The practice yard was much as he remembered it: an open square at the center of the temple, statues of titans at each corner. There were racks for practice weapons and training armor along the far wall, protected beneath a sloped roof of clay tiles, and a row of archery targets set up off to his left. Aesa was out on the sand, sparring with an armored human who just about had to be Tavros' friend Tarric. She'd gotten better, he saw; she'd also switched from a regular scimitar to the two-handed version that he and Tavros both favored.
Tarric fought with longsword and shield; Ruin didn't remember him well, and wondered if Tarric remembered him at all. They'd only met in passing.
Two years. Two and a half years. He shook his head. It had been a matter of weeks for him, and clearly a lot had happened in his absence. No wonder Aesa was so much better; she'd had plenty of time to practice. And to have my child, apparently.
He didn't know how he felt about that. The passage of time had created a gulf between them, one he hadn't expected. And, of course, he'd gone off and left them with his children... and so Werendril had stepped in for him. Paladins, he thought. He still didn't know how that had happened. Not that he was at all surprised that Werendril would do it; it was just that he couldn't imagine how his near-brother had gotten dragged into this at all.
It was still early afternoon, bright and warm but not overly hot; a good time to practice, and the paladins, at least, were taking full advantage of it. As he watched, Akkora the half-orc armsmistress released her hold on a dwarf's arm, which she'd trapped between her legs and locked against her chest to immobilize him. She sat up as he rolled away, shaking his head. "And that," she told him, "is why you should never assume that someone isn't a threat just because they've been disarmed."
"We're going to learn that, right?" asked the dwarf, shaking his head and rolling his shoulder.
"Yes," she assured him, and then glanced over to where Ruin stood with Anica and Werendril... and stopped. A moment later she stood and crossed to them. She stopped in front of Ruin and leaned down, studying him. "You've come back," she said. "You heard?"
"That I had children here?" he asked. "Yes. I came as soon as I learned of it."
"You are my friend," she said firmly, "and I'm glad you came." She broke into a grin.
"It's good to find you here," Ruin said. Not least because you haven't hit me yet. He glanced at Aesa, and Akkora followed his gaze.
"A moment," she said, and then she was striding across the yard.