It was Octavia’s turn to hesitate. “Did Zeff ever tell you what happened to the rest of his family?”
It was as Marcos thought. He gave a weak nod. “He didn’t mention it much, but... they were all killed, weren’t they?”
“Yes. He and Joana were the only ones to survive. Afterwards, they lived here at Red Lake until they turned eighteen. I didn’t want them to rejoin the Vanguard, but they wouldn’t listen to me.” Her expression weakened, eyes glazing over with distant memory. “I was very upset by that decision. I should have been more understanding. Instead, they pushed me away, and I just... let them.” She closed her eyes and rubbed her brow with one hand.
Marcos frowned. The old woman had been so cheerful from the first moment he’d met her. He’d wondered if nothing ever fazed her or if she simply didn’t care. Seeing her like this evoked a strange mixture of worry and gratitude. He was slow to ask his next question. “He never really went into much detail about how they died, so... can you tell me what happened?”
Octavia looked at him heavily, then at Shenado.
‘Axiolis told me about it, but I’d like to hear your version of events, if you don’t mind.’
Octavia gave a slow nod. “Very well.” She took so long to gather her thoughts that it seemed like she might have changed her mind. “...Zeff and Joana had no other siblings. Their parents and grandparents were all members of the Vanguard, as were many of their cousins. Zeff was on his way to joining the Vanguard as well. He’d been with Axiolis for over a year, already.”
She paused again, biting her lip as she chose her next words. “The attack happened very suddenly. The Elroys were having a large family gathering out on a lake up north. About thirty miles from here. Almost all of them were present, including Zeff and Joana. The few who didn’t attend were later found dead elsewhere. I didn’t know anything had happened until Zeff showed up on my doorstep with Joana in his arms. She was unconscious but still alive. She didn’t have a reaper yet, so Zeff had carried her all the way here on foot.”