warmed stones, the light spring breeze teasing him with the scents of the garden. Even weeks later, it was still hard to believe – he was home.

“Looks like someone overdid it today and is finally resting.”

Corin raised one eyebrow in annoyance. “I’m not asleep,” he mumbled, even though in truth he’d almost been there.

“Oh, don’t know if I believe that, do you?”

“I think I heard snoring,” another voice joined and Corin’s eyes flew open.

Relief hit him hard to see Trey standing there, albeit pale and leaning heavily on Martin.

“You’re up!” Corin smiled past the lingering bruises that stiffened his face.

“Not for much longer, I think.” Trey swayed precariously and Martin redoubled his hold.

“Sit down.” Corin moved aside and Trey practically collapsed onto the stone bench beside him.

Trey swore as he extended his leg and rubbed at his hip.

“You good?” Corin asked.

Trey leaned back against the wall, his features easing out of a grimace. “I will be. You?”

“I will be if people stop asking after my health every five seconds.”

Martin chuckled. “Wondered what you were doing out in this corner.”

“Know the feeling.” Trey nudged him.

Corin cursed and swatted his hand away to rub at aching ribs.

“Sorry. Forgot.” Trey winced.

“It’s all right.” Corin waved it off, finally daring to move his hand away. It still hurt to breathe deep. “I’m not sure there’s a part of me that’s not bruised.”

“Just glad you’re alive.” Trey said.

Corin nodded. He wasn’t complaining either. He cast a glance at Martin who rested against the low hanging branch of an oak. There was something almost pained in Martin’s eyes as he looked at both of them. Corin didn’t even want to know what he’d gone through for the few days it looked like he and Trey wouldn’t make it.

“What about you, Martin? You all right?” he asked.

“Looks like I’m still stuck with the two of you, but I’ll find a way to manage.” Martin took a few seconds to speak.

Neither made a reply, the pain of their injuries too fresh. Trey looked out over the gently nodding bluebonnets.

“Can’t believe we did it,” he murmured.

“There were more than a few days I honestly thought I’d never stand here again,” Martin admitted.

Corin silently agreed. He’d finally made it home three years ago, only to have any dream he might have had of finding his family crushed. But through long battles and chance encounters, he had. But he’d never honestly believed he could have this again, not until he’d woken up to find his family clustered around him.

“Don’t think I ever thanked you two for coming after me,” he said, almost hating the slight tremble in his voice. “Didn’t think I was going to make it.”

Trey cleared his throat. “What, you thought we’d just abandon you?”

“You should have and gone after Lynwood.”

Martin snorted. “Right, because you wouldn’t have done the same?”

“It was stupid.”

“Aye, well, what did you expect…brother?” Trey nudged his leg this time.

Corin half-smiled and held his ribs as he shifted more comfortably. The breeze sent the oak’s branches skittering against the roughened stones.

“Remember when we tried to scale this wall?” he asked.

Grins lit Trey and Martin’s faces.

“Aye, during the Festival, wasn’t it?” Trey said.

“We were going to throw acorns at the couples.” Martin laughed.

“What were we? Nine?” Corin smiled at the hazy memory.

“No more than.”

“Aye, which one of you fell?” Martin tipped his head back to regard the wall.

“Me,” Trey said. “I think I’d remember that sprained wrist.”

“And we almost poisoned you with whatever we stole from the infirmary.” Corin splinted his ribs against a new laugh.

“Aye, Father didn’t even punish me. He took one look at me and said I’d suffered enough,” Trey said, sending them into another burst of laughter.

“Then it was the paddocks the next night.” Martin shook his head.

“When we decided we’d have our own races since our parents wouldn’t let us.” Trey chuckled.

“How did all those horses get out?” Corin asked.

“You two couldn’t remember where our ponies were!” Trey jabbed an accusing finger.

“No, we picked the right one. Corin didn’t close the gate properly,” Martin retorted.

