[RO] But all this time, I been chasin' down a lie

Ebbing and flowing like a tide, anguish never seemed able to let him go.

"What— How—" He dragged a wavering hand through his thick mane and swallowed a sob he could feel creeping up this throat. "What do you mean she's dead?"

The day had started out a picture of pure perfection: a golden sun had risen into a clear sky, its radiance highlighting the newborn blossoms and buds as it blessed them with its light, while it wrapped its subjects in a gentle, disarming warmth.

Reblin wouldn't know the deception until later in the day, long after he had departed from Mistfell Vale to enjoy the company of like-minded patrons (and more than a couple of stiff drinks) at Biff's Bar. But that was the way with life, wasn't it? You never knew the terrible truth of what awaited you until you least expected it.

"Hey, man," he grinned at a fellow traveler just outside Amherst. Reblin regarded the massive beast that grazed near him with an approving nod. "Out walkin' your cow?"

"Hello," said the younger man with a nod. "He's an ox, actually. But yes, something like that." When Reblin pulled an incredulous face, the stranger added, "I'm letting him graze. It was a hard winter."

"Shit, you got that right!" he said through a toothy grin, giving his curled tail a vibrant wag that slowly lagged the longer the stranger, with his thick brows and prim lips, scrutinized him in silence. "You, uh... You okay there, buddy?"

"No... I mean, yes. Yes." The bearded ox-driver gave his head a small shake. "I'm sorry. You just... You remind me of someone. Have we met before? I'm Percival Parhelion of New Caledonia."

Reblin's tail picked back up its vibrant cadence. "Dude, I know a Parhelion and someone from that Calladonna place!" he barked cheerily. "I have an uncle named Milos Parhelion. You know him? Or how about, uh..." His brows furrowed in thought, cupping his chin with calloused hands. What was that dude's name again? "Ari? Arnie? Oh! Arnold? No... Well, he has a short bunny tail and one ear that's all tipped over and... and... And now you're staring again. Dude, I could really do without the creepy staring right—"

"Arran," Percival interrupted without softening his eyes. "Arran is the New Caledonian you're talking about, I believe."

"Yeeeeah... Yeah, okay, so... can we maybe address the star—"

"Milos is your uncle?"

"Yeeees?" he said slowly, uncertainly, wondering belatedly if he should have denied that fact instead because clearly this scruffy stranger was a weirdo. "I only met him once, like... a super long time ago, so, uh... Yeah."

"I'm his son— one of his sons."

And, this time, it was Reblin who stood and stared.

They talked for a long while, Reblin rapidly returning to his loose and ebullient nature while the stranger – No, his relative! Who would've thunk? – slowly allowed the tension around his eyes and his lips to soften. Leaving out all the somber details of his less-than-perfect childhood, Reblin told of his birthplace, where a feral lifestyle still reigned supreme and the gods ruled the seasons, and then of the gods themselves when Percival asked him about them. He talked of meeting Thyri and of leaving Trillium Hollow with her, and of meeting his uncle, and then of his time in Cour des Miracles.

And then, like a spark igniting to flame, it didn't take long for Percival to discover the reason for the sense of familiarity he had felt earlier.

"You gave me a mask," Percy said, the memory of that moment appearing to have suddenly dawned on him. But Reblin, not catching on, only frowned quizzically. "At the Court's masquerade. I didn't have one. You said I needed to wear one, so you gave it to me. Don't you remember?"

Reblin did not remember, at least not vividly. The memory sat somewhere in the deepest, darkest, dustiest corner of his mind, neglected and forlorn. The truth of the matter was that, after all of the alcohol that he had consumed and the new faces that he had seen, there was little that Reblin did remember from that night that wasn't awash in a blur of color and sound. But slowly – terribly slowly – a hint of something vaguely resembling remembrance tugged in the space where the long-forgotten memory rested.

"Yeah... Yeah, I think so. You were the one stuffin' your face full of fish, weren't you?" he said, nodding slowly as the memory began to regain its color and its focus.

"I— I wasn't stuffing my face!" Percy replied huffily, sounding indignant while he smoothed his beard between his fingers. "But I... think I was maybe eating some fish. Anyway, that's not relevant." Appearing to compose himself through a deep inhale, the New Caledonian continued. "That was why I was staring earlier. Something about your mannerisms reminded me of that night, but I hadn't caught your name then."

A pause stretched between them as Reblin contemplated the serendipity of their chance encounter, both back then and again now. And, for a long time thereafter, he would look back at that moment and wish that it could have stretched on forever and ever.

"I'm sorry about your friend," Percival said, breaking the peace. In his eyes there was sympathy. "I wish that I'd been able to get to know her better."

"Huh?" Despite the cold chill that was trickling down his spine, Reblin chuckled. "Who are you even talking about, man?" Family or not, this dude was definitely a weirdo.

"Thyri. Thyri Dawnbringer?"

Simultaneously, the realization dawned on them that the news of the woman's death hadn't reached Reblin. The piebald wolfdog stood, crumpled and defeated in the face of sudden grief, and was silent for a long while.

"I... I'm sorry, Reblin. I didn't—"

"What— How—" He dragged a wavering hand through his thick mane and swallowed a sob he could feel creeping up this throat. "What do you mean she's dead?"

"She... got sick, shortly after giving birth. Reblin, I'm sorry. I didn't know y—"

But Reblin had his hands cupped around his ears to keep his heart from exploding out of them and was panting so heavily against the anguish of losing the only living person who really, truly cared about him that Percival's words were lost on him.

"Find what makes you happy, Reblin, and go do it." Her voice echoed in his head. "Go be it. You're young, Rebel. Go and make something of yourself."

And what had he done? He had taken her blessing and he had pissed it away.

"At least— At least she never saw what I've become," he muttered flatly to himself, a sob splitting his words, as his hands slipped from the sides of his head. Where ebullience once lit his face in brightness a shadow of despair now cast his features in darkness.

Some time later, after he had detached himself from his cousin and stumbled into Biff's Bar with a weight on his heart the size of a mountain, Reblin drowned his grief in liquor and noise and physical pain until he forgot who Thyri Dawnbringer was and why it hurt so terribly to know that she was dead.

But his memories returned the next day and they remained with him like a curse from the gods. Reblin never returned to Mistfell Vale, not the next day nor any other day thereafter, and, like a fog burned away by dawn, he vanished once more into obscurity.

[WC — 1296]

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