She stood waiting, staring out the window of Cailan’s office down onto the city and watching as her father’s men took up the square in front of the Palace. Behind her she could hear Osanna bustling about the room, the older woman humming an old Anders lullaby quietly. It was a tune Anora had heard often over the years as both Cailan and Alistair had been wont to fall into humming it themselves, often without quite noticing.
Despite the ache it caused in her chest due to recalling the both of them, one lost permanently and one (hopefully) momentarily, it was also comforting.
Then there was a sharp knock at the door and Anora flinched, knowing who was on the other side. Instantly the tune stopped and Osanna quietly asked, “Would you like me to send them away, Your Majesty?”
“No, I need to have this conversation.” Turning, she smiled at the older woman and added, “But thank you.”
Bowing, Osanna merely smiled and Anora turned back to the window because she didn’t think she could face her father yet. As the door opened, she closed her eyes as she heard his voice, her heart aching as it jerked in far too many directions. Here was her father, the man she had looked up to for so many years, who she was far too alike in some respects (though always the best, as Cailan had warmly pointed out several times). And here, was the man who had murdered her husband, had killed all too many of their men and women with his actions, and who had placed all of that blame onto the shoulders of her brother.
“I would speak to my daughter alone.”
“And I, ser, will leave only at Her Majesty’s say,” snapped Osanna back.
Taking a deep breath to steady herself, Anora called out, “It is fine, Osanna.”
“Of course. I will, however, be just outside.”
As the door closed behind the older woman, her father said, “I will be taking her into custody when I leave.”
The fact that that statement, out of anything, was the first thing he said to her made Anora turn in disgust. “You,” she said firmly, “will do nothing of the sort, Father.”
“She’s the boy’s former nurse and obviously suspect in being involved with his plans. Surely my letter about what happened reached you.”
“Then you know I speak the truth.”
Do I? Anora wanted to snap, to rage and scream, but she dragged the words down and buried them within herself. If she wanted to help Alistair and keep him alive, she had to keep her temper in check.
Folding her hands, she stated firmly, “I trust Osanna deeply. Should you wish to question her, you may, but it will be done here in the Palace. She will, as well, remain in her place.”
The seeming permanent frown that had etched itself onto her father’s face over the past few years seemed to deepen as he said, “You put too much trust in the woman.”
“She’s earned it.”
Silence hung between them for a moment then Loghain began, “There is a matter we need to speak about. Regarding the boy.” Anora arched an eyebrow in response, not entirely trusting herself to say anything just yet, and waited for him to continue. “Before the battle, Cailan told me that he had made the boy his heir and that you were backing him.”
“I did,” she answered proudly. “We both signed it here in the office and sealed it before he left for Ostagar.”
It is only those two words but Anora heard so much more in them. He expected her to destroy that agreement, to break the last promise she made to her husband, and all for what? A lie that she doesn’t even know the real reason for.
“What really happened at Ostagar?” The words were sudden, surprising both of them, and he stared at her for a long moment before answering quietly.
“You know what happened.”
Her temper snapped despite all of her wants and careful plans and, like a mabari lunging forward in battle, she snarled, “Don’t lie to me, Father!”
Loghain blinked, surprised, then said, “I have never lied to you, Anora.” Laughter burst out of her at the words, frenetic and a little mad, and she shook her head.
“Oh, Father, you don’t even know the tales you have told over the years,” intoned Anora sadly. Shaking her head, she smiled at him bitterly. “Did you truly think that you could make me believe that Alistair had betrayed Cailan?”
“Father, you did not raise a fool and I find it insulting that you think my intelligence so low!”
He remained quiet for a moment then said very softly, “You’re obviously still grieving. Listen to yourself, Anora. You’re in no shape to run the country now.”
For a moment she didn’t quiet believe the words he had spoken. As they finally settled, all too solid and utterly absurd, Anora chuckled darkly. “I assure you that I am in full control of my senses, Father. I am the Queen of Ferelden, recognized fully in that right by the Landsmeet. Until they say otherwise or this debacle with Alistair is settled, I will remain in that position.”
“And you,” she interrupted to state firmly, “will remain as the Teryn of Gwaren. Nothing more.”
Loghain scowled before saying, “Let me help you.”
With a shake of her head, Anora turned her back on him and worked to ignore the ache in her heart. “I think,” she said quietly, “that I’ve had enough of your help, Father.”
An instant after her shout, the office door flung itself open and they both turned at the intrusion. Her guards and Osanna stepped inside first, followed immediately by a pair of her father’s men and Cauthrien. “Is everything all right, Your Majesty?” asked the older of her guardsmen, his eyes flicking immediately to her without looking once at her father.
Regaining her composure, Anora nodded and said firmly, “Yes, Odrick, everything is fine. My father was about to be leaving.”
“Anora,” hissed Loghain, “I urge you to think about this with a more careful eye.”
“I have and will continue to consider all options, Father,” she answered with as much finality as she could put into the words. He stared at her for a moment in response then shook his head sadly before leaving, one of his men closing the door behind them. Odrick glanced after them then stepped forward with a concerned look on his face.
“Your Majesty,” he said in a low voice, as if he feared being overheard, “are you truly all right?”
Smiling, Anora nodded. “Yes. Thank you, Odrick, for asking.”
“We’re loyal to the crown, Your Majesty.”
“And we’ve heard the…rumors,” piped the other guard, a younger man who she seemed to recall was one of the younger sons of a Bann. “That and before the Captain left, he told us we were to be vigilant. Said dark times were ahead.”
Dark times. Anora mused over the words for a moment and could exactly picture them coming from Captain Bernard, the man Cailan had left with her and who she had now entrusted Alistair to. And the man was all too right to use them.
Nodding half to herself, she lifted her chin and said, “We will do our best to ensure that those dark times do not occur. Odrick, please send one of the pages to Captain Angus as well as Captain Warner and another to the Couslands. Tell them to ask if the Captains and AedanCousland would join me here in an hour to discuss something of great importance.”
The guardsman nodded sharply and both turned as one to leave. As the door closed behind them, she could hear Odrick shouting for two of the pages and knew that her orders were in good hands as they were loyal men. Then there was a gentle touch on her arm and Anora closed her eyes wearily.
“He wanted to take you for questioning.”
Osanna snorted before saying, “Of course he did. I am a threat in his mind, much as Alistair has always been. This is something I have known for years.” She then asked, “Do you have a plan? Or is that what you intend to construct with these men?”
“Alistair and I discussed several options while he was here. But…” After she trailed off, Anora let her shoulders slump as she opened her eyes to look at the older woman. If there was anyone that she had left to be honest with, it was this woman. “I’m afraid.”
“Of what may be coming or going against your father?”
Osanna nodded then said, “I will tell you something you probably know already, a thing I told Alistair when he was small. It is alright to be afraid.” She lightly touched Anora’s chin, just enough to bring the Queen’s attention to her, and finished, “What you must be wary of is letting that fear control you.”
It was something she already knew but hearing the words again steeled something in Anora’s heart. Nodding, she straightened her posture once more and allowed herself one nervous smoothing of her skirts before she forced her hands to stillness. Fear and uncertainty and grief would have to wait until later to rear their heads.
She had a kingdom to defend from the unknown machinations of her father and a brother to save.