Devlin came again, and again and each time left only a bruise behind. The sword came flying through the air above him and crashed on his skull. He felt his eyes water as the pain racked his skull and made him wild with anger.
                Edaran attacked in wide arcs that clearly left him too open, because he brother blocked them and smacked him on the upper sword arm, the side.
                Then he went for a lunge and Edaran tried it. He nudged Devlin’s sword aside and his brother ran straight into the wood. He heard Devlin gasp, all the wind torn from his lungs.
                “Good.” He croaked, and patted him on the shoulder before moving his arm to his stomach. He sat down on the stone and Edaran sat next to him.
                “Are you okay?” he asked.
                “Oh—“ he coughed. “—I’ll be fine.” And he put an arm round Edaran to prove it. “I know I haven’t given you much attention these past few months.” It took a moment for Edaran to realise what he was talking about. Then he remembered. His brother had been at war for two years, he hadn’t been home until Damyen died, and they let him come back for the burial. But even then, Devlin had confined himself to his room, or gone on long walks rather than spend much time with people. He took a guess that this was why he appeared a little out of breath earlier. He hadn’t touched a sword, wooden or steel, in several months.
                “It’s ok.” Was all Edaran could say. What else was there?
                “It isn’t though. I knew our time together would be short. And when I leave for the tournament, and you for Ascocen...” he looked up to the sky for a moment and his mind was very far away.
                “You’ll see me again, right?” Edaran frowned. He felt something gnaw at his insides. An ugly squirming that squished in his stomach like some horrible slime. First he gave all those unhappy looks, and now he was saying thing. “You will come and visit me, right?” he urged.
                “I’ll do my best. But the Uprisings, though they have stopped, they may start up at any time and I’d be called to active duty once more. So it could be many years till.” But his brother couldn’t say it. So he held Edaran all the tighter to him.
                Ed’s eyes felt warm for a moment. And now it really hit him that he was leaving. And once it had started, it wouldn’t stop. His throat clenched up as if something were choking him, and the tears fell from his face.
                Maybe leaving wasn’t such a great thing after all.
                Devlin gripped him with both arms now, pulling him into a hug, and for a moment, he thought he felt something wet hit his shoulder. But his brother was big and strong unlike him, he didn’t cry.
                Stupid cry-baby, but he held onto his brother too, as if maybe by doing so, he wouldn’t have to let go, and wouldn’t have to leave.
                Because this was it. This would be one of the last times he’d see his brother. And what about his Lord Father and Lady Mother? It might be several years. And even Marten and Gadfrey. He’d spent years being taught things by them, only to have them taken from him. And what if his new teachers were big meanies that would hit him for doing things wrong and yell. And then there was little Deglan, his younger brother. Sure he was annoying and stole all of his toys. But countless times he’d had to console him whenever Devlin or Delly left or he hurt himself.
                He found it hard to breathe, and it hurt, it hurt too much.
                His brother hushed him. “What if father saw you now?” the voice came out a little hoarse though soft. “What would he say?”
                Edaran tried to answer but it came out in short ragged bursts of sound.
                “He would tell you to stand tall, be the young man that you are. Be brave.” Now Devlin held him at arm’s length and looked him in the eye. His brother’s eyes looked a little reddened. “Sure, we will all miss you, but we still love you.” He smiled, trying to encourage him. “And besides, you will still have Del.” At least that cheered him up. His smile dropped, just a little, but enough. “And you have to look after her. Promise?”

The End

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