Dale hated how dark and somber things were at Fablehaven these days. Dale knew that the world was in danger, and things would only get worse before they got better. During days like this though, Dale wasn't worried about the state of the world, he was worried about the state of his people and the people he cared about. They were facing far too many losses too quickly. First Lena, and now Kendra.
Dale still didn't know what had happened to Kendra, he didn't think that anyone did. She had died just after she'd been caught trying to send out information about the Knights of the Dawn. They were all grieving, but they had more than their own feelings to worry about. There were a number of Knights who were concerned about Kendra being a traitor, and Stan and Ruth had to deal with that on top of the death of their granddaughter.
Dale helped however he could. He put his work around Fablehaven on hold for a bit as he focused mostly on helping the two people who seemed to be taking Kendra's death the worse, Seth and Warren.
The two of them seemed to be having an incredibly similar experience with Kendra's death. They both blamed themselves, and refused to even consider the thought that Kendra was really a traitor. Dale couldn't blame either of them, as he had a hard time entertaining the thought himself. He didn't try to convince them to do anything that they weren't willing to face. They had enough people doing that.
Knights kept on coming to Fablehaven to interrogate Warren and Seth. Dale understood why, as besides the two of them there was only one other person who had been there to see exactly what had happened with Kendra. Dale understood it, but he still didn't approve. Seth was a child, he was trying to grieve his sister, he shouldn't be interrogated about whether she was guilty or not.
Fortunately, the Knights weren't completely heartless. They talked to Seth, but they were willing to give him some space when he needed it. Of course, this meant that they kept on turning their focus to Warren, which Dale had little patience for, and it seemed that Warren would only tolerate it so much as well.
Dale had thought that Warren would never question the Knights or their decisions, but it seemed that unquestioning loyalty was weakening. Warren had let himself be questioned once by the Knights, and then he'd caught them trying to do the same thing to Seth and he'd lost it. Warren had shouted at the Knights who tried to talk to Seth, and then he'd refused to talk to any of them himself.
When the Knights came around now, they said it was to talk to Stan, but they clearly wanted to see Seth and Warren. They underestimated Warren's determination to avoid them. When they came around, Warren would make sure that Seth was around Ruth, Dale, or Tanu, as they would make sure that the boy would be left alone. Warren would then come up with any excuse to be out of the house. He was either working in the yard, training, or researching Patton's old notes.
It was hard for Dale to see Warren and Seth be going through so much, but he couldn't help but be amused and proud when Warren avoided his fellow Knights. Maybe he was acting immature and childish, but mentally Warren was barely twenty years old, and as far as Dale was concerned, that could still be considered a child.
While Dale was pleased that Warren was standing up to himself against the Knights, and he understood why his brother didn't want to talk to the Knights about what had happened with Kendra, Dale thought that he really should talk to someone. As Warren's brother, Dale felt that it was his job to make sure his brother was okay.
When Warren slipped out of the house for his latest avoiding scheme, Dale was quick to follow him. Warren made his way to the back of the barn, where he kept his weapons. He seemed to be looking for training today. That was fine, Dale could work with that.
"Would you like a partner?" Dale asked as he picked up one of Warren's battle axes. It was lighter than what Dale was used to, but he could adjust to using it quickly. Warren smirked and grabbed a sword. He spun it around like a master.
"Always," Warren ran at Dale with his sword. Dale ducked to the side and knocked back Warren's sword. Warren was quick to recover, but Dale was quicker to hit him in the back with the handle of his axe. The hit wasn't hard enough to do any real damage, but Dale knew that it would leave a bruise. He also knew that Warren expected no less. If Warren didn't walk away from a spar with at least a few cuts or bruises, he would think that his opponent was going easy on him, and Warren hadn't tolerated such a thing since he was fifteen.
Warren growled to himself and swung around to slash at Dale. His swing went ride though, Dale barely had to shift to avoid being cut. Dale raised an eyebrow at his brother. "You're getting sloppy," He had known that this would get to Warren's head, but the complete fury and pain in Warren's eyes was much more than he had expected.
"I know!" Warren shouted. He drew the sword back and threw it at the barn wall. It was such a terrible throw that the blade didn't even imbed into the wall. The sword bounced right off. Warren sighed and carefully picked up his sword. He looked it over for dents. "I know. I need to get better,"
"You're just fine," Dale took the sword from Warren and set it aside. He didn't think his brother was in any state of mind to be wielding a weapon. "You're just distracted."
"I can't allow myself to be distracted," Warren leaned against the barn, resting his head against the wall. "It's not good enough. I'm not good enough."
Dale frowned. He'd thought that Warren had grown out of this self-deprecating phase of his after his first assignment as a Knight. Why was he suddenly coming back to this. Dale suddenly realized what had changed. He sighed and set down the sword and axe. Dale leaned his back against the barn wall and crossed his arms.
"What happened to Kendra wasn't your fault," Dale said.
"I was supposed to protect her," Warren's voice shook. "What good am I if I can't even protect her from herself?"
"If you could have stopped it, I'm sure you would have," Dale said. Everything that Warren was saying was sounding very familiar. Dale could think of multiple times when he'd said similar things about protecting Warren. Now Dale understood why Lena was always quick to put a stop to his frustration with himself. Knowing that Warren was going through this pain, it hurt.
"There were a lot of things I could have done," Warren said. "If I had kept a closer eye on her, or talked to her-"
"You can't think like that," Dale cut Warren off before he could really spiral. "Trust me, it only makes things worse." Warren stiffened and his breath hitched. Dale leaned his head back and looked towards the sky. "For two years I was plagued by thoughts of what I could have possibly done to protect you better. I thought maybe if I was a better fighter, you could have trusted me to join you in looking for the artifact. I could have found the artifact myself and healed you. I could have kept you from becoming a Knight or righter in the first place. I couldn't stop thinking about everything that I could have done differently or better."
Dale swallowed thickly. "Of course, wondering so much about what could have been, I sometimes neglected what was right in front of me. I didn't take as good care of you as I could have," Even now, Dale couldn't help but wonder how things would have been if he'd known in the past what he knew now.
"It's hard. Trust me, I know how hard it is to move on and accept just how little you can do," Dale said. "But you have to at least try, or else you might miss your chance to do the things that you can do."
Warren let out a broken sob and turned so he was leaning against Dale's shoulder. "I wanted to protect her!"
"I know," Dale put an arm around his brother's shoulder and drew him close. Dale held Warren against his chest and just listened as his brother shouted and cried about the unfairness of it all. "I know."
A/N: This is another one of those super short chapters. I wasn't originally going to have it, but then I remembered that in the fourth book, Kendra is replaced by a stinkbulb, for a bit, which then dies. For at least a bit, everyone thinks that Kendra died, and I imagine that Warren, who was really protective of Kendra, would be really upset about this.
Unfortunately, I don't have access to the fourth book, so I couldn't double check the details. I was only just barely able to find confirmation that Warren was actually watching over Seth and Kendra when this supposed death happened, but I had to guess on everything else. I wasn't able to confirm that Warren returned to Fablehaven between the fake Kendra's death and the rescue of the real Kendra, or how much time passed during this time.
The next chapter will probably be the last one, at least for a time. It'll bring us to the end of the fifth book. I admit, I've only read the first two Dragonwatch books, and Warren wasn't in either of them, so that doesn't exactly give me a lot of stuff to work with. I've yet to decide whether to update this story as being complete after the next chapter, because while I may find inspiration in the later Dragonwatch books, I don't want to leave the story incomplete for a few years because there is a possibility of another chapter or two. I can always add more chapters later.