When I first decided to stick Carver in solitary, I thought he’d weather it fairly well; Hawkes are a resilient sort, and Carver, in some ways, is the most resilient of all his siblings. But the truth of it is, Carver’s never really been alone before, has he? As a twin, even in the womb, he was part of a pair, and then he’s always had his family, or the army, or the Order, or Garrett’s friends to keep him company. Carver strikes me as the kind of person who dabbles in privacy, but does not crave it in the same way that Garrett—who was an only child for seven years – would, and as much as he hates other people in Act I (as only a teenager can), he also needs to be surrounded by voices; it’s the only way he feels safe. So when you take those voices away, I think Carver, as strong as he is, would deteriorate very, very quickly indeed.
Also, and I mentioned this last night, I’m not planning on writing every day of solitary here. My poor heart can’t take another thirty days of writing about this, and I’m sure you as readers don’t want an entire month of heartache either. :)
Finally, you might notice the parallelism to last week’s “You Don’t Always Need to Fight” in today’s update. Whether it works or not is your call, of course, but I do think that chapter and this one are twins, in a sense, and work best when taken together.
Okay, enough preamble. Previous drabble: Welcome to the Hole
Hands splayed on the smooth rock wall, Carver bangs his forehead against where the cell door once was. Where he thinks it was. Where it never was. Hinges. No hinges. Slot. No slot. Wishful thinking, all of it. Once upon a time there was a door here, and Carver walked through it. Wait. No. That’s not how the story begins. It begins: No shit, there I was—and there it was: a door.
If he hit his head hard enough, Carver had figured, if he could just draw enough blood, they’d be forced to come in to heal him. They’d have to take him out of here. The door would reopen, no shit, and then he could jump up and run out of it: out of the hole, out of the Gallows, out of the entire Blighted Marches. Just run and never look back. Running, after all, is what he’s good at, what he was trained to do since birth. Once upon a time there was a man here. Now there is only his bootprint in the dust.
But he couldn’t do it. He tried. He wanted to. He needed to. But he couldn’t. A lifetime of inflicting pain on others, and he can’t even bash his own head in.
Of course that doesn’t mean he can, or wants to, stop hitting the wall. The pain feels good. The pain feels. Feedback, connection—this is a conversation, human nerve to magical stone, a rejoinder, a response. Once upon a time, a man hit his head against a wall and his forehead hurt. It’s the funniest joke Carver has ever made.
Forty-five thunks ago, Carver took off his jerkin and trousers. He’d felt hot, so very, very hot. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t think. He could feel his heart stutter and lurch, and forget its own beat.
At first, he’d wondered if it was just him, just the panic settling in. But no, it couldn’t be. The guards had to have magically increased the temperature in the room as torture. Revenge. It’s the only thing that makes sense. The guards are part of Alrik’s inner circle, and now they can take their vengeance. Or—no, maybe they are secret Coterie agents, who’ve infiltrated the Gallows to repay the sting of Athenril’s indentured sword. No, the guards are hurlock sympathizers. Mythallen. Free Kirkwallers. Orlesians.
Or worse.The guards know about Garrett. It must be that. They’ve already taken him in. Even as Carver rots in this cell, they’re sticking the brand to Garrett’s forehead. No shit, they’re turning his big brother Tranquil right now. No shit, he’s screaming as they hold him down. No shit, the skin sizzles as they rob him of his dumb jokes and his broken edges and a magpie smile that Carver loves as much as he envies. Now it’s gone forever.
Once upon a time when Carver was ten, Garrett said I feel safe around you, brother, and slammed him to the ground with a Fist of the Maker. Now Carver is twenty-two and Garrett is dead.
Carver left his boots on. Those will never come off, no matter how hot it gets, no matter how many brothers they trank. A man’s insanity has its limits, and even now he still remembers the first lesson, the only lesson that ever mattered: You always keep your boots on, son. You never know when you’ll need to run.
Carver has spent so much of his life running. A life on the road. A life as a road. He knows nothing else. All he ever wanted was a destination. All he ever got was more road.
Carver always thought he was the strong one. Resilient. Indestructible. When his father died, he didn’t cry. When Bethany died, he didn’t stop running. But Carver is nothing but a pair of boots in motion, a sword being swung, a tower falling to the ground. He is the ordinary child. The spare son. The twin left behind. No friends, only family, everywhere family—family he was born into, families he’d collected, families taken from him, always taken from him, in the end.
Once upon a time, Carver thought he was alone.
Now, no shit, he truly is.