I hate Howe. I really hate this guy. All my characters hate this guy. This is the first time I’ve called him by his first name. So, another little insight into the lives of our antagonists and what they’re going through in Denerim.
Note: I’m using MUC (Made Up Crap(tm)) about the Howe family, and not necessarily following the wiki or interviews or common knowledge. Just roll with it.
Margaret is Howe’s late wife.
Rendon Howe burst into the castle’s chapel. The soldiers standing about tensed, coming to rigorous attention. He paid them no mind, he only had eyes for the body laid out on the bier. The Chantry Sister who had been cleaning Thomas’ face melted away as he approached. Rendon put his hands on his son’s chest. The need to touch, to know this was real warred with his need to deny this was even happening. He resisted the urge to shake Thomas roughly, to demand he awaken. It wouldn’t do to look foolish and desperate in front of these men. Howe was a hardened warrior.
He turned, walling off his emotions behind a facade of hard stone. Not all of them: his rage bled through, barely controlled. Rendon clenched his teeth to hold back from slaughtering anyone. “Who is in charge here?” he growled low. “What happened to my son?”
One of the men stepped forward; young, Thomas’ age. He was clean-shaven and had short brown hair, too short for a proper warbraid. “Lieutenant Reid, ser.” His voice was nearly steady, but his gaze withered under the heat of Rendon’s glare. “We came to the bridge at Berensford. Bann Oswyn was there; his troops held the bridge.”
Howe felt his lips peel back in a snarl. “And how is it that none of you are wounded from this battle?” Not a scratch, the cowards!
Reid licked his lips. “Bann Oswyn challenged Bann Thomas to single combat, for possession of the bridge.”
“They duelled, my lord.”
“And you just stood by and watched?” Rendon yelled.
“My lord, Bann Thomas agreed to the terms. They fought honorably.”
Rendon squeezed his eyes shut, clamped his mouth closed. The bloody fool! Reid continued hesitantly into the lull. “Bann Oswyn allowed us to retrieve the–”
“Silence!” Rendon paced beside the bier, trying to shake the images from his head. Thomas fighting for his life, and these worthless cowards doing nothing! “You,” he snapped at their incompetent officer; “You take your men to the Free Marches. You find my son Nathaniel, and you bring him back here.”
“My lord…?” Reid quavered. “Now?”
Yes, Rendon knew there was a civil war on! But he couldn’t stand having these men anywhere near him. “Yes, now! Take the very next ship heading to Ostwick. And Reid,” he growled, fixing the man with a steel glare, “if you don’t find him, don’t bother coming back.”
Reid licked his lips nervously again. “As you say, my lord.” He bowed and moved out the door. His men hurriedly followed suit.
Rendon turned back to his dead son. He touched Thomas’ cheek; it was still damp from the Sister’s cloth. Damp and cold. Rendon smoothed the wetness away with his palm, but he could not impart warmth back into that chilled flesh.
The arl’s vision blurred, candles around the room’s perimeter drawing bright streaks across the bier. “You damned fool, what have you done?” Rendon bit his lower lip until it stopped quivering. “Didn’t I teach you better than this? War is not a game! War is not won by handsome heroes doing chivalrous deeds. War is ugly. It is blood and shit stinking up the battlefield. It’s cold mud and living on rations you wouldn’t feed a dog.”
He gripped the edge of his son’s breastplate, shook him. “Honor and glory are for stories, boy! How many times have I told you? Your job is to stay alive, kill your enemy, any way you can. If he is weaker, crush him! Show no mercy. If he is stronger than you, you do what you have to! Cut off his food, poison his water. Cripple him with traps. Stab him in the gut and run away, let him bleed out, but for Maker’s sake–!” he shook the cold body again– “Live! Don’t… don’t throw your life away….” His voice broke apart and all he could do was bow his head and cry. He tried to hold his son, to embrace him one last time, but the lifeless body was unresponsive, the cold armor unyielding. “Oh, Thomas,” Rendon blurted, “why didn’t you listen to me? I’m so, so sorry, Margaret.”
The funeral was held at the castle, attended by a full contingent of honor guards. Not Thomas’ men. Howe hoped they’d seen the last of those craven bastards. If they sank in a storm, that would suit him just fine. Or perhaps they’d be taken by Rivani pirates, or Tevinter slavers. Except then he’d need to find someone trustworthy to bring back his wayward son. Nathaniel, his youngest child, had always been a black sheep. But now he was Rendon’s only son, and he had to try to reconcile with him. They responsibilities of Thomas were now to be Nathaniel’s.
Rendon’s mien was hard stone, like the walls of the castle, the city walls, Fort Drakon. The hardness of a warrior. It was bitterly ironic that Thomas was accorded a near-royal funeral, while Rendon was still struggling to elevate himself to teyrn. Why Bryce Cousland was granted the title and not Rendon Howe was simply a matter of politics. King Maric granted the title to his friends, Bryce and Loghain. Rendon had fought beside both men, had been their friend, but that wasn’t high enough on the rungs for him to be considered for the title. Rendon never begrudged Loghain his teyrnship. Envied, yes, but never begrudged. The man understood war, and he knew what it took to win one.
As for Bryce Cousland’s title… that was now a moot point.
The pyre bathed the courtyard with heat, but still, Anora’s hands were cold when she took his. “We are so sorry for your loss,” she said, her blue eyes looking into his own. She said it with heartfelt intensity and expression, but Rendon bristled. What did she mean, ‘we’? Herself and her father? The whole court? Was it the royal ‘we’? Cold and aloof and impersonal. Rendon mouthed some equally meaningless gratitude.
Then he felt a hand on his shoulder, a warrior’s weight and strength. Rendon half-turned to look at Loghain. The general said nothing. At first, he dropped his gaze, granting Rendon respectful privacy for his grief. Then the man raised his eyes, met his friend’s gaze unflinchingly. Loghain’s eyes were dark with compassion; he knew what it was like to lose family like this. He squeezed Rendon’s shoulder with silent understanding. Rendon took a steadying breath, then nodded his thanks.
The old friends, old war comrades, needed no words.
“Come by my study this evening,” Loghain said, his voice soft and low. “We’ll give him a proper warrior’s send-off.”
Again Rendon nodded, grateful.