“I couldn’t quite reach, and if I recall, we were in a bit of a hurry,” Corin put in.

“My uncle was coming after us with a vengeance.” Trey grinned.

“It’s a wonder Kingscastle survived that Festival.”

The rapid patter of footsteps approached.

“Speaking of hellions,” Martin said.

Corin barely had time to brace before Gwilym hurtled into his arms. “Uncle Cor!”

“Hey, Gwily! When did you get here?”

“Today. I saw Grampa, but Uncle Martin said I had to sleep before we found you.”

“They got here while you were hearing reports with Darrin,” Martin expounded. “And they said he hardly slept the whole way here.”

Corin was distracted by Gwilym’s gentle finger poking the darkest bruise still staining his cheekbone.

“They said you were hurted really bad.” His wide eyes swept over Corin, lingering on the bandage splinting his left wrist.

Corin shifted it out of view as he tousled the boy’s hair. “I’m fine.”

“You look hurted,” Gwilym mumbled “You and Grampa.”

“Hey, we’ve got Uncle Lio taking care of us. We’re all good.”

Corin accepted another hug from Gwilym. Being adopted as uncles in the middle of the war had been the last thing any of them had expected. But Corin found he didn’t really mind being called “Uncle Cor”.

He intercepted Gwilym before he could scramble across into Trey’s lap next.

“It’ll be a bit before I can carry you around,” Trey explained away Gwilym’s confused look. “Speaking of which…” Tenseness came back to his face. “We might need to go back in and find your Uncle Lio.”

Gwilym stepped back and watched wide-eyed as Martin practically hauled Trey to his feet. Corin stood a little stiffly and offered his shoulder for Trey to hold.

“I’m not going to break.” Corin rolled his eyes at their concerned faces.

Trey smiled and gripped his shoulder tight as they began to shuffle back in. Once they drew near the archway that led to the barracks infirmary, Gwilym darted ahead, reappearing with Liam.

“I knew there was a reason I should be worried.” Liam shook his head.

“You and Mera said I should get up today.” Trey shifted his grip to Liam’s arm as Corin gratefully relinquished it.

“We didn’t mean to walk halfway across the castle!” Liam returned. “Do I need to drug you again?”

“Don’t you dare!” Trey sagged back onto the pillows.

“Tristan left a standing order.”

“He’s not my commanding officer.” Trey snorted.

“But I am.” Corin eased into the chair by his bed. “Think it would help?” He smirked at Liam.

“Aye, well, you’re one to talk, Captain. You look exhausted too,” Liam retorted.

“Says the man who’s hardly rested for weeks,” Martin cut in.

“What is that saying about the pot and the kettle?” Liam tilted his head.

Martin rolled his eyes, then smiled. “Looks like someone needed another nap.”

Gwilym had curled up beside Trey and dozed off. Trey half-chuckled and eased a blanket over them.

“Maybe it’s not such a bad idea. It’s been a few hours since my last nap.”

Corin stifled his own sudden yawn. He slept more in the last few weeks than he had in years. It was nice.

“You want me to get you something?” Liam asked Trey, who nodded.

Within minutes of Liam returning with pain medicine, Trey was asleep.

“You too, Cor.” Liam turned on him next.

“I’m going.” Corin smothered another yawn and let Martin pull him to his feet.

Martin accompanied him back to his room, steadying him more than once as his right leg betrayed him.

Corin barely stopped a groan as he sat on the bed to shuck his boots and tunic before easing under the blanket.

“Need anything?” Martin paused by the door.

“Would you open the window?” The well-meaning servants kept cutting off Karif’s access.

The grey hawk immediately fluttered in, chirping in irritation. He perched on the headboard at Corin’s signal, settling in to preen.

Martin shook his head with a smile as he left.

Corin shifted more comfortably. He would start chafing under the healers’ restrictions soon, he knew he would. But for now, he was perfectly content to spend more time with his family and remember what it was like to be free again.

2 thoughts on “A Taste of Freedom

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