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An accompanying piece to chapter 27 of His Father's Son, written to Zute's challenge to write a first-person PoV to the prompt "I remember when..." So, heer goes Ned's PoV.
I look at my hands, and don't know what I see any more.
I don't know what I see when I look at myself any more.
I feel as if I don't know myself any more.
Everything goes on as if nothing ever happened, but it did, and my memory is merciless: I remember how Esmerelle's lips split and her teeth shattered as I struck her.
I remember how I wanted to squeeze the life out of her, as if it could undo what she had said… undo what had been done to my mother.
I remember how I was throttling the viper, with my very hands.
Those very hands which have dealt clean deathblows with my blade more times than I can remember…
I do, I do remember. The feel of the blade sliding into the body of Rendon Howe, and how I twisted it in the wound. How he gasped and how those fish-cold eyes bulged.
His son's eyes are the same colour… and I can't help but ponder what it is that he sees when he looks at me.
Only, I find myself not brave enough to find out just now, to approach him, to talk to him… And so I avoid every opportunity when he might chance on me alone, even though I can see that the distance between us is gnawing at him, together with the guilt he feels over his father's depravity… he who is innocent himself.
So innocent, in a way… so similar to Alistair in this, who used to be my conscience at the moments when I might have strayed. How I wish he were here, with his solid, uncomplicated loyalty…
But Alistair has a life of his own now, and his own share of burdens as King, and I can't just dump this on him, even if I could simply drop everything and ride to Denerim.
Besides… the Alistair I put on the throne has lost most of his innocence. The weight of decisions and power has taken its toll, and even before, at the Landsmeet, I could see that he had been poisoned by the same venom that has been devouring me. I doubt he realizes how much he has changed – or how much I have changed.
What I have become.
Does Nathaniel realize?
The closest person to a friend I have here.
If he does see me for what I am… I don't know how I might bear the way he will look at me when I finally find it in me to face him.
Him who has overcome the blind urge of vengeance himself.
I used to think I left it all behind, with that single strike which ended Loghain's life, but the past keeps outing, no matter what I do.
I remember the look of Loghain's eyes, just before the blade cut into his neck: all the pride gone, just immense weariness.
And, for a moment, as if he was glad to be done away with.
That relief keeps haunting me… haunting me as I look at my hands and feel the crunch of Esmerelle's broken face. It was so easy to succumb, so sweet at that moment… yet it didn't change a thing.
Neither did killing Loghain – or Howe, for that matter.
The only thing it changed was me… into the same bloody monster as those I killed. The vengeance has consumed me, just as it did with Fergus, slowly, creepingly, without me even knowing, and urged me to actions I never thought myself capable of.
I cannot bear the look of myself any more, because it's not me any more. I've slid into a bottomless abyss, and keep falling down, down, down.
I cannot help but wonder what I will get the blade for, one day, and whose hand will wield it.