Songs Forgotten and Remembered; Chapter One: Antebellum (Prologue)
Also available on AO3.
Cataline Cousland is just done.
Her entire life, she has been the responsible one, the calm one, the level-headed one. Now, following the murder of her parents, her entire life has been thrown into disarray and old regrets of paths not taken begin to resurface as she faces her new reality. When one of those regrets shows up in Denerim after a ten year absence, Cat has to come to terms not only with what she has been unable to leave behind, but with what she wants for her own future.
For a moment, she forgot how to breathe, and her eyes met his. Despite the easy tenor in his voice, his eyes were dark with an expression that Cataline suspected she recognized, but was too afraid to name.
I know, the border lines we drew between us
Keep the weapons down, keep the wounded safe
I know, our antebellum innocence was
Never meant to see the light of our armistice day.
-“Antebellum” by Vienna Teng
22 Drakonis, 9:21 Dragon
Spring always came slowly to Highever. Even when the trees stubbornly began to bud and the first insistent blooms would peek their heads out of the ground, the air maintained a chill and the rivers ran cold. Yet somehow, it was still one of Cataline Cousland’s favorite times of the year. There was so much potential in the world in the spring, and she loved seeing the color return to the land after the long dark sleep of winter. It also meant the spring holiday away from school, which she had been looking forward to more than usual this year.
This year, her father’s best friend from childhood, Rendon Howe, and his family were visiting from Amaranthine. Cat had felt a bit guilty for being so excited: she knew her mother was always uncomfortable when the Howes came to visit, and Thomas Howe was downright antagonistic to poor Thea, but her heart had still skipped a beat when her dad had told them. Delilah, the middle daughter who at eleven was the same age as Cat, was nice enough, but it was Nathaniel that she had really been looking forward to seeing.
They were all outside at the moment. Cat and Delilah were working on a jigsaw puzzle and trying to ignore Thomas, who was doing his best to steal her attention away. He had already seen his tenth birthday earlier that year and had developed an unfortunately aggressive nature towards Cat. The fact that she had tried to gently dissuade his attention was completely lost on him. Nathaniel, on the other hand, barely seemed to acknowledge her existence. He had turned thirteen the previous fall, and already saw himself as being too old to hang around with the “children.” The only exception seemed to be little Theadosia, who Nathaniel still didn’t pay much mind to, but he also didn’t roll his eyes at her quite as much as he did his younger siblings.
Her cousin was the youngest
of them all. She would be celebrating her ninth birthday tomorrow, but her
precocious nature meant that she tended to interact more comfortably with
adults than with her peers. Thea had come to live with Bryce and Eleanor
Cousland almost a year ago, though Cat had never really been told the reason
why. Her parents had patiently explained that it was because the private school
Cat attended would offer Thea more opportunities, and wasn’t she excited to have
another girl in the house? She had been, actually; she and Thea were more
sisters than cousins, but she’d also always suspected there was more to it than
what she had been told.
At the moment, Thea was sitting quietly in a lawn chair watching Nathaniel as he sent practice arrows at the target Bryce had set up for him as a concession for the older boy having to spend his spring break in the country instead of the city. No, Cat corrected herself, not watching Nathaniel. Watching the bow. Thea was a curious child, and constantly picking up new skills. Cat was the one whose gaze kept drifting towards Nathaniel himself.
“Come on, Cat,” Thomas wheedled beside her. “Let’s go do something fun.”
“I am having fun, Tommy,” Cat gestured to the puzzle that she and Delilah were working on. “Do you want to help us work on this?”
He snorted derisively. “Looks boring as shit.”
“Tommy!” Delilah gasped. “Don’t let father her you hear you say that.”
“Yeah, right, ‘cause he cares what I say. You know he’ll let me do whatever I want,” he taunted. He tried to grab Cat’s wrist, but she jerked it away.
“I said no, Thomas.”
“I’ll tell my dad and he’ll make you play with me.”
Cat groaned internally. “I don’t think my dad would let him.”
“Exactly. And I believe she said you can go away.” a cool voice came from behind him, and Cat looked around to see Theadosia standing on the deck, her little arms crossed and a glare in her storm blue eyes. In true Thea fashion, her feet were bare and slightly dirty from running around wild, but if anything it only made her look more fierce, as did the strands of auburn hair that had come loose from her braid and were sticking out at odd angles. Cat sighed. She knew Thea’s temper, and if she got involved, it wasn’t going to end well.
“It’s ok, Thea,” she tried to soothe her cousin, “I can handle it.”
“Yeah, back off orphan,” Thomas sneered at her and, before either girl could react, gave Cataline a hard pinch on the arm.
“Hey,” she shrieked. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Nathaniel set his bow on the ground and stalk towards his brother, but by the time he reached them it was too late.
Because Thea had already decked Thomas on the nose.