Written on August 15, 2019 (♌)

Author's Notes: It's really weird that despite Zalbag being my favorite Beoulve, I just seem to continually write about Dycedarg and his issues. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ In any event, somebody I know suggested to me that it would be just up my angst-filled, grimdark alley to consider the idea that Balbanes knows or suspects that he's being poisoned, so I wrote this.

"Why are you doing this?" Balbanes asked morosely, stifling a cough in his throat. He knew if he gave into another fit, he'd bring up blood.

Dycedarg turned to him, looking deathly serious but not quite perturbed. He sat back down by his bedside, evidently willing to stay and talk. The aroma of some sort of mint misted through the room as the contents of the pot he'd set by the bed began to steep.

"Why am I doing what?" he asked softly.

Balbanes breathed deep, sat up, tried to compose himself. "Why are you always bringing me tea? You don't need to wait on an old man--not with things so close to a close. Besides, Alma's home, don't you think--"

"I think I'm as much your child as Alma is, father," he said, cutting him off. "I'll let her know, though, if you'd like to see her more. She worries about you greatly."

He sighed softly, looking at Dycedarg's tired and saturnine features and wondering what he could possibly say to him. He was dying, and he had weighed again and again how slight the number of years eleventh hour theatrics might afford him: the hours he might spend in a different sort of sickness at having the unspeakable finally spoken. After Viura, after Zarghidas, after the red-flagged waves of Romandans visible from Igros' towers, it seemed such a simple matter to die in bed. There were times enough in the past five decades where he'd been spared the full force of human ugliness.

"Dycedarg?" he said at last, feeling very insubstantial.

"Yes, father?"

"Do you really think the war will end?"

"It will."

"I suppose everything does," he replied, not looking him in the eyes. "I wonder what I'll do without it. I feel as if it almost... grew into me..."

He drifted, and the coughing fit finally caught up with him. As he suspected, there was blood. Dycedarg looked genuinely distraught as he moved to help him, dabbing at his face with a handkerchief.

"I know, you know," he sputtered, cringing as his son took his hand. Something seemed to carry him from himself and into the stale air around him. "War is a terrible father for two boys."

"You're sick, father," Dycedarg said, voice cracking. "You shouldn't talk so."

Balbanes looked at him, and it took a moment for his face to come into full focus. He thought of his suspicions, of the boy's long dead mother, of his son out on the battlefield and of his son who might never have to see one, of what the capital would look like next spring should all its soldiers come marching home. The drapes were drawn over the room's single window, but he felt very certain that the sun shone behind them, covering Gallione in a harsh and golden light.

He gestured for the tea. It had steeped too long, and its bitterness only brought into highlight the strange, earthy aftertaste of something settled into the bottom sediment. It was not lost on him that Dycedarg poured himself a cup of his own, and drank it very deliberately in a sullen silence.