breakfastofchampions: (bertrand)
[personal profile] breakfastofchampions
Title: Secrets Past
Universe: Goldenhour
Characters: Branwen, Alex
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Word count: 982
Summary: Branwen doesn't entirely trust her new guardians.
Notes: Written for [community profile] origfic_bingo, for the prompt "time travel". I decided to end this where I did because I think I'm going to incorporate it into the novel rather soon, so it'll be developed more, but not right now.



Was it normal for someone to keep absolutely no remnants of their past? Having been raised in the confines of Lighthall, Branwen was not yet able to judge what was usual among those who had been born outside, in the wider world.

Even in Lighthall, the residents, as scattered and shattered as they could be, had carried their pasts with them. Keepsakes and heirlooms, childhood toys and jewelry that had been their parents'. A colorful stone from the town where they'd been born. People needed the past. They kept it with them. Branwen knew that much.

Her new guardians possessed nothing like that. Though Sir Damien was gregarious and affable, quick with a smile or a joke, he seemed not to own any personal items. He was proud of his public house and its portrait of the king, but his quarters held only those furnishings that were necessary, nothing ornamental or sentimental. Sir Alex's rooms were much the same, although the solitary, laconic Alex seemed more like someone whose rooms would be bare.

Mora, in comparison, had a riot of possessions, which were displayed openly in her room and in other parts of the house. She had items that had belonged to her mother as a child, gifts friends had given her, and a painting of her birthplace. Her windowsills were cluttered with small statues she'd bought in the market, and her collection of daggers was probably quite impressive, although Branwen knew very little about weapons. Mora had a past. Everyone could see it when they looked through her door.

Damien and Alex's pasts had been erased from their home. It made Branwen uneasy.

Branwen felt guilty for being suspicious of the knights, who had been so kind to her, but after what had happened at Lighthall, it was easy for her to believe that people weren't what they seemed. Lily hadn't liked knights. She'd been wary of them, although she had never told Branwen why. The young man Ciro, too, had been afraid of them. There was something strange about knights.

Branwen felt even more guilty for looking through their things, searching for answers, but it wasn't as if she meant any harm. She remembered Anna standing over her, pale and straight and suddenly dangerous. She remembered Lily's eyes changing. Sometimes people didn't show themselves. Sometimes their true selves were hidden, locked away even from themselves. Branwen wanted to know. She was afraid of losing everything again.

A search through Damien's possessions worryingly yielded nothing. Even his sword was relatively new, and the only stories she found among his things were light, everyday tales. None of them went any deeper than a story she might see for herself as Damien interacted with his customers every night. The man's seemingly open matter and completely unreadable belongings made for a sharp contrast. Branwen wasn't sure what to make of it. There was no evidence that there was something wrong with him or that he meant her any harm. It was simply--odd.

She assumed that if Damien had no stories of note for her to find, Alex would have even less. She almost didn't bother, because the tight feeling of guilt in her chest sharpened into an ache. Maybe she was the one who was wrong, who couldn't be trusted. Even in Lighthall, it had been considered unacceptable to go into someone's room and look through their possessions without permission.

Yet something terrible had taken place in Lighthall. She wouldn't let that happen to her again. She wouldn't wait for things to be revealed to her, too late for her to do anything.

Sir Alex's single room was even emptier than Sir Damien's. His furniture was simple, plain wood. He had a bed, a table, a chest of drawers, and a wardrobe. There was little to look through. His clothes were all the same: black, old enough to be turning a little gray in their most worn places. If she hadn't known that he was one of the upper classes, from a wealthy family, she would never have guessed it.

As she began the little searching she had to do, she almost gave up. There was nothing to look through. Stories rose from the cloth into her fingers, but like the stories in Damien's room, they were faint, and she didn't explore them further. Perhaps she should have given up, but she thought she should search through each one of the drawers, at least.

The final one yielded something bright in the midst of so many dark possessions. She saw it at once, a flash of color in the drawer's left corner. Her hand flew to it. It was soft, light, pale yellow. A lock of hair. Branwen's fingers brushed it, and her body stiffened. The hair was not only bright with color, but with story.

A face smiled at her. It was youthful, dark, familiar. It was Alex, decades younger. The lines on his face were not yet drawn, nor was the distinctive scar that now bisected it across his nose and under his eyes. "You're an idiot," he said, but his tone was fond, and then he added, "James."

Branwen felt something close on her wrist, and she looked up to see the other, older Alex gazing down at her. For a moment, she could see them both: the young man smiling and the older one--not. Side by side, she could see that they were the same person, but it was not truly the same face after all. Time had changed it too much. For a moment, she was in both times at once, with both men. The young one laughed, a light and half-embarrassed sound. Then the pressure on Branwen's wrist tightened, her hand was drawn away from the lock of pale hair, and the younger man faded away like a ghost.
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